Chapter 11 – Defensive
"What do you mean he escaped?!," Molly Weasley shrieked. "I thought that place was impossible to escape from."
Arthur & Molly Weasley, and Professors Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore wore matching grim looks as they sat around the small table in the crowded kitchen at the Burrow. When he had received the late night summons from Dumbledore, Snape had feared that it was something dire, but the news of Sirius Black's escape from Azkaban was way beyond what he had been expecting. He had certainly never liked the man or his group of friends, but his dislike grew to absolute hatred when he had learned that his betrayal of his friends had been the reason that Lily had been killed. Now he was on the loose and would without a doubt, be after Harry to finish what had been started that Halloween night years ago.
"Are you certain that Sirius was referring to Harry when he was muttering 'He's at Hogwarts'", Arthur asked.
"Of course he was!," McGonagall said exasperatedly. "Who else would he be referring to?"
"We mustn't speculate, Minerva," Dumbledore said quietly. "But we also must consider taking precautions at the school for everyone's benefit."
"There is no question now that we move poor Harry to a more secure location," Molly said pleadingly. "He can come with us for the rest of the summer. It would be so much better than leaving him alone with those muggles."
Dumbledore shook his head. "Absolutely not. That safest place for Harry right now if with his relatives."
Snape stared incredulously at the headmaster. How did this man honestly believe that the Dursleys' would be able to protect Harry from this monster?! He wouldn't put it past these people to simply hand Harry over to Black if he were to show up on their doorstep.
"I am certain that Harry will be touched by your concern and willingness to take him in, Molly. Since there are no other viable options," Snape said with a pointed glare at the headmaster, "I will be sure to pay him a visit or two at his home to assure the boy is safe. I will also make it very clear to him that he is to be taking extra precautions for his safety."
"Very good," Dumbledore said. "I will caution you, however, in revealing too much of the truths regarding Black to Harry. I feel it would prompt him to attempt to seek out Sirius and take matters into his own hands."
"I will not lie to the boy," Snape said dangerously. "We only yesterday celebrated his thirteenth birthday which I believe would put him at a responsible enough age to be allowed to know the dangers that he is facing."
"Oh we missed his birthday?! I must send him a proper cake!," Molly exclaimed.
"That is most kind, but I do believe the boy had his fill of sweets yesterday. He is finally getting some proper nutrition and I do not think it would be wise for him to overdo it," Snape said carefully. He really had not meant to reveal to any of them that he had been with the boy for his birthday. He most definitely did not want to make it known that he had allowed him to nearly make himself sick on cake and ice cream and had needed to bring him a draught to calm his stomach.
He could not hide his frustration when he heard Dumbledore chuckle from across the table. "Yes, It seems that Severus did indeed assure that Harry was properly celebrated on his special day. I think for now there is nothing else that we can do but to be extra vigilant. Severus, Minerva, we will be meeting again in the next few days to discuss the extra security for the school, but I think it is time we allow Molly & Arthur to return to their family in Egypt and enjoy the rest of their much deserved vacation."
They said their goodbyes and the professors headed out of the house. Feeling this overwhelming feeling to check on the boy, Snape was anxious to get out of there. Naturally his colleagues had other ideas.
"What is this about you celebrating Potter's birthday with him Severus?" McGonagall asked as they walked down the lane.
"Not that it is any of your concern, but I went to check on the boy, based upon the previous discovery of his treatment by his relatives, when I did, I discovered that it was his birthday. So I decided to treat him to a meal out," Snape recited quickly.
He was speaking in half-truths but didn't need anyone else knowing that. He had, in fact, been accompanying Harry on outings once a week under the guise of making sure he was being properly nourished. If he were being honest with himself though, he would have admitted that he actually had begun looking forward to these outings. When he had learned of Harry's upcoming birthday he had been most pleased with himself that he had been able to surprise him with an extra nice dinner downtown London. He was only mildly annoyed that the waitstaff, upon learning that it was his birthday, insisted upon singing to him and bringing him desserts.
"Should I be asking about your intentions towards Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked with a suspicious tone.
"I am only doing what no one else has deemed necessary to do to assure the boy's safety and well-being," he replied sharply. "Something that should have probably fallen under the scope of his head of house, but has been thrust upon me unfairly when I had been sent to rescue him from his relatives at the start of last term," he continued angrily. "Now if there is nothing further required of me tonight I should like to go home and get some sleep!"
Without waiting for a reply, Snape apparated out of the lane. When he reappeared on Privet Drive, he only then remembered how late into the night it was. He supposed that he really should try waiting until the morning to visit, but quickly dismissed that idea. He couldn't shake the uneasy feeling in his stomach and felt that the only way that he was going to get any sleep was to check on the boy tonight.
He considered knocking at the door for only a brief moment, before he let himself in the door and made his way through the darkened house up to the room he knew was Harry's. He quietly opened the door and exhaled a large breath he had not realized he had been holding when he saw the sleeping form unharmed on the bed.
