A New Place To Stay
Dumbledore Informs Harry
Harry's fourth year had just ended; everyone in Hogwarts knew what had happened. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, well… that was a completely different thing altogether. Some students were more comfortable thinking of Harry as an attention-seeking liar or murderer than facing the reality that Lord Voldemort was back once more. The only person Harry could trust was his best friend Hermione Granger, a Muggle-born he had saved from a troll three years ago. Ronald Weasley, well, he was a different matter altogether. Harry had thought he could trust Ron always to have his back; the red-head had turned on him earlier that year. Sure, they had made up, but Harry didn't think he could trust him as he had before. The total trust and loyalty he had shared with the boy since they had sat together in the same compartment on their train ride to Hogwarts was gone. Harry had looked at Ron and wondered if he thought the same, or knew that Harry wasn't quite the same as he used to be.
For a boy who was famous and had people clamouring for his attention, he didn't have many friends. Oh, he had many people claiming to be his friends― best friends―and that they got on well together. None of it was true; there was no one Harry trusted anymore, apart from Hermione. He didn't even trust Dumbledore; he wanted the man's approval and love, though. Harry hadn't had anyone telling him he was good growing up, so someone paying attention to him was a godsend. If he knew why Dumbledore paid him so much attention he would be devastated, and that time would come. The leaving feast had just finished, and Dumbledore had demanded... well, requested... him to go up to his office.
"Come in, Harry," said that wise-sounding old voice.
"Hello, Professor Dumbledore," Harry said softly; he hadn't spoken much since It had happened. He had been Portkeyed out of the school grounds and forced to watch the rebirth of Lord Voldemort, the man who had killed his parents. He'd been bound by the man who had ultimately betrayed them and caused their death, then forced to fight for his life. He still felt stung that Dumbledore had taken him up to his office to make him tell them what had happened, rather than go to the hospital wing with him. He had been hurt very badly; that hadn't seemed to bother Dumbledore. He tried to see it from Dumbledore's point of view, but he knew if someone had landed next to him suffering the after-effects of the Cruciatus curse, he would have taken that person right to the infirmary. He would have made sure he was all right and then gotten his answers. He'd already known the most important bits of information to be had: that Voldemort was back, and that he had killed Cedric Diggory.
"Harry, my boy, how are you?" Dumbledore asked kindly, his blue eyes twinkling.
"Fine," Harry intoned; that was what he had been telling everyone who asked if he was okay. He had just seen his classmate killed― sure, he was going to feel better with someone always asking if he was all right.
"I see. I have important news to share: I feel the Dursleys' is no longer safe for you, as it once was. You will not be going back home to them; instead we have a temporary placement for you," Dumbledore told him.
When Dumbledore said that, Harry felt a twinge of hope, but stuffed it down. Dumbledore had never done this when he'd asked to go somewhere else. Dumbledore had always told him in that patronising, I-know-better-than-you voice that it was important for him to remain there. How important was it that he now had to live somewhere else? And who the hell was he to stay with? That's what filled him with dread. Dumbledore had sent him back to the Dursleys knowing how he was treated―Harry was sure of that―and now wanted him placed elsewhere? He was truly fearful; he knew deep in the pit of his stomach that he wasn't going to like his answer.
"Who?" Harry asked; he knew it wouldn't be Sirius or the Weasleys, and didn't delude himself otherwise.
"Professor Snape, Harry," Dumbledore replied, watching his student worriedly; he knew this wouldn't sit well with him. However, Harry didn't seem to react; it was as if he hadn't spoken at all.
