Title: On Privet Drive
Genre: Angst, Drama, and…is ridiculosity a category? No? Then let's go with absurd humor.
Summary: Post OotP. Encouraged by worried comments, three unlikely people find their way into Privet Drive for...a month (Poor Snape!) Slight AD/MM
Dumbledore cut him off with an amused chuckle that sounded exactly like the word 'defeat' to Snape. "Come now, Severus, you know what the boarding program requires. Mr. And Mrs. Dursley specifically said that three people would be invited to stay in there home for a Fort-night. If memory serves correct, we are nearly there. Don't you think, Minerva?" The older man turned to his fellow professor, rubbing rather uncomfortably at the deep navy suit he was wearing, his beard tucked snugly in the hem of his pants.
Minerva McGonagall nodded, peering sternly as ever over her spectacles, though the effect was somewhat lessened by the flowered dress she wore, and the fact that her long hair billowed down freely behind her. To say the students of Hogwarts would have fallen over in shock was an understatement. "Yes, Albus. We'd better stop here and change."
The trio pulled to a stop, as Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, I suppose we should." He sighed then, fingering his beard almost reluctantly.
McGonagall actually smiled at this, patting the headmaster's arm while Snape rolled his eyes. "It won't be gone, Albus, just...temporarily hidden."
Dumbledore sighed again with a nod and a rueful smile. "Ah, the foolish sentiments of an old man, Minerva. But, I have been growing this beard since I first began teaching. It is such a pity to cover it up..."
McGonagall's stern gaze returned at this. "Honestly Albus, the boy would recognize you in seconds!" She paused for a moment, regarding her companion's contrite expression with suspicion. "And Albus, while we are there, you are going to have to forgo some of your more...peculiar habits. Which includes--" her eyes narrowed further, "offering people lemon drops."
Dumbledore looked slightly crestfallen at this, which McGonagall almost believed before seeing the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. She glowered, and snapped "Cover up the windows, Albus, we don't want the Muggles seeing."
Dumbledore chuckled and nodded, pulling out his wand, and flicking his wrist ever so slightly. Up and down the street, the windows of the identical houses misted up, as though clouded by a sever fog. He put his wand away, and clapped his hands together, smiling wider still. "Well then! Let us proceed, shall we?"
"Yes, please, let's get this misery over with as quickly as possible," Snape growled.
McGonagall turned to him then, frowning in concentration. She held her own wand at the ready. "Let's see, Severus. You'll have to look younger, of course. About twenty, I'd say. So..." she paused for a moment, her sharp eyes narrowing to slits in effort. "Shorter hair, I suppose, and blue eyes instead of gray, that would give you away right from the start. Take twenty years off your face, and twenty pounds off your stomach-"
"Pardon me?" Snape snarled, interrupting her.
Her gaze got, if possible, even narrower, and she hushed him roundly. "Silence, Severus, unless you want me to cut your nose completely off. It needs to be a bit narrower, more like Albus', for resemblance." She took a deep breath, and lifted her wand a bit higher. "Here we are, then. Apperencius Alterio Totalis!"
Snape was covered in a thick, misty blue light for a moment, before the cloud of magic around him disappeared, leaving him to reemerge as a completely different person. Dumbledore nodded his approval. "Excellent work, Minerva, even I hardly recognize him."
The unfamiliar man who now stood before them scowled suddenly, in a way that was still decidedly Snape-ish. "Well? What do I look like?" Snape was actually rather nervous about his new appearance, more so than he wanted to admit. It would be just like Minerva to make him look like an ugly pig.
McGonagall smirked at this, knowingly, and a mirror appeared in front of Snape at a muttered word from her. He could hardly contain a strangled shout. In the mirror was the face of a rather handsome twenty-year old, with dark blue eyes and spiked black hair, a prominent, thin nose and a strong jaw. His abs weren't half-bad either.
After a moment, he looked up with a resentful stare at Minerva, and mumbled "Good."
McGonagall smirked again, knowing that was high praise from him, and turned to Dumbledore. "Now, the beard has to go, obviously, but maybe I'll leave you with a reasonable goatee. The eyes have to be a shade darker blue to dull that..." she paused a moment, for wording. "that twinkle you always have. And the hair will have to be much darker, a silver black perhaps. And your features need softened too, as I'll be taking a good seventy years off. You'll be about 55, I suppose. Now," she closed her eyes this time, and repeated the incantation, handing Albus the mirror silently.
