It was the summer before Harry's fifth year. He had been on Privet Drive for almost a week, but he already had begun to hate it. H had incited the wrath of his maternal relatives quite well in that small amount of time. The subtle threats the Order had made when they met them at King's Cross, coupled with Harry's supposed freakishness as his relatives had termed, had been enough to earn him more violent encounters and even more meager food rations than before. Harry supposed Tonks and Moody had meant well in this after seeing how much his Uncle seemed to hate everything about Harry firsthand when he arrived to pick him up from the station. For the most part, Harry was grateful that they would speak so on his behalf, but a part of him wished they hadn't said anything. Obviously words are never enough when dealing with people like the Dursleys. Action was what Harry wanted, but of course never got. Despite his early pleadings of staying at Hogwarts in the summer when he began his Magical school career, the Headmaster would not give in and would send him back to his horrid relatives. Harry hoped that it was because of the older wizard's ignorance of the real situation…and not that he knew and sent him anyway. But Harry reminded himself that he had never really confessed the truth behind his request. Perhaps he was afraid, but of what? That Dumbledore would still say no? What his relatives were capable of if he revealed their conduct towards him? Harry really didn't know himself. Maybe he was afraid word would get out to people like Malfoy, who would taunt him for it. This past year was awful enough with people hating him for something that wasn't true. He could just imagine what it would be like when their insults were fueled by a horrible truth he hadn't really confided to even his best friends. He had enough to worry about, what with Voldemort on the loose. And Cedric…no, Harry would try not to think in that direction. He had enough in his nightmares, which had become more frequent and intense recently. More than anything he wanted to forget the past four summers as well as the entire ten years before that had even happened, as well as the last few weeks of the Tournament.
Harry at least had the two most amazing friends a boy could ask for, as well as two relatively new men in his life he hoped he would come close to as well. Remus Lupin, a former professor of his had been quite wonderful to Harry. He was wise and unjudging, as well as honest. Sirius Black, his godfather, was just as genuine and friendly, but more boisterous and lively. But he honestly seemed to like Harry too, which Harry was thankful for. He had even offered him a place to stay, as his guardian. Of course, things did not turn out so well as he was still on the run from the Ministry for crimes he had not committed. Once again Harry was given words, not action, but he supposed this could not be helped. He was used to disappointment after all. The men's company, though rare these days, was better than nothing. Maybe one day, if Harry was lucky, he'd be with them on a more permanent basis.
It was nice to dream.
Needless to say, he was quite happy at the owl he received announcing Tonk's arrival within the hour to pick him up and take him to number 12 Grimmauld Place. Upon arriving (and the engulfing hugs from Hermione, Sirius and Mrs. Weasley-in that order) he had been informed there would be an Order meeting. Harry had been informed at the end of the year briefly by Dumbledore of what the Order was, and his membership of said order when he chose, upon his coming of age. Harry was glad that his headmaster was at least giving him some information, unlike in the past.
The meeting would be a while yet, and so Harry took this time to relax on a couch in the living room. He was just so glad to be among his friends and Sirius that he couldn't stop grinning at everyone.
"Harry mate, how's your summer been?" Ron asked, munching on a Hershey bar Hermione had brought him. She too had just arrived, only minutes before Harry. He had jumped into the seat to Harry's right, Hermione gracefully sat on Harry's left. Sirius had scooted a chair close to them and sat in it. Ginny was at the coffee table flipping through some Witch magazine, her twin brothers on the other side with papers and scattered prototypes for their joke shop.
"Er…y'know…not entirely eventful." Harry shrugged. He hoped they wouldn't press him. "Only been a week, hasn't it?"
"Yeah, s'pose you're right. I've been degnoming the garden all week, tough little blighters those are!" Ron laughed. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"I've had a bit of chores as well, but not as exciting as gnoming. Dishes, sweeping…I did manage to finish my homework as well." Hermione added.
Sirius laughed at Ron's incredulous face. Harry simply shook his head, smiling. "That's 'Mione for you."
"Indeed it is." Sirius chuckled, Hermione blushing at the praise of her friends. "How about you Pronglet? Been holding up alright?" His face had turned concerned, and Harry's heart clenched, daring to hope that maybe he really could believe Sirius would care for him. Hermione had mirrored the gaze, only hers was more intense. Ron just looked steady but somehow also there for Harry. Thing was he wasn't ready to bare his soul at the moment. After all, he hadn't brought his things with him, so obviously he wasn't to stay for very long. He opened his mouth to say he was getting on well-a lie, yes, but necessary so as not to bum the others out with needless concern-when Remus come through the door.
