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Chapter 5 : Of Magic and Truth
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Until he heard Tobias' deep voice call, "Harry, rise and shine, kid. I have some pancakes and bacon cooking for you."
Harry sniffed the air. Now he could smell the delicious aroma of bacon frying and maple syrup. Yum! He glanced at the light-up clock on his dresser and found it was half-past nine. Half-past nine! He had never slept so late in his life. He was usually up at seven, preparing breakfast for the Dursleys. The fact that he was now having breakfast prepared for him, and more, a breakfast that he could actually sit down and eat, was quite a wonderful thing.
He quickly came down the stairs and entered the kitchen. "Good morning, Harry." Tobias greeted, turning about with the spatula still in his hand from flipping the pancake he had on the griddle. "Sleep well?"
"Uh . . .kind of. I had a nightmare and woke up Severus." He looked down at his feet, ashamed.
Tobias turned off the stove and came over to where Harry was standing , halfway between the entry and the table. "Harry, there's no need to be ashamed about nightmares. We all get them."
"Not like me. I'm nothing but a snot-nosed coward."
"Coward? You? Now you listen here, boy. Those relatives of yours treated you like trash, but you managed to survive it. That takes more guts than anything in my book. What did Sev do after you woke him?"
"He talked to me and told me a story about my mum when they were small."
"Lily and he were very close as children. It's a pity he never met her until after the divorce," Tobias grimaced.
Harry's eyes slid up and looked at Tobias' blue ones. "Divorce?"
"Ah, that's a long story. If I tell you now, your breakfast will get cold and I don't know a Warming Charm to heat it up, or have a microwave either." Tobias said. He filled a glass of milk and gave it to Harry, along with a small green vial. "This here is a Nutrient potion that Sev wants you to take with food. It's like vitamins for wizards."
Harry examined the vial with interest, then uncorked it. It smelled like vegetables. "Do I just drink it?"
"Yup. Down the hatch, Mr. Potter."
Harry hesitated, but then figured it couldn't hurt, and gulped down the potion. It tasted sort of like salty green beans and tomatoes. Then he dug into the stack of pancakes and bacon Tobias had fixed for him. He was hungry, but found he could only eat a small portion of the delicious food. He stared at the rest of the plate in dismay. He really wanted to eat all of it, but . . .he felt stuffed.
"I'm sorry, sir. I . . .I can't finish this."
"That's okay. Sev said your stomach might only be able to handle small portions at first. You can wait a bit and see if you can eat some more later."
Harry nodded, relieved that Tobias wasn't going to scold him for wasting food. "What did you mean before, about a divorce?"
Tobias cleared his throat. "When Sev was around four, his mum and I divorced. We hadn't really gotten along well in years. Some of that was because of me, I drank too much, and some was her, she got tired of my drinking and rowdiness and found another wizard. So we divorced and Severus went to live with his mum and stepfather." Tobias' mouth twisted grimly.
"How come he didn't stay with you?"
"He wanted to, but the courts said he had to stay with Eileen. Nothing I could do about it. Her new husband, Gil Malfoy, was a rich bugger. And a nasty bastard. Don't know what Eileen ever saw in him, except maybe a pretty face and a vault full of Galleons."
There was a dark look in Tobias' eyes then and Harry shivered in spite of himself.
"What happened? Something bad?"
"Yes. Gil Malfoy hated Severus, thought he was nothing but trash 'cause he was a half-blood. That's a wizard who only has one magical parent, and one non-magic parent. Muggles they call us. And to a high mucky-muck silver-spoon bloke like Gilbert, Severus was a second-class citizen, the only thing lower than a half-blood would have been a Muggleborn—a wizard who comes from non-magic parents. Like your mum. Now Eileen, she came from an old pureblood family, the Princes, so he accepted her, but not Severus. He treated my son the same way those stinking relatives of yours treated you."
Harry's eyes were wide. "Y'mean, Severus got locked in a cupboard too?"
