Chapter 1 : Temper
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“Potter,” Snape spat.
The man stood with an air of arrogance, so strikingly similar to his son Severus had to draw sharp breath.
“How is he?” James asked.
“Who? The boy?” Snape snarled.
“Harry. My son.”
“I would not know, given the time of my- shall we say- departing.”
“Would have been hilarious. Wish I could’ve have seen it,” commented a bitter voice.
In death, his face had been filled, his sunken, waxed features faded into nothingness, free of scars, neatly shaven, restored of his prior handsomeness. James adjusted his somewhat menacing stance. “Who killed you? I’d like to shake their hand.” He was baiting now, trying to get the classic reaction he knew so well. Snape’s tight upper lip curled into a wry smile. His entire school life, this pathetic pair had tormented him, subjected him to the lowest state. Only because he had been weak. Too weak to strike out with the right dark spells. His hand twitched to his robe pocket, the pocket of new robes that he did not own, made of a lightweight grey fabric. He would not ‘move on’ quietly, no. There were disputes, long awaited arguments in urgent need of settling.
"I am not sure you want to shake his hand." Snape rose to his tall, full height, savouring the experience of intimidating his arch-nemesis. "The Dark Lord, Potter. Voldemort." A ghost of a whimper emerged from James' mouth. Saying the name had been Snape's first time, but he needed to come across as fearless, unafraid. Potter's face cringed as he shuffled awkwardly and grasped for the right words.
"Alas. Killed by the same man."
The serene voice rang clear from a distance. Snape whirled around, wanting to curse the old fool into oblivion, wanting to punish him for his mad ideas of love... and trust... He was the reason Snape was dead, he and his meddlesome philosophies, plans, suicide missions. His infuriatingly calm face had the flesh of youth, wrinkles masked by newer skin, that piercing blue gaze twinkling. Snape lashed out with a Blasting Curse which was countered with such ease that he stepped back in surprise and was knocked flat, winded, without pain. “You,” he managed to wheeze from the soft, cushioned floor. Sirius smirked upon seeing Snape at his feet.
"Come, brothers. We have... time eternal to argue," Dumbledore stated, beard rippling although there was no breeze. He held a hand out to Snape. "Severus." He turned to Sirius. "My killer," he added, jokingly. James looked at Snape in bewilderment. "You murd-" Albus cut him off with a wave of his hand. "As I said, we will catch up on events later. Severus. You, of all people, I would expect to move on." Snape nodded with a short bow of his head. He hadn't the slightest desire to return as a ghost and keep the company of the Bloody Baron.
Eying Sirius and James, Snape took a step, half expecting to be wrested by the lash of Nagini's poison. His torso, rising and falling inhaled a breath of the air that did not exist. Severus' nose detected a whiff of a familiar, sweet smell. Hoping to catch a glimpse of Lily, or to relieve his whirling mind of senses, he followed the swish of his old mentor's powder blue robes, into the other side, Potter and Black strutting with their previous confidence in his wake. As much as it pained him to say it Snape added, “You would be considerably proud.”
“Mr Potter! A quick word if you please!”
“If you don’t mind terribly, a replay of your defeat of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? For the Prophet?”
“Yes, I do mind, and for Merlin’s sake, his name is Voldemort!” Harry retorted. A bout of whispering and flinches erupted from this. He was over these reporters, and their prying ways, their photographers and their endless questions. Sweating hands pushed quills and merchandise into his, in the hope they would be autographed. With a sigh, he took up a quill and signed his name with a shabby flourish, too stressed to bother about the neatness of it all. Stuffing the items back into the crazed girl’s arms, Harry ducked his head to make a quick exit out of Diagon Alley. Who was he to know a shopping trip would formulate into a fathomless crowd, all ruthlessly determined in barging into his personal life? Harry chanced a glance above the crowd for a familiar face, any face. No such thing existed. He was in this alone.
