Chapter 8 : Cover Up
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He looked at his watch, another new item he had received from Snape while on the shopping trip to Diagon Alley. Now he felt terribly guilty. The Unspeakable had taken him in and given him clothes and decent food and a roof over his head and this was how Harry repaid him. Selfish, freaky brat! Petunia's voice scolded, followed by Vernon's growl of, You cheeky good-for-nothing little monkey! You need to be taught some respect! Harry shivered. In his mind he could hear the crack of the belt, feel the line of fire burning on his tender skin. Not the belt. Please not that. A part of him whimpered. But he deserved it. He stood up, trembling all over. Then he squared his shoulders. Fine, then. If he was going to be beaten, he could at least take his punishment like a man. Maybe if he prepared for it, Snape might go a little easier on him, seeing that Harry was willing to accept his due.
Harry looked around the bedroom for some kind of stick or cane, but there was nothing that even resembled one. And he didn't have any belts either, all his trousers and jeans fit perfectly, had been adjusted by magic. He walked into the bathroom and found the boar bristle hairbrush sitting on the counter. It had a cherry wood back and handle. Harry winced. The hairbrush hurt, but it wasn't quite as bad as the belt. He picked it up and carried it back into the bedroom, placing it on the bed.
Just then he heard footsteps coming up the stairs.
Gulping, he slid down his jeans and bent over the bed. Sudden tears blurred his eyes. He blinked them away. Coward crybaby! Crying before he's even taken the brush to you. He put his head on his arms, and waited. You brought this on yourself by being a cheeky brat. You deserve it.
The door to his room opened and Severus entered. "Harry, I've come to—" He stopped when he saw the position the boy was in.
"I'm ready for my punishment, sir," Harry said, trying to keep from stammering.
"What do you think you deserve for disobeying me?" Severus made himself ask.
"A good walloping," Harry answered. "With the . . . hairbrush." He hoped Snape would take the hint and not get the belt.
"I see." Severus said, now seeing the hairbrush upon the bed. He walked to the bed and picked up the brush. He still thinks I'm going to beat him. Damn it all! How do I convince him I won't? Words don't seem to work. But actions speak louder than words. I hope I'm doing the right thing. He cleared his throat.
"H-how many, sir?"
Harry steeled himself. Don't cry. You're not allowed to cry. Don'tcrydon'tcrydon'tcry. He chanted the familiar litany in his head and waited. And waited. Was Severus deliberately torturing him with this endless waiting? Finally he felt a light swat.
Pat, pat, pat, pat.
What was this? These were taps, they hardly stung at all. Was Snape doing a warm-up session?
More pats followed until Severus said quietly, "Put your jeans back on. It's over."
Over? How could it be over? Beatings were supposed to hurt. It had been done all wrong. Harry remained where he was. Maybe it was a test?
"Harry. Turn over. Now." Severus' voice cracked with the command.
Harry jumped up and turned over, grabbing hastily for his jeans and yanking them up. "Sir?"
Severus was still holding the hairbrush. He dropped it and it hit the floor with a thump. "That's the one and only walloping you will ever receive from me. It's over."
Harry's eyes suddenly filled with tears as he realized what Severus meant. There would be no more beatings. No more belts, no more hairbrushes. Not ever ever again. "You'll never beat me?" he asked, his voice quivering.
"No, child. You use a hairbrush for only one thing in this house," Severus stated, picking it up. "Combing that messy mop of yours." He gently ran the brush down Harry's head.
Suddenly, Harry burst into tears, and began to bawl. He wrapped his arms about himself and cried, sobbing raggedly as he finally allowed himself to realize that the nightmare of his childhood was over.
"I'm so-o-rry!" he wailed, wanting Severus to know he hadn't meant to sass him. "I-I w-won't be che-e-eky aga-ain!" The sobs were coming faster and louder now, he couldn't control himself.
Several items flew off the dresser and landed on the ground as his magic roused.
His shoes spun about like miniature cyclones.
He cried harder.
Severus just stood there, unsure of what to do. Should he try and hold the boy, or just let him be? Every other time, Harry had flinched from him. Then he recalled another time, long ago, when he had sobbed this way and how good it had felt when Tobias held him close and rocked him. Just do it.
Severus reached out and cautiously drew the boy to him. When Harry didn't pull away, he held him tight against his chest. "Hush. Hush. You're forgiven. Just try not to do it again." He pulled the boy on his knee and rubbed his back. "There now, lad."
