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Chapter 8 : Trouble At Gringotts
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"In a day or two he'll mend, boy." The witch said briskly.
"Was he badly hurt?"
"He's got a slipped disc in his back and a broken collarbone, plus a few cracked ribs. Nothing truly life threatening, all things considered." She shook her head and sighed. "He's becoming as accident prone as you are, Mr. Potter." She pointed to the bed. "Bed, young man."
Harry obeyed, sitting on the bed. "It wasn't really an accident, Madam Pomfrey. There were these evil ghost dogs or something that ripped me off my broom and tossed me in the air and Professor Snape caught me—"
She held up a hand. "Never mind the explanations, Mr. Potter. There have been more crazy happenings going on at this school now than I've seen in all my years as a mediwitch here and I'd prefer not to go into detail, spares me having to take Dreamless Sleep to keep the nightmares at bay." She drew her wand and ran it over him. "Hmm. Well, you're bruised but otherwise intact. You've had quite a shock, and could probably use a Calming Draft."
She administered a Calming Draft and then spread some Bruise Balm upon him. Harry protested, red to the tips of his ears, insisting that he was fine, until a soft authoritative voice ordered, "Mr. Potter, be still and allow Madam Pomfrey to tend to you."
Harry thrilled to hear that familiar voice. "Yes, sir." He found himself obeying, lying still, even if he felt embarrassed as hell.
"You'll find, Potter, that you'll be able to sleep sooner if you let her do all her poking and prodding in the beginning." Snape drawled.
Harry buried his face in his pillow to hide his grin.
Pomfrey scowled. "Very funny, Severus. You're next."
The Potions Master grimaced.
But he swallowed the potions she gave him without complaint.
After instructing her charges to take a nap, Poppy bustled off to her office to check on all the first year vaccination records, most had already had all the required vaccinations, though a few were due for boosters, and a few of the Muggleborn and Muggle raised children needed to receive them for the first time. One of those was Harry, though she decided to allow him to rest today and give him the vaccinations tomorrow.
Harry only pretended to close his eyes, but as soon as he thought Pomfrey was out of earshot, he opened them and sat up. "Professor?"
Severus also opened his eyes and turned his head to look at the eleven-year-old. "What is it, Harry? Are you all right?"
"Yes, sir. Just a little bruised. How are you?"
"I've had worse. It was fortunate that I managed to cast a Cushioning Charm when I did, otherwise the damage would have been worse." Severus said candidly.
Harry flinched just thinking about it. Once again Severus had been injured and nearly killed because of him. "I'm sorry," he said hoarsely.
The professor arched an eyebrow. "You have no need to apologize. It was not you who summoned the storm spirits and set them upon you. And anyone else who happened to be nearby. If you wish to blame someone, then blame the one who attacked you."
"But . . . you were hurt rescuing me."
"Your point?" asked Snape testily. "I am your protector, that is what I am supposed to do."
"Because you promised my mum."
"That is only one reason. You, yourself, are worthy of my concern and care. Never doubt that. Never."
Snape's sincerity warmed Harry to the core of his being, alleviating some of the guilt he felt. But still, he felt responsible for the professor's injuries. "I just don't want . . .you to die for me," he whispered, swallowing hard. "Not like they did."
"I cannot promise you that, Harry. You have powerful enemies, ones who are ruthless and cruel. But know that I do not risk my life on a whim, or recklessly. I am no martyr, and I will protect you best alive. What occurred today was as a result of my own carelessness, I should have been expecting something like this. If not for Skullduggery's interference . . ." Snape broke off abruptly. He did not want to discuss what had happened any further, because he did not have all the facts.
"Okay. I understand," Harry said. Then he added, "But it wasn't your fault either, sir. How could you know he would do what he did?"
"I have more experience than you do," answered the other.
"Where is Skull?" Harry asked then, looking about for the raven, who had been with Snape after the fall.
"He's gone back to my quarters to rest. Calling the thunderbird took a lot out of him."
"A thunderbird? What's that?"
Severus explained about the powerful Native American creature, an ally of ravens everywhere. "Ravens are the Keepers of the Old Knowledge, that is how Skull knew to summon the thunderbird. But no spell or knowledge comes without cost. He is exhausted, and while he would have preferred to stay beside me, I know he will rest better in the comfort of my quarters. By the morning, he should be fine." The professor yawned, staring to feel the effects of the potions Pomfrey had given him. He was beginning to drowse.
