A/N – Get ready for some scary/angry Harry!
Chapter 25 – Child of Fire
They came back the same way they had left, via the floo in Severus' quarters. Once there, they took off their cloaks and put them by the door. Then, Harry went to his room to put up his new belongings, while Severus started the tea.
When he came back into the room, Severus motioned him to sit at the sofa. He was joined shortly thereafter when Severus walked back into the room, the tea tray floating behind him. His father served him first, offering him a selection of small cookies from a plate that had clearly seen better days. Harry wasn't bothered by it though, given the sad state of his dishware from when he was on the streets.
Severus' dishes at least had once had class, even if they were old and slightly cracked nowadays, he thought.
It wasn't until they were both served and his father had a chocolate biscuit perched at the edge of his saucer that either of them spoke.
"Sirius Black was your father's best friend and one of my worst enemies," Was his opening line.
Seeing the question on Harry's face, Severus motioned him to speak.
A bitter expression passed over his father's face and Harry leaned in to better watch his spoken response.
"I was not rich enough by his standards. I was not handsome enough for their group. I did not have the same interests as them, nor was I particularly athletic. I was seen by them as something of a social reject, which I feel you may have some experience with?" Severus glanced sideways at him in askance, and it was suddenly Harry's turn to scowl darkly.
"Being stared at is the only thing that doesn't ever change," He managed after a moment and few liberal sips of his tea.
Severus nodded in understanding. "I do know how that feels, little snake."
Harry then had to duck his head to hide his blush at his father's term of endearment. He didn't know if he'd ever get used to that sudden bloom of warmth in his stomach from his father's words; nor did he know if he even wanted to get used to it.
Ignoring the urge to swing his feet like a little kid, he glanced back up at Severus and asked, "Why did my mother marry my father if he was such an arse?"
"Your father, unlike Black, did manage to mature somewhat by the end of his Hogwarts' career. I wouldn't go so far as to say he was kind toward me or any others he found to be lacking, but he no longer treated me as something to be cleaned off the bottom of his shoe. I suspect that Lily admired him for his maturity—his coming of age, you might say—and fell in love with him from that." Severus answered slowly.
Harry watched his father's expressions and noticed a significant amount of tightness in the spaces around his mouth and eyes as he spoke about Lily.
"You've said before that you knew my mother," Harry stated slowly. "Did you like her?"
The corner of Severus' mouth rose slightly and Harry mentally congratulated himself.
"Lily was my first and for the longest time, my only friend. When she was sorted into Gryffindor, I thought my heart would break."
Harry didn't hear the way Severus' voice had gone hoarse at his admittance, but he did see the slightly reddish tinge that lit his father's usually pale features.
Putting his tea aside, he reached out and slid his hand into his father's loosely held fist. Severus squeezed his hand back, and then put his half-drunk tea on the small table beside them.
"Do you think, well," Harry ducked his head again. "Do you think she would've come for me if she could have?"
Severus squeezed his hand, and he looked back up to see a grim smile on his face.
"In a heartbeat, Harry," Severus said just as the door flashed with light.
After installing the charm on Harry's bedroom door, Severus had done the same for the other doors within his quarters as well. It worked for anyone trying to get in, regardless of whether they were knocking or sneaking.
In one fluid motion, Severus let go of Harry's hand and stood up, straightening his robes as he did. He cast a glance at Harry and then strode to the door.
It's not Moody. He never knocks anymore, Harry thought. It's not Dumbledore, is it? Would he knock?
Just as Harry felt his heart rate speed up, Severus opened to the door to reveal an out of breath, harassed looking Remus Lupin.
. . .
Remus had initially thought he should go to Dumbledore with his discovery, but he was still angry at the headmaster for placing Harry with those . . . those people to begin with. He shuddered at the memory of what those people had become.
"What is it, Lupin?" Severus greeted him coldly as the door swung open.
"We need to talk," Remus growled, shoving past him and stopping dead at the sight of his cub.
"Please do come in," the other man sneered with an eye roll that Remus felt more than saw.
"Hello, Harry," Remus said.
"Hullo," Was Harry's quiet response.
"Mr Potter and I are discussing something of great import," Severus interjected, placing himself in between Remus and Harry. "What's so imperative that you felt the need to barge into my quarters like some sort of mongrel?"
Remus quickly cast a silencing spell, not noticing the slight tensing in Severus' frame as he did.
Keeping an eye on his cub, he quickly explained what he had seen in the Dursley's household.
"They're dead, Severus; all of them, even the boy. They look as though they've been tortured."
Severus' answering scowl was so dark that even Remus felt the desire to back up.
"And you didn't tell Dumbledore?"
"Given that he was the one responsible for placing him with them, no. I thought you should know first," Remus answered sombrely.
"Indeed," Severus said. He frowned and then turned in the direction of the fireplace. "I need to contact someone regarding this. Stay here."
. . .