Harry's first instinct was to stiffen when Snape grabbed him, but then the feel of his arms and the steady beating of Severus' heart penetrated his brain and he suddenly wasn't afraid. It felt . . .good to be hugged . . .he had never been hugged much that he could recall. He tried to stop crying but couldn't. So in the end he buried his head in Severus' shoulder and let himself go.
As soon as he did, his magic settled and the shoes fell to the floor.
Severus didn't know how long it was that he held and rocked the boy, only that eventually Harry's breathing evened out and he stopped sobbing. "All right now?"
Harry lifted his head and peered up at Severus, his green eyes wet and red about the lids. In them Severus saw, for the first time, the beginnings of a fragile trust. I did the right thing. Finally! He heaved a sigh of relief and rumpled the boy's hair, which was what Tobias used to do to him at that age. "A long time ago, I also lived with a nasty evil man who beat me like your uncle beat you. He was my stepfather, Gilbert Malfoy." Even saying his name left a sour taste in Severus' mouth and even after twenty years he still felt compelled to flinch and lower his head. "But do you know who rescued me from that bastard? My father. He took me in after my mother died, I was broken apart, a shadow of what I'd been, and he somehow put me back together. I will try and do the same to you."
"You know then . . . what it's like."
"I do. Which is why you're not going to be punished for your cheeky mouth this time."
"No. You've been punished enough, making yourself sick with worry over how I would beat you. However, I would like you to know that what you did at Godric's Hollow, skiving off without telling me where you were going, was wrong. You . . . frightened me badly. I thought dark wizards had kidnapped you. Don't ever do that again, understand? Or else you'll be grounded with no broom."
"I won't, sir. I'm sorry I made you worry. I didn't mean to."
"Next time remember. Now, would you like to have some supper? I think Dad saved you a plate."
Harry thought about it. He felt worn out from the crying session, but also hungry. "Yes, please."
Then he slipped off Snape's lap, and ran into the bathroom to wash his face. He couldn't believe that he had blubbered like a big baby all over Severus and yet Severus hadn't gotten annoyed or disgusted and called him a crybaby coward. He didn't understand why Snape accepted it. But then he remembered what Severus had said, about having a stepdad who beat him. He understands. He knows how you get, all filled up inside with tears and hurt, until you just can't take it anymore and you just . . . burst. He splashed cold water over his face, which felt hot and puffy. It'll be all right. Someday.
Drying his face, he returned to the bedroom, found that Severus was no longer there, and made his way downstairs. The steak and potato and salad tasted wonderful. Severus was in the den, talking quietly with Tobias while Harry ate. Harry listened to the murmur of voices and felt content for the first time in a very long time. He took his time eating, there was no need to rush, no one would yell or knock him down for eating food fit for decent people. So he savored the silence and the food and thought back to the day Snape had rescued him from the cupboard. That had been the best day of his life. Except, perhaps, for this one.
The next morning, the Daily Prophet had the demise and attempted escape of inmate Sirius Black splashed all over the front page. Harry read the paper while eating his corn flakes and bananas. One of the things he enjoyed most about wizarding papers was how the pictures moved and changed when you looked at them. It was almost as good as watching a video. Harry knew that the wizard they spoke of was the same one who had betrayed his parents and he couldn't bring himself to feel sorry for the man, not after everything he had endured as a homeless loveless orphan.
Today, Severus was working during the morning, testing out a new potion he had invented called Regressus Memorius, designed to help bring repressed memories to the forefront of a person's memory, so they could be treated for them and also serve as evidence of abuse in court cases. Severus' contact and friend in the Auror Department, Kingsley Shacklebolt, was very excited about this project and couldn't wait until it had been deemed safe for public consumption and Severus given credit for his invention. "Just think of all the time it could save, not to mention the cases overturned for not enough evidence. Veritaserum's good, but it won't work on memories that you can't recall."
Severus had promised Kingsley a vial once it was fully tested.
Tobias was working from home today, drawing up plans for a new set of flats going up on the east side of Manchester, roomy and expensive. Harry watched the master architect draw for about an hour before becoming bored and asking if he could go for a walk.
Tobias waved him away and Harry shot out the door.