"I'm glad." Harry said sincerely. Should he tell Snape of his decision about the guardianship now? The professor seemed relaxed and Harry had screwed up his courage for this moment. He opened his mouth to speak, when he heard a soft snore coming from Snape's bed. Drat! He closed his mouth and exhaled softly. Then he rolled over on his stomach. Tomorrow would probably be a better time. As he started to drift off, he recalled his missing watch, since he was used to glancing at it before he fell asleep, and felt its loss stab him anew. He knew that was one thing Snape would be furious with him for, and rightly so. Though how it had disappeared from his pocket was a mystery. He closed his eyes and drifted off, dreaming of the thunderbird carrying him away, dangling from the chain of his missing watch to an unknown future.
The next morning, Poppy released Harry, saying he could return to Gryffindor Tower. Severus, however, would have to stay there for another day, postponing their trip to Gringotts till Sunday. Harry regretted the delay, but knew that Severus needed the recovery time, and so didn't complain. Most of the Gryffindors were happy that Harry had not been hurt and were amazed at the fact that Snape had saved him and there was also lots of speculation about what had actually happened at the match to cause such a disaster.
Harry told Hermione and Ron that the game had been disrupted by storm spirits.
"Storm spirits? I've never heard of them," Hermione said, puzzled. "They're not in Fantastic Beasts."
"Not everything is in a book, Hermione," Ron pointed out. "But all I know about them is that they're really evil."
"It's too bad we can't research them in the library," Harry said wistfully. He really missed being able to go and look up information on his own. Then an idea came to him. "Maybe we should ask Lena. Or Skullduggery."
"That's a brilliant idea!" Hermione said eagerly. "Let's see where Lena is now."
So they all trooped down to the library and found Lena cataloguing some more volumes. "Good morning!" she greeted. "What brings you here so early on a Saturday?"
"Uh . . . we need some information," Harry began awkwardly.
"On storm spirits!" Hermione put in.
"Oh? Such as?"
"Where they come from," Ron added. "Do you have a book or something?"
Lena thought for a moment. "I did have a volume about ghosts and spirits around here, but right now I don't know exactly where it is. What I can tell you is that storm spirits are formed by forging the unquiet spirit of an evil doer with an astral wind. They often take the form of dogs or jackals. They are born of hatred and death and when they are summoned, that is what follows in their wake. They are extremely hard to control and once unleashed will destroy all that they can until they are banished. I heard that a thunderbird was summoned to banish them, a fortunate thing since thunderbirds are natural enemies of storm spirits."
"That was Skull's doing," Harry informed the librarian. "Professor Snape told me he called the thunderbird."
"Ah. Well, that doesn't really surprise me, since ravens are Keepers of the Old Ways and have knowledge beyond most familiars. Or wizards. Professor Snape is very lucky to have been chosen by one."
"Why aren't their more raven familiars?" Hermione asked.
"It's a rare pairing, not one that everyone is suited to. Ravens are very independent birds and they don't obey anyone blindly, not even their wizard masters. It is said that a raven chooses his witch or wizard based on need and magic. So Severus must need Skullduggery badly."
Harry thought of how alone the professor always seemed and supposed that Lena was probably correct. Snape did not seem to have any close friends except Skullduggery now. And Harry.
"Big surprise there," Ron muttered.
Harry frowned at him. True, Snape might not be the nicest of teachers, but he didn't deserve Ron sniping at him. "Do you know anything else about storm spirits, Lena?"
"Regrettably, no. That is all I can remember off the top of my head." Lena told him. "But I shall keep an eye out for the book about spirits, I know it's around here somewhere."
"Would you like us to help you catalogue the books?" Hermione volunteered.
"That would be most welcome. Thank you," Lena said, and gave them a box to sort through. "Normally Aunt Irma and I would be working together on this, but she has gone to speak to the Headmaster about the funds the Ministry was supposed to send to help rebuild the library. Apparently, they never arrived and might have been lost or misappropriated."
"That's terrible!" Harry exclaimed. "Can you get them back?"
"That's what Aunt Irma and Professor Dumbledore are trying to do. They've been at the Ministry all morning." Lena replied, beginning to sort through another box. She held up a book and tapped it with her wand. "Sort and shelve," she said aloud and the book received a library sticker upon its spine and flew over to the correct shelf, or if the shelf was not present, a box labeled accordingly.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione had fun casting that small charm, which was simple enough for their beginning powers to manage, and spent two hours pleasantly assisting the young librarian. By lunch, Lena halted and said it was time to eat, and accompanied them down to the hall. It had been an enjoyable experience, even though Harry didn't find the book on ghosts Lena had mentioned.
