A.N. My apologies for the lateness of this chapter. As always, RL is proving difficult. I will continue writing and hope for speedier chapters in the future, but make no promises beyond not giving up on this story. I find myself becoming increasingly envious of the writers that seem able to produce stories that are both well-written and on time. XD Oh, and please check out my profile and vote in the poll. Anyways, here is the latest addition.
Petunia tried to keep herself from accelerating from a fast walk to a sprint as she crossed the street and headed toward her car. She now had a lead and with a little luck she would be able to catch up to Harry. "I must find Harry, before someone else does..." she muttered to herself as she reached her car and got into it. "Lord only knows how long it has been since he managed to get out of the cupboard."
Even though it could have been several hours since the boy took off he could only get so far on foot and she knew very well that he couldn't have possibly taken the bus, since he had no money to pay the fare. She could only hope that he had stayed on the main road, since it would be impossible to find him if he had veered off into another direction. She prayed that he hadn't been seen and picked up by the authorities. The last thing she needed was for one of Vernon's police 'friends' at the local precinct to contact him about their ward's attempt to run away. She shuddered to think what he might do to her if he ever found out that she had lied to him. She knew it was wrong, but her fear of her husband greatly overshadowed any feelings of remorse she had for allowing him to use her nephew as an outlet for his anger.
It had suddenly occurred to her that there was another issue she had to resolve before her husband returned home, the missing cupboard door. She leaned back in her seat, closed her eyes, and thought, 'Replacing the door is irrelevant without Harry, so locating him will have to be my first task. Hopefully, that won't take too long, so that the boy will have time to replace it.' Thanks to her husband's inherent laziness, the boy had installed a door on the shed in the past and the process was sure to be similar. It was a good thing to, because, she might have had to hire someone to put it in, which would have caused questions to arise. Vernon was a terrible miser when it came to household expenses and he would immediately notice that kind of expenditure. He preferred to waste 'his' money on gadgets for Dudley and luxuries such as his favorite brandy and Cuban cigars rather than on necessary repairs on the house. Shaking her head, she started the car and backed out of the drive. The missing door was irrelevant if she didn't locate and retrieve her truant of a nephew. She had no time to waste if she was to sort this horrid situation without Vernon catching on to her deception.
Arabella smiled at the scene before her. Who would have thought that Severus Snape could be so gentle and sweet? Much as she hated to do it, she knew that she had to interrupt the moment. They really needed to leave quickly, while there was still time. "Severus, Petunia was here just before you came back."
Severus' arms tightened around Harry, as Arabella's words hit him. He took a deep breath, his mind racing for a moment, then released Harry and stood up. "I take it you had Harry hide, since he is still here. What did she want?"
"Yes, I sent Harry upstairs while she was here. Ironically, Petunia wanted me to look in on her son every now and then while she was 'running some errands'. I asked her if she needed me to watch out for Harry as well, but she lied and said that he was with her husband 'helping' at his work place. I decided to play the daft, old woman and muttered something about seeing things, basically told her what we saw Harry doing before he came here, and, by doing so, sent her on a lovely wild goose chase." Arabella gave a sly smirk.
Inclining his head minutely, Severus returned the smirk and said, "I believe that you would have made a most excellent Slytherin, my dear Arabella."
"Why thank you, Severus. That is quite the high compliment coming from you," she replied with a slight curtsy. "Seriously, though, you and Harry need to get out of here soon. I don't want to risk her coming back and seeing a Harry-shaped silhouette in the window."
"That is very true." Severus said then turned to his soon to be ward. "Harry, please head upstairs to gather your belongings."
Harry nodded and said, "Yes, sir." The child picked up his kitten, then thundered up the stairs to the dismayed amusement of the adults.
Severus shook his head with a smile. "It is fortunate that the house appears to be in excellent, if dated, condition, so we will be able to occupy it immediately. I do want to tell you about the one odd state of affairs I discovered about the house, though, before we go."
"Whatever do you mean, Severus?" she queried.
"To begin with, I did not recognize the property, nor the handwriting the address was written in, and neither did my house elf. Then, in one of the rooms, there were family portraits and none were of members of the Prince family."
"None of them? Which family were they of, then?"
"Apparently, it was the home of members of the Slytherin family. According to the portraits, it should only be open to that bloodline. I know that the Prince line is Ravenclaw in origin, so why was it included on the list of properties that were left to me?" Severus crossed his arms in front of him in contemplation.
"That is odd," Arabella murmured with a furrowed brow. "Could it have something to do with your determination to hide Harry? Could he be descended from the Slytherin line?"
"Indeed, that is a possibility, but also a curiosity, as I am certain that the Potter and Longbottom families are descended from the Gryffindor line. The Black line is highly unlikely, since they would certainly shout the connection to the rooftops," he said with a sneer.
"Well, it could also be the Snape line." Arabella said with a laugh.
Severus scowled at the very thought of that circumstance. "Fortunately, that possibility has already been disproved. The portraits said that the house would know when an heir entered. Apparently, something special will occur and it did not happen with my entry. I suppose that we will find out if it is Harry when we arrive. If something does, then it must be the Evans line; if not, then something else is going on. I might need you to do some research for me."
Arabella smiled. "I would be delighted to help. I have little to do day to day and having a project would be quite nice. That said, should we put some precautions in place? I believe that we will need some way to protect you and Harry beyond not telling me the actual location of the house. Perhaps...an oath of some kind? Will an unbreakable vow work for a squib?"
"You make an excellent point, Arabella. I do not know if the vow would be successful, but we could try. The first real issue is the lack of a binder. We might have to come up with a different solution, though I hope to avoid modifying your memories."
