Chapter 48 : Those Mysterious Muggle Ways
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Somewhere near Cornwall:
Albus Dumbledore had always considered himself an advocate of Muggles, he had been fascinated with them ever since he was a little boy, and they lived near a Muggle village, some five miles distant from Bumblebee Ridge. When he was a child, Albus and his brother Abe and little sister Ariana had always been taught to hide their magic, so whenever they went into the village to purchse something, they were careful to act like their Muggle counterparts. Albus had been very good at it, much better than Abe, and poor Ariana, who had a bout of accidental magic one day in the village and was set upon by three bullies who nearly beat her to death for being a "devil-spawned" child. That had been the prevailing attitude about magic back then—it was evil and those who used it were devil worshippers.
Sadly, after his sister's near death experience, and his father's incarceration in Azkaban for retaliating viciously upon the Muggle adolescents who had harmed Ariana, Albus had gone through a period where he loathed Muggles, much like his mother Kendra. But when he grew to adulthood and met Gellert Grindelwald, his attitude towards Muggles changed, for Gellert was Muggleborn, and became his best friend and Albus found it impossible to cling to old prejudices while still maintaining his friendship. So he adopted a new attitude—Muggles, like wizards, were not all bad or good, but both. It simply depended upon the individual.
Despite his long tenure as Headmaster, and his many meetings with Muggleborn parents and so forth, Albus had never really grasped the concept of what it meant to live without magic until now. His sacrifice of his powers meant that magic was no longer a way of life for him, live though he did in his family's ancestral home, which he had not dwelled in since he had been a small child. Kendra had moved the family to a smaller residence in Godric's Hollow after her husband Percival had been sentenced. She said there were too many bad memories here for them to stay and she wished to get Ariana far away from there.
But unlike Godric's Hollow, where both she and Ariana had died, Bumblebee Ridge held nothing but happy memories for Albus. He recalled fondly days of running with Abe across the fields and splashing in the creek that ran through the back pasture. He remembered going out to tend the beehives with his mother—for so had Bumblebee Ridge gotten its name, from the bees that lived there and the fine pure sweet honey they produced. Kendra used to gather it and keep some for themselves and sell the rest in the village. They used to make all different kinds—sweet clear clover honey, red blossom honey, lavender honey, rose honey---depending upon the kinds of flowers the bees pollinated. And nothing had ever tasted so good as the honey dripping fresh from the comb, spread on freshly baked bread.
They had eaten that honey for breakfast, been given the honey in tea with lemon for sore throats, honey had been mixed in healing salves and potions, and Kendra had taught young Albus and Abe how to gather the honey from the hives without being stung. She had used magic, but she taught her sons how to do it the Muggle way, and it had been just as effective. To this day, Albus had never been stung by a bee. He had also inherited the family sweet tooth, which was fitting, considering that his surname meant "bumblebee" in Middle English.
Yes, Albus remembered how on warm sunny days, his mother and siblings would have a picnic on the lawn and he and Abe would hunt for frogs or unusual plants and flowers to show their mother, while Ariana napped on a blanket. Kendra had been a renowned Herbologist, and had taught her boys early to appreciate plants and nature. She had also taught them to be tolerant of Muggles, until the Dark Day when Ariana had nearly been murdered. Then she had allowed hatred to poison her and forbade her sons to have anything to do with them once they moved to Godric's Hollow. Not that they had wanted anything to do with them after what had happened to Ariana. His sister had been struck so many blows to the head that she had never fully recovered. She remained at the mental level of the child she had been then, and her magic had never developed properly. All of them had taken turns hiding and protecting her, for fear that she would be labeled insane and taken away to St. Mungos.
It was only after Kendra's accidental death that Albus started to re-evaluate his position on Muggles and Muggleborns. Oddly enough, it was Ariana who changed his mind, even before Gellert. "Don't hate them," she had told him, over and over, in her more lucid periods. "Don't hate them, Al. That way lies madness. Hatred kills."
