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Namesake Necklace

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Harry trembled as he lay in the dusty old cupboard. His fingers worried into the sheet curled around the rotten mattress. Tiny fingers pulled at moth bitten holes in the fabric, smaller fingers than should be possible, certainly smaller than he remembered them being. 

 

He shook his head sharply and tried to swallow the panicked gasps that had threatened to overtake him since he’d woken up this morning. 

 

‘I am fine. Absolutely fine.’ He thought. 

 

Elphias Doge had said yesterday evening, that both Harry and Dudley were fine. Whatever potion that had exploded over them on their way home, it hadn’t been deadly. Doge hadn’t known what it was, but he swore that it hadn’t been deadly, just that he didn’t know what potentially might happen. 

 

Harry wished Doge hadn’t left him alone, or that he’d taken Harry with him. 

 

‘I am fine though,’ Harry thought again. ‘Absolutely fine. Just a scrawny, grubby kid, rather than a fifteen year old. I went to bed yesterday as a fifteen year old, I just hadn’t woken up this morning as one. I am fine though. Absolutely fine.’ 

 

Was he fine? 

 

“Yes,” Harry whispered to himself. “I’m fine, why wouldn’t I be? I’ve slept in the cupboard before and I’ve been a kid before.” He said, thinking that if he said it aloud, it might feel more true. 

 

He was fine. He was sure. 

 

He’d tried telling Aunt Petunia this morning that he would be absolutely fine, even if he didn’t look it, though she’d been far less concerned with how fine he was, and far more alarmed over his abnormal freakishness. 

 

She’d shrieked loud enough to wake Uncle Vernon when she’d seen him stumbling into the loo and attempting to balance on far smaller legs than he was used to. Uncle Vernon had appeared in the hallway seconds after Aunt Petunia’s scream, his large face quickly turning from worried to flushed and horrified. 

 

The day had gotten significantly worse when Dudley appeared shortly after, also roused from the noise, with a stupid look on his face and similarly de-aged. 

 

Harry’d half thought they were going to kill him. They hadn’t, they’d threatened to, but they hadn’t. Uncle Vernon had thrown Harry headfirst back into his bedroom instead, with an order to write to someone who could fix it immediately. 

 

Then they’d closed every curtain, locked the doors and hid inside where they could safely throw Harry poisoned looks from the comfort of their living room.

 

Dudley at least seemed to be eleven or twelve, but it was difficult to tell given his general intelligence, and Harry had been smacked upside the head twice for asking how Aunt Petunia could know for certain. 

 

Harry felt that he was as small as a six year old. None of the Dursley’s had made any attempt to guess or help him figure out for sure, though he knew they hadn’t cared. He couldn’t say for sure why Dudley was a few years older than Harry either, only that Dudley had been more of a bystander in whatever had exploded over them, whereas Harry had been covered. 

 

They were fine though, both of them. They’d just aged down a bit, only physically; mentally they were still all there. No amount of screaming about their safety despite their current appearances had gotten through to either his aunt or uncle though. 

 

It was as if he truly was six again, and he’d committed some horribly freakish act. Aunt Petunia was livid, and she stared constantly at him with her thin mouth pinched and waiting, as if he’d snap his fingers any moment and declare it all a prank. 

 

It wasn’t until several hours later, that there was a knock at the door, and Doge had appeared for the second time, bedraggled and pale. Likely worried by the state of Harry’s note. His handwriting at six wasn’t nearly as clear as it was at fifteen. He’d taken one look at Harry and Dudley’s small faces and told them he’d send someone along shortly, before he turned and fled. 

 

That hadn’t gone well for Harry. 

 

They’d had no issues stuffing him into the cupboard under the stairs the second Doge left. It was as if they’d forgotten he wasn’t actually six, and just looked small. He wasn’t meant to stay in here anymore, they would realize soon—

 

His heart clenched painfully, throbbing in his chest. 

 

They wouldn’t. They’d never realized, not when Harry was actually six, and they certainly wouldn’t now, not after what happened to their son. What they thought he’d done to their son. 

 

Why had he thought they’d change? He’d known, even when he’d been actually six that they would never let him out. 

 

Why had he even considered it? 

 

Harry breathed out slowly, trying to take his mind off of the potions effects and focusing instead on remembering what had happened to get them here. 

 

Aunt Petunia had given him a list of chores yesterday morning, a relatively short one, given it’s usual length, as Uncle Vernon was supposed to be entertaining a client that evening and she’d wanted Harry out of the way until after they’d been and gone. He’d gotten the list done, with minimal remarks from Aunt Petunia on his vile character and abnormalities, and escaped sometime after she’d let him have a bit of toast for lunch. 

 

He’d spent a good hour in the park, sitting on a cracked and sun faded swing, baking in the heat as he bitterly composed letters to Ron and Hermione. He thought of different ways to ask for any new information, though he doubted they’d reply. Neither of them had been forthcoming all summer, despite him knowing that both of them had been around Dumbledore and the others. They’d sent plain, short letters, telling him to push through the summer with the Durlsey’s, as well as a few care packages, but had been mostly silent otherwise. 

 

It was almost enough to make him snap, and he’d been slowly marching towards an outburst for the last few days. 

 

All he thought and dreamed about, was the graveyard. How he’d been targeted, pretty spectacularly, and yet, not a single person had told him anything about Voldemort’s current movements or plans. 

 

He wanted to know, and to help plan, how could they expect him to just sit back when he’d been thrown so clearly into the forefront of Voldemort's war? He had attempted to sit on the sidelines last year, begging them to let him out of that stupid tournament, but they hadn’t let him! Now they didn’t want him?

 

What was he supposed to sit and do? All he did was think of where Voldemort was, what he was doing, who he was hurting. 

 

He couldn’t escape his memories either, not when little things took on a life of their own,  insidiously reminding Harry of that night. 

 

The washing machine in the kitchen whirred at the same pitch that portkey’s whistled, and he’d find himself thrown back in the graveyard. The little lights on Dudley’s game controllers were the same color as the killing curse, and if he so much as blinked at them, he was back in the graveyard. He’d picked up a knife to prepare dinner, but barely made a cut before finding himself pinned to Tom Riddle Sr’s headstone, watching as blood ran down his throbbing arm. 

 

Everything reminded him of the graveyard. He closed his eyes at night, only to reopen them, surrounded by tall tombstones that sank nto the sodden, muddy grass, crowding the already tight space. The nauseous feeling of being watched by something in a silent cemetery, unseen and unknown crawled up his back. Voldemort’s high pitched voice bursting from the darkness. Cedric’s flashing eyes, wide with fear as they darted towards the source of the sound. 

 

Bright green light that exploded into the space next to Harry. 

 

The refrigerator in the kitchen began humming loudly, jerking Harry from his memories with a painful flinch. He’d forgotten the noises the house made at night, and how much louder they were from his cupboard. 

 

‘I’m fine.’ He thought again, inhaling shakily as he peeled himself up off of the sweaty and damp mattress to twist around. 

 

“Fine, just small, but fine.” Harry repeated, ignoring the concerning wobble in his too high voice. 

 

His chest pounded and his fear spiked again, despite his mantra. It ached painfully, creeping down his stomach and pushing him closer and closer to throwing up. 

 

At least there was a bucket in his cupboard now, he could use that if he needed to. 

 

“Oh my dear, Diddykins, that awful boy can’t hurt you now.” Aunt Petunia’s crooning voice echoed from up the stairs. “Don’t worry sweetums, Mummy’s got you.” 

 

Harry tilted his head into the mattress, feeling an alarming lump in his throat. He shivered harder, trying to will the tears from his eyes. He hadn’t cried over something Aunt Petunia had said in years. He wasn’t about to start now, six year old body or not. 

 

He hadn’t caused this, no matter what Aunt Petunia said. He hadn’t. Her shrill voice rang in his ears from this afternoon though, angry and cruel. 

 

“You disgusting boy! Look what you’ve done to him!” 

 

“I didn’t do it!” Harry had shouted back, dodging out of the way of Uncle Vernon’s massive hands. “Someone threw something at us, we were just coming back and—” Uncle Vernon grabbed him tightly around his upper arm, wrenching him upwards as he tossed Harry into the cupboard. 

 

“Don’t lie you little freak!” Uncle Vernon snapped, “I bet you had such a laugh making this up for our Dudders, but you’re feeling pretty stupid now that you messed yourself up as well eh? I hope it was worth it! Dudley’s going to need more medical care than you know!” Spittle flew from Uncle Vernon’s purple face, and he slammed the cupboard door shut, throwing the lock quickly. “You’d better pray your freaky little friends can fix this,” Uncle Vernon’s voice dropped into a harsh whisper and he pressed himself tight against the slats in the door. “Because otherwise, you won’t have to worry about some crackpot lunatic hunting you—”

 

“I didn’t do it!” Harry screamed, kicking the door in a fit rage. “Let me out!” 

 

Screaming hadn’t helped his case either, it only left him with a sore foot and a locked door. 

 

They’d neglected to open the door since then. Harry’d gone without food plenty of times before, but his rations were all upstairs in his room, hidden beneath the loose floorboard. He hadn’t thought a six year old’s body would get as hungry as his regular one, but he was learning that that may not be the case. He didn’t even have a watch, and his trunk was upstairs as well, along with Hedwig, who he knew hadn’t been let out. He didn’t even have his wand. As much as he wished for it, he couldn’t think of where he would have stowed it. The only things he was wearing were Dudley’s old shirt, worn like a smock, and an old, ragged pair of underpants that he’d bunched together at the elastic and twisted a rubber band around. 

 

Dudley had made fun of him several times today over that, but Harry had thought it’d been a fairly clever idea. 

 

His small body curled tighter together, and shivers wracked through him beneath the massive shirt. He wished there was something to use as a blanket, something more substantial than castoffs. When he’d slept in here before, he used to burrow into his clothes if he needed another blanket, but he’d at least had a blanket to begin with. 

 

Rotten luck, that’s what this was. The most rotten. Horrendous. Why did these things always happen?

 

Someone knocked sharply on the front door, startling him from his misery. He climbed to his feet and peeked through the slats in the door. His bare toes curling inwards atop the dirty cold floor. There wasn’t enough light to see, no matter how much he wished to know who was here. The lightbulb that used to be in here had burnt out years ago, and no one had bothered to replace it. 

 

Dust fell overhead, tickling Harry’s nose as Aunt Petunia’s careful footsteps crept down the stairs, as if whomever was at the door could already tell how abnormal and wrong her day had been. 

 

Harry flinched backwards when her hand smacked roughly against the cupboard door, and her sneering face peeked through from the wooden slats. 

 

“You’d better hope this is one of your friends here to fix this,” She whispered, her thin face fierce in the dim light. “I’ll not tolerate any more misbehavior towards Dudley.” 

 

She stepped quickly over to the door and looked through the peephole, flinching back much like Harry had done moments ago. 

 

Whipping around she stalked back to Harry’s door, flicked open the latch and threw the door open with a sharp movement. 

 

“Tell him to go away, anyone but him, I’ll not have it!” Aunt Petunia reached in, grabbing Harry tightly around his arm and yanking him out. She tossed him at the door with a furious look. “Tell him to go away!” 

 

“Why?” Harry asked with a glare as he picked himself up. “You just said you wanted Dudley fixed?” 

 

“I want Dudley fixed, but that awful boy won’t fix him. I refuse to allow him in here, now go!” She snapped her fingers towards the front door. “It’d be in your best interest If you fancy eating sometime soon.” 

 

Harry stared back at her, having to force his ever present temper down. 

 

Her face flushed darker with every second he wasted, until finally he pivoted and stepped over to the door. He was feeling more concerned by the second at whom his aunt could possibly hate more than she hated Harry. Someone who she hated so much, that she was willing to wait for Dudley to be fixed. 

 

He stared at the door, and the bland painted wood stared back at him, almost tempting him to find a step ladder or climb the walls to see through the peephole. 

 

Aunt Petunia likely wouldn’t be pleased with either of those options, but he didn’t want to open the door without knowing. Given that his head came up little over the mail slot, he could look out through that, but the flap opened upwards, and all Harry would get was a pair of legs on a dark front step. Hardly helpful information. 

 

He brushed a finger along the shiny brass slot, wishing he knew a spell that would see through doors.

 

“Get on with it!” Aunt Petunia whispered loudly. “I don’t have all day, Dudley needs to go to sleep soon, now that he’s—” Her voice caught in her throat and her hand came up, massaging along her long neck. “Younger.” She finished dumbly. 

 

“But what if it's,” Harry paused, unsure how to finish his sentence, as he didn’t know who he was worried might be on the other side, it could be Sirius for all he knew. 

 

Aunt Petunia would despise seeing Sirius, so at least this reaction would make sense, although Harry wasn’t sure how much Sirius could help with this. He could take Harry away though. 

 

“It’s not your ridiculous dark lord, so just get a move on!” Aunt Petunia said, shoving him towards the door again and before slipping backwards to a safer distance. She slid a pink handkerchief from her pocket, bringing it to her nose and sniffing daintily, her free hand still clutching at her neck. 

 

Harry reached up onto his tiptoes and unlocked the tumbler, his small sweaty palms struggling to twist the polished door knob open. 

 

He was thrown onto the floor as the door flew open, as if whoever was on the other side had gotten sick of waiting. 

 

Severus Snape’s pale face appeared in the doorway, and he glared down the hallway at Aunt Petunia. 

 

A strangled sound echoed from her at the sight of his face, and she clutched her handkerchief tighter. Her disgusted grimace morphing into livid anger at the sight of him. 

 

Snape pushed the door open further, only stopping when it hit Harry a second time, he tilted down, turning his sneer towards Harry only to jerk to a stop. Harry froze as well, feeling every inch of his small size thrumming with an overwhelming mix of fear, humiliation and worry. Dudley’s old shirt and his cleverly rubber banded pants solution turned to ash in his mouth, as a blush lit up his cheeks.  

 

He’d never felt so defenseless in his life. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Silence beat down on them in the dark hallway. 

 

Snape’s eyes narrowed at Harry and his lips twitched as though he wished nothing more than to tear into him. Harry twisted his hands into his shirt, unable to fully hide the faint tremor running through them. 

 

“Get out.” Aunt Petunia said, holding her handkerchief to her nose again and wrinkling it as her hand clenched. “Send someone else.”

 

“No one else will be able to fix this.” Snape said, his dark eyes trailing over Harry’s face. 

 

Harry made a move to scratch his nose, desperately wanting to hide his face from Snape somehow, no matter how childish that was. He remembered quickly that he didn’t have glasses on when he accidentally jerked his hand too high because he didn’t encounter their weight. His glasses were upstairs and too large now anyway, but he’d have liked to use them as a shield. 

 

That was one alright thing about being six. His vision was a lot better than it had been at fifteen. 

 

Snape’s lips twitched again before a sour look washed across his face. He stepped farther inside and shut the door. 

 

“Dumbledore will be able to, I want him instead!” Aunt Petunia said, clicking her tongue. 

 

Harry wished a hole would open up on the floor and swallow him. Anything to escape this conversation. 

 

“I’ll ring the police if you don’t leave! I will not have you ruining my son like you ruined

 

“Now Tuney,” Snape began silkily, his eyes finally turning away from Harry. “That’s not very polite, is it?” 

 

“No rebuttal for it, though, hmm?” Aunt Petunia’s eyes flashed in the dark. 

 

“What?” Harry asked, his heart stuttering in his chest as his ears caught up with the conversation. He whipped around to stare at his aunt. “Tu—” 

 

“Don’t ask questions, go in the kitchen,” Aunt Petunia said, grabbing Harry’s arm and tossing him out of the hallway. “And don’t touch anything! I’ll not have your fingerprints all over my counters!”

 

Harry landed in a sprawl on the hard linoleum floor, nearly smacking into the side cupboards. His thoughts spun madly in his head as he struggled to understand. 

 

Tuney. 

 

Snape had called his Aunt Petunia, Tuney. Harry had attempted to call her that once. 

 

He’d wanted her to like him, back when he still believed she might change her mind. He’d been four or five, picking through Dudley’s easy readers out of boredom. They all had topics on friendship and family, and how nicknames were important for bonding. Aunt Petunia had certainly never been shy about calling Dudley a nickname, and he’d thought it might help. 

 

He’d really just wanted them to call him Harry, rather than ‘Boy’, but he’d thought if he started it, they might be encouraged to join in. 

 

‘Aunt Tuney,’ 

 

A vague memory of yellow rubber dish gloves shoving a bar of dettol soap into his mouth flickered in his mind. ‘Never call me that,’ She’d said, watching him with hard eyes as he sniffled wetly and tried to swallow around the soap. ‘You’ll get far worse than soap if I ever hear that name from you again.’ 

 

She knew Snape, and Snape knew her. 

 

Harry climbed to his feet as fast as he could, ignoring his stinging palms and knees and dove back into the hallway. 

 

“Why did Snape call you Tuney!?” Harry shouted at his aunt, feeling his temper burning painfully through his chest. His balled fists hung at his sides, shaking as he stood. 

 

How could Snape know her? 

 

Aunt Petunia stiffened. Harry watched her back from the end of the staircase. The urge to scream ‘Tuney’ as loudly and as many times as he could, coursed through him. He crushed the feeling down, trembling and unable to stop from clenching and unclenching his fists. 

 

“Why did Snape call-”

 

“Out!” Aunt Petunia shouted, whirling around. Harry remembered quite suddenly how small he recently became as she towered over him. “Just listen for once, you horrible monster!” She moved to grab him, but he was quicker than her. 

 

He darted around her knees, his feet tripping on the runner as his heart pounded in his chest. The rough cupboard door slid under his palms, and before he knew it, he’d thrown himself back into his cupboard. He slammed the door shut again, the unhooked latch knocking loudly in his ear. Air stuck in his throat as he gasped and tried to breathe. 

 

What did he think she was going to do? He was fifteen, and beyond a smack or two, she’d never really hurt him. Why was he so scared? He understood why she was angry, he really did, but she hadn’t been rough with him like today for years, not since he’d been much younger. 

 

“Difficult day Tuney?” Snape’s snide tone rang loudly in Harry’s ears. 

 

“Shut up!” Aunt Petunia angrily replied. “I didn’t ask for you!” Her shoes rapped on the floor as she stepped closer to the cupboard. 

 

“Oh, but you did,” Snape said. Harry swore he could hear a smile creeping along Snape’s lips. “You asked for help.” Snape said. “It looks like you need it, seeing as your solution is to put him in a cupboard?” 

 

“Well I’m not letting him anywhere near my son again! He shouldn’t be allowed around normal people at all, look at what he did!” 

 

Harry trembled in the small space, feeling that large lump crawling up his throat again. He wasn’t dumb enough to believe Aunt Petunia would ever be nice to him in front of others, but he hadn’t wanted someone like Snape to ever see them together.

 

His eyes stung, but he put it down to the fear still racing through him. 

 

“And he put himself in here,” His aunt said, her fingers curling slowly around the wooden slats in the door. Harry felt the sudden urge to throw the door open and scream the opposite at her. “You saw him do it, he went in willingly!”

 

Harry’s eyes slid shut and he felt his heart sink with every word. Snape and the bloody cupboard. Grand. He could hear Malfoy’s nasty voice even now, ‘Six years old and hiding in a cupboard!’ 

 

Aunt Petunia swung the door open, shocking him as she grabbed a hold of Harry’s shirt and pulled him from the cupboard. 

 

“Take him and leave.” She said, holding the fabric at Harry’s shoulder up to Snape. “Use him as a test subject, or whatever it is you need, but fix my Dudley. He was an innocent victim!”

 

Harry stumbled on his tip toes and struggled to keep himself at the height Aunt Petunia held him at. His eyes still stung, but the thought of Snape catching him crying was enough to make him nauseas.

 

“Are you asking me to perform magic, Tuney?” Snape asked softly, neglecting to move closer or take a hold of Harry’s shirt. His dark eyes flashed over Harry’s face and down to his toes, trailing slowly upwards to where Aunt Petunia’s hand held his shirt. 

 

“Just fix him! You miserable—” Aunt Petunia started, Snape launched forward before she could finish, yanking Harry from her and dropping him onto his feet next to himself. 

 

“How old is your whale of a son.” 

 

Aunt Petunia’s face darkened terrifyingly, and Harry felt a strong urge to slip behind Snape, for all the good that would do. 

 

“Eleven.” She spat. 

 

“Excellent.” Snape said. “Get your trunk Potter, be quick.” 

 

Harry glanced up at Aunt Petunia before stepping cautiously around her, a tight worrying feeling in his chest. Staying with Aunt Petunia wasn’t a great option, but Snape might be infinitely worse. He climbed the stairs, stumbling once as his too small legs caught on the steps. 

 

It was either the cupboard with the Dursleys, or wherever Snape was going to take him. Which could be Hogwarts, or it could be some horrible place. Being with Snape might be useful though. Harry desperately wanted to know how he knew his aunt, though he doubted Snape would answer any of his questions. 

 

He made short work of the hallway and began throwing everything he needed into his trunk, only stalling when he spotted his wand. His eyes brushed over the sparse room, debating if a book bag or knapsack would work to stow it in. 

 

Better to just hold it, he decided. A bag would hang to his knees. 

 

With a final nod, he jumped over to his desk, climbing onto the chair and unlatching Hedwig’s cage. She tilted her head curiously at him and nipped once at his hair as he held his hand out. 

 

“It’s not permanent, don’t worry,” He whispered to her. “I’m not sure where Snape’s taking me though, so go to Ron’s alright? He’ll take care of you, and if I get a chance, I’ll,” He paused, debating if he shouldn’t just let her follow them. She’d known where he’d wound up back when he’d run away from the Dursleys after Aunt Marge, so maybe she’d find him again? “Well, either Ron’s or wherever I am, alright?” Harry said, a small smile growing on his face at her responding chirp. 

 

She flew quickly out the window, and Harry watched her for a half a second before twisting and grabbing his trunk. 

 

“Leaving already, are you?” Uncle Vernon asked from the doorway. 

 

“Yes, but I promise, Dudley—”

 

“Not another word,” Uncle Vernon cut him off. “Not a single word.” His mustache twitched as he spoke. “If I could throw you out, I would. We should never have taken you in.” 

 

“Well I wish you hadn’t either,” Harry snapped, glaring up at the man. “But here we are.” 

 

Uncle Vernon jerked, his massive hand swinging down at Harry, stopping short a hair from Harry’s jaw. Harry flinched hard and was unable to control the nervous tremor running through him as Uncle Vernon roughly patted his cheek. 

 

A nasty smile slid across his uncle’s face and he laughed when Harry leant uncomfortably away. 

 

“You’re on thin ice,” Uncle Vernon whispered, pushing as close to Harry as he could. An anxious need to step back ran through Harry, but he ignored it, unwilling to let his uncle get the better of him twice. “The next time you come back, it better be to fix Dudley, if not, you can find a new house.” 

 

“Potter!” Snape’s voice echoed from the hallway. 

 

Harry’s eyes flashed up at his uncle once before grabbing his trunk handle again and tearing past him. 

 

Aunt Petunia was nowhere to be found when he came back into the front hall. Only Snape, who was waiting impatiently by the door. 

 

“What part about ‘quick’ confused you?” Snape asked snidely. 

 

“My Uncle wanted to talk.” Harry said, tugging his trunk closer. He paused in front of Snape, craning his neck up as he looked at him. “Where are we going?” He asked. 

 

“Where are we going, sir.” Snape said. “I am your professor, Potter, whether we are at Hogwarts or not.” 

 

Harry sniffed, a snide remark on his lips, but before he could speak, Snape spun on his heel and opened the door. His black robes billowed around him as he stepped quickly into the dark and quiet night. 

 

Harry trailed him cautiously. If he hadn’t already known Snape was there, he wasn’t sure he’d have even seen him. 

 

The street lamps around Magnolia Crescent flickered as he passed by, seeming to douse themselves especially for him. The warm summer air whispered past Harry, and he felt a sudden urge to run up to Snape, as if something else was here with them, lingering on the wind. 

 

Slate gray rocks shaped like tombstones lay scattered in the street. Harry felt his chest tighten as hazy shapes formed in the pockets of light, creeping closer and closer to him. 

 

He dropped his trunk, the sound dull in his ears as he whipped his wand around. 

 

“Potter!” Snape’s cloak floated into Harry’s view. 

 

“Someone else is here.” Harry whispered, trying to find them.

 

Harry’s heart pounded. He was unsure why he had trusted Snape enough to leave with him. He’d never trusted Snape before, he should’ve stayed with the Dursleys. He should’ve waited until Dumbledore wrote back. He should’ve questioned why Elphias Doge had been sent originally, when he’d written Dumbledore in the first place. Snape had a dark mark and Harry’d seen it last spring, for all he knew, Snape was taking him back to Voldemort!

 

“Potter! We are not safe enough, nor have we the time for this display.” Snape whispered harshly. His sallow face appeared in front of Harry as he leant down. “Drink,” He shoved a small purple vial at Harry. The faint scent of lavender clung in his nose and soothed his tense back quickly. A calming draught. 

 

He would’ve argued that he was perfectly calm, given that there were other people there, and he didn’t know what their intentions were, but being calmer right now, might help him think a little more clearly. 

 

Snape wouldn’t have wanted Harry calm to meet Voldemort anyway, would he? 

 

That felt illogical. 

 

He would’ve taken Harry’s wand if he wanted him defenseless. 

 

Harry reached out a clammy hand, half debating if he should throw the bottle. He wouldn’t put it past Snape to poison him, not after he’d threatened to put Veritaserum in his pumpkin juice last year. 

 

A calming draught was fairly straightforward though, and Snape, despite their horrible relationship, hadn’t attempted to kill him yet. 

 

The same couldn’t be said for several Defense professors. 

 

He attempted to grab the small bottle, but Snape pulled it back. 

 

“Not all of it, I need you to be conscious enough to walk.” 

 

Harry nodded and reached again for the bottle. He swallowed back a bit less than half before glancing at Snape in a silent question for if that was enough. 

 

Snape nodded once and snatched the bottle back. 

 

“Follow quickly.” Snape said, whipping his wand at Harry’s trunk and shrinking it. He stowed it in his pocket and whirled back around, stalking toward Wisteria Walk. Harry sped up and kept a close distance, needing to jog in order to keep up with the man’s long strides.  

 

They quickly passed Piers Polkiss’ house, and rounded Mrs Figg’s when Snape made a sharp turn and stepped down the alley.

 

Harry felt a gasp lodge in his throat as Snape twisted and grabbed his arm tightly. He yanked Harry close and the siding on Mrs Figg’s house spun into a dizzying blur. They were shoved through a constricting tube before a tremendous crack rang out around them, and Snape dropped Harry’s arm, leaving him to land hard on damp cobblestones. 

 

What little he’d gotten to eat this afternoon, came up violently. His stomach cramped painfully as he knelt, almost as if it were considering whether to sick up again, but settled soon enough. 

 

Harry looked up, noticing a faint drizzle of rain around them, and a line of black and grey row houses. 

 

Snape stepped up to the door nearest them, flicked his wand in a sharp movement and pushed the door open. He paused once inside and twisted his head over his shoulder. 

 

“Get in.” 

 

Harry scrambled off of his knees, half tripping over Dudley’s old shirt as he moved. 

 

“Where are we, sir?” 

 

“Spinner's End.” 

 

“Why not Hogwarts?” 

 

Snape sniffed, a sneer on his face as Harry stepped around him and he flicked his wand once at the door, which slammed shut with a heavy click. He neglected to answer Harry, and chose instead to brush past him, striding down the dark hallway as he flicked his wand up again. High above Harry, small brass wall sconces lit up, blooming dully. 

 

“Sir?” 

 

“Follow, Potter.” Snape's voice echoed. 

 

Harry moved slowly down the long hallway, brushing his small hand over the faded and dusty floral wallpaper. His bare feet slid over the floor, dark wood worn soft with time before he rounded the corner and came upon a cramped kitchen. 

 

He stared as Snape moved efficiently around the small space, moving stacks of old books and parchment. 

 

“Sir—”

 

“Shut up Potter.” Snape snapped, keeping his eyes on his work. 

 

Harry froze, feeling an uncomfortable tingle of hurt trickle down his throat. The urge to snap back at Snape, or shout bubbled in his chest. A loud corner of his mind hissed the horrifying option of hiding in the nearest cupboard he could find. 

 

Harry would die of shame if Snape ever saw him in another cupboard again. 

 

Snape paused, breathing slowly out through his nose and tilting his head upwards. Harry blinked up as well, but couldn’t tell what he might have been looking at. 

 

He started worrying when Snape’s shoulders slumped in an oddly human move.

 

“Alright,” Snape began, looking down at Harry. “How old are you?” 

 

“Six, I think.” Harry answered. 

 

Snape looked unconvinced, but nodded. 

 

“Do you have any blank spots in your memory?” 

 

“No, I don’t think so.” 

 

“Describe what happened to cause this, in detail, from the beginning.” Snape said, gritting his teeth and scrunching his eyes shut for a brief moment, before opening them again slowly. 

 

Harry nodded and stepped farther into the small kitchen. His toes curled slightly over the cold floor. 

 

“Dudley and I were on our way home and we took a shortcut through the tunnel under the bridge by Magnolia Road, we’d—erm, he’d,” Harry stammered. Dudley’s taunts echoed in his memories. Shame crept coldly through his stomach at how delighted Dudley had been throwing Harry’s nightmares in his face. 

 

“Sometime today, I don’t care about your arguments.” Snape said. 

 

“Right, erm, then, we came out the other side, when something fell from the top of the bridge.” Harry continued, gratefully skipping over the fight. “We both jumped to get out of the way, because it’s not that weird to have things thrown over at people walking, but before we could really move, it shattered in midair and sprayed all over us,” Harry sniffed, remembering the oddly sour smell of the potion. “It smelled like it’d gone off, really off,” He reached up to fix his glasses, before remembering he didn’t have them again. “We never saw anyone running away. When we got home, Dudley showered first, and I went after him, and then I wrote Professor Dumbledore, in case it was something deadly. Elphias Doge said it wasn’t, though.” He finished finally. 

 

“What colour was it?” Snape asked. 

 

“Blue, bright blue, and thick.” 

 

“Did you ingest any?” 

 

“No, just got it all over.” Harry said, running a hand through his hair, feeling the phantom stickiness of the potion in his fringe. 

 

“It was sticky too.” 

 

Snape grunted and sank into one of the shabby wooden chairs. 

 

“Sir,” Harry inched closer, unsure how to proceed. The thought of staying with Snape seemed horrible, though the man hadn’t been awful, he hadn’t been kind either. Harry could write Sirius and have him collect Harry maybe? He’d mentioned having a more stable home lately. He wasn’t even sure if Snape had permission to take him from Aunt Petunia’s—

 

“TUNEY!” Harry exploded as the name ran into his mind. Snape’s head flew up and colored angrily at Harry’s outburst. “How come you know my Aunt Pet—”

 

“Potter!” Snape growled. “You will keep a civil tone in this house, and you will be respectful.” 

 

Harry glared, feeling his own face flush. 

 

“Do you have the impulses and thoughts of a six year old as well?” Snape asked suddenly, ignoring Harry’s question. 

 

“How do you know my aunt?” Harry asked again, folding his arms. 

 

“That,” Snape began silkily. “Is not a topic up for discussion.” He twirled his wand slowly as he stood, coming to lean over Harry. “Don’t make me repeat myself, Potter.” 

 

Fury burned through Harry. 

 

An old wound roused and throbbed painfully in his soul. All he’d wanted when he was younger was information about his parents. He’d fought battle after battle with Aunt Petunia for years, trying everything to pry any shred of information from her. He’d clung tightly to what little she’d said, their names, what they looked like, what sort of people they were.

 

‘Drunken and lazy degenerates.’ Aunt Petunia’s cruel voice whispered. 

 

He’d pry it out of Snape too if he had to. 

 

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Snape said, bringing Harry out of his thoughts. “Though your behavior is typically childish, Potter, so it's rather difficult to tell, isn’t it?” 

 

“No,” Harry said, feeling his earlier shame cutting even deeper into his stomach. It was enough to make him nauseous again. Harry had made that same quip at Dudley’s expense earlier, though, he’d felt at the time that Dudley had deserved it. “It isn’t, and no, I haven’t.” He didn’t want to talk about his emotions with Snape. 

 

“How can you be so sure?” Snape asked cruelly, his eyebrows lifted and he slowly blinked, as if deep in thought. He flicked his hand at Harry and said. “This tantrum you're throwing right now is a classic, Potter. The minute you don’t get your way—”

 

“Obviously Aunt Petunia hates you for a good reason!” Harry snarled, unable to keep his mouth shut. 

 

The anger burning in his chest was doused by icy shame. 

 

It was a blatant lie. Aunt Petunia hated Harry for any number of reasons, ranging from the understandable to the ridiculous, and if Snape knew her well enough to know about that nickname, he’d know that about her as well.  

 

Snape froze instead, and what little color had been present on his face drained away. 

 

Harry felt the sharp sting of fear melding with his shame. It clawed up his spine and he stepped backwards unconsciously, hugging himself tightly to hide the faint tremors in his arms. His eyes flashed around the kitchen.

 

It was too small. There was a single grimy looking counter that held two cupboards, both of which would require Harry to dodge around Snape to get to, and only one exit. Thankfully, Harry was already closer to that, but Snape clearly knew this house better than Harry, and would be considerably faster. 

 

He bumped into the wall then, realizing he’d retreated as far as he physically could. Where else was he supposed to go, though? 

 

Snape drew himself to his full height. Harry couldn’t fight the nervous tick to keep an eye on Snape’s large hands. He tried to remind himself that Snape had never shied away from grabbing Harry by the collar, or whacking him with a book now and again, but that he hadn’t ever tried to hit Harry. He wasn’t radiating the fury that Harry knew he was easily capable of either, but Harry wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. If Snape felt like it, Harry was sure he could do far worse damage than either Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon by way of magic alone. 

 

He could leave Harry at this size, for one. Voldemort would kill him in a heartbeat. 

 

“Sir, I—” Harry began, his hands tightening further around his stomach. “I’m sorry,” He choked out, feeling his face pale like Snape’s had. “I shouldn’t have said that.” He looked into Snape’s dark eyes, trying to appear as apologetic as possible. That had never worked with Aunt Petunia, no matter how sorry he was. He worried if apologizing was even a good idea. The last time he’d tried genuinely apologizing to Snape, he must’ve been a first year, and still believed the man was capable of human emotion. He didn’t remember it going well. 

 

He wondered what came over him, why he’d even bothered apologizing. Snape was probably going to belittle him for it. He’d snarl some cruel comment about Harry’s stupidity, like Harry had said to Dudley hours ago. 

 

Childish and stupid. 

 

Snape brushed past him instead, ignoring Harry completely as he left the room. 

 

Harry twisted around, watching Snape’s back for a moment before following from a safe distance. They passed a small toilet that was equally as shabby as the kitchen before coming to a sitting room. It was crowded like everything else, and stuffed full to the brim with books. A wingback chair took up the most room, with a side table to its right and an incredibly dusty lamp sitting atop it. 

 

“You will sleep here for the night. Don’t touch anything other than the chair.” Snape said, levitating a few books from the floor and side table, along with a notebook and dirty mug of what looked like day old tea. “Don’t leave the house, don’t answer the door if someone knocks, don’t move when you wake up, I will collect you when I need you. Entertain yourself with your school work if you find yourself truly so bored, I’m sure you have plenty of that left.” Snape said, never turning to look at Harry. He pulled Harry’s shrunken trunk from his pocket, resized it, and dropped it next to the chair.  

 

“Can you fix this by tomorrow?” Harry asked, tip-toeing to Snape’s chair and climbing up onto it. There was a soft looking knit cover thrown over the back, which would serve a far better blanket than Dudley’s old shirt had been. He dropped his wand onto the side table. 

 

“That remains to be seen.” Snape said, stalking away quickly. 

 

Harry sat in the dark room, his small fingers worrying into the worn chair. The idea of sleeping out in the open in Snape’s sitting room wasn’t the most pleasant, but it did beat the cupboard. If only by a little. He squinted at his trunk, debating how angry Snape would be if he pulled out his invisibility cloak and used it as a second blanket. 

 

Deciding that it didn’t matter what Snape wanted, Harry crawled back off the chair and threw his trunk open, shoving aside a few robes and books until he pulled his cloak free. 

 

He darted back onto the chair, pulling the knit throw down off the back and bundling himself as tightly as he could. 

 

Beneath his blankets, the muffled sounds of the house were almost calming. He could feel himself drifting off, a small jolt of surprise running through him by how tired he really was. Sleep hadn’t come easily to him all summer. He’d spent hours laying in bed, trying to force himself calm enough to drift off, but usually wound up in an exhausted stupor. A day or two of not sleeping then led him to passing out seconds after laying down, and screaming himself awake less than an hour later. 

 

If he was as hungry as a six year old though, maybe he slept like one as well? His stomach ached at that thought, and he remembered the small hunk of cheese he’d had to eat today. Did six year olds fall asleep this easily usually?

 

His heavy eyes slid shut, and he was asleep before he gave it another thought. 

 

A loud shriek jolted him awake after what felt like seconds later. He fell off the chair, smacking his head on the floor and trying to escape from his tangled blankets. A sliver of dim grey daylight pushed through the dusty windows, illuminating a few more shapes than Harry had been able to see last night. A small chest hid behind the side table, with more heavy books stacked on top, and a small, oddly clean photo frame to the left of them. 

 

Harry climbed to his feet, tugging his cloak up around his shoulders as he grabbed his wand. 

 

“Potter!” Snape hissed from the doorway. 

 

Harry whirled around at the sound as fear shot through him. He hadn’t done anything wrong, he hadn’t left the chair. Technically, he’d fallen off of it, but he hadn’t moved from it. 

 

Snape eyed the cloak around his shoulders, and tilted around the doorway for a second before looking back at Harry. His eyes tightened for a moment, and it looked frighteningly like he was worried or pained, but Harry couldn’t say for sure. He didn’t think he’d ever seen Snape worried. 

 

“Keep your cloak on, and don’t make a sound.” Snape said, flicking his wand at Harry’s trunk and shrinking it again. He nodded once he’d seen Harry toss the cloak over his head and dropped the shrunken trunk into his pocket. 

 

He disappeared down the hallway then, leaving Harry feeling both very worried and angry. He squashed the immediate urge to run after Snape and ask what he was doing, and what that shriek was. His curiosity burned in the back of his mind, reminding him of the millions of questions he’d never had answered at the Dursley’s. 

 

He heard the front door opening, and someone speaking, it sounded like a man’s voice, but Harry couldn’t place it. He crept forward silently and struggled to listen.

 

He turned back around, hoping the window might offer a better view of who it was. It was smoke stained and grimy, but the glass wasn’t completely opaque. It reminded him of the windows in their potions classroom. They were charmed against collecting dust, but the fumes had stained them so much that they’d almost looked like an ugly and blurry stained glass window.  

 

Reaching the window, he stood as tall as he could, half climbing on the drawers in the small chest as he tried to peek out the window. 

 

The voices were still muffled, but he could see the shape of a tall man, dressed in black. He was much bigger than Snape, and he leant on the doorframe, sometimes attempting to step in, before dodging back outside. Harry watched for as long as he dared before turning away, he paused in front of the photo frame, remembering suddenly how out of place it felt. It was empty though, with just the backing shown behind very polished glass. 

 

He sighed, feeling more questions spiraling into his head. Why have a frame with no photo? Reaching out, he turned it around and poked at the backing, as if he could wish a photo into existence. 

 

The door slammed, shocking Harry. He darted to the chair, hauling himself up as quickly as he could and arranging himself to look inconspicuous.  

 

Two sets of feet pounded down the hallway, one clearly outpacing the other. Harry felt his breath lodge in his throat, and he dove off of the chair and searched desperately for a hiding spot. His cloak helped tremendously, but if someone walked in the room, they’d certainly run into him. 

 

He darted around the side table and hid behind the chair, trying to silence his panicked breaths. 

 

“A small gift, Severus, from the Dark Lord.” An oily voice slid into the room. Harry placed the sound immediately, his head spinning as the graveyard crept across his vision. “A gift to thank you for your loyalties.” 

 

Harry felt bile rising in his throat, and his hands go numb. He tried to plan, to plot how he’d make his way out of this. He could light the chair on fire maybe, and break the window and climb out. He could—

 

“Charming Avery, I’ll keep it in a box.” Snape replied. 

 

“It was great fun removing it, though, I thought it’d look nice in here, where you could see it.” Avery said. The muffled sound of something small landed on the side table to Harry’s right. He heard a whispered spell, and retreating footsteps. “Perfect. Do thank our lord the next time you see him, he’ll be pleased to know you enjoy it.” 

 

Their footsteps grew faint as they left the room. 

 

Harry couldn’t feel his legs. He wasn’t sure he could move to find out what had been left, or why. He could smell the damp tombstones still, and could feel the awful sensation of being watched. A cacophony of voices washed over Harry, laughing and jeering, taunting him in his fear. 

 

Accio Harry Potter.” Snape’s voice broke through the memory. 

 

Harry jerked, flipping over the chair and flying across the room before smacking into Snape. He felt his cloak ripped off of his head as Snape crouched down, his dark eyes wild as he looked at Harry. 

 

“Drink this,” Snape said quickly, shoving the calming draught he’d had earlier at him. 

 

Harry’s throat gurgled, and he shuddered, feeling his knees weaken as his heart thundered in his chest. Panic and fear raced through him. Voldemort’s high laugh rang in his ears and Cedric’s lifeless body appeared on the ground. 

 

Snape’s hand darted out and he caught the shoulder of Harry’s shirt. He pulled Harry a little closer, and tipped the vial into his mouth. Harry choked slightly, unable to swallow smoothly. He shuddered at the uncomfortable cooling feeling that coated his throat and slowed his heart. He felt his knees go numb and was thankful that Snape hadn’t let go yet. 

 

Snape dropped the empty bottle onto the ground.

 

“What did he give you?” Harry asked once the room stopped spinning. His voice sounded like he’d swallowed glass. His head wobbled on his shoulders. 

 

“Pettigrew’s middle finger. Hold on.” 

 

Harry felt Snape’s arms come around him. One came around his back and another under his bum, it wasn’t the most comfortable hold in the world, but Harry couldn’t be bothered by it at the moment. He’d be mortified later, he promised himself. He felt the world going dark, as his head tilted, and fell on Snape’s shoulder. The soft wool there was a far better pillow than the chair had been. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Something rough rubbed against Harry’s face, and the odd dream he’d been having lingered in his ears. It sounded like his mother’s voice, though Harry was sure he’d had no memory of her aside from her screaming, but she had been here, humming a song. 

 

He twisted, brushing against the uncomfortable fabric, before shooting upwards in fear. 

 

Avery had given Pettigrew’s finger to Snape as a ‘thank you’. 

 

Avery worked for Voldemort. 

 

Snape was a Death Eater. How did Harry keep forgetting! He shouldn’t have left Privet Drive with him, he shouldn’t have let Snape give him any calming draughts, he should’ve—

 

“Don’t leave the chair. There are volatile ingredients here, and I don’t need you killing yourself accidentally.” Snape said distractedly. 

 

Harry whipped around, staring at Snape as terror crept up his throat and options flashed through his mind. Snape hadn’t looked up at Harry yet, in fact, he seemed focused on his work. A few black cauldrons sat lined up close to him, each steaming with varying ingredients. Harry might be able to tip Snape’s workbench over, that could distract him long enough to escape? 

 

Snape might kill Harry himself if he did that though. Maybe he’d poison him, like he’d threatened before, or wrap him so tightly in his blanket that he’d be smothered? What if he wrapped Harry so much so that he couldn’t move, and just dropped him off by Voldemort?

 

The blanket slid down as Harry’s nervous shivers grew. He reached down and grabbed it quickly, feeling as if the little comfort it brought by covering him up, far outweighed the worry of Snape using it to kill him. The phantom pain of rope chafed over his wrists, burning in his mind and the sudden memory of Tom Riddle Sr’s headstone flashed into Harry’s mind. He wouldn’t put it past Snape to tie him up to keep him out of trouble. At least he’d be warm, he didn’t remember being warm in the graveyard. 

 

He tugged his blanket around his shoulders, realizing a split second later that it was his invisibility cloak. His wand poked out from the crease in the chair as well. 

 

Harry picked at Dudley’s old shirt. Snape was vile, but he wouldn’t take Harry to Voldemort armed. He could’ve just given Harry over to Avery if he’d wanted to kill him as well. Why would Snape have bothered with calming draughts, and letting him stay at the shabby house if it was all for Voldemort. 

 

Snape didn’t want him dead. Well, maybe he did, but he wasn’t going to kill Harry today. 

 

Sitting up, he ran a finger over the faded fabric on the chair. It was a rough corduroy, and felt oddly out of place for the dreary potions lab. 

 

“Where are we, sir?” Harry asked, remembering to tack on the ‘sir’ at the last second. 

 

“Don’t ask questions, I’m working.” Snape said, neglecting to look up. 

 

Harry bristled, feeling every inch of his six year old body thrumming. Aunt Petunia’s voice shrieked in his ear. 

 

‘Don’t ask questions.’ 

 

‘But I just want—’

 

‘I don’t care what you want!’ Aunt Petunia had screamed from where she towered above him. Her red face had pinched in fury. ‘I never wanted you! Does it look like I got what I wanted?’ 

 

A crack that Harry hadn’t realized was in his heart, ached and widened. He wasn’t sure why that memory hurt him now. He didn’t care about what the Dursley’s wanted, he never had. He’d always known they were cruel people. 

 

“Potter,” Snape’s fingers snapped in front of Harry’s eyes. “Smell this.” He said once Harry looked up and blinked confusedly at him. Snape had a sprig of leaves in his hand. 

 

“What is it?” Harry asked, giving the plant a distrustful look. 

 

“Witch hazel.” Snape supplied, giving Harry a disappointed look. “You’ve brewed with it for four years. Do you truly pay such little attention?” 

 

“I pay attention,” Harry blushed, noticing the resemblance now. “I just like to be sure.”


Snape gave him a sour look, but didn’t comment again when Harry leant over to smell the plant. The smell burnt his nose and throat, and Harry couldn’t contain the cough that wracked him until Snape pulled it away. 

 

Snape stalked over to his cauldrons quickly, twisting the sprig between his fingers as he moved. 

 

“Why did I have to smell that?” Harry asked, rubbing his throat.

 

“Don’t ask—”

 

“Please!” Harry asked, feeling his voice catch at the end of the word. A humiliated teary feeling burned behind his eyes. He hadn’t intended on ever saying ‘please’ to Snape. 

 

He wanted to crawl in a hole. 

 

“You didn’t ask for me, I get it. I didn’t ask for this either!” Harry shouted, feeling the tears start to fall. 

 

He rubbed his eyes violently, dreading whatever had taken over his emotions. Maybe Snape had been right earlier, and he did have the emotions and impulses of a six year old. He didn’t remember crying when he was six though, he’d been tougher then than he was now. 

 

He didn’t want to see Snape’s sneer, he didn’t want to even think about Snape’s reaction to his crying. 

 

Snape had now seen Harry at his very worst. He’d seen him cry. He’d seen him hide in the cupboard, panic in the street and again in the sitting room. Harry swallowed painfully. He’d seen Harry wearing Dudley’s shirt and a pair of rubber banded pants. 

 

“What hit you and your cousin was an incorrectly made aging potion. If it had been made correctly, you’d have the mentality of the age you’re presently at. There is a chance the potion was altered to leave you mentally at fifteen, however it is unlikely, given some of your behavior.” Snape’s voice was soft in the dark room. “Witch hazel has many uses in aging potions, it is often a common ingredient. There are some aging potions that bypass it, however, in favor of more precise ingredients. The issue lies when one uses witch hazel in conjunction with one of these ingredients. By coughing, you proved that witch hazel was present in the original potion.” 

 

Harry paused, blinking through damp eyelashes at his professor. 

 

Snape looked, for lack of a better word, awkward. He seemed to be watching Harry carefully, for what though, Harry couldn’t say. 

 

Snape still seemed tense, but not in the bitterly angry way he’d been before. At least, he looked as uncomfortable as Harry felt. Maybe Harry should say ‘thank you’. He’d never thanked Aunt Petunia when she finally gave him an ounce of information. Although she’d usually put him in his cupboard or sent him outside before he could. 

 

“Thank you.” Harry said, feeling like the moment deserved it. Maybe they’d come to some kind of equally humiliated truce. Maybe the shabby house had been Snape’s, and he felt equally horrified at Harry having seen it? 

 

Snape hummed and turned back to his work. 

 

Harry sat back against the chair, wondering where they both stood now. He still wanted to know where they were, if they were still at Spinner’s End, or somewhere else. The lab looked more well-kept than any of the rooms he’d been in before. The small windows at the top of the room let in a very thin light, hardly enough to see with. Snape had set a few torches around to combat that, though Harry wasn’t sure if they truly helped. 

 

He’d just have to bide his time and wait in between questions. That had sometimes worked with Aunt Petunia, maybe it would work with Snape? 

 

What would his next question be then? 

 

He’d have to be smart about it, because no matter how much his curiosity burned, asking Snape straight out about Aunt Petunia was likely not going to work. 

 

Snape knew she hated magic, that was true enough. The way he’d spoken to her confirmed that. 

 

He knew her, more than just an average person did. Harry was sure of it. 

 

“Come along Potter, I’m hungry and I’d rather not leave you alone here.” Snape said as he stood up. He dropped his quill onto a page to serve as a bookmark before spinning on his heel. 

 

Harry climbed to his feet and grabbed his wand before crawling off of the chair. His cloak pooled around him. The immediate urge to ask where they were going surged through him, but he tamped it down. He’d just as soon find out by following. 

 

The dirty floor was cold beneath his feet and Harry found himself wishing he’d been clever enough to make small enough socks out of one of Dudley’s castoffs. At least if this was still Spinner’s End, Snape couldn’t complain about Harry tracking footprints, not with the rest of the house in its current state. 

 

They climbed a crooked wooden staircase before coming out in the dirty hallway Harry had seen the night before. 

 

“Do you live here, sir?” Harry asked, feeling the question fly out of him before he could stop it. 

 

Snape paused as he stepped into the kitchen. 

 

“Does this house look lived in, Potter?” Snape asked with a sneer, tossing a look over his shoulder. 

 

“No,” Harry started, feeling like he’d landed himself back at the beginning with Snape. Asking more questions likely wouldn’t help, but they were overflowing in Harry’s brain. Is this your house? Why is it so dirty? Why do you have an empty photo frame? How do you know Aunt Petunia? Why did Avery give you that gift? Are you a Death Eater, or aren’t you? 

 

“Don’t ask stupid questions.” Snape said, turning back to open a cupboard and pulling out a bowl. 

 

“So I’m only allowed to ask smart ones?” Harry asked.

 

Snape sniffed. “Potter, If you’re able to use your brain and come up with even one single intelligent—”

 

“If you know my Aunt Petunia so well, then you knew my mum. When did you meet my mum?” Harry asked. 

 

The bowl in Snape’s hands dropped, shattering in a thousand pieces and scattering across the floor. 

 

Harry didn’t give Snape the chance to hit him. He dove out of the kitchen and down the hallway, desperately searching for a cupboard, his heart pounding in his chest as terror raced through him. He couldn’t remember if he’d seen one yesterday, but the urge to throw himself inside one was too strong to ignore. Snape was going to kill him. 

 

The last time Harry had broken a dish, Aunt Petunia had swung a frying pan at him. She’d nearly hit him, but missed. He shouldn’t have dodged out of the way, because it had only made her angrier. He couldn’t remember how long he’d been stuck in his cupboard after that. 

 

He slid on the wooden floor, and jumped to reach the door knob on the front door, but long arms came around his middle pulling him away. 

 

Harry screamed and kicked out, nausea swooped in his stomach as he was lifted up. 

 

“Potter!” Snape’s voice was loud in his ear. Harry tried kicking out again, but felt his cloak quickly wrapping around his legs. “Stop moving, now!” 

 

Harry froze, his breath heaving from him in impossibly large gasps. His chest felt too tight, and his stomach rebelled, spitting up bile down his front. 

 

“You are hysterical, Potter, you need to breathe.” Snape said, flicking his wand at the sick. “Despite what you may believe, I am not in the habit of hitting small children.” Snape lifted him fully then, holding him awkwardly up as he carried him back into the kitchen. “Reckless and rude as they may be.” 

 

Harry couldn’t breathe. Heavy, painful coughs wracked his lungs. 

 

Snape sat him on top of the grimy counter and tightened the cloak further. He brushed a long finger firmly down Harry’s nose and back up again, repeating the motion several times. 

 

Harry blinked at the sensation, and felt his breathing begin to slow. 

 

“You stepped on glass,” Snape said, breathing out slowly himself. He waved his wand over the kitchen floor, and the broken pieces disappeared. “I would’ve thought you’d at least have the brains to hold still with broken glass everywhere.” Snape added, tugging Harry’s feet carefully from the cloak. He trailed his wand over the sole of Harry’s foot. A large piece of glass was stuck at an odd angle, it didn’t look bad, but it bled quite a bit. 

 

Harry realized belatedly, that his feet had hurt when he’d been running. 

 

Snape pulled another bowl down, and with a whispered aguamenti, filled it with water. 

 

Harry felt as if he’d run a marathon in five minutes. He wondered why Snape hadn’t given him another calming draught, as it seemed to be his first reaction to Harry’s other panics. 

 

“Do you have a pair of socks?” Snape asked, methodically pulling smaller and smaller pieces of glass out. 

 

Harry shook his head, not trusting his voice. He’d already humiliated himself more than once today. His throat still burned painfully, and more tears pooled in his eyes. 

 

“I will shrink some of your clothes. As it stands, providing you with an antidote may take some time.” Snape pulled another piece of glass free, healing the cut with a flick. His long fingers brushed over the cuts. 

 

Harry nodded, dreading the thought of staying small and terrified. He’d never thought being six would be so difficult. 

 

“I am not a babysitter, Potter.” Snape said, leaning back. 

 

Harry stared at him, confused by the comment. Snape seemed more awkward now than he had in the basement. 

 

“I don’t really need one, sir.” Harry started, struggling to pull his hands from the tight cloak. “I can manage myself just fine.” 

 

“Clearly.” Snape said, flicking his hand at Harry’s present state. 

 

“I meant—”

 

“I cannot send for someone to collect you, as having you present to answer questions while I research an antidote is the quickest route towards finding one. As such, you will need to stay, and while drugging you into a catatonic stupor with calming draughts is helpful, it isn’t a feasible long term solution.” Snape paused and reached towards Harry’s cloak, untying it with deft fingers. “Therefore, your behavior needs to be addressed.” 

 

Harry wrapped his freed arms around his stomach. He hadn’t planned for Snape to break the bowl, it had just happened. 

 

“I really can manage just fine, sir. It was just an accident.” Harry said. Old hopes and fears whispered harshly, and the time Dudley had broken one of Aunt Petunia’s tea cups flashed through his mind. 

 

‘Go away Dudley!’ Harry had hissed as he dusted. 

 

‘I’m bored,’ Dudley said as he tapped a finger against the china tea set. ‘And it’s raining, where am I supposed to go?’ 

 

‘I don’t care where you go Diddy-dumpkins,’ Harry grabbed another tea cup and wiped the rag through it. ‘But ‘away’ would be a great start.’ 

 

Dudley sneered at him, and a cruel look glimmered into his eye seconds later. He whipped his hand out and grabbed one of the cups, cheerfully tossing it onto the floor and smiling as it shattered into sharp dainty pieces. 

 

Fear coursed through Harry. 

 

‘Dudley!’ Harry half whispered, his panic ridden voice strangled in his throat. Before either of them could move, the scattered pieces rattled on the floor and flew together, repairing itself and appearing as though it had never broken. 

 

Both Dudley and Harry stared at the cup. 

 

‘Mummy!’ Dudley screamed. His face paled the longer he stared. ‘You’re such a freak!’ Dudley growled as Aunt Petunia appeared. 

 

No amount of pleading had helped him escape his cupboard then, he wondered why he’d thought it might help now. 

 

Snape sighed. 

 

“Potter, I’m aware that you didn’t break the bowl.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m referring to your behavior afterwards.”

 

Harry squinted at his professor. 

 

“Running through glass, Potter.” Snape deadpanned. “Are you truly so dense you can’t figure that out?” 

 

“I’m not dense.” Harry snapped, resisting the urge to shout. “And you said I could ask an intelligent question if I could think of one, and I did. That’s not dense, and you didn’t even answer me.” 

 

Snape stilled, and his eyes flashed over Harry before he spoke. “Why did you run into the cupboard when your Aunt yelled at you last night?”

 

Harry flinched and reared back angrily. 

 

“She seemed quick to foist you onto someone else, didn’t she?” Snape sneered and leant forward, pressing close.

 

“Anytime somebody asks you something that you don’t like to talk about, you attack them!” Harry shouted, pushing back as his anger careened to the forefront again. The Durlsey’s had perfected that style of punishment with Harry. They’d find some way to remind him of his nastiness or his freakishness in an attempt to hide from their own behavior. “You’re a bully!” He yelled at Snape. “Just like you always say about my dad!”

 

“Your father was a nasty bullying toe rag Potter!” Snape shouted back, his face burning red. “He was a vile, cruel little boy—”

 

“And you hated him cause my mum was friends with him.” Harry’s voice cut through Snape’s. “But you were friends with her first, and couldn’t stand him, is that it?” Harry felt as if he’d guessed correctly, given the color draining from Snape’s pale face. 

 

The only way he could’ve known about Aunt Petunia’s hatred of that nickname, is if he’d known her. If he’d know her, he’d known Harry’s mum. Harry already knew that Snape had been in the same year as his parents, because Sirius and Professor Lupin had told him so. They all knew each other. Sirius never called Aunt Petunia ‘Tuney’ though, he’d barely even remembered her name. Snape had known his mum before they’d even been to school. He must have, Harry was sure of it. 

 

“Your mother wasn’t friends with James Potter.” Snape said quietly. He’d pulled away from Harry at some point. “Not at first.” 

 

Harry’s previous anger dripped from him, leaving him exhausted on the countertop. 

 

“Well, will you tell me about her at least? Aunt Petunia never has.” 

 

“Potter.” Snape said in a long suffering tone. 

 

“Harry.” Harry corrected. How hadn’t he noticed that Snape had never said a single unkind word about his mum. He’d never so much as mentioned her. It was odd, given the last four years he’d spent openly berating Harry’s dad. “She named me Harry, don’t you think you should call me that?” 

 

Sirius has told him that. James had apparently wanted to name him for his grandfather, to keep alive a pureblood tradition.

 

Snape rubbed his fingers into his eyes, looking more human every second. 

 

“Your mother—”

 

“Lily.” Harry supplied, feeling a small thrill of excitement. Snape was human. Truly human. He wasn’t an evil git, he did have a weakness. A weakness Harry felt similarly about. 

 

“Harry.” Snape said forcefully. “Lily is a difficult subject.” 

 

“What about little things then, they don’t have to be difficult.” Harry said, blinking hopefully at Snape. 

 

Snape stepped closer, telegraphing his movements slowly for Harry before picking him up under his armpits and setting him gently onto the floor, his cloak followed quickly after. 

 

He began cooking again as Harry stepped over to one of the chairs and climbed up into it. 

 

“Please?” Harry asked, remembering that it’d helped when they were in the lab. 

 

Snape sighed again, almost curling in on himself. 

 

“You look more like her at this age than you look like Potter.” 

 

Harry jumped to his feet and ran to the bathroom, throwing himself from the toilet lid and to the sink in order to look in the mirror. 

 

It was difficult to see what Snape meant, given the years of dirt and dust on the mirror, and Harry wasn’t sure which features to focus on, but he stared nonetheless. His eyes looked very much the same, almond shaped and green. In his younger body, his chin was a bit less defined, and softer, and Harry wouldn’t have said his nose had changed much as he grew. He caught sight of his scar as he studied himself, catching the inflamed red grooves. It looked deeper than usual, and more jagged. 

 

Leaping off of the counter he walked quickly into the kitchen and looked up at Snape, who seemed to have ignored Harry’s small adventure. 

 

“Be more careful with your feet, they’re recently healed.” Snape said. “Your trunk is in the sitting room again, go collect a few things to wear.” 

 

Harry stared at the man’s back, wondering if he could get away with another few questions, but decided to listen in a show of good faith. The less Snape had to argue or berate him over, the more time they could spend discussing his mum. He found his trunk quickly and pulled out the first sweater Mrs Weasley had knit for him, as well as a few of the less ragged t-shirts, trousers and socks. A horrible embarrassed feeling ran through him at the thought of Snape seeing his underpants, but he grabbed them anyway, trying to imagine how much happier he’ll be to be wearing pants that didn’t need to be rubber banded together. 

 

“Here.” Harry said as he came into the kitchen. He half wondered if he should set them down, but didn’t fancy dirty shrunken clothes. 

 

“Put them on the spare chair. We’re going to discuss what will be expected of you while you are here.” Snape said, handing a bowl of salad to Harry once his clothes had been dropped onto the chair. 

 

Chapter Text

Harry sat back on the threadbare rug and began flipping through the beginnings of his charms homework. Complicated diagrams and wand work aside, he was confident he’d be able to finish it without Hermione’s help. Although, he reminded himself bitterly, he wasn’t interested in asking for her help in the first place, given her bare letters. 

 

“Stay calm and don’t pick a fight Harry,” Harry mimicked her voice, pitching his voice insultingly high. “Don’t give the Dursley’s a reason to punish you.” 

 

Harry sneered. As if they’d ever needed a reason. 

 

He imagined them all at Ron’s house, with him explaining how hopeless their letters made him feel, and how he’d shout about how utterly destroyed he felt not knowing anything about Voldemort, now that he’d returned and Harry had been the unbelievably stupid person who’d been manipulated into helping him do it. He’d been cut open and tortured, and then sent to the Dursley’s for three months, only to be ignored. He wanted them to apologize, and tell them everything they knew, or better, apologize and promise never to treat him like this again! 

 

A small, nearly silent voice hummed in his mind, reminding him that they might not know any more than they were telling, and maybe felt equally miserable to be sending pointless letters. 

 

They’d probably try to apologize at the first chance they had, and Harry tried to remind himself further of the danger they’d all get into if an owl with important information was attacked by a Death Eater. That small bit of insight having been driven into his head by the meeting with Avery. 

 

He crossed his arms tightly, bitter and angry with the situation, but feeling moderately better. Worry still rippled through him after how close he and Snape had come to being found out early this morning. 

 

Twisting, he stared at the small bed he’d be sleeping in, and the other worn, but clean things in the room. Snape had been remarkably decent. His list of rules wasn’t designed for failure like the Durlsey’s usually was, and was far more in line with average school rules than anything else. Aside from a few threats to, ‘Disembowel you and hide your body parts in potions if I ever discover you’ve discussed this house or my personal life with your nosey little friends.’ Which wasn’t unexpected. 

 

Maybe Ron and Hermione would yell at him for not writing to them about all the things he’d seen.

 

Nausea rolled through Harry at the thought of Pettigrew’s finger. It was still in the sitting room, or it had been the last time Harry had seen it. 

 

Harry gagged, and tried to refocus on his homework.

 

At least he was comfortable. Being six was significantly easier with clothes that fit. He knew intimately how vulnerable being both small and forced to wear very unfitting clothes was and Snape had done a nice job shrinking his things. 

 

Snape was alright as far as company went as well, when he wasn’t in a vile mood. He hadn’t thrown Harry in a cupboard, yelled at him, hit him, or even pretended like he would hit him. They hadn’t had a chance to talk more about Lily yet, but Harry had plans for that. 

 

Harry had also been spending an embarrassing amount of time in front of the mirror, looking at his face and trying to find a resemblance with his mum. Years of hearing about how similar he and his dad were hadn’t made it easy, and Snape almost banned him from the bathroom, but when Harry awkwardly explained, Snape had ended up transfiguring a small plate into a hand mirror for him. 

 

Harry couldn’t explain it, but he would rather die than have Ron find out about that. 

 

There was always the chance that all of the Slytherins in their year would learn a few unpleasant details about Harry’s life as well, but Harry was willing to suffer that for facts about his mum. Snape didn’t seem like the type to let truly important information slip into their slimy hands. 

 

A small thump came from downstairs, and the soft flutter of wings made Harry jump to his feet. Hedwig hadn’t found him yet, but Harry had been hopeful she’d be by soon. He desperately wanted his friend back. Hermione swore Hedwig didn’t speak English, but Harry knew she understood what he said. 

 

He moved quickly down the hallway and stairs, jumping the last two in excitement before flinching hard as his godfather’s voice roared through the house. 

 

“YOU MISERABLE SNIVELLING—” 

 

Harry bolted through the hallway and slid into the kitchen as terror arced through him.

 

Snape was glaring furiously at a howler. 

 

“—ROTTEN BASTARD! HOW DARE YOU THINK YOU CAN HIDE MY GODSON FROM ME! HOW DARE YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE HIM FROM HIS HOME—”

 

Incendio!” Snape hissed, jabbing his wand forward. 

 

“—AND KEEP HIM WITH YOU? YOU THINK BECAUSE DUMBLEDORE TRUSTS YOU THAT YOU GET A FREE PASS TO HIM?! DID YOU THINK I WOULDN’T FIND OUT? WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD ENTRUST HARRY INTO YOUR FILTHY DEATH EATING HANDS—” 

 

Lacarnum Inflamari!” 

 

“—IF I DON’T SEE HIM IN MY HOUSE SAFE AND SOUND IN THE NEXT TWO HOURS YOU’LL HAVE A LOT MORE THAN VOLDEMORT TO WORRY ABOUT!” 

 

The howler snapped its parchment teeth at Snape’s wand and ripped itself to pieces. The kitchen fell silent as the two stared at the torn letter. 

 

The thought of Sirius seeing Harry small like this would ruin everything, on top of being painfully humiliating. Sirius wouldn’t take him seriously, he wouldn’t listen to Harry, he certainly wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth shut around Snape, and Harry needed him to keep his mouth shut. Harry finally had a chance to find out more about his mum!

 

“We can’t go!” Harry shouted and tugged at the ends of his hair. “Sirius can’t see me like this! He’d never let it go!” 

 

“Believe me Potter, I’d rather let your precious mutt stew in his own vitriol.” Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. 

 

Harry had the sudden image of Sirius screaming and trying to kill Snape. 

 

“Please Professor, can’t I just write him back?” Harry asked. His worries tumbled into increasingly worse scenarios. Sirius would shout at Snape, and then at Harry for not telling him about this, or Sirius would tell Harry he couldn’t be around Snape anymore, no matter how much his mum had apparently liked him. Sirius might take one look at him and say he was an awful, ugly little monster and say he never wanted anything to do with Harry, ever again. 

 

Harry shook his head, the last thought sounding incredibly like Aunt Petunia. It lingered nonetheless. 

 

“I can write him, and calm him down, or I could write Professor Lupin! He could calm Sirius down?” Harry said, turning in place and darting back through the hallway. 

 

“Potter!” Snape called after him.

 

“Harry!” Harry corrected as he scrambled up the stairs and into the spare bedroom. He grabbed at the parchment in his trunk and snagged his quill as well before Snape appeared in the doorway. 

 

Harry, writing to him or the wolf isn’t going to solve this, not when your handwriting is already atrocious. They’re going to assume I’ve forced you into writing a note.” Snape said, snatching the parchment from him. “I have no desire to receive another howler from your miserable godfather, nor do I want to be in his presence ever again, however,” He paused, inhaling slowly. Dread pooled in Harry’s stomach, Snape was going to make them go. “It will be easier to show up and prove you are neither dead nor dying.” 

 

“Sirius won’t,” Harry paused, unsure how to explain what Sirius would and wouldn’t have issues with. Staying with Snape was an obvious issue, as Harry himself had been terrified initially, but Sirius would never be okay with it no matter how many interesting Lily facts Snape could provide. He’d probably thought Harry felt the same way, and that was why he’d sent the howler. He’d never accept Harry’s wanting to stay with his professor though, not for a second. “He won’t, erm—”

 

“While it will take a minute to explain your physical state, the dog will get over it.” Snape said. “Loathe as I am to give Black anything he wants in a timely manner, it would be easier if this was over and done with quickly. Two potential antidotes need a few ingredients that I can collect from him as well.” 

 

Harry sat down hard on the rug, feeling more horrified and miserable by the second. What if Sirius thought this was his fault? What if he thought Harry was attention seeking, or if he thought it was a prank like Uncle Vernon? What if he thought it was so irresponsible of Harry that he decided he wanted nothing to do with him? 

 

“Po-Harry,” Snape began, his voice dropping awkwardly around Harry’s name. “You do like your godfather, unless I’m mistaken?” 

 

“Well, yeah,” Harry said, curling in on himself. “He’s always tried to be here for me, but,” He paused, unsure how to describe how important Sirius’s letters and advice made him feel. He wasn’t sure he could describe it to someone like Snape, he wasn’t even sure he knew a name for it. He just didn’t want to ruin anything between himself and Sirius. 

 

“Well, there’s no accounting for taste. I find him deplorable, an opinion your mother agreed with for several years. She did, however, describe a few of his less despicable qualities upon occasion.” Snape said, crossing his arms as he grimaced. “He doesn’t discard those he views as family easily. Will that pacify you enough to stop pouting and get off the floor?” 

 

Harry jumped as indignation jolted through him. “I’m not pouting!” He snapped. “I’m worried, there’s a difference, and It’s not exactly like I have a bunch of people who care—”

 

“You’re thousands of fans are only an owl away Potter, merely whinge to the press—”

 

“None of these thousands of people knew my mum or dad though, do they?!” Harry said, his throat clenching in fury. “They just want to use me, or tell me things they think I want to hear, or they think I’m just some special ornament to be brought to parties and shown off! And you!” He found himself suddenly on his feet, viciously lamenting that Snape was so much taller than him. “You always tell me how my fame goes to my head, and that I think I’m so special, but I don’t think I had anything to do with Voldemort’s death, because I was a bloody one year old! If anyone should have some fame it’s my mum, and I’d throw myself off the astronomy tower if I thought it’d bring her back!” At some point his hands had clenched into fists and an unbelievable amount of tears had begun to run down his face. 

 

This was unfair. He coughed hard, unable to calm himself down enough to breathe. 

 

He wasn’t a crier, he had never been and somehow he’d cried more in the last two days than in his entire life. Maybe anger translated differently in a small body, but he didn’t understand why. He was used to being berated and ignored and treated unfairly. Aunt Petunia had never allowed him to have this sort of episode in his life. Snape looked appalled as well, as though Harry had just threatened to blow up his potions cupboard and smash every expensive thing he could find. His sallow skin had gone remarkably pale the longer Harry had screamed.

 

He rubbed furiously at his nose and eyes, trying to stem the tears. This wasn’t fair in the slightest bit. 

 

“Alright,” Snape said, as he sank to his knees, looking every bit as uncomfortable as Harry felt. “Alright Harry,” He held his arms out slowly.

 

Harry eyed him nervously and crept forward, still unable to tamp down on the emotions rocketing through him. 

 

“I don’t have a lot of people.” Harry finally said, letting the misery overtake him as he stepped into Snape’s arms, allowing them to come fully around Harry in a painfully gentle hug. 

 

Snape held him as he caught his breath and tried to get a handle on himself. He found himself unconsciously pushing his head into the crook of Snape’s neck, unsure as to why this was more helpful calming him down than his usual method of running off alone for a while. 

 

The small room was warm though, and so was Snape. It seemed to help. 

 

“You certainly inherited Lily’s temper.” Snape said after a while. One of his hands came up, cupping Harry’s head close. 

 

Harry sank into him, overjoyed at the thought of another thing in common. 

 

“She was once so mad at me, that she walked over here and yelled at me, every day for a week.” Snape’s voice was soft in his ear. “She was never shy about her anger or gave anyone the silent treatment, and flat out refused to let anything go until the issue was resolved.” He breathed out slowly. “Her temper grew more refined as she matured, but it never became less ferocious.” Snape said. 

 

“My mum’s been here?” Harry asked, tilting to lean into Snape’s chest. He tried to imagine her in the dirty house. 

 

“A few times.” Snape said. He let Harry go then and climbed back to his feet. “Go wash your face and then we’ll go prove your continued health to your godfather.” He waved his wand at himself and cleaned away the signs of Harry’s distress from his shirt. “I assure you, as someone who has had the displeasure to know the mutt for too many years, he will not change his mind about you. It’s far more likely that he finds this to be my fault rather than your’s or anyone else’s, and if he truly does change his mind, I’ll hex him.” 

 

Snape turned and left then, his footsteps fading as he went down the stairs. Harry stopped short at the thought of Snape hexing Sirius for Harry. 

 

Maybe he had more people than he thought he did. Snape might jump at any opportunity to hex Sirius though as well. 

 

It took him a few minutes to clean up and find some clothes without holes. He ended up in the first Weasley sweater Mrs Weasley had made him, feeling like Sirius would appreciate Harry in something made by people he’d approved of. 

 

He found Snape in the sitting room, paging through a stained book and making small notations in the margins. 

 

“We will apparate there, read this note first. You won’t be able to see the house without knowing the address.” He said, pulling a piece of parchment from his pocket. 

 

‘The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.’ Harry read, committing it to memory. 

 

“The Order of the Phoenix, sir?” 

 

“An ostentatious title for a group of people with differing opinions from those of the Dark Lord. Never discuss it openly around me, here or at Hogwarts.” Snape said as they walked down the front hall. 

 

Harry nodded, feeling as if he’d somehow joined the group already. 

 

Snape dropped Harry’s invisibility cloak around his shoulders and once he was well hidden; he grabbed a hold of Harry’s arm and opened the front door. They walked a few steps down the sunny street before Snape spun on his heel and Spinner's End blurred into a dizzying spin. As quick as they’d left, they’d arrived, landing hard in front of grey and brown row houses. By the time Harry had collected himself enough to stand, a house had emerged from in between numbers 11 and 13.

 

They stepped through the front door and seconds after it shut Sirius had thrown Snape against it. 

 

“Sirius!” Professor Lupin’s worried voice rang down the hallway. 

 

“I don’t see him Snivellus!” Sirius snarled. His teeth began growing longer instantly, quickly nearing the same size as they would be on Snuffles. 

 

“Potter!” Snape shouted as he pressed his wand into Sirius’s throat. “Present yourself.” 

 

Harry tugged the cloak off before Sirius could do anything else. His heart pounded in his chest as both Sirius and Lupin froze. 

 

“Merlin’s balls Harry,” Sirius breathed as he turned and snatched Harry into his arms, settling him against his hip. “When I heard about what happened, I just about lost it,” He said as they left Snape in the front hall and walked into a large kitchen. Sirius hugged him closer as a slight tremble ran through his small frame. A nervous fear hissed in the back of his mind, worrying him that Sirius would drop him, or throw him. It made him grab Sirius’s shirt tightly in his fists. 

 

It felt like a ridiculous idea, as Sirius had never given Harry that feeling, but Harry had a vague memory of Aunt Petunia dropping him into his cot more than once, and throwing him a bit before he’d fully learnt to walk. 

 

He wasn’t very well versed in being carried. 

 

“Bloody hell Harry!” 

 

Harry’s thoughts stopped dead at Ron’s voice. The immediate urge to jump away from Sirius and run to Snape snapped into his brain. He hoped Snape hadn’t known Ron and Hermione would be here. That would’ve been cruel. 

 

“Ronald! Don’t swear in front of him!” Hermione’s sharp voice cut through the haze of terror. “He’s a child!” 

 

“Oh, shit,” Sirius said, his large hand coming up to pat Harry’s back as Harry hid his face embarrassedly in Sirius’s neck. “Well, I already said a few, so it can’t really hurt to add another.”

 

“He’s only physically a child, he’s mentally fifteen.” Snape said, appearing behind Sirius. His dark eyes drilled into Sirius’s back, offering an odd modicum of comfort to Harry. 

 

“Oh, well great!” Ron said. He sounded like he’d begun walking closer, but had stopped short. 

 

“Harry?” Sirius asked, his hand rubbing over Harry’s back again. Harry tensed, holding Sirius’s shirt tighter still and feeling his fingers beginning to go numb. “Harry, you alright?” 

 

“Perhaps the feeling of being thrown about without one’s consent is disorienting,” Snape said silkily. “And uncomfortable.”  

 

“You think I’d hurt my godson?” Sirius spat and whirled around. Harry pinched his eyes shut at the feeling.

 

“Sirius,” Hermione began, sounding worried, but appearing to catch onto Snape’s point. “I don’t think it was about that,” Sirius spun in place again, and the nervous feeling in Harry’s stomach crept higher. “Harry’s never struck me as someone who, erm,” She paused and seemed to choose her words carefully. “Well he’s quite independent. He likes his feet on the ground.” She said finally. 

 

“Oh.” Sirius said dumbly. “I’m sorry, Prongslet,” He said untangling Harry’s numb fingers from his shirt. “Just got a bit overexcited.” 

 

Harry was set gently onto his feet. He sighed in relief and looked up, remembering belatedly just how tall Sirius was. He turned and looked for Hermione and Ron, realizing they were closer than he’d realized. 