"No, but Gil was always sharp and mean tempered and he liked to smack Sev around. Severus hated him too. They were always fighting, Sev tried to run away back to me a few times, but Malfoy always knew where he was and brought him back. But after Eileen died from complications during childbirth, Gil wanted nothing more to do with Severus and sent him back to me when he was ten. But he wasn't the same boy who had gone away. He'd changed. It took me a long time to gain his trust again and being friends with your mum Lily helped a lot. I always thought they might marry, but you can't choose who you love."
While Tobias talked, Harry slowly nibbled on the rest of his pancakes and bacon, finishing over half the plate. Then he rose and went to rinse off his plate, saying, "Thank you, sir. It was delicious. How come Severus didn't eat breakfast with us?"
"He would have, but he had a few potions to brew early. He'll be back later on to take you over Madam Pomfrey, she's like a wizard doctor, calls herself a mediwitch. "
"Why do I need to go to the doctor?"
"Severus wants to make sure you're healthy and not hurt from anything." Tobias explained.
"I feel fine." Harry argued. He didn't like doctors, ever since he was three and developed a phobia of needles.
"Then your visit shouldn't last more than five minutes." Tobias said amicably.
Harry finished off his milk while Tobias washed the dishes. He hoped Severus took his time brewing the potions.
Unfortunately, Severus was back earlier than expected, and ignored Harry's protests about seeing a Healer. Harry found that the exam the blond slightly plump mediwitch gave him didn't hurt, merely tickled a bit when she ran her wand over him. She frowned and a quill wrote something down upon a pad of parchment. Harry kept looking at the writing implement and back, thinking that maybe it wasn't some kind of trick done with wires, and really was magic, when Pomfrey brought out a tray with three sharp hypodermics on it.
"Since it seems you've never been properly vaccinated, Mr. Potter, against either wizard or Muggle diseases, I'm going to need to start a round of injections. Three today, and the next visit in a week we'll do three more, until you've had all your shots." Poppy declared briskly. "Hmm . . ." she expertly pinched a fold of skin on his upper arm. "Ahh . . .too thin. Well then, it'll have to be in the thigh and buttocks. Lean over, child. This will only take a minute."
Harry went rigid. Then he shook his head frantically. "No!" he shrilled, panicking. He felt a hot burning sensation behind his eyes and a tray of vials shot across the room and crashed into the wall.
Poppy gasped. "Mr. Potter, what on earth?"
Harry was off the table in a flash and looking desperately for a place to hide, but the exam room had nowhere to run. "No shots!" he panted, eyes darting wildly like an animal's in a trap.
"Severus Snape, why didn't you tell me he had a needle phobia?" asked Poppy irritably.
"I didn't know," answered the other, who had been watching from a corner while the exam was performed. "Leave us for a moment, Poppy. Let me see if I can calm him."
Poppy departed and Severus turned to look at Harry.
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm sorry." Harry stammered, sure that he was about to get beaten now for doing freaky things.
"Harry, calm down." Severus ordered, growing a bit impatient. "Why are you so afraid of a few pinpricks?"
Still shaking, Harry forced himself to take deep breaths, Finally he spoke, telling Severus about the time when he was three and Petunia had brought him and Dudley to a clinic and the intern who had attempted to give Harry a vaccination had botched it and hurt him so badly that he had caused Harry to send him flying across the room. Petunia had been quick to snatch him up and leave, and after getting a smacking and thrown in the cupboard, had vowed to never bring Harry back to any doctor, he was nothing but a freaky embarrassment.
"But when you started school, how did you attend without any medical records?" Severus asked.
"Uncle Vernon played golf on Sundays with Dr. Morris and he just filled out some forms and nobody ever asked anything." Harry said.
"Forgeries and deceit," muttered Snape. "It just gets worse and worse."
"I'm sorry I made the tray crash, sir. It won't happen again."
"That's where you're wrong. It probably will, since what you just did is called accidental magic and happens to all wizards until they learn to fully control their powers."