Arabella grimaced. "That isn't a solution that I would choose or agree to. My memories have been messed with enough, thank you very much. Damn that old man for helping to hide what was going on at that house and leaving sweet, little Harry there to be abused. He is supposed to be a great man who cares deeply about the children. It just makes no sense."
Severus grimaced. "It all depends on how you look at it. It is clear that he has some kind of agenda. What that is, I cannot say for sure, but I have a terrible feeling that Harry's enormous potential is central to it. The child's core strength appears to be immense. On one hand, this is a good thing, for it has enabled him to survive the Dark Lord and the Dursleys. Unfortunately, it may have caused Dumbledore to be concerned about being eclipsed. The old man is powerful, but old, and one's power can fade in the twilight years of life. He is still very powerful, of course, but Harry still is very young and nowhere near his magical maturity and I can already feel his magical power."
Arabella's eyes widened. "You can feel Harry's magical power?"
Severus sighed. "It is like looking into the sun to one such as I. I am not nearly as powerful as young Harry or Dumbledore, but I am still considered to be a very strong wizard and with this strength comes certain...abilities. One such ability is what is often referred to as 'mage sense', the ability to see and sense magic. I can literally see Harry's magic, if I look with my other sight. It is also how one can ascertain if someone is a squib, such as yourself, or a true Muggle."
Arabella's brow furrowed. "Whatever do you mean by that, Severus?"
"It is not common knowledge, but there is a difference if you have the power to see it. You, like all magicals, have a magical core, Arabella, and Muggles simply do not. Despite what the general populous thinks, there is no such thing as a Muggleborn. It is a government created myth. All of the so-called Muggleborn children have at least one parent that is a squib and all squibs are descended from Magical families. The Ministry does not want them to discover the truth because it likes to confiscate all the funds it can get from supposedly 'dead' lines. This is why I advised Lilly to have go to Gringotts and take an inheritance test, but she thought I was, as she put it, 'having her on.' I suppose it never occurred to her that I had no reason to lie to her. When it is safe to do so, I will take Harry to the Goblin's to have a thorough bloodline inheritance test done, because I am sure that Lilly was from one of the supposedly extinct lines."
Arabella shivered. "That makes a frightening amount of sense. I don't know if you know, but I am the last known member of my line. My lack of useable magic made me ineligible to inherit and the Ministry confiscated my family's assets when my parents died and there were no clear fully magical heirs. It isn't right, but is apparently entirely legal. They even tried to take the money that I earned from my job in the Muggle world, saying that I must have gotten it from my parents. To tell the truth, my parents did pad my bank account quite generously, but most of it I did earn through hard work. Now I wonder if my parents didn't convert as much of their wealth to Muggle money as was possible to keep it out of the greedy paws of the Ministry."
"If they did, I commend them on having at least that much foresight, though there was a way to prevent the Ministry from touching a single knut." At Arabella's raised brow, Severus continued with a smirk. "If you know that you are the last Witch or Wizard in your line, you can stipulate to Gringotts that, after your death, your vault is to be held in trust until a witch or wizard carrying the blood of your family in their veins is successfully identified. Incidentally, that just happens to be how Rowena Ravenclaw protected her vault. While it is common knowledge that she had a magically powerful daughter, Helena, who died young and childless, it is not well known that she had a son, who was discovered to be a squib. His line, quite unfortunately, produced several generations of squibs, but a young wizard was eventually born and was able to reclaim the vault. His name was Septimus Prince and he was my ancestor on my mother's side." Severus smiled. "Septimus took it one step further and added a entailment clause which links all properties to the vault and keeps them out of Ministry hands, as well."
"I didn't realize that you could do that," Arabella exclaimed.
"You can and it is completely legal." They both turned as a proverbial herd of elephants, in the shape of a small boy, came down the stairs. "Are you ready to go Harry?"
The child in question grinned. "Yes, sir. I am." Harry quickly ran over to them and leaned against Arabella.
"Excellent. Now all we have left to do is figure out how to protect Arabella from Albus Dumbledore." Severus frowned in thought.
"Can't we just take her with us for now? She could leave a note or something about going to the market." Harry gave a sheepish look and said, "No offense, but women take forever to shop."
Severus rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand. "Or we can simply take it a step further. Arabella, just how attached are you to this abode?"
"Are you suggesting that I just...go with you?" she said with surprise.
"That is exactly what I am suggesting and, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. I know that you want to continue caring for Harry and he is attached to you as well. It also nullifies the worry about Dumbledore harming you."
Arabella smiled and gave a emphatic nod. "That is an excellent point, Severus. As to the house, it is just a house and not even really mine. Technically, it is owned by Albus, so I likely would have to leave it regardless. I am more than willing to leave, as long as I can take my cats and personal items. I am not especially worried about the majority of the furnishings, but would like to keep the dining set and my bedroom furniture. They are family heirlooms."
"The house has little in the way of furnishings, so we can easily take everything. I will simply have Dassy move it all over to the other house. It actually will save time and energy, as this way I will not have to conjure anything. I will also have her remove my books and supplies to the new house, then lock down my house at Spinner's End, so that it is protected. There is no point in trying to hide the fact that we have absconded with Harry. The timing is too suspect." Taking a deep breath, Severus called for his house elf.
"Master called?" Dassy queried.
"Arabella is coming with us. I need this house packed up and moved to the house near Inverness. I also need my books, supplies, and personal items to be removed from my quarters at Hogwarts and my house in Spinner's End and taken to the new house. Spinner's End is to be locked down." Severus commanded.
"As Master wishes, it will be done." Dassy said formally with a curtsy, then snapped her fingers, disappearing with a pop along with all the living room furnishings.
"Awesome!" Harry exclaimed with an excited bounce.
"Indeed." Severus said with a smile, while Arabella laughed.