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Brighter Morning by greengecko
Chapter 1: One Morning in Little Whinging
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Chapter 1 - One Morning in Little Whinging
Harry Potter awoke with a start, out of breath, and with his heart pounding furiously. He was lying spread eagle on the bed, his limbs quivering with active alarm or fear. The surface of the ceiling, painted a mute yellow, looked completely unfamiliar. Rubbing his head--which throbbed as he sat up--he took in the room. Everything was the same mute yellow, even the bookshelves built into the far wall. He squinted at the very Muggle bedroom he was in, complete with a digital alarm clock. A small silver frame sat on the side table. He tried reaching for it, but his hands were unexpectedly clumsy, making him drop it. The crack! of it hitting the wooden floor jolted his nerves.
Running feet pounded outside the door and the door handle turned. The door was thrust open and a boy bolted into the room. His face held an odd mixture of excitement and pain. He stared at Harry as he closed the door slowly behind him. How are you feeling? the boy asked in serious concern.
Harry gaped; looking at the boy of roughly twelve was like looking at himself in the mirror, except with lighter hair.
Where am I? Harry asked in confusion.
The boy stepped closer. In your room. In your house. This was spoken methodically.
Harry put his hands on the bed in preparation to stand, even though his legs didnt feel up to it. He was dressed in flannel pyjamas that were, like everything else, totally unfamiliar.
Everything is all right, the boy said earnestly. He came over then and grasped Harrys arm as he sat beside him.
Harry held the backs of his hands up and stared at them. They didnt look right.
You were hurt; you dont remember what happened, the boy said as he stroked Harrys arm as though to comfort him.
Dont remember what? Harry asked. He cast his mind back, trying to recall the events of the day before. School and Quidditch. The battles with Voldemort. His starting Auror training. All of these blurred in his mind.
You were attacked and injured. And now you dont remember.
Harry looked at the boy again. Cold panic filled him. Merlin, he breathed, who are you?
Im your son, the boy said, now showing slight signs of distress. His face returned to an unaffected state quickly though. Im thirteen. You dont remember any of this, he repeated.
Harrys mind swirled at that. He stood up and stepped around the room. The door opened and a totally unfamiliar woman looked in. She had dark red hair and a portly shape. All right in here?
Its fine, the boy insisted impatiently. The door closed. He turned to Harry expectantly. You fall asleep for long periods of time and when you wake up, you dont remember again, he said factually. The doctors dont know what is wrong with you really, but they have lots of fancy words for it anyway.
What happened to me? Harry asked as he looked over the bookshelf for anything familiar. There were used childrens books and novels he didnt recognize.
You were cursed.
Something about the way the boy said this brought Harrys attention back to him. You arent a wizard?
No, the boy said quietly, and then with a wince gestured for Harry to keep his voice down.
With a sharp look Harry said, Where is your mum?
Shes dead. She wasnt a witch.
Harry scratched his chin. How long-
Three years, the boy said, interrupting him. It sounded like it still hurt to remember.
Im sorry, Harry said. He breathed out hard and looked at the ceiling. I suppose the chances that I, for some reason, drank half a dozen random potions in the dungeon and am having a very strange vision are kind of low.
Fraid so, the boy said dully.
Harry looked at his hands again. They were older, that is why they looked so odd. He stepped back over to the bed and sat down. I can see what your mum must have looked like by looking at you, he commented. Im sorry I dont remember you. When the boy shrugged at that, Harry said, How long has this been going on?
What is the last thing you remember? he asked back, clasping and unclasping his hands.
Being at the Ministry for Auror training. We were having drills in the workout room. There was an emergency: two of the Death Eaters had escaped from interrogation.
The boy finished for him when he hesitated. You and the other trainees went to help. Thats when you were hurt. Mum said you used to be better. When she met you, you would only forget after a few months and not everything. He scooped the frame off the floor and held it up for his inspection.
Harry didnt recognize the woman in the photo at all. A bit overwhelmed by so much unrecognized loss, a tear threatened to slide out of his eye. He brushed it away with his soft sleeve.
Im sorry, Dad, the boy said, grabbing his arm again.
Harry disengaged himself from the grip and put his arm around the boys back. Im sorry too he said, trailing off. He didnt even know the boys name.
Arthur, the boy said, filling in his lines as though by rote. My name is Arthur.
The enormity of the situation struck home. Harry grabbed the boy with both arms in a hug and held him fiercely. His tears ran into the boys hair, which stuck in all directions, just like his own.
Sniffling, Arthur said, Im sorry, Dad. Sometimes I can go through this without making you cry.
Harry pulled him tighter. Arthur, eh?
Named after your friends father, Arthur supplied levelly.
Did you ever meet him?
He died before I was born, along with another powerful wizard you liked. You sometimes remember that. But it isnt a very nice story and not a good idea to tell it to you.
Harry regrouped, flinching at what his imagination put in place of the unknown. So you are saying that when I fall back to sleep, Ill forget again? At Arthurs nod, Harry said, How long can I stay awake?
One time you made it three days, but then you slept for over a month.
You almost made it that long this time, too. Its been getting longer, the boy said painfully.
Harry stared at him. A month. And then we start again. He sighed. After a moment of thought he stood. I need to get out. Lets go for a walk. Arthur found clothes for him in the drawers under the shelves which he changed into. Do you know where my wand is?
This led to some deliberation by the boy, but he eventually opened the bottom drawer and untaped the wand from under the shelf above. Elsa wanted to get rid of it. Mum used to freak when she mentioned it. So I hide it.
Thanks, Harry said sincerely as he pocketed the wand in the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing. Do try to keep an eye on it for me.
Arthur nodded solemnly then said, Not too far, in concern as Harry walked with purpose out of the room. As they crossed the hallway into the kitchen, the boy yelled down to the end, Were going for a very short walk!
A barely intelligible okay came back. Arthur picked up a set of keys off of a rack and went to the door. He turned back to Harry with an expectant gaze. Harry was busy taking in the rooms. Deciding there was no point to memorizing them, he followed his son out.
Out on the street, the sun shown warmly. I take it Elsa doesnt approve of magic.
She goes kind of crazy about it. But Mum hired her a year before she died, and what am I going to do?
Harry put a hand on his shoulder. I wasnt criticizing, just looking for information. After they walked to the end of the block, Harry asked, a little hurt, No one ever came around?
You mean people you knew before? Yeah. But Mum eventually told them to go away. No one could do anything for you. Doctors at St. Mungos even tried, Mum always told them. She wanted to get on with life.
Do you ever hear a popping sound, like, he popped his finger on his cheek.
Arthurs eyes brightened. I used hear it a lot.
It is someone Apparating, in or out, Harry explained. A man trimming his grass stared at them. Harry waved pleasantly and the man smiled.
What does that mean?
It means someone was appearing or disappearing by magic. When was the last time you heard it?
Arthur looked a little saddened. When I was six or seven.
So, six or seven years ago.
Lets turn back, Arthur suggested. At Harrys doubtful look, the boy said, When you fall asleep its kinda sudden and you dont wake up again, no matter what.
Harry turned around and they headed the other way. We dont have an owl, do we?
Owls dont make very good house pets, Arthur pointed out with an air of authority.
I used to have one.
Hedwig. Youve told me; although not in a long time. I like to hear new stories, but it is hard since you dont know what youve told me about and I dont know what you havent.
I told you about Hogwarts? At the boys emphatic nod, Harry said, And Voldemort, presumably? Another nod. After they passed their house going the other way, Harry stated quietly, This has to end.
Arthur took his hand. You are really nice to me when you are awake. Id rather this than not have you at all.
Arthur, I didnt mean that. Harry thought a long time, until they stopped because Arthur tugged on his hand to signal that they were going too far. I need you to try to contact someone who can, but it is hard for a Muggle to do that. It has to be someone who will understand. He fell silent again as they passed a garden being copiously watered to combat the heat. Did I tell you about someone named Snape?
I dont think so.
Its been a long time, Harry breathed, talking to himself. Lets go back to the house. I want you to do something for me.
What do you want me to do?
Its summer holiday, right? When Arthur nodded, Harry said, I want you to go into London and try to find this wizard. I think he might be able to help. He was adept at magical potions, and I know where you can start to try to find him.
Arthurs expression showed the first signs of doubt at that. Harry could see him pull a brave face over his pained one as they walked up to the house. Inside, Harry took a grocery list pad off of the refrigerator and a ball-point pen from the second drawer he tried. They sat at the dining room table and he wrote down an address on Charing Cross Road.
I want you to go to this address. It wont seem to exist, but where it should be, there is another doorway you cant see.
Arthurs face went a little pained, but he didnt protest. Harry ran his hand over the boys head once in affection.
You think Im a little crazy.
Everyone thinks youre a little crazy.
Chagrined, Harry tapped the pen. This is the only way, Arthur.
All right, Arthur agreed reluctantly.
Elsa stepped out of the hallway, a little quieter than expected. Ill make you some tea, Mr. Potter, she said in a sweet voice. Harry leaned over to watch her go into the kitchen. The faucet sounded. His instincts went on alert.
Quietly, he started another diagram on a second sheet, like a brick wall. This is the thing: getting into the Leaky Cauldron is going to be a little leap of faith for you. Im not sure a non magic person can get in, but I have seen Muggles on Diagon Alley so I know its possible. Try closing your eyes maybe. Arthur held his gaze steady through this. Bolstered, Harry went on, Inside the pub its going to be like it was five hundred years ago. Smokey with hags and people who bathe once a month.
Harry put his hand up for Arthur to hold in his response. Dont meet anyones eyes. Theyll recognize you for certain. No. Really. Go through to the back by the dustbins. There is a brick wall. Use the wand to tap the bricks in this pattern. Harry wrote numbers on the bricks and handed that over. An archway will open up and let you onto Diagon Alley.
Arthur casually turned the small sheets face down and took the pen as Elsa came back out. She put the teapot and a cup by Harry, who looked up intently at the middle-aged woman. The friendliness in her eyes masked something else. He dug just a little deeper.
Thank you, Elsa, but I dont need it yet. She started to walk away. Arthur, maybe you would like some tea? Harry offered.
Elsa spun around at that. Children shouldnt drink tea! she scolded and scooped the pot and cup back up and returned them to the kitchen. Arthur seemed very alarmed by all this. Elsa stalked back through and into a bedroom down the hall.
She put sleeping pills in it, Harry whispered to him. He pulled out his wand and pulled her door closed with a slow spell and shot Arthur a sly look.
She did what? Arthur blurted in a betrayed voice.
Its all right. If I were her and a Muggle, I would worry about you talking to me too. He didnt want to add anything to the boys burdens, even if he didnt trust Elsa one bit. Harry leaned over to see into the kitchen and cast a tea making spell. The pot rinsed itself from the tap and zipped into his hand. Harry set it on the table and hit it with a heating charm before he Accioed two cups and the canister of tea leaves as well.
Arthur gave him a very affectionate look. Harry waggled his eyebrows at him and added the leaves by hand. With a glance down the hallway to make sure the door was still closed, Harry took up one of the sheets again.
You dont have to go far at all. The first place on the right is the Apothecary's. Go in there and ask if they know how to reach Severus Snape. He used to teach at Hogwarts but its summer, so even if he still does, he wont be at the school.
Harry poured tea for them both. Is there any strange money around? Coins?
Arthur brightened. Up in the attic.
Take them along. Buy yourself an ice cream at Fortescues, just down the street. Best ice cream in the world. Whatever you do, dont turn down the alley by the bank. Dark wizards hang out there. Theyll have you for dinner--literally. If the man at the Apothecary doesnt know how to reach Snape, ask him who else might.
Arthur looked over the sheets. What then?
Harry gestured to hurry him along. Try to reach him. Tell him what is wrong with me and ask if he can help.
Arthur stood up. Why havent you mentioned him before?
Harry shook his head. I hated him. He hated me. He shrugged. Arthur looked alarmed. Is there a robe in the attic as well? A plain one with no Gryffindor patch?
I think so.
Wear it. Hurry, I want to try to be awake when you return.
Ten minutes later, Arthur came back down cautiously, so as to not make the steps to the attic creak. Even though there were many excuses for him going up there, he didnt want a confrontation with Elsa. His father stashed the wand in the left pocket of the robe and looked into the money sack. As he opened his mouth, Arthur said, Youve already told me what they are worth.
Good boy, Harry said and gave him a quick hug. Put the robe on just inside the door to the Leaky Cauldron, otherwise you will really stand out.
Arthur knocked on Elsas door. Im going to the store, he said. Then Im stopping to get my new game from Eric to show it to Dad. She murmured something in reply. Arthur stopped before Harry again and received another hug.
I want to be more to you than this, Harry said painfully.
Arthur looked up at him in grim hopefulness and then averted his gaze. Ill be back as soon as I can, but it will be a few hours. I have to take the underground five stops and change once.
Ill be awake, Harry insisted. He sat down beside the teapot.
Arthur stepped out the side door and waved in the window as he passed. After he was gone Harry almost passed out on the table. His longing to go himself to sort out what was happening wasnt enough to overcome his acute weakness. He hoped Arthur would manage all right and imagined that he would have in his place. This bolstered him as he poured tea and swigged it hot. The scald of the heat woke him up completely.
Arthur rode the underground in a daze. His emotions were tearing away at his insides and it didnt feel like there was much of himself in there to spare. After a long, monotonous journey he got out at the correct stop and walked up the long staircase. Out on the street it was sunny and bustling, full of people with rational things to be doing.
Arthur walked down to the address scrawled on the paper and stopped. There was a bank, all granite and glass on one side, and a small shop on the other. His dad was right: the address he had given him was missing. He stashed the shopping list paper back in his jeans pocket and sighed. Londoners stepped around him as though he were an object. He looked between the two establishments again and positioned himself right at the break where the polished granite met the wood facing. A lorry rumbled by behind him, tossing sand at his back, while he sadly pondered what to do.
Chapter 2: Dear Mr. Potter
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Chapter 2 - Dear Mr. Potter
Arthur put his hand out; the stone and wood of the buildings felt just as they looked. He closed his eyes—still the same. He pulled the money sack out of his pocket and let it fall open so he could see the coins inside. The little ones were cheap, light, and corroded. The gold ones glistened. They were real gold, which always surprised him when his dad showed him this. “Seventeen Sickles to a Galleon,” Arthur recited to himself as though it were a mantra.
“What are you doing, boy?” A voice nearby scolded. A woman grabbed his elbow and pulled him forward, right at the wall. “Don’t hang around out here like that—you should know better.” Arthur closed his eyes and let her arm guide him. When he opened them again he was inside the partitioned entryway of a pub. His heart barely kept rhythm with itself as he took in the very dark old wood and wavy glass. Remembering himself, he pulled the robe over his head as the women hooked a cloak around her neck while stepping inside.
Arthur adjusted the robe and checked that the wand was still in his pocket before he stepped around the partition. If his dad had not warned him, he would have stood there gaping like an idiot. The room was certainly filled with strange looking people. Arthur espied the back door and walked purposefully toward it. An old woman with silver hair sticking in all directions, sitting smoking a long pipe, put out a hand and grabbed his sleeve.
“Just a moment, there,” she said in a hoarse voice. Arthur tried to not stare at the large mole, complete with long black hair, on her nose. “You look awfully familiar,” she crowed suspiciously.
“I’m sure we haven’t met, ma’am,” Arthur said. He pulled his sleeve free and walked faster. His dad was two for two. When he stepped out to the back, he had to admit three for three, as he looked over the brick wall. With shaking hands he pulled the paper back out and studied the diagram. He counted up from the dustbin with his eyes and pulled out the wand. Carefully, like dialing a telephone, he tapped out the bricks, then jumped back in shock as the wall twisted into itself.
Arthur stood breathless as an archway opened onto the oddest street he had ever seen. He brushed a tear away and silently apologized to his father for ever thinking he was cracked. Afraid the archway would close again, Arthur hopped through it. On the immediate right was the Apothecary, but it was full of customers. He wandered down the street some, trying not to look like a bumpkin in the city and gawk at everything.
Halfway down the street, Arthur froze. On the left was a colorful sign reading Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. Arthur sidled shyly up to the window.
“What can I get ya’?” the man asked.
“A chocolate sundae,” Arthur answered. “Extra chocolate sauce if you would.” He looked around for the prices, finally seeing them chalked on a slate tablet beside the window. He pulled out two Sickles as the largest mound of white and dark brown ever to grace a glass dish was pushed out onto his side of the shelf.
“My boy, you look to me an awful lot like someone famous,” the man said.
“Huh?” Arthur replied, still stunned by the pudding pushed his way.
“You related to Harry Potter?” the man said with a laugh in his voice.
“He’s my dad,” Arthur answered, distracted.
“You aren’t joking,” the man stated. “You are the spittin' image. Haven’t seen him in years. Years and years. Good to see you my dear boy. Very good to see you. No charge,” he insisted as Arthur tried to push the coins toward him. “Tell your dad there are still free sundaes for him here.”
Arthur stood stunned before worrying his ice cream might melt. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Balancing a spoon, his money sack, and his sundae, Arthur took a seat at the outside table under the overhang. It was in the shade, which had the advantage of keeping his ice cream cool but also making it harder to see him.
You look like someone famous, played in Arthur’s mind over and over as he devoured the most amazing ice cream he had ever had. As he filled up, he spent more time watching the shoppers move up and down the road. Kids his age and younger pulled at their parents to look at brooms, of all things. Old people lamented the price of various pickled parts of rodents and other small mammals. His father’s comment about having a hallucination seemed very appropriate now and it took the sting out of it a lot to realize that.
With a sigh he checked that he had everything and walked back to the end of the road. There was only one customer in the Apothecary's shop now. Arthur went in and looked around the shelves. Some things, like aspirin, were normal, but most were completely unheard of, like Bubotubor pus. The whole shop was a twisted museum that should be in a theme park.
“May I help you, son?” the old man at the counter asked after the woman departed with her package.
