Title: He Stood in His Shoes and Wondered
Severus stood over the sleeping boy in the infirmary. Messy black hair, so similar to his father's, fanned across the pillow and green eyes were hidden behind thick lashes. 'So deceptively innocent when they're sleeping.' Severus reached down and shook his shoulder, jostling him awake. "Wake up, Potter. I'm to escort you to Diagon Alley and I'll not allow it to be an all-day event. I expect you to be ready to leave in ten minutes." The Slytherin head left the half-awake boy lying dazedly in bed, marched over to the main entrance of the hospital wing, and sat down on a visitor's chair. "Hurry up!"
The boy scrambled out of bed, nearly killing himself to get free of the tangled sheets, and hurried into the shower room. Severus heard the sound of water running seconds later and mentally counted down the time. He'd woken up with a headache that left him none too accommodating to anyone else and didn't even twitch when there was a shocked "Whoa!" and a wet thud.
The stupid twit had slipped on the wet tile.
Potter ran back into the main part of the infirmary and gazed around stupidly. Severus knew he was looking for clothes and pointed in the direction of the bedside table. "Second drawer, near the back. The outfit will shrink to your size." The boy nodded without a word and quickly drew the curtain around his bed for some privacy. With thirty seconds to spare, the Potter brat skid to a stop in front of him, hands clenched nervously.
He had yet to make eye contact with the older male and hadn't spoken a word, but Severus let him be. It was much too early in the morning to listen to the nonsensical babble that was sure to spew forth from the younger's mouth. Severus stood up, pointed his wand at the boy's feet, and transfigured the sneakers into thick-soled boots. At the questioning glance, Severus rolled his eyes.
"It rained during the night and the path from the castle to Hogsmeade will be muddy. Sneakers are the worst choice for this kind of weather." The two males left the hospital wing, Harry following the elder, and headed down to the Great Hall. "We will have a quick breakfast and then leave. You will take this potion with your meal." Severus held out a vial filled with a nutritive potion and Harry took it without a word.
Severus watched the eleven year old eat, noting the small amount of food on his plate. It would take a while for the boy's stomach to get used to eating larger amounts of food, and until then a nutritive potion was needed. He tucked into his own plate, filled with black pudding, fried potatoes, and a couple of boiled eggs. Instead of his usual pumpkin juice he had a large cup of black coffee. He would need the extra energy.
Around him the other staff that stayed at the castle over the summer were throwing curious looks over at Potter. The boy's dark hair was as messy as ever and his thick fringe covered up his famous scar. Severus ignored the whispered questions aimed at him and finished his meal. The boy looked up at him sharply when he stood up, arms tensing around his plate ever so slightly. Severus ignored the action and motioned to the nutritive potion. "Drink it." Hesitantly, as if he was afraid that his plate was going to be stolen from under his nose, one arm stretched out and grasped the small glass vial. Green eyes watched him carefully as the potion was downed and squinted in disgust. "They aren't meant to taste well. It's an incentive to not need them again. Finish up your food. We've taken up too much time as it is." Eggs and kippers were quickly shoveled away and the two of them left the whispering staff to their theories on who the boy was.
The potion's master conjured a small cloak and handed it to the boy next to him. "It will be chilly until about noon. Make sure not to lose it." The boy put it on silently and waited for his next command. "Follow me." Severus had taken the path from the castle to the edge of the wards many times, either to go to a Deatheater's meeting or to go to Hogsmeade for refills on potion ingredients during the school year. The path was packed dirt but when the weather turned wet it became a winding ribbon of thick mud. Why it had never been paved with stone was beyond him, but he considered bringing it up at the next staff meeting. He could hear Potter's breaths as he tried to keep up with his swift pace in the thick mud and he slowed down the barest amount. A quick gasp had him turning around to see what had caught the boy's attention.
The lizardy equines rarely left the forest, preferring to stay in the paddocks Hagrid set up for them. Every so often, though, they ventured into the open field the surrounded Hogwarts to stretch their wings. Severus himself had more than met the requirement to see the creatures, but wondered at the boy's apparent ability. Perhaps he had seen Lily die? The thought made him a bit sad.
