When Professor Severus Snape apparated to number 4 Privit Drive he was feeling quite irritated. Headmaster Dumbledore had left for a Ministry of Magic meeting that morning and left him in charge of what Snape considered a colossal waste of time. As the headmaster prepared to floo to London he called Professor Snape to his office to give him some instructions regarding the school as the Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, was currently visiting relatives in Edinburgh.
"My dear Severus," he said gently as he concluded his instructions, "would you be so kind as to also watch over my clock while I am gone? I shall return late tonight, perhaps around half ten."
"Why does your clock require babysitting Albus?" Snape growled.
Professor Dumbledore's blue eyes twinkled merrily (much to Snape's disgust) and he explained, "Actually, the clock is doing the babysitting. It is charmed to tell me Mr. Potter's whereabouts and his situation." He indicated the clock in question with a sweep of his hand. There was only one hand on the clock and it had a small oval frame attached to it. Snape was even more disgusted to see that the frame contained a tiny picture of Harry Potter. The picture blinked and smiled cheekily. Severus scowled.
Currently the hand was pointing to 'Fine at Home.' There were several options including 'Mortal Peril,' 'Lost,' and 'In Trouble.' The Headmaster ignored Snape's grunt of distaste and continued. "In light of Mr. Potter's predilection for trouble I have charmed this clock to let me know his current circumstances. If you could please keep it with you today I would be most appreciative. It hasn't moved from that position since the children left for summer holiday a week ago so I don't imagine you will be required to act on anything. However I trust you to handle any situation that may arise." With that Dumbledore moved over to the fireplace and with a final smile of thanks to Snape he threw in some floo powder and cried, "Ministry of Magic." In a flash of green flames he was gone.
Snape sighed and with a flip of his wand he levitated the clock and charmed it to follow him. Robes swirling he strode the corridors of the school on his way to the dungeons. The clock followed faithfully behind him. He passed a few teachers on his way but one look at his face precluded any comments about the clock tailing him. He reached his classroom and began assembling ingredients for the potions he planned to brew today. Madame Pomfrey had given him a list of the potions she was running out of and he intended to spend the day preparing them.
He scanned the list and growled, "Bone mending potion, dreamless sleep, and pepper-up potion.... These are all being used up by that Potter menace. The school should add an additional fee to his tuition for potion usage!" This reminded him of his responsibility to watch the clock and he whirled around. The clock was still patiently following him. Another flick of his wand directed the clock to sit on a nearby bench top. It would be out of his way there but easily visible. A glance showed the hand still pointing to "Fine at Home." Snape muttered, "See that it stays there, Potter."
Several hours and successful potions later Snape was feeling pleasantly tired and satisfied with a good day's work. It was just after lunch and he was planning to go to the Great Hall and grab a quick meal without the bother of sitting with his fellow teachers. His eyes moved to the clock just as the hand slid to "Mortal Peril." His heart skipped a beat and his mind was flooded with visions of the Boy Who Lived lying in a puddle of blood surrounded by Death Eaters. During the moment of hesitation the hand slid to the next position, "In Trouble." Snape pondered this development. Perhaps the boy had merely taken a fall and the clock, realizing the potential for harm had registered Mortal Peril. Now that the boy had survived he was merely In Trouble for his clumsiness. That was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Snape went to lunch.
An hour and a half later, after finally ditching Professor Flitwick who insisted on describing his holiday in Greece in excruciating detail, Snape returned to his laboratory. To his continued disgust the hand remained firmly on 'In Trouble.' "I suppose I shall have to investigate this," he muttered to himself. He picked up a few vials of potions he thought might come in handy, including the ones he had just brewed. His voluminous robes contained many pockets for the various vials and packets he routinely carried in his capacity as Potion's Master. Another swirl of robes and he exited the room.
In a matter of minutes he was striding down the path to the gates of Hogwarts. Once outside the antiapparition field, he apparated to a point near the Dursley's house. He approached the back of the house warily, stopping in the shadow of the shed and observing the scene. Potter was sitting on the back steps, wand in hand. In front of him in the grass was the body of a man. He could see that the man was dressed in robes so Snape made the assumption that he was a wizard. The man was motionless, apparently stunned. To Potter's left lay a ladder and overturned bucket. Just as he was ready to come out of the shadows and demand an explanation a car pulled into the drive. A very large, sweaty man levered himself out of the driver's side of the car. He made his way round to the passenger side and assisted a very bony woman and an extremely obese boy from the vehicle. They made their way to the garden gate, the man in the lead.
