Chapter 32 : Coming And Going
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How are things going with your aunt, uncle and cousin? Are you all getting on? I hope you are - it’s a big thing you’re doing for them, by visiting, and I hope they appreciate it!
I don’t suppose you’ve had a chance to look at the Transfiguration essay just yet, have you? Do you know what you’re going to do yours on yet? I’m torn between two at the moment and just can’t decide!
I really hope things are going well, Harry. I’ll write again soon!
* * *
How’re the muggles? Behaving, I hope!
Things are mad here, even though we’ve only been home for a day: Fred and George nearly blew up the house with one of their mad potions, and Ginny somehow got her hand on her wand, even though we’re not meant to have them during the holidays. Not sure what she wanted it for, now that I think of it, but Mum confiscated it straight away and shouted for almost an hour.
Sorry there’s not much to talk about, since we only saw each other yesterday. Hopefully Hermione writes as well, she’s always been good at letters, and I’m sure she’ll have lots to say (even though I bet most of it’ll be about homework!)
P.S. Malfoy’s just got here. You might already know, since it was Sirius that brought him over, but if you didn’t, now you do. He said things didn’t go that well with his Dad, but that he thinks Mr Malfoy’ll leave Hagrid and Buckbeak alone now. I reckon he’ll be out to get all of them.
* * *
The letters had been delivered first thing in the morning by Hedwig and Errol, and Harry read them as he ate an early breakfast by himself in the Dursley’s kitchen. He’d sent both owls on their way already, not wanting to push the tentative truce he had with his aunt and uncle.
Dinner the night before had been a quiet affair - just Aunt Petunia, Harry and Dudley - since Uncle Vernon had taken Marge out to dinner. Harry wasn’t sure whether it was for her sake or Harry’s that his uncle had done that, but he appreciated it all the same. Harry had been safely tucked away in the guest room by the time Marge returned, and had been highly amused by the sounds of her settling into Dudley’s second bedroom with rather ill grace.
It seemed, though, that Harry’s luck with avoiding his not-aunt had run out; no sooner had he folded his letters and turned his attention on his cooling toast, did she appear in the doorway, Ripper at her heels. She let the dog outside.
“Morning,” Harry said dully. The good mood brought by his friends’ letters faded somewhat.
Marge narrowed her eyes, and then glanced down at Harry’s breakfast.
“You’re doing breakfast, are you?” she asked, abruptly.
“I’m eating breakfast,” Harry replied.
“When you finish, I’ll have eggs,” she said, and closed the door behind Ripper as he trotted back inside.
“That’s nice,” Harry said, snorting. Next thing he knew, Marge was leaning over him, one thick finger jabbing uncomfortably close to his nose.
“You,” she said, “are a rude, ungrateful little brat. I don’t know what your criminal godfather lets you get away with when you’re with him-”
“Whatever I want,” Harry said, glowering up at her. It wasn’t wholly true, but Padfoot was certainly more concerned with Harry keeping in touch and not doing stupid, risky things, than things like household chores and bedtime.
“-but when you’re here, living off what my brother and his family are so generously sharing with you, you will be properly grateful, and you will listen when-”
Uncle Vernon chose that moment to walk into the kitchen - dressed in an awful brown dressing gown - and froze when he saw them.
“Morning,” he said, rather warily, eyes darting first to Marge and then to Harry. Harry suspected he was regretting coming downstairs at all.
“You need to put your foot down with this one, Vernon!” Marge said angrily. “Petunia’s being gentle with him- God knows why! and it’s gone to his head. He’s a nasty, disrespectful little leech-”
“I wouldn’t cook her breakfast,” Harry said dryly.
“Breakfast?” Uncle Vernon repeated, then shook himself. “You- what would you like, Marge?”
“Eggs,” Marge said to Harry, pointedly. Vernon started to dig through the kitchen cupboards for a frypan, and when he’d found that, fetched the egg carton from the fridge.
