'Unfamiliar Roads' is not nearly as dark as the other fics. It actually
is a little silly in some parts, and from time to time the characters are
a little ooc. I was very happy to find out that I can write other than
serious and gloomy *dares anyone to oppose that*. But bear with me and
don't fear, some serious issues will surface in later chapters.
Harry Potter was looking forward to spend some carefree weeks with the Weasleys. Severus Snape thought he would just run another quick errand for the Headmaster before the start of the term. But suddenly they find themselves on the run, and far away from Hogwarts the Boy-Who-Lived and the Death-Eater-Turned-Spy discover that behind the façades they are both only human. Guest Appearances by Mrs. Figg, the Dursleys, everyone's favorite dog-animagus (later) and many more.
Oh, and did I mention the story is set in the summer between Harry's
5th and 6th year?
Mrs. Rowling owns the world of Harry Potter. I don't. I only borrowed some of her characters to play around with them.
Thanks to Kristin, who did a great job beta-ing this.
Chapter 1 - Mrs. Figg
The centaur turned around to take a last look at Harry who was sitting
on his back. Then he fell into a brisk gallop. Harry enjoyed the steady
rhythm of the drumming hooves and the wind in his hair. He clung to the
waist of the creature as it gathered speed and flew over the flower-covered
slope of the hill. Just a bit faster and they'd take off!
Suddenly the rhythm of the hooves became unsteady. The horse's body underneath him bucked. Harry held on to the mane in front of him. "Stop that, Ronan!" he shouted. The bucking of the centaur increased and Ronan turned his face towards his rider.
"Harry!" Ronan's arms grabbed him firmly.
"What are you doing, Ronan!" Harry shouted.
"Harry, Harry." Ronan's voice grew shrill. His well-proportioned face changed into the contorted face of Dudley Dursley. "Harry," he shouted and shook his cousin and the whole bed with him. Harry mumbled something incoherent. "Mum, Harry is still sleeping," whined Dudley.
With a sigh Harry threw back his thin cover and pushed away Dudley's arms. "Not true!"
Dudley grinned at him evilly. From the bottom of the stairs Harry could hear Aunt Petunia screech, "Get up, boy. We don't have all day."
"You gotta move to old crazy Mrs. Figg's today!" Dudley reminded him with a glee.
"Sod off, piggy! "
With a last evil grin over his shoulder Dudley trampled down the stairs.
Harry exhaled deeply as soon as he was alone in his sparsely decorated room. As if Dudley had to remind him of Mrs. Figg! Once again the Dursleys were dropping him off at the old woman's house like an unwanted cat or dog. In the evening the Dursleys were going to host a party for some people from Vernon's company, 'Grunnings - Thrilling drills'. They wanted Harry to be out of the way, and like many times before Mrs. Figg had come to their mind.
Harry smiled to himself. Staying at the elderly lady's house was not as bad as Dudley surely thought it would be. For over a year, he knew, or at least strongly suspected old Mrs. Figg to be a witch. Dumbledore had mentioned her as a part of the old crowd Sirius was to alert after the events surrounding the Triwizard Tournamant.
Two days after tonight's party the Dursleys would go to Ibiza for vacation. Harry, of course, was not invited. He had to stay at Mrs. Figg's. To make things easier for the Dursleys he was supposed to go over to her house today and stay there until school started again. Aunt Petunia had made a big point about having him out of the way while cleaning up after the party and packing for the trip.
Vernon and Petunia had been very relieved to hear Mrs. Figg agree to take Harry for the whole of their vacation. Uncle Vernon, overjoyed, had even offered her some money to cover for Harry's food, but the old lady had declined. Aunt Petunia had been very pleased about that.
What the Dursleys did not know was that Harry had written to Ron Weasley, whose family had gladly agreed to pick him up at Mrs. Figg's house after the Dursleys had left. Harry congratulated himself on the arrangement. Not only would he get rid of his poor excuse for a family, but also he would be able to spend the rest of his holiday at the Burrow.
"Harry, have you fallen asleep again?" boomed his uncle's voice through the house.
"No, I'm coming!" Hastily Harry changed into his clothes and quickly
made his bed. He did not want to anger Aunt Petunia on his last day at
their house. He glanced over at his trunk, neatly packed with his school
supplies the night before. Hedwig, perched in her cage on top of his school
trunk, hooted at him. Yes, Harry was ready to leave for four pleasant weeks
with the Weasley family. Smiling, he ran down the stairs.
