This story was inspired by the song "Blue Jeans and a Rosary" by Kid Rock, although it is not a song fic. I doubt you'd even recognize the connection if I didn't say anything but there you have it. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
It was to be an exciting sorting that year. Not because anything particularly special was set to take place other the homecoming of Harry James Potter, the Boy Who Lived. It had long been anticipated by the people of the Wizarding World and Dumbledore was as excited as anyone to see the child after so many years. He had long been wondering how baby Harry had turned out after the initial fears of leaving him in the care of the Durselys.
Minerva had warned him, quite ominously, of the potential trauma of leaving the child with his Aunt and Uncle. But with no emergencies the issue was moot. Until today that is; when they would see if the boy was every bit the boy they expected him to be. The staff had been talking for days about which House the child would go to. The general consensus was a Gryffindor sorting, as both his parents had been in that House. Despite the oft spoke comfort that Wizarding parents told their departing eleven-year-old, having your child follow you into your House was a great honor whether you were there to see it or not.
So with all the anticipation and hype that surrounded the boy's coming home, it was no wonder that the actual arrival was as boring as they came. The sorting went on as normal and the boy was sorted to Gryffindor as expected. Dumbledore eyed him carefully from his spot at the staff table. The young, black haired Gryffindor was chatting with his fellow first years, even going out of his way to engage a Muggleborn who seemed a little nervous about joining in. Whatever the child had said to her got her chatting without even a pause to take a breath.
It was all rather heartening. The boy appeared happy, he ate enough for two, and there appeared to be no hint of darkness behind his eyes. The first week of classes passed with no incidents. As did the second, third, fourth, and fifth. In fact it wasn't until Halloween that anything remotely interesting happened. The troll caused no damage; no students were caught in its destructive path. At most there were now some characteristic dents in the stone wall. The incident passed into Hogwarts legend and the students moved on with relative ease and excitement.
Although Dumbledore did overhear the most interesting of perspectives as to the continued safety of Hogwarts as he made his usual Tuesday afternoon stroll down the Transfiguration hallway.
"...er said that if the Headmaster can't keep Hogwarts safe they may shut it down," said a first year voice Dumbledore recognized as Draco Malfoy's. Dumbledore paused just before the corner to listen. It was always good to know what the senior Malfoy was saying.
"Don't be thick," said another equally known voice, Harry. "That troll had nothing to do with Hogwarts' safety policy and your dad knows it."
"We cannot have trolls walking around Hogwarts," Draco replied in disdain.
"Schools go into lockdown all the time," Harry replied. "Things happen. Muggle schools run drills to prepare for that stuff."
"All that means is that Muggles are violent things," Draco said, an air of superiority.
"Oh, nevermind," Harry said, giving up.
Dumbledore had never heard of these drills, the boy spoke of. Did Muggle schools really prepare for safety threats? What a pessimistic view. Not even the Prefects were given information on how to act in times of emergency beyond finding the nearest adult to effectively deal with the situation. What an interesting concept, these drills.
The school year preceded with no outlandish issues. Dumbledore did take note however that Harry and Draco seemed at odds with each other. While the old Headmaster would have expected the Gryffindor to be the one to grow angry quickly, it seemed to be the opposite. The child appeared to be able to let insults and taunts bounce right off him as if they were nothing and not worth his notice or energy. This calmness in the face of Draco's increasing nastiness only gave the Slytherin cause to use others in order to get a rise from Harry.
And that was when the violence erupted between the two children; for while Harry seemed capable to taking a remarkable amount of adversity he seemed incapable of allowing others to take it unnecessarily. Therefore, no one was particularly surprised when a prejudiced remark towards Harry's favorite Muggleborn, Hermione, sent the child into a fit of protective rage. What did surprise people however was that the boy seemed to forget that he was a Wizard and foregoing his wand, punched the other boy so hard he lost a tooth.
Unfortunately that attracted Lucius Malfoy to the school and the result was a meeting in the Headmaster's office with the Heads of Houses, the boys, and the guardians.