Arthur stepped over and watched the man’s face change from bored to curiously confused. “I need to find someone, and someone told me you might know how to reach him.” Arthur wrinkled his nose at that. If they just had a bloody web directory, this would have been much easier. But the web required electricity, which this alley didn’t seem to have.
The man seemed unimpressed. “He teaches at Hogwarts School. This time o’ year . . . hm.” The man thought a moment. He took out a parchment and wrote on it. “Your owl will reach him here.” He held it out.
Uxbridge Road, Ealing, it read. Arthur looked at him in confusion. “Owl him?”
“Well, boy, if you want to meet him face-to-face, you ought to be willing to send a letter as well. Go on down to the post,” the man said, a little put out.
“Oh, yes. Thank you.” Arthur meant it. He had been at a loss as to his next step.
Arthur took the scrap of old paper and headed back out. Walking so as to read the signs of each shop, he walked past the bank and finally found the post—only it wasn’t quite what he had been expecting. The back wall was full of cages of owls with signs posted with the prices for various speeds of service. One day Europa up to 6 ounces, was listed at two Sickles. “Ounces?” Arthur murmured to himself. Pushed aside by a fast moving witch with a package that no owl magical or otherwise could carry, Arthur stepped back and looked around. On the side wall were two stands with small sheets of parchment and envelopes. A tin beside said, 1 Knut.
Arthur went over to the first and took out a Knut and dropped it in before pulling out a sheet and envelope. There were beaten up quills for use and ink bottles, but the tips of the quills were all smashed and splintered. Arthur was about to check the other stand when two pretty blonde girls stepped up to it. They were gossiping in obsequious tones. One of them took a sheet without paying. The can jumped up and tried to hit her hand, startling Arthur much more than the girl. The girl pointed her wand at the can and muttered something. A burst like a laser shot out of the wand and the can jumped back into place and remained there.
Arthur started to ignore them, but then noticed that the girl took out a tiny knife when she put her wand in her pocket. With quick motions she cut and cored the next part of the feather point. She jotted out her message quickly, gabbing at the same time.
“What are you looking at?” the other girl asked Arthur sharply.
Arthur blushed a little. He had been staring. “Nothing,” he answered in his coolest voice.
The girl sauntered over his way. “You a mudblood? You look like one,” she sneered.
“No,” he answered rudely. He had no idea what it was, but it didn’t sound flattering. “Why would you think that?” It was occurring to him that he was passing himself off as something he wasn’t and only now did the possible bad consequences start to sink in. He couldn’t fake being a wizard by any stretch; that money canister would have beaten him to a pulp, he was sure.
The girl shrugged one shoulder. “You look unrefined.”
“And you are the queen of that, I suppose?” Arthur came back.
The girl actually laughed lightly, enjoying the banter. “Come on Licia,” her friend said. “He isn’t up to Malfoy standards by any stretch.” They both tossed their hair and departed, which was what Arthur wanted, since they had left the good quill behind.
Arthur grabbed up the feather and dipped it in the well. In his best cursive hand, the one his father methodically taught him at the age of six, back when he would be awake for four to six hours at a time, he started to write. Dear Mr. Snape, then stopped. What the heck was he supposed to say? I hated him. He hated me, his father’s voice replayed in his mind. Best start with the basics. My name is Arthur Potter. My father is Harry Potter. I am a Muggle. His writing looked pretty good, bolstering him. His teachers were always amazed at this skill of his, one that he was certain no other students in his school had. His schoolmates often brought him envelopes to address to their aunts and grandmothers.
My father asked me to contact you because he thinks you can assist us. I hope you can see past the . . . He paused and practiced spelling enmity a few ways on the blotter covering the small stand. Writing without an automatic spell checker was annoying. ... enmity between you and reply to this message. He frowned at the letter, but it would have to do. He signed it after some thought, Very sincerely yours, Arthur Potter. He left off most of the flourish he would normally have put on his name.
He took out the sheet of parchment and copied the address onto the envelope. On the back he put their full Little Whinging address. Fighting painful hope, he put the letter in and sealed it.
At the desk he half-expected the woman to say, “Why are you writing to this bloke?” Instead she took the letter and his six Knuts without any change in expression. “It should be there in about fifteen minutes,” she commented in a generically helpful tone.
Arthur stared at her. A chill passed through him. He had to get home; he had already missed an hour or more of his dad’s being awake. The woman called down an owl which scooped up the letter in its claws and headed out a small, high window. Arthur left at a run.
The crowded alleyway slowed him down just past the bank. Arthur cranked his neck as he passed a sweet shop, and stopped dead. A bent over old witch mumbled something at him in annoyance—he hoped it wasn’t a real curse. In the window of the shop stood a stack of yellow boxes and a sign. Chokolet Frogs - buy 2 get 1 free. He wondered if no wizards could spell as he stepped in the door and picked up three boxes which he cradled in his hands as though they were absolutely precious. As he waited in queue to pay, he felt a rushing happiness—his father had mentioned these mythical sweets many times before and he could actually, truly bring him some.
Back at the brick wall, he stopped in concern about how to re-open the archway. After a pause it reopened on its own and he gratefully stepped through. He stopped only to take off the robe, in the pockets of which he made certain the wand, the money, and the sweets were secured. He ran full tilt back to the underground stop, just making a train as the doors closed.
Eyes came up to him as he stumbled along the tilting car looking for a seat. A woman watching a movie on her phone moved her backpack out of the way without looking up. Arthur caught his breath as the train rumbled along and the windows flickered dark and darker with odd scenes of side tunnels, access doors, piping and wiring.
Back at home, he yanked open the side door, again out of breath. Harry sat at the table, clearly clinging to his teacup. “Made it,” Arthur breathed.
“You were gone a long while,” Elsa criticized him.
“Let me show you this game cartridge,” Arthur said, drawing Harry away from the table.
Inside Arthur’s room they sat on the floor before the extremely thin television which sat on an adjustable rolling unit that Dudley would have been proud of. Arthur moved the immersion goggles out of the way and changed the cartridge to one with a louder demo. The game booted up. With impatience he selected the autoplay option.
When the noise of the game filled the room, he said, “It was just like you said. The ice cream was good too.” He set the rolled up robe aside and hugged Harry. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you,” he whispered in an unsteady voice.
Harry put his arms around him. “It’s all right,” he insisted. “Tell me what happened.”
“I sent an owl to Mr. Snape,” he shrugged. “The man at the apothecary’s knew where he lived during the summer holidays. I put this address as the return.”
“Good boy,” Harry said, finally releasing him slightly when Arthur reached for the robe.
“I got you something,” Arthur said eagerly, sitting back against Harry who obligingly rewrapped his arms around him. Arthur sorted through the robe and pulled the sweets out of the pocket.
“Ah, thank you.” Harry took one up and opened it. Arthur gave a cry as it leapt away. Harry caught it up easily and a moment later it was still. He broke off a leg and handed it to his son.
“Eya,” Arthur declaimed.
“It’s just chocolate,” Harry insisted. “Charmed to pretend to be a frog.” Arthur accepted it then. Harry broke the body in half and nibbled on it.
“You need to eat more when you are awake. You don’t eat at all,” Arthur commented. “We lied to the doctors, who kept insisting you should be dead from lack of food.”
“I’ll eat this frog then.” He pulled out the card and read the back. “Haggerty Higgins, famous for his invention of the self-stirring cooking cauldron, the self-rising bread baking stone and his porridge pie.”
Arthur looked over the card after wiping his fingers on his jeans. He spent an inordinate amount of time peering at the blinking image on the front. “Doesn’t seem worth being famous for.” He opened the next one and had to struggle to catch the frog.
“Wow, two hops—that‘s pretty good,” Harry said.
Arthur broke this one in half and handed half back to Harry. One handed, he pulled out the card. “Albert of the Thames,” he read. Albert immediately walked out of the scene.
“He has other things to do, apparently,” Harry commented.
“Yeah, right,” Arthur said sarcastically. He put that card aside and opened the last pack.
Harry said, “Hopefully it’s Dumbledore. His was the first card I ever got.”
This frog jumped only once then squirmed, Arthur set it on the bedspread behind them to finish hopping. Harry pulled out the card. “Well, look at that,” he commented as he held it up. “It’s me.”
“What?” Arthur blurted sharply, snatching it from him. He stared at the picture of Harry standing in a dark hall, wand at his side. Silhouetted figures stepped around behind him. “It is you. Is that Voldemort?”
“What was left of him,” Harry commented, regarding the fallen figure on the floor. “That is the Great Hall at my old school. “Can’t see the enchanted ceiling at all in this picture. Some of my teachers are in the background, but they are too small to see.” Harry’s speech was slowing down as he fought for awareness.
Arthur read the back. “What was the Tri-Wizard Tournament?”
“Didn’t I tell you about that?” Harry asked.
“Is that the one with the maze?”
Arthur turned the card back over. “You did tell me about that. About the graveyard and stuff.”
“Not a happy story,” Harry opined.
Arthur leaned back against him again and considered the card closely. “This is my favorite time with you,” he said.
“You mean when I am finally getting it and can at least act like a father?”
“Yeah.” Arthur sighed. “You know, Roger’s dad yells at him all the time and even tells him he’s stupid in front of Allen and me. I’d much rather have you than him. I’d much rather have you than most of the other kids’ dads.”
Harry tightened his hold on the boy. If he could have had his father for one hour a month he would have been very happy with that, though imagining the boy waiting and checking day after day made Harry’s heart ache.
Arthur went on, “And you’re a wizard. An actually effing wizard.” He jerked out of Harry’s arms to grab one of the cartridges beneath the television. “Just like in one of these games.” He held up Warlocks of Merlin’s Realm IV to show Harry before he dropped it back onto the pile.
“Keep trying to reach Professor Snape,” Harry said. “If you need to go back to Diagon Alley you . . . is there a key somewhere, a large strange one?”
“In your room. Hidden in one of your drawers.”
Harry forced his eyes open. “Good, you can take that to the bank, Gringotts. Tell them you want to get into my vault. There should be some wizard money in there. I don’t know exactly how much, but certainly enough for small stuff like post owls.” He held Arthur tighter yet. “I’m not going to make it much longer. I shouldn’t make you and Elsa carry me back to my room.”
He reluctantly released Arthur, who moved quickly to help him up. Harry needed to use the bed to get to his feet. Together they stumbled out of the room and down the hallway to the next bedroom. On the bed a fresh set of pyjamas was laid out. Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and changed into them with clumsy, slow movements. Every second stretched longer and longer and required more willpower to survive. He fell back on the bed, vaguely aware of Arthur lifting his feet up.
“I’m sorry, Arthur,” Harry whispered as he reached a blind hand out in the boy’s direction.
“It’s all right, Dad,” came the even reply as Harry blacked out.
Arthur wiped his eyes impatiently before turning and leaving the room.
“Back under again?” Elsa asked.
“Yeah,” Arthur replied as he returned to his room. He set the chocolates on his plate from lunch still on the night stand, and then stashed the magical cards in the game tip books beneath. Elsa never looked at those, and even if she did, she might think there were part of some game set. Then he stashed the things he had used: the robe, carefully folded, under his own stack of pyjamas in a drawer; the wand, he cellotaped up under the same drawer where Elsa wouldn’t find it at all.
In the kitchen, he poured himself the tall glass of water he had needed from running but hadn’t wanted to take the time to get earlier since every moment with his dad mattered far too much to miss. As he stared out the window after setting his empty glass in the sink, the shadow of a bird went past and he froze. Fifteen minutes there, fifteen minutes back meant a reply could be coming any moment. He glanced at the clock. “Wow, almost three,” Arthur commented in false surprise.
“Is it?” Elsa said in real surprise. “My.” She stood up and went to her room, closing her door as she did so. A television clicked on and afternoon soap opera music came up.
Arthur made himself a snack of cheese and toast. As he sat at the table to eat it, a scratching sounded at the window, making him jump. A very large owl clung to the narrow window ledge, flapping its broad wings to maintain its balance. Arthur jumped up and forced the window open as far as he could. The owl flapped into the room, dropped a letter on the table, circled once and flew back out. Arthur grabbed up the letter and tore it open. He unfolded the thick paper and stared at it. He had never seen such writing. It flourished above and below the lines in a mass of tangled, beautiful words.
Dear Mr. Potter, It is very surprising to hear from you. Rest assured the enmity between your father and I has waned sufficiently to certainly give a hearing to you, if nothing else. Perhaps if you could go into a bit more detail . . . The owl will await your reply. Hoot at her to come down for your letter. Sincerely, Severus Snape.
Arthur, heart beating rapidly, went to the small desk in the front hall. Old stationery boxes were crammed in it. He pulled out a few sheets of nice paper and a matching envelope as well as a good ball point pen. Back at the table he addressed another letter, then wrote, Thank you for your fast reply. Almost like email, Arthur thought. Thinking that he could assume Mr. Snape knew something, he began. The situation is this: the effects from the curses that damaged my father have become much worse than they used to be. The doctors have said he suffers from . . . Here Arthur listed all of the most-often repeated diagnosis, starting with acute narcolepsy. At five years of age he had had them memorized, stunning any new specialist brought in to look his father over.
What it really means is he sleeps for three weeks to a month at a time and is only awake for an hour or two at most in between. When he wakes up, he remembers nothing of the last fourteen years. Today for the first time, he suggested I contact you, so that is the reason for the letter. Arthur didn’t want to admit that he didn’t know exactly what his dad expected from this man. He is asleep again now, so if you have any questions you will have to rely on my memory of his stories for the answers. Arthur signed it, addressed it quickly, and sealed it up.
Outside in the garden, he looked around to find the owl up on the chimney. It resembled an ornament it sat so utterly still. He hooted quietly, which made it angle its head down to consider him. With a single flap it left the brick chimney and drifted down to him like a beautiful kite. At the last moment, Arthur thought to hold the letter up for it to grab, which it did, before flapping elegantly away again. The experience made having one as a pet seem much less crazy.
Arthur sat at the dining room table for the rest of the late afternoon, only shutting the window when the breeze became chilly. He read magazines, some graphic novels on his pad computer, and even the newspaper a bit for the sports news. Elsa eventually came out and made a light dinner. At ten, Arthur resigned himself to not getting another reply that evening.
The next morning, as he sat eating breakfast with the window open more than usual, but not far enough to attract attention, the owl returned. Elsa was vacuuming the hallway while listening to a music player. Arthur went to the window and took the letter from the window ledge where the hovering owl held it. As he disengaged it from the bird’s claws, the bird took off again quickly. Arthur glanced over to make sure he was unobserved before sticking the letter in his back pocket. He finished breakfast quickly, put the bowl in the sink, and went to his room. Sitting on his bed and listening idly to the security of the vacuum noise, he tore open the parchment envelope. This letter was much longer, covering both sides of a sheet.
Dear Mr. Potter, I now at least understand why you are contacting me and not your father. I have spent the night researching the condition you described as well as reviewing what I could of previous attempts at treating your father at St. Mungo’s. I cannot offer you any guarantees as to success, but I have come across a possible treatment in a recent treatise on stasis disorders, which is the class of condition your father has. For the uninitiated, it is similar to the one afflicting Rip Van Winkel.
Arthur’s heart rate went up again. He sat back farther on the bed and continued reading. I will need some things from you to begin to brew a potion. You must follow these instructions EXACTLY. At the next full moon, in the light of the full moon, cut a large lock of your father’s hair and take a half cup of his blood. The lines about the moon were double underlined. As well, send to me blood of yours from the palm of your hand on a white cotton cloth.
Arthur shook his head in amazement then shivered in dismay at the thought of carrying out this request.
I can start the potion with these things. Further instructions will follow when it is time for them. To that end, I need to know what range of days you expect him to re-awaken.
No note about the owl waiting—Mr. Snape just assumed he was going to do it.
Arthur sat down at his computer and pulled up a calendar program from his school’s interactive research app. The next full moon was six days away, a Friday. He hoped it wasn’t cloudy.
He stared at his paper calendar and worked backwards through the year, reconstructing as close as possible, the days his dad had been awake. When he was younger, he had marked it on a calendar religiously. That was when he had felt suspense about it rather than depression. An hour’s reviewing email messages and chat logs resulted in a pretty decent job of reconstructing the last six months. His heart felt leaden as he noted the gradually increasing spacing between the dates. He took a blank sheet from the printer and wrote out the dates and approximate durations of each of his father’s wakeful hours. Below it he wrote. Please determine for yourself an estimated date. He almost couldn’t stand to, although his eyes cast ahead and pinned a date anyway.
Friday arrived. Arthur lay on his bed in his dressing gown, staring at the dark ceiling of his room. His shade was all the way up. He had researched everything thoroughly, even to the point of realizing that he was lucky his dad’s room had an eastern window because the moon would rise just after sunset. He waited, eyes dark-adapted, for the bluish orb to rise above the trees and shine into his room in beams through the sections of the window. He honestly had never noticed that it did that. He could almost read by it, it was so bright.
With a deep breath to calm himself, he grabbed the paper sack out from under his night stand. He had put this together the day he had received the letter with the instructions. Though appalled, he really had nothing to lose. Moving stealthily, he went into the hallway. Flickering light and faint sound indicated that Elsa still had her television on. He closed his door carefully, then tip-toed to the next doorway in the other direction from the Nanny’s.
His father lay as he had left him except that Elsa had pulled a blanket over him. Arthur crossed to the far side of the room and wound up both shades by hand. Moonlight filled the room, making that terrifying hope swell in him again.
He crouched down on the far side of the bed and slowly opened the sack. The crinkling paper sounded very loud, something he hadn’t noticed during the day. He set out each thing on the floor. The plastic urine sample cup with rubber cap that he had found in the linen closet, unused. The hair shears. A sandwich bag. A diaper changing sheet from an old box that was also in the linen closet. Finding it and realizing that it was perfect for his purposes, had made him believe that fate was on his side for the first time ever. Lastly, the razor and super glue his friend Roger had given him when he asked his army-obsessed friend how he would collect blood. Roger had insisted Arthur could use superglue to close the wound since it had been invented for that by the Americans in Vietnam. He had finally demonstrated to prove it.
