A/N Many people who read Dudley's Memories asked for a sequel. Here it is.
In a panic, a thin undersized boy hurtled down a stone staircase that was clearly intent on changing where it came out onto the third floor. If it did that, he'd have to double back, and he'd been even later than he already was.
As soon as he realized this, the boy hopped up onto the stone railing. As the stair ponderously moved, the boy leapt into the air, counting on his magic to slow his fall down to something survivable before he hit the second floor landing. He tucked into a tumble that he'd learned from his many falls from his broomstick.
In his head, he heard his best friends berating him for trying to break his neck. Really though, it wouldn't matter if he broke his neck on the staircase, that would be preferable to the fate that would meet him if he didn't get his arse down to the dungeons five minutes ago
Harry was late for Potions class.
He was sure that this time Snape would follow through on his threat to make him into potion ingredients. He sprinted down the stair behind the tapestry, not being able to remember the incantation that Hermione had used that had flattened the stairs, as much as he tried.
He slid around the corner by the humpbacked witch, then past Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. As he ran, he cursed Ron out in his head, wondering why Ron hadn't bothered to wake him up before he left.
Finally, he was in the stone hallway that led to Snape's dungeon. The door was still open, which meant that class hadn't yet started. Harry took some gulping breaths and tried to walk in as unobtrusively as possible.
The classroom was empty.
After a second, Harry realized that it was Saturday. The rest of his class was off in Hogsmeade, but Harry was in detention with Snape. At least he hoped it was Snape.
He looked down at his hand, which was still raw and bleeding with the cuts Dolores Umbridge had forced him to carve into his hand. Even after he'd soaked it in murtlap, it still bled. He noticed that the blood had soaked through his right sleeve. Little droplets were appearing on the floor.
"Let me see that, Potter."
Professor McGonagal had appeared beside him. Harry thought he remembered seeing her standing in the corridor in her cat form.
"You know, James was just the same," she was saying as she waved her wand over the cuts, "Couldn't tell a liar to save his life."
The blood stopped dripping onto the floor.
"Thank you, Minerva." Snape's voice cut in, just as Harry was beginning to hope that perhaps his detention was to be served with Minerva. She was very stern, but like Dumbledore before her, she never used methods of discipline that were likely to leave permanent scars.
Snape, on the other hand...
"Permanent scars, Potter?" sneered Snape.
Shit. Had he said that out loud? Had he been slipped a babbling elixir? Was he down here so Snape could give him an antidote?
"Actually, Potter, I was hoping we could just have a word." Harry stared at Snape, who smiled and leaned against his desk. The expression was a little ironic, but there was none of the usual nastiness in it.
Harry looked around the classroom again. McGonagal was gone, although Harry thought she might just be outside the door. He realized that without transition, they were standing in her office. No, Harry realized, it was Dumbledore's office. Snape was leaning against the Headmaster's desk.
Harry started scrambling in his pocket for his wand. Behind Snape, the huge snake, Nagini, was drawing back to strike.
"Professor!" cried Harry, "Move!" he pointed his wand, with no thought for what spell he would use.
The snake was transfixed for a moment in a flash of green light. It scuttled away; now on six legs. A harmless insect.
Harry opened his eyes to darkness. Ginny lay beside him breathing softly. After a moment, Harry pulled the blanket back over himself, willing his heart to slow down. It had been a long time since he'd had one of those dreams.
After a few minutes of tossing and unable to get comfortable, he sighed. Got out of bed, pulling on a pair of socks against the late night chill. He picked his wand and glasses up from the night table.
"All right, Harry?" whispered Ginny.
"Fine. Dream." Harry whispered back.
"You want company?" Ginny had her own share of dreams.
"No, I'm fine." Harry thought about what Dudley had said just a few nights ago about that phrase, "I'm just going to check on the children." this was his habit for years now. Nothing cleared the nightmares like seeing the children peacefully sleeping.
By the light of her night light Lily was sleeping half off her bed again, with her blankets scattered everywhere. Ginny said she took after Fred and George, that way. So much energy that she never seemed still, even in sleep. Harry threw the blankets back onto the bed, smiling as Lily drew them around her like a cocoon.
There was a stealthy movement behind him. The house wards hadn't gone off, so Harry was pretty sure he knew what...who... it was. He turned slowly, lighting his wand with a nonverbal lumos.
Their new foster son, Tim, drew away from the light, frightened, "Sorry, Mr. Potter." he whispered.