Harry wanted to roar and shout, break things, and snarl at Dumbledore, but it would be futile even to argue. Dumbledore would get his way; there was nothing he could do, no matter what. He was underage, and it wasn't as if he could go to the Ministry ― they hated him too. So he was stuck with Dumbledore's telling him what to do constantly. Not only Dumbledore now, but Snape as well, but what could Snape do that hadn't already been done to him? Then he thought of the Cruciatus curse that Voldemort had cast on him. Snape was bound to know that spell; what if he used that on him? He realized right there and then that it was actually safer being with Vernon Dursley than Snape. Vernon was a Muggle and could cause Harry an unimaginable amount of pain, but Snape ― Snape could probably kill him. He had been a Death Eater at one point, after all; Snape had even shown his newly returned Dark Mark to Fudge. He sighed inwardly, he knew he was being unfair to Snape; despite the fact the man was an utter bastard and seemed to hate Harry with a vengeance, he had saved him too many times to count. He was always there when it counted; the same couldn't be said for Dumbledore or even his own godfather Sirius Black.
Harry knew he would have fallen goodness knows how many feet from his broom and could have died. Snape had looked out for the school and students when he suspected Quirrell was after the stone. Third year was definitely more impressive: Snape, the man that loathed him, had shielded him and his two best friends from a werewolf. He had actually put himself in front of them, guarding them ― it didn't matter that Sirius had managed to get wolf-Lupin's attention. It was the thought that counted, the "ifs" and "buts" meant more to Harry. He had been trying to keep Black from the castle all year, doing what he did best ― protecting everyone without looking for anything in return.
The most recent thing, really, was Snape's trying to get him out of the contract. Even if he had insulted his intelligence ... but it was true, he didn't have the power to dupe a powerful magical artifact such as the Goblet of Fire. Snape had been the only one to object, really, apart from the other schools; Dumbledore had just stood there, his eyes twinkling after asking if he had done it.
He wondered what the rules were going to be like living with Snape, whether he was going to have a chance to learn them or find out only when he actually did something wrong. His Uncle Vernon had loved playing that game with him, along with making his nephew think he was getting presents and a birthday cake when he was younger. It made him feel sick just thinking about the times he had fallen for Vernon's tricks. Harry shook his head; he had been deep in thought too long; he just stared at Dumbledore and didn't reply. What was the point, really? His opinion never mattered.
"Very well, Harry; you will ride on the Express and not let anyone know," Dumbledore said softly, dismissing Harry.
Dumbledore knew there wasn't anyone he trusted more than Severus to ensure Harry's survival. According to Figg, there had been strange men walking around Privet Drive recently. Obviously Lucius Malfoy had been doing some digging and had found the copies of the letters sent out during Harry's second year for accidental magic. Purebloods attempting to dress as Muggles were an amusing thing, which was why Figg had gotten in touch. Figg was to remain there and keep an eye out; Dumbledore needed to keep her there just in case he had no choice but to send Harry back once the Death Eater activity ceased.
"What did Professor Dumbledore want, Harry?" Hermione asked, not even letting Harry step foot into the Gryffindor common room. She had her ginger-haired cat, Crookshanks, in her arms, petting its head; the squashed-faced cat was staring at him.
"I'm not returning to the Dursleys'," Harry murmured very quietly, not caring what Dumbledore had instructed.
"Who are you going with? The Weasleys?" Hermione cautiously asked. Ron looked up from where he was sitting to the right of Hermione on one of the Gryffindor-red couches in the common room. It was right next to a lit fire, but Harry couldn't feel any warmth; he only felt cold these days.
"No, but I'm not allowed to tell you," Harry sighed, finally inside the common room and looking broodier than ever.
"Surely you can tell us!" Ron protested, upset; the thing with Ron was, he had to know all your secrets. It didn't matter that Dumbledore had told Harry not to tell, he had to know or he would go and sulk like a five-year-old child who didn't get his way.
"If Professor Dumbledore told him not to, it's probably best!" Hermione said hotly, as usual sticking up for all authority figures. That was one thing Harry hated about Hermione: her constant need to respect authority figures even if they didn't deserve respect. She had even stuck up for Quirrell and Lockhart, kept Lupin's secret from them until the very end, and had even said Moody ―who had been Crouch Jr. in disguise― must have had a reason for showing them those spells.
"I'm going to my bed," Harry said walking past them, leaving them to bicker it out between them. A lonely sigh left his lips; he knew that, no doubt, it would be another sleepless night for him. He never slept any more than a few hours; he always woke up screaming and shouting Cedric's name. Thankfully he had already learned silencing spells and erected them around his bed; no one knew, not even Ron ― that was, if he would even care.