After lunch, he did some homework with Hermione, ignoring Ron's grumbling that he was friends with a bunch of bookworms, and thus making the redhead do his Charms essay as well.
Then Ron played Wizard Chess with Harry and Hermione read a novel she had brought from home.
All in all it was a pleasant Saturday, and when Harry went to visit Professor Snape before supper, he found the Potions Master looking quite well, feeding Skull bits of meat from his hand and stroking the glossy ebony feathers.
"Tomorrow we shall visit Gringotts," was the first thing the professor said when Harry opened his mouth.
Harry smiled. "Hello, sir. You're feeling better then, sir?"
"I am much improved."
The boy smiled tentatively. Then he took a deep breath. "I'm glad you're feeling better because I . . . have something to tell you. I . . .I've been thinking and I've decided that . . . I want you to be my guardian. Legally. If you still want me." There! It was said. He felt both relieved and terribly nervous. What if Snape had changed his mind?
"You are certain this is what you desire?" Severus queried, his heart doing a curious leap in response.
"Yes. Even if you hadn't saved my life before, my mum trusted you to do what's right. You're the only one who has ever really . . .helped me before. Or cared about me. And I'd rather live with you and scrub cauldrons than live with the Dursleys. Although I can't understand why you'd want to have me live with you . . .I mean, you don't really seem to like kids all that much."
Snape found his mouth quirking. "I'll admit, I am hardly Dad of the Year material. I find most children annoying because they don't follow directions and backtalk me, but I do not detest them. As far as being your guardian goes, I shall do my best to act more like a parent than a teacher to you, and give you a home and a place you can feel safe in, both materially and emotionally. Will that suit you? We can discuss details later on."
"It'll suit me just fine," Harry said, happiness brimming in his eyes. Before he stopped to think, he impulsively hugged the Potions Master.
Snape was startled, but then he returned the hug awkwardly, figuring he had best get used to the occasional hug once in awhile. Oddly enough, he found he didn't really mind the boy doing so, even if the last hug he had received had been from Lily, before Harry had ever been born.
"I can submit the papers tomorrow at the bank, they handle all official documents of this nature, since as your guardian, I shall have control of your vault until you are of age at seventeen." Snape told him once Harry had drawn away. "We'll both need to sign in front of witnesses."
"Okay, professor." Harry said, then he looked up at the other and said, "Umm . . .should I still call you that?"
"You may. In private, you may use my given name, Severus, if you prefer."
"All right . . . sir. I mean . . . Severus." Harry agreed. Saying Severus instead of "sir" felt quite awkward, but Harry thought he would get used to it after a time. He sensed that Snape's permitting him to address him by his name was a great privilege, and also an attempt at becoming more like a family. Harry appreciated that gesture, but felt compelled to put some sort of honorific in front of it, since he had been raised to show respect to adults, even when he disliked them. "Err . . .would you mind if I called you Uncle Severus, sir? It just seems more . . .err . . ."
"Yeah. I mean, yes sir." Harry corrected himself, struggling to speak correctly, the way his guardian did.
"That would be fine." Severus acquiesced. In a way, he preferred the title, since it showed that Harry was making an attempt to respect him as an adult and not treating him like a friend. He did not want to be too familiar, lest Harry start forgetting who was in charge. Children who lost respect for parents and guardians were often trouble later on, and Severus wanted no endless battle over authority between them. As Harry's new guardian, he set the rules, and he would make no bones about that. "Now then, I believe it's time for supper, and you've skipped too many meals as it is, so you should hurry and go eat. I shall meet you in the Entrance Hall tomorrow morning at ten o'clock sharp. I trust you will be punctual."
"Yes, sir," Harry said, relived that Snape did not mention the watch. He still felt sick at the thought of it. "I'll be there right after breakfast."
"Good. Off with you now." Severus laid a hand upon his shoulder and gave it a pat.
Skullduggery cawed and flew onto Harry's shoulder. "Welcome home, little brother," the raven purred, and gave the boy's ear a gentle nip, and rubbed his head against Harry's cheek.
Harry blushed at the raven's frankness and stroked Skull's chest. "Thanks, Skull. I'll see you around."