"Remus!" Harry shouted, and jumped to his feet and hugged the man around the middle. Immediately he flushed in embarrassment, about to pull away from who he thought to be a bewildered and annoyed man when he felt two arms wrap around him and pull him close.
"Harry, it's so good to see you too. Glad to see you haven't outgrown me." He said softly. "Never." Harry whispered back, he thought to himself, but apparently Remus heard and hugged him even tighter before letting go. Sirius had come up to them by this point.
"Well! I can see who's the favorite." He said in mock hurt, grabbing at his heart.
"Oh come off it, Padfoot." Remus growled good-naturedly and the two embraced as brothers.
"Well, I'll admit I was a bit jealous. He is my godson after all." Sirius said, ruffling Harry's hair.
"Well he was my student." Remus shot back, a wolfish glint in his amber eyes.
Harry giggled and came between them. "Hey now, there's enough Harry for everyone." Sirius and Remus laughed and the former gave the little rascal a noogie, further messing up the untamable hair on his head, the twins and Ron egging them on. Hermione and Ginny giggled at the antics. Harry was by far happier in these few minutes than in the last few months.
After they settled, Remus pulling a chair next to Sirius's, time had come close to the meeting to begin.
"I suppose you'll tell us what this is all about then?" Ronald asked. Hermione gave him a slap for the bluntness.
"Well, I received a letter from Moody. He says it is a matter of upmost importance, but couldn't elaborate. He mentioned having to clear it with Madam Pomfrey." Remus began.
"You don't think something's wrong with Professor Dumbledore?" Ginny said in a small voice. Harry's heart dropped at that particular theory.
"Not from the sound of the letter." Sirius said reassuringly.
"Pr'fessor Dumbledore hasn't told any of us anything else yet. He said it's a delicate matter, information that if flaunted into the wrong hands could be dangerous." Tonks said, hair flashing in yellows and golds in anticipation as she bounded into the room.
"That's odd…I wonder what is so important he had to tell us in person.." Hermione voiced.
"Whatever it is, Mad Eye is the only other Order member to know about it. He's the one escorting them here." Sirius said.
"Them?" The Trio asked in unison.
"Professors Snape and McGonagall will also be arriving with the Headmaster." Remus explained.
Harry thought this was strange in itself. Though he knew Professor McGonagall's involvement with the cause of the Light, but he rarely saw her come to actual meetings. Her priority was usually that of school business.
Fred and George bustled into the room-Harry hadn't noticed they had left- and announced the meeting to begin. Whatever it was, Harry, Hermione and Ron were thankful they could attend instead of eavesdropping like they had to at school to find out things.
They all surrounded the long table, taking various seats. Harry chose a seat nearest the middle, where Ron and Hermione promptly took their places at his sides. He grinned at that, loving the feeling that they wanted to sit next to him. The twins, their mum and dad and Ginny took seats at the end. Tonks plopped next to Hermione. Remus and Sirius remained standing behind Harry's seat.
The Floo roared to life, and out stepped the gruff form that was Mad Eye Moody. He was smiling though, and Harry saw a mirth within his good eye he had never seen upon the visage of the battered and hardened ex-Auror. Voiced could be heard behind him from the grate at Hogwarts he had come through, arguing about something. Moody merely laughed and turned to the rest of the Order present.
He actually grinned at them, a slightly disturbing experience for the others, then barked back into the grate of the fireplace.
"Come on then! Haven't got all day!" Harry was particularly confused when he noticed Moody was looking slightly down. All the Professors seemed quite a bit taller than that to him…
"I'm coming, you pretentious oaf!" yelled back a voice-a very young one.
Suddenly the fire roared to life again and a small black-haired boy about twelve years old was thrown from the green flames, and landed on the ground, his almost shoulder-length hair covering his face. He wore pitch black robes, almost identical to those worn by Snape, if not for the size.
"Minerva, you old hag! I said I was going, you didn't have to push me through!" he yelled again as he dusted off his robes and spun around to face his assaulter, who had just arrived through the Floo right after him.
She looked fifteen, had her dark brown hair in a very McGonagall bun and even wore her hat and emerald robes, though they too had been resized. She strode over to the boy with a furious glare.