Harry sat waiting for his Potions professor patiently; he was used to waiting hours for his uncle to come for him, so it was nothing new. He had let Hedwig out before boarding the train that morning. He sat unworried on his trunk, feeling a little better about himself; he had given away that horrible money he had won. Fred and George sure could use it better than he ever could. Perhaps they would open that joke shop they always bragged they would one day have. If he had known the address of the Diggorys, he might have sent it along; it should have been his, anyway.
"Come, Potter," snarled the familiar voice of his Potions professor.
Knowing just how pissed off the man was, he quickly jumped up and began following his professor, once his trunk had been shrunk and pocketed. He noticed they had entered an alley―an empty one; at that, Harry's heart began beating like a drum. His mind begged for his Potions professor not to have a Portkey. Instead, his Potions professor told him to stand closer; Harry was too relieved even to be disgruntled at having to be so close to the man who hated him. Then he felt like he was being sucked up a Hoover, and wondered if this was what that poor bird had felt like when Dudley had sucked it up. Of course the poor budgie had died; Harry, on the other hand, just felt extremely sick. Since he had not been eating properly, it was no surprise, really, that he wasn't sick; there was nothing in his system to sick up anymore. A niggling at the back of his head had him pausing; he wasn't sure why this experience felt familiar to him.
Severus let go of Harry very abruptly, as if he were disgusted to have touched him; Harry, despite the fact he shouldn't care, did― his heart gave a little twinge of pain. Was he truly that disgusting that his Potions professor, who was always so composed, found touching him so repulsive?
Severus couldn't believe he had been talked into taking the spoiled, pampered Potter brat in over the summer. He had, of course, warned Dumbledore he wasn't going to baby the boy; Potter would learn to respect him one way or another. Despite his words, he couldn't help but be impressed that Potter hadn't emptied the contents of his stomach during Apparation. He'd had a set of barbs thought up for him; of course, only Harry Potter could manage such a thing and screw with his planned words. He walked sharply, leaving Potter to catch up with him, leading the way to the room he was grudgingly giving the boy to sleep in. Of course he wouldn't make the boy sleep in a cellar, as amusing as the thought might be; Lily would have killed him for it. He would end up with nightmares about his fiery red-headed girl being furious with him for doing that to her son. Even though he knew they weren't real, he didn't want to do anything that would hinder his forgiveness from Lily in the afterlife. The way he treated the boy was half out of expectations and half because he truly detested the spoiled, pampered brat.
He only wished he could do that to his own godson and stop him from making the same mistakes Snape had made as a teenager. However, his life would be forfeit if he even tried; Lucius would see to that. No, he couldn't trust his godson, not with where his loyalty lay; all he could do was very subtly show him the wrongs in what he was joining. He had to try, but Lucius Malfoy had begun showing his son his worldly ways years ago, long before the child had set foot in Hogwarts.
"This is your room, Potter," Severus said, opening the door to the room and unshrinking Harry's trunk. Harry kept his expression neutral and put his trunk by the bed. He wondered what he should do now, but his Professor saved him wondering.
"Breakfast is at seven, lunch at twelve, dinner at six; if you are even a minute late for any meal you will go without. I do not accept tardiness. Do not think you will laze about this summer; you will keep this room exceptionally clean. I will have a list of chores for you to get done each day, and if they fail to meet my standards, you will do them again. You will also complete your summer homework and do extra reading for me, which I will quiz you on at a later date; do I make myself clear?" Severus asked sharply.
"Yes, Professor Snape," Harry said, watching his professor without emotion.
"Good. As it's past lunch, I will see you down the stairs at six o'clock for dinner, and your hands had better be clean," Severus instructed.
Harry nodded his head, indicating he understood.
Severus looked ready to leave before he spoke again; this time it made Harry's heart jerk painfully. "Hand over your invisibility cloak, wand, and broom; I won't have you sneaking around my home."