"There is nothing to fear from the thestrals. They are terrifying for one to see the first time, but despite their appearance they are quite harmless unless provoked. They feed mostly on dead flesh, not little boys."
Harry swung his head to look at the dour man. His reassurances were anything but, and the boy sidled closer to the other man. Those weird horses were rather scary looking, but a few of them had canted their head to the side when the wizards had stopped to look at them and Harry couldn't help but think they looked very similar to confused dogs.
A young one ventured out from behind the others and tentatively made its way over. Its head swiveled back and forth like a snake, watching both humans carefully with one eye at all times. Harry pressed against Snape's legs, head pulled back to stay as far away from the creature as he could. The leathery nose snuffled his face gently, warm air that smelled faintly of rotting meat ruffling his hair. Harry hesitantly raised a hand and patted the baby thestral on the nose, surprised at how soft the leathery skin was. One of the older horses snorted and the young one turned to follow its herd out to the field, wings flapping anxiously. Harry watched in awe as the whole group galloped and leapt into the air as one, the sound of powerful wing beats echoing back to the humans.
The boy turned back to the older man. "That was brilliant! I didn't know flying horses were real."
"Not many people can see thestrals. Death has to be witnessed first before they become visible. No doubt your mother's death is your catalyst." A quick glance at the sun had him turning to hurry toward Hogsmeade once more. "Come along, then. The shops will be open soon and if we hurry we can beat the morning rush."
The crowds weren't as bad as Severus feared. Most of the students had already collected their supplies in the weeks prior and he activity level in the alley was nearly back to normal. Severus' first stop was the bank and he nearly ended up with vomit covered shoes once again after the trolley ride down to the boy's vault. He ignored the surprise on the boy's face at the amount of money was left to him and instructed him to fill a pouch with whatever he thought he needed for the year. At the bewildered looked sent his way, Severus sighed and picked up one of each coin.
"This is a knut." Severus held up the bronze coin. "Twenty-nine of these equals one sickle." This time he held up a silver coin, slightly larger than the first. He set the previous two coins aside and held up a heavy gold coin. "Seventeen sickles make one galleon." He saw that the boy was still confused. "A galleon is equal to 5 pounds, a sickle is about twenty-nine pence, and a knut is one penny. I assume you have some knowledge about muggle money?"
Harry nodded. He learned it in school. He reached for the bag that Snape held and filled it, trying to take a adequate amount of galleons and sickles before filling the rest of the space with knuts to use as change fillers. The goblin (a very strange looking creature, Harry thought) that had brought them down here marked something on piece of parchment attached to the wall next to the vault door and Harry assumed he was recording how much was being withdrawn. How the goblin knew how much was beyond him, but he wasn't willing to get into a conversation with the grumpy looking creature.
The two wizards boarded the trolley once again and they shot off further into the darkness. Just before they rounded a corner that would lead them back to the entrance, something pulled at Harry and made him look to the side. In the dim lighting of the cave, a vault door with the number seven hundred and eleven sat forebodingly, shadows dancing across the rusted metal. Something unfriendly called out to him, but before he could dwell on it the trolley pulled them around the corner and back to the bank. The feeling faded and Harry forgot all about it soon after.
Severus made quick work of Harry's list, swiftly marching into each required shop and ordering the supplies without once looking at the list. Instead of dealing with carrying all of the purchases, he arranged to have them owled to the castle and covered the shipping cost himself without letting the boy know. Merlin forbid the twit think he liked him.
The second to last shop they hit was Madame Malkin's. The Slytherin head stopped just outside the door and turned to his surprisingly silent charge.
"I will leave you here to obtain your robes. I must make a few stops of my own before we go back to the castle. If you are finished before I get back, wait here. Do not make me search for you or you will not like the consequences. Do I make myself clear?" The boy nodded and Severus clucked his tongue. "I expect a verbal answer."
"Yes, sir. I'll stay here."
"Good. Now get inside." Severus stalked off without waiting to see if the boy would follow his command and weaved through the crowds to Knockturn Alley. There were a few dangerous ingredients he needed to collect for his latest experiment.