Harry smiled at the boy, "Hello. Couldn't sleep?" they had expected that Tim was likely to have some odd behaviors. Harry had discovered that one of them was wandering around the house at night. He'd asked Kreacher to keep an eye on the boy, unobtrusively and to wake himself or Ginny if it seemed that the boy needed them. "You go on back to bed, Kreacher." said Harry, knowing that the old elf was around somewhere, "I'll stay up with Tim now."
"You don't have to, Mr Potter." Tim said, his eyes a little alarmed, "I'm fine. Kreacher just got me some water, and I needed to use the loo and I promise I'll go back to bed and I won't be a bother." Tim almost always spoke with no pauses between his sentences. That is, when he actually spoke.
Harry sighed. He couldn't get Tim to call him anything but Mr. Potter, "Would you like some hot chocolate?" he asked gently, "I was just going to make some."
The boy swallowed, hard. The mindhealers had warned the Potters that Tim was very frightened of men. One of the reasons they felt that the foster parents should be a well established family was that it appeared that Tim's mother had had "unstable relationships with men".
Typical mindhealer understatement, thought Harry.
He held his hand out to the small boy, who took it with an air of reluctance. Harry noticed with a little smile that Tim held the teddy Harry had given to him the night they'd taken him into care. It hardly ever left Tim's side.
Harry led the little one to the kitchen. Kreacher had heard Harry's suggestion, because he was putting the makings of hot chocolate on a tray on the table, along with a calming draft and vials of dreamless sleep potion (in both the adult and child dosages).
"Thank you, Kreacher." said Harry, "You go on to bed, now. Get some sleep."
Kreacher bowed, and slunk off to his cupboard.
Harry, used his wand to prepare the hot chocolate, even though he might have otherwise done it by hand. The mind healers had said it was vital that Tim see magic used in everyday life. He considered the calming draft for a moment, but Tim didn't seem unduly distressed, just edgy and nervous.
Well, that made two of them. Seeing Dudley the other night, hearing (and reading) Dudley's take on their childhood, and then taking little Tim in had reawakened some feelings Harry hadn't thought about in years.
This was something Ginny and he had gone over in their classes and sessions with the mind healers, before they had applied for their foster-care licence. Harry was well aware that, having come from an abusive home himself, a foster child might bring up some issues for him.
On the other hand, it was a healthy outlet for his saving people thing.
He handed the boy some not-that-hot chocolate. Comparing the little one's tense, alert demeanor to his own children's at the same age, in the same situation. James would have chattered happily if he had Harry all to himself, and Al would have demanded a story. Lily would have insisted that Kreacher join them for a tea party, and Kreacher would have changed into his best tea towel for the occasion.
Tim just watched Harry soberly, drinking his hot chocolate.
Harry, summoned a tin of biscuits from the cupboard. He set them down on the table, pushed them toward Tim, who hesitantly took one. Harry helped himself as well.
"Did you have a bad dream?" asked Harry.
Tim nodded, but didn't volunteer anything.
"Mm, me too." said Harry seriously. The child was so utterly unchildlike that Harry was a little at a loss.
The boy put his mug down on the table, empty.
"We're going out tomorow." Harry said, remembering the planned outing "You remember Hermione and Dudley from the other night? They'll be there. And a few other people." Harry hoped that it wouldn't be too overwhelming for Tim.
The boy didn't answer for a bit, "You won't need to lock me up, Mr Potter." He whispered, finally, hesitating over his words, "I know to stay out of things. Maybe I can help Kreacher or..."
Harry sighed, picturing Ginny's face when she heard this bit. Tim had already said enough things over the past few days that made Ginny turn white and leave the room, "No, Tim." Harry cut him off gently, "I mean we're going. The whole family."
Tim's eyes flashed fear and sorrow, and he bit his lip, "Oh. So you're taking Kreacher?"
"No. I mean, Kreacher is family, but so are you, now." Harry explained patiently. He thought he remembered being a bit like this himself, the first year he was at Hogwarts. He seemed to recall asking Ron if he really had Christmas presents. Of course, when Harry started Hogwarts, he'd been eleven not seven (Tim was tiny, apparently suffering from some variety of failure to thrive that the healers were still trying to sort out whether mental or physical). Harry didn't know if that made things better or worse.
"You mean...you want me to come too?" Tim's eyes were huge.
Harry smiled, "Yes. I think you'll have fun. Lily wants to show you everything." Lily, to Harry and Ginny's great pleasure, was taking her new role as big sister very seriously. It helped, of course, that Lily would be entering Hogwarts next fall. The prospect of receiving a wand, had the effect of making most wizarding children reject the coddling that Tim was getting as babyish. It also helped that Tim elicited Lily's penchant for looking after people.