Holding the sealable sandwich bag, Arthur leaned over his dad. Harry’s limp head tipped easily to the side. Arthur cut a large lock off the back where it wouldn’t be noticed for a while, if ever. He dropped the dark clump into the bag, carefully adding each stray hair before sealing it. Methodically, he put the plastic bag into the paper sack. Then he crouched back down and shifted his father’s arm into the moonlight better before sliding the diaper sheet under it. The sheet was thick paper with a plastic backing which reduced his chances of messing up the bedding considerably.
Right at the crook of the arm where it wouldn’t be noticed, but not so deep as to bleed forever, was the summary of Roger’s instructions. When pressed, Arthur had made up a story about wanting to go into cloning and he figured he could keep his dad’s blood in the freezer until he finished college. Roger had thought this was a marvelous idea. Arthur thought it was nuts.
He unsealed the thick, soft rubber lid and pressed the cup against his dad’s limp arm for positioning. It looked good. Biting his lip, Arthur picked up the blade, lowered his head so as to not shade the moonlight, and put a small nick right in the fold. Blood seeped from it for a moment then stopped. After a few deep breaths, he deepened it and pressed the cup beside it as blood flowed more freely. It took two more extensions of the cut to make it to the milliliter line that he’d computed as corresponding to a half cup. He repeatedly reminded himself that his dad couldn’t feel it at all.
Setting the cup aside, he pressed the paper side of the plastic sheet over the wound until the bleeding stopped. Then he carefully covered the sample container and placed it atop the lock of hair in the paper bag. He took out the tube of super glue and squeezed it out in a thin line over the cut. When it dried, which was seconds, he used a tissue and spit on it to clean up the smeared blood around the glue. He stood and readjusted the blanket and his father’s head to match what they had been when he arrived. Moving faster now, he bundled up the diaper sheet with all of the supplies in it, picked up the paper bag, and went to the door. “Good night, dad,” he whispered before he turned the handle.
The paper bag he stored in the refrigerator behind the milk, which Elsa didn’t use at breakfast, careful to put the side with the writing “science project” facing outward. The sheet he unwrapped and recovered the hair shears before bundling it back up and stuffing it in the bottom of the rubbish bin. The shears he took back to the bathroom, where he washed off the small smears of blood on his hands. No wonder people always got caught after murders, blood just got over everything no matter how careful you were.
Back in his room, he took out a second razor blade and a swatch cut from an old t-shirt. It hadn’t been clear if he was supposed to do this in moonlight as well, but he crouched before the window to slice his palm open before he pressed it against the cloth and his other bare arm. He had a plastic bag out for this as well, and in it went as soon as he could stand to release his hand from the biting pain.
He stashed the plastic bag with the cloth in a book under the night stand rather than heading back to the kitchen that night.
The next morning he awoke early, well before Elsa ever rose, and went to the kitchen with the date notations. He added that and the bloody cloth, now brown, to the bag before opening the window. Within moments the same owl fluttered down and into the room where it perched on the edge of the sink. It considered the bag Arthur held out to it and fluffed itself.
Arthur guessed the bird thought the bag not strong enough. He grabbed one of the cloth shopping bags from under the sink, dropped the paper bag into it and knotted it securely. The owl held out a leg for it. Arthur watched it grasp the canvas firmly as it took flight and soared back out the window, pulling in its wings just for the gap. Arthur felt drained as he stared out the window long after it had gone. Eventually he shook himself and closed the window. In a daze, he made breakfast for himself and took it to the dining room where he ate without tasting anything.
Chapter 3: Impatient Hope
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Chapter 3 — Impatient Hope
Arthur spent more time at his friends’ houses to keep himself from obsessing over a reply he expected would be days away. Making a potion sounded like a complicated affair.
“He’s getting as strange as his dad,” Roger said to Allen one day when they were playing Magic: The Gathering at Arthur’s suggestion. “How did your little scheme go, anyway?”
“Fine. Thanks for the advice. It worked great,” Arthur replied, hoping his friend would drop it.
“Need any more advice . . . you know where to come,” Roger said in a voice of knowing too much.
“Leave him alone,” Allen said.
“Just trying to be helpful,” Roger said as though pretending insult.
Arthur made his play just to shut them up.
“You can’t play an equipment—the permanent is an artifact,” Roger pointed out.
Arthur huffed at that and put Abu Ja'far down in the graveyard.
“What did you do that for?” Allen rolled his eyes. “I only have 4 life points anyway. I give up.”
“If we played 11th edition . . .” Roger began.
“No.” Allen said. “Double enhancement is just a gimmick. Let’s go out and kick a football around instead of this.” He stood up and since it was his house they followed his lead.
Seven long days after he had sent off his package, the owl returned one breakfast. It simply flew straight in the window and settled on the back of the chair in the dining room beside Arthur. Elsa was preparing her breakfast in the kitchen. Arthur failed to even feel panic as he took the letter from the owl’s grasp. It fluffed itself and bobbed its head, which was a very endearing behavior.
On a whim, Arthur offered it a rasher of bacon from his plate. It snatched it up and took off through the window.
“What was that?” Elsa said as she stepped into the room.
Arthur, not certain whether she saw or heard the owl, said, “Just one of my friends at the window.” He put the letter in his back pocket extra casually.
“Oh,” she said, as she apparently lost interest.
Arthur finished breakfast quickly and went to his room to tear open the letter. Dear Mr. Potter, You are clearly more methodical than your father ever was—what you sent was more than sufficient. We need to work out the remaining details in person. Come to the address on this envelope at 11am this morning. Speak the words “Spanish Moor” before you mount the steps. Lack of a reply will be taken as acceptance.
He had just sent the owl off no less. A glance at his watch showed it was only half past eight. He took out his school backpack and loaded the robe and wand into it, not certain if he would need them. After that he changed into something a little nicer than his jeans, but not so nice as to make Elsa ask what he was up to.
At ten he told Elsa he was going to Roger’s house. Out on the road, he called Roger on his mobile and told him to cover for him. Roger found this amusing as Arthur had never requested this before, but he agreed amiably with a hint that it might cost later. Arthur kept the video off as he wasn’t sure if the fear of what he about to do was staying off his face.
Arthur rode the underground with a serious air. He was going to meet a wizard he knew nothing about except that he and his father used to hate each other. Oh and that he teaches at a school for witches and wizards. That helped. A lot. He swallowed hard and watched the flickering windows with a new intensity.
After two changes and two stops, he finally stepped out of the underground. The clouds had covered the sun while he was traveling leaving the breeze chilly. He navigated to the correct street and stopped before the number on the envelope. An ordinary house, in a row of ordinary houses with ordinary steps, faced him. Two older ladies stepped past, chatting about their grandchildren. Arthur waited for them to move out of the range of hearing. When he was alone, he said, “Spanish Moor.”
With a sizzle the steps and the facade transformed into something stranger and just a little grander. Arthur stepped up the now black granite risers to the porch. Two children passed, bouncing a rubber ball between them. They didn’t give him a glance. Arthur waved at them and they still ignored him. A young woman towing her groceries followed half a block behind. Arthur again waved to no effect. With a glance over the facade again, he used the knocker. A moment later, a small man or creature with very large pointed ears pulled open the door. His ears were so large they actually bobbed a bit when he moved. Arthur stepped back in shock. “You is wanting to see Master Snape?” the thing queried.
Arthur nodded after a great deal of effort. The thing’s large hand gestured for him to enter. With a hard swallow, Arthur did, thinking that this was some kind of cosmic payback for believing Elsa about his dad needing shock therapy. Inside, the house was dark and musty with a hint of locker room.
“This way, Master,” the thing said as it tried to lead him inside. If this were Tomb Raider 9, he would have considered dropping a shock grenade behind him. Inside the room at the end, a library, a man with shoulder-length greying hair, wearing long black robes stood behind a desk.
“Right on time, Mr. Potter,” a deep voice said, and with a quiet swish the figure came around the desk. The man considered him with steepled fingers. “How unlikely it is to hear myself say that,” he said softly.
“Are you Mr. Snape?” Arthur asked in disbelief. Of all the things he had pictured, a cross between Dracula and The Shadow wasn’t it.
“At your service, I would say. If I were one to say that.” He stepped away suddenly. Arthur never saw him move, just saw the result of the movement. “Have a seat. Please,” he invited, but it was more a command.
Arthur espied a chair before the desk. He moved quickly to take it and, from his hunched position, considered his host with a mixed expression while the man paced.
“You are . . . far too much like your father,” the man complained.
“I don’t mean to be,” Arthur said quickly. He looked around for the little creature and found to his dismay that he was alone with this man who moved way too much like a spirit. “It is useful though,” Arthur commented, half to himself. He normally didn’t have anyone to talk to about things. He held the man’s very dark eyes for a moment before looking warily around the room. In the letters, the man had seemed much more, well, normal.
“So, your father, dear Harry Potter, is continually reliving the past.”
“Yes, sir,” Arthur replied, pulling out politeness as a kind of shield.
“How ironic,” the man said.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
Immediately, the man leaned over the desk and challenged him, “He hasn’t repeatedly told you how much we all owe him?”
Arthur blinked in confusion. “No, sir.”
The man stared at him intently, then looked befuddled. “Amazing,” he breathed as he paced once again. He stopped in the corner of the room and stared at the top row of books on the shelf. “I have started a potion. But I need a few more ingredients. Some of which I have trusted friends procuring, but I also need blood from your father while he is awake. To that end I need him brought here, so as not to miss the next opportunity.”
Arthur dropped his eyes. “I don’t think I can manage to-”
Without turning, his host said, “Don’t be silly. I don’t need anything from you but your cooperation.”
After a long pause, Arthur said, “Oh.” Control of the situation had apparently been taken away from him.
Snape rubbed his hands together and paced again. “Your nanny could use a holiday, correct?”
“She hasn’t had one in-”
“Convince her to take one soon. Very soon. Tell her that at your father’s urging you’ve contacted an agency. A substitute will be stopping by on Monday to take stock of her duties. Convince your nanny to depart at the earliest she can manage—we must have leave to bring your father here soon. He will be reawakening on Wednesday, if my calculations are correct.”
Arthur caught up with that. “Who is coming?”
“One of my associates. Since she does not actually have to care for your father, it is no matter,” the man said offhandedly.
“All right,” Arthur agreed, relieved that this man was thorough if nothing else. He glanced around the room; it seemed much more depressing than their house. He wondered what his father would think to wake up here.
“Everything will be handled, do not concern yourself,” the almost hypnotic voice stated.
“I’m coming here with him, right?” Arthur asked sternly.
“Of course,” Snape replied dully, dismissively. After a moment of rubbing his hands together slowly, the man said, “Would you like to see the potion?” His dark eyes slid over to Arthur as though sizing a cauldron for him.
“Sure,” Arthur managed, thinking that if this were Merlin’s Realm, he would have hit pause long ago and ran to the store for the cheat book.
Across the hallway in another dark, high-ceilinged room, a set-up that Einstein would have been proud of occupied a large table in the middle of the floor. Bubbling glass containers with curling tubes led to other containers. It looked resembled a horror movie, one ancient enough to have been filmed in black and white.
“You did a very neat job collecting ingredients,” the man admitted, seeming reluctant to do so. He indicated a cauldron, an actual brass cauldron, on the end of the table. “The first stage of the potion came out highly activate.” The man sighed and seemed to deflate. “We’ll bring him here and see what we can do. We certainly owe him.”
“For Voldemort?” Arthur asked. The man jerked when he said it.
“At least,” he replied abruptly, then led the way back out of the room.
“Did I say something wrong?” Arthur asked. He almost told the man that he was his only hope as a kind of apology, but held back on instinct.
“That name was not spoken for many years before his demise and rarely since. I am not accustomed to hearing it bantered about so casually.”
“Why not?” Arthur asked with derision. “Is it a magic word?”
The man considered him at length before saying, “You cannot understand,” as though that were the end of it. The man regained his straight posture and haughty attitude. “Be ready on Monday, won’t you?”
“I will,” Arthur replied as though asking for verification were somewhat stupid.
“Be gone with you then,” the man said sharply.
Arthur stood where he was and said, “Are you really a wizard?” This turned out to be a mistake. The man had a wand in his hand in the space of a blink. Arthur swallowed hard and took a half step back.
“Am I really a wizard, he asks,” the man sneered in a very dark tone. “The difficulty is, if I turn you into a toad or a stout or a fungus, you will have a very difficult time returning home.” He stepped forward, his cloak billowing wide as it filled with air. It then swooped forward as he stopped before Arthur, threatening to engulf him. The man smiled in pleasure then, which was the most frightening of all. “Perhaps I shall just . . . “ His eyes narrowed as he held his wand out over Arthur’s head. “. . . return you home,” he finished in a light voice as his wand rapped on Arthur’s skull.
Arthur blinked once . . . and he was in his room. His legs gave way from shear surprise and it took some scrambling to manage to sit on the bed rather than hitting the floor.
“Okay, rule one, don’t insult a wizard,” Arthur said in a shaky voice. “Especially not a wizard who lives in a strange dark house full of halflings and horror movie sets.” He felt himself up and down with his hands. He seemed to be whole, even though he was fifteen kilometers from where he had been seconds before. A half-hour passed before Arthur was calm enough not to jump at the smallest noise, real or imagined.
Arthur was with his friends continuously over the weekend to force time to pass. They hung at the arcade, at the athletic gym Roger belonged to, or simply playing games, with Arthur cajoling them to pick up another immediately when they tired of the last.
“What is up with you?” Roger asked him. They were sitting in Roger’s living room debating what to do next. Arthur was pacing furiously. “You’re worrying me, mate, and that is hard to do. First the blood thing and now you are jumpy as a cat at a rocking chair festival.”
“What blood thing?” Allen asked.
Roger replied, “Arthur here wanted to put some of his dad’s blood on ice to clone him later.”
“Your dad getting that bad?” Allen asked in concern.
Angry at Allen’s reaction, Arthur said, “That isn’t it at all. You don’t know what’s going on.”
“Fill us in,” Roger suggested smoothly, leaning back on the couch in a suave manner, although on him it felt sleazy.
Arthur laughed mirthlessly. “I sent my dad’s blood off to an evil wizard.”
“Okay, you don’t have to tell us,” Roger said snidely.
Arthur laughed again. “You think I’m kidding.” The knots in his chest eased at even this much of a confession.
“You have to be kidding about that,” Allen said stridently.
“Yeah, I guess I do. Forget I said that.” He collected up the cards they had been playing with just to do something. “God only knows what would happen to me if they found out.”
“They? They?” Roger exploded. “What They is this? The government They? The Illuminati They? If you are going to sink into the same paranoia as my father, I want to know who you are worrying about before I hang around you any longer.”
Arthur gave him a long look. Phrases like Ministry of Magic and Department of Magical Enforcement played through his mind from old stories of his father’s. Surely they couldn’t listen in every time someone said the word ‘magic.’ Their afternoon of The Gathering would have made them gonzo otherwise.
“I don’t know which They. I just got mixed up in this two weeks ago. I’ll ask my dad next time he’s awake—it was his bonko idea.”
In disbelief Roger said, “You followed one of your dad’s crazy ideas? Are you a nutter?”
“He was right though,” Arthur said quietly. “Absolutely blasted right. Though he could have given me a little warning that the man I was supposed to find was an frigging evil wizard with a magic wand and a halfling servant wearing a tea towel.”
“You need a break, dude,” Roger said knowingly.
“I’m leaving tomorrow, so I guess that will have to do. I need you guys to cover for me.”
“What about Elsa?”
“She’s fallen for this story about a replacement. Some woman is coming tomorrow to pretend to take her place. God, I hope she doesn’t look like something from Macbeth—Elsa might refuse to leave.”
“Uh, Arthur,” Allen said. “Uh, where are you going? What if your dad wakes up?”
“I’m taking him with me. This whole this is to make him better.” Arthur stared at the stain in the carpeting where they had spilled paint years ago while making D&D figures.
“You’re just going to toss him into your backpack and take him on the underground?” Allen asked dryly.
“The bus,” Roger quipped. “That way he can avoid all those stairs.”
Arthur dropped his head and put his hands on it. He felt perilously close to the edge of something that scared him to death. Many somethings maybe.
“Where are you taking your father?” Allen asked, sounding much older than he should.
Arthur didn’t respond. This has to work, he thought, or I’m not going to make it.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Roger said easily. “He’s off to see the wizard.”
Arthur thought that he should have yelled at Roger for that, but couldn’t find the heart for it. “Just cover for me, will you?”
Allen said, “Look, Arthur, those little magic tricks your dad does are quaint but-”
“What magic tricks?” Arthur asked sharply.
“When you had pneumonia last winter and we couldn’t come into your room. Your dad was awake while we were visiting. Shouldna been there at all except that Elsa made everyone think you were on your death bed so our mums made us.” Allen shrugged. “He entertained us with these little tricks. You know: disappearing hanky, pick a card, rabbit out of a hat, except he didn’t have a hat, so it was rabbit out of a tea cozy.”
“Why the eff did he do that? He must be nuts,” Arthur breathed in anger and slammed his hands on the face of the couch.
“Uh, Arthur,” Roger said. “Calm down.”
Arthur couldn’t stop shaking. He stood up. “Just cover for me,” he said more vehemently.
“For how long?” Allen asked darkly. At Arthur’s look of confusion, he added, “How long before we call the cops and tell them you’re missing?”
“Give me two weeks. That’s what Elsa’s holiday is arranged for. She’s going to visit her sister and they both are going to Majorca.”
“Two weeks from tomorrow, then,” Roger said as though they did this every day. Normally Roger’s attitude grated on Arthur, but now he was grateful for it.
Arthur went to the sliding glass door to the back garden and opened it. “Don’t let him turn you into a frog,” Roger smirked from the couch.
“A toad,” Arthur replied. “He threatened to turn me into a toad. See you guys later . . . hopefully.”