"Oh. Do I have to get the shots?"
"Yes. It was wrong, criminal even, for Petunia to allow you to skip them. I don't think I need to tell you why the vaccines are necessary, do I?"
Harry shook his head.
Severus rose and sat down upon the exam table. "As Madam Pomfrey said, it will take barely three minutes for the vaccinations to be administered, provided you stay calm and don't fight her. Now, I can give you a Calming Draught and you may hold onto me while she gives you them, or you can be placed under a Body Bind, which will freeze you, and receive them that way, but either way you aren't leaving this office without them. The choice is yours. Decide."
Harry wanted to shout that he chose neither, but he took one glance at the steely look in Snape's eyes and knew that was not going to get him anywhere. He gulped and whispered, "I'll take the first one, sir."
"Good. I thought you might. " Severus walked over to a cabinet and opened it, finding a certain potion. "Drink this. It will take effect immediately." He reseated himself on the table.
Harry felt a sort of soothing lassitude spread through him after he had swallowed the potion. He felt as if he were floating calmly among clouds. He could still feel the fear scrabbling at the edges of his mind, but he could bear it now. He allowed Snape to take him on his lap, and gripped the other's thigh when Severus lifted the hospital gown, exposing his bottom.
"Poppy," the Unspeakable called. "We're ready."
She returned, saying calmly, "Relax now, child. This will only sting for a bit."
Harry stiffened and flushed, his fingers dug into Severus' thigh hard. Snape winced and muttered, "Calm down." He awkwardly patted the boy's back.
Poppy was quick.
Harry felt two sharp stings in him bum and one in his thigh. He whimpered but Severus' hand held him firmly until Poppy announced it was over and told him he could get dressed.
"See? That wasn't so bad now, was it? You'll be a bit sore, at least for tonight. If he starts running a temperature, Severus, dose him with some Fever Reducer, though his body shouldn't react to these vaccinations too badly. Keep giving him the Nutrient potion and make sure you eat lots of vegetables and chicken, young man. You need to put some weight on. Severus, I need to speak to you in my office."
They left Harry to get dressed while Poppy spoke to Severus about the damage the boy had endured. She was furious when he told her that he had found the boy locked in a cupboard. "If they weren't already dead, the beasts, I'd hex them right down to hell. That poor boy! Severus, what's to become of him now?"
"I don't know. For now, he's living with me."
"But Severus, he's an orphan now and that makes him a Ministry ward."
"I know. But they don't know that yet. God knows where he would be placed. You've seen him, Poppy. He's like a wounded animal. If I can, I will petition for guardianship. But until I do, I'm invoking patient confidentiality."
Poppy scowled. "You needn't remind me of that, Severus! I would never betray you. I just hope Rookwood and Fudge don't roast you over a fire once they discover how you've duped them. Fudge had grand plans for that boy, and I'm sure they didn't include him being raised by an Unspeakable in a Muggle home."
Severus made a dismissive noise. She was right, but he'd worry about that later. "If Lily had changed her will, I would have been named godfather beside Sirius Black. She told me she would."
"Maybe there wasn't time," Poppy said sadly. "Good luck, Severus. I'll see you Thursday next."
When they arrived home, Severus suggested Harry go and lie down. Harry obeyed, but couldn't rest. His bottom was sore and scratchy and he was sick with fear that he would be punished for his cowardice at the Healer's. But he waited and waited and Snape did not come upstairs to scold him and smack him. He wished the other man would quit tormenting him and just get it over with. He finally fell asleep, still waiting.
But nothing more was mentioned about the incident at the Healer's office. Harry ate lunch and dinner and Tobias showed him how to play a few hands of five card draw poker before turning in that night. Harry was beginning to like it here very much, and Severus had promised to take him shopping on Saturday. "You need a whole new wardrobe," he said, though he had used magic to shrink some of his clothes down to fit Harry for now.
