Chapter 45 : Ordinary People
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Before Harry knew it, the last day of school had arrived and he was bidding goodbye to his friends. He promised Hermione, Neville, Ron, and Draco to write over the summer and let them know how he was getting along with his new father. "Hopefully you'll behave and not be made into potions ingredients," Draco teased.
"Ha! You wish, Malfoy!"
"Is that the pot calling the kettle black, Draco?" Hermione inquired innocently.
Draco scowled. "I behave, Granger. My father's not one to be amused by pranks and such. And when I don't, I make sure not to get caught."
Ron was nodding. "That makes sense. Take care, Harry. And see if Snape won't let you drop in for a visit to the Burrow. That's the name of my house in Ottery ."
"Will do, Ron."
"And maybe I can visit your house sometime, if Gran says," Neville added.
"That would be fine, Nev. As long as my dad says it's okay," Harry told him. He was actually looking forward to this summer—a summer without the Dursleys and their sneering horrible attitudes, their endless chores, and the threat of being locked in the cupboard.
Thinking of the Dursleys reminded Harry of Snape's intention to go and see them, and he hoped he wasn't going soon, Harry wasn't quite ready to face them yet. And Ghost would be there another week to finish up Harry's tutoring.
"Well, have a good summer, Harry," Hermione said sincerely. "And I hope you got good marks on everything as well."
"So do I," Harry said fervently, thinking of History of Magic.
"Or else Snape will have your hide," Draco predicted. And my father will have mine.
"I think I did okay," Harry said stoutly, with more confidence than he felt. Having a parent on staff, especially now, was rather nerve-wracking. "See you all on the Express next year." Because he was going home now with Severus, he didn't need to ride the train to King's Cross, he could just Floo to his new home, along with Ghost, Shriek, Skull, and the professor.
The professor's home was a comfy two bedroom affair in the suburbs next to York, and would have plenty of room for Harry, Hedwig, and Ghost, as well as the ravens. Harry had never seen it, but was looking forward to it. Severus had already assured him that he would have his own room there, as at school, and he could decorate the room as he chose, excepting anything with obscene language and pornographic pictures. Even Hedwig could fly free within the house and out of it, since Severus' Muggle neighbors thought he was a natural science professor with a masters in animal behavior, and therefore had a license to handle birds like owls and ravens.
After bidding goodbye to his friends, Harry Flooed over with his trunk and Hedwig. Ghost and Shriek followed, then Severus. Skull opted to fly home, his dislike of travel by fireplace well known. Severus had quickly added on a small guest room for Ghost, turning a utility closet into a spare room. He showed the shaman to his new quarters while Harry explored his new room.
The room was not huge, nothing on the scale of Dudley's, but it was much larger than the second bedroom Harry had been given after the letters started to arrive. It had single bed with a comfy dark blue spread on it and two large plump throw pillows to accent it. The sheets were a midnight blue and the walls were a neutral beige color. The carpet was a medium blue and there was a desk, chair, small recliner, closet, and a nightstand. There was even a small TV on a stand. Harry found the lights worked automatically when he entered. His trunk was at the foot of the bed, already open and waiting to be unpacked.
Harry placed Hedwig's cage next to the window, which was partially opened and the drapes were pulled to one side to let in the summer breeze.
"I hope that you find your room satisfactory for now," Severus commented as he came by to check on Harry.
Harry glanced up from sorting through his trunk and said, "It's great. Much better than what I used to live in at Privet Drive."
Severus grimaced. "I am sure it would be, considering what you had to put up with there. As I told you before, feel free to decorate it as you wish, as long as it's unoffensive. If you need something, just ask and we shall go out and shop for it. Your broom is downstairs hanging on the wall, next to mine."
"Can I fly whenever I want?"
"Yes, once you complete a few chores for the day," Severus allowed.
"Like what?" Harry had visions of cleaning the entire house.
But Severus said, "Simple things—tidying up your room and the bathroom, setting the table, and washing dishes and helping with meals if you'd like. You can also help me in my lab, provided you are careful and follow my instructions to the letter. Also, Tuesdays are rubbish day, you may empty the bins and place them out on the corner for pick up. The rest of that time can be spent doing your summer assignments and then how you choose. Because I live in a Muggle neighborhood, you shall have to watch your flying, Harry. Use Notice Me Not charms when you fly and leave me a note when you shall be flying, just in case."
