AN - Hey, welcome back. I hope you all enjoy this chapter, there were some scenes that were a real pleasure to write.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. That would be slavery. JK Rowling does own him however and I think we should start a society to address this issue.
Being able to walk down the winding path of Diagon Alley was a freedom that he quite enjoyed. The sun was shining, but it was a relatively cool day and the friendly hustle and bustle of the wizarding shopping district gave Harry a vague sense of anonymity. Indeed, he hadn't had anyone stare at him or his forehead since he had walked out the back of the Leaky Cauldron.
It had been a year since he had last walked the alley, and while there were many new products for sale and a few new storefronts, nothing really had changed. Harry wondered if he were to travel back in time a hundred years, if the alley would look as it did now.
Harry saw a silly little children's toy in one of the windows and went over to get a closer look. It was a small figure dancing whimsically about, every few moments it would pop, and take on a new appearance; new clothes, a new face. From its hands, feet, and head, strings led upward, so very high up, where Harry couldn't see. It wasn't anything Harry wanted, it had only caught his eye as a curiosity. The more he looked at it though, the more it made him uncomfortable. He couldn't say why, but the sight was beginning to disturb him. There was a sick sensation in his stomach.
Black disheveled hair, glasses, green eyes, and a scarred forehead. Harry turned around to see if anyone else was looking at the display window. He turned back around.
He saw his reflection in the window this time, and suddenly he knew why no one had been staring at Harry Potter. The green eyes and glasses were still there, now shrouded in long, black, greasy hair over a large hooked nose. He gasped when he realized the resemblance. Suddenly it wasn't sunny; a dark cloud rapidly moved in overhead, blocking the sun. The air chilled and his breath fogged up the window in which he was staring at his bizarre appearance. He looked around to see what everyone else thought about the rapid change.
No one seemed to notice, but where previously the hustle and bustle had been pleasant, it was suddenly crowded and overwhelming. There were people milling about everywhere, walking quickly, not stopping to look at the windows.
Harry turned around to look back into the window. Despite everything else, he was relieved to see that he once more looked like himself. Someone bumped into him, then someone else, neither person turning around to apologize. The stream of people increased, and Harry soon found himself pressed against the side of the building trying to keep out of everyone's way. Someone bowled him over. He fell hard, scraping his palms and knees. He looked up.
This time the man stopped and turned around, and Harry froze. The tall man loomed over him and looked at him with loathing and disgust.
"What are you doing with my face?" James Potter demanded.
Harry gaped at him for a moment. "You gave it to me," he finally said.
"I didn't give my face to a killer," the man said contemptuously.
"No, that wasn't my fault. Greyback killed her," Harry said desperately, still sprawled on the cobbled street.
"You led him right to her," his father said accusingly.
"I tried to warn her; she wouldn't save herself," Harry cried.
"You should have saved her," his father said, his voice laced with disappointment and scorn.
"I tried," Harry said desperately. "The wand didn't work."
"No," his voice thundered. "You didn't make the wand work, you failed. You might as well have killed her yourself. You should be with Greyback now. It was all your fault. You deserve what he did to you and more. You could have stopped him. You had the power to stop him but you wouldn't let your magic work. It's all your fault, all of it, everything he did, everything you did. You deserve him and worse, and you don't deserve to be my son."
Harry's insides felt as cold as the chilly air around him. "No," he said, though he knew he had no defense. "No, I saved that man. I led Greyback away from him."
"You ran away, you coward," James Potter spat. "I'm glad I'll never have to see you again." He turned away.
"No, wait," Harry called out, his hand outstretched. But no one was there. He was alone in the alley, still sprawled on the ground. He brought his knees up towards his chest, wrapping his arms around himself. He tried very hard to forget what he had just heard. Why couldn't he forget it?
Suddenly, someone grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him up. He found himself pressed up against the window he had previously been looking through, looking into the angry face of Severus Snape.
"You can't forget it though, can you," he hissed. "You can't forget me. You will always know."
"It doesn't matter. You're still nothing to me," Harry shouted into the man's face, not caring how much bigger the man who had him pressed up against the wall was.
"I could have been," he said, now sadly.
"You wouldn't have cared!" Harry accused.
"You'll never know," Snape said, disinterestedly.
"Good!" Harry yelled in his face.
Snape's features twisted in disgust.
"Mudblood," the man spat. Suddenly Snape burst into a thousand fluttering bats who swarmed around Harry, scratching at his face and arms, before disappearing.
No sooner had the bats gone then Harry saw something moving out of the corner of his eye. He turned in time to see a woman with red hair disappear around a bend in the alley.
"Wait," he called out, now running after her. She would understand, she would still care.
He turned the same bend she had disappeared behind, just in time to see her disappear around another. On and on he ran, never quite catching up, never seeing more than a glimpse of her around the corner, but he had to keep running. He could never stop running.
He turned a corner and ran into...something. The chill was gone, and he knew he didn't have to run anymore. He knew he was safe. He closed his eyes and everything faded.
Waking up was gradual. It took him a moment to gather his bearings. He was in his room, in the Leaky Cauldron. It had all been a dream.
Of course it had been, he thought. His parents were dead and Snape didn't know anything. Neither of those things were going to change. He briefly thought about what his father would have thought if he had seen what had happened the day before in Little Winging before dismissing the thought. He knew he hadn't killed that woman, Greyback had. Still though, he felt bad that she had died because of him. James Potter would have probably fought Greyback from the get go. Harry wished he still had Greyback's wand. He wanted to know if the wand had just been a poor match or if he, Harry, had failed in casting the spell against Greyback. There was nothing for it though, he'd just have to make due not knowing.