It had taken him awhile to grasp who she was referring to, and then once he figured it out was astonished. She had been speaking of Muggles, had somehow understood that hating them was wrong, and would not help anyone. And if she coulf forgive what had been done to her, how then could he do any less?
Even after Gellert had gone Dark and he had been forced to duel him, Albus had still maintained that Muggles were not inferior. Only different. And now here he was, practically one of them himself.
Albus chuckled at the irony of it all as he pulled on his boots, sitting on the side of his bed. The large house, which was painted a soothing honey color with blue shutters, consisted of eight bedrooms, a parlour, drawing room, kitchen, distillery, three bathrooms, solarium, and a men's cigar room, had been scrupulously kept up by the two Dumbledore house elves, Garnet and Clover. They were sisters, as alike as twins, but one was shy and sweet, like her namesake, and the other brazen and bold, like the gem she'd been named for.
They had been delighted that "Master Al" was coming home to stay and had gone into a flurry of spring cleaning. When he told them of his condition, they had been summarily horrified and had wept for him until he told them to stop. "I will adapt. There have been Squibs in this house before. My great-great-great uncle was one, I believe, though the family hushed it up, since they would not give him away like many pureblood families did their Squib children. Now, I simply have to learn how to live a bit more like a Muggle."
So he borrowed books from the local library in the village, which had since grown to a small town. He read about Appliances For Dummies, How To Boil Water, You Can Do It Yourself Home Improvements, and Your New TV and DVD. He also installed electrical lines outside and inside and purchased that absolute Muggle necessity, a telephone. In the department store, he had helpful salespeople choose a new washer and dryer, microwave, refrigerator, and television with a built in DVD player.
Once they had all been installed properly inside the house, he sent Fawkes with a letter for Severus and Harry inviting them to his "housewarming party".
* * * * * *
Fawkes delivered the letter just as Harry and Severus were sitting down at the golden oak table in the kitchen, eating the pancakes and sausage Harry had made. He had become quite good at making pancakes since he'd had lots of practice at the Dursleys. Vernon and Dudley tended to each eat twelve and even Petunia had two or three. This time, however, he'd made six, three each for himself and Severus, plus the sausage.
The phoenix, disguised as a parrot, his innate magic enabled him to cast one illusion charm a day, flew in the window and landed right in the middle of the table, though he managed to keep his tail from swiping the butter dish. *Good morning, hawk friends!* he trilled happily. * I have a message from Albus for you! I hope you are both well.*
"We are, Fawkes," answered Severus, spreading a pancake with butter.
"Fawkes? But you look like a parrot!" Harry exclaimed.
The phoenix winked at him. *Clever disguise, no, fledgling? This way I can fly unremarked among Muggles. It is how my kind has hidden for centuries.*
"Really clever. I never knew that."
"You learn something new everyday," Severus said dryly. He held out a piece of banana to Fawkes.
*Ah, banana! My favorite!* the phoenix took the treat daintily and swallowed it. * I must be off, no telling what Albus will trying experimenting with next. Between the three of us, I am lucky he has blown the house up.*
"What's he doing?" Harry wanted to know.
*Trying out new Muggle machines and whatnot.* answered the phoenix. *Read the letter. Farewell, my feathered brothers!* With that, Fawkes soared out the window and was gone.
Harry looked at Severus in alarm. "Sev, I have a bad feeling about this."
"Mmm . . ." The Potions Master opened the letter and read it. "A housewarming party. How quaint."
Harry choked. "You've got to be kidding! What . . .what guy gives a housewarming party?"
"Apparently, Albus does," Snape said, straightfaced.
Harry cracked up, forgetting he had just taken a swallow of milk.
He choked and milk spurted from his nose.
"Harry, for the love of Merlin!" Severus cried, coming over and giving his son one good swat between the shoulderblades.
Harry coughed, sputtered, and wiped his nose sheepishly.
"Did no one ever teach you not to talk with your mouth full?"
"I wasn't, Sev. I was laughing. I forgot." He looked down at his pancakes, which were now covered in milk. "Damn!"