Chapter 4: Emerald City
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Chapter 4 — Emerald City
The next morning, right at seven-thirty sharp, the doorbell chimed. Elsa put down her third suitcase and opened the door. Arthur had dashed stealthily into the dining room to peer out the door as it opened. A plain woman in a cream beret and waist-length cloak stood on the porch. She smiled brightly and shook Elsa’s hand. She had a cockney accent when she said, “Mornin’ ma’am, name’s Nina Token.” Elsa stepped aside and let her pass, their respective bags clashing in the narrow hallway. Nina walked in, inspecting as she went. When she looked into the dining room, she gave Arthur a hard double-take before her expression went neutral again and she continued on her way to the kitchen. Arthur’s heart beat fast as he thought she looked like she had seen a ghost.
Elsa bustled behind her, showing the new woman everything rapidly. Apparently once the notion of a holiday had taken hold, she couldn’t wait to start it. “And the master of the house is here,” Elsa opened the end bedroom door before bustling back to the kitchen to put away the breakfast food. “Doesn’t need much care, really. Sleeps all the time.”
Arthur watched Nina step over to the door in curiosity and peek in. He squinted at her, certain her hair had been red a moment ago. It was definitely black now. As she looked in, her shoulders fell and she closed her eyes with a pained expression. Arthur really wondered now who the hell she was. Her eyes came up to Arthur’s down the hallway—they were full of sad sympathy as they shared a long look. Elsa broke their gazes as she scuttled past.
“You have my mobile number. Good bye dear. Be good for Ms. Token,” she chided as she brushed past him. A car horn honked out on the road. She opened the door as a cabby came up the walk to help with the bags, then she was gone.
“’Arthur,’ right?” Nina asked.
She let out a breath. “Let’s wait thirty minutes, be certain she’s gone.” After another glance at his dad, she approached Arthur. “Merlin, look at you,” she breathed in amazement.
“Are you a witch?” Arthur asked.
“Are you more powerful than Mr. Snape? Because I want to know who’s side to be on.”
“There is only one side,” she said. She held out her hand, “Name’s actually Tonks.”
Arthur shook it, “Arthur Potter.”
She smiled so wryly sweet at that, it startled him. “So you know my dad?” he asked.
“We go back a ways. How old are you?”
“I met him when he was fifteen. About your size though. Rescued him from his aunt and uncle one summer.” She glanced down the hallway again and looked sad. “Let’s sit down to wait. You have any chocolate?”
“Let’s have some.”
They sat and talked. Tonks told him about fooling the Dursleys with the fake lawn award ceremony. Arthur took an instant liking to her, even though she seemed to be a blonde now.
"Your hair changes a lot," Arthur dared comment.
"I do that to tease Muggles." She winked at him. "They always assume they saw it wrong a moment before. Keeps me amused."
When twenty minutes passed, she said, “My partner in crime should be here momentarily. You do know what Apparating is?”
Just as Arthur nodded, a pop! sounded and a middle-aged black man in a long black cloak appeared in the kitchen. He pulled off his gloves and looked around. When his eyes found Arthur, he said, “Hobgoblins! You are clearly Harry’s boy.”
“Yes, sir.” Arthur put out his hand.
“Kingsley. Pleased to meet you.” To Tonks he said. “Weasley wants me in some awful meeting at nine, so I have to get moving.”
“Weasley?” Arthur asked. All these names, all these people who knew his dad; he felt a little awkward. “Someone related to Arthur Weasley?”
“His son, Percy. Assistant Minister of Magic.” Kingsley took a breath to control himself. “A bureaucrat in the truest sense of the word. Drives me mad. Fortunately he doesn’t have enough creativity to make it to Minister. Besides, since he lives solely for the Minister’s praise, where would he be if he were Minister? Anyway.” He waved his hand to change the topic.
“Let’s get moving then. All packed?” Tonks asked.
“I had to use my backpack and two grocery sacks because Elsa used all the luggage. But they’re in my room.” He went and fetched them and started to carry them to the door. Tonks held out a hand to stop him. Arthur dropped them and pulled out his mobile. He had better turn off friendtrack so Allen and Roger couldn’t see where he ended up.
“Just wait here,” Tonks said. “Can you handle him?” she asked Kingsley, gesturing with her head at the open bedroom door.
Kingsley stepped over there and into the room. Arthur, feeling protective, followed. Kingsley crossed the room and stood beside the bed. “Merlin, how did we ever let it come to this?”
Arthur’s eyes narrowed. Kingsley had just spoken aloud the twisted feeling that he had been trying to track down in his gut. How had they? he wondered. He swallowed hard to keep a fearsome anger at bay. Kingsley grabbed the dressing gown off the hook on the wall and took out his wand. A wave of it made his dad hover in the air above the bed. Kingsley quickly put the dressing gown on him and tied it.
“I’m ready,” he said to Tonks.
Tonks stepped up beside Arthur and put an arm through his. Air smashed his eardrums and he was standing in the dark. A pop! sounded nearby. A familiar rich voice came from behind them. “A little early even.”
Arthur turned around. As his eyes adapted, he recognized the style and high ceilings of Mr. Snape’s house. The wizard stepped over to them with a confident stride. “Mr. Potter,” he said in greeting.
“Sir,” Arthur replied.
“Put him in there. On the desk if you would.” He gestured across the hallway. “There is a room upstairs for you,” he said to Arthur as the boy had moved to follow the floating form of his father. “I will show you.”
Arthur looked behind him as his dad’s bare feet disappeared silently into the laboratory. His heart was pounding again; he was really getting tired of it doing that. At the end of the first floor hallway his host opened a door and gestured for him to enter. Arthur bolstered himself and did so. A small room, with a high canopied bed and garish wallpaper in fuzzy maroon, assaulted him. He put his bags down before the wardrobe and stepped back over, intending to see how his dad was settled. His host stepped back and gestured with a sarcastic lilt of his hand for Arthur to pass in the other direction.
Back downstairs he found Tonks and Kingsley standing at the end of the desk upon which his dad now rested. They were talking in low voices. Kingsley looked up as they entered. “I really have to go.”
“Thanks for your help,” Tonks said.
“Just owl if you need anything else.” He disappeared.
“How long has he been asleep?” Tonks asked.
“Seventeen days,” Snape replied. “We can’t do anything until he awakens again. Which should be two days hence.”
Arthur stood beside the desk with them for a while then grew bored and began exploring the room.
“Be very careful, won’t you?” Snape sneered at him.
Arthur considered making a retort, but then thought better of it. He nodded instead and peered into a jar full of eyeballs. Wrinkling his face, he looked at the shelf below at tiny brains floating in green liquid. Arthur made a slow circuit, gradually becoming inurred of the bizarre things he was finding. He stopped before trunks stacked one atop the other in the corner of the room.
“Sleeping beauty stuffed in one of these?” he asked. No response was immediately forthcoming. When he turned he found Tonks grinning and Snape looking dark.
“He has to torment you, doesn’t he?” Tonks asked.
Snape crossed his arms. “Apparently.”
Dinner was a quiet affair. Tonks and his host had run out of discussion topics once gossip, politics, and a technical discussion about what Snape was attempting on his father were exhausted. Arthur had picked carefully at his meat pie, looking for anything odd in it, which was hard even in the best of meat pies.
Finally Snape commented, as he rubbed the fingers of one hand across his thumb slowly, “Potion ingredients rarely, if ever, make it into dinner.”
“Breakfast though,” Tonks said to Arthur knowingly. “That’s where you really have to pay attention.”
Arthur ate without care after that, flushed with embarrassment.
Tonks left at eleven for some kind of nightshift for her job. Arthur sat backwards in a chair watching his dad and trying to imagine wizards and witches with jobs. He thought that if he had been dropped among the pygmies he would feel less confused.
“You are not intending to spend the night there?” Snape said from the doorway
Arthur wasn’t certain if that were a question. “What if he wakes up in the night?” Arthur really was worried about his dad waking up in this bizarre place.
Snape gestured for him to come over as he pulled out his wand. Arthur, eyeing it cautiously, obeyed quickly. “I will spell the floor.” The wand waved and the floor glowed red with a line connected to the wand. “And link it to the clock.” He pointed at the chiming clock in the hallway and the line zipped to attach itself there before the glowing faded. “We will hear if he steps off the desk. Satisfied?” he asked.
“Sure.” Arthur eyed the setup. “I think I see how you get by without electricity.”
“To run machines that break and do only what the designer intended? Why would we bother with that?” Snape asked.
Arthur woke the next morning to the early sun filtering through the gap between the thick curtains. His first thought was that the bed felt a lot harder than he was used to. He sat up suddenly as he remembered where he was. His watch said six-thirty. Rubbing his eyes, he thought he should check on his dad.
Changed out of his pyjamas but with a borrowed dressing gown over his t-shirt and jeans, he headed down the stairs. Snape was already in the laboratory, adjusting some of the equipment.
“I assume you would like breakfast. Go into the dining room and it will be brought to you,” the man said without otherwise acknowledging him.
Arthur looked his dad’s still self over, then did as instructed. As he sat down at the table in the now cool room, grateful for the gown, a plate materialized before him followed by utensils and a napkin. He wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t been for the scent of bacon wafting off the plate. A poke of the fork seemed to indicate it was real. Shaking his head, he took a bite. Hungry from yesterday’s stress, he ate quickly.
As he soaked up the last of the egg yolk with a corner of toast, a voice beside him said, “Would master like something more?”
“Yah!” Arthur exclaimed, startled. The halfling was back, blinking at him with huge eyes full of question.
“Coffee, master? Or another breakfast?”
“No,” Arthur said sharply, then more calmly, “No, thanks.” The creature bowed and backed away. Arthur caught his breath before he stood up to go back to the laboratory. He spent the morning half-watching the man reading a long parchment and brewing something off to the side of the elaborate setup.
At lunch, Snape and he ate together. Arthur didn’t jump this time when his plate appeared. Snape set his scrolled parchment down beside his and took up his fork. “Are you settled in?” he asked drolly
Arthur shrugged. “Sure. Thanks for letting me stay,” he added uncertainly.
The man didn’t respond. Arthur’s mobile rang. He pulled it out of his pocket quickly then took a deep breath. “Hello?” he said in as normal a voice as possible. It was Elsa. “Everything’s fine here,” he assured her. She asked to speak to the replacement nanny in dutiful tones. “Ms. Token, uh, just a sec. I think I hear the water running.” He put his finger over the mic. “She wants to speak with Tonks,” he said to the man.
“Stall her,” he said quietly.
Arthur put the phone back to his ear. “Yeah, she was . . . cleaning and now she’s in the shower.” Elsa insisted she would ring back in ten minutes. She sounded a little doubtful. Arthur collapsed the mobile. “She’s ringing back in ten.”
The man stood up and took a handful of something from a tin above the hearth. He bent down on one knee and tossed it in. Green fire flared around the empty grate. “Auror office, Ministry, restricted,” he spoke distinctly. Arthur nearly fell off his chair when the head of an old man appeared in the flames. “Please send Nymphadora Tonks to Ealing,” Snape said to the floating, burning head. The head nodded, pulled back, and disappeared. His host stood up and came back to the table.
“Nymphadora?” Arthur asked, distracted from notions of disembodied heads.
“I would not call her that to her face, if I were you,” Snape commented.
Two minutes later the hearth flared and a figure spun into it. When the flames diminished, Tonks, dressed as she was the previous day, stepped out, bending to clear the mantel.
“Hey, Arthur,” she said affectionately. “Oh, lunch. Boy that looks good. Work's been nonstop since four this morning.”
Snape flicked his wand and something silver shot out of it and directly into the floor. Arthur looked at the floor for any sign of it. “Thanks,” Tonks said and took a seat beside Arthur. “So, what’s up?”
Snape spoke factually as he picked at a chicken wing. “The boy had a call from his nanny. She is ringing back in seven minutes or so to speak to you. You have been in the shower.”
Arthur set the mobile on the table between himself and Tonks. “What did we do yesterday?” she asked him.
“Uh . . . we went down to Charlie’s for ice cream after dinner and I showed you Rum Runner Community Version.”
Tonks took that in a long moment. “All right. And this morning?”
“Roger and Allen came over. Say you didn’t want me leaving while you were in charge, because usually they don’t like to ‘cause dad creeps them out. We played Settler’s of Catan 4D until lunch.”
“Tell me about your friends.”
Arthur picked up his mobile. “This is Roger,” he said as he played the hunting video Roger had sent him last week then showed her his homecard. “He would have told you you were cute and hit on you, I’m sure. Allen doesn’t have a card, but I have a pic of us.” He fiddled with his mobile a few moments, rapidly pressing keys and using the side wheel. “Here.” He held up the screen to show her a picture of the three of them. “He’s usually quiet around people he doesn’t know, so he probably wouldn’t have said anything at all to you.”
The mobile rang then. Arthur flipped it open and said hello. “She’s right here.” He handed the unit to Tonks who handled it clumsily.
“Ms. McGovern? Yes, this is Ms. Token. How is your holiday so far? Sorry, yes, you caught me in the shower. No, Arthur is just fine, his friends were over this morning—I wouldn’t allow him out. You think that is all right, then? Well, if you insist. No, they were well-behaved—his friend Roger got a little cheeky, but other than that. Leaving for Majorca tomorrow, then? Well, you have yourself a fine time. Greetings to your sister. Bye then.”
She handed the mobile back and Arthur flipped it closed. A plate materialized before Tonks and she growled in pleasure as she picked up her fork.
After she slowed down halfway through her plate, Arthur asked her, awkward with the phrasing, “So you work for the Ministry of Magic?”
“Yes. I’m an Auror,” she replied between chips dunked generously in mayonnaise.
“That’s what my dad was training for when he was hurt.”
“Yeah,” she replied. “I always felt a little responsible. I think I was part of the reason he decided to become one.”
“What does it mean to be an Auror?” Arthur asked, realizing he wasn’t clear on this point.
“Aurors catch dark wizards,” she replied as she wiped her hands.
“Lot of them about, then?” he asked worriedly, studiously avoiding a glance at his host.
She grinned. “They make more than their share of trouble, so they get extra attention.” Tonks stood. “I really have to run. Thanks for lunch, Severus. If you need cover again, just shout.”
When she had disappeared into the hearth, Arthur stared at his plate wondering why it had to be his dad to not make it through training. His host’s hand slammed onto the table hard, making Arthur jump severely, heart stuttering through several beats.
“Don’t,” Snape snapped harshly. At Arthur’s alarmed look, he added sternly, “You clearly have your father’s penchant for feeling sorry for yourself. It will not be tolerated.”
Arthur held his breath and gaped at the man. He watched in stunned silence as he stood and waved the table clear of dishes, silver, serviettes, and table cloth with a sweep of his wand. As he started to step away, Arthur said darkly, “Guess the fact that you have dark wizard hunters over for lunch means I was wrong . . . that you aren’t one.”
Snape turned sharply back, his robe flashing around him. “Don’t bet on it,” he retorted. “What you don’t know about me would curdle your intestines and send you back to Little Whinging, even if you had to crawl to get there.”
Arthur looked him over. “Yeah, like what?” he asked sarcastically.
The man raised a brow and considered him as he stepped slowly back over. Arthur held his ground, and the back of his chair, his only concession swallowing hard against his fear. When Snape stopped, Arthur looked way up at him from his seat. “You are a foolish Muggle, Arthur Potter. But that isn’t surprising.”
Arthur stood up then, although this didn’t cut the height difference nearly enough. He struggled for a comeback for almost a minute, fear warring with his pride, before giving in and looking away.
Snape spoke in a low voice. “You’ve already had one demonstration—do you truly need another?”
“No.” Arthur admitted.
It took another long moment before Snape turned and stalked away. Arthur followed, worried what he might do to his dad if Arthur really had made him angry. In the laboratory, Snape returned to reading the long parchment he had out earlier. Arthur went over to the desk beside his dad’s head and looked him over. His dad barely breathed and he never moved when he was like this.
“Why do you owe him?” Arthur asked, thinking that understanding this would make things much easier. It might also make him feel better.
Snape considered him with a level expression. He rolled up the parchment and tucked it between two jars of mysterious liquids on the work table before stepping over to stand at the far end of the desk.
“That dark wizard your father defeated, whose name you banter about so casually, what did your father tell you about him?”
Arthur thought over the disjointed stories. They were hard to remember sometimes because his dad’s own distaste of them made him stop or gloss over parts of them. “He was very evil. He killed a lot of people and he was hard to kill, living without a body, for years even, he was so powerful.” He waited for an assessment of that. Snape merely silently considered him. Arthur plowed on, speaking things as he recalled them. “He killed Dad’s parents. He attacked Dad at school a bunch of times. No one believed him when he told them this. His godfather was fighting with one of his followers when he was killed.”
“Did he tell you about the Dark Lord’s followers?” Snape asked evenly, as though to give nothing away.
“Um, he said there were a few dozen of them at the end. They were called Death Eaters. They were always hooded and masked.”
Snape persisted with an intense look. “Did he say how the Dark Lord bound his followers. Summoning them to do his bidding like slaves. Bending them to his twisted will when they did?”
Arthur resisted taking a step back at the man’s expression, tempted even though the long desk separated them. “Uh,” he stalled. That sounded familiar, from the story with the graveyard. “They came . . . because they were marked somehow. Um, the dark mark. A skull symbol. They had it on their arm.”
His host pulled up his sleeve and whispered something. A black brand flared on his forearm in the shape of a skull with a snake. Arthur stepped backward with a jerk, hitting the shelves and bottles behind him with his back. Heart racing, he wondered what the hell his dad had been thinking. His host tossed his sleeve back straight and recrossed his arms.
Back in his level voice, he said, “Just so we both know where we stand.”
Arthur reached out his shaking hands and stepped forward to grasp the table edge beside his dad’s head. “I don’t get it,” Arthur said, more confused than before.
“Think about it,” Snape said before he turned and stepped out of the room.