Walking about the neighborhood was pleasant, it was a fine sunny day, warm but not hot. As he walked, he thought again about how great it felt to finally live with people who liked him, who worried about him eating, gaining weight, having new clothes and staying healthy. And who never called him freak or scolded him for doing magic. Last night had been a turning point in his relationship with Severus, as he had finally come to trust that the wizard would never raise a hand to him in anger. Not even when he was cheeky and insolent, or disobedient. He was finally free of the suffocating fear, the cycle of violence and hate. It could only get better from here.
That night, Severus told Harry and Tobias that his potion had been successful in over ninety percent of his test subjects, volunteers who had agreed to test the potion, and with the patent pending, should be available to go on the market in about two weeks. They celebrated with Tobias' delicious cracker crumb baked chicken, which was tender, juicy, and crispy. There was also a side of fresh rolls drizzled with butter and sautéed mushrooms, plus rice pilaf. Severus had a glass of Moscato with his meal, and so did Tobias. Harry had a glass of butterbeer. For a sweet there was cider donuts and piping hot chocolate with whipped cream.
Harry told Tobias that this was the best meal he had ever eaten, and the architect laughed. "This was what my mum used to make on Saturdays, and growing up me and my sister Kate thought it was heavenly. Thank you, Harry."
"Severus," Harry began, calling the Unspeakable by his name for the first time at home. "Can I . . .try that potion you invented? Would it . . . help me get rid of my nightmares? The ones I keep having that I can't really remember?"
Severus considered. "Yes. It might. But sometimes it can be unpleasant to face the fears your mind has been hiding from all these years. Would you be willing to take that risk?"
"Yes, I think so. If I can stop having these stupid dreams, you can get a good night's sleep."
Tobias chuckled. "And so can you, lad." He reached out and tousled Harry's hair.
Harry remained still, even though he wanted to shy away at first. Tobias' hand was so big, but all it did was ruffle his hair gently.
"It might take longer than a night for you to extract the memories. We can begin tomorrow night, since my volunteers should be finished with their memory extraction by then." Severus told him.
"What do you do with the memories? Do you like, remove them permanently?"
"No. I do use a Pensieve to keep the memories in, so the person can view them objectively and so come to grips with them. And then, when they are ready, they can take the memories back. Or submit them to a court for evidence if necessary."
"Oh. Does it hurt to take the memories?"
"No. What hurts is remembering them in the first place, because usually they are things that you want very badly to forget. Are you certain you wish to do this?"
Harry nodded. "I want the nightmares to stop. And you told me if I didn't face my fears I'd keep on having them."
"Exactly. You're a brave boy, Harry. Like your parents before you."
Harry beamed. "Severus? Will you show me that Summoning Charm again?"
"Certainly. Get your wand and we shall practice Summoning your shoes."
Harry ran to get his wand. Gradually, with Snape's encouragement, he was learning to master his magic and to stop denying its existence. The longer he spent using it and being taught by Severus, the more natural it felt.
They spent the rest of the evening practicing Summoning small objects, like Harry's shoes, Tobias' cap, and Severus' leather satchel. By the time school started, Harry would be a master with the charm, and ahead of many of his classmates. Or so Severus intended.
"You seem to have a natural talent for Charms," Severus told Harry. "Like your mother."
Harry was pleased. He seemed to have inherited his flying ability from his father and his affinity for charms from Lily. "I like casting spells," he told the Unspeakable happily. "Almost as much as I like being on a broom."
"Flying is all well and good, but improving your wand work and incantations should be a priority." Severus stressed. "That's what you're going to need later on in life, a good grasp of your magic and where your talents lie with it. The only thing you need a broom for is transportation and playing Quidditch." His lip curled involuntarily as he said that last.
"Quidditch? What's that?"
"The major sport in the wizarding world. And the most ridiculous game ever invented," Severus replied. "I would advise against ever getting involved in it. It's a waste of time and money and also dangerous. Your father played it at school, and it made him even more arrogant than normal."
"Oh." Harry sensed that Severus didn't much care for his dad, he wondered why, but wasn't about to ask. "But I like flying," he said plaintively.
"Like it all you want, but remember, your schoolwork comes first," Snape said. "Don't be like your father, obsessed with a stupid game. You're smarter than that."
"Okay, sir." Harry said obediently. His curiosity was raging now. Clearly there was bad blood between Severus and James Potter. The boy considered who he could talk to and find out why. He glanced at Tobias. Maybe he would know what had gone on.
Harry waited patiently until Severus had gone upstairs to take a shower before approaching the architect. "Toby?"
