Chapter 2 : A Case of Identity
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A CASE OF IDENTITY
From just outside the front door came the sound of tyres on gravel. For the first time in his life, Harry was glad to hear Uncle Vernon's car pulling into the drive. Before the engine even stopped, Dudley let himself in the house, calling out gloatingly, 'Harry, come and see what Dad bought me!'
When Dudley caught sight of Snape, his small, piggy eyes lit up.
'Dad!' he yelled. 'Harry's got his godfather in the hall!'
'He isn't --' Harry began.
'Look at the state of his hair,' Dudley interrupted, eyeing Snape insolently. 'It's nearly as bad as yours.'
'Nearly as bad?' said Harry, highly affronted. 'My hair may not lie flat, but at least I wash it!'
Snape glared from Harry to Dudley and then back again, as though trying to decide which of them to strangle first. Next second, Uncle Vernon came rushing in, his purple face even purpler than usual with rage.
'You! Get out of my house this instant!' he roared at Snape. Turning to Harry he bellowed, 'How dare you bring this man to our home! I warned you, boy ...'
'I didn't invite him here! And he's not --'
Before Harry could finish, he was shoved unceremoniously out of the way by Aunt Petunia, who'd apparently heard the car and come running back down the stairs. Her lips were moving at full speed, but no sound was coming out. She darted behind Uncle Vernon and gripped his shoulder. Next moment, Snape's Silencing Charm gave out from the strain.
'Vernon!' she shrieked. 'I opened the door ... and he ... and he ...'
Uncle Vernon didn't wait to hear what Snape had done. He let out a roar of fury, grabbed the collar of Snape's coat and drew back his fist. Snape's eyes flashed, and with a loud cracking noise Uncle Vernon was hurled several feet away from him, into the living room.
Snape yanked out his wand and sent a beam of silver light to strike the photograph of the Dursleys in the centre of the mantelpiece.
The figures of the Dursleys in the picture began to glow. A strong wind sprang up, ruffling Harry's hair and Snape's trench coat. The real Dursleys -- who seemed to be getting smaller and smaller -- were blown off their feet and into the photo. Snape watched with an unpleasant smile as Uncle Vernon banged his fist against the glass and shouted -- noiselessly, as sound didn't appear to carry from inside the picture.
Harry started edging his way back towards the staircase. He had just set his foot on the bottom step when Snape's voice stopped him in his tracks.
'Where do you think you're going?'
'I'm going to my room,' said Harry. 'You wait for Sirius if you're so keen.'
'So you can come sneaking back under your Invisibility Cloak? I don't think so,' said Snape coldly, pointing his wand at Harry. 'You're staying right here.'
Harry glowered at him, then stuffed the letter from Sirius into his pocket and sat down at the foot of the stairs. In fact he still had his Cloak -- and more importantly, his wand -- with him from the night before. Luckily Snape didn't seem to have realised this, probably because Dudley's old clothes were so large on Harry that he could have practically kept a live Hippogriff in his pocket with no one the wiser.
Harry tried not to think about the trouble he'd be in if Sirius turned up and Harry violated the restrictions on underage wizardry to stop Snape recapturing him. Surely Sirius wasn't still planning to visit? He wasn't stupid, he must've figured out there was something dodgy going on when Harry didn't answer his letter.
Snape had taken up a position near the banister and was glaring at the front door, his eyes occasionally flicking back to check on Harry. Harry leant away from him and slowly eased his hand into his pocket. The minutes snailed by. Harry wondered how long Snape was planning to wait, and what he'd do when Sirius failed to appear. Snape seemed to have gone back to normal -- well, normal for Snape -- but Harry wouldn't soon forget the look on his face just before Dudley and Uncle Vernon had returned.
The doorbell rang. Harry's stomach contracted and he clutched his wand even more tightly. Snape muttered a word and the door flew open -- revealing the startled face of Dudley's friend Gordon.
Harry was a bit surprised to see him. Neither Gordon nor the rest of Dudley's gang had been around much since the summer Harry found out he was a wizard. Harry suspected Dudley had been warned by his parents to see that they all stayed as far away from Harry as possible.
'Get rid of him, Potter!' Snape hissed out of the corner of his mouth, keeping his eyes fixed on the door.
This Harry was only too happy to do. His chances of going to the Quidditch World Cup looked about zero right now, but that would be the least of his worries if Snape worked magic in front of Gordon and it got back to the Dursleys. If any stories of odd goings-on at number four made their way around the neighbourhood, Uncle Vernon wouldn't just lock Harry in his cupboard; he'd stuff him into his trunk as well.
'Gordon,' said Harry flatly. 'Dudley isn't in right now. Try coming back later.'
Gordon stared at Harry, open-mouthed. Then his eyes wandered over to Snape.