Arthur sank down in the chair where he usually sat, his mind running in fearful circles that didn’t generate any explanations at all. His dad lay unmoving. Arthur really, really hoped he woke up soon.
Chapter 5: Rude Awakening
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Chapter 5 -- Rude Awakening
Arthur sat in the chair through dinner time, his stomach growling loudly. He tried to play games on his hand-held but couldn’t concentrate on them. The pad hung loosely in his hand. He tapped the grey device against his thigh rhythmically. A shadow stepped in from the doorway, making him jump reflexively.
“You must be hungry,” his host stated factually.
Arthur crossed his arms and looked away. The startled fear from before returned and he wished fiercely that he were anywhere else. There didn’t seem to be anything safe to say, so he remained silent.
“You haven’t figured it out,” Snape said after a long pause.
“No,” Arthur answered petulantly.
The man strode in and pulled another chair over from the wall and sat in it beside the desk. He studied Harry for a moment before sitting back with his arms crossed. Arthur glowered at him from his slouched pose nearby.
When Snape next spoke it was in slow, measured speech. “It isn’t easy for me to be beholden to your father and I am taking it out on you, which is more ironic than you can know. And very unfair of me, given your status as non-wizard.”
Arthur relaxed minisculely. He set his handheld on the floor to stop tapping it annoyingly.
A long pause ensued, then his host spoke again. “I was a prisoner, Mr. Potter, from a mistake I made at the age of sixteen. Twenty-three years I was trapped. And while I made the best of it by betraying my master to those most likely to bring him down, there wasn’t much, if any, of myself remaining at the end.” He took a deep breath. Arthur had the notion that he’d never told anyone this. “Your father freed everyone, but most especially myself. And himself. That mark on his forehead bound him just the same. He did the Dark Lord’s bidding because of it and suffered punishment through it when he displeased the master.”
Arthur stared at him. The man’s grey streaked hair had fallen half across his face, so he couldn’t read his expression well. What he could see looked flat.
Eventually he spoke yet again. “Perhaps your father and I should have been more considerate of each other at the time, given that. But we were not. That was undoubtedly my fault.” After another long silence, he stood wearily and stepped to the door. In a normal tone, he said, “Come and eat, Arthur.”
With a small frown and a sigh, Arthur followed. In the dining room he sat across from his host, keeping his head down. When his plate appeared, he jumped slightly, even though he’d braced himself for it.
“I can have the elf bring it next time,” Snape suggested helpfully.
Arthur shook his head. “That won’t help,” he said honestly. Reminding himself that this all would be over soon, he forced himself to eat past his clenched stomach.
Days past. Wednesday came and went. Arthur settled into a quiet routine of playing his handheld or reading in the laboratory while Snape brewed. Snape was obnoxious, but he realized after another day, very predictably so. He even relaxed after a subsequent day with no more threats of transfiguration or dark wizardry.
Arthur gradually found the guts to ask more questions. “Why did my dad and you hate each other?” he asked one day during lunch as he thickly buttered a hunk of heavy bread.
“We do not wish to go into this,” was the reply.
“Who started it?” Arthur persisted.
After a pause, Snape said, “I did, I suppose. Harry certainly didn’t know who I was when I decided to make his life miserable.”
“And you’re helping now because you owe him. Everyone seems to. Where the hell have they all been?” Arthur snapped. He’d been keeping this very carefully bottled up, so much so that the force of releasing it took him by surprise. “Sorry,” he said quickly.
“Don’t be. It is a very valid question,” Snape commented.
This only made Arthur’s shoulders fall farther.
“Not to disparage your dear dead mother, but I do believe she had a large role in sending ongoing assistance away.”
“I remember that,” Arthur said. “I remember her yelling about gawkers and freaks.” He shook his head. “I don’t think she understood, but what do I know?” He put his knife down and left the table.
Back in the laboratory, he turned the lamps up, by hand. He was the only one who needed to do it that way. With a sigh, he sat down beside the desk and made sure his mobile was accessible with the ringer on, since he couldn’t miss the intercept from the house phone. Elsa had only called the one time, which was much less often than he’d expected, considering how often she checked on him at home. It was Friday and he didn’t expect her to call then.
He sent a short message back to Roger saying he had nothing to tell. Roger dropped many stupid jokes about magic in his questions. Arthur deleted them right after replying.
Arthur forced himself not to worry that his dad was still sleeping past his due date, especially since he’d never been predictable before. He pulled out his hand-held and played Stratagem III’s last level over again.
A gasp brought his head up. Arthur’s heart began pounding. He raced from the room, dropping his hand-held on the floor unheeded. Snape wasn’t in the dining room. Arthur ran to the library. “Mr. Snape, he’s waking up,” he said breathlessly to the figure perusing a book while standing before a tall column of shelves.
The wizard snapped the book closed and put it down before striding out behind Arthur. In the laboratory, Harry was sitting up and looking around in curiosity. Arthur rolled his eyes at his father’s total lack of alarm at where he found himself. Harry looked sharply at Snape then shifted to confused if not alarmed.
“I bow to your excessive experience with this,” Snape said to Arthur.
With a deep breath Arthur stepped around the work table and stood beside the desk. Harry pulled his gaze from Snape to stare with equal confusion at Arthur.
“Everything’s all right,” Arthur said, gesturing palms down with his hands.
Recognition filled Harry’s eyes and made him study Arthur very closely.
“I see what you mean now by useful,” Snape commented.
Arthur ignored him. “You don’t remember what happened,” he said to his father in a confident tone. “You were injured and it has affected your memory. You sleep for a long time and forget everything in between.” He watched Harry consider this. Take it slow, Arthur reminded himself. “I look familiar because I’m your son. I’m thirteen and my name is Arthur.” He stopped then because it always took a moment to get over having to say that. He really wished he didn’t have an audience.
Harry made the very familiar gesture of rubbing his hair back as he took that in.
“You have lost a lot of time.” Arthur went on when he could do so levelly. “You are thirty-four now.” He sensed Snape moving in beside him.
Harry cleared his throat. “Which is why you look so much older,” he said to Snape. “Where am I?”
“My house,” Snape replied.
Harry shook his head faintly. “What happened to me?”
Snape replied again, “You were struck with three curses nearly simultaneously. A sleeping curse, a stasis class freezing curse, and a blasting curse.”
“You were training to be an Auror at the time,” Arthur said. “Do you remember that?”
Harry’s brow furrowed. “I think so. Yes.”
“Do you remember the attack on the Burrow?” Arthur then asked. This was a dangerous question, but it let him know where he stood with regard to memories since it had happened after his father’s injury. It was one of the last memories his dad had lost.
“I don’t think so. What happened?” he asked in concern.
“We will go over that later,” Snape interrupted. “It was a very long time ago, rest assured.”
Harry blinked at him. He hoisted himself off the desk. Arthur jumped over to grab him before he collapsed. “Too soon,” Arthur admonished him.
Snape grabbed a chair and set it nearby. Arthur forced Harry to sit down as Snape said, “We should get started if you think we are past the initial stage of understanding.”
“I think so,” Arthur said.
Harry looked him over. “How I can I have a son I don’t know?” he asked a little petulantly.
“There is nothing to know,” Snape commented dryly as he pulled things from the drawers around the table. “He is exactly like you.” He brought out the plastic sample cup and a length of rubber hose as well as a straight razor and some other things.
“And that is for?” Harry asked doubtfully.
“Your blood is needed from your wakeful state to complete the potion that will, if your earlier luck has returned, bring you to a sleep-wake cycle much closer to normal. I am hopeful this will address your memory problems as well since they are interconnected.” Harry obeyed as Snape had him make a fist repeatedly before he tied the rubber hose tight around his upper arm. Arthur backed up a step, uncomfortable with this level of professional blood drawing.
“This is a most useful container,” Snape commented as he pressed it against Harry’s arm and with one swift motion, made a very small angled cut. Blood flowed from it. When it slowed, he one handedly unsnapped the hose and it flowed freely again. When he had enough, he pressed a fold of clean cloth against his arm and made Harry hold it. “Up,” he commanded to make Harry raise his arm.
“You are giving me bad flashbacks to Muggle surgeons, Severus,” Harry commented.
“Me too,” Arthur breathed, unheard.
Snape went back to his brewing with intensity. The burners were turned up and the bubbling recommenced. “There is plaster tape in that drawer by you, Arthur,” Snape said without looking up. “Bind that cloth tightly for your father.”
Arthur dug in the drawer and finally found a roll of yellowing gum tape. Harry brought his arm down and pressed on the cloth, moving his fingers out of the way as needed. As Arthur added a third long piece for good measure, his father ran his fingers lightly over his head.
“I’m sorry I can’t remember you,” he said.
“It’s all right,” Arthur replied automatically as he put the tape away where he’d found it.
“How can that possibly be all right?” Harry asked him.
Arthur looked up at him. His father was different here. Or different around this other wizard.
“I don’t have anything else,” Arthur explained pragmatically.
Harry swallowed and said to Snape, “You are going to cure me of this?”
“No guarantees,” Snape and Arthur said simultaneously.
Snape raised a brow at the boy. “I take it back, Potter. You aren’t exactly the same. He is much smarter than you were at his age.”
Harry turned to his son and opened his mouth. Arthur cut him off. “I’m a Muggle. So was Mum. She died of cancer four years ago. You don’t ever remember her either, but I brought a picture anyway.” He went to his bookbag and pulled out the things he’d brought. He handed over the small silver frame. “That’s Mum,” he said.
Harry stared at the picture and mutely shook his head.
“Here’s your wand.” Harry pocketed that. “Here’s your chocolate frog card.” Harry shook his head in chagrin and looked that over. “I have your wizard money, but if the price of sundaes is any indication, it isn’t very much, but I haven’t braved Gringotts yet. Something about goblins was mentioned and I decided I’d rather not risk you waking up when I wasn’t around. I have the key with me. Most everything else got thrown away over time, like your books which the Nanny thought were devilish. Mum got tired of her crossing herself every time she walked past them.”
He thought a moment. “Some of the other questions you usually ask have become irrelevant. Oh, this has been going on as long I remember, but Mum said you used to be much better.”
Harry stared at him with pained eyes. Arthur chastised himself for going too fast. That always made it harder for his father for some reason. It was what the routine of it said about the situation, he supposed. He glanced at Snape, surprised to find his dark eyes on him with a considerate expression.
Arthur collected himself and hopped onto the desk beside his father’s chair. He leaned forward and said easily, “It really is all right.” He thought of saying that he still preferred him to the other boy’s dads, but sometimes that was tricky as well. Especially with an audience to judge his words.
Harry raised his hand and rested it on Arthur’s knee. “Severus?” he said in an empty voice.
“Yes?” Snape said as he poured some kind of powder out of a mortar into a small gold cauldron.
“Please,” Harry breathed.
Snape paused and tilted his curtained, bent head away for a moment. “If it is in my power . . . “ he stated.
Arthur put a hand on Harry’s shoulder. He seemed to be holding together all right. Both of them were, an unexpected benefit of the audience, he thought. After a long silent time of watching the brewing, Arthur said, “Is there any chocolate ice cream?”
“Send the house-elf to get some,” Snape suggested.
Arthur shuddered. “The elf queers me out.”
“Me too,” Harry commented.
“Really?” Arthur asked in surprise.
“That is because some of your best friends are house-elves, Potter,” Snape commented.
“Anyone who wanted so save my life, I was all for,” Harry commented.
“That is the problem with collecting so many enemies,” Snape came back. “You did have a remarkable number of them.”
“And strangely, they were all friends of yours,” Harry commented suggestively.
Snape gave him a challenging look that didn’t really look threatening. He rolled his eyes as he went back to stirring a silvery liquid into the powder.
Harry stood up with care and held his hand out to the boy. “Come on, Arthur. Let’s go ask the house-elf together.”
Arthur took his hand even though he was much too old for it, and slid off the desk. Out in the hallway, his dad moved with purpose.
“You know where to find the elf?”
“Of course. He’ll be in the kitchen, which is probably below the ground floor,” Harry replied casually. At the bottom of the steps Harry found without effort, they ducked low and entered a cool storage room filled with tins and wooden boxes on crude shelves. At the end a doorway led to large, low-ceilinged room with a wide hearth. Metal arms were folded out of the fire against the wall with different cauldrons suspended on them. Worn worktables lined the walls. Everything was elf-height.
“Master?” the halfling said, leaping over to them from where he was chopping carrots.
Harry smiled. “Can you get us a container of Fortescue’s chocolate ice cream?”
The elf bowed. “Of course, Master.”
“And chocolate sauce,” Arthur added quickly. The elf bowed to him at that and with a snap of his fingers, vanished. “I’m not sure I like it here,” Arthur commented.
“The whole concept of house-elves bothers me,” Harry said as though in agreement, pushing on Arthur’s shoulder to turn him around. Arthur didn’t have the heart to tell his dad he’d misunderstood.
Later in the dining room, Arthur sat back after eating two bowls of ice cream. “That is good stuff,” he commented.
“How long have you been here?” Harry asked.
“Just since Monday.” Arthur proceeded to tell him the whole story since his dad’s spirits seemed pretty high at the moment.
“You did pretty well for a Muggle alone on Diagon Alley.”
“Weird place all right,” Arthur agreed. He’d told most of the story accurately, just leaving off the parts where he’d upset Mr. Snape.
“I remember the first time I saw it. I thought it was marvelous,” Harry said dreamily as he licked the last of the chocolate sauce from his spoon. “Let’s look around the house,” he suggested brightly.
They didn’t make it far. The library caught Harry’s attention and he began touring the shelves instead. “Look at this, the Quidditch Yearbook for-” He stopped as he pulled the book from the shelf and gaped at it. “Twenty thirteen?”
“Last year,” Arthur said as though that were obvious.
Harry sat down on the oriental rug and opened the book, clearly stunned. He flipped the pages one at a time, eyes roaming over the moving team photos, action shots and tables of statistics. Arthur frowned and sat down beside him. Harry put an arm around him as though he needed the anchoring.
A while later, Snape stepped in silently. He paused in the doorway when he spotted the pair on the floor, Harry with his arms wrapped around his son pointing out things in a book. He hesitated, then stepped in anyway. When the pair looked up, he asked Harry, “How long do you think you will remain awake?”
The question didn’t mean anything to Harry. Arthur said, “He’s doing pretty well. At worst, continuous tea will buy him at least an hour and he hasn’t had any yet.” Harry’s arm tightened compulsively around him as he talked.
Snape said, “More ice cream should assist as well. I will finish the potion now then. It will require eighty minutes. It is critical to keep him awake until then.” With a last look over them, he departed with a long stride.
When they were alone again, Arthur leaned back harder against his dad. He felt childish doing it and didn’t care at all, felt it was his due, in fact.
After forty-five minutes of shared reminiscing, Harry said, “More ice cream I think.”
Back in the dining room they ate even more ice cream and Harry asked the elf for a pot of tea.
“I think you’ll make it. It’s only twenty minutes more.”
“I feel a little sleepy. This is normal though?” Harry asked.
“For you,” Arthur replied.
A tea set materialized. Harry opened the lid to check it before pouring out a cup. “I can’t have been much of a dad to you.”
This made Arthur realize that he’d lost track of the usual script at some point. This place really disrupted it. “You’ve pointed out in the past that you would have been thrilled to have had your dad for an hour a month,” he said carefully. Grief always seemed to make his dad more tired and he was determined to steer clear of it.
Harry sipped his tea loudly. “I would have,” he agreed. “I would have traded a lot for that. But this must be hard for you. Repeating everything.”
Arthur shrugged casually and managed a smile for him.
Eventually, Snape stepped in. “It is ready,” he stated solemnly.
Harry gave Arthur a confident look and followed Snape back to the laboratory. Arthur hung behind, not wanting to get in the way. Snape poured a silver and red swirled liquid into a stone goblet and handed it to Harry. “Drink it slowly,” he commanded.
Harry needed both hands for the heavy cup. He made a face after the first sip. “No problem there.” He clearly forced himself to take another sip. Long minutes passed before the goblet neared empty. Breathing heavily, Harry set the goblet on the desk with a thud and held the edge. He looked like he might be sick. Snape picked up the goblet.
“You must finish it,” he commanded, holding it out. When Harry didn’t move, he took the back of his head and held the cup to his lips. Trembling, Harry obeyed, swallowing twice more, a thread of silver running from the corner of his mouth like mercury would. With a swish of his cloak, Snape took the goblet away and set it on the table.
Harry’s legs gave out. He used the desktop to lower himself to crouch on the floor beside the desk. Arthur gasped and raced over to him. His father was sweating badly and trembling. He shot a look at his host of mixed suspicion and plead.
“It is a permanent transformation potion. It is not going to be pleasant,” the man stated simply.
Harry moaned and shifted along the floor as though trying to escape something.
“Dad?” Arthur said in concern.
Harry wrapped his arms around his shins and rocked a few times before unwinding, crawling the to the center of the rug, and laying his head down.
“Do not let him sleep,” Snape stated harshly.
Arthur shook his father hard. “Sit up,” he said fearfully. Harry groggily obeyed. He gasped and closed his eyes. He wrapped his arms around his middle and started rocking again as though in agony. Long minutes passed before he began to relax.
“I think the worst is over,” Snape said.
Harry took off his glasses to rub his eyes hard. He gave Arthur’s pained face a half smile.
“Now we must keep him awake as long as possible. At least thirteen hours.”
Between the two of them, Harry was kept occupied, with conversation, food, games on the handheld or when he became critical, walking the perimeter of the room in circle after mindless circle. By the time four hours had come and gone, Arthur finally allowed himself to hope. By the time his dad managed ten, he almost felt confident.
“Dad,” Arthur shook Harry hard. His head lolled and he barely lifted it.
“I think we can let him sleep now. It has been almost thirteen and a half hours.”
“You’re certain?” Arthur asked worriedly.
Snape came over and hefted Harry up with a hand under his arm. Gently, he said, “Yes, I am certain.”