"Don't forget your Nutrient Draft," reminded his guardian as Harry walked out of the Hospital Wing. Skullduggery fluttered from his shoulder and flew back to Snape, where he proceeded to fly rings about the professor, singing , "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."
"Skulduggery, for Merlin's sake!" groaned the potions professor.
Harry dashed from the room, muffling his laughter in his sleeve. One thing was sure, he would never be bored with Skull around!
On the way to the hall, he passed Malfoy, who sneered and said, "What are you looking at, Potter?" He had a hand stuck in a pocket.
Harry just ignored him. He was in too good of a mood to get into a quarrel with Malfoy today. Then he considered how to break the news to his friends. Perhaps he ought to wait until they were in private, like working in the library, for him to broach the subject? He had a feeling that Ron, especially, would be shocked at his choice. Then he wondered how his aunt and uncle would react to the news and suspected they'd throw a celebration once they learned their freaky nephew was finally off their hands.
Harry rushed through his breakfast the next morning, causing Hermione to frown at him sternly. "Harry, slow down, you'll choke."
"Yes, Mum," he quipped.
Ron snickered, spraying crumbs all over. "You tell her, mate. Girls! Always on at you for something."
Hermione gave him a sour look. "Boys! You both have the table manners of barbarians! Didn't your mother teach you not to chew with your mouth open, Ron?"
Ron shrugged. "Probably, but I forgot."
"I can see that," Hermione said disgustedly. "Harry, why are you in such a rush?"
"Uh . . .gotta meet Professor Snape in the Entrance Hall soon. We're going to Gringotts."
"Really?" Hermione looked interested.
Ron coughed and nearly spewed pumpkin juice all over. Harry swatted him on the back. "Snape's taking you to Gringotts? Why him?"
"Because he was going over to Diagon Alley and I need an adult to get there so . . ." Harry explained, trying to stick as close to the truth as possible. If Ron reacted like this when Snape was simply accompanying him somewhere, Harry shuddered to think what the other boy's reaction would be upon learning that Snape was now his legal guardian. He'd probably pass out. Like he did before. He finished eating his scrambled eggs and chives and ham. "Any way, I have to run. Snape will have fits if I'm not there on time."
Hermione gave him a strange look. "But Harry, it's only quarter to ten. You have fifteen minutes still." She pointed at the clock hanging over the doors.
"Oh. Right." Harry felt sheepish and stupid. He really was lost without the pocketwatch. "Uh . . .Ron, you haven't seen my watch lying about anywhere in the tower, have you?"
"Because I . . .can't find it."
"When did you have it last?" asked Hermione.
"Just before the Quidditch match, I thought I put it inside my locker, but when I went to look after it was missing. I couldn't find it anywhere."
"Hmmm . . .did you check all your pockets?"
"Maybe somebody nicked it," Ron suggested.
"Ron, stealing is forbidden here!" Hermione chided. "It's in the Hogwarts Rules and Regulations."
"So's dueling, but kids still try it," Ron said. "I'll bet somebody nicked it, Harry."
"How would they get into his locker?" Hermione objected.
Ron waved his wand under her nose. "Duh! Magic, of course!"
"But aren't the lockers enchanted to prevent anyone using magic on them?"
"Not really. On account of that would take a lot of energy to renew and students don't usually have anything valuable on them," Ron told her. "Least that's what Fred and George told me."
Harry looked glum. "Well, it's gone now. I don't know how it happened but it's gone."
"Maybe you ought to report it to McGonagall or Dumbledore," Hermione suggested. "Perhaps they can find it with magic. You could say it was lost, possibly stolen."
Harry just nodded. That made sense, but he feared that Snape would learn of it and think Harry was irresponsible and take the watch back. It was a gift. You don't take gifts back, his conscience argued. He looked up at the clock. "Nearly ten. I'll see you later."
"Harry, why do you need to go to Gringotts?" asked Ron curiously.
"To get money to donate to the library," he answered, then he snatched up his robes and shrugged into them, he hated eating with them on, the sleeves tended to drag in his plate. After one last wave, Harry raced from the hall.
He skidded to a halt just as Snape was emerging from the dungeons, managing not to slam into the tall wizard by the skin of his teeth. "Oops! Sorry, sir." He apologized, tossing his hair out of his eyes.
"In a bit of a hurry, are you?" the professor queried. "Gringotts isn't going anywhere."
Harry blushed and looked at his shoes.
