AN: This is the end of part one. Part two (The Definition of Family) will start in about two or three weeks, after I take a bit of a break. It will detail the school year and dealing with Voldemort. Thanks to everyone for reading, you all rock! oh and btw, Harry's awesome wallpaper is pictured here i50. tinypic . com / bgqjah . jpg (without the spaces).
Ch 14 - A Boy Called Elliot
Harry arrived back to Spinner's End at four in the afternoon, very quiet and looking for the entire world like he'd done something wrong. Arthur Weasley refused the invitation in for tea, which Snape had merely extended in mock politeness, and gave a quick update on the state of Diagon Alley before apparating off home again.
Harry kicked off his shoes and left them by the front closet, following Snape into the library and flopping down on the couch.
"Do you have a pensieve?"
Snape stopped in the threshold of the kitchen and turned to give Harry a speculative look.
"Oh, what have you done now? Your face is etched in guilt." Snape crossed his arms and stood with menacing air.
"I've not done anything. You know, you're very quick to accuse me." Harry ran his fingers through his hair and glared at his professor.
"Yes, Potter, because you've been so well behaved thus far." Snape was rolling his eyes, but he didn't sound nearly as vindictive as he usually did at school when he made similar comments about Harry. Indeed, he sounded almost amused.
"Never mind that. Something happened on the trip today and I want to show you."
There was silence in the room for a moment before Snape summoned his pensieve from somewhere upstairs, and after it came trailing into the room, he placed it on the coffee table. He showed Harry how to extract his memory of the day and put it into the shimmering liquid. With a nod of approval, Snape followed Harry into the memory.
Diagon Alley was dark and dreary, despite the sunny August day that was scorching the rest of London. Snape stood beside Harry and watched as one by one carrot topped Weasleys bounded into their view, followed finally by a messy mop of dark hair. Surrounded by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley along with Hagrid, Harry felt slightly embarrassed to watch how his earlier self had seemed so skittish. Perhaps, however, having Snape standing right beside him and knowing that he was safe in a memory was helping raise his bravery level.
Harry shrugged sheepishly when he glanced at Snape twenty minutes later, apologetic that he'd started the memory transfer a bit too early. Snape merely waved him off, and seemed to be rather interested in the surroundings of the shops on the streets and the merchandise inside Fred and George's shop. Harry was willing to wager that Snape was taking an inventory of things to ban at Hogwarts for the upcoming year, and only managed not to snicker at himself when he noticed his memory self glancing out the shop window.
"Here's where I see him. Look." Harry watched as outside the shop Draco Malfoy appeared to be sulking at his mother to the point of throwing a small tantrum. Harry waited as he and his two friends slipped under the invisibility cloak and stepped outside, suddenly feeling a very strong grip clamp down on his shoulder in a not very supportive way.
"Just wait, I don't do anything too stupid." Harry replied, hoping to deflect some of Snape's annoyance.
They followed the group to the corner of Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley, where memory Harry slid an extendable ear out from under the cloak and towards Draco, who was taking to someone in the shadows against the wall.
"It has to be me!" Malfoy hissed, anger flashing through his blue eyes. "You can hunt in the school after I'm done, but for now stay out of it!"
Snape gave a sharp intake of breath when he realized that Draco was talking to Fenrir Greyback.
"Tsk, too proud to accept my help, Draco? I heard your mummy went and asked old Snape to babysit you."
Draco stiffened at this, as did the three under the cloak. "Four days, Greyback. All the potions on that list, the dagger and the chalice, and I want them before I leave for King's Cross."
Draco shoved himself away from Fenrir and started to stalk off down Knockturn Alley.
There was hesitation under the cloak for a moment, as the three seemed to be deciding something, before they finally turned and headed back towards the twin's shop. The painful grip on Harry's shoulder loosened considerably and a few seconds later they landed back in the library.
"I'm the one who decided to go back." Harry commented, steadying himself by a bookcase as the dizziness slowly left him.
"Did you now?" Snape put the pensieve on his bookcase and warded it.
