Chapter 12 Dobby 'Helps'

Harry had to be woken at seven the next morning but he bounced out of bed and was eating breakfast enthusiastically twenty minutes later. Life was good. No more Dursley's ever. Life was excellent. He accepted his list of morning tasks without protest and when Snape left to inspect the Slytherin dorms, he set to work.

A couple of hours later he heard the pop of a house elf and turned expecting to see Elise with a tea tray.

"Dobby!" he cried "What happened to you?" Dobby's ears were bandaged and he had a slash across his right cheek.

"Dobby had to punish himself, sir. But Dobby had to come and take Mr Harry Potter away from Hogwarts, sir. It's not safe here. Bad things will happen."

"Elise!" Harry shouted, but he was too late. She appeared in the room just as Dobby grabbed Harry's arm and popped away.

Harry tumbled onto the carpet in his old bedroom in Privet Drive. The bed, desk and most of the floor was littered with Dudley's cast-off belongings.

"Dobby, I don't live here now. They're not my guardians anymore!" cried Harry. "Look they filled my room with junk." Dobby clicked his fingers and the belongings gathered themselves into neat piles. And shrank so that they all fit into one cardboard box.

"Arrg.. Dobby you just used magic here again. Are you trying to get me into trouble?"

"No Mr Harry Potter, sir. I be making the room tidy for you."

"I can't stay here, Dobby. My Uncle Vernon is a violent man. He's more dangerous than Hogwarts."

"No Mr Harry Potter, sir. Terrible, terrible, things will happen at Hogwarts. You must not stay."

"Please take me somewhere else Dobby. I'll stay anywhere except here." But Dobby was gone.

Harry sat on the bed and put his head in his hands. The house was silent now, but even if his uncle was at work it was unlikely that his aunt would stay out all day. He tried the bedroom door but it was locked as he thought, since the style of lock his uncle had bought had a default closed position. The window no longer had bars, but it was quite a long drop to the front lawn. He wondered if his magic would help him if he jumped, or whether he would more likely break his ankles and not be able to get away.

He looked round the room for anything that might help him lower himself out of the window. There was a thin sheet on the bed. Harry tore it into four strips lengthwise, then knotted the strips together. He tied one end to the leg of his bed that was nearest the window. As he stood up, a car pulled into the drive. He stepped back from the window and sat on the floor to stay out of sight. Harry could hear car doors slamming shut and then the front door being unlocked. The gruff voice of his uncle and the reedy voice of his aunt floated up the stairs. Harry waited.

Back at Hogwarts, Elise was frantic. The cardinal rule of the house elf was: Never be seen by the students. The fourth year Gryffindor/ Slytherin Potions class saw her. Snape vanished all the potions and sent the class to the library, holding back the Weasley twins. As Elise describe the elf who had kidnapped Harry, Snape confirmed with them that it may have been the same one who had visited him over the summer. He sent a Patronus message to the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall and they met a few minutes later in the Headmaster's study.

"I suspect that the elf may belong to the Malfoy family, Headmaster," began Snape. "but if they are involved in a plot, there is unlikely to any evidence at Malfoy Manor. They were raided only last month, much to Lucius' annoyance, but nothing was found. We will not get information by approaching them directly. They would likely kill the elf, if they had any suspicion."

"I think the wisest course would be to check Privet Drive," said Professor McGonagall. "The elf may believe it is Harry's home still. Can we floo to Arabella Figg's?"

Without waiting for an answer, Snape grabbed floo powder and shouted his destination. His heart was in his throat, thinking of Harry in the place Snape had promised he would never return. Rushing past Arabella with a hasty apology, he disillusioned himself and ran to the next street. He slowed down as he approached the front of the house. He could see the two adults sitting in the lounge watching television. Casting a silencing charm, he unlocked the door and climbed the stairs. He worked his way down the locks on Harry's door and quietly opened it to see a terrified Harry about to climb out of the window.

"It's me, Harry, don't panic." Snape said quietly.

"Where are you, Professor? I can't see you," he whispered.