Harry's heart hammered in his chest as he automatically opened his trunk and took out his shrunken broom. His hands hesitated on the only thing he had of his parents, well, father, really. Eventually he managed to pick the cloak up, swallowing back the lump that grew in his throat. The wand was possibly the hardest thing to part with, now that it had saved him from Voldemort. He was used to not having his wand with him during the summer, though; his uncle made sure everything was in the trunk before it was locked in his old room ― the cupboard under the stairs. Harry wondered if he would ever see it again, feeling the soft fabric of the invisibility cloak in his hands; he finally looked up when he knew his expression wasn't tortured any longer. He handed them over without complaint or fuss, knowing it wouldn't matter ― Snape could and would just summon them.
Severus' long hands grabbed them before turning to leave; he was surprised the boy hadn't complained about his room, or the rules he had set forth, and even more so when the child had given up what were, no doubt, three of his most cherished possessions without even a word of protest. He wasn't doing it to be mean; he just wanted to know where the boy was at all times, especially in his home, and he wasn't going to allow Harry to sneak off flying, just in case he went beyond the wards he had set up around his home. If someone was looking for the boy and he left the wards, they would instantly know it was Snape who had Harry Potter. His position was precarious enough without allowing such a thing to happen. He also knew Potter might not mean it, but accidents did happen around the boy. He put spanners in everyone's work― mostly the Dark Lord's, but that was beside the point. Although Severus couldn't deny he had felt some satisfaction in taking them, that had disappeared when the boy had handed them over without even the slightest bit of fuss, especially the wand. Severus hadn't gone a minute without his wand, never mind an entire summer; the thought made shudders run through him. Yet he didn't even stop to consider this was what he was doing to a boy who was number one on the Dark Lord's hit list. It disconcerted Severus, seeing the boy so quiet and withdrawn. Then again, Severus thought grudgingly, he had seen a boy die, and then had been forced to fight Voldemort― that would quiet anyone. Although, this boy had already faced Voldemort, even if he had been only a spirit at the time, and had killed Quirrell, too. Quirrell was in no way an innocent, as the Diggory boy had been, the first casualty in the upcoming war, one that the Ministry was damn well ignoring.
Once Severus was in his own room, he removed the Muggle clothes he had worn and had a shower. Once he was clean and once again in his normal casual robes, he put the three items he had confiscated into a drawer. Using his wand he locked it so they were inaccessible, even if the boy did go rummaging―and Merlin help him if he did―he would take the boy over his knee if need be. He wouldn't allow Potter to rummage through his room; it was off-limits, and he would make sure the boy knew that. He realized it was only an hour until dinner; without more ado he went down to his sitting room, opened his potions book, and began reading, ignoring the fact that he had a fourteen-year-old boy in his house.
Harry sat down after he heard the soft padding of his professor's feet as he walked away. The room was beautiful; it was more than he had hoped for—actually, it was better by far than what he'd had at the Dursleys'. In Dudley's second bedroom he'd had a very old, worn mattress and one cover to lie on, a rickety old cupboard that was falling to pieces, and a small night stand. He had never had the pleasure of sleeping on a bed or comfortable mattress before entering Hogwarts. He hated the fact that Ron took everything he had for granted; Harry would have killed for the family Ron had. He knew how different they were; he wanted his parents above all else, and Ron? Ron wanted to be Quidditch Captain and Head Boy, and win the House Cup and Quidditch Cup, all confirmed in the Mirror of Erised in his first year. Ron had had a sheltered life compared to his, and he envied him that.
The walls were white; the bedding was so soft, and a nice coffee colour. He had proper drawers that looked to be made of oak, a proper cupboard, and the bed was a four-poster, like at Hogwarts, only it was oak and not just common wood. Proper oak was expensive, Harry knew that much, so he had to make sure not to damage the room in any way, shape, or form. There was a desk with drawers that had a lamp on it too; on the wall opposite his bed was a clock.