Harry stood nervously as the enchanted tape measure flitted around him, taking measurements as a floating quill and piece of parchment recorded everything. Madame Malkin showed up with an armful of black cloth and tapped the parchment with her wand. A scissors appeared out of nowhere and began cutting the cloth, the quill hovering close by as if to make sure it didn't make any mistakes. Needles and thread floated out of the little sewing box at Harry's feet and began to sew the fabric around him.
"Now, dear, hold still while the needles work. They get irritable if you squirm too much. It shouldn't take too long for them to finish."
Harry swallowed and watched the sharp little things carefully, flinching when they got too close to his face. The bell above the shop door rang as a customer opened it and he had to fight the instinct to turn and look. Madame Malkin greeted them cheerfully and a boy Harry's age was brought over to the stand next to him. Harry risked turning his head slightly and saw the other boy was getting the same treatment he was.
The other boy had brown hair and had a kind, round face. Harry smiled when was caught staring. "Hello."
"H-hi! Are you going to Hogwarts, t-too?"
"Yeah. I'm Harry."
"I'm Neville." Needles were now flying around Neville, just as quickly as they had for Harry. "Which house do you think you'll be in?"
House? Harry hadn't heard anything about that. "I'm not sure. What are the houses?"
Neville looked surprised. "You must be a muggleborn. There are four houses at Hogwarts. Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. My grandmother wants me to be in Gryffindor, but I think I might be in Hufflepuff. I'm not very brave."
Neville blushed. "Y-yeah. You get sorted into a house according to the main part of your personality. Brave for Gryffindor, Loyal for Hufflepuff, Ravenclaws are studious, and Slytherins are ambitious. Though, most people say Slytherins are evil."
"Oh. I don't think I want to be in that house, then." The needles around Harry finished and Madame Malkin returned, folding the new robes with an ease that spoke of her years as a tailor.
"Alright, dear, you can head back to the front desk. Neville, your grandmother needed to run to the apothecary for a quick moment. She asked me to tell you to wait for her here."
Harry left the fitting room, Neville following a few minutes later, and watched Madame Malkin wrap his robes in heavy paper. "Are you taking your purchase with you, or do you want me to owl it for you?"
Harry dug into his coin bag. "Owl, please. Can you send it to Hogwarts?"
"I sure can. That will be four galleons for the robes and nine sickles for delivery." Harry handed over the coins and sat next to Neville on the waiting chairs. The boy still held his robes in his lap and Harry sent him a questioning glance.
"Gran doesn't trust the owls the shops use in Diagon Alley. Says they're just as likely to drop your parcel in a lake as deliver it to you." Neville set his package on the seat next to him. "Are you waiting for your parents to pick you up? Gran will be a while in the apothecary, so I'll probably be here for half and hour."
"No, my parents died. I'm waiting for the man I came here with to come back. He told me not to leave this store."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I know what it's like not to have parents around."
Neville nodded. "They're not dead, but they're sick so they stay at St. Mungo's year round."
"That's a hospital?"
"The best one in the Wizarding World." The crowd just outside the window caught the boy's attention and his face brightened as he turned to look. "Hold on, Harry. There's someone you should meet." Neville dashed outside and returned a minute later with a gangly red-haired boy in tow. "Harry, this is Ron. Ron, Harry."
The red head looked a little stunned at being dragged into the robe shop by his usually she friend. "Er, hello there Harry. Going to Hogwarts this year?" Harry nodded. "That's good then. Oh! Neville, I'm actually glad you found me. The quidditch shop finally released the Nimbus two thousand! C'mon, there's one in the display we can look at!"
Neville looked excited, but hesitated. "Gran wanted me to wait for her here while she's at the apothecary."
"You know she's going to talk to that creepy shopkeeper about the different brands of castor oil forever! It'll only take a minute, Neville!"
The brown haired boy visibly caved. "Alright, a minute then. Harry, do you want to come with us?"
Harry was just as reluctant to leave. That Snape guy scared him and he didn't want to make him angry. However, he was dying to see what a Nimbus two thousand even was. Snape didn't seem like he was going to show up in the next few minutes, though, and Harry nodded. "Just for a little, then." The three boys left the shop quickly, excited to see all the chaos the latest broom was causing.
Harry couldn't help but think he had just made a big mistake.
Well, it's been over three months, but the fourth chapter is finally here. Better late than never, I guess.