Fixing Past Mistakes
The new first-years of Hogwarts were standing beside the head table, all waiting half-eagerly, half-terrified. The rumours were going rampant, from them having to face trolls to performing magic. It was extremely nerve-wracking, especially for the Muggleborn students. They didn't know any magic; what if they did have to perform it, and in front of all these people? They listened to the song curiously. Most of the older students didn't bother listening, having already head it once before, and had no desire to do so again, apart from a select few.
"Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
"You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
"There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
"You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
"You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
"Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
"Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
"So put me on! Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)
For I'm a Thinking Cap!"
Then their names were called one by one. Relief flowing through everyone, a particular red-headed boy muttered in the crowd, 'I'm going to kill Fred and George' as the hat shouted out the wizards' and witches' new houses. Hermione Granger, a Muggleborn, turned to face Susan Bones and whispered, "It's bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts, A History," as if the witch didn't know. Susan nevertheless just nodded politely, inwardly amused.
They had to choose between four houses: Ravenclaw, where the studious and those with a thirst for knowledge went. Gryffindor, where the bold and courageous were housed; unnoticed at the head table, a certain black-clad Potions Master's lips curled in repugnance. Hufflepuff, where the loyal and supportive went, and last, but by no means least, Slytherin, where the cunning and those with a thirst to prove themselves were housed, as the hat had declared. One by one they all got sorted, but something then happened that hadn't happened before in the history of Hogwarts. A name was called…and no one stepped forward, and not just anyone either.
"Harry Potter!" Minerva McGonagall shouted, as she read his name from the register, one of the names she'd been looking forward to calling for. Finally the next Potter heir was at Hogwarts, and soon he would be in Gryffindor like his father and grandfather before him. Concern began to churn in her gut as nobody came forward; her blue eyes surveyed the room, looking for any sign of a child who resembled his father. Was this a prank? She looked at the list and mentally calculated the names before trying to count the wave of black-robed students still standing waiting to be sorted.
Albus Dumbledore sat up straighter, his own eyes blazing with concern as the child didn't step forward. He was unprepared for this; had his aunt and uncle not gotten him to the station in time? Or had they stupidly thought nobody would come calling? He would have to investigate further; no doubt Harry Potter would be at Hogwarts before night's end. He relaxed back into his seat, sure in the knowledge Harry would be fine. "Continue, Minerva; I'm sure Mr. Potter has simply missed the train," he said loud enough for the students to hear, his lips twitching when he noticed they all calmed down. It was so easy to calm them down; pulling the wool over their eyes was much easier than people in the Ministry, but as always he succeeded.
"Of course," Minerva agreed, hiding her worry as she looked at the next name on the list before calling it out. The sorting continued without any further hitches, until the end of the list had been reached.
"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. To the incoming students, it is always good to see some new smiling faces. A few more words before we eat: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" Dumbledore joyfully cried, as every student sat at a table, their houses decided. He sat back down, and was immediately drawn into a conversation with Minerva.
"Do you think it is something as simple as missing the train?" Minerva asked with her lips pursed, "I always said they were the worst sort of Muggles."
"He is fine, Minerva," Albus placated. "If something had gone wrong, I would know; trust me," he soothed; inwardly though, he wasn't as confident as he appeared.
"Very well," Minerva said, having no choice but to trust the Headmaster, as she had done all those long years ago when Harry had been placed upon the Dursleys' doorstep. She had no idea she would heavily regret not insisting further and checking up on the small child herself. To say it was a tense dinner for a few teachers would be putting it mildy; even Flitwick was slightly worried. Considering that Lily had been his favourite student, they shouldn't be surprised―and she hadn't even been in Ravenclaw.
Minerva stood, clinking her glass, gaining the attention of the students now that the feast was finally finished.
"The forest on the grounds is forbidden to all pupils. Our caretaker, Mr. Filch, has asked me to remind you all that no magic should be used in the corridors between classes. Quidditch trials will be conducted during the second week of term. Anyone interested should see Madam Hooch. And lastly, the third floor corridor on the right hand side is out of bounds to all who do not wish to die a very painful death." Headmaster Dumbledore's voice had turned serious on the warning. "And now the school song!" he said beaming happily as though he hadn't just been speaking about students facing a 'very painful death'.
