All recognizable characters belong to J. K. Rowling, and I am not earning anything by writing this story.
A huge thanks to JB5391 for her absolute brilliant beta-ing!
Harry nestled deeper into his seat, tuning his friends' conversation out as the Hogwarts Express steadily made its way towards London and the everlasting rain, which had been pestering Scotland for weeks, slowly turned into sunshine. 'Thank Merlin it's over,' he thought, feeling absolute relief to be able to turn his back towards the magical world. 'Two weeks of holidays, before the Auror training begins,' he thought happily. He absentmindedly nodded as Hermione told him to floo call Ron and her at the Weasleys' when he wanted them to come over for the day.
When they arrived at King's Cross, he allowed the Weasleys to pull him into hugs but did not even bother leaving platform nine and three quarters; instead, he apparated straight home from the platform, greatly appreciating that Mr. Weasley had changed the wards for him, so that he, and only he, could apparate into the old town house that once had belonged to his godfather Sirius. Mr. Weasley had also managed to change the Secret Keeper to Harry, so that only people able to enter the house were those invited personally by Harry. 'Well and all those, whom Dumbledore allowed to use it, as far as they're still alive,' he thought as he hesitantly walked through the corridor, noticing that the large house seemed strangely quiet that evening. 'I've never been here alone,' he realised. 'At least the Weasleys were always here, or Remus and Tonks.' Tears welled in his eyes as he remembered his good friends and mentors, who had lost their lives in the war.
He stepped into the kitchen, seeing in surprise that it was as equipped with food as he was used to. 'Mrs. Weasley,' he thought gratefully. 'I just hope she doesn't expect me to throw a party, considering how much food is in here.' He made himself a sandwich, before he retired to the room next to the Master's bedroom, knowing that Sirius had intended for him to stay in that room, even if Mrs. Weasley had decided otherwise most of the time. He slowly unpacked his luggage, carefully hanging his robes into the old furniture. For the first time, he noticed that he could hear the traffic and other sounds coming from his lively surroundings, and he had to admit to himself that he liked it. 'Well, I'm not completely alone in London. Other people are still alive as well,' he thought with a small smile playing on his lips.
Confirming with a glance at his wrist watch that it was only eight o'clock in the evening, he changed his clothes into Muggle attire and left the house through the front door. He walked aimlessly through the streets, finally deciding to head to Gringotts in order to get some Muggle money the following morning.
During the next few days, Harry spent a lot of time in Muggle London. He went shopping to buy himself proper Muggle clothes as well as a pile of books, not because he had to read them, but because they seemed to be interesting. He went to the cinema, visited the British Museum and Madam Tussauds. By the time he returned home in the evenings, he was exhausted and went straight to bed. For the first time in his life, he felt completely free and happy.
It was on the fifth day of the holidays that he spent the evening lying on his bed, totally engrossed in a book about the internet. 'We should have something like that in the magical world as well,' he thought when he suddenly heard strange, slithering sounds coming from the floors above. 'What was that?' he wondered. He pondered if he should go and explore the third and fourth floor, but he had to admit to himself that he was scared. 'You're frightened of what is probably a mouse?' a small voice at the back of his head spoke up. 'You weren't afraid of Voldemort.' Harry let out a long sigh. 'Maybe I was just hearing things,' he tried to reassure himself. 'No one is supposed to be able to enter this house except for friends, and there were no Death Eaters among the people that Dumbledore let in, except for Pettigrew, and he is dead.'
During the days that followed, he didn't hear any more sounds and was just about to forget about the matter, when he heard them again. 'I should have a house-elf,' he thought, 'but how do people get their house-elves? I'd of course free him and pay him, but I really need one, if it's only in order not to be completely alone in this huge house.' He decided to ask the Weasleys how to get a house-elf at the next opportunity and also to explore the top floors in the morning. 'Only the Potions lab and the room, where Sirius kept Buckbeak, are on the fourth floor, and there are a few more rooms on the third,' he mused. 'Perhaps I should re-build the whole house or just take the two top floors off to make it more comfortable to live in.' With that thought in mind, he drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, he hesitantly stepped upstairs, his wand firmly gripped in his right hand. The third floor was as empty as it was supposed to be. He only glanced at the shabby, worn out furniture, which would have been beautiful once, and wondered, 'Would it be possible to combine these rooms to one large room, so that I once more could teach people like I did with the D.A?' However, he quickly dismissed the thought, knowing that he would not want to play a leading role in the magical world anymore.
Harry slowly climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, already expecting not to find anything either. He looked into Buckbeak's former room, noticing that someone had completely cleaned the room. 'Hmm, better no furniture than these shabby wardrobes like in the other rooms,' he thought as he left the room to take a look at the adjacent potions lab. He opened the door, slightly hesitating, because he had never been allowed to enter what had always been Snape's terrain. To his surprise, he noticed that the lab seemed as if it had only been used the day before. Not that it was dirty; on the contrary; however, the smell of recently brewed potions penetrated Harry's nose, and it was stocked with ingredients that looked fresh. 'There must be a charm on it that keeps everything fresh,' he thought. 'This lab is stunning. What a pity that I'm not able to use it. I'd probably blow up the house trying to brew something as simple as a headache potion.'