"Very well. Come on, boy, don't dawdle." Putting a hand upon his shoulder, Severus urged his ward out of the castle.
As the doors swung shut, Malfoy, heading past the doors, caught a glimpse of his Head ushering Potter out of them. Draco smirked. Ha! Looked like Potter had earned himself detention on a Sunday morning. Draco pondered where Snape might be taking Potter for detention. The greenhouse, to pick some nasty smelling herbs? Hagrid's hut, to mulch the pumpkins with dragon dung? Or maybe even into the Forbidden Forest, to snag the hair of a banshee or something even creepier?
His mind aglow with possibilities, Malfoy started to whistle as he entered the Great Hall. As he did so, he encountered Granger and Weasley leaving. His lip curled and he would have made a comment about Weasley hoarding food since he was too poor to afford snacks and meals at the same time, but then he overheard Weasley telling Granger that he couldn't believe Snape was taking Potter to Gringotts.
Malfoy did a doubletake. Huh? Why by Merlin's starry robe would Professor Snape be taking Potter to Gringotts? Draco chewed his lower lip, his eyes narrowed. Maybe Potter owed Snape money? The Slytherin shrugged as he approached his House table. He would scout around later and see what he could pick up about Potter owing Snape money or whatever. Right now he was hungry and wanted to eat and then go flying, the perfect activity for a sunny Sunday.
As Harry and Severus crossed the grounds, Skullduggery flew down and landed upon Snape's shoulder. "Going somewhere with lots of gold, Harry?" croaked the raven, bobbing his head at the boy.
"Gringotts," Harry replied, trying hard to keep up with Severus' long stride.
"Goblins rule there. Shrewd, sharp, and with a nasty bite," recited Skull casually, preening himself. "But with lots of shiny things."
"Skullduggery, I want you to promise you will stay with me and no snatching anything from the goblins," Severus said sternly. "You know how they are about their gold."
"Aww, Sev! Not even a Knut?" whined the familiar.
"No. Your word, or else you can spend the morning in Hagrid's pumpkin patch, scaring away the garden gnomes and doxies."
The raven clicked his beak several times before agreeing.
"He likes shiny things?" Harry chuckled.
"Of course. He's a bird, and ravens are hoarders of shiny anything, whether it be jewels or tin foil. Last time he came with me to Gringotts, he stole an earring right out of a goblin's ear and made them chase him all over the lobby, the rascal. I'm lucky they didn't terminate my account."
Skull made a disparaging noise. "Tchaa! Goblins. No sense of humor."
"You mean, no tolerance for thievery," stressed the Potions Master.
"'Twasn't thievery," Skull mimicked his master's voice. "A trade. My feather for the golden bauble."
"You think your feathers are worth gold?" Harry laughed.
Skull hopped onto his shoulder and began preening Harry's hair. "There is much one can do with a raven feather, youngling. Very magical they are."
"In certain potions and rituals," Severus confirmed. "But goblins aren't wizards and would have no use for raven feathers."
"Humph! They could sell them!" croaked the raven.
Once they had reached Hogsmeade, Severus used the fireplace at the tavern called The Hogshead, run by Aberforth Dumbledore, to Floo to Diagon Alley. After brushing off Harry and himself, Snape and his ward stepped out of the fireplace and walked out the door of The Leaky Cauldron. Luckily there were few patrons at this time in the pub, so Harry wasn't recognized.
The bank was the first place Harry had gone to previously, and it was the same now . . .except that he knew what to expect now. Together, they mounted the steps and entered Gringotts. The queue for the goblin teller was not so long, it simply felt that way to Harry's stressed nerves. All week long he had waited for this day and now that it was here he couldn't bear to wait another minute.
Severus finally approached the teller and spoke in a soft voice. "Mr. Potter here wishes to make a withdrawal on his account. After that he also wishes to put his signature to a legal document pertaining to a guardianship." That last was spoken so softly that the goblin strained to hear it.
"Yes, indeed. Do you have your key, Mr. Potter?"
Harry took the key from about his neck and handed it to the goblin.
"Very good, sir. Follow me."
As before, Harry and Snape were taken deep into the bowels of the earth via a magical cart and Harry withdrew one hundred Galleons and fifty Sickles to donate to the library of Hogwarts.
"That is quite a sum, Harry. Are you certain you wish to give that much?"
"Yes. I love the library and want it to be finished."