This time, the mirror reflected a man with short pepper-gray hair parted to the right, with almost baby-blue eyes and a short, well-trimmed goatee. He frowned for a moment, stroking the remnants of his magnificent beard. Then, he glanced up at McGonagall, and saw her look. He smiled then, seeing she more than approved. "So, what do you think, my dear?"
McGonagall blushed, and replied with a stiff "You look fine." Then, she turned her wand on herself, muttering the same incantation. The blue light faded, and Snape ogled while Dumbledore actually gasped.
Before them stood what looked to be a fifty year old woman with shining light blue eyes and deep chestnut hair streaked with gray that fell gracefully about her shoulders. Her features were softened, the crows-feet gone from the corners of her eyes, leaving behind a stunningly attractive woman.
She looked at herself quickly in the mirror, pulling of her glasses and putting contacts in with a wave of her wand. Dumbledore had done the same, she noted with a glance, because his glazed expression was even more noticeable. "You'll catch flies," she told him tartly, fighting a blush.
"You look magnificent, Minerva," came his reply, rather breathlessly. Albus Dumbledore had not been struck breathless in several years, and then it had been by her, too. Her blush became even clearer at his words, and from Snape's expression, he seemed to be on the verge of vomiting.
"Now then," she said, clearing her throat rather unsteadily. "Voice charms. Albus, I'll have to make yours a bit smoother." She flicked her wand, and murmured, "Vocum Alterio"
"Well, I do believe this will do a nice job," Dumbledore said, his voice slightly deeper now that the rough edges of age had been taken off of it.
McGonagall just nodded, and turned to Snape, obviously settling back into her stern business mode. "Now, Severus, if you'll simply speak normally, instead of attempting to be a moody Sybil Trelawney, your voice will be perfectly fine." He glared, but she paid no notice, pointing her wand at her own throat, and murmuring the same incantation.
"Well, let's continue on, then. It won't do to be late," she said in a slightly higher voice with a much softer Scottish accent than before. "Undo the windows if you would, Albus."
The older, (but now younger) man nodded readily, and the windows were soon returned to their normal states. As was Snape's mouth, apparently.
"Now, tell me, I implore, Albus. Why are we doing this? Why must I suffer through a month of Potter-worship?"
Albus smiled at him, the infuriating twinkle still in his eyes. "Severus, you are aware that Miss. Granger attended the last meeting?" Snape nodded--fortunately the Order hadn't needed him for that one, and he'd managed to miss the bushy-haired know-it-all. "She expressed some concern about the letters we have been receiving from young Mr. Potter. Both she and Mr. Weasley were under the impression that something was amiss, and Remus concluded, as did Molly and Arthur."
Snape huffed at this, his mouth curling up in distaste. "So you are attempting to tell me we that are gallivanting off in this utter tomfoolery based solely on the intuition of two corrupted children, a werewolf and a pair of-"
"Watch your words, Severus!" Dumbledore's tone turned sharp. "You shall have to trust my judgment on this subject, as I trust theirs. Now, to review: we will be the Kingston family from a missionary station in South Africa where we've lived since before you were born. I am Andrew, Minerva, you are Camille, and Severus, you are our son, Ashley. We are-"
He was cut off when Snape promptly turned an ugly pallor and choked on his tongue. "Ashley? But, but that's a girl's name! I don't believe I..." but he trailed off as he absorbed the other piece of information. "Son? You mean I'm going to have to go around calling you...Mummy and Daddy? Good Merlin, kill me now."
Albus chuckled. "Yes, Severus, son. I believe however, that you are old enough to simply say Mum and Dad, as opposed to those other delightful titles. Of course, if you prefer them, by all means feel free to..." he trailed off with a wink that was chewed up and spit out by Snape's indignation. He went on, unperturbed. "And Ashley, is a fine name. My father's name, actually."
Snape sputtered for a moment, appearing torn between his Greasy Bastard!sneer, and an expression of rather contrite apology. Eventually, he settled on a scowl, and a mutter of: "I apologize, Headmaster, I meant no offense..."
Dumbledore smiled contritely. "'tis no problem, Severus. He absolutely abhorred the name, and went by Ash. I feel certain that would better suit your tastes." At Snape's quick nod, he grinned. "Well then, we must be going, only a few more houses now."
The trio soon arrived in front of the quaint, immaculate house that was Number 4 Privet Drive. Dumbledore took the lead then, strolling cheerily up the front walkway, followed by a rather soured Severus Snape, and an anxious looking Minerva McGonagall.