As they came through the gate and took in the scene Snape could see the man become very visibly upset. His neck and face went beet red and more sweat broke out on his face. The professor expected them to race to Potter's assistance. His sneer was already in place when the man bellowed, "Potter!" Potter's head snapped up and he appeared to wince with pain. "What are you doing outside with that, that ...stick!"? He advanced on the boy threateningly.
As the man approached he finally noticed the wizard lying in the grass. "What is going on here, Potter? We leave for a few hours and you decide to go mad? I hope those freaks from your school find out what you've done and expel you for good!" He started to lead the way into the house when Potter finally spoke.
"This man is a Death Eater. You can ask Aunt Petunia what that is later; right now it's enough to know that he is very dangerous. There were wards around this house to make it impossible for him to get in. Obviously they have failed. Now it's only a matter of time before more of his kind follow him here and bring Voldemort with them. It's no longer safe for you to be here." His eyes returned to the wizard as he spoke. When he finished he appeared to droop.
The man, who Snape now assumed to be Potter's uncle, stopped and stared at the boy and then at the fallen Death Eater. He turned jerkily to the two who were following him and pointed to the car. "Get back in the car. I'll be right there."
The woman and the boy obeyed immediately, their faces rigid with shock. It was clear they all knew what Potter was talking about. Vernon raced into the house and returned moments later carrying a satchel and a file box. He flung Potter an envelope and said, "We've been to the solicitor today, boy. We've arranged for you to be declared an emancipated minor, which means you are your own guardian now. We are finally shut of you for good so if you manage to weasel your way out of this mess don't bother trying to find us." He indicated the envelope with one stubby finger. "That is your copy of the paperwork. See that you keep it with you."
His eyes raked over the boy and Snape could tell he was working himself up to do something. Quick as a snake the man pulled his arm back then gave Harry a vicious backhand to the face. The boy's head snapped backward but he made no sound although the blow knocked him off the step. "I've been wanting to do that since the day you arrived, boy," Dursley said with a sneer.
Potter eyed him from his position on the ground. "Don't come back," he said quietly. There was more menace in his voice than Snape thought the boy capable of. Obviously trying not to appear as if he were retreating the fat man did just that. Without another glance at Potter he squeezed himself back into the car and drove away. The boy sat motionless, his eyes back on the wizard. He didn't look up even when the car flung gravel as Vernon accelerated rapidly in his haste to be gone from the scene.
Snape moved from the shadow of the shed and immediately Potter's wand was pointing at his chest. The marks from Dursley's fingers were clearly visible against the pallor of his skin. His eyes shone as if with fever and the hand holding the wand shook slightly. Raising his hands in a placating gesture, Snape walked slowly toward the boy. "It's me, Potter. It's Professor Snape." The boy's eyes focused on him then, he flinched and dropped the hand holding his wand. He muttered darkly and dropped his eyes.
"What did you say?"
Potter looked back up at him with a look of loathing. "I said, 'That's what happens when you cause the deaths of enough people who like you.'"
Snape scowled. "Just what is that supposed to mean?"
"It means they have to start sending people who can't stand the sight of you. Sir."
"You're rambling, Potter. Please speak in complete sentences."
"It means, Sir, when you are the Boy Who Bloody Lived, everyone feels they have to send someone to rescue you but if you get enough of them killed then they have to get someone who loathes you to do it." He flinched again as he raised his head to look Snape in the eyes as he spoke.
Snape decided not to comment on that last statement and instead turned to the fallen Death Eater. He flicked his wand and conjured ropes around his wrists and ankles. Potter looked slightly relieved and spoke again. "His wand is over by the ladder."