When Remus had cast the silencing spell, Severus had hoped that Harry might have been aware enough not to have continued to follow the conversation. However, when he turned back toward the boy, he realised that his hope had been in vain. Harry's face was the picture of shock for a moment until he saw Severus looking at him. Then he quickly regained his composure.
Severus raised an eyebrow at him, and Harry gave a shaky nod. He mentally sighed and then turned to the fireplace. Moody needed to be apprised of the situation. He was also curious about Lupin's decision to tell him first, and what the backlash would be from Dumbledore once he discovered that the man wasn't as loyal to him as he'd clearly thought.
Tossing a pinch of floo powder in the fireplace, Severus knelt down and called out, "Moody's quarters."
Behind him, he felt Lupin looking at his back, and he squashed the urge to turn around and hex him. Turning one's back on a werewolf was never a good idea, regardless of what state that wolf was in.
"Snape?" Moody's eyes narrowed at the sight of his 'son' voluntarily contacting him.
Severus spared a few choice thoughts about the wrongness of Lupin calling him by his given name when Moody still didn't—and probably never would.
"Lupin has brought a situation to light regarding Mr Potter's relatives," Severus said.
"He did, huh?" Moody grunted. "You want me ta come through?"
"I'm not sure if 'want' is the correct word," Severus responded with a curious twist of his lips that could have been a smile on someone else.
Moody rolled both eyes and said, "Move it Snape. 'Fore I walk over your head."
Severus moved out of the way just before Moody stomped through the fireplace.
"Well, I'm not!" Harry yelled behind them, causing both men to turn around.
. . .
When Severus moved to the fireplace, Remus had taken it upon himself to talk with his cub. He was rather disconcerted by the strangely blank look on the boy's face and decided to ask him about it.
"Hi there, Harry. Can I sit down?" He said, indicating the other end of the sofa that Harry was seated on.
Harry shrugged and he decided to sit.
"Do you often have tea with Severus, Harry?" He asked.
Harry's far too calm eyes looked at him in silence for a moment. "Only when we need to talk to about things."
"You know, if you ever need to talk about something, you can ask me too, Harry. You don't remember it, but you loved me when you were little."
"Uh huh," Harry answered with a sneer that Remus found far too reminiscent of Severus.
Remus sighed. "I'd wish you give me a chance."
Abruptly Harry's apathetic posture changed. He sat up straight and the look in his eyes sharpened into something almost predatory.
"Tell me about the Dursleys," Harry said softly.
Remus felt his heart stop and his stomach drop into his shoes.
"The Dursleys?" He managed weakly.
"You told Professor Snape that you found them dead. Tortured. Tell me about it."
"How did you—?" Remus spluttered. Had Severus cancelled his silencing spell? Why would he have?
"Professor Snape had nothing to do with this," Harry anticipated, shifting closer to him. "Tell me about my family," He asked with a cold show of teeth.
"I know that you didn't get along with them—."
"Tell me," Harry said, awkwardly getting to his feet and edging toward Remus.
"They weren't the best people, but surely even you can feel sorry for their deaths? Your cousin was only a child."
Instantly, Remus could tell that he had said the wrong thing. Harry's eyes began to glow with an unearthly shade of green and all of the shadows in the room lengthened around them.
"Well, I'm not!"
Remus saw Severus and Moody turn toward them at Harry's shout.
"A child!? A child!?" Harry screamed.
"Harry," Remus heard Severus murmur even as the dark robed man began moving toward them.
A hot wind whipped around them and suddenly the door to the hallway burst open in a show of green and silver sparks.
"The wards just fell," Remus heard Severus say behind him.
Harry grabbed him by the front of his robes and pulled him forward onto his feet with an impossible level of strength for a boy of his size.
The wind smelled overwhelmingly of petrol as it whipped past Remus' head. He felt Moody pushing past him at his elbow and saw Severus reach Harry's side just as hell broke between them.
The hallway exploded with a loud boom and fire filled the doorway. The wind screamed past them and wild magic pulled him and Harry out into the middle of it; in turn pushing Severus and Moody down to the floor with an audible clunk of bone against stone.
They were surrounded by a maelstrom of fire and smoke as the air literally crackled and burned around their bodies.
"You said I should feel sorry, but I'm not! I'm glad they died! I hope they suffered! I hope they burned!" Harry howled at him in a pitch just slightly lower that the shriek of the wind in his ears.
"Harry, I'm sorry," Remus said, his eyes streaming tears.
. . .
Dumbledore looked up as the monitoring devices in his office all started going off at once. Hawkes added to the confusion with a series of very concerned screeches that set his nerves on edge and actually cracked the windows behind him.
He smiled despite the physical discomfort of the madness around him and stood up at a leisurely rate. Strolling over to his floo, he opened it with a small pinch of powder and called out for Minerva.
"Meet me at Severus' quarters, will you? There seems to be something of a problem occurring there."