Snape put a hand on his arm. "I'm going to make you invisible Harry, then we can just walk down the stairs and out of the door. Now just hold onto my robe so that you can follow me safely."

"The third stair from the bottom creaks," whispered Harry.

"Don't worry, I cast a silencing charm. They won't notice anything." Snape told him.

A couple of minutes later the Dursley's both spilt their tea as a sound like a gunshot filled the street. They couldn't have known that their nephew and his new guardian had just disapparated to the gates of Hogwarts.

Two invisible wizards clasped each other tightly for long moments, both trembling a little, before the elder removed the disillusionment charm and sent his second Patronus message of the day.

"Come on Harry, we are going to Hogsmeade to celebrate," announced Snape leading him away from the castle.

"Aren't I supposed to be grounded? And what was that?"

"This is your reward for keeping your head in a crisis and helping me to find you quickly. You get a free pass this afternoon. And that is a Patronus. It's a sort of magical protector that can take messages over long distances very quickly."

"It's beautiful. I want one of those."

"Well they're not all the same, but they all glow silver. I hope you have a Patronus one day because they are a joyful thing to behold."

Harry started giggling.

"What?" asked Snape.

"I'm wondering…" Harry was spluttering with laughter now and couldn't get his words out. Eventually he continued. "I'm wondering how Aunt Petunia is going to explain to her neighbours about the bed sheet I left dangling from the front bedroom window. She hates anything 'not normal'." Snape roared with laughter alongside him.

After a moment, Harry looked at him seriously. "I've never seen you laugh before, sir."

"It must be a hysterical reaction to the drama of the morning," joked Snape. He put his arm around Harry's shoulder as the village came into sight. "We will have a look in some of the shops then go to the Three Broomsticks for lunch. Now where would you like to go first?"

Harry pointed to a shop full of curious artefacts. "That one looks interesting. It's Hermione's birthday this month and I might see a good idea for a gift."

"Yes, and we can purchase that wand holster I spoke of here. That might be a practical gift for your friend too," suggested Snape.

Harry began reading the labels on the objects. There were jars charmed to preserve their contents, gloves with a built in warming charm, talking mirrors (charmed to give compliments), protective amulets that would deflect minor curses and a myriad of charmed kitchen utensils. Harry spotted a leather satchel, extendable and featherlight.

"This would be the perfect gift for Hermione. She is always trying to wedge too many books in her bag," he said.

"Let's take one now," said Snape. "Which colour do you think she would prefer?"

"I didn't exactly come prepared for shopping," said Harry awkwardly.

"Neither did I," smiled Snape, "but it isn't a problem. I have an account with most of the traders on the street. We can simply send the money by owl to settle the bill when we return to the castle."

"Thank you, sir. I think she would choose a natural leather shade."

Snape lifted two similar bags down from the display and took them to the cashier, ordering a wand holster and a port-key pendant at the same time.

"I think you should also have this satchel and it is organised to keep your possessions from damage as you carry them around. It will encourage you to make more use of the library," announced Snape. Harry was about to protest, but Snape cut in sternly. "I will buy you what I see fit, and you will accept it graciously. I understand that you are not accustomed to consideration from your family, so I will excuse you this time. In future, though, you will not question my judgement on this matter or I will assign lines for impolite behaviour."

Harry looked at his shoes, trying to hide the tears that pricked the corners of his eyes.

"Look at me, Harry. Do you understand?"

Harry forced himself to meet Snape's eyes and saw them soften. "I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean to anger you. You're too kind to me."

"I promised you kindness and it pleases me to buy a gift or two for you. I indulge my own pleasure as well as yours, so you must persuade yourself to be comfortable with this," said Snape gently. He handed harry a handkerchief. "Now compose yourself, while I complete this transaction."

"May I sit outside, sir. There's a bench near the pond."

"Very well. If anyone approaches you, come back immediately."

A few minutes later Snape sat next to Harry and handed him a paper bag of bird seed. Harry grinned and scattered a handful so they could watch a family of ducks peck around their feet. Snape took out a small package and opened it.