"Very well." Snape cast a Shrinking Charm over the bag Harry held and then tucked it away in his robe pocket.
The goblin, Yellowfang, then brought them back to the upper levels so they could enter a sparsely furnished room and have Magnus Grimtooth witness the signing of the guardianship papers by both Harry and Severus, as well as adding his own to it.
Once all the signatures had been added, the parchment glowed with red light and tendrils shot out and wrapped about Snape's and Harry's wrists, binding them together. They then vanished.
"'Tis done, then. A good binding contract." Magnus said in approval, giving them a nod. "You are now guardian and ward. Congratulations to you both."
"Thank you, Magnus," Severus said, bowing courteously. "Harry, would you mind waiting here for a moment? I have a parcel to pick up for the Headmaster. Skullduggery will stay with you." Severus handed his familiar to Harry, who had been unusually well-behaved all this time. "Magnus, here is the key to the vault I need," Snape showed him a large ornate key.
"Come, Professor Snape," the goblin beckoned him out of the room.
Harry went and sat down in one of the ladder-back chairs, a happy smile spreading across his face. Finally he had a place to call home, and someone who cared if he lived or died.
"Are you happy, Harry?" asked Skull, peering into Harry's eyes.
"Yes, I'm very happy. Maybe we could go and have an ice cream later to celebrate? D'you think Uncle Severus would be okay with that?"
"Certainly. He loves butter pecan. My favorite is Rocky Road. Have you a favorite?"
"Uh . . .I like them all," Harry said quickly, not wanting to admit that he had only tasted ice cream once or twice before and didn't really have a favorite.
"Then you shall have a hard time choosing. Fortescue's has over a hundred combinations."
Harry whistled in shock. Then he asked Skull if he could name some flavors and the raven began going down the list.
While his ward and familiar were discussing ice cream, Snape was retrieving a very important item from the vault. He had told Dumbledore to remove it before this, but the old man had insisted it was safer here for the time being, while the gauntlet was being created. Now that it was finished, Dumbledore had asked Severus to bring the special parcel to him.
Snape tucked the object inside his sleeve and took the cart back up and met Harry in Magnus' office. "Potter, are you ready? We shouldn't linger."
Harry stood up. "Yes, sir. Uncle Severus? May we go for an ice cream? Please?"
Severus hesitated, then seeing the joy in the boy's eyes. "Very well, I suppose that would be all right."
Harry let out a whoop and raced out the door into the lobby.
Just as the screams began and several alarms began to sound.
Harry froze. "Uncle Severus, what's going on?"
Severus' hand fastened upon Harry like a claw. "I don't know. That alarm only sounds if there's been a break-in. Stay close to me."
The alarm was making poor Harry's ears hurt and Skull screeched loudly at the terrible din.
People were running to and fro, yelling and leaving the building without making a transaction. Goblins rushed grimly about, some wearing armor, others with staves. "What will they do if they catch the person stealing? Will they go to jail?"
"That is wizard justice, not goblin. The goblins own the bank and take a dim view of thieves. If they catch the intruder, they will kill him. Almost positive." Severus said, his wand out.
There came a loud bang and smoke billowed up from the vault entrance.
A large shadowy figure advanced across the lobby, wand pointed at the customers, stripping them of all their valuables. Across the hall, yet another was doing the same.
Snape glanced about, trying to decide whether or not to make a run for it. Like Hogwarts, Gringotts had Anti-Apparition wards up. He surreptitiously reached inside a pocket and hissed, "Skullduggery, to me."
The raven flew onto Snape's wrist, black claws gripping gently. "You called, my captain?"
"Take this back to the school. Deliver it only to the Headmaster. Fly!"
Skullduggery took the parcel in one foot while Severus launched him from his wrist.
The raven flew high above the combatants, avoiding all the chaos. In moments he had flown through the doors and was winging his way back to the school.
One of the dark robed figures turned and spotted the raven and sent bolts of magic after the bird.
Harry gasped and cried out in anger, but he needn't have worried.
Skullduggery agilely avoided the bolts and they slammed into the wall and arched doorway. The raven insolently flipped his tail at his attackers before soaring high into the sky with the secret parcel.
Snape's grip tightened almost painfully upon Harry's shoulder. The black clad figures were nearly upon them, though they hadn't spotted them yet, standing as they were half in and out of the entrance to the lobby on the right hand side. "Not a sound," hissed the professor. Then he spun Harry about and ushered him back down the corridor.