Harry watched, amazed. Aunt Petunia cooked, and Harry had watched Dudley prepare himself a truly monstrous sandwich the day before, but Harry had never seen Uncle Vernon cook. Apparently, neither had Marge, because she gave Harry one more filthy look before seating herself opposite Harry to watch, unwillingly interested.
By the time Aunt Petunia and Dudley ventured downstairs, Vernon had amassed a small mountain of bacon, several eggs - the quality of which had improved as he went - and a pile of toast, and Harry could smell how pleased with himself he was, even over the smell of all the food.
“Good morning,” Aunt Petunia said, making brief eye-contact with Harry.
“Morning,” he said, offering her a small smile.
“She wasn’t talking to-”
“Did you sleep well, Marge?” Aunt Petunia interrupted, helping herself to some toast.
“Very well, thank you, Petunia,” Marge said briskly, passing Ripper a bit of bacon under the table. When she spoke next, her tone had changed completely. “And how’s my neffy-poo this morning?” Harry choked on his breakfast.
“Fine,” Dudley said, shrugging. “This is good, Dad,” he added. Uncle Vernon brushed it off with a flap of his hand, but Harry thought he had a definite spring in his step when he went to retrieve milk from the fridge, and Harry ducked his head to hide his smile.
“What are you laughing at?” Marge demanded.
“Nothing,” Harry said. Harry’s mirror chose that moment to heat in his pocket, and he twitched, surprised. Marge gave him an odd look, Aunt Petunia a slightly worried one.
Padfoot’s muffled voice said something that might have been Harry’s name.
Aunt Petunia froze, and Uncle Vernon gestured behind Marge’s back to make it stop. Dudley watched curiously from behind his bacon and egg sandwich. Padfoot started to say something else - which Harry did his best to cover with a cough - and he hastily patted the mirror, willing it to shut off. It cooled.
“Bacon, Marge?” Aunt Petunia tried, sounding rather strained but Marge was not distracted this time.
“As if he wasn’t bad enough already, now he’s properly deranged… talking to himself! Ha!” She jerked her head in his direction. “That’ll be the godfather’s influence, no doubt. He looked a bit unhinged on the television, if you ask me.”
“Unflattering photo,” Aunt Petunia muttered. Harry appreciated her weak defence of Padfoot, but he’d seen the photos. Padfoot had looked unhinged. Marge didn’t have any right to say so, though.
“Could be bad blood, too,” Marge said thoughtfully. Aunt Petunia cleared her throat, lips pursed. “Nothing against your family, of course, Petunia,” she added, “but your sister…” Harry gritted his teeth and took several slow, deep breaths. “...and the father was a good-for-nothing-”
Harry shoved his chair back as he got to his feet, shoving Ron and Hermione’s letters into his pocket.
“I’ll be upstairs,” he said stiffly.
“Good riddance,” Marge said. “Now, what was I saying…? Ah, yes, bad blood-”
Just as Harry turned to stalk out of the kitchen, there was a loud bark at the door Ripper had used earlier, and a wet black nose and pair of bright, grey eyes appeared at the window. Aunt Petunia gasped, and Vernon and Dudley wore identical, bewildered looks. Ripper started to bark and raced over to growl at the door. Harry didn’t even see Marge’s expression, because he was too busy grinning. He crossed the room, nudged Ripper out of the way with his foot - and got nipped on the ankle by the horrible little dog - so that he could open the door.
Padfoot bounded inside, tail wagging, and bounced up to lick the side of Harry’s face. Harry laughed, pushing him away, and Ripper dashed out of the way of Padfoot’s long legs.
“Boy…” Uncle Vernon said uncertainly.
“Sorry,” Harry said over his shoulder, though he wasn’t really.
“Where’d you get a dog?” Dudley asked, frowning. Padfoot nudged his knee and Dudley patted him once on the head. Aunt Petunia made a small sound of protest, but swallowed it when Padfoot trotted back to Harry’s side.
“This is... Blackie,” Harry said, unable to keep his snigger to himself. Padfoot made a quiet groaning sound and rolled his eyes. “He lives with us. With me and Padfoot, I mean.” Aunt Petunia still didn’t look particularly pleased, but she no longer looked scared, which had to count for something. If anything, she seemed suspicious. “I- er… I’m not sure what he’s doing here.”