They led a fumble-footed Harry up the stairs to Arthur’s room and put him to bed. Arthur took his dad’s glasses off and set them on the small table. It was three in the morning and despite being exhausted, he stood beside his host pensively, watching. Harry didn’t move, but Arthur noticed that his breathing stayed normal. He glanced up at Snape, excited.
“He is not falling into stasis,” Snape commented. He watched acutely for another two minutes. “That is very promising. Stay with him. I expect he won’t wake up, but he will dream nonstop since he has not done so in fifteen years.” With a last close peering at Harry, he left.
Arthur, ecstatic now, watched his father sleeping for a long time, until his own head nodded repeatedly. The bed was wide, so he curled up beside him and fell asleep.
Morning arrived seemingly moments later. Snape poked Arthur on the arm to wake him. He blinked his eyes into focus. Harry still slept beside him. For a moment Arthur’s heart sank as he couldn’t see him breathing, then his chest rose fully and he exhaled audibly. Relief swept through Arthur.
“It is ten,” Snape said. “He should not be allowed to sleep excessively and it has been seven hours.” He looked at Arthur. “Are you ready?”
Arthur bit his lip and nodded. Hope had become a pronged dangerous thing inside his chest. His host shook his father’s arm and said, “Potter,” stridently. Harry’s eyes snapped open and he raised an arm to rub them. He peered up at Snape with narrowed eyes before closing them again. Snape shook him again. “Do not fall back to sleep,” he admonished.
“All right,” Harry said drowsily. He turned his head to look at the boy. “Good morning, Arthur,” he said. Arthur held the breath he’d just pulled in and threw himself at his father. “Oof,” Harry breathed as he was landed on and clutched furiously.
“You remembered my name,” Arthur said quietly, pained.
Harry shifted to enfold him better. “Of course I did,” he said. “How could I forget?” He ran his hand over Arthur’s head as he felt the boy trembling with emotion. “It’s all right Arthur. Everything’s all right. Thank you, Severus, for that,” he added to Snape, still hovering in the room, although he had stepped back.
“You should get up and moving around. We need to keep you awake at least as long, if not longer.” He left them alone.
Harry sat up with Arthur in his arms. The boy’s long limbs still clung to him fiercely. Harry kissed him on the top of his head. “Come on,” he urged. “We have a whole day ahead of us. Let’s have breakfast, go for a walk, maybe kick a ball around, read some, play that little game thing you have.” He stopped, Arthur shook faintly as though he might be crying. Harry wiped his own eye under his glasses and took a deep breath. “Dress the elf in drag, torment Professor Snape some more . . . “
Arthur laughed despite himself. He rubbed his eyes on his sleeve and finally was urged to get up.
Breakfast was a loud affair. Arthur talked nonstop about everything he could think of.
“Can I stay at day school?” Arthur asked. “Roger goes there too.”
“I don’t see why not.” Harry closed his eyes a long moment.
Snape interrupted. “If I may. I think you are going too fast,” he said to Arthur. “He just found out yesterday he has a son.”
“All right,” Arthur agreed. “I’m just not used to planning for him to remember.”
“We have have lots of time now, Arthur,” Harry said.
After breakfast, Harry stopped in the hall before the mirror over the sideboard. “I don’t look thirty four,” he said.
Snape stopped at the threshold to the library. “You aren’t. You have not been aging normally. You are probably closer to twenty-five.”
“Huh,” Harry commented. He looked down at Arthur. “So, your old man isn’t so old after all.”
Arthur considered him. “Can we go to a film? Can we see Martian Raiders II? The cinema in Chelsea has immersion goggles in every seat although the tickets are forty pounds.”
Harry thought that over a moment. “Why don’t we start with something else? A walk.”
“No. You are old,” Arthur said as he headed for the door.
Harry stopped beside the door to the library. “What are immersion goggles?” he asked Snape.
Snape shrugged. “The only previous mention I have heard was a complaint that his handheld did not support a set of them.”
“I need to stop and get another lighter to refill my batteries, by the way. My mobile has to keep working in case Elsa rings again.” He zipped his backpack and slung it over his shoulder.
Harry joined him at the door. “I suppose this will all make sense eventually,” he commented to no one in particular.
At the first newsstand, Arthur bought a lighter. “These are much cheaper than the refill packs at the handy store,” he stated authoritatively. At Harry’s confused look, he said, “The butane, dad,” as though that explained it all. Harry glanced at the news stand as they walked away. Nearly all of the magazines were just cardboard cutouts.
“We’ll get there Arthur, just be patient with me on the way.”
After a half hour of wandering, Harry stopped before a coffee shop. “Let’s take a break.”
“Are you tired already?” Arthur asked in concern.
“Just my legs. Come on,” he said reassuringly.
They sat down and relaxed over coffee and coca cola.
Arthur fiddled with his glass, clinking the ice. “So you trust Mr. Snape? Even though he was a Death Eater?”
“Where did you hear that?” Harry asked him curiously.
Arthur swallowed. “He showed me.”
“He showed you . . . his mark? I didn’t know he could do that. With Voldemort gone it would be invisible. I’m surprised he did that.”
Arthur shrugged. “He was trying to scare me, I think.”
“Did it work?”
Harry topped up his cup from the thermal pot on the table. “So, what did you say to deserve that?”
Arthur looked up sharply. Harry had a sly smile on his face. “I know him. And he tells me I should already know you.”
Arthur put his head down and didn’t reply.
“There’s another newsstand,” Harry said, pointing across the street. “Think they’ll have a paper?”
“A paper?” Arthur asked. “Um, they rarely have the actual hard copy ones anymore. But I have butane for the handheld. I’ll go get you a subchip. Hang on.”
Arthur dashed across the street, skillfully through the traffic. This was far harder to watch than Harry would have ever imagined. A minute later the boy returned, this time crossing with the lights. He sat back down and set a small plastic square on the table. It had rows of little square holes on one edge. “Mercury-BBC” the flat side read, with a logo below it. Arthur quickly disassembled the lighter and his grey hand-held. He pressed the lighter against another canister he’d pulled out of the handheld and patiently held that way for the long minute it took for the lighter to empty. He quickly reassembled it and put the plastic square in the side and used the screen with his thumbs a moment.
“Here,” he said, handing it over.
Harry stared at something like a newspaper. It reminded him of a wizard one, in that the pictures were moving. With a shake of his head, he read about the social struggles of unified Korea and the reform movement in Persia. “We’ll have to get a subscription to the Prophet, the wizard paper.
“That probably comes on paper, right?” Arthur asked with a hint of derision.
Chapter 6: Diagonally
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Chapter 6 -- Diagonally
On the third day after the potion, Snape said, “At the risk of sounding the poor host, you are free to return home, should you wish.”
“What do you think?” Harry asked Arthur. “Ready to go home?” Arthur nodded quickly. “Get your things together then.” When Arthur dashed up the stairs, Harry stepped over to Snape. “Thank you,” he said sincerely, shaking the older wizard’s hand.
“Don’t be a stranger, Potter,” Snape said levelly.
Harry smiled. “All right, I won’t.”
“I haven’t informed anyone of your progress on the assumption that you would prefer some time to adjust, but I am certain Minerva would like to see you, at the very least.”
Arthur piled back down the stairs eagerly, his backpack and shopping bags slung over his shoulder. Harry gave him an affectionate smile. “I do think he is ready to go.”
“I will owl you. I will be curious of your progress,” Snape said.
Harry promised to reply as he stepped over before Arthur and raised his chin with his index finger. After a long moment of staring into his eyes he stepped behind him and put an arm around him. Air buffeted them lightly and they were standing in the their own living room.
“Wow,” Arthur breathed.
“I assumed that was how you got there,” Harry commented.
“I did. I didn’t know you knew how to do that too.” He dropped his things in his room and followed his father as he investigated the house. “Hey, how did you know where we lived.”
“I didn’t.” Harry said casually. “You did.”
“Oh,” Arthur said, mollified. He took out his mobile and turned friendtracker back on.
“Can we get some Fortescue ice cream for here?” Arthur asked.
“We can make a shopping trip to Diagon Alley. I’d like to see what our money situation is as well at Gringott's.”
“Elsa always said it was fine. Well, she didn’t know about the Gringott's thing. She took care of everything else.” Arthur went to the desk in the living room and took out the account book and the other papers. Harry took them and carried them to the dining room while Arthur scooped out ordinary ice cream for the two of them.
“It’s good to know you weren’t worrying about money. I’m not sure where it all came from though.” He bundled everything back up. “We’ll sort that out with Elsa,” he said as he took it back to the living room.
A loud knock sounded on the door. Arthur jumped up and answered it.
“You’re back,” Roger said.
Arthur grinned at his friends. “Come in and have some ice cream,” he invited. In the dining room, the boys stopped.
“Mr. Potter,” Allen said in surprise. “Good to see you up, sir,” he said uncertainly.
“Uh, Dad, this is Roger and Allen, my buds.”
“Nice to meet you,” Harry said, shaking each of their hands. “Sit down and have some ice cream.”
With wary expressions they both took seats. Arthur brought bowls, spoons and the container from the freezer. The boys served themselves in an awkward silence. Arthur finished his serving and grinned at them as they ate. “My dad is all better,” he announced proudly.
This news appeared to alarm them more. “He is?” Roger asked. “Uh, that’s great, Mr. Potter.” He ate faster.
Harry gave his son a questioning look. Arthur winced and averted his eyes.
When the ice cream was finished, Roger leaned back and said. “Can we see some magic tricks, Mr. Potter?” Allen hit him on the arm.
“What have I shown you before?” Harry asked amiably.
Roger said, “You pulled a rabbit out of a tea cozy once.”
“No hat, apparently,” Harry commented. Roger shook his head. Harry stood up. “I’ll need my magic wand to do a trick. Just a second.” He left the room.
“Why are you being so stupid?” Arthur whispered harshly. “He didn’t have to know.” His friends gave him the kind of expression Arthur himself probably gave to Mr. Snape most of the time he was there. He sat back as his father returned, holding his wand.
“Now, Roger. Stand up.” Harry sized him up. “This is one of the first tricks I learned in professional magician school.”
“You went to school for magic?” Roger asked in surprise.
“Oh yes. Very difficult to get into as well. Now watch the wand.” Harry tapped him on the forehead. “Recallus Selectus,” he incanted. Roger froze in place. Allen stood up to look Roger’s unmoving form over and received the same treatment. Harry stashed his wand in his back pocket. “Arthur,” he said loudly. “Biscuits! I can’t believe we served ice cream without biscuits.” To the boys, he said, “Have a seat. We won’t tell your mums if you have seconds.”
Arthur stood up. “Wha-”
“Arthur, get the biscuits,” Harry repeated evenly.
With a glance at his friends, Arthur obeyed. When he came back with the tin, Roger and Allen were having another scoop each.
“Thanks for the treats, Mr. Potter,” Roger was saying. He shook his head occasionally as though disoriented. Allen had fallen totally silent, though he took a biscuit from the tin when it was held out to him.
“Chocolate is a wonderful thing. Don’t you think, Arthur?” Harry asked, leaning back in his chair in a confident manner, nibbling a chocolate covered biscuit. Arthur stared across the table at him, his hands clasped between his knees. Harry gave him a half-smile. “Now you know how I feel when you pour butane into electronic things.”
When the boys finished, Harry hustled them on home. “We have to take care of a thousand things around here,” he explained to them in way of an apology. He closed the door and stalked back down the corridor. “Moving Elsa out for example,” he said to himself. When he returned to the dining room, Arthur hadn’t moved.
“What did you do to them?” he asked hesitantly, warily.
“I gave them a memory charm so they’ll forget what you told them, or at the least their understanding of it.”
“I didn’t know you could do that,” Arthur commented.
“It is one of the first things we learned in Auror training. Magical Enforcement was my first rotation. Besides tracking down someone out of line, wiping Muggle minds is half the job,” Harry said easily.
Arthur didn’t reply right away. He didn’t look very happy. Eventually, he said, “How often do you have to do that to them?”
“Just the once.” Harry stepped over to him. Arthur didn’t raise his eyes. “Arthur, it is much safer that way,” he tried to explain.
“Don’t do things to my friends again, all right?” Arthur asked carefully.
“I don’t expect to need to,” Harry said reassuringly. “Come on, give me a tour of the house, if you will. Then let’s talk about Elsa.”
During dinner, the phone rang. Arthur answered it. “Hi, Elsa. Everything is fine here. Ms. Token isn’t here right now so I can’t put her on. Talk to Dad.”
Arthur handed the phone over. “Hello?” Harry said. “Doing quite well, thank you. . . . Ms. Token will return in a flash if we need her. She was adamant about that. . . . No worries. If I continue feeling better we may not need you much longer either. . . . No really. We’ll talk when you return. Good bye.” After he hung up he said to Arthur, “Would you be unhappy to see her go?”
“She’s all right, but that would be fine.”
“I want to have a more wizardish household than could be managed with her around,” Harry said. “Have an owl, for example.”
“We’re getting an owl?” Arthur asked, excited.
“I was thinking of heading to Eeylop’s tomorrow, in fact.” He waggled his eyebrows.
By ten, Arthur nodded off on the couch while his dad sorted through the trunks he’d hovered down from the attic. They included stacks of newspaper clippings which Harry read before stacking them neatly on the floor in organized piles. Arthur awoke to find Harry pressing his fingers against his eyes, his glasses in his hand. He climbed off the couch and over to him.
“What is it?” he asked. He picked up the nearby clippings. One of them showed the burned out remains of a really odd house. Smoke still drifted off it in the image. Another showed a row of photos with a headline proclaiming tragedy. “This was never a good one to tell you about,” Arthur said.
Harry sniffled. Arthur gathered the clippings together and set them aside. “You’re going too fast,” he insisted.
“I should owl Molly,” Harry commented. “Assuming she’s still around. I can’t imagine it,” Harry said and had to wipe yet another tear with his sleeve.
“Like Mr. Snape pointed out, it was a very long time ago,” Arthur offered.
“For everyone but me,” Harry quipped. “Hard to loose a best friend under any circumstances. It always amazed me that we all survived Voldemort. But not his followers, apparently.” He helped Arthur collect the clippings up. “You’re right--I need to slow down. It’s time for bed anyway.” He shut the lid on the trunk once the floor was clear. “Tomorrow, Diagon Alley,” he said with forced pleasure.
Five minutes later, clad in pyjamas and ready for sleep, Arthur stepped to his dad’s bedroom door. Harry sat on the bed with a small photo album in his lap. “Good night, dad.”
“Good night, Arthur.”
Arthur hesitated. “You named me after Mr. Weasley, you know.”
Harry looked up at that. “Did I?” At Arthur’s nod, he added, “That was very wise of me.”
* * *
In the morning Harry woke Arthur with the words, “Long list of things to do today, kiddo.”
It was a nice day, so they took the underground to Charing Cross Road. “Can’t we just Apparate?” Arthur asked as they walked down the street away from the house.
“It’s too crowded there for incoming traffic. Outgoing is all right, though, except we might be carrying too much and owls aren’t fond of Apparating if we find one we like.”
Arthur closed his eyes as he was led into the Leaky Cauldron. He expected Harry to be a little put out by his lack of seeing the doorway, but he didn’t seem to care, really.
“Hey Tom,” Harry said as they stepped in.
“Jumping jasper rats. It’s Harry Potter. Where have you been, my boy?”
“Long story. This is my son, Arthur.” The entire population of the pub came over then to be introduced. Arthur’s hand hurt by the time they made it out the back by the brick wall.
“Everybody, but everybody knows you,” Arthur breathed.
“If that bothers you, we are going to have real trouble in a moment.” He tapped the bricks and the archway opened. Arthur saw the street with new eyes this time, relaxed ones. They headed first to Fortescue’s. Florean came out of his shop and hugged Harry before urging them to sit down. Moments later he brought them both huge sundaes.
Arthur finished his in record time and Harry pushed his over to him to finish as well. “You didn’t seem keen on the bank; why don’t you wait here while I check things out there? It’s like a crazed mine ride, only with goblins driving.”
“I’ll wait here,” Arthur said.
“I’ll be about twenty minutes. Don’t move.”
Arthur finished the second sundae and burped. Florean came and collected the glass dishes, gushing about how happy he was to see his father. He ruffled Arthur’s hair before he departed back into his shop. Arthur straightened his hair and sat back with a sigh.
A woman stopped in the road and looked at him as he put his arm down. She had long auburn hair pulled back in a pony tail. Her expression reminded him of Tonks’, kind of pained. She stepped out of the slow stream of shoppers and came over to his table. She kept starting to speak and then stopping. Finally, she set her packages on one of the chairs and said, “I’m sorry, but you look so much like someone. What is your name?”
Arthur, a little tired of the fame routine he’d been thrust into, replied simply, “Arthur.”
“Arthur,” she echoed. “Not Arthur Potter?” she asked in a kind of daze.
“Yep,” he said, thinking there was nothing for it.
Her hand fell to the table, striking the thin metal surface hard. “My goodness,” she breathed. She glanced around quickly, “I’m Hermione Davies, but your father would have known me as Granger.”
Arthur brightened. “Have a seat.” He indicated the chair his dad had vacated. “My dad’s told me all about when he knew you at school. Said you were really smart.”
Moving as though stunned, she took the chair. “Your father is here?” she asked in surprise.
“He’s at the bank,” Arthur explained. “Mr. Snape made a potion that has made better,” he realized he needed to explain.
“He did? Wow.” She exhaled hard. “That is really good to hear.” She dabbed at her eye and gave him a forced smile.
“He should be back in a few minutes,” Arthur said. Everyone got so emotional about his dad; it made him uncomfortable.
“I think I’ll wait then. I’d love to see him. I haven’t seen you since you were four or so. You must be at Hogwarts now.”
“I’m a Muggle,” Arthur stated.
Hermione grinned truly then. “Now, that is interesting.”
“Dad keeps insisting it doesn’t matter,” Arthur said, a little defensive.
“Oh, I am certain he doesn’t mind. My parents are Muggles, so I don’t see anything wrong with that either. I just think its surprising given the amount of magic your father has.” She shrugged.