The day went by quickly. After breakfast he helped Aunt Petunia to decorate
the living room with ugly pink garlands that didn't match the brown tapestry
at all. He was glad to escape from this evil color scheme when Uncle Vernon
assigned him to weed the rose bushes in the driveway. The Dursleys wanted
everything to be perfect for their big party.
After some hours of pulling out weeds, in which Harry more than once wished he could use his wand, he was ordered back inside. At about 5 p.m., after some last admonitions from Aunt Petunia, he finally was told to get his things because he was to be dropped off at Mrs. Figg's
Uncle Vernon walked him across the street. "And you will behave yourself, boy! I warn you; one word from Mrs. Figg about unusual things happening to her cats or anything else, and I swear, I will punish you like I never have before." They arrived on Mrs. Figg's doorstep. Vernon rang the bell. "No magic, or else..."
"What else?" Harry asked innocently, fully aware that Uncle Vernon would not dare to hurt him. He was too afraid of all those mysterious and mighty wizards Harry mentioned once in a while- for tactical reasons.
Before Uncle Vernon could answer, the door opened wide and Mrs. Figg smiled at them. "Oh, Harry, there you are. How nice of Mr. Dursley to help you carry your luggage over." She shook both their hands.
Vernon blushed. Of course, Harry had dragged his trunk over all alone. Vernon Dursley would never touch let alone carry anything that could even remotely be viewed as a magical artifact. And a trunk that could hold three times more contents than its own volume was surely to be regarded as something magical.
Uncle Vernon cleared his throat. "Ahem. You will not contact me, Mrs. Figg, if he causes some minor trouble, won't you? This is where you can reach us, should there be an emergency. A real emergency, mind you!" Uncle Vernon, stressing the word 'real' as much as he could, shoved a note with a phone number towards the old woman. Folded into the note was a 20 Pound bill.
Mrs. Figg looked at the money with bewilderment. Then she smiled at
Mr. Dursley, obviously choosing to ignore his implications. "He won't trouble
me. Harry is such a sweet boy. Are you not, Harry?" Harry nodded vehemently,
not able to conceal a smug grin. Vernon shot him a dirty look, turned on
his heel, and left.
"Why don't you come inside, Harry?" Mrs. Figg invited him. She still looked liked he remembered her. A short, fragile looking old woman with obviously no dress sense at all. She wore a cream-colored blouse and grayish skirt, which was a strong contrast to her blue woolen stockings. Her feet were stuck in well-worn Muggle trainers.
As soon as Harry entered the house, the smell of cats and old cabbage hit him like a wave. All of a sudden Harry was not so sure anymore if Mrs. Figg was really a witch. Well, after all he had only to spend 3 days with her before the Weasleys would fetch him.
"Why don't you bring your stuff into the guestroom upstairs? It's the 2nd door on the right." Harry nodded and started to haul is heavy trunk up the stairs. "Wait a minute, Harry." The old lady came over to the bottom of the stairs where Harry stood. He was sure that she would put a levitation charm on his trunk or something alike, and he was soundly disappointed when she only handed him the 20 Pound note Vernon had given her. "I believe your birthday was some days ago. You might have some use for the money."
Harry stared at the note and waited for a moment before he picked up
his trunk again, just in case Mrs. Figg was about to levitate it after
all. No such thing happened. The old lady wandered into the direction of
the kitchen, happily humming a tune. With a sigh Harry started again up
Once up in the guest room he sat down on the bed. Maybe Mrs. Figg wasn't
a witch, but she had thought of his birthday. The Dursleys had chosen to
ignore that day, but at least he had had some fireworks. Harry recalled
how he had been sitting at the open window on the night of July 31st, gazing
at the stars. On his birthdays and Christmas he missed his parents most,
but he always found the distant cold twinkle of the stars somewhat comforting.
They gave him the feeling that he was not completely alone in the world.
Around midnight there had been an eruption of green, yellow, and red lights some streets further down. Probably someone had been throwing a party and they were having fireworks in Magnolia Crescent. Harry would have loved to have his own birthday fireworks, or a small marching band performing in the driveway just for him. Or even a sorry clown with an accordion, like Dudley had at his party.
Now, sitting in Mrs Figg's guestroom, he had to smile at his thoughts
on his birthday night. He certainly had to be grateful if he ever got so
much as a cake from the Dursleys. He looked around the room. It was painted
a faint apricot with matching hangings and linens. Every flat surface available
was crowded with dry-flower bouquets or small cat figurines. The choice
of colors made Harry shudder, but it was still better than Aunt Petunia's
pink garlands. Grinning, he made his way down to the living room again.