"Yeah, Hermione wanted to see where Draco was going, and Ron wanted to go with her, safety in numbers or something like that." Harry sat back down on the couch and looked thoughtful. Snape was now in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil.
"Of course. The thirst for knowledge and the curse of loyalty. Did I not say…"
"You did." Harry interrupted. "This means though that by predicting how they'll act, I can use those traits against them, can't I?"
"Don't interrupt. And yes, you are able to manipulate reactions to situations in the way that you desire." Snape answered in a smooth voice and smug tone, which caused Harry to burst out laughing.
"No wonder you're head of Slytherin. Do your students get away with anything?"
"Very little." Snape acknowledged with a small smirk. The kettle clicked off and Snape busied himself making tea.
Harry fished around in his pocket and pulled out three tiny boxes that were wrapped in brown post paper and held together with twine. He put them on the floor and expanded them to their normal size again, just as Snape sat down in his chair with the mail he'd collected from the table and his tea.
"What did I tell you about abusing the underage loophole?" Snape asked in a bored voice, reading a bill and not even glancing up.
"Practicality, sir. If I shrunk them and kept them in my pocket, there was no way I could lose anything." Harry replied, trying not to grin.
Snape raised an eyebrow over the paper. "Fast answer, Mr. Potter."
This time Harry did smile as he began silently counting his books and comparing them to the crumpled up course list in his pocket. He held up one book for inspection and flipped through it.
"Whoever this year's Defense teacher is, seems to know his stuff. This is far better than Umbridge's book was." Harry traced his finger over the cover of Confronting the Faceless and looked up just in time to see the amused twitch in Snape's lips.
"What? You're looking at me like I'm being particularly daft." Harry scrunched his face and drew his feet up on the couch, sitting cross-legged.
"Almost any volume would be an improvement upon the drivel that was enforced on the class last year." Snape sneered, his distaste for Umbridge rather evident. "Though I suppose I should be consulting with you to see what was actually covered in defense last year, Professor."
Harry jerked his head up and his face flamed. "You knew about the DA?"
Snape put his papers down and cracked his toes with a small stretch.
"The entire staff did, Potter. The day Umbridge found out about it was a three wine glass day."
"Hah, I'm flattered." Harry put the book down on his pile and checked that he had all his other necessary school supplies. "Wait a minute. You said you would consult me? Are you the new defense professor?"
Harry had a look of pleasant surprise on his face, as he checked to see Snape's reaction. The smug look he got in return was enough to answer his question.
"I now have sufficient cause to hex you in class." Snape confirmed, nodding his head slightly.
"Like that would have stopped you before." Harry quipped, suddenly feeling in a very good mood. "Congratulations, Dad."
His smile was genuine, and Harry held his gaze as Snape's eyes searched seemingly right through him. After a moment he seemed satisfied with Harry's honesty and intent.
"You've made up your mind, then?" Snape stood and turned to face the fireplace, scanning the bookshelf that ran along the wall beside it.
"Yes, sir. Do you need the reasons?" Harry was trying to sit relaxed on the couch, but Snape could tell he was tense.
Images flashed through Snape's mind of another small boy, one who had grown up in the very same house, who had known loneliness, known ridicule, and craved acceptance.
"No, Potter. Tell me when I'm prisoner in that nursing home of yours, I'll need a good laugh then." Snape pulled a small blue-ish purple book off the shelf and turned around, raising his eyebrow at Harry's snort.
"Shouldn't you be calling me Snape now?"
Snape eyed him with consideration. "You wish to take the name, too?"
"Yes, sir. I'm not a Potter, not any more than Dudley is. The only memory of my mum and dad I have is the night they died." Harry scrunched his hands together in his lap, tapping them nervously. "Almost the whole wizarding world knows of my parents, they won't be forgotten. And they all know the boy who lived, the great Harry Potter, or at least they think they do. But once the war is over, that will be done. And I'll want to be normal, like I have been this summer."
"You are far from normal." Snape replied in a dry tone, breaking the seriousness of their conversation.
"Maybe so," Harry agreed with a smirk, "but if I'm going to be dysfunctional, I'd rather set my own terms. And I know we have to keep the adoption a secret."
