Chapter 2 : The Magic Quill
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He Apparated to Hogsmeade, which was cloaked in darkness. Lights illuminated the street he was on, and a few of the store windows were lit, but those were the only signs of life. He went ahead to noon earlier that day, so he wouldn't need magic to see. Now a few people were out and about in the town, but that wouldn't be a problem, since he was underneath his invisibility cloak.
Harry pulled out the Marauder's Map and unfolded it. He would need it—obviously—to locate the quill and make sure no one spotted him. After checking the map several times over, he saw only Filch and Hagrid on the Hogwarts grounds, with no signs of a quill. Harry had not expected to see it on the map, but it would have helped.
At least he had some idea of where it could be. He remembered Hermione saying something a while ago like, "…yes, and the Deputy Head of Hogwarts sends out the letters to the students recorded in the book. It's all in Hogwarts, a History; I'm surprised you didn't know…" This meant Professor McGonagall dealt with the quill and the book, so it could possibly be in her office. At least Harry had something to work with.
He could enter the school through the Shrieking Shack—the easiest route, since trying to get in through Honeydukes would most likely set off some sort of alarm. After a short walk, Harry reached the fence that blocked off the area surrounding the broken-down house. It was strange being here at this time of year, when there was no one around. It was peaceful, but kind of eerie. He paused, studying the spot where he had scared away Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle in his third year.
Harry had spent considerable time reflecting on his childish rivalry with Draco. He had been very narrow-minded for hating him—there were worse people, and Draco was just acting as he was raised. In the end, he had helped Harry, a sign he was headed in a better direction. Sadly, just like Snape, there could have been a way to help Draco if Harry had seen the situation differently. And, also like Snape, Harry suspected him for every bad thing that happened at school.
Harry was sure Malfoy had tried removing the Dark Mark, but even with the Mark he would forever be notorious for serving Voldemort. Lucius Malfoy had already been sent to Azkaban, but his son and wife were still due for a trial. Harry did no tell anyone this, but he hoped Draco was declared innocent. He didn't voice this opinion mainly because the whole Weasley family hated the Malfoys. Hermione and Luna may have been a little more sympathetic toward Draco, but they didn't always act like it. As soon as Lucius' sentence was announced in the paper, they all were cheering and discussing the things they hated most about him. This didn't bother Harry so much, but eventually they got to the topic of Draco.
Ron had recalled when they first met him. "I hated him from the time I first laid eyes on him. So he barges into our compartment, acting like he owned the place. He insulted us, our magical abilities, told us we had dirt on our noses…" He smirked at Hermione. "Oh whoops, wrong person, sorry." He laughed as Hermione let out a gasp of defiance and hit him with a pillow. It was one of those throw-an-insult-then-kiss moments they often shared. Neville cleared his throat, and the two seemed to suddenly remember that there were other people around them.
Ron's ears turned red and he edged away from Hermione. "Er…well, as I was saying…Oh! Right, Draco. He always had a problem with us. I can't count how many times I wanted to hurt him. When Hermione hit him…Wow. That was bloody brilliant." He gave Hermione a lopsided smile and she returned it, looking pleased. "And there was this one time, in Care of Magical Creatures…"
Harry chose to zone out for the highly exaggerated retellings of Malfoy's actions. What Ron said after a while made him snap back to attention. "But what I still don't get is why Harry bothered to save his life. All he'd been was trouble, what'd he do to deserve it?"
"Because, Ron, he was going to die," said Harry through gritted teeth. Everyone turned to him in surprise; he had hardly spoken that night. "So many people had already lost their lives. Why would we let that happen to someone when we knew we could prevent it?" Harry's voice rose in anger, causing Ron to flinch.
"Whoa, mate, I got it, thanks."
Harry had then made an excuse about being tired and left the room.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Harry approached the shack and climbed up the few creaky steps that led to the door. He tried opening it, but it wouldn't budge. Harry guessed that it just didn't work, because when he tried unlocking it, it still didn't yield. He used a spell that busted it open with a loud BANG! He jumped at the sound and his ears started ringing. For a moment, Harry stood still, looking around for anyone coming to see what the noise was. There was no sign of movement from the cabins around him.
Harry entered for the first time since Snape's death. Now he could see it as what it really was—just a broken-down, abandoned house. The inside was dull brown, worn from the elements, and rotting. Nothing frightening there.