Just before knocking, her turned to them, his expression suddenly somber. "I believe Ms. Granger if she says something is amiss, but am doubtful as to what we may find. It is most likely simply that young Harry is grieving the loss of Sirius, as we have all seen the state of Remus as of recent weeks. However, if something is wrong," he hesitated, but seemed to find no better phrasing. "I'm afraid I am in a bind to wait the full month before we can take action."
"But-- but why, Albus?" gasped a shocked McGonagall. "If he's ill, or, or heaven forbid suicidal, he could-"
She was silenced when he held up a hand, his expression suddenly weary. "Unfortunately, I am in no position to argue with Cornelius Fudge at the moment. He is the one who set up the laws in interacting with Muggles through exchange programs, and it would be most unwise to disobey them when we have only so recently regained him as our ally."
Snape's frown deepened even further at this. "I have said it before, and I will say it again, Headmaster: Having that bumbling, incompetent, fool as our ally is simply not worth--"
Again, Dumbledore interrupted. "And I will, once more, give you the same answer, Severus. It is not befriending Fudge, but befriending his own allies that is so important to us. And as he is the Minister of Magic, it is safe to say he has quite a few of them." He sighed. "You are correct in your thinking, Severus. As much as I dislike speaking ill of him, he is rather useless in protecting anyone. His friends, however, are another matter. I greatly regret this, especially if Harry is in danger, but the regulations must be upheld." He looked at McGonagall who sighed and nodded her understanding, and then glanced at Snape who was once more scowling and looking as if he couldn't care less.
With a smile, Dumbledore turned, and knocked.
Earlier that day, the residents of Number Four, Privet Drive, were also preparing for the arrival of their borders from South Africa.
Petunia Dursley was primping her horse-like face in the front-room mirror, compulsively straightening her silk blue dress that showed off her form, and her money. Vernon Dursley stood beside her, tugging his tailored suit and cummerbund and examining his blotchy, bloated face in the mirror, while brushing his bushy mustache with a comb. Meanwhile, their son, the pride and joy of their world, Dudley, was standing behind them, his great body bulging out on either side of them, yanking on his tie with disdain, and whining about having to comb his hair down.
On the bottom stair a few feet away from them sat a lanky, skinny boy of about 6 feet. This new found height was rather dampened by the fact that he was, as always, swimming in hand-me-down clothes that were seventeen sizes too large for him. His raven hair stuck out all over as it always did, and his bright green eyes gazed wearily out through his thick round glasses as he watched his "family" prepare.
All of a sudden, Vernon, or "Uncle" as the boy was forced to call him, turned to him, is pudgy face going purple with rage as it always did when he looked at his nephew. "Boy." He snarled, not waiting for a response. "You will not show your face to our guests. You will rise early each morning to cook breakfast, come quietly in at noon to fix lunch, and do the same for dinner. Then you will go back up to your room and I will lock you in for the night. If anyone so much as smells you, I'll make you wish you were never born! Is that clear?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon."
His uncle's eyes narrowed at his easy agreement and his lips pulled back in a snarl, causing spittle to fly from his mouth with his next words. "And Boy! I WILL NOT TOLERATE ANY OF YOUR UNNATURALNESS UNDER MY ROOF WHILE THEY ARE HERE!" His voice dropped to a deadly quiet. "I won't have them knowing there is freak under my roof. Do you understand me?"
The boy sighed. "Yes, Uncle Vernon."
"Hurry, Vernon, dear, they'll be here any moment!" Petunia screeched, shooting the boy a death glare.
"Go, Boy! Upstairs, in your room, and silence!"
Harry Potter was gone without a word.
Dumbledore's third knock hit midair as the door was flung open wide by...what looked to be a blob of living, breathing mush in a suit and tie. "Good afternoon, Sirs, Madame," The blob said in nasal tones. "Won't you come in?"
A glance back at Snape told Dumbledore that the younger wizard would most certainly not like to go in. McGonagall didn't look too positive, either. He turned and smiled pleasantly at the blob, and said, "Why yes, young master, thank you!" He grabbed Snape's wrist and surged forward, McGonagall trailing reluctantly behind.
Once inside, they were met by a portly man with a hideous mustache and no neck. Beside him stood a horse-like woman with twice as much neck as usual, and to both professors Snape and McGonagall's horror, Lily Potter's green eyes.