“Figures,” Marge said. Ripper prowled forward, posture decidedly unfriendly. Padfoot snapped once in his direction, and the other dog scrambled to hide behind Marge’s chair. “It’s an absolute mongrel, and completely unsociable besides-”
“Actually,” Harry said, unable to help himself, “he’s from the purest bloodline.” Padfoot huffed again, and this time, it was decidedly exasperated.
“Stolen, then, no doubt,” Marge said.
“Oh, yeah,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “Life of crime and all that.”
“Does he guard things?” Dudley asked, looking Padfoot over, expression thoughtful. “And protect you from the police and stuff?” His eyes brightened. “Wait, if he lives with you, does that mean he’s mag-”
Uncle Vernon dropped the frying pan, and Harry thought it was on purpose, so that Marge wouldn’t hear Dudley say the word ‘magical’. It clattered noisily on the floor, and Ripper barked at it.
“Yeah,” Harry said, before Dudley could try to ask again. “He’s er… pretty special.”
“Does he do tricks?”
“Sure,” Harry said.
“Wicked.” Dudley stared at Padfoot, rather intently, and Harry thought he was expecting Padfoot to change colour or fly or something. “Can-”
“If you’re going to play with the dog, take it down to the park,” Uncle Vernon interrupted, rather desperately. “Big thing like that… don’t need it in the house.” The look he gave Harry was panicked, and Harry took pity on his uncle and nodded.
“Yeah, I’ll take him for a walk. Want to come, Dudley?”
* * *
They’d decided to sit on the swings, and the dog kept bringing Harry sticks to throw.
“You should teach him to be an attack dog,” Dudley decided. If he ever got a dog, he’d want something big and mean looking. Harry’s dog looked just right, but he really wasn’t scary enough, in Dudley’s opinion. It was a bit disappointing, really. “Then if there were people you didn’t like, you could just set him on them, and let him bite them.”
“Maybe,” Harry said, looking like he wanted to laugh.
“That’s what I’d do,” Dudley said. “So is he really magic? What can he do?”
“He’s really smart,” Harry said, and then grinned. “Sometimes, I reckon he thinks he’s a person.” The dog snorted at Harry, almost sounding cross, and Harry laughed. “See?”
“Yeah, but can he do anything cool?” Dudley asked. The dog reared up, and less than a second later, Harry’s godfather was standing in front of them. Dudley blinked, because it was so unexpected. Harry didn’t look surprised at all.
“Cool enough?” Harry’s godfather asked, grinning.
“I patted you!” Dudley said, not sure whether he was disgusted or wanted to laugh.
“Of course that’s the part you’d have an issue with,” Harry’s godfather said, shaking his head and smiling. He didn’t seem too bothered by it, so Dudley decided he wouldn’t be either. But if he became a dog again, Dudley wouldn’t be patting him. “You just take it all in stride, don’t you, Dudley?”
“I guess,” Dudley said, shrugging. Harry’s godfather laughed, and then turned to Harry.
“So that was Marge, eh? Seems like a piece of work.”
“Hey,” Dudley said, frowning. “That’s my aunt.”
“Sorry,” Harry’s godfather said at once. “She just- maybe it was just a bad first impression.” Harry snorted.
“Don’t,” Dudley said, frowning at him.
“She’s awful to me, Dudley,” Harry said. “You can’t really be surprised that I don’t like her?”
“Well, no.” Dudley scowled. “But-” Mum and Dad and even Dudley had used to be awful to Harry, and he seemed okay with them. Or maybe he was just pretending, and he didn’t actually like any of them either. Dudley huffed and kicked the bark chips. “Never mind.” He stood and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m going home.”
“What? Why? Do you want me to come with you?” Harry asked.
“No,” Dudley said. Harry and his godfather swapped looks.
“Okay,” Harry said uncertainly. “I’ll see you at the house a bit later then, I s’pose?”
“Bye,” Dudley muttered.
* * *
“What about him?” Severus asked warily. Had Lucius got wind of Severus’ intentions to teach Draco Occlumency? Had Draco perhaps complained to his parents about the headaches? He doubted it - Draco wasn’t overly close with the Malfoys, as far as Severus knew - but it was possible Poppy had said something to them about his visits to the hospital wing this term.
“He’s gone and freed Dobby - that wretched elf we used to have - out of some misguided notion that I needed to be punished.” Lucius was cold in his anger, pale and stern, even in the green light of the Floo.
“Punished for what?” Severus asked, blankly. Lucius flapped a hand, irritated.
“The attacks last year, or so he claimed.” It wasn’t a lie, but there was more to it than Lucius had said; Severus could tell. Severus knew Draco did blame his father for refusing to close the school, and so held him accountable for the attacks that had followed.
“And news of the elf’s fate was his side of the exchange for the hippogriff, I take it?” Severus asked tiredly, as he put the pieces together. Lucius arched an eyebrow. “Yes, I know about that,” Severus said dismissively.
“Did you know?”
“Not what the news was,” Severus replied. if he had, he could have predicted just how badly information like this would go down with Lucius, and would have advised Draco very strongly against sharing it.
Lucius nodded stiffly.
“Would you like me to come through and speak with him? Severus asked. “I can, perhaps try to get him to see reason, to see that you did not deliberately cause the attacks last year.” Though he’d had no luck with that that last time he’d tried.
“You mean he’s not already with you?” Lucius asked, looking surprised for the first time since appearing in the fire.
“Why would he be with me?” Severus asked.
“He’s not at the Manor,” Lucius said. “I had assumed he would have gone to you, since that’s where he usually goes when he isn’t here.” It was, as far as Lucius knew, excepting Christmas last year, when Lucius had learned through Hydrus of Draco’s stay with the Weasley family. Each other time, Severus had covered for Draco when he visited his friends.
“I’ve not seen or heard from him,” Severus said, frowning.
“That would explain why you haven’t contacted Narcissa or myself,” Lucius said, almost wryly. Severus nodded, distracted. He knew he’d done some damage to his relationship with Draco this term, but he would have expected to have had a letter at least, or- or an infuriating, insufferable man sent to his doorstep as as a messenger... Or, perhaps it was even worse than that, and Black hadn’t been sent at all, and, despite everything, had come to speak with him anyway. And Severus had ignored him… Severus swore under his breath.
“Pardon?” Lucius asked.
“Nothing,” Severus said stiffly. “Shall I make enquiries? If he’s run away, I doubt any efforts made by you will be well received.”
Severus could tell from Lucius’ expression that the man did not care in the slightest how Draco would receive him - and didn’t that bode poorly - but he inclined his head and said, “If it isn’t too much trouble.”
“None at all. I’ll be in touch once I know more.”
Lucius nodded and faded from the fire. Severus leaned back in his chair with a sound that was half-sigh-half-snarl and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Then, he snatched up a cloak and swept out of his office, braving the cold grounds to reach the gate. It was beyond tempting to Floo, but doing so unannounced was incredibly rude unless it was a close friend or family member, and Severus was neither. Black would probably stab him with a poker.
Severus disapparated just outside the gate, and reappeared on Number Twelve’s doorstep. He took a deep breath and prepared to swallow his pride.
* * *
“Sirius didn’t say we were expecting anyone, did he?” Remus asked Dora and Marlene, who both shrugged. “Kreacher?”
“Kreacher doesn’t know, oh no,” Kreacher muttered, snapping his fingers at the dishes, which started to scrub themselves in the sink. “Shall Kreacher get the door?”
“No,” Remus said, “I’ll get it.” He made his way upstairs as the doorbell rang again, and pulled it open as it rang a third time. “Impatient, are-” He blinked, taking in the sight of Snape, dressed in a thick travelling cloak and looking particularly sour. “Morning,” Remus said.
“I need to speak with Black,” Snape said.
“He’s not here,” Remus said, folding his arms. Snape’s expression darkened at the news, but Remus had little sympathy for the man; Remus was the one who’d had to deal with Sirius cursing and complaining about how Snape had refused to see him yesterday, and it was entirely Snape’s fault. “Would you like me to tell him you came by?”
“Is Draco here?” Snape asked.
“No,” Remus said, and though he knew where Draco was and wasn’t feeling quite sorry enough for Snape to tell him himself, he did feel a bit sorry for him. He held the door open a bit wider. “Sirius should be home soon, if you’d like to come in and wait?”
Snape nodded curtly, and stepped inside, smelling rather reluctantly grateful.
“Who was at the door?” Dora asked, and then made a strange, almost exasperated noise at the sight of Snape; she had also been witness to Sirius’ terrible, Snape-induced mood, yesterday.
“He’s come to talk to Padfoot,” Remus told the women, neither of whom looked surprised.
“Tea, Snape?” Marlene asked.
“No,” Snape said, settling rather uncomfortably at the table, and then added a belated, “Thank you.”
Marlene shrugged and stood.
“Suit yourself,” she said, and then her expression fell “I’m off, unless anyone’s feeling generous enough to send me to St Mungo’s…?” She looked around hopefully. “A hex, poison, I’m not fussy.” Dora shook her head, smiling, and Remus sipped at his tea. Snape looked vaguely concerned. “You’re terrible friends.” She stalked over to the fireplace and tossed a handful of Floo powder in.
“Have a good day,” Dora teased, as Marlene stepped into the green flames.
“Yes, do say hi to Bertha for us,” Remus added, and Marlene made a rude hand gesture in his direction as she asked for the Ministry of Magic and was swallowed by the Floo. “You remember Bertha Jorkins from school, don’t you?” Remus asked Snape. Snape curled his lip in response.
Remus glanced at his watch, frowning; Sirius had planned to have a quick word to Harry to let him know about Draco, and to see how he was faring with Marge Dursley in the house, and maybe get a covert look at her; they’d all got the impression Harry wasn’t fond of the woman, but aside from that, she was an unknown, and that wasn’t sitting well with anyone, least of all Sirius - who was already stressed about the whole arrangement. Remus hoped nothing had gone wrong. He checked his watch again.
“Will Black be long?”
“Hopefully not,” Remus said.
Snape made a curt sound of acknowledgement.
* * *
Sirius paused in the hallway, sniffing.
“Moony? When was Snape here?” he called to the house at large.
“Twenty minutes ago, give or take,” Remus called back, from down in the kitchen. Sirius could hear amusement in his voice. “He’s down here, wanting a word.”
Sighing, and scrubbing a hand over his chin, Sirius stomped downstairs. Remus, Dora and Snape sat at the table, none of them speaking, while Kreacher fussed around the kitchen. Marlene had already left, it seemed.
“Master,” Kreacher said, with a shallow bow. “How’s the brat?”
“He’s all right,” Sirius said. Kreacher bobbed his head and carried on with whatever he’d been doing. Remus and Dora both looked relieved. Sirius turned to look at Snape. “Well?” he asked abruptly. “What are you doing here?” Dora and Remus exchanged a look; if he had to guess, they were trying to decide whether they should make an escape before wands were drawn, or whether they should stay to try to keep things civil.
“I’m looking for my godson,” Snape said, reluctantly. “I have reason to believe you might possess knowledge of his whereabouts.”
“Why would you think that?” Sirius asked, with exaggerated surprise. “I certainly haven’t said anything to you about that.” He gave Snape a pointed look.
“I believe you may have… attempted to.” Snape wouldn’t quite meet Sirius’ eye when he said it. “That is why you came by yesterday, isn’t it?”
“Dunno,” Sirius said loftily. “You’d know though, if you’d bothered to open the bloody door.”
They glowered at each other, but Snape’s was weak, likely because he knew Sirius was right.
“We’re going to Mum’s,” Dora announced, tugging Remus to his feet, and he didn’t object. “Try not to kill each other while we’re out, eh?”
“Poor Kreacher’d have to clean it up,” Remus added, with a ghost of a smile. His eyes, though, when they met Sirius’, were probing.
“We’ll be fine,” Sirius said, waving a hand, replying to Remus’ teasing as well as to his unspoken question. Remus nodded once, not looking completely convinced, but he and Dora left the kitchen. Several moments later, Sirius heard the front door close.
“Why did you stop by yesterday?” Snape asked stiffly.
“For your delightful company,” Sirius retorted, and then let out a frustrated breath. “Draco Flooed over in the early afternoon, with his trunk. He wasn’t sure about staying here while Harry’s away-” Snape looked vaguely curious at that, despite himself, and Sirius gathered he hadn’t been told about the Dursleys returning to Privet Drive. “-so he’s gone to the Burrow.”
“The Burrow?” Snape echoed flatly.
“Molly and Arthur’s place. He’s not here - where else would he be?”
“The Weasleys were my next guess,” Snape admitted. “Though I’ll admit I was hoping to avoid a visit there; I see enough of the little monsters during the term.” Sirius, who was quite fond of all the Weasley kids - and even more so if Snape didn’t like them - gave him a stony look. It occurred to him too late that Snape was trying to make a joke. “How- how was Draco?”
“Ask him yourself,” Sirius said irritably. “Or dig around in his head for an answer - whatever you’d prefer.”
He was a little disappointed when Snape didn’t rise to the bait.
“Perhaps I will,” Snape said, silkily, standing. “May I use the Floo?”
“If it’ll get you out of here quicker, sure.” He knew he was being antagonistic, but after all of the stress over Harry and the Dursleys, it felt good to have an outlet, and be able to be rude to someone without worrying about offending them.
Snape’s mouth quirked and he took a handful of powder from the pot on the mantel, but didn’t throw it in right away.
“I’m sure Draco appreciates your help yesterday,” he said carefully.
“I know he does - he said as much.”
“It was… good of you to look out for him.”
“Someone’s got to,” Sirius replied.
“You’re making this harder than it needs to be,” Snape snapped.
“If you’re trying to say thank you, then just spit it out.” They glared at each other and Sirius gave in, waving at Snape to go ahead and say whatever he wanted to say.
“Thank you.” Snape eyed Sirius as if expecting another interruption, but Sirius stayed quiet, surprised to hear the words. “I know- I refuse to explain myself to you, and you had no right to pry, but I do- care-” The word sounded odd coming from his mouth, and if Snape’s expression was anything to go by, he thought so too. “-about Draco. I may not have made that clear enough when we last… spoke. I do have his best interests in mind, even if it may not appear that way.”
“Bully for you,” Sirius said, but couldn’t smell a lie on the other man. And wasn’t that troubling? Because how was violating Draco’s mind in his best interests? He’d be giving the matter some thought, that was for sure.
“I would like to put this behind us,” Snape said curtly.
“You mean you’ve realised I might not keep you informed on Draco if you keep acting like a complete-”
“You extended a truce for your godson’s sake,” Snape interrupted. “I wish to do the same.” He extended the hand that wasn’t full of Floo powder.
“I don’t agree with what you’ve done to Draco,” Sirius said.
“I don’t recall asking you to.” Snape’s tone and expression were unconcerned, and he was still holding out his hand, but his scent was nervous now. “Not enemies?”
Sirius shook his offered hand with a sigh and said, “Not friends either, according to you.”
“You don’t want to be my friend anymore than I want to be yours,” Snape drawled, releasing Sirius’ hand. He was right about that, at least. Sirius didn’t want Snape as a friend, unpleasant man that he was. But somewhere in the last few years, they’d become something of the sort anyway, though he hadn’t realised it until Snape had said they weren’t when they spoke the week before. He doubted Snape had realised it at all, despite the fact that Sirius was - as far as he knew, anyway - the closest thing to a friend Snape had had in years, outside of his colleagues. “Spare me your dramatics.” Snape flicked his handful of Floo powder into the fireplace and stepped in after it. “The Burrow.”
“Tea, please, Kreacher,” Sirius muttered, feeling a headache coming on, “with firewhiskey.”
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