Though, even if he had gotten over his fearful emotions toward the Shack, he still felt the bitterness of loss. Sirius, his dad, Lupin, and Snape were all linked to this place. Sirius…the strongest connection he had had to his father. His godfather, the man who could have raised him when James was unable to in death. Would seeing him in only a couple days (of his time) give him peace or just make him mourn over his death? Should he save Sirius, too? Would that just make things worse? Would he even be able to?
Harry buried his memories, his pain. Every time ignored his emotions, it just increased the pressure building inside him. One day, the pressure would be too great to bear. All the sadness he had been feeling would overcome him, all at once.
With the sense of loss the Shack brought back, Harry wondered how it would feel when returned to Hogwarts. He could see where corpses had been lined up, he could hear his friends' cries when they had seen him, supposedly dead…
Harry took a steadying breath and crawled through the tunnel. He emerged below the Whomping Willow, which was noticeably smaller than he remembered. It started, almost drowsily, to move its strong branches toward him. Harry quickly prodded the knot at the base of tree and the swinging ceased.
Only Filch and Hagrid would be at Hogwarts at this time of the summer, even if it were a month before school started. With a quick check of his map, he saw he was right: Hagrid was in his hut and Filch was walking toward the front of the school.
It seemed as if everything was going his way; Harry slipped through the front doors unnoticed as Filch struggled past with a load of cleaning supplies. He avoided interception by anything unusual on his way to McGonagall's room, and there weren't any advanced enchantments protecting her door. Though, why should there be? More important things have been guarded by a simple Colloportus Charm.
Professor McGonagall's room was hardly different from what he was used to, twenty years in the future. The desks were still in neat rows, and much of the equipment was the same.
It didn't take Harry long to spot the quill right on Professor McGonagall's desk. Well, at least he thought it was the quill—it was hard to tell since it was plain white, ordinary. What gave it away was the ancient-looking book beside it.
Harry crossed the room to investigate. The book was about four inches thick, bound in a soft red material. Thick, yellowing pages were sandwiched between the front and cover, unevenly placed. If one was not specifically looking for it, the book would blend in with the others nearby. Harry strode to the desk and opened it, wand at the ready in case there were protection spells. Thankfully, his hand did not burn or erupt with boils as he opened the cover.
The first page was from the 1600s; the system either started then or there were different volumes. Names appeared in rows starting with the person's surname, then first name, their date of birth, and current address.
As Harry was looking through it, the quill suddenly lifted into the air. He doubled back, expecting an attack, but the quill was not activating to harm him. The pages of the book magically flipped to about three-quarters through where the names were dated at 1959 or 1960. The quill floated to one of the addresses, crossed it out, and the words vanished. The quill wrote a new address, returned to its inkwell, and the book flipped shut.
Harry opened to the page the quill had been on, where the last name (Tempah, Lauren) was recorded. Harry levitated the quill out of the inkwell, but hadn't a clue what he should do next. If he took the quill and wrote something, it would be in his own handwriting and would have trouble blending in. Harry tried whispering his information to the quill. Nothing happened. He tried tapping it with his wand, but still nothing. Was there a spell he could use that would activate it? Or maybe…he peered at the page again. Could he somehow…take the handwriting of the book, then copy it over as necessary to form his own name?
If Muggles could use copy machines, why shouldn't he be able to find something similar? He had no knowledge of a copying spell, but it was sure to be in the library. Harry decided it would be best to look, so he closed the book, returned the quill, and left the room. He closed and locked it, making sure he covered all of his tracks.
It was strange how the school was almost exactly the same as when Harry attended. The only difference may be there were fewer portraits and perhaps less dust.
Under his invisibility cloak, the portraits could not see him, but they could hear his footfalls. One of them yelled out, "Who's there?" Harry swore and quickly cast a spell to cover the sound. He was relieved, a minute later, when he reached the library. Much to his luck (which was bound to run out any time now), it was easily accessible like Professor McGonagall's. The library was also set up exactly as he remembered, so he knew where the different sections were. Harry kept the Marauders Map open as he grabbed books off shelves, stacking them on the nearest table. Once he was satisfied with his collection, he sat down and began searching.
He had no success with the first few books—Choosing the right quill: Everything you need to know about quills (Obviously not everything, he thought) and Alohomora: Unlocking the Secrets of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Much to his surprise, he found a book in the Restricted Section that could help him: Forging Fonts: Fool Foes for Fun. There was a part that explained how to imitate a print. He just had to tap his wand on the page he desired, say "Teslerium," then tap his quill with his wand. Then, he could write in the same handwriting that was on the page. Harry wrote the details down on a spare piece of parchment and closed the book.