Suddenly feeling apprehensive about waking the boy, Snape walked quietly over to the window. After a quick initial inspection he withdrew his wand and began whispering. It wasn't until he was nearly finished that he heard a voice from beside him speak softly.
"Professor? What are you doing here?"
Snape ignored him until he was finished his incantations and then said, "Just adding some extra protections."
Harry sat up in bed and said, "What happened, sir? Why do I need extra protections?"
"I don't suppose there is much use in trying to tell you that it is nothing to worry about tonight is there?" Snape asked with a sigh. Harry shook his head. "Fine. You will listen carefully with no interruptions and then promise me that you will not behave as you usually do and go looking for trouble."
Harry sat quietly as he listened intently to the terrible tale of how Sirius Black betrayed Lily and James Potter. Snape tried to keep the venom out of his voice as he spoke of the man and his deeds, but knew he was failing miserably. When he had finished talking he looked expectantly at Harry and mentally prepared himself for the onslaught of questions. He was surprised however to see the boy staring down at his bed with a grim look on his face.
"You are unusually quiet, boy," Snape remarked softly. "What is going on in that head of yours?"
Harry shook his head. "I just don't understand. Why would this guy just betray my parents like this? And why would he want to come after me now?"
"I never said that he was coming after you," Snape said carefully.
"If you didn't think that I was in some kind of danger from him then you wouldn't be here in the middle of the night adding protection spells to my windows," Harry retorted.
With a sigh Snape said, "There is no way of knowing what Black is capable of. There is no harm in taking some extra precautions."
"I just don't understand why someone would do this," Harry muttered forlornly. "He is the reason my parents are dead. How could they not know that Black was faithful to him?"
Snape stared down at the boy as he thought about how best to answer his questions. "Black had everyone fooled," he began carefully. "Even Professor Dumbledore was taken in by his performance."
Harry looked up at him and said angrily, "How could anyone actually be stupid enough to follow a monster like Voldemort?! How could they not know what he was like? The things he did to people?!"
"Keep your voice down, boy," Snape said sharply as he sat down in the chair beside the bed, "I know you do not want to wake your Uncle at such an hour!" Harry mumbled an apology. "Now…There are a great many things about those times that you will never understand. All I can tell you is that the people that followed the Dark Lord did so for a variety of different reasons," he finished cautiously.
"What do I do if Black comes around here? How will I know who he is?"
"You will contact me immediately if you even THINK that anything suspicious is going on around you. There is no such thing as being too careful when it comes to Black," Snape said immediately. "Do not even think about trying to do approach him or talk to him or anything."
Harry sighed. "Wouldn't I be safer if I weren't here in Surrey? Ron offered to let me stay with them for the summer holiday."
"We have already talked about this. The decision for you to stay here with your relatives was not mine to make. Professor Dumbledore is convinced that you would be safer here than anywhere else even giving the current circumstances," Snape recited. He almost told Harry that he had already breached the topic earlier with the headmaster but chose to hold his tongue.
"If muggles aren't supposed to know about each other then why was Black on the muggle news this morning announcing his escape from prison?" Harry said hurriedly, as if the thought had just occurred to him.
Snape raised his eyebrows, "I wasn't aware that it had, but I suppose that communication between muggle and ministry officials must be necessary in certain situations. I would imagine that they felt obligated to make the muggle world aware of his escape despite the embarrassment it would bring upon the ministry."
Harry looked confused. "Why would they be embarrassed?"
"Well, Azkaban was supposed to be impossible to break out from. No one has ever done it before," Snape explained. "Now that someone has they need to be doing some serious explaining as to how it happened."
"How do you think he did it, sir?" Harry asked.
"I haven't a clue," Snape said thoughtfully. "Black was never particularly gifted in school but he did tend to make friends pretty easily. If I had to make a guess I would say that he managed to convince someone on the inside to help him. But that is purely speculation. I'm sure the ministry will get to the bottom of it all," he said as he stood. "For now all you need to worry about is keeping vigilant and staying out of trouble. If you see anything that is suspicious you are to get yourself someplace safe and send your owl to me immediately. Is that understood?"
"Yes sir," Harry replied dutifully. "Although I think that a visit from Black would properly frighten Aunt Marge away for good. Instead I'm stuck with her all week," he finished in a mumble.
Harry nodded. "Uncle Vernon's sister. She is awful. She's here to stay for the week and she loves to torment me."
"I would suggest you do your best to just avoid her and not let her get under your skin," Snape advised. "It is only for a week. I can't imagine that your aunt and uncle would allow her to get away with too much based on my previous conversations with them. I will be back on Sunday to check in on you as usual. Perhaps we can visit Diagon Alley to get your supplies for the new semester."
Snape tried to ignore the eagerness on Harry's face when he had spoken of their upcoming outing to Diagon Alley, quickly said goodnight and made his way out of the darkened house.
Sirius hated having to stay in his animagus form, but now that the ministry had given his picture to the muggle authorities, who deemed in necessary to broadcast it to every corner of the UK, he couldn't take the chance of being recognized in his human form. Instead he sat here in the bushes outside of the house on Privet Drive waiting to get a glimpse of his Godson.