 

“I’m glad you’re all in one piece, Harry,” Lupin’s voice came from behind Sirius. “Dumbledore was vague in his letter. Is your cousin dealing with this as well then?” Lupin asked as he stepped around Sirius. A very long wooden table ran down the center of the room, splitting Hermione and Ron from Sirius and Lupin. 

 

“Yeah,” Harry said, jumping as Hermione squeaked. He blinked confusedly at her, and caught an apologetic look on her face before he turned back to Lupin. “But he’s older, eleven or twelve maybe.” 

 

“And you don’t know anything about who did it?” Sirius asked, pulling out a chair. 

 

“No,” Harry shook his head. “We never saw anyone.” 

 

“Well,” Sirius pinched his lips in thought. “I don’t see why you’ve got to stay with Sni-Snape,” His eyes narrowed and slid toward Snape. “I’ll write Dumbledore, I’m sure Snape doesn’t want you—”

 

“Contrary to what you believe Black, having Potter present will expedite the recovery process.” Snape walked fully into the room. “Potter, visit with your friends while I find a few ingredients. I’ll collect you soon” He said, his black cloak billowing as he passed Sirius and Lupin. 

 

“Excuse me?” Sirius snarled and climbed to his feet. 

 

“Best be off you three,” Lupin said, ushering them out of the room. “We’ll sort it out.” 

 

“But—” Harry started. 

 

“Come on Harry,” Hermione said kindly. “Ron’s room is closest.” She jerked as if to take hold of his hand, but thought better of it. 

 

They climbed the stairs quickly and rounded the hallway. Faded geometric blue rugs layered the floors, each dustier than the last and a mammoth collection of photographs cluttered the walls. It was nearly as full as the walls in Hogwarts. There were a few broken or burned frames though, as if someone wanted an angry reminder to look at. 

 

“Blimey Harry, were you really that small when mum knitted that sweater?” Ron asked as they stepped into a cramped bedroom.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous Ron, it’s obvious it’s been shrunk.” Hermione said. 

 

“Oh, right.” Ron said, throwing himself onto a bed. 

 

Harry looked around the room, catching the little pieces from The Burrow hiding in the small space. He spied Ron’s Chudley Cannons pin and a tattered orange pillowcase, as well as the quilt that usually covered Ron’s bed. 

 

“Harry?” Hermione asked, her voice wavering nervously.

 

“Have you two been here all summer?” Harry asked, catching Ron’s clothes in the cracked door of the wardrobe. 

 

“Nearly,” Ron said, tossing a small ball up into the air. “Mum’s been on one mate!” He caught the ball. “We’ve been cleaning for two months straight, it’s awful.” 

 

“Ron!” Hermione snapped, giving him a fierce look. 

 

“Oh yeah, two whole months with Sirius and the rest of The Order of the Phoenix,” Harry said as he crossed his arms. He felt the tell tale tingle of anger blooming again, and debated if he’d break down into a crying wreck if he yelled at them like he wanted to, but his anger seeped out before he could control it. “I can see how awful that must be, really,” Harry growled. “Surrounded by people who like you and want you, god Ron, I see your point, just terrible.” 

 

Ron’s ears went red, and the ball he’d been tossing fell dully onto the ground. “I didn’t mean—” 

 

“But thank god you always found time to write! You really put your heart into those letters!” Harry shouted. 

 

“Oh Harry we’re so sorry!” Hermione started, dropping to her knees to look him in the eye. “We’re so sorry, we hated not having you here!” She twitched twice, as if struggling to decide whether to hug him or not. “We hated writing those letters too, but Dumbledore made us swear not to give anything away! We asked for you every day though, didn’t we Ron?” 

 

“Right!” Ron nodded sharply. “Everyday mate,” 

 

“It was awful yes, but that’s because you weren’t here with us, not because of the cleaning or lack of information!” Hermione said, finally throwing her arms around him apologetically. 

 

Harry fell backwards with her, but brought his own arms up around her quickly. His eyes burned slightly, and he felt a bubble of happiness warming in his chest. 

 

He was wanted, they hadn’t ignored him intentionally. 

 

She pulled back slowly and dabbed her fingers at her eyes. Ron looked awkwardly on, but gave them both an apologetic smile while Hermione sat back and gestured for them both to join her on the floor. 

 

“What have you guys found out then?” He asked, wondering how much snooping they could get away with while here. 

 

“Not much, we know it’s called The Order of the Phoenix, of course.” Hermione began, detailing the first night she’d been brought here. Her parents had been incredibly worried, and so was Dumbledore it turned out. Ron’s parents had felt similarly enough to begin warding The Burrow more thoroughly. 

 

“Mostly they’ve been organizing and running missions out from the kitchen. The real Mad-Eye Moody and a few other aurors are keeping tabs on some Death Eaters—” Ron began.

 

“But we don’t know which ones,” Hermione cut in, frowning at the lack of information. “It’s maddening.” 

 

“We’re not even sure who are all in the Order,” Ron said, “Let alone what they’re getting up to. Mum’s gone spare over Bill’s joining, she’s really losing it. You’ll have a hell of a time with her now, especially looking the way you do, I’d watch out.” 

 

Harry threw him a confused look. 

 

“You’re quite cute Harry, and your voice is so small!” Hermione said, her eyes widening at him. 

 

“She mother’s you enough when you're at your regular age, I’m just warning you. She nearly went over to your relatives when we got Dumbledore’s letter.” Ron leant back on his hands. “Though, we didn’t know then what’d happened.” 

 

“Right.” Hermione nodded. 

 

“So what did happen?” Ron asked. 

 

Harry began telling them, describing Dudley, their walk to the house, and the potion and it’s color. He relayed the oddness of waking up considerably smaller than when he’d gone to sleep, and Dudley’s similar state, which had felt strange even at the time. He wasn’t very experienced in potions, but he was fairly sure they didn’t have delayed reactions. At least not typically, not unless they were poisons. Snape hadn’t thought he’d been poisoned though. 

 

Hermione jerked, dashing to Ron’s trunk to pull out parchment and a quill. She brushed them both off with a comment about taking notes just in case and began to scribble Harry’s observations. While Ron argued about Hermione stealing from his limited supply of parchment, Harry debated if he should tell them about Snape and his mum. Snape had never brought her up before, not in their four years of them knowing one another. He’d gone out of his way to hide it. It was a difficult topic for him though, Harry reminded himself. 

 

Harry thought it might be safer to keep it quiet, at least until he knew how Snape would feel about others knowing. He thought they at least deserved to hear about Avery’s appearance though, and was quick to tell them.

 

“He left Pettigrew’s finger!” Ron gagged. “So he’s lost another one now?” 

 

“That's revolting!” Hermione shrieked in agreement. 

 

Harry agreed, a sympathetic feeling of nausea swooping through him at their response. He wondered why Pettigrew seemed to lose so many fingers when two loud cracks broke through the room. 

 

“Harry, you troublemaker!”

 

“Goodness me, you’re a tiny thing!” 

 

Fred and George’s voices chimed simultaneously. They sank to their knees as fast as they’d appeared. Harry realized belatedly that he’d darted in between Ron and Hermione at the sound of their arrival. 

 

“We hear you’re all the rage downstairs.” Fred started. 

 

“A popular topic,” George said. “I’ve never seen Snape argue like he is right now!”

 

“What!” Harry yelled. He moved to run past them but got caught in a tangle of arms.

 

“Harry!” George said untangling himself from Fred. “You can’t run down there now! We’ll never hear how it ends if you break it up!” 

 

Fred hefted him up and held him against his hip, throwing his arm under his thighs. “Well, they’ll probably still need some help breaking it up, but we should listen first. Lupin looked so red in the face, you could probably fry an egg on him.” 

 

Harry kicked out, trying to hit Fred’s ribs but missed. An overwhelming urge to scream for Snape rocketed through him, but he pinched his mouth shut. The fear that Snape would kill them all, or that Sirius would hate him for not calling for his help instead, cut through Harry. His heart sank hard and he wished desperately for his cloak, but he couldn’t remember where he’d left it. 

 

He shoved at Fred and kicked out again, feeling a humiliating whinge in his throat. 

 

“Harry, sweet Harry, that is a Ginny original kick, and it was patented in her early years,” George clicked his tongue at him. “It’ll never work.” 

 

“You can’t just grab people!” Hermione shouted, having gotten to her feet at some point. “He’s not your toy!” 

 

Fred and George paused mid step and stared at her. Ron threw them both a look as well, and his eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“Put him down!” She yelled. “Now!” 

 

The door slammed open, and Snape’s furious pale face appeared, quickly followed by Sirius’s. 

 

Fred set Harry onto his feet carefully, holding onto his shoulder when he stumbled at the sudden drop. 

 

“We are leaving, say goodbye.” Snape said in an icy tone. 

 

Harry blinked, wanting to ask what had happened during the argument and if Sirius liked him still, or if Snape hated him now. He wanted to know if he’d be back to Grimmauld Place or not, and if he’d get to see Ron and Hermione again soon. 

 

Harry twisted and waved instead, dazed at the sudden emotions swimming through him. 

 

“Harry,” Sirius said, stopping him as he walked through the doorway. “I want you to know, you can write to me about anything, anything at all. I’ll come get you if you need me to.” He nodded firmly as he spoke and tugged Harry into a tight hug. Sirius kept a close eye on him as they walked them down the stairs. Snape handed Harry his cloak and they were out the door seconds later. 

 

He managed to get all the way back inside Snape’s house before realizing that Snape had held his hand the entire way, from down the hallway and stairs in Grimmauld Place and back to Spinner’s End. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Harry poked at his takeaway curry. The Durlseys had never taken him out to eat, and on the rare chance they bought takeaway, Dudley ate it all before Harry even saw it. 

 

They’d loved to have him smell it though, that was one of the punishments Harry felt was especially cruel. 

 

“Have you never had curry?” Snape asked as he made a note in the margin of one of his books. 

 

Harry shook his head, humming out a “No, sir.” and stabbed what looked like chicken. He had never had the luxury to be picky, and he wasn’t about to start now, not when Snape seemed to be coming around to him. He decided to treat it like a game and rank each flavour by how much Aunt Petunia would sneer and Uncle Vernon would complain. 

 

In Harry’s opinion, the first few bites were very good. Dudley might’ve really enjoyed it. Harry had seen him sneaking off with Piers to get similar foods before, despite the diet Aunt Petunia had him on. 

 

The amount of vegetables might have put him off though. 

 

“If you’d like more, you’re welcome to it.” Snape said, pointing at the box with his fork. “However, be mindful of how much you ate when you were six. If you eat like you’re used to, you’ll get sick and I have no interest in playing nursemaid to you.” 

 

Harry nodded along as he ranked a string bean. A little too spicy for his Uncle and certainly too spicy for his Aunt. 

 

“Potter.” 

 

Harry jerked and looked up. 

 

“Respond when spoken to.” Snape said. A glitter of dour man’s usual self shimmered in his eyes. 

 

“Sorry, sir, I’ll be careful.” Harry said, feeling as if a stone had dropped into his stomach. He wondered if Snape would revert to his previous self the minute Harry was fixed? He’d hoped they’d both changed enough. The brief thought of a pleasant potions class disappeared from his thoughts in a heartbeat. 

 

He pushed away his plate, knowing intimately how little he’d been given when he’d been actually six. It made sense, in a cruel sort of way, that even if he wasn’t with the Dursley’s, he was still held to their punishments. 

 

“You can still eat, I didn’t say you had to stop,” Snape snapped. “Listen, Potter. Practice that skill, if you take nothing away from this experience—”

 

“I did listen,” Harry argued back. “And I already ate more than I usually got.” 

 

Snape paused and blinked at Harry’s plate. “You were given less than two or three mouthfuls?” 

 

Harry stared at his plate as well, trying to remember how much Dudley used to steal off of it when they’d been younger. 

 

“Maybe a few more, like two more bites.” Harry said, holding up two fingers. “And then I’d sneak more later, once they’d gone to bed.” He added proudly before he grabbed his fork again, quick to search for something he was sure Aunt Petunia would’ve despised. 

 

“How did Petunia portion you and your cousin’s meals?” Snape asked. 

 

Harry cut through the sauce, or curry, he reminded himself. It was hard to tell what some vegetables were, and though he was sure they’d all be good, he didn’t want to lose at his own game. He only had two bites to use and he didn’t want to waste them. 

 

“Harry,” Snape tapped twice on his plate, drawing his attention back. 

 

“Dudley and Uncle Vernon got most everything, and then Aunt Petunia would give me whatever was left.” Harry said. 

 

“What did she eat then?” Snape asked as he pinched the bridge of his nose. 

 

“Oh, well I guess she went third then, and gave me what was left of that. Or I’d make myself a sandwich, or have some cheese.” Harry speared what looked like sausage, but couldn’t possibly have been. “Something that didn't make a mess.”

 

He didn’t think curry had sausage in it, but then, he really couldn’t say. 

 

Snape hummed and returned to writing notes. 

 

“Three more bites then.” 

 

Harry looked up again. “But you said to eat the same amount.” 

 

“To begin with, until you are able to consume a reasonable portion. You won’t reach your cousins size anytime soon, nor should that be your goal, but a healthy weight is not unattainable.” 

 

“Oh,” Harry said dumbly. “Three more big bites?”

 

Snape stopped to stare again, both of his eyebrows raised. 

 

He felt a trickle of worry run down the back of his neck. He hadn’t thought he’d been annoying Snape, and he’d been genuinely curious, but he needed to remember that Snape didn’t like to be bothered. Much like the Dursleys, he was much better company when left alone.

 

“Yes.” Snape said finally, seeming to have come to a decision. “As large as your cousins would be I should think.” 

 

It was the conversation, Harry realized a split second later. 

 

Shame curled through him, turning the curry to ash in his mouth and killing what little appetite he’d had. He’d had similar conversations with Hermione before. She’d poke and prod until he’d snap that Aunt Petunia wasn’t obliged to treat him like her own son. She didn’t want him and she’d made it painfully clear. As Dumbledore put it though, she’d still taken him in. It was just how their relationship worked and it wasn’t ever going to change, no matter how Hermione felt about it. He didn’t much enjoy Snape knowing all of this about him, but he’d have to get over it. 

 

While he admitted that It was hard to always be self-aware of every action he made, he felt that keeping tabs on the more childlike behaviors should’ve been easier. It should’ve been obvious!

 

He stared at his plate, debating if he could eat one more bite, let alone three. His stomach already hurt. 

 

“One will do,” Snape added softly. “If three feels like too many.” 

 

Harry dragged his fork through his plate, spearing anything it touched and ate as quickly as he could. He’d just have to pretend nothing happened. Despite what he looked and felt like, he wasn’t actually a child. 

 

He wasn’t six. He reminded himself, he didn’t need Snape having more embarrassing information about him. 

 

He dumped the rest into the box, hoping it’d be there tomorrow for breakfast or lunch and climbed off of his chair. The sink was nearly eye level, but that had never stopped him from washing up before. The vivid memory of the day Aunt Petunia had bought brand new cutlery burned down Harry’s arms. He’d been at the sink for hours with his arms above his head. She’d had him wash everything at least once. 

 

“Thank you for dinner, erm.” Harry started as he finished drying everything. He wondered if he should ask Snape if he’d like him to wash his plate as well, as that would be expected with his aunt, but a sharp voice in the back of his mind reminded him that he didn’t much care if Snape wanted him to wash it. He wasn’t here to clean up after Snape. 

 

Snape had been kind though, a small voice whispered in his ear. ‘He gave you more to eat than Aunt Petunia, and he’d held your hand—’

 

“Thank you!” Harry said again, his voice strangling itself towards the end. He shook his head fiercely to force that thought away as he bolted from the room. He cleared the stairs and hallway and launched into his bed before the awful voice could say anything else. 

 

He threw the blanket over his head and pushed his face into the pillow. The lumpy mattress was worlds better than the rotten one in his cupboard, but it felt too out in the open. 

 

The urge to find his cupboard, despite the nice bedroom ached in him. 

 

He groaned into his pillow, feeling more ridiculous by the second. He never wanted his cupboard when he was at school. He had a four poster bed there though, and he could draw the curtains to hide away when he’d needed to. He’d essentially taken his cupboard with him, even then. 

 

It was just a bad day. A bad couple days in a row. It had been doomed from the start, with Avery and then the bowl breaking, with Sirius and Harry’s multiple breakdowns. 

 

He closed his eyes and tried to picture his four poster, having deemed that a far more appropriate thing to want for than the cupboard. He wasn’t sure when he drifted off, but the bed had warmed up, and began to feel comfortably safe when he felt Hagrid brush a hand over his shoulder. 

 

Harry worried the half-giant had somehow found another dragon’s egg, but instead found that they were preparing for the second task again. He wandered around Durmstang’s large ship, remembering the uncomfortable looks and whispers the student’s had given him all last year. He tried to ignore it and search of the fishbowl Ron had told him about. 

 

At least he was back to his regular size, he felt far less vulnerable. 

 

Neville had told him he shouldn’t use gillyweed in the task anymore as Professor Moody had been quite rude apparently, and Neville had warned Harry not to trust him. 

 

Harry hadn’t had a problem with that. 

 

The grizzly old man had been one of the more obvious ones who stared. He wasn’t even Professor Moody. He was secretly Barty Crouch Jr, but Harry wasn’t supposed to have known that yet. He had to find a fishbowl to swim in. 

 

He turned around, spotting Professor Crouch, or was it Professor Moody? 

 

Harry was about to ask him if he knew which person he was, and where he kept his fishbowl when the old man started to hiss. 

 

The sibilant sound brushed softly by Harry’s ears before wrapping itself comfortably around his head. The floor was suddenly icy beneath his bare belly, and Harry wondered for half a second why he didn’t just walk on his feet before it fell from his mind. The scents around him, and the warmth radiating from the fireplace were far more interesting. 

 

“Tell us Wormtail,” His master’s high voice cut through the room. “What did you find in the ministry?” 

 

“M-m-master,” Wormtail began. 

 

Harry found himself sliding away. The nervous rat-like man annoyed him, always groveling and fearful. He slipped beneath the dark table and curled over his master's pale feet briefly before wriggling out of the room. 

 

He pushed through the side door, and came across a dark hallway with two more men. 

 

“Muggles die everyday,” A low voice whispered. Harry tilted upwards and flicked his tongue at the sound. “The ministry won’t notice if a few more are missing or dead.”

 

It was Lucius Malfoy. 

 

His shiny boots were coated in leather polish, and he stank of it. 

 

“The ministry always notices.” A second voice answered. Severus Snape, Harry realized. He always knew him by his cloak, coated in different smells, each more interesting than the last. “As will Dumbledore.” 

 

Harry struggled to listen to the two men. Every word was odd in his ears and as soon as a recognizable sound flickered in Harry’s mind, it just as quickly dissipated into a fog.

 

“It doesn’t matter what Dumbledore thinks now, not with the Ministry against him. We should really thank Potter for that,” The first voice said. “Without him, we wouldn’t be nearly as far along.” That was news to Harry. He didn’t read The Daily Prophet anymore, did they think he’d been lying about Voldemort’s return?

 

The second voice hummed in agreement. Harry flicked his tongue out again, curiously searching the slim hallway. It was very clean, and was nearly scentless aside from the two men. 

 

“Do you think Potter’s still at his relatives?” The first voice asked, Harry could smell a small thrill of fear running through the tall man. He didn’t know why the man, Lucius, Harry reminded himself, wondering how he’d forgotten already, was so nervous. 

 

“I know he is.” The second voice replied, far more confident than the first. Harry could smell the truth on him, and if he had lips he’d have smiled. His master had generally approved of the second man. Severus snape, Harry reminded himself again. “I’ve been tasked with watching him, I’d have said immediately if he’d been moved.” 

 

“Avery says he hasn’t seen him in two days.” Lucius said. “He thinks he’s already been moved.” 

 

“He should tell the Dark Lord then.” Severus responded. Harry couldn’t help agreeing. He knew how his master felt about information that important neglecting to make its way to his ears. 

 

“Imagine if he was wrong,” Lucius’s scent turned oddly joyful. “He couldn’t tell our Lord something like that and be wrong. He told me this afternoon that he’d seen the boy though.” 

 

“Avery also thinks he’s seen auror’s battling openly in muggle markets,” Severus said. “He suffers the same maladaptive visions as Bellatrix.” Harry crept closer to the second voice. 

 

“All the same, he thinks he’s going to find the boy and present him to the Dark Lord.” 

 

“Avery should spend more time doing as our lord asks.” 

 

An ear piercing shriek jolted Harry from his sleep. 

 

He sat up, shuddering and breathing hard. His sweater was soaked through, as was the t-shirt beneath. He grimaced and tugged at it, regretting that he hadn’t changed since visiting Sirius. His throat ached, and he tried to cough, but found that he could hardly make a sound. 

 

Climbing out of the bed, he stumbled in the dark room. Something caught on his foot and he tumbled over, landing hard on the rug. 

 

He wound his arms over his head, feeling the sudden pain radiating out from his scar. 

 

“Snape!” He gasped as what felt like knives carved down his throat. Pain shot through him, radiating bolts from his forehead and down his neck. 

 

He twisted around, keeping one hand pressing heavily on his scar as he looked for what he tripped over. 

 

The room was eerily dark. 

 

The small window let in a sliver of dull, grey light that was barely enough to see with, his eyes were blurring over wetly, but he spotted his trunk. 

 

He was small again and he’d forgotten how tall his trunk was at this height. The room was still too dark to see in, but he stumbled into the hallway, and tried to peer through the haze of pain. 

 

It felt impossible. He could hardly see the railing, let alone the steps. 

 

He sniffed wetly and tried to rein in the urge to sit and sob and scream for Snape. 

 

That wouldn’t help’, Harry argued with himself. Snape already knew too much. The awful dinner conversation tickled shamefully at the back of his mind. He wanted Snape though. He wanted Snape to hug him like he had yesterday, and to tell Harry more about his Mum and help take away whatever was making his scar burn painfully. 

 

“Snape!” Harry tried again despite his thoughts. His throat was too sore to make much more than a hopeless gurgle and he started to cry harder at himself. 

 

Maybe he was still dreaming? 

 

He struggled to remember what had happened in it. He was sure he might’ve been a snake at one point. 

 

“Harry Potter?” A sing-song voice whispered from down the stairs. 

 

Harry froze at the top of the stairs. His heart pounded in his chest as fear coursed through him. The sound that had woken him up was Snape’s alarm. 

 

“Harry Potter, are you here?” 

 

It was Avery, Harry realized. Avery was here, but Snape wasn’t and Harry didn’t know where he was. If Snape was here he’d have attacked Avery by now.  

 

Harry bolted back into the bedroom, snatching his wand as his stomach cramped and his head throbbed painfully. He wanted to hide. His bed was still damp and likely would be for some time, and if Avery saw it he’d know someone had been here. 

 

He quickly threw the covers over the mattress and pushed his pillow beneath, making it look as if he was still sleeping. The trunk would be too large to hide. It was too noisy to move as well.

 

His heart thundered in his chest, and he very nearly threw up before he got a hold of himself. He spun his wand in his hand and ignored every fearful instinct and urge. Avery was one person. Harry had the element of surprise, he had his cloak and he’d use his wand if he needed.

 

A plan formed quickly in his mind, and he grabbed his cloak, laying it over the trunk and watching as it disappeared instantly. 

 

He closed the door gently and hoped Avery was as thick as Snape seemed to think he was.

 

Did Snape think Avery was stupid?

 

Harry paused for a moment and wondered how he knew that. 

 

He shook his head as he crept quietly beside the door and hid to the left of it, hoping the door would conceal him when it was opened. 

 

“Harry Potter? Are you up here?” Avery called, his muffled voice sounding much closer than before. “I’m a friend of Severus’s, he sent me to check on you.” Avery’s footsteps slid carefully over the old floorboards and his nervous breath was loud even through the walls. 

 

Avery really was thick if he thought Harry would fall for that, he wasn’t actually six. 

 

His scar flared, and white hot pain shot through his eyes. The bedroom furniture bled together and mixed discordantly into a nauseas swirl. Muffled and muddy conversation hummed in his ears, distracting him from his fear. Voldemort’s high voice pitched furiously as he screamed.

 

The near silent clicking of the door knob turning caught up to Harry, and he thrust his fist against his forehead, desperately trying to stop the pain. 

 

“Hello?” Avery sang, pushing the door open. It creaked slightly, but covered Harry well enough. “Harry, are you hiding in your bed?” Avery asked as he stepped farther into the bedroom. 

 

“Stupefy” Harry breathed, falling backwards at the force of the spell as it exploded from his wand. Avery flew into the wall and knocked loudly on it before landing heavily in the bed. 

 

Harry darted forward and grabbed Avery’s wand. He was unsure of what he was going to do with it, but he knew he didn’t want it anywhere near the Death Eater. Wrenching his cloak from atop his trunk, he ran from the room and cleared the stairs in seconds. He knew Snape had a floo, he must’ve. It wasn’t in the sitting room, or in the kitchen. 

 

The cellar door caught his eye, and he pulled it open. 

 

He stumbled and slid down several stairs, falling hard on his bottom as his terror threatened to overtake him. Every urge to scream for help rocketed through him again as his headache throbbed fiercely. He pushed himself up and carefully climbed down the rest of the stairs, stoutly ignoring his pounding head. 

 

Dangerous things always happened around him, he should’ve been glad that no one died this time. He needed to keep a level head and just move on. No one had ever come to his rescue before. Not when he was younger and desperate for someone to want him, nor when he was sick or hurt or bullied. He’d been alone with Quirrell and the basilisk, the dementors and even the graveyard. 

 

Self reliance, he assured himself with a long shakey inhale. 

 

If Aunt Petunia had been responsible for any skill Harry had, it was self reliance. He’d be fine. No one was coming, and he was used to that. 

 

A dark fireplace sat in the back corner of the room, tucked away almost as if it was an afterthought. He gingerly stepped up to it, nervous of being spun through the nauseating fire when he already felt sick. 

 

Regardless, he searched around for a tin of floo powder, and found some in a small smoke damaged jar. He threw it in the pit and croaked a near silent “The Burrow” and jumped in. 

 

Spinner’s End tore madly past him and he was spat out onto Mrs Weasley’s threadbare and singed carpet. 

 

“Oh!” Mr Weasley jumped to his feet and tipped over several old looking books as Harry finally did sick up. Horrified tears and shame ran through him, and he curled in on himself for a moment. 

 

“I’m sorry, Mr Weasley,” Harry choked, coughing through the ash and smoke. “I’m so sorry.” 

 

He made a mental note to never travel without a stomach soother ever again. He’d thrown up more in the last few days than should be reasonable.

 

“Goodness,” Mr Weasley leant forward and waved his wand at the sick. “Did you come out the wrong floo?” He pulled Harry up and helped him to the couch. 

 

“Arthur?” Harry heard Mrs Weasley call from the kitchen. “Something wrong?” He could hear needles clicking together, as if she was knitting or mending something. 

 

“It’s Harry.” Harry sniffled wetly, shaking his head in a gentle ‘no’ at Arthur’s question. 

 

He felt like he’d been hit by the Knight Bus. Everything was sore, his head especially, and he desperately wanted to sleep and forget about all of this already. A shudder ran through him at the thought of Snape finding Avery’s unconscious body in the bed. He hoped the Weasleys could get a note to him sooner rather than later. 

 

“Pleased to meet you Harry,” Mr Weasley said to him, before turning over his shoulder and calling out. “A little boy fell through our floo.” He turned back around, and gave a quick once over to Harry, seeming to search for anything dreadfully wrong.

 

“What?” Mrs Weasley hurried into the sitting room. “That’s not possible. Bill warded the floo, no one can get in unless they’ve—oh Harry!” She shouted. 

 

Mr Weasley blinked confusedly down at him before the realization crossed his face. “Ah, Harry, this is the, erm, little trouble then.” 

 

“Trouble enough, as if you haven’t got enough to worry about, you poor dear.” Mrs Weasley pushed past her husband and a concerned look washed over her face at the sight of him. “Ron’s told me a little about this now,” She cupped his face and tilted him left and right as she brushed a soft finger over his cheek. “He was very tight lipped though, I had half a mind to storm Dumbledore’s office you know, that daft man, leaving you alone with Severus.” 

 

Harry wondered how much Ron had said, but didn’t want to ask. He couldn’t hear anyone else in the house, maybe they were at Grimmauld Place? 

 

She clicked her tongue at the state of him and sat down on the couch and asked kindly. “What’s happened then?” 

 

He stammered a confusing explanation, the sharp fear that Avery would break out of the spell in the next few minutes suddenly shot through him. Harry tried to explain that they needed to do something about Avery quickly, but neither of the Weasley’s could get to Spinner’s End through the floo, as it had been warded against them. They sent a patronus to Dumbledore instead, warning him of the situation. 

 

Harry felt that wasn’t the most helpful. He’d much rather they’d sent a patronus to Snape, but then, they didn’t know where he was, and if Snape was near Voldemort, it could have incredibly deadly consequences. 

 

The consequences were already deadly in Harry’s opinion. He wanted Snape safer this instant, though he wasn’t sure why it bothered him so much. 

 

Snape knew what he was doing, Harry tried to tell himself. He’d always been the cleverest of anyone Harry had known. Aside from Hermione maybe. 

 

“Take us through from the beginning please,” Mrs Weasley asked. 

 

Harry shivered and tried to begin describing his dream and Avery and Snape. Somehow bits and pieces of his worries over Sirius and Snape and Harry’s own odd fears kept creeping in. His throat was still sore, and he kept doubling back to re-explain things, somehow feeling like Mrs Weasley needed to know why he’d made the decisions he had. 

 

Mrs Weasley hummed and arranged his cloak around him as he spoke. A cup of tea appeared in his hands half way through his explanation, though he wasn’t sure where it had come from. Every few minutes she’d card a hand through his hair, gesture at his tea cup. 

 

Exhaustion from the adrenaline and fear was quickly overtaking him. 

 

It was silent for a few minutes as Mr and Mrs Weasley parsed through Harry’s story, making small notes and comments to one another. 

 

“Does the ministry know I did magic?” Harry asked suddenly, forcing his eyelids open. He hadn’t realized they’d been shut. He’d wound up in Mrs Weasley’s lap somehow as well, his head pillowed against her chest. 

 

Jealousy shot through him for a second at how calm Mrs Weasley was, and how easily she’d helped him. He wished Ron knew how lucky he was. 

 

Harry would trade everything he owned for his parents back. 

 

“If the house is registered with a wizard, they might not have.” Mr Weasley said. “It depends on the wizard though, here it would because of the kids.” 

 

Harry nodded, hoping Snape’s lack of children meant he got away with the spell. His eyes drifted shut again and the Weasley’s continued softly talking. He wondered for a moment if he should say once more that Snape didn’t know where he was, just in case Harry got into trouble for leaving the house. 

 

“Is Hedwig here?” His eyes shot open again. He could write to Snape then and let him know that he hadn’t meant for Avery to have been in the house and he wouldn’t have left otherwise. 

 

“Yes dear,” Mrs Weasley’s hand curled through Harry’s fringe. “She’s been with Errol for a few days now. We’ll write later though, everything has been handled, you can sleep easy.” 

 

“Oh, ok.” He murmured, feeling heavier by the second. “I don’t want Snape mad with me.” 

 

“He won’t be.” 

 

He fell asleep after that, and though his head throbbed still, and he felt all at once too hot and sweaty and cold, it was comfortable. 

 

It didn’t feel like a long time had passed when Sirius’s voice shocked him awake. 

 

He blinked his dry and sore eyes open, truly regretting the lack of sleep he’d now had. He half decided to give into being six for a few minutes, if just to scream about letting him get some sleep. Mrs Weasley had left him on the couch, still wrapped comfortably in his cloak.

 

He quickly caught sight of Hermione glaring fiercely at the doorway. Her hands were around Harry’s ears, as if to keep him from hearing. 

 

“Bollocks,” Ron whispered from nearby. “Snape’s here.” 

 

 

Chapter Text

Professor Dumbledore’s voice echoed from the kitchen, but was too muffled to be understood. 

 

Harry bolted upwards, shocking Hermione into pulling her hands back. He kicked out of the cloak in seconds and nearly fell off of the couch, only remaining upright by Ron’s quick hands. He noticed then that they were in Grimmauld place again, and he’d somehow slept through being moved. 

 

It was an uncomfortable realization, someone having carried him while he slept. 

 

He didn’t think anyone had done that since his parents had been alive. Neither Aunt Petunia nor Uncle Vernon would’ve bothered to carry him when he was asleep, not that he’d have wanted them to, they might’ve left him somewhere if he hadn’t been watching. He was much safer having been aware and prepared for being left behind or dropped unexpectedly. 

 

He wasn’t sure he liked the feeling. He hadn’t been aware of what happened, when they’d come over, or what time it was. 

 

“Harry?” Hermione’s eyebrows furrowed in worry. 

 

“What happened?” Harry asked as he sat on his knees.

 

“Well,” Ron began in a hushed tone. “Mum turned up with you a couple of hours ago, said you’d—”

 

“No, no, with Snape!” Harry climbed to his feet, shoving them both toward the kitchen and following quickly. He slid slightly, the cool floor seeping through his socks, someone must’ve pulled his shoes off at some point. They’d hardly taken a step closer when Mrs Weasley appeared in the doorway. Her concerned face twisted into disappointment in seconds. 

 

“Ronald Weasley!” She snapped. “Do you know what time it is? I sent you to bed hours ago!” 

 

“Mum!” Ron paled as he backed up into Hermione. 

 

“And you Hermione!” Mrs Weasley continued. “I trust you to have more sense than this! Didn’t I see you and Ginny settled into bed?” 

 

Hermione stammered an apology and turned to gesture toward the couch, but Harry had thrown his cloak over his head, and her eyes widened, tracking over the empty space. 

 

Harry tip-toed around Hermione, carefully keeping clear of Mrs Weasley as he crept through the room. 

 

“We were checking on Harry. We couldn’t sleep, not after we heard what happened!” Hermione said quickly. 

 

“I understand dear,” Mrs Weasley started tiredly, “But that’s not an excuse to be sneaking about. He’s had a very difficult day and I won’t have him being woken up,” Her eyes softened and turned to the couch before freezing when she noticed Harry wasn’t there. 

 

Ron’s hands came up pacifyingly, heading his mum’s temper off early. “We didn’t wake him up!” 

 

“No, we didn’t, and he’s fine! He’s just gone to the bathroom!” Hermione said as Mrs Weasley’s eyes widened. “Sirius woke him up!” 

 

“That man!” Mrs Weasley huffed. “Out! The both of you, off to bed!” She waved her hands at the two of them and pushed them from the room. “If I hear so much as a peep from either of you—”

 

“You won’t Mrs Weasley!” Hermione called loudly as she was ushered into the hallway. “We’ll be in our rooms all night!” 

 

Harry took a moment to silently thank his friends as he ran to the kitchen. Hermione’s voice covered his footsteps well enough to escape Mrs Weasley. He slipped through the small opening in the door and dodged beneath the table. 

 

It was incredibly loud. A cacophony of angry voices all shouted over one another, demanding to be listened to. Mrs Weasley must’ve cast a silencing spell on the door. 

 

“HOW COULD YOU BE SO CARELESS?!” Sirius finally shouted, his voice straining from use as it silenced the others. Harry jerked at the sound and was unable to force the nervous tremble in his shoulders away. “HOW?! I THOUGHT YOU KNEW THEM, HAVEN’T YOU SAID ALL ALONG?!” Sirius’s voice then slipped into a biting mimicry of Snape’s. “I know them better than you, Black, I’ll be able to predict what they will do, Black—”

 

“That’s rich, Black,” Snape’s voice was like ice. It came from farther down the table. Harry stepped a bit closer, feeling better having heard him. “And here I thought you knew Pettigrew.” 

 

The table rocked, and several people shot to their feet, though Snape remained sitting. A short scuffle broke out with a few members appearing to hold Sirius back. A particularly strong shiver shot through Harry, and an old fear of loud voices and arguing reared into the back of his mind. He tried to ignore it, renaming it as the worry of being caught sneaking around. 

 

Harry darted closer to Snape’s feet unconsciously. He spotted his tattered cloak and caught a nauseating scent of blood that clung to it. 

 

Dumbledore’s voice cut through the argument, settling both parties as Harry peeked out from beneath the table. 

 

Snape looked awful. His greasy hair hung particularly limp on his head, and smelled singed. 

 

“There is no need for this behaviour.” Dumbledore’s voice was sharp, and Harry could almost hear the glitter fading from his blue eyes. 

 

Harry reached a shaky hand out, unable to stop himself from checking that Snape was really alright. He hadn’t known what Voldemort had been angry about after his dream, just that he’d reacted badly to something.

 

Snape flinched, nearly imperceptibly, as Harry’s cloaked hand tightened around the leg of Snape’s trousers, and no one seemed to notice as one of Snape’s hands slipped over Harry’s. Harry climbed quietly up the chair, feeling the need to be as close as he could. Snape’s hand brushed farther along Harry’s arm before carefully helping him upwards and into his lap. 

 

Snape was shaking as well, Harry realized. Although, he didn’t know if that was because the man had been tortured, or if he was as worried for Harry as Harry had been for him. 

 

His arm came around Harry and held him gently. 

 

The nervous tremble died down as he pressed closer into Snape’s chest, feeling immensely pleased that the man seemed to be actually alright. 

 

“Regardless of who is at fault,” Dumbledore continued. “We need to proceed with the original plans. We will assume that Voldemort now knows about Harry‘s current state, but Severus’s role remains intact.” 

 

Harry leant against Snape and twisted, watching as Dumbledore eyed Snape carefully. He remembered quite suddenly about Dumbledore’s concerning ability to see beneath Harry’s cloak, and worry broke out over him again. 

 

He hadn’t reacted to Harry though, and Harry wondered if Dumbledore’s ability might have been due to something a bit more explainable than he’d originally thought. Maybe Dumbledore only knew where he was when he was at Hogwarts, or maybe he knew Harry had been present in the past, because he’d already seen Harry before he’d disappeared beneath the cloak?

 

Sirius spat something under his breath, and Harry felt as if knives were tearing through him. 

 

What if Sirius found out about Harry wanting to check on Snape? What if he thought Harry was cracked, or manipulated into wanting to be around the dour man. Harry could admit that Snape wasn’t fantastic company all the time, but since he’d been stuck at six, he’d been a remarkably comforting presence. 

 

Harry didn’t want to think about why that was, but decided to put it down to his wanting to know more about Lily and Snape’s friendship. 

 

“I can’t find Harry!” Mrs Weasley rushed into the kitchen. “He was asleep on the couch, and now he’s gone!” She looked frantically at Mr Weasley. 

 

“No need to worry,” Moody said as his magical eye rolled in his head. “I’ve got an eye on him.” 

 

Snape tensed and his arm tightened for a moment. Harry had forgotten about Moody’s eye. 

 

“He’s six Mad-Eye,” Mrs Weasley gave him a fierce look. “He can’t run around this house on his own. It’s dangerous enough for adults, I won’t have—”

 

“Correct me if I’m wrong Molly,” Moody’s eye snapped to look at her face in an eerie glare. “But he fought off a Death Eater a few hours ago. I don’t think being six—”

 

“Where is he?” Sirius asked as he rubbed at his own eyes. 

 

Moody blinked at Sirius and his gnarled fingers tapped slowly over the table top. 

 

“Please Mad-Eye. I agree with you, he’s probably fine, but he’s had a rough day and it’s nearly two in the morning. I just want to make sure he’s safe.” Sirius said. “Actually safe.” He added, throwing a glare at Snape as he spoke. 

 

”Sirius be reasonable,” Mrs Weasley said, her voice turning hard. “You have no experience with children and you didn’t see him earlier!” 

 

“He’s my godson Molly!” Sirius shouted, tipping his chair and whirled around. 

 

Snape rubbed a hand over Harry’s back, soothing the tremors Harry hadn’t realized had returned. 

 

“This isn’t up for discussion Sirius,” Mrs Weasley said. “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.” 

 

Snape nudged Harry from his lap and stood. 

 

“If this is done, I’m leaving.” Snape said, gesturing subtly for Harry to follow. He stalked down the long side of the table. “Inform me of where Potter will be in the morning. I need to test a few ingredients on him.” 

 

Harry trailed closely behind Snape, nervous of both Mrs Weasley and Sirius. He didn’t want either of them to yell at him for being in the room, or to treat him like he was actually six. It didn’t sound like Sirius intended to do that, but he had yelled enough to make Harry worried. 

 

He didn’t think Sirius would go off on him. Sirius hadn’t really gotten mad at Harry in the entire time he’d known the man. 

 

Sirius hated Snape though, viscerally. 

 

How could Harry say if Sirius would or wouldn’t hate him for wanting to be around Snape? 

 

Harry knew Snape was alright with him being around Sirius, and despite his bark, Snape wouldn’t change his opinion about Harry, but could he say the same about Sirius? 

 

They slipped back into the living room Harry had woken up in when a voice came from behind them. 

 

“I’m not telling you where Harry is ever again.” Sirius said darkly. 

 

“You do want your godson returned to his proper age, don’t you Black?” Snape asked, spinning on his heel and waving his hand at the question. 

 

“There are other potions masters.” 

 

“Others who are both qualified and understand the need for secrecy?” 

 

Sirius’s lips curled menacingly. “Secrecy? You left him there, alone and you knew Avery suspected something. You left him there, child sized and alone.” His voice dropped awkwardly around the words.

 

Harry felt the immediate urge to defend himself, as he’d been completely fine. He’d been worried, sure, and wanted Snape to come find him immediately. He would never admit it out loud, but he’d have sat there and cried for Snape if it’d made him come find Harry. He’d felt sick and had wanted another hug. Avery was much larger than him, and was incredibly scary at the time. 

 

That hadn’t stopped Harry from handling it though. He was tougher than he looked, and felt that he should get some credit for that. He was always fighting alone. 

 

Sirius’s fingers slid over his wand. “He was easy prey for your dear old friend, wasn’t he?” 

 

Harry stumbled away from them both as Snape’s wand appeared a second later. 

 

“Had I known Avery was going to come—”

 

“That should’ve been obvious.” Sirius hissed. “You said it yourself, Avery was suspicious and now I’m suspicious, Snape.” 

 

“I would never have let him come to any harm!” Snape’s eyes were hard on his pale face. 

 

Sirius’s eyes took on a wild look. He snarled a spell and his wand cracked through the air. A bright yellow light shot towards Snape, but he dodged backwards and threw a shield up before it hit him. 

 

“Your godson is in the room, find what little self restraint you possess.” Snape growled. 

 

Sirius’s face drained of color and he whipped around, searching for Harry. 

 

Harry wasn’t sure he was ready to take his cloak off and be found though, he didn’t know what Sirius would do to Snape. He wasn’t sure what Sirius would do to him. 

 

“Harry?” Sirius asked, his hands lowered as he reached out. 

 

Harry’s back hit the wall and he realized belatedly that he’d been backing away from them both since they’d started arguing. 

 

Sirius’s eyes darted toward the sound and he crept forward, sinking to his knees in front of Harry. 

 

“I’m sorry Harry,” He whispered as his fingers found the edge of Harry’s cloak. “I’m so sorry these things keep happening around you, and I’m sorry to have been the cause of this.” 

 

Sirius pulled the cloak off and tugged Harry into a tight hug, seeming to try to convey every worry and fear for him. 

 

“You’ve seen enough fighting for a few lifetimes I’d say.” He hummed into the crook of Harry’s neck before sliding his arms down around his waist. “I know you’re independent, but will you let me take you upstairs, just so I can be sure you’re actually safe for once, please?” He asked, sitting up straight and looking Harry in the eye. 

 

Harry nodded as warmth bloomed through him. Sirius wasn’t mad at him, and he wasn’t going to stop liking him, at least not yet. 

 

“I will return in the morning.” Snape said again, more for Harry it seemed than Sirius, as his dark eyes watched them both carefully. 

 

Sirius ignored Snape, choosing instead to stand and heft Harry onto his hip. Harry flinched at the jerky movement and he went rigid as Sirius grabbed his cloak. He tried to relax and breathe a little easier, reminding himself firmly that Sirius wouldn’t throw him. 

 

It didn’t erase his fear of being dropped though. 

 

Sirius stuffed Harry’s cloak in his pocket and stepped into a small hallway. He was more careful holding onto Harry than he had been earlier in the day, and Harry found himself leaning more into Sirius the farther they walked. 

 

It felt odd, having someone who cared so much for him, and touched him so easily. He found himself wondering what it would have been like had Sirius raised him, rather than the Dursleys. He’d grown up assuming he had some skin disease, because none of the Dursleys had ever wanted to touch him. They’d do everything they could to avoid it, grabbing him by the shirt or his collar, or they’d resort to hitting him with things like newspapers or spatulas to get him to move. 

 

Sirius made short work of two stairwells and slipped down a crooked and skinny hallway before coming to a small bedroom. It was very dark inside, and Sirius neglected to turn on the lights, choosing instead to set Harry carefully onto a large bed. He smoothed out the cover as Harry crawled to the head of the bed. 

 

“I’m not staying with Ron?” Harry asked, feeling his previous nervousness melting into exhaustion at the sight of the pillow. 

 

Being six was not as easy as it seemed. 

 

“No, this is my room.” Sirius whispered and sat down near him. “Harry, I’m really sorry. I’ve been incredibly neglectful and poorly behaved lately, and you’ve suffered because of it.”

 

Harry shook his head wildly, unsure why Sirius would feel the need to apologize. 

 

“No, Harry,” Sirius huffed as he tucked the blankets around him. “I shouldn’t have let you leave with Sni-Snape, and I should’ve paid closer attention to your safety. I shouldn’t have gotten into it with Snape tonight either, especially not in front of you. I shouldn’t have run off to find Pettigrew that night, I should’ve just taken you with me after James and Lily—” Sirius fell against the pillow next to Harry and held him close, pressing a soft kiss into his fringe. He continued on, listing increasingly old mistakes. 

 

“You didn’t know all that stuff would happen though,” Harry tried to argue. Much as he wished Sirius hadn’t chased after Pettigrew the night, it wasn’t something they could change. “You’re here now.” 

 

“You’re more like Lily than you know.” Sirius said into his hair. “But I wish you’d be like James for just a second or two.” 

 

Harry curled into himself, uncomfortable and unsure of how to behave otherwise. 

 

“James’s would’ve set me straight in a heartbeat. He never took liberties with your safety, you know?” Sirius said as Harry pushed his face into the pillow. “If he didn’t feel it was safe, he wouldn’t leave you and Lily alone. He would never have left you with Snape.” 

 

Tears began to well up in Harry’s eyes, and he rubbed his face against the pillow, praying that Sirius wouldn’t see. 

 

He missed them. 

 

He had never known them well enough to miss them for who they were before he’d turned eleven, but he’d known their absence well enough to desperately wish for them back. The photographs and stories hadn’t done much more than widen the desolate and painful ache in his chest. He wished they were here now, and he wished they would tell Sirius that he was fine, that he’d done the best he could, what with being a wanted criminal with no proof of his innocence. 

 

Sirius stayed quiet after that, and Harry hadn’t felt like breaking the silence. Sleep didn’t come as easily as he’d hoped for either. 

 

It was blissfully dreamless however. 

 

“Sirius Black!” Mrs Weasley’s voice woke Harry. 

 

He blinked his tired eyes open, wishing someone would let him sleep for longer than what felt like a few minutes. Bright sunlight blinded him before he could remember where he was. 

 

“Have you any idea how worried I was last night?!” Mrs Weasley shouted. “You could’ve told me you’d found him at least! I’ve been out of my mind—”

 

“Molly, please,” Sirius croaked before a jaw splitting yawn came over him, he checked his watch. “It's barely eight.” He pulled himself up and flipped the covers over Harry’s head, dropping him back into warm darkness. 

 

“Don’t try and start that with me, you’d be up searching this early if you hadn’t found him last night.” Molly snapped back. 

 

“I would’ve had the decency to wait until nine at least.” Sirius said, stretching and climbing to his feet. 

 

Harry half entertained the idea of hiding beneath the blanket and falling asleep, but it seemed that wasn’t going to happen. 

 

“Come on Harry dear, let's get ready for the day,” The blanket was tugged from his head again and Mrs Weasley patted his cheek softly. “Sirius! You didn’t even give him pyjamas? You just let him sleep in his jeans?” 

 

Harry sat up drowsily and blinked at the remarkably red and gold room around him. Photos and newspaper clippings littered the walls. He spotted his dad in most of them, and several with his mum as well. A scarlet Gryffindor pin hung proudly above the bed. 

 

“Molly he’s fifteen, if he’d wanted to change he would’ve!” Sirius said as he grabbed his own change of clothes from the wardrobe. 

 

Harry had been mildly uncomfortable, but given his lack of sleep, he hadn’t really paid any attention to it. He didn’t know where his trunk was either, so he couldn’t have asked to change if he’d thought of it. 

 

Mrs Weasley pulled Harry to his feet and led him to the bathroom, muttering all the while about Sirius and his incompetence. 

 

“Now Harry, the bathroom is just through here,” She ushered him into the small room. “We’ll get some towels down for you. I had Fred go through a few old boxes back at The Burrow.” She added as she searched the cupboards. 

 

Harry paused, unused to this much attention and unsure how to react. 

 

He hoped she hadn’t thought he’d need help showering, she knew he was actually fifteen. She seemed to be on a roll though, pulling out and sorting through bottles and soaps. 

 

“Mrs Weasley, erm,” Harry started as she twisted the faucet on the bath. “I can just shower,” He said awkwardly. 

 

Mrs Weasley blinked for a moment and her eyes widened at him. 

 

“Oh, oh yes dear,” She said quickly. “Easy thing to forget,” She blushed as she skirted from the room. “I’ll leave a change of clothes outside the door for you then.” 

 

The door shut with a quiet click and he heard her walking down the hallways. 

 

He wished Ron were here. He could’ve distracted his mum, or told Harry how to be less awkward with her. Mrs Weasley was a consistently kind presence in his life, and he desperately wanted her to stay that way, but he wasn’t always sure what to say or how to act with her. 

 

Especially with her nearly about to help his bathe. 

 

He shuddered at the thought, and Aunt Petunia’s voice rang in the back of his mind. 

 

‘You dirty child!’ Aunt Petunia hissed in his ear. Her hand was tight in his upper arm as she wrenched his shirt over his head. ‘I have people coming over this afternoon. Normal, civilized people!” She dropped him into the frigid bath. 

 

‘Lemme go—’ Harry choked as more cold water rushed over his head and he fell forward. 

 

‘Have you any idea how long I’ve spent cleaning this house?!’ She scrubbed roughly up and down his back. 

 

He tried to shove her off, but she held him tightly. He shivered in the cold water, finally admitting that he’d just need to wait for her to let him go. Her yellow rubber gloves raised pink burns on him the harder she scrubbed, but he could put a plaster on it later. 

 

‘If you so much as think of tracking mud into my house again you’ll be cleaning it for weeks!’ 

 

“Harry dear?” Mrs Weasley knocked on the door. “Everything alright?” 

 

“Yes Mrs Weasley,” Harry called as he was jolted from the memory. He pulled his sweater over his head and kicked the trousers off.

 

“I’ll just leave these outside the door for you, come downstairs when you’re done and we’ll get some breakfast sorted then.” He could hear her setting a few things down outside the door. 

 

“Yes Mrs Weasley.” 

 

He showered quickly out of habit and grabbed the clothes, noting the plain jumpers and jeans. He sent a silent ‘Thank you’ to Fred for not finding something childish as he pulled the clothes on and made his way to the kitchen. 

 

“It’s your own fault if you’re feeling tired, Ronald,” Mrs Weasley said as he entered. “You shouldn’t have been up at all hours if you were so tired.” She stirred what looked like oatmeal in a large pot. She threw a handful of brown sugar in and hummed at the consistency. 

 

Harry pulled a chair out next to Ron, feeling sorry that Ron seemed to have gotten even less sleep that he had. Ron nodded once at Harry and closed his eyes, drifting off with his head propped up on his arm. 

 

Hermione waved sleepily at him as well and flipped over a page in her book. 

 

“Oh good, here you are Harry dear,” Mrs Weasley said as she handed him a bowl of oatmeal and a spoon. Harry couldn’t help but smile as he ate, glad that he didn’t have to wait to eat. “Now, some chores to finish today for you two,” She said, spooning a bit more into Ron’s bowl. 

 

Ron snorted himself awake and nearly fell into his bowl. 

 

“Ginny’s already started on cleaning out the storage cupboard, and there’s a nest of doxies in a cabinet in the living room that Kreacher seems unable to fully get rid of. Fred and George are trying to tackle the one in the second hallway.” Mrs Weasley said, turning and continuing to stir the pot. 

 

“I think it’s highly unlikely Kreacher even attempted.” Sirius said as he stepped into the kitchen. 

 

“Can’t we just, not?” Ron whispered, blinking slowly. His spoon dangled in his fingertips, threatening to drop any second. 

 

“Quick word, Molly?” Sirius asked, ushering her out of the room. 

 

The door shut and the room was silent for a second before Hermione leant forward and she whispered excitedly. “So what did you find out last night?” 

 

“Snape—” Harry began, before a loud crack sent burst through the room and Fred and George appeared. 

 

Ron’s elbow collapsed and his hand fell into his oatmeal, as Hermione’s spoon flew upwards, spraying both Harry and Ron. She gave them an apologetic look as they attempted to clean it off. 

 

“We heard tales of doxies and have come to offer our assistance!” Fred said loudly, rapping his knuckles over the old wooden table. 

 

“That's bloody likely.” Ron mumbled darkly under his breath. 

 

“Why do you two want to help?” Hermione asked suspiciously as she wiped her book clean. “Don’t you have your own doxy infestation to be getting on with upstairs?” Her eyes narrowed at the two. 

 

The two smiled innocently at her, and George stepped around the table, answering happily. “We happen to have found that doxies are quite useful in certain amounts.” 

 

“Maintaining those amounts has become something of a struggle though, they don’t like to be messed with.” Fred added. 

 

“You can’t keep doxies!” Hermione snapped. “They’re venomous!” 

 

“Precisely!” George tapped Hermione as he slid around her. “They’re very useful when you’ve got the antidote on hand.” 

 

Mrs Weasley came back into the room, silencing Fred and George. 

 

“Come along then you two,” She said to Ron and Hermione. She eyed Fred and George for a moment as well before saying. “There’s some breakfast left if either of you are hungry, but share with Harry please.” 

 

“I can come clean too Mrs Weasley,” Harry said, dropping his spoon into the bowl. “At least until Snape gets back.” 

 

“Snape’s coming back?” Hermione asked quickly. 

 

“Sodding git,” Ron snapped. “He probably just wants to have someone to yell at while he works.” 

 

“Ronald!” Mrs Weasley pointed her spoon at Ron. “Professor Snape will be back, yes, but Harry,” She paused, eyeing Harry carefully. “I think it’s best to be cautious around him.” 

 

“Harry’s been cautious around Snape for years, Mum,” Ron said as he climbed to his feet. “I don’t think it’s helped much.” 

 

Mrs Weasley hummed and her mouth twisted with worry. She dug through a cabinet instead of responding though and collected a few dusty looking bottles. She pulled a few rags from a drawer as well before turning back to them. 

 

“Well, come on then.” She handed a rag to Ron and set off. 

 

“We’d like to offer our services as well!” George chimed in as they left the room. 

 

“Me too!” Harry said, trailing after them. 

 

Mrs Weasley paused as they stepped into the living room. “Oh, no, Harry, I think you’re a bit small to be dealing with doxies.” Mrs Weasley said with an apologetic smile. “I know you’re fifteen, but they have a nasty bite, and I’m not sure you’re big enough to fight it off. 

 

“But we are?!” Ron asked worriedly. He looked nervously around the room and tried to find spot the nest. 

 

“We can just do homework upstairs?” Hermione offered. Her eyes glittered, and she eyed Harry and Ron conspiratorially. 

 

“Right, yeah,” Ron agreed. “Erm, I still have some charms work.”

 

Harry nodded fiercely and tried to make his face as innocent as Fred and George had earlier. Although that might be a bad idea, because everyone knew they were guilty, whether or not they’d tried to appear innocent.

 

“No, no, the doxies have to go. Harry, why don’t you and I go dust off the stairs instead.” She smiled. 

 

Harry’s shoulders slumped, and the urge to whinge crept up on him so suddenly that he nearly let out a moan before he caught himself. He desperately wanted to tell Ron and Hermione about what he’d heard, though he knew it wasn’t much. He didn’t like the idea of being alone again with Mrs Weasley either, but he didn’t want to inspect why that was. 

 

“Can I go find Sirius instead?” He asked. 

 

“No.” Mrs Weasley said. “Sirius is looking into some Order business right now, but he’ll be back later.” 

 

“What Order business?” Harry asked curiously as she led them from the room. Ron and Hermione leant back, creeping after them as they walked. 

 

Harry dodged in front of Mrs Weasley, keeping her attention away from them. 

 

“I’m not going to discuss it Harry,” She said, shaking her head no. “It’s not appropriate, I don’t tell Ron or Ginny either you know.” 

 

Ron grimaced from behind her. 

 

“Not appropriate? How can you say it’s not appropriate?” Harry asked as indignation burned through him. He knew he should keep his temper in check, but Avery hadn’t cared much about appropriateness when he’d broken into Spinner’s End. 

 

“Harry—” 

 

“No!” Harry shouted. “It’s not appropriate to break into other people’s homes, or to try and kidnap people, or to actually kidnap people, or to tie people to headstones or kill or—” 

 

Mrs Weasley dropped to her knees suddenly and her arms came around Harry. 

 

Harry coughed as he tried to breathe, feeling the world go fuzzy at the edges. Tombstones poked through the hazy black edges, and the smell of damp grass made him nauseas. 

 

A shudder ran through him as Mrs Weasley tried to shush him. He tried to pull away, he wanted to hide. He didn’t want either Mrs Weasley or Ron and Hermione to see him panic. He wanted his cupboard. 

 

He whinged at that thought, and Mrs Weasley’s arms tightened further, pressing him warmly against her. 

 

He desperately didn’t want anyone to see him fall apart like this. 

 

He wanted Snape. 

 

Snape already thought little of Harry and his panicking hadn’t changed Snape’s opinion or treatment of him. 

 

He sniffled wetly, and pressed his face into Mrs Weasley’s shoulder. 





Chapter Text

Harry pressed his fists into his eyes and tried to choke back the shame threatening to overtake him. He knew he shouldn’t have run away, but he couldn’t have just sat there and cried, no matter how kind and warm Mrs Weasley’s hugs felt. He didn’t understand how the panic had come on so fast, nor why it hit at that moment. Hermione would probably know why, but he wasn’t very interested in searching for her. 

 

He curled tighter around himself, despising the small comfort the dark closet brought. 

 

Mrs Weasley had said last night that the house was dangerous, but Harry couldn’t help feeling as though that wasn’t entirely true. It was just a house. Cupboards and closets full of dust and forgotten memories were no more deadly than the crooked stairs or creepy house elves’ heads. 

 

“Harry?” Ron’s voice whispered nearby. 

 

Harry’s head dropped against his knees. 

 

“I’m sorry about Mum mate.” Ron continued. “I don’t know where your wand is, and Hermione sort of went off about that, saying it was important that you feel,” He paused, seeming to struggle to find the right words. “Well, erm, safe. She’s keeping Mum with her right now.”

 

Ron’s soft footsteps crept nearer and Harry couldn’t help but press closer into the corner of the closet. 

 

“I did find your Dad’s cloak though!” Ron said excitedly before going silent again for a few minutes. 

 

Harry almost thought Ron might’ve left to search for him down a different hallway before he heard his voice again, though this time it was muffled by the closet door. 

 

“I feel really weird mate. I think this is the fourth hallway I’ve tried talking to.” Ron said. “Erm, Ginny says ‘hi’, by the way. She’s sad she hasn’t gotten to see you yet. I guess you could try and say hi too if you wanted, maybe you can wear the cloak and sneak up on her?” 

 

Harry climbed to his feet and cracked the closet door open. He felt awkward about speaking to Ron, but he liked the idea of having his cloak back. 

 

“Harry!” Ron jolted and twisted toward him. 

 

“Hey,” Harry began, regretting having opened the door already. “Erm.”

 

“Mum’s really sorry. She doesn't mean to be, so,” Ron paused and grimaced. “Much. She’s just worried, you know?” 

 

Harry nodded and opened the door a little wider.

 

“She’s upset with herself for causing it, you know. She was so angry when Dumbledore made you go back to the Durlsey’s last spring,” Ron shuffled his feet. “Said you were trauma—”

 

“It’s fine, Ron.” Harry said quickly. 

 

“Er,” Ron started, seeming to want to say something else, but nodded instead before asking. “Right, well, do you want company?” 

 

Harry paused, feeling his earlier shame creeping back in. 

 

“I think Sirius is back also, I could go find him if you’d rather that?” Ron added. 

 

“Did he say where he went?” Harry asked. He didn’t understand how Sirius had gotten away with leaving the house in the first place. Sirius had said Dumbledore had been very specific about how much he could be seen in public. He’d written about it to Harry in one of his earlier letters, ‘As little as possible, regardless of if he was Padfoot or not,’ had been Dumbledore’s answer. 

 

He hoped Sirius had been careful. 

 

“No, I only know he’s back because of Kreacher. Speaking of him, did you know Kreacher likes Snape?” Ron asked. He smiled when Harry moved to let him through the closet door. Harry felt he’d rather have Ron than Sirius right now, but didn’t want to think deeply on why that was. 

 

Ron flicked on the small lamp and sniffed at the dim light. 

 

“No. Who is Kreacher, exactly?” Harry asked, having heard the name a few times now. 

 

“Sirius’s nasty house elf, but don’t let Hermione hear you say that. He’s a complete tosser and I’m pretty sure he ripped up both mine and Hermione’s defense essays. I thought for sure she’d kill him, but she’s mental, Harry.” Ron said settling himself against the back wall like Harry had earlier. “She said he probably had no other way to make his opinions known. She just redid the essay!” 

 

“Well,” Harry paused, remembering her S.P.E.W. campaign from last year. “That’s not totally surprising, is it?” 

 

“No, but I thought she’d crack when she couldn’t find her homework.” Ron patted the spot next to him and Harry sank into the corner again. 

 

“So Kreacher likes Snape?” Harry asked, smiling slightly as Ron pulled out his invisibility cloak. Harry bundled himself into it in seconds. 

 

“Yeah! Dodgy little weirdo calls Hermione a ‘mudblood’ for trying to get Sirius to be nicer to him, but calls Snape, ‘Master Severus’.” Ron said, his voice dropping into a croaky imitation. “He runs around after Snape like he hung the moon. I heard him, not twenty minutes ago asking when Snape was going to get in. Probably wants to shine his boots or make him tea. Fred and George think Snape drugged him, and I think I agree.”

 

“Can you drug house elves?” Harry asked, wondering what Snape must’ve done. 

 

“Sure I ‘spose.” Ron said. “The two of them have been trying to drug him since they had the idea, but I doubt they’ve managed it.” 

 

Harry snickered at the thought. 

 

“Hermione really hates that idea though too, so best not say that around her either.” Ron reached forward and dusted off an old box. He sifted idly through it as he spoke. “She said Kreacher was likely kind to those who were kind to him, which Sirius said was bollocks.” 

 

“Kreacher really hates Sirius that much?” 

 

“Apparently they’ve just never got on. Hermione said she’d win Kreacher over though, and she's been at it for weeks Harry, weeks! I’m so happy you’re finally here. We might be able to get her to talk about something else.”

 

Ron pulled an old looking top hat from the box and snorted as he dropped it onto Harry’s head. 

 

“You think Sirius ever wore any of this stuff?” He asked as he held up a grey winter cloak. 

 

“I hope so,” Harry said, climbing to his feet to throw the old cloak around Ron. “They look like the stuff Dudley used to wear to play knights.” 

 

“Did knights wear top hats?” Ron’s eyes lit up and he placed a regal looking hat on his own head. 

 

Harry laughed and was glad he’d let Ron into the closet.

 

A short knock startled them both and before they could pull the clothes off, Sirius opened the door. 

 

“I thought that was you two!” Sirius smiled. “Found some old clothes, have you?” He asked as he stepped closer. “I think this was Reg’s,” He said as he pulled the cloak from Ron. “And this, I think might’ve been my Uncle Alphard’s?” He twisted the hat in his hands. “Might’ve been my father’s though as well.” 

 

“Well, either your uncle or dad had alright taste in hats.” Ron said as he flipped the cover back onto the box and stood. 

 

Sirius shrugged and nudged them both from the closet, he dropped a hand onto Harry’s shoulder. “Ron, your mum’s looking for you, I need to have a word with Harry.” 

 

Ron nodded and threw Harry a comforting wave before making his way down the hallway. 

 

Sirius spun on his heel and led Harry along the opposite end. They climbed a set of stairs before coming out in front of a dusty looking study. Several bookshelves sat facing them. The books looked largely untouched and very old. 

 

“Alright, well,” Sirius began. He took down a thick black book and tapped his wand twice on the wall behind it. “I’ve been thinking of how to keep you safe, and I think I’ve finally got it.” 

 

Harry blinked nervously as the bookshelf shivered and slid to the left. A thin grey paneled door appeared behind it, and Sirius quickly opened it. 

 

“There’s a safe house that James and Lily stayed at before you were born.” He said as they walked into a small room. Odd knick-knacks, toys and clothes cluttered the crooked shelves. “It’s hidden from everyone, even Dumbledore.”

 

“Alright?” Harry said, following Sirius with his eyes. 

 

“And, if we go now, I think there will be enough time before any alarm gets raised that you’ve gone missing. I’ll tell them you’ve gone to take a nap or something for a few hours.”

 

“What?” Harry cried, ignoring how high his voice went. “I can’t just leave!” An overwhelming sense of panic flooded through Harry. If Sirius really wanted to take Harry away, Harry wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight. He didn’t even have his wand. He tried to think back to the last place he’d had it, but could only remember stupefying Avery with it. 

 

He didn’t know where Avery’s wand had gotten to either, now that he thought of it. 

 

“That’s the thing though, isn’t it?” Sirius said as he searched the shelf to his left. “You can! You absolutely can. It’s where James felt safest, until you and Lily were at Godric’s Hollow at least. I’ve been thinking about it since last night. This would work.” 

 

Harry shook his head wildly. “No, Sirius, that’s not a good—it’s a terrible idea!” He stared at his godfather. “I’m—I’m physically six, Snape has to fix that first, I can’t leave! I don’t even have my wand! What if something happens!” 

 

“Harry, something already happened. If you hadn’t been a quick thinker, you’d already be dead.” Sirius said, seeming to find what he’d been looking for. He picked up a dull silver spoon and rubbed his finger over the handle. “Snape can't be trusted, and by extension, neither can Dumbledore.” 

 

“That’s mental Sirius. Think about what you just said.” Harry said. He tried not to let the panic escape in his voice but he could hear himself failing. “This is Dumbledore’s Order, you’re letting him use your house, but you don’t trust him?!” He tripped backwards and collided with the wall. 

 

Sirius dropped to his knees in front of Harry and tugged him upright, keeping a firm hand on him. 

 

“No, Harry you’re misunderstanding me.” 

 

“I really think I’m not.” Harry said nervously trying to pull away. 

 

“I don’t mean Dumbledore is untrustworthy, nor do I think he’s suddenly gone mad and is making bad decisions.” Sirius said quietly. “I am saying however, that Snape left you alone in his house. He left you alone, knowing that Avery had suspected him of having you.” Sirius sneered at the word ‘suspected’. “Snape said so last night. Avery was there when he took you from your relatives, he saw it happen.” 

 

Harry felt a rock drop into his stomach. 

 

“Avery and Snape are old friends Harry, that dark mark on Snape’s arm isn’t just for show.” 

 

Dread washed through Harry, making him sick to his stomach. 

 

Harry actually had seen someone in the street lights in Magnolia Crescent then. It hadn't been a fear induced vision. Snape had given him a calming draught and said he hadn’t had time for Harry to panic, but he’d never said Harry was wrong. 

 

“I trust Dumbledore to anticipate Voldemort’s moves and to run a resistance to defeat him, but he hasn’t kept you safe. In fact, Dumbledore has failed to keep you safe for four years in a row now. He doesn’t know how easy it really is to get to you.” Sirius said, cupping Harry’s jaw. “I do know, I got close to you more than once in your third year.” 

 

Harry shook his head fiercely, still struggling with Sirius’s comment about Snape. He reminded himself of Snape and his mum and Aunt Petunia. Snape wouldn’t have wanted Lily to have come to harm, just like he hadn’t wanted Harry to come to harm. 

 

“Snape’s on our side!” 

 

“Harry, Dumbledore has been wrong about people before. He isn’t infallible. I’ve made the same sort of mistake with Pettigrew.” Sirius spat the name. 

 

“But, Snape isn’t actually on Voldemort’s side, if he was he’d have just handed me over—”

 

Sirius shook his head. “No, there was no way he could’ve handed you over to Voldemort straight out. If he had, he couldn’t have continued to spy on us for his bloody Dark Lord.” Sirius said darkly. “The only option left was to leave you like a sitting duck, and make it look like an accident.” 

 

Harry’s throat closed up, and he felt like he  couldn’t breathe. 

 

“Snape isn’t trustworthy. He never has been.” Sirius said as he put the spoon in Harry’s hand. “Hold on tight Prongslet.” 

 

“Sirius, wait!” Harry gasped as something hooked onto his navel and Grimmauld Place spun madly away. 

 

He landed hard on a dark wooden floor. Harry tried to pick himself up, but stumbled and fell twice. The room still seemed to turn, and it was making him too dizzy. He was still struggling to understand how Snape and his mum could have been friends if Snape was really as foul as Sirius thought he was. 

 

Harry had known Snape was a git, but he hadn’t sold him out to Voldemort. 

 

He felt like throwing up again. 

 

“Here we are,” Sirius said as he hefted Harry into his arms. “A Black safe house. Nearly as good as a Potter one, but beggars can’t be choosers, can they?” Sirius asked as he carried Harry through the hallway. 

 

The house looked as if it had been either searched or abandoned in a hurry. Overturned furniture and scattered parchment had been tossed throughout the sitting room. Harry couldn’t imagine his parents having left a house in this condition, neither his mum or dad had seemed destructive to this degree. 

 

Maybe Snape had been right when he said Harry’s dad had been entitled.

 

“Don’t worry, we’ll get it cleaned up quickly. Then I’ll tell you the plan.” Sirius said as he flicked his wand towards a large armchair. 

 

It flipped over and clattered loudly as it landed on its feet. Sirius settled Harry, who had yet to really blink past the thick and fuzzy feeling clouding his thoughts, onto the chair and moved about the room, waving his wand through the air and putting the room back together. 

 

“So,” Sirius began, once the room looked more normal. “I think, until you start school again, staying here is the safest option.” 

 

Harry’s thoughts still centered on Snape’s actions. He wasn’t sure how he’d get back to fifteen without Snape. Why had Snape bothered to leave Harry with his wand if he’d meant for Avery to kidnap him? Why had he taken Harry from Privet Drive if he’d know Avery was there? Why had he held Harry’s hand—

 

“Moony and I, while we’re not potions masters, might be able to come up with a cure for you.” Sirius continued. “That is if Moony will help me. I haven’t asked him yet.” 

 

Harry’s thoughts caught up with his ears. 

 

“Does no one else know where I am?” He asked, feeling a very uncomfortable thrill of fear. “Not even Professor Lupin?” 

 

“It’s more that I didn’t have time to tell him about the plan yet,” Sirius said quickly. “I trust Moony though.” 

 

“But why—”

 

“I couldn’t wait, not with Snape already on his way to Grimmauld Place, and I couldn’t have Molly hearing about it, not when she’s made it very clear that she doesn’t trust me with you. She’s going to distract Snape for me instead.” Sirius said with a wink. “She doesn’t want him to have anything to do with you either, so a little lie worked in our favour there.”

 

Harry shook his head, feeling more worried every second. 

 

“Sirius, I want to go back to Grimmauld Place.” Harry said. “I really think this isn’t a good idea.”

 

“You don’t need to worry. I’ve altered the wards to only allow the head of house, myself, and those of whom I deem worthy, entrance.” Sirius said with a firm nod. “When your parents hid here, my mother was the head of the house. She had forgotten about the place though, and your parents managed to hide in the upper floors for months.”

 

Harry slid off of the chair and bolted toward the hallway, searching for the spoon Sirius had used. 

 

He’d get back to Grimmauld Place and then try and find Ron or Hermione. He didn’t trust anyone else at this point. 

 

“I’ll show you where they stayed in a minute Harry,” Sirius shouted after him, his footsteps caught up quickly with Harry and he grabbed him by the arm. 

 

Harry panicked and tried to throw him off. He didn’t know where Sirius had dropped the portkey, he didn’t have his wand, he was six and this house was terrifying. Sirius was terrifying. He wanted to go back to Grimmauld place, he’d take Privet Drive over this creepy quiet house. 

 

“Harry, you’re alright, it’s completely fine.” Sirius said dropping onto his knees and tightening his hold gently as Harry tried to pull away. 

 

“No! This is mental!” Harry shouted. He jumped and tried to wrench his arm free. 

 

“Harry!” Sirius shouted back, sending rivers of ice down Harry’s back. Fearful ash crept in his mouth and he froze in his tracks. “It’s not permanent, Moony will be along soon.” He tugged Harry close and held his shoulders. “This is just a precaution. Do you realize how close you came to dying last night?” Sirius asked, his voice raspy as he spoke. “Do you know what it was like watching Molly come through the floo with you? Avery was well known for how he tortured people, Harry. He and Snape used to invent spells that would hurt people in very specific and permanent ways!” Sirius shook Harry hard once. “To say nothing of what would’ve happened when he left you at Voldemort’s feet.” 

 

Harry shuddered, and he wanted desperately to run, but his feet felt as if they were stuck to the floor. 

 

“It’s alright,” Sirius continued, wrapping his arms around Harry. “You’re a clever kid. You escaped and found help, but now you’ve got to let me do my part, alright?” Sirius asked. He swept his arms under Harry’s and cradled him to his chest. “I really do promise that it’ll be alright.” 

 

They climbed two old staircases and moved down several decrepit hallways before stopping in front of a heavy looking door. Harry couldn’t help curling completely into himself as they walked. 

 

New terrors mixed and sank among old ones. The worry of Sirius yelling at him, which he’d always been afraid of, combined horribly with his fear of Uncle Vernon and he couldn’t seem to separate the two. He tried to force himself to stop shuddering, as Uncle Vernon had despised Harry’s shaking when he was around him, but he couldn’t seem to stop that either. Sirius yelled, and made too many erratic and sudden movements for Harry to keep track of. It felt like he was actually six again, and didn’t have any choice or chance to escape. 

 

He knew Sirius and Uncle Vernon weren’t the same, but he didn’t think his body couldn’t tell the difference. 

 

Sirius wouldn’t hurt him. He hadn’t hurt him at all, Harry tried to argue to himself. He’d just stolen Harry away to an old house to hide in. 

 

“I really don’t know when this house was built, and the stasis charms have worn off, but it’ll still serve its purpose.” Sirius whispered into Harry’s ear. “Moony had been planning on coming to Grimmauld Place in half an hour, so I’ll get you settled in, help clean the place up a bit, and then go grab him. I won’t be gone for more than an hour, alright?” Sirius said as he sat Harry onto a large bed. 

 

“Will you bring Ron or Hermione, or someone back?” Harry asked, trying to cover the terrified tremor in his voice. “I need my trunk, and clothes and wand and—”

 

“Right, right.” Sirius said, holding up a hand. “I’ll try and get your things when I’m there. I might have to send Kreacher for some stuff. Once the dust settles I’ll try and get Ron or Hermione here, but they’ll have to keep it secret. That might take a few days.”  

 

“They will Sirius, they can keep a secret!” Harry tried to climb to his feet, but couldn’t seem to get his balance. 

 

“Alright, this might actually work.” Sirius smiled, running a hand through Harry’s fringe. “I feel terrible leaving you here with nothing to do, but it’ll only be for a little while. I promise, Moony and I will be back—”

 

“Wait, Sirius,” Harry grabbed a hold of his sleeve. “Where do I go if something does happen? Does this house have a floo?” He spoke quickly, tumbling over his words. “Why don’t you take me back with you, and then we can talk about it with Moony?” Harry asked, hoping Sirius saw sense. He desperately didn’t want to stay in the house alone. At least at Grimmauld Place he could use the floo to get anywhere else. 

 

“No, there isn’t a floo.” Sirius shook his head. “If anything happens, erm,” He paused and searched around the room. “I’d hope that nothing could happen in an hour, but I really don’t want to chance it.” 

 

“I think I should just come back with you.” Harry nodded. 

 

“I know, but I don’t want to risk it if Snape is there.” Sirius said. “I think it might be safest if I adjust the wards and the door. That way if something does happen, no one who intends to harm you, will be able to see or find you in here.” 

 

“Sirius, I don’t like this plan.” Harry said, shuddering as he looked Sirius in the eye. “I’m,” Harry paused, nervous and unsure of his godfather. “I’m nervous.” He finished lamely. He’d wanted to say he was scared, but the words froze in his throat. 

