Disclaimer: All recognizable settings and characters of the Harry Potter series belong to J.K. Rowling.
Story Notes: Sequel to Emerald Eyes; AU; takes place during the summer before Harry's 3rd year; a Snape mentors Harry story (NO slash).
Beta: ObsidianEmbrace (Thanks, Tabitha!)
Author's Notes: Thank you to everyone who has decided to continue reading on in the Emerald Eyes universe :-) I've appreciated all of your reviews and encouraging messages over the year, as I've trudged through my first official year of teaching. I hope you enjoy the sequel!
Chapter 1: Only a Fortnight
Harry shifted against the tree trunk he was leaning against and closed his eyes with a sigh.
The weather in Surrey was hotter than usual today. Even the bark, clinging in odd clumps to the enormous, ugly tree sprouting out of the Dursleys' back yard, felt warm and itchy against Harry's back. A patch of damp t-shirt clung to his sweaty skin, but Harry doubted that a little more dirt from the tree would make any difference. He'd been at Privet Drive for over a fortnight, and in all that time, none of his clothes, except a handful of dingy underwear he'd washed four nights ago in the bathroom sink, had seen laundry soap or even fresh water.
But Harry was hardly worried. Aunt Petunia would give in sooner or later, most likely when she realized that the dirt streaks along his sleeves and the knees of his saggy jeans were becoming noticeable to the neighbors.
Grinning to himself, Harry wiggled his back against the tree trunk and scraped his seat along the ground; he could almost feel the dirt ingraining into the worn-out denim. Trudging into supper at half-past seven smelling of grass and grime on such a humid day would be the final straw for Aunt Petunia.
Without a doubt, a small pile of his soiled clothes would be in the washing machine by nightfall.
That is, unless Uncle Vernon was in one of his moods. In that case, his uncle would be shouting at Harry instead for getting his trousers so grubby…and then shouting at Harry again for being the cause of his sore throat…
Harry stopped wiggling. He wasn't in the mood for cleaning his uncle's spittle off of his glasses.
Sticking his feet out in front of him, Harry sighed again, louder this time. The sun was a soft orange now, and it flickered through the leafy branches of the tree in Mrs. Figg's yard.
His uncle would be home very soon, followed by Dudley, who would be panting from the heat as he attempted to pry his enormous rump out of the backseat of Piers' mother's Volkswagen. Vernon would complain about the lack of air conditioning in the office and Dudley would whine about the scanty amount of butter on his cinema popcorn.
Harry wrinkled his nose at the thought. With the sun out of his eyes now and the occasional wisp of a lukewarm breeze blowing through his fringe, he tried his best to shrug away the notion of such impending doom. As always, he was determined to enjoy these Dursley-free moments as long as possible.
Listening to the screech of crickets off in the distance, Harry picked up the heavy book that was lying next to him in the grass and opened it to the page he'd folded over only ten minutes before. Balancing the binding between his knees, Harry hunched over his text, A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot, and ran his finger down the last paragraph in the third chapter, searching, once more, for any information on witch burnings for Professor Binns' essay. Finding nothing after several minutes, Harry snapped the book closed and tossed it back on the grass.
He could look again tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Harry thought, dejectedly. A whole twenty-four hours. He clunked the back of his head against the trunk as he dug the worn heels of his trainers into the dirt, semiconsciously flicking his thumb along the edge of the locket under his t-shirt; the metal had been sticking to his clammy skin all afternoon.
Suddenly, Harry heard the swift grinding of the glass door sliding open. He twisted around, biting his lip when he saw Vernon's backside wedged into the open space.
"I told him it needed to be done by today, Petunia!" Vernon's voice wafted through the screen insert in the open window; he had paused, one foot still over the threshold.
Harry cringed and held his breath as he peeked around the thick tree trunk. Vernon's pudgy finger was pointing at the flower bed that lay alongside the concrete porch.
"Give the boy a simple, ruddy task and see what he does! Defiance, Petunia! Defiance, plain and simple!"
