Chapter Thirteen: Clues
Harry was sprawled out on the sitting room floor where he had set up his Wizard's chess set. Propping his chin up on his hands, he yawned as he studied the board in front of him.
The quiet companionship in the room contributed to the relaxing atmosphere. His mum was curled up in a chair with a book while Snape sat at his desk with his own stack of books piled high on the floor beside him. Snape's quill could occasionally scratched over the faint sounds of the radio in the background.
Harry moved a pawn when he noticed Snape pull out his pocket watch. The man glanced at it and then snapped it close with a finality that Harry knew all too well.
"Eight o'clock," Snape announced.
Snape turned to face him. "You've been yawning for the last half hour."
"But I just finished setting up my board." Harry sat up.
His mum lowered her book. "You don't have to put it away, Harry. You can play with it in the morning."
"Fifteen more minutes?"
"Maybe another night." She set her book aside and stood up. "Come on, I'll take you upstairs."
Harry frowned as he pushed the chess board underneath the coffee table. He got up and started following his mum from the room. When he got to the door, he stopped and looked back at Snape, but the man had already bent back over his book. Harry bit down on his lip and fingered the door frame.
He hurried through the door and up the stairs to catch up. He found his mother upstairs, pulling back the covers on his bed.
"Teeth brushed?" she asked him.
"Come on then." She patted the mattress. "I'll tuck you in."
Harry crawled into the bed, resting his head against the pillow. He glanced out the window at the starless night sky.
His mum pulled the blankets up over him, and then sat down on the edge of the bed. "You know, it's not so bad going to bed at eight. It means you get enough time to rest, and it gives your body plenty of energy for important things like learning and playing and growing."
Harry cocked his head. "Mum, how tall was my dad?"
"Is that taller than Snape?"
"Maybe by a few inches, yes."
"Wow." Harry raised his eyebrows. "Do you think I'll be as tall as he was one day?"
She smiled. "You might be, but you've got to go to bed on time. It's good for you. I went to bed at eight until I was thirteen."
"Can I stay up later when I'm thirteen?"
His mum laughed. "We'll talk about it. Tonight it's time for bed though." She leaned forward and kissed his forehead. Her red hair tickled his face. She stood up. "Go to sleep now. I'll see you in the morning."
Harry nodded and wiggled further under his blanket. He watched his mum cross the room and stop at the door, her hand on the light switch.
"Mum?" Harry sat up.
He swallowed. "Could you maybe leave the door open a little bit?"
She drew her brows together. "Of course, sweetheart."
Harry sighed and laid back down. "Thanks."
She switched the light off and pulled the door in most of the way, leaving Harry alone in the darkness.
Lily came back downstairs after a few minutes, and Severus raised his head as she walked in the room. She wore a puzzled look on her face.
"Everything all right?" He set his quill down.
She shook her head. "I'm not sure. Harry asked me to leave the door cracked."
"Is that odd?"
"Yeah. He's never asked me that before."
Severus leaned back in his chair. "How interesting."
Lily bent over his shoulder to peer at his notes. "Is this all about Harry?"
"Partially. Part of it is theory on magical cores." Severus handed her his notebook. "I know Dumbledore is working on your magic, but perhaps we'll get to to the bottom of it sooner between the two of us."
Lily scanned the contents of the pages. She looked back up at him, her eyes soft. "You've worked so hard."
He waved a hand. "It's all in the books already."
"But you're putting in so much time, Severus. I really appreciate it, and even if I never get my magic back, I -"
"You will." Severus took the notebook back.
She sighed. "You don't know that."
"I will do everything in my power to see that you do."
Lily put a hand on his shoulder. "It's not everything, you know."
Severus held her gaze for a few moments before tearing his eyes away and opening a new book.
He stared down at the open page without seeing the words. It was hard to focus when she was so close.
"Severus, I'm sorry."
Exhaling, he turned back to face her. "You're right. It's not everything, however, it's still very important. Please, let me do this for you... and for myself."
Lily squeezed his shoulder. "Thank you."
Severus nodded. "How are your plans to free Black coming along?" It was not his favourite subject, but it was important to Lily and anything that was important to her was a priority for him.