Harry found that he was beginning to respect the tall wizard, though sometimes Snape still frightened him if he moved too quickly or spoke too harshly. He tentatively requested another story about Lily, and Snape obliged by telling Harry about the first time they brewed a potion together in the Snapes' basement.
"Would you like to try and brew one?" offered Severus, hoping to spark some interest in magic from the boy.
"Not yet. Maybe some other time. Will you tell me how they died?"
Severus gazed at the child warily. "This is not an easy subject for me to discuss. However, you deserve to know the truth. Your parents did not die in some car crash. They were killed by a powerful dark wizard, one of the most powerful ever to walk the earth. His name was . . .Lord Voldemort," hissed the dark-robed wizard. He went on to detail how the Potters had died, including their betrayal by their best friend, and how Lily had protected Harry with her own life and magic. "She used an ancient spell that no one today would recognize save those in my order, the order of Unspeakables. It is my belief that is why the Killing Curse rebounded and you survived. That is why you are famous, for you are the only one to have ever survived that dreadful curse." He told Harry about the monument in Godric's Hollow and said he might visit it one day if he liked.
"I would like that." He shifted on his bed, rolling onto his side. "How about my dad? You never mention him."
"Your father and I were not friends at school. However, he did excel at flying."
"On a broomstick," Severus clarified.
Harry sniggered. "But only witches do that!"
"Wizards also," Severus said.
"Can you fly?"
"Yes, though I prefer other methods of transportation. Tomorrow after work, I shall show you how to fly."
This time Harry smiled. He had always dreamed about flying, when he was stuck in the cupboard. It would be wicked if he could do so for real.
He fell asleep dreaming about soaring high in the air, only to wake up screaming in terror as the nightmare invaded his dreams once more.
This time it was Tobias and not Severus who came to comfort him. The architect came and stroked his hair and managed to coax him out of the corner and then told him ridiculous (but true) stories about Severus' accidental magic when he was a boy. "Once he made an entire stack of cups and plates dance a jig across the table. Another time he made that awful aunt of yours shoes run away with her down the street." Tobias' eyes twinkled wickedly. "'Course I had to punish him for that, but I thought it served the little snip right. She was always looking down her nose at Sev."
"Did you . . . did you wallop him?" Harry queried diffidently.
"Who, Sev? No. I don't really believe in whipping kids. Had too much of that from my dad, growing up. I gave him a good scolding though, sent him to bed without dessert and made him apologize to her."
"Then you weren't afraid of magic? Or thought it was wicked to . . . to use it?"
Tobias sat down on the edge of the bed. "Harry, if I was afraid of magic or thought it was wicked, I'd never have married Eileen. The first time she told me she was a witch, I laughed. Thought she was putting me on. But then she showed me some real magic, changed herself into a wolf, and I felt as if I was seeing something wonderful, something so incredible that I couldn't even think of a word to describe it. And this brilliant enchantress was my girlfriend, and she had chosen regular old me, Tobias Dylan Snape, to share her life with. I was so starstruck I was lucky I could still see straight. And when Sev was born, I felt like I'd been given another miracle. When he showed his first signs of magic I was so proud. I wanted the best for him, you see, and to me, having the magic made him special. Like it makes you special, Harry. Eileen used to say that she was taught that those with magic's gift were truly blessed, and bound to use the gift to help those in need. Even when we were apart, I never forgot the magic and how it changed my life." Tobias rested a hand atop Harry's head for a brief instant. "You should never be ashamed of what you are, kid. You were born with the gift for a reason. Don't waste it. And for the love of Pete, don't listen to what your bloody aunt and uncle told you. They're nothing but piss and wind, what did they know? They sound like fat prigs to me that wouldn't know an original thought if it bit them on the arse."
Harry giggled. "Uncle Vernon and Dudley were fat as hogs. But Aunt Petunia was thin as a pencil."
Tobias snorted. "Figures. All right, kid. Close your eyes and try and sleep." He began to sing softly, in a language Harry couldn't understand, but it soothed him nonetheless.