They chatted about things until interrupted by a voice saying, “Hermione!” from the road. She jumped up and hugged Harry fiercely for a very long time. Eventually it broke up and they both sat down. “Maybe you can clear some things up, actually,” Harry said after Hermione gushed for a minute about how good it was to see him and to hear he was better.
“Anything I can do, please ask,” she insisted.
“So, I was just at my vault, for the first time in fifteen years and it is really full.”
“Full?” Arthur asked, surprised.
“Yep. And the goblins were very unhelpful about explaining where it came from.”
“Oh.” Hermione said. She sat back. “I don’t know if you are going to like this,” she said. At Harry’s challenging expression, she went on, “They formed a foundation for you when it was clear you were going to have to quit the Auror’s program.”
She shrugged. “The Order. Fudge. Others maybe.” Harry sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. Hermione added, “Some solicitor in Hogsmeade runs it and the investments. I don’t remember the name. McGonagall would, I’m sure. Get over it, Harry. They weren’t going to not take care of you.”
Harry frowned and sighed again. He gazed at Arthur idly.
Arthur piped up. “Does this mean I can get the accelerated handheld and a set of mini goggles?”
“No. Because I don’t know what that means. I’ve been asleep for fifteen years, remember.”
Hermione laughed. “And my excuse, since I haven’t been asleep, would be?”
“You have children?” Harry asked.
“One. A girl. Will probably start at Hogwarts a year from now. Keeps setting things on fire, so I can’t wait.”
“I take it matches aren’t involved in that,” Arthur said.
Hermione shook her head. “I’ve learned more water spells in the last year, I cannot tell you.” They all laughed a bit. “But, you, Arthur, a Muggle,” she smiled at him. “Are you sure?” she asked Harry.
Harry looked Arthur over. “Ever have someone intent on beating you up, not be able to hold onto you, as though they are getting electrocuted?”
“No,” Arthur answered stridently. “That would have been nice, too,” he stated.
Hermione asked, “Ever get into serious trouble and suddenly find yourself somewhere else?”
“Well, I pissed off Mr. Snape and he sent me home in an eyeblink, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. It wasn’t me doing it.”
“It would have been like that,” Hermione pointed out.
“And no letter from Hogwarts the first summer you were eleven?” Arthur shook his head again. “Ah, well,” Hermione said amiably. She grasped Harry’s hand. “It is so good to see you. Come over for dinner next week. Give me your address and I’ll owl you.”
When she was gone, Harry said, “Speaking of which, we need to get an owl.”
They walked the few doors down to Eeylops and stepped in. “We need an owl and a fully outfitted cage,” Harry said to the clerk. He spied Arthur admiring a dark blue-black exotic that resembled a stout raven. “Something native, so it doesn’t attract attention.”
The shopkeeper took down a cage with a small tawny in it. “That one?” Arthur asked doubtfully. Without comment the man removed the owl and perched it on Arthur’s hand. The bird fluffed itself and tilted its head at him.
“It likes the boy,” the man commented.
“What shall we name it?” Harry asked.
“Uh, Romulus?” Arthur asked.
“Except that we are probably going to invite someone named Remus over at some point, that would be a great name. How about Pollux?” Harry suggested.
Arthur shrugged. “He doesn’t look like much though.”
The owl hooted sharply, making Arthur jerk lightly. Harry grinned. “He needs to not attract attention. And I think he is a grand owl.”
Harry handed over twenty gold coins for the bird and the cage and a cover for the cage for carrying it home.
On the way down Charing Cross Road, Arthur peered under the cover to check on the owl. “I don’t understand why an owl would carry post if it had a choice not to.”
When they were clear of other pedestrians, Harry replied. “It isn’t an ordinary owl. It’s a magic one. You’ll see.”
* * *
When they arrived home, they found Elsa had returned in their absence. “What is that?” she asked sharply when she saw the cage.
“A new pet,” Harry answered easily.
“You also pulled down a lot of stuff from the attic,” she said in a tone of mild complaint. “I took the next plane out after I talked to you-”
“You shouldn’t have bothered,” Harry said, cutting her off.
“I was concerned about the boy,” she said, still sounding unreasonably sharp.
Arthur backed up a bit to stay out of the way. Harry held the cage out to him to find a place for it. Arthur took it and carried it to the dining room. He moved a lamp and put the cage on it’s stand near the window. When he pulled off the cover, the owl looked around itself curiously. Arthur saw that its water bin was empty, so he reached in to take it out and fill it. Pollux just watched him with interest. As he got the owl set up he listened to his father arguing with Elsa. Elsa refused to believe he was better. Her insinuations about Harry’s bad influence got stronger with each exchange of words.
“I’ve seen bad things in this house, Mr. Potter,” she said. “Unholy things. Thank God most of them I convinced the boy’s mother to dispose of. But you are a little harder to manage.”
Silence ensued. Heart thumping, Arthur stepped around the corner and looked in the wide doorway from the hall. Harry’s eyes came up to him as he stood sideways to Elsa, thinking.
“Please don’t do anything stupid,” Arthur said.
Elsa grabbed Harry by the shirt sleeve and turned him. “What have you been telling that boy?” she demanded, now full of righteous fury.
“Nothing,” Harry said calmly, removing her hand with an easy motion of his own. “Your services are not needed anymore Mrs. McGovern. Return in an hour and we will have your things packed for you.”
“I’m not leaving that boy here alone with you!” she said in a hard tone.
“I’m his father, you don’t have any choice.”
“You didn’t even know he was yours yesterday, I’m certain,” she said, clearly going for the soft spot.
“I’ve known for almost a week now--I think I’m doing pretty well,” Harry said, although it lacked full conviction. “Leave, Mrs. McGovern. Come back in an hour.”
She snarled a bit and stomped to the door. “I’ll come back with the police,” she threatened.
“Your choice,” Harry said easily.
The door slammed.
Harry turned around. “She’d have the village burning me at the stake if this were the middle ages.” he commented darkly. “Let’s get her things packed.”
Arthur moved a little uncertainly as Harry went into Elsa’s room.
“Do we have boxes?”
Harry pulled out his wand and pointed it upwards. It flared and a stack of flattened cardboard, bound with string, appeared against the wall.
“I’ll get tape,” Arthur said in as even a voice as he could manage. He returned with a large gizmo with a handle and a roll of tape mounted on it.
By hand, Harry popped a box into shape and held it so Arthur could tape it. “A little longer up the sides,” Harry commented. Arthur did it over again. “Looks good.” Harry flipped the box over. “Stand back,” he said as he pulled out his wand. Arthur flattened himself against the wall as Harry incanted, “Pack!”
The doors of the cupboards burst open and books, boxes, memorabilia, magazines flew out and arranged themselves in the box. Harry pushed it closed and gestured for Arthur to tape it. Arthur moved quickly to comply, running the wheel of tape over the box top and down the side. As he pressed the tape down to tear it free, he slipped and the gizmo caught the back of his hand with the serrated edge of the cutter.
“Ow, drat,” he said, shaking it before putting it in his mouth.
“Arthur,” Harry admonished him. “Let me see it.” Arthur held out his hand, a jagged streak of red ran across the back of it. Harry pulled out his wand and tapped it, then wiped the blood off.
Arthur pulled his hand back slowly, staring at it mutely. He didn’t respond when Harry said, “Next box.” Arthur didn’t move at all, in fact. Harry left the box he held in shape and sat on the bed beside his son. Arthur jumped a bit when he did so. “Arthur,” Harry breathed. “Am I frightening you?” he asked in disbelief.
Arthur held out his hand. “You healed me,” he said dazedly. Harry slipped an arm around him and pulled him close. Still in a stunned voice, Arthur asked, “What can’t you do?”
“Lots of things,” Harry insisted.
“Hermione said you have very strong magic.”
“I do. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten into the Auror’s program.” He ran his fingers through his son’s hair. “Arthur, I really don’t mean to frighten you.”
“This isn’t supposed to be real,” Arthur said quietly.
“That is exactly what the average Muggle is supposed to think.”
“Why this stupid game of hiding?” Arthur asked suddenly.
“It is better that way. In the past things got very bad when magic was generally believed to be real. People always want the easy way out even when it isn’t the right one. And then they fear and become destructive when everything goes awry. It really is better this way,” he repeated, patting Arthur on the arm.
“But, that is no excuse for making you feel uneasy,” Harry added after a moment. He stood up. “Does the pack spell bother you?”
“No, it’s kind of cool.”
“Okay, let’s get back to it. If you cut yourself again I won’t heal it unless you ask. I’m sure there are plasters around.”
As they taped and stacked, Arthur finally said, “The healing thing just seems, I don’t know, godlike.”
“It isn’t really. That spell will only heal skin, not bone or tendon or muscle.”
Arthur wasn’t certain that made him feel any better.
The boxes were stacked in the hallway when the doorbell chimed. Elsa stalked in and surveyed them. “Awfully fast,” she commented.
Harry shrugged. “We included the TV and the digital movie player, which Arthur thought you would appreciate.” She thought that over. Harry went on, “I am very grateful to the care you’ve given Arthur since his mum died. It was good to have you on for continuity, but I can take care of him now and I want to do that my way.”
Her jaw worked for a few moments. “I called a cab company. Had ‘em send two vans. They’ll be here soon, I ‘spect. My sister said I can stay with her.”
“I’m glad you found satisfactory accommodations on such short notice,” Harry said politely.
An hour later, the last box was carried out and Elsa was gone for good. With a sigh of relief, Harry sat on the couch. He patted the spot beside him. Arthur sat down and crossed his arms, looking pensive. Harry shifted beside him and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him to lean back with him. After a while, Arthur let his head lean on Harry’s shoulder.
“Everything’s going to be fine, Arthur. I promise,” Harry said.
“Are you planning to go back and be an Auror?” Arthur asked.
“I wasn’t thinking of it.”
Chapter 7: Hoggy Hoggy Hogwarts
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Chapter 7 — Hoggy Hoggy Hogwarts
“Cassandra!” Hermione spoke sharply to her daughter. “You will behave yourself when we have guests.”
The bony, large-eyed girl giggled and backed out of the way of the door. Arthur stared at the spot where the girl had made a ball of flame appear in mid air with just her bare hand. He was having video game instincts again and he didn’t really want to step into the house.
“Roger,” Harry said, greeting his old school mate.
“Harry, good as hell to see you. Come in. And your son, I expect, not nearly the troublemaker as our child.”
“He makes up for lack of magic in other more creative ways. He has technology on his side, for one thing.” Harry put his hand behind Arthur and pushed him in.
Dinner was delicious and minimal magic was used during serving and clean up. Arthur wondered if his dad had requested that and hoped he hadn’t.
“Have you talked to Headmistress McGonagall?” Hermione asked Harry.
“We are invited to Hogwarts the second weekend of the first term as special guests.”
“That will be fun!” Hermione said to Arthur in her talking to a child voice. Harry grinned at it.
“Sure,” Arthur shrugged. “Dad is too famous though to go into public with, except in regular London.”
“Harry,” Roger admonished him jokingly, “You’re too famous.”
“I can’t seem to do anything about it. Dropping out of sight doesn’t seem to have diminished it much.”
“Are you kidding? The rumors were always flying,” Roger said shaking his head.
That night, Arthur lay in bed thinking as he tried to fall asleep. He heard his father’s footsteps in the hallway and called out to him. Harry opened the door wider and leaned in.
“Can I ask you something?” Arthur said.
“Of course.” Harry came in and sat on the edge of the bed. He waved his hand and the oil lamp beside the bed came up a little. The light was warm, which Arthur much preferred to the harsh light in the middle of the ceiling.
“You really don’t mind that I don’t have any magic?” Arthur asked him.
“No, I really don’t.” Harry put a hand on his shoulder. “You are as dear to me as you ever could be. Please don’t worry about that.” When Arthur sighed, Harry went on, “Did I ever tell you about your namesake?”
“Mr. Weasley loved Muggles. Collecting Muggle things was a hobby for him, especially technology. He had a collection of electrical plugs he was very proud of. Some still with the cut-off cord attached.”
Arthur put his hands over his face. “Oh dear,” he said in dismay.
Harry went on, smiling. “He collected machines that promptly broke when he tinkered with them at all, so he’d have to charm them to make them work again. He had an electric mixer, for example, and the motor burned out from being wired wrong, so he charmed it so that when you pushed the switch, the blades would turn.”
Arthur laughed through his hands.
“He would be thrilled that you are a Muggle and not just an ordinary one, but one that uses technology with such skill and ease. I would go so far as to say that he’d be honored even. It seems like magic to me sometimes, the way you bend those devices to work for you.” Harry paused. Arthur put his hands down and met his gaze. Harry rubbed Arthur’s hair back from his forehead. “Now, this almost ruly hair of yours, that is unacceptable,” he teased.
“Did he really have a collection of plugs?” Arthur asked.
Harry smiled more. “I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression. He was a caring man who stuck to his morals no matter what.”
“Seems like he paid for that,” Arthur opined.
Harry sighed. “He did. That’s the problem with being one of the few who do. If everyone did, from the beginning, many fewer people would get hurt. We owe a lot to the ones that stick to their conscience.”
Arthur sat up on his elbows. “You do realize that is how everyone talks about you.”
Harry straightened at that. “I don’t think I paid that dearly.”
“You lost the last fifteen years,” Arthur pointed out.
“No, I didn’t,” Harry said quietly. “I have you.” With that he bent over and kissed Arthur on the forehead.
Harry led Arthur along the platform at King’s Cross station. Between platform nine and ten he stopped beside the pillar and held Arthur’s shoulders. At a moment when no one was looking, he stepped through sideways, pulling his son with him. Arthur jerked when the wizard platform appeared. The morning local was just arriving and dark-robed figures stepped off the short train with boxes and bags. Harry waited at the first door and when it was clear, stepped on.
As they found an empty compartment, Harry said, “Eventually the Floo network will be hooked up and we can do this much faster.”
“Can’t Apparate?” Arthur asked.
“Not to Hogwarts or anywhere near it. Spells protect it from that. From most all approaches really.”
The train pulled out. It stopped four times before reaching Hogsmeade. For one of those legs they had a man and his daughter with them in their compartment. The daughter gaped at Harry and kept trying to tell her father who was across from them, but the man was busy reading Witch Weekly and shushed her each time.
Arthur shook his head after man and girl got off and hoped the school wasn’t just more of that multiplied by six hundred. Harry insisted he put on a robe before they arrived. Arthur gave in under the argument that his normal clothes would be anything but inside the school.
“There it is,” Harry said as Arthur dozed. Arthur opened his eyes and looked out where Harry pointed. All he saw was an old castle on a hill.
“Right there,” Harry said, adjusting his point because of the bend in the track.
“The ruin?” Arthur asked.
Harry, stunned, blinked at his son. After a moment, he said, “It’s supposed to look like a ruin to Muggles.”
“What do you see?” Arthur asked.
“A huge, whole castle with tall towers and four flags.” He glanced at Arthur. “I hadn’t thought of this,” he mulled aloud. The train slowed with much hissing and finally stopped. “Come on, we’ll figure it out. Filch always managed to get inside, somehow.”
They stepped off; some of the people stepping on stopped and gaped at Harry, who gave them a smile and a small wave. At the lake edge he paused to look over the water. Arthur stepped up beside him and Harry sighed, “No giant squid today.”
Arthur’s eyes went wide and when he realized Harry had walked on, rushed to catch up. He walked on the left side of his father, farther from the water’s edge. “That’s the Forbidden Forest,” Harry said as they came closer to the trees on the left.
“Why is it called that?”
“I didn’t tell you about it?”
“Maybe you mentioned it.”
“Lots of strange things in there.”
“Like what?” Arthur asked, and wondered if he should walk closer to the lake after all.
“Oh, some neat things like Unicorns and Thestrals. But mostly nasty things like giant spiders. The enchanted Ford Anglia might still be there. The giant probably is as well, though you can hear him coming from a ways off . . . the ground shakes when he walks.”
Arthur walked a little closer. “You never kid, do you?” he admonished his father.
With the lawn spread out before them, Arthur stopped dead. “I have to go and-” He started to turn.
Harry grabbed his arm. “It’s the spell. Still a ruin, eh?” he asked him.
“Pretty sad looking one, yeah. Old warning posters tacked all over.”
“Close your eyes. That worked for the Leaky Cauldron, right?”
“Yep.” Arthur obeyed. Harry led him along. Arthur fought against a sense that bad things were happening somewhere, for instance that perhaps the iron—which he had never in his life used—was even now burning a hole in something and that he really should be taking care of that instead of being here. As he walked farther the feeling faded and finally disappeared.
“Open your eyes.”
Arthur gasped as he took in the grand building with its broad walls and tall spires. “That looks like a castle,” he said.
Harry smiled and led the way to the front door. Students were clustered on the steps enjoying the sunlight. As Harry approached, some of them stood up. “Hello, Mr. Potter,” they said almost reverently. Harry returned their hellos and led Arthur inside.
“Harry,” McGonagall greeted him. “And Arthur,” she leaned down and shook his hand. “I’m the headmistress here.” They strolled across the long Entrance Hall chatting in low tones. Arthur could hear guilt in the woman’s voice, so he slowed down and let them get ahead. Looking around him, he espied the Great Hall from the chocolate frog card and stepped in the first open doorway to ponder the ceiling in wonder. He hadn’t meant to wander far, but he was halfway along between two very long tables before someone asked, “Who are you?” a little rudely.
Arthur met the gaze of a dark haired girl with violet eyes. He didn’t know that color of eye existed before now. She was tall and she used her height to lean over him a bit when he didn’t answer right away. He noticed she wore a badge that said, Head Girl. A boy came running up on the other side of the table, breathless and gasped, “Harry Potter is out in the Entrance Hall,” with such excited tones, Arthur worried he might have a seizure any moment.