"You said it had to be done by the weekend," Harry whispered to himself, still watching carefully. "Not today…" He gritted his teeth in anger as he listened to Uncle Vernon carry on, wondering what had gotten his tent-sized knickers in a twist. Must have been an extra-bad day at work, Harry figured.
A few seconds later, he could hear distinct shushing noises coming from his Aunt Petunia, followed by her stiff muttering.
Harry knew his aunt was concerned about the neighbors overhearing, like always. He didn't need to have Hermione's IQ to figure that out.
"…Dudders will be home any minute now," Petunia said more clearly. "Wash up, dear."
"Well, if the boy thinks I'm waiting even a second on him to come traipsing in from his tomfoolery, he's got another thing coming, hasn't he!" Vernon growled, stepping back into the house.
Harry let his breath out.
"Why, he can just—"
"He's in the yard, Vernon."
An awful silence.
Harry's teeth worried at his lip until he saw the glass door slide the rest of the way open, banging against the opposite side.
Jerking back around, Harry thought fast. At the last second, he caught sight of A History of Magic. Harry sucked in a sharp breath, his stomach crinkling. He'd be in massive trouble if Vernon knew he'd picked the lock to rescue his school books from the cupboard under the stairs.
If only his uncle had worked a bit later, like he usually did in the summer when it stayed light outside until nine, Harry could have sneaked the book back upstairs, past his aunt, who, by this time, never paid attention to anything but the temperature of the pot-roast.
But it was Friday—of course it was. And Vernon rarely stayed at work past seven on a Friday.
Idiot, Harry chided himself. How could you be so stupid?
Harry started in surprise, shoving the textbook underneath his thighs. Vernon glowered down at him; his eyes were slits above his splotchy, swollen cheeks.
"Thought you could hide from me, didn't you, boy! Lazing about like a no good—"
"I'm not hiding…"
"Oh ho!" Vernon chortled, throwing his head back slightly. "You're not, are you?"
Harry furrowed his brow in annoyance, but he bit the inside of his bottom lip again to keep from saying something he'd undoubtedly regret later. He shifted carefully.
"What would you call this, then?"
Harry glanced down at his lap, willing himself to keep quiet. He would have loved very much to speak the words that were boiling inside of him, but he didn't feel like going to bed without supper tonight—his stomach had been growling for nearly half an hour.
Choosing the safe route, Harry shrugged.
Suddenly, Vernon emitted a strange, soft noise from the back of his throat; Harry sensed his uncle lunging forward but had little time to react before Vernon's large fist grabbed a handful of his t-shirt and yanked him up.
Harry could hear the faint sound of ripping as his soiled collar stretched, his trainers scrabbling in the dirt until he was finally able to slap his open palm against the tree trunk and right himself.
His uncle leaned in close, speaking in a chafing whisper. "I've had about all I can take of this cheek, boy!"
Harry tried to pull away, wrinkling his forehead in disgust at the close-up view he had of his uncle's sweat-soaked mustache. "I've hardly said a thing in two weeks…"
"Actions speak louder than words, now don't they!"
"I haven't done anything!" Harry whispered back.
"See!" Vernon rasped. "You see that!" He twisted Harry's shirt; the collar tightened uncomfortably.
"That snark," Vernon sneered. "That disgusting smirk plastered all over your freaky little face… I've seen enough of it these two weeks to last a lifetime!"
The collar digging into Harry's neck was beginning to smart. He reached back to try and loosen it, pushing against the tree with all his might. "Let me go."
"I'll take no orders from you, boy!"
Harry heard the sound of frantic tapping against the screen in the window, but Vernon ignored it.
"You're ripping my shirt…"
"That's the least of your worries, isn't it," Vernon said through gritted teeth, giving Harry a good shake.
The rapping against the wire mesh intensified, and his uncle glanced away long enough for Harry to grab a hold of his t-shirt and yank it out of Vernon's white-knuckled fist. Stumbling backward, Harry's heel caught the edge of a gnarled root that protruded out of the grass, and he tumbled to the ground, bottom-first. Harry clenched his teeth at the pain that flared almost immediately.