"Yes, Harry? You look like you're thinking real hard about something," the elder Snape said, eyeing the boy knowingly. "What's on your mind?"
"Did you ever . . . meet my dad?"
"No. He was a pureblood and was not someone Severus was friends with."
"Yeah, I figured that out all right. But why? What happened to make Severus dislike him so much?"
Tobias heaved a sigh. "I'm not really sure I ought to tell you this, kid, but I know my son, and he doesn't want to talk about his schooldays, especially where it concerns your dad. Still, you might as well know the truth, otherwise you'll fret yourself to death wondering. They were bitter rivals and that's putting it mildly. Near as I could figure, your dad liked to pick on Sev, and he was a bully. Sev used to say he was a troublemaker and liked to hex people whenever he felt like it and thought it was funny. He ran with a bunch of boys called the Marauders, who had a reputation for pranks and trouble. Your dad was popular, though, as well as rich and handsome. He seemed to think Severus was beneath him and taunted him every chance he got, as well as hexing him. Severus couldn't stand him. Sev's always been a serious sort, especially when it comes to his academics and his magic. James was his opposite in that regard."
"So he was a bully like my cousin," Harry supplied.
"Yes, you could say that. Sev never really told me much, it was from Lily I heard most of what I'm telling you."
Harry's eyes widened, "But if she didn't like him, why'd she marry him?"
Tobias shrugged. "I guess he changed, or she fell in love with him. But the fact remains that he was a bully to my son, and that's why Sev doesn't like to talk about him, or be reminded too much about his schooldays."
"I understand. That's why I don't like to talk about my aunt and uncle much. Or Dudley either." Harry said, now comprehending Severus' insistence on using magic and studying hard. And also the Unspeakable's attempts to make Harry more like his mother than his father.
Tobias reached out and patted Harry's shoulder. "Sev still has a few issues with his past. So please excuse him if he seems sharp with you. He's not angry with you, but with what happened a long time ago. Don't worry, he'll get over it. "
"I'm sorry my dad was mean to him."
"Son, you don't have to apologize. What happened between them is in the past, and has nothing to do with you. Harry, we all make our own choices, right and wrong. And there's nothing you can do to change what happened then. No one's perfect, not your dad, or Sev, or me. We've all done things we regret, things that hurt people we loved, things that we knew were wrong. I think your dad got his arse kicked by your mum, that's why he turned his life around and stopped being a spoiled rotten brat. See, your mum was Sev's best friend, and Lily never tolerated bullies and spoiled brats. She must have told your dad off good and insisted he behave around Sev or else. And James loved her enough to do as she wanted, or at least that's how I see it. Sev never had any problem with him once he started going steady with your mum." Tobias tactfully did not mention that was probably because Severus had avoided both of them like the plague once Lily was engaged.
"Who do you think I'm like more?" Harry asked then.
"I think you resemble your dad physically and you have your mum's personality and kind heart. But Harry, you're not your parents. You're your own person, and that's what's important. Sev and I love you for yourself, not because of how much of your mum or dad is in you. You can count on that."
"Cross my heart," Tobias said earnestly. "Now, why don't you get ready for bed? You've got a long day ahead of you tomorrow." He ruffled Harry's hair lightly.
The boy fought to keep from trembling, reminding himself that he was safe and then he yawned and stood up. "Okay. I'm getting sleepy. Good night, Toby."
Harry was tired from all the magical practice and was asleep in seconds, even before Severus came in to tell him his nightly bedtime story. But he woke a little when Severus smoothed his hair back from his eyes and fixed the covers over him, smiling sleepily at the other man before closing his eyes again. It appeared that Tobias was right, and Severus really did care for him. Maybe even love him.
The next night:
Severus waited until nightfall to bring Harry to the Department of Mysteries, so no one would see him escorting a small dark-haired boy down a corridor forbidden to all save those with top security clearance. He had explained that it was safer to do the regression in his lab, where he had everything set up, including the Pensive, which had been out on loan from Rookwood's office and could not be taken out of the building, it had wards built in, and only Ministry officials were allowed access to it. There was a large bed in the stone lab, the Pensieve was off to one side upon a low table, and several vials stood on a shelf built into the wall. A cauldron filled with a distillation of lavender, honey, and valerian simmered slowly in a corner, filling the workroom with its calming soporific scent.