“Potter! Not so fast!” Acid green boots strode over to Harry, shoving their way through the masses of people, where questions flowed thick and fast. There was no mistaking the dragon-hide handbag dangling from the sharp shoulders of the woman he least wanted to see. If he was fast, perhaps he could Apparate away. Sucking on the end of her Quick-Quotes quill, with an obnoxious smile playing at her lips, her perfectly manicured neon-orange nails found their way to Harry’s shoulder and dug in.
“An interview, ‘O Great One’, for old time’s sake,” probed Rita Skeeter.
“You can put that away,” Harry snapped, gesturing at the quill. “And no, I believed I’ve already told you that I’m not interviewing anyone in the likes of you, say, six times?”
“Temper, Potter, temper!” she quipped, the Quick-Quotes quill already furiously scrawling. “That’s a good headline, yes… Potter Lashes Out… Great One’s Public Meltdown,” speaking more to herself than anyone else. “Don’t call me that!” Harry hissed. He inched closer and put a finger on her chest. Anger was consuming him, he knew. As long as Harry kept his emotions in check there was nothing that could go wrong… “Listen, Skeeter. You have no permission to print a word about me. I’d like you to try.” His voice was going dangerously soft and low, Snape’s usual warning signs to back off. Harry had a feeling he did not want to see the malicious words the quill was taking, but despite his better judgement leaned over to see the notepad better.
Harry Potter, the Great Vanquisher of You-Know-Who closes in a faithful journalist, showing clear signs of post war trauma and emotions. He knowingly and insistently continues to deny the wizard public a much anticipated interview and guidance as to what actions need to be taken next. His anger levels rise as Rita Skeeter, a vivaciously fashionable employee of the highly successful and respected newspaper Daily Prophet, asks innocently to be granted an interview from the unstable Mr Potter.
Harry made a grab for the quill from mid-air and his fingers clasped around the struggling feather. “Incendio,” he whispered, and smiled in content as it burst into flames. Skeeter’s scandalised face and the murmurs of the crowd elevated his bizarre happiness more. Ashes curled to the ground. On the attack now, Skeeter threatened, “You will pay for that!”
“How are you coping with dear Freddie’s death? It is a shame, but one out of seven isn’t so bad. Ma Weasley shouldn’t be too disap-“
His instincts pulled his wand higher and in a second, Skeeter was crumpled on the floor screaming in agony from a Sectumsempra Curse. Shocked at what he had done, Harry lowered his wand and Disapparated on the spot, pausing only to watch the flash of a camera, Healers closing in and the pool of bright red blood he had induced.
Harry paced around the tree stumps and fallen branches of the forest situated next to the Quidditch grounds, distraught at the crime he had just committed. He was certain that his control was at a much higher level than that… He needed company, consolation… something. This was going to appear on the news, soon enough the Ministry would know… How was this going to appear on his Auror application? Without much thought, Harry managed to conjure a talking patronus bearing the message to Hermione that she should come immediately. He watched the stag gallop away, half wishing that it wouldn’t leave.
Hermione’s hurried arrival was signalled by her cries of “Harry!” Her bushy brown hair was slicked back into a business-like knot on the back of her head, and she was wearing a formal jacket and jet-black pencil skirt.
Harry turned to face her. He seemed to have lost his voice. “What’s-" Hermione began. “Sectumsempra,” he managed to squeeze out of his mouth. “Used it on Skeeter.”
“You didn’t.” Hermione’s tone became shrill and her cheeks went pink.
Harry numbly nodded and sat down on a large stone protruding from the undergrowth with his head in his hands. It had been not a week since his defeat of Voldemort and he had lost control. Something hot and wet trickled through his fingers and cascaded down his face.
Harry was not going to cry, not in front of Hermione. It would make it worse, much worse. A slender hand slipped onto his back and gave him a one-armed hug.
“Harry,” Hermione said. “Calm down, it’ll probably blow over, and everything will be alright.”
“Hermione. You know that’s a lie,” Harry huffed. Had she seen the tears? He shuddered at the thought and flushed in embarrassment.
