Praeparet Bellum (Prepare for War): Years I-III
Come and sip from the cup of destruction
All rights and privileges, (except for original content and characters) belong to J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter franchise.
Chapter Twenty Five: Waters Run Deep
June 3rd, 1992
Despite Madam Pomphrey's protests, Harry was up and prepared for class that afternoon. Physically, he could be better- but he had grown restless, knowing that Voldemort would soon be making his move.
He entered Snape's classroom- late, of course- and was made to sit next to an empty cauldron while his peers were already a quarter through their Forgetfulness Potion. He took the exam in stride, pointedly ignoring Snape's scowling presence over his shoulder.
It was strange, but Harry knew that potion inside and out. He had used it shamelessly through November and December, urging his room-mates to merely 'forget' something in library or in the common rooms; this gave him several opportunities to sneak off into the Chambers for his daily brewing. Even Draco- the Potions prodigy he was- couldn't detect the Forgetfulness elixir in his afternoon tea. Yes, poisoning his friends was wrong, Harry knew, but it had already been established that he had a bit of a skewed moral compass.
Two hours later and despite his late start, Harry was one of the first students to finish. Snape didn't say a word as he accepted Harry's vial, turning his nose down at the boy before marking something illegible in his notes. (Harry couldn't help but notice Snape's proud smirk when Draco finished the potion second. No favoritism at all, no.)
His day clear, Harry headed back up to the Hospital Wing for his bi-hourly potions before retiring down into the Chamber of Secrets. Letalis- the protective nest-mother she was- was appropriately horrified at the thought of her Little Viper being nearly killed.
"No one gets to kill you except me!" she hissed, slamming her lengthy tail against the wall. Resisting a flinch at her anger, Harry chuckled weakly, tucking the eye dropper away into his pocket. He blinked away the moisture in his eyes, the 'Adamantine Body' working it's way through his retinas with very little pressure.
"I never liked the two-faced man." Letalis said solemnly, moving to curl possessively around her Little Viper. Harry hummed fondly, running his hand across her shifting green-grey scales.
"My sentiments exactly," he told her, kneading his palm into her long spine. "I'd sic you on him, but I'm afraid Voldemort is fully capable of defeating you. I don't want you to get hurt."
Letalis made a growling sound deep in her throat, pulling away swiftly. "You do not think I could beat him? Tom Riddle's host is pathetically weak...I could kill him with a single look." Determination was bright in her beady orbs, but Harry simply shook his head, eyes downcast.
"I know you could, dear friend. But this is my battle and I do not wish to kill Quirrell. Despite his misdeeds, he still may be redeemable. Voldemort, on the other hand, needs a delicate touch. I have plans for him, Letalis," he said mischievously.
"Don't you worry. But, on a separate topic, I have ordered a young elk for your afternoon meal. Taurus- the kitchen elf you so adore- has promised to bring it down soon. But if you wish for me to fetch it, you'll have to stop constricting me, love..."
Meanwhile- high above Harry's head- Severus Snape was stalking up into the Hospital Wing, dark eyes blaring. The one child sleeping in a cot- a second-year with a nasty batch of boils- jolted awake, eyes wide as he watched the dour professor slam into Madam Pomphrey's office.
"What is the meaning of this, Poppy?" He demanded, slapping a sheet of parchment onto her desk. The woman- dressed in her usual white gown, a strange yellow stain on her apron- was startled out of her paperwork. Madam Pomphrey looked up to see the Potions Master's face red with anger, and her eyebrows rose at his undue vexation.
"Why, it's Potter's medical report, of course," she replied coolly, pushing away the paper with the tip of her quill. "I thought that it was quite clear when I labeled it 'Results of Harry James Potter's Medical Examination'."
Snape huffed, black eyes narrowing. "Do not act so flippant with me, woman. Obviously," he spat through gritted teeth. "I am asking about the information regarding Potter's examination. What is this about undernourishment and physical abuse? I'd expect this from another one of my Slytherins, but certainly not Potter. I can see the speculations all throughout your analysis; you cannot be serious, Poppy!"
