Chapter 1 – To the Edge of the Earth
Disclaimer: Any recognisable characters belong to HRH J K Rowling, long may she reign (oh, and Warner owns them now, too). I am merely borrowing them for my own humble purposes and (it should go without saying) am making no money out of them.
Harry dropped his bag at his feet and stared around the station glumly. He had no idea where he was, but wherever he was, it was raining.
It had been a beautiful twilight when Dumbledore and Snuffles had collected him from Mrs Figg's house, where the Dursleys, who had just left for Spain, had sent Harry to stay. An entire summer with the weird old lady – and her cats – was still preferable to summer with the Dursleys. Harry looked down at the Portkey (an old flea collar) clutched in his hand and sighed. With Voldemort and his supporters becoming stronger he'd hoped to be able to stay at Hogwarts and help... somehow. Hermione had been allowed to stay. Her parents worried about their daughter's safety in the Muggle world. Mr and Mrs Weasley had given strong hints that Ron, Ginny and the twins would be staying over the summer, too. Many other students would be staying from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw – and even Slytherin, depleted though its ranks were. Draco Malfoy and his cronies certainly wouldn't have been there. Lucius Malfoy had sent his son off to Durmstrang for the school year just ended, and where Lucius Malfoy's son went, other Slytherins followed.
Mind you, Harry thought with a small smile, from one of the many rumours flying around Hogwarts it was unsure where or even if they could follow Draco; apparently his blond opponent had run away from Durmstrang.
As for the rest of the Slytherins, even Snape wouldn't be there. He had been absent for most of Harry's fifth year, his lessons often filled in by a much more pleasant teacher from Beauxbatons who, being unable to speak much English, had pretty much left the students to their own devices. Harry couldn't say that anyone other than Hermione had learned anything, but he could say that Potions had been much more fun. Snape had barely been seen in the last few months and Harry's godfather Sirius had happily told Harry that the slimy git wouldn't be skulking around Hogwarts. Sirius, on the other hand, would be an important addition to the unofficial summer staff. Remus Lupin would be a frequent visitor. Yes, for once Harry had been looking forward to summer.
Now he was somewhere else. Somewhere cold. Somewhere with wind and rain and a very small shelter by a railway line. Somewhere Dumbledore had told him he would be safe. Harry stopped smiling and wrapped his cloak around him. What could be safer than Hogwarts?
Somewhere Voldemort wouldn't even think of looking, Dumbledore had told him seriously, the usual twinkle in his blue eyes absent. The old wizard had looked... old, Harry thought unhappily, hunching up and sticking his hands in his armpits for warmth. Mrs Figg, of all people, had snapped back to reality for a whole five minutes to explain that as Harry's powers were still unknown and his precise value in the war against Voldemort was (likewise) unknown, he needed to be sent somewhere the Dark Lord couldn't find him. Somewhere safe.
Somewhere someone would collect him and keep him safe. An icy blast whistled through the cracks in the shelter and down the back of Harry's neck. It had been nightfall when he left Mrs Figg's; it could only get darker and colder. Somewhere a dog barked. He heard another set up an answering howl. He shivered and wrapped the summer-weight cloak tighter.
A long way in the distance he thought he heard a rooster crowing – did roosters crow in the night? He wished Hagrid was here – Hagrid knew these things. Hagrid might even be able to tell him why the sky seemed to be becoming lighter.
Harry squinted, wishing he had a compass. Portkeys were so disorientating. They left you thinking north was south, east was west, and day was night. Then again... perhaps it was an odd effect of the light created by cloud cover, but the sky did seem to be lightening. Had he been sent further north? This was cold enough to be Northern Scotland. He perked up at the thought. Maybe he'd been sent to stay with Professor McGonagall's family? There was gorse over there on the embankment and further down the tracks. Gorse was Scottish, wasn't it? The rain had eased to a light freezing drizzle and the sky was getting brighter, and he thought he could hear cows and sheep. He jiggled up and down to keep warm. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. Professor McGonagall's family were reputed to be powerful wizards and might be able to teach him how to become an animagus. He smiled at the imagined expressions on Hermione's and Ron's faces when they saw him turn into a... what would he turn into? It would be great if he could –
There was the crunch of tyres on gravel. The low purr of a Muggle car engine that was cut off.