The fireplace crackled merrily with applewood logs, adding to the homey feeling. Severus explained that it was important for the volunteer to feel relaxed and comfortable while undergoing the memory regression. Severus had suggested Harry wear his pajamas and sleep socks, as if he were getting ready for bed. "Now, once you take the draught, I will be monitoring you closely. If it seems you are growing too upset I shall try and bring you out of the regression."
"How can you do that? I thought once you took a potion and it started to react you couldn't stop it."
"Normally that would be so, unless you have an antidote. However, with this potion, I can use Legilimancy to monitor you and help you Occlude your mind if necessary."
"I don't know what you mean by that, but that's okay." Harry stretched out on the bed, it was nearly as comfortable as his bed back at the Snape house.
Severus brought over the potion, it was colored a smoky purple, and said, "Three swallows, no more, no less."
Harry swirled the potion about, it smelled like fruit and then he drank. One, two, three swallows.
Then he lay back and closed his eyes, wondering when the potion would start to take effect.
After three minutes, he felt himself grow sleepy and started to doze.
Severus was watching closely. The boy didn't seem to be experiencing anything traumatic. But he knew the memories were buried deep in Harry's subconscious.
Then Harry began to twitch and whimper. He groaned softly, and Severus used his wand to slip into Harry's mind. He saw two different memories. One was the first time Harry had been put into the dark scary cupboard, but the other one was of a tall black robed figure yelling at a red-haired woman.
"Step aside, woman! And let me have your misbegotten child!"
"No! You'll not take my Harry!" Lily shouted back, drawing her wand.
Severus felt his chest seize. Lily! And Voldemort!
Then he heard Harry wailing, "Mummy! Mummy!"
Severus could feel his terror, as he watched the tall wizard cut Lily down with a green flash of light even as she cast a spell of her own.
Then he advanced upon Harry and spoke those two fateful words, that had spelled death for dozens of wizards.
Killing green light flashed from the bone wand . . .struck the howling infant . . .and was turned aside, to rebound upon the Dark Lord.
Severus quickly retreated and drew out the Voldemort memory, placing it in the Pensieve.
He also snagged the memory of the cupboard and placed it in a vial to be viewed later. He sensed the potion start to bring up yet another memory, but decided that two were enough for Harry to deal with for one night and quickly Occluded the youngster's mind, placing blocks in his consciousness that would keep the memory locked away.
Harry opened his eyes, which had a sheen of tears in them, which he wiped away with the side of his hand.
"I saw her . . . my mum. She . . . defied him and then he killed her." The boy's voice was hoarse. "I knew she had, I mean . . . but I didn't remember that I saw it . . . saw her . . .die."
"I know. Thrice defied." Severus murmured, gently patting Harry's back.
The boy stiffened. Then he sniffled. "What's thrice defied mean?"
"A child shall be born as the seventh month dies to parents who have thrice defied the Dark One . . . thus runs the prophecy. It was made before you were born, and it foretold the eventual defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." Severus told him quietly. "That is why he tried to kill you. Because you were born to be his bane."
"You. And it was so, for he has now been slain. Or so everyone thinks."
"You don't think he's dead?"
"I think it possible he died that night. But there was no body to be found and that suggests his spirit may yet continue on, in a half-life. But that is speculation, I have no proof," answered Snape briskly. "I have placed the memory in the Pensieve for you to view and analyze. You do not have to do so right away."
But Harry did not want to wait. He allowed Severus to show him how to use the Pensieve and then went and watched the memory over. It was easier to view this second time around. He saw then how brave his mother had been, how she had stood tall and proud, defiant to the last, despite knowing her death had come for her. He came up out of the Pensieve gasping, with tears on his cheeks.
"She really was brave, wasn't she?" he asked. "The spell she cast, was that the one that saved me?"
"Yes, I would think so." Severus said, his voice filled with sorrow. "She was the bravest witch I ever knew. I wish I could have saved her."
"Me too." Harry's eyes met Severus' own and in them he saw a matching ache for a brilliant woman gone too soon. He reached a hand out to the Unspeakable, laying it on one charcoal gray sleeve. "Severus . . .? Could you—"
He didn't finish the sentence, but he didn't need to.
Instinctively, Severus drew him into his arms, finding comfort holding the small boy, the last legacy of his best friend and unrequited love.
Silently the two mourned, but when their tears were spent, Harry blew his nose and asked to see the last memory—the cupboard.
"Are you certain? Perhaps you ought to wait."