"Mr. Potter, this incident cannot be resolved without your guardians input," Dumbledore told the boy, who was sitting, head held high and arms crossed. "What would be the best medium in order to contact your Aunt?"
"My Aunt?" the boy asked, confused. "What does my Aunt have to do with this?"
"She is your guardian," Dumbledore replied, wondering what the confusion was.
"Um, no sir," the child told him. "I haven't seen the Durselys since I was six."
Dumbledore paused, shocked, and wondered how he could have missed such thing. Although it's not as if he had ever paid that close of attention to the situation on Private Drive. He was trying to give the family their space.
"Then who have you been living with, child?" the Headmaster asked. The boy paused fully aware of the rapt stares he was receiving from everyone in the room.
"Um, Snape," he replied. "Severus Snape." The atmosphere in the room immediately shifted to something substantially more tense. Lucius stiffened; Minerva gasped; Horace grimaced; and Dumbledore felt his shoulders stiffen. Harry, ever the perceptive child, picked up on the sudden tenseness. "Is something wrong?"
"How did you come to be living with Mr. Snape?" Dumbledore asked grasping for information about the former student. His handling of the situation between James Potter and Severus Snape had been the worst mistake of his career. Having known James Potter all his life he had not thought the rambunctious student capable of cold-hearted bullying. He'd figured that that enmity between the two students was simply over a girl, Lily.
Looking back, that may have been how it started but not how it continued. He could admit that he had mishandled the situation by assuming that the Slytherin was merely trying to cover for himself in order to escape all punishments. That was until the boy, at fifteen, three weeks before OWLs, came into his office, placed his wand on the desk, and walked out the front door of Hogwarts, never to return. Dumbledore had heard that the boy briefly visited the Wizarding World for various reasons, one of them to spit on Voldemort's offer to join the ranks of the Death Eaters. Other than those few visits the ex-Slytherin had been living with his father in the Muggle world. Dumbledore didn't know any more details.
"That's none of your business," the boy replied. Dumbledore nodded recognizing that the last thing Harry wanted to do was talk about a personal issue in front of an enemy and his father.
"Oh, of course," Dumbledore conceded. "And how do I contact Mr. Snape?"
"Do you have a telephone?" Harry asked skeptically. Knowing what he did of the Magical world he doubted that the Headmaster even knew what a telephone was. However, Dumbledore had acquired one some time ago in order to contact the parents of Muggleborns with relative ease. He made quick work of acquiring the appropriate number, which turned out to be a communal phone in the building Severus was living in. Having-rather uncomfortably-informed the runaway student that he was needed at Hogwarts he inquired if the other man required assistance in reaching the school.
"No," came the short reply. "I'll be there soon."
And he was there very soon. Dumbledore was positive that the only way he could have been there that quick was if he'd apparated. That wasn't inconceivable as one didn't require a school education in order to pass the Apparition test.
When the man arrived he didn't bother knocking, he simply entered looking distinctly uncomfortable himself. His hair-once long and greasy-was cut very short giving his features an even sharper look than Dumbledore remembered. He was wearing Muggle blue jeans, work boots, and work shirt with the name Mack Shipping on the breast. He was much more muscular than Dumbledore remembered as well. The Headmaster also spied a tattoo on the man's right forearm; a black sun. The man eyed the room wearily before closing the door behind him and taking the empty seat next to Harry.
"What's this all about?" he asked, his voice a mix of tense and tired. Shaking off his nearly uncontrollable need to ask the questions running through his head, Dumbledore spoke as professionally as he could given the sudden twist in today's events.
"It appears that both young Harry and young Draco have taken to extreme enmity," Dumbledore informed them. "After an exchange of words, Mr. Potter struck Mr. Malfoy hard enough to knock loose a tooth."
Severus rested his elbow on his knee and dropped his head into his head.
"Brilliant," he muttered. Harry avoided the man's eye quite effectively.
"And what started this altercation?" Lucius asked. Severus straightened up to give the Headmaster his full attention.