'Who's he?' Gordon asked.
'One of my teachers from school,' said Harry shortly.
'Why's he dressed like that?'
Harry was getting annoyed. 'Professor -- Professor Sharif was the top assassin in the Middle East, before he made the place too hot to hold him and had to flee to England. As there's not much work for hit men in this country, he took a job at St Brutus's Secure Centre. He hates teaching and he hates students, but if he killed any of the St Brutus boys, the school would lose their fees and he'd be sacked. Of course, you're still going to Smeltings, aren't you?'
Harry hadn't really expected Gordon to be frightened by this story. It appeared he'd vastly overestimated Gordon's intelligence, however. From the gormless expression on his face, Harry doubted Gordon had even understood it.
Gordon gazed at Snape in befuddlement for a while longer, then turned back to Harry.
'I need to give this to Dudley,' he said, holding out a black canvas bag.
'Clear off!' said Harry irritably. 'I told you Dudley wasn't here.'
Gordon stood there, looking stupid. Snape stirred restlessly.
'Here, give it to me, I'll see he gets it,' said Harry, getting up and walking down the hall. When he got to the door, he reached out for the bag -- then ducked under Gordon's outstretched arm and went haring off down Privet Drive.
Several streets away from number four, Harry skidded to a halt. He leant against a low brick wall to catch his breath and reached into his pocket for the Invisibility Cloak. Before he could take it out, his arm was caught in a painfully tight grip. He gasped and whirled, to find Snape's face inches from his own.
The two of them stood staring at one another, Snape evidently too furious to speak and Harry too surprised. How on earth had Snape managed to get there so quickly? Harry would've thought he'd more of a start on him than that. He hadn't even heard Snape running up ...
The silence was broken by a voice calling out sharply, 'What's going on here?'
Harry twisted his head to see a woman getting out of a police car and moving swiftly in their direction. As she approached, he recognised her as Police Constable Rose Pascoe. Three years ago, when Dudley had knocked down old Mrs Figg with his racing bike, Constable Pascoe had come round to number four to tell him she'd be keeping her eye on him. Harry had been locked in his cupboard for accidentally releasing a boa constrictor at the zoo, but even there he could hear quite clearly Uncle Vernon's angry shouting.
From then on, the very sight of Constable Pascoe driving by sent Uncle Vernon into a rage. For hours after, he'd mutter indignantly about malicious and unwarranted persecution of an innocent young boy, and throw out dark hints as to the sort of woman who'd join the police force in the first place.
Harry always found this extremely entertaining and normally would have been quite pleased to see her, but right now the last thing he wanted was Snape explaining himself to the Muggle police. As far as Harry knew, the hotline the Ministry of Magic had set up for Muggles to report sightings of Sirius Black was still running. If Snape mentioned his name, it would almost certainly be used. Protecting Sirius from Snape would be difficult enough; Harry had no desire to take on the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol as well.
He tried desperately to think of something to tell Constable Pascoe, but came up blank. There was no explanation she was apt to believe for why one of his teachers would be chasing him down the street in the middle of the summer holidays, dressed like something out of a Mad Max film.
'You're young Harry Dursley, aren't you?' Constable Pascoe said, eyeing him with some concern.
'I -- yes -- no! I --' Harry panted, out of breath from running, having not the faintest idea what to say and completely floored at being described as a Dursley. It was too bad Uncle Vernon wasn't around to hear, Harry thought wildly, he would've got done for assaulting a police officer for sure.
'And who might you be?' Constable Pascoe demanded of Snape, concern giving way to deep suspicion.
Snape let go of Harry's arm and reached into his coat for his wand. Her expression changed from suspicion to alarm -- she must have thought Snape had a gun. She flung herself on him, sending the pair of them tumbling over the garden wall.
Harry stepped up to the wall and looked down. Constable Pascoe, having landed more or less on top of Snape, was hanging grimly on to his arm, trying to get his wand away from him before he could take it out of his pocket. Harry didn't think Snape would be able to keep her off it for long; she was a sturdy young woman and Snape seemed half stunned from his fall.
'No, wait, it's all right!' Harry cried. 'He -- he's my godfather, he's a professional magician, he was taking out a wand, not a gun!'
Constable Pascoe let go of Snape and stared up at Harry in amazement. Suddenly she and Harry shot straight up into the air like rockets, so quickly that by the time Harry realised what had happened, they'd already begun to drift slowly down. Looking groundwards, he saw Snape wrapped up like a mummy in a cocoon of bandages.
The flowering shrubs along the other side of the street shimmered and blurred, and a dozen green-robed witches and wizards came pouring out. One of them looked up and called out, 'All right there, Harry?'
It was Percy Weasley.
Disclaimer: All characters and concepts from the Harry Potter series copyright J K Rowling.
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