"Indeed. You will be Harry Potter at school and in the public at least until the war is over." Snape looked a bit perturbed by this, and Harry grinned.
"This is for my safety as much as it is for yours." Snape warned.
"Don't worry, sir, I'll always be little idiot to you."
"Undoubtedly." Snape drawled, before handing the book over. "Even though you no longer wish to be an auror, you will continue your study of potions."
Harry accepted the book and looked up towards Snape, where he saw that the words were more of a command than a suggestion. Which would make sense, if he was going to be the kid of a Potions Master.
A small black cauldron, which appeared almost dainty, peered back up at him, dull silvery smoke rising from the cauldron and curling around the title of Advanced Potion Making. The corners were well worn, and the pages looked like they'd been thumbed through many times. Harry opened the book and found, in rather familiar writing, a notation that proclaimed the book to belong to the Half Blood Prince.
"This was yours?" Harry asked, flipping through the pages and finding Snape's tiny scrawl all over the book.
"It was. As you are to be my…son, I suppose it is now a family heirloom." Snape was watching Harry with narrowed eyes, as if he were waiting for Harry's verdict.
Harry, who had never known hand-me-downs to be anything but demeaning, closed the book gently. He placed it on top of his school pile, intending to study it later.
"Keep in mind," Snape warned; pointing a finger, "there are some spells in there that are not to be tried without supervision. And if you ever use anything that is marked for enemies on anyone but other death eaters and the Dark Lord, you will become the test animal for my future potion creations."
Harry swallowed hard. "Noted."
"So wait, it's three days till term starts, and you've decided today to go to the mall and buy new linens and things for the house. Isn't that a little late?"
Harry put his breakfast dishes in the sink, scowling at the scrub brush that splashed him with water as he did so.
"Are you questioning my decisions?" The voice was silky and dangerous and Harry recognized that as the 'shut up now and save yourself' cue. Which he ignored, as usual.
"Just your timing, Dad." Harry replied, smiling to himself at the name. He had a dad now, and even the small swat to the back of his head didn't damper the warm feeling.
"I thought perhaps you might wish some new things for the room you've been sleeping in as well." Snape was doing his eyebrow raise again, which Harry was determined to learn by the end of the year.
"Really? But it's your room, and your stuff." Harry didn't want to let his hopes rise too much, as Snape's old bedroom was a lot nicer than Dudley's second bedroom had been.
"It was, however it has been said that establishing your own room helps with the feeling of permanency and settling in." Snape replied, pushing Harry towards the front hall.
"Who said? You sound like you read a book on adoptions or something." Harry stumbled forward, reaching for his shoes. "You did, didn't you?" Harry stopped, asking with surprise at Snape's silence.
"Yes, Potter. I read a book about how the local zoo deals with new animals that have arrived." Snape rolled his eyes with practiced elegance.
"Elliot." Harry corrected, shoving on his shoes. "So does this mean that you love me and I'm now part of the family?" Harry asked, with a very cheeky look on his face. Snape glared at him.
"It means if you decorate the room in pink and kittens that I'll disown you."
Harry grimaced at the mental image of Dolores Umbridge's office transformed into his bedroom.
"Ugh. Though I don't understand why you can't just wave your wand and like, change the paint colour or expand the bed." Harry stood with flourish, both feet properly attired. Snape removed his regular black jacket and uncuffed his shirt, rolling the sleeves just enough to be casual and not show the dark mark. It was warm enough out not to need any additional layers, and Harry wondered what muggle place they were going to that Snape was dressing down.
"Just wave my wand? Do you pay attention in any of your classes?" The sarcasm was thick like most of Harry's failed potions, but Snape grabbed his arm before Harry could reply.
Harry had no idea how Snape knew of the little alcove in Merseyway shopping centre, but it was the perfect spot to apparate to. Before he'd had the chance to sprint to the map of the mall to decide what stores he wanted to go to, Snape had already started dragging him towards Marks and Spencer, citing that he'd need to start on furniture before he could move onto arbitrary trinkets and knickknacks. Harry assured Snape that his furniture was fine (though he did not admit that he liked using Snape's old desk because it had character and sleeping in the old bed because it was familiar), but that perhaps a new mattress might be nice. Snape agreed to this, and pointedly refused to let Harry choose the cheapest mattress, instead making him try all the ones at the store.