Shivering but optimistic, Harry picked up his bag and peered around the side of the "shelter".
A dark grey four-wheel-drive ute, shiny and new-looking in the rain, was parked nearby. Its lights caught the drizzle briefly before they flicked off. The driver's door opened and a tall figure unfolded from within, shrouded by a raincoat. Harry fingered his wand, uneasily reminded of the Death Eaters from the last time he had faced Voldemort. But although he couldn't make out details of the face, there was no white mask and the "cloak" was a dark brown raincoat. No Death Eater would wear scuffed workboots like those splashing through the puddles, either. Harry grinned to himself.
He walked to meet the figure as it – he: no woman was that tall – glided up the rough steps. Harry shaded his eyes against the rising sun (rising sun?!?) to see the face of the person who would be hiding and protecting him from Voldemort.
All thoughts of the incongruity of the sun rising at night flew out of his head. "Oh no!" Harry couldn't help exclaiming. "You?"
Snape glared down at him with his sourest expression. "Oh no. You."
Harry sat silently in the car as they drove south. He guessed the direction by the fact that the sun was rising on his left. Over in that direction he thought he could see the sea, but with the sun in his eyes it was hard to say for sure, and for sure he wasn't going to ask Snape.
Snape hadn't said a word since he had ordered Harry to pick up his luggage and, at the sight of Harry's pitiful bag of books and Dudley's hand-me-downs, he had raised an eyebrow and asked silkily if Harry had at least remembered to bring a toothbrush. Harry had scowled and nodded, ears burning with embarrassment. On top of his disappointment at being sent to stay with Snape (a bare second to staying with Voldemort) he didn't want the slimy Potions master finding out about how bad his only relatives were. The comments that could lead to about his mother weren't worth thinking about.
By the time the sun had risen enough for Harry to see that the water really was the sea, they had turned inland. Harry was disappointed. Again. He'd never seen the sea.
It was a long drive. The road began winding through steep country dotted with sheep. It was almost familiar, yet alien enough to be disturbing. Harry stared at his hands and brooded on this latest misfortune to come careering into his life. The road became steeper and more winding. He began turning green.
"What's the matter?"
Harry jumped and nearly threw up. "I think I'm getting carsick."
Snape hissed something about Quidditch under his breath and pulled the car over. Harry wound the window down and took in deep gulps of the frigid air.
"It helps if you get out and walk for a time."
Harry wondered fleetingly if Snape meant that he should walk the rest of the way to wherever it was they were going, then realised he didn't care. He got out.
Yes, it was better to get out and stretch his legs. Somewhere overhead a bird was singing. It was silenced as a hawk glided down over a ridgeline and turned lazy circles over the paddocks. Harry breathed deep of air scented with sheep, gorse and snow. He sighed it out, wishing Ron or Hermione – even Neville – were here, and got back in the car. At Snape's raised eyebrow, he shrugged.
"Try looking at the horizon," said Snape, in what was, for him, a civil tone.
Harry was too astonished to answer.
Some time after noon they stopped in a small town. Harry sat in the car while Snape got out. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes tiredly. According to his internal clock it should be after midnight.
Harry blinked out the window at Snape, who was regarding him with thin patience.
Snape narrowed his black eyes. "Are you hungry?"
Harry nodded. What he really wanted was a place to sleep, but dinner (a lamington and a sausage roll a la Mrs Figg) hadn't really filled him.
"Then you can start by getting out of the car."
Harry frowned as he swung his legs out the door. Snape was using unfair politeness. He didn't know how to cope with this. "Should I lock the door?"
In that case, thought Harry, he'd take his bag. Ignoring Snape's sneer at his meagre possessions, he swung the bag over his shoulder and followed his teacher down the main – and only, as far as he could see – street.
Snape looked different, Harry mused as he walked behind the man. He'd only seen Snape in robes. In the Muggle clothing of jeans (black, if rather worn), sweater (also black) and shirt (ditto), he looked different. He really wouldn't have fitted into Hogwarts like this, but, from looking at the other people on the street, Snape didn't look particularly out of place. In fact some of the people nodded and even smiled to him as they passed without being glared at for their impertinence. Now Harry knew he really had come to a strange and alien land.
A bell announced their arrival in a clothes shop. Harry had hoped for something from the pie shop they'd just passed but wasn't about to ask Snape for anything, and he hadn't brought any Muggle money.