"How dare you! I am NOT hag! Nor am I old, obviously!" She huffed , in a girlish voice natural to her age, at his face. The boy merely glared back, folding his arms over his chest in a very Snape-like manner.
"Now now, my dears, we mustn't bicker; surely our minds are mature even in our bodies are not." Said a good humored, mild and youthful voice as the third of their party arrived from the fireplace. He had on an alarming shade of purple robes, was quite tall compared to the other two, but not taller than Moody yet. He had longish auburn hair held back in a pony-tail. He was looking down as he dusted off the garish clothing he wore, but when he looked up everyone saw the eyes they knew so well. They sparkled a deep blue and twinkled as he took in their reactions.
"A-Albus…?" Molly gasped, putting a hand over her mouth.
"Why yes Molly, my dear. I'm glad I'm still recognizable." The seventeen year old boy with auburn hair chuckled as he helped himself to a seat at the table directly in front of Harry. The girl and boy who had also arrived sat on either side of him. Moody took his place at Albus's side, still grinning at everyone's dumbfounded expressions.
"What happened sir?" Harry brought himself to say, bright green eyes huge with wonder.
"I believe Severus should explain that part." The boy motioned to the little black-haired boy beside him, who was glowering at Tonks who was biting her lip as she looked at him, obviously finding his current form quite adorable.
"THAT'S SNAPE?!" Ron blurted out. The little boy gave a sneer at the youngest Weasley boy.
"Professor Snape, and no, Mr. Weasley, I'm some random child who impersonates Potions Masters for kicks!" he yelped. This incited a giggle from the girl on Albus's other side. The boy-Snape swiveled attention to her, giving her his most loathing glare he could muster.
"You are so adorable Severus! I had forgotten how much!" She pawed at the air in her glee. "Even your sarcasm, it's so cute."
Snape looked at her as if she had gone mad, as did Harry, Sirius and the Weasley boys. Hermione, Tonks and Mrs. Weasley and Ginny seemed to agree with the girl.
"I'm surrounded by idiots." The boy sighed in defeat, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Albus leaned on his elbow, propping his head up with his hand and looking at Severus.
"I will so enjoy your retelling of this one, my boy." He smiled. Snape simply looked as if he would kill him…which wasn't too threatening coming from his innocent twelve year old face.
The others seemed bemused after the shock was wearing off…for the most part. Those blasted Twins looked on the edge of their seats in glee and mischief, Molly had some horrible look of motherly affection radiating from her expression, Arthur was gaping, Sirius looked in shock and Remus looked horrendously bemused. And the insufferable Trio. That Ronald boy was gaping like his father, except food could be seen in his huge mouth. That Muggle-born Granger was huge-eyed and curious. And Potter…his brilliant blasted emerald eyes bigger and shinier than ever before, staring into Snape's very soul with mixed emotions he didn't even want to begin to comprehend. Silently cursing, Snape decided he had better take advantage of the quiet caused by the time needed for them to even grasp what was going on to explain the situation.
"I was in my lab trying to find a way to perfect and perhaps enhance the effects of Wolfsbane on an infected individual," Snape began in a monotone similar to his older self as he threaded his fingers together on the table top. Remus straightened in his seat, a flash of gratitude for the boy Snape show on his face for the effort of working on his much needed potion. "When that horrendous elf Dobby popped into my chambers and startled me into dropping far too much of the ingredient I had in hand into the cauldron I was currently experimenting with."
On Merlin, he saw a look of understanding from Potter. Well, with all that happened with that ridiculous elf a couple years ago, that was understandable…
" There was an explosion and I was knocked into a wall. Albus and Minerva were alerted by the dungeon wards of the incident as came to my supposed rescue when they were also exposed to gases caused by the hybrid potion I had inadvertently created. They pulled me out and the Headmaster apperated us to the Hospital Wing before we all passed out. We awoke a few hours later like this." The boy gestured vaguely, encompassing his youthful body.
"So the potion worked as a de-aging property?" Remus asked, amazement in his voice.
"Poppy seems to think so." Minerva replied.
"How long will it last?" Arthur asked.
"That remains to be seen. Upon not feeling any effects of the potion to be lessening, I assume until I can create an antidote." Snape answered.
Several Order members blinked.
"And so, Sirius, I am here to ask for sanctuary for the three of us this summer, until a remedy is found or until term begins." Albus said, his blue eyes imploring. "It is vital that the fewer who know of this the better. Should Tom realize our compromising situation, he could strike prematurely than what we are currently prepared for."