They spent twenty minutes arguing with the shop clerk that yes they were fine to pick the mattress up on the way out, and then while checking out different linens for the bedroom, Snape started into his lecture voice on the theory of magic. Harry had heard lessons before on said theory, given by either McGonagall or Binns, and they were much less interesting or logical than Snape was making the theory seem.
"I'm not quite sure I understand. Professor McGonagall has been teaching us transfiguration since year one, what good is that if the effect is only temporary?"
Snape held up a black duvet cover and Harry shook his head.
"Temporary transfigurations are still useful. You could transfigure yourself a pan to cook food in, a pillow to sleep on for the night, a blanket to cover yourself with."
"And in the morning they'd be gone?" Harry pulled an emerald green sheet set out of the bin and Snape blinked at the brightness.
"More or less, depending on the power of the wizard. Magic is fluid, not stationary and confined. As one cannot concentrate on the spell forever, the residual link is broken, and the object reverts."
Harry threw the green sheets in the trolley with dark blue pillowcases, leaving Snape to wonder just what the boy had in mind for his room.
"So if you transfigured me a bookcase for my room, it would only last as long as you paid a small amount of attention to the spell?"
"An oversimplification." Snape responded with an exasperated breath. "But fairly accurate."
"Hmm." Harry became lost in thought as Snape steered him towards the bookcases.
Snape was glad to be home after their three hour shopping trip to Muggle Land, as he had sarcastically called it. Harry had been rather well restrained considering the lack of restrictions Snape had levied, and had been practically gleeful when Snape told him to go shopping for his own knickknacks while Snape browsed through Waterstone's bookstore.
Lunch had been a hot stew at home, and Snape had barely managed to keep himself from laughing at the boy's eagerness to go upstairs and set up his own stuff. Snape had eaten his stew very slowly and made Harry do the dishes, before finally sending him upstairs. Save for a few strange bangs and a muffled oof or two, all had been relatively quiet in the four hours that Potter had been up there.
Suddenly, the acrid smell of burning wood drifted down through the open windows of Harry's room and the library, making Snape look up from his newspaper and glare at the ceiling. He flicked his wand and two loud smacks hit the ceiling, vibrating through the upper floor.
"Potter! If you burn my house down I am not adverse to killing you!"
A thump was returned, but no other response was given. Snape went back to his paper, suppressing his curiosity to see what Harry made of the tiny bedroom he'd been staying in the whole summer. As a child, Snape had used the room as a hideaway, his own place to shutter himself in and while away hours as he waited for September and his life at Hogwarts to start again.
Harry, on the other hand, saw the room as a sanctuary in a completely different light. He reveled in the comfortableness of the dark walls and the worn furniture. It was clean and cozy, and Snape had caught Harry wrapped up in one of his old knit sweaters more than once. He'd even seen some of the photos Harry had put up on the inside door of his wardrobe, pictures of his friends from school and the results of his OWL exams.
The burning smell drifted in the window again, and Snape threw his paper down in irritation, rousing himself from his seat and heading for the stairs.
Upstairs the smoky scent was a little stronger, and Snape paused at the top of the stairs to open the hallway window wider. He took a glance at the closed bedroom door before opening it slowly, spelling fresh air into the room as he went. Harry sat hunched over his desk, a candle beside him as he carefully carved away pieces of a rectangular and thin piece of pinewood. He held a small wooden handled tool in his hand, which had a sharp metal edge to it. It may have come from the shed in the back garden, Snape wasn't sure, but Harry was using it rather masterfully as he drew shapes out of the wood with smooth movements.