"This is a Muggle shop," Snape murmured to Harry. "I'll be telling them you're my cousin's son sent to stay with me. And if I find I need to do a memory erase on them because you try one of your little tricks you'll be spending the summer descaling every volcano in this country."
Harry was about to reply angrily but was cut off. "Sev! Welcome back." A burly man with a moustache a bit like Uncle Vincent's was up a ladder at the back of the shop stacking shirts. "What can I do yer for, mate?"
"Clothes for the boy, thanks Alex."
Alex stomped down the ladder. "Okey-doke. What exactly were you wanting?"
"He'll need to be kitted out for a High Country winter," Snape replied smoothly. "My cousin's son – from England. They sent him out with summer clothes," he added with a sneer.
Alex sucked his teeth as if in pain. "Maureen! Get out here!"
"Whaddaya want?" yelled a woman's voice from out back.
"Sev's got family staying. Needs clothes for a lad."
Harry heard Maureen mutter something along the lines of: "Don't friggin' believe it," but it sounded more like good-natured disbelief than a complaint. A thin woman emerged from the back, wiping her hands on a teatowel. "Sev! Thought we'd seen the last of ya for the winter. And now you turn up with family. You'll be the death of me, surprises like that." She grinned, her leathery brown face creasing into weather-beaten wrinkles. "Time for a cuppa?"
Harry waited for the outburst. He turned, expecting Snape to have grown two feet in hauteur, but saw that he was leaning up against the counter with his arms folded and the hint of a smile on his face. "Been baking?" Snape asked hopefully.
Maureen laughed, showing missing back teeth. "You bet, luv. Chocolate chip bikkies – you kids' favourite. How about you… didn't catch yer name."
"Harry…" Harry replied weakly.
"Harry. Want a cup of tea and some biscuits?"
He glanced up at Snape, whose expression was giving nothing away. "Yes please."
"Good-o. You three get started on the clothes, I'll put the jug on."
By the time they left, Harry was convinced he wasn't just in a different land, he was in a different dimension. He had four new pairs of jeans; shirts, sweaters, a natural-wool jersey knitted by Maureen, socks, underwear, pyjamas, shoes, leather boots and Wellington boots ("gumboots", they were called in this dimension), and to top it off, a woollen hat in Gryffindor red with matching scarf. All paid for in cash by Snape. He was trying to work out when he'd need the black-and-blue "swannie" jacket and if he could get used to the strange smell of the "oilskin" raincoat when Snape led him back to the car.
"Put it in the back," Snape ordered, then peeled off some Muggle money from the roll in his pocket. "Go and get yourself some food while I purchase extra supplies. And if you get into trouble…"
"I know, I know… volcano descaling."
Snape's ebony eyes glittered. "Do not be impertinent. Volcanoes are currently the least of your problems."
Harry was too hungry to argue. He took the money and headed for the pie shop. Alex and Maureen had been great people, but what they had said had been disturbing. It was winter here in the mountains. Chances were good that he would be snowed in wherever he was going, possibly for months, which was why they'd suggested Snape get extra supplies. He began wishing for a normal summer with the Dursleys instead of being… wherever he was. He selected two pies, a cake, and a bottle of coke. As he was handing the note over to the sullen gum-chewing girl behind the counter he paused.
The money was $20. In New Zealand currency.
He was on the other side of the world.
"Well? Are you gonna pay or not?"
"Um… I just realised I'm in New Zealand."
She gave him a look. "Well done. Did it take you long?"
"To get here?"
"No, to realise." She snatched the money and gave him change. Then, at his mute stare, said, "Anything else?"
"Um. No. Thank you."
She shrugged and looked past him, apparently at nothing, chewing on her gum.
Harry sighed and left.
So this was where Snape had learned his manners.
Harry helped Snape load boxes of groceries into the back of the car. For some reason two dozen white roses had been included, looking out of place lying on the more mundane tins of peach slices and pineapple pieces. Snape grunted as he slung yet another heavy sack of flour down next to one of the sacks of rice, and straightened carefully, mindful of his back. Harry had lost count of how many bags of sugar there were. The sheer bulk of the supplies made him nervous – where were they going that all this was going to be needed? Was there anywhere further to go? Antarctica? How would Hedwig cope with penguins? Then he remembered with a small pain that the snowy owl would be staying in the Hogwarts owlery over summer ("their summer, my winter").