Severus waved his wand and the pancakes were as good as new. "There. Now, if you are done with drama at breakfast, might I suggest you eat and then get dressed? There's no telling what havoc Albus will wreak upon the Muggle population while he's . . .acclimating himself."
Harry smirked, then poured syrup over his pancakes and began eating.
Ten minutes later, he was dressed in his concervative jeans and a lightweight rugby shirt colored gold and green. "How will we get there, Sev? Will we Floo or Apparate?"
Severus gave him a sly smirk. "Neither. We need some exercise, I think. So we shall fly there . . .as Freedom and Warrior."
"Yes! Sev, you're the best." Harry cheered, for he had been longing to fly for a week, ever since returning from Hogwarts.
"Flattery will get you nowhere, Mr. Potter-Snape," he said affectionately. He would never say so, but Harry's compliment made him feel very good, and reassured him that he was not mucking up the parenting thing too badly.
He blurred into Warrior and waited until Harry changed as well before leading the way out the window and up into the sky.
* * * * * *
They reached Bumblebee Ridge in an hour and a half, flying at the top speed their Animagus forms could give them, simply for the sheer joy of it. It felt wonderful to fly without having to worry about being hunted and to test the wind and each other in impromptu races before they reached their destination.
The Dumbledore house was perched upon a low hill and in the back were several untended gardens and hives where bees buzzed about. Freedom saw a silvery creke below him and an old sagging barn that must have housed horses or cows way back when, but looked like it only housed musty hay now. A telephone line stretched from the road and a little ways away was a new electrical box.
The two hawks glided down for a landing and then transformed.
Roses and marigolds and lavender bushes were blooming along the stone walkway and everything looked normal enough on the outside of the house. Severus and Harry stood on the circular porch and rang the bell.
The door was answered by Albus himself, who was dressed for the first time in casual Muggle clothing. He was wearing khaki shorts that came to just below his knees, brown sandals and a tie-dye red, gold, and blue shirt with the words Have Some Fun in the Sun, Dude! written across it. His beard had been trimmed and braided, tied with colorful hairties and his hair was pulled back and he was also wearing a pair of sunglasses. "Severus! Harry! Welcome to Bumblebee Ridge. Do come in, I am having such an interesting time trying to decipher these mysterious Muggle appliances, I think was what the nice woman in the shop called them."
Harry's mouth fell open at the sight of the transformed Dumbledore. "Wow, professor . . .you look . . ."
"Like a throwback to the sixties," Severus supplied, biting his lip, for he knew neither wizard would get the reference. Still it was true. "What appliances are you having trouble with?" He stepped inside a hallway papered in bright white with small blue diamonds all over it, with high arched ceilings from which a large crystal chandelier hung.
"I believe it's called a . . .microwave," Albus said, leading the way down the hall and into the kitchen, which still had a working cast iron stove and a fireplace.
Harry bit back a giggle and started to follow them, but then the doorbell rang.
Albus turned. "Harry, would you please answer that? I have no idea who it could be and I've forbidden my house elves to answer my door just in case a neighbor shows up with a cake or a pie or something."
Harry peeked out the small side window and gasped.
A uniformed policeman stood on the porch and in the drive was a police car with lights flashing.
Harry gulped. He wondered what the hell the old wizard had done to get police visiting him when he'd only just moved in? He opened the door before the officer could ring the bell a second time.
"Uh, hello, sir. How may I help you?"
The officer was a young-looking man in his mid-twenties. "We received an emergency call from this number and address about fifteen minutes ago. Is there a problem? Is someone hurt? An ambulance should be arriving shortly."
Ambulance? Harry goggled. "Uh . . .no, everything's fine."
"Then why did someone dial 112 and then hang up?" asked the officer, frowning. "Was this some kind of prank, boy? Because it's no laughing matter if you dial an emergency when there is none."