"Messieurs and Mrs. Kingston! I'm so glad you arrived safely! I hope the bus ride was enjoyable?" Roared the man Snape silently dubbed as Mr. No- neck. He grabbed Albus' hand, and proceeded to crush the life out of it, doing the same for Snape, before kissing a nauseous-looking McGonagall's hand.
"Welcome to our home!" came the piercing, shrill voice of the woman McGonagall had titled "Horse-face." The students of Hogwarts would have all died from cardiac arrest at their professors' creativity. "I'm Petunia, and this is my husband, Vernon, and our darling son, Dudley," She said, pointing to the object all three utterly mature teachers had dubbed "the Blob", with a large smile that frightened Snape immensely.
"It's wonderful to meet you. I am Andrew Kingston, and this is my lovely wife Camille, and our son, Ash. Thank you so much for letting us stay in your beautiful home!" Dumbledore smiled politely, all the while wondering how Lily was related to these...people.
"Think nothing of it, my good man! Your bags arrived yesterday, and are already in place upstairs. Dudley will show you to your rooms-I'm sure you'll find them acceptable. Then you can come downstairs for a nice lunch. Go on, Dudley!" Vernon smiled proudly at the blob, who nodded.
"Right this way, if you will, please," he said with the utmost politeness as his father put a crisp ten pound note in his fat hand. He proceeded to thump up the stairs, making the entire structure shake. Dumbledore caught McGonagall by the waist before she went tumbling backwards, and grinned at her, ignoring Snape's dark cursing.
They reached the top of the landing, and soon saw a total of 5 rooms. Walking down the hall, it was clear that the first was the lavatory, and the second Vernon and Petunia's room. They came to the third room, and Dudley pushed the door open to reveal a large, cluttered room filled with every sort of expensive toy money could buy, most of them broken and mangled.
"This will be your room, Mr. Kingston," he said looking at Snape, who struggled valiantly not to sneer in a most horrible manner. "Your bags are on the bed. You can stay here to...to" his eyes glazed over suddenly, and he frowned, trying to remember his rehearsed lines.
"freshen up?" Snape snarled finally, and the fat boy nodded, looking slightly frightened. "No, no, I don't think so. I'd prefer to see..." He momentarily choked on his tongue again, before managing to slur "Mum'n'Dad'sroom" He let out a breath, and tried to smile, grimacing instead while Dumbledore chuckled.
Dudley shrugged. "Fine." He was apparently running out of script. Across from Petunia and Vernon's room, was a rather weathered wooden door with a total of five padlocks on it, and a small cat-flap cut in the corner.
"What's in there?" McGonagall asked sharply, a frown crossing her face, and a worried suspicion settling in her head.
Dudley had obviously been fed an answer for that too, as he promptly said, "Just a load of old junk, but Dad keeps his gun in there, too, which is why we keep it locked."
"Five locks for a gun?" Snape asked, a confused sneer upon his features. He thought perhaps he'd misunderstood the concept of that particular Muggle weapon. He was also preoccupied with trying to find where Potter was.
Dudley looked nervous then, and mumbled a quick, "Y-yes, it's his favorite gun, I mean, it's a very expensive one, er, your room is right down here!"
They followed after him, McGonagall shooting a worried glance at a now grave-looking Dumbledore. Dudley pushed open a door at the other end of the room, revealing a queen sized bed, surrounded by pictures of dogs. "Here's your room, Mr. and Mrs. Kingston, your bags are in the closet," Dudley announced, smiling so that his eyes disappeared completely under the wrinkles of his fat cheeks. It looked painful.
"Er, yes, thank you, young man," McGonagall said haltingly. She looked like she was in pain as well, though the expression was more likely one of disgust.
Dudley had run out of rehearsed lines. He shoved his hands deep in his pockets, kicking at the ground, and staring stupidly at the three guests. Snape's eyes rolled so magnificently that McGonagall was surprised they hadn't popped out of his head and gone skittering across the floor. Dumbledore cleared his throat, and spoke kindly to the lost Dudley. "Why don't you go downstairs and give us a chance to get settled in? We'll be down in a flash." Dudley nodded stupidly and mumbled something incoherent, before turning and tottering heavily out of the room.
McGonagall's brow was furrowed. "You never mentioned Harry's cousin was...a bit off, Albus," she said, finally.