He quickly glanced at his watch (which he now wore on his wrist at all times) and realized he had spent a good two hours since his arrival at Hogsmeade. It would be only another hour or so, as long as nothing went wrong.
Harry put the books back and returned to Professor McGonagall's room. He performed the new spell perfectly. His name blended in with the others, and it seemed unlikely that anyone would ever suspect it.
Harry's journey back to Hogsmeade was brief; he was filled with a new confidence at his success, and would not let anything stand in his way. He traveled back to 1971, then Apparated away. Harry went to the home where he had recorded his supposed current address. Sure enough, when he went inside, a crisp yellow letter was waiting for him. In emerald green print it read:
Mr. Jacob Walker
509 Loyola Drive
Harry opened it, delighted that the spell had worked. It was the standard letter, there was nothing that suggested anyone was suspicious of him. He couldn't help grinning at the good news; it was one less thing he had to worry about. Sure, there were other things he'd have to sort out eventually, but for now he could be satisfied that he had accomplished something. Moreover, he was able to go to Hogwarts.
He was just at the peak of his relief and excitement when he noticed a second envelope, which had been half hidden underneath the doormat. He tried to convince himself that it wasn't what he thought it was, that it was just normal Muggle mail. But he couldn't control the sinking feeling of what it might contain. He picked up the envelope, labeled just as the first was. His suspicions were confirmed as he began reading the neat print:
Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s) of Mr. Jacob Walker,
Because you have not been home, and your whereabouts are unknown, a witch/wizard could not contact you to discuss your son's future. We will attempt to return on 15th August. If you are still not home, we will leave a book explaining the wizarding world to you. It can only be opened by someone of magical ability to ensure its secrecy. We would dispatch a wizard to find you personally, but we are very backed up with other business.
Harry considered this. What did "other business" mean? Dealing with the rise of Voldemort? Other Muggle-borns? Did they suspect him? It wouldn't surprise him if they did, since they couldn't find him! This must be a first: they could find the Dursleys when they were in the middle of nowhere…so wouldn't they know something wasn't adding up? The good news from the second letter was that he could get away without having to bewitch a couple into thinking they're his parents—he'd simply avoid the house on the 15th, and be done.
Harry skimmed the rest of the letter, which held nothing of importance. He stood, considering the situation. Although being an orphan would ideally be a lot easier than pretending to belong to a family, he would never be able to Apparate ahead in time during the summer without someone noticing he was gone. Harry had already committed to at least an entire school year, maybe more, in order to change the past. He pictured himself spending more time than that, coming to the present as an old man. He at least owed a few years of his life to help people, to repay his debt to all the people he had endangered. But that didn't mean he had to stay longer than necessary.
He had to save time in the summer to make up for the age he'd gain during school. That meant being in a day at three hours tops, or preferably not at all. Hopefully, he could spread himself out for no more than five days in his time over the next month. Harry would only spend time becoming Snape's friend, not stalking him and Lily.
He dug into his bag and pulled out a sandwich, eating it quickly. He wiped his hands and got ready before he set off to eleven in the morning on the next day.
Harry made sure the house showed no sign that anyone had been here, then left.
Over the next few weeks, Harry fell into a rhythm. He met Snape, or rather Severus, as he was now used to calling him, right after hung out with Lily. Each day he use a different way to get a bit closer to knowing the seemingly unreachable boy.
One day, Harry brought the acceptance letter from Hogwarts. He left the envelope at home so Severus wouldn't know where he lived.
As Severus was heading home, he saw Jacob running toward him, madly waving something in his hand. "I got it! I got the acceptance letter!" At first Snape was surprised, both to see Jacob again despite their established friendship and because he was right about Harry being a wizard. As he got closer, Harry could see smugness replace disbelief in his impenetrable black eyes.
Harry handed Severus the pieces of parchment, then bent down, hands on his knees. As he pretended to catch his breath from the run, Severus looked over the letter. He didn't seem to quite know what to say, so he waited awkwardly for Harry to recover. It didn't take much longer before Jacob Walker, the hyper, supposed eleven-year-old, was back to his usual happy self. Harry was sampling many different personalities in his attempt to seem younger, but nothing felt comfortable. At the least, he tried to balance Severus' solemnity.
"I'm excited to go to Diagon Alley! Although…my parents are ending up to not like the whole magic thing," said Harry, his tone suggesting he felt guilty for this.
At least the statement seemed to get a reaction from Severus, who seemed frustrated, clearly proud of having at least one magical parent. "Who do they think they are?" He stuck his chin out in indignation. "I bet you they're just…" he trailed off, searching for the proper word.