"Put your seatbelt on."
Harry knew better than to disobey. "Why do we need so much food?"
For a moment he thought Snape wouldn't bother replying. Then: "Not all of it is for us. Others will be using the greater part." He glanced sideways at his passenger as he drove the car out of town and towards the snow-topped mountains. "It's winter here. Although the likelihood of our being completely cut off from outside food sources is remote, prudence requires me to ensure we are adequately supplied on the off-chance we get snowed in." He paused to change gear. "…Or the river rises too high to be forded."
"But we could just levitate over the river, and snow doesn't stop broomsticks, and although I'm not licensed to Apparate you must be…" Harry trailed off at Snape's thin-lipped annoyance.
"Did Dumbledore give you any instructions on the use of magic while you are here?"
"He said I should avoid using my wand, and of course no student is allowed to use magic over the holidays…"
"I seem to recall you being sent several warnings about your… use of magic over the holidays." Snape carefully enunciated Harry's phrase.
You shouldn't let him get to you… Harry repeated Hermione's advice like a mantra inside his head. "That was different…"
"It always is."
Snape braked as a hawk flew off something dead on the road ahead, then drove on as soon as it was clear the hawk was out of the way. Harry looked at the road behind them as the car went around the next turn to see that the hawk was back tearing at the road kill. He began to feel carsick again. He wound down the window and took a deep breath.
"I know the dangers. I know that Voldemort is tracking me through magic. I know that because his wand is linked to mine and my blood is in him he can find me if I cast a spell. Dumbledore told me all that."
"Did Dumbledore also tell you that you were to give your wand to me to ensure that no "accidents" occur while you are here?"
Harry took a sharp breath. No, Dumbledore certainly hadn't told him that. "I left it at Hogwarts. With my godfather." There. No way would Snape try to contact Sirius Black to discover that Harry had lied to him.
It was lucky Snape was driving, Harry thought: he hated the way those dead black eyes seemed to bore into him after the truth. "Really," he replied stiffly, glaring out the window. "Do you think I'd've let you look after my wand?"
"Not really," Snape replied, sounding almost amused. "Wand or no, there will be no magic. Not by you, not by me. If it snows and we get cut off, fine. There's a wood burner and plenty of wood. There is food and you have your studies to keep you occupied and out of my way. Your Potions scores in the last exams were quite pitiful and some extra work will do you no harm – quite the opposite, in fact."
Harry rested his head against the window and wished he was in Spain with the Dursleys.
"He's back! He's back! Mum! Maman! He's back and he's got someone with him!" Two boys on a shaggy white pony were cantering alongside the car, waving to Snape and shouting.
Snape ignored them.
The car pulled up before the long, low porch of a long, low, weatherboard house. The horse ambled to a halt in front of the steps, the boy with the reins making an obvious effort to appear like a dashing rider stopping a half-wild steed, and the horse obviously not giving a hoot what the boy wanted so long as he was allowed to stand still and let the damn' creatures get off his back.
"Uncle Sev! Did you get us anything at the airport?" The younger boy had slid off the pony and was jumping up and down like an overexcited house elf. Harry almost fainted as he climbed out of the car and followed Snape up the steps. "Uncle Sev"? Did this dimension have a name? Oh, that's right. New Zealand.
"No, but I got you some chocolate. Rona?" he called out. "Maman? Anyone home?"
There was no answer, only the younger boy complaining, "Aww… I wanted a travel patch…"
The older boy, who had tied the horse's reins to the rail (unnecessarily in Harry's opinion – the poor thing looked like it was about to fall asleep) smacked the other across the back of the head. "Don't be rude, Eru."
"Oww…! Uncle Sev! Chad hit me!"
"Don't hit your brother, Chad. If he doesn't want his chocolate you'll get it."
"Awww! Uncle Se-ev."
"Don't tie Solomon to the house, Chad. Maman will go crook. Where's your mother?"