He was just about to turn back and leave, when he heard hissing sounds, "This is a dangerous place. You better take your leave."
Glancing around in shock, Harry discovered a snake. It was about two metres long and black with a light green pattern on its back. The snake was lying on the tiled floor in front of him, raising its head to speak with him.
"Hello there," Harry hissed back in surprise. "Who are you and what are you doing in my house, if I may ask?"
"I have been living here for quite a while," the snake replied. "Do you mind?"
"No, of course not," Harry hurried to reassure the snake. "There is enough space in this huge house, and I'm glad to have someone live here with me. Just stay out of my bedroom, if it's not an emergency."
"Of course," the snake hissed and waited until Harry left through the door, before it slithered through a small hole in the wall.
'How can a snake be living here?' Harry wondered as he thoughtfully walked down to the kitchen to make himself some tomato soup. 'Hmm, not bad,' he decided, noticing that it had been strangely relaxing to cook again after a long time. He ate a large bowl, leaving the rest of the soup in the pot to eat in the evening.
However, when Harry returned from a long walk through Muggle London, the soup was gone, and the pot was back in the shelf, as clean as it was supposed to be. 'The snake,' was Harry's first thought, before he slapped his forehead and thought, 'It might enjoy tomato soup, and I can ask it if it wants to share meals sometimes, but it wouldn't be able to clean up. Ron and Hermione must have been here. Of course Ron would eat anything that was left.' He chuckled at the thought of his two best friends and made his way to the fourth floor for the second time that day. Opening the door to the potion lab, he tried to think of the snake and hissed, "Sssnake, are you there?"
It took a minute, before the black snake appeared in front of him, hissing, "What isss it now? Didn't I tell you to stay out of thiss dangerous placcce?"
"Oh right, I'm sssorry," Harry apologized automatically, before he remembered the reason for his visit. "I just wanted to assk what you like to eat. Since I cook every day, I could make some more for you, if there iss anything you like apart from ratss or such."
The snake remained quiet for an instant, before it replied in a friendlier tone, "Thank you. I eat nearly everything. If you just leave it in the kitchen, I will help mysself. Your tomato soup was good. Thank you. I mosstly eat during the night though."
"You ate the tomato ssoup?" Harry blurted out in surprise. "But how did you clean up the pot?"
The snake let out a sound resembling a snort. "I am a magical ssnake," it replied. "You may call me Ssslither by the way."
Following that conversation, Harry always cooked in the evening, leaving a large helping for his house guest in the kitchen. When he returned in the morning, he could be sure that the food was gone and the kitchen cleaned up. 'It's much more fun to cook for two,' Harry thought happily, suddenly feeling not so alone in the large house anymore.
One morning, Harry woke up as he heard the Floo in the kitchen flare. He hurried downstairs, only to find Hermione's head in the fire. "Harry, we wanted to ask if you'd like to come with us to the zoo today," the girl said, sounding very enthusiastic.
Harry agreed and hurriedly got ready for the trip. The three friends spent the whole day at the zoo and had dinner in a small Italian restaurant in Muggle London. It was nearly midnight when Harry apparated home, Ron's last words still remaining in his mind. "In three days, our Auror training is going to begin. I can't wait."
'I'm not sure if I can't wait for Monday to come,' Harry mused. He pushed all thoughts about his new schooling aside and spent the weekend on the sofa in the living room, reading. He was just skimming another computer magazine, when for the first time, Slither came to join him. The snake looked at the books that were spread out on the table with interest, before it asked in apparent surprise, "What are you sstudying?"
Harry chuckled. "I'm not studying. I'm only reading thiss because I'm interessted. I'm curiousss to see if we'll be able to make computersss work in the magical world," he explained, adding more to himself, "I'd love to spend more time on thiss, but I have to begin the Auror training tomorrow."
The snake cast him a sharp look. "Don't you want to become an Auror anymore?" it challenged.
"I'm not sure," Harry admitted, wondering why he was talking to a snake about these things.
"I am only a magical ssnake, but if you allow me to voice my opinion," Slither began to hiss slowly, causing Harry to look at him in expectance. "Being an Auror might bring you fame, which can vanish quickly, but doing what really interests you will bring fun that will never cccease."
Harry stared at the serpent in surprise. 'He must be very intelligent,' he thought. 'Maybe I should just go to the Ministry in the morning and tell them that I'm going to quit the Auror training, before it has even commenced.'
However, by the time he went to bed in the evening, his stomach began to hurt, and during the night, he had to run to the bathroom to throw up every thirty minutes. Only at five o'clock in the morning could sleep finally claim him. It was nearly lunchtime when he woke up, hearing the fireplace flare. He rushed downstairs, holding on to the banister as he felt the stairs tilt dangerously. He let himself sink in front of the fireplace, glancing into the upset face of one of the Aurors. 'Probably my trainer,' he thought and quickly conjured a bucket to empty the content of his stomach.