The prefects took the first-years out of the Great Hall first, taking them to their common room and helping them settle in for the night. Only after allowing a ten-minute head start, did the other students, from second year to seventh, move and make their way slowly up to the stairs, giving them enough time for the youngest students to be in their dorms.
"Severus, Minerva, follow me if you please," Albus said as soon as the last students removed themselves from the hall.
"I have new students to greet; I will not start pandering to Potter's every whim," Severus sneered, infuriated that the boy was already receiving special treatment. They did not go running after every student who failed to appear at Hogwarts, when it was clearly stated how and when to be there—although such a thing hadn't happened before in all his years of teaching at Hogwarts.
"Severus, I'm not in the mood to argue with you; now please follow me," Dumbledore grimly said. Normally he'd just manipulate the conversation to get his way, but he was too worried today
"Very well," Severus conceded, gritting his teeth in anger; however, he did notice that Minerva didn't defend Harry. She was obviously extremely worried about him. He rolled his eyes heavenward; their worry was probably for naught. Potter probably believed he was too special to go by train. The image of Potter waiting in his house for them to come to him made him shudder in contempt. No, he wasn't going to pander to Potter's every whim; he'd quickly learn he was nobody special.
The trip from the school was made in silence, although Severus wondered why they weren't just using a Portkey or Fawkes. It certainly would have been faster than the coach they took. The time was spent in tense silence, their bodies exuding worry and fear, and Severus just barely withheld his sneer. They were just playing right into Potter's hands; his lips twitched at the knowledge he'd be able to give the boy detention and take points away before being sorted ― a new record for him. Stepping out the coach in Hogsmeade, only then did Severus realise he wasn't privy to where Potter lived.
"Where are we going?" Severus snapped, irritated.
"I shall Side-along Apparate you, Severus," Minerva said. She knew where they were going; Severus, on the other hand, did not. Once again she was not responding to Snape's ire ― she truly did fear the worst right now.
Severus didn't even bother replying as they disappeared, their insides feeling as though they had been sucked through the tube. They appeared on the darkened street of Privet Drive. Albus didn't waste a second as he began to stalk up to the garden of Number four, a destination he hadn't forgotten, or would be likely ever to forget.
"Do you notice something?" Severus asked, cautiously drawing his wand and clutching it tightly in his hand.
"What?" Minerva asked, staring blankly at Severus, not understanding what he was getting at.
"The wards; you told me there were wards around Potter's home," Severus said bluntly. "I cannot feel anything, not even a single charm." He could sense dark magic better than light, but since blood wards were considered 'dark,' he should have been able to feel them long before he stood at the front door of Potter's home. For the first time since this trip started, he began to feel a slither of worry crawling up his spine. He was naturally a suspicious person; it came with the territory of being a spy, so the feeling was nothing new. What if the Death Eaters had gotten to the boy? Just because they had been inactive, it didn't make them any less dangerous. In fact, it made them even more hazardous, in his opinion.
"You are right," Minerva said. Catching up with the Headmaster she asked him, "Albus, is it possible they moved?"
"No. I told her they must remain here; it was vital for the blood protection to function fully," Dumbledore replied, knocking on the door, uncaring that it was so late at night. He relaxed when lights came on, sure that everything would be explained.
"Yes?" asked a short plump woman, staring at them from the narrow opening of her door, cautiously.
"I'm sorry…may I speak to Petunia Dursley, ma'am?" Albus asked kindly. His twinkle was absent as he stared at the woman who reminded him of Madam Malkin.
"Oh, I'm afraid that's not possible; they no longer live here," Alexandria said.
"Excuse me?" Albus gasped in shock, rearing back as if he'd been struck. She had moved against his explicit instructions on the importance of blood wards?
"Did they leave a forwarding address by any chance?" Minerva asked, her voice trembling.
"They are in prison," Alexandria said. "I'm sorry I cannot help any more; goodbye." She closed her door abruptly, shuddering; there was just something about those three people. She quickly put the lock on and the chain, keeping her home as secure as possible, unaware that, if they had wished, they could have undone it all with one little word.