"They must've gone up to help Uncle Wirimu get the last of the sheep checked," said Chad, following Snape back down the steps. "One had a bit of a cold and Uncle Wiri said he'd be using the last of that mix you made up so if you could make up some more while you're here that'd be really good and Mum said if she's not around when we got home from school she'd be up in the high paddock and Maman had been saying that she wanted to get a bit of exercise in –" he took a breath "- before the snows hit and she must have gone up with Mum so's she wouldn't take a fall and hurt her hip again and 'cos she hasn't come out already she must be up with Mum. I think. Who's this?" Chad jerked a thumb at Harry.
Snape had already started picking bags out of the back of the ute while listening to Chad's chatter. "His name is Harry," he said shortly as he slung one of the flour bags over his shoulder. "He's going to staying for a time."
"Cool," said Chad. "How long?"
"Until he goes back," Snape replied blandly. "Chad, why haven't you untied that horse?"
"Doing it now. I'll put him in the paddock. Harry, wanna come?"
"Harry will be helping me unload."
"Eru can help you carry stuff in too, Uncle Sev."
Snape sighed. "Eru, go and help your brother with Solomon. Don't forget to put the cover on him – he's looking a bit scruffy."
The two boys were back quickly. Harry was helping Snape put the last of the bags in the kitchen when Chad and Eru burst in.
"Are you and Harry staying for tea?" asked Chad, grinning at Harry. Harry found himself smiling back – the other boy looked to be Harry's age and seemed naturally good-natured. Eru, who had even more freckles than Ron, couldn't have been older than nine and hung back shyly, choosing to watch Harry from behind Snape as Snape (ignoring Eru) put the smaller sugar bags in a cupboard over the sink.
"No," Snape replied, disappointing Harry. "We'll make do up at my place."
Chad shrugged at Harry and Harry shrugged back, sad he wasn't going to get a chance to know these kids better. "Mum'll be mad if you don't stay for dinner," Chad said disingenuously. "And Maman'll just drag you down anyway to cook for you 'cos you brought up all this stuff for us and Wiri said that Canterbury're going to be playing the Highlanders and it should be a really cool game…"
Snape glared down his nose at the boy. Chad just grinned back up at him. "It's late," Snape said, "and Harry's had a long trip. Best to get him settled in." He dug in the pocket of his shirt. "Here. Chocolate. If you're going to eat it before dinner and ruin your appetite then it is in my best interests to be out of the way of your mother."
Chad grin widened. "Fair enough. But Maman'll want you guys down for dinner some time soon. And Mum'll be curious to meet someone from your family."
Snape sighed. "I know."
Harry thought he saw worry flicker through Snape's eyes. It could have been a trick of the light.
The rest of the journey didn't take long. Snape drove in silence, and Harry had a lot to think about. After carefully fording a stream they travelled along a dirt track, and Harry began to appreciate the abilities of the four-wheel-drive. Otherwise, he supposed, they would have had to borrow that horse. He bit his lip to stop grinning at the thought of Snape on the shaggy old pony. He stopped smiling when he realised the car had stopped outside a white cottage. It was as though a piece of England had been picked up and put down in the middle of nowhere. The sun as it sank over the mountains shone rosily off the walls. On the south side ivy grew, stopping just short of the shingled roof with its brick chimney. There was no front lawn, but herbs made good ground cover and short bushes Harry didn't recognise bordered what would be a delightful garden in summer. It was so warm, such a friendly little house, Harry wondered how Snape had managed to get hold of it. Certainly it was at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Slytherin dungeons.
"This is your house?"
Snape twitched an eyebrow. "So I have been informed."
Harry kicked himself inwardly. "I meant that it's so… um…" He stopped before he could dig himself deeper.
"Quite. Get your things."
There was a slight tingle as he crossed the border of the herb garden. For the first time in a long time Harry felt… safe. He sighed in relief.
"Well? Is The Boy Who Lived now The Boy Who Forgot How to Walk?"
"Sorry. I thought I felt…" Harry didn't want to say safe. That was too intimate to share.
Snape relented a little. "There are wards around the house. They have been here longer than you or I have been alive and it's in both our best interests that you do not interfere with them. I seriously doubt you have the skills to do so, but if you do –"
"More volcanoes?" Harry asked sarcastically.
"No," Snape said softly, his eyes distant. "If you interfere with them Voldemort and his Death Eater horde will be able to reach in and pluck you from this house and there won't be a damned thing either of us can do to stop them."
Harry nodded. "I understand," he said quietly. Suddenly very tired indeed, he followed Snape into the house.