"Come, Potter," Severus spoke quietly, "Sit. Tell me what it is that has you so troubled."
Looking back over his shoulder, Harry reluctantly took a seat next to the Potions Master.
"It's nothing, sir. It's just my aunt and uncle….they get really….annoyed….when I'm not on time for things. You know me, professor. I'm never on time. For anything."
"You do happen to possess an inveterate tendency for tardiness, yes," Snape nodded his head, "But I wonder who it is you're truly afraid of being late for. Is it Black? Has he contacted you, threatened you, in any way?"
"Sirius?" Harry looked over at Snape, surprised and insulted, "No, of course not! Of course he hasn't threatened me! He's my godfather. I know you don't want to believe he's innocent, but it's true!"
"Calm down, Potter. It was a simple question. I did not mean to imply –"
"If you would have had it your way, he'd be dead right now. I think I have the right to be a little upset."
"Potter, it may surprise you to hear that I do acknowledge that circumstances have changed since you discovered Pettigrew is still alive. And as loath as I am to admit it, Black is an innocent man. I DO NOT wish him dead. Nonetheless, I am also aware that Black has a history of harassing others, both physically and otherwise. I thought it prudent, therefore, to ask you if you had been the subject of such hostile behaviour. You say you have not. And…I believe you."
Harry let out a big sigh and put his head down, pulling at his messy hair.
"You know, he promised me I could come live with him. I was so happy, just thinking about it. For the first time in my life, to have someone who –" the boy stopped midsentence and looked up at Snape, who was looking down at him with a baffled look, "Sorry. Listen, I am really late for lunch and the Dursleys, well, they're going to be right brassed off with me."
"We'd best be on our way, then," Severus conceded, standing up, "What's for lunch?"
"What do you mean 'we'?" Harry sounded alarmed. Snape raised an eyebrow.
"I'm coming with you, Mr. Potter. Surely your aunt and uncle can accommodate a guest. They need only give me one of your cousin's servings, as fat as he is, he could stand to do without a fifth wiener or a second bag of marshmallows."
Harry snorted in amusement. He found himself relishing the fact that it appeared he and Snape had made a mutual enemy.
"Right then. We best head over there. I'm warning you though, it's going to be awhile until we tuck into the bannock. I'm the one cooking."
Snape's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "You're cooking, Potter? YOU? Do you even know how to without magic? And bannock yet? You've got to be kidding me."
"Of course I know how to cook without magic. I didn't even know I was a wizard until my eleventh birthday. Why are you so surprised?"
"You're a fourteen year old boy, Potter. And from what little I've seen of your potion-making abilities…or lack thereof…WAIT just a moment….you say you didn't know…" Severus trailed off as the Dursleys' campsite came into plain view.
Dudley was rolling on the ground bellyaching as if he were near death from starvation.
"MUM! DAD! I'M HUNGRY! WHERE IS HARRY?"
"I don't know where he is son, but when he returns, that freak is going to wish he was never born!" Vernon bellowed, pounding his fists on the picnic table, "Ungrateful fairy. Mark my words…"
Severus' jaw dropped. He had suspected that Harry's relatives were less than thrilled that he was magical, but he never would have imagined that the boy had been subject to this degree of degradation.
"There he is, daddy! There's Harry…he's with that other freak who threatened to kill me this morning!" Dudley squealed, standing up.
Vernon lumbered over to them, ire emanating from every pore of his red, plump body.
"You're going to pay for your freakishness, boy!" he threatened, grabbing Harry by the front of his baggy t-shirt, "You're lucky we even allowed you to come with us on vacation. We allowed you to come on two conditions – that you cook us every meal and NO FREAKISHNESS. You broke the rules, and now you're going to be punished before we're rid of you."
Speechless, Snape's eyes widened as Vernon began to take off his belt.
"Please, Uncle Vernon, no! I promise, from now on…."
"INCARCEROUS!" Severus uttered in a deadly voice, taking out Vernon just as he raised the belt in the air to whip Harry.
"Mum! Mum! Get out here! Harry's freak friend just tied up dad like he did to me this morning!"
"LANGLOCK! INCARCEROUS!" Snape shut up Dudley and tied him up for the second time that day.
"YOU!" Petunia Dursley screeched as she recognized Snape, running out of the camper with her hair in curlers, "How dare you come here? You're freaks! The lot of you! Just like my sister!"
"PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!" Severus intoned, his eyes wild until they came to rest on Harry, who trembled in fear next to him.
Green eyes found the black. Harry saw something stirring in those bituminous depths that threatened to overwhelm him with its mystery. Severus held his gaze, determined not to look away.
Weak and lost for words, Harry went to fall to the ground but Snape caught him on the way down, pressing the shocked boy snuggly against his broad chest.
"Hold on tightly, now," Severus whispered, "I'm going to apparate us away from here."