On the wall that shared with the neighbours Harry had put up a huge world map wallpaper, bright blues and varying shades of greens strongly standing out as they defined countries, continents, and oceans. The other three walls were painted blue, slightly lighter than the original, and looking fresher. Harry's bed was a jumble of colour, dark blue sheets mixed with the emerald green one and a duvet that was white with tiny green circles all over it. And a throw blanket on top, knitted in different coloured stripes. Somehow the haze of pattern and solid came together in a match, though Snape wasn't sure if Harry had a gift for decorating or had merely hit upon luck as he flung things together.
Snape's Slytherin pennant still hung proudly on the wall over the bed, and there was a Gryffindor one underneath. A poster of the Appleby Arrows quidditch team, which Harry had most likely purchased in Diagon Alley, was tacked up next to one for the Ballycastle Bats, and the coaches glared at each other as the players preened to look the most impressive team.
On the bookcase that stood next to the wardrobe sat Harry's schoolbooks and a few of the muggle books he'd nicked from downstairs, along with a few tokens from the Quidditch World Cup, tricks from the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes shop, and what looked like some old broken children's toys that Snape guessed were from Privet Drive. Four photo frames stood on the top shelf – pictures of the Potters, Weasley and Granger, one of the little defense army Harry had taught the year before, and surprisingly one from the Triwizard tournament, taken by the annoying Creevey boy in all likeliness. In the photo Harry was flying 'round the staff seating section, the dragon barely fitting it's snout in the frame as it chased after the small teen. In the background, Snape himself sat rigid in the stands, his black eyes fixed steadily on Harry as he flew, a mixture of concern and what looked like a bit of pride projected in them. The rest of his face betrayed nothing, but Snape knew his own emotions well enough to recognize them.
He walked over to the desk to see what Harry was working on, obviously the cause of the smoky smell as the wood upon closer inspection had a few burn marks on it. It was only about thirty centimeters long, and about fifteen high, but it had been carved very elegantly with a steady even hand. Элиот was highlighted in the centre, and Snape wondered for a moment how Harry had figured out the translation of Elliot until he remembered that there were some Russian translations amongst his collection of T.S. Elliot works. Snaking out from the name in the centre were seemingly random lines that swerved and crisscrossed each other, similar to a layered spider's web. Caught in the web of lines were little carvings, one of a broom, a snitch, three foot prints of a different size, two paw prints, what looked like a large egg, a tiny cauldron, an owl, the Potter family crest, and to Snape's surprise, the Snape family crest as well. There was no colour to it and it was a simple outline, but it was indeed the family crest of a peregrine falcon clutching a crown in its beak.
"This is very good." Snape murmured, running his fingers along the wood and watching as the black ink that had been very carefully applied ran through the crevices by magic. "Did you plan this out or carve by feeling?"
"Just went with it." Harry shrugged, putting the tool down on the desk and cracking his fingers. "The lines I just did, and then fit in the small pictures where I could."
"I was unaware of your artistic capabilities." Snape responded, inspecting the tool that Harry had used to impress the wood.
"I can't draw." Harry pointed out, nodding towards the old animal sketches of Snape's that he'd pinned up to a corkboard on the wall. "But it's different to carve, the patterns and pictures are already there."
Snape looked at his own drawings and gave Harry a smug little smile.
"I do believe we shall find you a career yet. Now, stop setting fire to things and come downstairs. Dinner is ready and afterwards I shall best you at cribbage once again."
"Pfft. Everyone knows you cheat at cards." Harry blew out the candle and ducked to avoid the hand that came swinging to give him a light cuff to the back of the head. He put his tools away with a smile on his face and followed Snape to the door.
"Does it meet your standard?" Harry asked, hoping that Snape didn't think he'd taken too many liberties.
Snape paused in the doorframe and ran his finger along the wall, where the blue paint had just dried. "It is a suitable room, yes. Exceeds Expectations, I should think."
To be fair, Harry hadn't counted on the rain. Well, he knew it was there, could see it plainly out the window, but he hadn't expected the rain to actually be fun. And really, the red rubber boots he was wearing were just too tempting.
That was probably why he was being carried right now, Harry reflected, but he still wished he were on the ground and jumping from puddle to puddle. But no, after Snape had cast an aggravated drying spell over both of them, paying specific attention to their pant legs, Harry had been picked up to prevent any further incidents.