He rubbed the last of the sleep out of his eyes and scratched behind one of his ears before he looked at the clock. Time For Lunch, it said in blurry letters. He'd slept through the morning. Of course he had been up all night getting his trunk. That, luckily, had gone off without a hitch, though Tom hadn't exactly been happy when he realized that Harry had gone back to Surrey, and Harry had now promised multiple times not to leave Diagon Alley.
Harry grabbed his glasses and got ready for his day. Pulling a school robe on over his muggle clothes, Harry made his way down stairs and greeted Tom who had him seated at the bar with a sandwich and chips moments later.
"So what did they do?" Harry asked Tom as the man cleaned up behind the bar after the lunch crowd. He really had slept in rather late.
"Who?" Tom asked, though Harry thought he knew very well who.
"The five who escaped from prison," he said. "I think I've heard of one of them being a follower of Voldemort." Tom flinched which Harry tried to ignore. "But what about the rest of them?"
"Well, it really isn't a very pleasant story now, is it. They were all supporters of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. All of them except Greyback were Death Eaters," Tom said.
"Death Eaters?" Harry asked.
"His most loyal followers, the ones who killed for him. Not that Greyback didn't kill for him, but He wasn't going to give his mark to a werewolf, now was he?"
Harry's heart skipped a beat. "A werewolf?"
"Yes," Tom said. "Worse than following You-Know-Who, he's been a menace for some time. Purposely turning people, especially children. He had a pack for a while, those were bad times besides all of You-Know-Who's business. Most of them were captured though, or killed. Those five who escaped were all captured in the weeks after you got rid of Him. They all committed atrocities, I don't mind not telling you about over your lunch, or ever for that matter. The aurors will deal with them now, don't you worry about them. You just stick to the alley, they won't show their faces here where everyone would know them."
Harry readily agreed not to go out into muggle London while he thought about what he had just heard. It was easy enough for Tom to tell him not to worry, but Harry had a werewolf after him who wanted to turn him. Did Greyback blame Harry for getting caught? DId he think he would never have been caught if Voldemort had never been vanquished? The man had talked about someone else, someone who had cared about Harry. Had this other person captured Greyback? If so, who, and where were they now?
"Well now, off with ya," Tom said. "Go enjoy the alley."
Harry realized he had finished his food. He thanked Tom and walked out back, tapping the brick wall to get into the alley.
Much as in his dream, the alley hadn't changed much since the year prior. Harry's first stop was Quality Quiditch Supplies of course, but by the time he returned to the Leakey Cauldron that evening, he had explored the whole length of the alley, something he hadn't been able to do the two other times he had been in the alley. There had been something odd though. He had begrudgingly gotten used to the red robed Aurors every which way looking at him, as though they were waiting for someone to attack him. There was someone else though, or several someone else's who were doing the opposite. It had taken him a while to notice the first one, but by the time he reached Madame Malkin's, he realized that the same sandy haired man had been in his vicinity for a while. Oddly though, he seemed to be watching everything but Harry. The man was constantly scanning the crowd and the rooftops, looking into every shadow and side way. About an hour after he had noticed him, another man took his place when Harry wasn't looking. Still always in Harry's vicinity, still looking every which way, with the same blank disinterested look on his face. So Harry figured the Aurors who were supposed to be watching the alley were watching Harry, and whoever was supposed to be watching him was watching the alley. Harry figured if whoever was supposed to keep an eye on him didn't want to introduce themselves, then Harry wasn't about to strike up a conversation. It wasn't as though he needed a child minder.
He made it back to the Leakey Cauldron a little after the dinner rush and, thoroughly exhausted, ate his supper and went to bed.
Even though he started to spend most of his time catching up on his summer homework, the days following his arrival at the alley seemed to fly by pretty quickly. It helped that said homework was being done worry free, now that he was away from the Dursleys. It helped even more that there were a few denizens of the alley who occasionally helped him with said homework. Though he'd never say so to Ron, or Hermione for that matter, it was actually enjoyable to do a History of Magic essay seated outside a shop on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Of course it helped that said shop was an open aired ice cream parlor whose proprietor was an amateur historian who made learning about the inception of the International Confederation of Wizards sound exciting. It also really helped that said proprietor, Florean Fortiscue gave Harry free sundays while Harry worked out in the open.
"Now you see," Mr. Fortiscue said excitedly. "The death of Nathaniel Gladwell didn't only clear the way for Elton Finch to lead the delegation from Scotland, it brought some of his biggest opponents onto his side. Of course Finch would be the one to bring forward the Dewey-Trent Compact, which many historians think was the only thing to stand in the way, later, of the Dark Lord Rhineheart. A century of history altered, because one man found himself in a duel the night before the first confederation."
"What was the duel about?" Harry asked between hastily scribbled notes.
"Ah, now that is a story, isn't it. You see, there had been a gala the night prior to the duel at the Gladwell estate. Now who was it?" Mr. Fortiscue ran into the back of his shop and started searching for a scroll. He came back, scroll in hand. "Ah yes, According to the scholar Eaton Thump, Miss Julia McKay, betrothed to Gladwell's soon to be killer, Aston Bradley showed up to the party wearing robes of a similar color and design to Mrs. Gladwell. Mr. Gladwell came up on her from behind, mistook her for his wife, and became quite familiar with her before he realized his mistake. Bradley demanded satisfaction and found it the next morning. Gladwell had been something of an isolationist, and would never have helped strengthen the ties between the northern and southern factions of Britain. Everything changed because two women had the same taste in evening attire."