"No, sir. Me and my dad, we just came here to visit my . . .er . .grandpa," Harry said, making up a story on the fly. "He just moved in here and he's . . .well . . .a bit confused. I think he might have dialed 112 by mistake. You see, he . . .umm . . .forgets things. . . ." He twirled his finger alongside his head for emphasis. "That's why my dad and I are here."
"Harry, who's at the door?" called Severus.
He walked back out into the hallway and caught sight of the policeman and groaned.
"It's a policeman," Harry replied. "Grandpa Al had a little . . .trouble with the phone again."
"We received an emergency distress call from this number," the officer told Severus.
Severus quickly sized up the situation and played along without batting an eyelash. "Dad, how many times do I have to tell you to get new glasses?" he called over his shoulder. "You keep dialing wrong numbers. I'm very sorry, officer, but my father is getting on in years and he isn't as sharp as he used to be . . ."
Severus came up to stand behind Harry, looking very exasperated and embarrassed.
"Severus, what did you say? Dialed a wrong number? I was trying to call the bakery."
Harry clamped a hand over his mouth, struggling to keep from exploding in laughter.
"Oh, God have mercy!" muttered Severus.
The police officer's mouth twitched and Harry could tell he too was trying to maintain his composure but failing. "Has this kind of thing . . .happened before, Mr.—"
"Dumbledore," Severus said quickly. "Unfortunately, yes. Dad's gotten rather senile, I'm afraid, which is why I'm trying to convince him to move back in with us, but he's bloody stubborn and drives me crazy."
"You can say that again," Harry snickered.
"Severus, would you please come here a minute?" Albus called, sounding slightly alarmed. "I put the plate in the microwave and pushed the button and . . .well . . .now sparks and crackling sounds are coming out of it."
Severus swore. "You put the plate in there with the foil on it, didn't you? Damn it! Take it out! Open the door before it explodes." He turned back to the officer. "Excuse me. He's a walking disaster, I'm sorry you were called out here for nothing."
He hurried back down to the kitchen, where the microwave was crackling and shooting large blue sparks.
"If I wait long enough, I'm sure something will happen," said the policeman, laughing.
"Something usually does," Harry said, then doubled over laughing. "Poor Grandpa! He's just so . . .out of it."
"Mine was too, towards the end." The officer said. "Well, if there's no real emergency . . .? I'll buzz the ambulance and tell them not to come and if I may have your dad sign this form . . ."
"Yes, sir. Come this way, sir." Harry led him down the hall to the kitchen, which looked as if a bomb had hit it.
Empty packing crates were everywhere and Severus had just pulled a smoking foil covered dish out of the microwave and set it down atop a pile of periodicals. The kitchen smelled strongly of burnt foil.
Dumbledore looked up at the officer and smiled. "Well, hello there! Come by for a bit of tea and cake, have you?"
"He's a policeman, Dad," Severus said through gritted teeth. "He came because you dialed an emergency number instead of the bakery."
"Oh, I did? My, I didn't realize. This telephone is so confusing."
"I understand," said the officer, smirking. He looked at Severus. "Would you mind signing this, please? Then I can be on my way. Just remember, sir, 112 is for emergencies only," he told Dumbledore. "I can let it slide once, but if it happens again, I'll have to fine you for excessive use of an emergency line without due cause."
"It won't happen again," Severus assured him. "I'm removing the telephone line." He scribbled his signature upon the clipboard.
"Now, Severus, honestly . . ."
"Never mind, Dad! Last time you called the fire department—"
Harry quickly showed the officer out and once the door closed, collapsed upon the floor, howling in laughter. He could swear he heard the policeman doing the same thing on the other side.
"Harry, get up and come and help your . . .grandfather use the ice maker, before he makes a flood all over," Severus ordered a moment later. "Meanwhile, I'll get rid of this mess." He indicated all the open cardboard boxes and packing materials.
"No need to do that, sir," said a small female house elf wearing a garnet colored scarf and boots. She had brown hair and large hazel eyes. "My sister and I can take this away."
She clapped her hands and the boxes vanished.