"Can I write to my friends?"
"Yes, but the magical post here is always delivered at night, to minimize people seeing the owls with the mail. Skull can also be your messenger, he doesn't need a letter, merely dictate what you wish and he shall speak it. I shall leave you to get unpacked, dinner is at six, make sure you aren't late, else you might go hungry because Skull will eat your food."
Harry chuckled, sensing Severus was teasing. He knew Snape well enough by now to know the man would never starve him like his cruel relatives. Then he turned to unpack his schoolbooks and other paraphernalia. He had a feeling he was really going to like it here.
Three days later, an owl came before seven o'clock that evening with a letter postmarked with the Hogwarts crest and addressed to one Harry James Potter, in care of Severus Snape, 11 Holly Drive, Little Yorkshire. The owl brought the letter to Severus as they were finishing scraping the plates from dinner.
Harry looked up from drying the dishes and asked, "Dad, what's that?"
Severus looked up from clearing the table and replied, "Most likely your marks from this term. It had Dumbledore's handwriting on the envelope."
Harry goggled. "Uh . . . you know other people's handwriting?" He wasn't sure if he wanted to know his marks and so stalled for time.
"Of course. I have received so many notes over the years from colleagues I have learned what each one's handwriting looks like." Severus picked up some bowls and spoons from the table and brought them over to Ghost, who was washing.
"That's a teacher for you," Ghost chuckled. "How do you think you did, Harry?"
"Uh . . . I'm not sure," Harry bit his lip, then began wiping a dish dry with unnecessary force.
Severus cleared his throat. "You'll find out when I get back from my visit with your relatives."
"You're going now? protested Harry. "I thought you were doing that on Friday."
"No, I decided against it. I want this settled, the sooner the better," Severus stated. "You can stay here with Ghost, I'm sure he has some exercises you can do while you wait for me to return."
"Are you taking Skull?" asked Harry, relieved he didn't have to go with his adopted father. He never wanted to set foot on Privet Drive again.
"I would, but I have no idea where he's gone off to," Severus said, a tad annoyed.
"He and Shriek went off somewhere right before dinner," Ghost replied. "I'm sure they'll turn up when they're hungry, like always."
"Humph!" snorted the Potions Master. He placed the envelope on the now clean table. "I will review your marks with you later, Harry. Until then, keep your hands off the envelope or else I'll skin you."
"Aww, but Dad!" Harry groaned.
"Never mind that!" Severus ordered. "Just do as I say for once. Before you end up scrubbing my lab and grinding up beetle carapaces for a week. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Harry sighed, though he thought Severus was monstrously cruel to make him wait like that.
Ghost patted Harry on the shoulder. "Come on, son. Let's practice some new techniques in the astral. That'll pass the time till your dad comes home."
Harry subsided, he always enjoyed lessons with the shaman. He looked up once at his father. "Don't kill them, okay? I don't want you in prison."
"They are the last people I would put myself at risk for," Severus sneered. "I have no intention of killing them. That's the easy way out. I want them to suffer for the cruelty and neglect they have shown you and death is too quick."
"What are you going to do to them?" asked Harry curiously.
"I shall tell you afterwards," Severus hedged. In truth, he did not know exactly what he was going to do, and would not until he came face to face with Petunia and Vernon. With that, he picked up his broom and left the house. He would fly partway to Surrey and then Apparate the rest of the way, it would be less draining on his magic that way. And he would need his strength to give justice to the Dursleys.
Petunia hummed contentedly as she dusted the mantelpiece and set the rosewood clock with its brass hands back in place. There! Everything was as it should be. She stood back to admire her handiwork, everything was spic and span. Dudley was coming home from Smeltings tomorrow and she wanted everything to look nice for his homecoming. She spared nary a thought for her nephew, barely wondering when he would return from "that" school.
She glanced at the clock and saw that it was half past seven, Vernon would be back from his Men's Club meeting soon. She absently dusted a lampshade. She couldn't wait until her lazy good-for-nothing nephew was home so he could take up the slack with the cleaning again. Really, it was the only thing the freaky boy was good for.