Vernon whipped his head back around at the grassy thud, his lips twisted in leering triumph as he eyed a gray-faced Harry slumped on the ground, nursing a stinging hip.
"Serves you right, I say." Vernon swung away toward the house, grumbling, "Get in the house, boy, and set the table for your aunt." He waddled a few steps, and then halted, his enormous belly wobbling with the sudden movement. Turning slowly, he squinted down suspiciously at Harry.
Harry pressed his lips together as he kneaded away the last of the lingering burn with his fingertips, but he paused when he glimpsed Vernon glaring down at him…at the patch of grass behind him…
"What the ruddy hell is this?" Vernon muttered as he plodded over toward the tree again.
Forgetting his injury, Harry twisted around and reached for his book, but amazingly, Vernon was faster. Shoving Harry out of the way, his uncle dove more quickly than Harry had ever seen him move and snatched up A History of Magic by its cover. The cream-colored pages fanned out, flapping loosely against each other.
Wheezing with exertion, Vernon managed to trap Harry against the trunk of the tree with one beefy knee hovering dangerously close to the boy's chest while he flipped the book closed and frowned down at the golden-stamped title along the binding.
Instantly, Vernon's face clouded like a brick-red dustbowl; a purplish vein popped out of his temple as he glowered down at his nephew.
Harry had seen that color stain his uncle's cheeks enough times to know that nothing good would follow. But his own adrenalin was pumping wildly at the moment, and Harry's sense of self-preservation was sparse. He pushed against Vernon's shin with one hand and grabbed for his History of Magic text with the other.
"Oh, no you don't!" Vernon's knee nudged Harry in the chest firmly enough to press his back up against the trunk. He was holding the book by the front cover again; Harry could see the thread of the binding begin to pull loose from Vernon's rough treatment.
"I need that for school," Harry choked out in a thin voice. He reached out for his book again, but Vernon jerked it away.
"If you think you're getting this back, boy, you've got another thing coming!"
Harry pushed against Vernon's knee again, but the bulbous joint wouldn't budge a millimeter.
"Not so mighty now, are you!"
The sound of the front door slamming and Dudley's whinging drawl wafted in from the sitting room. Sticky with sweat now, Harry tried to shove the knee away until his arms trembled. He eyed the dangling book intently.
Vernon snorted, his sour breath ruffling Harry's fringe as he bent down. "Nothing but a namby-pamby—"
"Vernon!" Petunia called from the open window. "Dinner's on the table!"
"—waste of space, you are, Potter," his uncle sneered.
Harry held his breath, his face so hot it felt close to bursting. Streaks of color danced in the corners of his vision.
"…lazy, no good…ARGH!" Vernon dropped A History of Magic with a strangled yelp and staggered backward.
Squeezing his knees to his chest, Harry gawked saucer-eyed at the book lying in the grass, a slim wisp of smoke curling off of its edge.
Vernon's cheeks puffed out as he frantically blew on his finger where the tiny flame had licked the skin.
Harry's heart thudded against his kneecaps, his head spinning; he curled into himself even further, waiting for Vernon's wrath to descend.
But his uncle remained planted, looking very much like an elephant attempting to balance on its hind legs. He gawked at Harry as he panted, his eyes occasionally shifting back and forth from one neighbor's fence to the next.
Harry tried to glance away from the condemning, frightened stare of his uncle, but he couldn't; it had been quite some time since Vernon had been the victim of his accidental magic, but Harry easily recalled the disgusted gleam in his uncle's eyes. A silent barrier that put acres between the Dursleys and him.
Harry would have preferred a blow.
Aunt Petunia called out to the both of them this time, but Harry hardly paid attention.
Stepping over the book, Vernon trudged forward without a word.
Harry waited until he heard the glass door scrape closed again; he pressed his nose against his knees, blinking through the bit of fringe that dangled in his eyes. He listened to the steady in-out rhythm of his breathing, knowing that in a few minutes, the water gathering in the corners of his vision would evaporate and the painful swelling in his throat would fade.