Another elf, looking like her twin, popped in and did the same to the packing materials. "Master Al, if you are done with those . . .smelly Muggle things, please may I make you lunch? And your guests too?"
"What a splendid idea, Clover," Dumbledore beamed. "I fear we shall have to wait till later for you to explain the . . .err. . .ice machine to me, Harry."
"That's okay, professor. It won't take long for you to figure that out."
Severus coughed behind his hand. "Like hell," he muttered. "Took him twenty-five minutes to figure out the bloody microwave."
Dumbledore looked wistful, then he said quietly, "Harry, I . . .err . . .don't mind if you wish to keep calling me Grandpa. I know that was for show, but . . .I find I rather like it."
Harry raised an eyebrow. He had never really had any grandparents, or even someone he thought of like one, but when Albus suggested it . . .after all, the old wizard didn't have any grandchildren and perhaps he was lonely. "Uh . . .all right." He looked over at Severus. "Is that okay with you, Sev?"
Severus shrugged. "Yes. Just don't expect me to call you Dad on a regular basis, Albus. I had a father once and am thankful I'm rid of him, and I don't need another at this age."
Albus nodded calmly. "I understand, Severus. How do you like the chicken pot pie?"
"It's very good. Would you like to go shopping at the supermarket? Your refrigerator is bare." Severus suggested, trying to take the sting out of his previous statement. He hadn't meant to put it so bluntly, and hoped he hadn't hurt the old wizard's feelings, but he had been honest. He had no desire to have a filial relationship with any elder man, not even Dumbledore. The only one he'd had turned out to be a miserable failure and he did not want to court disaster a second time, especially since Albus had a tendency to meddle in his personal life without asking.
Albus' eyes began twinkling. "Why, Severus, what a capital idea! We shall leave after we finish lunch. I've been needing a few snacks and such. Muggles always have food about the house, don't they?"
"Yes, if they can afford to," Severus replied. He wondered how hard it would be to drag the old man away from the sweet aisle. One good thing about accompanying Dumbledore to the store was that Severus could make certain Albus learned to shop smartly, with an eye for sales, and not be ripped off by highly priced brand named items. And that the old man got essentials, like paper towels, toilet paper, soap, and dish washing detergent, among other things.
"How did you manage to get to the village before, Albus?" he asked curiously, brush a lock of his black hair from his dark eyes. "You couldn't have walked, it's too far."
"Oh, well, the first time I had a neighbor drive me in her car. Then I bought some items and hired a taxi to get back and forth until I bought a very wonderful Muggle form of transportation."
Severus looked horrified. "Sweet Merlin's arse, you bought a car? Albus, you don't even have a license!"
Dumbledore laughed loudly. "No, no, oh heavens, no, Severus! I'm not ready to drive one of those contraptions yet, my boy. Instead I bought a brand new bicycle! Would you like to come and see it? It's a marvelous shade of purple, with stars on it, just like my favorite pair of robes."
He led them proudly out to the garden shed attached to the rear of the house and showed the the shiny new purple bicycle with the purple, pink, and silver streamers attached to the handlebars and the large wicker basket.
Harry and Severus took one look at it and groaned.
"Isn't it marvelous?" Albus inquired, beaming. "You wouldn't believe all the unusual looks I got when I rode it into the village a few days ago. I suppose it's because they've never seen a man my age riding one, but I haven't forgotten how, though it's been over a hundred years since I've ridden one. I couldn't ride a broom as a little boy, my mother was afraid someone would notice, so I rode a red bicycle instead."
"Wow, Grandpa. That's really . . .something," Harry managed to say at last, suppressing the urge to start laughing like a maniac.
"Albus, did you happen to speak to a salesperson before you bought the bicycle?" Severus demanded.
"Why yes, and he was so amusing, asked me if it was for my granddaughter. The color threw him, I guess."
Severus shook his head. "No, Albus, the color did not throw him. He assumed you were buying it for a granddaughter because that bicycle is made for a girl."
"Is it really?"
"Yes, and that was why they were staring at you. They probably thought you were off your rocker. Either that or a homosexual."