Dumbledore shook his head. "Ah, alas, he is not, Minerva, though Arthur Weasley was inclined to think so. It was a very mirthful group of Weasley children, accompanied by Miss Granger who set me straight. He is perfectly healthy in his mentality, and is simply a 'great fat stupid oaf' to quote Ronald Weasley." He appeared to be trying not to laugh. McGonagall just sighed.
Snape was looking around the room at the photographs. He stopped when he got to a picture of a large woman who appeared to be either cuddly or strangling a ferocious looking dog in her chunky arms. Snape smirked. "I recognize that dog. That woman is an excellent judge of character. Let the mutt run Potter right up a tree once." McGonagall glared at his back.
Snape turned around suddenly, sneering most unpleasantly at McGonagall's glare, before turning his attention to Dumbledore. "And where, pray tell, is you beloved Potter brat? Too high and mighty to grace his unworthy guests with an appearance, I suppose?"
"Or maybe just locked up and hidden away," snapped McGonagall angrily.
Snape arched a brow, coldly. "Oh really? Please, Minerva, I'm simply dying to hear what enthralling excuse you have to put to the boy's defense this time."
Dumbledore cut in before she could respond. "You noticed the door we passed with the locks on it, Severus?"
Snape's other brow rose. "The morbidly obese one said it was to keep his father's gun safe."
"Oh, honestly Severus, five locks for a stupid Muggle weapon?" McGonagall asked sarcastically.
"Now now, Minerva, we've no proof yet," intoned Dumbledore calmly, but his eyes were no longer twinkling. "Though...I must admit, Miss Granger's concerns seem to be gaining substance."
"Wait," Snape said, his sneer growing even more pronounced. "Surely you can't think Potter is what was locked behind that door?"
"Not quite the hero-worship you were expecting, Severus?" McGonagall's now blue eyes flashed at him fiercely.
"Actually, Minerva-"he was cut off by Dumbledore's sigh.
"Enough, you two. We should go downstairs. I expect Petunia and Vernon will be waiting. Now, don't forget who we are. You-"he said, pointing to Snape, "are a chemist. That is basically a Muggle Potions Master--"
"I am quite aware of what a Chemist is, thank you ever so much, Albus," Snape bit out.
Dumbledore gave him a mild look. "Of course, Severus. Just say your work is tiresomely complicated, and that the isolation of isotopes in the chemicals you're working with is really dull at the moment." Snape tried to look as if any of that made sense, and nodded.
Dumbledore turned to Minerva. "You teach English in the local school. Simple enough, but don't answer any questions in too much detail, because it will make it harder to keep the story straight." McGonagall nodded agreeably.
"And what will your occupation be, Albus?" She asked him.
"Ah, well, I will be a Professor of anthropology studying the cultural roots of the small village in South Africa." He smiled at her slightly.
"Why do you get to keep the title 'professor'?" Snape asked, perturbed.
"Because I have been one for more years than I care to count," he said simply. Snape was not satisfied. "Well, Severus, if you really must know, it's because I said so." McGonagall gave a snort of laughter at his words, while Snape glowered. Dumbledore offered his arm to McGonagall. "Shall we?"
She blushed the tiniest bit, and nodded stiffly, taking his arm and traveling back out into the hall. Snape trailed behind, grimacing and muttering darkly under his breath. Yes, more darkly than usual, even. Still, all could not help but look at the padlocked door as they passed, each giving it a worried glance, though Snape would dress up in a fluffy pink tutu and sing 'I feel pretty' before he owned up to it.
They arrived downstairs to find the almost eerily immaculate dining room ready and waiting, with the Dursleys already seated, and Harry nowhere in sight. Three seats were open for them, and after a brief battle of scowls and glares with McGonagall, Snape ended up sitting next to Dudley.
The meal began as pleasantly as could be expected, Vernon asking about their jobs and their life in South Africa, which the answered easily enough, having been well-coached by Dumbledore along with some help with Professor Parsons, the Muggle studies teacher.
Snape barely touched his food, scarfing down what he did eat with uncanny speed. Sitting next to the Blob was not only making him ill, it was making Potter look like a decent kid, which was saying something as it was, after all, Snape. So, having lost whatever appetite he might have possessed, Snape spent the rest of the meal shooting nasty looks at everyone in turn, though making sure no one caught him, lest McGonagall come after him with her tartan handbag. He often mused she kept cans of catfood in it for a snack.