"No. I want it done with." Harry said firmly.
Together, they viewed the last memory.
"I always thought the walls were going to fall and crush me," he said afterwards. "But they were just real close and it was dark. I was only four."
Severus' eyes flashed. "If they were here before me now . . . I would curse them till they begged for mercy. And then I would do it all over again. They belong in the same hell with Gilbert Malfoy."
"Is he dead too?"
"Regrettably, no." Severus shook his head. "How do you feel now?"
"Like . . . I've been through hell." He said honestly. Then he apologized. "But now I know where the nightmares came from. So I can just . . . put them away, right?"
"Yes. I shall place them in vials and you may either leave them there for a time, or reabsorb them."
"I think I'll leave them for awhile."
"That would be best. There was another memory that you have suppressed, but I have blocked it for now. We can view it tomorrow, if you'd like."
"Okay. I am kind of tired." Harry yawned.
"Wait here. I need to get a form for you to fill out, saying you participated willingly in my study." Severus said, then he headed to the records room next to his lab, where the forms were kept.
As he went to the very back of the room, where the filing cabinets with the forms were stored, he mused on how things might have been different, if only Lily had survived.
Or if his Sight had shown him the danger a few minutes earlier.
It is what it is, Sev, he reminded himself firmly. No sense in wishing for what can never be. It was a hard truth, but one he had thought he had accepted long before. But Harry's sudden inclusion in his life had brought all his old insecurities back. He rifled through the drawer, the consent forms were always at the back. Finding what he sought, he went to shut the drawer, only to find it would only shut partially. Frowning, he pulled the drawer out and felt about in the back, something must be stuck.
His questing fingers found a large yellow envelope. He pulled it out, wondering how it had come to be jammed back there.
The address was to the Office of Official Bequests and Records. Severus stared at it. How did this document come to be down in the Department of Mysteries? Shrugging, he stuffed the file into his satchel. He would deal with it later. It probably had been misfiled by a young irresponsible clerk. He headed back to Harry and had him fill out the form, which he then filed in his private folder.
Harry was looking at him owlishly, which Severus found strangely endearing. He found he wanted the child to feel comfortable around him and so he said, "Tobias told me this afternoon about that discussion you had with him last night. I'm a little annoyed that he didn't wait for me before telling you, but then my father has always done what he damned well pleases, and he meant well." Severus coughed. "He says that you were worried that I might blame you for what your father did."
"I'm not a bully, sir." Harry said quietly. "I don't make fun of people or hurt them."
Severus placed his hands very lightly on Harry's shoulders. "I know that. You might look like Potter, but you're not him. Not in here, where it counts." He tapped the boy lightly on the chest. "I would never confuse the two, or hold you responsible for what he did to me. However, I do not like talking about it, or him, and don't expect me to sing his praises. Understand?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, Severus." He gave the Unspeakable a tentative smile and relief shone in his green eyes.
Severus gave him a small smile in return. "Smart boy. Come, let's go home, you're just about done in."
Then they Flooed back home. Harry was so tired he went straight to bed and slept dreamlessly until Tobias shook him awake.
The next night, Harry and Severus returned to the Department of Mysteries and started to extract the other memory Severus had sensed lurking in Harry's subconscious. It was an even older one than the one of Voldemort slaying Lily. Severus deposited it in the Pensive and together they went to view it.
James Potter leaned on the table, frowning down at his best friend, Sirius Black, who was sitting next to Lily, while Harry played with some light-up blocks and a soft bear in her lap. "I don't see why we have to change Secret Keepers, Padfoot. You've been a perfectly good one till now."
The dark-haired handsome Sirius chuckled. "I know, Prongs, but things have really heated up since Harry was born. Dumbledore thinks it best if we change Keepers, since I'm the too obvious choice. If old snake shorts comes after me, he'll do it because he knows I'm your Secret Keeper. It's not safe, James. Trust me. You need to change Keepers."
"Who could we pick?" asked Lily. "Remus is too vulnerable on the full moon."
"There's always Peter." Sirius said.
"Wormtail? I don't like it." Lily shook her head.
"Sirius is right, Lil. Peter is a good choice," James suddenly agreed. "No one will expect us to choose him over our best man and Harry's godfather. He's invisible to most people. All right, we'll do it."
Lily frowned. "James, I don't think that's a good idea. Peter is . . . he's shifty, I've never trusted him."