Albus chuckled. "Rumors, my dear boy. All rumors."
Harry hastily excused himself and ran out of the shed. He got as far as the back porch before he began to laugh uncontrollably. The Muggle world would never be the same now that Albus Dumbledore had entered it.
* * * * * *
After Severus had magically altered the bike so it now resembled the man's version, and placed certain charms upon it to ward off rust and strengthen the tires, he declared it was fit for Albus to ride. The old wizard would have hopped on it then and there, but Severus quickly said it would be faster to call a taxi for such a large shopping order, and that was how they came into the village.
An hour and a half later, they walked out with a bunch of bags, most of which were filled with different kinds of sweets, despite Severus' attempts to get Albus to eat healthier foods. "Albus, you cannot exist on Peanut Butter Crunchies and Cadbury Crème Eggs," he had argued. "Here, have some carrots."
"Of course not, my boy," the sly fox said serenely, then waited till Severus' back was turned before tossing the package of candy into the cart and winking at Harry.
They helped Albus put away the groceries and then Snape showed him how to use the washer and dryer. "It's rather like a Muggle cauldron. First, you separate the clothes into colors—white, light colors, and dark colors. Then you set the water temperature, it's different depending on the color clothes, and then you measure the detergent . . ."
Harry, who was an expert on washing clothes, observed that Severus was being very patient with the former Headmaster, who kept asking odd questions, wanting to know if the stain remover really did have magic in it the way it said on the bottle—Works just like magic!. "No, there's no magic in there, Albus, just Muggle chemicals. Never mind what they are, just pay attention. Always read the label on your clothes before washing them, it's on the back here, it will tell you how they need to be washed, otherwise you could end up shrinking your clothes or making the dye run. . ."
He wrote down step-by-step instructions for the old wizard and hoped it would be enough.
Harry showed him how to use the telly and the DVD player, and they left Albus happily watching the Discovery Channel. Severus had left him the phone number to Spinner's End, just in case.
* * * * * *
Three days later, Albus rang to invite them for lunch, and Severus reluctantly agreed, grumbling to Harry after he had hung up the phone, "Does he think Bumblebee Ridge is around the damn corner or something? Sure, let's just pop on over for tea, why don't we?"
"We don't have to fly, Sev. We could use the Floo," Harry offered. "It still works over there, right?"
"Yes." Severus said grudgingly. He had been working on a particularly complicated potion and hated getting interrupted. "We may as well Floo over there. The sooner we go the sooner we can return. I need to be back before three hours pass or else my solution will be ruined."
When they stepped out of the fireplace, they found Albus setting the table in the small dining room with some rosebud china that looked as if it had belonged to his mother or grandmother. The old wizard was wearing cargo pants and a long sleeved shirt this time, but the clothes were all in pink.
Severus gaped at him.
"Hello, Severus! Glad you could stop by," he greeted them cheerily. "I've made some tea sandwiches for us and Garnet made cakes and biscuits and Clover her special afternoon tea."
"Albus . . .did you happen to have an accident with the washing machine?" Severus asked slowly.
"Hmm?" He looked up at his former colleague and smiled. "Don't you know, Severus? Pink is the new black. Like it?"
"Nice try, Albus," Severus groaned. "Let me guess. You forgot to separate the darks from the whites, didn't you?"
Harry smirked, unable to help himself. "I did that once," he admitted, chuckling. Then he sobered, because what had resulted from that innocent mistake had not been funny at all. He had turned Uncle Vernon's best shirt carnation pink and the man had been furious. He had thrown Harry in the cupboard and left him there for three days, only letting him out because Petunia had persuaded him that without water Harry would die and then how would they explain it to the police?
"No harm done," Albus said. "I don't mind wearing pink."
Severus winced. He would not be caught dead in Albus's current outfit. He sat down at the table. "How are you making out otherwise?"
"Oh, quite well. There are so many new things to learn. I have been watching a lot of TV. Did you know that a lizard can regenerate its own tail? Or that Rice Krispies go snap, crackle, pop? And that Keebler company is really run by elves?"