"Jealous?" Harry finished. "I don't think so. They think it's odd, to be like I am. Abnormal. I can still go, but I can tell they wish I was the way I used to be."
Harry diverted their conversation from pitying his life to "learning" about Severus. "At least…well, your parents are proud that you're a wizard, right?"
Severus' mouth curled in disgust and he looked away. "My dad isn't. He's a Muggle."
He paused, as if ashamed of this, so Harry asked, "Do you not like Muggles?"
Severus looked at him. "I don't like my father," he replied simply, and didn't explain further.
They started walking in silence as Severus continued home. Harry tried picking up where they left off. "My parents don't want to take me to Diagon Alley." He let the statement hang in the air. Another awkward silence ensued. Severus finally found something to say in response.
"My mum is just giving me money, she's not shopping with me…they don't really, I mean…" Severus trailed off, once again self-conscious of his family.
Harry studied his blank face, then gave a sad smile and looked forward. "It'll get better, you know. Even if you have a rotten family, you have someone who cares about you a lot, right?" That was how he, personally, got through living with the Dursleys.
Without meaning to, Snape replied (even though it was a rhetorical question), "Lily." After he said it, his eyes widened in horror. He had revealed her importance to Jacob Walker, his new acquaintance, as though it was a big secret. In a way, it was, because Lily never knew how much Severus cared for her…or had she?
"You're lucky, then. To have her. Make sure it lasts," said Harry gently. Snape looked away, hiding a smile, the genuine kind that only Lily knew.
"So…she's she a witch, too?"
"Yeah," he answered, lost in thought. They said nothing more until they reached Snape's house.
Again, the shame of his heritage washed over Snape at the appearance of his house. "Well…here it is…" he said uncomfortably, and started toward the house.
"Okay, I'll see you around then." Harry waved goodbye and continued walking. As he disappeared from the view of the house, he pulled out his watch. It had the current date and time on it, plus, in the center, a timer that he now started. When it got to 16 hours, he'd rest.
He jumped twenty-three and a half hours ahead in time. It was like clockwork, Lily and Severus. They always parted around the same time, leaving Harry to meet up with Severus.
They were getting closer, day by day. After 5 hours of Harry's time, he and Severus spent about forty-five minutes each day walking around. And by the 13th of August, as Harry could feel himself wearing down from sleep deprivation, Severus asked:
"Would you want a ride to—to Diagon Alley? I think my mum would be fine with it. I mean, we'd travel by Floo powder, but…" Severus didn't meet Harry's eyes.
Harry was taken aback by his offer. It was the first direct sign of kindness shown from Severus to him, not Lily. He was so surprised that it took him a while to respond. "Oh. Oh! Yes, that would be very…very nice," he managed, clearing his throat. "I don't know how else I would get there, honestly," he lied.
Severus blushed at his sincerity.
Harry smiled. The sky was clear, the sun hot but not pressing, and there was a slight breeze. Two squirrels crossed their path, chasing each other up a tree. It was nice just enjoying the weather.
"I hope we're in the same house," said Harry, and even though he knew that Severus wanted to be in Slytherin, Jacob didn't. It was an innocent wish, but one that could end up being controversial. Severus had told him all about Hogwarts, while Harry pretended to be surprised and asked questions at all the right times. He had described the traits needed to be placed in a different house, subtly biased against Gryffindor. He had failed to mention, however, his desire to be in Slytherin.
"Yeah," Snape agreed half-heartedly.
Harry decided to ignore his unenthusiastic, we-don't-need-to-continue-the-subject tone. "I honestly don't know where I'd get placed. Maybe Hufflepuff. But…I think I'd know where you'd be put. Even though I don't know you well."
If he didn't have Snape's full attention before, he definitely had it now. "What one?" he asked eagerly.
"Gryffindor," Harry replied simply, and immediately disappointment shaded Snape's face.
"What? Why? Do I come off as stupid to you?"
"That's not—Of course not. That's not what Gryffindor is." Harry gathered his opinions, planning out what would be best to convince him. "It's not for…arrogant, thick-headed, big-muscled brutes. It's for the wise, brave, and good-hearted. You don't need to be a hero or a show-off with a high ego to be in it."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "How would you know?"
Harry cleared his throat. "Er, which house did you have in mind?" A familiar superior look crossed Snape's face.
"Slytherin," he replied smugly.
Harry looked on him in shock. "You're joking, right? You don't seem the type for Slytherin."