"Auror training has commenced this morning, Mr. Potter," he heard a stern voice like from far away, noticing that his ears felt strangely clogged up.
"I'm quitting. I don't want to become an Auror," he said quickly, before he once again threw up into the bucket. Realising in relief that the Auror finished the conversation, he dragged himself to the sofa and curled up, feeling utterly miserable. For the first time since the end of his seventh Hogwarts year, he regretted not being at the school anymore. 'A potion would work wonders,' he thought, unaware that Slither unobtrusively slithered into the room.
"Are we indisposed this morning?" the snake suddenly asked in a snarky tone, causing Harry to glare at the animal.
Seeing that Slither curled up in front of the fireplace, he closed his eyes, feeling strangely consoled by the snake's presence. According to the clock on the mantelpiece, it was only fifteen minutes later when he woke up again to the sound of the fireplace. This time it was Hermione, who demanded to step through. Harry waved his wand at the fireplace to allow his friend over, noticing in surprise that he felt completely well and refreshed again. 'It's just as if I had taken a potion,' he thought in relief.
"Harry?" Hermione's voice brought him back to reality. "Who is this?" She pointed at Slither.
Harry grinned. "That's Slither, my house snake," he explained.
"Harry, Ronald called me during his lunch break. He said something that you didn't show up for the Auror training and that you seemed ill when your trainer called you. What exactly is wrong?"
Harry let out a long sigh and motioned for his friend to take a seat on one of the squishy armchairs. "I had a stomach bug, but all of a sudden, I feel fine again, just as if someone had given me a potion." While Hermione's eyes wandered to the ophidian that had taken its place in front of the fireplace again, he continued, "I quit Auror training. I don't want to become an Auror. I want to do something that is fun."
Hermione stared at him in surprise and leaned over to feel his forehead. "Harry, are you delirious?" she asked in apparent concern. "You always wanted to become an Auror, and you'd to be good at it."
Harry quickly slapped the girl's hand away, looking at the snake in surprise, when it suddenly began to hiss. "Your friend hasss done enough for the magical world. He doesn't need any more fame. He needss to experienccce life for the firsst time in hisss life."
Seeing Hermione's questioning look, Harry quickly translated the snake's words, before he told his friend, "I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do, but I'm thinking of buying a computer and getting it to work in the magical world."
"That's an excellent idea, Harry," Hermione said with interest, before she turned to the long, viridian snake and cast it a rather suspicious look as she queried, "Professor?"
"Professor?" Harry echoed in disbelief, wondering if Hermione was delirious, while the snake let out sounds resembling a snort.
"I feel very honoured to be called professsor," Slither hissed, before he turned his head away as a sign that he was finished with the conversation.
However, Hermione was averse to giving up so quickly. "As a snake Animagus, you'd probably be able to survive a snake's bite," she mused aloud, "That explains everything, and you were kind enough to give Harry a potion earlier. Why are you hiding from the world though? You're a war hero."
"Tell your friend that she is amazzzingly clever," Slither hissed. "However, if she uttersss ass much as one word about my pressence here, I'm going to use her limbss as potions ingredientsss."
"Professor Snape?" Harry queried in disbelief.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry, isn't it obvious?" Turning to the snake, she said, "I'd appreciate it if you would be so kind to transform back into your human form as it would make the conversation much easier."
"Pity I don't feel obliging," the snake sneered.
'I don't believe it,' Harry thought. 'Snape is alive and has been living here with me for two weeks? Well, I hope he won't go away now that Hermione found out who he is. I'd miss the company.' To Hermione he said, "Leave him in peace, Mione. If he wants to remain as a snake, we should respect his decision. I'm glad not to be alone in this large house." He had the impression as if Slither cast him an appreciative look, before he buried his head in his body, a clear sign that the conversation was over.
It was much later that day that Harry felt his earlier ailments return. 'It was definitely a potion,' he thought, wondering if he could ask Slither for more. He had just decided against it, when the snake slithered into the room.
"Mr. Potter, you can find your next dose of potions on the kitchen table," Slither hissed, pointing his head towards the door.
"Thank you," Harry said in relief and followed the snake into the kitchen, where he eagerly gulped down the lime green liquid, feeling his symptoms vanish in a blink. "Thank you so much," he repeated, feeling very grateful towards his former teacher.
"Go back and rest. Today I will cook dinner," the snake replied curtly, motioning for Harry to leave the kitchen.
Harry once more curled up on the sofa in the living room, soon drifting off into a potion-induced slumber that was only interrupted when Slither came to tell him that dinner was ready. Not feeling hungry in the least, Harry dragged himself into the kitchen, turning around when he noticed that the snake was not following him. "Sir," he asked hesitantly, "if you don't mind, perhaps we could have dinner together?"
The snake Animagus slightly turned his head sideward, before he replied, "If you're sure."
"I am," Harry said firmly and observed how the snake slowly morphed into the Potions Master.