"Apparently, a rather prejudiced remark towards a Muggleborn. A friend of Mr. Potter's."
At this information Severus sent a look towards Lucius who refused to meet the other man's gaze. Dumbledore knew that the two of them had been good friends when Severus was still in the Wizarding World. The blond was five years Severus's senior and when he had graduated Severus had been left without an older ally to counteract the Marauders.
Dumbledore wondered if the two had had some sort of contact recently. It may explain why Severus seemed to think that Draco Malfoy having an anti-Muggleborn sentiment was a ridiculous move on Lucius's part. It also explained why Lucius, never one to back down from his opinions, suddenly refused to have eye contact with a man who lived in the Muggle world.
"What's the punishment?" Severus asked, turning back to the Headmaster.
"That is what we are here to decide," the old man responded. "I want to avoid an expulsion wherever possible but this cannot go without more than a slap on the wrist." The Headmaster's intense eye contact with the dark haired man gave the clear message that he had learned his lesson. "My recommendation would be suspension without the possibility of making up the missed work. As for the young Mr. Malfoy, this blatant prejudice will not be condoned inside Hogwarts. I am proposing at least one month of detention to be served with the Muggle Studies teacher, Professor Bibbage."
"Sounds fair," Severus replied, his voice laced with anger. Harry sent him a rather uncomfortable look; he knew he was in an extreme amount of trouble.
"Yes," Lucius replied, truly unable to suggest anything else. "That does sound fair."
He really hadn't wanted to go home with Sev for a full week. As the man dragged his trunk though the door of their small one-room flat, he considered very strongly just turning around and running away.
"Don't even think of doing something as stupid as running, HJ," the man snarled. His shoulders slumped in relief at the name that Sev always called him. He loved that name. It sounded much cooler than 'Harry'. He liked how it made him sound a little older. His friends at Hogwarts all called him HJ but he had never bothered to ask the professors to use the nickname.
The boy entered the cold little room, closing and locking the door behind him. It looked just as he'd left it. Sev's bed and night table were hidden behind the curtain that separated them from the rest of the flat. The dingy, red pinstriped couch that served as his bed. The old telly, the million books that were in piles around the room, the clothes rack that held their small wardrobes though his was sitting in the trunk Sev had dropped by the door.
The man was currently rooting around in the mini fridge, probably looking for some sort of alcohol. Sure enough when the man straightened up he had a beer in his hand and a scowl on his face.
"I'm sorry," HJ blurted, more than a little nervous about Sev's reaction to his latest act of naughtiness. He felt guilty for making Sev go all the way to his most hated location after working those fourteen hour days at the docks.
"No, you aren't," Sev replied brushing past him and heading to the couch. "You're perfectly satisfied with yourself. Don't lie to me." He didn't argue the point that he wasn't satisfied with what he'd done. Draco had said some incredibly nasty things about Hermione and deserved to have a missing tooth.
"It wasn't like he didn't deserve to be hit," HJ argued, wanting to make Sev see that it wasn't as bad as all that. "If you knew what he really did-"
"I don't care what he did!" Sev yelled, making HJ jump in surprise. "I only care about what you did. You know better than to hit someone who can't defend themselves! There was no way that was a fair fight and you know it!"
"That's not my fault!" HJ responded as equally loud as his guardian. "Just because no one ever taught him how to punch doesn't mean that he didn't deserve it."
"HJ you were in Hogwarts!" Sev said as if the boy hadn't known where he was. "They don't work the same way as the people do here. The only way to win a fight in Hogwarts is to outsmart the other guy. Using your fists will only get you pushed out the front door."
The boy didn't have anything to say to that. He knew, of course, what had happened between his birth father and his guardian to an extent. It was something they never talked about. Severus didn't like thinking about it and HJ had never had the stones to say anything about it.
"Sev," he started, then stopped unsure of how to continue. The man sighed and set his beer on the stack of books to his right.