Mr. Fortiscue had a broad grin on his face as he told the story, Harry could tell he really loved the complexities of history.
"Are there a lot of stories like that?" Harry asked. "Where something small made a big impact on history."
"Why Mr. Potter, if there's one thing I've found while studying history, it's that we are all just one mistimed sneeze away from causing the next Great War, or from stopping one. Now have you ever heard the tale of Alal Myre and the great dragon escape of ten eighty eight?"
Harry was about to answer in the negative when a small gaggle of children entered the shop with one very tired looking witch. Fortiscue's eyes lit up even more and he was soon behind the counter, happily talking to his customers, his hands flying about, assembling their decadent confections.
"Ah hah," Mr. Fortiscue's voice carried over the babble of the children in response to something one of them had said. "And just who's birthday is it?"
"Mine," said a little boy, raising his hand. "I turned seven," he said, holding up six fingers before correcting himself. Harry smiled to himself. Even with the Dursleys, there'd been an innocence to being seven that he missed. He'd lost it soon enough, growing up in that household.
"Well now, what flavor does the birthday boy want."
"Strawberry," the boy said excitedly.
"Well that strawberry's just going to have to come with my extra special birthday treacle." The boy's eyes lit up as the sugary syrup was drizzled over the ice cream. The frozen treat was topped with whipped cream and handed to the little boy. A few minutes later the children and the mother of the birthday boy headed out to Quality Quiditch, the children all excitedly talking about their favorite teams.
"Now, where were we?" Mr. Fortiscue asked.
"Dragons," Harry said.
"Ah yes, dragons," The historian said, hurrying to the back to his scrolls. "Have you ever wondered where the Hogwarts motto came from?"
A couple of hours later, Harry walked out of the ice cream parlor with his book bag over his shoulder. Spotting a likely candidate for this hours watcher, Harry gave a cheery wave and was quite surprised to get a very cheerful wave back. The watcher had never waved back before, or even acknowledged Harry's existence. Harry looked around for another likely candidate but didn't spot any. The odd thing was, the watcher was never the same, but always acted the same. Over the days since Harry had taken up residence in the alley, there had always been a watcher when he left his room, wether he was in the dining room of the Leakey Cauldron or all the way at the other end of the alley. Yet the watcher changed every hour, and he had never seen the same watcher twice. It was always someone new, and he never saw them make a switch. He only ever knew who it was because they all acted the same. The same blank expression, the same roving eyes, the same fluid gait, always ignoring Harry when it was him they were following.
The Aurors littering the alley were a different story though, Harry knew most of them by sight if not by the name on their badges, and many of them would give him a polite nod as they kept their watch on the alley.
Harry passed Tooling's Charm Stop, a store he had only visited twice, but always caught his eye, and was often on his mind. Jane Tooling owned and worked the shop, where she performed complex charms work for clients and sold a variety of charmed items. He had gone in with some questions for his charms homework. He hadn't needed much, he was decent at charms, but he had been fascinated with the variety of useful objects in the store; items that were very handy for an underage wizard who couldn't do magic outside of school. Still though, he had lived so long without money, as though he were truly impoverished, that while often tempted, he rarely splurged on items he thought were pricy, even when he could afford to. Harry had made one exception though, an item he would have dearly liked to have had when he was escaping privet drive, a shrinking sticker. He could just slap it on his trunk and then put it in his pocket.
However, it wasn't the many fascinating items that kept him thinking about the shop. The thing was, the spell his mother had written about, the one that would tell him if the charms that managed his hemophilia needed to be strengthened, was something that he could easily ask Madame Tooling to cast on him for a small fee, but then Harry wasn't sure he wanted anyone to know that he had the illness. What if someone put it all together. He didn't want anyone to know that he was in any way shape or form related to Snape, and he would be damned if he would give anyone reason to talk like that about his mother. It was just a little maddening not knowing if he was on the brink of bleeding to death or not. Harry passed the shop without going in.
Harry made his way further down the alley and stopped at the apothecary. He didn't spend half as much time there as he did at the ice cream parlor, for obvious reasons, but Mr. Ashwinder had been a big help in understanding his potions homework. He didn't have the same flare for describing potions that Mr. Fortiscue had for history, but he certainly knew the subject well, and he had a lot more patience for questions than Professor Snape did.
"Now what questions do you have for me today Mr. Potter?" Mr. Ashwinder asked as Harry entered the shop.
"Umm," Harry started trying to remember the terms from his book. "I'm having trouble understanding Bates third formula."
"Howard Bates or Erman Bates?" Mr. Ashwinder asked.
"There's two of them?" Harry asked.
"They were brothers, both of them potions researchers, and both of them, unfortunately, have third formulas."
"Um," Harry pulled out his potions book and flipped through, finding the right page. "Erman Bates," he said.
"Ah, yes, Erman Bate's third formula is used to adjust the aqueous ratio in potions. Now, at school, you brew potions in a highly controlled environment with highly standardized ingredients. As well, most of the potions you will have brewed so far are not highly sensitive to the subtle differences. But when you brew some of the more volatile potions, you must make adjustments based on elevation, ambient moisture, temperature, and the aqueous density of the potions ingredients used."
"The book didn't really explain how to use the formula," Harry said.
"What book are you using?" Mr. Ashwinder asked.
"Intermediate Potions Brewing for Students," Harry said looking at the cover of his book. "It's the book assigned for the class."