Poppy shook her head solemnly, setting down her papers to level Snape with a sad look. "But it's true, Severus. I applied the spell several times, and he's shown all the signs of physical and emotional abuse, much like a young Slytherin I once knew-"
Snape prowled across the room distractedly, dark eyes blaring. "I am nothing like Potter!" Snape snapped. "And Dumbledore would never place his precious Golden Boy anywhere less than a paradise. Your assumptions are utterly impossible. He must be pampered on hand-and-foot, and is just too clumsy and pompous like his dear old dad-"
Poppy stood suddenly, practically growling as she towered over the sitting professor. "Severus Snape, I am ashamed of you! You know nothing of Potter's life outside of Hogwarts. You know nothing of his childhood, nor his personality; You are merely making assumptions, yourself, based on your own ignorance and abhorrence for a dead man. Son of James Potter or not, the facts are right in front of you." She stabbed her quill at the examination papers, pushing them under Snape's nose.
"I detected muscle contusions, a history of deep bruising and burns, unhealed scars and bone fractures dating back since he was five. He is so very small compared to his classmates, and I don't remember either of his parents being so petite. His growth has clearly been stunted, having been starved and deprived since youth. I'm sure you've noticed his eating habits- or lack thereof!- and the bags under his eyes- I spoke to Draco Malfoy when he came through, and the boy relayed a bit of information on the subject-"
"-Draco now, too?" Severus snarled. "Is everyone so aware of Potter's mistreatment save me? This is absolutely absurd!"
Madam Pomphrey let out a long sigh, her anger dissipating into desperateness. "Absurdity aside," she forced out. "Tell me, Severus- does Harry seem isolated and secretive among even his friends? Does he show an unhealthy distrust of others, especially adults?"
"Simple arrogance," Snape dismissed. "He's a trouble-maker, always off sneaking where he shouldn't be-"
Poppy interrupted. "I understand that you have a vendetta of sorts against the Potter family, but Harry is Lily's son too. You must do what is right by him, as his Head of House...and his sworn protector." At her words, Snape's mouth slid closed. He ran a hand over his long, dark hair, the expression of an old man shattering his stiff facade.
"I..." he stammered, loosing his usual contained eloquence. "I don't believe it. Or perhaps I do- I don't know. It's just the thought of the Boy-Who-Lived being abused...and...Lily's son-" he broke off, face pained.
"Hard to imagine, isn't it?" Poppy murmured, sliding back into her seat. She looked at her colleague, wondering if perhaps she should offer him medical assistance. He looked a bit ill. "I always knew Petunia despised her sister-" Snape continued, voice low. "But to take it out on a young child, and Harry Potter of all people-"
Poppy gave Snape a long look at that, raising her eyes to catch his. "The same could be said for you and James, Severus," she told him softly. "Don't be blind to this child's need for love, just because of an old grudge; A grudge that, frankly, should have ended the moment James gave his life to stand against your old Master."
"James Potter was an arrogant fool, and his son is no different." Snape attempted weakly, but they both knew his words were a lie.
"This goes far deeper than a regular abuse case, Severus," Poppy said solemnly. "Harry may be James and Lily's son, but he is also the boy who saved us from a lifetime of terror. He is important, Severus, and not just because of his famous title. He is a child- just like you once were- and he has been through more than enough pain for a lifetime. You know what to do, Severus."
Severus looked up at the nurse after a few moments of silence, hesitantly taking Potter's medical report from her outstretched hand. "I do," he said solemnly. "But that doesn't mean I have to like it," he added under his breath. As the older Slytherin dragged himself out of the office, Poppy watched him leave with a no lack of grief in her watery hazel eyes.
"I'm sure you will do what is right, Severus. You always do."
June 4th, 1992
Arturo Serafin was not a kind man. He was crass, rueful and too damn powerful for his own good. The odd fifty-year old was an esteemed Specterist, a wizard who profusely studied the going-ons of the 'living dead'.
Specterism was a ancient subject, closely tied into Necromancy, voiding one major difference- Arturo specialized in ridding the spirits of the dead, not bringing them back to life. A very large difference.
Harry hadn't enjoyed corresponding with the man via the school owls, astonished at how many swear words one man could fit into a single letter- but Harry had to admit; jaded as Arturo was, he was damn good at his job. Harry handed off his most recent letter to a scruffy brown owl, it's dark beak shining in the sunlight. As it vaulted out of the Owlery, Harry made his way down to breakfast.
As Harry sat at the Slytherin table, Blaise passed over a prim white envelope, sloppily addressed to Harry Potter. "This came with the post," Blaise said simply, taking a sip of orange juice. Harry cast a number of detection spells on the parchment until a soft green hue emitted from his wand tip and, flipping over the envelope, he blanched at the Saint Mungo's insignia on the back- a bone and wand crossed in fuschia wax.
