A/N: If you've reading this, I assume you love the moody Professor Snape as much as I do. And I do love him—he's one of the best just-shy-of-this-side-of-good characters I've ever met. Couple that with my inner love for bad guys in particular (but only in film and books), and I'm in heaven.
Before you read my story, however, you must realize that THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL SNAPE FANFIC. Actually, perhaps I should restate that last phrase:
THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL FANFIC. PERIOD. SNAPE, HARRY POTTER, OR OTHERWISE.
If any of you are overly sensitive, stop reading this right now. The story starts off tame, but it will run the gambit by the end. Murder, violence, rape… you name it, it's probably in the story. Don't say I didn't warn you.
The title of my story, "The Fire You Touch," comes from a line from the song "Let Him Fly" on the Dixie Chicks' album Fly.
There's no mercy in a live wireNo rest at all in freedom
Choices we are given
It's no choice at all
The proof is in the fire
You touch before it moves away – yeah
But you must always know
How long to stay and when to go
-"Let Him Fly," by Patty Griffin
Performed by the Dixie Chicks
All of J.K. Rowling's characters from the Harry Potter novels and the world of Hogwarts is hers. Duh. Information on mutants in general is property of Marvel Comics. Aeryn is mine, as are any random ideas that don't seem to fit with either the normal Harry Potter world or Marvel Comics. I would be flattered if anyone wishes to use one of my ideas—I only ask that you inform me first.
And thus, on to the adventure…
~*~*~*~*~*~Chapter 1: The Boy With The Owl
Vernon Dursley of four Privet Drive was in an extremely foul mood that Tuesday morning.
"Petunia!" he roared to his wife, his large face turning beet red. "Hurry up! Let's get this bloody business out of the way!" He slammed the front door and headed for the car.
"Why do I have to go to the station?" whined Dudley Dursley, pulling on his mother's hand. He was extremely fat and his four chins quivered morosely.
"Because, Sweetums, Mrs. Polkiss is gone this week, and you can't stay here while Aeryn cleans the house." Petunia Dursley leaned over and kissed her son on the head. She didn't sound too pleased about the arrangements.
Neither did Dudley.
He scrunched up his face as if he were about to cry. "I don't want to go!" he wailed. He slumped to the ground and pounded his
heels against the kitchen floor. "I
wanna stay here! I wanna stay here!"
Aeryn's breath stopped in her throat. Please God, no, she prayed frantically. Dudley had stayed at home last week when she had come in to clean. The rotten tyke had tromped muck on the carpets and pulled everything off the shelves. Mrs. Dursley had complained bitterly about Aeryn's poor work while her son chortled gleefully behind his fat hand.
"Dinky Duddledums, don't act like that, please!" cried Mrs. Dursley, swooping down on her son. Her arms barely fit around him. "We'll stop at the store on the way back from the station, and Mummy will buy you a present, wouldn't you like that, sweetums?"
He sure would, Aeryn thought sourly. Not as much as he'd like to stuff his face, though.
Dudley gave a large sniff. He looked up at his mother with a spiteful gleam in his eye. "And you won't get Harry anything?" he burbled.
"Shh!" Mrs. Dursley said frantically, shooting a wary glance at Aeryn as she cuddled her son. "No, Duddy-poo," she cooed. "We'll let you get whatever you want, but…er…he won't get anything."
Aeryn's ears pricked up immediately.
From outside, Mr. Dursley honked the horn. Aeryn never knew a car could sound so peeved. Snuffling miserably, but with a malicious grin on his fat face, Dudley toddled out the door.
"I'll be right there, honeybunch!" Mrs. Dursley called as her son slammed the door. She turned to Aeryn, all sweetness gone from her face. "I've left a list of extra things for you to finish while we're gone," she snapped. "We'll be back within two hours. Make sure everything is done by the time we're back."
Aeryn's jaw dropped open, but Mrs. Dursley had already whirled on her heel and was headed for the door.
"Oh, Mrs. Dursley!" Aeryn called in her most pleasant voice, seconds before the woman walked out of the house. "Who's Harry?"
Mrs. Dursley stopped dead in her tracks. "No one," she said after a brief hesitation.
"No one?" Aeryn packed all the disbelief she could into her voice.
Mrs. Dursley's shoulders hunched.