"Come here HJ," he said and patted the cushion beside him. The boy quickly sat down and settled into the back of the couch. He'd missed his couch. The bed in the dorm was comfy enough but nothing beat home, even if it wasn't much. "Knocking someone's teeth out is all well and good when they're coming for you, but if you start the fight you'll only end up in jail. Trust me when I say that the last place you want to end up in is Wizard jail."
"Because they have Magic," the man replied. "It isn't pretty. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. It's one of the biggest problems a Wizard faces. Power can go to your head very quickly and the more you have the easier it is to use it. But you know better than to hit someone for running their mouth."
"Let 'em run, eventually they'll trip and fall," HJ recited the old saying Sev used to tell him when he had been in primary and catching the mickey from some class bullies.
"Exactly," he said. "I know that sometimes it's the last thing you want to do but it's better than no education, no money, and mouths to feed."
"I'm sorry," the boy repeated feeling truly guilty. Severus clapped him on the knee.
"I know bud," he said. "You'll have to work extra hard for the rest of the semester in order to make up for these zeroes you're getting."
And work hard he did. Dumbledore, not one to completely ignore the Boy Who Lived after finding out he'd missed something very big, was very pleased to see that the child had managed to get excellent grades. He'd also managed to stay out of trouble as well. There were no altercations between Harry and Draco for the rest of the year; in fact, Draco didn't seem to want to be anywhere near the other boy for fear of losing another tooth. Nobody else seemed to want to provoke the boy either after his display of brute strength and his nonchalance about the suspension. Although Dumbledore had heard rumors that Miss Granger had been quite upset that the boy had gotten himself suspended on her behalf. Both of them were such good Gryffindors.
Quirell's body was found in front of the mirror, the Dark Lord having left it in a fit of rage when he realized he would not be getting the Stone. Dumbledore and the Ministry managed to keep the matter quiet and the body was removed from Hogwarts and buried on Azkaban Island. No one would think to look for it there and no one would think anything of another body. The stone was returned to Flammel, who set his affairs in order and died peacefully with his wife. No one seemed to be the wiser.
Except that Dumbledore was certain he saw Harry watching them from a window on the second floor as they carried Quirell's body out. He only saw the boy for a quick moment as he scanned the windows and by the time his eyes had snapped back to confirm what he'd seen the boy was gone. Dumbledore was starting to wonder if giving him that invisibility cloak had been a good idea. It had seemed like the perfect gesture at the time.
The old Headmaster had watched the child carefully during breakfast the next morning but nothing appeared out of ordinary. With no way of knowing if what he saw was what he thought he saw, he put the matter behind him. There was no need to suspect the boy unduly.
So the rest of the year passed quietly and soon Hogwarts was closing for the summer. All things considered it had been a very quiet year.
Three Years Later
"HJ! Get up!"
The fifteen-year-old groaned and buried his head deeper into his pillow only to have the blankets ripped off and the cushion he was laying on picked up and turned so he went sprawling to the floor.
"Hey!" he protested angrily, doing his best to bring Sev's face into focus through the sleepiness and bad eyesight. The blob that was his guardian leaned down and perched the black, square framed glasses on his nose.
"Get up," he repeated.
"Why?" he whined, laying on the floor as if it was a bed.
"Because there are people here to see you," Sev replied. With that information, HJ was jogged out of sleepiness and sat up quickly. Looking at him from behind the couch was the real Moody (or so he assumed), Remus, and a lady he didn't know with violently pink hair.
"Hi Remus!," he greeted happily and the werewolf smiled warmly back. He did catch Sev scowling darkly. "What are you doing here?"
"Besides giving us fleas?" Sev snapped bitterly but was ignored.
"We're here to take you to Headquarters," Moody replied.
"Headquarters?" HJ asked, confused. "Headquarters to what?"
"Dumbledore's secret little group," Sev told him as he hauled him up by the arm. "Don't let them fool you into thinking it's anything spectacular. It's a ragtag little army that will probably have you dead within the year."