"Who do you know from Saint Mungo's?" Draco asked, reaching over Harry to gingerly grab a slice of bacon. The Slytherins had been startlingly subdued for the last few days, their gazes discreetly on Harry as he went through his daily motions. Draco admitted earlier that the common room had been in a state of shock after Harry's trip to the Hospital Wing, subtly concerned for his well-being.
The worry and relief had diminished after his first day back, but nearly every student at Slytherin table now had a wand out, thoroughly examining their food for tampering; this was more for their benefit than Harry's, but he found it slightly touching that his friends wouldn't allow him to eat until they were sure his porridge was clear.
"Hmm. No one I can think of," Harry lied, pulling out a thin piece of parchment, unfolding it slowly. He could think of several, although they were currently living in 1999 without him.
Harry had begun thinking a lot about his divergence from the old timeline. He wondered if it still existed somewhere in another dimension, or if it was destroyed for good. The changes he made in this world was far too great, and he worried for the well-being of his old life. He also wondered how Ron and his other old friends were reacting to his disappearance, although he very may well never know. He remembered the ancient Time Turner and it's inscription- 'Surrender first and the years will last; loose the future to change the past'. To quench his lingering curiosity, he swore to visit to the Room of Hidden Things and see if he could find the Turner once more, if only to study it.
Shaking away the train of thought, he refocused his attention on the letter in front of him, a swell of emotion rising in his chest. It was from Sirius.
As soon as I heard you were at Hogwarts, I knew that I had to contact you- but I'm afraid I've been a bit preoccupied until now. My name is Sirius Black, and, if you've read any of the newspapers lately, I'm sure you already know a bit of who I am.
I have recently been released from Azkaban Prison- a horrid place, I'll tell you- for reasons far too complicated for me to describe on paper. To make it simple, I was unlawfully jailed for the betrayal of your parents, and for the murder of many, many other people. These accusations were untrue, obviously, but I was nonetheless sent to live in the worst place imaginable for the last ten years.
Since my release, I've been through a whirlwind of court rooms, hospital beds and Ministry offices, struggling to learn what had happened in the last ten years. Among other news, when I heard that you were placed with Lily's beast of a sister, I knew I had disappointed you in my duties as your Godfather.
Perhaps a bit of background information is due:
When I was in school, I was a great friend of your parents; James Potter was one of my best friends- my partner-in-crime, a fellow trouble maker- while Lily Evans was one of the smartest witches of our age. I was with your parents all through their whirlwind of a relationship, and in Autumn of 1978, I was made to be your father's Best Man in their wedding.
To add fuel to the fire, on the day of your birth I was entrusted by Lily and James to be your Godfather. I held you as a newborn, I changed your explosive diapers, I gave you your first broomstick and I was there on your first birthday to see you smother your chubby baby face with chocolate cake. You were like a son to me, and I deeply regret not being there for you when Lily and James died.
I was angry, I was grieving, I was foolish- I chased after their true betrayer (a supposed friend of ours named Peter, who sold their location out to You-Know-Who). I chased after a rat rather than stay with my best friend's orphaned son, a horrific realization I came to learn the moment I stepped out of that damned prison. You needed me, and I left you for my revenge. I don't know if I can ever redeem myself to you, but I can sure as hell try.
I wish to meet you, Harry. I want to see the boy you've grown to become, to tell you stories of your parents, and be the family you never had. I will soon be declared sane enough to be 'released into society', and as the school year is dwindling, I wish to see you this Summer. If the meeting goes well, I want to offer you a sanctuary, a home far different from what Petunia Dursley and her pig of a husband were supposed to offer you. (Yes, I have met the unfortunate Dursley's- and I'm sure, as sure I am of my name, that they have not grown any more pleasant through the years).
If you are willing- and I truthfully hope to Merlin that you are- I can meet you at Kings Cross Station on June 20th, and take you to a little Ice-Cream shop in Diagon Alley for a treat. (I do hope that Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor is still in business- great man, Florean. He once got your dad and I out of a little skirmish in front of his shop one day, involving a pair of high-heel shoes and Peruvian Powder- but that's a story for another day.)
Owl me back as soon as you can, preferably to Number 12, Grimmauld Place, London (this is where I will be staying once I am released), and my House Elf will transfer the mail to Saint Mungo's if I don't get out by then. The owls at the hospital come out a bit loopy, if you can imagine, and I don't wish for our letters to end up in the wrong hands.
Hope to meet you soon,