They were headed to the Ministry of Magic to have the official paperwork signed, which Snape had confirmed to Harry four times already that the press would not find out about. Harry had his doubts, as the new Minister that had taken over for Fudge sounded even more ruthless in his quest to create a better image of the Ministry. Harry had absolutely no desire to be used as a poster boy or a puppet, and he assumed that the identity of his new guardian would not exactly sit well with either the Minister or the public. Pardoned or not, Snape had been a death eater and was spying again now that Voldemort was back, giving himself a rather dubious reputation.
And so, Harry had downed the potion with breakfast, shrunken to his six-year-old self, and dressed up in some tiny dress pants and a Slytherin green jumper. Snape decided to leave the tattoo uncovered, as to anyone except the director in charge of adoptions and family relations, Harry would be pretending to be Snape's nephew. It was the easiest way to go in and out of the Ministry, without raising too much suspicion.
Getting into the Ministry proved to be no problem, as most people either ignored Snape or gave him a wide berth as they passed through. Harry's hair had been cut short, so he looked like he had black puppy fuzz over his head, and his eyes glittered black like Snape's. The lightning bolt scar had been covered by muggle makeup again, and Harry walked a bit taller beside Snape as they headed up to the office, confident no one would recognize him.
Except perhaps Dumbledore, who was standing outside the office and grinning at them like he'd had too many sugar candies. The headmaster had a bundle of papers in his hands, which Harry assumed were the guardianship ones that he'd gotten the Dursleys to sign when Harry was just a baby.
Snape lead Harry to an empty office two doors down and pulled a second set of clothing out of his pocket, enlarging it to normal size and placing it on the desk. He turned his back while Harry stripped down to his underpants, swallowed the antidote, and shot back up in height. Harry shook his head as the full effects settled in and he became his sixteen-year-old self again. It only took him a minute to get dressed, after which Snape spelled away the make up on Harry's forehead.
"Why couldn't I stay as a six year old while we do the paperwork?"
"Answer that yourself, Potter, and keep in mind we have to be in the office for at least an hour and a half." Snape straightened Harry's collar before unfolding the invisibility cloak and holding it out.
Harry's confused face disappeared with the rest of him as the cloak flowed down and they left the office.
If Fisher Bennington was surprised to see his old Head of House and Headmaster appear at his door for the two pm appointment, he made no outward appearance of being so. However, upon ushering the men into his obsessively tidy office, he did show a flicker of surprise when a third person appeared seemingly out of thin air, the famous Harry Potter.
"Polyjuice." Harry announced with triumph, as he sat down between Snape and Dumbledore. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Bennington."
"Likewise, Mr. Potter." Fisher stated, extending his hand.
"Mr. Bennington," Snape began, his voice still commanding authority over the younger man who hadn't been his student in a few years. "Do you remember the situation of the first year Slytherin student I approached you regarding about, oh, two years ago? Whom you placed with your cousins?"
Bennington nodded, his eyes becoming guarded.
"Very well. Mr. Potter here is facing a similar…dilemma at his relatives, and he shall be moving into my care."
Snape kept a very hard gaze on Fisher while he said this, and Harry decided it was best for all to just keep his mouth shut. They had at least an hour to wait so Bennington could verify that Harry was actually himself, and not some random person pretending to be Harry Potter, and that time would pass by a lot easier if Snape wasn't annoyed with him for saying something stupid.
A bundle of papers was slid across the table and Fisher snatched it up, his eyes widening a little as he started to read. Dumbledore fidgeted around one of his cloak pockets before withdrawing a handful of wrapped Honeyduke candies, offering Harry one with a smile. Harry shook his head no, but his eyes followed Dumbledore's blackened hand as he rested it in his lap. Harry's questioning glance was met with the same response he'd gotten all summer.
"A story for another time, my boy." Dumbledore smiled as if carefree and turned to admire the certificates and paintings on Bennington's wall.