Snape narrowed his eyes at him. "And why not? You're a Mud—a Muggle—so, er, well, you don't know enough about it to understand."
Oops. He forgot about how much he's supposed to know. "I know enough. Let me just tell you this." Severus sighed and looked away in exasperation. "If you want to lose that kind friend of yours, Lily, I think, then go ahead and be happy with Slytherin. But you're better than that. People go bad in that house. You don't need that to happen to you. You're kind, caring—and you're going to be a great wizard." Harry turned, then added, "Just think about that." And with that, he ran away from the perplexed boy.
Harry had been trying so hard to act childish that he had become intolerant and immature. He did truly believe, however unjustly, in Slytherin's inferiority. And while he felt a little bad for snapping at Severus, he hoped that it gave him something to think about. Maybe he would eventually want to be Gryffindor. He just had to convince him.
Harry's watch read 10 hours so far, and he was getting tired. Since the time he had woken up from Lily's house it had probably been 16 hours, and it was exhausting to be constantly walking and Apparating. He went to his new house, looked through the bedrooms, and chose the more comfortable and spacious of the two. He spun the Time-Turner ahead to nightfall to make it more comfortable, then settled into bed.
Harry dreamt of Quidditch. He hadn't ridden a broom in months, so it was only a matter of time before his mind reminded him of it. The dream was kind of vague. He could remember flying with a few other people who had blurry, random features. Harry immersed himself with the familiar swooping sensation, the lightness that was exaggerated by the dream.
When he awoke, he couldn't remember the dream, but ached with the desire to fly. He was tempted to grab his broom, camouflage himself, take off…But he couldn't waste time doing that sort of thing. There would be a chance for that in his first year of school. Or would there be? He had to blend in. Even being above average at flying, whether or not he was ever got on the Quidditch team, would make him stand out.
Dispirited, Harry dragged himself out of bed and put on his glasses, which he had shaped into rectangles to distinguish himself from his classic circular pair. He gathered all of his things, making sure there was absolutely no sign that he had been there recently. He was going to the 16th of August, the day after his home would be visited.
After fiddling with the device, Harry appeared two days ahead of time. Sure enough, when he went to the front room, there was what appeared to be a book bound in manila paper. He grinned and picked up the package. He ripped it open to reveal a good-sized midnight-blue book that read, Everything You Need to Know about the wizarding world. Harry flipped through it, grinning, then went back to the bedroom to put it away.
He splashed his face with water, dressed, and ate, trying to refresh himself so he could concentrate on apparating. When he was ready, he disappeared under his cloak and was gone with a faint popping noise. Harry reappeared by Lily and Snape's meeting place. Luckily, the sound he made when Apparating was never loud enough to be heard over the sounds of the forest.
He was a bit early to meet Snape, so he took the opportunity to walk a few hundred feet away. This way, he'd look less like he knew about Snape's meetings with Lily. Harry took his cloak and wand and put them behind a tree where they were unlikely to be seen.
Soon enough, Snape was headed in his direction, walking alongside the river. He looked a bit sad, his hair droopier than usual. He seemed to perk up slightly when he saw Harry, however.
When they reached each other, Severus greeted him first. "Hello."
"Hi. Listen, I'm sorry about what I said earlier."
"It's fine. But…I still want to be in Slytherin, you know."
Harry tried to hide his disappointment. Even after what he said to Snape, he wanted to be in Slytherin? Did he want to ruin his life?
"Whatever rumors there are about the house…" Yeah. Rumors. Sure, Harry thought glumly. "…it doesn't mean that it'll affect me. And, I can choose whatever house I want." He didn't make any promises, like, "Don't worry, I won't get into the Dark Arts, and I promise not to screw my life up." What he did say was: "Maybe it won't even matter, maybe I won't get to choose."
Harry decided to tell Snape what he knew about the Sorting ceremony. "I read…in the book Hogwarts gave me…that you can choose. Well, sort of. They take what you want into account."
"So I'm guaranteed to be in Slytherin?" Snape asked eagerly. Harry made a small sound of impatience, which he tried to cover with a cough. The sharp-minded boy noticed, unfortunately.
"I don't get it. Why do you want me to be in Gryffindor so badly?"
Harry sighed. "Because," he replied, exasperated.
"Can we just talk about something else?" Harry decided to drop it.
Snape frowned. "Fine."
"What day would you be going to Diagon Alley?" It was probably not the best time to ask if Harry could come with him, when they were still kind of tense, but at least it was something other than the House issue.