The girl spun from Arthur and vaulted the table in a rather impressive move. The pair walked stiff-limbed to the doors in a bid for some decorum. Arthur rolled his eyes. Many of the other students seemed to hear the news as well and followed that way too. Arthur continued in the opposite direction, toward a far wall with a long raised table and banners with grand crests upon them.
“Baldric's beard, look at them,” someone said derisively. “You’d think Merlin himself was here.”
Arthur turned slowly and studied the speaker. It was a tall, well-built boy with a bad haircut and crooked teeth. A group of gloomy students clustered around him.
“Well, look who’s here,” a familiar voice said. Arthur turned and found himself facing the two blondes from Diagon Alley. They had several more blonde companions with them, tall and burly looking. “The Mudblood,” she said with a quirked mouth.
“Hello again,” Arthur said smoothly, ignoring her tone and going for confusion.
“You must not be a student here, or you are sadly out of uniform,” she said.
“I’m not a student here,” Arthur said.
The tall, dark haired one ambled over, his companions following as though by gravity. Arthur found that he was now very much surrounded. “You know what,” the boy said, forcibly turning Arthur with his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “You look an awful lot like the man everyone is worshiping out in the hall.”
“He’s my dad,” Arthur stated.
This sent the proper ripple of surprise through them. Arthur assumed that they would decide he was too hot to handle and leave him alone. Their grins widened instead in a display of perverse pleasure that no video game avatar could mimic, and they moved in closer. Arthur made the mistake of taking a step back and bumping into one of the tall blonde ones behind him.
“Going somewhere?” the boy asked lightly. “We haven’t gotten to know each other really at all.”
“We don’t really need to,” Arthur quipped.
“And why’s that? You go to Durmstrang instead or something?”
Arthur didn’t understand that question, so he chose to ignore it.
The dark-haired boy looked him over more closely. “I think he’d look good with a pair of goat horns. What do you think?” The boy pulled his wand out.
More voices sounded from the other side of the hall, but the students around him were too tall and pressed too thick for him to see. He thought of shouting but then considered how utterly embarrassing that would be.
“I think one of those long, pink dragon tails like you gave to Chazor the other day,” the blonde girl said with a smirk. “What, not going to take out your wand and defend yourself?” she derided him. Arthur didn’t respond. She stepped in front of her schoolmate to face him down. “Go on, get it out. Let’s see what the son of a legend can do with a wand.”
“I don’t have one,” he said.
“Don’t have one,” she said. “What are you, a Muggle?”
Arthur didn’t respond. The group around him gasped and inhaled with an odd hungry delight. “Imagine, the son of freakin’ Harry Potter, nothing more than a Squiby Muggle,” one of them said from beside him.
The blonde girl stuck her wand against his chest; Arthur didn’t even see her take it out. “Are you really?” she asked, her eyes glowing with pleasure. “God, father is going to freak when he hears that. I can’t wait to tell him.” She laughed in a very strange way.
Arthur glanced around himself, looking for an opening. Voices sounded from the end of the hall now as well and he thought he could hear his father’s. His heart was beating far too fast, but he really wished to just wait this out, rather than panicking.
“Ehem,” a voice behind him uttered. The students turned and snapped straight, almost as though coming to attention. Arthur moved his head and found Snape glaring at each of the students in turn. He looked displeased which fit his features well.
Arthur relaxed a little. “Mr. Snape,” he said, embarrassed at needing assistance.
“Arthur,” Snape said in an ambiguous tone. He pivoted over beside him—the crowd of students parting instinctively to make room—and put an arm around Arthur’s shoulder, effectively enclosing him in the wide sleeve of his robe. Flushing, Arthur was led through the students and toward the end of the hall. As they passed, he glanced up at the dark-haired boy and blinked when he saw not derision, as expected, but a kind of awe in his dark gaze. The same look was reflected in several of their gazes.
Snape led him onto the back of the platform and down to the middle of the table. Harry was standing there speaking with the headmistress. “Potter,” Snape said. “Do try to keep an eye on him.”
“Getting into trouble already?” Harry asked him with a knowing grin.
“Not exactly,” Snape replied. “Licia Malfoy had her wand pointed at his heart. I didn’t give her a chance to pick a spell, even though I was somewhat curious what she had in mind.”
Harry did look a little alarmed at that. “Malfoy,” he breathed out.
“She and I go way back,” Arthur quipped, trying to regain his pride.
Harry patted him on the shoulder and shook his head. “Which one is she?” he asked Arthur.
More teachers filed up to the table. “The one on the left. Blonde, small nose,” Arthur said, glancing quickly over there and away again.
Harry gave the girl a stern look, making her duck behind her friend. McGonagall gestured for them all to be seated but remained standing herself. Arthur found himself between his father and Snape.
McGonagall cleared her throat and the hall fell silent. “As most of you know, we have a special guest this evening—Harry Potter.”
The room, just as immediately, broke out into vigorous clapping. The students on the table on the far left pounded their hands on it in sync, filling the hall with thunder. Arthur’s breath quickened as he watched them all. The table on the right cheered less, but most still clapped. McGonagall held up her hand and the hall fell still again. Arthur wasn’t used to that kind of obedience from children his age, and he wondered if he had underestimated the headmistress.
“There will be a dueling demonstration after the meal, so everyone should remain in the hall for that, unless you are completely uninterested in that sort of thing.” As McGonagall said this, excited whispering broke out. Arthur tried not to look as though he didn’t know that was coming, since far more curious and judging eyes where on him than he was used to.
McGonagall stepped back to pull her chair out but then paused. “And one more thing. Anyone who jinxes Mr. Potter’s son Arthur will be . . . made part of the next demonstration. And it will be . . . a long one.” She spoke this in metered speech that made it come out very menacing. “That is all,” she said as she took her seat.
“I like her,” Arthur said to his dad. He hadn’t meant to say it loud enough to carry, but the headmistress turned and gave him an eye-sparkling smile.
Platters of food appeared before them. Arthur reached for the roast chicken, suddenly very hungry. Snape held up a pitcher. “Pumpkin juice?”
“What?” Arthur asked.
“You’ve never had it?” Snape asked at the same time Harry leaned in from the left saying, “It’s delicious.”
“Sure. Thanks,” he said, not very certain. Beyond the tilting pitcher he could see the students on the far right table looking very distressed indeed. Snape set the pitcher down. Arthur was certain many eyes over there were tracking what the teacher beside him was doing. Arthur leaned over to his dad. “What is it with the table on the right?”
Harry leaned over and whispered, “That’s the Slytherin table. Didn’t I ever explain about the houses?”
“If you did, I don’t remember exactly,” Arthur said, finding the details of those stories suddenly far more important than expected.
“Ah, well,” Harry said with relish. “The students are sorted out when they arrive based on . . . temperament, shall we say. The table on the right is Slytherin. See the green banner at the end? That is their color and symbol.” Arthur realized that the colors were in the uniforms as well; that would be useful. Harry went on, “Slytherins are selected based on their determination to get what they want and using most any means to get there, even sly and underhanded.”
Snape leaned forward and peered at him, making Harry grin. “Professor Snape is a Slytherin. Head of the House, in fact, which means he’s the professor in charge of them,” he said pleasantly, then went on. “Next is Ravenclaw, selected for having more brains than anything else. Then there is Hufflepuff, the hard workers. On the far side is Gryffindor, my house-”
“Selected for having more courage than brains,” Snape finished for him.
“Fair enough,” Harry said. McGonagall asked him something and Harry turned to speak with the her instead.
Arthur, feeling a little sly himself, turned to Snape. “Thank you again, sir. My dad is almost normal now.”
“For him,” Snape said.
Arthur let that roll by, recognizing it for what it was—a harmless gibe between very old enemies who have forgotten what they were fighting about. With a quick glance at the end table he turned more blatantly to Snape, gratified that more eyes came his way as he did so.
“And your hospitality, too,” Arthur said, though this cost him a bit internally.
“Think nothing of it, Arthur. As I explained, I was repaying old debts.”
“Maybe you’re even now,” Arthur suggested, fishing for something to say that wasn’t completely meaningless. Some of the students on the end of the last table had stopped eating to watch them. Their possessiveness intrigued him.
“Hm,” Snape muttered instead of replying.
Arthur sipped his pumpkin juice. It was sweeter than he expected but very strange. He drank it down just on the chance that he could get it refilled.
“Not bad,” he lied as he ate some buttery mashed potatoes to get the taste out.
Snape obliged by offering the pitcher again. Arthur nodded his head rather than speak with his mouth full. The Slytherin table seemed to grow more despondent. Arthur almost laughed.
Chapter 8: The Fire Inside
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Chapter 8 -- The Fire Inside
The meal finally concluded. As everyone stood up, Harry leaned over and said to Arthur, “You need to find a seat.”
McGonagall beside him said. “Sara Weasley, Bill’s oldest, is at the Hufflepuff table. He could sit there. First redhead on the left.”
Harry took a look and pointed Arthur in that direction. “Or you could probably sit with the Gryffindors.” He gave Arthur a push.
Arthur walked around the long head table and stepped over to the girl in question. All the eyes in that part of the room watched his approach. The Gryffindors did seem to be smiling more. “Are you Sara Weasley?” he asked the girl.
She looked flustered for a moment. “Yes.”
“Headmistress suggested I sit with you,” Arthur explained. The nearby students immediately adjusted to make a space. He stepped over the bench and smiled at everyone, although their expressions were all a little stunned.
A West Asian girl across the table asked curiously, “Why did she suggest you sit here?”
Arthur glanced at Sara for help with an explanation, but she looked unable to come up with one. “Uh, I’m named for her grandfather,” Arthur explained.
“You are?” Sara asked in surprise.
“Yes,” Arthur assured her. “My dad and your uncle Ron were best friends in school,” he added, thinking more explanation was in order.
“I know that,” she said, in a way that made him back off from the topic. If they had been alone, he would have considered asking if her family blamed his dad for what had happened.
They watched as the head table magically was cleared. The headmistress then transfigured it into a little square stone block which was picked up and set aside. Harry and Snape were having an in-depth conversation near a door in the back wall.
“Where has your dad been, anyway?” Sara asked.
Arthur couldn’t read her tone at all. He thought about the times his dad referred to her family as the only one he had known. He leaned toward her and said quietly. “He’s been at home. Fifteen years ago he got hit with a stasis curse and some other two curses and he just slept. For a month at a time. When he woke up he couldn’t remember anything. This didn’t leave much chance for getting out.”
She turned to look at him with a dismayed expression. Whispering, she asked, “He forgot everything?”
“Even me,” Arthur whispered back. He so badly needed to tell someone that.
She gaped at him then said, “I’m sorry.”
“What? What?” the students around them asked.
“Later,” Sara insisted. “Or maybe never.”
Arthur liked her immediately. Snape and his dad had stepped up on the platform, cutting off further questioning from the other students.
“This should be interesting,” Arthur said. At her questioning glance he explained, “They hate each other,” he said with a grin.
“They do?” They were now speaking in normal tones and the rest of the nearby students were listening intently.
“From way back.” He leaned forward again and, just for her, added quietly with relish, “And Professor Snape’s potion is what made him better.”
Sara turned a grin back at him. “Now, that is interesting.”
The Asian girl across the table said, “Boy, you both are impossible.”
Snape started introducing what they were going to demonstrate so everyone turned again toward the end of the hall. “Dueling is an old tradition somewhat out of favor at the moment. What Mr. Potter and I are going to demonstrate is freeform dueling where one does not have to match one’s opponent spell for spell as in regulation.”
One of the students behind Arthur made a noise of surprise at this.
Snape went on, “This does give an advantage to the dueler who is able to cast spells rapidly.” His eyes slid darkly over to Harry who grinned with some anticipation.
Arthur found he was gripping the edge of the heavy table. “Worried about your dad?” Sara asked.
“I don’t know,” Arthur answered honestly.
“From what my dad says, there aren’t many who can beat your dad.”
“He’s out of practice, though, I expect” Arthur said.
“You don’t duel with him?” Sara asked.
“I’m a Muggle,” he pointed out. Heads turned. Arthur met their odd gazes evenly. “Why do you think your headmistress threatened you all like that?” He had assumed that had given it away.
“You’re really a Muggle?” Sara asked in total shock.
“Yes. Until we got to the steps, your castle looked like an utter ruin to me.”
“Really?” a tall boy to his left asked in delight. “They say that’s how it works, but I’ve never talked to anyone who . . . well a Muggle who has seen it that way.”
“Shhhh,” someone said.
On the platform, Harry and Snape were standing back to back. Their wands snapped up at the same moment. Sara looked at Arthur a moment longer before turning to the front. He thought she looked disappointed.
The duelers stepped away from each other, turned and aimed their wands. Arthur had to restrain himself from shouting for it to stop. He held his breath. All his life he had tried to imagine what had happened to his dad to make him so messed up. In his mind it had always looked a little like this. He closed his eyes as both of them shouted out spells and the air sizzled and cracked. About the third round he forced them open. Everyone’s attention was locked on the platform where his father had a glowing white sphere around himself that Snape spelled repeatedly with something slightly different each time.
Just as one attacking spell finished, Harry dropped the shield and a wide yellow blast of light came out of his wand. Snape actually ducked it. Arthur did not imagine he could move so fast. The spell shattered against the stone wall with a sound like hail. The students were riveted. Some of the Slytherins were calling out encouragement, but the Gryffindors remained silent. Arthur himself wouldn’t have risked breaking his dad’s concentration.
Snape stood up and fired something invisible, his empty left hand coaxing something out of the air. Black tendrils appeared around Harry and began twining around him. Harry incanted something to no effect. Snape crossed his arms and watched the effect take hold, clearly pleased. Harry dropped to a crouch as he shouted something. A second, ghostly version of himself appeared above him. The tendrils descended upon it as he rolled away with only a few still clinging to him. He brushed them off while chanting something.
“We can play it that way,” Harry announced with a broad grin. He aimed his wand at the floor at his feet and incanted something long. A huge snake wound its way out of the platform before falling forward and coiling itself. Harry hissed at it and it turned to Snape, who took a step back while biting his lip in thought.
“Merde,” someone near Arthur breathed in a heavy accent. “I thought that was a myth.”
Sara turned to the boy who had spoken. “It’s not,” she said with authority.
Arthur wanted to ask what they were discussing, but decided he had looked stupid enough already for one day. He wondered how anyone alive could have myths told about them, especially his own father. Many of the students looked at each other with amazed and fearful glances. The snake’s head was rearing four meters in the air, poised to strike Professor Snape, whose attempts to stop it had been ineffectual.
Harry hissed at it and it backed off slightly. “Giving up?” Harry asked his opponent. The entire Slytherin table hissed at this, which didn’t distract the snake at all as Arthur expected it might.
Snape stood a moment thinking. “Give me one more try at it,” he said. At Harry’s shrug, Snape aimed his wand and shouted something. The air in the room cracked as though a giant whip had snapped. The snake went hollow black with an outline of orange glow before it dissolved into a wisp of floating black ash.
The headmistress stepped onto the platform between them. “I think that is probably quite enough,” she said, sounding as though she were trying for tolerance.
Some of the students groaned in disappointment but then sporadic clapping started and most all joined in. As the clapping slowed the French boy, who had refrained, said in dismay, “Your hero of wizardry is an effing Parselmouth?”
Arthur gave him a dark look. The boy met it and said, “You don’t even know what that means, do you?” He shook his head derisively.
“Leave him alone,” Sara threatened.
“His dad’s a dark wizard and he doesn’t even know it because he’s a clueless Muggle.”
“Marcel!” one of the other students said sharply. “Don’t be an asinine numbskull. Your talking about Harry Potter of all people.”
Marcel crossed his arms and glowered. “Whom we’ve all been raised to worship,” he said in a low voice.
Arthur frowned at him. “You think he’s a dark wizard--that’s your problem,” he stated easily. Up on the platform, Snape and his dad were standing close together, talking.
“He’s being stupid . . . ignore him,” Sara said stiffly. “They don’t look like they hate each other now,” she commented.
“They probably don’t. Neither of them will tell me what the original problem was, which says something.”
“Snape’s a dark wizard too,” Marcel said dryly.
“He didn’t deny it,” Arthur commented casually. “Asked me if I’d rather be turned into a toad, a stoat, or a fungus for asking. So I’d suggest you ask too.”
Marcel looked a little unhinged. “Which was it?” he asked quietly, seemingly unable to resist his curiosity.
Arthur remembered the moment Snape had made his dark mark flare black. He suspected that no one knew about that anymore. “It was worse,” Arthur replied uneasily.
The students around them fell silent and stared. “You sat next to him through dinner,” Sara pointed out.
Arthur shrugged. “He’s okay once you get to know him,” he said, forcing his voice casual. The teachers were congregating beside the platform and the students were starting to leave the hall. Arthur stood up. “Nice meeting you. I should go over there, I think.” He shook Sara’s hand and gave each of the others nearby a glance with a small smile, even Marcel, whom he hoped had at least one class with Snape.
As Arthur approached, his dad turned and brought him into the circle. The headmistress was speaking. “Why don’t we go up to my office for a little digestif?” As they walked out of the hall, she asked Arthur, “What did you think?”
“Um, did you decide who won?”
“Ah,” she said, glancing between his father and her professor. “I think your father would have if he weren’t quite so nice.” A tightness in Arthur’s chest loosened as he heard this. “In the interests of staff tranquility, however, I’m forced to call it a tie.”
Arthur grinned up at her. Seeing this, she put a hand on his shoulder as they started up a set of wide stairs.
Arthur had to work hard to not react when various things happened on the way to her office. A suit of armor stuck an ax out in front of him, demanding a toll or something. A painting chastised him for being out of uniform. The staircases changed orientation when they stepped upon them. When the headmistress pushed him back from the stone gargoyle he was examining, he didn’t resist. It came alive when she spoke something strange to it.
As he settled into a chair in a large, strange, round office, he thought he was more than ready to go home. His dad was deep in a conversation with Snape and two other teachers. Arthur sighed and sat back.
“Would you like a butterbeer, my boy?” the headmistress asked him.
The conversation beside him stopped at that. