Chapter 2 : Unspeakable Discovery
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When he reached the front door, he noticed something odd. There was a large lockbox on it and a strip of yellow and black tape that read Do Not Cross. Severus frowned. Unlike most wizards, he was familiar with Muggle ways, having lived with his Muggle father for over half his life, and he knew those items should not be upon a normal residence. He noticed in alarm that a front window had been shattered and boarded up and there was no car in the drive. His danger instincts started screaming like mad. Something was definitely not right here.
He was just about to knock when a voice called from the house to the right, "You won't find anybody there now."
"Excuse me? Is this the residence of Petunia and Vernon Dursley?" Severus turned and asked the tall blond man in the tweed trousers and green shirt.
"It was. But they're gone now."
"Gone where? On holiday?"
"Good Lord, no! Don't you read the papers?" exclaimed the other, his eyes wide.
"I'm not from around here," Severus answered. "Has something happened to them?"
"I'll say. Murder-suicide. Happened night before last. Dursley's sister came by and found 'em all dead, and the gun lying next to them on the floor, with her brother's prints on it. Police say he must have been drinking, there was alcohol in his system and an empty bottle of gin on the floor. Went mad and killed his wife and kid and then himself. Damn shame."
Severus had to pretend to look shocked. "Wasn't there a nephew living with them? I'm a distant cousin and had made arrangements for the boy to spend the summer with me. He would be around ten or eleven. His name is Harry."
"That's the odd thing. He wasn't there when this happened. I think they'd sent him off to St. Brutus—you know, the reform school? According to his aunt, he was unstable and lied and stole, a real winner." The neighbor shook his head.
"But where is he now?"
"Nobody knows, He was supposed to be at St. Brutus' according to the forms they found inside, but when the police called the school, they had never heard of him. Maybe he ran away or something. They'd still be searching for him as a suspect except the only prints on the gun were Dursley's. What a mess! These sort of things never happened ten years ago." The neighbor shook his head sadly.
"Is anyone still looking for Harry?"
"Oh, I'm sure the police have notices and stuff out there, but it's hard to trace a delinquent like that who doesn't want to be found. He could be clear across the country. Sorry I can't help more."
"You've been a great help. Thank you."
"You're welcome." The neighbor started to turn and go back to watering his flowers.
Snape was on him in a flash, wand at his temple. Before the man could move or speak he whispered, "You do not remember me. I was never here, you never saw me. Obliviate!"
There was a brief flicker and then the man continued on into the house, believing his chores finished outside.
Severus tucked his wand back up his sleeve. As an Unspeakable, he was well versed in Memory Charms, and knew how to cast ones that could eliminate only specific memories. It required a degree of fine control over magic and discipline of his mind in order to do so. The Ministry allowed him to do so as needed, but even so, he detested them. He felt it was a violation of a person's privacy and their innermost selves and used them only when absolutely necessary. As it had been today. Severus wanted no witnesses to his appearance on Privet Drive.
He quickly unlocked the box with a simple charm and went inside, carefully closing the door behind him. As soon as he crossed the threshold he could feel the taint of dark magic, it hissed and crackled against his shields like hot oil upon a griddle, scrabbling to get through them.
Severus lit up the room with a single word and saw he was standing in an empty hallway, with stairs on one side and a wall on the other. Against the wall was a small table filled with framed photographs of a towheaded plump youngster, Severus presumed this was their son, called Dudley. He noticed that nowhere upon the table or the wall which continued down to a darkened room, was there a picture of Lily's child. Not even so much as an awkward school-type photo. His mouth tightened. It was as if they had preferred the boy remain forgotten. Or had never existed.
Swirls of dark magic coalesced in the air, giving off a purplish hue to Snape's Sorcerer's Sight. He felt his skin prickle and thought, some curse was worked in here and then more magic was used to cover it up, so the Muggle law enforcement wouldn't suspect. He recalled the neighbor's story of murder-suicide and thought it too convenient. Severus knew the Death Eaters. They would have come here looking for the Boy Who Lived, and vented their frustration upon the family if he had not been found.
Severus frowned. The vision had led him here, but where was Harry now? What had really happened two nights past? There was only one way to find out. Tempus Observari—literally Time View in Latin—a spell that would enable him to see past events as they had actually happened. That spell was known only to Unspeakables, and it aided them in accurate magical research. It would have also aided Magical Law Enforcement in criminal cases, but the Minister had forbidden any save Unspeakables to know of it, much less use it. Severus thought Fudge an ass for doing so, but then he had never been an admirer of the plump wizard, considering him a vacillating fool who relied too much on the judgment of others.
He waved his wand, sketching the shape of an hourglass in the air while chanting the spell. Immediately, Snape felt himself tugged backwards and soon he saw the room come to life around him. The spell worked similar to a Pensieve, putting the viewer in the center of the event and allowing them to observe what had gone on.
Severus saw a thin woman with a bony chin and lank blond hair unlock a small door under the stairs and push in a plate with what looked like a thin slice of bread and some moldy cheese. Then she locked the door and turned, hearing a knock upon the front door. Petunia opened the door and gasped, staggering backwards, shoved violently by the strangers in the gray robes.
"Who are you? You can't come in here! Vernon! Help! We're being robbed!" she screamed.
"Where is he, woman?" hissed one of the Death Eaters.
Petunia continued to shriek.
A portly man appeared and thundered towards the five Death Eaters, holding a shot gun.
But he never got a chance to fire it.
One of the wizards cast a quick Cruciatus and Vernon dropped to the floor, screaming.