From then on, the two wizards made it a habit to eat dinner together after going their own ways during the day. While Snape busied himself brewing potions, which he sold to the apothecaries all over Britain, Harry bought a Muggle CD player and a television, as well as the computer and tried to charm the devices to work in the magical world. He spent most of the day in the old musty library, where he found several shelves full with Charms books. To his surprise, the raven-haired Potions Master seemed to be interested in his research, and more often than not the older wizard gave Harry good advice what to try out next.
"I'm surprised that the magical world assumes that you're dead, considering that you're supplying everyone with potions," Harry said one evening, when they were sitting in the living room together to watch the news on the television, the first of the three devices that Harry had managed to convince to work for them.
"I'm selling them under a pseudonym of course," Snape replied, raising an eyebrow. "The apothecaries only value quality; they don't care who is behind the name Sylvester Panes."
"Don't you miss teaching students?" Harry asked, in spite of knowing the answer by himself, "Passing on your extensive knowledge to the future generations?"
"Teaching the dunderheads?" Snape replied, smirking, before his face returned to his usual blank mask as he admitted, "I'd like to have one or more qualified apprentices though, if I was to return to pedagogy."
"You could take apprentices," Harry suggested. "We have so much space here. It would be nothing to build a larger potions lab or whatever you need easily."
Snape shook his head in determination. "Thank you, Mr. Potter. I really appreciate your hospitality and generosity, but I have no intention of intruding even more in your space."
Harry sighed in exasperation, "We have lots of space anyway, and it would be much better to reasonably use it," he replied in determination. "As you know, I have more money than I'll ever be able to use, so we can easily rebuild the whole house."
"You may change your mind in a few years, once you have a wife and a handful of children," Snape said, quirking an eyebrow.
Rolling his emerald eyes, Harry retorted, "I don't even have a girlfriend."
"You don't believe that Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley will last long, do you?"
Harry looked up in surprise. "Why not?"
"Because their intellectual levels are completely incompatible. They'd end up unhappy and irritated with each other," Snape sneered, leaving Harry to wonder if his former teacher knew his friends better than him.
"Hermione might want to become your apprentice, by the way," Harry said contemplatively, "and the Weasley twins could be interested, too."
"I'll think about it," Snape promised.
"Maybe I should change my name as well and give computer classes, once I get that thing to work," Harry mused aloud, causing the older wizard to cast him a surprised look.
"Leaving all the fame and everything behind?" Snape queried, quirking an eyebrow.
"I hate being famous," Harry said firmly. "That's why I kind of left the magical world. Everything would be much easier if I wasn't Harry Potter but someone else; an insignificant person that goes through life without the hassle of Harry, like for example… Larry Hotten."
"If you're sure that you want to do that, I don't see a reason why you shouldn't," Snape smirked. "Since you're of age, no one can forbid you to change your name, not even the Minister of Magic. The Muggles can do it too by deed poll."
The idea of changing his name did not leave Harry's mind, and when the whole Weasley clan came to visit him on his birthday, he pulled Hermione and Ron aside and asked them for their opinion.
"Why would you even want to do that?" his best friend asked incredulously. "You're a hero. You're famous. You have everything that you want."
"All he wants is his freedom," Hermione answered, admonishing him, shaking her head as Ron left the room when Mrs. Weasley shouted for him. "I fully understand, Harry, and I believe that it's a good idea," she said warmly. "A propos, I'm thinking about renting a flat."
"You what?" Harry gasped. "But you're living together with Ron, aren't you?"
Hermione let out a long sigh. "Yes, but frankly speaking, I'd love to live alone for a while or at least have a room for myself. I haven't had that since I was eleven."
"Oh, I understand," Harry said thoughtfully as he tried to imagine having to share a small room with Ronald all the time. "We have space enough," he offered in a light tone. "Feel free to move in. You can choose your room. Oh, by the way, I'm just trying to convince Snape to take apprentices. Would you be interested?"
"To become the Professor's apprentice?" Hermione asked eagerly, and her amber eyes began to shine happily. "I'd love that. I was looking forward to going to the Muggle university, but if he accepted me as his apprentice, I'd be ready to forget about everything else."
"I'll tell him," Harry promised, "although I can't guarantee anything. Don't forget though, his name is now Sylvester Panes."
"Please also ask him if he would mind if I lived in one of the empty rooms," Hermione said softly. "Since he was here first, the two of you should make these decisions together."
Before Harry could reply, the door was thrown open, banging against the wall, causing dust to fall down around the room, and the twins stormed into the room. Harry glowered at them. "Here you are, birthday boy. Everyone is waiting for you." They then commenced pulling him out of the room by his biceps, leaving Hermione to follow.
Later in the evening, Harry and Sylvester enjoyed the renewed quietness and talked about the matter.
"We could, for example, turn the fourth floor into a potions classroom as well as a few small apartments for your apprentices to live if they want," Harry suggested. "You could move into the Master bedroom, right next to my own room on the second floor, to have some quiet in the evenings."