She went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of Earl Grey tea while she waited for Vernon to come home. A cup of tea always relaxed her before bed, though lately she'd slept like a baby without it now that her freaky nephew was out of the house. She dreaded when the messy haired boy came home again. Nothing was ever normal when he was here. Like his mother, he always dragged his freaky powers wherever he went. Petunia went hot with resentment. She had had to live with her sister's odd outbursts all through her childhood and teenage years until marrying Vernon, it hardly seemed fair that she had to relive those years again, along with her husband and son. All she had ever asked for was an ordinary life, among normal people. She had never wanted Harry in the first place. Only Dumbledore's obligatory letter, left in the basket along with the baby, had persuaded her to keep the child. That and the stipend. But she could see now it was a mistake. Harry had always been a disruptive influence in her life and she could not see it changing now.
She brought the steaming hot cup to her lips and started to sip it when the front door opened. Thinking it was Vernon, she smiled and cried, "Love muffin, you're home! I saved you some of those delicious iced cakes Mrs. Aberforth made." She stammered to a halt as she saw the tall figure in the entryway was not her portly husband. "You!" she gasped, and the tea cup fell from her hand to shatter on the tile. She never even noticed, all her attention was fixed on the figure in black who stood menacingly in the foyer.
"Me," replied Severus shortly. "Hello, Petunia."
Petunia looked down at the remnants of her tea and cried, "What are you doing here, Snape? How dare you enter my home, you miserable black crow? I'm not my sister."
Severus approached, taking several long strides towards her until he was standing at the edge of the kitchen. He crossed his arms over his chest to look more intimidating than was his wont and raised an eyebrow sarcastically. "Obviously. You are nothing like Lily."
"Thank God for that!" her sister snorted. "Why are you here, Snape? I must admit, you look hardly better than when I first saw you, wearing that oversized smock of your mother's."
Severus stiffened and sneered, "My clothes were too big because I, like your nephew, wore hand-me-downs. Only those were from my father, not my oversize cousin. And I wore them because we were too poor to afford new ones. Unlike you, Petunia, who received money every month for Harry's upkeep. What did you do with it? Waste it on your spoiled brat son? Spend it on yourselves? Because it sure as hell wasn't spent on whom it was intended for."
"That's no business of yours!" Petunia spat. "It wasn't me who dropped him off on the stoop all those years ago, with the milk delivery. You were lucky we took him in, out of the goodness of our hearts—"
"Oh, please! Spare me your litany of lies, woman!" sneered the Potions Master. "The goodness of your heart indeed! What goodness you had was sucked dry from greed, selfishness, and jealousy long ago. You always resented Lily and me for having magic, she told me about the letter you wrote to Dumbledore. And that hasn't changed. You clearly resent her son, simply for existing."
Petunia turned an odd shade of red, like a neon sign. "How dare you barge in here like the devil himself and lecture me? You don't know what it's like to raise a freak—all the times he embarrassed me in front of people until I taught him to shut up and pretend to be part of the furniture. I wasn't meant to bear this burden . . . to have my life turned upside down by Lily's brat! To have my husband and son tormented by his wicked powers day in and day out. Maybe that's normal for you people, but I don't have to live that way! And I won't, do you hear?"
"Perfectly. You are shrieking loud enough to wake the dead," Severus said, his tone deadly soft. "But then, you have never been one to make compromises. It was always all or nothing with you. You either hated or you loved, there was no inbetween. You despised Lily for having your parents' love and approval despite being a witch—"
"Yes, I did! Mama and Papa never said a word when she did freaky things—they always said she couldn't help it! But they were wrong. If they had wanted, they could have turned her back into a normal person, like she was before. All they had to do was forbid her to use her freaky powers. But no, they encouraged her, like she had some talent that was special, that she was somehow better than everyone! But I always knew the truth! I would have had her locked away in an asylum if anyone would have believed a fourteen-year-old girl."
"Petunia, you are a fool! And worse, because you refuse to acknowledge what's right before your nose. You cannot stop using magic when you are born with it. It is like having an artistic talent, you must use it or it shall use you. Your hidebound archaic attitude is why we hesitate to inform Muggles about us and our world. Because people like you see only what they want to see—a freak from a circus—not a person with a gift. I can imagine how you treated your nephew if the way you talked about your sister was any indication."