He hadn't thought about where his professors stayed away from Hogwarts, but he should have guessed they had homes away from the castle. This place was huge, beautiful, and well-kept. It was too well-kept for his Potions professor to run by himself, which meant he had house-elves. It didn't bother him that he was going to be doing chores when there were house-elves that could do it. It would keep him busy, something he needed, or his mind would wander and his guilt would increase tenfold. Perhaps if his Potions professor kept him busy enough, he might get a decent night's sleep, although he was wondering how to keep his nightmares to himself. His uncle had beat him black and blue for waking him ― he didn't want to know what Snape would be like. He was furious about just having to deal with Harry, never mind if he actually woke him up during the night. Harry didn't realize that wish magic was tingling around the room, silencing it; wish magic was powerful and Harry, both Dumbledore and Snape knew, was very powerful indeed. He had, after all, been Voldemort's equal since he was one-and-a-half years old.
Harry took out his clothes, only putting away his school things, which he would be wearing. At least the shirts and trousers, and his winter cloak, maybe, if he needed it― his cousin's cast-offs were kept in his trunk. The socks and underwear he was forced to wear went into a drawer; most of his underwear had string attached to them, so they would stay on him. Dudley was far too big, and Harry was far too small and skinny for his age, so it shouldn't come as a surprise. Harry still didn't know of the existence of the spell that could shrink the clothes to fit him better. Just looking at the mustard-coloured socks his uncle had given him years ago for his birthday made him gag. He pulled out all his books and lined them up on a shelf; he knew he would be using them all this summer. He was just grateful to be able to do his homework properly this year, and not under the cover of darkness ―what homework he managed to smuggle up the stairs. His cousin's clothes were huge, and he could fit ink, paper, and his assignments in them, but unfortunately no books; he had to try to memorize what he knew. The rest he did on the train ride to Hogwarts or the night before classes began; his homework was normally a mess. Looking at the clock he knew he'd best start making his way down now, he wasn't exactly sure where the dining room was. He didn't feel particularly hungry, but knew he had to eat. He wasn't sure what his professor would do if he broke the rules and didn't want to find out so soon. He was also unsure of what exactly his professor would have him doing tomorrow, so he needed food for energy—and of course to stop himself from blacking out.
Despite the size of the manor, finding the dining room was pretty straightforward. It was next to a big kitchen; Harry found that he had been right, as he could now see house-elves plating up food. He stood awkwardly in front of his professor, wondering what seat to take, not wanting to insult his professor by sitting too far away, and not wanting to make him angry by sitting too near.
"Sit down there, Potter," Severus curtly directed, nodding to the left of him, one seat vacant between them. So Harry did as he was told... another thing he was unused to, eating at a table when he wasn't at Hogwarts. He wasn't allowed on the furniture at home, which was why he preferred the common room floor most of the time. Sitting on furniture made him feel like he was about to be scolded now, he was so used to it. The seats in the classrooms at school were different; that, he was used to. He made sure not to put his elbows on the table, and tried to think of all the other important details of proper eating. No elbows on the table, his aunt used to tell his cousin ― not that he had cared, of course. The napkin, he folded on his lap, feeling extremely vulnerable and confused. He wanted no reason for his Potions Master to moan at him, and he waited patiently, lost in thought until the food was brought through.
Without thinking, he thanked the house-elf, causing it to gasp in astonishment. Harry cringed, waiting for the inevitable sneer of his teacher's tearing into him. By that time the house-elf was already gone, and Severus was digging into the food platters and putting generous amounts of food on his plate, not even looking in Harry's direction. Harry came back to it, racing heart gradually slowing down; thinking it was best not to say thank you to a house-elf again, he waited for Severus to finish plating his food. He scooped up his own, the portions he took very small compared to his Potions Master's, and mostly vegetables: broccoli, peas, carrots; half a tender chicken breast―the other half had fallen off, and Harry just left it and scooped up some fluffy mashed potatoes.
Severus hid a frown at the lack of food on the brat's plate. If the boy wanted to starve himself, then fine; he wasn't about to play nursemaid. He wasn't used to children filling their plates with vegetables, there had been a lot there he could have eaten instead. Roast potatoes and chips, should he have wished it, but no, he was eating it slowly, and carefully too. Eventually he cleaned off his own plate; only then did Severus notice the brat began eating more quickly, as if afraid it was going to be taken from him, or was going to disappear. Rolling his eyes, Severus wondered why the brat assumed he wasn't getting any pudding.