 

He’d tried to tell Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon when he’d been scared in the past, but they’d usually made fun of him for it and then watched him as he tried to do whatever he’d been fearful of. 

 

“It’ll be alright Harry,” Sirius smiled. “James trusted me, and I promise you. I won’t let you down.” 

 

He brushed a hand over Harry’s fringe once more before waving his wand in a complicated series of movements. The furniture gave a shake, and dusted itself off while the carpet seemed to stitch itself back together. Sirius cast a few more spells in quick succession before finally twisting on his heel and poking at the door. 

 

“Don’t leave the room once the door is closed, alright? The disillusionment might not hold otherwise.” Sirius said. 

 

With a quick goodbye, Sirius was gone. 

 

Harry twisted his hands around the cover on the bed and curled into the smallest ball he could. He felt more alone now than he had even at Privet Drive. 

 

No one but Sirius knew where he was. No one but Sirius could get to him. Sirius, who shouldn’t have been outside of Grimmauld Place had been poking around old family houses. The Black’s weren’t a good family, not from what Sirius had said in his letters. Harry didn’t want to be alone in one of their houses. 

 

Lupin had to talk Sirius out of this. 

 

Harry knew that together they were incredibly smart, but he wasn’t sure they could undo whatever potion had been dropped over Harry. Snape hadn’t even known what it was and he’d been using guess work to get as far along as he had.

 

Harry couldn’t decide if he did or didn’t trust Snape either. Snape had been strangely kind, and had helped him, even if he sometimes acted in a cruel way. 

 

Snape hadn’t been rude to Harry since they began talking about his mother though. 

 

Harry stood up and looked around the room. 

 

Hiding in a ball wasn’t going to make him feel better, nor was throwing the covers over his head, no matter how much he wanted to do that. He’d have to have faith in Lupin. 

 

Sirius loved Harry. 

 

Harry knew that, but he clearly had a tendency to go overboard. The memory of his third year, when Sirius had stood over Ron’s bed with a knife in his hand washed over Harry. 

 

The amount of times Sirius had gotten close to Harry, despite the dementors and professors' careful watch, was worrying. Sirius had a point, Dumbledore wasn’t infallible. Voldemort had gotten a hold of Harry as well, and if it hadn’t been for his parent’s and Cedric’s ghosts, he doubted he’d have made it out of that situation alive. 

 

He picked through the furniture, trying to stave off his fear by entertaining himself with the thought that he’d already been here. He’d hadn’t been born, but he imagined his mum humming to him while she lay in the bed, or his dad wondering aloud about what Harry might be like. 

 

Sirius had said they’d stayed here, but it didn’t look much like anyone had been in the room in over fifty years. 

 

There was an ornate looking wardrobe to the right, but nothing of much interest inside. A large roll top desk was tucked into the far corner, and was covered in rotting old books. He tried opening a few of the drawers in the desk, but found them either jammed shut or locked. 

 

It was a boring and dark room. Unless someone liked old and crumbling memoirs, there wasn’t much to do. He half wondered if his mum or dad had left the books, but ultimately hoped they hadn’t. The books were too dull to be interesting to anyone. 

 

He shuddered uncomfortably. 

 

The room reminded him eerily of his cupboard. Being forced to stay put, unable to leave for any reason, despite having done nothing wrong. 

 

He began to drag himself back over to the bed and tried to prepare for either the boredom or panic that might come in the next hour when he tripped over a loose floorboard. 

 

He blinked into the small dark space below, wondering if anyone had thought to use the cramped space like he had at Privet Drive. If they did, he hoped they hadn’t stored food, as it would’ve been long since gone off. 

 

Luckily there was a small envelope instead, and inside, was a short note tucked around a thin gold chain. The handwriting was too erratic to have been familiar, and looked as if it’d been written while on the move. 

 

Lily, should you ever need it. —

 

Harry frowned at the unsigned note, finding it less than informative but enjoyed reading his mum’s name. She must’ve read it too at one point. He wondered why she’d hidden it in the space beneath the floorboards though. He twisted the chain around his wrist, and realized a moment later that it was actually a necklace. 

 

It wasn’t very dirty, given the years it’d sat in the crooked house, and it had a small pendant shaped like a lily that hung from the middle. 

 

Harry put it on, deciding he liked it immediately.






Chapter Text


The bed in Sirius’s safe house wasn’t the most comfortable, but compared to the rotten mattress in Harry’s cupboard it was heavenly. It could be very noisy when he rolled over on it’s springs though.

 

Sirius had said he wouldn’t be away for more than an hour, but without a watch, Harry had no way to gauge how much time had passed or when he’d be back. The books were dead boring, and with little else to do he’d resigned himself to sitting on the bed and fiddling with his mum’s necklace. It was a nice piece of jewelry. He imagined it’d have looked nice with her hair. Tracing her name over and over on the note and the flower pendant only took up so much time though. 

 

The thought of her hiding it beneath the floorboards was curious. He wondered if she’d hidden it from Harry’s dad, and if so, why.

 

He wanted to know why she’d hidden it at all, because it seemed somewhat important. It felt like the sort of thing someone would’ve worn all the time, but maybe it was exactly as plain as it looked. Though that didn’t explain why it had been hidden then. 

 

After a while even the bright allure of it’s mystery had dimmed. He dropped against the only pillow on the bed and tried to count the seconds until Sirius returned. 

 

He couldn’t remember having fallen asleep or how many minutes he’d ended up counting, but he was fairly certain Ron and Dudley hadn’t been in the safe house with him, nor had they ever really spoken with one another, so they could never have played knights together. Nonetheless they played together now. 

 

It must be a dream.

 

Ron wore Gryffindor colours, while Dudley sported his Smeltings uniform. 

 

Two hastily thrown together forts stood opposed to one another and seemed unlikely to survive any real attempt at being attacked. Ron’s fort had been built with an odd collection of old items. Giant chess pieces, cauldrons, and the blackened mess that was once Tom Riddle’s old diary stood stacked over each other. Dudley’s was far more Dursley friendly, with rusty metal rubbish cans and grey topped storage bins Harry had seen in the attic at Privet Drive. He briefly wondered how Dudley had managed to get everything from the house to Hogwarts, but reminded himself dumbly that someone had probably helped him with magic. 

 

The battle would need to end soon. It was a pleasant day but storm clouds loomed over the lake. 

 

Ron had tried to enlist Harry and Hermione, but hadn’t had any luck. Harry was excited to watch Ron beat his cousin, but he knew all too well the sort of trouble he’d be in if Aunt Petunia caught him conspiring against Dudley. 

 

Aunt Petunia couldn’t hear him cheering for Ron though, not if he was quiet. 

 

Hermione didn’t seem to mind who won. Her nose was stuck in an old charms book, but she seemed very glad to have Harry’s company. She chimed in from time to time, but usually only to remind them of upcoming exams or discuss ideas from her book. 

 

It wasn’t until she pointed out nearby dementors that Harry really paid attention to what she said. 

 

Harry craned his neck, shocked that he’d missed the awful creatures. He stared at the whisper-thin black fabric floating above the lake. Fear curled around his neck. They seemed to circle around their game, creeping closer as the storm grew nearer. 

 

“Harry, I don’t think pixie wings will work,” Hermione said as she marked a note in her book. “Their wings are too thin. They’d never be able to hold you up if you flew.” 

 

“What?” Harry asked, nervous to turn his eyes from the encroaching dementors. 

 

“Just that, I’m afraid,” She said, tapping her quill to her mouth. “Maybe if we could shrink you to the size of a doxy and attach the wings then?” 

 

“Hermione, I’m not a doxy, I’m a boy.” 

 

“Of course you’re not.” Aunt Petunia said.

 

Harry spun in place, worried his aunt had heard him cheering for Ron and had come to throw him back in his cupboard. He couldn’t even remember having seen her join them. 

 

“You’re a nasty little monster.” Aunt Petunia said, grabbing Harry’s arm and dragging him from Ron and Dudley’s game. 

 

“Wait!” Harry shouted as she pulled him closer to the dementors. “Aunt Petunia, stop!” 

 

The air turned frigid and ice grew over the grass. What had felt like summer moments before dropped into the dead of winter, and the lake turned to glass beneath their eyes. 

 

Harry kicked out, twisting and pulling, trying desperately to wrench himself free. He didn’t have the option to wait until she let go, not with the dementors. She didn’t seem to realize the danger they were in, and he didn’t think explaining it would make her stop. She wouldn’t understand, she never understood. 

 

They stepped onto the lake, the soft sounds of the dementor’s cloaks slipped around Harry and Aunt Petunia. 

 

Harry shuddered and dropped, hoping the dead weight would force his aunt to let go, but it didn’t. He could hear the beginnings of his parent’s last moments. The short happiness he and his mum had had before Voldemort’s arrival echoed from his memories. 

 

“You wretched thing,” Aunt Petunia hissed. “How dare you hurt my Dudley.” 

 

Harry shivered and shook his head, trying to force the words from his throat. The dementors moved closer, circling within arms reach. 

 

“I didn’t,” He stammered. “I didn’t Aunt Petunia—”

 

“Every foul thing happens because of you!” 

 

“Aunt Petunia, please!” Harry shouted again as the dementors crept closer still. He pulled as hard as could but her grip was like iron. “Please let me go! There are dementors, they’ll kill us!” 

 

“Not Harry, not Harry please!” 

 

“You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t see them?” Aunt Petunia snarled and threw him from her. 

 

Harry slid and tumbled over the slippery lake. He tried to get to his feet and run, but a skeletal hand held him in place. His mum’s screams reached a fever pitch and the hand on his curled around his neck. 

 

Harry's eyes shot open and he swung upwards, breathing impossibly hard as his heart pounded in his chest. It was just a dream. 

 

The room was terrifyingly dark. 

 

Harry coughed and shivered in a cold sweat. His face was soaked with tears, and he tried to staunch the flow, but it didn’t seem to help. He must’ve dreamt up how cold the dementors were, as the bed was cold, but not icy in the way that he knew that dementors were. 

 

Sirius hadn’t come back yet, nor had Professor Lupin or Kreacher arrived. Not that he could tell at least. He couldn’t spot his trunk or wand. Sirius had said he might send Kreacher, hadn’t he? Harry half looked forward to that, even if the house elf had a foul temper, he wanted to know why he liked Snape. 

 

He stumbled from the bed, grimacing as he tugged at his sweaty shirt and made his way to the door. 

 

Sirius had said not to leave, but Harry didn’t want to stay in the room anymore. He didn’t want to even be near the bed, not if dream dementors were going to creep out from around it. This house was scary. 

 

He stared at the rusty black doorknob and rocked on his feet. 

 

If he left, he might find some way to escape the house, but he also might come across something deadly. Mrs Weasley had been nervous to leave Harry alone in Grimmauld Place, and that house hadn’t left Harry feeling half as eerie as this house did. He didn’t like being alone and small. He didn’t like hiding in this dark and quiet house. 

 

He’d leave then. The faster he left, the faster he found somewhere safe. 

 

Maybe with Snape?

 

Snape could make him fifteen again, and despite Harry’s faith in his godfather, Harry didn’t think he and Lupin would be able to fix him. Snape would also know more stories about his mum and Harry was desperate for more. 

 

Snape might also leave him alone for Avery to find though. 

 

Sirius had said this house had no floo. Harry didn’t have his wand either. 

 

He shook his head wildly. He’d never hesitated from running into trouble before, he didn’t know why he was now. 

 

He threw his hand forward and twisted the door knob quickly before he changed his mind. The hallway stood before him like a dark tunnel, and Harry couldn’t tell if he was imagining the icy grip of the dementor from his dream or not. 

 

Harry swallowed back a panicked gasp and darted forward. 

 

The house belonged to the Black family. They were old purebloods, likely hundreds and hundreds of years old. There had to be another way out of here. A wand was too much to ask for, and he knew there wasn’t a floo, but there might be a broom somewhere. Harry would fly for hours and in any direction if he had to. Sirius was out of his mind to have left him alone here. 

 

His foot missed a step, and he slid down a crooked flight of stairs, tumbling through a cobweb and knocking into a wall. He landed particularly hard on the ground, tasting what felt like centuries worth of dust and dirt. 

 

He couldn’t contain his miserable moan. Six year old feet were painfully uncoordinated. 

 

Why did Sirius take so long? Why hadn’t he at least left Kreacher with Harry? Why had he thought hiding Harry in this awful house was a good idea?

 

His head throbbed and he couldn’t get a hold of his breath. Every inch of him was sore and achy and tired. He couldn’t tell whether he was trembling from fear or worry or exhaustion, but he was incredibly sick of it. He tried to breathe slowly out, and get a grip on his panic, but his  dream had stirred up his fears and he couldn’t seem to shake them. The house didn’t help either and it was eerily cold.

 

He wasn’t sure how wizard houses worked, but he’d have assumed that in summer they’d at least be a little warmer. 

 

A hiss of fabric slipped up the wall behind him, and Harry jolted to his feet. He tried to peer through the dim hallway, but nothing seemed to move. 

 

Black paneled wood disappeared into the dark, and Harry couldn’t help but hold his breath as whatever was there seemed to move again. The soft sound of a cloak whispered over the old floors, and just as Harry had seen in his dream, a dementor crept out of the darkness. 

 

All at once his mother’s frantic voice pitched high in his ears, and Harry threw himself down the hallways to his right, praying there was a door he could hide in. He threw open the first door he tried and tore inside. 

 

“Stand aside!” Voldemort’s sibilant voice hissed in Harry’s ears as he slammed the door shut. 

 

The room was equally as dark and miserable as the rest of the house, though it was full of covered furniture. 

 

“Help!” Harry whispered as quietly as he could. He didn’t know if Dementors had ears, or if they just knew where people hid by sensing their worst feelings and memories.

 

Ice grew along the wood, blanketing the door and nearly freezing Harry to it. 

 

Harry tripped forward, panic taking over him. He was going to die if Sirius didn’t show up soon. He was going to die in a safe house. All the trouble Voldemort had gone to searching for him and trying to kill him year after year, wasted by a dementor. All of Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s hopes and wishes for him to disappear, granted in seconds by his being too small to defend himself. 

 

“Go away!” He screamed, anger overriding fear for a brief second. 

 

The dementor drifted in through the cracks in the doorframe and it’s long thin arms stretched towards Harry. 

 

Harry stumbled into a couch and landed in a sprawl as it floated closer. He tried to grab the ragged white tarp covering the couch, but couldn’t pull it off. He was too small to move it. He wasn’t sure what he would’ve done with it had he managed to rip it off, maybe hide under it? 

 

He might be able to run past the dementor, but he felt lightheaded, and he could tell he was going to pass out soon. His death would be quick at least. 

 

“Please!” His mother’s voice echoed in his head. 

 

He grabbed the chain of his mother’s necklace, wishing desperately that she or anyone were here to help. 

 

“Help please!” He begged. 

 

An uncomfortable lurch yanked on his navel and he spun madly for a moment before landing on a surprisingly soft surface in the loud kitchen of Grimmauld Place. 

 

“YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE—HARRY!” Mrs Weasley’s voice cracked before the room dropped into silence. 

 

Harry gasped greedily as the terror ebbed from him and the dots sparkling across his vision faded slowly. He wasn’t dead. His soul hadn’t been sucked from his body, he couldn’t hear the dying screams of his mum or dad or Voldemort anymore. He couldn't stop shaking, and had yet to really breathe, but that didn’t seem to be a problem compared to the other issues. Whatever he’d landed on had already adjusted around that. 

 

Large hands held him carefully and he found himself sinking into them. Harry worried he’d be pulled immediately into the chaos of the kitchen, but that worry dulled the longer the silence continued. 

 

“Let go of him,” Sirius’s voice sounded harsh. “Now.” 

 

“Sirius! Give Harry a minute.” Lupin said, somewhere from Harry’s left.

 

“I don’t want him—”

 

“Harry?” Lupin cut Sirius off. “Are you alright?”

 

Harry shook his head and buried it farther into whatever soft material was in front of him. He was going to sit in the safe kitchen for a few minutes and if anyone tried to take him elsewhere he’d go mad. He didn’t know what he’d say, but he was sure he’d think of something. 

 

“You traumatized your godson. Well done, Black.” Snape’s voice rumbled in Harry’s ears. 

 

Harry jerked and peeked upwards, catching the hook of Snape’s nose and his dark hair. Snape must’ve caught him when he’d landed. His wool jacket was soft beneath Harry’s cheek. It was immensely comforting, but Harry couldn’t decide if Snape holding him was a good or bad thing. Sirius had a point when he’d said that Snape was a Death Eater. Snape had left him alone and he had been attacked by Avery, but Harry couldn’t help feeling like some piece of that story was missing. Snape had left him with his wand, and he’d been shaking and worried when Harry had checked to see if he was truly alright last night. 

 

Snape had also known Avery had seen him leaving Privet Drive. 

 

Harry wasn’t sure what to think about the situation. He comforted himself with the reminder that Snape had been unusually kind since they’d left his aunt’s house. He’d snapped at Harry a bit too, but that was expected. 

 

“I didn’t—” Sirius choked out before seeming to think better. “Harry are you alright? You gotta breathe kiddo.” 

 

Harry’s ears caught up with him and he realized he was nearly hyperventilating. Snape’s chest rose and fell slowly for a few minutes and Harry tried to match his own breathing. He wasn’t sure if it worked, because his throat still felt fuzzy and if he were set on his feet, he was sure he’d tip over, but it was better than before. 

 

“Severus, I can take Harry,” Mrs Weasley began. 

 

Harry shook his head ‘no’ desperately. He tightened his grip on Snape’s jacket and pressed close, trying to ignore the shudders still rattling him. He wasn’t entirely sure what had happened to get him away from Sirius’s safe house, but he knew the necklace was involved. 

 

It may have been a gift from Sirius, as it took him to Grimmauld Place. Harry couldn’t guess why his mum would’ve hidden it beneath the floorboards of another of Sirius’s houses though. 

 

It wouldn’t have helped her unless she’d been wearing it as well. 

 

“I think Mr Potter has made his decision very clear, Molly.” Snape said, leaning back. His voice was softer than Harry had expected, given everyone around. Harry wasn’t sure why Snape had said that to Mrs Weasley either, but he guessed she’d tried to reach out. He was slightly shocked at that, as he half thought Snape would throw him at her as soon as Harry caught his breath. 

 

“Harry, did you apparate here?” Sirius asked, sounding as though he was inching closer. Harry tucked closer into Snape, his uncomfortable worry of Sirius being similar to his Uncle Vernon crept up on him. He knew that was illogical. Sirius was just a bit unpredictable, he wouldn’t hit him. 

 

“I don’t know, there was a dementor in your house.” Harry croaked, trying to ignore the raspy sound of his voice. 

 

“A what!” Sirius shouted.

 

Harry flinched and Snape’s hand curled warmly over his back, pressing gently and dulling the shivers still rattling through Harry. He looked out, nervous as he watched his godfather. 

 

Sirius fumed, his face a mix of fear, anger and panic. The kitchen looked like it’d gone through a few disastrous fights already. Parchment was scattered throughout the room and various quills and books looked as if they had been tossed after them. Lupin was paler than Harry remembered him being from the day before, though Harry wondered if that had more to do with the full moon approaching than Harry’s sudden appearance. 

 

“A dementor, Harry?” Lupin asked, stepping over to Sirius as he righted a chair. He pushed Sirius into it slowly. “If you cast a patronus charm the Ministry might know where you were, I don’t think they have that house under watch, but you never know what might alert them.”

 

“I don’t have my wand, I haven’t been able to find it since last night.” Harry said darkly. He twisted slightly in Snape’s arms to look directly at Lupin. “I just ran away.” 

 

Mrs Weasley made a worried sound and she hurried from the room. Harry thought he caught sight of a bit more red hair than her own when the door opened, but thought he might’ve imagined it when no one else came through after the door was closed again. 

 

“Harry, that’s—that’s horrible, I’m so sorry,” Sirius’s jaw worked itself over, opening and closing several times before he spoke again. “How? That house is—how could that have happened?” Sirius’s voice shot high, but he seemed to calm down the more he thought about it. “Harry, I believe you, I do, but I would’ve known if a dementor had been in that house with you.” 

 

“That’s not entirely true though, is it, Black. You’ve never understood the depth of danger you place others in when it comes to dark creatures.” Snape said, glaring at Sirius. “Perhaps you didn’t notice it.” 

 

“Piss off, Snape,” Sirius hissed. “I spent twelve years in Azkaban, I’d have noticed.” He stood again and leaned over the table. Snape’s arm came further around Harry and tightened slightly. “I wouldn’t have put Harry somewhere dangerous. I suppose I should add though,” Sirius said nastily. “That It’s not really my fault if others stick their abnormally large noses in dangerous—”

 

“Is it possible it was a boggart, Harry?” Lupin cut in. “Think back, describe it for me please.” 

 

Harry paused, trying to remember what actually had happened, but he struggled. Everything was tainted with blurry fear. He didn’t know how it could’ve been a boggart, not when it seemed to just live in the hallway it had found Harry in. He supposed he could’ve woken it up when he’d fallen down the stairs, but did boggarts live in stairs? Could boggarts make ice appear out of doorways? Maybe it lived in the wardrobe Harry had opened, but just decided not to attack until Harry had left the room? That felt ridiculous. If it was able to attack, it would’ve. It wouldn’t have been a good predator if it ignored the opportunity of someone sleeping. Were boggarts predators? Maybe it hadn’t been able to see Harry, and had tried to attack before he’d come into the hallway? Harry’s dream had been eerily similar to other dementor attacks. 

 

Sirius had said the disillusionment charm was tied to the door, and that no one could see or hurt him if he’d been in the room. It really only attacked when Harry had left. 

 

“Can boggarts change the space they’re in, like they change themselves?” Harry asked finally. If he’d really been that terrified over a boggart, it’d be embarrassing. 

 

“It can happen.” Lupin nodded. “If a boggart senses it’s winning, it can grow stronger. It really depends on how you mean ‘change the space’. If you mean that it changed something in the room physically, say like a rug or window, then no.” He said, looking Harry in the eye. “If you mean it imitated the effect of something you fear, such as the cold air or ice dementors are known for, then yes. Boggarts are difficult, Harry. It’s because they prey on what we fear most that we often struggle unnecessarily. It’s why they’re so dangerous and why ministry specialists are often asked to remove them.” He added kindly. 

 

“Oh.” Harry said dumbly. 

 

Mrs Weasley stole back into the room, holding Harry’s wand in her hand. She handed it over quickly with an apologetic look. Harry was very glad to have his wand back, the warmth from it tingled pleasantly in his hand and up his arm. 

 

The room seemed to drop into an awkward silence as Harry rolled his wand in his hand. He wasn’t sure if he was only imagining it, as no one else seemed to be bothered by it. They looked instead as if they were thinking hard about what little that happened Harry had told them. He hoped if this taught them anything, it was to leave him armed if they left him alone. 

 

“We’ll circle back to that question. You didn’t cast a patronus charm, but you still managed to find your way here. Do you think it was accidental magic, Harry?” Lupin asked softly. 

 

Harry’s fingers clenched in Snape’s jacket. He wondered what they’d think if Harry said he thought he’d escaped by using the necklace. They might take it away. Sirius might be upset to learn that his gift had been hidden beneath the floorboards. Aunt Petunia’s voice shrieked in the back of his mind, berating him about being a destructive menace with no regard for other people’s homes. She hadn’t found his hiding place yet, but she’d certainly yelled at him for any scuff or mark on the house. He was pleased to note that hiding things in floorboards seemed to run in his family. 

 

Harry had only just found the necklace though, he didn’t want them to take it away. What if they put it back in that room? That didn’t seem fair. The old house didn’t deserve something of his mum’s, especially not something this nice. 

 

“I don’t know.” Harry said finally. He didn’t like lying to Lupin, but he didn’t want to tell the truth. 

 

“That’s alright,” Lupin said. “Sometimes accidental magic happens in those situations, I think a cup of tea might really help.” He added, twisting and grabbing the tea pot. Mrs Weasley jumped to help. She pulled a patterned tin down from a cupboard and began sorting quickly through it. 

 

Harry wondered if he should let go of Snape. He didn’t know how long Snape would allow Harry in his personal space, let alone be held by him, but he knew his minutes were numbered. Snape was more comforting than Harry would admit out loud though. He hadn’t moved unless it was to give Harry more space and he hadn’t coddled Harry, not even when he’d been in a full tilt panic. 

 

“I also think a bit of chocolate wouldn’t go amiss.” Lupin said, rifling through his pockets. Harry wondered if Lupin had always carried chocolate with him, whereas before he’d thought it was just a precaution due to the dementors searching for Sirius. 

 

Harry began to try climbing down from Snape, feeling he should leave sooner rather than later, but found it remarkably harder than he’d expected. His legs had gone numb from fear and hadn’t quite woken since. Snape kept a hand on his arm and helped him down onto a chair. He shivered harder as he sat. The loss of warmth was a shock he hadn’t expected. He hadn’t realized how warm Snape was, and how much that helped to keep his panic at bay. He wasn’t as used to this kind of cold either. He’d been in dangerous situations time and time again, but none of them ever seemed to have the same effect as dementors did. 

 

A faded blue mug was placed before him, along with a few pieces of chocolate. He immediately began nibbling on the chocolate. The tea smelled faintly of chamomile and Harry found himself calming almost unconsciously as he sipped it. 

 

“Now then,” Lupin started as he poured himself a cup. “Let’s discuss our next steps. Severus, how far along are you on a cure?”

 

“I would be further had I not been detained for questioning this morning.” Snape sneered. 

 

“A few hours can’t have really set you behind Snape.” Sirius said, wrinkling his nose as he sat again. 

 

“A few hours longer that your godson was forced to remain six for. You’re right though, it didn’t affect me as much as it did him.” Snape snapped back. 

 

Sirius’s lip curled in disgust and he turned away from Snape. Harry felt a renewed sense of worry tickling over his neck at the thought of siding with Snape over Sirius. He couldn’t help feeling like he’d need to address that soon, especially given Sirius’s concerning urge to hide Harry away in terrifying dark houses. 

 

“Harry dear, why don’t you and I go into the living room.” Mrs Weasley said kindly. 

 

Harry shook his head ‘no’ and grabbed his mug with both hands, enjoying the small warmth. “No thank you, Mrs Weasley. I’d like to be present if we’re talking about how to fix me and my cousin.” He also didn’t want to leave the safety of the kitchen. He wasn’t sure if he’d feel truly safe with any of them at the moment, but a small part of him half relied on their arguing amongst one another to keep each other balanced out. 

 

If he left he could go find Ron and Hermione though, and from there work out a plan with them. They might have some guesses that could help with his mum’s necklace, and Snape’s motives. 

 

He didn’t fancy telling them about his change of heart towards their dour potions master. 

 

“If you refuse to allow Potter to stay with me while I brew a cure, then I’ll need access to him when I request it. I need him in my lab.”

 

“You’re mad if you think I’m going to let you take Harry anywhere.” Sirius said. 

 

“I’ll go with Snape.” Harry said, shuddering as a rush of fear ran through him. His throat went dry despite the tea, and he stared nervously at Sirius, watchful for any negative reactions. 

 

Sirius’s eyes widened and his face paled, making his gaunt cheekbones appear even thinner. 

 

Harry leant back instinctively. “N-not that I don’t want to stay here,” Harry said quickly, feeling suddenly as if he’d ruined everything with Sirius. “I do, I really like being here with you!” 

 

Sirius stood abruptly. “Can I speak to you outside?” He asked Snape. 

 

Snape backed away from Harry and flicked his hand towards the door. They stared at each other, seeming to argue with silent glares. Lupin began to rise from his own chair, but a wave from Sirius had him sitting back down. Harry worried what the two would do without a mediator. 

 

They disappeared out a side door and sent the room into silence. 

 

“I’m going to go find Ron and Hermione.” Harry said, jumping from his chair and stumbling as his legs struggled to catch him. 

 

Both Lupin and Mrs Weasley jolted, reaching down to help him, but he threw them off and ran from the room. 

 

“Harry!” Mrs Weasley called after him, but he ran down a hallway before she could catch him. 

 

He couldn’t tell if he was still fearful from the residual panic of the dementor, or boggart really, or from telling Sirius he’d be alright to stay with Snape, or if it was something else entirely. 

 

He found a set of stairs and realized for the first time that he didn’t actually know where Ron or Hermione were. His fingers slipped up to the lily pendant on his mum’s necklace, and he traced over the shape unconsciously. 

 

The pendant seemed to warm in his hands, and gave a pleasant humming feeling that radiated down Harry. 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Harry!” 

 

Harry flinched, dropping the pendant and twisting in place. He spotted two floppy looking ears that reminded him of Dobby disappearing around the corner, but no one else. 

 

The pendant hummed again, and he wondered if he should go back and apologize to Sirius. 

 

His eyes clenched shut and he groaned. Why had he said anything in front of Sirius in the first place! What were Sirius and Snape talking about? Did it all have to do with Avery, or were they angry with each other over old arguments? 

 

“Harry, up here!” 

 

Harry whipped around, spotting Ron at the top of a winding set of stairs. Ginny appeared behind him and waved her hand hurriedly, gesturing for him to come up the stairs. A quiet pop echoed from behind him, and Harry spared a second to worry about it before running up to meet them. 

 

“Bloody hell, Harry!” Ron said, reaching out to tug Harry up the last few steps. “Where’ve you been? Mum went mental!” 

 

Ginny smiled a ‘hello’ as she rifled through her pockets, seeming to have lost something. 

 

“Harry!” Hermione squeaked and darted forward to hug him. Harry got a mouthful of hair before she finally leaned back and frowned at him. “You look really pale, what happened?” 

 

“Quiet!” Ginny hissed. She fussed with an odd and fleshy looking piece of string. 

 

The three turned toward her, watching as she seemed to untangle a knot before flinging what looked like an ear down the stairs. 

 

“Extendable Ears,” Ron whispered, catching Harry’s confused look. “They’re dead useful. Fred and George invented them and we were all using them to spy for weeks! They got stingy and refused to share once mum found out about them, but Ginny nicked one a week ago.” 

 

Harry watched as the ear bounced down the stairs, rattling loudly in the piece next to Ginny’s head. It stopped and dangled in front of the doorway to the kitchen. 

 

“I don’t think Mrs Weasley and Lupin are really up to much. It’s Snape and Sirius we want.” Harry said quickly. 

 

He felt an uncomfortable tingle at the back of his neck. Eavesdropping had been unavoidable when he’d slept in his cupboard, but that hadn’t stopped Aunt Petunia from punishing him for it. Sirius might be alright with it, if he felt Harry should be present for the conversation. Sirius had asked Snape to leave with him though. 

 

To say nothing of how Snape would feel if they were caught. 

 

“Did they go out that side door? We can get over top of it. This house is full of creepy little passageways to sneak around in.” Hermione said. 

 

Harry nodded. Ginny jumped to her feet and rounded the corner, Ron was close behind her. Harry grabbed Hermione’s hand before she could leave as well. 

 

“Wait!” Harry whispered. “We can follow them in a second.” He paused, feeling suddenly unsure about sharing his mum’s necklace. Ron and Hermione had always been happy for him when he found connections to his parent’s and he remembered how they enjoyed looking through his photo album with him, or asking stories about them. Harry hadn’t known most of the stories behind the photographs, but he’d known a few.  

 

Hermione blinked curiously, but waited patiently. Ron’s head peeked back from around the corner, and he stepped back over to them, giving them both a concerned look. 

 

“Harry?” Ron asked. “They might not talk long, but any time Sirius and Snape get into it, we normally hear a lot. You know how they are.” 

 

“Ron!” Hermione’s nose scrunched as she frowned. “Ginny will listen, so it isn’t like we won’t find out.” 

 

“Right, right,” Ron nodded along. “I’m just saying.” 

 

Harry couldn’t shake his nervousness. He wanted to tell them what had happened, but he also didn’t want to explain how he’d been utterly terrified by a boggart, or how he’d landed on Snape and somehow felt as if he was the safest option out of the three other adults. 

 

“Harry?” Hermione whispered. 

 

“I—” Harry stammered. “I found something in Sirius’s safe house.” 

 

“His what?” Hermione asked quickly. 

 

“You were gone!” Ron shouted. He shrugged sheepishly when Hermione glared at him and he lowered his voice. “Mum absolutely lost it, mate! She went off on me about leaving you alone with Sirius. She said he’d kidnapped you!” 

 

“No, no,” Harry started. “I mean, yes, I was gone, but Sirius just got a bit overprotective.” Harry pulled at a loose thread around the cuff of his sleeve and wondered at what point ‘overprotective’ became reckless. “The house he took me to was really old, but I found a note to my mum and a necklace!” 

 

“You didn’t put it on did you?” Hermione asked immediately, her eyes zeroing in around his neck. “It might be hexed.” 

 

Harry blanched. He hadn’t considered someone trying to hex his mum. 

 

“You did, didn’t you.” Hermione confirmed in a deadpan voice. She dropped to her knees and reached out. “May I see it?” 

 

“Well if it had been hexed, it’s probably not anymore, Hermione,” Ron said, joining her on the floor. “It’s gotta be over ten years old, hexes don’t last forever.” 

 

“Some can.” Hermione said darkly. 

 

“It’s better I did put it on, I think it brought me here. It felt like a portkey.” Harry said. 

 

Hermione’s face whitened and Ron frowned, making Harry feel suddenly very out of the loop. He worried he might’ve made a horrible mistake. He’d thought they’d have been glad he’d found his way back to Grimmauld Place. 

 

“Harry, the last time you found a portkey, it brought you to You-Know-Who.” Hermione’s voice wobbled. “I’m just a bit nervous of you disappearing on us, especially lately.” 

 

Ron nodded and rubbed his fingers over the dark floorboards. 

 

Harry smiled shakily at the reminder, but shook his head. “Well, yeah,” He said, thinking of how just this morning he’d run from Mrs Weasley after the graveyard stole his thoughts again. “This one is alright though, it was a gift for her I think. It even came with a note.” He said, pulling the scrap of parchment from his pocket. “Read for yourselves.” 

 

Hermione pressed her fingers to her lips as she mouthed the words. Harry pulled the thin gold chain up and showed them both once she’d finished. 

 

“There are a few spells we can try that will identify what curses or spells are on it,” Hermione said. “If it’s hexed.” She added quickly as Harry glared. “It might also tell us if it’s a portkey. Though, I think it’s safe to assume it is.” She tapped the note as she thought. “I wonder why you haven’t returned to, well, wherever Sirius had you if you’re still wearing it.” 

 

“It might only be good for one go?” Ron quirked his eyebrow and craned his neck at the hallway Ginny had disappeared down. 

 

“That could be true,” Hermione nodded. She eyed the pendant suspiciously and ran her fingers over the ink on the note a few more times. “Where did you find it?” She asked, flipping the note over and searching the blank parchment. 

 

Harry smiled. “Beneath the floorboards!” 

 

“She hid it?” Ron asked with a raised eyebrow, leaning back on his hands. “Sounds dodgy to me.” 

 

Hermione nodded and pocketed the note. “Let’s go check it for spells”

 

“Let's go listen with Ginny first. Gotta make the best of a good opportunity?” Ron said, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder. 

 

Harry and Hermione hummed in agreement and the three quickly snuck down the hallway. 

 

Harry couldn’t help feeling a little slighted at their lack of enthusiasm. They made a few good points, wondering if it was hexed and worrying if it was dangerous, but he’d wanted them to be as excited as he’d been about it. He didn’t have anything of his mother’s, aside from her eyes and temper, according to Snape at least. 

 

He’d been desperate for anything from his mum and dad since he’d known of their existence. 

 

When he’d been much younger, he’d pretended to have found toys and blankets of theirs to pass the time when he’d been locked in his cupboard. He’d designed elaborate stories of how he came by the item, despite how many years it had been since they’d passed. Mysterious deliveries that only he could see, so Dudley couldn’t steal them away, would magically appear in his cupboard. Dudley’s broken toys and hand drawn pictures would poke out from inside the spider nests or cracks in his cupboard, and he’d pretend they were brand new, or family photos like he’d seen on Aunt Petunia’s mantel. 

 

Looking back, he knew it had been highly illogical. He didn’t think his parents had ever been to Privet Drive, and therefore could never have hidden toys for him, but he’d wanted them all the same. He used to burrow into his clothes and pretend it was a patchwork quilt his mum had sewn. He’d praised every make-believe stitch. He wasn’t sure she’d known how to sew, but it had seemed like something mum’s did. 

 

Aunt Petunia knew how to sew, and she’d made Dudley a garish looking quilt on his birthday one year. Harry had snickered when Dudley’d opened it and subsequently found himself sat in front of the stove, baking Dudley’s birthday breakfast as punishment. He’d always wanted to burn their food in those instances, just a little, but they wouldn’t have let him eat that day if he wasted their food like that. 

 

It was just as well that he never found anything. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon would’ve taken it straight away and reminded him that his parents were drunken and lazy degenerates, and that Harry, as their son, was no better. 

 

They slipped down a skinny and crooked stairwell before stepping into a crawl space over the kitchen. 

 

“Oh!” Hermione whispered as they caught up with Ginny. “What did the other Order members say the other night?” 

 

Harry jolted, remembering that they still didn’t know about Avery and Snape’s friendship or that Snape had potentially left him like a sitting duck. That wouldn’t help to convince them of Snape’s recent kindness. He wasn’t sure if he could tell them about Snape and his mum’s friendship either, as Snape had nearly threatened to use him as potion ingredients if Harry divulged any of Snape’s personal life. 

 

“Well, not that we actually know for certain, but Sirius said that Snape knew Avery had seen Snape take me away from the Dursleys, and he’d left me alone intentionally.” Harry began slowly. “I thought I’d seen someone when we left as well—”

 

“He what!” Ron asked, his voice cracking loudly. 

 

Ginny shushed him and turned back to listening. She seemed deeply focused and slightly concerned, her freckled face looked a bit paler than it had a few minutes ago. Her head was tilted over the receiver on the Extendable Ear, and she bounced the string every once in a while. Harry wondered how they’d found this crawl space, and how they’d thought to pull up a floorboard in order to eavesdrop on the hallway below. It wasn’t unusual given the amount of time they’d spent spying at Hogwarts though. 

 

Hermione’s eyes were wide, and she bit nervously at her upper lip as she thought. “Snape’s never been actively dangerous, he’s always—he’s always been on our side, hasn’t he. In his own way?” She said, sounding as if she didn’t believe her own words. 

 

“They said that Voldemort definitely knows that I’m small right now, but that Snape’s position was safe.” 

 

“Slick git,” Ron hissed. “Of course he’s only concerned about himself!” 

 

“Shut up!” Ginny snapped and threw them a fierce glare. “They’re whispering and getting into it. I’ve never heard them go this long without dissolving into insults.” 

 

Ron perked up and sank to his knees next to his sister as Harry and Hermione quickly crowded in next to them. 

 

“What have they said?” Ron whispered. 

 

“They were already on one, so I missed the beginning, but a bit about this Avery bloke who Snape knows and how irresponsible Snape’s been about him. Snape admitted that he left Harry alone the other night, but that his wards were set to keep out anyone who would do harm. Sirius made a comment about Snape’s inability to ward things, but Snape turned it around on Sirius with the same comment about his safe house.” Ginny summed up quickly. “I guess that answers where Harry’s been all morning.” She added with a frown. Harry glanced at Hermione’s watch, realizing how late in the afternoon it was. Sirius had missed his arrival time by several hours at the safe house. Harry must’ve slept for a while. 

 

The tinny sound of Snape and Sirius’s hushed conversation rang in their ears. 

 

“I’d rather stumble upon a boggart than a Death Eater, Snape,” Sirius said. He sounded close to shouting. “There’s no argument you can use to change my mind. I won’t let you near him alone, not when you can’t properly protect him.”

 

“If you listened to me, you’d understand that I’m not trying to change your mind.” Snape argued. Harry could almost hear Snape pinching the bridge of his nose. 

 

“What part about ‘I work better without distractions’ was I supposed to have misunderstood?” Sirius asked, pitching his voice low in a mockery of Snape’s. “You want him alone so you can drop him off with your bloody Dark Lord.”

 

“That has never been my intention!” The sound of something heavy hitting a wall rang through the receiver. “I want him safe, for once in his life!”

 

“If you’d wanted him safe you’d have just kept him with his relatives!” Sirius’s voice sounded strangled. “How can you expect any of us to trust you when you act, knowing that you're being watched by your slimy little friends!” 

 

Ginny twisted, looking alarmed until she noticed Hermione nodding along with the conversation. She frowned and threw Harry a concerned glance before turning back to listen. Harry couldn’t help feeling a little relieved that Snape didn’t bring up what state he’d found Harry in, or the embarrassing way that Aunt Petunia had forced Snape to take Harry with him. Sirius wouldn’t have been impressed with that at all. He might’ve gone on to tease Harry about the clothes he’d been wearing, or the cupboard. Sirius would've wanted Harry to stand up for himself, and to argue back at his aunt and uncle. 

 

Harry knew when to pick his battles with his relatives though, and given Dudley’s similar de-aging, Harry knew he’d never have won that fight. It was a cardinal sin to allow Dudley to come to harm in that house, and no amount of arguing or begging could ease any punishment.  

 

“You act like Dumbledore trusting you grants you some kind of immunity, but don’t forget,” Sirius’s voice lowered. “Some of us remember who you were before you turned tail.” 

 

“I never asked you to trust me,” Snape said silkily. “I provide you with information by Dumbledore’s request, what you choose to believe doesn’t matter to me.”

 

“No, you’re right, you don’t care how we react to your ‘information’, unless it's treated as anything less than a gift.” Harry could hear the displeasure in Sirius’s voice. “My point stands. I won’t have you stealing Harry away like you tried to with Lily.” 

 

Hermione fell backwards, catching herself at the last second and whipped around, her eyes wide as she blinked at Harry. Harry quickly turned away, staring at the receiver and desperately listening for Snape’s response. 

 

It was painfully quiet. Harry hoped the Extendable Ear hadn’t chosen that moment to break. 

 

“I haven’t stolen your godson, Black.” Snape said finally. “He’s—”

 

“Kind.” Sirius cut Snape off. “He’s kind and impressionable, and too quick to forgive and forget. All traits you’ve abused and relied on in the past.” 

 

“I haven’t abused—” Snape’s voice cut harshly in the small hallway. “My conscience doesn’t rely upon the approval of a fifteen year old.”

 

“But it doesn’t hurt to have, does it?” Sirius said softly. “He’s Lily in the flesh, back from the dead and you suddenly find it possible to make up for all of your past mistakes. That it’s taken you four years to realize shocks me, but what doesn’t shock me is how quickly you’ve capitalized on it.” He continued.

 

Harry shivered, unsure of where this conversation was going. He wasn’t sure he wanted the other three to hear everything being said.

 

“There is a large difference,” Snape began slowly. Harry could hear heavy breathing, but he wasn’t sure if it came from Snape, Sirius or both of them. “Between an adult and their child. I can see why you’d slip into that line of thought, considering you're attempting to do exactly as you accuse me of doing, with Potter and his father.”

 

A short fight seemed to break out, but it didn’t seem like either of them cast anything dangerous, in fact it didn’t sound like either had cast any spells at all. 

 

“If you so much as blink in Harry’s direction again I’ll—” Sirius began. 

 

“You’ll what, leave him stuck as a vulnerable child? You lack the skill to both see the larger issues and attempt to fix them.” Snape said. 

 

“This isn’t just about him being six!” Sirius shouted.

 

“No!” Snape shouted back. “It isn’t! Pay attention to how your godson behaves around you. Listen and observe how he reacts. I don’t need to justify my actions to you, but if you continue to act in his supposed defense, I will step in.”  

 

Something slammed against the wall, causing a loud fuzzy sound to ring in the receiver. 

 

Harry bolted down the hallway, unable to listen to whatever else Sirius or Snape might’ve said afterwards. He wasn’t sure how much longer the conversation would last, but he wanted to leave before they could catch the four of them eavesdropping. 

 

The crack in his soul had only seemed to widen the longer the two had spoken. 

 

If either of them were to be believed, then they were only using Harry to feel better about themselves. He could feel a well of emotions surging through him, each feeling angrier and sadder than the last. He’d thought Sirius had wanted to get to know Harry, and that his love of sharing stories about the times when he was younger was for Harry to get to know Sirius. It might have just been Sirius reminiscing though. 

 

He’d told Harry he wished he was more like his father last night. Harry wasn’t sure how to handle that, especially not now that he knew what might be the reason behind it. 

 

He pushed his fists into his eyes, feeling the prickling of tears beginning to form. 

 

That wasn’t right though, he tried to remind himself fiercely. Sirius had been incredibly helpful through all of his fourth year, and he hadn’t attempted to absolve himself of his disappearance from Harry’s life for his own benefit. He’d barely mentioned it unless to apologize in the first few letters they’d exchanged. Otherwise, he’d been caring and kind and interested in knowing Harry for himself. 

 

Snape had been kind as well, but he’d never asked Harry to forgive him for anything. He’d only begun being kind when Harry had discovered his previous friendship with Lily. He’d told Harry how hard it was to talk about his mum as well, but he’d still shared the small things that Harry had been desperate to know. 

 

He wasn’t quite sure what to think about either of them. The conversation had only served to push them further apart, and Harry didn’t think anything he said to them could solve their problems. 

 

Harry rounded the corner and ran headfirst into a pair of legs, nearly falling over if not for quick hands catching him.

 

“Harry!” Lupin dropped into a crouch in front of Harry. “I’ve been looking all over for you. How are you feeling?” He asked, settling Harry onto his feet. “I’m sorry I didn’t get a hold of Sirius sooner, he means well.” 

 

Harry nodded along and glanced around Lupin, curious if anyone else would appear from behind him. 

 

“You still look a bit peaky,” Lupin continued with a frown. He pulled out more chocolate from his pocket. “I want you to know that boggarts can be incredibly dangerous. There's no shame in running from them. In fact, that’s a ministry approved tactic.” 

 

Harry nibbled on the chocolate for a few minutes and debated if he should ask Lupin about Sirius and Snape. He’d known them both for far longer than Harry had, and he’d also known his parents. Lupin might have more insight into what they’d meant. Harry’d already half forgotten about the boggart, the cold shiver that ran up his back every few minutes was the only reminder that lingered. He wasn’t that interested in having it brought up again, unless it was to point out that he should always be allowed to have his wand. 

 

He was always alone in those situations, even if the dementor was a boggart, it’d still felt deadly and real. 

 

“I’m not sure how we’ll work it out with Snape coming to work with you, but we’ll think of something.” Lupin said. 

 

“Erm,” Harry began, fiddling with the wrapper around the chocolate. “I have a question, not about the boggart though.” 

 

Lupin raised his eyebrows and tilted his head, waiting patiently for Harry to ask. 

 

“Erm, do you think that Sirius is,” He paused, glancing up at Lupin and trying to gauge his reaction early. He instinctively noted the lack of closets in the hallways, and tried to remind himself that Lupin looked ill as well. If Harry said something that made him upset, it was likely he wouldn’t be able to catch Harry fast enough to hurt him. 

 

Lupin hummed in encouragement and smiled kindly. 

 

“Well, you don’t think he’s just trying to pretend I’m my dad, do you?” Harry asked finally, taking a second to track where Lupin’s hands went. 

 

Lupin huffed a sad laugh and groaned painfully as he sat down in the hallway. “No Harry, I don’t think he is.” He said. “It’d be difficult for one, because while you share a lot of similar traits with James, you’re very much your own unique person.” Lupin took the chocolate from Harry and broke off a piece for himself. 

 

Harry hummed, his fingers found the necklace again and he twisted the pendant around, wondering what else Snape and Sirius might’ve been wrong about. 

 

“I will say that Sirius might sometimes forget that you’re not James, but he always comes back to himself quickly.” Lupin said. “Which isn’t a great thing, but he’s still working through twelve years of imprisonment. It’s a bit of a difference to have known you as a one year old and to know you at fifteen.” 

 

Harry nodded and looked around the hallways, feeling awkward and childish for having been so worried. 

 

“What have you got in your hand?” Lupin asked suddenly. 

 

Harry jolted and dropped the necklace. “Nothing!” He said quickly. 

 

Lupin reached forward and his amber eyes narrowed as Harry leapt backwards. 

 

“Harry,” Lupin began, holding his hands out pacifyingly. “I’m not going to take it from you, I just want to see.” He inched forward but paused as Harry shook his head wildly. 

 

“It’s nothing bad,” Harry said, tucking it beneath his shirt. “It’s not dangerous.” 

 

“I didn’t think it was,” Lupin said. “I do think I’ve seen it before though.” 

 

Harry watched Lupin’s face. The urge to show it to him straight away and accept whatever punishment came over him suddenly. Aunt Petunia’s voice rang in his ears and the phantom sting of snatched away things stung in his fingers. He didn’t want to hand it over, he wanted one of his mum’s things, even if she hadn’t intentionally left it to him. 

 

“Harry,” Lupin began softly. “I really won’t take it from you, marauders promise.” He added with a smile. 

 

A small bubble of laughter welled in Harry, and he leaned forward, showing the necklace to Lupin. 

 

“Now that’s a trick.” Lupin said, twisting and looking closely at the pendant. “Lily wore this everyday without fail. The last time I saw it was when Lily and James were buried. She had been wearing it.”

 

Harry paused, feeling both extremely confused and immensely sad. He pulled the chain up and twisted the charm in his fingers. It didn’t look old or scuffed, and it certainly didn’t seem to be something that had sat in the ground for over a decade. There were a few scratches around the pendant, but that couldn’t explain how it’d seemed to have leapt from his mother’s neck and hidden itself in Sirius’s safe house. 

 

“Your aunt and I got into a massive argument about it,” Lupin said, his eyes softening at Harry. “It was the only time I’d ever met your aunt mind you, and I told her to give Lily’s necklace to you, so you’d have something to remember her by. Obviously not to give to a one year old, but when you got a bit bigger and wouldn’t have swallowed it.” 

 

Harry fell against the wall and tried to picture Aunt Petunia and Lupin arguing. 

 

“She said Lily was meant to be buried with it, and refused to give it to you. She even said she’d throw it away if I left it with her. You aunt, erm, what’s her name?” Lupin asked. 

 

“Aunt Petunia.” Harry supplied, unable to take his eyes from the pendant. 

 

“Petunia, right.” Lupin nodded with a far off look. “Petunia said she owned a similar one, though her’s had a petunia and not a lily on it. I don’t think she’d been wearing it at the time. She was adamant though that if Lily had been wearing her’s, that she should be buried with it.” 

 

Harry blinked up at Lupin. “I don’t understand though.” How had the necklace wound up beneath the floorboards? Had his mum had two of the same necklace?

 

“Neither did I. I’m sure you know better than I, but neither Lily nor your aunt really got on. I think the necklaces were a source of argument between them.” Lupin said. “If you’re confused by your aunt, don’t worry. I’ve been confused for the last fourteen years by it. It was a memorable argument.” 

 

“But,” Harry started. He couldn’t remember having seen Aunt Petunia ever wearing a necklace like this. She far preferred expensive looking pearls. “Aunt Petunia.” He tried to formulate his sentence, but couldn’t seem to get it out. He wasn’t sure what to say. 

 

It felt like he’d been robbed of something. He wished Aunt Petunia had let Lupin give it to him. 

 

He’d asked his aunt once if his parents had left him anything. She’d looked as if she’d swallowed a lemon and told him that they hadn’t owned a single decent thing, and because of that, hadn’t had anything to give him. 

 

“And as nature would have it,” Lupin said. He looked closely at the small pendant. “I’m still confused.” 

 

“Harry!” Sirius’s voice echoed from downstairs. A second sound followed it, but Harry couldn’t tell what had been said. 

 

“Come on Harry, let’s go check on Sirius. I didn’t hear any dueling, so they both must’ve lived.” Lupin said. “This could be a good sign, I don’t think those two have ever had an interaction that didn’t dissolve into dueling.” 

 

Harry smiled and held a hand out to help Lupin up, but paused when he realized it wouldn’t be much help. He’d forgotten how small he was, despite his current size being one of the oddest things to ever happen to him. 

 

“While I appreciate the attempt Harry, I have a feeling that I’m a bit big to help up at the moment.” 

 

They made it back to the kitchen to find Snape and Sirius glaring at each other. 

 

“Looks like they had a civil conversation.” Lupin said quietly to Harry. 

 

Harry nodded, smiling until he spotted Sirius’s face. He looked paler than he had when Harry had offered to stay with Snape. He looked paler than when the dementors had been surrounding them at Hogwarts. 

 

His throat went dry, and the wall knocked against his back. He hadn’t even realized he’d been back up. 

 

“Harry,” Sirius started, his fingers clenched nervously around the chair he was holding. “Has—” he paused and swallowed. 

 

Snape’s eyes slid shut and he pinched the bridge of his nose. 

 

“Sirius, has something happened?” Lupin asked. 

 

“Potentially. Sniv-Snape has alluded to something that’s a bit worrying just now.” Sirius said, waving a hand in Snape’s direction. 

 

Lupin looked between the two of them and Harry took the moment to breathe. Snape seemed pale as well, though he was always pale. He wasn’t very happy, that much was clear. A disappointed frown marred his face. 

 

“Alright,” Lupin nodded. “Well, we’re listening.” 

 

Sirius nodded and tapped the back of the chair again. He looked like he was attempting to draw this out as long as he could. Harry wished he’d get on with it. The tapping was becoming irritating. 

 

Sirius’s fingers finally stopped and he spun on his heel, stepped over to Harry and Lupin. He dropped to his knees in front of Harry and held him at his shoulders. 

 

Harry couldn’t hide the slight tremble that ran through him. 

 

“I wasn’t lying when I said you could always write to me,” Sirius whispered, making sure to keep his voice quiet enough that only the two could hear. “I don’t want Snape anywhere near you, and I know how you feel about your relatives.” Sirius said. 

 

A cold sweat broke out over Harry at the thought of going back to that house. 

 

“But, I think you might be safer back there.” 

 

Harry shook his head ‘no’ wildly. He couldn’t go back to that house. Not when Dudley was still de-aged and there was no cure. Uncle Vernon had said he couldn’t come back unless it was to fix Dudley. What was he supposed to say to them? 

 

He could leave before they took him back? There was a floo in this house, he could find his dad’s cloak and escape out the floo. 

 

He didn’t fancy being around Aunt Petunia when he was in his six year old body. No one in the house had been caring with him then, they certainly wouldn’t now. She’d probably take one look at him and throw him back in his cupboard. He couldn’t stay in there for the rest of the summer. 

 

No one had ever forced him back to the Dursleys after having taken him away. He didn’t think it was fair. 

 

“Well, Snape had a similar reaction, but he didn’t feel inclined to explain why.” Sirius said. “So how about you tell me why going home is a bad idea?” He rubbed up and down Harry’s shoulders in what probably seemed like a calming movement. 

 

Harry felt as if he’d been dropped into an ice bath. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Black.” Snape’s voice had a warning edge to it. Harry could see the soft outline of his professor’s cloak whipping angrily around him out of the corner of his eye. 

 

Sirius flicked his hand at Snape in a quick shushing motion. 

 

“Erm,” Harry started, feeling his throat closing instinctively. He tried to organize his thoughts into a semblance of a sentence. Hermione had asked about the Dursleys at the start of term every year without fail, he’d never felt this panicked about explaining it to her. She’d always understood though, and always dropped the topic when Harry grew too agitated. “Well, er.”

 

Was there even something to be worried about? Uncle Vernon had explicitly said not to come back unless it was to fix Dudley. That was all Harry really needed to say, wasn’t it? Uncle Vernon hadn’t said exactly what would happen if Harry came back without a cure, but Harry felt he’d made it quite clear what he was capable of doing. 

 

Harry had learned to stay well clear of Uncle Vernon’s reach when he was younger, when he’d been actually six or smaller. Aunt Petunia had normally been in charge of reprimanding Harry, but Uncle Vernon was never shy about grabbing him around his collar and shaking him or tossing him into his cupboard. He used to throw Harry outside as well, though he didn’t think the Dursleys would want anyone else in the neighborhood to see a six year old sized Harry when he should be fifteen. 

 

That would ruin their perfect and normal appearance. 

 

Aunt Petunia might lock him in his cupboard for the rest of the summer if he came back. He wasn’t sure what he’d eat, not without a cat flap to pass cans of soup through. 

 

She’d have even more reason to be angry with him than Uncle Vernon after having involved Snape in their mess. 

 

He wouldn’t need to explain Aunt Petunia’s opinion of him to Sirius, it wasn’t very accurate anyway, but the less Sirius heard of it, the happier Harry felt. Dumbledore had made it clear that there was really nothing wrong with his relatives’ treatment, even if Harry didn’t like it. Sirius valued Dumbledore’s opinion. He’d also said Dumbledore wasn’t infallible though. He didn’t want Sirius thinking he couldn’t defend himself, not when he’d already proven himself against Avery and more importantly, Voldemort. 

 

Sirius was always proud of Harry when he defended himself. 

 

Voldemort’s high voice echoed nearly imperceptibly in the back of Harry’s mind, sending shivers up Harry’s spine. Voldemort had been quite pleased when Harry defended himself as well. In his own terrifying way. 

 

Harry was sure Voldemort hadn’t been happy when he’d escaped the graveyard though.

 

“Black!” Snape’s voice was fuzzy in Harry’s ears. 

 

There wasn’t anything to be so worried over. Not for Snape or Sirius, or anyone else in Harry’s opinion. They just valued his ability to defend himself, which was a very good trait to value. Especially for Harry, who often found himself in dangerous situations. 

 

What would they think of him if they knew he’d hidden in his cupboard, or ran away when he couldn’t hide. Hiding was the easiest way to avoid being dragged around or thrown into the cupboard. It was where he was going to end up anyway, and it was also the option that made the Dursley’s the happiest. If he couldn’t hide, he could always run away, but that usually ended with him caught and stuck cleaning or cooking. He didn’t fancy cooking in his six year old body, they likely wouldn’t appreciate his poor coordination. That probably impacted his cleaning skills as well. 

 

Harry tried to breathe, but couldn’t seem to make his throat work. 

 

He wondered belatedly when they’d left the kitchen, or if the table had always been outside and the muddy grass it stood on was a new addition. It certainly smelled like it’d been outside for a while. The nauseating stench of blood sank into the back of Harry’s nose. 

 

Someone probably ought to clean the table legs soon. 

 

“Soap and cold water.” He croaked. That was the cheapest solution for cleaning blood. Aunt Petunia was never pleased when he wasted her good products on something a little hard work could handle. He couldn’t see any blood, but he was sure it was there. It probably needed bleach, going by the smell. 

 

Cedric’s voice murmured through Harry’s thoughts. He wondered if the killing curse always smelled like burnt ozone, or if that was Harry’s own impression of it. 

 

He supposed it’d be odd to go about asking others what they thought it smelled like. 

 

Aunt Petunia would’ve been horrified at the state of the table and had it cleaned ages ago. Well, she’d have had Harry clean it. She might’ve let Harry use the yellow dish gloves too, depending on if she’d let him use bleach. Nothing made things as clean as bleach according to Aunt Petunia. 

 

She’d tried to bathe Harry in bleach once, even though Harry had complained loudly about the smell. The kids in class teased him for weeks after that. It was hard to avoid getting dirty when he cleaned or gardened, but she never felt he was clean enough. 

 

That probably explained why she always scrunched her nose around him. He was dirty. 

 

A dark shape fluttered in front of his face, blocking out the view of the damp and muddy table. Harry could hear the high whinge of a dog nearby, though he couldn’t remember anyone bringing a dog around. He hoped it wasn’t Aunt Marge’s dog, Ripper. That dog hated Harry. 

 

He thought he could hear someone speaking, but he wasn’t very sure where it came from. It sounded as if he were underwater, and he was very nearly sure they were when something wet brushed across his ankles. He didn’t think it was the wet grass, and he hoped it wasn’t the dog, he didn’t want to be bitten. Maybe Ripper was trying to be friendly? Harry had always tried to be nice to the dog, though Aunt Marge probably trained him to hate Harry. She loved to remind Harry that he could be as nice as possible, but it wouldn’t keep people or animals from hating him. He just wasn’t meant to be liked. It was probably a good lesson to learn. 

 

He would always be that dirty and despicable kid who lived in a cupboard under the stairs. 

 

Harry blinked, realizing he’d lost track of the kitchen and tried to find the table again in case Aunt Petunia needed him to clean it. 

 

Instead he found a short and speckled countertop. He wasn’t sure how, but he’d somehow wound up sitting on it. It was hard plastic like Aunt Petunia’s, but older looking. He thought he might’ve seen something similar in Mrs Figg’s house. 

 

Something brushed gently over his nose and he looked up. 

 

Snape was running the back of his middle finger up and down Harry’s nose. He looked pinched and worried and he paused once he noticed Harry watching him. 

 

“Follow my finger.” Snape said quietly. “Only with your eyes.” 

 

Harry tried to ask ‘why’, but found his throat painfully sore and nodded instead. Snape summoned a glass from somewhere, cast a quick aguamenti and let Harry have a sip before he moved again. 

 

Harry watched once more as Snape’s finger moved closer and farther away, left and right and up and down a few times. Snape seemed pleased with Harry, though Harry didn’t know why. If that was a test, it was the easiest one he’d ever taken. It would’ve been dead awful if he’d failed it. 

 

He reached for the glass of water again and realized belatedly that his arm felt like jelly and was trapped beneath a blanket. All of him felt like jelly actually. How was he even sitting up? 

 

Snape held the glass up for him, letting him have another sip. 

 

“Your godfather apologizes, and for my lack of interception, I apologize,” Snape said, pulling the glass away again. “Black has consistently failed to understand the subtle nuances of human behavior,” Snape seethed. His anger didn’t seem to be directed at Harry though, which was a strange feeling to experience. “If I am required to be in his presence again, I request the wolf to be in attendance. I already know that I wouldn’t survive the encounter without another adult to witness how utterly dense he is—”

 

Harry stared dumbly and tried to parcel through what Snape had said. He gave up after realizing Snape hadn’t actually stopped talking yet. Had he ever spoken this much in front of Harry?

 

“—Devoid of maturity and lacking in the skills to even begin to handle the repercussions of his actions.” Snape hissed, almost as if he was talking to himself. He tucked something heavy around Harry’s back, seeming to not need to breathe as he continued. “His solution to every issue, no matter what degree of uselessness it amounts to, is to transform into a dog.” 

 

“A dog?” Harry tried to ask, but wound up coughing instead. 

 

Snape held the glass up for him again. Harry wondered if he’d caught a cold in between Grimmauld Place and wherever they were. He didn’t think that was possible, but then, he’d had weirder things happen. This instance, in fact, served as an example. He was the size of a six year old and sitting on a counter in another house that he’d never been in while Snape vented about Sirius. 

 

He wished he’d stop winding up in houses he’d never been in. 

 

“Yes, a dog.” Snape nodded with a grimace. “A ridiculous response, I agree, but not a surprising one, given his inability to grasp at what might actually be happening.” 

 

Harry tilted his head and looked around as Snape continued on. 

 

The house looked clean, though it also felt as if it hadn’t been lived in for more than a decade. He didn’t know how it could be cleaned if no one lived in it. Sirius’s safehouse certainly hadn’t been clean, and neither had Grimmauld Place. He supposed Grimmauld Place didn’t count anymore though, as the areas people frequented the most were almost normal looking. 

 

While this house was cleaner than he was used to, whoever had decorated it, hadn’t been very good at it.

 

Not that Harry had any experience decorating. He might have even less experience than most people, as he’d never had much room to experiment with. Nonetheless, it wasn’t attractive. 

 

He could almost hear Aunt Petunia’s bridge club mocking the style choice of the rug and curtains.

 

“Harry.” Snape’s voice broke through his thoughts. 

 

Harry blinked and twisted his head around, curiously spying more unusual decorative choices. There was an extremely colourful and ugly seashell lamp on a side table, but Harry couldn’t really bring himself to dislike it, not when it looked like someone had gone to an awful lot of trouble to make it. It gave the lamp an odd bit of charm. Maybe Harry had bad taste in decoration as well though. 

 

Snape watched him carefully, catching Harry’s eyes again before sighing with relief. He seemed to deflate a little as his tall frame shrunk slightly. 

 

“Where are we? Where’s Sirius?” Harry asked finally, blinking up at Snape. 

 

“This is Lily’s old flat.” Snape said, pointing to a few photo frames on the wall behind Harry. 

 

Harry felt his eyes widen as he turned and saw how many frames had photos of her and his father. The crack in his soul that never fully seemed to close, eased a little. He’d never seen so many photos of his parents openly displayed, not even at Hagrid’s. 

 

“She lived alone here for a short while before she married Potter,” Snape said, spitting Harry’s dad’s last name. “It’s hidden from muggles, and kept under several stasis spells. Her talent in charms proceeds her as the house is still well maintained.” Snape gave the apartment a quick glance, though his eyes didn’t seem to land on any one thing. He looked uncomfortable even standing in the space. 

 

“Why are we here though?” Harry asked, struggling to pull his arm out from the heavy blanket around him. 

 

“Because you’ve been in three unfamiliar and four dangerous environments in less than a week. Given that you likely hold no safe feelings or positive emotions for any of those spaces, your chances of feeling anything close to peace within them, is slim.” Snape said, reaching around Harry slowly enough for him to follow and hoisting him up. He grabbed the glass and walked over to the photos. 

 

Harry wobbled slightly, unable to maintain the nervous watchfulness he normally did when he’d been carried. He didn’t think he had the energy to actually stay awake, now that he thought about it. 

 

“I’m confused.” Harry started, falling against Snape’s shoulder. How many more houses would he wind up in? He was quickly distracted by the photos to focus much more on the amount of houses. 

 

The sheer amount of photos was amazing. His mum hadn’t put up any of their wedding, which led Harry to assume that she must’ve moved before that happened but Harry had a few of those in his album anyway. Some photos were from what looked like dates and holidays Lily and James had been on. Several had the original marauders in them, all gathered around and laughing. Harry swore he saw two with Aunt Petunia, though he didn’t think she was smiling. A young Uncle Vernon was in one as well. 

 

“You will have time to look at photos,” Snape said, plucking a few from the walls. “You need to eat first, and it’s past any reasonable lunch time. The wolf—Lupin,” Snape corrected himself quickly. “Has sent along some groceries.” 

 

He brought Harry into the small connected living room and sat him gently against the arm of the sofa. He set the photo frames alongside him.  

 

“Why did we come here?” Harry asked as he sank into the sofa. “Not that I don’t love it, I love it—”

 

Snape held the glass of water up, gently pausing Harry and letting him have another drink. He waved his wand several more times, clearing away what little dust and dirt had been present and leaving the room in all of its oddly decorated glory. 

 

“You have been unresponsive for a little under three hours.” Snape cast a few charms over Harry’s blanket, and Harry noticed an immediately pleasant warmth sinking through the fabric. “I assure you, escaping that house with Black’s immense guilt to contend with was no easy feat.” 

 

“Sirius!” Harry said, unable to remember when Sirius had left. His memories felt thick, as if he were swimming through molasses, or treacle to catch up to what had happened. He tried to find how he could’ve lost three hours when he’d thought he’d just worried a bit about how to answer Sirius's question. “He asked me about the Dursleys!” 

 

Snape’s eyes narrowed. “Yes.” He said after seeming to debate the question. He flicked his wand through the air again, this time summoning Harry’s wand and a small bag. 

 

Harry tried to catch his wand, but Snape’s fingers were far quicker. Harry realized dumbly that he hadn’t even untangled his hand from his blanket yet, and couldn’t have caught his wand anyway. Snape set about arranging a few sandwiches and tea for Harry before disappearing down the small hallway. 

 

Once alone, Harry couldn’t help shutting his eyes. They ached as much as his throat did, and he wondered if they’d been open the entire time he’d been, he didn’t want to say ignoring Sirius, because he really felt he had been listening, but maybe just stopped reacting. He didn’t understand how that had even happened, he hadn’t felt like Sirius’s question was that difficult. It wasn’t a question Harry’d wanted to answer, nor one he’d thought Sirius would ever ask. It hadn’t been a pleasant experience to think about, but it wasn’t terrifying. It wasn’t like Voldemort’s rebirth. Harry hadn’t frozen and stopped reacting during that. 

 

He didn’t understand where he’d lost time, or even how. Sirius had asked about the Dursleys, and Harry’d made a plan to answer. Well, he had an idea of how to answer. He didn’t think it was a good answer, but how could it have been when it was the Dursley’s they were discussing?

 

He forced his eyes open, and blinked at the house around him. It was a shock to see. He’d never seen so many of what he could only assume were his mum’s things in one spot. He’d never actually seen anything of his mum’s before, aside from the necklace. To have so many things all at once was a little unbelievable. He wanted to know immediately if Aunt Petunia had known the apartment existed, and if not, how his mum had kept the house a secret. 

 

Maybe he was still unresponsive and had just started dreaming up places that fit with his daydreams and thoughts. His eyes slid shut again, and he felt himself relaxing into the warm blanket. 

 

First a necklace and now a whole house. 

 

He wondered how Snape had convinced Sirius to let him take Harry, and what Sirius had said. 

 

“Are you too tired to eat?” Snape asked, Harry jolted sluggishly at the sudden sound of his voice and blinked up at him. 

 

He’d forgotten about the tea already. He wasn’t sure what to call this unresponsiveness, but he did know that it was exhausting. He didn’t fancy experiencing it again. 

 

“If you’d rather sleep, that’s fine. I’d like you to drink as much water as you can before you do.” 

 

“I’m still confused.” Harry said, worrying at what point he’d be punished for saying that. He might avoid whatever repercussions were coming if he stopped asking questions now. 

 

Snape’s eyes trailed over Harry, and down to the tea. He made his way slowly over to the couch and settled on the far side, facing Harry. 

 

“The human body is not designed to cope with the extreme levels of stress you have experienced in quick and consistent succession, especially not a child’s body. You’ve already endured a highly traumatic event this spring.” Snape began. Harry jerked, ready to defend himself, but Snape shook his head, pausing him. “I’m not saying you didn’t successfully escape, only that the events have left you traumatized.” 

 

Harry stared dumbly. Madam Pomphrey had said he was fine when she’d allowed him to leave the morning after the graveyard. She hadn’t said he was traumatized. She’d probably have kept him in the hospital wing if he were. 

 

He didn’t much like that word anyway, he wasn’t traumatized. He just had thoughts he’d rather not think about.  

 

“Due to the frankly astounding lack of assistance or notice on the Headmaster’s part, you’ve been left to handle it on your own.” Snape said, watching Harry carefully. “I’m not surprised that Petunia was as unhelpful, or truthfully more damaging than anything, however, the experience in spring alone wouldn’t have caused the attack you experienced today.” 

 

“I didn’t have an attack, I was just thinking.” Harry argued. 

 

“Thinking, yes.” One of Snape’s eyebrows rose mockingly. “For three hours while barely breathing. You didn’t react to light or touch either, yes. Just thinking.” Snape said silkily before his eyes slid shut and he pinched the bridge of his nose. 

 

Harry slid deeper into the blanket, feeling shame curling through him. He hadn’t thought it was the worst sort of reaction, at least he hadn’t blown someone up. 

 

Snape’s eyes opened again and he breathed in deeply once. “For you to react as you did today, is neither unexpected, inappropriate or childish.” 

 

An old clock chimed and startled them both. Harry felt slightly better, though still embarrassed. 

 

“You have been the target of two succesfully calculated attacks, and I’ve no doubt countless attempted others. The potion that caused you to turn six wasn’t accidental. Someone took advantage of an opportunity and was successful.” 

 

“But the potion didn’t do what it was supposed to.” Harry said. 

 

“The potion’s failure doesn’t change what you’ve experienced and it still managed to harm you.” Snape argued. “That you were with your relatives only makes the situation more dangerous, as it proves there are ways around your protection.” 

 

Harry struggled to understand if that had any effect on his future summers in that house. Dumbledore had spent the last four years telling him that staying with the Durlsey’s was necessary for Harry to stay alive. It was the only truly safe place. He wasn’t sure how correct Snape was, given that Dumbledore had said, ‘No one who wishes to harm you can touch you there.’  

 

“I’ll admit that I hadn’t anticipated,” Snape paused again, seeming to choose his words carefully. “Petunia.” He reached for Harry’s glass again and held it out for him, but didn’t seem inclined to let Harry keep ahold of it. 

 

Harry tried to see how Snape couldn’t have anticipated her, knowing her as well as he did.

 

“You knew I grew up with her though,” Harry said, struggling again to pull his arms free. He wondered who’d wrapped him in this blanket, and why they’d made it so difficult to escape from. “Can you untie this?” He asked with an exasperated huff. 

 

Snape reached forward and deftly loosened the blanket, though he didn’t fully unwrap it. 

 

“A child’s body is prone to losing heat quickly, so I don’t want you to take it off. You’ve already experienced shock today after escaping Black’s ridiculous safe house. To go through it again so quickly will be more than your body can handle.” 

 

Harry nodded, enjoying the freedom to move his arms, but not pulling them from the warmth. He was glad his ‘unresponsiveness’ had more to do with his six year old body than his emotional reaction. He was sure that if he’d been fifteen it would’ve been fine. If he’d been fifteen, he’d have been more coordinated at escaping the boggart, and been more able to handle Sirius’s questioning. Sirius was still quite a bit taller than Harry when Harry was his correct size, but if he’d been fifteen, he wouldn’t have felt so much like he was being towered over, or held in place. 

 

“I detest giving Lupin a compliment, but he understands the limits of the human body and is skilled at combating them quickly.” Snape said. He was rigid against the couch, and seemed unwilling to relax into it. 

 

The thought of Lupin taking control of the situation made sense, though Harry could really only remember a blurry black shape. That could’ve been Padfoot or Snape though, it could’ve been Harry blinking and not realizing it as well. He wondered if Ron, Hermione and Ginny had heard about what had happened, and if they’d had an Extendable Ear in front of the kitchen door while he’d panicked. 

 

“What happens now?” Harry asked as he scratched at his nose. 

 

“For now, we will stay here and I will attempt to brew a cure. Should you be required at Grimmauld Place, likely for a genuine apology and a plan for appropriate future behavior, we will return. However, it will not be a place where you will find yourself staying.” 

 

Snape pulled something small from his pocket and enlarged it before dropping Harry’s trunk onto the floor. 

 

Harry blinked curiously. “Did Avery not take it with him?” He asked, struggling to climb out of the warm blanket. “What happened to you and him that night?” He barely pushed himself onto the arm of the couch before Snape caught him and wrapped the blanket around him once more. 

 

“Shock, Harry,” Snape’s long fingers were quick as they tucked him into the cover once more. “You’ll have time to go through your trunk later, nothing has been removed or touched.” 

 

Harry looked past Snape to his trunk, trying to gauge how truthful he was. 

 

“Avery was as unwilling to be caught acting against the Dark Lord’s explicit command and failing, as much as I was to be caught harbouring you.” Snape said, running his finger softly up and down Harry’s nose again. 

 

Harry blinked at the sensation before realizing he’d begun to shiver again. 

 

“Death Eaters do not often trust one another and are far more likely to save their own necks, but if mutual punishment can be avoided, it will be. The Dark Lord is unaware that you were in Spinner’s End or about Avery’s failure to capture you, but Avery let slip your condition and my involvement in finding a solution. As I had been tasked with spying on you, I let slip Avery’s paranoia and time spent stalking you despite the Dark Lord’s clear orders that you were to be off limits.

 

Snape’s finger slowed, and Harry found himself sinking back into his warm blanket. 

 

“Wouldn’t hiding me in your house make for a way worse punishment though, why didn’t Avery tell him?” He asked, worried about how much Avery had been following him, and when that had started. 

 

“Because he failed to kidnap you. I had orders that both allowed me near you from the Dark Lord, and to assist you from the Headmaster. Avery couldn’t reveal your place in Spinner’s End without revealing his own failure. He acted of his own volition in explicit disobedience. I also acted against the Dark Lord’s direct orders by failing to inform him of your condition. Avery saw this as an even exchange, two Death Eaters acting without permission.” 

 

Harry shook his head in confusion, still trying to follow how that made any sense. He couldn’t imagine Avery feeling like that was an even exchange, not when Snape had so obviously betrayed Voldemort by hiding Harry. 

 

“Fear for oneself, Harry.” Snape said with a small smile. “Avery will always ensure his own neck is safe before he accuses another of misdeeds. I’ve no doubt this concept doesn’t come naturally to you.” The way Snape spoke reminded Harry of the Sorting Hat, and the uncomfortable voice that hissed about how well he’d have done in Slytherin. He wondered what the hat would think about Harry’s inability to understand Avery’s actions. 

 

“That's because it’s mental! How,” Harry started, giving up trying to figure it out. “How can that work? Wouldn’t he want to tell Voldemort as soon as he knew you weren’t, erm, loyal?” Harry asked, wincing apologetically as Snape flinched at Voldemort’s name. 

 

“If someone is able to make you fear the very idea of disobedience, they are able to ensure you do not stray from their control. Avery is more fearful of what the Dark Lord could do to him for his disobedience should he ever learn of his actions, than he is the Dark Lord knowing I’d harboured you.”

 

“That makes no sense.” Harry said, trying to understand how Voldemort trusted anyone if that's how he expected people to act around him.  