"I never wanted him in the first place! I was pressured into it! Why didn't you take him, Snape, if you're so concerned about how we treated him? It's been ten years since he was left on my doorstep."
"I was not offered the chance. Until now. That was why I came here, to tell you Harry is no longer your responsibility. He is mine. I came for that, and to see for myself the truth of things." His eyes narrowed. "Is it true you kept him locked in a cupboard, you bitter bitch? With the mops and brooms? Like a dirty old rag?"
Petunia shrank back from him, the look on Snape's face was terrible to behold. "I . . . I . . . well . . . it was Vernon who thought of it . . . keep him out of sight and . . . hidden . . . after all, we didn't want the neighbors to know he was a freak . . . ."
"A wizard, not a freak," Severus spat and looked about. "Where was it? Show me!"
Trembling, Petunia pointed to the cupboard under the stairs.
Severus spun, and saw the tiny door, big enough for a child half Harry's size. He yanked open the door and found some words scrawled in crayon—Harry's room-on the door. Inside was an old ratty mattress, a tattered blanket, a foul-smelling bucket and some cleaning supplies.
Severus swore. "You kept a child here? He had barely room to turn about, much less stand up. You loathsome ignorant hag! He's your nephew, not a dog. Hell, I know people who treat their dogs better than this." He stood up so fast he almost cracked his head on the lintel.
"I don't owe you an explanation, Snape! The note said I had to keep him until he was old enough to fend for himself. It said nothing about how. I wasn't required to love him—who could? I had a son, I didn't need anymore brats cluttering up my house." Her venom was palpable.
Severus ground his teeth together. "Dumbledore was a fool too. He never should have left Harry with you bunch of beasts, who pretend you're human but act worse than wild animals. Even snakes protect their young. Do you expect me to pity you, Petunia? You arouse the same disgust in me as a cockroach under my boot. For how you have treated your own flesh and blood, you ought to be put away. What would the neighbors say, if they knew the truth about you and your ordinary family?"
"They know that I've had problems with the boy. I made sure they thought he was a delinquent with psychological problems. All my neighbors felt sorry for me, having to put up with his violent outbursts and lies."
"Oh? But they didn't realize the one who was telling the lies was you," Severus said coldly. "I wonder what they would think if they knew the truth—that you are an abusive rotten liar and your husband and son are just as bad?"
"You—you leave them out of this, Snape!" Petunia shook her fist at him.
"Why? They took part in it, the same as you did. Only fitting they share the same punishment."
"What punishment? You have no right! You scummy scoundrel!"
Severus laughed softly. "Is that the best you can do? I have every right to dispense justice for my ward. Something which you have escaped until now. But no longer. Now you shall feel a wizard's wrath." He pointed his wand and chanted a long sonorous phrase in Latin.
"What are you doing, Snape? What spell did you cast on me?" she babbled, suddenly terrified. This was no longer the grubby boy she had known, but a stranger with a terrible aura who scared her to pieces.
"Oh, and by the way, that nice chunk of money you've been living off of? It now belongs to me. And no more shall be coming, so you and your leech of a husband will need to find other income. Or else lose everything."
"What? You can't do that, Snape! You owe me for putting up with the brat all these years!" she shrieked.
He turned and started to leave.
She caught his arm.
He whirled, his face twisting into a mask of hatred. "Release me, woman! Never lay a hand on me again. You disgust me."
She shrank back. "But . . . Snape . . . you have to give me the money . . . we need it . . ."
"To pay for this ostentatious pile you call a home? To send your spoiled brat to a private school? To take a holiday by the sea? Or buy a new car? Too bad. It's over, Petunia. Finito. Now you can live like the rest of the neighbors . . . within your means." He bared his teeth in a vicious grin.
"What . . . do you mean?" she stammered, one hand going to her mouth.
"You'll see. You wanted an ordinary life, Petunia? Now live what you wished for. With a few . . . alterations." He waved his wand and walked down the hall to the foyer.
"Snape!" she screeched. "I don't understand! You can't leave! You have to explain."
"Just wait," he declared callously. Then he walked out the door and vanished, leaving Petunia hanging onto the doorframe, gaping out into the night at the empty sidewalk.