Mrs. Figg was nowhere to be seen. Only a cat eyed Harry intently from the windowsill. Harry gazed back, but was soon defeated in his little staring contest.
"I'm just about to fix us some tea, Harry," came Mrs. Figg's voice from the kitchen. And soon she emerged with a large tea tray floating in front of her. Harry jumped to his feet. So she was a witch. His heart throbbed in relief. Mrs. Figg smiled at him warmly while two cups and a plate with chocolate cookies arranged themselves on the table.
After tea she handed him an envelope. "That's for you, Harry, from Hogwarts",
she added unnecessarily, for Harry had already seen the Hogwarts crest
on the back. Curiosity piqued, he ripped it open.
Dear Mr. Potter,
I'm sorry to tell you, that over the last week a situation has arisen, in which it is impossible for you to stay at the Weasleys house or even Mrs. Figg's house for an extended period of time. For your own safety it was decided to allow you to stay at Hogwarts for the rest of the summer holidays. With your relatives abroad it is the place where you will be safest. You will be escorted to Hogwarts. Please stay with Mrs. Figg until you are fetched for the trip.
Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster
PS: Don't be disappointed, Harry. It was arranged for Ron Weasley
to come to Hogwarts early, too.
Harry swallowed hard.
No Burrow, no cheerful Fred and George, no giggling Ginny, no perfect Percy and no motherly Molly Weasley. Of course he was disappointed. The Weasleys were the closest thing to a family that he had. Forcing back the lump in his throat, he looked at Mrs. Figg, who was watching him with sympathy across the table.
"I'm sorry, Harry. But look at the bright side of it. You and Ron get to explore the castle very thoroughly with no teachers around to tell you off. Maybe you can even get an admission slip from Professor Dumbledore to see the Restricted Section of the library." Mrs. Figg winked at Harry. "I have heard they have colorful illustrated sexual education books there. Isn't that what all you young lads want, eh?"
Despite his disappointment Harry had to smile at Mrs. Figg's attempts to cheer him up. "So you know what the letter says?"
"Of course! Albus contacted me to tell me about that change of plans. For some reason they couldn't reach you at the Dursley's." She shrugged her shoulders. "The Headmaster also told me that most likely Sirius Black will also be staying at Hogwarts."
At this Harry's face lit up. " Really? That would be so cool."
Old Mrs. Figg smiled. "You like your godfather a lot, don't you?" Harry nodded. "He is a nice enough man. What a shame they sent him to Azkaban. I reckon he endured that without harm, didn't he?"
" I think so."
"Remarkable, truly remarkable."
The conversation ceased for a while. Harry tried one of the chocolate
cookies only to find out that they tasted stale.
Bravely, he ate a second one. His experiences with Hagrid's cookies had taught him that it would make the cook happy if you at least pretended to like their products.
"Er, when will I be picked up, and by whom?" he asked finally.
Mrs. Figg was absentmindedly stroking one of her cats that was permanently brushing against her legs. "Oh, I think tomorrow in the morning. Maybe later. And to answer you second question, I don't know whom Albus will send. But there is a high possibility that it will be Sirius or Hagrid."
Harry smiled brightly at the news. In a very festive spirit he even
ate a third cookie, totally forgetting to ask what events had made it necessary
for him to go to Hogwarts right away.
After tea, Mrs. Figg made him look at her photo albums. This in itself was a boring occupation, but even doubly so when the photos were showing only cats. In lack of a family, Mrs. Figg had taken pictures of every cat she had ever owned. And given the fact that Mrs. Figg was a witch, and had a prolonged lifespan, she had already owned a lot of cats. Harry got bored quickly, but amused himself with the thought of a coming reunion with his godfather.
It got dark while Mrs. Figg was telling him stories about her 'most remarkable pets.' Harry could hear heavy rain pounding the roof of the cottage. Just as she was giving the good character traits of Monica, the gray Devon Rex, the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it!" Harry jumped up.
"No, you wait here. I have some powerful wards at my door. Although I'm just an old lady they come in handy from time to time to shoo away my admirers. " Chuckling over her joke, Mrs. Figg stood up and slowly went to the hallway to open the door.
Harry couldn't see her opening it, but he heard her talking. The first words where drowned by the squeal of the wooden door. "Yes, Albus told me he would send someone. I didn't expect you before tomorrow."
A male voice answered, "The situation is more urgent than we first anticipated."
"Don't just stand there in the rain, do come in. You're just in time for dinner," Mrs. Figg's voice came again.