Severus' eyes grew wider and wider. He was beginning to develop a colossal headache just listening to the old wizard prattle on and on about all the things he had seen on the television. His eyes were beginning to glaze over when Albus stated calmly, "Last night I was changing channels and I found one where a lovely young lady named Luscious Lula told me to call this number if I wanted to have a good time and I did and she was very interesting. Although some of her suggestions were a little . . .outrageous, since usually I prefer to eat my fruit rather than play with it—"
Severus nearly asphyxiated upon his tea when he realized what Dumbledore was so casually referring to. "Great bloody Merlin, Albus!"
Harry just managed to swallow the bite of cucumber sandwich he had bitten before exploding into gales of laughter. From the sound of it, the Headmaster had been getting quite an education via phone sex.
"Whatever is the matter, Severus? She was quite understanding when I told her that a man my age has . . .err . . .not been very active in some time and . . .well, perhaps we can discuss this another time, when impressionable ears are not listening?"
"An excellent idea, Albus," Severus said through gritted teeth.
"Aww, Grandpa, come on!" Harry groaned. "It's not like I don't know what goes on—"
"Harry, that's enough! For Merlin's sake, don't encourage him!" growled Severus. He could just see the headlines now. Old Man Arrested for Supporting Prostitution Ring! Call This Toll Free Number and Ask for Al Was Their Slogan.
"Why, Severus, I do believe you're . . .blushing!" the old man noted gleefully.
"Shut up, Albus!" ordered the other wizard. "You're a bad influence on Harry."
"He is not!" objected his son, then shut his mouth when he met Severus's eyes, which were hard as obsidian.
"I think you need to develop some other hobbies," Severus suggested. "Why don't you locate the library and join a bridge club? Or play cricket? Or plant a garden?"
"I never thought of that. Those are quite good suggestions too. Funny, though, how this big house gets lonely sometimes. My elves are very good to me, but they aren't the most stimulating conversationalists."
"Like Luscious Lula?" asked Severus sarcastically.
"I had a letter from Minerva yesterday," Albus announced. "She said she was finding her retirement sort of confining so I invited her to stay here for a month."
"What did she say?"
"She said she would have to think on it. And how are you settling in with Severus, Harry?"
"Good. He's teaching me some more advanced potions and Occlumency." Harry answered. Harry didn't mention that he was grateful for the latter, since the lessons enabled him to block some of the worst of his nightmares about the war, nightmares in which he had used the Dagger of Discord to kill Severus and become a second Dark Lord. He had deliberately not told Severus about them, because he felt it was stupid to be having such dreams after the fact. The war was over, the evil driven from the land. So why the hell did his subconscious insist upon reliving it?
"He is progressing well," Severus answered Albus' next question. "But he could be better if he were not so distracted by mooning over a certain wolfen Healer."
"Hey, it's not my fault the stupid Minister has his head up his arse," Harry snapped. "If he'd just agree to meet with me so I could discuss the wolfen—"
"Language!" Severus reproved.
Harry muttered an apology.
"Cornelius has refused to see you?" Albus asked.
"No, but he's rescheduled my appointment," Harry sighed. "I think he's avoiding me."
The old Headmaster looked thoughtful. "That may well be. Cornelius has always favored the ostrich approach. Perhaps . . .perhaps I could send him a letter, encourage him to see what you have to say? I don't have quite the influence over him that I used to, but he is still an old friend."
Harry could have kissed him. "Would you? Oh, that would be awesome! This waiting around is driving me crazy."
"Certainly, Harry. I shall owl him tomorrow. Hopefully he will honor the request of an old friend." Albus said cheerily. Then he pushed over a plate of lemon crème biscuits. "Try these. I find they have a wonderful flavor. One thing Muggles know how to do is cook."
This was the humorous part before the showdown with Fudge. Who wants to see Fudge get told off in a big way by both Severus and Harry? Please let me know how you all are liking this, okay? Thanks!
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