It hadn't been as hard as he would have imagined locating Harry's whereabouts. A quick search of the telephone directory for Vernon Dursley led him straight to Little Whinging. He could not help but think about what a shame it was that Harry had been forced to grow up in the muggle world with these people who had wanted nothing to do with Lily or James when they had been alive. But he supposed that it was better than being sent to an orphanage or something.
Sudden screaming from Dursley's house abruptly drew him out of his musings. His initial alarm quickly grew to amusement as he saw a woman, blown up like a balloon, shrieking and rising into the sky from the back of the house. Within moments Sirius watched as a snowy white owl flew frantically out of an upstairs window with a piece of parchment secured to its leg. Several minutes later, what could have passed as an exact replica of his best friend, James Potter, raced out of the front door with an owl cage under his arm and dragging a large trunk behind him.
Trying not to feel envious of the unknown recipient that Harry trusted enough to send, what he could only guess was a plea for help, Sirius carefully followed the boy down the road and around the corner. It wasn't until he had spent nearly 20 minutes running away from the house before Harry stopped in apparent exhaustion against a low wall. It was obvious that the boy was upset and Sirius wanted nothing more than to be able to help calm the boy down.
Before he could work out a way to approach him, however a frantic hurried figure came racing around the corner and approached Harry. Taking a few padded steps closer, Sirius was alarmed to see that the figure was none other than Severus Snape!
Snape stood over Harry, looking down on him and was speaking in hushed tones to him. Unable to hear what was being said, Sirius crept forward into the alleyway between a fence and a garage behind where they stood. Although he still could not hear what was being said it was obvious by the venomous look on his former classmates face that it was nothing nice or kind.
Thinking only of protecting his best friend's son from the menacing figure, Sirius padded out of the shadows, bared his teeth and let out his most intimidating growl. When Snape grabbed Harry roughly by the arm Sirius launched himself at the man and sank his teeth into his shoulder.
A blast from Snape's wand caught Sirius in the side and he was thrown across the road and into the brick side of the house that stood there. He fell hard to the ground and tried to get his bearings. As his vision darkened he saw Snape grab Harry's trunk with the hand on his good arm as Harry clutched tightly onto the wounded arm and both disappeared with a pop.
The pain from the bite was not something that Snape couldn't handle. The worry that he had felt towards Harry, however, was in danger of eating him alive. He had managed to get the bite cleaned up and bandaged with some help from Professor Dumbledore. They sat quietly in the headmaster's office for a bit sipping at some tea before they broached the subject that was on both of their minds.
"I do not think that was a random attack, Severus," Dumbledore said quietly.
Snape huffed, "Of course it wasn't! The real question here was who the intended target was and what prompted the attack."
Dumbledore shrugged, "We have to assume that the target was Harry. I can't help but think that this has something to do with Sirius Black."
"That's preposterous," Snape said with a small laugh. "There is no way that Black could be responsible for this. He couldn't magic his way out of a wet paper bag."
Raising his eyebrows Dumbledore said, "We shall see. Where is Harry now?"
"I have him in a room at the Leaky Cauldron with strict instructions not to leave the Diagon Alley area. I intercepted the Cornelius Fudge who wanted to meet with the boy. He seemed content to know that we were already involved with the situation and assured me that no punitive measures would be taken against him. Apparently the situation with the muggle relatives has been taken care of, so there would be no need for worry there. Not that I was worried. I believe the woman got just what she deserved based on what the boy told me of her treatment of him," Snape finished with a snide grin.
"Speaking of Fudge, he made mention that he wants to employ the help of dementors to guard the school this year. I have been adamant in my refusals, but I fear I will be unable to prevent this," the elder man said with a sigh.
Snape glared in his direction, "You can't be serious! We cannot let those vile things loose at the school to torment the students! There is no way that the parents would be all right with this."
"Unfortunately we have very little say in this," Dumbledore said quietly. "According to Fudge there have been concerns about student safety lodged by parents which is how is trying to justify sending the dementors to the school. I have thus far, and will continue to, put my foot down about allowing access to the grounds. This will probably mean that they will have a presence around the outskirts of the grounds."
"You are putting an awful lot of faith in the ministry in thinking that they can actually keep things under control, Albus," Snape retorted. "You know, I had been hoping that things would settle down a bit this year after the previous two years. I guess I should have known better."
Dumbledore chuckled. "I have a feeling that as long as Mr. Potter is a student here, there will not any calming down for any of us."
Snape grunted and agreed silently. He wasn't sure how much more of the excitement that seems to dwell around the boy he'll be able to take without losing his grip of sanity. He was seriously beginning to regret not distancing himself from Potter when it had been feasible. He knew that he was now at a point that it would be near impossible to cut ties not because of any fear for Potter's attachment to him, but of his own. Despite all of his own misgivings and cautiousness, somewhere he had grown to care about what happens to the boy. Which, he rationed to himself, what NOT the same as caring ABOUT the boy.