Harry nearly fell asleep waiting for Severus to come home. But he managed to stay awake until he heard the sound of boots on the porch and then Severus came in the door and hung his broom up. "You're home!"
"I am. Is there a reason you're so bouncy at nine o'clock at night?" Severus queried, deadpan.
Harry scowled. "Dad! You're not senile. You know why."
An ebony brow lofted upwards. "Indeed. And I also know a certain child who is skating on thin ice with his attitude. Do I hear you volunteering to scrub vials with a toothbrush, Mr. Potter?"
"No . . . I just . . . sorry . . . it's just, I've waited all night . . ." Harry said quickly.
"Give the kid a break, Sev, and just open the envelope before he pukes all over from nerves," Ghost put in from his place on the recliner.
"I will not!" Harry protested. "I'm not nervous. Well, only a little."
"You need not be. I know for a fact you have not gotten a T in anything," Severus said matter-of-factly, going into the kitchen to fetch the envelope.
"How about a D?" Harry muttered. Then he watched as Severus slit the envelope and a creamy piece of parchment fell out.
The Potions Master took his time unfolding the letter, and made Harry clench his fists and want to scream.
"What did I get?" he muttered, his insides doing a tap dance.
Severus held out the parchment. "See for yourself."
Harry took the paper. On it was written, Harry James Potter and below it were the grades he had earned for all seven core subjects. They were as follows:
History of Magic—A-
Defense Against the Dark Arts—O
Harry drew in a breath. "I . . . I didn't fail it."
"Did I not just say that? Something wrong with your ears?" Severus asked shortly.
"No, but . . . even with your tutoring I was sure . . . it was so boring and there were so many questions . . ."
"It is as I said. You can accomplish anything once you set your mind to it." Severus clapped him on the shoulder.
Harry felt a grin come over him. It was the first time any adult had ever praised him for getting good marks. No, not just getting them. Earning them. He felt about ten feet tall. "Thanks, Dad."
"Good job, Harry. But next time I expect to see some improvement," Severus added, not wanting the boy to get a swelled head.
"Oh, I will." Harry promised. He couldn't stop grinning.
"Way to go, Harry!" Ghost praised.
"I knew you could do it, bran-boy!" Skull croaked from the back of the couch, where he'd been sleeping next to Shriek.
"You're one smart cookie," Shriek said after flying over to see the sheet of parchment.
"And now, Mr. Genius, it's time for bed," Severus said sternly.
"Aww, Dad! I wanted to hear what you did to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon."
"That is a tale told another time. Bed, Harry."
Harry glared at Severus mutinously.
Severus glared back.
Sensing he wasn't going to win, Harry gave in and went down the hallway to his room. Parents! One minute they were acting cool, the next they became drill sergeants.
When nothing untoward seemed to happen that night or the next morning, Petunia thought that Snape might have been bluffing, after all who was he but a greasy scraggly ne'er-do-well from Spinner's End with no class and no money? All these magic people were crazy. Vernon had said she wasn't to worry, that they were well rid of the little bugger. She began to get out the breakfast things—eggs, bread, butter, bacon.
It was then she noticed the spot. It was a small stain on the floor, but she bent to wipe it up. She couldn't recall anything spilling, but obviously, something must have. She went to scramble the eggs.
Then she saw the spot was back. Only bigger. She wiped it up again.
She had almost finished the toast and bacon when she saw another spot. Then another. And another.
They kept appearing the faster she mopped them up, until she was panting with exertion and the smell of burnt bacon filled the kitchen.
"Sna-a-pe!" she wailed, nearly tearing out her hair. Then she tossed the burnt bacon into the rubbish bin.
This happened all over the house, and soon she was a nervous wreck. Her former tidy home looked like a refugee shelter, no matter how hard she tried to scrub it back to normal.
"It's all that freak's fault!" she complained to Vernon, who was shoveling eggs in his mouth as quickly as he could.
"Maybe it'll wear off," he said, avoiding her eyes.
"When? I can't live like this!"
"Pet, calm down. Your blood pressure . . ."
"Can go hang! We're cursed!"
"Now don't go getting any funny notions, Pet. You don't want to be like your sister."
"Damn all wizards!" Petunia snarled, then went to get out the mop. She wanted to torture Snape. How dare he curse her like this?