 

“Acting without permission beneath a tyrant while still firmly within their control, is far more dangerous.” Snape said as he leaned closer and helped Harry lie down. “The images of power and the Dark Lord must appear identical and the idea to separate them must be found unthinkable in his disciples. As such, Avery’s belief in the Dark Lord and subsequently that power, remains absolute by his fear of disobedience. A disciple who believes themselves capable of understanding the Dark Lord’s wants, desires and actions cannot exist in the Dark Lord’s ranks. That,” Snape’s voice was soft as he spoke. “Is why Avery viewed the punishment for his failure as intolerable.” 

 

“Oh.” Harry said belatedly, feeling like he’d received more information from Snape just now than he had in his entire life. 

 

“The illusion of control and power is the strongest weapon anyone who seeks to control you holds.” Snape added. “Be careful to whom you grant that power, no one is infallible.” 

 

Shock bolted though Harry and his eyes flew open. He hadn’t even realized he’d shut them again. Sirius’s opinions about Dumbledore echoed in his ears, and Harry felt a worrying voice in the back of his mind, reminding him of how much he’d tolerated because Dumbledore had asked him to. 

 

“You’re in desperate need of a nap. The couch will serve for right now, I will wake you in an hour.” 

 

Harry blinked again, struggling to keep his eyes open much longer. He supposed this body just needed more sleep. 

 

Being six was a lot harder than it looked.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Something hummed in Harry’s ears, nudging him from his sleep. The quiet warmth slipped away quickly and Harry peeked his tired eyes open to find a small snitch flitting around above his head. 

 

“Good evening Harry!” Lupin’s voice came from nearby. 

 

Harry fussed with his blanket, forgetting temporarily that he’d been soundly wrapped up in it as he tried to catch the snitch.

 

“Still your father’s son I see,” Lupin said with a huff of laughter. 

 

A pair of hands appeared in Harry’s vision and Lupin untangled him from his cover. Something heavy was dropped near Harry’s feet, but Harry was too distracted to look and see what it was. 

 

“If that becomes a distraction it will be removed.” Snape said from the small kitchenette. “Equally, should I find the sitting room destroyed in the excitement of chasing after it, I will be extremely displeased.” Harry could hear a kettle whistling, and dishware being arranged. 

 

“Oh, come now Severus,” Lupin said, batting the snitch toward Harry. “It’s only small, and Harry’s hardly big enough to ruin the place.” 

 

Harry snatched the snitch out of the air and felt a jolt of pride rush through him. He might be uncoordinated and unable to write clearly, but he was still excellent at catching things.  

 

“In any case, the flat’s sturdy. I’ve hidden and transformed here for a few full moons,” Lupin said, smiling as he watched Harry let the snitch free and catch it again. “Of course, I’d had wolfsbane in those instances, so I can’t quite equate it to,” Lupin’s voice drifted as he seemed to search for the right word. “Other places.” He finished lamely. 

 

“Oh yes,” Snape said silkily. “Nothing like your precious shack.” 

 

“Severus.” Lupin’s voice turned hard. Harry was drawn away from his small game as the two stared at one another. Lupin’s stern eyebrows were firm and Snape’s mouth began to twist into an unpleasant scowl. Despite appearing to be silent conversation, it echoed loudly in the small space. 

 

Snape finally flicked his hand in what looked almost apologetic, and Lupin turned back to Harry. 

 

“Why—” Harry began, before becoming distracted by the snitch beating its wings furiously against Harry’s fingers. He quickly let it go and watched as it flew past Lupin. It circled around Snape a few times and was annoyedly brushed off before sailing to the ugly seashell lamp, where it lingered over a large bespeckled shell. “Why are you here?” He asked turning back to Lupin and grimacing at his word choice. 

 

Lupin smiled and waved off Harry’s awkward apologies. “Sirius’s stipulation, he’s worried about you being alone with Snape,” He leaned closer and whispered, “I am as well, so we’ll just have to keep an eye on things.” 

 

“Oh.” Harry said quietly. He spotted a threadbare bag that was packed with what looked like children’s clothes by his feet and remembered that Lupin had dropped it there just minutes ago. Mrs Weasley must’ve sent them along with Lupin. 

 

“I also want to apologize, Harry. I know Sirius feels horrible about how he acted this afternoon, and I feel bad for not stepping in sooner. I knew the sort of week you’d already had, and how stressful that was. I’m sorry.” Lupin said, looking Harry closely in the eye. “I shouldn’t have let Sirius and Snape alone as well, that didn’t create anything helpful for you.” 

 

Harry nodded. The itchy feeling of discontent between Sirius and Snape crawled along Harry’s bones. He felt that Snape had clearly explained what had happened between himself and Avery earlier, but if Sirius and Lupin didn’t believe him, Harry supposed that it’d make sense for them to be more careful. Harry hoped they’d get along and agree sooner rather than later. 

 

He wasn’t sure Lupin could’ve done anything to stop Sirius or Snape either. They’d proven that they would fight around anyone. 

 

“Severus and I had been discussing your potion as well, and I have a few questions for you, if you won’t mind my asking,” Lupin said, groaning as he leaned back and sat next to Harry. 

 

A nervous bundle began to buzz in Harry’s stomach. He didn’t fancy answering more Dursley questions. 

 

It didn’t much count as answering if he froze before replying though, did it?

 

“Just about the potion, nothing else.” Lupin said quickly, seeming to guess Harry’s worries. 

 

“Er, alright, sure.” Harry nodded. He spotted Snape disappearing down the small connected hallway and felt oddly like asking for him to come back. He tried to relax and remember that he could shout for him if Lupin did ask Dursley questions. 

 

“Severus pointed out a few instances to Sirius and I earlier, and I wanted your opinion.” Lupin said, his amber eyes kind as he shuffled a few lacy pillows around. “I don’t want you to feel I’m insulting or judging you though, alright?” He added. 

 

Harry squinted, more unsure of Lupin now than before. 

 

“I worry that you’re not necessarily fifteen years old and stuck in a six year old’s body, but rather struggling between the two.” Lupin said. 

 

Harry shook his head, disagreeing on principle. He wasn’t actually six. How many times would he need to prove that to them? He’d handled the last few days as well as he could and having been stuck in a few dangerous situations was no reason to start babying him. 

 

He sniffed as he ran a finger down his nose. 

 

“Would you give it some thought for me?” Lupin asked cautiously. “You and your cousin are the victims of a calculated attack, and if we can understand even a little bit more about what you’re going through, it will help in creating a restorative.” 

 

“I haven’t lied.” Harry snapped. 

 

“No, no Harry, I never thought you had,” Lupin said quickly as he leaned closer. “But I’m concerned for you, and so is Sirius.” 

 

The bundle of nerves in Harry’s stomach jumped and grew larger. 

 

“Your answer wouldn’t change anything,” Lupin said. “But Severus and I are of the mindset that if you had ingested that potion, you’d likely behave and think like a six year old. Instead, you were doused in it, and seem to waver between the two. You’re left with an incredibly confusing situation to deal with.” 

 

“I think I’ve dealt with it just fine,” Harry shoved his blanket away. “I’m not crying about it.” 

 

Lupin blinked slowly at Harry, and breathed out his nose. “Harry, I know potions isn’t your favourite subject, but I’m sure you understand the depth of effects that a potion can cause, especially one that’s made incorrectly?” He asked. 

 

The snitch flew towards them and fluttered along the wall. 

 

If Harry was feeling honest, he’d say he wasn’t sure of exactly what he was feeling at any particular time at all, not since the graveyard. He’d never been more angry or hurt or scared than in the last few months. He wasn’t sure what to think about Voldemort’s return, or how ignored he’d been made to feel afterwards. He’d been bullied and belittled by the Dursleys for his nightmares. Dudley especially, had capitalized on Harry’s attempts to escape Privet Drive, and he’d tried everything to make Harry’s time at that house worse. How could Harry tell which emotions were appropriate or immature when everything angered and upset him? Snape had said Harry was immature when he’d first brought him to Spinner’s End, so maybe Harry had been behaving childishly from the start!

 

“I know that rubbish potions aren’t safe, I don’t think I act six though.” Harry finally said, feeling deeply uncomfortable that he might’ve been acting like a child rather than a teenager this whole time. 

 

Lupin sighed and his mouth opened for a second before closing again. 

 

“And how am I supposed to tell anyway?” Harry asked. “I’ve been dragged from one house to another and had to handle Avery and dementors, or-or boggarts!” Harry’s voice rose as he spoke and he whipped his hands around. “I haven’t had a moment to actually figure out how any of this works!”

 

Snape reappeared, this time with a few different sizes of jars in his hands and several more floating along behind him. The collection of ingredients inside the glass made Harry slightly nauseous, and he hoped he wasn’t meant to eat any of them. Snape paused mid step when he saw Harry and Lupin and he eyed the two of them carefully. 

 

Harry realized embarrassedly that he’d climbed to his feet at some point during their argument and he slid awkwardly back onto the cushions. Had that reaction been childish? 

 

Maybe climbing to his feet had, but he was so short and he didn’t feel as if he was taken seriously being so small. 

 

“Picking fights, Remus?” Snape’s voice slid softly over Lupin’s name, but Lupin didn’t seem bothered. 

 

“Hardly,” Lupin answered as he watched Snape set his collection on the coffee table. “At least not intentionally. I’m sorry, Harry,” He added, turning back to Harry. “You seem to come out worse off after every conversation.” 

 

Harry picked at the cuff of his sleeve and sank deeper into the cushion. 

 

He didn’t want to agree with Lupin. Harry’d defended himself well enough to not come out worse off of anything, not even Voldemort’s revival. Dumbledore certainly thought Harry could handle anything thrown his way. He probably would’ve brought Harry to Hogwarts if he’d thought Harry wouldn’t be able to handle being physically six. 

 

“Erm,” Harry began, eyeing Snape as he twisted the caps from a few jars. “How come Dumbledore hasn’t been to see me?” He asked suddenly. It occurred to Harry how incredibly odd Dumbledore’s avoidance had been, given how much time Dumbledore spent around Harry in the last few years. He’d always checked on Harry after the deadlier events, and Avery’s attempted kidnapping certainly fit into the deadlier category. 

 

Lupin cast a subtle glance at Snape, though Snape seemed to ignore it. His eyes were focused entirely on his work, and he was impassive to anything Lupin wanted to communicate. 

 

Harry struggled to ignore the anger burning in his chest at information being withheld so obviously. 

 

The idea to lean into being six in the hopes that they’d forget he wasn’t actually fifteen sprung into Harry’s mind, but he wasn’t sure either of them would fall for that.

 

“Professor Dumbledore,” Snape corrected finally, almost as an afterthought as he plucked a gnome toe from one of the jars and dropped it into a mortar. He added a few kernels from another jar as well. “His choices are his own. I won’t excuse his behavior.” 

 

Harry’s eyebrows rose in confusion and he blinked at Lupin. The anger eased slightly, though it didn’t disappear completely.

 

“The, erm,” Lupin stammered. “The defense post has been filled by a ministry employee,” Lupin said, nodding at Harry. “He’s tied up with ministry inquiries.” 

 

“Ministry inquiries.” Harry repeated in a deadpan voice. 

 

“The woman filling the post had a few—”

 

“Do not excuse his behavior!” Snape said, slamming the pestle onto the gnome’s toe. 

 

“Severus!” Lupin jerked. 

 

The anger bubbled in Harry again, and he felt the immediate urge to throw something. The thought that everything in here had been his mum’s softened him considerably though, and he pulled out the necklace instead. The charm spun comfortably between his fingers. 

 

That was a mature response to anger, Harry was sure of it. 

 

“Do not be a convenient lie for him.” Snape hissed at Lupin. The mortar rattled over the table as he crushed a few more kernels. He turned to Harry and his mouth opened again, likely to berate Dumbledore further, but the color drained from his face instead. 

 

“Professor Dumbledore is acting in the way he feels is best, Harry.” Lupin said, seeming to have missed Snape’s rapid change in behavior. His hands bobbed apologetically as he spoke.

 

“But, erm.”  Harry’s eyes bounced nervously between the two men. 

 

Snape’s face was too pale for comfort, and he couldn’t take his eyes from Harry. Lupin was watching Harry carefully, though he looked Harry in the eye and seemed far more interested in having Harry believe what he’d said about Dumbledore. 

 

Harry clutched the pendant closely and curled deeper into the couch. He didn’t think Snape would try to grab him, but he didn’t feel comfortable around this rigid behavior. 

 

“Severus?” Lupin asked, cutting through Harry’s nerves. 

 

Snape grunted and blinked slowly, but his face remained pale. 

 

“Something going on with your arm?” Lupin leant forward and a serious look came over him. “Do you have anywhere you need to be?” 

 

Harry whipped around and glared at Lupin. He couldn’t help but feel that talking around Snape’s dark mark was stupid, given everyone’s knowledge of it. There was no need to act like it was a hidden message, especially not on Harry’s account. 

 

“No.” Snape croaked. He stepped over to the kitchenette and pulled a glass down. 

 

“Something wrong then?” Lupin asked, slipping a hand into his knit cardigan. His battered wand appeared in his hands, and he spun it between nervous fingers. Harry could feel the tension coiling in Lupin.

 

Harry inched forward, but Lupin pushed in front of him, effectively covering him. 

 

“Severus.” 

 

“The Dark Lord is angry,” Snape said, throwing a cupboard door shut. “Is that wildly interesting to you?” He asked snidely. 

 

“Yes, you know it is.” Lupin answered with a serious nod.

 

Harry brought a hand to his forehead, and he ran his finger softly over top of his scar, wondering why it didn’t hurt if Voldemort was angry. He didn’t pretend to understand the intimate details of the connection between himself and Voldemort, but he knew enough to know what his anger felt like. If Snape could feel it, Harry thought he should’ve as well. 

 

“You didn’t bring alcohol with you, did you?” Snape asked Lupin dully before tossing another cupboard door shut. 

 

Lupin inhaled quickly. “I don’t think drinking around a child—”

 

“I’m fifteen!” Harry shouted, feeling both ashamed and pleased when Lupin flinched at his volume. “And my uncle drinks all the time around me, it doesn’t bother me.” 

 

Snape paused and his jaw worked over itself for a few seconds. “And how do you feel about your uncle’s drinking?” 

 

“Is now the time for that, Severus?” Lupin climbed to his feet and strode to the small island separating the sitting room and the kitchenette. “After what happened this afternoon? Or is this an attempt to distract from the topic at hand. 

 

“Er.” Harry blinked, still rubbing a hand over his forehead. “Uncle Vernon—”

 

He wasn’t sure if Snape was trying to distract them, either way it didn’t seem like a dangerous question to ask. Harry thought back to the times that he’d seen Uncle Vernon with a drink, but he wasn’t sure why having an opinion on the matter would be important. Uncle Vernon drank often enough, but he’d never done anything awful when he was drunk. It really only became difficult when he and Aunt Marge were drinking together. They loved to sit down and have a go at Harry once they’d had a few. They’d attack Harry’s hair, his character, his parents, how hated he was in the neighborhood and how vile he’d turned out to be. Harry had grown very skilled at ignoring their comments and usually disappeared after cleaning to go to his cupboard, or his bedroom when he’d been older. 

 

“Erm, a lot?” Harry finally asked. He noticed belatedly that Lupin and Snape had been whispering angrily between each other, and the small bundle of anger in Harry’s chest burned. 

 

“Are you asking me how often he drinks?” Snape asked, pinching his nose. 

 

“He drinks a lot,” Harry clarified and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “But he doesn’t sick up or anything. I’ve had to clean up some broken glass before, but only because Ripper ran into the table.” Harry added. The memory of Aunt Marge trying to lure Ripper closer to show Uncle Vernon his teeth almost made Harry giggle. The dog had run full tilt at the table leg and knocked the whole thing over. Uncle Vernon had managed to blame Harry for it somehow, but the image was still an enjoyable one. 

 

“Ripper?” Lupin asked as he twisted to look at Harry. 

 

“Uncle Vernon’s awful sister Aunt Marge has a mean dog named Ripper.” Harry explained. He felt less interested explaining why the dog was mean. He didn’t want to say how Aunt Marge felt about Harry, or why the dog hated him upon sight. 

 

Harry hadn’t tried to be mean to Ripper initially, he’d thought they could’ve been friends even, especially as the dog had to live with someone like Aunt Marge. Harry’d thought he’d have hated her. 

 

“Why is Aunt Marge awful?” Lupin asked, his head tilting curiously. 

 

Harry debated how best to describe her in a way that didn’t bring up her opinion of him. He wasn’t sure when their foul relationship had begun, but Harry was fairly certain she’d never like him. One of his earliest memories of her was from a Christmas Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had invited her over for. Harry had already known he would get an old sweater of Dudley’s as a gift. Aunt Petunia had warned him to smile and say thank you to Uncle Vernon, and be happy that he’d gotten anything. It was too large, as everything was, and had holes in the collar and sleeves. Aunt Marge mustn’t have remembered Harry had been staying with the Dursleys when she’d arrived though, as she’d taken one look at him and threw herself into an argument with Uncle Vernon and complained that Harry should be taken to an orphanage that instant. 

 

Aunt Petunia had settled their fight by having Harry go to his cupboard and stay there till Aunt Marge left the next day. Harry couldn’t remember if he’d gotten to open his gift, but he remembered awkwardly thanking Uncle Vernon the next afternoon. 

 

“Erm,” Harry started. 

 

“Don’t worry about it, Harry,” Lupin said from somewhere very nearby. “No need to think about her at all.” 

 

Harry blinked up at him and confusion washed through him. Lupin appeared far closer than he had been seconds ago, and Harry wondered what had become of his argument with Snape. He tried to think back to what they’d all originally talked about, and how that could’ve caused another argument between the two. Why had the topic of Aunt Marge come up? Snape had gone rigid earlier, Harry knew that, and he’d asked Lupin about alcohol. 

 

“It wasn’t a burning question, Potter,” Snape stepped into the sitting room and set a glass of water onto the coffee table. “There’s no need to have it answered anytime soon, or even at all.” 

 

“Harry.” Harry corrected as he watched Snape begin to crush ingredients in his mortar again. 

 

“Harry.” Snape said with an apologetic wave. 

 

Lupin blinked several times between the two of them. He looked as confused as Harry had felt earlier, and almost worried. 

 

“Why don’t you look through your mother’s photos,” Snape said to Harry as he pointed his pestle at the photo frames he’d pulled from the wall earlier. “Lupin, make yourself useful and search the library at Grimmauld Place for an encyclopedia on gestation effects, preferably one by a competent author. Borne or Borage will do.” Snape added as he dusted his pestle off and flicked his wand. A cauldron floated quickly into the room and settled onto the pink shag carpet beneath a thin window. The carpet shivered for a moment before cutting itself apart from the rest of the flooring and warping into a square of heavy looking stone. Snape continued to arrange the space until a small, but effective potions corner was created. 

 

“I,” Lupin started, he tossed a look at Harry, but Harry ignored it in favour of watching his mum and dad dance around a photo. He wondered if they’d taken a dancing class, or if one of his parents had learned to dance from someone else. Harry certainly didn’t know how to dance. “I’ll be back soon then.” He finished lamely. 

 

Lupin climbed to his feet and nodded at Snape. He smiled at the photos and brushed a hand through Harry’s fringe before stepping over to the doorway and disappearing. 

 

Snape spun on his heel and gently plucked the photo frame from Harry. 

 

Harry quickly reached for it again, not quite finished with watching them, but Snape held a hand up and set the photo on the couch next to Harry. 

 

“May I see that necklace,” Snape asked quietly. “I won’t take it, but I need to check something.” 

 

Harry eyed Snape nervously, and he wound his fingers around the pendant, hiding it just in case. He debated if Snape would wrench it from his neck like the nice scarves Aunt Petunia used to rip from Harry on particularly cold days. Lupin had asked to see the necklace earlier as well, and he’d let Harry keep it after ensuring it was safe.

 

He wondered idly if Lupin knew whether Lily had two of the same necklace, and reluctantly loosened his grip to show Snape. 

 

“Do you mind if I cast a spell on it,” Snape asked as he eyed the pendant closely. “It looks similar to another I’ve seen.” 

 

“Lupin said my mum wore it all the time,” Harry said pridefully. “Why do you want to cast a spell?” He asked, curious as he spun the charm in his fingers. 

 

Snape grimaced and breathed slowly out through his nose before answering. “Lupin wasn’t wrong. I last saw her wearing it after she’d passed away. I find it hard to believe it jumped from her neck and landed on you sometime between now and then without anyone noticing.”

 

Harry nodded and his good mood around the necklace dampened slightly. He truly wanted it to have been something she’d worn all the time, and something she’d valued. If it was just a copy it wouldn’t feel as special.

 

“What do you want to cast on it?” Harry asked as he pulled the necklace from his head. “Lupin said Aunt Petunia wanted her buried with it.”

 

“Specialis Revelio, it won’t damage it and will reveal whatever properties have been magically laid.” Snape said. “I’m not surprised Petunia wanted that. The two had a matching set of necklaces and they fought frequently as they grew older. They’d made a trite promise to one another when they were eight or nine to never take them off, but Petunia had been in the habit of throwing hers at Lily and walking off when they fought over something particularly infuriating. Lily wore hers quite proudly after those instances. Though, whether Lily wanted to point out her moral high ground with her adherence to their promise or just her preference for making up with Petunia, I couldn’t say.” 

 

Harry stared at the small pendant and wondered if that was why Aunt Petunia didn’t give the necklace to Harry. Maybe in Aunt Petunia’s mind Lily had won an argument, or maybe Aunt Petunia had been bitter enough to want his mum buried with it on so the argument could never come back up. Maybe it was both?

 

“I’m asking because Lily gave me the necklace a year after we left Hogwarts. She’d never quite given up on pushing me away from my,” Snape paused and seemed to choose his words carefully. “Interests with the dark arts. She’d charmed it to react to emotions, and to warm as a distraction from fear or anger. I sent it back to her though when—” Snape paused again and swallowed heavily. His sallow complexion had yet to gain much color back. “When I felt she might need it more than me.” He finished, his voice croaking at the end. 

 

The necklace thrummed as if it knew it was being spoken about, and Harry felt a small thrill that it may be the original, and not a copy. It’d warmed before as well, when Harry was feeling nervous about what his friends might think of his running from the boggart. He wondered why Snape felt his mum would need the necklace more than him, given his role as a spy. 

 

“Did you make it into a portkey?” Harry asked suddenly, more curious than ever. 

 

“No, she added that.” Snape eyed Harry closely. “This is how you escaped Black’s safe house then?” Snape asked as he spun the charm between his fingers. “She adjusted the portkey charm so it could take the wearer to an item, rather than a place. Originally, it would’ve taken me to an old potions book I’d left in the cupboard in our classroom. I altered the destination when I’d sent it back to her though. It’d take the wearer, or Lily, to a photograph. One I carried religiously throughout the Dark Lord's initial reign.” 

 

Harry nodded and tossed a look at the photo of his parents dancing. He wished his mum had lived. She must’ve been incredibly smart, and he wanted to know how much Lily had known, and what she would’ve accomplished if she’d been alive longer. He realized belatedly that Snape must still be carrying the photograph as well, if it brought Harry to him, rather than Grimmauld Place as he’d initially suspected. 

 

“I don’t know if she altered it after I sent it to her, I wouldn’t put it past her.” Snape said sadly. 

 

The uncomfortable thought to tell Snape that he remembered Lily’s last moments occurred to Harry, and he wondered how Snape would feel knowing Lily hadn’t had the necklace and couldn’t have portkeyed to safety. 

 

Snape held the necklace up and eyed it carefully. He twisted it in his fingers, allowing it to drop and spin on its own for a few seconds before rapping his wand against the pendant and whispering. “Specialis Revelio.” 

 

A dull grey light bloomed around the pendant for a short second, but nothing seemed to happen after. Harry couldn’t tell if he was disappointed or not, but he’d hoped for more of a reaction. 

 

“It’s the original.” Snape said quietly as he sank into a faded floral armchair to Harry’s left. 

 

Harry reached for it back and Snape quickly dropped it into Harry’s open palm. He couldn’t judge how he felt, knowing that his mum had hidden the necklace in Sirius’s safe house instead of wearing it like Snape had hoped she would. He felt his earlier hopes that the necklace be the original floundering the more he thought about it. This wouldn’t have been the necklace she’d worn when Harry had been born, or when he’d been with her for the short year they’d been together. He wished again that Aunt Petunia had given Harry the copy of her necklace. He wanted to know if Aunt Petunia had recognized the fake, and why Lily hadn’t brought the necklace with her to Godric’s Hollow. He wondered if she hadn’t trusted Snape at the end, and if that meant Harry shouldn’t trust him either. 

 

“Did she change anything on the necklace?” Harry hedged, not ready to consider Snape’s recent actions as having been intentionally evil. He’d explained himself well enough for Harry earlier, but if his mum had misgivings, then Harry wanted to know why. 

 

“She did.” Snape said as he ran a hand down his face. He seemed to age years before Harry’s eyes, the lines on his forehead deepened as did the tired circles beneath his eyes. 

 

Harry slid near the edge of the couch, and waited as patiently as he could for Snape to form his thoughts. 

 

“The original portkey only went one way. The necklace would take someone to the potions book, but the book couldn’t take someone to the necklace. She couldn’t break my additional charm either, so she altered it to go both ways. That allowed the photograph I carried to take me to where she’d left the necklace.” 

 

“To Sirius’s safe house.” Harry clarified, more for himself than Snape. 

 

Snape didn’t respond, and the ache in Harry’s soul widened as he realized his mum might’ve known she wouldn’t live for long. She didn’t bring it with her to Godric’s Hollow, potentially because she’d known it wouldn’t be safe. 

 

He thought about what he could hear of their last few moments alive. He knew Lily hadn’t mentioned a portkey, or escape. 

 

It never made sense to Harry, why Voldemort hadn’t immediately tried to kill Lily. He knew Voldemort had killed James seconds after breaking in, but for some reason had given Lily the opportunity to escape. Why hadn’t he killed her as quickly as he had James? Why hadn’t he offered James the opportunity to escape? Why had he thoughtlessly killed the only pureblood in the house if he was obsessed with blood purity? 

 

If both of his parents had fought Voldemort equally, why hadn’t he treated them equally? 

 

Aunt Petunia’s voice shrieked in the back of Harry’s mind, berating him for his questions. Harry tried to shove his confusion down, and ignore it. He twisted the pendant between his fingers instead and a small smile inched across Harry’s face as it warmed in his fingers.

 

Harry wasn’t sure what to say, as Snape seemed caught in his memories and unlikely to talk anymore. He didn’t think badgering Snape with more questions would help either, not when he looked to be caught in decades of old grief. Harry understood that feeling. He’d spent more time than he would ever admit waiting to be found and loved, and lamenting the parents he hadn’t known. He’d grieved for the personalities he’d invented, and the stories he’d imagined. Snape was grieving something he’d known quite well though, and Harry supposed that there was a large difference in grieving the possibilities as opposed to grieving what happened.

 

The snitch bobbed along the wall, catching Harry’s attention. He climbed slowly to his feet, and checked on Snape, deciding that he looked well enough as could be expected before trailing after the ball. He felt Snape would appreciate the space, and Harry could investigate the rest of the house while Snape came to terms with his thoughts. 



 

Chapter Text

 

Harry struggled to grip the duvet as he climbed onto the tall bed. There was only one bedroom in the flat, and he’d briefly worried Snape would throw him in a cupboard before remembering he could sleep on the couch. He’d made a comfortable corner there earlier and with another pillow, it’d be nearly as good as his bed at Hogwarts. 

 

The duvet slipped through his fingers again and he fell. 

 

“Why—” Harry hissed as he hit the floor and his head bounced off of the rug. He glared up at his mum’s old bed and tried to staunch his frustration. If it wasn’t for the duvet, he’d have been atop it in seconds. He was sure. 

 

He pushed himself up onto his elbows and stared at the oddly plain looking bed frame. 

 

He wondered if this was how he’d treat his parent’s room if they’d lived. Would they have let him crawl into bed with them like Dudley had done when he was younger? Maybe his parents would’ve given him a bed like Dudley’s. One that was soft and colourful. 

 

The room was plain compared with the sitting room. The rug was an almost tame dark green, but the bed covers were a range of oranges and browns. Harry wondered if his mum purchased things by blindly stabbing at the photos in a catalogue. 

 

He wasn’t sure if he had room to judge. He’d employed a similar strategy when it came to picking out books for Hermione at Christmas. 

 

It did remind him of the lamp in the sitting room and he wondered if his dad had made it or if Lily had bought it at a jumble sale. He’d seen people set up small tables on their lawns in summer to sell the old and unused items. Aunt Petunia had never allowed Dudley near one and never looked through them herself. Harry was generally glared at if he so much as stepped near his neighbours houses, so he’d only ever watched from the pavement. The lamp certainly reminded him of the sort of things he’d seen at the sales. He imagined it couldn’t have come from a catalogue at least. 

 

He looked around the bedroom, mentally ticking off the items he’d investigated.

 

The bed was the final thing he’d wanted to explore. The closet had been shallow and mostly empty. Harry had found a soft cable knit jumper inside and he quickly shoved Mrs Weasley’s hand-me-down off to pull his mum’s jumper over his head. 

 

Harry’d wrinkled his nose at the collar. After having been left in a closet for twenty some years, it didn’t smell fantastic. 

 

He’d found an old and foggy looking bottle of something called Charlie rolling noisily around in a dresser drawer. He’d given it a cautious sniff and joyfully sprayed it everywhere, excited at the prospect of smelling like his mum’s, even if he didn’t think it was the most attractive smell. There wasn’t much left in the drawers besides a crumpled muggle receipt for paint thinner. 

 

It was anyone’s guess what his mum would’ve needed that for.

 

There was only so much to explore in a flat this small. He didn’t want to bother Snape, not when the man was reeling emotionally. 

 

Had he ever wanted to bother Snape? Had his mum left Snape alone when he was distraught? 

 

Was he distraught? 

 

Should Harry try and cheer him up? What would he think if Harry turned up in his mum’s jumper smelling of old perfume? Dudley certainly would’ve made fun of him. He’d made fun of Harry’s large shirt and rubber banded pants despite Harry having felt that was quite clever. What would Snape think about Harry wearing his mum’s jumper and perfume? 

 

Lupin’s voice echoed soft and calm in the back of his mind. Was he being childish? 

 

Was it childish to want to check on Snape? 

 

Harry didn’t know how much time he’d spent rifling through his mum’s old bedroom, but he didn’t think it’d been that long. 

 

The snitch fluttered over a dingy night stand and knocked twice against the wall before landing on the rumpled duvet. The fluffy cover hung heavily from where Harry had tugged it down. It felt as if it were taunting him. 

 

He spun on his heel, huffing at the annoying blanket and ruffling his fringe as he disappeared out the door. He was hesitant to check on Snape and he was hesitant to be caught checking on Snape, but he figured it’d be a more productive use of his time than fighting with a blanket. 

 

Snape probably would’ve checked on Harry in some manner if Harry had learned an old and well kept secret. He might not have called it checking on him as much as he’d call it something like ‘Taking Precautionary measures against Potter’s inane impulsivity.’ Harry felt a smile curling around his lips at the almost Snape-like voice in his head. 

 

The hallway ended too quickly and was far too small a space to panic in between the bedroom and sitting room. He debated escaping to the loo before huffing again and steeling himself against his worry. It was only Snape. 

 

Where was his Gryffindor courage and all that rot.

 

Snape had been decent, and Harry had attempted not to be underfoot around him, much like he attempted to do around the Dursleys. 

 

Harry peeked around the door frame, and spotted Snape immediately. He didn’t seem as upset as he had been when Harry had left him, though he didn’t look pleased either. Nor did his pale skin seem particularly healthy looking. He debated going back into the bedroom for another few minutes, or maybe just lingering in the hallway to look at the photos.

 

Harry wondered suddenly about the lack of photos of Snape and his mum together on the wall. He blinked at the collection, trying to see if he’d just missed them when Snape had originally shown him, but he still didn’t spot any. He wouldn’t have put it past himself to miss any then, given how out of sorts and fuzzy everything had felt, but it was odd to still come up empty. 

 

Why weren’t there any photos of them together if they’d been friends? 

 

Maybe his dad hadn’t liked them and his mum hadn’t put them up because she’d wanted to avoid a fight? Sirius had said once that his parents argued, but still loved one another deeply. 

 

Harry figured their fights were similar to Ron and Hermione’s arguments. Vicious and angry, but ultimately ending alright. 

 

A photo of a group of students in graduation robes waved at Harry from the high upon wall and excitement jolted through him. That would feature both Snape and Lily. Snape couldn’t have found an issue with it either, it was just commemorative. 

 

The more Harry looked at the photo though, the more concerned he was. The group of students was small, and no one seemed particularly pleased with anyone else. 

 

His mum stood close to a girl who reminded Harry strongly of Neville, and the marauders surrounded his dad. Snape looked shockingly young in the photo. His trademark sneer was plastered on his pale face and he glared at Harry from his lonely spot at the end of the group. A tall person glanced Snape’s way once or twice, and Harry realized with a shock that it was Avery. His slimy, crooning voice crept up Harry’s back. 

 

He did not want to think of Avery.

 

A burst of high pitched laughter broke over Harry, and he shuddered as panic set in seconds. Voldemort’s cool finger’s cradled Harry’s jaw and his sibilant voice whispered of how Lily’s sacrifice no longer mattered. 

 

He swallowed harshly and tried to imagine Voldemort standing on a pink shag rug rather than sodden grass. Instead the image of pink shag burnt as Voldemort’s bare feet stepped over top of it. Nagini’s long form curled around his ankles, obscuring the rug entirely. 

 

The way Voldemort moved was terrifying. Harry had never considered how a person moved to have been a distinct feature, but he knew he’d have been able to spot Voldemort even if the man had taken polyjuice. He was at once too slow and too quick. His fingers spun delicate and purposeful over his wand and his steps and expressions were too controlled to be fully human. 

 

Maybe he wasn’t human?

 

Harry’s wrists chafed beneath the knit jumper and he paused, wondering how his wrists hurt beneath the soft fabric. He pulled the sleeve down, spotting unblemished skin and blinked.

 

He wasn’t anywhere dangerous at all, rather the opposite. 

 

Sweat ran down his back, uncomfortable against his skin and Harry shook his head, trying to push the sticky fear away. His fingers wound unconsciously around his mum’s necklace, and a pleasant warmth hummed from it, helping considerably. 

 

He turned back to look at Snape, trying to get back to what he’d initially been doing, and remembered belatedly that Snape carried a photo already. The one that Harry had portkeyed to! 

 

Harry breathed slowly in and out a few times to make sure he didn’t look panicked before stepping into the sitting room. 

 

Snape’s nose twitched before he turned to look at Harry, and one of his eyebrows rose. “Found something of interest in the closet?” He asked as his eyes brushed over Harry’s collar. An odd look flashed in his eyes but it disappeared before Harry could tell what it was. 

 

Harry rolled his cuffed sleeves between his fingers and nodded. He hoped it didn’t smell like the closet still. He didn’t have a good gauge for how perfumes worked and he wasn’t sure if the one he’d found was even good anymore. Aunt Petunia bought perfume on a monthly basis. She’d always smelled strongly of bleach though, and never seemed fully able to cover it up. Maybe his mum had charmed her perfume to last forever?

 

“I found a jumper,” Harry said, coughing slightly as he held his arms out to show Snape. “And some perfume.” 

 

Snape’s nose twitched again and he sat forward. “Yes, I can smell that.” He waved his wand over Harry’s head and the scent dropped to a far more appropriate strength. Harry smiled awkwardly, embarrassed at himself for not realizing how pungent it’d been. Lavender Brown had always worn strong smelling perfume, it led to arguments throughout the term before finally coming to a head one day in their third year. Seamus had screamed at her, and afterwards had wound up smelling so strongly of Freesia that no one wanted to sit near him for weeks. Harry wasn’t sure how to feel about any scent afterwards. 

 

“I found it in a drawer.” Harry said, giving the sweater another cautious sniff.

 

He blinked up through his fringe at Snape, wondering why he’d wanted to check on him so badly. He was clearly fine. Maybe he should leave and go back into the bedroom? He still wasn’t sure if this was childish. He wasn’t sure Snape would appreciate Harry even debating checking on him. 

 

“Erm,” Harry began, deciding that leaving as quickly as he’d arrived might be worse than just asking him if he was alright. He supposed he didn’t need to ask outright if Snape was alright, maybe just being around him for a few minutes would answer his question. Was asking to see the photo too personal though? Sirius certainly would’ve been glad to show Harry. Harry probably wouldn’t have even considered needing to ask him. 

 

“Can-may I—” He stammered, grimacing at himself. 

 

Snape’s eyebrows furrowed, but he waited patiently while Harry battled his internal thought process. 

 

“May I see your photo? The one that, erm, goes to the necklace?” Harry finally asked. He tried to imagine what sort of face he should present to Snape, as he’d never successfully asked for anything from the Dursleys. He’d been given what they’d wanted to give him. No amount of screwing up his face like Dudley did when he wanted a sweet had ever changed his outcome. 

 

Snape blinked slowly at Harry and seemed to deliberate whether he wanted to reveal that small piece of himself. 

 

“Erm,” Harry started, continuing his painfully awkward one sided conversation. The thought that Snape couldn’t have known to use the photo as a portkey shot into his head that second, and he couldn’t keep himself from blurting out, “If mum didn’t write you back to tell you she’d charmed it, it wouldn’t have worked very well for you.”

 

He felt the color drain from his own face at his lack of tact. It reminded him of how Dudley spoke about Aunt Petunia’s necklaces, and how he’d tried to tell her that she looked nice in them, but always ended up reminded her of her giraffe-like neck. 

 

Snape stared at Harry for a second and he slowly leaned back. 

 

“She wouldn’t have been able to write to me, but I believe she was intending for me to discover it by accident, much like you had when you used the necklace.” Snape said as he unbuttoned his breast pocket. He pulled out a faded and creased photo and turned it between his fingers, showing Harry. 

 

Harry leaned forward, his immense curiosity over Snape willingly showing him anything bubbling in his chest. 

 

It wasn’t what he’d expected at all. Harry had imagined it’d be a photo of his mum and Snape together, but instead a younger looking Snape was latched onto the arm of a woman who looked as much like Snape then as the man did now. She had his hook nose and widows peak, the same dark eyes and long, thin features. 

 

“Lily took the photo when we were in Diagon Alley. The woman is my mother, Eileen Prince.” Snape flipped the photo back around and slipped it back into his pocket. 

 

“Is? Where is she now?” Harry asked, leaning against the armchair.  

 

Snape hadn’t seemed bothered by Harry’s questioning yet, which made Harry concerned about where he stood and how many he could still ask, but he tried to ignore that in favour of reminding himself how many questions Snape had answered. Snape had really only told him not to ask questions when they were in a dangerous situation. 

 

“Germany.” Snape answered. 

 

“Germany?” Harry tilted his head. “Why Germany?” 

 

“A love of German pumpernickel and craft beer.” Snape said off handedly. 

 

Harry was about to ask if that was a joke when a loud crack followed by a bark echoed from the hallway outside of the flat. Harry flinched and curled against the body of the chair. 

 

Snape’s eyes flashed to the door, and he glared at the small entryway. 

 

“Black had better not—”

 

“Wait!” Lupin’s voice was muffled by the door and the sounds the dog made. Harry could hear him struggling to handle a few things at once. “Wait!” He shouted again as the door burst open and an enormous black dog tore into the sitting room. 

 

Harry jerked and scrambled onto the armchair, half colliding with Snape’s long legs as the old panic of being bitten rushed through him. He struggled to stay standing on the sliver of uneven cushion. 

 

The dog stopped dead in the center of the sitting room and sat down heavily on the rug. It was Padfoot, Harry realized a second later. The sharp fear of being bitten dulled and left a metallic taste in Harry’s mouth. He wobbled atop the cushion and nearly tipped over before Snape caught the back of his jumper and tugged him firmly onto his lap. Harry spotted his invisibility cloak held carefully in between Padfoot’s sharp teeth. 

 

Padfoot’s eyes darted cautiously from Snape to Harry before a low whinge whistled from him. 

 

“Sirius please!” Lupin breathed exhaustedly. “Severus, I’m very sorry,” He added quickly as he stepped into the sitting room and dropped a small but incredibly heavy sounding handbag onto the coffee table. “Sirius has been in a state, to say nothing of Molly or the children.” 

 

Harry’s insides froze and his earlier panic burst in his chest. Ron and Hermione had been listening in. What did they think? What would they say? Ron might think it was an overreaction and Hermione might go off about his being traumatized. How was Harry supposed to argue against that when he’d apparently broken down into a humiliating mess in Sirius’s kitchen. 

 

“Sirius promised to stay as a Padfoot, as that seemed to—”

 

“Are you out of your mind!” Snape hissed at the dog. 

 

Harry turned to look at Snape and jerked backward. His complexion had returned full force with two bright red spots of anger darkening his cheeks. His black eyes glittered furiously. 

 

Padfoot sank low onto the floor and and whinged again as his large black paws dropped over his snout. Harry was sure dog’s couldn’t look this ashamed of themselves. He almost wanted to climb down from the chair and calm him down, and he nearly did, except the odd niggling worry that Padfoot still might bite him itched in the back of his mind. 

 

“Have you been completely removed of any logic or sense you may have possessed!” Snape continued, turning his anger on Lupin. 

 

“Severus,” Lupin’s hands rose apologetically. “Sirius has been distraught, and—”

 

“I don’t care if Black has been distraught! I care about the ruin he leaves in his wake when he opens his mouth!” Snape’s sharp voice cut through the room and Lupin’s mouth snapped shut with a click. 

 

Snape’s chest rose and fell quickly, but his hands hadn’t moved, nor had pointed his wand at either Lupin or Padfoot. Harry wondered if he should get off of the chair, but he still worried Padfoot might bite him, even though that seemed unlikely. 

 

“Severus, Harry has a large network of people who love him and want to ensure that he is ok,” Lupin said, nodding at Harry. “Sirius wanted to check, it’s no more than he’s done all summer. You know what he’s like.” 

 

Harry blinked in confusion. How many people had been watching him over the summer? 

 

“Was your word that he was safe not good enough!? Leave, Black!” 

 

Padfoot dropped the cloak gently and turned his large warm eyes on Harry before twisting and walking toward the short hallway. They watched as Padfoot slipped out the front door and a second later a quiet pop echoed from the hallway. 

 

Lupin turned back to Snape and Harry with concern in his eyes and they stared at one another. 

 

“I was under the impression you trusted me, Lupin.” Snape’s voice slid like silk through the now uncomfortably quiet room. “But you felt you’d need back up on your return?”

 

“As I’ve said many times before, no one can control Sirius.” Lupin’s amber eyes glittered. “Padfoot wouldn’t have caused harm.” Lupin snapped back. “He left as quick as he came. He is capable of appropriate behaviour when it has been impressed upon him. I’d rather have liked to ask Harry if he’d wanted to see him, but that didn’t go quite to plan.” 

 

Harry felt his eyes widen at Lupin. He’d known how little Snape and Lupin seemed to actually trust each other, but he’d never seen the man visibly angry before. He’d never heard him snap at Snape. He imagined they must’ve had arguments when they’d been younger, but since Harry had known him, Lupin had always spoken to Snape with a degree of understanding and respect. 

 

“Ron and Hermione wrote letters when they realized I’d be returning Harry, why don’t you go read them in the bedroom.” Lupin said, pulling crumpled parchment from his pocket. 

 

Harry climbed down from the armchair and took the letters from Lupin. 

 

“Erm,” Harry blinked at Lupin. “What did you mean about Sirius?” Harry asked, rubbing the parchment between his thumb and forefinger. “He watched me?”

 

Lupin nodded. “Sirius wasn’t great at following Professor Dumbledore’s orders that you not be contacted and he didn’t like the watch that was already keeping track of you.” Lupin’s eyes flickered to Snape. 

 

Fuzzy white noise took over Harry’s thoughts. He knew Dumbledore had told Ron and Hermione not to give anything about the Order of the Phoenix away. He was sure it’d had more to do with owls being intercepted than it had to do with Harry. Had Dumbledore intentionally wanted Harry to suffer alone for the summer? 

 

“Why?” Harry asked, blinked through his stupor. “Why not contact me? You-you were watching me too?” 

 

“Yes, Harry,” Lupin began, his eyebrows furrowing. “To ensure that you were safe.” 

 

“But just watch, just watch, from far away while I just wandered around the neighbourhood.” Harry's voice rose. “You never thought to say anything? You never thought to tell me I wasn’t allowed to be talked with or why?!” Harry shouted. 

 

“Harry!” Lupin’s eyes widened in shock. “You’d just come off of a terrifying experience, you needed time—”

 

“I KNOW! I WAS THERE AND YOU ALL JUST LEFT ME ALONE!” Harry shouted. “YOU KNEW I’D JUST WATCHED CEDRIC DIE AND VOLDEMORT CLIMB OUT OF A BLOODY CAULDRON! YOU KNEW HE—” His breath shrank away to nothing, and his voice scraped out of him. The image of Voldemort’s naked and disgusting body growing around billowing black smoke slammed into Harry. He could hear the sniggers and laughs of Death Eaters bowing and throwing themselves at their Dark Lord’s bare white feet. Every soft hiss and sound he made slithered coldly in Harry’s ears. 

 

Pettigrew’s beady eyes grew large at the dull varnish of his grotesque golden hand. Lucius Malfoy’s white-blonde hair turned muddy from where he begged for forgiveness.

 

“Harry,” Snape’s voice was soft, barely managing to break through the fury and panic coursing through Harry. “You need to breathe. Yes, these events happened and your lack of support is egregious and shall be dealt with, but at this moment you’re in Lily’s flat.” 

 

Snape flicked his wand and the perfume he’d sprayed everywhere came back full force, leading Lupin to cough and Harry’s nose to sting. 

 

He wondered how he’d managed to ignore how pungent it was when he’d sprayed it everywhere. It reminded him of the fluffy jumper and his mum’s ugly seashell lamp. That didn’t matter now though. Dumbledore’s actions did. Harry crushed his fists into his eyes, trying to staunch the burning tears. 

 

Dumbledore hadn’t wanted Harry to be contacted. 

 

He’d felt that trying to force tears back had never really helped, but maybe it kept Snape and Lupin from seeing Harry crying. He didn’t think there was much chance of having them miss it though, not when they stood as close as they did. He was fairly certain he was ruining Ron and Hermione’s letters as well. 

 

“No one but those who’ve already been here can find this flat, it’s safe.” Snape said as he gently tugged Harry’s hands from his eyes. The damp parchment stuck slightly to Harry’s cheek, and he felt every inch of his six year old frame shudder beneath the weight of too many emotions. 

 

Harry wanted to ask more questions. He wanted to ask why Dumbledore had thought Harry needed to be left alone, especially after the graveyard. He didn’t think Dumbledore had ever done something that callous before and would’ve assumed Snape was at fault for that decision if he hadn’t spent the last few days with the dour man. 

 

Voldemort wanted Harry to suffer, Dumbledore wanted Harry to be alone, neither wanted Harry to feel loved or safe. 

 

Harry sniffled wetly and felt as if the desolate chasm in his chest only opened wider. He should’ve listened to Sirius. Sirius knew Dumbledore wasn’t always right and no one else had been willing to say anything against the man. Snape had said he wouldn’t make excuses for him, but he hadn’t spoken against him either. 

 

The letters slipped from Harry’s fingers, and he reached up to Snape, desperate for the awkward hug he’d given Harry in Spinner’s End. He wanted comfort, no matter how much like a child he might appear. His thoughts aligned with his emotions, and Harry couldn’t be bothered about whether he was behaving as a six year old or not. Harry felt as if he’d lost someone, and he couldn’t cope with considering that he might never have had Dumbledore to begin with. Dumbledore had always been kind to Harry, and he’d looked after him. Harry knew he’d had to make hard decisions and keeping him at the Dursleys despite knowing how unwanted he was couldn’t have sat well with the man, but he’d still acted in the way he’d thought was best. He’d told Harry that it was the strongest measure in keeping him safe. The thought that Dumbledore had never cared for Harry’s own feelings, his childhood or relationships, cracked through him. It felt like ash in his throat to think Dumbledore had viewed Harry through a clinical eye, rather than his warm twinkling one. The old man was trying to win a war, and Harry was a piece within it. Maybe in some way he wanted Harry to feel loved, but that never came before winning his war. Dumbledore had acted as if he cared until he hadn’t needed to. 

 

Harry couldn’t decide if he desperately wanted to be proven wrong by the old man, or if he wanted to scream in Dumbledore’s face until he blew up like Aunt Marge.

 

Snape’s arms came under Harry’s and he lifted him gently against his shoulder. The soft wool was damp in seconds. Harry thought he could smell someone making tea, but he refused to look away from the warm and dark shoulder he’d crushed his face into. Snape’s hand curled soft around Harry’s back, tucking him even closer. 

 

If Snape felt at all awkward, he hadn’t shown it. 

 

“This won’t help,” Lupin’s soft voice came from Harry’s right. “But Dumbledore was at Grimmauld Place. Molly wrote him after Sirius,” Harry could hear Lupin gesturing, though he wasn’t sure what he’d gestured to. The sound of a tea cup hitting a china saucer echoed in the sitting room. “He wants Harry returned to Privet Drive tonight and he wants to speak with you within the hour.”

 

Snape hummed as his long fingers slid over the back of Harry’s jumper. 

 

Harry tilted his face against Snape’s shoulder and blinked wetly at Lupin. “I’m not going back.” He said, with as much force as his childlike voice could muster.

 

“Well, you’re in luck,” Snape said. Harry’s nose itched as Snape’s hair tickled him. “Dumbledore is unable to find this flat, as it’s under a fidelius charm. He’s equally unlikely to get the location out of its secret keeper.” 

 

Lupin’s eyes slid shut and his hands curled around his greying hair. “Alice.” He said breathing slowly out of his nose. 

 

Harry blinked at Snape, curious about who Alice was and how she’d known Harry’s mum. 

 

“Alice Fortescue,” Snape’s eyebrows rose as he spoke. “Though you’d know her better as Alice Longbottom. She’s the flat’s secret keeper.”



Chapter Text

 

Harry stared blankly at Snape as he tried to guess why his mum knew Neville’s gran. 

 

It was a hard idea to focus on, as he still couldn’t shake the sticky sobs from bubbling in his chest, though he tried to swallow them down and make them quieter. It would be easier to think clearly if he could get a handle on his emotions, but he couldn’t seem to contain them for even a second. It was as if a tidal wave was coursing through him. Each nearly identifiable feeling ate into the next in a jumble of confusion. 

 

Wasn’t Snape supposed to meet Dumbledore within the hour? Dumbledore, who intentionally left Harry alone for two months and had such control over his friends that everyone agreed to let Harry waste away. 

 

Harry’s eyes prickled again and he shoved his face into Snape’s shoulder, miserably trying to rationalize Dumbledore’s actions. 

 

It didn’t matter what the old man wanted, Harry decided. He could go rot in Harry’s cupboard. 

 

Dumbledore couldn’t keep Harry at the Dursleys if he tried. Harry had a portkey, he’d run to Snape as many times as he wanted to. He’d portkey from beneath Dumbledor’s nose if he had to. He wouldn’t go stay with Aunt Petunia ever again. Snape had said Privet Drive wasn’t as safe as it appeared anyway. Harry and Dudley had been attacked somehow.

 

He wasn’t meant to be shoved into a cupboard with the other cleaning supplies. He wasn’t a mop or hoover. He was a person. He wasn’t going to be thrown around, unloved and unwanted. 

 

Harry would stay at the flat. It was safe from both Dumbledore and Voldemort. He’d just need to find a way to get back to being fifteen. 

 

Could he live in the house without learning the address from the secret keeper though? 

 

How could he see the flat now if he didn’t already know the address? Snape had said when they’d left for Grimmauld Place the first time that Harry wouldn’t be able to see the house without having already known the address. 

 

There had to have been a reason. 

 

He wanted Dumbledore to apologize. He wanted Dumbledore to say he hadn’t realized how alone Harry had been, or how lost. 

 

Harry couldn’t contain the wet sob from bubbling in his throat. 

 

Snape’s fingers slid over his jumper and pressed soft circles into his back. 

 

The tense muscles in his back eased slowly as he sank into the warm embrace. He didn’t think anyone had ever treated him kindly during a meltdown. Aunt Petunia hadn’t had time for Harry to whinge or cry. She’d always sent him to his cupboard and told him to come back whenever he’d gotten over himself. He remembered wrapping his blanket tightly around himself and imagining it was someone holding him. It had worked well enough then, but he knew it would never work again, not now that he realized how much more helpful being actually held was. 

 

By the time he peeked out again, Lupin had finished his tea. Harry leaned against Snape and tried to imagine living without the Dursleys. He wondered if he might ask Alice nicely for the address, if he still needed it. Neville’s gran was a bit severe, but asking couldn’t hurt. Lupin and Snape just didn’t know her well maybe. 

 

How’d they get the address initially then? 

 

If Neville’s gran was the flat’s secret keeper though, he doubted Dumbledore would have to force her to tell him the address. She trusted Dumbledore, Neville had said so many times. 

 

“Why wouldn’t Neville’s gran tell Dumbledore?” Harry asked and cleared his throat. 

 

“I don’t,” Lupin started, seeming to be as confused as Harry. “I don’t believe Neville has ever been particularly open about his mother,” He said. “Or his father for that matter.” 

 

Snape’s mouth twisted disappointedly. “I have never found Longbottom to be bright, but his choices are his own.” 

 

Harry frowned at Snape, “Neville’s bright. He’s bullied too much.” He said, wondering if Snape would still let Harry sit with him even though they disagreed. Snape’s fingers hadn’t stopped moving though. 

 

“Perhaps it could be argued that his misaligned priorities deserve some of the unwanted attention.” Snape said.

 

“Severus!” Lupin’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped aghast. “There’s never a need—” He cut himself off and dragged a hand through his hair. 

 

Harry wanted to shout at Snape to stop being terrible to Neville that instant. He wasn’t sure he had the energy to argue about it now, but he certainly would later. 

 

He was still curious though. Alice was Neville’s mum? Had Neville hidden his mum from Harry, or hadn’t he hidden her, maybe he just chose not to tell him? Why would someone hide their mum? Parents felt like the sort of thing that wasn’t brought up often, the topic might’ve just not come up. Four years felt a bit too long for it to have been unintentionally missed. 

 

“What Longbottom chooses to share is his prerogative,” Snape said. Harry could see a sneer attempting to form on Snape’s face, but it was fought back by an emotion Harry couldn’t follow. “Alice’s achievements should not be closeted by embarrassment.” 

 

Why was Neville ashamed of his mum? Harry couldn’t guess what could’ve happened to cause Neville to be embarrassed of someone else, as he was far more likely to apologize and think himself at fault for most things. Harry debated giving up and tucking his face back into Snape’s shoulder. Snape’s fingers hadn’t stopped rubbing gently over his back and Harry couldn’t tell if it was unconscious or intentional anymore, but wasn’t about to complain. He’d stay like this until he was pushed away. 

 

“Longbottom has much more to be ashamed of than Alice.” Snape said. 

 

“The boy is fifteen!” Lupin snapped. “Think of yourself at fifteen, and how little you shared out of embarrassment.” 

 

Harry tossed a look between them both and tried to imagine Snape being embarrassed of something. 

 

He hadn’t needed to imagine for long. Red splotches darkened Snape’s cheekbones in seconds and the sneer he’d been combating split across his face. “What I chose not to speak of, I chose out of safety for myself! Longbottom chooses not to speak out of shame!” 

 

Lupin’s nose wrinkled in disgust. “It was not out of safety that you hid your muggle father!” He snapped. 

 

”I did not hide my muggle father you thick imbecile!” Snape hissed back. “I hid from my muggle father! You have no idea what repercussions I worked to avoid!” 

 

“Well congratulations Severus, you hid what you worried could be used to hurt you.” Lupin’s voice dropped into an unnatural growl.

 

Harry couldn’t fight the innate terror that sprung in his chest at the sound. 

 

Lupin paled and his shoulders fell as Harry slowly inched away. It was odd how often he forgot that Lupin was actually incredibly dangerous. He was so calm and careful with his voice. 

 

Snape’s stare turned venomous at the growl, but he stayed silent. His fingers curled around the fabric of Harry’s jumper, and Harry worried he’d have to jump down or be caught in the middle of a duel, but Snape’s fingers loosened and resumed their massage after several tense seconds. 

 

“Harry,” Lupin said after taking a few minutes to calm himself down. “Alice is Neville’s mother, not his grandmother, and she’s not in any position to be discussing the flat.” 

 

“How come I can see the flat?” Harry asked quickly, disappointed in the half answer he received about Neville’s mum.  

 

“Well—” Lupin started and blinked over at the photos. 

 

“Lily became pregnant with you before she’d fully moved out. You’ve technically been here before.” Snape answered. 

 

“How did you know that?” Lupin whirled around and his eyes narrowed.  

 

Snape flicked a hand at the question. “For the same reason I can see the flat.” 

 

Harry felt more questions had been asked than answered and he dropped his head onto Snape’s shoulder with an exhausted groan. 

 

Lupin climbed to his feet and waved his wand at the tea set, books and bags he’d brought in earlier. He worked quickly righting the room, but a crooked slouch betrayed how tired he was. Harry tried to remember the sort of day Lupin had, and thought it ran fairly parallel to his own. The discovery that Sirius had made off with Harry, trying to talk Sirius into bringing Harry back, the argument and ensuing humiliating reaction in the kitchen. 

 

It was a surprise how calm Snape still seemed to be. Harry couldn’t guess if that was due to his demeanor, or that he was just more used to days as mental as these. 

 

“Severus, I think you should leave and meet with Dumbledore,” Lupin said as he rapped his wand against the plastic counter top in the kitchenette. bread, butter and cheese bobbed out of grocery sacks and arranged themselves overtop a skillet. “We need to know what his plans are.” 

 

The smell of cooking food quickly filled the flat and Harry realized with a shock how hungry he was. Had he eaten anything since this morning? 

 

He pushed up from Snape’s chest and nervously watched Lupin cook. 

 

Should he thank Snape for helping him? He had a feeling Snape wouldn’t have tolerated this clingy sort of behaviour if Harry was physically fifteen, and the niggling worry over whether he was mentally six or fifteen burned at the back of his mind. Thanking Snape hadn’t gone poorly for him before, it couldn’t hurt. 

 

Twisting back around, he looked at Snape and tried to form a thank you that wouldn’t be mortifying. He couldn’t seem to think of anything past ‘thank you’ though. 

 

One of Snape’s eyebrows rose in a silent question as Harry tried to find the words. 

 

“Erm,” Harry’s voice cracked noiselessly. 

 

“Hungry?” Snape asked. 

 

Harry nodded and Snape sat up. He quickly set Harry onto his feet and nudged him in the direction of the kitchenette. 

 

A confusing out of body experience rushed through Harry, causing him to nearly stumble. He was relaxed but concerned and nervous but calm. Was he normally so tense all the time? His body seemed unwilling to consider the coming effects of Dumbledore and Snape’s conversation. Was this normal? The swirling muddy mass of emotion that roiled constantly through him had calmed into something manageable and he was able to put it aside to eat. He didn’t think he’d been this relaxed in months. 

 

“I will return regardless of the outcome. Do not leave, Lupin.” Snape said. He nodded at Harry and strode out the door. A sharp crack echoed from the hallway moments later. 

 

Harry wished he could apparate. It was a horrendous and nauseating way to travel, but he imagined it’d be dead useful for escaping the Dursleys. 

 

“So Harry,” Lupin set a plate down in front of him. “Are you ready for quidditch this year?” 

 

Harry excitedly began to discuss his latest ideas for dives and tricks. The conversation carried on peacefully, with Lupin shying away from any worrying questions, and thankfully not commenting on Harry having cried in Snape’s lap or his episode in the kitchen in the afternoon. He brought up a few topics Harry felt he could knowledgeably weigh in on as well, like the holidays this year and if he felt Mrs Weasley’s house or Grimmauld Place would be better suited to hosting guests. Harry hadn’t thought of spending a Christmas away from Hogwarts and it was a bit nerve wracking to consider. 

 

It all culminated in a remarkably calm evening. After they’d eaten he’d read Ron and Hermione’s letters and quickly realized they’d both tried to cram as much information and questions as they could into them. Neither seemed able to hide their interest in Harry’s episode, Hermione particularly, but neither seemed to think he was childish or mental. 

 

Harry was very thankful for their lack of judgement. He wanted to put being six behind him more now than ever. The emotions were exhausting. 

 

When he couldn’t keep his eyes open much longer, he picked through his collection of hand me downs and shrunken clothes and changed into a soft t-shirt and sleep pants. Lupin collected his wand and cloak and shuffled him into the bedroom where he helped him climb into the bed. He set Harry’s things within reach on the nightstand. 

 

He said a quick good night and promised to be in the sitting room where he was going to try to help research a counter potion. 

 

Harry snuggled into the plush covers of his mum’s bed and pretended she’d let him cuddle into bed with her. He’d never have admitted it aloud, and barely let himself think about it for more than a few seconds, but it was lovely all the same. He fell deeply asleep in seconds. 

 

It felt like ages later that a muffled sound brought him awake. 

 

He twisted in the warm bed and buried his face into the pillow. He hadn’t slept so well in his life. He certainly hadn’t slept this well since before the Triwizard Tournament. His eyes struggled to even open and he half forgot about why he’d woken up in the first place. 

 

It wasn’t until a second odd thump echoed from the sitting room that Harry’s eyes opened and he sat up. The immediate worry that Avery had found a way into the flat and Lupin was currently dueling against him rushed through Harry.

 

That wasn’t right though. Avery didn’t know the flat’s location, he couldn’t be here. 

 

Harry grabbed his wand and slid out of the bed. He crept over to the doorway, nervous of what could be happening if it wasn’t Avery. 

 

Maybe Snape had returned and the meeting hadn’t gone well. 

 

His heart plunged into icy fear. 

 

What if Snape was here to take him back to Privet Drive? What if Dumbledore had managed to convince him, like he’d somehow convinced everyone else to abandon him? 

 

He twisted the doorknob and pushed the door open, feeling his heart hammering in his throat.

 

“So we’ll talk with Petunia, we can make her see, we can threaten her—”

 

“YOU DON’T KNOW HER!” Snape’s voice roared through the short hallway. Harry fell backwards at the sound. They must’ve charmed the bedroom against sound. “YOU CANNOT THREATEN HER! SHE’S NOT STUPID, IF YOU THREATEN HER, SHE’LL TAKE IT OUT ON—”

 

“WELL GO ON THEN SNIVELLUS!” Sirius roared back. “TELL US YOUR PLAN TO WORK AROUND WORMTAIL!” 

 

“Your insipid friend is the reason your godson is in this predicament!” Snape’s pained voice echoed dully. 

 

Your insipid friend tried to kidnap him from your house!” Lupin snapped back. 

 

“Wormtail sold him out to the Dark Lord once! You think he won’t try to come and take Harry again?!” Sirius sounded angrier than Harry had ever heard him. 

 

Harry’s throat went dry. Wormtail. Wormtail must know the flat’s location. 

 

Harry didn’t think of himself as a naturally violent person, but if Wormtail was a threat to his staying in this house, he knew he’d snap. He wanted one thing from his parents that wasn’t tainted by the rat. The lull in the conversation gave him a second to slip out of the door and tiptoe down the hallway. He lingered in the thin swath of shadow as he watched the three argue. 

 

The sitting room was littered with overturned books. Both Snape and Sirius looked violently angry and Sirius had a grip on Snape’s long overcoat, though Harry couldn’t spot his wand. 

 

“We cannot continue to dwell on the past.” Lupin finally said with a sharp gesture. “Wormtail knows where the flat is, but he doesn’t know we’re here.” 

 

“That’s not good enough.” Sirius dropped Snape’s lapels and sniffed as he looked at Lupin. 

 

“You cannot take him back to Petunia.” Snape said harshly. 

 

“You shouldn’t have removed him in the first place.” Lupin pinned Snape with a glare. “Harry and his cousin were hit with a potion, but they were unharmed. He has been attacked more in the last week alone than in the last two months.” 

 

Unharmed!—” Snape choked. 

 

“Wormtail will find out he’s here.” Sirius said quickly. “You’ll have to tell your sodding Dark Lord eventually, won’t you? ‘Your grace’,” Sirius mimicked Snape’s low voice. “The boy is in a muggle flat in Stoke-on-Trent, Wormtail or I can get him for you at your earliest pleasure.” 

 

Snape’s wand appeared a hair beneath Sirius’s nose. “I have never allowed that child to come to harm nor will I ever tell the Dark Lord where he is!” He hissed. 

 

“What will you tell him then?” Lupin asked as he shoved Sirius away from Snape. Sirius made a move to push closer, but Lupin held onto his collar, keeping him in place. 

 

“I will tell him that Harry is at Dumbledore’s headquarters.” Snape answered. 

 

“You really think he’ll believe you? Despite knowing you’ve lied before.” Lupin’s voice rang through the small room. 

 

“He will assume I am honest for fear of disappointing him twice.” 

 

“So we’re relying on your good opinion that the megalomaniac trusts you to fear him.” Sirius sneered. 

 

“You have no other choice.” Snape said as his eyes narrowed. “Harry made his point quite clear.” 

 

“When it’s between his being kidnapped or being miserable, I’ll choose miserable.” Sirius said. “You can’t possibly think staying here will be the lesser of two evils, not when Wormtail can walk right through that door.” 

 

“It is not between being kidnapped or miserable you dense—” Snape started before being cut off. 

 

“Severus, you need to see reason,” Lupin snapped. “Harry will be miserable there, yes. But if we’re choosing between imminent death—”

 

“Let me make it clear what you’re choosing then.” Snape’s silky voice cut furiously through the room. “You’re choosing to lock your traumatized godson into a small cupboard, where he can be neglected for days on end. It might not be imminent,” Snape’s voice dropped quieter as he spoke. “But it’s far more painful.” 

 

Harry blinked as an uncomfortable fuzziness sank in his head and made his throat go numb. Snape told them about his cupboard.

 

Harry’s cupboard. 

 

Snape told them about his cupboard. Snape told them—

 

He tried breathe, but it felt as if he’d been dropped head first into water. 

 

Snape told them about his cupboard.

 

Neither Lupin nor Sirius spoke. What did they think?

 

Sirius’s sunken eyes flashed over Snape’s face. The colour on his cheeks faded into an ugly fish belly pale, and Harry couldn’t tell if he was angry with Harry or angry about the cupboard. 

 

“You didn’t see what I did when I arrived to evaluate the effects of the potion.” Snape said softly. 

 

Snape told them about his cupboard. 

 

“He isn’t—” Sirius stammered, looking more distraught by the second. “He, I,”

 

“And you need to be more careful with him.” Snape warned. 

 

Sirius nodded and his gaze dropped to the floor. 

 

Was he disappointed in Harry? Did he think Harry could’ve avoided being thrown into the cupboard. Harry hadn’t been big enough to fight back at this size, was that an acceptable answer? 

 

Sirius would think that was ridiculous. 

 

“Severus,” Lupin eyed Snape closely. “That doesn’t negate Wormtail’s ability to find him.” He spun his wand idly between his thumb and forefinger. 

 

“Wormtail won’t be able to win a duel against either of you, nor myself,” Snape said. “And Dumbledore cannot take Harry from where he cannot see him. It’s imperative for his own safety that he not return to that house, or leave this one.” 

 

“That doesn’t give us much room to maneuver.” Lupin said with a deep inhale.

 

Snape nodded and twisted on his heel, seeming to aim for the bedroom. He froze in place when his eyes landed on Harry. 

 

“Harry!” Sirius shouted as he spotted him as well. He tried to come closer but barely moved an inch before Lupin’s hand clenched right around his collar again and thrust him onto the couch. 

 

Harry opened his mouth, his thoughts desperate to combat Snape having brought up his cupboard, but no sound managed to come out. He couldn’t have Sirius and Lupin thinking he still lived in the cupboard. He didn’t anymore, he was fifteen. He hadn’t been in the cupboard in four years, and he wasn’t going to count the night he stayed in it when Snape came to pick him up. 

 

Maybe they’d think Snape was kidding. It wasn’t logical to put people in cupboards. Snape couldn’t know he’d lived in the cupboard, he’d only seen Harry run into it when he’d come to pick him up. 

 

“I don’t,” Harry started, feeling horrified at the warble in his voice. “I didn’t—” How was he supposed to fix this? His whole body trembled as he spoke. “I-I don’t-didn’t—I-I live in a bedroom now, not there anymore, I mean not—” 

 

Snape hissed a foul word and his hands threaded tightly into his hair. 

 

“Of course, Harry,” Lupin said quickly, his face greyed as he spoke, making him look particularly unwell. “Of course. Though, if you did stay in a cupboard, it couldn’t possibly have been your fault.” His amber eyes were stark on his face. 

 

Harry shook his head frantically. “Well-it-I was—” He didn’t want to further this line of thought. He’d like to go back in time and not run into his cupboard in front of Snape. 

 

Snape wouldn’t have seen it, and he’d never have brought it up then. 

 

Sirius wouldn’t have ever learned of it and wouldn’t have ever needed to think about it. He’d have thought Harry was a capable person. One who wasn’t thrown around or locked up or an abnormal freak. 

 

“It’s not,” Sirius began, his voice cracked and his horrified eyes flashed between Harry and Lupin. “Not-no, absolutely never your fault—” 

 

Snape slowly sank onto his knees across from Harry and set his wand to the side. 

 

The stretch of distance between them seemed impossibly wide. Harry had yet to step away from the shadowed safety of the hallway and Snape didn’t seem inclined to wrench him closer. 

 

“I am sorry, Harry.” He started. “By discussing this though, we are ensuring you do not return to Privet Drive.” Snape said slowly, looking intensely at Harry. “Your protection, whether it’s from the Dark Lord, Professor Dumbledore, or others, is paramount. Not because you are the Boy Who Lived, but because you’re in our care,” Snape breathed in deeply. “This goes for if you are six or fifteen.” 

 

Harry shuddered as he still tried to force himself to breathe. 

 

That was a logical answer. A blurry sounding voice tried to argue that anything that kept him away from the Durlsey’s was good, but a terrified corner of himself couldn’t accept anyone knowing about the cupboard.

 

He also wanted to know why Dumbledore thought it was safe for Harry to return to the Dursleys if Snape thought it wasn’t. 

 

“Dumbledore doesn’t think it's a problem.” Harry said finally, trying to lessen the humiliation of talking about the cupboard. “It’s not-not abnormal.” 

 

Snape blinked. “You’ve told him?” It was phrased like a question, but it didn’t sound like one when he spoke. 

 

“Not about the—he said I needed to stay there for my protection,” Harry said, winding his fingers into the hem of his t-shirt. “He said I might not like it there, but I couldn’t stay at Hogwarts. Aunt Petunia’s awful, but she’s not,” He inhaled quickly, unsure of what to say. “Evil.”

 

Snape hummed a short and choked sound. 

 

“He said ‘no’ again when Mrs Weasley asked if I could come straight to The Burrow after the—” Harry coughed and his eyes flickered to Sirius. He didn’t want to think about the graveyard and he certainly didn’t want Sirius to see him cry. 

 

Although Sirius didn’t look like he was upset with Harry, or angry with Snape even. 

 

It was quite a shock that no one had yelled at him. Neither Lupin nor Sirius had called him any names either, or asked him why he’d let them put him in the cupboard. In fact they seemed to think it wasn’t his fault at all. 

 

Harry couldn’t decide if this was worse, as they seemed to think he couldn’t fight back. 

 

Sirius slid to the floor, morphing into Padfoot as he loped through the sitting room. He dropped onto his belly just out of reach of Harry and blinked dolefully up at him. 

 

Harry twisted his fingers tighter still around the hem of his shirt. 

 

He didn’t know how to feel. He wasn’t sure what affects any of this would have on his returning from Hogwarts at the end of next term. Would Dumbledore find a way to force him back into the house? Would Snape still be here for him when he was fifteen or sixteen? 

 

“Black,” Snape sighed as he rubbed a hand over his forehead and blinked slowly at Sirius. “You truly have an excellent grasp of your limits.” 

 

Padfoot whinged and stuck his nose in the air. 

 

“Fancy a cup of tea Harry? Or,” Lupin paused and checked his watch. “It’s very late, you must still be quite tired?” 

 

“What did Dumbledore say when you met him?” Harry asked instead of answering. He wasn’t able to consider sleeping yet and was still shivery and fuzzy feeling over Lupin and Sirius knowing about the cupboard. 

 

“He was angry with me for taking you here and vehemently argued that you be returned to the Dursleys no later than about four hours ago.” Snape said. “He guessed that Wormtail had access to the flat and Lupin and Black confirmed that earlier.  

 

Harry nodded, having already heard that part of their argument. 

 

“I hadn’t been aware, however, that you’d discussed the Dursleys with Dumbledore before. Had I known, the argument would’ve been significantly more gruesome.” Snape added. 

 

“I didn’t,” Harry started, stammering slightly. “I tried to explain once, but he said it needed to happen.” 

 

Snape nodded. “That you attempted is enough.” 

 

“We’ll think of something Harry.” Lupin added. “Dumbledore is very powerful, but I doubt he can break a fidelius charm. We won’t let him take you back to your relatives.” 

 

Harry grimaced. He still wanted to know what they thought. They didn’t seem to be angry at Harry though, or disappointed. They hadn’t asked him why he didn’t do a better job of defending himself, or why he let them put him in the cupboard. It felt like they had the wrong idea. Harry didn’t want them to think he was incapable, he’d proven more than once that he wasn’t. They didn’t seem to understand that he could handle them just fine as a fifteen year old but when he was six it was just a bit harder. 

 

“I didn’t let them win,” Harry finally said. “They were bigger than me, I wouldn’t have let them put me in the cupboard if I could run away.” 

 

Padfoot whinged and inched closer, nosing near Harry’s cold toes. His long furry snout brushed around Harry’s ankles and his tongue darted out. He looked despondent. 

 

“Harry!” Lupin’s eyes were wide with shock. “I have no doubt that you didn’t let them, it’s, it’s more,” He stammered, seemingly unsure of what to say. 

 

The fuzziness magnified tenfold in Harry’s ears. They did think he was helpless, and they were going to treat him like that from now on. Even though he’d handled the Dursleys on his own for ages. He knew how to fight back. Even at six he’d had a few ways of getting back at them.

 

“But I wasn’t helpless,” Harry snapped. “You’re acting like I was, and I wasn’t! Normally I can just run away!” 

 

Padfoot leapt to his feet with a growl, startling Harry into stumbling backwards and falling. He hit the ground and flinched as the dog barked loudly again. He realized with a terrified jolt that Padfoot was significantly larger than Ripper and had far sharper teeth. He pushed closer to Harry, nearly towering over him before Lupin shouted out a choked sound. He seemed to want to calm Sirius down but was just adding to the noise. 

 

Immobulus!” Snape hissed. 

 

A thin grey light shot from Snape’s wand, covering Padfoot. He stiffened unnaturally and whinged again when he realized he’d been frozen in place.  

 

Harry scrambled out from underneath Padfoot and tore into the sitting room as the memory of Ripper biting and chasing him up a tree rushed through him. 

 

A loud crooning sound rang in his ears, but Harry couldn’t guess who’d made the sound or what they’d tried to say. He tried to dive behind Snape but a long arm caught him around the middle and tugged him up and away from the dog. He shoved his face into the fabric at Snape’s shoulder as his heart pounded in his ears. He desperately wished he’d thought to grab his invisibility cloak when he’d left the bedroom.

 

“Sirius!” Lupin’s strangled and exhausted voice echoed in the sitting room. “Please!” 

 

Maybe Sirius was mad at Harry. Maybe he really did think he’d been helpless and useless against the Dursleys. 

 

Harry couldn’t decide if he was angry with Snape or not. All of this was because he’d told Sirius and Lupin, but if he hadn’t, Harry would probably already be back in his cupboard. 

 

A low whinge rang through the room again and Lupin muttered a raspy sound. 

 

Harry shoved his hand over his mouth and tried to cover up his loud gasps as a heavy hand carded through his hair. He was torn between feeling humiliated and terrified. Despite feeling safer up high, a piece of him wished he’d just stayed put when Padfoot had jumped on top of him. 

 

“Harry?” Snape’s voice was quiet in his ear. “It’s not a matter of what you did, it’s how they behaved. Your godfather is an idiot and I loathe making excuses for him, however, I know him too well to think he feels you’re helpless. He’s championed your inclusion in Dumbledore’s plans for months.” 

 

An agreeable huff came from beneath Harry’s feet. 

 

The pounding sound in his head ebbed as Snape spoke, and Harry couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride in Sirius despite how scary he’d been. Dumbledore had tried to force him to abandon Harry all summer, but he hadn’t. It seemed like he’d tried any way he could to help both Harry and the Order. 

 

“Nor do I think you are helpless. If you were, you’d be dead.” Snape added. “Helpless is not a word I think anyone would attribute to your character.” 