"Nonsense, love! Wormtail's a Marauder and he's a s loyal as they come. It'll be fine. I'll tell Dumbledore to meet us here at the cottage for the new binding. Everything's going to be fine, Lily. Don't worry about a thing. Right, Harry?" He reached over and tickled Harry under the chin.
Harry giggled hysterically.
When Severus came up out of the Pensieve, he was speechless. Of all the things he had expected to see in this memory, learning that the Potters had changed Secret Keepers was not it. And if that had occurred, it meant that Black had been innocent, that Pettigrew had betrayed the Potters and Black had taken the fall later on. No wonder he had tried to escape, to prove his innocence. For besides Black, Harry was the only witness to that agreement still living.
All night Severus had been itching to see what had been hidden in that envelope he had plucked from behind the filing cabinet. Now he was consumed with curiosity. But first he asked Harry what he thought about the memory they had just viewed, which Severus carefully removed from the Pensieve and bottled, placing it in his satchel. It was evidence that could be used to clear Black's name and set the record straight. It was also evidence that could bring a murderer to justice.
"That my mum and dad were betrayed by someone called Wormtail." Harry said.
"A man named Peter Pettigrew, whom the world thinks was killed by Sirius Black. But I have a sneaking suspicion that he survived that encounter and is still at large somewhere. Pettigrew was an unregistered Animagus whose form was a rat. He might have escaped the Blasting Curse by transforming and running away. Which means Black was innocent."
"That's terrible! They put an innocent man in prison." Harry exclaimed. "And then he died there."
"Yes. Black knew Pettigrew betrayed them. That must have been what he was trying to tell people about. With Pettigrew still free, he feared for your life."
"What can we do about it?"
"Submit the memory as evidence once we find Pettigrew. I can speak with Kingsley and show him what we've found. He should be able to mount a search for the rat." Severus said. Then he dug in his satchel and pulled out the envelope. Turning it over, he found the return address was from L. P. Rosewood Cottage, Godric's Hollow, Exmoor. Severus froze. This was from Lily. If it contained what he thought . . . He carefully lifted the seal with a small quill sharpener, he could always reseal it later.
Inside were several sheets of parchment, written in Lily's distinctive flowing script. The top sheet was dated October 28th, 1981. And it was titled—the Last Will and Testament of Lily Evans Potter. Severus' heart began to pound as he scanned the document rapidly, finally coming to the part which specified who would be godfather to Harry and assume custody upon her death.
There, in black and white, was the codicil—Should I die untimely along with my husband, James Potter, and should Sirius Black be incapacitated or unable to perform his godfatherly duties, custody of my son, Harry James Potter, shall go to his secondary godfather, chosen personally by me, one Severus Tobias Snape, Unspeakable. Custody to be assumed immediately upon our deaths.
She had submitted the document after all. Severus closed his eyes. All those years of resentment, of thinking that she didn't trust him, that their friendship meant nothing . . .when all along she had done as she had promised. Harry would have come to him if this document had been filed properly. Severus scowled ferociously. Because of some stupid lazy-arse clerk . . . but no, this would have gone directly to the Department Head, the owl would have delivered it directly. So how did it come to be tossed into a records drawer in the Department of Mysteries? The only answer was someone had stolen the file and made sure it would not be found until it was too late. Someone who did not want Snape to assume custody of Harry.
Severus seethed. God damn you, James Potter! You would have been the only one who knew of Lily's decision and hated me enough to make sure this new document never saw the light of day. Who did you pay off to steal this and bring it here? And why not just destroy the document in the first place? Unless . . . yes, I can see the sigil here, it was warded against such a thing, and if attempted, the author of the will would know it. Ha! Lily outsmarted you there! My clever heart.
He gently smoothed out the parchment, re-reading the codicil again. Everything was in order. If he chose to file guardianship papers, this document would prove he was Lily's choice and give him the right to challenge the Ministry over Harry's wardship. He quickly refolded the document and placed it in his satchel.
"What's that, Severus?"
"Your mother's will. Naming me as your godfather and granting me custody over you till you come of age."
"Really? Then she did want me to live with you."
"Yes. All these years I thought . . . never mind. It's not important now. With this I can petition the Ministry for guardianship," Severus told him. "They can't contest an official document like this, signed and witnessed."
"Why would they?"