Finally, at long last, everyone was through, even the piggy little Dudley, who managed to consume 6 sandwiches and half a bag of crisps, though he distinctly avoided the salad and pasta. "You must be exhausted," Simpered Petunia, rising from her seat with an overly large smile. McGonagall's cheeks hurt just watching.
"Yes, I do believe we are all a bit tired from the trip," Dumbledore said pleasantly, rising as well and helping McGonagall to her feet.
"Ah, go up and sleep it off then, old man! Dinner'll be at five, and we can get you started on tours and things tomorrow!" Vernon roared heartily, having downed his fifth shot of mulled mead. McGonagall's lips thinned in disgust. This was only lunch, for Merlin's sake! What was the sod going to consume at dinner?
"Yes, that sounds like a good idea, Andrew," McGonagall intoned, thinking absently that she much preferred Albus. Snape simply rose silently, fighting his quivering lip that wanted so desperately to curl up into a magnificent sneer.
"Shall I show you up to your rooms?" The quivering lump of fat wheezed from his moaning, creaking chair.
None of the three had any desire to be shaken about by the rumbling ground again. "No!" came the tripled reply.
"Thank you, young master, but I'm sure we can find our way back," continued Dumbledore, the first to recompose himself. He then looked at Vernon and Petunia with a polite smile. "Thank you so much for the excellent meal. As all three of us are exhausted, I doubt we will be down before dinner, if you can forgive us for our rudeness."
"Not at all, not at all!" Petunia cooed, in a tone that suggested she was actually very pleased that she would be rid of them for several hours. "Shall we wake you for dinner if you are not down?"
"Oh, yes please," McGonagall answered already dreading the next meal. Snape was unusually silent, trying to follow his word and stay away from his normal sneering attitude. He seemed as though he might go catatonic before this was all over.
The three of them made their way up the stairs, pausing again at the padlocked door. There was, as before, no noise emanating from the other side. Once they had reached McGonagall's and Dumbledore's room, the spoke of it again. "I'm worried, Albus. Potter isn't anywhere in sight, and that ghastly door is the only one we haven't seen behind."
Dumbledore looked at McGonagall wearily, the lines in his face seeming suddenly deeper than before. "That is…not precisely true, Minerva."
McGonagall had known Dumbledore long enough to be worried. "What exactly do you mean, Albus?"
Dumbledore seemed to hesitate for a moment, before speaking softly. "There is one more place I would advise we look, though I would much rather he was not there."
"Where?" Snape cut in, sounding for the first time, slightly interested. He couldn't wait to find the Potter boy asleep in his own luxurious room, not even bothering to greet the guests. He knew Minerva was cracked, with all her gibbering about poor treatment and misery.
Dumbledore gazed at him a moment with pain-filled eyes, before letting them drift shut. "The cupboard under the stairs."
Snape let a snort escape him. "Excuse me?" he asked, incredulously. The old man's marbles must have finally rolled out his ears, then.
Dumbledore sighed, and turned away from him, to sit down on the bed. Minerva might've sent the Potions Master a truly nasty look, but was too busy staring at Dumbledore, aghast. "The…the what, Albus? What on earth are you talking about?"
"Exactly what I say, Minerva. The cupboard under the stairs." He opened his eyes again, and looked at Snape calculatingly. "Severus, don't tell me you weren't aware that is where he spent ten years of his life?"
Snape finally relaxed his muscles, his lip stretching luxuriously into its comfortable sneer. "I think Minerva must have done more than alter your looks with that spell, Headmaster," he said coolly.
"Well, apparently it didn't change anything for you, Snape! You still have no brains to speak of," Mcgonagall snapped back, looking quite severe. She whirled on Dumbledore. "There is more explaining to be done than that, Albus."
He gave a rueful smile. "There often is. It is something I only learned after the last meeting, from a concerned Ronald Weasley. Apparently, Harry slept in a cupboard under the stairs until he received his first Hogwarts letter. Mr. Potter only told Mr. Weasley of it after a nightmare sometime last month, and the next morning did not seem to remember it, according to Ronald. Mr. Weasley also seems to believe Harry has never told anyone before."
McGonagall gaped at him, pale. "W-what? Albus, Albus why wouldn't Potter have told anyone about this? It-- it's simply incomprehensible that--"
"I believe, Minerva, he thinks we already know."
Dumbledore turned his eyes down to the bedcover beneath him. "The enchanted quill that writes and addresses each letter would have listed his specific location. The first letter Harry ever saw would have said the cupboard under the stairs. No doubt he does not know the quill alone keeps tabs on such things. No doubt, he believes we were aware of the situation, and did nothing."