 

He almost wished Ron or Hermione were here to help him. It’d be mortifying, but they’d at least be able to offer their opinions on how accurately Harry was thinking. 

 

“I think your godfather was trying to show how strongly he disagreed with your statement.” Snape sounded pained. “You’ll have to forgive his lack of social grace. Though,” Snape seemed to perk up. “You don’t need to forgive him anytime soon.” 

 

Harry uncurled slightly and frowned when he realized his right leg had fallen asleep with how tightly he’d held himself. He idly brushed his finger over his nose, wishing it was as comforting as Snape made it feel. 

 

“The longer you wait the more he might even learn.” Snape added. 

 

“Has this anything to do with awful Aunt Marge’s dog, Ripper?” Lupin asked. “Knowing if dogs are a concern would be helpful, especially for people like Sirius.” 

 

Harry looked down at Padfoot. From up high, he was still tremendously large, but far more docile and safe looking. Lupin must’ve cast the counter charm as he was no longer frozen and now sat silently at Snape’s elbow. 

 

“Some people, especially young children, do very well with dogs. Not everyone does though as we’ve just seen, and it’s no judgment on the person.” Lupin said. 

 

“I’m not young, I’m fifteen.” Harry muttered into Snape’s shoulder. 

 

He wished he’d just stayed in bed. He was tired enough to fall asleep on top of Snape and was desperate to have one night that wasn’t disrupted by drama from either himself or others. He’d thought he’d managed it earlier when he’d first gone to bed, but he’d been sorely wrong. He was glad Lupin, Sirius and Snape seemed to have come to some sort of agreement though, even if it had been at his expense.  

 

Snape had said he wasn’t helpless too. Sirius didn’t look like he thought Harry was helpless either. 

 

“I think it would be best if you tried to relax and sleep,” Snape said as he slid his fingers through Harry’s hair again. “It’s nearly three in the morning. I will no doubt have to meet with Dumbledore again in the morning, and I’ll need the knowledge that you’ve been safely taken care of to argue my case.” 

 

“He’ll certainly have a few choice words for us,” Lupin hummed and passed. His nose twitched several times and a concerned look washed over his face. “I’ll charm the front door. I think it’s worth noting that he’s in the hallway though.” 

 

Snape’s arms tensed around Harry and he twisted to look at Lupin. 

 

“I can smell him.” Lupin said. “He’s not pleased.” 

 

Padfoot rose to his feet and transformed back into Sirius. “I thought he didn’t know the address.” He said. 

 

“He doesn’t.” Snape answered.  

 

“Are we sure it’s him then? Could it be someone else?” Sirius’s eyebrows furrowed and he stepped lightly over to the door. “I don’t see anyone outside the peephole.” He turned back around and dragged his wand along the seams of the doorway. A trail of pale smoke hissed from the grooves as he whispered a spell. 

 

“I know what Dumbledore smells like,” Lupin said as he shook his head. “He might try to bring down the fidelius, or he might’ve gotten it out of Alice?”

 

“Alice can’t string a sentence together, he’d never get the address from her.” Sirius looked worriedly between Lupin and Harry. “Besides, he’d already be inside if he could see the place.”

 

Nausea curled through Harry at the thought of Dumbledore forcing him from his mum’s flat. He felt safer here than anywhere, aside from Hogwarts. Wormtail was a threat, but a relatively minor one if Snape, Sirius and Lupin were present. 

 

Harry knew they couldn’t apparate from within the flat, as no one had done so the entire time he’d been here, so they’d need to leave eventually. He also knew his portkey could break through anti-apparition wards, as he’d managed to get inside Grimmauld Place without a struggle despite never having seen someone apparate into that house either. 

 

Dumbledore was going to get his way whether they liked it or not, but Harry was used to that outcome. It’d be worse if he had to force them out, but he knew with the Dursleys that the appearance of compliance often led to Harry being given more room to escape. 

 

“What if I go to the Dursleys with Dumbledore and then portkey back here?” Harry asked, blinking up at Snape.



 

Chapter Text

 

“I think not.” Snape said immediately. His fingers carded comfortingly through Harry’s hair and his lips twisted as he thought. 

 

Harry frowned. He felt as if his idea was clever enough, and it wasn’t like he wouldn’t wind up back at the Dursleys at some point. He’d be forced to go back eventually. 

 

“You want to portkey, Harry? I don’t think we have a portkey to this flat. We could use the spoon I used to take you to the safe house?” Sirius asked as he lingered in the small hallway between the kitchenette and sitting room. The pale smoke he’d lain into the door continued to hiss and pop as it traveled up the thin cracks in the door. “I could get the spoon, but getting it past Dumbledore might be difficult.” Sirius’s wand dragged overtop the knob and seams, continuing to ward it as he spoke. 

 

Harry was curious what spell Sirius had cast, and if he might be able to cast it on Harry’s cupboard door. He wanted to know if it was a ward against people, and if so, if he could pick who to keep out.

 

Lupin’s eyebrows furrowed and he looked between Sirius and Harry before the confusion cleared from his face. 

 

“That’s how you got into Grimmauld Place, you portkeyed from Sirius’s safe house.” Lupin confirmed as he stepped closer. “You—” He started, stammering as the worry lines across his forehead deepened. “Did you-how could you have-did you find a portkey Harry? There isn’t really any other way!” Lupin’s voice grew with his worries. 

 

“Don’t strain yourself, Lupin,” Snape said as he turned from the door. “Lily hid a portkey there years ago, Harry was lucky Black had trapped him in the same room they’d initially hidden in. It isn’t a dangerous item.” 

 

Snape walked slowly back toward the bedroom. He flicked his dark wand upwards, causing the books and parchment scattered across the sitting room to float smartly back into a neat stack near the cauldron. 

 

“Lily hid—” Lupin began before cutting himself and turning his gobsmacked expression towards Sirius. 

 

The plush orange pillows atop the sofa doubled and arranged themselves across the quickly lengthening cushions. The coffee table rose and spun out of the way as a large bed quickly took its place. Harry wondered idly if Snape was as good at transfiguration as he was at potions. He seemed to be good at everything. 

 

He wasn’t very good at wards, Harry reminded himself. Sirius had pointed that out to Harry and yelled it at Snape earlier.  

 

“What?!” Sirius gasped, seeming to have gotten over his shock. “That’s how you got back?! Harry!” He darted from the doorway and lingered in front of them. “Harry please tell me you didn’t just find an old object in that house and assume it was safe!” 

 

“You hid your godson in a decrepit ruin. I’d have been shocked if he hadn’t attempted everything in his power to escape.” Snape snapped and jerked to a stop as Sirius held a hand up. 

 

“Right, alright,” Sirius pressed his fingers into the corners of his eyes. “I can-I messed up Harry, and I haven’t been able to apologize for that.” Sirius added as he breathed in deeply. “Please though, I cannot bear the thought of you finding random objects and disappearing with them though.” 

 

Harry’s fingers tightened around the soft wool at Snape’s shoulder. He knew why Sirius was worried. Hermione and Ron had voiced similar fears, though Ron had been willing to consider his mum’s necklace as a safe item from the beginning. He wished more people would be glad he’d found something to remember her by. Being told he had her eyes for the last few years had always been nice, but he’d wanted something tangible. The old ache for his parents had never dulled despite the stories and physical similarities. 

 

James's invisibility cloak was lovely for that reason. Harry could imagine his father disappearing beneath it and knowing James wanted Harry to have it gave it meaning. 

 

He had nothing from Lily until now. Nothing he could look at and imagine her with. 

 

It was hard to explain that one of Harry’s worst memories was one of his most precious as well. He had always remembered Voldemort’s awful high laughter and the bright green light that surrounded his mummy in her death, but with the dementors, he could also hear her tell Harry how loved he was. 

 

She said Harry’s name in a way that no one else did. 

 

He wanted her back. He wanted for her to come back this instant and tell Dumbledore to go away. 

 

“It wasn’t a random object.” Harry said in a rush of anger. “It was her necklace. It had her name on the note.” 

 

Sirius stared blankly at Harry. 

 

Snape hooked a finger around the chain at Harry’s neck and pulled the pendant from beneath the t-shirt. He held it up just enough for Sirius to see. 

 

“I agree, Black,” Snape began, letting the necklace drop back beneath Harry’s shirt. “Harry shouldn’t be grabbing items that could be dangerous, however, that mentality can become damaging and lead to panic around touching anything.” Snape said, raising a single eyebrow as he spoke. “Exercising caution and being intelligent is all that we can ask for.” 

 

Sirius stared at the spot where the necklace had been. He blinked dully several times before Snape’s mouth twisted in annoyance and he waved his arm at Sirius, silently ushering him to the side. 

 

“You found that in the old house?” Sirius croaked finally. “I saw it on her though, at the end. She had been wearing—”

 

“It was a copy,” Lupin said, stepping past the bed and curling a hand around Sirius’s elbow. “Doubtless James would’ve noticed if it had gone missing. We certainly would have.” 

 

Harry’s eyes flashed between Sirius and Lupin. They seemed to be a world away, despite discussing things that Harry had been both present for and knowledgeable about. 

 

“But if she’d had a portkey then why didn’t she use it!” Sirius hissed, his face flushed with anger. “Why would she have hidden it away?” 

 

“Sirius!” Lupin tugged at Sirius’s elbow, pulling closer. “Do you really think a portkey would’ve kept Voldemort away long term?” Lupin said. “Where could they have gone? He’d have found them somehow.” 

 

Snape flinched and his arms tightened around Harry briefly. 

 

“Anywhere!” Sirius wrenched himself from Lupin as he shouted. “Anywhere else, anywhere at all!” 

 

Harry’s jaw tightened as their voices rose during the argument. He’d been ready to shout at them and ask them to stop when searing pain burst from his scar. He clapped a hand to his forehead, pushing hard against the stabbing agony. 

 

Snape whirled around and snarled every foul word Harry had ever heard of. 

 

“Harry!?” Sirius’s worried voice followed behind them. Harry thought he could hear Lupin as well, but the combined nausea and pain wracked through him, making it difficult to understand. 

 

“I’m going to try and teach you a—” Snape’s voice dropped any semblance of words, and sounded as if he was speaking from underwater. His nervous tone made Harry begin to panic. The sound of his heart pounded in his ears, and he tried to listen despite his inability to make out anything Snape was saying. 

 

He was vaguely aware of being set on top of the cold island in the kitchenette. He thought he might faint from the deafening throb in his head. He couldn’t seem to press on his scar hard enough, he tried to push harder still, but he wasn’t even sure where his hands were anymore. It was hard to keep track of himself. Snape’s hands appeared in his line of sight, but Harry wasn’t sure what he was trying to do. The sitting room behind him had begun to tilt to the left and the colours rushed into a nauseating spin. 

 

Harry’s head rocked on his shoulders and his eyes slid shut. He couldn’t bear the thought of keeping them open any longer, if he had he was sure he’d just sick up down Snape’s front. 

 

He thought he could hear someone whispering, but it sounded like a woman. He was positive there was only Snape, Sirius and Lupin around him. 

 

An awful screaming sound forced his eyes open again, and Harry nearly screamed himself. 

 

A dark haired woman writhed violently in front of him. Her back spasmed and her arms bent backwards, her jaw opened too widely as she screamed. Harry was certain he’d have sicked up now if he could, but he didn’t seem to need to anymore. He slid slowly over the dark slick stone beneath his belly and curled protectively around the tattered and bloody black fabric of his master’s cloak. 

 

Failure, Bella.” His master’s sibilant voice turned breathy and the woman stopped seizing. Harry felt a brief pang of sympathy for her, he knew what Voldemort’s torture felt like. 

 

Please, my lord,” The woman sobbed. “We know now, my lord. We know it cannot be touched.” She flipped onto her stomach and dragged herself up onto her bloody knees. Her eyes had yet to leave the flagstones, and she smelled as distraught as she acted. Harry certainly felt she was honest. 

 

The woman’s harsh breathing filled the room. She lowered herself until her sweaty forehead touched the floor while her stained and thin fingers clenched around her ragged sleeves. 

 

What of the Unspeakable?” His master whispered. 

 

Madness, my lord,” The woman’s strained voice was painful in Harry’s ears. She spoke quickly, as if speed would help make up for her failure. “Same as the Longbottom's. Bode cannot speak.” She giggled at her own joke and looked up with a wide smile. 

 

A blood vessel had broken in one of her eyes and bled into the pearly white. Her pale face struck Harry as being horrifyingly similar to Sirius, though she was far skinnier than he was even after having escaped Azkaban. She seemed to remember herself moments after her mad giggling ended and dropped her eyes back to the floor with a sharp inhale.

 

Crucio!” Voldemort hissed. 

 

The woman’s neck cracked too far backwards and she screamed. 

 

Harry blinked and flinched. He wasn’t curled around his master’s legs and the cold stone floor had disappeared, as had the sobbing woman. They’d been replaced by a gaunt and terrified looking Sirius, who’s similarities with the sobbing woman were now eerily apparent. 

 

He finally threw up, though no one seemed bothered by it. It was vanished from his t-shirt quickly, and a hand rubbed comfortingly over his back. He wondered idly if he’d already thrown up tonight.

 

The woman was likely still being tortured, and Harry wondered if he should warn Sirius that his sister was with Voldemort. Maybe Sirius already knew. 

 

Harry wasn’t in his mum’s house anymore either, he realized. He was in a faded and patterned grey hallway. 

 

“I’ve set a ward. If Voldemort could see or hear us before, he no longer can. There is no telling how quickly he will break my spell however.” Dumbledore’s worried face appeared in Harry’s line of sight. “Severus, if you’d allow me—”

 

Harry shivered as he was pulled from Dumbledore’s reach. He vaguely recognized the blanket from his mum’s bedroom wrapped around him. 

 

“Absolutely not.” He heard Snape say. 

 

“Severus,” Dumbledore’s voice was soft as he spoke. “I cannot help Harry if I am denied access. I know how you feel.” 

 

“You don’t.” 

 

Harry was fairly sure that he was in Snape’s arms again as he could feel Snape’s low voice through his back. 

 

Dumbledore’s eyes turned steely, and his aged face seemed to close off. Harry wondered if he’d realized Harry was somehow back from wherever he’d gone. 

 

It felt as if someone had taken a hammer to his head. He’d never had this happen while awake, and he wondered if he’d have still dreamt it if he’d been asleep? He would’ve been asleep normally. It was nearly three in the morning, or it had been before he’d had a vision.  

 

Did he have a vision? Professor Trelawney had visions, but Harry was worried about having anything in common with her. He’d only seen her have a vision in a nerve wracking moment in his third year. He wondered if this made him a seer? Though, Trelawney seemed to see the future and Harry couldn’t help but feel he’d seen the present. 

 

Trelawney also didn’t seem to remember her visions after they’d happened. 

 

Harry remembered his. 

 

He didn’t think he’d ever be able to forget. He knew he wouldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. The woman’s pained screaming and her gruesome face would haunt him for a while yet. 

 

“You cannot keep Harry safe.” Dumbledore said, bringing Harry from his musings as he leant away and stood. “It is an impossible task. It’s admirable to try, my boy, but cruelly, impossible,” He flicked his wand over Harry, and the sweat soaking through his clothes dried instantly. “I would do everything in my power if it would help, but it won’t.”

 

“Albus,” Sirius whispered. “That can’t be true. He could stay with us in Grimmauld Place, it’s safe as houses.” 

 

“Unfortunately, Sirius,” Dumbledore frowned. “This has proven that it isn’t. Voldemort is able to possess Harry.” 

 

Harry blinked slowly. The thought of Voldemort possessing Harry was terrifying, but he was unsure if that was what had actually happened. He didn’t think Voldemort had possessed him, rather the other way around. Harry had possessed his snake Nagini, again. He’d done it before. He wasn’t very knowledgeable about possession, but Ginny was. She’d told them she’d never remembered anything from Voldemort possessing her. She’d had large blank spaces in her memory. There was nothing that could’ve filled the gaps either, she had been left in confusing places with concerning and scary amounts of blood or mud on her. 

 

Harry could guess that he was in the hallway outside his mum’s flat, and he was there because he’d had a vision and Snape and Sirius had gone to Dumbledore to get help. He wasn’t confused about where he was or what he’d just done, or, he was but he knew that if Voldemort had possessed Harry, they’d all be in far worse conditions. 

 

“That has not been proven!” Snape hissed at Dumbledore. “This is the furthest thing from proving it!” 

 

“Severus,” Dumbledore gently held a hand up. “You are tired, and I am tired. I’ve no doubt that Harry is tired as well. I will allow you to stay in this flat for the rest of the night, but come morning the boy will be back at Privet Drive. I will see to it myself.” 

 

“Albus,” Snape’s voice lowered. “If you put him in that house with that woman—”

 

“I will speak to Petunia.” 

 

“I will leave.” Snape continued, cutting over Dumbledore. 

 

Dumbledore froze and his icy eyes flickered over Harry’s head. 

 

“And what of your vow, Severus?” 

 

“The vow was to Harry.” Snape’s arms curled warmly around Harry. “It wasn’t to you.” 

 

Harry felt an odd calm come over him. He was sure he didn’t grasp the entirety of what was being said, or what it meant. Snape would leave. What would that do though? Snape was a spy, so they’d lose their informant. Snape was a very good spy though, so it had to be more than just losing an informant. 

 

Others, like Avery and Lucius Malfoy, seemed to be afraid of Snape to some degree. He knew now that his earlier dreamt vision had been very real and that Malfoy hadn’t been faking his fear. Avery feared Snape as well. He must’ve, or else he’d have outed Snape seconds after finding Harry in Spinner’s End. Snape had told Harry it had more to do with Avery’s fear of Voldemort, but Harry had a feeling that it had just as much to do with Avery’s fear of Snape. 

 

If Avery thought he could take Snape in a duel, he’d have brought him before Voldemort. Avery couldn’t take Snape in a duel. Neither could Malfoy for that matter. 

 

Would they lose the war if they lost Snape? 

 

Voldemort’s hissing voice echoed in Harry’s memory. He’d spoken on the night of his resurrection about his most faithful and trusted servant, someone who’d been at Hogwarts. 

 

Harry still didn’t know if he’d meant Barty Crouch Jr or Snape. It could’ve gone both ways. Voldemort believed Snape spied on Dumbledore. Dumbledore believed Snape spied on Voldemort. 

 

Snape was invaluable to them. 

 

Snape had made a vow to Harry too. Whatever had been required in the vow, Harry didn’t know, but Snape said he would choose Harry over the war, and Harry didn’t think anyone else had done that since his mum had stepped in front of Voldemort. 

 

That meant they’d lose the war though, and they couldn’t afford to do that. Harry couldn’t allow Voldemort to win. His mum hadn’t stopped Voldemort for him to win in the long run. 

 

“Please don’t leave Professor, I’ll go to Aunt Petunia’s.” Harry said, coughing around his painfully sore throat as he looked up at Snape. 

 

“Harry!” 

 

Several voices blended together until Dumbledore overpowered them with a shout for silence. 

 

“Harry,” Dumbledore lowered himself quickly onto his knees once more. “Tell me quickly and in as much detail as you can remember, what you saw.” 

 

“No.” Harry said as he shook his head, shocked at his own denial. 

 

Dumbledore blinked. For all that his face portrayed in its soft kindness and elderly wisdom, he couldn’t seem to hide the jagged crack of ugly needs and desires Harry’s denial had opened. The weathered age lines seemed to grow sharp and the twinkle in eyes dropped to reveal a painfully hungry look. 

 

Harry vaguely remembered a similarly hungry look in Tom Riddle’s eyes. 

 

“Harry,” Dumbledore started, his blue eyes magnifying as he sewed the ugly crack shut with a blink. “This is important to winning this war.” 

 

“So is my being included. You’ve been keeping things from me.” Harry said as he leant against Snape, feeling he’d need the knowledge of Snape’s presence in order to make it out of this conversation with Dumbledore. “If you don’t help me, then I can’t help you.” He added.

 

“Ah,” Dumbledore gave a soft, joyless laugh. “A Slytherin in the end, my boy.” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled again for a brief second. “The hat is never wrong, you know. It’s first decision is always correct, though you’ve proven that some students may convince it otherwise. We’re a bit past Hogwarts houses now though, aren’t we?” 

 

Harry nodded as a burning ache set in behind his eyes. The sudden shame of Sirius hearing Harry’s first house choice, especially given the changes in their relationship, gnawed him. Looking at Sirius had only made the pain worse.

 

His grey eyes had widened and taken on a more haunted look the more Dumbeldre spoke. 

 

Aunt Petunia and Dumbledore were alike in that they shared a preference for that style of punishment. A corner of Harry’s heart throbbed at the thought of comparing Dumbledore with Aunt Petunia. Harry was too well versed in this retaliation to ignore its similarities though. It was one of Aunt Petunia’s favourites. If she didn’t like the way Harry behaved, she’d slip one of his shameful secrets to someone. 

 

‘Dudley dearest, I’m not sure how Harry has a better grade than you, he can’t even see the chalkboard.’ 

 

‘I’m so sorry, Marge, Harry would come out to say hello, but he’s afraid of your sweet dog.’ 

 

‘Apologies Headmistress, Harry’s not a well adjusted little boy, he thinks he remembers his parent’s death. They died when he was one, of course.’ 

 

Dumbledore climbed to his feet with a slow and trembling inhale. “I am sorry, to the both of you, you know,” He said, sounding as if he felt every bit of his old age. “We always hurt the ones we love the most.” 

 

“Albus?” Sirius’s eyes were wide as he watched Albus’s measured steps down the hallway. 

 

“I meant what I said, Severus,” Dumbledore said as he flicked his wand. A sun bleached photo frame leapt from the wall and twisted outwards until it grew several sizes larger. Foggy glass softened into scarlet fabric and pinned itself over quickly protruding cotton until a plush armchair appeared in seconds and floated neatly to the floor, allowing Dumbledore to sink heavily into it. “You may have what’s left of this night. Harry has agreed to return in the morning. We will discuss further when we are all a little more well rested.” 

 

Snape rose as well and tucked Harry against his chest. It was probably for the better that Snape still held him, as Harry wasn’t sure he’d have been able to stand on his own. Snape stole through the hallway and back into his mum’s flat with Sirius following quickly behind. Neither acknowledged Dumbledore as they walked, nor said anything about his comment about Harry’s Hogwarts house. 

 

Harry wanted to go back in time. He almost wished he could go as far back as before he and Dudley had been attacked and avoid the potion, that way none of this could’ve happened. There wouldn’t have been a discussion about his cupboard and no mention of his Slytherin qualities.

 

No Snape, nor stories about Lily. No necklace, no flat. His mind supplied quietly. 

 

They slipped through the sitting room and into the bedroom as Sirius collected odds and ends, behind them. Harry realized belatedly that he hadn’t seen Lupin since before the vision. He wondered if Lupin was sick of Harry, and if his vision had been the last straw for him. 

 

“Harry,” Snape’s exhaustion spread across his face, darkening the already painfully purple circles beneath his eyes. “Are you alright?” He set Harry down on top of the bed and began rearranging the covers. 

 

“That was awful, Harry. Horrendous, please, are you alright?” Sirius asked as well as he kneeled beside Lily’s old bed. 

 

“A woman was being tortured in my-my vision.” Harry said, pulling his knees up to his chest. If neither of them acknowledged Dumbledore’s comment, then Harry wasn’t going to either. “She looked like she was related to you, your sister maybe. She said somebody called Bode is like the Longbottoms now and that they can’t touch something.” He relayed.

 

Sirius and Snape both paused. 

 

“My sister?” Sirius’s eyebrows rose and he blinked dumbly. “I don’t have a sister Harry, I had a brother.” 

 

“Well she looked just like you,” Harry said as he picked at a thread on his shirt. “Bella!” He jerked his head up, excited to have remembered her name before shrinking back down as the two flinched at the name. 

 

Sirius’s head sank onto the blanket and his fingers knotted into his hair. 

 

“Bella?” Snape asked. “Someone called her Bella?” 

 

“It can’t have been her, Snape. It’d be in the papers, they couldn’t have covered that up.” Sirius mumbled. 

 

Harry tossed a look between the two of them. He’d thought they’d have been more worried for her considering the awful way Voldemort had treated her, but the more Harry thought of it, the more she seemed to have relished the torture. Maybe she hadn’t needed saving. 

 

“Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry.” Sirius whispered and looked longingly at the doorway. Harry wondered if he’d go tell Dumbledore what Harry had seen. “My cousin. She’s completely mad, deranged.” 

 

Snape sat down to the right of Harry and eyed Sirius carefully. 

 

“She’s one of Voldemort’s most devoted followers. She adores him.” Sirius added.

 

“It was awful.” Harry said, trying to understand how she could adore him and let him torture her like he had. “He was really angry and she kept screaming.” Harry’s head brushed atop his knees and he squeezed his eyes shut as he curled inwards. His mum’s necklace warmed up, chasing away some of his fear. He couldn’t shake the image of the sudden jerk of the woman’s head cracking too far backwards though. It made Harry’s neck ache, and the memory of his own torture at Voldemort’s hands shot down his back. 

 

A wand waved near his ear, and Harry peeked out to find small colourful bubbles of light floating through the room. Sirius tapped his wand over Harry’s blanket, turning the cotton into soft fleece. 

 

The bubbles spun in slow, graceful arcs. Warm yellows faded into burnt oranges and back between the two. 

 

“This is one of my favourite charms,” Sirius said quietly. “The colours change depending on what you need and the glow never goes out.” He sat back on his heels and caught one of the bubbles on the top of his wand. It softened into a golden tone as Sirius brought it closer to Harry. 

 

Harry tried to say ‘thank you’, but the words were clogged in his throat. 

 

Despite having learned about Harry’s cupboard and his inability to defend himself from the Dursleys, Harry’s preference for Snape over Padfoot, and that he should’ve been sorted into Slytherin, Sirius hadn’t changed at all. He still loved Harry. 

 

“I don’t trust Dumbledore.” Sirius said as he climbed to his feet. “I’m going to watch the door. Moony should be back soon.” 

 

“Where did he go?” Harry asked. 

 

“He snuck out beneath your cloak when we realized that we needed help. He’s getting the portkey to the Black safehouse from Grimmauld Place in case we need a back up plan.” Sirius smiled slightly. “Dumbeldore’s right in some respects. It’s very difficult to keep you safe because Voldemort will do anything to get a hold of you. He’s wrong in thinking we shouldn’t try though.” 

 

Snape rolled his wand between his fingers as Sirius spoke, catching the bubbles and idly letting them go again.

 

“He,” Sirius started, breathing slowly before opening his mouth again. “Dumbledore relies on your good conscience, Harry.” He said. “He knows you want to do what’s right. It’s manipulative and vile, but he’ll use anything he can to win.” 

 

“Winning is necessary.” Snape added, his dark eyes flashing towards Sirius before landing on Harry again. “Winning does not require willful child abuse.” 

 

Sirius grimaced and nodded as he spun on his heel and left through the bedroom door. Harry worried the floating lights would disappear without Sirius to keep them going, but they hadn’t moved at all. They bobbed so slowly that Harry almost forgot they were moving at all. 

 

Harry thought idly of what it would be like to have lived in the soft bubbles. He imagined it would’ve been very calm. Far calmer than his life normally. 

 

Snape caught a bubble on his wand and snuck it beneath the one Sirius had moved closer. 

 

“This bedroom is similar to the one Lily had growing up,” Snape said softly. “Though her first was bright pink and orange, a phase which, you may have noticed by the state of the sitting room, she never quite grew out of.” 

 

Harry uncurled slightly and blinked at Snape. He tried to picture a room that had the bright pink colour from the shag rug everywhere, and wound up imagining a parody of Dudley’s bedroom covered in pink. 

 

“I often told her that she had a hideous taste in decor whenever we went shopping. To get back at me, she would colour pictures with the loudest and most obnoxious colours she could find and pin them up in my bedroom. She’d say it was ‘So we could have matching hideous taste’.” Snape said, waving his wand and changing the bubbles to bright pinks and oranges.

 

Harry felt a laugh bubble in his chest. He wondered what his parent’s room had looked like, and if her terrible decoration had made it into Harry’s room. 

 

“I bought her a set of similarly coloured ribbons for her birthday one year because she wanted to learn to plait.” Snape’s lips curled into a small smile and he tapped his wand over Harry’s hair, making several chunky plaits from the short strands. “She couldn’t figure it out on her own hair though, and begged me to let her try in my hair.” 

 

“Did you let her?” Harry asked, unable to keep the huff of laughter quiet at the thought of hundreds of tiny plaits throughout Snape’s hair. 

 

“Once she’d reminded me that I’d bought the ribbons in order for her to learn, I couldn’t say no.” Snape shrugged. 

 

He continued quietly telling Harry old stories and jokes he and Lily had shared until Harry couldn’t remember if he was actively imagining his mum running around parks and chasing Snape or if it was a dream. He knew he was warm and comfortable, and felt as if nothing could hurt or kidnap him. 

 

If it was a dream, it was incredibly pleasant. 

 

When he next opened his eyes, weak sunlight was peeking through the small window. 

 

It was morning. He’d managed to sleep despite his fear and nausea of the screaming woman. The horrible realization that he was going to have to explain himself to Uncle Vernon came over himself. Dudley was probably going to punch him in the nose, but Harry didn’t have to worry about his glasses at least. He hoped Aunt Petunia would lock him in his bedroom rather than his cupboard, but he was fairly certain that he’d be tossed inside that small space after taking one step in the house. 

 

He’d leave after Dumbledore left. He’d portkey away and be back with Snape, Sirius and Lupin. 

 

He slid out of bed and stumbled from the bedroom to find Sirius and Lupin still deeply asleep on the large bed in the sitting room. Sirius had curled half over Lupin, and seemed to be trying to bury his face in Lupin’s shoulder. Lupin didn’t seem to mind, he had one arm over his head and snored louder than Harry had thought possible. 

 

Snape looked considerably more awake than he had last night, and was drinking tea in the kitchenette as he thumbed through a large stained book. 

 

“Awake at last?” Snape asked as he set his mug down. 

 

Harry nodded and stepped over to the island. He tossed a look over his shoulder at Sirius and Lupin again, and half wished he’d stayed in the bedroom, if just to put off the inevitable. He jumped onto a stool as Snape pulled a second mug from the sack Lupin had brought the evening before. 

 

“How did Lupin get back in without Dumbledore noticing him?” Harry asked. 

 

Snape pulled the photo of him and his mother from his pocket and held it up. “I loaned it to him before he left last night. His return was a quiet, dull event and you slept through it, but I’d say it was a success.” 

 

Harry blinked confusedly and tried to wrack his memory to hear if Lupin really had portkeyed into his bedroom, but he could only come up with the hazy dreams he’d had of his mum plaiting Snape’s hair. He looked back over at Lupin and tried to imagine how quiet he must’ve been. 

 

“One hour.” Snape said, bringing Harry out of his thoughts. “You’ll spend no more than one hour in Privet Drive before you portkey away,” He turned and pulled out a packet of biscuits. “Dumbledore will likely linger to ensure you’re not collected immediately after he leaves. However,” Snape paused and looked pointedly in Harry’s eyes. “Should you feel the need to escape before the hour is up, do.” 

 

“If I feel the need?” Harry asked as Snape handed him a biscuit. 

 

“If anyone threatens to, or does hit you, you leave.” Snape said firmly. “If Petunia puts you in the cupboard, you leave—”

 

“She’s going to throw me in the cupboard the second Dumbledore leaves.” Harry said quickly. 

 

“Then, as I’ve said. You leave.” Snape repeated and took a sip of his tea. “I refuse to accept that house is your only truly safe option.” His trademark sneer curled across his face. 

 

Harry swung his feet and dunked a biscuit in his tea as he debated Snape’s comment. 

 

He would’ve thought Snape would want him to wait the full hour regardless of the Dursleys’s treatment of him. They weren’t evil and they hadn't ever tortured him like Voldemort had tortured that woman. They just didn’t like him. He knew that when they physically hurt him, that it was wrong, but putting Harry in a cupboard for an hour wouldn’t hurt him. He wouldn’t like it, but it wouldn’t hurt. It wouldn’t hurt physically.

 

It would only hurt emotionally. 

 

Emotional hurt was different. It was easier to reason with and argue about. He couldn’t very well argue his way around the black eye’s Dudley used to give him, but he could argue that Aunt Petunia did care if Harry was dying. She didn’t want to see him, or hear him, but he knew she would have cared if Harry was actively dying in front of her. 

 

“Harry,” Snape’s voice was firm as he set his mug down. “Promise me that you’ll leave if you’re put into that cupboard.” 

 

Harry’s eyes dropped to his mug, and he watched the biscuit crumbs spin and sink in the tea. If he left right away, was that proving that he was helpless? He didn’t want to stay in the cupboard ever again, hadn’t he decided last night that he’d never go back in there? What would he say to Aunt Petunia if she tried to put him in the cupboard? It was just a cupboard. Snape seemed to be making a bigger deal out of it than it needed to be. He didn’t want to be inside the cupboard because it was small and dark, not because there was anything dangerous inside. 

 

“Harry, please.” Snape as he lowered himself onto his elbows. He pushed his mug aside and looked closely at Harry. 

 

“But if I wait the hour Dumbledore will be less suspicious.” Harry met Snape’s dark eyes for a second before dropping his eyes back onto his mug. 

 

“Yes,” Snape nodded. “But Dumbledore can be dealt with. He is a man with whom we can reason, whereas Petunia, is significantly less reasonable and does not see you as a child. Regardless of your actual age, you are six.” 

 

“Okay.” Harry agreed with a whisper as he wound his fingers into his t-shirt. 

 

“Thank you.” Snape said. 

 

What Harry had hoped would take at least a few hours, ended up only taking 20 minutes. It was probably better handled sooner rather than later, but Harry couldn’t shake the intense feeling of foreboding. It felt like when the Dursleys had picked him up from King’s Cross at the end of term, only this time Harry didn’t have a year's worth of good memories to think of when he was left alone. He tried to find comfort in the fact that he wouldn’t be at Privet Drive for long. He’d be there for an hour or less. 

 

Sirius and Lupin tried to tell Harry that he’d be fine, but they echoed the same worries Snape had earlier, and stressed that Harry should leave sooner if he was worried. He wanted to remind them all that he’d grown up in the cupboard. He’d lived with the Dursleys for fourteen years, he wasn’t walking into his death. 

 

Though, they might have felt he was walking to his death, given how Snape had made Harry’s cupboard sound last night. 

 

He tried not to think about it. 

 

Soon enough he was standing once more in the faded hallway. He’d stowed his wand and invisibility cloak in his back pocket and searched Mrs Weasley’s hand-me-down’s for something that Aunt Petunia wouldn’t find suspicious and feel the need to wrench from him. His mum’s necklace was as hidden as he could manage as well. He didn’t think Dumbledore would want or care about it, but he didn’t know what Aunt Petunia might say if she caught sight of it. 

 

Dumbledore’s wrinkled face brightened at the sight of Harry, though Harry couldn’t say he felt the same way. The armchair he’d transfigured the night before had returned to a photo frame and the hallway was empty again. 

 

“Good morning,” Dumbledore said kindly. “I’d like to apologize first, Harry. I’ve thought about our conversation last night, and I can see how my behaviour these past few months has made me into a rather unpleasant person.” His hands folded over his wand and the twinkle reappeared in his eyes. “It was never my intention nor want to leave you with family who would harm you. I will speak with Petunia and you will feel safe at that house.” 

 

Snape’s eyes darkened and Harry felt the urge to hold his hand, much like Snape had done the first time Harry had left Grimmauld Place. 

 

Dumbledore’s apology went unanswered, but the old man didn’t seem too bothered by that. He held his hand out to Harry instead. “Ready to go?” He asked.

 

Harry wasn’t sure what made him do it, but he stayed standing next to Snape’s side, neglecting to reach out. He remembered that he used to do this with Aunt Petunia, often in public. She’d usually said something to set Harry off, but Harry knew that she’d get odd looks if he didn’t come to her like she wanted, and nothing bothered her more than being disobeyed and made a fool of in public. He knew subconsciously that this was a terrible idea, as it never ended well with Aunt Petunia, but if Dumbledore wanted to act like Petunia, Harry would respond to him as if he were her. 

 

If Dumbledore wanted Harry to leave, then he’d have to come get Harry himself. 

 

“My boy, I know you do not want to go,” Dumbledore said, still holding his hand out. “It is for your own safety though, and you said you would.” 

 

Harry stared quietly at Dumbledore. 

 

“Alright,” Dumbledore sighed and the twinkle died from his eyes. “I understand, Harry. I’ve been abominable.” He added as he stepped closer and reached down, grabbing Harry’s upper arm. His fingers were soft but his grip tightened as he tugged Harry away from Snape. 

 

Harry shouted a goodbye and noticed Snape giving him a short nod before the grey hallway spun into a blurry mess and as quick as they’d left, they arrived in the back garden of Privet Drive. 

 

Harry caught sight of Aunt Petunia watching them from the window in the kitchen. Her pinched face whitened as Harry and Dumbledore came nearer and she ushered them inside quickly.



Chapter Text



“Well?” Aunt Petunia asked. 

 

Dull blonde hair hung over her face and she’d thrown an apron over a stained pale pink blouse. Harry couldn’t see any jewelry either, not even her pearls. He’d almost have thought she wasn’t his Aunt Petunia, but he didn’t think anyone could manufacture the look of loathing in her eyes when she saw Harry. 

 

The last time Harry had seen her so visibly frazzled though, Dudley had sprained his wrist punching Harry after lessons in primary school. 

 

Dudley claimed he’d fallen off his bicycle, but Harry’d had a bruise for two weeks.  

 

“Good morning, Mrs Durlsey,” Dumbledore began. He pulled Harry into the kitchen with him and flicked his wand at the chairs, making three jump out from beneath the table. “Thank you for kindly allowing us to speak with you this morning.” He said as he sat slowly into Uncle Vernon’s usual spot.

 

Harry stayed standing, preferring to be on his feet in case this went terribly.

 

“I haven’t allowed you anything, you’ve done only what you’ve wanted to,” Aunt Petunia snapped and stared at the chairs as if they’d betrayed her. “If you have any decency you’ll put that thing away and talk like normal people,” She said pointing a skinny finger at Dumbledore’s wand. “Or as normal as you’re capable of pretending to be.” 

 

“Mrs Durlsey,” Dumbledore held a deceptively frail hand up. The twinkle in his eyes hadn’t quite returned from before they’d left his mum’s flat. “I know you’re not pleased to have Harry back so soon—”

 

“So soon!” Aunt Petunia’s voice rose before dropping abruptly. “Do you know what I’ve been dealing with?!” She hissed. Harry couldn’t guess if her stunted volume was because of neighbours potentially hearing or not. “My son has been irreparably damaged!” 

 

“I assure you Mrs Durlsey, neither Harry nor your son have been irreparably damaged.” Dumbledore tried to say, but Aunt Petunia continued over him. 

 

“You cannot!” Aunt Petunia slammed her hand against the table. “How can you possibly assure me of anything—” 

 

She continued on, but Harry stopped listening. 

 

He couldn’t fight the tremble bubbling up from his chest at her voice. He wanted to run to his cupboard and portkey to Snape despite only having been here for a minute. 

 

Dumbledore didn’t seem to understand Aunt Petunia’s anger. Had everyone forgotten Dudley had been affected by the potion as well? Dumbledore knew Aunt Petunia hated Harry, but he must think she was willing to look past her anger due to the potion having hit Harry as well. 

 

He was tremendously wrong about her if he felt that way.

 

Harry had been the reason that Dudley was eleven, even if he’d truly never had anything to do with it. The most important fact out of everything that had come to light, according to Aunt Petunia, was that Dudley was eleven. Harry didn’t need to ask her to know this, he’d grown up knowing Dudley came first. The fact that they’d both been targeted, attacked and that Harry was similarly de-aged, had barely featured in her concerns. 

 

She loved her son. Harry hated to compare her to Lily, but the comparison stood, they both loved their children. How could Aunt Petunia allow Harry, who had been at fault for this entire mess, back into her home with her son still under the effects of the potion?

 

There was nothing Dumbledore was going to be able to say to soothe Aunt Petunia, and unless he could immediately fix Dudley, there was no way she was going to calmly allow Harry into her house. 

 

For all of Harry’s mix of anger, shame and fear at his aunt though, he couldn’t ignore her feelings. She was right. 

 

Dudley had been attacked. He’d been hurt, and despite Harry’s immense urge to ignore the effects of the potion on Dudley and let him experience a few days of misery, Harry couldn’t help but feel at fault and ashamed. If Dudley had been walking alone, it was unlikely he’d have had this happen. 

 

He didn’t like Dudley, but being this small was hard. 

 

If Aunt Petunia had been attacked, or Uncle Vernon even, perhaps Harry’d have an easier time being allowed back into Privet Drive. 

 

“Potions mishaps occur with relative frequency, Mrs Dursely.” Dumbledore said, raising his voice to a commanding tone. “I will ask that you wisely remember that. As for Harry and your son, they shall be returned to their proper ages as soon as a cure is brewed.” 

 

Aunt Petunia pinched her lips so tightly together that a white circle appeared around them. 

 

“Additionally, due to the nature of their ages, I will be adding a few security measures to your home and the surrounding neighbourhood. It would be unwise for your neighbours to notice their friends are significantly younger than normal. We do not want any further harm to come to you or your family because of this. I have never wanted any harm to befall any of you at all,” Dumbledore said, tossing an apologetic look toward Harry. “That this occurred has certainly shown me the dangers still present in even the most secure locations.” 

 

“That's it?” Aunt Petunia asked as she crossed her arms. “That’s all you have to say?” 

 

Uncle Vernon had probably left for work, or Harry felt Dumbledore would’ve already been shouted out of the house. Harry would likely not have been allowed in. 

 

“I apologize for you and your family having been embroiled in this conflict,” Dumbledore said. “It is a weight I would not wish upon anyone, however,” He sat up and folded his hands over the table. “Had you handled this as responsibly as you should have, it is unlikely Harry and your son would still be in this condition.” 

 

Aunt Petunia’s eyes flashed as she stared at Dumbledore and her fingers clenched around her elbows. 

 

“It is no secret that you have not cared for Harry as you should, but I cannot change the past,” Dumbledore continued, seeming to ignore Aunt Petunia’s fury. “Had you cared for him, you might not have forced him upon Severus, and thus, allowed Severus the unencumbered time to brew a cure.” 

 

Harry blinked. Snape had been brewing and attempting to brew throughout the entire time Harry had been with him. He’d also tried to help Harry with the sudden emotions and reactions that came with being small, but he’d never neglected to work on a cure. It felt like Dumbledore was making their present ages Harry’s fault for having slowed Snape down. 

 

He didn’t need Aunt Petunia having another thing to be angry with him about. 

 

“Get out.” Aunt Petunia said finally. “Leave the boy, and don’t come back without a cure.” She spun on her heel and left the room then. 

 

The tremble running through Harry rattled in his chest. He wanted her to tell him her plan, was he going to be ignored or forced into the cupboard? Snape had said he should leave immediately if that was the case. Maybe he could go up to his bedroom?

 

“I will be here for a little while as I update the wards. I will also ensure that your aunt is aware that any mistreatment will be addressed swiftly and severely before I leave.” Dumbledore said to Harry as he rose from the chair. 

 

Harry stared blankly at Dumbledore. How long was a little while? Was it more than an hour or less than an hour? 

 

“It might be a good idea to apologize, if you feel your aunt will be receptive,” Dumbledore added before pushing in his chair. “You aren’t responsible of course, my boy, but perhaps the thought will count?” 

 

He stepped slowly down the hallway with his wand pressed to the wallpaper. Thin, nearly imperceptible threads of silver trailed from the tip and melted into the house as Dumbledore muttered a spell.

 

Harry couldn’t imagine apologizing to Aunt Petunia. He didn’t want to. She’d put him in a cupboard for ten years, she didn’t much deserve an apology. 

 

He wondered what Snape would do. Would Snape have yelled at her about the cupboard? 

 

A loud thump echoed from above and hushed voices quickly followed. Harry inched around the corner into the hallway and lingered near the bottom step, wondering again why Aunt Petunia had looked so unprepared. 

 

She’d been prepared through most every event in Harry’s life, the owls that had attacked their house when Harry hadn’t received his letter, Dobby having destroyed the pudding when Harry was twelve, even when Aunt Marge had blown up. She’d handled magical mistakes poorly, but she’d never let it physically show. 

 

The steps croaked beneath his feet as he breathed deeply and climbed the stairs. The idle thought that he was dropping dust and spiders onto his mattress in the cupboard sprung in his mind, and he tried to move a little gentler in case she did throw him in there when Dumbledore left.

 

Dumbledore murmured something from below him, and Harry spared a second to watch as he worked. 

 

What did he think speaking with Aunt Petunia would accomplish? She hated Harry and she would behave as she liked. Dumbledore had never had an issue with how Snape had treated Harry or his friends through the last four years, he seemed to have thought it was average or if not average, at least not inappropriate. What was he going to say?

 

‘If you find yourself wanting to lock Harry in his cupboard, don’t.’ 

 

Harry scoffed and climbed the stairs. 

 

Scrapes and scuff marks dirtied the wallpaper next to the staircase, as well as the wooden posts leading up to the second landing. 

 

Harry wondered if Aunt Petunia just hadn’t bothered to clean, and without Harry around to pick up the extra work, the house was left unmanaged, but he shook that thought from his head. It was highly unlikely Aunt Petunia just let the house get dirty. She was houseproud and she never let anyone forget it. 

 

He jumped up the last few steps and rounded the railing, aiming for Dudley’s room. It was dim upstairs despite the bright morning light. All the drapes had been pulled, blocking any of the neighbours from seeing inside, making it almost reminiscent of Grimmauld Place. If not for the oppressive floral wallpaper, muggle photos and artwork, Harry could’ve easily pretended he was back with Sirius. 

 

Maybe Dudley had taken being young harder than Harry had. Harry knew all too well how difficult it was. Dudley was eleven though, which was a far sight better than six. 

 

Harry ran his fingers along the dusty radiator in the landing and peeked through the open door. 

 

“Come along now Diddy Dumpkins,” Aunt Petunia said, her voice crooning. “Let's get ready for the day darling.” 

 

Harry couldn’t keep from rolling his eyes. She couldn’t be thick enough to actually treat Dudley as a child, not when she knew he was mentally fifteen. It should’ve been obvious, especially after having spent the last week with him. 

 

“I’m tired, Mummy,” Dudley whinged. 

 

A concerned and ugly shock burst through Harry’s chest and he felt his eyes widen as Dudley rolled over to tug his covers over his head. 

 

Dudley hadn’t called Aunt Petunia ‘Mummy’ since he’d been actually eleven. 

 

“I know popkins,” Aunt Petunia continued on as if she hadn’t noticed the oddity. “But if you get up earlier today, you’ll sleep better tonight!” She added as she moved around the disaster of a bedroom, stepping over t-shirts and trousers. Dudley had never been tidy, so that wasn’t unusual. What was strange however, was miniature action figures and Lego’s. They’d been scattered through the room, arranged as if someone truly had been playing with them but just neglected to pick them up. 

 

Why was Dudley playing with toys if he was fifteen?

 

“We’re going to have French toast this morning, you love French toast, don’t you darling?” Aunt Petunia plucked a few of the toys from the floor as she spoke. 

 

“I don’t want French toast, I want to leave this house!” Dudley screamed and sat up. 

 

Harry swung around as the sounds of a tantrum burst from the room. He ran to his bedroom, hoping to avoid hearing the loud shrieks as he tried to wrench his door open, but found it was locked. 

 

His fingernails scratched over the brass knob as he twisted it desperately several more times. 

 

Dudley was too young. Why was he acting so much younger? Had Harry been acting like this? All the times he’d panicked and Snape had helped him, had it been because Harry had been too young? 

 

Harry felt ice slip down his throat. Lupin had asked Harry if he’d thought he was acting younger, and Harry said he wasn’t. He didn’t think he had at the time. Was he wrong? 

 

“It’s locked.” Aunt Petunia said from behind him. 

 

Harry whirled around and his heart stuttered in his chest. He tried to breathe and remember that Dumbledore would know about the portkey and find him immediately if he portkeyed when the man was still in the house. 

 

“Why?” Harry breathed. “I’m not even in there.” 

 

“Because Dudley thought your things would fix him.” She snapped. “If you’re going to be here, you’re going to make yourself useful. Start breakfast.” 

 

“But,” Harry blinked dumbly as Aunt Petunia twisted and stepped into the bathroom. He followed her quickly and tried to shove his anger down. “I can’t reach—” 

 

“I don’t care!” Aunt Petunia hissed as she pulled down a washcloth. “Stand on a chair if you have to, but make yourself useful!” She spun the tap knob to the side and threw the cloth into the sink, splashing water over the countertop. 

 

Harry had cooked when he’d been six originally, but it had never gone well. He still had shiny burns along his hands from the oil and hot pots and pans he’d accidentally touched. He remembered Uncle Vernon telling him that if he didn’t want to be burned, he should stop messing about, but Harry knew he hadn’t been irresponsible. He’d been six. He’d had the motor control and thought process of a six year old. 

 

He shuddered at the thought that he might be six now. He needed a way to be able to prove it definitively, but he didn’t know how. Hermione would probably know how, but she wasn’t here. 

 

Aunt Petunia wasn’t going to make him cook. It was ridiculous. 

 

“Dumbledore is still here,” Harry said darkly. “I don’t think he’d want me to cook when I can hardly use a pencil.” 

 

“Then he doesn’t want you at this house, does he?” Aunt Petunia said. She rang the washcloth out and shoved past Harry. “Dudley is a child, he can’t make breakfast on his own. He needs help.” 

 

“I’m a child too!” Harry shouted back following quickly. “I’m younger than him!” 

 

Aunt Petunia pivoted on her heel. “And whose fault is that?!” She asked with a furious noise. 

 

“Mrs Dursley,” Dumbledore’s quiet voice froze them both. “I’d like a word before I progress to the surrounding neighbourhood.” He lingered calmly on the stairs twisting his wand through his fingers. He flicked it upwards after a moment, causing Aunt Petunia to let out a shriek as a shower of gold sparks exploded quietly from the end. 

 

Harry almost wished the sparks would burn through the carpet, but they sank harmlessly, leaving no trace of ever having been there. 

 

“Was I unclear when I told you to leave?” Aunt Petunia asked, squeezing the wash cloth so hard that it soaked into her shirt sleeve. 

 

“On the contrary, I shall be leaving momentarily,” Dumbledore answered. “Perhaps we may first speak in the kitchen?” 

 

“No?” Aunt Petunia said, turning to face him. “Get on with it.” 

 

“Harry, maybe you’d be more comfortable in your bedroom?” Dumbledore asked. 

 

“It’s locked.” Harry snapped. His fingernails dug into his palms and he tried to push his anger down. 

 

Dumbledore’s eyebrows rose reproachfully, though whether that was directed at Harry or Aunt Petunia, he couldn’t guess. 

 

Dumbledore pulled his wand out and flicked it at the lock. The knob clicked, spinning the left, and pulling the door open. He laced his fingers together below his waist. “If you would allow myself and your aunt a moment to speak then?” 

 

Harry craned his neck and stared at the scratched brass knob.

 

If he went into the bedroom now, would they let him back out? Why had Dumbledore only unlocked the main lock, why hadn’t he gotten rid of the other locks or the cat flap? He couldn’t have missed the cat flap, it was fairly large. He’d also said he would talk to Aunt Petunia about ‘mistreatment’, but what did that mean? Harry wanted to be present for that conversation, as he was undoubtedly at the center of the topic. 

 

He turned back around and stared at Dumbledore. “I think I should—” 

 

Aunt Petunia lunged forward, grabbing Harry’s upper arm and dragging him into the bedroom. 

 

“Get off!” Harry shouted and kicked out, trying to force her off. Her fingers were like iron around his arm and her grip only tightening as he struggled. Her sharp nails pinched as she held him up just enough so his toes grazed the floor. 

 

“Do not make this more difficult than it already is!” Aunt Petunia whispered harshly in his ear before dropping him onto the carpet and storming from the room, slamming the door as she left. 

 

Harry shuddered and tried to contain a low whinge. He needed to organize his thoughts. The roaring wave of emotions building in him was impossible to ignore however, and he scrunched his eyes shut against the burning tears threatening to fall. He wrapped his arms tightly around his middle and tried to pretend it was Snape’s hand brushing warmly over his back. He just needed to last the hour. In a little while, he’d be back with them. He needed to stay put until Dumbledore left and then he’d portkey away. If he was lucky, he might be able to stay up here for the rest of the hour anyway. 

 

He should be part of conversations about his own treatment though. 

 

Sitting up, he tossed a look around the room and grimaced. Maybe Aunt Petunia had been right to lock the door. 

 

His sheets had been pulled up and the mattress was half off of the bed frame, to say nothing of his wardrobe. Dudley must’ve gotten so angry at the lack of useful things around Harry’s bed that he’d torn through his wardrobe in a fit of rage. The loose floorboard had remained intact though, as had the small wobbly desk. 

 

Harry sat up, deciding that he’d throw his cloak over his head and sneak downstairs to listen, regardless of what Aunt Petunia or Dumbledore thought. Before he could reach the door however, it swung open, revealing a red-faced and sniffling Dudley. 

 

“You!” Dudley shouted, jerking back at the sight of Harry. “What are you doing here?”

 

“What are you doing here?” Harry said, ignoring his question. 

 

“I’ve been trying to find a way to fix myself, you tosser. Are you here to finally fix me?” He asked, crowding closer to Harry. 

 

Harry stumbled backwards, trying to put some distance between the two of them, but Dudley only stepped closer. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to be shorter and thinner than Dudley, it was however, unusual to be so significantly smaller than him. If Harry was feeling generous, he’d say he stood a bit taller than Dudley’s puckered elbows. 

 

He didn’t fancy seeing what damage Dudley could do with such a large size difference. 

 

“Not at the moment.” Harry answered, trying to peer around the side of him. There was enough room to escape, but Harry knew he wasn’t the most coordinated in this body, and Dudley would likely be much faster. “But erm,” He still couldn’t shake the guilt he felt at having included Dudley in this mess, even if he had nothing to do with it. 

 

A voice that sounded like Hermione’s whispered in the back of his mind, burningly curious if Dudley was eleven or fifteen. 

 

“I have a question though,” Harry said. “It’ll help me fix you faster!” He added quickly when Dudley’s face reddened further and he puffed up as if he were going to punch Harry. Given his baggy shirt, it was almost difficult to tell that he was breathing heavier, but Harry knew the slighted expression in his watery blue eyes too well to have missed it. He wondered if the shirt had been Harry’s, and that's why it was so large on him.

 

Well, they’d have been Dudley’s initially, but he’d never wanted them back once they’d been passed to Harry. 

 

“Fine, but no funny business.” Dudley said in a way that reminded Harry unpleasantly of Uncle Vernon. 

 

“Right, never.” Harry nodded. “Don’t take it the wrong way either, alright? I’m in the same mess as you, even though I’m younger.” He started, trying to appear more confident than he felt. Dudley didn’t know enough about magic to realize that Harry would be absolutely no help at all, despite his having seen how useless Harry had been after they’d initially been turned into children. “I know we're both physically younger, but what about your thoughts?” He asked. 

 

“My thoughts?” Dudley repeated dumbly. 

 

Harry hummed in agreement. “Right, do you think you’re, erm, fifteen?” He asked, trailing lamely toward the end. “Not-I know you know that you’re fifteen, but do you think you might also be eleven?” 

 

Dudley’s face hadn’t changed in colour, but a snarl half formed across his lips and he leant closer to Harry. “I’m fifteen.” He said firmly. 

 

“Then why are you playing with toys?” Harry asked as his heart pattered in his chest. “Why did you call Aunt Petunia, Mummy?” 

 

Dudley blanched and his hands balled into fists. This line of questioning was quickly devolving. Dudley had never appreciated having his actions called into question, and Harry wondered why he’d thought this attempt to gain more information was going to be helpful.

 

“I wasn’t!” His eyes narrowed and he crowded closer still to Harry. 

 

“Then why were they on your floor?” Harry’s eyes flashed over his small room. Dudley was too close and his escape routes were disappearing by the second. 

 

“I was bored, alright? Mum doesn’t let me out of the house! I know what age I am!” Dudley snarled and his arm darted forward, snatching Harry by the collar and catching the necklace beneath his t-shirt. “How is what age I think I am supposed to help anyway?!” He shook Harry, and his fingers tightened, causing the fabric around Harry’s neck to constrict. The chain of his mum’s necklace bit into Harry’s skin, and the pendant warmed, though it did nothing to help Harry feel better. 

 

Dudley flinched at the heat and pulled the chain closer. 

 

“Let go!” Harry’s voice was strangled as he tried to rip Dudley’s hand from him. 

 

“What, are you wearing jewelry now?” Dudley sneered as his hand fisted around the chain and he pulled the necklace up. “Are you a poof? Is this your boyfriend’s?” He tried to tug the chain off, but Harry grabbed tightly onto Dudley’s arm and leveraged himself up. His ratty trainer grazed Dudley’s chin as he kicked out. 

 

“Leave off Dudley, I’m trying to help you!” Harry said. Dudley’s fingers were too strong and Harry was too small to be able to force him to let go. 

 

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you waking us up all the time. ‘Oh Cedric! Cedric, I’ll save you!’ Is this Cedric’s necklace?” Dudley asked as he tried to tug the necklace over Harry’s head. Harry gave up trying to force Dudley’s hands from his collar and held as tightly to the necklace as he could, but Dudley wrenched it from his head. 

 

Dudley paused, blinking at the gold pendant before he leant back and threw his weight forward, punching Harry square in his right eye. Pain burst from Harry’s head and he shouted as Dudley abruptly let go, dropping him onto the carpet. Harry felt a sob stuck in his throat, but he tried to push it down. His head throbbed and eye hurt tremendously. 

 

It was much more painful than he remembered it being, but Harry tried to argue that it only hurt so much because Dudley was so much larger than him. He sucked in a breath and thought of all the times Dudley had beaten him up. He’d lived and been fine after a few days, he’d never been so hurt he couldn’t move. 

 

He was fine, he just had a black eye. 

 

“Are you gonna cry about it? Go on, Potter, are you a baby or are you fifteen?” Dudley’s voice cracked as he mimicked a high voice. 

 

Dudley scoffed and turned around, throwing the necklace on the ground and lumbering slowly from the room. 

 

Harry swallowed heavily and tried to breathe. Snape’s voice murmured wordlessly through his ears, and he wondered if Dudley having hit Harry meant that he could leave now, but Harry wasn’t sure. Dudley had hit Harry hundreds of times when they’d been younger, often in front of other kids and sometimes teachers, though the teachers never seemed to mind. 

 

Snape had said that he knew Harry wasn’t helpless, but if Harry left before staying for barely ten minutes, they’d certainly think he was a useless kid. He wasn’t. He’d prove to them that he’d grown up in this awful house and that he could handle an hour here.  

 

Besides, he couldn’t leave if Dumbledore was still here, especially not if the man might check on Harry before he left. He hadn’t said he would, but Harry almost wished he would. If just so he could see Harry’s black eye. 

 

Harry sat up and gently cradled his head against his knees, trying to stave off the headache that built behind his eye. He wasn’t going to cry about it, despite how much he wanted to. He needed to throw his cloak over his head, go downstairs and listen to whatever was left of the conversation between Aunt Petunia and Dumbledore. 

 

Lupin had been right when he’d said Harry had been acting younger. If Dudley had been fifteen, he wouldn’t have hit Harry. He was a bully, but he didn’t hit people he knew were physically too small to take it, and Harry certainly qualified as too small at the moment. When Dudley had been eleven though, he’d hit anyone he could whenever he liked. 

 

Dudley was eleven and Harry was six. He couldn’t tell if Dudley was entirely eleven, as his jibes had been too reminiscent of his typical fifteen year old self, but any self control he’d had at fifteen had flown out the window. 

 

He crawled slowly to his feet, giving his head a few seconds to rest as he stood. It’d be more helpful if Harry knew what Dumbledore had said and was planning. He grabbed the necklace from the floor and pulled his cloak from his pocket, throwing it over his head before making his way down the stairs. 

 

“Mummy! I’m hungry!” Dudley’s voice echoed from what sounded like the kitchen. Harry peeked through the doorway, expecting to find Aunt Petunia and Dumbledore, but instead he watched as Dudley’s rifled through a glass jar before sneaking a few chocolates into his pockets. 

 

“One minute, Dudley.” Aunt Petunia called back. 

 

Harry followed her voice into the sitting room, spotting Dumbledore at last. He was perched on the end of one of Aunt Petunia’s floral armchairs. His furrowed eyebrows hung sternly over narrowed eyes and his mouth was set in a thin line, nearly invisible beneath his mustache. 

 

“He must stay here for his own protection, Mrs Durlsey. You have already spent fourteen years raising your sister’s son, and I expect there will be a few more yet to come.” Dumbledore said. “I think she would be grateful he was with family, but I fear what she would think of his mistreatment.” 

 

“It doesn’t much matter what she would think, does it.” Aunt Petunia said. Her pale skin had whitened further, and her fingers clenched around the now dry cloth in her hands. “She’s dead.” 

 

“We cannot continue to dwell on what has already been—”

 

“Yet you continuously force me to endure her memory in my house!” Aunt Petunia sat forward. “You dump me with a child you cannot protect after murdering my sister who you also could not protect! What use are you?” She snarled. “What use has any of your—” She stammered and pointed with the cloth wrapped around her fist at his wand. “What great help has any of this been!?” She glared into Dumbledore’s flat blue eyes. 

 

“Harry is alive because of his mother’s magic.” Dumbledore answered softly. 

 

“Again, no thanks to you.” 

 

Dumbledore didn’t seem to have an answer for her. He blinked slowly, sighing as the years of pain and failure appeared on his weathered face. 

 

Aunt Petunia stood and paused above him. “He may stay here, but I will treat him how I see fit. If you want him in this house, you’ll tolerate my choices. I know you people have laws against causing damage to normal people.” She said sharply. “You might think you have more power than I do, but remember, I am the one that keeps that child.” 

 

The crack in Harry’s chest widened, and the urge to scream rose up in him. He’d grown up in this awful house, and never for even a moment, had his aunt felt anything but disdain for him. He’d spent his childhood attempting to change her opinion and trying to make her like him. Every time he’d worked just a little bit harder to show her that he wasn’t useless, and that he would earn what it cost to feed and house him, had never swayed her for a second. She wasn’t mad at Harry even, she was mad at Dumbledore and Harry was just her way of getting back at him. 

 

All the faith Aunt Petunia had put in Dumbledore when his mum and dad went into hiding, all the hopes and fears and worries, had been for nothing. Lily had died. 

 

Harry couldn’t guess if she was playing into a manipulation Dumbledore had built though. Sirius had told Harry that Dumbledore relied on his good conscience, and maybe he relied on Aunt Petunia’s anger in that same way, but Harry couldn’t guess why.

 

He’d be more observant in the future. He wouldn’t let himself walk into a trap Dumbledore had woven together again. 

 

“Leave my house. My son is hungry and I need to feed him.” Aunt Petunia said, pointing at the door. 

 

Dumbledore rose slowly to his full height, and he leant closer to Aunt Petunia for a brief moment. “You are correct, Petunia, there are laws against harming muggles, but there are also laws against child abuse, and he the most famous child in our world. I’ll be back this evening to check on him.” 

 

Ice slipped down Harry’s throat again as Dumbledore slipped from the room and left out the backdoor. A loud crack rang from the garden seconds later. 

 

He was coming back. Was he going to come back every night? Hedwig wasn’t here for Harry to write to anyone and tell them, his handwriting was equally terrible and he wasn’t sure they’d even be able to read what he wrote. 

 

Could Harry leave and come back before Dumbledore realized he was gone?

 

“Mummy!” Dudley screamed. 



 

Chapter Text

 

Butter popped in the skillet, spraying Harry in a mist of boiling oil. 

 

He hissed in pain and stumbled backwards, bumping into the high wooden backing of his chair. His sleeves were soaked in batter, and no amount of dabbing at the burns was going to help. He couldn’t remember how he’d handled cooking when he’d actually been six. It was frustrating to be unable to pour milk without spilling a little on himself as well as everything around him or crack eggs without getting shells everywhere. Why Aunt Petunia had felt Harry would be helpful in the kitchen was beyond him. He’d burnt one slice of toast and nearly soaked the second in butter, leaving it too soggy to ever get crisp.

 

Dudley would raise hell over the state of it. He’d find anything to complain about though, especially after sobbing to Aunt Petunia over Harry’s asking him about his mental age. 

 

She’d been quick to sit Harry in front of the stove after that. She hadn’t helped him get the ingredients down either. He’d tried to lift the sack of flour, but had hardly been able to move it. He’d nearly given up before a vague memory of weighing ingredients out by scooping flour into drinking glasses and running to the scale had flitted by in the back of his mind. 

 

Easy solutions to ridiculous problems. 

 

Being made to cook wasn’t unexpected. None of Dumbledore’s threats had worked, but why would they? He knew she’d treated Harry like this when he’d been actually six, and she hadn’t been reprimanded for it then, why would she change now? 

 

If Harry were to guess, he’d say she knew exactly how much she could get away with before being caught. 

 

He’d debated staying under his cloak for the whole hour, but he knew Aunt Petunia would’ve found him eventually, and getting along with her until he could leave was safer than hiding for an hour. 

 

The butter popped again, and Harry ducked, accidentally knocking the spatula against the bowl and coating himself in batter once more. 

 

He tried to swallow an annoyed groan as his thoughts spun back to his worries. 

 

Would Snape be angry with Harry when he saw him? Would he be disappointed that Harry hadn’t been able to escape Dudley? 

 

He gently tilted his head and looked at the clock on the wall. Twenty minutes left before he was meant to leave. Twenty minutes to think of any excuses he might need. His eye throbbed despite the paracetamol Aunt Petunia had given him. 

 

“Quit dallying!” Aunt Petunia said as she brushed into the kitchen. “At the rate you’re going you’ll never eat.” She pulled a plate from the cupboard and dropped them next to Harry, brushing annoyedly at a speck of dust. “When you are finished, you may have whatever is left, Dudley wants three, and you’d do well to put a fourth aside in case he asks for seconds.” 

 

Harry sighed and flipped the toast. She knew full well that he’d only made four slices. 

 

He wondered what Snape would think when he returned, and what he’d say. In spite of his black eye, he didn’t think either Aunt Petunia or Dudley had acted out of character or done anything actually bad. 

 

Snape had made him promise to leave if he’d been thrown in his cupboard, but he’d also said to leave if anyone threatened to, or did hit Harry. 

 

Would Snape be angry with him? 

 

Dudley had hit Harry loads of times when they’d been younger. No one had ever acted as if that was wrong, and if they’d thought it was, no one had told Dudley that. None of Harry’s primary school teachers had ever reprimanded Dudley, or told Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. 

 

The teachers had hated Harry though, and maybe they’d felt he’d deserved it. Aunt Petunia had convinced most of them Harry was either violent or a lazy degenerate. Maybe they’d felt he’d broken his glasses and given himself bloody noses in attempts to garner attention. He’d really just wanted an ice pack and sellotape, or for someone to stop Dudley. 

 

“You lazy—” Aunt Petunia snatched the spatula from him and grabbed his arm, tugging him off of the chair. “Go dust.” She said as she dropped Harry onto the floor and hefted the chair out of the way. 

 

“Where?” Harry asked, pressing a finger over his swollen eye. 

 

“Start in the hallway and move through the house, after that you can hoover and mop.” She said, flipping the toast. “You may eat when you’re done.” 

 

Harry spun on his heel and left, bypassing the cleaning supplies as he made for the stairs. He was leaving in less than twenty minutes and that time could be better spent hiding in his room. He wasn’t sure yet what they’d do to stop Dumbledore from checking in on him tonight, and ignoring Aunt Petunia might end up coming back to bite him, but his eye was sore and he was sticky and dirty. 

 

Would Snape be angry with him? 

 

The thought that he was going to appear on top of Snape, covered in flour and batter with a swollen eye nearly had him turning tail and hiding in his cupboard. 

 

What would Sirius and Lupin think? Would they think Harry was ridiculous? Would they think he couldn’t handle cooking, or Dudley? 

 

He couldn’t shake the mortification crawling through his belly. Snape had told Sirius and Lupin about Harry’s cupboard, and he’d made such a big deal over it that it seemed as if they felt Harry was some hurt child. 

 

He wasn’t. He was fine, absolutely fine. A small voice at the back of his mind had drilled that mantra into him. 

 

They’d all seemed worried Harry was being beaten by Uncle Vernon, if Snape’s rules were anything to go by. Uncle Vernon didn’t hit Harry often though, he preferred to grab his arm or hair too tightly and throw him in his room. 

 

The stairs croaked beneath his feet as he climbed to the second landing and made for the bathroom. 

 

He might be able to wash the batter from his arms, but his shirt sleeves were done for. He was glad he’d tried to tidy up after himself as he cooked, or else Aunt Petunia probably would’ve kept him in the kitchen with her.

 

He stepped quickly into the bathroom and shut the door behind him, all the while wishing it locked. It wasn’t even Harry’s fault the lock was missing. Dudley had fallen in the shower when he’d been nine, and having locked the door behind him, nearly gave Aunt Petunia a heart attack. Uncle Vernon ended up kicking the door down. 

 

All the same he wished he could lock the door. 

 

He caught sight of his eye in the mirror and grimaced. Shiny red skin had begun to turn purple in the corner of his eye. He didn’t have to guess to know Dudley was still aiming to break his glasses, despite Harry not needing them as a six year old. 

 

He climbed up onto the counter and spun the knobs on the sink as he tried to clean himself up. 

 

The Dursleys weren’t people Harry had ever willingly been around, but they weren’t as vile as Snape seemed to make them out to be. He wondered if he deserved their concern, given that no one had said anything was wrong for the first ten years of his life. 

 

Being stuck in a cupboard for hours had never been ideal, and he knew Aunt Petunia had no reason not to give Harry his own bedroom. 

 

‘You’re a destructive menace and until you can learn to be tidy, you’ll stay in there.’ 

 

Harry’d always been tidy. He never knew what destruction she’d been so angry about, as Harry had been less destructive than Dudley, unless Dudley was chasing him, in which case Harry’d knocked over anything he could in order to get away. 

 

“What are you doing?” 

 

Harry jerked, splashing water down his front as Aunt Petunia rapped at the door. 

 

“Washing my hands.” Harry said, glaring down at his stained and soaked jumper. “And my sleeves.” 

 

She clicked her tongue, and Harry could almost hear her thinking about the puddles of dirty water he might leave behind when he was finished. “I don’t have anything that will fit you at this size, so you’ll just have to make do if you get too dirty, and be mindful not to stain anything or track mud in my house.” Her voice echoed as she stepped down the hall and opened what sounded like the linen closet. “You can belt a t-shirt like you did before if you’re desperate, but I’m not going out to buy clothes for you when you’ll be fixed soon enough.” 

 

Harry scoffed in his head and took a moment to be grateful that he was leaving soon as he turned the sink off and hopped down from the countertop. 

 

“Vernon won’t be pleased when he sees you tonight, you’ll need to keep out of his way.” She added as she stepped past the door again. “I’m not pleased with you either, you have no idea what trauma you’ve caused Dudley.” 

 

His eye throbbed in his skull, and he debated throwing open the door and screaming about the trauma she’d caused him for all the good it would do. 

 

“We never asked for any of this freakish business,” Aunt Petunia muttered seemingly to herself as she climbed down the stairs. “Turning my Dudley young again, bringing that awful, disgusting boy back around—” 

 

Harry shivered as a tidal wave of emotions crashed over him. His thoughts rocketed through him, and the flood of new information he’d learned in the last few days cut through his fears and worries. 

 

Snape wasn’t awful. 

 

He might be angry with Harry when he saw him, but he wasn’t awful. 

 

Aunt Petunia was vile to anyone who had magic. It had nothing to do with who they were as people, she just hated magic. He knew now how angry she still was with Dumbledore for failing to protect Lily. 

 

He grabbed a hold of his mum’s necklace in his pocket and tried to ignore the pain that trickled through him as the small pendant struggled to hum with heat, but failed to help. Snape had been the one to tell Harry stories about his mum when Aunt Petunia had avoided doing so for fourteen years. Despite Snape’s best efforts, Aunt Petunia featured in some of his stories as well. He’d always been careful to avoid saying her name or even mentioning that another person had been present at the time, but it was impossible to truly wipe the effects her actions had left on him. His forehead would crinkle or his eyes would pinch as he spoke, and Harry could see as he skipped over the painful moments. 

 

She had stories of before they’d grown apart, she must’ve. That she’d kept even the most muggle stories from Harry felt cruel. He’d been waiting to hear stories about Lily for what felt like his entire life, and he finally had some now, in the form of Snape. 

 

Aunt Petunia had been the cause of Harry and Snape’s new relationship, as Dumbledore had said. Neither Dumbledore nor Aunt Petunia seemed to realize what she’d given Harry though. She likely felt Snape would be as unkind to Harry as she’d always been, given how they’d all interacted in the front hallway that first night. She probably felt Snape hated Harry as a way to get back at Dumbledore as well. 

 

Snape wasn’t though. He was stubborn and he could be cruel, but he’d seen past his own hatred of James and the loss of Lily and been kind. 

 

Both Snape and Aunt Petunia had been close to Lily, but Aunt Petunia couldn’t see past her life long grudge. Snape could. He was there for Harry when he’d truly needed someone, and he’d helped in any way he could. 

 

He wondered if Snape would’ve given Harry the necklace, had he kept it rather than mailing it to Lily. He had let Harry keep it after ensuring it was the original. 

 

Harry wished Aunt Petunia would’ve just told him about her hatred of Dumbledore as well, rather than taking it out on him for fourteen years in an attempt to get back at a man who had never checked in on Harry once. Harry’d grown up thinking he was diseased, nasty and not worth the ragged clothes on his back for a grudge that began years before he was born. All he’d wanted was a bit of love and care, and she’d never been able to consider him as someone deserving of it. 

 

Was he truly deserving of it? Snape seemed to treat him as if he were. 

 

Would Snape be angry with him? 

 

He blinked at his reflection in the foggy mirror, faintly remembering that Snape had said he looked more like Lily than James at this age. His eyes trailed over his small nose and around his good eye as he tried to imagine thick red hair falling around his face. 

 

Why couldn’t she talk about Lily? She clearly loved her sister, or else she’d never have been able to keep up her anger throughout Harry’s childhood. 

 

Harry turned and stared at white paneled door as his fingers twisted into his soaked cuff sleeves. He wanted answers. He wanted to know why she hadn’t given Harry the necklace and why she’d never been able to put aside her anger for him. Snape had managed to do it a day or so after realizing Harry wasn’t a bullying toe-rag. How come Aunt Petunia was so incapable?

 

Anger burned beneath his skin. His thoughts spun, repeating Aunt Petunia’s foul treatment over the last fourteen years in sibilant whispers. 

 

The light above the vanity flickered and crackled as the electricity sputtered. A faint burst of air arced around him, fluttering over hand towels as it carded through his hair. 

 

He wanted answers. He wanted her to tell the truth for once. 

 

He threw open the door and climbed down the stairs, nearly tripping over his clumsy feet as he rounded the kitchen doorway, finding it empty. The faint sound of cartoons and Dudley’s laughter echoed from the living room, and Harry spun in place, storming from the kitchen.

 

Dudley was sat in front of the coffee table, fork in hand as he made his way through the last few bites of his French toast. He tossed a bored look at Harry before turning back to the telly as a loud commercial for reruns of Mop and Smiff played across the screen, lighting up the dim room in bright colours. It looked as if Aunt Petunia had cleaned this room more often than the rest. It might be that she spent more time in here with Dudley however, as he rarely wanted to be away from his shows. 

 

“Get me another helping if you’re gonna hang about.” Dudley’s lips smacked as he spoke and he held his sticky plate out to Harry. 

 

“Where’s Aunt Petunia?” Harry asked, neglecting to take the plate. 

 

“Bathroom.” Dudley answered dully as he stared at the telly. 

 

Harry twisted and headed down the hall again, ignoring Dudley’s annoyed shouts for another helping. He stopped in front of the open door, watching as Aunt Petunia scrubbed at the waxy red crayon scribbled over the cupboards. 

 

“Why didn’t you let me have my mum’s necklace?” He spat, feeling the necklace’s chain biting into his palm. “And why do you hate Snape so much?” 

 

“What?” Aunt Petunia paused briefly in her cleaning to look up. “What? Did you finish dusting?” 

 

“I’m not dusting. I want to know why you wouldn’t give me my mum’s necklace and why you hate Snape.” 

 

“What neck—”

 

Harry wrenched the necklace from his pocket, allowing the lily pendant to dangle on the gold chain. A nervous voice whispered that she might take it, as she’d taken everything else from him, but he ignored it. 

 

He wouldn’t let her take it away, it was Harry’s now. 

 

Aunt Petunia’s face drained of colour and she sucked in a harsh breath before her lips pinched into a thin white line. “Where did you find that?” 

 

“Why didn’t you let me keep it?” 

 

Her hand flashed and she tried to grab it, but Harry tore it away before she could touch it. Her eyes narrowed and she stood to her full height, towering over Harry. 