"Because of my profession. It's long been tradition for an Unspeakable to not be attached to anything save his or her work. Having a family is strongly discouraged, because it takes away from an Unspeakable's dedication to the department and his research and experiments. But with this even Rookwood must see I—"
The door to the lab burst open and three Aurors entered, wands out and pointing at Severus. "Severus Snape, you're under arrest for the kidnapping and illegal concealment of Harry Potter! Surrender your wand immediately and come with us!"
Severus froze. "Kidnapping? There must be some mistake, I rescued this boy from the aftermath of an attack by Death Eaters—"
"Save it, Snape. We've orders to bring you in. Resist and we'll take you down," growled a tall blond Auror.
"Better do as they say, Severus," advised Rookwood, coming in behind them. "I'd hate for you to be permanently damaged."
"What about Harry?"
"He'll be looked after. Fenris, secure the boy," Rookwood said.
"No!" Harry cried, horrified. "I'm not going anywhere with you. Let Severus go!" He drew the Celestial Wayfarer.
"Now, put that away, boy. Don't you know that pulling a wand on an Auror is a serious offense?" Rookwood began, going to grab Harry.
Harry backed away.
Out of patience, Rookwood snarled a Disarming Charm.
Harry's wand was knocked from his hand. It rolled to a stop at Rookwood's feet. The Head of the Unspeakables bent and picked up the wand.
A second later there was a bright blue flash and Rookwood was screaming and shaking his hand, which was blistered and blackened.
Harry's wand lay on the floor, still glowing with an eldritch light.
Severus gasped. So the legend was true. It was said only those pure of heart and untainted by the dark could hold the Celestial Wayfarer. Any other who tried would feel the wand's wrath, as the angel feather core would not permit dark wizards to touch it. As Severus watched, Rookwood's face suddenly twisted in agony and then his features began to shift until a new face emerged, a patrician face, handsome but haughty and cruel, framed by dark blond hair and deepset blue eyes. It was a face Severus knew well.
"Gilbert Malfoy!" he spat. "I should have known! You're a Metamorphmagus. And a traitor!"
The false Rookwood clapped. "Very clever, half-breed! You finally figured it out."
"How long have you been spying on me, Malfoy?"
"Only about a week. Imagine my shock when I heard that you were squiring Harry Potter about in Diagon Alley. The Minister was fit to be tied. I assured him I would handle it, and make sure you were punished properly for your presumption, half-breed. I was hoping I'd find you here, seeing as you had the boy volunteer for your little project. I checked your files." Gilbert was smirking, and waving about a thin key on a chain about his neck.
"Where's the real Rookwood, you bastard?" snarled Severus, thrusting Harry behind him.
"Oh, I'm afraid he met with a little accident. An explosion," Gilbert replied, shaking his head.
Gilbert shrugged. "Most unfortunate. But accidents happen in your line of work, don't they? Or in prison, when one is foolish enough to try and outrun Dementors." Then he snarled, "What are you waiting for? Take him!"
"Harry, run!" Severus ordered, then brought his wand up in a block.
Harry snatched his wand up from the floor. Then he began to back away. He knew without being told that these men were up to no good. He spotted the satchel on the floor by Snape's foot. All the evidence rested in that small bag. He pointed his wand. "Accio Snape's bag!"
The bag flew into his hand.
One of the Aurors started after him. "C'mere, you little brat. You're coming with us!"
Harry turned and ran towards the fireplace. He knew his only hope was to use the Network and Floo back to Spinner's End. He saw Snape duck a curse, then stick out a foot to trip the Auror pursuing Harry.
Harry heard a thud and then he grabbed a handful of Floo powder and cried, "Serpiente! Snape residence, Spinner's End!" The first part was the password to unlock the wards on the Floo so Harry could return to Spinner's End. Harry threw himself into the emerald flames and was whisked away.
"Quick! Follow him!" shouted a voice.
"Can't. It's blocked, bugger it all!" answered the Auror who had tripped.
Gilbert swore. "He won't get far. We'll find him. For now, let's transport Snape to Azkaban. I always said he'd end up there, the bastard!" He kicked the stunned form of his former stepson. Then they vanished from the room, their captive bound and floating between them.
How did you like how Sev handled Harry in the beginning of this?
And Toby's talk with Harry?
If anyone would like the recipe for the cracker crumb chicken, it's a cinch to make even if you don't have time to cook, or think you can't, and it's delicious, just ask me and I'll be happy to give you the recipe. It's a great meal if you're in a hurry.
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