"Prison?" Albus murmured. What on earth had Petunia done? Was Harry in the Muggle child-care system? Or with his uncle? It would make matters much worse.
"Minerva, did a letter address itself to Mr. Potter?" Albus asked after a few seconds of stunned silence.
"You know I don't read them," Minerva said; she used a quill to sign them and that was all.
"Perhaps Arabella might shed some light on the situation," Albus suggested.
"If they are in prison, we may get answers quicker if you investigate at the police station," Severus offered.
"If Arabella cannot shed light on it, then you can investigate it," Albus said.
Severus bit his lip. He had meant Dumbledore to do it, but Dumbledore had given it back to him; typical, leaving him all his dirty work to do. He didn't bother arguing with the Headmaster, aware that he would just be manipulated into it. Oh, he knew Albus was as sly as they came, and was always cautious of how much he revealed to the old man.
With a plan now in mind, they swiftly made their way towards Wisteria Walk. Dumbledore looked out of place in his colourful robes; meanwhile Severus and Minerva blended into the night with their dark-coloured ones. There was hardly a light on along the street, just a few upstairs lights still on. Dumbledore impatiently knocked on Arabella's door; his heart was pounding like a drum― he hadn't expected this at all. He didn't do well when his plans fell to pieces; just what had Petunia done? The blood wards were important. He had to get her out of prison, and Potter back in her custody quickly. He couldn't care less what she had done; he was curious where her husband was. He seemed to forget the 'THEY' in the sentence the woman had spoken just a few minutes earlier.
He was quickly stumped when a young woman answered the door. This was the house he'd assigned to Arabella, so what the hell was going on? He was utterly baffled and he did not like it in the slightest. "May I speak to Arabella Figg please?" Dumbledore asked, the strain he was feeling bleeding through.
"I'm sorry, you have the wrong house," she said before closing her door.
"Are you sure this is the correct address, Albus?" Minerva asked, panic and fear lacing her voice.
"It is," Albus confirmed, now terrified.
"What do we do now?" Minerva whispered.
"Severus, find out what you can here. Minerva and I will go back to Hogwarts and find the address for Mr. Potter," Dumbledore said, deeply unimpressed and troubled.
"Very well," Severus grudgingly agreed, Apparating from the street. The only sound he made was a little pop like that associated with a backfiring car.
"Sign here, and I'll buzz you in," the officer said, passing over a pen and a clipboard after inspecting Severus' ID card and finding nothing wrong with it. It was more than his job was worth if he let someone pass who wasn't supposed to be here.
Severus quickly signed his 'fake' name ―the one he'd used on the ID card― and with that he was buzzed in and entered the evidence locker to get the file box. The room was bigger than the Great Hall, so it took some time searching before he finally found the box he was looking for. Gazing around he found stairs, and moved them to the area he needed; the box he wanted was directly above him. He didn't want to do magic here; it was just too risky, especially with all the people around. Yanking the box out of the shelf, he began to trek back down and made his way over to a table. Finally, after two hours of hunting, he'd know just what Petunia and Vernon Dursley had done. He, unlike Albus, had caught what the woman had said. Opening the box, he withdrew the files; opening them, he immediately gagged in horror at what he was seeing. He closed his eyes, but the image was still burned in his retinas, never to be removed—unless, that is, he used a spell to remove it, which he was seriously tempted to do.
"Merlin help us," Severus murmured. He'd seen a lot as a Death Eater, but this just topped it all. Burned into his memory was a picture of a three-year-old boy who had been starved to death. Harry Potter was dead, and Petunia and Vernon Dursley were in prison for his murder. The official cause of death: rickets, starvation, abuse…the list was endless, really. Severus placed everything back in the box, unable to look at it anymore. His stomach was rebelling against the food he'd eaten at the feast.
Slumping to the floor, he closed his eyes, tears burning in those overly bright obsidian eyes. He felt as if he was losing Lily all over again, and in a way he was. Harry had been his sole reason for living, keeping himself alive to protect the last thing of Lily's on this earth. What else did he have to live for? Teaching snot-nosed brats how to brew precious potions? Not much of a reason to him, who loathed teaching.
He had failed.
The last thing of Lily's was gone.
Big thank you to Jake and Jordre for editing this story!