"That book used to be called The Home Reference Guide for Intermediate Potions Brewers," Mr. Ashwinder said with a grimace. "It was written as a reference guide for those already competent with potions. I dare say the publisher changed the name to expand their sales."
Harry could just imagine Snape reading the book, thinking it made sense to him, and assigning it to his students. That was by and large how he taught.
"Do you have a book that could better explain the formula?" Harry asked.
"Top shelf on the right, Anna Morrellie's Subtle Science. That should be a good supplement to what you have."
Harry walked over to the book section and quickly found what he was looking for, glad for an excuse to buy something. While Mr. Fortiscue and Mr. Ashwinder were both very knowledgeable about their respective subjects, Harry could tell that Mr. Ashwinder wasn't as enthusiastic to be playing the summer tutor as Mr. Fortiscue, so Harry always made sure to buy something when he came to pester the man so he wouldn't feel like he was being too much a bother. He did have several more stirring rods, beakers and potions ingredients than he really needed, though.
Harry wondered how many other students would be able to accurately explain Bate's third principle, and what Snape's face would look like when he read Harry's summer essays. With Mr. Ashwinder's help, they were turning out rather well. Snape would probably still find a reason to give him a bad grade.
"Does Professor Snape ever buy stuff here?" Harry asked. He had been wondering if he would run into the man at some point in the alley. Really, he half expected to see the man every time he visited the apothecary. Not that he wanted to, of course. The less he had to see Snape the better. He looked at the door a moment wondering if the man would suddenly walk in.
"Oh he drops in from time to time. Though he owl orders mostly. Waldorf's in Hogsmead may be more convenient, but they can't beat my selection," he said proudly.
Harry payed for the book and walked towards the door. "Thanks for the help Mr. Ashwinder," he called over his shoulder, right before he walked into someone.
"Mr. Potter," Snape's cold drawl cut off the apology that was on the tip of his tongue. Harry's head snapped back around to face the man who now towered over him. "I should think that with people out at this very moment for your blood, you would have the sense to watch where you are going."
Harry just stared up at him, frozen, his mind blank. Their eyes locked for a moment until Snape broke away with a smirk. He walked past Harry as if he had forgotten that he was there. Harry turned to follow him with his gaze before he shook himself and walked out the door angry with himself.
He wasn't some little kid, and he wasn't afraid of Snape or anything, so why had he frozen up just from seeing him?
Harry walked down the street towards the Leaky Cauldron with a scowl on his face. He wished he had said something to the man, though he didn't know what.
Of course I would have to run into the boy on the one day off I've had in over a week, Severus Snape thought, his dower face souring.
"It must be nice having students like that in your classroom," Alexander Ashwinder said from behind the counter.
"I beg your pardon," 'Xander wasn't much one for being facetious, and Severus usually attempted to reign himself in when he dealt with the man, so it was odd to hear him speak so.
"Students like Mr. Potter," 'Xander said in all seriousness. "He's quite studious and inquisitive. He's been in here almost every day with questions about potions making and ingredient properties. It must be nice to have students who care about the subject."
"I do hope you haven't been doing his homework for him," Severus glowered. It would be just like Potter to take the easiest route and get all of the answers from someone else rather than a book. Since Granger wasn't around, he supposed the boy had turned to bothering the people of Diagon Alley for the answers to his summer work.
"Of course not," 'Xander glared. "I'd be charging him for that. I just point him in the right direction. He just bought Subtle Science for further reference."
"Morrellie spoon feeds the reader; students need to work for knowledge, they need to use their brains."
'Xander chuckled. "That explains it. How did the moonglow work out for you?" he asked, changing the subject before Severus could ask what had been explained.
"I'm sure it would have worked out fine if the fire bulbs hadn't been disturbed by our resident poltergeist the evening they were supposed to bloom," he said with a scowl. Moonglow was very rare and didn't last more than a few days, and fire bulbs only bloomed once every month. It would be a while before he would be able to attempt the Starlight Elixir again.
"I could have had some on hand if you'd ordered ahead of time."
"I prefer to collect my own ingredients when I can," Severus sighed. "That being said, I've heard rumor that Arlington Grove managed to get a good cross of nightshade and kingsbane this year and I need you to place an order for me. With a reputable cultivator," he added.
"Don't want to make the trip out there and collect some yourself?" 'Xander asked with a wry grin.
"For an ingredient this rare and as difficult as it is to collect it properly, I would gladly put up with a trip to the states. However, I do not currently have the time to do so." It was entirely Potter's fault that he did not have the time, and if some incompetent American cultivator sent him bad ingredients he would gladly find an excuse to give the boy a detention.
"I'll see what I can do, and owl you when I've got something set up. Did you need anything else? Maybe some wolfsbane," he said pointing to a shelf that was almost empty.
"Wolfsbane? Why should I need any of that?" Severus asked.
"Well there is a savage werewolf on the loose you know," 'Xander said with a grin.
Severus took another glance at the almost bare shelf. "I suppose the good witches and wizards of Britain think that belladonna will protect them from Greyback."
"I keep telling them they'd practically have to shove it down his throat to do any good, but they still buy it like it's going to keep them safe," 'Xander seemed to find the whole thing very amusing.
"And you're selling it at a galleon an ounce?" Severus asked, having noticed the sign below the plant that grew like a weed.
"The market adjusted, and I adjusted with it," 'Xander said with a shrug.
Severus shook his head with a grimace, the world would be such a better place if it wasn't filled with incompetent idiots. 'Xander of course just thought the whole thing to be some sort of joke.