"Sir? What kind of language is that?" he asked sleepily.
"That's Welsh, my old gram used to sing that to me and my sister whenever we had bad dreams. Now hush." He began to sing again, his voice deep and melodic.
Harry snuggled into the pillow, thinking how lucky Severus had been to have one parent who loved him and wishing he had been left with someone like Tobias instead of the coldhearted Dursleys.
Severus was as good as his word. The next evening, after he had come home from work, he took out his broom and a smaller version that he had saved from when he was a child, and had flown all over Gilbert Rothschild-Malfoy's estate trying to escape the horrible trapped feeling he always got when his stepfather was home. He took Harry to the desolate moors of north Yorkshire, where no Muggle would see them, and showed Harry how to mount a broom and make it hover.
Harry watched in awe as Severus mounted the broom and kicked off, soaring up into the sky and circling lazily, like a great bird of prey. When Snape finally landed, Harry was so excited he was practically vibrating.
"You really can fly! Brilliant! Teach me how?"
"First, hold your hand over your broom and say Up in a forceful tone."
Harry obeyed, saying, "Up!"
To his delight, the broom shot into his hand. Then it hovered next to him.
"Now, mount the broom."
Harry threw his leg over it and sat down cautiously, afraid he would fall off. Strangely, the broom felt similar to a bicycle, it did not feel like a hard piece of wood the way he had feared. "Hey! How come it feels comfortable to sit on? I thought it would be like sitting on a fence rail, sort of hard and wobbly."
"That's due to the Cushioning charms. Without them, you would end up with a sore bottom and splinters too." Severus told him matter-of-factly.
"Ouch!" Harry muttered. "Now what?"
Snape mounted his broom. "Now you kick off hard against the ground. And mind you sit up straight." He demonstrated.
Harry copied him. As his feet lifted off the ground and he shot into the air, he felt his stomach lurch and then he was flying. Granted he was only about ten feet off the ground, but he was flying. He looked about and saw the small scrubby trees and felt the wind ruffle his hair and snatch at his shirt. He felt giddy with joy. "Wow! Can I go higher?"
"Follow me." Severus called and soared higher.
Harry wore a grin the size of London as he followed his teacher into the cobalt vault of the sky.
Severus showed him how to circle and do short controlled dives, leveling out before touching the ground. He noted that Harry was a natural on a broom, just like James Potter. Once he grew used to it, there was no fear and no hesitation. Severus felt a pang of jealousy that Harry not only resembled his former rival but seemed to have inherited his father's skills as well. Damn it all, why couldn't he be more like Lily? He grumbled to himself. His memories of James Potter, broom jockey and Quidditch Captain, were not pleasant.
Dwelling on his time at school, when he had been the butt of every Marauder prank going, or so it seemed, made him gruff and short tempered. So when Harry asked him if he could fly some fifteen feet across the moor, he said curtly, "That's enough flying for one afternoon. I have research to do."
Harry groaned. "Aww, but, Severus . . .!"
"Stop whining!" he ordered sharply.
Harry flinched and then landed the broom, inexpertly, for he stumbled and nearly did a header into the brown grass. But he quickly righted himself, blushing at his clumsiness. What had he said?
Severus landed a moment later, scowling, though he was more irritated at himself than Harry. "Come, let's go home." He placed a hand on the boy's shoulder so he could Apparate them both back to Manchester.
Harry looked up at him warily. "Sorry."
"Never mind." Then he concentrated and they were back, blinking in behind the trash bins behind the house, which had a Concealment charm placed over the area, so no Muggle would see magic being performed.
Severus hurried inside, he needed the sanctuary of his workroom, research would keep the memories at bay.
Harry put his broom away, trying to figure out what he had done to make Snape angry. But it eluded him. He headed upstairs to take a shower before supper, Tobias was still at work. As the water began to steam, he could not suppress a grin. Flying was the most awesome thing ever, and for the first time ever he was glad that he had magic.
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