Together they took refuge in the now dimly lit corridor, until they reached the small office they'd occupied before.
"Under the desk. Quickly!" Snape ordered, and Harry crawled beneath the large oak desk, hidden completely from view.
Snape took up sentry before it, wand out, and waited.
Soon the alarms were accompanied by roars, as of a great beast, and then cries of pain.
Still Snape did not move.
Harry, curled up under the desk was both scared and curious. What was happening to the bank robbers? Had the goblins unleashed some terrible creature upon them? And what had they been after? He put his head against his knees and waited, his breath coming in harsh pants.
Finally the klaxon died away and the so did the roaring.
Severus waited a full minute before calling Harry to come out.
Just as Harry emerged from under the desk, the door to the office opened.
Severus moved like lightning unleashed, his wand twirling in a complex countercharm that would repel many an offensive spell thrown at him or his ward. A web of bright silver surrounded him and Harry encasing them in a protective weave of iridescent light.
Only to see Magnus' squat form enter the office. He held up both hands as a gesture of peace. "Here now, Mr. Snape. It's only me. No need to be alarmed. We had a bit of an incident, some fool thief tried to burgle Vault Number 713. A few accomplices tried to hold up some of our customers, but thankfully no one was hurt."
"What happened to the burglars?" asked Harry, somewhat breathlessly.
Magnus smiled, an evil little smile. "Let us just say , young man, that they are no longer part of this world."
Upon hearing that, Snape banished his web, and then they bid Magnus good day.
Once out on the street, where many people were milling about and talking excitedly about the break-in, and reporters from The Daily Prophet were questioning people who had been inside, Snape hurried Harry down the stairs and away from the scene of the crime. Or almost crime.
When they were safely lost in a large crowd, Harry looked up at Severus and said, "Holy crap! We were almost in the middle of a robbery! That's so wicked!"
Severus managed to paint a scowl on his face just in time, though in truth Potter's reaction was that of a typical eleven-year-old, more excited than fearful. "Language, Harry. What just occurred did not frighten you at all?"
"Sorry. Well, I was scared, but only for a little. You had it under control, Uncle Severus. What was that spell you cast over us? Would it have blown those burglars to smithereens?"
"In essence, yes it would have, as well as absorbing any magic they threw at us."
"Neat! Could you teach me it someday?"
"Yes, when you are of sufficient maturity and magical ability. Considering the amount of trouble you attract, Harry, that spell will be one of the most useful you shall ever learn."
"Does it have a name?"
"It does. It is called a Web of Dissolution, for all but the Killing Curse dissolves under that charm. It is not a spell anyone can cast, only the most powerful can manage the incantation and the power conjured. But I believe you are one of the few who may manage to do so. If you study hard and apply yourself."
"What book is it in?"
"No book in your curriculum," replied Snape. "It is a spell invented by circumstance. By a very powerful witch whose Mastery of Charms was unparalleled, and her best friend, as a defense against multiple attacks by dark wizards."
"Wow! You must have known them, right?"
"Yes. In a manner of speaking. You see, I was part inventor of that charm. The other was your mother, Lily."
"Wicked!" Harry repeated and the look he flashed his guardian was one of awe. Snape was truly brilliant.
Severus managed a small smile, though recalling Lily still stung. "I believe, and mind I am not sure my hunch is correct, but I believe that she used some form of the web to protect you when You-Know-Who came to Godric's Hollow. I may be wrong, the Headmaster thinks otherwise, but either way the web is still a powerful charm against dark spells, or any spell that seeks to harm you, since spells do not always have to be dark in order to hurt."
Suddenly, Harry heard his stomach rumble.
"It would seem as though you worked up an appetite." Snape remarked wryly.
"Uh . . . I guess so." Harry admitted. "Could we go and get some ice cream?" He shot a pleading look towards Fortescue's.
"It is nearing lunch, why don't we find ourselves a spot at one of the café's nearby and have a sandwich before the ice cream?"
"All right." Harry agreed, never one to turn down an offer of food. They headed towards a small table with a green and silver umbrella and as soon as they were seated, a parchment menu appeared upon the table in front of them. Harry waited until Severus had picked his up before examining it. He wondered if Snape had a limit on how much he could spend for lunch and therefore Harry could only get a cold salad plate or a diet fruit cup? He was about to ask when Snape told him to order whatever he liked.