 

“I had her buried—”

 

“It was a fake.” Harry snapped. “Why couldn’t you let me have one thing?” 

 

“It ruined her life!” Aunt Petunia shouted and swung down, attempting to grab it again, but Harry backed away too quickly. “I didn’t want you to follow the same path, but you were just the same as her, weren’t you?” 

 

“I’m her son!” Harry screamed. “Of course I’m like her!” 

 

“You ungrateful brat! You have no idea what I tried to save you from!” Aunt Petunia’s voice broke as she spoke. “Dead, at twenty one, do you understand how young that is?” She asked. “Do you realize that if she’d just been normal she’d still be alive? She could’ve married someone normal and had a normal child of her own to raise, rather than saddling me with you!” 

 

“She was normal!” Harry’s eye throbbed. “Witches are normal! Her having magic didn’t kill her! She was murdered!” He shouted. 

 

“Murdered by magic!” Aunt Petunia shrieked. Her cheeks we’re slowly darkening to an angry red the longer they argued. 

 

Harry swallowed around the lump in his throat. “But you take that out on me!” His eyes blurred and his anger melted despite how much he wanted to continue yelling. “I didn’t pick to have magic, I didn’t pick for my mum to be murdered, I didn’t pick for you to raise me. I had no control over where Dumbledore put me.”

 

“Do you think that matters?” Aunt Petunia sneered. “Do you think anyone cares how you feel? Who cared for my feelings!?” 

 

“You’re my aunt!” Harry shouted. “You chose to take me in!” 

 

“Who else was going to take you?” She tilted over him, leaning closer and lowering her voice. “No one wanted you, that you’re back here again shows just how unwanted—”

 

“That’s not true!” Harry said, feeling burning tears trailing from his eyes. That was a blatant lie and he knew it. 

 

Mrs Weasley had said more than once that she considered Harry as one of her own children. Sirius had said he loved Harry as well. 

 

No matter how logical he tried to be though, it didn’t change the overwhelming feeling that Aunt Petunia was right. She’d known Harry the longest. What if Harry couldn’t see what was terrible about himself? He didn’t know if it’d been an hour, but he wanted to leave now. He wanted Snape. Snape hadn’t lied to Harry. 

 

“Snape’s been kind, he might’ve—”

 

“Oh, of course,” Aunt Petunia snarled and made to grab the chain once more. Harry fell backwards as he dodged away. “He always wanted as much of Lily as he could get his filthy hands on. He killed her—”

 

“Help.” Harry’s voice cracked painfully and he clutched the pendant to his chest, unable to listen to her any longer. 

 

Aunt Petunia let out a shriek as a hook latched onto his navel and he swung through space. The sound faded quickly as Harry was spun from Privet Drive. 

 

Noise burst around him as a warm pair of hands caught him, tucking him almost too tightly against Snape’s chest.  

 

“Oh, thank Merlin,” Sirius’s voice rang loudly in Harry’s right ear. “You had five minutes left Harry, otherwise I was ready to—”

 

“Collect you,” Lupin said, cutting over Sirius. “Collect only, nothing dangerous. We were very worried Lily’s necklace wouldn’t be able to pass the wards.” He continued. His voice blurred together with Sirius, who talked at a nervously fast speed. 

 

Harry tried to swallow down the bubbling sob in his throat. Snape murmured in his ear, but he was too soft spoken to understand. His earlier mortification at landing on Snape in this state slammed back into him and he pressed closer still, despite already feeling somewhat crushed. Snape’s hand curled around the back of his head, and his long fingers slid gently through his hair. It was almost as if he was trying to soothe himself as well as Harry, as Snape’s breathing was slowing the longer he held Harry. 

 

She was wrong, there were people who loved Harry. They might be few and far between, but they were loads better than Aunt Petunia. Sirius had hidden in a cave last year to try and help Harry as much as he could, despite the horrible style of living. Ron and Hermione had been there for Harry through all sorts of horrible experiences and they’d always backed him up, even when they fought they still managed to make up. 

 

Snape had argued with Dumbledore for Harry to stay away from the Dursleys, and tried to help him in any way he could. 

 

Sirius loved him. 

 

“Harry?” Lupin’s voice broke through Harry’s thoughts. “Are you alright? Do you need anything?” 

 

He noticed then how quiet it had become since he’d landed.

 

“Some peace,” Snape said shortly. “To not be overcrowded, preferably.” 

 

“Right,” Sirius said. “Right, take a minute Harry, we’re on your time, just worried.” 

 

Harry nodded and tried to shove down pain hurtling through him. Aunt Petunia was wrong, obviously wrong. When he wasn’t actively listening to her, Harry could see that, though he wasn’t sure he believed it yet. She hadn’t answered any of his questions, and he wondered why he’d even bothered to ask. He knew she didn’t like to be asked questions about Lily. Her reaction was reason enough to never ask again. 

 

He pressed a hand against his good eye, rubbing away the tears. It was easier to breathe and get a hold of himself when he wasn’t listening to her awful words. 

 

Snape moved to let him down, but he clung to the dark fabric at his shoulder. Fear shot through him at the thought of forcing Snape to continue holding him, as Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had barely ever picked Harry up, and if they did they never let him stay with them for more than a few seconds. He never wanted to stay with them either, but he’d never been given the opportunity to decide when to leave. 

 

Snape seemed to miss his inner panic as slid into the armchair and settled Harry carefully onto his lap. Harry tried to remind himself that Snape hadn’t pushed him away or dropped him the entire time he’d been six. 

 

“Did you cook?” Snape asked as he ran his fingers through Harry’s hair again. “You’re covered in flour,” Harry could feel him brushing it from his jumper. “And batter.” 

 

“It’s French toast.” Harry murmured. 

 

He took a deep breath and pushed himself up, having finally wrangled some semblance of control. His face still felt sticky from the trails of tears. They were in his mum’s flat again. The bed had been transformed back into a couch, and books and ingredients were sprawled throughout the space, though there was nothing brewing in the cauldron. 

 

He’d half forgotten about his black eye until Snape’s thumb pressed gently over the swollen skin. 

 

Icy panic burst through Harry. Snape would likely be able to tell Harry hadn’t left the second he’d gotten the black eye, given the colouring, but Harry didn’t know how to voice his worry over whether Dudley had counted as someone who could hurt him. 

 

Obviously Dudley had hurt him, but no one had ever reacted to Dudley hitting Harry before. 

 

“Dudley, he-erm,” Harry stammered, wishing he’d spent more time thinking of helpful things to say. “He was playing with toys, and I asked him if he felt eleven, because-well, he-er, he didn’t very much like that.” 

 

Snape hummed as he waved his wand, vanishing the sticky batter and flour from Harry’s clothes and drying the damp sleeves he’d attempted to wash out earlier. He flicked his wand again and a small capped jar whistled through the air, landing in Snape’s hand before being dropped onto the small side table. 

 

Harry eyed the jar as worry quickly replaced his panic. Snape was too calm. His dark eyes were blank and he breathed almost too slowly as he inspected the bruise. Harry couldn’t help but hold his breath and he was unwilling to relax as Snape’s eyes trailed down to the shiny speckled burns along his hands and wrists. 

 

“Dudley didn’t much like what?” Sirius asked, inching closer until Snape waved him off. 

 

“He was er, playing with Lego’s, and Lupin had asked me before if I was acting young, and I,” Harry paused, trying to gauge how much of his own behaviour was childish, but he truly couldn’t tell. If he’d hit someone like Dudley had hit him, he’d have known instantly. He assumed standing on the couch and yelling at Lupin was probably immature, but it was difficult to tell otherwise. “I yelled at him.” 

 

“That’s alright though, it’s not a very nice question, is it?” Lupin said. 

 

Snape pulled the cap from the jar and scooped a small dollop of something that smelled of peppermint onto his fingers before gently dabbing it over Harry’s sore eye. 

 

He wished someone would yell. He wished they’d just voice their disappointment in Harry straight away, as that was the only thought Harry could assume they felt. He knew they already thought Harry was helpless. He hadn’t let Dudley hit him though, he’d been trying to keep a hold of his mum’s necklace and figure out what other effects the potion caused.

 

Dudley was just too big at the moment. He normally couldn’t catch Harry.

 

He was unsure how to handle Snape’s softness as well. The only sort of help he was truly experienced with was Madam Pomfrey’s, and she’d always had a clinical way about her. Snape wasn’t being clinical though. He was focused intently on Harry’s eyes and especially careful over the bridge of his nose. It felt oddly similar to the time he’d run over the shattered glass at Spinner’s End and Snape had cleaned him up and shrunk a pair of shoes for him. 

 

“Why do you have bruise paste though, Snape.” Sirius asked sharply. 

 

“To reduce the swelling and pain around Harry’s eye.” Snape said. “Focus on his using the portkey as he said he would.” 

 

“No, that doesn’t make any difference if he—” Sirius started, his breathing ragged.

 

“Black!” Snape hissed.  

 

Harry twisted, causing Snape’s to smear the paste across his nose as he looked up at Sirius and Lupin. 

 

A livid brightness flashed across Sirius’s eyes before a pained look replaced it as Harry shrank backwards into Snape. 

 

He was angry with Harry, he must’ve been. 

 

“No, Harry, I’m not, I didn’t mean to—” 

 

Sirius whinged a soft sound oddly reminiscent of the noises Padfoot made, though Harry was certain Sirius couldn’t transfigure his vocal chords without transfiguring the rest of himself. 

 

“Sirius,” Lupin said as his fingers curled around Sirius’s sleeve. “Make a pot of tea, Harry likes chamomile, don’t you?” He nodded at Harry who nodded dumbly back, unsure if he’d even heard the question. 

 

Was Sirius angry or not?

 

Sirius rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet before stalking over to the kitchenette. Lupin slid his hand softly through Harry’s hair. 

 

“He’s overprotective. He always has been.” Lupin added quietly before trailing after Sirius. “He just needs to be busy.” 

 

The sound of cupboard doors slamming echoed through the small flat as Sirius searched for tea bags. Harry watched almost nervously as Sirius ran a hand over his mustache and filled the kettle, all the while hissing something at Lupin. Lupin never seemed to respond angrily as he guided Sirius around the kitchen and toward the burner. 

 

“How was it?” Snape asked, turning Harry back towards him. A cool feeling set in around the sore and swollen skin around his eye as Snape continued to dab at it. 

 

The sudden thought to lie about what had happened sped through Harry’s mind. They’d all thought he hadn’t been able to handle it, and had he not picked a fight he would’ve been fine. He’d handled Death Eaters and dementors alone and been fine. It was his own fault he’d thought a fight was a great idea. 

 

He’d been angry though, incredibly angry. He’d wanted Aunt Petunia to feel how Harry had felt throughout the last fourteen years. 

 

Snape hadn’t been angry with Harry when he caught him though. He hadn’t yelled or sneered about his black eye. He’d been quiet and patient. In spite of Harry’s confusion and almost desperate urge to have things returned to normality, with yelling and arguing amongst them all, he was incredibly relieved that none of them had yelled or been angry with him. 

 

He wanted to be able to say how he felt as well, and to have someone take it seriously. 

 

“Awful,” He finally said with a sniffle. “Aunt Petunia was awful. I got into a massive fight with her about why she wouldn’t give me my mum’s necklace originally, and she,” Harry paused as her voice rang in his ears and he swallowed around the lump in his throat once more. “She was just awful.”

 

“She’s more clever than she looks, Harry.” Snape said, cupping the back of Harry’s head again and holding him close, taking care to avoid brushing against his bruised eye. “She was alarmingly skilled at ripping Lily down.” 

 

“She said you were filthy, and that you’d all gotten my mum killed.” 

 

A curtain of dark hair tickled over Harry’s forehead as Snape nodded. “Petunia, much like the Dark Lord, is a skilled manipulator.” Snape said quietly. “She knows what you are worried and fearful of, and she’ll use it to her advantage.” 

 

“I don’t know if you can really say they’re similar.” Harry said, leaning heavily against Snape as he picked at a loose thread on his sleeve. “Not when you can call one a dark lord. 

 

Snape breathed a long sigh and his fingers slid over Harry’s jumper. Exhaustion sank over him. None of them truly seemed to think he was helpless and they hadn’t given him any pitying looks. He wasn’t sure what to feel, but he wasn’t able to maintain the energy to keep up with his feelings any longer. The near silent sounds of Lupin and Sirius making tea filled the small flat, as did the smell after a little while. Harry wished they could stay in his mum’s flat forever, but he missed Ron and Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys. 

 

“Alright,” Lupin said as he quietly stepped into the sitting room. “Are you feeling a bit better, Harry?” He asked. 

 

Sirius set a mug on the side table before making his way over to the sofa and settling in next to Lupin. His eyes darted to Harry and lingered over his sore eye several times before he looked down at his own tea.

 

Harry nodded. His mum’s flat was worlds away from Privet Drive and he far preferred to be around Snape, Sirius and Lupin rather than Dudley or Aunt Petunia. 

 

Lupin smiled kindly and continued. “Excellent. We think we’ve found a plan that will work, though it might need a few adjustments yet. We’re going to stay at Sirius’s safe house. It’s too dangerous to stay here, as Dumbledore will likely look here first. We’re not sure how he found you last time, but we have a few ideas.” 

 

He tried not to get too comfortable as Lupin spoke, as he knew they’d need to find either their way back to Privet Drive or a way around Dumbledore’s return. 

 

“Dumbledore!” Harry jerked upwards, staring at Lupin as the thought sprung in his mind. “He’s coming back to Privet Drive tonight. He tried to threaten Aunt Petunia but it didn’t really work.” 

 

Sirius hissed a foul word and Lupin’s lips curled as he steepled his fingers beneath his chin. 

 

Harry shuddered at the thought of returning after the fight they’d had. He doubted he’d get away with the necklace again, especially after having showed it to her in a spectacularly stupid move. 

 

“That complicates things a bit, we may need her to fall in line,” Sirius’s eyes slid slowly to Snape. “You said she couldn’t be threatened last night though, didn’t you?” 

 

“I said she could not be threatened because she would take it out on Harry.” Snape said. “Not because she was unable to be threatened.” 

 

Sirius frowned and dangled his wand between two fingers. 

 

“He’s usually too smart to fail at something like that.” Lupin said, taking a sip of his tea. 

 

“Not if he thought it would work. He thinks he knows her,” Sirius said. “He must’ve tried something that’s worked before, but for some reason stopped working.” 

 

Harry dropped back onto Snape and tried to remember what Dumbledore had said specifically and how Aunt Petunia had reacted. He mostly remembered being worried that she’d walked into a trap, but with the way Sirius spoke, it sounded more like Dumbledore had walked into a trap of Aunt Petunia’s making. 

 

Snippets of their conversation brushed through Harry’s ears, interspersed with his worries and fears. She’d been angry at Dumbledore, and she’d argued about Dumbledore’s previous failed attempts to protect Lily. Dumbledore then said Harry was the most famous child in Britain and that there were laws against child abuse, but Aunt Petunia hadn’t seemed bothered by that in the slightest, probably because she knew her treatment of Harry when he’d actually been six hadn’t amounted to any sort of abuse charge. 

 

Harry didn’t think it could amount to abuse either, despite his hopes of being removed from the house. They were dreadful people, but they weren’t violent. No one seemed to consider bullying a crime in either the wizarding or muggle worlds either. If they did, both Dudley and Malfoy would’ve been charged with something. 

 

He wished Ron was here, Ron was brilliant at this style of forethought. 

 

Lupin frowned into his mug. “He’s missed something then.” His sickly skin greyed further as he thought. 

 

“We’re going to need her if we’re going to convince Dumbledore that Harry is still at Privet Drive. Do you think she’d lie for us?” Sirius asked, looking over at Snape. 

 

Snape's chest rose as he breathed deeply and his fingers slid over the back of Harry’s jumper. “If she’s properly motivated.” 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Harry fiddled with the cuffs of his sleeves and leant closer to Snape. He stoutly ignored the urge to curl his fingers in Snape’s cloak as Sirius’s safe house croaked and whinged around him. He wasn’t sure if the dementor or boggart was truly gone, no matter how well Sirius had searched for it. It felt as if it hid in every shadow, waiting to jump out. He wished they could’ve stayed in his mum’s flat for a bit longer. He wished there were more options for safe houses. 

 

Snape’s fingers carded comfortingly through his hair, but Harry was still unsure of the house. 

 

“It’s quite safe Harry,” Lupin said as he sank slowly into a high backed chair. “Sirius was adamant to make it so.”

 

Snape scoffed and eyed a tarnished candelabra. 

 

“Please, Severus.” Lupin said. “You know how he felt after his, well.” He paused and seemed to search for the right word. 

 

“Most recent departure of what little mental faculties he possessed?” Snape asked. 

 

“I take full responsibility for my bad decision,” Sirius argued as he swept into the room. “I’ve since learned. Harry called me on it when I brought him here last time, but I was in a state and wasn’t listening.” He stepped lightly through the room and flicked his wand at the crooked antiques and imposing dark furniture. Candles bloomed to life, causing the shadows to criss cross one another as they darkened the walls. 

 

Harry flinched and inched closer still to Snape. 

 

“Alright, so,” Sirius said, dropping to his knees in front of Harry. “I’ve combed this house from top to toe.” 

 

“How?” Snape asked. 

 

“Every detection spell they teach aurors, and as many detection and expungence spells I could find in the Black library. I checked the public, private and secret collections.” 

 

“We’re meant to put our faith in your research?” Snape folded his arms and sneered. “I recall a distinct lack of skill in that area.”

 

“You forget, I found Harry despite his aunt’s house being one of the most well hidden houses in Britain while I was on the run from Azkaban.” Sirius snapped. “The United Kingdom is a fair bit larger than this house.” 

 

Snape opened his mouth, likely to ask which spells specifically, but Harry had a feeling they’d argue if they started getting into the particulars. They’d argue about anything though. Harry was amazed they’d managed to leave his mum’s flat without getting into a duel or screaming match. To be fair, they hadn’t been in a screaming match since before Snape had told them about Harry’s cupboard. 

 

“Do you promise there’s no dementors?” Harry asked quickly. A shiver crept up his spine as the shadows crawled over the crooked walls. 

 

“I swear, Harry,” Sirius nodded. His grey eyes were firm as his fingers curled over Harry’s shoulders and rubbed soothing circles into him. “It’s safe as houses.” He added. 

 

Harry figured he couldn’t ask for much more than that. 

 

“So,” Lupin started. “We don’t know what time Dumbledore will be returning, but we might be able to figure out.” 

 

Sirius sniffed and craned his neck as he looked at Lupin. “We should make a plan before we go questioning Dumbledore.” 

 

“I want to be involved.” Harry said before anyone could kick him out of the room. “She’s my aunt.” 

 

“It’d be quite difficult without you, Harry,” Lupin smiled. “It’s going to be difficult either way.” 

 

“Not least of all because of any new wards Dumbledore set as well as the full moon.” Snape said.

 

Ice dropped into Harry’s belly and his eyes flashed to Lupin’s, catching something else glimmering beneath his amber gaze in the dim candlelight. He’d forgotten. Lupin hadn’t been well for several days, and he’d only seemed to grow worse with each day. Harry never tracked the moon, it wasn’t a typical hobby of anyone he knew, aside from Lupin of course. 

 

Sirius might track it as well, as Lupin’s closest friend, but Harry hadn’t been paying attention. He’d been miserable with his own problems. 

 

“Severus has graciously provided me with Wolfsbane, Harry.” Lupin said softly. “There’s nothing to fear.” 

 

“I wasn’t,” Harry started, feeling his voice crack. “I wasn't worried about the, erm, the moon, I’m more worried for you.” 

 

“You’re very kind, but it’s alright. The moon will only hinder us in that I will be unable to apparate and collect you or stall Dumbledore if something should go wrong.” Lupin said. “If things go as they should, there will be no reason to consider Moony a difficulty.” 

 

Snape’s fingers tightened around his elbows and his eyes pinched, but he didn’t say anything. 

 

“Sit,” Sirius said. “The both of you standing there makes me feel like a poor host.”

 

Harry stumbled forward, nearly tripping over his feet as he moved toward a chair. It was as if his body couldn’t decide between doing as Sirius asked and staying close to Snape, who hadn’t moved. He tried to ignore it in favour of subtly checking on Lupin. 

 

He wondered what Hermione would say to ease the tension, she was a bit better at coming up with comforting and thoughtful comments, even if she sometimes said too much. 

 

He’d never noticed the uncomfortable oddness of the way Lupin held himself the day of the full moon. He couldn’t even remember having ever seen him the day of before, except once in his third year, but he’d been too caught up in the recent discovery of Sirius to pay any real attention. There had been too much going on, but Harry distinctly remembered the way Lupin’s body had cracked and groaned as something else grew out from inside of him.

 

As Lupin sat in the chair, he seemed at once too big for his body but too frail to move in it. It was as if someone had strung elastics as tightly as they could over what lay beneath his bones, and now waited for someone to come along and snap what held it in. 

 

“Need help Harry?” Sirius asked as Harry lingered in front of a chair. 

 

“No!” Harry said quickly as he clambered onto the chair. He wasn’t sure what would be the best sort of behaviour, but he assumed gawking and worrying loudly were two things Lupin wouldn’t appreciate. 

 

Snape stalked around the back of Harry’s chair and eyed the collection of antiques and baubles collected on the shelves. 

 

“A plan then.” Sirius said, falling into his own chair. “Dumbledore won’t return until at least dark, if he’s assuming Lupin or I will be loitering around the street.” 

 

“Doubtless,” Snape nodded. “We need to know how close we will be able to get to the house if we’re to return. That information can be collected at the same time I speak with Petunia.” 

 

“You?” Sirius’s hand clenched in his lap. “I’m Harry’s godfather, it’s my—”

 

“Duty as a godfather? Is it a duty you’d say you performed well over the last fourteen years?” Snape asked snidely. “I know her. What’s she like Black? Is she intelligent? Is she reasonable? What does she care about?” 

 

Harry watched as a pit grew in his stomach. He wasn’t sure he wanted either Snape or Sirius to talk with her. What if she told them something horrible about Harry and they suddenly changed their minds about him? Snape had said she was more clever than she seemed, and she wasn’t easily controlled. 

 

“I’m sure as someone who cares equally for my godson as she cares—”

 

“She cares more about her son than anyone in the world cares about anything.” Snape said as he twisted and glared at Sirius. “You cannot begin to manipulate her unless you consider her opinions. Dudley Dursley’s safety is paramount.” 

 

“You’re not the only person with a bit of skill in that area.” Sirius said darkly. “Obviously she cares for her child and obviously his safety is important.”

 

“Not important, Black.” Snape spun on his heel to glare at Sirius. “Paramount.” 

 

Sirius rubbed at his eyes and inhaled deeply. 

 

“You’re basing your information off of the results of one attack. I’m basing my information off of the results of fourteen years worth of treatment in her household.” Snape’s dark eyes flickered over Harry.

 

Harry felt very much like tossing his invisibility cloak over his head at that second. 

 

“You’re asking us to put our faith in your ability to use social skills?” Sirius said nastily. “You’re telling us that your skill in motivating others is so far above my own, despite that I’m an escaped criminal who Harry has said she’s dead terrified of.” He stood and paced through the cluttered room. His ratty boots scraped over the dusty dark floor and he gestured wordlessly at his own unvoiced thoughts. “I could easily motivate her.”

 

“Terror will not lead to her motivation.” Snape hissed. “It would drive her right into Dumbledore’s hands. You need to motivate her in a way that doesn’t include her fearing for her son’s life.” 

 

“What do you suggest then,” Lupin cut in. “As someone with so much more experience.”

 

Snape blinked slowly as he considered Lupin. “What does she want?” He asked finally.

 

“Dudley fixed.” Harry answered. 

 

“She’ll no doubt require payment upon delivery, and as we have no payment, we cannot wager that.” Snape said as he stepped further along the shelf.

 

“So we’ll lie.” Sirius said with a sigh.

 

“You cannot lie to her, she’ll know we don’t have it by Harry’s continued presence as a six year old.” Snape snapped.

 

“So we’ll obliviate her, you’re over complicating this Snape. She’s a muggle!” Sirius shouted. His cheekbones darkened as an angry red colour rushed across his face. His wand slid from his sleeve and he thrust it upward, gesturing wildly at it.

 

“You cannot just obliviate muggles!” Snape snapped as he flicked his hand at Sirius’s wand. “Do you want to drag the Aurors into this and light up the entire street?” 

 

“You’re right, of course,” Sirius said, crossing his arms. “I suppose that comes from your experience with hexing muggles.”

 

Snape’s eyes narrowed and his dark wand slipped soundlessly into his fingers. “Quite right, Black.” He said softly. “Several years worth of experience at the foot of the Dark Lord.” 

 

“Beneath the foot of the Dark Lord, you mean.” Sirius corrected.

 

“Stop, both of you.” Lupin said before either of them could say another word. “We cannot fight Dumbledore if we’re fighting amongst ourselves.”

 

Sirius rolled his shoulders and spun on his heel, pacing away from Snape, who looked almost abashed by his own actions. Harry wondered why Lupin thought they’d ever have been able to come up with a solution when they couldn’t go more than five minutes without an argument. Neither were willing to lay aside their pride. Although, Harry supposed if it were between Malfoy and himself, they’d probably struggle with the same issues. 

 

“What can we give Petunia that will make her lie for us?” Lupin asked. “But won’t have her running to Dumbledore about.” 

 

The house croaked as the wind blustered outside, shaking the candles and sending the shadows flitting over the walls. 

 

Harry brought his legs up to his chest and curled his arms around them, hiding his face in his knees. He didn’t want to be in this house and he didn’t want to plot ways to make Aunt Petunia help him. He’d spent more hours than he’d have liked when he’d been actually six trying to come up with ways to get her to help him with anything. If she hadn’t helped then, why would she help now? He wasn’t sure if just asking might do the trick, as she wasn’t pleased to see Harry but if she smelled even a whiff of some ulterior motive, she’d refuse to help until she was informed. She hated Dumbledore more than she disliked Harry though, so there might be an opportunity to hurt him by hiding Harry’s escape. 

 

“She hates Dumbledore, she might agree to lie if it comes back to hurt him.” Harry murmured from where his mouth was pressed against his jeans.

 

Snape’s eyebrows rose and his fingers twitched as he seemed to debate the idea. 

 

“We might be able to make it look like he made a mistake, but was too proud to admit it. She’d like that.” Harry added. “It would only work once though. She’d gloat about it the next time he sees her. I don’t know if he’ll come inside the house either, he might just look in from the street.”

 

“He’ll likely want to talk to her.” Snape said.

 

“If he threatened to check in again tonight, he’ll absolutely want to talk.” Sirius echoed as he nodded. 

 

“We would need to make lying to him and helping us more appealing than her informing him of his failures directly. We need her to cover up Lily’s necklace being a portkey as well as where you are in case he makes any future house calls as well.” Snape added.

 

“She knows about the portkey?” Sirius asked, turning to stare at Harry. 

 

Harry winced and shrank into the chair. “I wanted answers. I asked her why she wouldn’t let me have the necklace when Lupin had asked her to give it to me after their funeral.” 

 

“What did she say?” Lupin leant forward in his seat. “Just out of curiosity.”

 

“Nothing about why she wouldn’t give it to me.” Harry shook his head, unwilling to bring up the other hateful things she’d mentioned. 

 

Sirius hummed and twisted, returning to his pacing. Snape turned away as well and stared at the antiques along the wall. Every few seconds one would turn and begin to speak before stopping and returning to their thoughts. 

 

A giggle bubbled in Harry’s throat at the thought that if the two of them could manage to agree and listen to one another, they’d probably make an excellent team. 

 

Sirius was unpredictable, uncontrollable and often too slippery to be caught. Dumbledore likely suspected he would return to Privet Drive tonight but he probably didn’t know how or when Sirius would manage it. He hadn’t even known Sirius had been patrolling Little Whinging all summer. Harry half wondered if keeping Sirius locked into Grimmauld Place had been Dumbleore’s attempt at controlling Sirius and keeping an eye on him. Snape on the other hand was far more skilled in manipulation and conversation than anyone Harry had met. He’d convinced Avery to lie about his having harboured Harry to Voldemort. Dumbledore might suspect Snape would have a word or two with Petunia, but he might not know what Snape was planning to say or how much it would impact Dumbledore’s plans. 

 

If they could set aside the decades of viciousness, Harry thought they’d have a chance. They just needed something Aunt Petunia wanted. 

 

He sat back and twisted the pendant on the necklace between his fingers. She wanted Dudley fixed. She wanted Dumbledore out of her life or aware of his failures, as he seemed incapable of admitting to them in front of her. She’d probably be pleased to hear Snape apologize as well. Harry felt dread crawl through him at the thought of asking Snape to apologize for whatever she thought his crime was. 

 

Snape would likely never apologize to her. 

 

It was eerily reminiscent of Dumbledore’s advice to Harry earlier as well. 

 

The pendant hummed and a small trickle of warmth sank into Harry’s hands. He thought suddenly of the amount of times Aunt Petunia’d tried to take the necklace when he’d gone and waved it in front of her face. 

 

He didn’t know why she’d wanted it, as she’d had her own and she’d also wanted Lily buried with it when Lupin had tried to give it to her.

 

“She might want the necklace.” Harry whispered as a plan formed in the back of his mind. “We could duplicate it, like my mum did originally and give her the fake. She knows it's a portkey, even if she doesn’t know what that is. She won’t show it to Dumbledore either, not if there’s a chance he might take it because of it’s being a portkey.” 

 

Lupin stared at the small pendant in Harry’s hands. “If she didn’t want it originally, why would she want it now?” 

 

Harry blinked and stared at the necklace as well, trying to puzzle out why she’d been so driven to take it from him. She’d never liked him having anything, though that had more to do with giving Dudley nice things and making sure Harry knew Dudley came first. 

 

Dudley hadn’t wanted the necklace though.

 

“Grief.” Snape answered quietly. 

 

Sirius paused and stared at Snape. “You think she actually cared about Lily? Despite being as spiteful and hateful as she is?” 

 

Snape’s dark eyes seemed to fade and his fingers balled into tight, strained looking fists. “Petunia bought the necklace for Lily. When Harry showed it to her, she may have been reminded of who she believed her sister was before she’d been discovered to be a witch, and how close they’d been at the time. It’s the presence of something of Lily’s that Petunia can’t bear to look at.” He blinked at Harry and stepped closer. “You had nothing of her’s before, Harry. Correct?” 

 

Harry nodded dumbly and tried to imagine Aunt Petunia spending any money on someone who wasn’t herself or the people she’d liked. 

 

“She went to great strides to ensure nothing of Lily’s made it into that house, despite how much Lily meant to her when they’d been younger. Petunia’s still angry, but she’s also hurt. Her sister left her for a world she couldn’t be a part of. It’s very possible the necklace makes Petunia feel grief the same way you, Harry, make her feel bitter.” Snape added softly. “Even if you look less like Potter now than you usually do. As for why she didn’t give you the necklace originally, I have a feeling that she didn’t want to give you a piece of who she considered to be, her Lily. She tried to sever what connections she could, but failed.” 

 

Harry’s throat constricted and he wanted to cry. He wanted to scream at Aunt Petunia again as well, and to find a way to make her feel as shredded inside as he did. Lily was his mum. He was just as much James as he was Lily, no matter whether she’d known she was a witch or not. Lily’d obviously still cared about Aunt Petunia despite the estrangement, or she wouldn’t have worn the necklace until her death. Even if it’d been a duplicate, she’d never taken it off. 

 

“Are you honestly asking me to feel sorry for her?” Sirius’s voice cut through Harry’s thoughts. 

 

“Hardly,” Snape said, folding his pained memories away in seconds. “She’s vile. I’m merely informing you of why the necklace may work. She will likely relish the opportunity to remove it from Harry, which is another positive for her.” 

 

“She wants the necklace then.” Lupin said. “We can work with that.” 

 

Sirius flicked his wand, duplicating the necklace in seconds and summoning the duplicate. “What do we think the chances of my polyjuicing as Harry and dealing with Petunia instead of our dear Harry and being successful would be?” 

 

“None,” Snape snapped as he glared at Sirius. “Your lack of understanding in even the most basic principles of potions is astounding. If you polyjuice with anything of Harry’s while he’s in this form you have no idea what you’ll turn into as he’s currently still suffering under the effects of a failed transformative potion himself!”

 

“Alright, alright,” Sirius started, holding his hands up. “I’m just throwing out options.” 

 

“In Severus’s defense, that one was fairly obvious.” Lupin said, smiling at Sirius. 

 

Harry had a sudden memory of the time Hermione had ended up polyjuicing as a cat in their second year. He couldn’t imagine what Sirius would’ve looked like, or if he’d have gone through the same sort of confusion and difficulty Harry had experienced as a six year old. 

 

“You’ll really need to sell that you’re parting with this.” Sirius said as he looked at Harry. “I’m sure you know better than I, as I don’t know her intimately, which has been pointed out, but I do know how to barter with abusers.”

 

“She’s not abusive.” Harry snapped. The necklace hummed again, making an attempt to help. “She’s just mean and I don’t like her.” 

 

Sirius blinked at him and his face was oddly blank. 

 

He glared at Sirius, sensing the unpleasantly recurring feeling of being pitied. He wasn’t helpless, he didn’t know how many times he’d need to say it. No one had ever beaten him so badly he’d nearly died, or thrown him down stairs like he’d been warned about in primary school. 

 

He’d been stuffed into a cupboard, given less to eat and had to do chores. 

 

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose and breathed slowly out. The shadows flickered over the walls again as he rocked on his heels. 

 

“It is hard,” Snape began. “To tell the difference between the absence of treatment opposed to the evidence of mistreatment.” He said, folding his hands in front of him. “Harry, Petunia is guilty of abuse, the cupboard is a strong sign, but she’s far more guilty of neglect. That does not mean that at any point in time you,” Snape paused, looking closely in Harry’s eyes. “Allowed yourself to be put in the cupboard or neglected. It’s something we’ll need to look more closely at in a setting where you are more comfortable.” 

 

Harry didn’t want to discuss it though. He’d rather have just focused on escaping Dumbledore, getting back to fifteen and making it through the rest of August. 

 

“I don’t want to look closely at it.” He said, staring at Snape as anger bristled in his chest.  

 

Snape’s eyebrows rose and his head tilted slightly left. “I feel differently.” 

 

“It’s never been an issue before.” Harry argued. 

 

“Has it never been an issue because no one was competent enough to be trusted to help?” Snape asked. 

 

Harry paused, thinking of all the times he’d tried to ask for help and been told to bugger off. He’d certainly felt few people could be trusted, but before he’d gone to Hogwarts, no one would’ve believed anything he’d said because the Dursley’s had gone out of their way to make sure Harry was seen as a degenerate thief. 

 

He supposed it would’ve been nice if he’d been believed at least once when he’d been growing up. 

 

That didn’t make him abused though. 

 

“Right,” Sirius added quietly when Harry neglected to answer. 

 

“First we’ll stall Dumbledore, then we can discuss this further.” Lupin said. “You can give us your opinion and we’ll tell you ours. That way you’ll be able to set us straight if we’re wrong.” 

 

Harry frowned and folded his arms as he fell against the tall back of the chair. He balked at Lupin’s comment, feeling it cut too closely to the times he’d gotten in trouble at school. 

 

‘You’ll be able to set us straight if there’s been a mistake.’ 

 

His teachers had never believed him. He knew that no amount of discussing it would help. They might decide he was a horrible little liar like Aunt Petunia had always claimed he was and never trust him again. 

 

Snape’s lip curled and his fingers pinched the bridge of his nose once more. 

 

He had a sudden urge to climb off the chair and move closer to Snape, despite his anger. He hated that Snape wanted to discuss Aunt Petunia, but he’d believed Harry throughout the last week. If Harry was forced to discuss this, he felt Snape would at least listen. 

 

He wasn’t sure if he should expect Snape to listen, but Harry hoped he would. 

 

“Right,” Sirius said softly. “Just talk though, Harry. Nothing scary.” He added as he handed the duplicated necklace back to Harry. “You’re sure Petunia will want that?” 

 

It was odd to hold the fake, especially as the real one was beating a warm staccato comfortingly against his chest. He wondered if his mum had felt differently with the duplicate as well. 

 

“She wanted it when I showed it to her.” Harry said. 

 

“While I still would prefer to terrorize her, I’ll follow your plan. We can drop Harry off tonight and she can then drop Harry off with us after Dumbledore’s come and gone?” Sirius started. “She’ll receive the duplicate once Harry is safe with us. That should keep her behaviour appropriate as well, given that she’ll need to answer for any problems.” 

 

“Keep the original on you, please.” Snape said, looking at Harry once more. “Just in case.” 

 

Harry hummed in agreement. 

 

“I will go and discuss this with her then. I’ll also discover how close we are able to get, and figure out a way to contact her if I am unable to enter the neighborhood. Which is another reason I feel I should go, rather than you Black, as I doubt you’ve ever used a telephone box.” 

 

Sirius’s nose wrinkled. “I know what telephone boxes are, thank you very much.”

 

“Have you ever used one?” Snape asked. 

 

Sirius looked away and shoved his hands deeply into his pockets. 

 

“What's your aunt’s phone number, Harry?” 

 

Harry listed off the telephone number as a dazed feeling floated over him. 

 

He didn’t want Snape to leave. He desperately didn’t want him to talk with Aunt Petunia. He half debated trying to find his way back to his mum’s flat, in case Sirius attempted to put him back in the dark room his parents had hidden in. 

 

He also wanted to know what Snape intended on telling her, or how he was going to work it into the conversation. 

 

“What are you going to say?” Harry asked before Snape could leave. 

 

Snape blinked slowly and seemed to consider his words carefully. “Broadly speaking, I’ll bring up that I need you in order to brew a cure and that your godfather doesn’t trust Dumbledore to protect you. It’s for that reason he wants you with me, but he doesn’t want Dumbledore aware of the change. She will be angry that the necklace she buried was a fake, but given my history with her, she will likely expect I wouldn’t want to see the necklace either. That will hopefully smooth over any questions she’d have about my giving away your necklace in exchange for her silence.” 

 

“What? Why would she think that?” Harry asked, leaning forward. “I erm, I, I know it was hard at first, but it’s not now, is it?” He stammered. 

 

Snape stepped closer, and wrapped his arms around Harry in a painfully gentle hug. “It’s quite complicated, but I will tell you more when we’re more sure of your continued safety.” He said before spinning on his heel and stalking from the small room. 

 

Harry felt as if he was suddenly cut off from the rest of the world.

 

 

Chapter Text

 


“I keep forgetting how dull waiting is.” Sirius muttered as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Lupin snored quietly, unconsciously punctuating Sirius’s comment. 

 

Harry wished again for his watch. It must’ve been several hours since Snape had left and he wasn’t sure when they’d need to go. Each second crawled by at an agonizingly slow pace, but added up like lightning as he was pushed closer and closer to needing to leave. 

 

The shadows flickered, casting skeletally boney fingers over the walls, but Harry no longer flinched away. He wanted them gone, but there was nothing to be done. 

 

He was exhausted but too anxious to relax. 

 

It was oddly similar to when he’d been stuck in his cupboard and he would see shadows dart across the hallway or living room. He’d scream or cry or beg for help, but no one had ever checked on him. 

 

Why would they though? There had never been someone in the hallway and there had never been anything wrong. 

 

He’d just wanted to be out of the cupboard, the same way he wanted to be out of this house. 

 

He wished Snape would return now and take him back to his mum’s flat. Even if returning was too dangerous because of Pettigrew or Dumbledore discovering them. 

 

He crossed his legs and pillowed his head on the arm of the chair as he stared at the ceiling, running through the list of potential outcomes again for what felt like the hundredth time. It was frustrating. There weren’t that many possible outcomes, but each time he decided one could definitely happen, another sprouted in his thoughts. 

 

Uncle Vernon might’ve come home. What would he say about the offer? 

 

Dudley might’ve gotten sick or hurt and Aunt Petunia might not agree to take the necklace anymore. She might want immediate treatment for Dudley, Lily’s necklace or not. She wasn’t the type to put her grudge over her son, though Dudley was just about the only person she’d put over her grudge. 

 

What would Snape offer if she didn’t take the necklace? 

 

What if Snape was called away by Voldemort, or Dumbledore found out they were sneaking around behind his back?

 

“Let’s do something, chess maybe?” Sirius asked. “Or we could, er, go over your homework if you like?” He stood and turned in place several times as he searched for Harry’s trunk. 

 

Snape had cast another shrinking charm on the trunk when they’d left his mum’s flat, but he must’ve forgotten to take it out of his pocket when they’d arrived. He’d be back soon enough and Harry could have it again. 

 

He had his wand and cloak, that was all that really mattered. 

 

“Oh!” Sirius said as his eyes brightened. “Food! Molly’s been on one lately about you and food, you should’ve heard her when she first saw you,” He added. “We’ll get a snack—”

 

Lupin snorted and his head wobbled, tipping to the left. 

 

Sirius’s voice dropped to a whisper as he stepped through the room. “We’ll get a snack in the kitchen, come on.” 

 

He waved at Harry to follow him, but Harry curled tighter into his chair. He half debated shaking his head ‘no’ and throwing his cloak over his head, but he didn’t think he’d be able to hide fast enough to truly lose Sirius. 

 

Sirius blinked and slipped closer, dropping to his knees in front of Harry’s chair. “I promise there really are no dementors Harry,” Sirius said. “If that’s what you’re worried about.” 

 

Harry wound his fingers into the neck of his jumper. He wasn’t afraid. Well, he was, but he wasn’t able to focus on it in the way Sirius thought he did. He was terrified of what Aunt Petunia and Snape would talk about, and he was even more worried that Dumbledore might ruin their plan, or Uncle Vernon. 

 

It hadn’t escaped him that Uncle Vernon would be home by the time Harry would need to be there as well. 

 

Lupin made another soft sound, causing Sirius to toss a concerned look at him before turning back to Harry. 

 

“Maybe,” Sirius said as he leaned closer. “Would you feel better if I sat with you? Held you, I mean.” He added softly. “I’ve got a bit of a better idea now, what Hermione was talking about when she said you were independent.” He fiddled with the seam on the chair and eyed Harry closely. 

 

A cold voice whispered in the back of Harry’s mind of how Sirius was being too soft, and that he truly was disappointed in Harry. He hadn’t ever treated Harry as anything less than a highly independent and brave adult, and Harry had always appreciated it. It made his stomach hurt, seeing Sirius’s new lowered opinion of him. 

 

Sirius didn’t look disappointed though, if anything, he looked ashamed. He blinked and stared down at his tattooed hands. 

 

“I really have been poorly behaved, haven't I?” Sirius said, his eyes dulled and he seemed to be lost in his thoughts. “I’ve made this all much harder than it needed to be.” 

 

“No,” Harry said immediately. “It’s just been, er, weird. I don’t know how to be six and a lot has happened, sort of all at once I reckon.” He finished lamely. What could he say? This entire experience had been mad and that was saying something, as he had a great deal of experience with mad adventures. 

 

“No, Harry,” Sirius whispered. “Not about you being six, though yes,” He sat up, coming back to life as he looked at Harry. “I’ve been more of an obstacle than assistance there, but I’m talking about you.” 

 

“What?” Harry asked as he sat up as well. 

 

Sirius was mental, he’d been trying to be helpful. Harry could see that from his attempts alone. He hadn’t always been correct, but he never once had led Harry to feel Sirius wanted him to suffer. 

 

“Hermione said it first, and I should've caught it then. Snape reiterated it, but I didn’t take it for what it was.” Sirius said, sitting back on his haunches. “Which, that isn’t surprising, but James would never have accepted a grudge as a reason to ignore some clear reactions, Harry.” 

 

Harry shook his head slowly. He wasn’t sure what exactly Sirius was referring to, whether it was about his reactions to Sirius when he’d first come to Grimmauld Place, or Harry’s reaction to his cupboard or his reaction to Sirius’s reactions about his cupboard. Was it his black eye? It was still sore and his head hurt, but the skin around it was better already. 

 

“Apologies won’t help, I know that too well.” Sirius nodded sadly. “I am sorry all the same and I don’t trust Snape at all, but you do.” 

 

Harry was shocked at his own unconscious nod. 

 

He trusted Snape. He had for a while now, even if he hadn’t fully realized it. 

 

“I’ll do better, Harry.” Sirius said. “I don’t know how you’re feeling about your aunt or the Dursleys, but if you ever want to talk, and Sn-Severus isn’t here,” He breathed deeply. “I promise to listen.” 

 

Harry felt a brief moment of panic that Sirius had brought Aunt Petunia up, but in the same breath he hadn’t called Harry a liar or called him abused again. 

 

He couldn’t ignore the cruel voice in the back of his mind that swore Sirius was lying. 

 

Sirius didn’t look like he was lying though, and on top of that, he didn’t think Sirius had ever said Snape’s first name willingly and without an insult. He couldn’t have been lying if he said Snape’s name. 

 

Harry inched closer, feeling for the first time since before this potion accident that he and Sirius were on good terms as he reached out. 

 

Sirius’s hands came under his arms and he helped Harry closer still before lifting him up. It was different from when Snape held him, but weirdly similar to when Snape had held him the first few times. Sirius was awkward, but careful and warm. Harry couldn’t help but lean into him.

 

Sirius turned and dropped into the chair he’d been in before arranging them comfortably. 

 

The room was less frightening when he was with Sirius and his worries dulled as well. He wondered idly if this was how all six year olds felt when adults helped them, but he had no way of knowing for sure. He had nothing to judge his new opinions against. He’d noticed it more recently with Snape, especially after he’d allowed Harry to stay in his arms after he’d portkeyed from the Durlseys. Neither Aunt Petunia nor Uncle Vernon had ever wanted anything to do with him, but Dudley had always seemed to enjoy this when they’d been younger, and Harry now knew why. 

 

This was worlds better than hiding and handling it on his own, or being forced into a cupboard to put himself back together. 

 

He’d thought before about how Snape had ruined his ability to cope, as he knew he was going to immediately go looking for Snape if he was upset. To have Sirius similarly comforting was almost overwhelming. He wanted to tell Hermione and Ron, and ask if this was normal, but he realized with a slight shock that they must’ve always had this sort of comfort.

 

They both trusted adults. Hermione had always trusted them, and Ron might be a bit cross when Hermione begged them to inform professors or adults, but he usually trusted them to handle the issues as well. 

 

It was Harry who couldn’t feel safe unless he was directly involved in handling it. 

 

His earlier exhaustion seemed to creep up on him, and he wondered if he’d fallen asleep. He remembered Aunt Petunia making Dudley take naps when they’d been younger, but Harry had always had too many things to do. If he’d mouthed off though, he’d have been stuck for hours doing whatever he could to pass the time. 

 

He realized belatedly that Sirius either cast a warming charm or threw a blanket over them, and he felt nearly as comfortable as he had when he’d woken this morning. 

 

“Having a nap?” 

 

Snape’s voice swam at the edge of his subconscious, almost as if he spoke from under water. He wanted to answer Snape immediately that he was awake and desperate to hear what Aunt Petunia had said, but he couldn’t seem to open his mouth. He wondered if he’d just stopped reacting again, like he had in Grimmauld Place, but he hadn’t been aware of any conversations that had taken place when he’d been out of it. 

 

“For a bit” Sirius said back. “He and Moony have traded off over the last hour or so.” 

 

Snape hummed a soft sound. 

 

“Have you noticed anything odd about this potion’s effects?” Sirius asked suddenly. 

 

“Broad questions warrant broad answers, perhaps there was a more specific question you could ask.” 

 

“Harry said he noticed his cousin behaving his physical age, right?” 

 

“Correct.” Snape replied. 

 

“But how could any of us begin to know how Harry behaved at six, and how to help him with what he says he needs help with?” A warm hand dropped over Harry’s head as Sirius spoke. 

 

“By comparing it to his behaviour as a fifteen year old.” Snape said matter of factly. “Did something happen to cause you to worry?”

 

“Just,” Sirius paused and an oddly heavy silence dampened the room. “He’s quieter than usual.” 

 

“The potion doesn’t affect his personality or character. There is a difference between being quiet and being unsure if you are allowed to speak. Harry doesn’t strike me as someone who speaks to hear their own voice, despite my earlier notions. I would warrant a guess and say that your godson usually speaks more around you because you are talkative and he enjoys your company.” 

 

Sirius neglected to respond and Harry half wondered if he’d dreamt up this entire conversation. If he had, it would’ve been his least strange dream to date. He disliked the idea of being spoken about while he wasn’t awake or present though. 

 

“Additionally, recent experiences should be considered before you claim he’s quiet for any reason other than being six. Stress, the Dark Lord, Dumbledore and the exposure of a home life he’d rather have kept hidden are enough to keep anyone relatively quiet for long periods of time.” Snape said softly. 

 

Something moved to his left and he struggled to blink his blurry eyes open. 

 

“Well, right, but it’s still worrying.” Sirius said. 

 

“Hardly,” Snape said as he sank into the spot Harry had previously sat in. “It’d be more worrying if he hadn’t had a reaction.” 

 

Harry sat up drowsily and eyed the flickering shadows once more as he turned to Snape. 

 

“Shall we discuss Tuney then?” Snape asked once Harry had shaken himself more awake and said a ‘hello’. 

 

At least Snape looked the same as he had before he left, so at least Harry could hopefully say he hadn’t gotten into a fight with anyone. His earlier dread at what Aunt Petunia might’ve said trickled back in. 

 

“Let me just get Moony up then,” Sirius said as he dug in his pocket for a wand. He found it quickly and flicked it in Lupin’s direction, sending a light burst of air dancing over his hair. Harry wondered belatedly if he’d invented the spell or if it was one Flitwick taught them in class. 

 

“I’m awake, what did I miss?” Lupin croaked as he righted himself and waved a hand at the air. 

 

“We can get as close as Wisteria Walk. Petunia will take the necklace and lie for us. She was displeased to hear from me, and even less pleased to hear of our infringement on her day to day life.” Snape started. 

 

“Unsurprising,” Lupin said. “At least her son is safe.” 

 

“That’s not how she sees it.” Snape said as his eyes darkened. 

 

“We could always show her how good she has it?" Sirius said, bouncing up as he leaned forward. Harry nearly tipped from his lap until Sirius caught him. 

 

“No,” Snape hissed. “Not when she’s going to be alone with Harry later. We cannot begin to entertain punishment for her when she’s directly in charge of Harry for prolonged periods of time in the near future. Dumbledore holds too much power yet and he will try again and again to return Harry there.” 

 

“But,” Harry started before cutting himself off. 

 

He hadn’t thought of what could happen after summer was over, or even after the school year. Dumbledore had already made him go back to the Dursleys after Voldemort’s rebirth. Harry wasn’t sure what Dumbledore would consider to be a good enough reason for him not to return. 

 

“He shouldn’t be able to return Harry to that home at all.” Sirius’s voice rumbled against Harry’s back. 

 

“No, he shouldn’t.” Snape said. “It falls upon us to procure evidence and handle that in an appropriate manner. For now, we’ll focus on our current plan. Petunia has agreed to lie and she has also agreed to keep Dumbledore from entering the house in the future. If she succeeds, he won’t physically check that Harry is in the house, which will help us avoid detection going forward.”

 

“Why would Dumbledore agree to not check the house? He knows how bad it is now, you told him about—” Lupin stopped short and his eyebrows rose in horrified surprise. 

 

Snape inhaled deeply and leant against the chair, distancing himself from Lupin. 

 

“He’s known about it since the beginning.” Lupin breathed. “He’s always known, hasn’t he? He never once checked in the ten years Harry was there, did he not want to see the effects of what he created?”

 

“What!?” Sirius shouted, half uprooting Harry as he stood. “No, you said he didn’t,” He added, pointing at Snape as the arm around Harry’s middle tightened. Harry clutched at the fabric near Sirius’s chest, unable to smother the shudder rattling through him as Sirius fumed. “Harry said he’d tried to tell Dumbledore, but that Dumbledore didn’t listen! You didn’t say he’d known all along!” 

 

Snape darted forward, tugging Harry free and setting him onto his feet.

 

Sirius’s face whitened and he seemed to struggle between whether to say anything or to keep quiet. Harry wasn’t sure he knew what to say to keep Sirius calm either, and he tried to give him a smile but was shaky at best. 

 

“What do you mean?” Harry asked Snape when the silence grew intolerable. 

 

“I spoke with Minerva after I rang Petunia. The day after your parents were murdered, she watched the Dursleys and informed Dumbledore of their behaviour.” Snape said. “He’s likely known the entire time.” 

 

“What?” Harry asked again, trying to follow Snape’s words. How had Dumbledore known and not helped him? Had he intended for Harry to be miserable throughout his entire childhood? 

 

Why wouldn’t he have come to save him?

 

“He told me not to make contact for twelve years.” Lupin said. 

 

“That is unsurprising.” Snape said as he crossed his arms. “Think of the difference between any of the Weasley children and Harry or Granger and Harry.” He stalked from one corner of the room to the next. “Which turns to adults to help them and which feels they need to solve the issues alone? Which is motivated by the distinct need to earn their worth?” He half shouted. 

 

“Is this why I never received a trial?” Sirius’s voice dropped to a growl and his grey eyes turned steely. “No dark mark to speak of and yet 12 years in Azkaban. Dumbledore wanted Harry alone—”

 

“WAIT!” Harry screamed. 

 

His head was sore and he couldn’t seem to see straight let alone think straight. How had Dumbledore always known? He didn’t know Lupin had been told to not contact him and he wondered now if that was why Lupin had been so awkward around him in his third year. 

 

“I feel safe at the Dursleys.” Harry said awkwardly. He knew it wasn’t the truth, at least not fully, but he didn’t know where else to start. “I know I can ask Aunt Petunia for things and she’ll give me them.” 

 

“Does she give them freely or do you need to work for them?” Snape asked. 

 

Harry blinked and tried to remember an instance when he’d been given anything without having worked for it. Nothing came to mind though. 

 

“Harry, I’m not saying Dumbledore is such a mastermind as to devise your exact relationship with your aunt. Just that he knew how she felt and how she’d treat you. He didn’t intend for you to be abused,” Snape held a hand up when Harry’s mouth dropped open. “He intended for you to grow into a frighteningly independent child.” He added. “And I say frightening for a reason, because I have a feeling you think your worth is directly tied to how much you’re willing to suffer through, rather than believing your worth is inherent. You are highly motivated and you weren’t provided with reasonable adults to teach you about when someone asked too much of you. In fact any opportunity you’d have had to find help was removed.” 

 

The age old worry of when Harry’d finally have proven his worth rocketed through him, and he couldn’t shake the urge to argue that he could handle anything that was thrown his way. 

 

“You didn’t blame me for Avery’s attack in Spinner’s End, you handled it and left. You didn’t blame your godfather for the boggart you encountered upstairs, you handled it and left.” Snape said as he leaned forward with an exhausted breath. “You don’t complain Harry, even when you absolutely should. You never complain. I worry you think that if you complain you’ll be left alone. 

 

Harry shrank into himself, feeling more unsure by the second. What was he supposed to have done in those instances? Cry and beg for help? He’d wanted to cry, but that wouldn’t have helped. He had cried in fact, and it hadn’t helped. 

 

It never helped. He’d certainly never gotten away with complaining with Aunt Petunia.

 

“No one, no one should ever expect or ask as much of you as we have. As much as Dumbledore has.” Snape slid his fingers through his hair. “That is the issue. He isn’t so cruel as to want and plan for you to have been abused. What he wanted was far more insidious and difficult to incur.” 

 

Harry shivered and tried to understand how Dumbledore could’ve known and intended for so much to happen. Why would this be the outcome he wanted? He’d always seemed to be a calm and happy old man. When had he turned so calculating?

 

“Why though?” He asked finally. “Why would he do all of this?”

 

“It might have something to do with his weapon.” Lupin stood slowly and his joints popped with painful sounding cracks. “I don’t want to guess, but I would say it’s high time we hear it from the horse's mouth, as it were.” He said. “He acts as someone who knows the future and that’s something they only keep in the Department of Mysteries. He hasn’t said a word about it though and only those who pertain to the prophecy can collect it.” 

 

“Prophecy?” Harry asked as he stared at Lupin. 

 

Lupin blinked and seemed to want to speak but cut himself off. 

 

“It’s something Dumbledore has only alluded to.” Sirius cut in. “He hasn't necessarily said the word prophecy, but Lupin thinks the only thing Voldemort would want so badly and what Dumbledore would guard so heavily would be a prophecy.” 

 

A voice that sounded terrifyingly similar to Voldemort’s hissed in the back of Harry’s mind. Sirius’s cousin has mentioned not being able to touch something in his last vision. Harry had no idea what the Department of Mysteries looked like, but he could guess it had something to do with the long hallway he’d seen in his dreams. 

 

“I think Voldemort knows about it.” He whispered. “He’s been trying to get it for a while.” 

 

“Yes.” Snape said as his sallow skin paled to a worrying grey colour. 

 

“And I’m involved?” Harry asked, wondering why else Dumbledore would’ve wanted Harry so willing to do anything for him. “I’m mentioned too?” 

 

Snape blinked, but didn’t move otherwise. His eyes were oddly guarded. 

 

He twisted and looked at Sirius, wondering if he should ask further, but Sirius looked to be in a silent conversation with Lupin. They seemed to have come to an agreement about something, which Harry felt frustrated to have been left out on. 

 

If only the people who pertained to the prophecy could remove it, why didn't Dumbledore just let Harry take it, hear it and destroy it? 

 

He wondered how they knew Harry was mentioned in it if the only people who could take it were Harry or Voldemort. Although, it was possible there were more people involved. Harry would have to ask. It felt as if there was too much going on to keep track of. He had so many things to tell Ron and Hermione.

 

“We should leave, Dumbledore will likely return sooner than he said in order to catch Petunia unaware.” Snape said. 

 

“Right.” Sirius said after a moment. “How’s that going to work?” 

 

“Harry, your uncle will collect you from a corner market and after Dumbledore has left, Petunia will drop you off there as well.” Snape said, finally looking at Harry again. “Dumbledore laid several strong notice-me-not charms. None of your neighbors will notice your change in age, in fact they likely won’t notice you at all.” 

 

Harry nodded and debated how he’d keep his temper in check when Dumbledore visited. 

 

“What would happen if I ask Dumbledore about all of this?” He asked. “About the prophecy and everything?” 

 

“I don’t recommend it.” Sirius said quickly. “We need some insurance before we go asking him. We don’t know what he might lie about.” 

 

Harry wound his fingers into the neck of his jumper again and tried to imagine keeping his mouth shut when Dumbledore arrived. He didn’t know if he’d be able to, now that he knew Dumbledore had always known Aunt Petunia hated Harry and he’d ignored him even when Harry had tried to tell him. He wasn’t sure he understood what Snape was talking about with Dumbledore asking too much of Harry or why that was the bigger issue, but he could see it bothered Snape. 

 

Snape’s hand appeared in front of him and Harry grabbed it instinctively. He tilted up at Snape, half wondering if he’d offer to pick Harry up like Dudley used to expect of Aunt Petunia. 

 

He didn’t have to wonder long, as surprise blinked across Snape’s face and he gently lifted Harry up, holding him against his chest. 

 

The tight knot of fear and worry eased for a few moments, though the thought of seeing Uncle Vernon again didn’t help. Maybe he’d be quiet and just drive Harry to the house. 

 

He’d said not to come back. 

 

“It’ll be alright, Harry.” Sirius said softly. “You have the necklace, and even if things go as horrendously as possible, we’ll always come get you.” 

 

Lupin nodded and sat back down. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He smiled. 

 

“You have the fake?” Sirius asked and smiled when Harry held it up. “Alright, we’ll see you soon Moony.” He added as he led them down the thin crooked hallway and out a side door. He grabbed tightly onto Snape, who in turn held Harry tighter still as they apparated just outside of Wisteria Walk. 

 

The small alley they landed in smelled strongly of burnt oil and rotting rubbish and was packed with flattened cardboard and trash bags. 

 

Uncle Vernon’s angry form loomed near the alley’s entrance. 

 

Sirius spun on his heel and eyed Snape closely. “Any attempt to terrorize him directly affects Harry, right?” He asked in a quiet voice. 

 

“Yes.” Snape hissed. “You’ll have an opportunity later.” He added as he stepped through stagnant puddles and fallen rubbish toward Uncle Vernon. Harry half wondered what opportunity Snape was talking about, but he forgot about it in seconds. His heart was in his throat and he didn’t have room to think of much else aside from Uncle Vernon’s last attempt to scare him. 

 

He’d acted like he would hit Harry far harder than he’d ever attempted before. He’d swatted Harry over the head a few times, but it had always been out of annoyance. 

 

Harry didn’t think Uncle Vernon was annoyed anymore. He was downright angry now. 

 

“Dursley.” Snape said as he stepped out of the alley. 

 

Uncle Vernon jumped and twisted around. His eyes narrowed as he spotted Harry and his face immediately began to purple. 

 

“You again,” He snapped. “Brought him back already have you? Sick of him?” 

 

Harry tried to shove down the humiliated ache of having Snape and Sirius hear Uncle Vernon’s comments. 

 

“Hardly, I enjoy his company very much. I’m sure Petunia made it clear what was expected of you?” Snape said as he ran a gentle hand over Harry’s back. 

 

Uncle Vernon sniffed and looked away.

 

“You’ll bring your nephew to your house and while he is there, you’ll keep your mouth shut and your hands off.” Snape’s voice was harsh and it sounded as if it scraped out of him. His fingers tightened around Harry’s side and the glare he gave Uncle Vernon was cold enough to make Harry shiver. 

 

“Did you get in Dudley’s way then, boy?” Uncle Vernon asked, leaning closer to look at Harry’s eye. “Bet you’ll steer clear of him now, won’t you?” 

 

Sirius made to move closer but Snape stepped in front of him. 

 

“Will you do as your wife has asked or shall I ring her and ask for her directly?” Snape said. 

 

Uncle Vernon’s watery eyes flashed over Sirius and his face reddened before he finally groused an annoyed sound and lumbered to his car. The door whinged as he swung it open and threw himself in, seeming only to wait for Harry now. 

 

Snape nodded and set Harry on his feet. 

 

“It’ll be alright. We’ll pick you up tonight after Dumbledore has seen you.” Sirius said with a firm nod. 

 

Snape’s fingers carded through his hair in a last comforting gesture. 

 

He stumbled over to Uncle Vernon’s car and tried to swallow down the numb feeling crawling up his throat. He pulled the door open and crept inside, half sliding over the slick leather seats. The car started and he waved a nervous goodbye as Uncle Vernon turned toward Privet Drive. 

 

“You’ll bloody well keep to your own when we get back. Straight into the cupboard with you.” 

 

“What?!” Harry shrieked. “No, I’m not going in there.” He twisted, trying to spot Snape and Sirius but they’d already rounded the bend in the road. 

 

“Yes you are. You’ve given us enough trouble with this age business. Dudley has suffered—”

 

“I’ve suffered too!” Harry shouted. “I’m not going in the cupboard, I’m not a mop!” 

 

The car rocked as Uncle Vernon turned the corner and Number Four appeared on the left. The flowerbeds looked as if they’d recently been trampled, likely by Dudley being allowed out for an afternoon. 

 

“Do not argue with me boy, I made myself perfectly clear when I told you not to come back.” 

 

“I didn’t ask to come back and I’m not going in there!” 

 

“If you want us to lie for you, you’ll go in there and stay. I don’t want to hear a sound, not one.” Uncle Vernon’s beady eyes glared at him from the mirror. “You want that crack-pot Fuddydore to buy that you’re here, you’ll do as I say.” 

 

Harry seethed in the back seat as the car pulled into the driveway. 

 

“Get out.” Uncle Vernon snapped. 

 

“What will you do when Dumbledore arrives? Tell him I’m not in the cupboard? He’s going to ask to see me.” Harry said as his nails cut into his palms. 

 

“You’ll be allowed out before we let him in.” Uncle Vernon said. “If you want this deal to go smoothly, you’ll act like you’ve been in your room, won’t you? You don’t want him suspicious, you don’t want him taking you anywhere else, do you?” 

 

Harry shoved down every urge to scream and tried to think of what Snape and Sirius wanted. Uncle Vernon was right. Harry needed to be here without Dumbledore suspecting anything. 

 

“That’s right,” Uncle Vernon said with a nasty smile when Harry finally nodded. “Your aunt will allow you out if she needs help with dinner, but not a word otherwise. Understand? Be glad you’re not staying longer.” He said as he climbed out of the small car and yanked the back door open. 

 

Harry swallowed a cry as Uncle Vernon gripped his upper arm tightly and dragged him into the house. 

 

“I’m home Pet,” Uncle Vernon called as he dropped his briefcase onto the floor. 

 

Aunt Petunia came around the doorway and paused as she spotted Uncle Vernon, though she didn’t seem to notice Harry. She wiped her hands on a washcloth and stepped closer, giving Uncle Vernon a short kiss on the cheek before spinning on her heel and stepping back into the kitchen. 

 

Harry didn’t know if he felt like crying or screaming. He couldn’t decide if that was good or bad. 

 

“Alright, remember the rules.” Uncle Vernon said as he pulled Harry along with him. 

 

“No!” Harry jerked and pulled as hard as he could on his trapped arm as a sharp burst of fear flooded through him. He couldn’t portkey away, and Snape hadn’t had a backup plan if Harry couldn’t handle it. Was this one of the occasions where he was too willing to suffer? What if it wasn’t and he was just crying for no reason? 

 

“It’s not fair,” He tried to say. “I’m not a mop—”

 

It was just the cupboard. Just a cupboard.

 

“Quiet.” Uncle Vernon hissed as he opened the door and shoved him roughly into the cramped space. 

 

Darkness dropped around him as Uncle Vernon threw the lock and stepped away, his loud footsteps echoing and croaking over the floor. 

 

He’d been told not to make a sound, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do that. A lump had crawled up his throat and he felt very much like crying. 

 

He thought about what Snape had said earlier, and he thought Harry didn’t know his own self worth. He knew he shouldn’t have been forced into a cupboard. That must’ve counted for knowing some amount of self worth, didn’t it? He wasn’t a mop, he’d said as much. He was a person and he deserved a bedroom and to eat when he was hungry. 

 

Dudley stormed down the steps, raining dust and spiders down on him with a loud giggle. 

 

The lightbulb hadn’t been replaced yet and the only light in the cupboard struggled to fight through the slats in the door. He had the oddest thought to go looking through the cracks in the walls for secret gifts from Snape to try and cheer himself up. He wasn’t actually six though, and no amount of pretend searching was going to help. 

 

He pressed his hands into his eyes, trying to stem the tears as he fell onto the rotten mattress on the floor. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Harry tried to breathe and slow his racing heart, but the stuffy air from the small cupboard made it too difficult. 

 

The necklace hummed, bursting with heat in an attempt to help soothe Harry, but it didn’t help. 

 

He was bitterly angry. It was difficult to tell anymore if he was crying from anger, fear or pain. Maybe a collection of all three and anything else he couldn’t name at the moment. He’d spent almost a week as a child now, and it didn’t feel as if he were any closer to having sorted his emotions out. He wondered when he’d forgotten to be frustrated with his consistent crying. 

 

He gasped and tried to sniffle quietly. His chest was too small to keep the roiling mess of emotions inside. 

 

Faded memories of too loud whinges and whimpers blinked in the back of his mind. Neither Aunt Petunia nor Uncle Vernon had been pleased when Harry had been too loud in his cupboard in the past. 

 

One of the oldest memories he had was one where he’d fallen or perhaps tripped, and he’d gone to Aunt Petunia expecting some form of love, but she’d been too busy. She had always been busy. She’d gripped his arm and swung him around, half tossing him into the cupboard once he’d really begun to throw a fit. 

 

He’d seen Dudley throw the same sort of tantrum earlier that day though, and Aunt Petunia had calmed and soothed him. 

 

Was it such a shock that Harry’d been treated differently? 

 

What would they do if he was too loud today? Would Uncle Vernon bang on the small door and shout, or maybe he’d threaten to have Harry help cook even though he couldn’t seem to stop crying? Harry didn’t fancy cooking again, it had gone poorly when he’d been alone in the kitchen and he had a feeling it’d be utterly miserable with Uncle Vernon and Dudley in there as well. 

 

If he had to be in Privet Drive, it was better to be left alone. The Dursleys could’ve left him alone in his room though. 

 

Anger burned through him again and stung in his eyes. 

 

He’d never done anything to deserve being put in the cupboard. If Aunt Petunia was only angry with Dumbledore, she could’ve just written him rather than taking it out of Harry. 

 

That didn’t leave a reason for Uncle Vernon to hate Harry, but he was probably just following along with what Aunt Petunia told him to do. Uncle Vernon, much like Dudley, had never really thought for himself. 

 

Harry sat up and wrapped his arms as tightly as he could around himself in a poor attempt at a hug as he rocked slowly back and forth. 

 

He wanted Snape, or maybe Sirius. He wanted to know what Snape would say if Harry portkeyed away this second, if he would be disappointed in Harry or if he would be comforting like he had earlier. 

 

It reminded Harry of Snape’s comments about Dumbledore, and how Dumbledore had always known how Harry was treated at the Dursleys. 

 

How could Harry know what was too much to ask of him as well? This was his cupboard and he had grown up in it. 

 

He pinched his eyes shut against the unending and blistering bitterness. How many times had he been forced into this cupboard while the Dursleys continued on with their day? Why was it so difficult for Harry to tell if his cupboard was as abusive and dangerous as Snape seemed to think it was. Harry knew himself well enough and he knew what actual danger looked like, especially after having met Voldemort in spring. 

 

The spring after which, Dumbledore wanted Harry alone, despite his having witnessed Voldemort murder Cedric and then being tortured.

 

Nausea bubbled in him as Voldemort’s sibilant voice tickled Harry’s ears. A weak breeze ruffled through his hair and spun outward, brushing over the walls as bone white fingers crept from behind him and over his shoulders, bright in the dark cupboard. Dread quickly replaced the nausea as a slippery snake belly slid around Harry’s folded legs. 

 

Harry couldn’t remember Nagini having circled around him so closely in the graveyard, and he couldn’t tell if this was a vision or a memory anymore. His heart stuttered and he tried to sit as still as he could in case the snake turned to bite him. He couldn’t tell where Nagini’s head was though, nor her tail. She was massive and only seemed to grow the longer she stayed. 

 

Pale fingers danced over his shoulders and down his arms as they slipped behind him, before disappearing from his jumper. Harry couldn’t bring himself to turn and see if they were truly gone. 

 

Dudley’s loud laugh rang from the kitchen, followed by the banging of pots and pans and Harry breathed harshly in. 

 

His eyes flashed downward, spotting the worn knees of his trousers and ratty trainers, but no Nagini. Had she been in his cupboard at all? She was a massive snake and Harry wouldn't have thought she could fit if he hadn’t just seen it. 

 

As quickly as the paralyzing experience had swept through him, it seemed to have faded. 

 

He twisted and cast a nervous look behind him, spying the cracks he used to hide snacks or pretend gifts had hidden in. There were no ghostly hands to be found though. 

 

A shudder rattled through him as the terror ebbed and Dudley continued to giggle as he told his story. 

 

“No, he had a huge mustache,” Dudley shouted. “Said he’d shave it for the prize money too!” 

 

Uncle Vernon let out a laugh. “Was he committed then, eh?” Harry was fairly sure he could hear Uncle Vernon muttering over a business report. “Did he shave it then?” He asked. 

 

Harry tried to imagine watching the mind numbing boredom of their conversation. He thought of how Dudley’s face would light up when Uncle Vernon laughed at his jokes or when he asked questions about the shows Dudley watched or the games he played. 

 

It helped, in a cold and clinical sort of way. 

 

A cold sweat ran down Harry’s back and he debated tugging his jumper over his head and drying himself off, but he didn’t fancy moving if Voldemort was going to show up again. Whether he’d been real or imagined. 

 

His hands tucked tighter around himself as he tried to set his mind to something other than Voldemort. He debated working out a way for Snape and Sirius to communicate more, well, communicatively, but he couldn’t imagine Snape pulling his punches, nor could he see Sirius resisting the urge to bite back. He couldn’t fault them, he would have a hard time being even a little kinder to Malfoy. 

 

Sirius had backed down somewhat, even if Harry had a blurry memory of the conversation. He had asked Snape questions when Harry had fallen asleep and he hadn’t insulted Snape once. 

 

Snape, for all his hatred of Sirius, always seemed inclined to let Sirius begin their arguments. Which, Harry couldn’t tell if that was genius or insecurity. It might be genius, as Snape always turned whatever Sirius said against him, or it could be insecurity, because he was always defending himself from Sirius’s comments. Harry had a hard time wondering why Snape would feel insecure around Sirius, but he didn’t want to start guessing about it in case he came up with something truly wrong.

 

They’d both gone out of their way trying to help Harry, as had Lupin. Harry was going to try and help them as much from now on as well. 

 

He let out a strained giggle as he wondered how, if he could keep Sirius from starting things, maybe Snape wouldn’t feel the need to snap back. 

 

He’d never thought he’d be working on how to help Snape and Sirius get along. 

 

It made him wonder why Dumbledore hadn’t tried harder to get Snape and Sirius to get along. Together they were too clever to catch. That seemed like too useful of a skill set to let go to waste. 

 

Sirius was uncontrollable though, which must’ve frustrated Dumbledore to no end. 

 

Sirius had also been the one to tell Harry to watch Dumbledore more closely. He’d said Dumbledore wasn’t infallible. 

 

He could try and puzzle out what the prophecy said and why Dumbledore had left Harry with the Dursleys, as well as why he’d wanted Harry to have no sense of what was too much to ask of someone.

 

Of all the awful sort of things to want from someone, that seemed almost harmless when compared to the abuse he’d more often heard of. 

 

What the prophecy said seemed too difficult to answer without more information, but his curiosity was burning. Dumbledore had left him entirely in the dark if he knew of a prophecy. Didn’t Harry have a right to know his own prophecy? He thought he should have a right not to be shoved in a cupboard as well, but it seemed he either wasn’t going to receive that right, or he was wrong and was actually a diseased and nasty little thing like Aunt Petunia always said. 

 

He shook his head wildly for a moment and tried to recall Snape saying that he liked Harry’s company. Snape had said that to Uncle Vernon. He’d told Uncle Vernon straight out that Harry wasn’t nasty or freakish, or, he didn’t say that specifically but it could be implied. Nasty people weren't enjoyable company. 

 

That included Dumbledore now, despite how odd it was to consider. 

 

It was after what felt like hours of being alone in the dark that he decided he’d come to some form of conclusion about the prophecy and Dumbledore’s behaviour. Lupin had said the prophecy was why Dumbledore behaved in the way he did, and Harry wondered if Dumbledore believed Harry would betray him, like Pettigrew did his parents and that was why he wanted Harry unable to tell when he asked too much. 

 

A sharp rap on the small door jolted Harry from his thoughts. He jumped and tossed one last cautious look behind him in search of Voldemort before the door opened and Aunt Petunia appeared in the hallway. 

 

“I need you to peel potatoes.” She said as she stepped aside and allowed him out. “Silently.” She added with a firm look before dropping the peeler into his hands. 

 

Harry could agree with her on that, he didn’t fancy speaking to her anyway. 

 

He rounded the corner and spotted Dudley and Uncle Vernon shuffling into the sitting room to watch telly. Harry half wondered why they’d given up the chance to bully him before debating whether or not Aunt Petunia was just trying to make the evening run as smoothly as possible. 

 

That didn’t seem realistic, especially not after Uncle Vernon had thrown Harry in his cupboard, but he could hope.

 

“Sometime soon!” Aunt Petunia said as she pointed to a bowl of potatoes in the sink. “I haven’t got all day.” 

 

Harry signed and stepped closer, wondering how he’d managed this if he couldn’t reach the bowl. He certainly wasn’t allowed to sit on the counter. He turned and went to grab a chair when the doorbell rang. 

 

The sudden memory of Snape collecting Harry from Privet Drive a week ago tore through him, and excitement sang in his limbs. 

 

The peeler fell from his hands and landed on the linoleum with a sharp crack as Harry bolted down the hallway. 

 

The euphoria of Snape’s potential appearance was doused in ice water as the memory of Dumbledore’s return froze him in his tracks. Despite the lack of a window in the front door or any true sign of him, Dumbledore’s shadow seemed to eclipse any light in the hallway. Harry half wondered why Dumbledore even bothered to ring the bell when he seemed to treat any space as if he’d always lived in it. It seemed more likely that he’d have preferred to appear in the sitting room or kitchen rather than waiting to be allowed in.

 

Maybe he’d set so many security measures that he needed to be allowed in? 

 

Dudley’s nervous gaze appeared around the doorway before Uncle Vernon grumbled about their show being back on and he disappeared back into the sitting room.  

 

Aunt Petunia muttered over Harry’s failure to answer the door as she stormed past him to peer through the peephole. Her shoulders hunched slightly as she inched the door open and hissed at Dumbledore to come in quickly before any of the neighbours could see the odd old man. 

 

“Mrs Dursley,” Dumbledore began. “I will be brief, as I have no doubt you are busy.” 

 

Aunt Petunia huffed and a sneer wrinkled her nose, but remained silent as she pointed at Harry, who had yet to have moved past his cupboard door. 