McGonagall seemed to sway a bit, her hand rising to her forehead. "Oh Merlin."
"Yes. Of course, this is information I rather think I ought to have been given months before." He looked up at Snape, who suddenly felt the room grow rather chilly.
"What are you implying, Headmaster?"
"I am implying, Severus, that after 5 months of Occlumency, a memory like that is something you ought to have come across. And something you ought have reported."
Snape stiffened, indignant and wounded. "I saw no such memory in the boy's shallow mind, Headmaster," he hissed. "Although, his moronic skull is so thick, it is entirely conceivable I never--"
"Severus." The two Wizards looked at each other, one with molten heat, and the other with a vague chill.
"Would you like to see for yourself?" Snape demanded quietly.
"No," replied Dumbledore, finally. "I continue, as I always have, to believe you, Severus." The tension in the air lessened palpably. "But we will be having a discussion about your teaching methods in regards to Mr. Potter when this is all said and done. This is something you should have seen."
Snape tightened his jaw, but said only "Yes, Headmaster."
Dumbledore appeared satisfied for the time being, but Mcgonagall's building ire was less than appeased. "How could you not see something like that, Severus?" She cried. "What were you doing with Potter? Five months mucking about his brain and none of us knew of this?"
"You try 'mucking about his brain', Minerva," Snape said dryly, having regained his calm. "The sludge in there is so thick, it's a wonder the boy's lungs get the message to continue breathing."
"The only place there's sludge, Severus, is the black hole where your heart ought to be," Minerva snapped.
"Oh," Snape said, actually looking upset. "Minerva you've wounded me. Right--" His hand moved to his heart. "Oh…pity, it doesn't seem to be there to wound, does it?" He smirked at her. "Never mind, then."
She swelled furiously. "Severus, you miserable, cold--"
"I really cannot handle this ridiculous bickering," Dumbledore observed calmly. "I would ask you to stop, but I understand we work in magic, not miracles, so I'll simply have to separate you." The two turned to stare at him. "Severus, go to your room."
Snape looked severely disgusted. "Pardon? I cannot be told to go to my room, Headmaster, I am not a child."
"Might have fooled me," McGonagall muttered, and Snape shot her a supremely nasty look.
"Ah, Severus," Dumbledore continued, "I am afraid that, for a month, you are indeed our son."
"As greatly as it pains us all," McGonagall added smugly. "Now, go."
Cursing in several different languages, Snape shot them both typically unpleasant scowls, before disappearing through the doorway, his metaphorical robes swishing sinisterly as he stalked away. Still not entirely mollified, McGonagall turned back to Dumbledore, ready to unleash more wrath on him. He seemed to be looking down in interest at the bed. It was then that McGonagall became quite thoroughly distracted.
There was only one bed.
"Oh...dear," she said, feeling slightly flustered. (And that word had never even been entered into her vocabulary prior to this incident.)
Dumbledore looked up at her, looking faintly bemused. "I see you have noticed the problem as well, Minerva?"
She sighed, her gaze skittering around the room, searching desperately for some solution. She looked quite cornered. "Well, I could always sleep as-"
Dumbledore shook his head. "What if one of our hosts should come in? Seeing me in bed with a strange cat and you nowhere in sight? I'm afraid not." He stroked his goatee, looking a tad bit miffed when he ran out of hair a the bottom of his chin. At length, he spoke again. "I suppose I could always sleep on the-"
"Albus Dumbledore, you most certainly will not sleep on the floor!" McGonagall replied severely. "It's unheard of, not to mention how bad it would look if they came in and saw. You think a cat would be bad..."
Dumbledore sighed, looking more amused by the moment. "Well then...there appears to be no other course of action.
McGonagall opened her mouth, planning on giving him a diatribe of quite a few things he could do with himself rather than sleeping in the same bed with her. But, as none of them were appropriate, and she needed her job, she simply shut her jaw with a click of her teeth. Dumbledore grinned at her, throwing himself backwards comfortably onto the right side of the bed, and patting the space beside him.
Throwing him the nastiest look she dared, she crawled in beside him, resting as far on the other side as possible, her back rigidly facing him. It was going to be a long month.
A long month for all. McGonagall, Dumbledore, Snape, you, the poor, misguided reader, and me, the already insomnia-filled author. And let's not forget poor Harry, shall we?
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