Harry goggled. He could actually choose. He spent several minutes perusing the menu before finally settling upon a Paddington burger and chips. It wasn't too expensive and Harry loved hamburgers.
The food arrived in a few minutes, piping hot and inbetween juicy onion-filled bites of his burger, Harry asked Snape more questions about Lily.
Severus had ordered a hot roast beef on a toasted bun with au jus, and he answered Harry as best he could while eating bites of the tender beef and crusty bread dipped in gravy. He was relieved that Harry had the sense not to speak of the mysterious package out in public, though he could see the curiosity simmering in the green eyes over it. He is sure to pepper me with questions about it once we return to school.
"So . . .Mum liked potions and charms and was great at both. Did you have a favorite subject besides potions? And why do you like potions so much?"
"Why do I like potions so much?" Severus mused. "That is like asking an artist why he loves to paint, or an author why she loves words. I just do. It is born in me, and is what I do best. But there was another subject I excelled at, though potions will ever be my first love."
"What was it?"
"Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"Oh! I can see why you'd be an ace at that. What did my dad do well in?"
"Transfiguration and Defense. Also getting into trouble. He was almost always in detention."
Harry accepted that without blinking. For some reason that did not surprise him.
There was plenty more Snape could have told James' son about his father, but he chose not to speak of it then, recalling those memories would curdle his stomach, and he had no wish to end this day with an upset stomach. After settling the bill, Severus took Harry to Fortescue's, where they each had a small sundae.
Harry had a scrumptious fudge silk swirl with nuts, hot chocolate sauce, and loads of whipped cream, plus a cherry.
Severus ordered a butter pecan with a drizzle of caramel and a small amount of whipped cream and extra nuts.
They ate slowly, savoring the sweet, as only those who have grown up without many can.
Harry set down his spoon, his stomach pleasantly full, and gave Severus a warm smile. "Thank you for everything, Uncle Severus. This was the best lunch I've ever had."
"You are most welcome, Harry." One long-fingered hand reached out and tousled his hair. "I find having a meal here in private is worth ten in the Great Hall. Now, I have one more stop to make at the cauldron shop and the apothecary before we return to Hogwarts."
Harry eagerly followed him. He didn't want the outing to end.
But of course it did, and they Flooed back to Hogsmeade some two and a half hours later. As the two walked up the path towards the school, Harry asked Snape in a whisper what he had given Skullduggery to carry back to the school.
Severus arched an eyebrow and replied, "That, child, is between me and the Headmaster. Do not meddle in the affairs of your teachers, Mr. Potter. There are things it is not safe for you to know."
Harry looked crestfallen. He had overstepped his bounds. "Sorry, sir. I just figured . . . never mind."
Snape caught Harry's chin in his hand, lifting it until the boy was facing him. "Understand, what I keep from you is knowledge you are not ready for yet. It is not because I enjoy being secretive and keeping you in the dark, or that I don't trust you. There are things too dangerous for you to know, and such knowledge could only hurt you. What you do not know cannot be coerced out of you. So I shall keep my silence. For now. Someday, when you are able to protect yourself better and guard your mind, I shall tell you them."
Harry was disappointed, but he understood why Snape would not reveal his secret package. He thought about trying to wheedle it out of the tall professor, but then decided against it. Snape had already treated him much better than the Dursleys ever had and he did not want to ruin the time they had spent together by making Severus angry. He knew he ought to be grateful the secretive man had explained as much as he had. So he reigned in his insatiable curiosity and stopped asking questions. Perhaps he could figure out Snape's secret on his own.
Once they had reached the castle, they parted ways, for Severus had to speak with Albus about the parcel Skullduggery had delivered. Before he did so, however, the Potions Master instructed his ward to come to his quarters around eight o'clock in the evening. "I have something to show you, a surprise which I think you will like better than knowing what the mysterious package is."
"I'll be there, sir." Harry promised. This day just kept getting better and better.
Snape swept away to the gargoyle statue and Dumbledore, while Harry went up to Gryffindor Tower to find Hermione and Ron and tell them about his adventures in Diagon Alley and give Hermione the donation for the library.
Okay, here's my chapter for my birthday, a week early. Hope you all liked what went on here.
As I stated in an earlier AN, this is a very different version of the first book, which I'm sure you can tell after reading this chapter. Perhaps it answers a question made earlier by a reviewer who asked where Fluffy was and if the trio had discovered him yet.
Who wants to take a guess at what Snape has for a surprise for Harry? I
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