After a couple more conversations of the same kind, Sylvester finally agreed to move into a room next to Harry's, even if not into the Master bedroom, and he also accepted Harry's suggestions about the apprentices and the rebuilding of the fourth floor.
During the first week of August, Harry hired an architect, who had his office in Diagon Alley. A week later, the fourth floor consisted of a larger potions classroom in addition to the remaining small laboratory as well as four small apartments, each of them equipped with their own bathroom and kitchenette. Harry looked at the new rooms in absolute amazement. "This is totally awesome," he said contentedly and instructed the architect to rebuild the third floor as well. "We need one large classroom, one smaller room, toilets and a fireplace," he said musing, "and if you then could just modernise all the rooms on the first and second floors, we'll be done."
At the end of August, all changes to the old town house were complete, and from the first of September onwards, Professor Sylvester Panes taught his first three apprentices, Hermione Granger and the Weasley twins. 'I love having Hermione stay here with us,' Harry thought happily. 'It would even be more fun if the twins stayed as well, but I can understand that they want to look after their shop in the evenings.'
During the following months, Harry engrossed himself in his computer studies, and around Christmas, he finally managed to get his computer to work. From that point onwards, Harry intensely studied the programs that were installed, before he bought a second computer and tried to install everything by himself. 'No problem,' he thought, looking at the screen in relief. However, the next step towards his goal was to connect the computer to the internet. When he asked in the shop, where he had bought his computers, he was told that he had to apply with the telephone company; however, since Harry did not own a Muggle telephone let alone a connection, which, unfortunately, was out of the question. Therefore, he spent a few months trying to figure out how to magically connect the computer to the World Wide Web. The summer holidays were about to begin when the display finally showed that he was connected.
'Wow, this is too cool,' Harry thought with excitement and spent the whole day reading about this and that on the internet. He was only brought back to reality when Sylvester entered his study room.
"No dinner tonight, Harry?" he asked in his soft, baritone voice.
"Oh Sylvester, I'm sorry; I completely lost track of time," Harry replied absentmindedly. "Look, here. This is absolutely brilliant."
It only took the Potions Master a few minutes, before he shared Harry's enthusiasm. "This will be interesting," he said, the edges of his mouth turning up, "if you manage to set up the Wizardnet for communication within the magical world, for example, for an exchange of information between Potions Masters and apothecaries or adequate institutions."
"Wizardnet?" Harry asked, chuckling. "We can try."
"Harry," Sylvester said thoughtfully, "you should speak with Minerva McGonagall. I am sure that she will be interested, and she has enough influence to gain the Ministry of Magic and St. Mungo's as potential clients. Are you ready to start giving classes yet?"
"Yes, I think so," Harry replied, feeling very reassured by the older wizard's enthusiasm. "First of all, I need to change my name though. I'll go to the Ministry tomorrow morning." When they met for dinner the following day, he showed Sylvester a parchment. "I'm now officially Larry Hotten," he said, chuckling.
"Who would choose such a 'rotten' name?" Sylvester disparaged, rolling his eyes.
"Well, who would believe that someone willingly accepts a name like that?" Larry retorted, smirking.
In the morning, Larry took the Floo to Hogwarts to visit the Headmistress. "Mr. Potter, how nice that you come and visit us," McGonagall greeted him, ushering him to a seat, rather like those he remembered from school. Hard. "I read rumours in the Daily Prophet that you quit your Auror training?" she asked, eyeing the young man in front of her in concern.
Larry smiled. "First of all, Professor, I am now Larry Hotten," he introduced himself and told his former Head of House about his computer studies and that he intended to teach computer classes, starting in September.
McGonagall listened patiently until Larry was finished, before she replied gently, "Larry, I believe that this is a fantastic idea, and I insist that my staff and I are among the first to get access to the Wizardnet. Do you think you could hold an intensive class for the staff before the beginning of the school year? And are you willing to set up the computers for us?"
"Of course, I'm not only going to teach computer knowledge, but I will also set up computers for people or look after them if something is wrong," Larry replied. "We can hold a class during the last week of the holidays." He explained to the teacher how he had changed the old town house and that a friend of his was teaching Potions to a few selected apprentices in the top floor.
"A friend of yours who can teach Potions? Who might that be?" McGonagall queried in surprise, following Larry's gaze to the portrait of the last Headmaster in disbelief.
"Well, if I tell you that, he's going to use my limbs as potions ingredients," Larry replied, chuckling when McGonagall looked at him with gleaming emerald eyes, literally bouncing in her seat very uncharacteristically.
"Is he alive?" she asked urgently. "I won't tell anyone except for Madam Pomfrey. She was one of his best friends and will be as happy as I am to hear the good news."
"Professor, could you turn his portrait around for a moment, before he tries to kill me?" Larry asked jokingly, before he told the old witch how the Potions Master had survived the war.
"Thank you, Harry, for allowing him to stay with you," McGonagall said gently and in apparent relief. "I know that you were not on good terms during your time at Hogwarts."