Harry slowly crossed his arms as he bit his lip to keep from blurting out something that he would probably regret a few seconds after. He wasn't sure if Snape had told the headmaster what Harry knew, but it was irritating regardless to be treated like a small child and kept in the dark. Harry had thought Dumbledore had learned over the death of Sirius how dangerous it could be to withhold information, but apparently he was still choosing to risk it.
"Mr. Potter, are you aware that this is a permanent legal adoption Professor Snape is applying for?"
Harry looked up and gave a small smile. "Yes. That's what I asked for."
"Everything seems to be in order then. We can proceed with the paperwork while we wait the required time for the Ministry polyjuice verification."
Suddenly a wand was pulled quickly from under the desk and Harry felt his heart leap to his throat as it was pointed between his eyes. Within two seconds he had his own wand brandished, as did Snape. Dumbledore, who seemed to be the only one amused by this display, hadn't moved except to chuckle.
"Gentlemen, lower your wands. I believe Mr. Bennington was just checking to see if Harry was under any sort of compulsion spell or hex, as is part of the Ministry's requirements."
A soft finite incantatem was spoken and Harry sat completely still, knowing nothing about himself would change. He'd lowered his wand a little, but Snape had still kept his up.
"Satisfied?" Snape asked, raising his eyebrows.
"I have to check, sir." Bennington explained with a cough. He cast his eyes down at his desk and began stamping the papers, all business.
"Mr. Potter is a half blood, do you have the muggle forms as well?"
"We do." Dumbledore happily unwrapped his bundle of paperwork and Harry barely caught a glance of his aunt's signature at the bottom of one page as it was handed over.
"And Professor Snape, are you registered in the muggle world?"
"British citizen or subject?"
"Citizen. The muggle procedure has been done and approved, as far as they know Harry Potter is a full legal ward of Severus Snape."
"And the name change?"
"Fully processed as a muggle, we shall be receiving all new identity cards and the like within a few weeks. As for the wizarding world, we wish to retain the identity of Harry Potter for as long as the war lasts. The identity of Elliot Snape will be protected and secreted until he wishes to reveal it." Snape had finally lowered his wand to his lap, and was tapping his leg impatiently with it.
"Complete confidentiality clause? Not even the minister?"
"Complete. He would like his own life to live, and you can imagine the press should this become public."
Fisher actually laughed at this and continued to fill out a few more things. Harry hoped they'd be done soon, as his stomach had started to grumble and Snape had promised afternoon tea in muggle London.
Harry idly traced his finger along the feather tattoo on his inner arm, something he did when he found himself bored or thinking. He wasn't aware that Dumbledore was watching him, or that Snape was having a glaring contest with a spot of wall above Dumbledore's head.
"Harry, I would prefer if you used a glamour back at Hogwarts to cover the feather." Dumbledore's voice brought Harry out of his thoughts and he narrowed his eyes.
"Why? Lots of wizards have tattoos."
"Yes, wizards of age. However, you are not yet seventeen, and the tattoo is in a rather conspicuous area."
Harry's lips were almost white by the way he was holding them together to keep himself from saying what was really on his mind. Instead, he turned to look at Snape, who seemed to be calculating a response as well.
"What do you think, Dad? Should I hide my tattoo?"
Across the desk, Bennington emitted a half snort half cough at the appellation, and then continued with his paperwork as if nothing had happened.
"Harry Potter, the golden Gryffindor, does not have a tattoo." Snape stated, glaring at the headmaster before looking down at Harry.
"Harry Potter needs to get out more." It was muttered low, but Snape heard it and twitched his lips slightly in amusement.
"I am trying to not show favouritism, my boys. Had it been any other student underage, I would have spoken to their parents and asked them to conceal the tattoo until they are of age." Dumbledore admonished lightly, popping another candy into his mouth.
Harry didn't believe that for a second, but if he'd learned anything that summer, it was how to pick his battles.
"Regarding tattoos," Snape continued, sounding suddenly curious. "What did you say to the dark mark in front of Dennis Bishop, that made it react so?"
Harry flushed red as he remembered their trip to the bar. "Just nonsense snake words."
"Mmm, nonsense indeed. Curious how immediately the ache from the mark disappeared."