Then the spots disappeared and there was dust in the air. At first it was small things, like her prize tulips dying from weeds suddenly springing up in the garden. One morning, Vernon's car wouldn't start and he was late to work, earning a reprimand. Dudley came home, and he waddled when he walked, making people comment behind their hands on the street.
"Mummy! Look at that fat kid! He's like a whale!" exclaimed a toddler as Dudley walked by on his way to Piers' house to play video games.
Dudley also started tripping over his own feet and feeling something shove him, but when he looked, there was no one there. He started eating more because he couldn't handle the stress.
Then the school nurse called and said that Dudley needed to attend fat camp, he was too overweight and his health was suffering.
Reluctantly, Petunia signed the papers.
That was when the rumors started.
At first they were only gossip from a few neighbors.
"Have you heard about Dudley Dursley? I heard he had to be taken to a fat farm. He was three times the size of an ordinary boy."
"Terrible! How could any good parent let him eat himself almost to death?"
"Well . . . I heard that some long lost relative came and took their nephew away and sued them for abuse!"
"Yes! Turned out the boy was being starved and locked in a closet."
"How horrible! You know, I always thought there was something . . . wrong with those Durselys. They always were a bit . . . odd."
"Think of it! That Petunia was always putting on airs and now we find out she's a despicable woman who abuses her own nephew!"
"I heard she made him scrub the floor like a slave!"
"I heard she stole money from the trust fund his mum and dad left."
"Really? How awful!"
Before long the rumors were in full swing and every time Petunia stepped outside, she was met with frigid stares and silence. No one would speak to her or Vernon.
Vernon claimed there was something wrong with her cooking, because everything he ate tasted like cardboard. He started buying lunch out. Petunia wanted to cry. She was a pariah in the neighborhood and her husband didn't like her cooking.
Next thing she knew, Vernon received a summons at work, and they were being investigated by the police and child services. As a result, Vernon was demoted down to plant worker and lost his management perks and benefits. His boss refused to have a child abuser in a position of authority, even though much of the case was unproven. It was bad for business.
Petunia was at her wits end. "This is all Snape's fault, the rotter! Him and that bloody brat of Lily's!"
They were under surveillance by Child Services and everyone on the street was whispering about the disgrace and how the Dursleys were liars and odd people. Petunia's house was a wreck and she couldn't even hold her head up at the market. She had cancelled her membership at the Ladies Auxilliary and other clubs she belonged to because no one would give her the time of day. She had even caught one woman giggling and calling her, "That odd Petunia Dursley."
Her life had been turned topsy-turvey. Suddenly her ordinary existence had become anything but. And no one save her knew the truth. Whenever she tried to explain it to anyone, they laughed in her face. There were no such things as curses. Or wizards.
She felt her life crumbling around her. Once they had fit right in, ordinary people living an ordinary existence, save for the aberration known as Harry. But no longer. Now they scrimped and struggled, and Vernon was sneered at by his coworkers and Dudley was a laughingstock, nicknamed "Fat Dud" at camp.
Three weeks later, a tall man dressed all in black came walking down the street. Accompanying him was a boy with flyaway hair and green eyes dressed in jeans and a red and gold T-shirt. They stopped at Number 4.
On the lawn was a large white sign with the words—For Sale By Owner Must Go Soon—Moving!
The boy gaped at the sign, unable to believe his eyes.
"Oh, you don't want to buy that house," a blond woman next door called. "That's the Dursley place. It's an eyesore and the owners are the strangest people."
"So I've heard," drawled the man in black.
"You wouldn't believe the things I've heard . . ."
Behind his hand, the boy grinned. "So, they're really moving?"
"Yes, and good riddance! We can't have their sort here. This is a respectable neighborhood."
"Of course not," agreed the man. He put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Come, son. We've seen enough. This isn't where we belong."
They started to walk down the street. When they were out of sight around the corner, Harry doubled over, laughing fit to die. "Dad, that was brilliant!"
And Severus Snape smirked. "No, that's a Slytherin revenge."
Then they were gone, and Privet Drive returned to its ordinary state once more.
A/N: Thank you everyone for your wonderful ideas! As you can see, I used bits and pieces of many of them. What did you think?
Next: part two-a new character, a new school year, and new perils for Harry and Sev.
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