"Well, he was in need of a place to stay after his home had been burnt down by Death Eaters, and I enjoyed his company. We're getting along surprisingly well," Larry said thoughtfully. "Somehow he is like the father I never had, and it's nice to have someone to talk and eat dinner every evening. Recently, Hermione even joins us from time to time. At first, she was hesitant, because she didn't know if Sylvester would like it, but in fact, he seems to enjoy her company."
"Is she still in a relationship with Mr. Weasley?" McGonagall asked softly.
"I don't think so. They had too many arguments about the future. They want different things. Ron wanted to have children as soon as possible, while Hermione wants to study and enjoy herself before settling down," Larry explained, only to add, "I can understand her."
During the next few weeks, Larry bought twelve computers for his classroom and installed everything, before he connected them to the newly founded Wizardnet, deciding that the Wizardnet should be freely accessible for all wizardkind. He charmed all computers to switch on like Muggle devices and automatically connect to the Wizardnet. As soon as his classroom was complete, he bought the computers for Hogwarts, which he took to the school and connected to the Wizardnet during the third week of August like he had promised the Headmistress.
"Would you be interested to join McGonagall and the others for their computer course next week?" he asked Sylvester at dinner one day. "Of course I can show you how it works at anytime, but I'm sure that especially McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey would love to see you."
Sylvester glared at the younger wizard. "So that everyone else will know who I am as well?"
Larry rolled his eyes in annoyance. "No one will recognise you, provided that you refrain from the snarky comments that you're famous for. Since you cut your hair short, you really look like someone else. If you're still uncertain, you could wear sunglasses or contact lenses, so that your eyes won't give you away."
Sylvester cast the younger wizard a nasty glare but promised to think about the matter for a few days. It was only on Monday morning when Larry learned his answer; the older wizard came into the kitchen to enquire, "At what time does the class commence, Professor Hotten?"
"At nine o'clock, Professor Panes," Larry replied, smirking as he poured a cup of coffee for Sylvester. 'He is doing well,' he thought, inwardly grinning as he observed the Headmistress and the Mediwitch discreetly hug their former colleague.
Larry noticed soon that it was much fun to teach the Hogwarts staff that still to a large part consisted of his former teachers. Although everyone seemed to know him and were eager to learn from him, to his great relief, no one commented on his change of name. 'McGonagall probably talked to them in advance,' he thought gratefully.
At the end of the week, McGonagall took him aside. "Larry, that was outstanding," she said gently. "However, I am sure that not all of my colleagues have already understood everything in detail. Would you be willing to come to Hogwarts, for instance, once a week between the last afternoon class and dinner?"
"Of course," Larry replied, smiling.
"On a different note, Madam Pomfrey was very enthusiastic and spoke with St. Mungo's about the Wizardnet, and the Head Healer, Healer O'Brien, who is a good friend of hers, wants you to buy fifty computers to be installed at the hospital, and he would like you to contact him or his assistant, Ms. Leonie London, in order to arrange for classes for the employees. He said that he'd appreciate it if you could hold classes on two different week days, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, so that people from both day shifts could take turns attending." She handed Larry a sheet of parchment with the details.
"Thank you so much, Professor," Larry said gratefully.
"You're welcome, Larry. Once again you're doing a great job in favour of the whole magical world," McGonagall replied, smiling fondly at her former student.
"At least this time I'm doing something that I love to do," Larry replied honestly.
"Keep in contact, Larry, and when you're finished with St. Mungo's, I'll contact the Ministry. They will need your help as well, because they won't be able to ignore the Wizardnet, even if they want to."
On Monday morning, Larry contacted the Head Healer's assistant at St. Mungo's, who asked him to come over, so that they could discuss the details about the fifty computers the hospital wanted and the courses for the Healers and Mediwitches. To Larry's surprise, Leonie seemed to be about his age, and he found that she was absolutely beautiful. It was not that she was overly pretty with her hair that was dark blond and bushy like Hermione's and her dark blue eyes, but he liked her smell, the way she spoke, her behaviour; just well... everything. 'The best thing is that she understands what I'm speaking about; it's as if I was talking to Hermione or Sylvester,' Larry mused when he returned home after a few hours of discussion with Leonie.
When he hesitantly told Hermione and Sylvester about Leonie, Sylvester thoughtfully rubbed his nose. "Ms. London was one of my Slytherin students, probably in the year before the two of you, but she left after her OWLs in order to continue her studies at St. Mungo's and become a Healer. I'm glad to hear that she is the Head Healer's Deputy now. She is a very capable young lady."
Hermione cast Larry an amused look, which went unnoticed by the young wizard, who was completely lost in thought. During the following weeks, Larry was extremely busy setting up the computers for the hospital and teaching classes at Hogwarts, at St. Mungo's and at home. Although he was hardly ready to admit it to himself, he preferred teaching at St. Mungo's, always hoping to get a glance at Leonie again. She had attended his first computer course, but after that, he had only met her in the corridor once or twice. Unfortunately, when he spotted her, his mind used to clear itself from everything, so that he was only able to stammer a hesitant, "Good morning."