Harry got up and resumed his previous pacing, watching Hermione fidget. “I’ve…got to get to a meeting… urgent…” She trailed off when she saw Harry’s face. “I’m really sorry, I’ll talk to you…later.” He nodded again and she turned and disappeared, oblivious to the call of her name.
Harry’s strides became stomps. She had just left him, left him alone, at a time he possibly needed her the most. Maybe company was not the best, all anyone else ever did was get in his way, mess things up. Harry had no home, not one he had dared to return to. Grimmauld Place, he feared, would be in ruins after Yaxley had slithered in and subjected it to ruins. Maybe later he would get Ron to come with him to the property and sort things out. Bitter thoughts churned at the back of his head. Maybe he’ll mess it up too.
Harry needed to get a grip on himself, now. The piece of Voldemort that had once resided in him was gone, no longer a plausible excuse for his behaviour. He would face the Ministry. He would do it alone, if no one else was by his side. Harry turned and Disapparated directly into his room in the Leaky Cauldron and was careful to leave the curtains open only a kink. He had a room exactly above the drama and felt sick with himself as he peered through. Mottled blood-stains covered the cobblestone alleyways, scuffed by shoes, the owners of which were unknowing, unthinking,uncaring... Residue was smothered over shop windows, no longer emblazoned with Undesirable No.1. Harry snorted. It was possible they would be going up again soon.
He launched himself on the musty bed. It gave a whine and dust clouds puffed from its mattress. Harry reached for the ever-growing mountain of letters. Fan-mail, hate-mail, gifts, whatever it was, this morning he had not been able to bear the thought of opening it all. Anything now, to ease his mind of the guilt was most welcome. He sliced one open with his wand.
My husband and I are your biggest fans. We have all the merchandise, and have enclosed an item which we would please like signed. Thankyou so very much for your gracious defeat of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. You have no idea what it means to my family, and the rest of the wizarding world.
Harry was interrupted from the bland letter by multiple pecks on his window. With a jolt he recognised, through the curtains, the vivid colour of the envelopes tied to the owl's legs. Harry lazily flicked his wand toward the door. “Muffliato.” With a long, drawn out exhalation he slowly opened the window and plucked the seven or so Howlers off the owl's leg, and grimacing, opened the first,slightly smouldering, Howler.
“HARRY POTTER! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? HOW DARE YOU USE DARK MAGIC ON THE STREETS, ON RITA SKEETER OF ALL PEOPLE! YOU ARE A DISGRACE TO THE NAME OF WIZARD! YOU DESERVE TO ROT IN THE CELLS OF AZKABAN! YOU ARE NO HERO, YOU ARE A MENACE THAT NEEDS TO BE PUT AWAY BEFORE THE FAME GOES TO YOUR HEAD AND YOU GET AWAY WITH ALL SORTS OF CRIME!”
The Howler shrivelled up in a burst of flames and the ashes lay still on the musty wooden floor. One down, six to go.
All the excruciatingly painful letters were over now. They were all the same as the first one, ranting of his guiltiness, how he was a delinquent that needed to be locked up. The large piles of ash had almost settled on the floor, Harry too lazy to manually tidy up. Having skipped his seventh year, he had no idea how to vanish the debris like Snape had so frequently vanished his sorry potions, and had half a mind to poke it through the floorboards to the rooms below. Ears ringing, Harry picked up the letter he dreaded most. The letter from the Ministry. He knew what it was going to say. With a smirk, he reasoned with himself that there was at least no Hogwarts to be expelled from.
Mr Harry James Potter,
The Ministry has received intelligence that at two thirty four this afternoon you performed a dark magic curse ‘Sectumsempra’ on a 'Miss Rita Skeeter' , an innocent member of the public. You are required at a hearing in front of the Wizengamot this coming Friday at nine o’clock at the Ministry of Magic.
Harry ripped the paper in a rage. The Wizengamot would not listen to him. He already knew that. He would have to get himself a solicitor, a good one. If there was one thing that was not going to happen, it was Azkaban. Not Azkaban. Gritting his teeth, Harry pushed the unopened letters onto the floor and flopped down, letting sleep reel him in.
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