"Is that really necessary?" Remus asked, already frustrated with the other man. They'd had a similar encounter in HJ's third year when they had been in the same room for the first time in twenty years. It had been awkward to say the least. Not that Severus had done anything to make the experience any less uncomfortable.
Severus merely raised an eyebrow at the werewolf letting him know that it was necessary.
"Why do I have to go?" the teen asked, interrupting a silent argument between the two men. He wondered if the remaining Marauders and his guardian would ever be civil towards each other. He really doubted it. Sev was very bitter over his lost chance for an education and future and no one had the gall to blame him for leaving the situation at Hogwarts as quickly as he could.
Knowing that fact only made HJ like Sev even more than he already did. The man was tough as nails, didn't except much defeat, and had a capacity to forgive beyond understanding. At least that was how HJ explained why Sev had taken him in when he needed a place to go. Underneath all his snarkiness, Sev was just a big softy.
"The Headmaster thinks it would be conducive to you safety," Remus replied. "Given the incident with the Dementors four days ago, Dumbledore wants you within reach of adult wizards who can help. Oh, and Severus will have to come as well."
"I have work," Sev said immediately. HJ wondered if they would even go. He had seen Sev stiffen at the implication that he couldn't keep his ward safe. It was sort of a nasty insult to someone like Sev, who prided himself on being able to survive despite everyone trying to break him down.
"You'll have to take time off," Moody told him, unsympathetic.
"It isn't that simple, Moody," Sev sneered at him. "No work, no pay. I have to work."
"I'm sure we can arrange for you to get to work," the lady cut in, clearly trying to ease tensions. HJ wondered what had been said while he'd still been asleep since they had never gotten this pissy with each other this quickly.
"Sev, we should go," HJ said quietly. "We have Muggle neighbors."
The man peered at the teen with narrowed eyes more than likely trying to determine if he could get away with saying 'no'. He knew however, that the kid wouldn't let him put anyone in danger, themselves included, because of his pride. The boy may have been prone to running into things head first but when it came to the people around him he had pathological need to keep them safe.
"Fine," he snarled doing his best to keep his dignity and somewhat irrational anger at the same time.
Sev hated Grimmauld Place. HJ could tell by the way his right eye would twitch slightly every time the portrait started to scream or Mrs. Weasley started to cry. HJ didn't like those things either but Sirius was here so it all balanced out to him. Despite the fact that he knew his long time guardian and best friend was thoroughly uncomfortable he hadn't quite expected him to snap.
HJ was sitting at the table in the kitchen eating his breakfast and challenging Ron to a rematch of the chess game they'd played the night before, when Sev came through the Floo holding safety glasses and a sledgehammer. Work gloves were tucked into the back pocket of his jeans. He spared no one a glance as they all stopped what they were doing and stared after the man as he left through the door and went up the steps to the first floor. HJ didn't think to follow until he heard the distinct sound of a sledgehammer meeting a wall and the shrieks of the portrait.
It was at this point that everyone jumped up and followed the man up the stairs. HJ came to the hallway just in time to see Sev slam the sledgehammer back into the wall surrounding Mrs. Black. Sirius and Remus both came hurrying down the stairs and froze in shock much like the crowd that had come from the kitchen.
Sev continued with what he was doing and soon enough was able to pull the drywall that the portrait had been spelled to completely away from the rest of the wall. It fell heavily and the shrieks were muffled as the woman's face met the floor. The wall itself now held a gaping a hole where the portrait had once been.
"Um, Sev?" HJ hedged and the man spared him a glance while removing the safety glasses. "What are you doing?"
"Home improvements," he stated bluntly and then pointed to the hole. "Some of the pipes in this house need repair. I figured this was as good a place to start as any."
"But don't you think you should have asked before you started making holes in the walls?" the boy continued looking pointedly at the slightly shocked ex-prisoner still on the stairs.
"No," Sev replied just as bluntly as before. "Now get dressed. You're helping me." With that the man walked off to his room to get the tools he'd brought with him on the off chance they were needed. They were certainly needed now.