"Well then, I look forward to your owl," he said, turning to go. "And do take care. You may be unlikely to cross paths with Greyback, but Beckett would gladly terrorize the alley."
"Now a Death Eater would have to be insane to set foot in the alley with as many aurors as there are keeping us safe here."
"Beckett is insane," Severus said as he walked out.
Disturbingly, Harry had been all but unable to stop thinking about Snape that evening. The man was less than nothing to him. But he had been something to his mother, Lily. What had she seen in him? Was there something he hadn't seen in the man, something that would have made him worthy of his mother's love.
In the letter, his mother had said that Snape had had a horrible childhood. Maybe she had used that to excuse his horrible personality. But there had to have been some redeeming quality about him, or else, what did that say about his mother.
Besides, Harry had had a rather horrid childhood, and he wasn't anything like Snape. Though there was one area where Harry had to admit he paralleled with Snape. Snape had stopped Harry from falling off of his broom in first year. He had gone out of his way to save Harry, like Harry had saved Ginny during his second year. It may have been that Snape was just trying to settle an old score with James Potter when he did it, but that had to say something for the man, didn't it? Of course then there was the fact that both of them had worked in Harry's first year to stop Voldemort from getting the Philosophers Stone.
Yet these things only said that Snape wasn't all bad, not that he was a good guy. He certainly wasn't a nice guy, and when it came to qualities that Harry looked for in a father, not being the absolute worst person on Earth wasn't really a qualifier. Not that he was looking for some sort of father figure. He was beyond needing anything like that. He didn't need a father, and he certainly didn't need Snape.
Two days later, and the third time since his run in with Snape that he found himself leaving the apothecary without seeing the man and he was annoyed with himself for being disappointed.
"Hey Harry, over here," A familiar voice called out as Harry was walking out of the apothecary. He turned around and spotted Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor Quiditch Team Captain.
"Hey Oliver," Harry said, running over to the older teen, banishing the thoughts that had been mulling in his head.
"Have you been to Quality Quiditch yet?" Oliver asked.
"Only about a dozen times since I got here," Harry said with a roll of his eyes. He might not be as enthusiastic about the sport as Oliver, but Quiditch was still the most fun he had ever had, full stop."
"No, I meant today," Oliver said, grabbing Harry's arm and enthusiastically dragging him a few shops down. "You haven't seen it yet."
"Seen what," said a slightly exasperated Harry.
"This," said Oliver with reverence, stopping in front of the Quality Quiditch display window.
"Wow," said Harry.
"I know, right?" Oliver said, with a goofy grin. "She's beautiful, isn't she?"
"Yeah," Harry said. It was. Harry had never seen a broom like it before, and he owned a racing broom. "The Firebolt," the blazing letters proudly proclaimed.
"I've been reading about it in Witch Broomstick for weeks," Oliver said. It's supposed to far outstrip the Nimbus line. Today's the first time they've been publicly available, the leagues have been buying them as fast as they can make them. Can you imagine if our team all had these. Or even just you Harry. You'd be unbeatable."
"Price upon request," Harry pointed out, having read the bottom of the poster board behind the broomstick. "I think even Lucious Malfoy would choke on the price of equipping a whole team." Though Harry might be able to afford one, if he wanted to drain his vault. It was actually really rather tempting when Harry thought about it.
"Yeah, but just imagine," Oliver said.
"Yeah well, just imagine Slytherin after we kick their butts for a second year in a row, with the same teams and the same brooms," Harry said with a grin.
"We'll it's Hufflepuff I'm worried about this year," Oliver said.
"Hufflepuff? We steamrolled them last time," Harry said.
"Last time was two years ago, it's practically a whole new team, and Diggory's no slouch," Oliver said, after he figured out the muggle word.
"Diggory?" Harry asked, unfamiliar with the Hufflepuff player.
"He made seeker last year, now he's captain of the team this year," Oliver said.
"He made captain after one year?"
"From what I've heard he was practically captain last year. Jenkins was so busy with NEWTS, Diggory pretty much took over all of the responsibilities."
"Is he a good seeker?" Harry asked.
"He's a bit big for the position, but he's a really good flyer. Really, he's a bit like you. Though you're better. I've never seen anyone outside the league fly like you," Oliver said, ruffling Harry's Hair. Harry blushed at the compliment.
"So what about Ravenclaw this year?" Harry asked
"Another team we haven't played in a while," Oliver said. "Actually, come to think about it, you've never played them. But don't worry, I took careful notes last year during their games against Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Thing is, they'll have a new captain this year and two new players to boot. We'll have to wait and see who gets chosen during their try outs."
"Anyone I should look out for?" Harry asked.
"Brian Turner has a good arm, and he always targets seekers," Oliver said.
"As long as no one curses the bludger," Harry said. "I think the Weasleys can keep me safe."
"Their seeker's not bad," Oliver went on with his assessment. "Not great, mind, but definitely not bad. Her name's Cho Chang"
"Well we'll beat them all this year," Harry said. Though the last two years, something had always come up to stop them from playing all of the games of the season.
Oliver shook his head. "This is my last year Harry. It doesn't matter that we have the best team. We have to train the hardest, we have to want it more than anyone else."
"That shouldn't be any trouble, with you as our captain," Harry said with a grin. "We won't let you leave Hogwarts without the cup. Even if we have to sabotage your grades so you'll have to come back next year."
"Don't tempt me," Oliver said.
"Let's stop looking at brooms we can't afford and go get some ice cream," Harry said.