Leonie always smiled the most brilliant smile that he had ever seen when she returned his greeting. One day, however, when he left his classroom that the Head Healer had arranged for him, Leonie was standing in front of the door. "Mr. Hotten," she greeted him, with a smile like an angel and a scent like the most beautiful flower.
"Hello, Ms. London," Larry replied, hastily swallowing the frog that was about to tongue tie him.
"I'd like to ask you to do me a favour," Leonie began to speak. "Do you have a few minutes to accompany me to my office?"
Larry readily agreed and followed the young Healer into her office, feverishly trying to suppress his excitement. "I'd like to work together with you in order to set up a database about magical illnesses, potions, etc. that should be accessible to all Healers, Mediwitches and Potions Masters," she said in her soft voice that Larry liked so much.
"That will be difficult but not impossible; it might take a few weeks though," Larry replied thoughtfully. He knew there was a piece of software that would allow him to do this but was extremely difficult to master. Plus, there was also the fact that there were hundreds of illnesses and potions to input; they would have to be cross-referenced and things like queries would have to be created to allow a rapid search for the specified criteria.
"That's all right," Leonie replied gently, unaware of the fact that it would nearly take a year before the database would be ready to use.
During the following months, Leonie and Larry met three times a week to work on the database, and Sylvester readily agreed to test the software from the Potions Master's point of view.
"What is his name again?" Leonie asked quietly after Sylvester had left the room one day.
"Sylvester Panes," Larry replied slowly, giving the young witch a questioning look.
"Panes? He resembles someone I knew. I thought that he was dead, but I'd be extremely happy if he wasn't," Leonie said softly. "He changed a lot," she continued after a pause; "he is much softer than he was before the war."
"That's true," Larry admitted, realising that he wasn't able to hide the truth from the clever blonde witch.
The Ministry of Magic was equally ready for computers and the Wizardnet as St. Mungo's, and when Larry had spent an entire year installing computers and doing research for Hogwarts and the magical hospital, it took him another year to provide the Ministry with adequate equipment.
While he taught the Ministry employees, Hermione and Sylvester spent most of their time developing a wolfscure potion, a remedy for lycanthropy, and the Weasley twins specialised on useful and efficient prank potions. Sylvester point-blank refused to participate in testing Fred and George's products, but was happy to help them in regards to tweaking recipes and making suggestions.
"I hope we'll manage to finish the potion by the end of my third and last year of the apprenticeship," Hermione said one day, when she and Larry met Ron for the first time in months.
"Good luck, 'Mione," Larry said, smiling, whilst Ron cast her a rather incomprehensive look. "Ron, do you know what you're going to do when the three years of Auror training are over?" he asked kindly.
"I'm going to become an Auror obviously," Ron replied, shrugging. "And you?"
Larry smiled. "I'm going to continue what I'm doing now. I love computers, and it's interesting to do research in order to help people. There is something else I'd love to do though." He glanced at Hermione, who looked at him in expectation. "I'd love to become an Animagus."
"Oh yes, I'd love to become one, too," she replied right away. "I always meant to ask Professor Panes if he could help me."
"Let's ask him together," Larry said thoughtfully, "and perhaps Leonie would also like to join us, considering how she loves to explore things. Ron, what about you?"
"Who is Leonie?" Ron asked with a slight hint of jealousy swinging in his voice, which had decidedly risen in pitch.
"The Deputy Head Healer of St. Mungo's, on whom Larry has a crush," Hermione said, chuckling when Larry glared at her.
"What about Ginny?" Ron asked. "She is still waiting for you."
"We don't love each other, and I properly ended our relationship years ago. She only had a crush on me when I was Harry Potter," Larry replied quietly. "Harry Potter, the hero of the wizarding world, no longer exists. I am a no one, and I love being a no one."
When Leonie came for their database study the next time, Larry hesitantly asked her if she was interested to try becoming an Animagus.
Her eyes lit up. "Of course, what a brilliant idea," she said, smiling.
"Do you think you could stay for dinner today, so that we could ask Sylvester if he is willing to teach us right away?" Larry suggested, causing his friend to give him another of her beautiful smiles.
"I'd love that, Larry," she said in a soft voice and followed him downstairs into the kitchen, where she obediently took a seat and observed Larry cook a menu, which he had used to cook at the Dursleys' when they expected special guests.
"Did you hit your head, Larry?" was Sylvester's first reaction, when Larry tentatively voiced his question.
"At least not this afternoon," Leonie threw in, chuckling. "Please Professor; all three of us would love to learn how to become Animagi."
"Professor?" Sylvester echoed in surprise, raising an elegant eyebrow at his former student.
Leonie chuckled again. "Professor, your disguise with your short hair is fantastic, but any Healer would be able to recognise you, especially after being in your House at Hogwarts for five years," she said gently.
"Please teach us, sir" Hermione agreed.
Sylvester sighed, before he smirked and asked, "What kind of animal would you like to become? I only know how I became a snake."