Dumbledore this time was paying full attention to Harry, as apparently he'd not been told that particular detail of their interrogation of Bishop. Fisher, on the other hand, had just finished the paperwork and brought his quill out to sign the forms.
"Where does stuff go when you banish it?" Harry blurted, desperate to change the topic. "I mean, where does it really go?"
Snape narrowed his eyes and gave Harry a strange look. " Did you inhale floo powder when you were fooling around near the fireplace this morning?"
"No." Harry grumbled, shaking his head.
"I believe it goes to the space between spaces, Harry." Dumbledore answered, giving him an all-knowing smile. "Where lost socks go."
Harry just stared.
The house had a different look to it upon returning, a warmth and familiarity that Harry had never really felt at Privet Drive. He walked in with a smile on his face and his eyes closed, only missing the stair banister by inches as he moved into the library. The library was as always, the smell of books lingering very faintly in the air, old ash from the fireplace settled to the bottom of the grate and spilling out in tiny specks here and there on the hardwood. Snape's favourite chair sat in its regular spot, the frayed edges in a strange pattern from where Snape had rested his arms while reading.
In the kitchen Harry spotted his favourite red mug sitting next to the coffee machine, and Snape's bag of Dutch coffee sitting beside it. Dad's bag of coffee, Harry corrected in his mind.
"Are you finished being sentimental?" Snape asked, his tone teasing. "We're leaving early for King's Cross tomorrow, and if you're late, the howler Molly Weasley sent after your little car experiment will seem like a pleasant Christmas greeting in comparison to how annoyed I'll be."
"I can't see you sending a howler. You'd send a snarker, maybe, but I've only seen you really yel…ow!"
Harry made for the stairs, grumbling and rubbing the back of his thigh, where the light stinging hex had hit.
Harry finished washing up for bed, in what would be his last night at Spinner's End for a while. He padded into his room, admiring the wooden sign on his door, and dropped his clothes in the canvas bag by the wardrobe. There was a hand stitched E. Snape on the middle of it, which had appeared only after a twenty five minute conversation with Twinky, Snape, and a bribe of five new bandanas. Snape was sitting at Harry's desk, pointing his wand at his own teenage sketches and animating the beasts in them. There was a murky green potion in a clear bottle on the desk, which Harry was willing to bet half his Gringotts vault tasted vile.
He flopped down on his bed and stared at the bottle, trying to vanish it with his mind.
"Quit making faces and drink it. This is to prevent you from dying from a bee sting for the next three months." The bottle was thrust at Harry, who held it and stared at it, avoiding having to actually drink it.
"Can we go back to Amsterdam sometime?"
"Is this speech pattern of non-sequiturs a Gryffindor trait, or is it limited to yourself and the headmaster?" Snape sounded like he was losing his patience, so Harry popped the cork off and swallowed as fast as he could, grimacing.
"Never noticed." Harry shrugged, filling an empty glass on his desk with water.
Snape said nothing against the magic and took the bottle back, satisfied.
"If you maintain Exceeds Expectations in all courses, we shall see about going to Amsterdam over the Christmas holiday."
"Even potions?" Harry asked, shoving down the covers and sticking his feet under.
"Especially potions." Snape leveled, giving Harry a stern look. He stood and pulled up the covers over Harry, holding out his hand for Harry's glasses.
"This is going to be the year, isn't it?" Harry asked, a bit hesitantly. Snape was staring out the window over the identical rows of roofs, towards the centre of town where the sun had set over Stockport.
"Most probably." Snape acknowledged, tension etched into the lines on his forehead.
"I'll survive." Harry said, with a cocky grin. "I usually do."
"Make sure that you do. Bloody cockroach." Snape closed the blinds in the room and walked towards the wardrobe, pulling a book he'd bought from Waterstone's out of his pocket. He spelled The Traveller's Guide to Amsterdam to be read by Harry only, and dropped it into Harry's open trunk, before moving to leave the room.
"Good night, Dad." Harry said, turning over to his side and closing his eyes. At the door, Snape paused before turning out the light.
"Good night, Elliot."