Oliver shrugged and they turned towards Fortescue's.
"So are you going to go for the league when you graduate?" Harry asked.
"Of course," Oliver said. "I've already..." He stopped talking with an abrupt yell of "Hey!" as a stranger in a cloak barged in between them, bumping into Harry.
Harry stumbled and the stranger grabbed his arm to steady him, or so he thought. The next moment, he was being roughly turned around, so he could face the man who had grabbed him. Harry tried to grab for his wand, but found his whole torso wrapped up in the man's large arms. He looked up, and gasped.
Though the face was different, there was no mistaking those sharp pointy teeth, or the predatory grin. It was Greyback.
"Activate," Greyback said, and Harry suddenly felt a tug behind his naval. Suddenly there was a bright flash and a bang and Harry and Greyback were flung apart violently. As Harry flew through the air, he watched as Greyback disappeared into nothing with a furious look on his face.
The landing on top of a display table of used books was very rough, but Harry was up on unsteady feet with his wand in his hand as soon as he had his bearing.
Rough hands grabbed him and he brought his wand up, a hex on his lips until he saw who it was. It was his watcher. The man didn't say a word. He just looked Harry up and down, let go, and walked away, blending in to the crowd of onlookers. Two red robed Aurors were making their way through the throng towards Harry. Oliver was suddenly in front of Harry.
"Are you all right?" Oliver asked.
"Yeah," Harry said. "What happened? How'd we get blasted apart like that?"
"It was that same man who came up to you just now, he cast something at the two of you."
"What happened to Greyback? That didn't look like apparition."
"That was Greyback?" Oliver asked.
"Well that looked like a portkey, he was probably trying to drag you with him when he activated it," Oliver explained.
Harry was about to ask what a portkey was, when the Aurors arrived. The two boys were separated and Harry was taken to the Leakey Cauldron, while the whole of Diagon Alley and the surrounding area were searched.
There was hardly anyone in the Leakey Cauldron when Harry woke up the next morning. He looked around as he walked to his normal seat at the bar, as if he would find all of the patrons who usually busied the pub hiding behind one of the tables. Of course he didn't need to look far for his watcher, he tried giving a wave and was rewarded by being completely ignored.
"Where is everyone?" he asked Tom as he took his seat. Tom he noticed looked fairly grim.
"Ah, well, there was an incident in Hogsmeade yesterday evening. One of the Death Eaters," Tom didn't much look like he wanted to carry on.
"What happened, was anyone hurt?" Harry asked.
"Oy, I thought this came with three eggs, not two," someone said across the room.
"Ah, be right over," Tom called back. "Here you go," he said to Harry. Harry watched Tom as he started dishing up a plate of breakfast for the him. He didn't come back to the bar while Harry was eating.
On his way out of the Leakey Cauldron, he passed by his watcher.
"Thanks," Harry said, knowing he wouldn't get any response.
The two Aurors monitoring traffic into Diagon Alley didn't try to stop Harry; he still had the run of the alley, though now he had to wear a necklace with a charm to block portkeys. Harry had learned all about portkeys the night before while he waited for the Aurors to finish their work.
Harry tapped the bricks to get through the wall, and found that the alley was similarly deserted. Harry thought there might just be more Aurors than there were shoppers. He didn't need to look to see that his watcher had followed him out; walking as if he had absolutely nothing to do with Harry. He wondered what would happen if he took off running, or if he tried to head down Knockturn Alley.
There was a news stand not far from the Leaky Cauldron, and it didn't take Harry long to see what had even the Aurors on watch in the Alley looking grim.
'Hogsmead Auror Adjunct Office Incinerated By Death Eater,' the headline said. Harry just stared at it for a moment before he quietly bought a copy and went to read it in his room at the Leaky Cauldron. He didn't feel like spending the day roaming the alley.
Three Aurors and ten office workers had been killed by fiend fire. A few people had escaped with minor injuries. The article noted that it was lucky so many had been deployed at the time or more might have been in the building when it was attacked. The Aurors thought that Beckett was behind the attack, since fiend fire was what he had used to attack the muggle museum.
Harry's attempts to work on his homework that day were frequently interrupted with day dreams about running into Beckett in the alley. These turned into thoughts about Greyback and the rest of the Death Eaters. What was stopping any of them from setting the Leakey Cauldron ablaze like they had the Auror building? Was he putting everyone in danger just by being here?
By the end of the day, Harry realized that how he saw the wizarding world had been changing since he was eleven. When he'd been younger, and going to Hogwarts for the first time, everything had felt like jumping into a fairy tale. A magic castle, an evil wizard. He had seen the wizarding world with a rather simplistic view, and anything that didn't fit into it had seemed distant. Now it wasn't just a magic school and an evil wizard. It was a magical community, with a government and prisons and a police force. That evil wizard had an organization, the Death Eaters, and right at that moment they were lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. At least one of them was waiting to strike at Harry.
That night he dreamed of a massive world where he was very small. Every way he looked, something lurked in the shadows. Harry walked up so he was right next to one of the towering buildings before he suddenly leapt back in fright. Where his fingers touched, the building caught ablaze. The fire was spreading quickly. He took a few more steps back, only to look at the ground in horror. Wherever his feet landed, they left fire in their wake. The fire spread like little rivers running through the cobblestone. the fire was coming for him. He turned and started to run. The buildings around the first one were on fire too. He ran and he ran, leaving footsteps of spreading fire behind him. Whenever he looked over his shoulder, everything behind him was in flames. He ran and ran, but he was so very small, and he could not go very fast. Suddenly the fire was all around him, he had nowhere left to run.