Snape walked over picked up the wand and placed it in his robes. With the toe of his boot he flipped the man over so he could see his face. He grunted, "Grosbeak. One of the Dark Lord's minions. I wonder how he got here, perhaps just a lucky guess or an apparation gone wrong." He mused over the effect the emancipation might have had on the wards. Turning back to Harry he said, "Mr. Potter, would you care to enlighten me on what has happened here?"
Harry sighed and peered up at Snape through his fringe.
"Oh for Merlin's sake, boy! Raise your head and look me square in the eye," Snape snapped irritably.
"I think my collar bone is broken, sir. Makes it hard to lift my head – sorry." He shifted uncomfortably.
With a sharp look Snape assessed the boy more thoroughly. "Talk, Potter," he grunted.
A nod and another flinch then the boy spoke. "I was on the ladder cleaning windows when I heard an apparation. I grabbed my wand from my pocket and turned to see who it was. He looked as shocked to see me, as I was to see him. He aimed a curse at me and more or less simultaneously I shot a stunning curse at him." A contemplative expression crossed the young wizard's face. "I think that's why the Ministry didn't send a letter warning about underage magic. Spells must've overlapped and they didn't detect mine," he mused. An impatient look got him back on track with the story. "My stupefy curse hit him square in the chest and he dropped where you see him now, wand flew over by my ladder. His curse caught me across the back, just skimmed my skin but didn't have full effect. Burnt like bloody hell though!" Gingerly he tried to twist around to touch the wound but stopped with another grimace of pain. "The force threw me off the ladder and I landed on my left shoulder. Made it over to the step here and I've been waiting for the Dursleys to show up." He shrugged with the right shoulder and looked at Snape carefully. "That's it."
Snape rewarded him with another sneer but also produced a potion vial from within his robes. "This will mend the broken bone." He handed it to Harry but the boy did not reach for the bottle. Snape glared at him and Harry answered him with a copy of his own trademark expression.
"First rule I learned at Hogwarts. Don't take any potions Snape offers you," Harry growled. "I'll be fine."
Snape laughed. It was a most unpleasant and evil sounding laugh and Harry cringed. Snape chuckled again. "Where is your trunk, Potter?"
In a matter of minutes Snape had his trunk out of the cupboard and open so Harry could toss in the things he retrieved painfully from upstairs. The potions master looked around dubiously and said, "Is that everything? You will not be returning here." When Harry nodded he continued. "We shall return you to Hogwarts so Madame Pomfrey can patch you up and do her usual fussing." He waved his wand and shrunk the trunk down to the size of a matchbox. Before he could pick it up Harry grabbed it and thrust it into his pocket.
"I'd rather not go back to Hogwarts, Professor," he said quickly. "St. Mungo's will be much better."
Snape glared at him and grated, "Don't be ridiculous Potter. Madame Pomfrey is more than capable of attending to your injuries."
"I realize that, sir, but I would prefer to stay away from Hogwarts as long as possible." He crossed his arms and looked steadily back at the potions master.
With a concerted effort Snape refrained from rolling his eyes. "The headmaster will want to talk to you about the attack and arrange for you to stay somewhere for the summer, Potter. They can't have the savior of the wizarding world living in the streets," he said sarcastically. He sneered at the boy who bristled at this last remark.
"Well, the savior would like to put off being manipulated as long as possible," Harry said with equal venom. "I'll go to St. Mungo's tonight and speak to the Headmaster tomorrow."
Snape's eyebrows rose to somewhere near his hairline. "Manipulated! I hardly think arranging your living arrangements for the summer constitutes manipulation."
Harry sighed wearily and leaned against the wall. "If I've ever made a single decision about my own life I can't remember it. Just once I'd like to make my own choice about something other than what to have for dinner." He slid down to a seated position and nursed his left arm next to his body.
"You're hardly old enough to make that kind of decision, Potter. When you are of age you will have plenty of time to make your own disastrous choices."
Harry looked up at him sharply. "And what kind of odds would you give on me actually living long enough for that to happen?" he said darkly. Snape flinched. "Didn't think so." Harry dropped his eyes and rubbed his face with his hand as he continued to speak, "I'm sure Professor Dumbledore has told you about the prophecy. It's time for me to start making my own way, making a few of my own decisions. Relying on someone else to bail me out isn't going to work anymore. Voldemort isn't going to let up and I need to get ready.