The locket felt heavy and irritating against his sweaty skin now, but Harry forced himself to ignore it; it had only been a fortnight after all.
He nudged the crisped edge of his History book with the toe of his trainer.
He wasn't very hungry anymore.
"…either more expansive workspace or a greater quantity of tables in the common room would be sufficient, I believe."
"Either is fine, Minerva."
"This crowding about a single table doing Merlin-knows-what with a pile of spell books is most inconvenient for their studying…and a bit irritating to witness, I might add…"
Albus' gentle eyes crinkled around the corners. "Severus, would your Slytherins benefit from additional workspace as well?"
Silence from the far side of the table, save a few clinks of a coffee-soaked spoon against the inside of a teacup.
"He's not listening, Albus," the elderly woman muttered tightly. "Now about—"
"The library provides sufficient workspace, does it not?" Severus tipped out a spoonful of lukewarm coffee back into the half-empty cup and curled his lip at the now-stale brew.
He could feel their stares, but he ignored the both of them.
"Unfortunately," Albus began among the stiff silence, "you may find the addition of tables in the Gryffindor common room rather fruitless, I'm afraid—perhaps your students simply enjoy each other's company during study-time." The headmaster smiled softly once again.
Severus sniffed to himself; such a stupid matter of discussion. Minerva McGonagall's concerns for the upcoming school year, as always, were beyond trivial.
Sensing their eyes locking over the top his head, Severus' scalp crinkled.
He excused himself as promptly as possible, his meager stack of buttered toast untouched and soggy.
As Severus stalked through the corridors leading to the dungeons, he drank in the cool, damp air washed over his face. Though the summer sun was warm and cheerful this morning, Severus relished in the dimness of his chambers, the candlelight, magnified and flickering along the clammy-looking walls.
The stinging headache that had been pounding through his temples since sunrise began to ebb.
Throwing open the door to his private storage room, Severus shoved the rolling ladder ahead of him, barely catching it by a rung before it slammed against stacks of shelves, full of half-empty bottles of potions ingredients.
He examined the row of stained vials that were level with his head. Squinting against the patchy darkness, Severus carefully nudged aside a group of empty glass containers to peer into the back of the shelf.
Severus cursed under his breath, the vials clinking as he withdrew his hand.
Albus had requested it be restocked. Though Severus hadn't touched the potent plant for years, he didn't question it. The headmaster was habitually strange.
Severus continued searching.
Monkshood and bloodroot.
Aside from a few dried leaves around the rim, Severus was fresh out of both. He should have taken inventory weeks ago.
Running his palm down his forehead, Severus squeezed his eye sockets with his thumb and fingertips; he sighed heavily. Searching the splintery shelves, Severus collected two more vials, three-quarters of the way empty—hellebore and root of asphodel.
Clamping his hands around the lot, Severus bumped the ladder with his elbow, scooting it aside, as he stepped toward the arched doorway.
Suddenly, Severus stopped where he stood, catching sight of something; he gazed down at the vials gleaming in the lantern's light.
Hellebore had been misspelled on the label; the silent 'E' on the end was missing. It was a simple mistake, but penned in too-thick, adolescent cursive, the blunder, to Severus, stood out like blood against cotton.
He stared at the vacant space where the letter should have been—ran his thumb over it, smearing the ink.
Severus closed his eyes; traces of a headache slashed along his brow again as he attempted to clear his mind. But it was useless.
They both knew the incantation for the portkey. And the boy was old enough to remember it; Severus had reviewed it with him countless times. Made him repeat it back, even. Countless.
He was fine.
Besides, it had only been a measly two weeks.
Hardly a fortnight…
A silence passed before Severus realized the dusty bottles he'd been clutching to his abdomen were warm, somewhat clammy. He had no idea how long he'd been standing here.
Severus cleared his throat, the last of the fog evaporating from his senses. Easing the door closed with the heel of his shoe, he swept toward his chambers.
Thank you for checking out Chapter 1!
Up Next: Chapter 2 -- Early Arrival