Harry woke to Hedwig nibbling on his ear. She did this from time to time, when he had bad dreams. Harry stroked her feathers for a while, half awake, half asleep, before he fell into a restless sleep.
When Harry woke the next morning, he knew what he had to do. If crazy murderers were after him, then he had no business putting anyone else in danger. He could just imagine the Leakey Cauldron in flames with a laughing Death Eater outside, or someone like Mr. Fortescue meeting the same fate at Greyback's wand as that woman had. He was putting everyone around him in danger and he needed to leave.
He hadn't ever really unpacked, so getting ready was quick and easy. He placed the shrinking sticker on his trunk and slipped the miniature into his pocket. He turned to Hedwig, he'd have to leave the cage, he should have gotten more stickers.
"Fly to somewhere nearby, then come find me this evening, I should be wherever I'm going by then," he told his owl, who was giving him a disapproving look. Harry flung his invisibility cloak over his body and made his way down stairs. Tom probably wouldn't come to see why Harry hadn't been to breakfast for a couple of hours, at which point everyone would find out that The-Boy-Who-Lived, was no longer in Diagon Alley. Everyone would be safer if the guy with the target on his back was nowhere to be found.
Harry walked out the door to his room and said goodbye to the place that had been a rather nice temporary home.
Sitting in the dining room of the Leakey Cauldron, Severus could feel that the potion he had previously imbibed was wearing off. He threw the hood of his cloak over his head, applied a notice me not charm to his own face, and then drank from one of the potions vials inside of his pocket. He stood up and left some money on the table as the changes began to start. He felt his skin ripple, his hair shortened, and he could feel his whole body shrink slightly as he assumed a new body. The process over, he walked over to another table and sat down, removing the charm and lowering the hood. He didn't have to wait long.
"Good morning, welcome to the Leakey Cauldron. What can I get for you?" Tom asked, having walked up to the table.
"Coffee, black," Severus said, and then proceeded to act as though the man wasn't there. The bartender liked to draw guests into conversations, and Severus wasn't going to have any of that. Old Tom walked off and returned with a coffee which he set on the table.
Severus scowled, Potter was usually up well before Severus had to take another dose. The boy hadn't left the Leakey Cauldron after he had read the Prophet, and Severus wondered if he planned to do the same again. Of course the boy had still come down for meals so it seemed that the Potter spawn was having a lie in. Either that or he was up to no good. It would be just like him to decide he had to stop Greyback or Beckett, like he had the Stone and the Chamber. His ego and Gryffindor stupidity would likely leave him compelled to do something himself, especially if he ever heard about Black.
No sooner did he think about the cursed man, than he realized that something was off. He paused and tried to take in the whole room. There was something that didn't belong. Footsteps, but no one was up and walking. He closed his eyes, trying to pinpoint the sound. Someone was invisible. He thought of the staircase, where anyone trying to get at the boy would have to go, but the footsteps were not going towards the stairs, they were moving towards the door. Potter, he thought, with a sneer on his face. Potter in his invisibility cloak. How had Albus known?! The door opened, seemingly of its own accord. He got up quickly and caught the door as it was closing, and walked past the two Aurors stationed outside, hidden from muggle eyes.
He couldn't hear any footsteps going either way on the street, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw a loose page from a newspaper flatten on the sidewalk. He turned and walked quickly but silently towards the paper. Soon he could hear soft footsteps ahead of him, and he followed a while, until the two of them were in front of an alleyway. His arm swung wide in front of him, colliding with something unseen, he grabbed it, an arm, and dragged it and its owner into the alley. There was a small struggle until the invisible figure froze and said, "oh," in Potters voice. Severus reached out and pulled the invisibility cloak off of Potter's head. The boy looked upset and anxious, he kept glancing towards the street, he clearly didn't like having been dragged into an alleyway by a stranger, but he didn't seem overly afraid of Severus.
"What were you thinking, leaving your protection, you fool? I suppose it is no concern of yours that half the Auror force is keeping you safe, or that two days ago, a feral werewolf tried to abduct you," he hissed at the boy.
"Well that's just it, isn't it? They should be protecting everyone else and trying to catch all those convicts, shouldn't they, not protecting me. And Greyback can't try to attack me if he doesn't know where I am," the boy said, as if this was obvious.
"You just don't think, you never think Potter.." he paused at the boy's intensely puzzled look.
"Professor..." the boy began, and Severus's hand was over his mouth in a flash.
"Again, you just don't think. I am disguised for a reason," he said through clenched teeth. No one could get him angry as this boy could, not so quickly. "Put this on," he told the boy. "Stay silent, and we will discuss this back at the Leakey cauldron." It wouldn't do to stay in this unprotected alley any longer.
The boy scowled but he threw the cloak back on. Severus of course didn't trust the boy at all. His hand on the boys shoulder he jabbed his wand at the boys chest and incanted a quick tethering charm, usually used by parents of small children, but useful in other endeavors. He would make sure the boy followed him back if he had to drag him there. Potter of course put up a small protest but Severus silenced him with a flick of his wand and started to walk towards the Leakey Cauldron. The boy followed without giving any more trouble.
They soon entered the wizarding pub and Severus sat down in a corner booth and cast a number of privacy charms.
"Remove that damned cloak," he said to the boy who he had heard take the seat opposite himself. The boy was glaring at him. He gestured towards his mouth. Severus sneered and removed the silencing charm and the tether.