"After the events of today Harry, I want you to wear this." He tied a leather thong bearing a highly polished grey stone around Harry's neck.

"What is it?"

"It's a voice activated port-key. If you are ever stranded away from school again, take hold of the stone and say 'Hogwarts' and you will be transported to the Headmaster's study. He may be a little surprised to see you, but it is the only location within the grounds that can be accessed in this way. I will, of course, inform him that you have the port-key."

"Thank you, sir. I don't have to scared now."

"It will relieve my own anxiety too. I cannot bear to imagine what might have happened today, if you had not managed to alert Elise."

"Can we buy Elise a gift?"

"That's a fine idea. I believe she is partial to Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans." The pair made a trip to Honeyduke's to make their purchase and then the apothecary, as Snape had decided that Harry would be rebrewing all the First-Year potions to improve his skills. They attracted a few curious glances as they entered The Three Broomstick, but Snape's haughty glare discouraged anyone from attempting conversation. He ordered butterbeers and the lunch special for each of them after seeing that Harry was floundering with the menu. There would be time enough to teach the boy to order for himself another day. Now he was looking rather pale, as if the events of the morning had caught up with him.

"We will ask Rosmerta for the use of her floo after lunch. I think you will be ready to relax a while on the sofa this afternoon, and then join a Slytherin study group this evening. I supervise them tonight and I am not inclined to let you out of my sight again today."

Harry was uncomfortable about studying with the Slytherins but he felt reassured that nothing bad could happen while Snape was in the room. He moved closer to Snape and leant on his arm, glowing a little when Snape took the hint and wrapped it around him. Harry was amused to see the flush on Snape's face when Rosmerta winked at him, putting their plates on the table. Even she was not brave enough to comment on his gentle interaction with the child.

"Do you need 'The Talk', Professor," Harry asked cheekily, causing Snape to choke on his butterbeer and try to subdue him with a fierce glare.

When Harry just giggled at him, Snape leant forward and whispered, "I have many and devious ways to embarrass you, Mr Potter. Perhaps I should call you over to sit on my lap in the Slytherin common room tonight."

"You wouldn't," cried Harry in horror.

"Do you want to test me?"

"No, I'm sorry I was cheeky, sir," he said quickly. "But, I'm glad she likes you."

"Rosmerta and I are old friends. She likes to tease but it means nothing. She flirts with all her customers."

"Is it fair to flirt like that? I mean, it's confusing."

"She would never take it too far, Harry. That would be unfair. But some people can get away with it. They have a certain confidence, like your friends, the Weasley twins. Most of us reserve that behaviour for when we have serious intentions. I can see that is your instinct, Harry and you should trust it."

"Thank you, sir. You're good at explaining things."

"Thank you for the compliment, Harry and I'm very glad you are comfortable to ask me." They enjoyed their meal in silence for a while, until Snape noticed that Harry's eyes were drooping.

"Come on, Elise will bring you some cake at home," he said. He had a brief word with Rosmerta, then led Harry through the floo.

After a tearful hug with Elise, who was overwhelmed with her gift, Harry kicked off his shoes and allowed Snape to cover him with a blanket on the sofa.

He had been asleep for half an hour when the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall knocked on the door. He sat up and made room for Professor McGonagall beside him. She patted his arm and smiled in thanks.

"You'll be glad to hear that your relatives are none the wiser about your unscheduled visit this morning," began the Headmaster, "and Dobby's use of magic has not been blamed on you as the Ministry know you were at Hogwarts at the time." He twinkled at the irony.

"What about the other time, Professor?" asked Harry.

"Well now that we have established the presence of a house elf a second time, I was able to persuade the clerk to remove it from your record. I need to impress upon you, Harry, the importance of respecting the law on this matter, because you are likely to be under more scrutiny than other students. The Ministry might see fit to challenge your guardianship if they judged you to be running wild."

Harry looked outraged and ready to protest his innocence, but a look from Snape quelled his retort.