Then, without giving her a chance to respond, he shut down the connection and made his way to the door. Today was the day he had been waiting for. Today was the day he had planned for.
He fought the urge to grin as he stepped off of the stairs and started walking to the dungeons.
. . .
Harry was more than angry. He'd left angry in the dust of his past and now all he could feel was rage. How could Remus say that he needed to feel sorry for Dudley? Just a child, his arse. Harry had been much younger than Dudley when he'd been blasted out of his world. He'd been a victim, not the pampered prince of a 'family' too far gone to flying fuck about what sorts of atrocities they'd perpetrated against him on a daily basis. Who'd argued for him against Dumbledore when he'd been laid up in the hospital with over fifty percent of his flesh burned off? Had anyone bothered arguing that he had just been a bloody fucking innocent!?
And now the Dursleys were dead. Just fucking great. Someone had already gotten to them, and now he'd never get his chance to show his dear beloved family what growing up with them really was like. He'd never get a chance to explain how he felt, or give them a taste of their own medicine. He was certain that whoever had killed them hadn't done their deaths justice, not like he could have. Not like his Slytherin family could have.
Feeling sorry for them was so far out of his realm of manageable understanding that he wanted to laugh and then cry a bit at the same time. Their suffering was over. They had gotten off too easily, and his body was screaming at him to make it right, to make someone pay.
He could feel it rocketing through his body, through his nerve endings, through his magical senses. The fire was around him and on him and in him, and it was pushing him to be something more than just Harry Potter, burnt abused victim.
. . .
Severus pushed himself off the floor of his quarters with a groan. One of these days he was going to get these floors carpeted, or else spell them with a permanently cushioning charm. Yes, that sounded like a wonderful idea. He could feel a line of bruises popping up on his body from head to toe, and he bitterly cursed Lupin for whatever he had done to set off Harry.
Wait a second. Harry. His eyes swam as he sat up and blinked hard past the obstruction in his shocked mind. Where was Harry?
He turned to his door just in time for it to slam shut on the fire filled corridor. His heart leapt into his throat and he pushed past the pain with a burst of fear. Harry!
Beside him, Moody swore at the loud bang the door made when it slammed shut. He was gonna get those hoodlums in his neighbourhood for once and for all. And then he'd make 'em . . . He blinked. He wasn't at home. He was in Snape's quarters and Harry—!
He looked around and found a seething Snape standing at the door with his wand out.
"It's locked from the outside," Snape snapped out when he saw Moody.
"Damn it," Moody cursed as he got to his feet with a wince. "By who? Harry?"
Snape shook his head as he turned back to the door. "It's not his magical signature."
Moody stomped over to the door and put his ear up to it. Nothing.
"Sounds like there's a silencin' spell up too," He growled. "Is that your only way outta here?" He asked, disapproval clear in his voice.
Severus scowled back at him. "Of course not. I have a separate exit that opens to my office, two floors up."
"Let's go then."
"That's assuming it hasn't been locked as well," Severus spat back.
"Less assumin', more movin', Snape. That's our boy out there. We gotta help 'im."
. . .
Lupin had been blasted off his feet at some point, and Harry could no longer see him past the swirling vortex of memories and fire that surrounded him.
"Harry, my boy!" He suddenly heard in his mind. He whirled around and saw none other than Albus Dumbledore. The old man was standing at the end of the corridor with—Harry squinted—McGonagall.
Harry grinned a savage smile at the sight of his most hated enemy. Standing before him was the reason he'd had to go back to that loveless family. Standing before him was the reason he had to grow up alone. Standing before him was the reason he had burned instead of lived and grown.
He howled angrily at the old man and started walking toward him, bringing the burning with him.
"We need you to calm down, my boy," he saw the man say.
Calm down? I'll show you calmed down.
Harry began running as best he could with his leg and crutch. He moved much faster than either Dumbledore or McGonagall had expected. Dumbledore barely had enough time to pull out his wand and cast his spell.
"Puer ignis," He hastily snapped off when Harry was nearly close enough to touch.
Fire burst out from every pore in Harry's body and he screamed aloud. He felt as though his bones were melting and breaking as his skin slid off and his magic roared so loudly he could very nearly hear it.
. . .
The floor suddenly bucked under their feet and Severus and Moody were once again thrown to the ground of the hallway. A secondary blast was followed by a noticeable increase in temperature, along with angry roar that reverberated through Severus' eardrums. He wouldn't notice until later, but both of his ears bled at this sound, as was the case for all others in the vicinity.
Rounding the corner, Severus skid to a very inelegant stop at the sight that appeared before them. He didn't even manage to find words to curse Moody when he ran into his backside.
Standing on powerful hind legs in the middle of the half-shattered corridor, was a half-grown dragon, resplendently lit in shining silvers and blues. And standing in-between them and the dragon was none other than Albus Dumbledore, a demented smile on his soot smudged face.