"Look, thanks for saving me from Greyback the other day, but you don't need to watch me anymore. I'm just putting everyone else at risk just sitting here. I need to go somewhere else, I need to hide out until I can go back to Hogwarts. That pyromaniac could set the whole Leakey Cauldron on fire."
"The Leakey Cauldron is protected, you are protected, which you would not be if you were out on your own. Once they realized you were outside of any wards, they could start rituals to track you and find you, or are you capable enough to block such magic?"
"If I keep moving, they won't be able to catch me, all of these Aurors are just sitting around, doing nothing but guarding me. They should be catching those mad men."
"Those Aurors and more would be looking for you, instead of looking for Beckett if you went missing. The alley would then become much less guarded and would then be a nice soft target for Beckett."
"Well that's stupid," Harry said angrily. "I'm just one kid, they can't just throw the manhunt away to look for me just because of something that happened when I was a baby."
"It doesn't work like that Potter," Severus sneered. "You can't just use your celebrity when it's convenient and then expect everyone to ignore it when you want. Do you even realize what you did when you asked the Minister to let you stay here?"
Harry shook his head.
"You are the symbol of a safe wizarding world. The minister wants you right here, showing the rest of the wizarding world that everything is safe and sound. Have you even been reading the prophet or do you even care what happens outside of your own tiny insignificant world?"
The boy glared at him but didn't offer any words of defense and Severus smirked. "Daily stories about the Boy-Who-Lived enjoying the alley, letting the world know that the ministry has everything under control, and that it is safe for everyone to go about their daily lives ignoring the fact that the ministry is no closer to catching anyone than they were before they all managed to get wands for themselves. No Potter, the minister will not let you disappear, I doubt he'll even let you hide in your room for another day."
"I wasn't hiding," The boy said defensively.
"More the fool you if you weren't," Severus said. "Now have I made myself clear? You won't try to leave again?"
The boy nodded. "This is stupid," he said. "It's like they care more about what everyone thinks than they do about catching those people."
"And yet we would not be in this mess if you had not decided to play the martyr and just stayed put behind the blood wards. Now, you're going to get up, leave this booth, and go about your day. Keep that damned cloak in your pocket and use it if anything goes wrong. Do not try to apprehend anyone, and for Merlin's sake Potter, stop waving every time you see me, you cretin."
Potter glared at him for a moment, and Severus was ready for another argument, but then the boy got up and walked away, shoving his cloak into his pocket, not looking back.
Walking away, Harry did his best to bury the anger coursing through him. No one could get under his skin as well as Snape. If he was honest with himself though, he was more angry with the situation than anything. It wasn't his fault he had been kicked out of his house. Not that he was about to tell Snape anything about that. Probably the worst thing though was that Snape had been right about just about everything. Harry had found out he had been living in a trap, a canary in a gilded cage with a hole in the top and a cat circling below.
Yet beyond all of that, there was something else. The man's hurtful words were usually enough to make Harry angry, but after this encounter, Harry realized that he was angry because of who Snape was, he was embarrassed to have looked a fool in front of the man. It made sense in a stupid sort of way. The man was like some sort of bastardized sperm donor, but Harry didn't feel that he should feel any different about the man, he wasn't any real sort of father. Harry didn't need a father anymore and he certainly didn't want Snape as one. The man was nothing but the worst teacher at Hogwarts.
So why had Snape's contemptuous sneer left Harry with a hollow feeling inside?
Besides all of that, what was the man doing acting the body guard? He had already satisfied any debt he may have owed James Potter. Harry briefly entertained the horrifying thought that perhaps Snape knew of their relationship, but quickly dismissed it. If Snape knew, then he was sure as hell showing it in a weird way. Besides, he had no way of knowing. The only person who knew was Harry, and he was going to keep it that way. Or was he? He still didn't know anything about Sirius Black, the godfather mentioned in the letter. Not for the first time, Harry wondered what had happened to him. He certainly hadn't been in Harry's life. Harry frowned. The man was probably dead.
It would have been nice if his night off could have been put to something more relaxing than tea with the Headmaster, but recent developments had lead to the need for more planning. Now that that was out of the way, there was one thing he wanted to know.
"How did you know the boy would try to leave this morning?"
The headmaster smiled ruefully from behind his half moon glasses.
"Harry has, in some areas, a great sense of responsibility. It made sense that he would try to remove himself from the Alley after the Hogsmead attack."
"But you didn't think he would leave that day or in the middle of the night. You knew it would be the next morning."
"Why Severus, I have worked with young people for so long, I dare say I have an instinct for how they think."
"Some might think that Trelawny was more reliable to you as a seer than she seems."
"Perhaps she is," the Headmaster said. "She did tell me that I would regret choosing the maroon drapes for my office come summer and I was quite surprised to find that she was right."
Severus gave his employer a bemused glare.
"Suffice it to say," the Headmaster continued. "That I do believe that young Harry has taken your words to heart, and will not attempt to leave what security he has."
"You should have bound him to that house the moment they escaped," Severus said.
"Some things need to happen in their own way," was Albus's response. One of a few phrases Severus heard whenever the man's decisions seemed to make sense only to himself.
They continued their tea in silence, and Severus left to return to his post.
AN - Well I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. I really liked writing the dream sequences, but don't worry, I'm not going to fill the story with them. I'm not sure when I'll have the next chapter out but I hope to have it done in less than a month.
I want to do a shout out to lesswrong's story Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. It's one of the most epically original takes on Harry Potter fan fiction I've ever seen. The plot is well structured and the characters, dialogue, and action are all very engaging.