 

“Ah, Harry my boy—” Dumbledore stopped short as he stepped closer, looking Harry in the eye for once. 

 

Harry felt an uncomfortable urge to curl into himself or hide in his cupboard as Dumbledore blinked down at him. He wasn’t sure Dumbledore had ever caused that reaction in Harry before. 

 

Dumbledore hadn’t looked Harry in the eye very much over the last week though, or frankly at all since Voldemort’s rebirth. Harry hadn’t understood that. Dumbledore had almost always found the time to listen attentively to Harry, even if he had cruel ulterior motives. Harry still didn’t know why he’d changed after Voldemort’s rebirth, and he was all the more sure now that the prophecy spoke of Harry’s potential betrayal. 

 

That was the only idea Harry could conceivably consider, though he wasn’t sure that was a very helpful prophecy.  

 

“My dear child, what’s happened to your eye?” Dumbledore asked softly as he knelt down. 

 

Aunt Petunia jerked and opened her mouth as if to speak, but seemed to think better of it. Her fingers tightened into a fist as she crossed her arms. 

 

Harry stared confusedly before remembering that Dudley had punched him earlier and despite the bruise paste, it was still a blotchy and bruised mess. It didn’t hurt like it had earlier though. 

 

His voice cracked as he struggled with what to say. He wasn’t sure if the truth would help, as he didn’t know what Dumbledore would do with the information. It might not help to tell the truth either, not if Dumbledore had already known the Dursleys had been awful throughout his childhood. 

 

Snape had said Dumbledore wasn’t so cruel as to want Harry to have been abused. Snape had also said though, that Dumbledore had always known Aunt Petunia didn’t like Harry. Maybe Dumbledore just couldn’t imagine the Dursleys being so vile to Harry as a child. Harry couldn’t imagine being vicious to someone as defenseless as he’d been, so he understood that to some extent. 

 

It didn’t make him feel any better though. 

 

“Dudley hit me.” Harry said finally, deciding that the truth was better than lying if Dumbledore already knew Harry had been hated. 

 

“Your cousin hit you?” Dumbledore repeated as he climbed slowly back to his feet and turned toward Aunt Petunia. “You allowed your son to hurt him?” 

 

“Of course I haven’t allowed him.” Aunt Petunia snapped. “You think I ordered him to get into a fight? You think I ordered the boy to torment my son?” Her voice was harsh as her eyes narrowed and she moved closer to Dumbledore. “I would’ve thought you of all people would understand the natures of independence in the people you try to help, especially in antagonistic children.” 

 

“I would have stepped in sooner, Mrs Dursley. As the presiding authority—”

 

“Presiding authority!” Aunt Petunia shrieked a cold laugh. “Where was your authority when the boy was being kidnapped from school or left half dead after fighting the professors or monsters you allow to roam so freely?” 

 

Harry blinked dumbly. 

 

He had never told Aunt Petunia about any of the danger he’d found himself in and now was wondering when she’d been told. He knew Dumbledore had sent letters home after Harry’d found himself in the hospital wing, but he’d always assumed Aunt Petunia threw the letters away without a second glance. They’d have probably arrived by owl, which was another reason she’d never have given them another look.

 

“Those are extenuating circumstances, and certainly not equatable to a familial fight.” Dumbledore said firmly. “It is quite difficult to ensure the safety of all of my students when one is so heavily targeted, but I assure you, Mrs Dursley, Harry’s protection is quite important to me.” 

 

“Is that so?” Aunt Petunia asked with a raised eyebrow. 

 

“Quite.” Dumbledore said. “And though I find your care to be lacking, I am impressed you carry a bruise paste capable of speeding the healing time.” 

 

Harry felt his eyes widen and he glanced at Aunt Petunia, but her face was set in stone. 

 

“I raised two boys,” She said calmly. “And grew up near one that enjoyed making things of that sort. You think I’m too stubborn to ignore those benefits?” 

 

“Hardly, Mrs Dursley.” Dumbledore waved a frail hand in apology. “It was merely a passing curiosity of mine.” 

 

The anger Harry’d felt earlier roared back into his mind, as did the injustice of being forced back to the Durlsey’s after the graveyard, and again after Dumbledore had caught them at his mum’s flat. Again into the cupboard, and again to suffer through Dudley. Again to put up with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s taunts. 

 

“You think of me being in pain as a passing curiosity?” The bitter words flew from Harry’s mouth before he could stop them. 

 

Dumbledore whipped around as shock flooded his face and he stared at Harry. 

 

Harry couldn’t deny the vicious excitement that raced through him at Dumbledore’s appalled faced. 

 

He knew Sirius had told him not to go asking questions, and not to bring up the prophecy, but anger pounded a deafening beat in his eardrums. 

 

He had endured more panic attacks in this house in the last summer than in his entire life. He’d needed someone to talk to and someone to help him. Dumbledore should have known that. Anyone would have known Harry needed help after something as terrifying as Voldemort’s revival. 

 

Harry could admit now that having help was significantly better than suffering alone. Snape had proven it to him, as had Sirius and Lupin. Hermione and Ron had always tried to show Harry how adults could help, even if Harry had doggedly denied it. 

 

A soft hiss at the back of his mind echoed the bitterness he felt. 

 

There were no pale fingers curling around his shoulders, nor was Nagini present to keep him in check, despite Harry being sure he could hear her. 

 

“Harry?” 

 

The twinkle in Dumbledore’s pale blue eyes darkened and deadened into something unreadable, though Harry was certain he’d seen the same look in his eyes before, just after Barty Crouch Jr revealed the plot behind Voldemort’s rebirth. 

 

Dumbledore’s wand appeared in his hand and fear bolted through Harry. 

 

The instinctive need to escape screamed in him, pushing him to hide in his cupboard, but Harry flat out refused to allow Dumbledore to see him inside of it. He didn’t know what had come over him, but something was pushing and pulling his bitter feelings into an unidentifiable, roiling mass. 

 

Dumbledore raised his wand and the whisper of a spell Harry couldn’t name formed on his lips. 

 

Harry jerked, half tripping as he spun and tore into this kitchen before Dumbledore could finish speaking. Terror pulsed through him as the graveyard echoed behind his eyes and he couldn’t shake the thought of Dumbledore trapping him like Voldemort had. 

 

“Harry!” Dumbledore’s footsteps thundered after him. 

 

Harry threw the fake necklace onto the linoleum as he dove out the back door and through the garden hedge.

 

He wasn’t sure if he should portkey, not while Dumbledore could still easily get to him. He still didn't know how Dumbledore had found them all after they’d hidden in his mum’s flat either, and portkeying so quickly to Snape might just lead Dumbledore directly to them. 

 

That didn’t leave many options and Snape would come looking for Harry if he didn’t show up. 

 

A strained whinge escaped from his throat as he ran along the back of the shed. 

 

He’d ruined their entire plan. 

 

“Please, Harry,” Dumbledore’s worried voice echoed around the yard. “It isn’t safe outside of this house, please come back!” 

 

He dug his cloak out and tossed it over his head seconds before Dumbledore appeared around the hedge. Worry was stark in his face. His eyes flew over the small conservatory and the garden as he frantically searched for Harry. 

 

“HARRY!” 

 

Harry’s heart pounded as he skirted along the hedge and out onto the pavement. Dumbledore’s own protective spells must’ve kept him from summoning Harry like Snape had in Spinner’s End. 

 

A plan formed in the back of his mind as he ran. He could go as far from both Snape and Dumbledore as he could and hide until Dumbledore eventually found him. From there, he could portkey away and buy himself just a little more time to escape with Snape. He didn’t know how he’d apologize to Snape and Sirius for his mistakes and an iron grip tightened around his heart as he pictured the disappointment on their faces, but he didn’t know what else to do. 

 

He tripped twice over the long cloak before rounding the block and tugging it from his head. The sounds of doors slamming echoed from nearby and he put on a burst of speed as put more distance between himself and the house. 

 

A thick damp fog blanketed the street, giving Harry an extra edge in the darkness. He slipped around the pockets of light from the faded street lamps as he made for the shabby petrol station near Magnolia Road. 

 

“It’s ok,” He gasped to himself. “You’re fine, absolutely fine.” 

 

The fence ended on his left and he sprinted down the block, moving further and further from Dumbeldore’s calls. 

 

He wished he’d stuck to their original plan. 

 

The electric crackle of the neon petrol light hummed in his ear, joining his harsh pants in a welcome relief. It had grown eerily quiet and Harry’s uncomfortable vulnerabilities began to creep over his skin, pushing at him to hide behind or under something. He knew there was a dumpster nearby, even if he couldn’t see it through the mist. 

 

His footsteps echoed as he crept closer to the petrol station and he rounded the chain fence, before spotting a dark figure looming near the back alley. 

 

Harry froze as panic bubbled in his throat. Snape had said Dumbledore’s spell would hide him from his neighbours, but Harry had no proof of that. He squinted through the dim amber of the street light as whoever it was moved back and forth, eventually breaking through the fog as they came closer.

 

It was Snape, Harry realized a second later. 

 

“Snape!” Harry breathed as loud as he dared and ran closer. “Snape! Why are you here?!” He asked as he slammed into the tall man. 

 

Snape jerked backwards and shock burst across his face as he looked down at Harry. 

 

“What happened?” Harry asked, hugging the man as tightly as he could. 

 

“I,” Snape started as he took in Harry’s sweaty and panting form. “Change of plan.” He said with an odd look as his dark eyes searched through the misty block. 

 

“Dumbledore is coming, I messed up. I’m really sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” Harry babbled, fearing the disappointment he knew would wash over Snape’s face any second. Once he started explaining though, he was unable to stop. “I had a plan though! I was going to use the necklace! I was going to use it once I got here and Dumbledore found me, but it was to give us more time and I don’t know what happened to me, I think I saw Voldemort,” Snape flinched hard at the name and his large hands dropped over Harry’s back in a comforting half hug. “Earlier though, not now but—”

 

“Right,” Snape said. “Right, well, best be quiet now then, lest Dumbledore come around the corner.” He added. 

 

Harry nodded and inched away, unsure of if he could reach up and ask for Snape to hold him like he did earlier. He desperately wished he could have some comfort after the cupboard and the fight, though he didn’t think he deserved it for failing to finish their plan. It seemed inappropriate with Dumbledore on his way as well. 

 

Snape’s fingers clamped onto his arm and he quickly led them from the petrol station. 

 

“Where are we going?” Harry asked. “Where’s Sirius?” He tossed a look behind him. Dumbledore didn’t sound any nearer and he worried the man might be waiting for Harry to stop moving in order to track him down. 

 

They hurried down the street and wove through several more alleys until coming upon the park Harry had spent more than half of his summer in. Harry wondered if they were any nearer to a place they could apparate from. Snape had said before that he could get as near as Wisteria Walk, though he neglected to say how far they needed to be in order to apparate. 

 

“Snape,” Harry whispered as they neared a dark alcove of trees. “Where are we going? What’s the plan? Where’s Sirius?” He asked again. “Is Sirius with Lupin because of the moon?” 

 

Snape flinched and twisted as he looked up at the sky before blinking back down at Harry. His eyes turned almost cold for a brief second. 

 

Harry curled inwards as guilt sank like iron in his stomach. He knew he’d messed the plan up, but he hadn’t anticipated being this upset with himself. He’d come up with a fairly good backup plan, even if Snape didn’t seem to think so. 

 

“Black is with Lupin, you're correct.” Snape said finally. “We are going to a safe house I’ve arranged.” 

 

“Which one?” Harry asked as Snape’s eyes flashed over Harry’s shoulder. 

 

Harry cast a quick look as well as worry replaced guilt. He’d run from plenty of people and plenty of creatures before, but it seemed to be taking Dumbledore far too long to find them if he was actively tracking Harry. The bright moonlight broke through the fog for a brief minute as it shone over rusted and wet playground equipment. It wasn’t high enough in the sky to truly light the park up, but it worked well enough at the moment. 

 

“One where Dumbledore won’t be able to find you.” 

 

“He found us under a Fidelius though.” Harry said, turning back around. “Or, he found us near it. Did you find a different spell or, or,” He trailed off, unable to think of a good alternative. 

 

“A different kind of spell Harry, don’t worry.” Snape said as he knelt onto the damp grass and pulled out his wand as he summoned a collection of rubbish from a rucksack. “It’s quite far away, we’ll need a portkey.” He added. 

 

Harry blinked as a feeling of horror came over him with every flick of the pale wand.

He’d seen that wand before. 

 

He’d seen it in Spinner’s End. 

 

He’d stolen it off of Avery. 

 

Harry glanced upwards and eyed Snape’s face. He didn’t know if the wand had ever been returned to Avery in the first place. Harry hadn’t known what happened to it after he’d given it to Mr Weasley and fallen asleep. 

 

His hand crept upwards toward the pendant on his mum’s necklace as Snape’s arm flashed before his eyes and grabbed a hold of Harry’s arm, stopping him in its tracks. 

 

He tugged Harry closer. “What’s wrong, Harry.” 

 

The moonlight brightened something Harry was sure he’d never seen in Snape’s eyes before. This man wasn’t Snape, he couldn’t have been Snape. 

 

Harry had run straight into Avery’s arms. 

 

“Nothing.” Harry breathed. “Nothing’s wrong.” 

 

He felt pretending to buy Avery’s act was better than full out panicking, as that would tip the man off sooner. 

 

He shuddered as Avery’s head tilted to the left and his eyes lit up. 

 

“It doesn’t look like nothing.” Avery whispered and reached out, running a hand through Harry’s hair in a gesture too reminiscent of Voldemort’s actions in the graveyard. 

 

“I’m just,” Harry started again, trembling with a cold sweat as his fingers left Harry’s hair. He tried to grab the pendant with his free arm, but Avery quickly grabbed that one as well. “I’m—”

 

“You can tell me,” Avery began as he leant closer. “I can keep a secret.” 

 

Harry nodded and swallowed heavily. He wished he hadn’t mentioned the necklace earlier, as Avery likely knew now that it was a portkey. If Avery didn’t know, he knew enough to not let Harry touch it. Harry hadn’t ever tried to portkey away without holding the pendant, but there seemed no better time to try than now. 

 

“I think,” Harry breathed in a raspy breath. “I just might need some help.” 

 

His feet were planted in the damp grass and Avery’s arms only seemed to tighten. 

 

“Well that’s great.” Avery smiled. The expression was horribly out of place on Snape’s face. “I also happen to be excellent at helping. What can I do?” 

 

“Well, erm,” Harry breathed. Sirius's voice echoed in the back of his mind, reminding him unnecessarily that Avery had invented cruel spells throughout Voldemort’s initial reign, and that anything the man offered him should be considered deadly. “You were right earlier, is all.” 

 

“Was I?” Avery said, leaning back. “In what way?” 

 

“You said I didn’t understand how dangerous Dumbledore was.” Harry said. His throat had seemed to dry up, and he couldn’t keep from trembling against Avery. “I get it now, I do.” 

 

“Yes.” Avery nodded and his eyes bored into Harry’s. “Yes, he is, isn’t he?” 

 

Harry nodded as well and tried to stop shivering. 

 

“That doesn’t seem to be all though, Harry,” Avery said as he pulled Harry into a paralyzing hug. “You’re shaking like a leaf.” 

 

“‘M cold.” Harry said from where he was pressed into Avery’s front. 

 

“Ah. Well, all will be well in a moment.” Avery cupped the back of Harry’s head, keeping him tucked too tightly to move as the sound of his rifling through the rucksack again rang loudly in Harry’s ears. “You know, I’ve always liked kids.” He said. “They’re easier to talk to, and much more willing to listen. It’s why I became a teacher.” 

 

Harry nodded and tried to put more space between himself and Avery’s chest, but Avery quickly wrapped a steel arm around him. 

 

“You’re such a tiny thing, it’s no wonder you’re cold.” 

 

The necklace hummed, heating as Harry’s terror spiked. 

 

“Aha!” Avery called. “Found it.”

 

Harry couldn't tell what the portkey was, but he had no interest in portkeying to Avery’s safehouse.

 

He shoved as hard as he could at the man and was surprised when he broke free and fell. He rolled away quickly and tried to run from the playground, but an iron grip clamped onto his upper arm and swung him back around. 

 

“Not this time, Potter!” Avery snarled. 

 

Harry tried to grab the pendant again but it was wrenched from his head and tossed into the trees. He quickly tried to pull his wand from his back pocket, but Avery snatched it away as well. 

 

“Do you know what I’ve been through because of you?” Avery asked as he dragged Harry closer. “Do you know—” 

 

“Let go!” Harry screamed as loudly as he could, hoping anyone would appear, even Dumbledore. He was out of plans. He was out of ideas. He was too small to fight Avery and he didn’t have his wand or the necklace. 

 

He didn’t know what to do. 

 

Panic built in him, flooding through every vein and causing him to scream again and pull as hard as he could on the hand holding him. 

 

“Your neighbours can’t hear you.” Avery spat. 

 

A sharp crack echoed around them and Avery froze. His iron grip on Harry tightened further as the damp fog closed in around them. 

 

Avery’s eyes flashed over the playground, though the fog was now nearly too thick to see through. He twisted, pulling Harry up into his arms as he ran back towards the portkey. Harry wasn’t sure which item it was, as a collection was sprawled over the sodden grass.

 

Harry screamed again and kicked out as hard as he could. Avery’s hand tightened again around his wrists. 

 

“Let go!” Harry screamed before something sharp hit his head and he fell to the ground. 

 

It was as if he’d been dropped under water. The foggy playground grew quiet and faded. Harry blinked bleary eyed up and tried to spot Avery, but couldn’t seem to separate his dark form from the hazy fog.

 

A massive black shape leapt over him and collided with Avery.

 

Harry tried to turn his head and watch but he couldn’t seem to move.

 

Had he been confunded? He couldn’t remember if being unable to move was a symptom of a confundus charm. He might be petrified, but he felt too calm to be aware of his surroundings and body binding curses didn’t cloud the mind in the way Harry’s currently was. 

 

It was strange to be aware that he was too calm, but unable to do anything about it. 

 

A screeching noise screamed through the muddled haze dampening Harry’s thoughts, rousing him from the comforting blankness as Avery appeared in front of him again. 

 

Harry flinched back and tried to scramble away but Avery’s hands were too fast. 

 

“I let your mother plait my hair.” He said quietly as he loosened his grip on Harry’s shuddering form. “I bought her pink and orange ribbons and she coloured pictures for me with those same horrendous colours, so we could have matching taste.” He added as he guided Harry closer. 

 

Harry coughed around the fear clogging his throat. 

 

It was Snape, not Avery. Avery couldn’t have known Snape let Lily plait his hair. 

 

Snape caught him as he finally breathed and the panic ebbed. He pulled Harry as close as he could without crushing him as Avery had done moments before. Snape’s heart pounded in Harry’s ears. 

 

“Will you take care of this?” Snape called loudly as he stood, keeping Harry close. 

 

Harry turned and spotted Padfoot’s bloody muzzle looming near the swing set. He couldn’t see Avery though, nor could he see Dumbledore, if Dumbledore had arrived. Harry twisted again, looking over the park in case he’d missed them. 

 

“We’ve got this Severus.” 

 

Harry felt his eyes widen as Lupin’s pallid form emerged from the fog. 

 

“Don’t worry Harry,” Lupin said with a soft, kind smile that betrayed something golden and glowing beneath his eyes. “Sometimes, all anyone needs is a little stroll through the moonlight.” The uncomfortable tightness he’d seen in Lupin’s face earlier was now so taught that Harry worried it’d snap and give way any second. 

 

“We’re leaving then, distract Dumbledore.” Snape nodded. “Deep breath Harry, we’re about to apparate a very long distance.” 



Chapter Text

 

A tremendously loud crack roared in Harry’s ears. After what felt like ages, the feeling of being squeezed through an impossibly thin tube finally let up. Snape hadn’t been joking when he’d said they were traveling over a very long distance. 

 

Harry shuddered as a cold sweat broke over him and he gagged, nearly sicking up over Snape’s shoulder.

 

His heart pounded in his chest as Snape dropped quickly to his knees and set Harry onto his feet. 

 

“Try and breathe slowly,” Snape said as he flicked his wand and sent a cool burst of air billowing around Harry. “It was a long distance, you’ll feel ill for a few minutes yet.” 

 

Harry’s sense of balance adjusted far slower than he would’ve liked, but the longer he stayed still, the more the world filtered in through the nausea. 

 

They were surrounded by significantly larger and darker pine forest than the small alcove of trees in the park. A chorus of sounds echoed from around them. The chirps and croaks of what lived in the dark woods appeared unbothered by his and Snape’s sudden appearance, which seemed odd but Harry felt too sick to consider it for very long. He couldn’t spot much through the trees aside from a thin, crooked trail leading into the dark. If he didn’t know better, he’d have said they were in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts. 

 

He shuddered through the rush of fear and panic still coursing through him. He wondered what Sirius and Lupin were doing, and if Avery was dead or not. He didn’t know if Dumbledore knew where he was, or what he’d done after Harry had run away. 

 

He half wondered why he wasn’t more worried about that when he noticed Snape’s finger brushing slowly up and down his nose. 

 

“Better?” Snape asked as he pulled his hand away. 

 

Harry debated saying yes, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie. He was still reeling from what had happened, and he wasn’t sure how he felt. 

 

He shook his head ‘no’ and reached his hand up, unconsciously searching for the pleasant warmth of his mum’s necklace. A mortifying sob crept up his throat as he remembered it’s loss. He wanted it back that second. 

 

He turned to Snape, not quite prepared to endure the long apparition once more but willing to ask, when his mum’s necklace was dropped over his head.

 

Harry blinked dumbly at the pendant. 

 

“When we heard you scream, we used the photograph to portkey to your location.” Snape said softly. 

 

“Oh.” Harry said thickly. The small pendant warmed against his chest. “Thank you. Did you find my wand too?” He asked, looking up at Snape. 

 

Snape grimaced. “No, I’m sorry. Black will procure it.” 

 

Harry nodded. He wished for his wand back immediately, though having the necklace again helped to ease the loss. He didn’t know if Snape would offer to take them back for his wand, not after apparating such a long distance. He didn’t fancy apparating there and back again either, not when he’d gotten so sick apparating here the first time. He didn’t even know where they were, or why their travel was so much worse than normal apparition. 

 

“Where are we?” He asked, blinking wetly at the woods around them. 

 

“Germany.” Snape answered. “Near Hamburg.” 

 

“Germany!” Harry jerked and twisted in place. 

 

He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, as the forest was still as dark and difficult to see through as it was a moment ago. 

 

Snape swung his black cloak from his shoulders and wrapped it soundly around Harry’s. His long fingers wove small, clever knots into the heavy fabric as he tightened it around Harry. 

 

Harry watched confusedly as Snape’s fingers worked. He didn’t know why Snape had given him his cloak. It was immensely comforting, though, he wasn’t sure why that was either. It reminded him oddly of the hug Mrs Weasley’s had given him in spring, after he’d arrived in the hospital wing. 

 

He realized belatedly that he was shivering, but he couldn’t tell if it was from the draining adrenaline, panic or the actual cold. 

 

Snape crouched lower when he finished and held his arms out for Harry who instinctively stepped into them. He pulled Harry up and tucked him against his chest and set off at a slow pace down the crooked trail. 

 

“Why Germany?” Harry asked as he pillowed his head on Snape’s shoulder. The effort to stave off crying was slowly creeping in on him and he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d manage to avoid it. He felt as if he’d been run over by a troll. 

 

“Because we will be staying with my mother,” Snape’s hand dropped over his head and he hugged him close. “And Dumbledore will be unable to find us.” 

 

Harry sniffled. “He found us under the Fidelius though.” 

 

“He found us because he placed a layered and complicated tracking charm on Lupin when the two spoke after we’d hidden in Lily’s flat.” Snape said. “After your uncle collected you this afternoon, Black returned to his safehouse and found Dumbledore loitering nearby. Dumbledore is aware we are plotting behind his back, though he expected to catch you with Black at the time.” 

 

Snape’s voice was soft as he spoke and he ran a large hand over Harry’s back, soothing muscles Harry hadn’t realized were still tense. 

 

“According to Black, Dumbledore waited near your aunt’s house for most of the day and likely watched me contact Petunia, though he thought I’d try to collect you rather than just contact her. It wasn’t until I left empty handed that he knew you had somehow already succeeded in escaping.” Snape said as he stepped over a fallen pine tree. “At that point, he checked his charm, noticed Lupin’s new location and began to search for the Black’s safehouse. By the time he found it however, we’d already left to meet with your uncle.” 

 

“Why weren’t you with Sirius when Dumbledore showed up?” Harry asked as his eyes slowly drifted shut. “Why did he put it on Lupin?” he forced them open again. “Do I have a tracking charm?” 

 

“I stayed in the corner market in case you needed to escape sooner than we planned.” Snape said. “I don’t know for sure, though my educated guess would be that Dumbledore chose Lupin because he assumed you’d be with Black and Black always returns for Lupin.” 

 

Harry understood the logic in that. Sirius always behaved in ways Dumbledore couldn’t control, but Sirius relied on Lupin, and he was someone who Dumbledore could control. 

 

“It’s illegal to place tracking charms on minors, and despite the illegality of many of Dumbledore’s actions, a tracking charm on you would register with the Ministry and raise questions. He couldn’t place it on Black, as he is an escaped prisoner and another person who that charm would register with the Ministry. It would be detrimental for Dumbledore should Black be reincarcerated. As for myself, the Dark Lord would know if I were tracked and had I attended a meeting, I would likely have been murdered. Dumbledore wouldn’t want that.” Snape explained. “On a known werewolf, however, the presence of that charm would go overlooked due to the current administration.” 

 

Snape’s fingers threaded through Harry’s hair and Harry forced his eyes open again, not having realized they’d closed once more. 

 

“There are no tracking charms on you, beyond the standard prohibition of underage magic charm on your wand.” Snape said.

 

“Oh.” Harry said, his voice cracking as bitterness rose up in him. 

 

He hadn’t imagined Dumbledore would treat Lupin so terribly, though he’d recently seen the old man’s cruelty up close and to see another example shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. 

 

“That charm is partially why Lupin agreed to come out tonight. He was initially vehemently opposed, as was I, however, he wanted to inspire a bit of fear in the Headmaster. As he’d taken Wolfsbane, he’s essentially harmless lest he decide to do harm. It’s also partially why we left as quickly as we arrived. We felt the charm would be more useful to us, active.” 

 

“Lupin’s going to lure Dumbledore away.” Harry guessed. 

 

“Among other things, yes.” Snape said. “We hadn’t anticipated Avery, so the plan changed very quickly.” 

 

Harry buried his face in Snape’s shoulder as the guilt he’d felt earlier slammed back into him and chased away his exhaustion. He dreaded explaining himself to Snape, but he deserved to know why Harry’d ruined their plan. 

 

“Avery was my fault.” Harry admitted in a small voice. “I ran away from Dumbledore and right into Avery. I didn’t know it was him, I thought he was you, I didn’t—” 

 

His throat closed on him as he started to cry. 

 

He had been incredibly stupid. How could he have thought Avery was Snape, even if he’d been polyjuiced? The man had acted startlingly out of character, and aside from wearing Snape’s face, there hadn’t been a single comparable action. 

 

Snape’s arms tightened and his hair tickled Harry’s face as Snape shook his head. 

 

“Harry,” Snape began, running his hand over Harry’s back again. “Polyjuice can be used to tremendous effect, especially when used to deceive someone who is in a heightened state of emotion and isn’t looking for peculiarities. You had just escaped Dumbledore and found someone wearing my face on a foggy night. I would’ve been shocked if you’d requested proof that it was me.” 

 

Harry didn’t feel much better, but hearing Snape wasn’t disappointed helped. 

 

“To say nothing of Avery’s actions afterwards. You aren’t at fault for seeking help from someone who impersonated an adult who has helped you.” Snape said. “In fact I’m incredibly proud of you for seeking help.” 

 

Harry shook his head and pushed himself tighter against Snape’s shoulder, dampening the fabric as he cried harder. He hated feeling so sorry for himself, but everything that had gone wrong had been his fault. If he’d just stayed put and followed the plan, he wouldn’t have been caught by Avery. 

 

“I ran away from where I thought you’d be though. I thought it’d buy us more time if I portkeyed to you after Dumbledore found me cause I thought he had a tracking charm on me. I only ran cause I thought Dumbledore was gonna curse me.” He tried to explain. 

 

Snape’s hand tightened for half a second, and Harry was close enough to feel his heartbeat pick up speed. 

 

Harry looked up, catching a brief look of what might be shock, or anger maybe, on Snape’s face. It was hard to tell. 

 

“Why was he about to curse you?” Snape asked. 

 

“This, er,” Harry stammered. “I don't know why it’s happened, but it’s happened twice now, I don’t know-I don’t know how it happened either, but I was just really angry. I saw Vol-erm, Him in my cupboard, and then again in front of Dumbledore, and Dumbledore scared me, I didn't know what else to do—” Harry cut himself off as he cried. 

 

Seeing Voldemort had been utterly terrifying and he worried it could happen again. Nearly being kidnapped by Avery had been equally terrifying and he worried it could happen again as well. 

 

He didn’t want to be scared. He wanted to be fifteen again, and able to handle everything that was thrown at him. 

 

At six it was impossible to fight back. 

 

Snape rubbed a hand over his back and hugged him closer as Harry sobbed. At some point they’d stopped walking, though Harry couldn’t remember when. Snape seemed to focus more on helping Harry through his guilt now than anything else. 

 

“You’re not angry at the moment, are you?” Snape asked quietly when Harry started to calm down. 

 

“Just with myself.” Harry croaked. “But not really at anyone else, not like I was earlier.” 

 

He was still bitterly angry with Dumbledore, but it stung less now that he knew Dumbledore couldn’t find him. Sirius and Lupin would ensure that. He’d outsmarted Dumbledore once as well, having stumped him with his mum’s necklace.

 

Although, this meant Dumbledore’s ‘passing curiosity’ about Harry’s health had been a calculated question. Dumbleore hadn’t considered how painfully Harry’d take that question. 

 

Harry couldn’t shake the humiliating feeling that he’d overreacted. 

 

Dumbledore had already known he’d escaped and he must’ve wanted to know whose side Aunt Petunia was on.

 

“Then it's something we will be cognizant of and prepare for, going forward. How do you feel right now?” Snape asked. 

 

Harry dropped his head back against Snape’s shoulder. “Really tired.” He admitted.

 

His head felt like lead and exhaustion rushed back through him. He wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to keep up with all of the plots and schemes. He was glad Snape hadn’t tried to curse him when he’d discussed Voldemort though. Snape hadn’t blamed Harry either, even if Harry felt he should be blamed. 

 

Harry didn’t think anyone had ever been so calm when offering to help him with his awful encounters with Voldemort before. 

 

“Then I think you should take a nap.” Snape said as he ran his hand over Harry’s back again. “The walk is a bit of a long one and you’ve had a difficult night.” 

 

Harry nodded, having already closed his eyes. He wasn’t sure what he’d wake up to, but he hoped Snape’s mum would be nice. Snape has said she liked German beer, hadn’t he? Harry tried to think of what he knew of beer, so he might have something to chat with her about, but he came up empty handed. 

 

She must’ve liked Harry’s mum a little at least, as she’d taken Lily to Diagon Alley. Maybe they could talk about Lily? 

 

Maybe she’d like Harry if she liked Lily? 

 

The chirps and croaks of the forest crowded into Harry’s ears and wove themselves into odd thoughts. 

 

When he blinked his eyes open, he was almost certain they had apparated again, as they were now in a shiny, though very odd courtroom. 

 

Dumbledore sat like a king on his throne from behind a tall boxed panel. He was dressed like a magistrate, having replaced his long pointed hat with a white powdered wig. His half-moon spectacles hung from his neck on a beaded chain. What was possibly the most odd about Dumbledore was how he wore his black robe and stiff collar. He sat as tall and straight as Harry was sure other magistrates did, but there was an element of Dumbledore that betrayed his sternness for selfishness. Harry couldn’t name what it was in particular though. 

 

Maybe it was the way he moved or gestured. 

 

Harry in turn wished he’d worn something other than grass stained jeans and a brown jumper. He’d always seen people dress nicely in courtrooms. 

 

A grasshopper leapt over to Dumbledore’s seat and handed him a folded piece of parchment, though Dumbledore neglected to open it. He looked to be presiding over a court of very anxious animals. One family of crickets in particular seemed unable to sit still.

 

“Guilt is a difficult subject and I think you’d all agree.” Dumbledore said as he looked out at the sea of whispering animals. 

 

Their hissed conversations made Harry worry about what was to come. He realized quite suddenly that he was the one on trial, and these animals were his jury. He wished he’d had more time to prepare his case, if he’d had more time, he’d have had something smart to say. 

 

“We must ask ourselves, is Harry guilty? For which, the answer is of course, yes.” Dumbledore said with steepled fingers. 

 

Harry shook his head ‘no’ wildly, he couldn’t remember what he was on trial for all of the sudden, but he knew he wasn’t guilty. 

 

A fussy frog croaked and pointed at Harry as if he wasn't allowed to shake his head ‘no.’ 

 

Dumbledore held up his hand and nodded at the frog, though he didn't look at Harry. 

 

He never looked at Harry anymore.

 

How could Harry have known he wasn’t allowed to shake his head though, he’d never been to court. He’d only seen it on the telly, and even then it was probably very dramatized. 

 

“What is arguably more important, is the morality of what Harry is guilty of.” Dumbledore said as a chorus of chirps came from the rowdy group of crickets. “The matter of morality can lead us to find him not guilty, you see, though it may as easily see us through to his guilt, as I’m sure you all understand.” 

 

The animals whispered as they shook and shivered in discussion. 

 

“The question we must ask then, must be the right one.” Dumbledore said as he placed his spectacles on the bridge of his crooked nose. He licked his thumb and broke the seal on the parchment note the grasshopper had given him moments ago.

 

Harry didn’t think this was very fair. He was almost positive Dumbledore couldn’t prepare morality questions if he’d already just decided Harry was guilty. 

 

Why was he allowed to ask a morality question in a courtroom? 

 

What even was a morality question? He’d already declared Harry guilty, what more did they need to carry on with this for? 

 

“Thus, our question is,” Dumbledore said as he began to read aloud. “Given what I know of the prophecy, is it fair that Harry ran away from me?” 

 

Excited whispers broke out of the crowd as Harry’s mouth dropped open in shock at the question. He didn’t know what Dumbledore knew, and he certainly wasn’t running away. He’d run from Dumbledore at Privet Drive, sure, but he hadn’t run from his prophecy! 

 

“A question, your honour.” A brown grass snake wearing a waistcoat similar to the one Uncle Vernon wore to work stood abruptly and silenced the chatty crowd. “Can we hear the prophecy’s wording, so we may make a sound decision?” 

 

“No.” Dumbledore said shortly. “It is not a matter of wording, it is a matter of moral guilt. Do try to remember.” 

 

The brown snake nodded glumly and sat back down. 

 

“As I said, Harry is already guilty. What we are now here to decide, is whether he is morally wrong for running from me when I know his future—”

 

“I didn’t run from you because of the prophecy!” Harry shouted. “I ran from you because—”

 

“The accused will be silent while we deliberate.” Dumbledore said with a short jerk of his wand. 

 

Harry’s mouth felt as if it had been zipped shut. He tried to force it open and panic began pouring through him when he couldn’t get it to work. 

 

He looked up, feeling a cold sweat break out over his back. How could the animals judge what exactly Harry was guilty of, if Dumbledore didn't let him explain himself? How could anyone judge him when he couldn’t explain himself. 

 

A bullfrog jerked upwards and the crowd fell silent once more. His button down jacket had several sweat stains and Harry felt an immediate urge to wash the shirt out for him. He’d worn sweaty and dirty clothes for far too long and the frog was probably as self conscious about the state of his things as Harry had been growing up.

 

The frog opened his wide mouth and croaked out something that sounded like a question, though Harry couldn’t tell what he’d said. 

 

“That will be taken into consideration, thank you.” Dumbledore replied. 

 

Harry tried to shout and ask what the frog had said, but his mouth was shut too tightly to make a sound. He wanted his wand, but he couldn't seem to find it. 

 

A teacup fell onto the shiny polished floor on his right and he breathed in sharply as he was startled awake. 

 

“Oh!” A soft voice said. “I’m sorry, I thought you were quite asleep.” 

 

Harry blinked the sleep from his eyes and tried to sit up. It was considerably more difficult that it should’ve been, as he slid uncoordinatedly twice before he realized he was still against Snape’s chest. 

 

Snape hadn’t moved despite Harry’s clumsy attempts, and Harry half worried the man might be dead before he looked up and realized he was asleep. 

 

He had a long arm thrown over his eyes and was half pressed into the back of the couch, which explained why Harry was struggling to sit up, as he was tucked between the two. Snape’s cloak was still knotted around him as well, making moving doubly hard. 

 

“Here.” 

 

Harry looked up and spotted an elderly woman who could’ve been Snape if he was thirty some years older. Her sharp widow's peak was streaked through with black and grey, and the pockets of her blue robe were stuffed with packages of snacks. Her hand was held out, though Harry struggled to figure out why. 

 

“You’re not an early morning person, are you?” She said with a kind laugh. 

 

Harry rubbed his palms over his eyes and tried to clear the foggy uncomfortable dream from his head. 

 

His mouth wasn’t sewn shut and he wasn’t on trial. He was fine. Dumbledore wasn’t a magistrate and animals weren’t allowed on juries. He hoped he would’ve at least been allowed to defend himself in a real trial. 

 

“Sev’s been out for over an hour. I’m not sure about you, but you looked like you needed the sleep.” 

 

Harry fell back into the warm corner he’d been tucked into and tried to recall what happened. He vaguely remembered arriving in Germany, though it was clouded by panic. They’d talked about Sirius and Lupin, and Avery as well. He felt as if he was missing something. 

 

“Are you hungry?” Snape’s mum asked. “I made a pot of tea for myself, but it’s always nicer to share.” 

 

Harry looked over at her, realizing belatedly that she’d been speaking this whole time and he’d been incredibly rude. He’d wanted to make a nice impression on her, and for her to like him! 

 

He nodded wildly and struggled to sit up again. 

 

“There you are, I wondered where all that quick wit I’d heard about was.” She smiled at him and leant over Snape as she grasped his hands and helped him climb free. 

 

Once he was on his feet he felt significantly more awake. Snape’s cloak was remarkably heavy, but it certainly kept him warm. As did the small but cozy and clean sitting room they were in. Two high backed chairs were crowded next to the couch, each with knit covers nearly identical to the one Harry had seen in Spinner’s End. Harry half wondered if Snape’s mum had knitted them. 

 

Maybe all mum’s really did know how to knit? 

 

“Now, I’ve got some breakfast tea here, but I don’t mind making a new pot if you’re not a fan.” She tapped the shiny black lid on the pot. “I also have some chocolate biscuits, I normally keep them for Sev in case he visits.” 

 

“Erm, I like breakfast tea,” Harry said as he continued to look around. “And biscuits too, yes please.” He added. 

 

He filed Snape’s apparent love for chocolate biscuits away as she handed him one. 

 

“Excellent,” She said as she poured him a cup and helped him onto one of the chairs. “Oh! Forgive me, I’m Eileen.” She smiled. “Just Ms Eileen, no need to faff about with last names. 

 

Harry gently set his cup down and held his hand out. “I’m Harry, nice to meet you.” He said. 

 

“And you as well,” Ms Eileen said as she shook his hand. 

 

They sipped their tea in peace for a few minutes, and Harry tried to imagine what Snape’s childhood must’ve been like. Harry liked his mum. He hoped his childhood had been a nice one, though he couldn’t shake the feeling that it hadn't been. 

 

Lupin had said Snape’s dad had been a muggle, hadn’t he? Harry wondered where he was. 

 

“Now, Sev was a bit tight lipped about all of this and I can’t blame him.” Ms Eileen began. “But I just want you to know that my house is as safe as I can make it. Germany doesn’t muck about with safety in the face of dark wizards. They learned that well enough after Grindelwald.” 

 

Harry blinked and wondered idly how Dumbledore would find a way around it, as he seemed to always find a way around places Harry hoped would be safe enough. 

 

“I know Sev isn’t the most well rounded with children either—”

 

“I’m fifteen,” Harry cut in. He grimaced at himself, and wished he’d waited until she’d finished. 

 

She waved an apologetic hand at him though. “My apologies. I forget my age sometimes, I still think of Sev as a child.” 

 

Harry blinked confusedly at her and tried to imagine her mothering Snape like Mrs Weasley mothered her own kids. The mental image was uncomfortable and Harry half wondered if Ms Eileen and Mrs Weasley would argue about what was appropriate amounts of mothering. 

 

“It’s an easy thing to overlook when you’re a parent. You forget your child has grown up.” She started. “You always want to help them when they struggle, but people have minds of their own and often formidable natures to go along with them.” She added as she sipped her tea. “It’s a lesson that’s taken me years to learn.” 

 

“I think Snape’s really nice.” Harry said, wanting to defend him for some reason. Snape’s mum hadn’t said anything unkind and he wasn’t sure why he was so worried. “Erm, well, maybe not nice.”

 

Ms Eileen let out a soft laugh as Harry tried to think about the right word to use, but nothing came to mind. He wasn’t sure he loved talking about Snape when he was asleep either, as Harry himself didn’t love to be talked about when he couldn’t contribute. 

 

“He’s helped me a lot, and I really needed it.” He finally said. 

 

He didn’t love to admit that, but Snape had helped Harry through most everything he’d experienced as a six year old. 

 

Ms Eileen nodded. “I’m glad.” 

 

Harry sank back against his chair and sipped his tea a little while longer. He wondered if Aunt Petunia had found the fake necklace he’d thrown on the floor, or if she’d told Dumbledore their plan. 

 

What if she told Dumbledore the necklace was a portkey? 

 

Why would she offer him information if he might take the necklace from her? No, she probably kept silent and pretended she’d dropped the necklace or Dudley had found it. Would Dumbledore remember Lily used to wear it? 

 

He wondered what Dumbledore was doing and if he was angry with Harry, or scared for him. 

 

He’d sounded scared when Harry’d run away. 

 

“You wear your worry on your face,” Ms Eileen said. “Rather like your mother.” 

 

“I do?!” Harry asked, perking up at the thought of another shared trait. 

 

“Oh yes, Lily was very expressive. She could never lie about how she felt though, she was dreadful at card games.” Ms Eileen said as she snacked on a biscuit. “Completely unable to cover up her excitement or worry, it was easy to hustle that one, not like Sev.” 

 

Harry wondered if that was a compliment, or if Ms Eileen just had an odd sense of humour. 

 

“You give the same puppy dog eyes she did when you feel slighted as well, makes my old heart ache.” She added. “Let me get you another biscuit.” She said as she rose and pulled more biscuits from the bag. 

 

She made herself another cup of tea as she moved around the room. 

 

“I used to wonder how much of who we were went into our kids, you know?” She asked and handed Harry his snack. “I noticed it with Sev first of course, all my cynicism and humour had to go somewhere you see, but I was interested if I ever got to meet you.” 

 

“You were?” Harry asked. 

 

Her dark eyes lit up as blew the steam away from her cup. It was odd to watch her, as she seemed like a strange mix of Snape’s mannerisms.

 

Or maybe Snape was a mix of her own mannerisms. 

 

“Well, I knew Lily, but I also knew of your aunt, though mostly from Sev. I was curious what she might inspire in you.” Ms Eileen said. “Though, I worried for you as well. Lily never said anything unkind about her sister, but she never said anything kind either, which, as you probably know, was odd for her.” 

 

“What do you think?” Harry asked, unsure if she could give him an answer after only having met him for a few minutes. 

 

She leant back and folded her hands around the small patterned tea cup. Her eyes narrowed almost as if she was appraising Harry, and he had the uncomfortable feeling of being seen through layers he hadn’t realized he’d built within himself. She reminded him oddly of Mad-Eye Moody’s magical eye, and how it rolled around in his head. 

 

Ms Eileen and Mad-Eye Moody seemed like they’d get on. 

 

“I think you’re a good sort.” She said finally. 

 

Harry let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. 

 

“Well, I wouldn’t say my judgment is perfect, it certainly hasn’t been in the past.” She shook her head and her eyes widened. “Sev might’ve inherited my skill in judgment as well, the poor thing.” 

 

“Mother,” Snape croaked as he sat up quickly and his wide eyes flashed over the sitting room. He slid back against the couch with a sigh once he spotted Harry. “What time is it? I didn’t intend to actually fall asleep.” 

 

“Far too early for you to be awake, certainly too early for this one.” She answered as she pointed at Harry. 

 

Harry shook his head and was about to argue, but he realized belatedly that his head had started tipping at some point during their conversation and he was now curled around the arm of the chair. 

 

Hadn’t he slept for most of this day? Why was he still exhausted?

 

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose as he climbed to his feet. “Nothing from Black yet?” He asked.

 

He stepped over to Harry and checked the knot around the cloak as he reached beneath the fabric before hefting Harry up onto his hip. Harry half wondered when he’d grown so used to being held as he dropped his head onto Snape’s shoulder.

 

“Oh, a letter did come.” Ms Eileen said as she stood and dug through her pockets. “Not for you though dear, for Harry here. A gorgeous snowy owl brought it.” 

 

Harry sat straighter as she handed him the letter. 

 

He spotted Hermione’s neat but cramped handwriting and tore it open, scanning it nervously as worries began to add up in his head. 

 

“She says Dumbledore is at Grimmauld Place and he’s called an emergency meeting, but she doesn’t know why. She said he nearly interrogated her and Ron,” Harry said as he looked up at Snape. “She’s really worried, but doesn’t know what he was looking for.” 

 

Snape nodded and seemed to consider Hermione’s comment. 

 

“The owl wasn’t tampered with, was it?” He asked after a moment, looking at his mum. 

 

“Not that I could tell. Poor thing looked beat, but that’s nothing a bit of rest can’t help. No tracking charms to speak of either.” She answered. 

 

“We’ll just have to wait for Black’s word then. Let Dumbledore scramble. He won’t find us.” Snape spun on his heel and stepped into a hallway. “Goodnight, Mother.” 






Chapter Text

 


Snape rounded a short hallway and set off up a narrow set of carpeted stairs. 

 

Harry idly eyed framed watercolour paintings and family portraits. He hoped he’d have a chance to see them in the morning, though he half thought Snape might hide them. He hadn’t forgotten Snape’s firm warning to skin Harry alive if he told Ron or Hermione about any of the things he found in Spinner's End. He wondered if the rule applied to Ms Eileen’s house as well. 

 

They passed a collection of small flower pots sitting in front of a thin window before coming upon a bedroom as crowded as the sitting room. 

 

Snape pulled Harry’s trunk from his pocket and re-sized it before allowing Harry to poke through it for a pair of pyjamas as he disappeared out the door. Harry half worried his entire life would turn into a series of his running from house to house and never knowing whether he’d have his trunk or not. Snape seemed a safe person to keep things with though. 

 

He blinked unsurely around the room as he waited for Snape to return. He hoped Snape would return at least. He wasn’t sure if he was allowed to sleep on the bed in front of him. Snape had brought him to this room, so it would be odd for him to not be allowed on it. He could easily go downstairs and sleep on the couch though. 

 

Before he could question things much further, Snape slipped back into the room and helped him climb up onto the bed. 

 

Maybe they’d trade off between the couch and bed. Harry didn’t know how many bedrooms were in this house. He didn’t take up much space and the couch would certainly make more sense for him rather than Snape. 

 

The bed was cozy enough. Knit covers and thick patterned blankets were layered on top and it was larger than any of the cots he normally slept in. Sitting in the bed seemed to weaken the restlessness still itching in him, though Harry wasn’t sure his mind was quite as ready to sleep. There wasn’t much he could do about his consistently closing eyes though. The uncomfortable dream he’d had still lingered despite his reminder that his mouth wasn’t sewn shut, to say nothing of the experience with Avery, Dumbledore and Voldemort. 

 

He wanted to know what was happening at Grimmauld Place, as well as at Privet Drive. He wanted to know how Ron and Hermione were. 

 

What if Dumbledore punished them for Harry’s behaviour?

 

He found the pendant on his mum’s necklace and tried to breathe as it warmed. He might be able to write Dumbledore and to tell him not to hurt Ron or Hermione. 

 

After all, they hadn’t run away from Dumbledore, Harry had. 

 

“Harry.” 

 

Harry flinched and looked up. He disliked feeling so nervy, but he was unsure of too many things. 

 

“I know this is chaotic and another new place.” Snape began with a whisper. “But this house is safe. It’s where I go, and have always gone, when I need a safe place.” Snape said. “No one will find you here. No one.” 

 

Harry nodded and blinked down at his hands as he fussed with the necklace. He wasn’t sure if his safety was worth Ron and Hermione’s, especially if they didn’t have Snape or Sirius and Lupin to help them. How would they handle Dumbledore? What if he tried to curse them like he’d tried with Harry? 

 

Snape’s fingers enclosed Harry’s, pushing him to look up again. 

 

“I know our current plan isn’t one that many people would enjoy either, waiting is never anyone’s first choice.”

 

Harry nodded again, wondering what would happen if Sirius never wrote them. He shook that thought from his head quickly though, as Sirius had written to Harry or gotten in contact with him no matter what sort of dangers he was involved in. 

 

“What if—” Harry paused, feeling suddenly self conscious about himself and his worries. He wasn’t sure he remembered any of his ‘what if’ worries ever being taken seriously before. Aunt Petunia certainly hadn’t had time for them. Ron and Hermione had always listened, and their advice was dead useful, but he couldn’t rely on them now, not when they might need to rely on him. 

 

“What if?” Snape asked, seeming to quietly encourage Harry. 

 

Harry quickly shook his head ‘no’ and tried to swallow down his fears. It didn’t feel as if he deserved to worry Snape with his concerns, not when Harry’d been the cause of it all to begin with. This was his fault. 

 

He should handle it. 

 

It was the graveyard all over again, though this time Harry had broken apart Dumbledore’s resistance and potentially given Voldemort the tools he needed to succeed, rather than just assisting in his rebirth, however unwilling he’d been. He put everyone’s lives in danger, again. He’d run from Dumbledore, who had only wanted Harry safe. Dumbledore just didn’t realize the Dursleys weren’t the nicest, he couldn’t see how or why they were so vile. Harry should’ve tried harder to explain that to him, and to explain that he wasn’t Voldemort, despite how much he might've seemed like the man in the Dursley’s front hallway. 

 

Harry seeming like Voldemort wasn’t reason enough to hurt his friends. Ron and Hermione hadn’t been like Voldemort, and they would probably give Harry excellent reasons as to why he wasn’t like Voldemort either. 

 

All the same, they didn’t deserve to suffer because of Harry. 

 

He choked on the sob slowly creeping up his throat and desperately wished he wasn’t so self pitying. He needed to get over this. He had to accept what was his fault and move on. 

 

This was his fault, but he’d fix it. He tried to breathe and let it sink in. 

 

Snape’s hands came under his arms and he drew Harry closer, hugging him tightly against his chest. 

 

Harry couldn’t help but consider how comforting being held was. Sometimes it felt like the only thing holding together all of Harry’s jagged and too sharp feelings. He was fairly used to Ron and Hermione hugging him or clapping him on the back, but there was something distinctly comforting about an adult helping Harry without first requiring him to provide a good enough reason to deserve it. 

 

Snape’s fingers carded over his hair as he cupped the back of Harry’s head and something seemed to unravel in him the longer they sat there. 

 

“What if Dumbledore hurts Ron and Hermione?” 

 

His heart stuttered in his chest as the words slipped out of him. He wished he could turn back time and not speak at all. He dreaded Snape’s response. He pushed his face as far into the man’s chest as he could, trying to ignore the fact that he’d spoken at all. 

 

“Molly Weasley doesn’t strike me as the sort to allow her children, biological or otherwise, to come to harm.” Snape answered.

 

Mrs Weasley! He’d forgotten Mrs Weasley was there. She’d never let anything happen to Ron or Hermione, or any of the other Weasleys. She’d probably take them back to the Burrow if she was worried. 

 

Would that be safe enough though? 

 

Harry was no longer sure about what was safe or not though. Snape said the Dursleys weren’t, but Dumbledore said they were. Dumbledore was the one that Snape trusted to set a ward on Harry’s mind the other night when Harry’d had that horrible vision. 

 

“Harry,” Snape started quietly. “You are long past the point of exhaustion. Do you think you might be worrying yourself unnecessarily by thinking in this state?” 

 

Harry shook his head ‘no’. If he didn’t think about all of it now, he wouldn’t be able to come up with a way to help Ron and Hermione when he needed to. They were safe for the moment, but what if that changed? What if Dumbledore told them about Voldemort coming out of Harry? What if Voldemort came back out of Harry when he was with Ms Eileen? What if he caught Snape helping Harry?

 

The thought of Snape’s cover being blown because of his actions made Harry’s stomach swirl with nauseas. A cold sweat broke out over him. 

 

Snape pulled him away slightly and his dark eyes narrowed as he looked down at Harry. 

 

“Breathe.” Snape said as he rubbed a hand over Harry’s back. “You’re panicking and you need to try and breathe.” 

 

“What if your cover is blown!” Harry gasped. 

 

“It hasn’t been.” Snape said firmly. “That’s how I know the Dark Lord cannot see through your eyes despite Dumbledore’s worries.” He added. 

 

Harry’s eyes watered as he squeezed them shut and tried to swallow his panic.

 

“The Dark Lord is too angry and paranoid to patiently allow me to come and go from his place of hiding throughout the week if he believed I’d betrayed him. He is fiercely intelligent, but he is not without faults.” 

 

The thought that they’d base Snape’s safety on Voldemort’s faults made Harry’s skin crawl. 

 

Voldemort’s faults had more to do with his pride and overinflated ego. He was easily smart enough to wait until Snape least expected him to strike. 

 

“Please trust me on this Harry.” Snape brushed Harry’s fringe from his forehead and encouraged his eyes back open. “I have relied on his faults to cover me for years. He does not allow traitors to learn secrets, nor does he allow himself to be made a fool of.” 

 

Harry wasn’t sure he believed Snape about Voldemort’s inability to see through his eyes. 

 

“I will teach you a method to keep him out.” Snape said as he untied the knots around the cloak over Harry’s shoulders. “It’s called Occlumency. It’s complicated magic and you won’t pick it up in one day, but if it will give you some piece of mind—”

 

Harry nodded wildly and his lungs seemed willing to open a little wider for a few breaths. 

 

“Alright.” Snape said. He shook out his cloak and turned over the bed covers. “First you need to lie down.” 

 

The plush mattress was soft beneath Harry as he crawled to the head of the bed and fell against the pillows. He shivered over the cool sheets until Snape tucked his cloak around back him and pulled the covers up. Once bundled, he half wondered if he’d be able to stay awake long enough to practice Snape’s magic. If felt as if his eyes were becoming too heavy to open. 

 

“Excellent,” Snape said quietly. “That’s the first and second step done.” 

 

“It is?” Harry asked. 

 

“Yes. The second step is that you shut your eyes, which you’ve already done.” 

 

“Oh.” 

 

“Now, try and imagine you’re on your broom, in the air.” 

 

Almost immediately Harry could feel the airy weightlessness that came with flying. Even though there wasn’t a breeze in the room, he could still feel the phantom brush of wind around him. He didn’t think his imagination was usually this good, but he was willing to explore it. 

 

“You don’t need to limit yourself to the Quidditch Pitch, you can fly wherever you like.” 

 

Harry didn’t know very many places to fly aside from the pitch or the Forbidden Forest, but he assumed any place would serve for now. He almost chose the hut by the sea that Uncle Vernon had brought them too after Harry’s acceptance letters had overwhelmed the Dursleys. 

 

He felt a more happy place might be better. 

 

“Focus on the sky around you.” Snape’s soft voice rippled at the edge of Harry’s thoughts. “And your path ahead, nothing else.” 

 

Harry felt the swoop that ran through him when he spun and looped in the air. He could almost feel his broom beneath his hands. It was hard to think of this as magic. Though if it was, he hoped he was good at it. 

 

The blue sky stretched as far as he could see in his imagination. He spun through dappled clouds and crested high and swung low, wondering if his life could ever be as easy and calm as flying. 

 

Was there even a chance it would be? It didn’t have to be now, but he hoped it’d happen. 

 

He worried he might’ve done this magic wrong, but when he opened his eyes to ask, the room was bright and the sun had come up. 

 

He sat up like lightning and blinked confusedly around him. He couldn’t tell if the spell had worked, or if there had even been a spell. He’d slept, that much was clear, but did Voldemort still have access to him? 

 

Snape didn’t seem to think so, maybe the spell had worked then? 

 

The small bedroom was more colourful in the daylight. His trunk was still on the floor, tucked neatly against a large chest of drawers. Harry half wondered how his mum might’ve decorated the place if she’d had the chance. He felt her seashell lamp would look nice on the chest. 

 

He wondered if Snape would let Harry take it with him the next time they went to his mum’s flat. 

 

Would they ever go back to her flat? 

 

As quick as he’d gotten up he bolted down the stairs and slid into a kitchen he couldn’t remember having seen, though he spotted Snape and Ms Eileen quickly. 

 

Snape seemed like he’d slept, though Harry hoped it hadn’t been on the couch. 

 

“Oh!” Ms Eileen said as her eyes lit up. “Well there’s a bit more energy than last night.” 

 

Harry blinked and smiled sheepishly. He wasn’t sure it was very polite to ask to go back to his mum’s flat after Ms Eileen had let them stay with her. His toes curled over the worn wooden floor and he realized embarrassedly that he hadn’t bothered to put on socks or even change. 

 

“Are you hungry?” Ms Eileen asked, seeming to ignore Harry’s oversight. She stood slowly and made her way over to a skillet. “I‘ve got some eggs, though I’ve not much in the way of toast or oatmeal.” 

 

Harry wasn’t sure what to say, or if he should even say anything. Mrs Weasley was always ready to give him food, for which he was endlessly thankful, but she’d never cooked for him alone. He could just prepare something for himself. It would just have to be easy, eggs might be a bit difficult. 

 

He wasn’t very hungry either. 

 

Snape stepped closer to his mum. “I’ll have an egg, if you’re already cooking.” 

 

Ms Eileen nodded along as she puttered around the kitchen. 

 

“Erm,” Harry’s fingers curled around the hem of his t-shirt. He supposed it wouldn't be so awkward if someone else ate as well. “I will too please, I’ll just, erm, change quickly.” 

 

He tore back around and darted up the steps, tripping as his uncoordinated feet slid out from under him. He half debated hiding in the bedroom for a few extra minutes in case they’d heard him fall.

 

“Rough few days?” Ms Eileen’s voice echoed quietly from the kitchen. 

 

Harry paused on the step, unsure if he wanted to listen, but curious more than anything. 

 

“It could be better.” Snape said. 

 

“Ah, ‘could be better’,” Ms Eileen’s voice deepened as she mimicked Snape’s low voice. “Harry looked well rested. He seems alright now.” 

 

“I don’t know what I’m doing, especially after last night.” Snape’s voice was almost hard to hear with how quiet it’d gone. “I don’t. I don’t know if I’m making things worse.” 

 

“Well for someone who doesn’t know, it looks like you’re doing alright.” Ms Eileen said back. 

 

“Mother—”

 

“He found you first thing in the morning and doesn’t flinch when you come near him. That’s better than you think.” 

 

Snape scoffed. “The bar is not that low.” 

 

“It’s higher than it looks.” Ms Eileen’s voice was firm as she spoke. “You have many fine skills. I’m particularly fond of your ability to listen. It’s one of your more useful talents as well.” 

 

“Listening won’t stop Death Eaters.”

 

“No, but it’ll make the effects of their attacks feel considered and heard. What is it you’ve said about Dumbledore from the outset?” 

 

Snape sighed and seemed unwilling to answer the question. Harry nervously shifted his weight between his feet, wondering if his lack of answer was because he knew Harry was listening. 

 

“He doesn’t always listen.”

 

The sound of eggshells cracking drove him to hurry the rest of the way up the stairs and into the bedroom. 

 

He tugged his mum’s old jumper over his head as he debated their conversation. He couldn’t decide how he felt about it, but he didn’t think it’d been terrible. Not like how most conversations about him went at least. This one seemed to be more about Snape’s behaviour. 

 

Harry silently vowed to pay more attention to him, especially after Avery.

 

He also needed to ask about Ron and Hermione. Sirius and Lupin as well. Any of them might’ve sent more information while Harry’d been asleep. He spun in place and searched for a clock, but couldn’t find one. 

 

Maybe he’d convince someone to take him to a store so he could buy a wristwatch that’d fit his small wrist if he stayed six for much longer. 

 

After taking care of the more pressing morning rituals, Harry quickly slipped back down the stairs. 

 

“No,” Snape’s voice rang along the hallway. “I don’t know what Dumbledore will say if he sees Harry. He’s fearful of what information might somehow find its way to the Dark Lord.” He added. “I won’t bring Harry back when Dumbledore cannot see Petunia for what she is.”

 

“Has anyone asked Petunia to weigh in? She  clearly has an opinion.” Ms Eileen asked. 

 

Harry inched farther along the hallway, unsure if he should disrupt their conversation. He didn’t want to be caught eavesdropping but this seemed like the sort of conversation he normally wouldn't have been allowed to listen to. 

 

Snape had asked Harry for his thoughts when they came up with plans before though. Maybe he’d want Harry present?

 

He lingered nervously near the doorway as he debated. 

 

“I won’t bring Harry anywhere near her either and I see no point in addressing her. Dumbledore doesn’t see her knack for cruelty. He only sees her bitterness.” Snape answered back as the sound of a fork sliding over a plate echoed. 

 

“Well, if Harry ran from them both, I’m sure Dumbledore got an eyeful.” 

 

Snape hummed. “What he sees and what he surmises are two different stories.” 

 

“It’s hard to rationalize yourself as a protector when the person you’re trying to protect runs from you though.” Ms Eileen said. “He may have been blind before, but I have a feeling he’s been enlightened.” 

 

A tea cup landed softly on it’s saucer. 

 

“Harry’s friend said Dumbledore had asked questions, but she didn’t say what kind. If he’d asked her where Harry might hide, she’d have likely asked Harry if he was safe, but she didn’t. For all you know, Dumbledore asked them about Petunia.” Ms Eileen continued.

 

“I find it hard to imagine he’s had a sudden change of heart.” Snape said waspishly.

 

“Less a change of heart, and more a new consideration of what he can no longer afford to be blind to. Besides, what help would two children who haven’t been in contact with Harry be in finding him?”

 

“If he thought they had been in contact though—”

 

“You said it yourself. His friends had never visited in that house. They’d never slept over or run around the neighbourhood.” Ms Eileen said. “Neither of those kids would know where to look. They don’t know you and you’ve said they’re not close with Black, so they wouldn’t know where the two of you would hide either.” 

 

Harry stepped into the kitchen, feeling he’d learn more by being a part of the conversation. 

 

“Welcome back, Sev’s already eaten.” Ms Eileen’s eyebrows rose as she spotted him and she waved him to a seat. She quickly spooned several eggs onto his plate and set a glass of milk in front of him before returning to her own spot. 

 

Harry poked at his food. He still wasn’t very hungry, despite how little he’d eaten over the last few days. His stomach was in knots and he vaguely remembered Snape warning him to eat as he had at six. He eyed Snape’s plate, wondering if he’d should eat everything or not. Mrs Weasley generally liked clean plates and Aunt Petunia gave Harry less the next time they ate if he didn’t eat everything. She never wanted him wasting food.

 

“Sev and I were discussing yesterday, though neither of us seem to be making much headway.”

 

Harry looked up, excited that they hadn’t changed the subject. 

 

“Black sent a message this morning detailing how they’d led Dumbledore on a chase, though Dumbledore seems to have realized that we caught onto his tracking spell and returned to Grimmauld Place. Black is now dealing with him directly and from the sound of the message, there doesn’t appear to be much diplomacy.” Snape said. He pinched the bridge of his nose before rubbing his fingers into his eyes. 

 

Harry hoped again that he hadn’t slept on the couch. 

 

“Do you think I-or maybe you, should write a letter to Dumbledore? Harry asked as he cut through his first egg. 

 

“A letter won’t keep him from searching.” Snape answered as his eyes slid over Harry and his plate.

 

“He might have experienced some growth though, don’t count that out.” Ms Eileen said. “It’s hard to watch the people you try to care for run from you because of your own actions.”

 

Snape nodded, but kept quiet. 

 

“Do you think Dumbledore would take me back again?” Harry asked. “Even after everything?” 

 

A misty silver-grey wolf drifted through the small window above the sink and dropped onto the floor. It loped along the length of the table before sitting in front of Snape and opening it’s long snout, allowing Lupin’s soft voice to whisper around them. 

 

“Conversations are quickly dissolving. Molly found out about what happened at Privet Drive and Mad-Eye is attempting to cover up Avery’s actions on the Ministry’s end.” 

 

“It seems odd that Dumbledore hasn’t messaged me himself if things are dissolving.” Snape said idly. 

 

“Also,” Lupin’s voice continued. “Hermione cornered me and requested that you come as soon as you can, though she refuses to say why.” 

 

Harry jerked and stared at the blurry patronus. Yesterday's worries exploded in his thoughts and he couldn’t shake the feeling he hadn’t been told that something awful had happened. He couldn’t begin to wonder what it was. Knowing Hermione, it could be anything. 

 

Why would she only want Snape though?

 

“Only that it’s extremely important. She won’t open the door for anyone else.” The patronus faded as it ended the message, leaving no sign it’d ever been there. 

 

Ms Eileen stood and waved her wand at the tea cup and saucer, sending them bobbing through the air toward the sink. 

 

“I dislike being summoned by Miss Granger.” Snape muttered with a dark look.

 

“Think of it less like a summoning and more like a plea for assistance, as that’s what it sounds like, besides,” Ms Eileen smiled as she flicked her wand over the pan and countertops. “She’s clever as they come from what you’ve said.”

 

Harry felt his eyes widen and he stared at Snape as shock trickled through him. 

 

“Passing exams with high marks does not qualify for ‘clever as they come.’” Snape said quickly. “It could easily be that she just wants information and is hiding in her room until she gets it.” 

 

Ms Eileen frowned and clicked her tongue as she stepped from the room. “I’ll be back in a mo’, say goodbye if you’re leaving though.” She called behind her as she disappeared down the hallway. 

 

“Hermione’s not like that.” Harry said firmly. “And I want to help her!” 

 

It felt like the discussion about Neville all over again. Harry hadn’t been in a state to argue about Snape’s treatment of Neville when it’d come up, but he could argue now. If Snape was capable of seeing Harry in a new light, he could see his friends that way as well. 

 

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose again. “Apologies, Harry. I will visit her today and speak with her.” He said. “Politely.” He added. 

 

“Oh.” Harry said, feeling his quick anger settle. “Can we go now?” Harry asked as he poked at another egg. He didn’t fancy continuing to eat, he was already feeling uncomfortably full. He had the entire glass of milk to go through as well. 

 

“Not quite.” Snape said as he sniffed and sat up. “I want to talk before we consider you leaving.” 

 

Harry nodded. 

 

“Would you like me to take your plate?” Snape asked, holding his hand out as he stood. 

 

Harry blinked at Snape and tried to guess if he’d still be able to eat later if he hadn’t eaten everything. Snape hadn’t ever taken away his food before. 

 

The last time he’d eaten with Snape, he hadn’t said anything about Harry wasting food when he hadn’t been able to eat everything. 

 

“I will always give you food, Harry.” Snape said quietly. “And you’re equally welcome to dislike foods, or request them.” He added. “We might want to start with soups or less greasy foods for a while, given what you’ve eaten over the last few days.” 

 

Harry blinked and tried to consider what that might look like. He wondered what Ms Eileen would say if Harry said he hadn’t liked something. He didn’t think there were any foods he truly didn’t like. 

 

He handed his plate over regardless, glad to be rid of it. 

 

“If you aren’t hungry, you need only say.” He added firmly. “Also, before you sleep tonight, I want to practice Occlumency again and—”

 

“Will I be on the couch?” Harry asked before he could stop himself. 

 

“The couch?” Snape’s eyebrows furrowed. 

 

“Right, cause I had the bed last night.” Harry said. “I take up less room than you too, so you should have the bed.”

 

Snape shook his head as he set the plates in the sink and flicked his wand similarly to how Ms Eileen had moments earlier. “No, no Harry I just transfigured the couch into a bed.” 

 

“Oh.” Harry said, feeling slightly dumb for having forgotten about magic. 

 

“I’d far rather you slept in a bed and in a bedroom as well. I’m not sure how to make that more comfortable for you yet. We might get Lily’s blanket from her flat.” Snape trailed off quietly as he returned to his seat. 

 

“Can I bring her seashell lamp too?” Harry asked. 

 

Snape hummed agreeably. “In addition to Occlumency, I want to address something you said last night.” 

 

Harry couldn’t hide the nervousness that curled inside of him. 

 

“You said you said you’d seen the Dark Lord.” Snape began. 

 

Harry nodded again, though more slowly this time as the worry that Voldemort could actually see through his eyes and that Snape was wrong built in him. Maybe the magic they’d done last night hadn’t worked, which Harry felt could easily happen as it wasn’t like any magic he’d done at school. 

 

“You said you’d seen him in your cupboard.” 

 

What felt like ice water ran down Harry’s back. He hadn’t realized he’d said that. The uncomfortable fullness of his stomach roiled and churned. He’d thought he could handle the cupboard and Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. He despised the cupboard, and felt now more than ever that it’d been cruel. He hadn’t thought it would get back to Snape though, or Sirius and Lupin. He didn’t want to add further humiliation to himself. 

 

He’d forgotten about Lupin saying they’d clear up Aunt Petunia’s abuse after escaping. 

 

“No, no, Harry—” 

 

Snape stood quickly and rounded the table before dropping to his knees in front of Harry’s chair. His hands floated near Harry, though he didn’t reach out. 

 

“I’m not a mop!” Harry whinged as the argument he and Uncle Vernon had flooded his thoughts. 

 

The pain he’d felt earlier bloomed once more and he couldn’t seem to get a handle on himself. The Dursleys had told him to keep quiet, wait patiently and to pretend he didn’t exist until he’d need to. He’d wanted Snape then more than ever. 

 

“I didn’t choose to go in there! Uncle Vernon said I had to!” 

 

“I know.” Snape reached out, slowly cupping the back of Harry’s head. “Vernon’s behaviour was my fault. I should not have held Petunia to her word not to harm you, even if she agreed to our terms.” 

 

Harry shook his head wildly against his plummeting emotions. “She didn’t say anything to me. She didn’t even look at me.” 

 

“She didn’t need to.” Snape said softly. “I know you don’t want to discuss that house, but I think you might find some comfort in speaking about it.” He carded a hand through Harry’s hair. “You’ve experienced events that no one, least of all a fifteen year old, should experience.”

 

Fear swarmed him. He couldn’t imagine someone wanting to listen to him whinge about his problems. 

 

Aunt Petunia crowed in his ear and viciously reminded him of how little he was truly worth. If anyone did listen to him, how could he know they wouldn’t turn around and sell everything he said to the Daily Prophet? 

 

His stomach rebelled at the thought of Rita Skeeter’s articles and the taunts Malfoy would come up with. 

 

A damp cloth brushed over his forehead and Harry blinked down, catching Snape’s cautious and worried eyes. He handed Harry a glass of water after assuring he wasn’t going to sick up. 

 

Harry shook his head ‘no’ as he took a sip.

 

Snape nodded and stood. “I want you to think about it. It doesn’t have to be a decision you make now or even soon.” He held his hand out for Harry, who grabbed it and was quickly pulled up onto Snape’s hip. “Let’s think of things that will make your bedroom more comfortable.” 

 

Harry wasn’t sure how to feel about a place he could consider his. He was glad to put the last conversation behind himself though. He didn’t want to think of the Durlsey’s until next summer at least. 

 

His fingers knotted into the fabric at Snape’s shoulder as fear and worry still shuddered through him. 

 

Snape rubbed a hand over his back as they stepped up the stairs. 

 

“Then, as my presence has been requested by Miss Granger, I will endeavor to politely meet with her.” 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Harry’s fingers clenched around the fabric at Snape’s shoulder as they rounded the bannister. His thoughts spun in a tangle and tightened into a knot of anxiety. 

 

What was Dumbledore doing at Grimmauld Place? Was he telling the other Order members what happened? Had he changed the story to make himself less scary, or would he make it seem like Harry was at fault? Harry knew he was at fault for some of the evening, but he didn’t feel he’d been at fault for everything. Maybe Dumbledore was convincing everyone Harry had just decided to run away from him? 

 

Mortification curled through Harry’s stomach at that thought. They’d all know about Harry having run away. 

 

They’d think he was an actual child. 

 

Maybe Snape thought he was a child, and that’s why he wanted Harry to talk with someone. 

 

Maybe Harry was a child? He hadn’t climbed down from Snape’s arms yet, nor did he feel very inclined to leaving, not when his stomach was still rolling after they’d talked about his cupboard. 

 

“I have reservations about taking you to Grimmauld Place, though I fear you will be wholly intolerant of that choice.” Snape started as he stepped into the bedroom Harry had slept in. “I dread the thought of Dumbledore taking custody of you.” 

 

His eyes swept over the small space as he spoke and he seemed to make silent judgements over the odds and ends in the crowded room. 

 

Harry felt that was a worryingly possible event and he couldn’t shake the fear clinging to his throat at the thought. Dumbledore could easily have convinced everyone at Grimmauld Place that Harry was a liar, just like Aunt Petunia used to say. They’d probably believe him too. 

 

“Do you think he’s told everyone what happened?” Harry asked as Snape’s hand rubbed over his back. “Been honest about it, I mean.” He added. 

 

“I’m more inclined to say that Dumbledore has spoken honestly about the events he discussed, though he may have omitted details or avoided questions.” Snape said. 

 

He flicked his wand at the chest of drawers and split it in two. The smaller half sealed itself over as it wobbled into the corner while the other stretched and grew into a desk and chair. 

 

“Your godfather will keep Dumbledore in check.” Snape said softly. “As much as I despise him, he will likely pull the story into the light,” He flicked his wand again and lowered the bed. “And if Lupin’s last message is anything to go by, the Order hasn’t accepted omissions and half answers.” 

 

Harry nodded, though he wasn’t sure he felt reassured. Lupin’s message had mentioned Mrs Weasley finding out what happened, so maybe Dumbledore had told the truth?

 

“I think this is all we can alter for the moment in this bedroom. This house doesn’t have electricity, so we’ll need to charm your mother’s lamp.” Snape said. “Whether you come with me or not—”

 

“I want to come!” Harry said quickly. 

 

Snape’s eyes widened at Harry’s volume. Harry shrunk sheepishly inwards at himself and wished he’d waited for Snape to finish. He only wanted to help Ron and Hermione. He had gotten them into this, they didn’t deserve to be punished for Harry’s actions. 

 

“Noted.” Snape nodded after a moment. “Regardless, I want to go over Occlumency with you again, in the event that you need it.” 

 

Harry could see the point in that. He didn’t fancy Voldemort seeing through his eyes and learning about Snape’s spying. Dumbledore had given that as one of the reasons Harry’d needed to stay at Privet Drive as well, but if Harry knew Occlumency, they could argue how Voldemort was blocked from spying on them. 

 

“To reiterate,” Snape said as he sat on the bed. “This is a highly advanced skill. It is complicated and not something that will come naturally to you.” 

 

“Last night you just told me to imagine flying though,” Harry said with a confused look. “That wasn’t very difficult.” 

 

“No” Snape shook his head. “That isn’t. It’s one of the first steps to clearing your mind. When you’re worried, fearful or angry, I want you to imagine flying on your broom.” 

 

“But when I’m angry—”

 

“Especially when you’re angry, Harry.” Snape said with a firm look. “I want you to shut your eyes and clear your mind whenever you begin to feel truly angry.” 

 

Harry dropped his head onto Snape’s shoulder and tried to see how imagining flying would work when he was angry enough to scream. He didn’t feel it’d go well. Things rarely went well when he was angry and usually no one listened to him, which only made him more angry. What would happen if he stayed quiet when he was angry though? 

 

He shook his head and tried to remember that this was less about his being angry and more about keeping Voldemort out.

 

Imagining flying was difficult even now. He was still uncomfortable after having discussed his inability to fight back against being put in the cupboard and annoyed with himself for getting Ron and Hermione into another dangerous mess. He was bitter about having run straight into Avery and he was exhausted. 

 

Snape rubbed a hand over his back. “How do you feel when you fly?” He asked. 

 

‘Happy.’ Harry thought. ‘Free.’ 

 

“Calm.” Harry answered.

 

It was much easier to fly than to handle his mistakes. 

 

“How do you feel when you chase the snitch?”

 

‘Focused.’ His mind supplied immediately. “Like nothing else matters.” 

 

“And nothing else should. The only thing that matters is catching the snitch.” 

 

Snape shifted and pulled something from his pocket. Harry didn’t feel inclined to leave his hiding place, but the hum of quick wings had him looking up curiously. 