She padded to the sofa, picked up her book, and dropped down into her seat. "It's complicated. No one knows where Peter is, and Dumbledore refuses to let me go visit Sirius."
"In Azkaban? You can't be serious!" Severus would have laughed if the idea didn't frighten him so much.
"Sirius shouldn't even be there! There was nothing I could do before, but now that I can, I have to help him, even if it means going to him myself."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. "You are out of your mind."
"What am I supposed to do then? Sit here and wait?" She let out a short laugh. "He's not going to come walking out of Azkaban on his own."
"What is it you plan on doing exactly? Going to Azkaban won't help him, and god knows it won't do anybody else a bit of good either. Have you ever been to Azkaban, Lily? It's a living nightmare."
She leaned her head against the back of the sofa. "I know. I'm just desperate, I guess."
Severus leaned forward. "I'm just trying to protect you. There are other ways to go about this, rather than throwing yourself into the thick of it."
"Right. We'll get him out. Dumbledore is working on it, and I know Remus will help, too."
"I'm certain he will."
Lily pulled her feet up and hugged her knees to her chest. She smiled sadly. "It wasn't Azkaban, but I know what it's like to be locked up."
Severus felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, and he swallowed.
Of course she knew.
They sat in an uncomfortable silence until Lily went to bed.
Severus stayed up, forgoing sleep for research. He alternated between the Muggle book from the library and any book he thought might aid him in his attempt to discover what had happened to Lily's magic. He was quickly exhausting his vast collection of magical books, both dark and light.
Magic was what he and Lily had bonded over as children. There was sentiment involved, and Severus was feeling the loss over that connection. He refused to believe that there was nothing he could do about it. Any attempt to remove a witch or wizard's magical ability involved quite a bit of dark magic. The possibility made his skin crawl.
The research for Harry was more successful. The library book offered plenty of guidance, and the information available on learning disabilities amazed him. Severus had never known there were so many different varieties of issues, and he found himself devouring chapter after chapter. He sat at his desk in the sitting room until two in the morning, making notes and writing out a list of things he would check Harry's work for. By the time he went to bed, he knew he would only get a few hours of sleep, but he felt satisfied in the time he had spent.
He was up again before dawn. Severus stared into his first cup of coffee, the sliver of the moon still visible, as a large owl arrived at the window with the Saturday paper. It was accompanied by two smaller owls, each carrying a single letter.
One of the letters was from Lupin. Severus recognized the writing from previous letters. He tossed it on the counter for Lily to read later.
The other piece of mail was unfamiliar. Severus broke the seal on the envelope and pulled out a short letter.
To whom it may concern:
My name is Gideon Pyre, an Apothecarist in Haworth. I am responding to the ad you placed in the Daily Prophet looking for work in potion making. I happen to be looking for a skilled potions master to supply my growing apothecary with a great variety of potions. Occasional marketing and travel would also be involved.
I would like to interview you on Monday, July 6th at my shop on the High Street. If that is acceptable, please let me know.
Severus reread the letter. It was an interesting offer, well worth investigating at any rate. He wrote out a quick confirmation response and sent it back with the owl who had brought it.
He slid Pyre's letter in his shirt pocket and sat down at the table with his paper. Much of what the Prophet published was rubbish, but if one knew how to read between the lines, there were hidden bits of useful information hiding all over the place. Knowledge was power, and Severus made a point to read the paper from front to back every day.
Opening the paper, an article caught his attention right away.
LARGE ESTATE DISCOVERED IN RICHMOND
A magical estate has been found in Richmond after a house elf reported itself to the Office of House-Elf Relocation on Tuesday, following the death of her owner, Hugh Forrest, on the 22nd of June. The estate's mansion appears to be vacant, however, there are signs of recent habitation. An investigation in under way.
Severus studied the small picture enclosed in the article. The house stood grand and tall, surrounded by well kept gardens. If it weren't for the slight movement of the trees, it could have been mistaken for a Muggle photograph.
Severus cut the article out with a cutting charm. He set it aside to show Lily and returned to the paper.
Quirrell gripped him by the arms, and he wouldn't let go.
Harry struggled against the man's grasp, but no matter how hard he kicked or pulled, he couldn't get free.