Snape flinched again at the mention of the dark lord's name. "Potter, as usual you dramatize the situation. Your summer arrangements are hardly on a level with your ridiculous destiny. If you prefer to go to St. Mungo's then by all means, lets go there so I can rid myself of your presence." He stepped forward and hauled the boy to his feet by the collar of his shirt. "Let's go."
As they exited the house Snape remembered the death eater in the back yard. "I need to notify someone about the man who attacked you, Potter." He looked down at the boy beside him and, after assessing the tired slump of his shoulders, came to a decision. "Once we are at St. Mungo's you can firecall the ministry and let them know." He sneered at Harry's bewildered expression and continued, "It wouldn't do for me to notify them about one of my fellows, now would it Potter?"
The boy scowled and replied, "No, I suppose it wouldn't do at all. Do you think he will be secure until then?"
It was Snape's turn to scowl as he said, "Yes. He'll not find it easy to wriggle out of one of my binding spells." Harry merely shrugged and kept walking, refusing to rise to Snape's bait. Snape stuck out his wand and moments later they were boarding the Knight Bus. After the customary pleasantries the two were ensconced in comfy chairs and speeding recklessly toward the wizard hospital.
After exiting the bus Harry turned to Snape before they entered St. Mungo's. "Can we not tell them who I am?" he asked.
"You're the one who wanted to come here, Potter. Are you changing your mind now?" Snape's scowl was even more severe than usual although it could have been from the unusually rough ride they had endured on the Knight Bus.
"No, I'm not changing my mind," Harry growled. "I just think it would be easier if they weren't all fawning over me like... well, you know." He finished rather hesitantly and looked up at Snape as if he had no hope of understanding.
Snape, however, did understand. He had been considering this very tactic and was slightly put out that Harry had mentioned it before he could. He coughed and cleared his throat as he tried to think of a way not to agree with the brat but came up with nothing. "Fine," he finally rasped, "we will call you Neville Longbottom," hoping that Harry would at least be dismayed by his choice of names.
Harry brightened considerably and said, "Brilliant." With a final look of loathing for the boy Snape lead the way into the clinic. After navigating through the usual red tape they were ushered into a treatment room.
'From the looks of the boy we are getting here just in time,' thought Snape as he surveyed the young wizard. Harry, who had run out of steam while they waited in the queue, was perched tiredly on the edge of the examination table. His face was pale and damp with sweat, the handprint still lividly outlined on his cheek. Lids drooping, he looked as if he would pass out at any moment. Finally a mediwizard breezed in and picked up Harry's chart. His nametag said Healer Ian Brice.
"Ah, Neville," said the wizard in a rather impersonal voice, "it looks as if you could use a little patching up." Harry nodded listlessly and laid on the table as the mediwizard indicated. The man held his wand horizontal to the table and ran it over the boy as he muttered a few diagnostic incantations. "Hmm, looks like a few cracked ribs and a broken clavicle, a rather nasty burn on your back, and some assorted bruises. Anything else bothering you, boy?"
Harry shook his head. Snape snorted and looked disgusted with the whole proceedings. "Can we get started please?" he growled impatiently.
The doctor set the chart down and faced Snape. Obviously put off by Snape's dark appearance the man went into defensive mode. "Do you have a problem with my clinical technique?" Snape snarled and Harry saw his hand jerk toward his wand.
"Just get on with it," Snape ground out through clenched teeth. The healer, a rather large man who looked like he probably played beater in school, stood up and took a threatening step toward Snape.
Suddenly the boy interrupted them. He looked like he was worried Snape would get angry and start hexing the man before he could do anything to heal him. He spoke up quietly. "There's no problem here so can we just get on with this?"
The two older wizards looked at him in shock. They had both forgotten all about Harry as their argument had started to escalate. "Sorry, Neville," said the doctor. He waved his wand and muttered a few more incantations. Immediately the boy looked better as the magic took effect. Next the man handed Harry a jar of cream saying, "You'll need to rub this on the burn twice a day for the next few days. Not sure what caused it," and here he looked speculatively at Snape, "but it's not fully responding to the spell. This will complete the healing but it will take a little time." He handed Harry two more potions and said, "Here's a sleeping draught for later tonight and some bone mending potion."