"I believe I will discuss the matter with my ward at length later, Headmaster," intoned Snape his expression indicating his displeasure that Dumbledore had raised the subject. "Perhaps we should be more concerned now in finding out what danger this renegade house elf is trying to protect Harry from."

"You are right, of course," sighed Dumbledore, peering over his spectacles at Harry.

"Headmaster, is it possible to buy a house elf?"

"Why do you want a house elf, my boy?

"No, I don't want just any house elf. I want Dobby. He's really bruised and cut and he is terrified of his master. If he were my house elf, I'm sure he would tell me the truth. I know he's doing it the wrong way, but he seems desperate to save me."

"House elves know too many secrets, Harry," explained Dumbledore. "It is very unlikely that a family would release an elf. However, I will begin some discrete negotiations and see what can be achieved."

They shared tea and cake and stayed with Harry while Snape went to make his announcement in the Slytherin common room.

"How did they take the news, Severus?" asked Professor McGonagall.

"They were shocked, as might be expected and there was a little mumbling, but the prefects stepped up and offered their congratulations and I believe most of the others will follow their lead." He turned to Harry. "I have spoken privately with Mr Malfoy and he is under dire threat, should he choose to rile you. Remember my expectations, please."

"Yes, sir," said Harry feeling cowed by the intensity of his gaze. He thought this was the most difficult thing that the Professor had asked of him, but he meant to do his best to keep his temper.

"Now, I would like you to put notes and books for a couple of subjects in your new bag, together with your stationary needs, and we will depart for the common room in ten minutes."

Harry disappeared into his room to comply.

"Well Severus, it seems you have won the boy over. He's watching you for approval and is pliant to your wishes."

"What are you implying, old man?" growled Snape.

"Nothing, nothing. Can I infer that you are fond of the boy, that you wish to give him further security?"

"That is a conversation I will have with Harry first, Headmaster. I do not wish to rush him."

"Well you know where to find me," said Dumbledore, taking his leave.

"Congratulations, Severus. I don't think I have seen either of you look so happy in a long time," said Professor McGonagall as she departed.

Harry pushed back his shoulders and stood as tall as his small frame would allow as he entered the Slytherin common room. Professor Snape took his usual place at a desk and took out a book. He pointed to an empty space on a table with Blaise Zabini, Millicent Bulstrode and Theodore Nott. Harry walked forward boldly.

"May I join you?" he asked politely.

"Take a seat Potter," said Blaise Zabini.

"You can call me Harry, if you like."

"Okay, Harry, call me Blaise. You know Theo and Millie, of course." The other students smiled and nodded at him. This was going better than expected.

"What are you working on?" he ventured.

"Charms," said Millie. "Have you done cleaning charms yet?"

Harry smiled, thinking of Snape's impromptu lesson at the breakfast table. "Well, I know a couple but I haven't read the theory. I don't think Gryffindor have had that lesson yet." He rifled through Hermione's notes to check.

Millie handed him a sheet of parchment. "Read this before you start the chapter, then you'll know which parts are important.

"Thanks," said Harry gratefully. "I really didn't expect this sort of welcome."

"You're one of us now," said Theo. "Snakes look after their own."

And Harry settled down to work, happy to be getting ahead with an essay he hadn't been assigned yet. An hour later, Snape tapped him on the shoulder and awarded the group 5 points each for their cooperation. Malfoy glared over malevolently from another table, but Harry was too happy to care. As Harry packed his bag and Snape made his rounds of the other groups, Malfoy could not resist trying to get a reaction from Harry. He strode over to Harry's group.

"Think you're so great, the boy-who-lived has got Snape twisted round his little finger," he hissed.

"Thank you for your congratulations, Malfoy," said Harry in a carrying voice.

Snape turned to look at them as Malfoy turned purple and Blaise and Millie laughed.

"He's cleverer than you, Malfoy," smirked Theo. "You're going to come off worst if you don't drop it."

Malfoy could do nothing but march back to his own table and chunter into the sympathetic ear of Pansy Parkinson.