Harry edged around the doorframe to get a glimpse of the visitor. In
the doorway, drenched to the skin, stood Severus Snape.
Harry felt like someone had slapped him. "Professor Snape?" he stammered.
Snape turned towards him. "Ah, Potter." He nodded briefly at Harry. "So he is here already. In that case we should waste no time and leave as soon as possible. Thank you, Arabella, for watching him."
"Oh no, Severus! Do you think I will allow you and the boy to leave in that weather? Look at you; you don't have a single dry fiber in your body anymore. Come in and warm up a bit. I would propose you and Harry don't leave before tomorrow morning."
Snape brushed her objections away briskly. "I must insist that we go now. Potter, get your things! We are leaving."
Harry looked at Mrs. Figg for help. This surely was only a nightmare. He would wake up any minute now. The old lady drew a deep breath and took a step towards Snape, thereby invading his personal space deeper than Harry thought was possible without getting cursed. "And I must insist on you staying at least for dinner." Mrs. Figg, now on tiptoes, stared daggers into Snape's eyes, who had crossed his arms over his chest. Harry noticed that even his rigid posture couldn't prevent his whole body from shaking with cold. "You stay, Severus," Mrs. Figg commanded again.
To Harry's great surprise, Snape inclined his head. "But only to warm up a little. After that we have to leave."
Mrs. Figg nodded. "We will see. Now come in."
When Snape stepped from the dim hallway into the living room Harry couldn't help but notice the bad shape his professor was in. He was unshaved, which accentuated the deep hollows in his face and made his features look even more angular than usual. His dirty robes were ripped in a few places and the usually shining boots were caked with mud. Snape looked unspeakably tired.
Mrs. Figg, obviously as shocked by his appearance as Harry, narrowed her eyes at him. " You have not just Apparated from Hogwarts like that, have you?"
"No, but I would prefer to go back there as soon as possible."
Unperturbed by the icy tone in his voice, she continued. "Thought so. Now, Severus, I propose that you take a shower and put a drying spell onto your clothes while I fix dinner. The bathroom is over there."
To Harry's astonishment, Snape obeyed without any further comment. Mrs. Figg nodded grimly at his retreating form and walked into the kitchen.
Harry stood alone in the living room, still unable to process what he had just heard and seen. Why had Dumbledore sent Snape of all people? He knew that they deeply detested each other. After what he had learned about Snape's role in his parents' death, Harry didn't loathe the Potions Master anymore, as he did in his first 3 years, but he still didn't like him. The relationship between he and his teacher had become a lot more complicated than simple loathing.
During his 5th Harry had learned that Snape had been present at Godric's
Hollow that fateful night, and that the plan he, Lily, and Dumbledore had
made to trap the dark Lord had lethally backfired. In the course of the
events not only Lily had died, but also Snape and James Potter had engaged
in a duel, that had resulted in the death of Harry's father. If it had
been an accident, a desperate measure of self-defense or purpose on Snape's
part, Harry could not fathom (A/N: see 'East of Eden' for the
background story). At Dumbledore's request he had tried to talk with
Snape about the death of James Potter, but the attempt had ended in Snape
yelling at him to leave him alone and smashing some glassware to emphasize
his point. All through remainder of Harry's fifth year, the tension in
Potions had almost been unbearable. Snape had taken points from Harry whenever
possible. Harry knew that Snape had assumed his spying duty in Voldemort's
circle, and despite their mutual dislike, he sometimes felt something akin
to respect for him. But still he couldn't bear to be near Snape.
"Harry?" Mrs. Figg's voice pulled him out of his reverie. "Could you give me a hand at cutting these carrots?" Harry went into the kitchen, where Mrs. Figg handed him a bundle of carrots and a knife. "You have to clean them first. I prefer to prepare the meals the Muggle way. It simply tastes better, and the leftovers are much more becoming for my little darlings." She patted a cat sitting near the sink between the ears.
Harry set to work. "Why did they have to send him of all people?"
Mrs. Figg shrugged. "Albus must have his reasons. You don't like Snape, eh?" Harry preferred not to answer that. "He is not the most likeable fellow, I know, but he is one of the most truthful allies we have these days. If Albus sends him, he must be very concerned for your safety."
"There have been quite a number of raids during the last days. You-Know-Who is up to something, if you ask me." Mrs. Figg nodded grimly at the gravy she was stirring.
A/N: Since English is not my native language I have a hard time judging
if I really hit the tone I intended to. So any constructive criticism is