Between the two of them they were able to get Grimmauld Place into a state that wasn't shambled. Pipes were replaced, drywall was redone with all unwanted decorations removed, and the roof was patched when it was discovered that the anti-leak charms weren't going to be enough. Mrs. Weasley put the rest of the teenagers to work cleaning with HJ and Sev coming in behind them to fix whatever needed to be fixed.
The Gryffindor was shocked to learn that after the initial project of removing Mrs. Black, Sirius had offered to pay Sev for whatever work he did. Sev accepted with much grumbling, unable to turn down money that could help pay the stack of bills they had. Sirius had also set the wages at a fair rate, dispelling the argument that he was trying to buy Sev's forgiveness. However, HJ would have never expected Sev to accept money from Sirius regardless of necessity or fairness.
"Did you really accept Sirius's money?" HJ asked one night as he laid on Sev's bed. The man was standing on the other side of the room, in front of the vanity rewrapping the cut he'd gotten from the battery powered drill. The thing had slipped and managed to give the dark haired man a deep cut right across the back of his left hand. HJ didn't think he'd seen anything more funny than Mrs. Weasley's face as the injured worker let loose a torrent of cuss words that he suspected most wizards wouldn't even know the meaning of.
"Yes," Sev replied shortly.
"It's good money."
"But you-" HJ started and then stopped, unsure of how he wanted to continue.
"Hate him?" the man finished glancing at the boy through the mirror. The Gryffindor just nodded. "Some things are more important than old grudges, HJ."
"Like what?" he asked.
"Like you," the man replied, finally coming over to the bed, pulling back the covers, and getting in on one side. HJ shifted so that he was on his stomach, arms tightly wrapped around the pillow underneath him.
"You never take charity," HJ said softly.
"It wasn't charity," Sev replied. "He wanted to give you money for Hogwarts. I told him no so this was his solution." HJ made a small noise in the back of his throat. It made more sense now. Hogwarts was expensive and Sev insisted on putting him through it himself. The man wouldn't let his ward even think about touching the inheritance money until he was seventeen, and HJ had stopped asking knowing it to be a sensitive subject on many levels. He knew that Sirius wanted to be the Godfather he was supposed to be and helping pay for Hogwarts was a part of that. He also knew that Sev didn't have the heart to tell his old enemy that he couldn't try to be there for his Godson.
"Hey, Sev?" HJ asked as the man finally extinguished the light and prepared to fall asleep.
"Do you think I can beat Voldemort?" he asked quietly.
"Yes," Sev replied without any sort of hesitation. "Want to know why?"
"Because you got me," he said. "And he isn't going to get the chance to hurt you."
"That's a big promise Sev," HJ said. It wasn't that he doubted that Sev would do everything he could to protect him-he always had-but he did doubt that his partially trained, drop-out guardian could win a duel with the Dark Lord.
"I can keep it," the man replied as he rolled over onto his side and placed a rough, calloused hand on the boy's back.
"How?" the boy asked taking off his glasses and setting them on the side table.
"Don't worry about it," Sev said.
"But Sev!" the boy whined, wanting to know and tired of being blown off.
"Don't whine at me," the man replied and begin to rub the boy's back. HJ knew the move well. Sev used to do that when he was little and fussy. It always made him fall asleep quickly. The man was trying to end the conversation by making his ward fall asleep. "Just trust me a little okay?"
"I trust you," HJ snapped, angry that anyone, including Sev, would doubt the trust he had in the man. He'd always trusted Sev and he'd never been disappointed, even in the hardest of times. Sev didn't make promises he couldn't keep.
"Good," his guardian replied, continuing to rub the boy's bare back. "Are you staying in here tonight?"
"Mm, hm," the boy hummed, eyes closed and near sleep. The man continued to rub the boy's back until he fell into a deep sleep. He never even felt the covers being drawn up over his shoulders and his hair being mussed softly as Sev ran his hand over the boy's head before settling into sleep himself.