"I..o-of course Albus!" Sirius said, reminding Harry of a deer stuck in headlights. Snape merely rolled his eyes.
"Thank you my dear boy…oh well, I suppose I can't say that anymore…" Albus chuckled.
"Wait one moment here…" Snape said, realization dawning. "…we're staying here…with THEM…" he threw a little hand at the marauders and waved it to encompass the Weasleys, "for the ENTIRE SUMMER?"
"Yes…?" Albus said. Snape jumped up, but only reached the sitting Albus's shoulders,barely.
"THEY'LL KILL ME!"
Minerva, who was currently drinking some tea given her by Molly spit it out and coughed out a shocked "WHAT?"
"You heard me! I'm little now! I'll be under the same roof as those blasted twins and the Mauraders, one of which is a bloody werewolf! I won't survive the night!" he threw up his hands, his little black robes flailing wildly at his movement. Harry grinned evilly with his godfather and the twins when Albus put a hand on the boy's shoulder and smiled comfortingly.
"Now, don't worry Severus, they aren't as horrible as you think. Perhaps this shall be a good opportunity to get to know one another…" He causally looked at the accused. "And of course they know if anything amiss should happen in the slightest to you by their hand they will have to answer to me." His eyes, now with the full blast of youth and power looked to them in seriousness, to which they all replied with a "Yes sir." Even Sirius had joined in. Severus looked a tad bit relieved, and gave Albus a young, innocent look of unyielding trust that Harry had never seen in his hated Potion's Master's gaze. It made Harry feel awful for thinking he would attempt to plague the small boy's existence here, even though the adult version had done much worse to him during classes. He had seen a frightened vulnerable boy before him, and that in itself was shaking Harry's view of the Slimy Bat of the Dungeons.
Snape seated himself back down after scooting his chair even closer to Albus's.
"Are there any…er…side effects?" Molly asked worriedly, looking at the three children before her, especially Severus. She never knew how malnourished and small he was at this age. He was even paler than before.
"None that I can determine at this time…"Snape replied with a sigh, finally looking up from the curtain of hair that he let envelop his face. "I do believe we may revert to ah, old mannerisms of our respective ages however."
Harry broke his stare at him to Ron, whose eyes' were bulging in his head and Hermione who looked like she was restraining herself from hugging the little Slytherin.
"Well, my dears, let's put some food in those tummys!" Molly clucked. Minerva and Severus looked indignant as being spoken to like children, but Albus simply grinned, eager for some home cooking.
"Shoo, all of you, while Nymphadora and I finish up supper. We'll call you in directly." The crowded room got up at once and poured into the hall and sitting room.
"DON'T CALL ME NYMPHADORA!" the changeling yelled as the kitchen door closed, her hair now a violent shade of red. Molly merely huffed and handed her some dishware she had spelled to be unbreakable, even in the hands of the clumsy but good-meaning woman.
Albus led the way into the Black Manor sitting room. A loveseat was left empty as most of the children and chosen to occupy the couch and the two Marauders flanking either side. Moody had opted to chat with Arthur about protection wards over the Weasley home in another room.
As the New Trio entered the room, Snape unconsciously grabbed Albus's arm sleeve. Minerva blushed under the stares. Albus simply put a hand on his friends' shoulders as they walked to the seat. Albus sat in the middle, Snape to his right and Minerva to his left. Snape's feet didn't even reach the ground.
"So…"Albus smiled back at the youths before him. He made himself inviting as the children and Marauders before him looked to burst with questions.
They began all at once at his invitation.
"Is it really you Headmaster?"
"Why is Snape so little!?"
"Shut it Ronald!"
"How's it feel to be younger?"
"Does this mean we have to do Potion's and Transfiguration homework?"
"I didn't know you were a red-head Professor!"
The onslaught of questions seemed never ending. Albus was laughing as he tried to answer, Minerva looked slightly less strict and Severus looked mortified.
Harry was the only quiet one, simply grinning from ear to ear at his Headmaster. It was so amazing to see him young and without the worry and hardness of age. He was formidable and lively before, of course, but now…it was different. As if the young man before him was someone he could really connect to when age seemed to be a barrier before. And to get to know him as a young man, it was simply amazing.
Albus noticed Harry's grin at him and returned it full force as he laughed. His eyes twinkled, resembling the man Harry had come to know these past five years, but they had the mirth and carefreeness of youth Harry had never seen in him before. Time seemed to slow and Harry wanted to remember this moment forever.