 

The snitch Lupin had initially brought to his mum’s flat jumped from Snape’s palm and bobbed over top of the blanket. Harry instinctively snatched it out of the air. The excitement of his success rushed through him as the small wings beat against his fist. 

 

Snape reached out again and silently asked for it back. The second Harry released it though, it soared over his head and toward the desk. 

 

“This is how Occlumency begins.” Snape said as Harry climbed down from Snape’s lap to chase after the snitch. “Nothing else matters. Focus on catching the snitch and clearing all other thoughts from your mind.” He added. 

 

Harry leapt onto the chair, having somehow forgotten about it until the snitch appeared over it as he snared the small ball again. 

 

He smiled and proudly showed Snape. 

 

Snape nodded and held his hand out again. “Flying clears your mind and chasing the snitch focuses it. Occlumency requires you to be emotionless and blank. It requires you to focus only on completing your goal.” 

 

Harry hopped off of the chair and handed the snitch back. He almost wished Snape would let him keep chasing the snitch, as he thought this was the lightest he’d felt in days. 

 

“Now.” Snape said as he pocketed the snitch and gestured for Harry to sit. “Repeat back to me how Occlumency works.” 

 

Harry nodded. “I have to have a clear mind, but not, erm, without anything to focus on.” 

 

“How do you achieve that?” Snape asked. 

 

Harry had the oddest sense that if Snape had taught potions like he taught Occlumency, Harry’d probably be quite good at the subject. He wondered why Snape was so vicious when teaching groups of students and if he’d have an easier time providing after lessons tutoring to smaller amounts of students.

 

“By imagining flying, calming down, and, erm, not letting my anger get the best of me?” Harry answered.

 

“Both the Dark Lord and Dumbledore are skilled legilimens, which means they are able to peer into the minds of others.” Snape said. “Clearing your mind and focusing your thoughts elsewhere will render their attack null. It’s a skill that requires direct eye contact, which is why I do not believe the Dark Lord can see through your eyes—”

 

“Am I that then?” Harry asked, unable to remember the word Snape had used to describe peering into other’s minds seconds ago. “I can see through his snake’s eyes.” He said as he climbed onto the bed covers. 

 

Snape blinked. “His snake?” 

 

“Nagini. I always see through Nagini’s eyes.” 

 

“You never see through the Dark Lord’s eyes? Never his eyes directly?” Snape asked as he leant forward. 

 

Harry shook his head. “Once in a while I’ll be in a long hallway that I’ve never seen before, and I’ll be myself, but otherwise I’m always the snake.” 

 

A worrying silence fell over them as Snape grew quiet. Harry was unsure if he should say something. He didn’t tell many people about his problems with Voldemort, especially people who weren’t Ron or Hermione. 

 

He didn’t think he’d ever told an adult about his visions. Hermione had begged Harry to tell Dumbledore, and while he’d tried in his fourth year, he could never bring himself to say anything. 

 

He was glad he hadn’t told Dumbledore now. 

 

“I don’t know enough about this to help, but I will look into it.” Snape finally said slowly. He breathed deeply and looked Harry in the eye.  “When you saw the Dark Lord at the Dursleys, did you see him in front of you?” 

 

Harry shook his head again. “More like from behind me, or-or—” 

 

He wasn’t sure he wanted to say ‘from inside’, as the thought chilled him to the bone. He didn’t want to consider Voldemort growing out of him somehow. 

 

Snape’s eyes narrowed. 

 

A nervous worry began spinning through Harry’s thoughts. He didn’t want Snape’s opinion of Harry changed. 

 

“This will need further research.” Snape said quietly. “It’s not something I have the books or understanding of to begin to help,” He paused and seemed to debate a thought. “Unfortunately, it’s something Dumbledore might be knowledgeable about.” 

 

“I don’t want to tell him!” Harry said as he inched closer. 

 

He felt very much like crawling back into Snape’s arms, but he couldn’t quite convince himself to do it. He was already immensely thankful for Snape having helped him when he was in dire need, but he worried it was too childish to ask for help when he was only worried. 

 

A shudder ran through him and he inched closer still despite himself. 

 

The odd thought that Hermione was nearly always the one to tug him into hugs whispered through his mind. Ron was always quick to join in, but it was Hermione who started things between the three of them. 

 

He wished she was here now. 

 

He sat straight and tried to dredge up the courage to reach over. He’d never given much thought to these little moments of bravery, having felt they weren’t worth considering. He didn’t often have a chance or feel the time was right to be the one to reach out. Hermione was brilliant that way. She had once said that her skills lay in books and cleverness and how they could never rival true courage, but if Harry could go back in time he’d try to explain how her small acts of kindness were infinitely more important. 

 

Snape didn’t say anything as he wrapped his arms around Harry’s back. 

 

“What if Dumbledore turns what happened around and uses it to force me back to the Dursleys?” Harry asked with a whisper. “Or what if he says I’m cracked?” Harry wasn’t mental. He knew he wasn’t, despite what all of Hogwarts might’ve thought during the Triwizard Tournament, or just after. 

 

“No, you’re not cracked, Harry.” Snape said as he shook his head. “I’ve spent the last week with you and I can say with complete assurity that you are not mentally unstable.” 

 

The nervousness rising through Harry ebbed enough to let him breathe. 

 

He supposed Snape would’ve been paying attention to that, given that he usually thought Harry was mental. He hadn’t seen Harry during the episodes though. What if Harry was cracked during those moments and Snape just hadn’t seen?

 

“Dumbledore is the lesser of two evils in this scenario.” Snape’s hand rubbed over his back. “It doesn’t mean we have to ask him outright and potentially give him more information just yet. We may be able to ask by inquiring as to what his worries are, as he’s already mentioned a similar phenomenon to what you experience.” 

 

Harry tried to remember when Dumbledore had said something like that. 

 

“After your vision,” Snape continued. “He worried the Dark Lord could see through your eyes. You experience the opposite of this though, and we will learn more by asking him why he worries the Dark Lord is able to see through your eyes.” Snape supplied quickly. 

 

“Because you need eye contact for leg-lelig—”

 

“Legilimency, yes.” Snape said. “I suppose bringing you to Grimmauld Place will allow us the opportunity to question Dumbledore. You might be asked to give a full account of the events at Privet Drive though as well.” 

 

A nauseating jolt rolled through Harry’s stomach as the odd dream from last night drifted in the back of his mind. Would the Order treat Harry as if he were on trial? Would they force him to talk about his cupboard? What would Harry say? Could he skip over the humiliating details like Dumbledore might have?

 

“If you come and feel unsafe, we will leave. I have a feeling you want to see your friends though and you might be able to encourage Miss Granger to get to her point with some speed.” 

 

What would Ron and Hermione think?

 

“It is entirely up to you whether you come or stay.” Snape said. “My mother would love to have you here. She searched her wardrobe this morning for her old gobstones set in the event you stayed and wanted to play.” 

 

Harry couldn’t fight the small smile curling along his lips. 

 

He didn’t think any adult had ever wanted to play a game with him. He used to envy Dudley for how often Uncle Vernon had offered to play games with him. 

 

He hadn’t wanted to play games with Uncle Vernon, but he would’ve liked to play with someone. 

 

“It may be safer for you to stay.” Snape added as Harry looked up. “Think about which you’d like to do. While I dislike the idea of bringing you, I worry you would find your way there regardless of my decision.” 

 

Harry nodded. He knew he needed to return to Grimmauld Place eventually, and he was more than anxious to help Hermione. 

 

He could see why Snape wanted him safe though as well. Ms Eileen’s house might’ve been the safest place he’d stayed in the last week, given that no one here wanted to use, hurt, or kill him and there were no dementors or boggarts to speak of. 

 

“If I come with you, can I stay nearby? Or be by Sirius maybe?” Harry asked. “I don’t want Dumbledore near me.” 

 

“Understood.” Snape said. “You want to come then?” 

 

“Erm,” Harry started. “Yes, but, will your mum be sad I won’t be here to play gobstones?” 

 

Snape huffed a sound that Harry was almost positive was a laugh, though he couldn’t be sure as he’d never heard Snape laugh before. 

 

“She won’t mind.” Snape carded a hand through his hair. “I will take us back here and tonight you can play her if you’re interested.” He pulled the snitch from his pocket again and passed it to Harry. 

 

It hummed in his fingers, reminding him silently to focus. 

 

“This visit will likely become emotional.” Snape said. “Try and keep your mind clear. You don’t need to be perfect, but I don’t want you seeing the Dark Lord if we can prevent it.” 

 

Harry nodded and pocketed the snitch. 

 

“Let’s say goodbye and be on our way then.” 

 

Harry hopped down and trailed after Snape as they made their way to Ms Eileen. She waved their goodbye’s off with a quick nod and promised to have some more groceries if they were staying. She seemed excited at the thought of having company and Harry couldn’t be more thankful. He just wanted to be somewhere people didn’t actively hate him. 

 

They made their way out the door and down a crooked path through the woods. Harry tried to look at everything at once as they walked, as winding paths bisected the trail and twisted around massive tree trunks in a confusing sprawl. 

 

Harry wondered how Snape knew the way in such a dense forest. 

 

He supposed if Ms Eileen had lived here for a long time, it’d be an important thing to remember. It was a bit like the maze of stairs and corridors in Hogwarts. 

 

The nervousness of returning to Grimmauld Place crept up on him as Snape hefted him into his arms as they neared the dense copse of trees they’d landed in last night. He hoped there wouldn’t be screaming the second they walked inside, but that might be too much to ask. 

 

“Ready?” Snape asked. “We’ll take a breather when we arrive.” 

 

Harry nodded and they spun out of the woods. 

 

City noise exploded in his ears and drowned out the tremendous crack of their arrival. His stomach flipped as nausea bolted up his throat. 

 

Snape quickly set him on his feet in case he sicked up. 

 

“Deep breaths.” Snape said as they stood outside the grey stone row house. “If you find yourself separated from me, find your godfather or Lupin.” He said as he finger ran down Harry's nose. The nausea dulled, though his chest felt as if it had yet to stretch out. “And If at any point you feel unsafe, tap your nose and we’ll leave.” Snape added. 

 

Harry nodded. “Will we visit Hermione first, or,” He trailed off, unsure if Snape would consider Hermione’s request as important as speaking with the other Order members. 

 

“If we are detained, it might be a moment or two, but if not, we will find her quickly.” Snape said. 

 

Harry braced himself as they pushed the door open, but the front hallway was empty. He wasn’t sure if he expected to be attacked outright or if he thought Sirius might’ve been waiting for them like he had the first time Harry had come to Grimmauld Place. 

 

“I won’t hear of it!” Mrs Weasley’s voice rang angrily from down the hallway. “I refuse, don’t tell me I should consider that man’s side, I’ll—”

 

“Molly,” Mr Weasley’s voice echoed back. “You’re not listening. You can’t see past your anger—”

 

“Oh, I see straight past it Arthur,” She snapped back. “Years! Years this has gone on!” A door slammed and muffled the rest of their conversation, but Harry couldn’t tell if he was happy or upset about being unable to hear. 

Snape’s dropped a hand over the back of Harry’s head as he guided them quickly to the left and up a skinny staircase. Previously dusty bannisters were far cleaner than last Harry saw. The odd photo frames had been wiped clean and the rugs were less tattered. Harry wondered idly if Kreacher had been involved in any of the cleaning, or if he’d avoided it all together. 

 

He wished he knew which room was Hermione’s so he could sprint ahead and see if she and Ron were alright. It seemed as if they were going to pass every door in the house before coming to Hermione’s. 

 

They rounded a corner and came across Ron, sitting cross legged with his head in his hands. 

 

“Ron!” Harry called as he darted closer. 

 

Ron jolted as he sat up. His freckles were stark on his pale face and he looked as if he were going to sick up any second. 

 

“Are you alright? What happened?” Harry asked. 

 

“Never mind me mate, are you alright?!” Ron asked as he pointed at Harry’s bruised eye. He flinched as he caught sight of Snape. 

 

Harry looked nervously between the two and wondered how he’d convince Ron and Hermione that Snape was more trustworthy than they’d thought. 

 

“I’m fine.” Harry said. “Why are you out here and not inside?” He asked, pointing at the door. 

 

“Oh!” Ron started. “Yeah, Mum’s been a bit, er,” His eyes flashed toward Snape and he seemed to debate his next sentence carefully. “Well, we just thought, that is, Hermione thought—”

 

“Sometime soon, Mr Weasley.” Snape said as he crossed his arms. 

 

Ron nodded and sniffled. “I was just watching the door. My being ‘sick’ and all,” His fingers rose in air quotes. “Has kept most of them away, but I figured we needed a lookout.” 

 

“Sick.” Snape deadpanned. 

 

“Right.” Ron said, dragging the word out. 

 

“Is this what I’ve been summoned to assist with.” Snape asked with a raised eyebrow. 

 

“No! No,” Ron half shouted. “Hermione’s inside just, er, follow us. Please?” He asked as he spun on his heel and opened the door, allowing them into a small but tidy room. 

 

“Harry!” Hermione jumped to her feet as she caught sight of him.

 

Where Ron was pale and nauseous looking, Hermione seemed fine, thankfully. Her eyes flashed nervously over Harry before narrowing as they landed on Snape. She lingered near the bed with her hands behind her back. 

 

“Well, Miss Granger?” Snape asked as he lifted his hands askance. “You requested my presence.” 

 

Harry worried they were getting to the end of Snape’s tolerance for his friends. It’d hardly been five minutes. 

 

“Erm,” Hermione began. “Thank you for coming so quickly.” She said. Her eyes flashed back over Harry, but Harry couldn’t guess what she was looking for. “I, erm, we—” She stopped short and inhaled deeply. 

 

Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. 

 

This was going worse than Harry had expected it to. He debated trying to encourage Hermione to just get it out, because he knew once she started talking they’d have an answer quickly, but if Snape didn’t stay to listen, they’d need to explain it all over again. 

 

He inched closer to Snape and hoped the man wouldn’t disappear out of annoyance. He’d told Harry not to leave his side and Harry wondered if that meant Snape wouldn’t willingly leave Harry’s side either? 

 

Snape dropped his hand over Harry’s head, loosening the frayed ball of nerves tightening in Harry’s chest. 

 

He wished they’d made a plan for how to handle Ron and Hermione before arriving. Harry would’ve warned Snape of their innate distrust and maybe Snape could’ve made a plan to handle that? 

 

Hermione nodded and seemed to gather herself. 

 

“I found this in Avery’s bag.” She said as her arm swung forward and she held out a jar with a bright blue potion inside. 

 

Harry’s mouth dropped open in shock.

 

“That’s the potion!” He shouted as he pointed at the jar and whirled around to look up at Snape. “The one that hit me and Dudley!”

 

Snape held his hand out and Hermione passed it over. It seemed to stick to the sides of the jar as it sloshed and Harry had a distinct worry of it getting on him and shrinking even further in age. 

 

“Does it smell the same?” Snape asked Harry as he unscrewed the lid and held it out. 

 

Harry nodded wildly as the rotten smell surrounded them. He could never forget the horrendous smell. It was as if something foul had gone off and been ignored for weeks. 

 

“This will speed the cure exponentially.” Snape said quietly as he turned the jar in his hand. 

 

“How did you know it was there?” Harry looked at Hermione curiously. “How did you get it?” 

 

Hermione smiled awkwardly. “After Dumbledore left, Ron and I,” She paused and blinked nervously at Snape. 

 

“Snape can keep a secret.” Harry said as he quickly waved at her to continue. 

 

“Ok,” Hermione said. She gave Harry a firm look and took another deep breath. “Well, we wanted to know what happened to you, so we eavesdropped on the conversation in the kitchen. We realized they had Avery’s bag, of course we didn’t know it was his at the time, but Sirius had mentioned something important in the bag. We didn’t know how to get it, but Ron had the idea—” 

 

Ron nodded. “I dove into Fred and George’s doxy collection, got attacked and ran into the kitchen spewing—”

 

“Which of course was wrong.” Hermione said loudly as she cut Ron off and eyed Snape again. “But, it caused a bit of an uproar and I was able to sneak in and look in the bag.” She wrung her hands together. “Which was another wrong thing of course, but we were so worried! I only had seconds to look and I wasn’t sure what to look for, but I’d taken notes when Harry first described the potions and attack and I thought it was too similar to be a coincidence.” 

 

Ron rubbed his nose. “My distraction was too short. Fred and George didn’t have a strong enough antidote—” 

 

Snape pulled a small vial from his pocket and held it towards Ron and the room dropped into an awkward silence again. 

 

Ron stared blankly at the vial. 

 

“Doxy venom in large quantities can be slow acting and potentially debilitating.” Snape said with an obvious tone. “You wrote an essay about it.” 

 

Ron’s ears went red and he gave a sheepish shrug.

 

“Continue with your explanation.” Snape said, seeming to decide to ignore Ron. 

 

Hermione turned quickly back to Snape. “Right, erm, well I ran away with the jar and given what we’d heard being discussed, I didn’t trust Dumbledore to,” She paused and clenched her fists. “Well I just didn’t trust him.” 

 

“You didn’t inform any other Order members?” Snape asked. 

 

“We figured it’d be safest to get a message to you, because you had Harry.” Hermione said as her hands wound tighter together. “When I told Professor Lupin to ask for you, I made him promise to not tell anyone about my asking. He told me you might not come if I didn’t explain why though.” 

 

Ron nodded in agreement as he unstoppered the vial Snape had given him. 

 

Snape hummed. “Black was unaware of this potion’s qualities and descriptors when last I heard. If he’d known of the potion’s existence he’d have sent a message sooner. It’s likely he was speaking about something else, for which you’re lucky to still have your fingers attached after searching that bag.” 

 

Hermione turned white as a sheet and Ron choked as he swallowed around the potion. 

 

“Nonetheless, your meddling reputation precedes you.” Snape said. “You were right to be careful with whom to trust and hide this until I could see it. Check items before you touch them with ‘Specialis Revelio’. You’ll keep your hand attached for longer.” 

 

Hermione nodded as she repeated the spell under her breath. 

 

Ron tossed a look between her and Harry and seemed to want to say something, but thought better of it. 

 

“So what actually happened Harry?” Hermione asked.

 

“I’m really not sure where to start.” Harry said. He couldn’t think of when he’d last spoken with them. He vaguely remembered telling them about finding his mum’s necklace, but he wasn’t sure how to explain everything that’d happened after that. “Are you two alright?” He asked.

 

Hermione nodded as Ron shrugged. 

 

“Ron?” Mrs Weasley’s muffled voice came through the door. “Ron are you in there with Hermione?”

 

Hermione jumped. “What do I do?!” She whispered at Snape as she paced left and right and panic washed over her face. 

 

Snape pocketed the jar and looked down at Harry, seeming to silently ask if he was prepared for what Mrs Weasley might say or do if they answered her. Harry supposed they could just stay silent, but it’d be awkward if she opened the door to check. 

 

He nodded and smiled weakly at Snape, hoping that would communicate his preparedness, however untrue it may be. 

 

Snape spun on his heel and pulled the door open. 

 

“Ron are you—Severus Snape!” Mrs Weasley shouted as she caught sight of Snape. 

 

“Mrs Weasley.” Snape said politely. 

 

“What—” 

 

Worry cut across Mrs Weasley’s face and she tossed a look between Ron and Hermione before spying Harry. 

 

“Oh! Harry dear, you poor thing. When did you get here? Sirius has been tight lipped as anything, wouldn’t say a word about where you were! Dumbledore didn’t say either, I was beside myself with worry. Are you alright dear?” Mrs Weasley asked quickly, nearly stumbling over her words as she spoke. 

 

Harry blinked confusedly. “Erm,” He started as he inched closer to Snape when she stepped into the room. “Yes.” 

 

Mrs Weasley seemed inclined to come closer, but stopped short as she eyed Snape. 

 

“Who’s downstairs currently?” Snape asked. 

 

“At the moment we’ve taken something of a break.” Mrs Weasley said with a sigh. “Remus is still unwell and Arthur seems to think we’ve met a stalemate.” She quickly moved over to Ron and checked him over. “Tonks and Mad-Eye Moody have both come and gone multiple times, they’re gone now but I’m sure they’ll be back. Kingsley and Minerva are still here arguing as well.” 

 

Ron fussed beneath her hands before pulling away. “Ugh, Mum!” 

 

“You’ve been attacked by doxies Ronald Weasley!” She snapped. “If I’d known those two had hidden a doxy infestation,” She clicked her tongue as she turned Ron’s head side to side. “I have enough to worry about at the moment—”

 

“I think he’s fine, Mrs Weasley.” Hermione said weakly. “He hasn’t been sick since you last checked.” 

 

“Well that’s one crisis averted. Don’t think I won’t check again in an hour.” She muttered as she turned to Harry. “Now Harry, I’m sure you’re exhausted, you poor dear.” She gave Snape a suspicious look. “Why don’t you come with me and we’ll get you some tea?” 

 

Harry shook his head ‘no,’ and grabbed onto Snape’s hand. He couldn’t remember if Mrs Weasley was usually this suspicious around Snape or if Dumbledore had begun to turn her against him. 

 

He tried to remind himself of the distrust Snape had fed into the Order so he could continue to spy safely. 

 

Mrs Weasley’s mouth curled unhappily. “May I speak with you Severus?” She asked. 

 

“If you absolutely must.” Snape said tiredly. 

 

She nodded. “Outside, please.” She said as she waved a hand. 

 

“Mum!” Ron whinged. “Can’t you just accept that we’re part of the Order too? We’re already in the bloody house, why can’t we listen?” 

 

“Ronald!” Mrs Weasley snapped. 

 

“It’s not like you can keep us out of it, You-Know-Who already targets Harry.” Ron argued as he pointed at Harry. 

 

“I have gone over this with you.” Mrs Weasley argued back. “You should be thankful you haven’t been forced into this mess and thankful you’ve had the good fortune to be saved from the trauma and horror of what—” 

 

A pit sank in Harry’s stomach as Snape quickly led him out of the room and down the hall. The argument continued loudly without either Ron or Mrs Weasley having realized they’d left. 

 

He would’ve given anything to have avoided Voldemort. 

 

“I don’t suppose tact runs in that family.” Snape hissed as they slipped down the stairs. 

 

“Ah.” 

 

Harry jerked backwards as he spotted Dumbledore’s long white beard. He nearly tripped over the stairs before Snape’s hand tightened around Harry’s and he pulled him upright. 

 

“Harry,” Dumbledore said as he backed away and his blue eyes saddened. “I believe I owe you quite an apology.” 





Chapter Text

 


Harry stood rigidly on the staircase. The fear of Dumbledore cursing him or stealing him away rushed through him and he instinctively tried to spot the nearest exit. 

 

They could run back up the stairs, but that wouldn't get them out of the house. They were three steps from the landing but they could never pass Dumbledore or round the bannister fast enough to escape. 

 

“Harry?” Dumbledore asked softly. 

 

“Perhaps you’d like to begin this apology with an explanation?” Snape said in a steely tone. 

 

Dumbledore folded his hands in front of him and his face softened. His eyes brushed quickly over Harry before landing on Snape as he stared intently at the dour man. He seemed to debate something, though Harry wasn’t sure he’d ever have been able to guess what Dumbledore had on his mind. 

 

Ms Eileen’s voice echoed in his ears and Harry wondered if she’d have been able to read him. 

 

She seemed the type to be successful at it, but Dumbledore had given Harry reason to believe that he was the sort to show people the emotions he felt they wanted to see. He probably knew which emotions they’d most want to see before they’d even realized themselves. 

 

He should probably give Dumbledore a chance to explain himself. Snape didn’t think he deserved one, but Ms Eileen had said he might’ve had a change of heart. 

 

A change of heart was all well and good, but Harry wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to fully trust Dumbledore again. They’d need to work together to defeat Voldemort though.

 

Change of heart or not. 

 

“Of course.” Dumbledore said solemnly. “Will you follow me to the sitting room then?” Dumbledore asked as he raised his arm toward a door past the stairs and behind Harry. 

 

“The kitchen will suit.” Snape said. 

 

Dumbledore blinked slowly. “If you’re quite sure, Severus.” He said as he backed away farther and held his hand in invitation.

 

“Lead on.” Snape said, mimicking Dumbledore’s movement with his free hand. 

 

Dumbledore twisted on his heel and made his way down the hallway. 

 

Snape’s hand tightened around Harry’s and Harry had the sudden thought that Snape was unwilling to let Dumbledore walk behind them. 

 

He also seemed unwilling to let Dumbledore choose where they’d speak, for which Harry couldn’t help but feel grateful for. He had no experience in being suspicious of Dumbledore until recently and Snape probably knew infinitely more about how Dumbledore might go about manipulating things to his advantage. 

 

Harry couldn’t think of why the room they spoke in mattered, but it must’ve.  

 

He wouldn’t have minded the sitting room. It might’ve helped to make things seem less as if he was on trial if they’d spoken in a comfortable room. The last time he’d been in the kitchen he’d had that uncomfortably worrying episode as well. 

 

Something brushed down Harry’s nose and he shook himself as he looked up. 

 

Snape had stepped down the last few stairs and a concerned line wrinkled across his forehead as he leant over Harry. He pulled his hand back from Harry’s nose and his eyes flashed upwards a moment later, worrying Harry, who quickly looked upwards as well. 

 

Hermione stood at the top of the stairs. Her lips were twisted in worry and she looked as if she couldn’t decide between remaining upstairs or coming down. Harry had seen that look on her face several times and it nearly always preceded begging him and Ron to inform a professor of whatever they were worried about. 

 

Harry hadn’t kept anything from Snape however, so he couldn’t think of what she wanted to say. 

 

“Yes, Miss Granger?” Snape asked as he stood up. 

 

Hermione’s eyebrows rose with worry and her fingers clenched along the bannister.  

 

Harry looked back at Snape, worried he might’ve dropped out of time again and fallen into his thoughts, but Snape seemed significantly less worried than he had been the last time that happened. Harry didn’t feel nearly as exhausted either. 

 

Nervous footsteps echoed as Hermione inched down the top two steps. 

 

“Just,” Hermione started as Harry looked up to her again. “Are you sure you’re alright, Harry?” She asked. Her eyes flickered to Snape again before returning to Harry. 

 

Harry nodded, unsure of why she seemed so worried. 

 

“It's just Dumbledore.” He added when she didn’t seem convinced. 

 

Hermione nodded slowly. “Do you want Ron or I to come along?” Her fingers clenched around the bannister. “To back you up?” 

 

Harry twisted and looked at Snape, unsure if he was allowed to have another person sit in the room, but Snape only raised an eyebrow as if to ask Harry the same question. He couldn’t shake the confusion and mild shock that Snape had even considered the offer. 

 

“Erm.” Harry started. 

 

He knew Hermione was worried. She was always worried when the Dursleys were brought up and even more so when Harry dodged her questions. Harry was now nearly certain Ms Eileen had been right when she’d said Dumbledore might’ve questioned Ron and Hermione about the Dursleys.

 

He shook his head ‘no’ as the thought of Dumbledore convincing her of Harry’s guilt rushed through his mind. 

 

Even if he’d been at fault for Avery, Harry knew he wasn’t at fault for everything. 

 

“Ok.” She said as she slowly sat on the step. “Let us know if you need us.” She added softly. 

 

He gave her a weak smile and stepped down the last few stairs. 

 

He wondered what Snape thought and why Hermione was so worried, but the closer they came to the kitchen, the more his thoughts were consumed with infinitely more worrisome concerns. 

 

What if Dumbledore didn’t apologize and he only wanted to convince Snape that Harry really was cracked. He’d been convinced Voldemort could see through Harry’s eyes earlier. Harry couldn’t see why that worry would change, given the encounter in the hallway at Prive Drive. 

 

Harry was still worried about that as well, but he tried to shove it from his mind and pretend he was hunting the snitch instead. 

 

This would go poorly if he saw Voldemort in front of Dumbledore. 

 

“Harry!” Sirius half shouted from down the hall. 

 

Snape twisted and let out a huff of annoyance as he looked at Sirius. “Black—”

 

“Here to speak with Dumbledore?” Sirius asked as he stepped up to them. 

 

“Yes,” Snape said shortly. “It would be easier if this was done with some speed.” His hand tightened around Harry’s again. “I am not overly fond of Harry’s continued presence here and less than interested in being called away while here.” 

 

Harry shivered at the thought of Snape’s dark mark burning while he was at Grimmauld Place. 

 

He supposed Snape would need to answer for Avery’s disappearance. 

 

If he had disappeared. 

 

Had Voldemort ever summoned Snape during the day? He seemed the type to work only at night, but Harry supposed he’d need to always be working if he wanted to take over. 

 

“Well I’ll come with you to speak with Dumbledore and send you on your way then.” Sirius said as he flicked his wrist and Harry’s holly wand slid out from his sleeve. “Thought Harry might like this back though.”

 

Harry jerked and grabbed it as his wand, delighting in having both his mum’s necklace and his wand back again. He whispered a quick thank you as the wand warmed in his hand. 

 

“Lead on.” Sirius said, echoing Snape and holding his hand out just as Snape had earlier. 

 

They stepped into the kitchen to find Dumbledore seated at the head. 

 

“Ah,” Dumbledore sat up. “I had quite thought you’d forgotten me.” He said as he waved his wand in a gentle arc and summoned Mrs Weasley’s faded red kettle and several mugs.

 

Sirius dropped into a chair and quickly propped his feet onto the tabletop.

 

Harry was struck by the oddest worry of if he should sit or stay standing. Snape didn’t seem inclined to sit at the opposite head, but he had gestured for Harry to sit. 

 

Harry almost wanted to sit with Snape. 

 

He wanted to be taken seriously though. He already looked six, he didn’t want Dumbledore forgetting that Harry was actually fifteen. 

 

He climbed into the chair opposite of the head. 

 

“Tea?” Dumbledore asked as a red mug floated toward Harry. 

 

Sirius’s wand cracked against the tabletop and the runner, chairs, and walls were all dyed green and silver. The tea set near Dumbledore remained the only difference. 

 

Dumbledore blinked at Sirius and Snape’s eyebrow rose curiously as well. 

 

“We’re a bit past Hogwarts houses now though, aren’t we.” Sirius said dully.

 

Harry had a sudden memory of the scarlet armchair Dumbledore had transfigured after he’d reminded Harry of the Sorting Hat’s first house choice in the hallway at his mum’s flat. He’d been horrified at Sirius discovering Harry’s original house and ashamed of himself for having earned Dumbledore’s harsh judgement. 

 

Sirius had never said anything to Harry about the Sorting Hat’s decision though. 

 

The confusion cleared on Dumbledore’s face and his eyes drifted shut. “I see.” 

 

Harry didn’t. If it was another way to put Dumbledore off his stride, it was an odd tactic. Although he guessed Sirius would be quite skilled at odd tactics. 

 

“From the beginning then.” Snape said. 

 

“Quite.” Dumbledore agreed as his eyes opened and he waved his wand and restored the room to its original colours. “Harry, when I entrusted you into the care of your aunt, I had no way of knowing for certain what your future looked like.” 

 

Harry nodded and wished the chair he sat in was taller. He felt more like an insect being watched beneath a magnifying glass than someone expecting an apology. 

 

Dumbledore continued on. “I knew your aunt and mother had a falling out, but I had quite hoped Petunia would set aside her anger—”

 

“To take care of her nephew who’d been dropped on her doorstep with nothing but a note?” Snape snapped. “To say nothing of discovering her sister’s murder at the same time.”

 

Dumbledore sat back and the lines on his face deepened. “A deeply flawed mistake. One I have endeavored never to make again.”

 

“But one you never rectified.” Snape hissed. 

 

“No.” Dumbledore’s voice cracked and he leant forward, as if the mistake weighed on him physically. “I accept that my failure to amend my mistake was deplorable. It was a grave error. Harry, you will live with my mistake for the rest of your life and it has had far further reaching consequences than I could’ve imagined.” 

 

Harry watched as Dumbledore seemed to shrink before his eyes. His broad shoulders hunched forward and his hands slid up to cover his face. 

 

His long fingers worried over creased age lines several times before he lowered his hands and looked Harry in the eye. 

 

“My dear boy,” Dumbledore said quietly. “I will not ask for your forgiveness as I have not earned it. I cannot speak to what atrocities you experienced in Petunia’s house nor the pain I have caused by returning you to—”

 

“Why did you take me back?” Harry asked, shocking himself by his sudden question. “Even after I’d tried to tell you about it.” 

 

Dumbledore inhaled deeply. “I truly believed it to be safer for you. You cannot be touched by Voldemort when you are there.” He said. “It is as safe as your mother could make it, Harry. She cast an incredibly powerful spell over your blood and by extension, Petunia.” 

 

Harry swallowed heavily as the last few minutes of his mum’s life echoed in his ears. He never knew what spell she’d cast or if she’d even had her wand after Voldemort had broken in. 

 

All he knew was that she’d known it was the end. She thought Harry would die. 

 

Harry could remember her telling him he was loved. She’d whispered it to him, over and over and sometimes, when Harry was feeling especially low, he’d pretend she was present and whispering to him. 

 

When he’d been an actual six year old though, he’d only had green light and a cold laugh. 

 

Aunt Petunia had never said a word to Harry about Lily, despite Harry being desperate to have had someone who loved him. He’d tried to be the normal and decent person Aunt Petunia seemed to see in Dudley, but he never managed to succeed.

 

Ten years was a very long time to go without being loved. 

 

It was a very long time to be told again and again that he wasn’t going to be rescued nor was anyone coming if he cried. 

 

He had cried too. He’d cried for ages in his cupboard and begged to be let out. 

 

Maybe Aunt Petunia would’ve treated Harry better if he’d been a squib, but he was a wizard. He knew all too well that there was no point in looking at how things could’ve been. 

 

They hadn’t been. 

 

If they’d gone differently, Harry would never have left his parents and they’d never have left him. 

 

They hadn’t chosen to leave, though Harry hadn’t known that until much later. 

 

They’d stayed to the very end.

 

“I am sorry, Harry.” Dumbledore said. “Had I known—”

 

“But you did know.” Harry’s voice wobbled. “I tried to tell you.” 

 

“I didn’t understand. I was caught up in what dangers Voldemort presented and I never considered a danger beyond that.” Dumbledore said with a whisper. 

 

“You knew that family was cruel.” Snape said. His soft voice cut through the quiet room. “Minerva watched them. She told you.” 

 

“Minerva told me only that they were selfish muggles, Severus. She could not have known, nor I for that matter, that Petunia would be as cruel as she was.” Dumbledore said. “We acted in the way we felt was best. Harry needed a home, it was a tumultuous and dangerous—”

 

“Ten years without a house call.” Sirius said. “Ten years worth of days to rectify that.” He said. “Ten.” 

 

Harry blinked between Sirius and Dumbledore as the urge to creep over to Snape rose in him. He’d gotten his apology and he wanted nothing more than to return to Ms Eileen’s house and stay there. 

 

“A flawed oversight. After dealing with Voldemort, I could not imagine Petunia being a danger.” 

 

“You left her a letter detailing that her sister was murdered and her son was an orphan with no family.” Snape said. “You didn’t think that was something to do in person?” 

 

“I was misguided.” Dumbledore nodded. “I was wrong—”

 

“Swear you’ll never send me back.” Harry said as he kneeled on his chair. “Swear you’ll never send me back and let me stay with Snape or with Sirius.” 

 

Harry’s stomach swooped as he spoke and he looked down at Dumbledore as the comment Snape had made several nights ago echoed in his thoughts. Snape had made a vow. Harry was unsure of the wording, but it seemed like something not easily nor willingly broken, as Snape had made it about Harry well before their relationship had changed. 

 

“Swear it.” Harry said firmly. “Like the vow Snape made.” He added as he pointed at Snape. 

 

Sirius stood and Lupin’s battered wand slipped into his hand. His head tilted to the left as he regarded Dumbledore and his eyebrows rose with an expectant look. 

 

Harry was sure Dumbledore was remorseful, but he wanted some kind of proof that Dumbledore wouldn’t turn things around on him somehow in the future. He was willing to put the mess behind him so long as Dumbledore promised to never send him back. 

 

“No.” Dumbledore said firmly. “I cannot deny you a place that may not be the safest, but may be safer than others when you might need it.” 

 

Anger shot through him at the thought of Dumbledore believing he had the power to force Aunt Petunia to open her door. 

 

Aunt Petunia would deny Harry whenever she wanted to. Dumbledore had no power over her, whether or not he believed that. He didn’t yet realize how little she cared for Harry and how much more she knew about the wizarding world than he could fathom. 

 

She knew Dumbledore couldn’t hex, curse or force her to do anything she didn’t want to. 

 

“Your mother died to protect you, Harry.” Dumbledore pointed a frail finger at Harry. “She died for you to have a safe space.” 

 

“I know exactly why she died.” Harry snapped. “I remember it.” 

 

Sirius’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open as Snape turned to look as well, though his face was significantly paler than it had been moments ago. 

 

“You remember it.” Dumbledore repeated softly. “Harry, stories and memories have a tendency to blur over time, they—”

 

“It’s not a blur.” Harry said through gritted teeth. “I hear them talking whenever I’m near a dementor.” 

 

Sirius’s eyes fluttered shut as his hands came up and his fingers knotted into his hair. 

 

The crack Harry’d only seen once on Dumbledore’s face before seemed to split open again, revealing something entirely different beneath. 

 

The age lines on his forehead seemed to disappear and his shoulders straightened as he returned to his full height. Something sharp grew behind his eyes, though Harry couldn’t say what it was, just that it made him feel as if he’d been pried apart and looked at beneath a magnifying glass. 

 

“What do you hear?” Dumbledore asked quietly. 

 

The crack didn’t disappear this time. 

 

Harry brushed a finger down his nose as his heart started to pound. He didn’t know where Dumbledore’s wand had disappeared to and he wished he’d kept a better track of it. 

 

What if he tried to curse Harry like he had at Privet Drive?

 

Snape’s hands came under his arms as he swept Harry up into his arms and out of the kitchen. He made short work of the hallway.

 

Harry could hear chairs scraping and Dumbledore’s voice ringing out, though he couldn’t bring himself to look.

 

He shoved his face into Snape’s shoulder and tried to stem the fearful shudders wracking through him. He’d forgotten he could tap his nose to leave and he was more relieved than he’d ever say aloud that Snape had mistook his movement as their signal to escape. 

 

He truly had wanted to leave even if he hadn’t realized it. 

 

He didn’t know who lived beneath Dumbledore’s face, but they were terrifying. 

 

Hermione and Ron’s voices surrounded him, though only for a second as moments later the loud bustle of London’s traffic erupted in his ears. He thought he could hear Sirius as well, but even that was drowned by the crack of apparition. 

 

They landed somewhere eerily quiet in comparison to Grimmauld Place. 

 

“We will collect a few items from here and then return to my mother’s house.” Snape whispered as he carded a hand through Harry’s hair. “She will be pleased to see you.” 

 

The fear coursing through Harry dulled for a moment as the idea of someone wanting to see him stalled in his thoughts. 

 

He wondered what Dumbledore would say and if he’d agree that Ms Eileen was a safe person to live with. Harry was entirely too unsure about everything from their conversation. Dumbledore had been remorseful, but also terrifying. He’d listened and answered Harry’s questions, but he wouldn’t agree to promise never to send Harry back. 

 

A distant and quiet voice in Harry’s thoughts debated if Dumbledore was right not to swear never to bring Harry back. 

 

He never wanted to return to Privet Drive though. 

 

“We will begin brewing a cure tonight as well.” Snape said as Harry finally looked up. 

 

They were in his mum’s flat again. He was excited to see that it seemed unchanged from the last time they’d been here and the mess of colour and frills hadn’t disappeared. 

 

He didn’t know why he was so worried they could’ve disappeared, but he put it down to the fear of things being taken from him. Clothes, toys, and food had been Aunt Petunia’s favourite things to take. Harry’d been worried all through his first year that he’d be wrenched from Hogwarts and sent back to the Dursleys at any second. 

 

He wondered if this meant Dumbledore had been taken from him. It felt more like Dumbledore had taken himself from Harry though. 

 

He was also immensely curious as to why Dumbledore wanted to know about Lily and Voldemort’s conversation, if he could call it that. There didn’t seem to be anything overly important about what Voldemort and Lily said for Dumbledore. 

 

“Why would Dumbledore want to know about my mum’s, erm,” Harry stammered. “Last few moments?” 

 

Snape paused as he moved about the room. The small cauldron and potions kit had been neatly stacked onto the coffee table. Lily’s blanket folded itself around the ugly seashell lamp before floating down to join the rest of the items.

 

“I don’t know precisely what he wants,” Snape said slowly. “I have several thoughts that could explain it, but nothing for certain.” 

 

Harry nodded. “What do you think?” 

 

Snape stood still for a moment and seemed to debate something in the quiet room. He was nearly as rigid as Harry had been on the steps at Grimmauld Place, though Harry couldn’t guess why. 

 

After several long minutes, Snape inhaled deeply and turned on his heel. He set Harry carefully onto the armchair and kneeled in front of it. 

 

An uncomfortable concern started filtering through Harry’s fear. The last time he’d seen Snape look so concerned, he’d just told Sirius and Lupin about Harry’s cupboard. 

 

“I told you before I left Black’s safe house, that Petunia would expect for me to be as unwilling to see your mother’s necklace as she was.” He started softly. 

 

Harry blinked and his hand crept up to hold the small pendant. 

 

“Likewise, Petunia has made several allusions to my involvement in—” Snape paused and swallowed heavily. “In your circumstances. She wasn’t wrong, though you couldn’t have guessed at her meaning without knowing the rest of the story.” 

 

“I don’t,” Harry shook his head. “I didn’t get it.” 

 

Harry hadn’t ever known the whole story in any situation. He’d always been playing catch up until the last second. Voldemort hadn’t been shy about dragging Harry to the front of this mess and Harry felt he deserved to be included because of that. 

 

When information was kept from him, other people were hurt because of Harry’s unwitting involvement. 

 

“Lily and I had a falling out.” Snape said. “In our fifth year. We never quite reconnected, though she was unwilling to let me fall so utterly into the Dark Arts without help, which is why she gifted me her necklace. She believed in second chances.” Snape’s eyes drifted in thought. “And though I didn’t deserve one, she gave me one.” 

 

Harry watched as Snape became worryingly still. 

 

“I wasn’t a spy in the beginning, I fully believed in the Dark Lord.” He said. “I wanted to serve him in any way I could and my task, as a young and impressionable child, was to tail Dumbledore.” 

 

The thought of Snape buying into Voldemort’s manipulation was nearly impossible to imagine. 

 

Harry felt Snape was too cunning to be trapped by him.

 

“I tailed him to an inn one night and heard, as Lupin guessed correctly, the beginning of a prophecy.” Snape’s eyes found Harry’s and he seemed to come out of his thoughts. “Just the beginning and in my stupidity and carelessness, I ran to the Dark Lord to inform him.” 

 

Harry’s stomach dropped out of him as the thought of Snape’s face paling at every mention of the prophecy washed over his memories. 

 

Snape had been worried about any mention of it. 

 

“The prophecy stated, ‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches, born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies’.” Snape’s voice was dull as he spoke. “I was thrown from the inn before the prophecy was completed, but the irreparable damage was done. I told the Dark Lord immediately.” 

 

Harry’s mind blanked as confusion warred in him. He couldn’t think of anything but the words Snape had repeated and he could hardly understand them. 

 

“When I discovered the Dark Lord intended to hunt your mother down, I sent the necklace back.” 

 

The memory of Snape trying to explain the pain behind the necklace the first time he’d seen it flashed in Harry’s thoughts. He’d been in grief. He’d just learnt Lily had hidden it beneath the floorboard of Sirius’s safe house.

 

She’d hidden it. She’d hidden Snape’s desperate hope for safety and saved it for him, knowing she was going to die. 

 

Voldemort’s high voice commanding Lily to stand aside cut through his thoughts. 

 

“You asked him to spare her.” Harry’s voice cracked as he spoke. “And Voldemort agreed.” 

 

Snape’s dark eyes met Harry’s and he nodded. 

 

Harry had always thought Voldemort’s quick murder of James made no sense when he was the only pureblood in the house. Why would Voldemort have tried to save Lily when she was a muggleborn? 

 

“He lied.” Harry said dully. 

 

“He lied.” Snape agreed. 

 

Harry thought of the odd conversation Lily and Voldemort had. They’d spoken in chopped pieces and neither were willing to listen to the other. 

 

“Dumbledore may have wanted to know if Lily had spoken of the prophecy, and if so, what she told the Dark Lord.” Snape said. His voice was almost too quiet to hear. 

 

“She didn’t.” Harry said with a sniffle. “She begged him to take her and leave me alone.” 

 

Snape’s head fell forward and landed on the seat of the chair. 

 

Harry brought his knees up to his chest and he tried to reconcile the last fifteen years of his life. The prophecy was real and it had ruined Harry’s life in more ways than one. Dumbledore had known about it, though he’d never mentioned it to Harry. Voldemort knew about it as well, though he didn’t know the entirety if Snape was telling the truth. 

 

He didn’t think Snape had lied though. 

 

He curled himself as tightly into a ball as he could as fifteen years of being kept in the dark crashed through him and the fear and sheer inescapability weighed on him. 

 

Burning tears pooled along his eyes and trailed down his cheeks. 

 

He’d never had a chance. He was sure that even if Snape hadn’t told Voldemort about the prophecy, he’d have still discovered it. As much as he was horrified to discover Snape’s part in his circumstances, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t his fault alone. 

 

Dumbledore could’ve told Harry from the beginning. 

 

Had Dumbledore told Lily and James even? Sirius and Lupin hadn’t known about the prophecy, neither had Pettigrew if Voldemort’s lack of knowledge was anything to go on. 

 

“I’m sorry, Harry,” Snape said softly. “I’m sorry I told the Dark Lord and I’m sorry I put you and your mother and father into his path. I’m sorry for the years that followed and your time at Hogwarts where I was an obstacle rather than an assistance.” 

 

Harry poked his head out and caught sight of Snape. 

 

“I will do everything I can to ensure you are safe, for my failure.” 

 

Harry wondered about the vow Snape had made to Dumbledore again. Snape had said he’d made it to Harry, despite the last four years of cruelty and anger, he’d always tried to help Harry when he truly needed it. 

 

A confusing mix of memories ran through Harry’s mind. Snape had tried to help during his first quidditch match and the time Lupin had transformed at the Whomping Willow. He’d also tried to get Harry expelled in his second year though, as well after Harry’d snuck away to Hogsmeade in his third year. He’d threatened to poison Harry in his fourth year, but when Fudge refused to believe Voldemort’s return, Snape had shown him the burned and black Dark Mark in a desperate attempt to convince him and back Harry’s story up. 

 

Snape had always been careful to listen to Harry as well, especially in the last week. 

 

Harry'd probably be dead if he hadn’t arrived and stopped Avery. He’d probably be dead if the necklace hadn’t been hidden beneath the floorboards of Sirius’s safe house as well, given the boggart that had been there. 

 

“Do you want to speak with your friends or godfather?” Snape asked. “They won’t be able to see this house, but I will take you and your friends to the Weasleys if you wish.” 

 

The idea of seeing Ron and Hermione right then made Harry nauseas. He’d far rather just hide himself somewhere. 

 

He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He wasn’t sure how to feel or what to think. 

 

He shook his head and rubbed his palms over the sticky tear trails over his cheeks. He did want to talk to Ron and Hermione and hear what they had to say eventually, but at the moment he found himself wishing he had a safe place where no one would bother him. 

 

He wanted Hedwig but Hedwig was at Ms Eileen’s house. 

 

He wondered if Ms Eileen knew what Snape had done. 

 

It seemed like the sort of thing Snape would never tell anyone, but somehow Dumbledore must’ve known. He’d been the one to ask Snape to swear the vow. Maybe Snape had begged Dumbledore to protect Lily like Aunt Petunia had. 

 

“Can we go to your mum’s house?” Harry asked. 

 

Too many thoughts were crowding into his mind and he couldn’t seem to catch what was important to listen to from what screamed at him to cry and beg for help. 

 

How was Harry supposed to defeat Voldemort? How was Harry supposed to do anything when he couldn’t be trusted with his own future? 

 

He couldn’t contain the miserable sob that crawled up his throat and whinged in his chest. 

 

He’d truly never had a chance to escape, nor would he. 

 

Snape reached out, seeming unsure if Harry would want to hold his hand, but Harry was fairly certain that if he wasn’t held at this moment, he’d collapse and fall into a dark well of misery. 

 

He reached his arms up despite his confusion and anger and blinked through the blurry mess of tears. 

 

Snape’s arms came under Harry’s and he tucked Harry against chest more gently than he had ever before. His arms tightened for a brief moment as the collection from the coffee table shrunk and bobbed through the air and into a small book bag. 

 

A large hand carded through the mess of hair at the back of Harry’s head as they stepped out the front door and apprated back to Germany.





Chapter Text

 

“Oh dear,” Ms Eileen’s voice echoed around Harry as they stepped through her front door. “Not good at all, was it?”

 

Harry dreaded peering out from the crook of Snape’s neck. He wasn’t prepared to discuss anything, he had hardly realized they’d even found their way back to Ms Eileen’s house. 

 

He’d spent the entire walk in a miserable panic. 

 

How could Snape have been the one to tell Voldemort about the prophecy? He’d been vile to Harry for years afterwards as well, despite having been the one to seal his fate. It seemed unnecessarily cruel. He couldn’t decide how he felt about it all yet either. He knew Snape deeply regretted what he’d done and he’d tried to be as helpful as he could in the last week. Harry didn’t want to consider how much worse things could’ve gone if Snape hadn’t taken Harry from Privet Drive after that first night. 

 

How could he have kept the prophecy from Harry though? It was Harry’s future. How could Dumbledore have kept it from Harry as well? How could Voldemort have acted so quickly and known Harry was who he would need to kill? 

 

Snape’s hair brushed over Harry’s head, though Harry wasn’t sure if that had been Snape shaking his head or just moving. He wondered how Snape felt about Harry’s reaction to learning about the prophecy and Dumbledore’s apology, as well as Ron and Hermione’s involvement and Sirius’s odd actions in the kitchen. 

 

He wasn’t even sure of how he felt about everything. 

 

“Are Harry’s friends alright?” He heard Ms Eileen ask. 

 

“Aside from one of them intentionally poisoning themselves, they appeared fine.” Snape said as his hand rubbed over Harry’s back. 

 

Ms Eileen clicked her tongue. “Well that’s good news. I like far better that you’re cross than they’re in danger.” She said. 

 

Harry could feel an quiet huff slip from Snape’s chest as they moved through the kitchen and down the hallway. It wasn’t until they started climbing the stairs that his worries began truly multiplying and twisting deeper into winding anxieties. 

 

He worried Snape would leave him alone and he worried Snape would stay with him. He worried Snape would have something else to add to his earlier story and he worried Snape would say he’d lied and actually known less than he’d originally said. 

 

He worried for how much Voldemort actually knew of the prophecy.

 

Were they even sure this prophecy was true? 

 

If they were, what was Harry supposed to do about it? How was he supposed to handle this? 

 

He was just Harry. 

 

How could anyone think Harry would be the one to end this? 

 

Could he end it? 

 

It seemed he was fated to kill Voldemort or be killed by him. Voldemort already had a piece of the prophecy and Harry knew Voldemort would never let him go because of it. 

 

Harry couldn’t kill someone though, no matter how evil they were. He knew he couldn’t. Despite the cruelty and malice Voldemort put into the world, Harry couldn’t imagine himself standing over a dead body, knowing he’d put it there.  

 

He didn’t want to consider it. It reminded him too easily of Cedric’s face after he’d been killed. 

 

A shiver crept up his back as the graveyard whispered in the back of his mind. The terrible burnt smell of the killing curse burst in his nose and Harry shook his head wildly as he tried to clear it away.

 

It sank into him however, no matter how violently he tried to clear his throat against it. 

 

“Slower breaths, Harry,” Snape said softly in his ear. “Slower breaths. You’re in Germany, in my mother’s house, no matter how out of the ordinary that may be. It’s ok.” 

 

Harry coughed as he tried to slow his breathing, but he couldn’t seem to get a hold of himself. 

 

Snape ran a hand through Harry’s hair and began breathing noticeably slower. Harry could guess it was in an attempt to help him breathe, but it didn’t seem to help. He was supposed to kill someone and put that horrible blank stare in their eyes. It was either that or be killed himself and Harry was deeply invested in living. 

 

He shook his head wildly as an uncomfortable bubble climbed up his throat. 

 

“It’s not ok.” He said in a strained voice. “I have to-I have to—”

 

He coughed again as Cedric’s pale eyes flashed through his memories. 

 

“Try to breathe more slowly.” Snape said again. “What do you have to do?” 

 

“Kill Voldemort.” Harry said, his voice strangling itself towards the end. How could anyone imagine a fifteen year old killing a dark lord. How could anyone think that was possible. 

 

Voldemort knew more than Harry could even begin to imagine. 

 

“You do not need to kill the Dark Lord.” Snape said firmly. He slid his hands beneath Harry’s armpits as he tugged him higher against his chest. He slowed his breathing even further as he tried to encourage Harry to do so as well. “Prophecies are specific, frighteningly so.” 

 

Harry blinked against his racing thoughts. He couldn’t remember the specific words Snape had spoken over an hour ago.

 

“The prophecy used the word ‘vanquish’, which, by my definition, does not mean kill.” Snape’s hand rubbed a soft circle over Harry’s back again. “Prophecies aren’t to be entirely trusted either, as they’re well known for being intentionally misleading. Neither of us know of the latter half of this prophecy, for which, assuming anything will only frighten us further.” 

 

The overwhelming knot of worry loosened, though Harry couldn’t decide if he felt better. 

 

“The prophecy exists, but we don’t know all of what it states or all of who it refers to. We’ll take it one step at a time. You won’t be left to handle this on your own. I will always try to help you. Always.” 

 

Harry’s lungs seemed to open a fair bit wider as Snape’s comment lingered in his thoughts. 

 

“I doubt your godfather would leave you on your own ever again as well.” Snape added. 

 

It was difficult to consider. He didn’t feel as if anything had changed necessarily, though he felt better knowing Snape said he wouldn’t leave him alone. He couldn’t help but feel comforted that Snape didn’t think Sirius would leave Harry alone as well. 

 

A nervous part of him whispered cruelly whether this was a lie and Snape would disappear the minute Harry was fifteen though. 

 

Harry didn’t feel that would happen. Snape had said he’d be here for Harry and he’d done exactly that in the last week. He’d saved him from several awful panics and from anyone Harry struggled to handle. He’d argued with Sirius over whether Harry needed to return to Aunt Petunia and he saved him from Avery and Dumbledore. 

 

“How do you feel now?” Snape asked. His soft voice started Harry from his thoughtful stupor. 

 

He wished again for a watch as he tried to guess at how long they’d been silent for. 

 

Harry pillowed his head on Snape’s shoulder as his question sent an odd blankness through his thoughts. He hadn’t a clue how he felt. He’d need more information and answers before he could think of an actual answer. He didn’t suppose very many people asked him how he felt or what he wanted. They were far more likely to just tell him what they wanted out of him. 

 

“Erm,” He started. 

 

His fingers wound into the soft white jumper as the thought of whether his mum and dad had known of the prophecy sprouted in his thoughts again. He wanted to know how much, or even if, Pettigrew knew of the prophecy and what Snape’s plan was for the future. He wanted to know about what Dumbledore would do now that Harry was in Germany. 

 

“Erm, I’m alright I think.” Harry stammered. “What’s going to happen now?” He asked. “With me in Germany, I mean, and, er, Dumbledore.” 

 

Snape nodded and his fingers tapped over Harry’s back for a brief second. “It’s something we’ll need to give a lot of though too. We’ll need to speak with my mother, if we think Germany will be your safest bet. Likewise, we’ll need a plan for the school year, as I dread what you and your friends might get up to.” 

 

Harry could feel a small smile curling over his lips. He knew better than to hope for a good school year, especially after the last one, but he had a feeling having Snape on his side would ease some of the worst of the new term. 

 

He wasn’t sure if he’d lost Dumbledore. It seemed more and more as if he may never have actually had him to begin with though. 

 

“We’ll also need to speak with your godfather and Lupin. Both of whom, I assume you’ll want some form of contact with.” Snape said. 

 

Harry nodded as he twisted to sit in Snape’s lap. 

 

An exhausted part of him wondered if he was being childish by wanting to stay in Snape’s lap, though he couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to it. 

 

He was six and he was fifteen. He decided he could be both, at least until he was fixed. 

 

“I want to visit Ron and Hermione too,” Harry said quickly. “If that’s ok?” He tossed a nervous look upward as the realization that Snape would have to tote him around England and Germany twisted in his thoughts. 

 

Snape hummed an agreeable sound and leaned against the headboard. 

 

“And maybe Neville?” Harry asked curiously. He wondered just how much he might be able to do with all of this new freedom. 

 

“I suppose so.” Snape nodded with a silent raised eyebrow. 

 

Harry nodded as well and felt an odd lightness in his chest. He wasn’t sure he was ready to call it happiness, but he felt nearly happy all the same. He wanted to write Ron and Hermione and tell them all about everything that had happened in the last week and hear what they thought of it. He wished they could’ve stayed longer at Grimmauld Place, though he didn’t fancy seeing Dumbledore again. 

 

He wondered what the two of them would say when he finally got to tell them the entire story. They seemed quick to accept Snape’s involvement this afternoon, even though they’d been unsure about how much trouble they’d potentially get into. 

 

Comforting fingers carded through the back of Harry’s hair and Harry could feel himself sinking further against Snape’s chest. 

 

“Where do you think this will look nice?” Snape asked softly as he flicked his wand. 

 

The ugly seashell lamp leapt from Snape’s book bag and grew in size as it bobbed around the small room. 

 

“It could easily go anywhere, given its—” Snape’s voice dropped to an awkward pause and he seemed to consider his words carefully. “Charms.” He finally said. 

 

Harry snorted and crawled out of Snape’s lap. He hopped off of the bed and snatched the lamp out of the air. There weren’t very many places he could add to in the crowded room, but Harry was excited to be able to try decorating at all. 

 

“I assume you’ll have photos you’d like to display as well, for which you might like some frames.” Snape said as his wand trailed idle figure eights in his fingers and he watched Harry putter about the room. 

 

Harry hadn’t given much thought to photographs. He had the album Hagrid had given him, and several more photographs Colin had taken, but he’d never had anywhere to put photos before. He was reminded suddenly of the wall in his mum’s flat and the amount of photographs she had hanging up. 

 

Maybe Snape would let Harry take a few from there to hang up?

 

“There’s a small market nearby, we might be able to find some frames there.” 

 

Harry slid the lamp onto the small desk Snape had transfigured this morning and turned it left and right as he tried to find an angle he liked. Decorating was surprisingly difficult. He half wondered if his mum found it equally difficult, as the image of her sitting room drifted in the back of Harry’s mind. 

 

He twisted the lamp again. A particularly large speckled shell jutted out from the others around it and seemed as if it needed to be the first thing people saw, or maybe Harry just liked that shell the most. 

 

He couldn’t decide. 

 

A quiet knock on the door had them both looking up as Ms Eileen popped her head in. 

 

“A letter came for you Sev,” She said as she nudged the door open a little farther. “Dumbledore’s handwriting.” She added.

 

Harry flinched and watched as she handed over an envelope with Dumbledore’s curly handwriting scrawled along the back. An uncomfortable nervousness began to bubble in his throat again. 

 

He almost wished Snape would read the letter aloud, but Harry felt Snape would never offer to do that. 

 

“Decorating?” Ms Eileen asked with a smile. 

 

Harry jerked and looked back at the lamp. He twisted it twice more as he nodded at Ms Eileen. 

 

Several small pearls curled around long sleek shells and seemed to want to be the first thing people saw as much as the large shell did. 

 

“Lovely lamp.” Ms Eileen said as she ambled closer. “A talking piece, isn’t it.”

 

Harry shrugged sheepishly. He wasn’t sure if ‘talking piece’ was a compliment or not, but Ms Eileen didn’t seem to mean it meanly. 

 

“It was my mum’s.” He whispered finally. 

 

“Was it?” Ms Eileen’s eyes widened. “I don’t remember seeing her with it, she must’ve found it later on.” She pulled her wand from her pocket. “Do you mind if I charm it to light up? It might help you decide how to display it.” 

 

Harry blinked dumbly before nodding quickly. He wished he’d thought of that himself. 

 

“Dumbledore wrote a second apology, if you’d like to read it, Harry.” Snape said as the tip of Ms Eileen’s wand brushed over the lightbulb. 

 

A soft orange light spilled outward and brightened the edges of the colourful shells from behind. It seemed to beat back against the kaleidoscope of confused and angry emotions threatening to over take Harry again. 

 

“He wishes to speak with you again as well,” Snape said. “Though he doesn’t want to put you in a position you will find uncomfortable. He likely wants further information, which may benefit us.” Snape added with a knowing look. 

 

Harry thought back to the terrifying moment in his cupboard when Nagini and Voldemort had appeared. 

 

He didn’t fancy seeing Dumbledore until he was fifteen and back at Hogwarts. 

 

“We’ll come up with a plan to handle that. Your godfather will likely want to be involved.” Snape said as he glanced over the curly writing once more. 

 

“Well I’m glad to hear he apologized.” Ms Eileen said. 

 

Harry swept the lamp up once more as he decided he wanted it closer to where he’d sleep.

 

It felt too nice a colour to leave so far away. 

 

“I’m glad your friends are safe as well,” Ms Eileen continued. “It’d have been a tight squeeze if you all had to come and live here.” 

 

Harry had a sudden image of Ron and Hermione fighting over the small bed and he shuddered. The shouts of arguments echoed in his ears. It was far better that the two had some space from one another. 

 

He wondered idly what Ms Eileen would think of his friends crowding into her small house. 

 

He wondered as well how much Snape had told her about Dumbledore’s actions. She’d said Snape hadn’t mentioned much when they’d first arrived last night, but given how they’d spoken at breakfast, she must’ve known more than she let on. 

 

She’d spoken quite a bit about Dumbledore when Harry hadn’t been in the room as well. 

 

“Do you suppose you’ll stay for long then?” Ms Eileen asked. She tossed a quick look at Snape and something warm glittered behind her dark eyes. 

 

Harry looked over at Snape. He wasn’t sure how soon the conversations Snape had spoken about them having all needed to happen, but he hadn’t thought they’d be this soon. He was unsure how much of his eerie experiences he wanted to tell Ms Eileen, despite how much she seemed to want to help. 

 

He didn’t want many people knowing he was mental, even if Snape didn’t think he was. 

 

“If you’ll let us.” Snape answered. “We’ll need to sort something out before the next holidays of course, but for now—”

 

“Christmas or summer do you mean?” Harry asked quickly. 

 

Everything past the next few days felt unstable. He wasn’t sure where he was staying or who he was living with. He hoped he could stay with Snape and his mum until he returned to Hogwarts at least. He didn’t think either of them would send Harry back to Aunt Petunia, but he wasn’t sure if they’d enjoy living with him all the time. 

 

“Both.” Snape gave him a short nod. 

 

“Oh.” Harry breathed. “I don’t have to go back ever?” He asked as he shook his head. “Dumbledore didn’t promise not to send me back.” 

 

Snape nodded and his eyes flickered upwards as he thought. A deep crease cut across his forehead and it seemed as if he was going over everything that had occurred and could occur, though Harry couldn’t say for sure. 

 

He’d seen the look on Snape’s face more than once in the last week though, and it usually preceded a plan. 

 

“Did he say he would send you back?” Ms Eileen asked as her eyebrows rose slowly. 

 

Harry blinked and thought back to the awful conversation. Dumbledore had been apologetic, though it’d been hard to tell if he’d been honest. He usually was, as far as Harry was concerned. 

 

He was learning quite quickly though, that omissions were sometimes more cruel than blatant lies. 

 

He hadn’t said he would send Harry back though. 

 

“Well, no. Not really,” Harry said. “But he wouldn’t swear not to. It sounded like he would send me back as soon as he could.” 

 

“He knows you’ll leave though, doesn’t he.” Ms Eileen said as her eyes focused on Harry and tilted her head left and right. “You’ll leave straight away if last night is anything to go on.” 

 

“But—”  Harry started before pausing. 

 

Ms Eileen’s logic made sense in his head, but given what Harry had seen Dumbledore do, it wasn’t out of the question to worry about him sending Harry back to Aunt as soon as their backs were turned. 

 

“Now, I don’t know all of the ins and outs of this, but I do know Dumbledore and it sounds as if he lost control and knows it. He can’t force you back because you have the ability to leave and he’s seen that now. Perhaps the only option he had to regain control was to refuse to give you the one bit of choice he had left.” Ms Eileen said with a small shrug. 

 

Harry blinked as he ran through the conversation in his head again. 

 

He had never considered that Dumbledore had truly lost control of Harry. The more Harry thought about the last week though, the more he realized that was what had happened. 

 

Harry had run away and shown Dumbledore that he truly had no control. 

 

“I can’t say he’ll never try to send you back and I’d bet a good bit of money that he’ll try to get to you through guilt and manipulation.” Ms Eileen nodded to herself. “But that will be difficult, considering that you’ve lived in that house and Dumbledore hasn’t.” She said. 

 

Harry tried to imagine all of the ways Dumbledore might go about guilting Harry back to the Dursleys. 

 

He’d probably try something so subtle that Harry would miss it.

 

“It’s easy for Dumbledore to brush aside your experiences. He assumes you want to do what’s right, but he’s never lived in a home like you have.” Ms Eileen added softly. “Either he’ll learn or he won’t.” 

 

“He’ll learn.” Snape said darkly. 

 

Ms Eileen shrugged. “We can hope.” 

 

Harry looked at Snape as an uncomfortable worry clung to him again. He wasn’t sure how much Ms Eileen knew about Aunt Petunia, but he’d already gone through Sirius and Lupin discovering his cupboard. He wasn’t prepared for someone else to uncover it again. 

 

Snape reached a hand into his pocket. “Speaking of learning, what do you make of this?” He asked as he pulled the jar Hermione had given him free. 

 

Ms Eileen stepped closer and hummed to herself as she inspected the potion. 

 

“Nasty business this,” She said after a moment. She unscrewed the top as she looked closer still. “But not irreversible. You’re the Potions Master though my love, you’d know better than me.” 

 

An awkward giggle bubbled in Harry’s throat to hear Ms Eileen refer to Snape as ‘my love’. 

 

He’d never thought anyone would use those terms aside from Aunt Petunia. He thought he’d heard Mrs Weasley use ‘lovey’ before, but that had been one time when he’d been twelve. 

 

Ron had been mortified as well. 

 

“Might have a few spare things in the cupboards to help a cure along, though I might need to pick up a few more from town.” She added as she tilted the jar left and right and watched as it coated the inside. “Something’s we’ll need from the wizard city in Hamburg too, but I can get them later tonight.” 

 

Harry found the pendant on his mum’s necklace as Ms Eileen and Snape continued to debate the potion. He was still going over the conversations and comments everyone had made. 

 

The more he turned over Ms Eileen’s thoughts, the more he was sure she was correct. 

 

Dumbledore had apologized, but he hadn’t spoken about any future options for Harry. He hadn’t spoken about how he’d behave going forward either. 

 

Maybe he felt Harry was more like Sirius than before now.

 

A bright feeling danced in Harry’s chest as he considered the similarities between himself and his godfather. There wasn’t a grand amount to be shared, but what matched felt infinitely more important for it. 

 

Dumbledore couldn’t control Sirius and now he couldn’t control Harry. 

 

He couldn’t control Harry and Harry had Snape. Snape, who would leave with Harry if he was uncomfortable and argue for him if he was upset. 

 

Harry wondered how that would affect his future knowledge of the rest of the prophecy, but he also wondered if he might just enter the Department of Mysteries and hear the full prophecy for himself. 

 

It was his fate after all.

 

He tried to remind himself of what they didn’t know quite yet. He’d have help vanquishing Voldemort. He wasn’t required to murder anyone, nor was he necessarily doomed. 

 

Voldemort had already set his sights on Harry, but he wasn’t sure about what the latter half of the prophecy spoke of. Harry wasn’t sure either. 

 

“Well, Harry?” Snape asked. “Do you feel up to visiting the town? It’s a small muggle village, the likelihood that you’ll be recognized is low, but we can cover your scar with a hat.” 

 

Harry nodded quickly and twisted the lamp one last time. 

 

He reached up as Snape swung his long legs from the bed and was silently delighted as Snape tugged him up onto his hip and they stepped out the door. 

 





Chapter Text



Harry brushed through the fringe on his forehead. He was finally fifteen again. His eyes were still almond shaped and his chin was far more defined again. It felt amazing to be able to stand on the floor and look into the mirror, rather than climbing onto the countertop and kneeling. No matter where he looked, he couldn’t find any sign from the last few weeks that would point to his potion mishap. 

 

His fingers were normal again. They were long and thin and seemed easily able to write well once more. 

 

It was odd to consider his time as a six year old. He almost wouldn’t have believed it’d even happened, if it wasn’t for his new circumstances. 

 

He tugged at the soft t-shirt Ms Eileen had found at a store the other day and turned side to side as he tried to spot any signs of his six year old self. There were some features he noticed as having stayed the same and he wondered if they’d always been present and he hadn’t realized, or if the sudden change was making them more prominent. 

 

He wondered if he still looked like his mum? 

 

“Harry?” A soft knock echoed through the bathroom door as Snape spoke. 

 

Harry tossed a last look at himself before he twisted and pulled the door open. 

 

It was exciting to come up to Snape’s chest now and not need to crane his neck to look the man in the eye. A quiet voice whispered about the height yet to come as he grew older still. 

 

“No tingling or shrunken fingers or toes?” Snape asked as his eyes flashed over Harry’s face. “Everything feels alright?” 

 

Harry nodded and checked his fingers and hands one more time. 

 

Snape’s long fingers brushed through Harry’s hair and he tilted his chin gently as he examined Harry closer. Soft sounds murmured from beneath Snape’s breath as he debated the over small changes that Harry couldn’t be bothered to worry much over. 

 

“Had you started shaving before the incident?” Snape asked. 

 

Harry nodded and ran his fingers over his chin. 

 

Snape hummed and nodded. “You might be closer to fourteen then, but we can fix that.” He added as he pulled Harry into a hug. 

 

Harry smiled to himself as he wrapped his arms around Snape. His fingers tightened around the fabric at Snape’s back, reminding him of all of the moments they’d tightened around his collar instead. He’d been so small, it almost was odd to think about it. There were no rushing emotions crashing through him, or overwhelming thoughts to contend with. He hadn’t been sure what to expect of Snape after he’d been fixed, but it seemed as if Snape had no intentions of changing or tossing Harry back to the Dursleys. 

 

It all made Harry feel remarkably calm, far calmer than he’d felt in weeks in fact, maybe even months. 

 

It was nice to breathe a sigh of relief. 

 

They still needed to address the prophecy and Dumbledore, but they were visiting with Sirius and Lupin soon to work on that. 

 

“Did it work?” Ms Eileen’s voice rang from the stairwell. 

 

The last step on the staircase croaked and it seemed as if she wanted to come closer, but was unwilling to disturb Snape as he looked Harry over. 

 

“I think so?” Harry answered.

 

“Nearly,” Snape corrected as he pulled away. “There are issues to be fixed yet.” He slowly waved his wand over the top of Harry’s head. “How do you feel? Emotionally, mentally, and physically.” 

 

“Good.” Harry said. “No pains or aches and I feel calmer and erm,” He paused as he rocked forward and back on his heels. “I don’t think I’m thinking like a child, but I couldn’t really recognize it when I was six, so I reckon I might not notice it if I still do it.” He said. He felt normal, so much so that he was struggling to remember being six despite having woken up this morning at that size. “I feel weirdly relaxed?” 

 

Snape nodded. “You haven’t behaved like a six year old yet. We’ll keep an eye on it. It seems your emotions have stabilized as well, but let me know if you begin to feel—”

 

“Angry or scared.” Harry cut in. 

 

“Correct.” Snape said. “We’ll continue with Occlumency tonight regardless.” He brushed an idle finger down Harry’s nose and moved to usher him down the stairs but Harry paused him in his tracks. 

 

“Are you in pain?” Snape asked quickly as his dark eyes narrowed. 

 

“No!” Harry said as he shook his head ‘no’. “I was just wondering, erm,” He paused and debated the potentially uncomfortable answer of his next question. “If I, erm, still look like my mum?” He asked. A quiet nervousness bubbled in him at what Snape’s answer might be, but it felt nothing like it had when he’d been six. 

 

Snape stepped back and looked closely at him once more. 

 

Harry’s fingers brushed over the hem of his shirt as he waited and the old comments of how much he looked like his father echoed in his ears. He loved to look like his dad, but he also wanted to look like his mum. 

 

Even if he didn’t, he rationalized, he had her necklace.

 

“Yes.” Snape said finally. “You do look like your father, but I can see your mother as well. In your eyes, as you know, but your face as a whole as well.” He added. “Your mother had softer features, and you still share that with her.”

 

Harry smiled and twisted back around to look in the bathroom mirror. 

 

Snape let out a quiet laugh as he pulled the hand mirror he’d transfigured for Harry back in Spinner’s End out of his pocket and dropped it on the countertop. 

 

“Whenever you’re finished, come find us downstairs. We’ll make a plan for your visit to Diagon Alley with your friends.” Snape said. “I will mail the restorative to your aunt as well. Did you want to include anything in the note?” 

 

Harry paused and looked over at Snape. He wasn’t sure what he would say, or if he even should say anything. 

 

“You don’t need to add anything,” Snape said, almost as if he’d read Harry’s thoughts. “Though if you want anything from that house, now would be a good time to ask.”

 

Did Harry have anything in that house? He couldn’t think of what he might still want. 

 

He imagined the bedroom on Privet Drive and mentally ticked off the hand-me-downs and clutter he’d collected as he lived there. There had never been real clutter. Aunt Petunia had never let him truly live in the bedroom, but he used to pretend he could put his books on the lopsided desk or use the bookshelf. 

 

Harry shook his head slowly as the pendant on the necklace hummed warmly. 

 

Snape hummed and gently guided Harry out of the bathroom. “Why don’t you write to your friends and ask what Mrs Weasley’s plan for gathering school books are.” 

 

Harry nodded and stepped down the stairs. 

 

He knew he wouldn’t go back to that house. After Ms Eileen pointed out Dumbledore’s only option left to gain control, Harry could see how he’d be able to escape the house as often as he’d like. 

 

What would that mean for Voldemort though? Would that change how Snape spied? 

 

It didn’t seem to have changed things, given that Snape had come and gone from several meetings unscathed and continued to help Harry throughout the last few weeks. 

 

“Oh!” Ms Eileen said as she looked up from where she’d been waiting. “Would you look at you, fifteen again.” She smiled and patted Harry’s cheek. “I’ll miss seeing you and Sev cuddle, but I bet you’re feeling better.” 

 

“Much better.” Harry said as he tried to fight down an awkward blush. He wondered if this was how Ron felt whenever Mrs Weasley would hug or cuddle him around Harry. Despite the awkwardness though, Harry was endlessly thankful for Snape’s comfort. “I’ll probably be better at Gobstones now at least.” He added. 

 

Ms Eileen laughed. “You wait, I’ve been going easy on you.” She leaned in and her eyes glittered conspiratorially. “Let’s get Sev in on our next game. He doesn’t need to work on your potion anymore, what excuse would he have?” 

 

“I will be preparing lessons.” Snape said as he appeared behind Harry. “And making ingredient lists for next term.” 

 

“Does that take all evening?” Ms Eileen asked. 

 

Harry twisted and looked curiously at Snape. Harry and Ms Eileen had played the game more evenings than not, but Snape had usually found a reason to excuse himself. He had always come to console Harry after he lost, which was more often than Harry thought possible, but it seemed as if Snape wouldn’t go near the game on his own.

 

“It might.” Snape muttered offhandedly. “I have no interest in losing consistently.” 

 

“I won once!” Harry said quickly. “It wouldn’t be consistent.” 

 

“That was an accident,” Ms Eileen waved her hand. “You moved the rug when you sat down and changed—”

 

“Mother, you can’t possibly blame the rug for your own miscalculation.” Snape crossed his arms. 

 

Ms Eileen clicked her tongue and smiled. “I wouldn’t have to blame the rug if you’d play us, then I could just blame you.” She leaned closer to Harry and whispered. “Sev’s actually quite good at Gobstones, he just can’t stand to lose on the off chance he does.” 

 

Harry snickered as Snape huffed and stepped around them. “If Harry receives good grades on his summer work, I might be inclined to play once during the holidays.” Snape said over his shoulder. 

 

“What about at least once before the term starts?” Ms Eileen asked as she followed after him. “One fun night before Harry has to be on the train?” 

 

Harry smiled and trailed after them as he thought of how strange his life had been in the last few weeks. He’d never have imagined Avery’s failed potion would change his life so drastically. He never could’ve guessed that Snape would help him so much, or find Harry worth caring about as much as Snape’d said he did. He never would’ve thought any of this could be possible actually. 

 

He found the pendant on his mum’s necklace. 

 

He was thankful to be safe and to have people who wanted him around and even though the future was uncertain and potentially dangerous, he was thankful to have Snape.