Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Chapter 20

Even with Harry taking first shower, Severus beat him to the breakfast table.

The house-elves had fulfilled his wishes exactly, and more food than the two wizards could hope to eat was on the table. Full English breakfast, enough for three adult human men... or two adult human men and two adult house-elves with a taste for leftovers, Severus suspected.

"Professor... I... you didn't have to..."

Severus raised a finger to his lips before resorting to the pen as Harry sat down. "You need reminders that things are not going to be that way again."

"They will be if I don't figure out what to do with myself after Hogwarts," Harry said darkly as he started to fill his own plate.

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"Well, I've been having to financially support my own schooling, and while Dad's family had a lot of gold..."

"You've never been to see the vaults you inherited from Black, have you?"

"What does that mean?"

"The House Of Black has been accumulating wealth since before the Authorized Version was translated. I don't doubt there's enough there to keep you fed and amused for a hundred lifetimes. And besides, I doubt the wizarding world would ever let The Man Who Lived starve." He abandoned the pen and turned his attention to his own meal.

Harry managed a small smile. "I guess I need to start seeing being me as having some advantages, don't I?"

Severus nodded. In the old days, he would have snarked "Haven't you already?" but after last night...

It was just too soon.

It was even too soon for him to bring up the pillow incident that had happened just that morning. Harry didn't bring it up either.

The fact just simply hung in the air, unsaid: Severus knew the Quidditch pitch wasn't the only place Harry'd had things thrown at him and Harry knew that the things he'd been through growing up had been enough to move Severus to tears once he'd found out about them.

And all too soon, the meal was done and Harry was off to meet George and Kendra.

Severus stared at the food still left on the table.

The two house-elves popped into the room by the second impatient but intentional tap of his foot.

I don't want to see any of this again. Start fresh tomorrow, he thought hard, hoping the wonders of house-elf magic would make his intentions clear to Winky at least.

It must have worked because she looked dejected.

Or at least she did until Kreacher leaned over to her and whispered something in her ear.

She brightened a little. "Master is meaning Winky and Kreacher can...?" It was incredibly obvious she couldn't bring herself to finish the question.

He nodded, smiling. Master is meaning.

And then shook his head when they and the food disappeared and a Winky-sounding cheer came from somewhere upstairs. That was such an old pureblooded custom that even he knew about it - a way to make sure the house-elves knew the leftovers were theirs without making it feel like payment. But she had only served the Crouches before she came to Hogwarts, and it seemed clear that Barty Sr and Jr had neither of them given her or any other house-elf in their household that bit of leave.

"Oh, what a lovely home," Kendra said first thing as she walked through the door.

Severus had to take a minute to realize that the Muggle girl was not being sarcastic.

She's a shopgirl. She doesn't expect the flashiness richer Muggles manage.

"And well, I didn't expect... oh how to put it nicely..."

Severus knew exactly what she was trying to say and started chuckling.

"Burrow's quite shocking if you aren't used to Strengthening Charms in architecture, isn't it?" he wrote with tears in his eyes.

"Yes. It. Is."

"Wait, the Burrow is the only one of our homes you've seen yet?" Harry asked her, helping George get a beat-up old trunk of Charlie's - at least by the initials, though knowing the Weasleys there was no knowing who technically owned it by now - into the door.

The door shut and the risks to secrecy went away.

"So far," George confirmed. "At least beyond the apartment above the shop, and there's really nothing outstanding even we wizards can do with those." He got out his wand and set a light-weight charm on the trunk. "Least now no one can think a full trunk shouldn't be this light."

"Great. So Professor, should I go ahead and Floo to Grimmauld Place now, or wait until later?"

There was something in Kendra's eyes...

"Why not, while you have the help available?" Severus wrote. "But take the trunk, and only bring what can fit inside it without any magical expansion. That way no one in the neighborhood can figure you have more clothes than you ought to."


It was clear Kendra had only traveled by Floo once or twice, but Harry had to take her with him anyway and so that worked out.

No need to fear pronunciation errors when someone else was giving the Floo network the directions.

Which left George and Severus in his living room.

"i am sorry" Severus signed.

"You told me before and I've accepted the apology before, Professor. Better my ear than Remus dying before he could see Teddy born."

Severus nodded.

"You honestly grew up here?" George asked with one eyebrow raised.

Severus gave him a little glare and nodded. "What did you expect?" he wrote.

"Bubbling cauldrons, for one thing."

"Firstly, that's upstairs so I only lose the roof if something goes wrong and secondly, do you honestly think I'm in any shape to brew right now?"

"No," George replied in the most forced deadpan Severus had ever seen. "Lab safety, first practical class. If you have to use a stirring spell less than five minutes in, you're in no shape to have a potion actively brewing. Sitting stewing, it depends on the potion and the stage; use a stasis spell immediately if you can't keep an eye on something potentially volatile. It's less the issue of strength and endurance and more the matter of being able to react in time if something happens wrong. 'As will often be the case, if you're anything like the dunderheads I usually have to teach'." He ended with the most spot-on impression of Severus' continual refrain in his first month first-year potions speeches Severus had ever heard.

Severus laughed.

George looked at him in halfway-mocking horror.

And then Severus sobered.

He was headmaster now, never again to teach Potions unless there was a desperate and sudden need for it.

Trying to find professors for Muggle Studies and Defense Against The Dark Arts was going to be hard enough. Thinking about how Horace needed to retire in the next ten years was the last thing Severus needed to be thinking about.

A student will no doubt present him or herself when needed, most likely a Slytherin. Old pattern, that, as old as the school. I certainly showed up just in time for Horace to want to leave the first time.

He even had a student or two in mind for that.

And for Pomona's post, which was likely to come open even sooner.


He shook his head. He wrote, "Don't worry about it. Headmaster thoughts. Two openings. Kingsley's trying to come up with candidates."

"You should worry about it either," George told him simply. "Dumbledore always found someone."

Severus stared at him.

A moment later they were both chuckling at memories of how bad those someone's had been.

"At least you can't do worse than Umbridge."

And, indeed, he couldn't.

But honestly, it was the Muggle Studies post he was truly worried about. "Muggle Studies is open. Know anyone right for it?" Severus wrote, realizing that as a wizard dating a Muggle in these times, George might honestly know someone.

"Not unless our father's become a reasonable source for information about Muggles. And we know he isn't."

Severus shook his head. Of course Arthur isn't.