"Are you a magical snake, sir, like you told me when we first met here?" Larry asked curiously.
Sylvester's mouth twitched. "I am just a snake, but I have a special ability. I am sneaky, and can sneak my way in anywhere."
Hermione, Leonie and Larry decided that they wanted to try becoming snakes too, as it would be much more fun to change into an animal if they were able to communicate with each other. In the months that followed, they spent an hour every evening trying to transform their limbs one by one, and by the end of May, all three of them managed the complete Transformation. Hermione was a light brown snake with a pretty spotty orange pattern on her back, whilst Leonie's form was dark blue with a stripy beige pattern, and Larry became a green snake with a black hatch cross pattern on his back.
The four friends were just celebrating their success, roaming the entire house in their snake forms, when all of a sudden, the fireplace in the living room flared. It was Professor McGonagall.
"Professor, come through and look at our Animagus forms," Larry, who had quickly transformed back, said with excitement and the Headmistress stepped through the Floo.
"Aww, you're very beautiful, all four of you," she said gently. "Well done."
"Minerva, how did you know?" Sylvester queried, quirking his eyebrow. "Or was that not the reason for your visit?"
"No, originally not," McGonagall replied crisply. "In fact, I came to warn you. The Minister of Magic just released the information of whom he is going to award the Order of Merlin this summer." Ignoring the four pairs of eyes that were glaring at her, she continued, "I'm afraid that both of you, Sylvester and Hermione, are going to receive the Order of Merlin first class for your wolfscure potion, and Larry will be honoured with the Order of Merlin first class for his invention of the Wizardnet." At this small groans were heard.
"All very reasonable decisions," Leonie threw in, smiling, causing Larry to glare at the witch. "No problem, sweetie; you can change your name to mine afterwards, so that no one will be able to find and bother you," she chuckled and leaned over to kiss Larry on his lips.
'She kissed me,' Larry thought, trying in vain to understand what she had told him earlier, while his body moved automatically and pulled the witch of his dreams into a long and passionate kiss.
Observing the scene with clear amusement, Sylvester slightly bowed towards Hermione, before he asked in a barely audible voice, "May I?" Seeing her nod like in a trance, he leaned down and followed Larry's example, pulling her close tenderly.
"Well, I think it's time for me to leave," McGonagall said, smiling when the two couples parted again. "Congratulations. I'm very happy for the four of you."
It was only a few days later that Hermione, Sylvester and Larry received owls from the Minister of Magic, inviting them to a ceremony that was going to take place at the Ministry a week later.
"I am not going. I'm not participating in such a gaudy, trussed-up affair," Sylvester huffed angrily, throwing the parchment onto the kitchen table.
"Fred and George offered to give us a prank potion, so that we'll be indisposed," Hermione said ponderingly.
Leonie chuckled. "It won't be a problem. I will attest that all three of you are ill with the squid's flu, which is extremely contagious and I'll go and accept everything for you," she offered. "As the Deputy Head Healer of St. Mungo's, not even the Minister will doubt my diagnosis."
"You're amazing," Larry said, smiling, before he gently covered her mouth with his lips. "Be careful that you don't catch it from me."
A few days later, the Daily Prophet screamed about the new Orders of Merlin, ending with the question, 'What exactly is the Wizardnet?'
Larry chuckled. "If Rita Skeeter gets to know that Mr. Lovegood has been using the Wizardnet for more than a year now, she won't be a happy bunny. And now please excuse me for an hour." Ignoring the surprised looks he received, he retired to his own room, switching on his computer. Thirty minutes later, earlier than expected, he returned to the kitchen, where the others were still having tea together.
"Just so you know," he began to explain, grinning, "I just hacked the computers of the family division at the Ministry and Magic and changed Sylvester's and my names."
"May I ask; to what?" Sylvester queried in surprise, for once unable to wipe the amusement from his face as he glared at Larry.
"I changed our first names back to their original and changed the surnames into an identical one," Larry chuckled, before he turned to Leonie. "Leonie, would you like to become Mrs. Leonie Kanes in the near future?"
Four weeks later, Minerva McGonagall, as the Headmistress of Hogwarts, performed the ceremony for the double wedding of Leonie London and Harry Kanes, while Miss Hermione Granger became Mrs. Severus Kanes. After a long honeymoon, which the two couples spent together on a normal Muggle beach, Leonie returned to her work at St. Mungo's, Hermione became the new Potions teacher at Hogwarts, and Severus and Harry continued to teach at Grimmauld Place. In the evenings, the four of them spent most of their time together in their snake forms, sneaking through the walls and onto the rooftops of the old town house and its neighbourhood.
'It's much fun being a sneaky snake and especially being a no-one and really free,' Harry thought happily as he spent the night on the roof, snuggling with Leonie in her snake form; tails coiled round each other as though they were holding hands, in the moonlight.
The idea of this story was poking my mind while I was sick, and I just typed it up yesterday; so please excuse the absence of a brilliant plot.