His cries mingled with that of his wife and then their son appeared, took one look at the unexpected visitors and started to run away, but he was quickly caught and dragged back.
"Where is he, boy? Answer me!" hissed one.
"I don't know! Please don't hurt me!" sobbed Dudley, his face white with terror.
"You must know!" snarled the Death Eater gripping the boy hard. "Tell me and I shall let you die quickly."
Dudley burst into tears, wailing, "I don't wanna die! Mummy, Daddy, help!"
"Stupid boy!" raged the Death Eater. "Answer my question and you shall live a bit longer. Where is the boy?"
"W-what boy?" sniveled Dudley.
"The one who lives with you."
"Harry? You want Harry?" wheezed the fat child, a glimmer of wicked comprehension dawning in his piggy eyes. "He's in there—in the cupboard. He's in trouble because all those freaky letters started coming." Dudley pointed to the cupboard.
Severus swore at how easily Dudley had sold out his cousin.
But oddly enough, the Death Eaters could not seem to find the cupboard door. They searched and banged right on the door but seemed unable to see it. They cursed and snarled and beat Dudley, Vernon, and Petunia, demanding they reveal Harry's whereabouts. When the three Muggles kept repeating the same thing they had before, the Death Eaters grew impatient, and killed them at last using the Killing Curse, even Dudley.
Then they ransacked the house searching for any sign of Harry Potter.
Finding nothing, they made as if to depart. One of them turned back and twirled his wand, and the Glamour settled over the dead bodies, making it appear to Muggle eyes that they had died by the hand of a gun, and not some curse.
Severus grudgingly admitted that was clever.
Once the last of them had disappeared out the door, Severus blinked and came out of the spell trance. He had learned that the Death Eaters had somehow managed to circumvent the wards, and come for Harry, but they had not found him. That was a relief.
He glanced around. He saw a strange wavering and blurring in the air in front of where the door to the cupboard would be. Frowning, Snape approached, wondering how the Death Eaters could have missed this.
The boy's magic must have acted to conceal and protect him from discovery. And if it did that, he must be very strong for it to shield him so thoroughly, those were not novices on that night.
Severus cast a Revealing Charm and soon saw the small door of the cupboard, outlined in blue. The Unspeakable hurried to it and cast an Unlocking Charm. Then he tugged the door open and the light fell upon a curled up figure lying on an old mattress with the springs poking out of the side. The smell of urine and old sweat permeated the air and Severus started to cough in disgust.
He reached in and tugged at the end of the mattress, dragging it and its occupant out of the cupboard. The small space was hardly large enough to fit the undersized child, who lay motionless and quiet. "Potter, wake up!" he shook the boy's shoulder gently.
But Harry lay limply on the bed, and when Snape's hand touched the side of his face, he jerked away.
Harry's skin was hot as a forge and Severus knew then that his unplanned burst of accidental magic had weakened him almost to death, sending him into a near coma.
Severus swore under his breath and lifted the grimy boy in his arms. Harry was very light, Severus could feel his ribs right through his baggy shirt , and the dark-robed wizard wondered how long it had been since Harry's last meal. Bloody unnatural creatures! They've been starving him! And Merlin knows what else they've done.
One of the reasons Harry was unconscious was because he had not had adequate nourishment before his magic had acted to protect him. Most wizards engaging in a major spellcasting made sure they ate heartily before and after it, since adequate nourishment prevented severe magical drain. But Harry hadn't. Thus, the spell had drawn upon Harry's personal magical life energy, and the end result was this coma. Severus knew quite a bit about how magic reacted upon a person's body because of his research, more even than most Healers, and as he lifted the slight boy, he allowed a trickle of his own magic to flow into the child, just enough to strengthen the boy and keep his heart pumping and his lungs and other organs working, preventing him from sliding further into the twilight realm between life and death. It was delicate work, he could not afford to flood Harry's body with magic, or else it would shock his system severely and cause him to have a seizure or a heart attack.
Severus remained standing there for a few more moments, gently infusing the child with small bursts of his own magic, until he was certain Harry would not sink further into an irreversible coma. He saw the shadow of a bruise upon one cheek and Harry's dark hair was shaggy and in need of a trim. It astonished the Unspeakable that a mere ten-year-old had such potential, had managed to place himself under a spell so powerful that it thwarted seasoned hunters like the Death Eaters.
Like mother, like son. The silent urging from the vision was quiescent now. Time to take you home, child. There I can help you best.
Severus had no fear of being detected by any wizard at his home, he had long ago learned to conceal and misdirect to prevent anyone from the wizarding world from remembering his place of residence, and unless he invited them there, they could not find it. He lowered his head and concentrated. An instant later, he reappeared inside the sitting room of his own residence.
Tobias was sitting on the couch, reading the paper. He looked up and said in astonishment, "Severus, why are you home already? Are you sick? Did they sack you or something?"
"No, Dad." Severus walked over to the smaller empty divan and leaned over to set the boy upon it.
Tobias gaped at his son and the small boy now lying on his divan. "Severus, what on earth? Is that a kid? Where did you find him?"
"In a cupboard under the stairs."
"It's the boy from the vision, isn't it?"
Severus nodded. "His name is Harry Potter. Otherwise known as the Boy Who Lived."
"Lily's son? The one who survived that death curse?"
"The same." He held up a hand. "No more questions right now, Dad. I need to concentrate, or else he'll be the Boy Who Lived No More."
Tobias clamped his mouth shut and watched as his son laid his hands upon the frail figure and a blue glow spread from them and covered the child, hoping that the boy could be saved again from the jaws of an untimely death.
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