"August 31st." Snape kicked a dandelion that had turned white. Its seeds flew into the air, floating around like little parachutes.
"Isn't that cutting it a bit close?"
"No, my mum'll leave me and then pick me up later. I think she'll take me to Platform nine-and-three-quarters, too. "
"Hm. I don't know what my parents are going to do. What's that Floo Powder you mentioned before?"
Snape briefly described it for Harry. Then he looked somewhat guilty. "I know before I had asked if you wanted to come with me. Since your parents didn't want to take you…"
Harry's eyes lit up at his indirect offer. "Really? You still would let me come with you?" I really should be an actor, Harry thought.
"Sure. And I'm not sure how well you'd manage on your own, anyway," Snape added. He clearly jumped on any opportunity to act superior, since he probably didn't have the chance often enough. It was weird to see such a boy, who was so poorly taken care of, act this…arrogant.
Then Harry caught himself. He shouldn't judge Snape just because of that. He would have to deal with the Marauders, who could show up in a dictionary under the word arrogant. Or so he assumed.
"Yeah, good point," Harry forced himself to say. Snape took it as an honest compliment. As sharp as he was, he was not adept at reading human emotion, or portraying it, for that matter. Sadly, Lily was probably his only friend before Hogwarts, so he had very little social skills.
After ten minutes, Snape had reverted to what Harry was used to—withdrawn, letting Harry control the conversation. He gave his input when necessary, and very rarely when it wasn't. An example:
"So. Who's this Lily person?"
It was almost like cartoon, the way the heat rose in Snape's face. It was weird to see such a pale boy flush with embarrassment.
"Er…Well…W-what do you mean? Nothing, Nobody." His face reddened even more when he saw Harry was looking at him with his eyebrows raised and a grin on his face, conveying he saw right through Snape's claims.
"She's my friend, okay? Drop it!" Snape snapped.
Harry put up his hands. "Whoa, calm down, I was just asking."
Thankfully, they had just reached Severus' house.
"Tomorrow, same time?" Harry asked, trying not laugh at Snape's ridiculous face.
"Yeah," he replied stiffly, and ran up the path to the front door.
The next days flew by. Of course, they were more like hours leading up to the 31st. In total, it was less than a day in Harry's time. It was strange being with just one person for all that time, and it wore him out pretty quickly. It was not long before Harry became very short with him. Now it was Severus—he grew used to thinking of him as "Severus" rather than "Snape"—who weakly controlled the conversation, not Harry. He was so relieved on the last day before he went to sleep, Harry was much more energetic than usual. Severus interpreted this as excitement for Diagon Alley and Hogwarts.
"Yes, yes, do you know what animal you're going to get?" Harry asked, looking longingly ahead for a sign that they were approaching Severus' house.
"An owl, probably."
"Yeah, me too. I've never seen one in real life."
"I've seen plenty, but I don't know what kind I'd want."
"A white one would be really cool." Harry ignored the stab in stomach as he remembered Hedwig. Really? He still had to be sad over his owl?
"I could see you having a black one, if they exist." Harry glanced at Severus' familiar dark ensemble.
"Yeah. That'd be cool." He had an empty look in his eyes.
"You okay?" Harry knew that expression from when Severus was a teacher.
"It's just—I don't think I can buy an owl." Severus looked at the ground. He obviously meant he couldn't afford one, which was hardly surprising considering the state of his home and wardrobe.
"I could buy you one. When's your birthday?"
Severus was shocked at the offer. "No, why would you do that? My birthday is January 9th, that's too far away…"
"Fine, then an early Christmas gift." This was pretty bold, considering they weren't even good friends yet, and who knew whether they'd still be even acquaintances by then.
Severus glowed with happiness. "You'd do that?"
Harry doubted he'd ever gotten such a nice gift. "Course. Just know, you owe me." He felt a jolt as he remembered what Ginny had said to him a few days ago. Owing. Such a complicated, broken concept. He was in debt of so many people, and it seemed he would never, in his lifetime, be able to pay them back. People died for him. Had helped him so much on his quest. What could he do in return? Just buy them owls? Yeah, right.
Severus grinned, walking with a spring in his step (as much of a spring as he could have, he wasn't really the type for skipping, or anything of the sort) for the rest of the way.
Harry trudged along moodily, longing to be home. Later that evening, he collapsed into bed. Being reuinted with his bed was the best thing to happen to Harry in a while. Sleep was such a beautiful thing, he marveled, pulling the covers over himself. He drifted off to sleep, ignoring the thoughts that always seemed to be pressing him.
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