Harry took the jar and potions and smiled tiredly at the mediwizard. "Thanks, you've been brilliant." He quaffed the bone mending potion with a grimace and set the others aside.
The man looked appeased and turned back to Snape. "He'll have to stay here overnight. In the morning the mediwizard on duty will evaluate him and discharge him." Snape nodded and rose to leave. The doctor stopped him and obviously thinking Snape was Harry's relative said, "You can stay for a few hours if you like. Visiting hours isn't over yet."
Harry hid a smirk as Snape glared at the man. "Why would I want to waste time sitting here?" he snarled. He turned to Harry, "Don't forget to make your firecall," he snapped. With a trademark swirl of his robes Snape was gone.
The mediwizard looked shocked. Harry grinned and said, "Don't worry, he's always like that." With a shake of his head the man exited the room, muttering to himself about thankless family members and dark wizards. Harry slipped off the bed and made his way down the hall to the public fireplaces. In a matter of minutes he had relayed his message to a ministry official about the death eater on Privet Drive and been assured that an auror would be dispatched to the scene momentarily.
Harry returned to his room and, ignoring the sleeping potion, began to set his plans into action. Snape's unexpected arrival had actually worked in his favor. That got the death eater taken care of and no one would be looking for him until tomorrow. He'd had plenty of time to decide what to do while waiting for his uncle to come home and after warning them of the danger he felt he had fulfilled his last duty to his so-called family. Anger threatened to overcome him as he thought about Uncle Vernon but he quelled it and got to work.
He opened his trunk and pulled out a clean set of clothing. Next he retrieved a bandana and his wand. Moving to the mirror he looked around hesitantly and then shrugged. "Guess I'll find out if I was right about the presence of other people doing magic covering for me," he muttered as he proceeded to charm his hair to grow longer. When it reached his shoulders he stopped and assessed his handiwork.
Next he tied the bandana around his forehead, covering his scar and holding the long locks back from his face. After donning the clothing he stowed his dirty clothes and the burn potion in the trunk and shrunk it again before placing it in his pocket. He kept his wand out, stashing it in his back pocket despite Moody's previous warning. Harry moved swiftly out of the room and without hesitation stepped into the fireplace while calmly saying, "Diagon Alley."
As soon as he arrived in the wizard shopping area he found the camping store and got to work on his plan. He quickly selected a backpack with expandable interior and a weightless charm. He added a small wizard tent complete with a disillusionment charm and paid for his purchases. Before leaving the store he asked the shopkeeper to unshrink his trunk. Harry stuffed it into the pack along with the tent.
Harry ducked down Knockturn Alley for his next purchase. Nervously fingering his wand he kept his head down and tried not to attract any unwanted attention. In a dark and dingy shop he found a small foe glass and added it to his stash. He took a few moments to browse around the store and picked up a hidden wand holster and a privacy disc. The disc worked like a silencing charm to keep anyone from hearing what was being said near it. He scanned a shelf of books and nearly choked when he saw one was titled "Occlumency: Keep Your Mind to Yourself." Harry's eyes misted and a large lump in his throat made it very difficult to breathe. Roughly dashing the moisture from his eyes Harry grabbed the book and made his purchases.
Finally he hurried into Gringott's and changed the rest of his galleons into muggle money. He thought longingly of his vault but decided against trying to access it as it might bring death eaters or Dumbledore down on him. The stack of bills looked pathetically small but the goblin teller assured him with a smirk that he had given him the best exchange rate possible. He wished Hermione were there to negotiate for him.
Harry wearily trudged out of the Leaky Caldron and into Muggle London. His back ached from the burn and his shoulder was throbbing. He kept moving doggedly, refusing to stop until his plan was complete. Slouching against the handrail of the escalator down to the Tube, Harry scanned the faces of the crowd. Luckily there were no familiar faces and the young wizard got on the train safely. Feeling exposed and vulnerable as he waited for his stop he adjusted the bandana to be sure it covered his scar. After exiting the train he stumbled out into the dusk and, after consulting a map posted near the Tube entrance, made his way to his final destination. Grimmauld Place.