"Oh." Tim didn't seem to want to say more. Perhaps fearful of saying the wrong thing and making Harry angry. Of course, after James and Al's antics, there were very few things a small boy could do to really get Harry angry. Irritated and exasperated perhaps, but not angry.
"Come on." Harry held his hand out again, "Let's get you back to bed."
Tim took his hand a little less reluctantly, this time. Harry also noticed that Tim took three or four biscuits out of the tin, and furtively put them in his pocket.
Kreacher had already told Harry and Ginny that the boy had been putting food aside in a bag under his bed. Kreacher and Ginny had both been concerned about Tim leaving spoiled food around, but Harry knew what Tim was doing. He had told Kreacher not to clean under the bed, and he'd take care of it. It looked like this was as good a time as any.
"Hey, Tim?" said Harry as they walked up the dark stairway to Tim's new room, "Those biscuits are going to get pretty stale in your pocket."
Tim stopped. Harry stepped down a couple of stairs as Tim turned to face him. In Harry's wandlight, the boy looked stricken.
"You know you can always get something from the kitchen." Harry continued casually, "Or ask Kreacher." He started moving again, drawing the boy along with him, "But if its easier for you, I could put a cupboard for food in your room. I can spell it to keep things fresh too. I just don't want things attracting mice, right?"
He opened the door to Tim's room and Tim scrambled into his bed, eyeing Harry warily, With a quick spell, Harry pulled up one of the floorboards, suddenly remembering how he'd hidden things at the DUrsley's. A few more spells and he'd created a little food cache complete with stasis charm. Anything Tim put in would stay fresh and it wouldn't become an attraction for mice and bugs. He held out his hands for the biscuits from Tim's pocket. Tim handed them over sheepishly. Harry pointed his wand under the bed, and summoned the bag Tim had hidden.
Tim let out a little squeak of protest. Harry tried to look reassuring, "It's okay, I just want to put the food away." Harry pulled out more biscuits, an apple, some cooked carrot, half a sandwich, some cheese and other small portable items of food. Harry noticed with a pang, that except for the biscuits, none of the items of food could really be put in the category of "treats". Tim had the omnivorousness of a child who was no stranger to hunger. Not once had Tim either asked for or refused food, nor had he expressed any preferences, except for taking a great many of the chocolate biscuits.
Harry put the food into the little hiding space and placed the board over the top, "There you go. You can eat anytime you want without having to go all the way to the kitchen. Just don't get crumbs in bed." Harry made a mental note to let Kreacher know, and to perhaps make sure that the cupboard always had a little something in it.
Harry looked at the other things that were in the bag. A few toys that Tim had received from St Mungo's staff were in there. Tim started forward with one hand out, only to jump back when Harry looked up at him, seemingly too terrified to speak.
Harry drew out a photo album. It was old, dusty and Harry knew exactly where it had come from.
The one place the children weren't allowed to go and even Ginny knocked before she entered. The one place he'd asked Tim not to go.
Harry held the object up. It held the photographs of his parents, Sirius, Remus and even a few of Severus Snape that had come into Harry's possession after the Ministry had read Snape's will. They were pictures of Snape and his mother, Lily.
"Sorry. Sorry" Tim threw up a hand and cowered, before Harry could do anything.
The cowering got rid of any impulse to shout Harry might of had. The last time he'd had an urge to shout like this was last summer when James had taken out Harry's broom (the newest Lightning Bolt model) without permission. James had been upset by Harry's shouting that time. Tim would be devastated.
Harry took a long breath, getting a handle on his exasperation (his mind healer would have been proud). Tim was close to hyperventilating with fear.
Harry let out his breath and counted to ten in his head. When he thought he could speak without sounding irritable, he said, "I need to put this back. If you want to look at things in my private study, you have to ask. It's really not polite to do otherwise." Harry realized that he sounded like Remus as he said that. Remus' mild remonstrances had always carried more weight that other people's tantrums. "I need to get to bed myself." Harry leaned forward and patted Tim's pillow, "C'mon, lie down." he told the baffled, frightened child who lay down, shivering.
"Call me or Auntie Ginny if you need anything, yeah?" Harry whispered covering him up. They'd deal with the bookshelf pilfering tomorrow.
Harry curled up next to Ginny, so tired, he didn't know he'd fallen asleep. In his dream, he was back in the Headmaster's study.
"Amazing how children always seem to do the one thing that you wanted them not to do." said Snape sardonically.