From the other side of Quirrell's head came a cold, maniacal laughter that made Harry freeze in place. "You foolish boy," the voice hissed. "Your death is in vain."
Pain crept up Harry's arms, and he was hit by the smell of burning flesh. He looked down. Flames raced up his arms, threatening to engulf his entire body.
The maniacal laughter rang in his ears.
Harry yelled, smoke filling up his lungs.
He couldn't breathe...
He couldn't breathe...
Harry shot up, covered in sweat. The door was shut and the room dark. His mother laid in her bed, oblivious to his pounding heart.
Harry dropped back against his pillow and stared up at the dark ceiling, refusing to close his eyes. He took a deep breath.
There was no point in this. He would never fall back asleep.
Kicking the blankets off his legs, Harry sat up and jammed his glasses onto his face. He crawled out of his bed and tiptoed out of the room.
Stepping into the hallway, Harry frowned. Light from the kitchen flooded the stairwell. Snape wouldn't be happy to see him out of bed. He was almost tempted to turn around and go back to his room, but the bright downstairs lights calmed his imagination much more than the darkness.
Steeling himself for Snape's glare, Harry crept down the stairs, counting the numbers of creaks each step made. When he peeked around the corner, Snape was seated at the table with his coffee and paper. He greeted Harry with a raised brow.
Harry glanced around the kitchen for a clock he knew wasn't there. "Is it morning already?"
"Barely." Snape took a sip of his coffee. "You are up early."
"I couldn't sleep any more." Harry walked to the sink and filled a glass with cool water. "You make me go to bed at eight. I can't sleep forever."
"Hmm." Snape leaned back in his chair, picking up the newspaper.
Harry drained his glass and he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He sat down at the table.
Snape looked at him over the top of his paper. "Do you have trouble sleeping?"
"You appear tired for a boy who just slept for nine hours."
Harry looked down and traced a groove in the table with his finger.
"You will let me know if you can't sleep."
The newspaper rustled as it was set aside. Harry's head jerked up.
Snape stood up, clearing his throat. "Since it's nearly daylight, there seems to be little sense in sending you back to bed." He went to the fridge and pulled out a carton of milk. "I thought perhaps with the extra time we might attempt a more elaborate breakfast rather than just toast."
Harry jumped from his chair. "Great! I like cooking. Can we make eggs?"
"We may." Snape came back to the table, a new cup of coffee in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. He set the milk down at Harry's place then took a seat. "Sit down and drink your milk. We are doing nothing until I finish this paper."
Harry returned to his seat and watched Snape over the top of his glass. His eyes would scan the pages, stop for a few moments, and then continue once again. Harry wondered what important things he might be reading.
He spotted a scrap cut out of the newspaper sitting to the side. He reached across the table and pulled it closer. It was a picture of a giant house with a short article running beneath it.
Harry didn't bother to try and read the whole article, but he did study the headline above the picture.
He looked up at Snape. "What's this house?"
"It's a mansion in Richmond," Snape murmured from behind his paper.
"No one knew about it?"
"Evidently not. Quiet now."
But the wheels had begun turning in Harry's head. "My mum was in Richmond."
Snape didn't respond.
"She said she was in a big house, almost all alone, and she said it was in Richmond." Harry peered closer at the picture. The more he studied it, the sadder the house looked. His head shot up. "This was my mum's house, wasn't it?"
Snape snapped his newspaper. "That was never your mother's house. It was her prison, in case you have forgotten."
"That's what I meant," Harry mumbled.
"You should learn to choose your words more carefully."
Harry slid the picture back across the table. "So was it?"
"Enough questions." Snape got up and strode over to the fridge. "Come over here so we can make those blasted eggs of yours."
Harry tumbled out of his chair. "Don't you like cooking?"
"No." Snape snatched the eggs and set them on the counter.
"But you teach Potions!" It seemed odd to Harry that someone who enjoyed brewing things in cauldrons all day wouldn't like to cook actual food, something that tasted better than any potion.
"Preparing a meal requires much less attention, intelligence, and quite frankly, imagination." Snape added milk, cheese, and bacon to the pile. "I find it very tedious."
Harry stared up at the man in astonishment. What might Snape know about imagination?