"He's Dudley's cousin, and no concern of yours!" she hissed. She stalked out the door, slamming it so hard behind her that it rattled in its frame. After a moment, the car door closed and the Dursleys' car puttered out of the driveway.
* * *
Aeryn started on her chores immediately. It was so much easier to do them when Mrs. Dursley wasn't breathing down her neck, or Dudley wasn't underfoot, or Mr. Dursley wasn't sitting in the chair she was supposed to vacuum and then yelled at her when she made him move.
Aeryn didn't hate many people, but she did hate the Dursleys. She was, however, the only person in Little Whinging that would clean their house. From the state it was always in, the Dursleys couldn't afford not to have her. She came to their house twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, and they fortunately paid her well. Aeryn never lost a chance to remind them how valuable she was to them.
After putting the laundry in the washer—Dudley had spilled chocolate ice cream down the front of his white sailor's suit again—Aeryn began to scrub the floor. Her shoulders began to ache after a while, but it was a good feeling. She wondered, as she pushed a handful of hair from her eyes, what this cousin Harry-boy was like. She had a sickening vision of a mirror image of Dudley, white-blond hair and fat face and all.
But the Dursleys didn't seem happy about Harry's visit. As she dumped the dirty water into the sink, the thought popped into Aeryn's head that anyone who the Dursleys didn't like couldn't be all that bad. After all, they didn't like her. It was nice to know that the feeling was mutual.
Aeryn would have finished cleaning if she hadn't found the gallon of melting vanilla ice cream in one of the cupboards. She was putting the scrubbed and de-stickied pots and pans away when the Dursleys' car pulled up the driveway of 4 Privet Drive.
"Damn it!" Aeryn muttered. She rushed to the kitchen table and grabbed her purse, fully intending to get out of there before she could have a run-in with the Dursleys, but her purse flew into the air and the contents spilled in a cascading wave across the table. She swore again and hurriedly crouched down to pick her things up.
The front door opened.
"…Those dirty, trashy things go right into the cupboard, d'you hear me?" yelled Mr. Dursley. He stepped into the kitchen and stopped dead in his tracks as he saw Aeryn on the floor, guiltily holding a handful of change and a roll of mints.
"WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE?" he roared, the veins standing out in his neck.
"I was just leaving," muttered Aeryn, stuffing the change and mints into her purse. She stood up quickly and her eyes caught sight of a small figure standing behind Mr. Dursely.
He was a small, very thin boy, with thick black hair that stuck out at every angle all over his head. Aeryn caught sight of a thin, zigzagging scar on his forehead. He was swimming in his clothes that could have easily been Dudley's cast-offs and wore round glasses. Aeryn's eyes strayed to the large, obviously heavy trunk on the floor next to him. A black piece of material peeked out from the lid and a broomstick was stuck through the handle of the trunk. In his right hand, the boy held a large cage. Inside was an owl. A snowy owl. The owl suddenly lifted its head and stared straight at Aeryn, its golden eyes wide.
Aeryn felt the color leach from her face.
"Hi," the boy said shyly.
"Go downstairs, Harry!" Mr. Dursley snapped to the boy, but his face was a bit frightened. "Put your things away!"
Harry grinned once more at Aeryn, then hurried off down the stairs to the basement.
"So that's Harry," Aeryn said softly. She looked over at Mr. Dursley. "Dudley's cousin?"
Mr. Dursley looked very upset. "Er…Miss Blake…Aeryn…I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention Harry to anyone. Quite a disturbed young boy, you see. Sad story. Wouldn't like word to get out." He shook his head in a semblance of sadness.
"Why does he have an owl?" Aeryn asked.
Mr. Dursley coughed quite suddenly. "I…er…." He shoved a finger under his collar as if it had grown quite tight. "Now, Aeryn, how about a raise?"
"Two more pounds an hour. Well, I see the house is done. Off with you now." He took Aeryn by the shoulders and practically shoved her out the door. "And remember…don't mention Harry to anyone, that's a good girl."
The door slammed in her face.
In a daze, Aeryn walked to her bicycle. Dudley was getting out of the car, clutching a package in his hand and looking quite pleased with himself. Mrs. Dursley looked over at Aeryn and shrieked, "If the place isn't spotless this time, I'll deduct five pounds from your pay on Friday!"
Aeryn grabbed her bike and pedaled away, her knuckles white against the grips as she fought to keep her hands from trembling.