"May I be excused, sir?" Harry asked softly.
"What for?" Severus asked, taken aback and barely concealing it.
"I have finished, sir," Harry replied, a small frown on his face.
Severus wanted to snap at the boy to not talk to him like that, but he had spoken so softly, and seemed rather confused as well, so he couldn't snap. Resisting the urge to close his eyes and sigh in exasperation, he replied with a sneer, "I assume, then, you do not want dessert?"
Harry blinked, a surprised look coming to his eyes; honestly, did the brat think he was a monster? Who would deny a child food? Even though he had said if he was late he wouldn't get anything, Severus wasn't sure himself if he would ever go through with the promise. One meal couldn't hurt anyone, he supposed, so he might go through with it if the brat did get tardy with him and refuse to come to breakfast, lunch, or dinner on time.
Suddenly the food disappeared; Harry remained seated, and dessert swiftly came through. Harry just nodded this time, a smile on his face, instead of thanking the elf; he was just glad the little thing hadn't broken anything. Harry was so sure he would pay the price for it; he knew how house-elves reacted to praise; he had learned with Dobby.
Meringue, ice cream, and a delicious selection of soft fruits; Harry had never seen any of those fruits at Hogwarts before. They only seemed to have apples, oranges, bananas, and sometimes kiwi fruit. Once again, Harry waited for his teacher to serve himself before he touched anything; he must have been doing something right before, since he hadn't even sniffed disdainfully at him. He began by scooping up only half a bowl of fruit, it looked really good, and Harry couldn't resist it. The Dursleys would never give him fresh fruit, so this was his chance to see if it tasted as good as it looked. He showed no emotion as he ate the dessert, peach, raspberries, blueberries, melon, watermelon, cherries, chunks of plum, apple, kiwi, and pineapple, and he loved each and every bite of it. The taste on his tongue was paradise; he wanted more by the time he was done, but never dared take more. He had gotten more than he normally got at the Dursleys, a lot more. As much as he liked the thought of more, his stomach wouldn't be able to handle it. The sickness he felt at what had happened to Cedric stopped him from eating, sure, but even before the final task he had been reducing his portions, preparing for going back to getting nothing for months again.
"Thank you very much for dinner, sir. Is there anything you want me to do tonight?" Harry asked softly.
His teacher raised an eyebrow at him; a glint of amusement shining in those black eyes, he said, "No; go bathe or shower, or whatever it is you want; get into your nightclothes, and get an early night tonight. You do have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow. Never leave your room after nine o'clock for any reason, other than if you need the bathroom," was all his teacher said.
Severus was amused by how Harry Potter was acting; the spoiled brat was nowhere to be seen. Sure, Cedric Diggory's death should change him, but to this extent? Thanking his hated Potions professor for dinner? There was something wrong with the brat. Unless, of course, he was trying to be nice, hoping his chores would be shortened. Severus snorted at that; it was an almost-Slytherin move on the boy's part, and he didn't mean it as a compliment.
The boy nodded and left the room, and Severus was worried, despite trying to deny his thoughts about how subservient the child had been. Perhaps the boy just needed a decent night's sleep, and facing the chores he had to do would bring out the brat he knew once more.
The child had to learn he couldn't get everything in life with a look; Voldemort wasn't going to lie down and die. This was real life; he wasn't a hero in a storybook, and Severus ― despite his hate for the boy― wanted the brat to live through the war, not only because he had sworn to protect him, but also because he was half Lily. Some real work wouldn't hurt him; Severus also planned on training him later in the summer. He needed to know how to protect himself; again, he had no plans to be gentle with the brat; Death Eaters weren't going to use tickling charms. In the end the brat would come out stronger, and perhaps maybe a little more proud of himself than he was, not just because of his status as the Boy-Who-Lived, but something he alone had accomplished.
If only he knew.
Edited by Jake and Jordre thanks guys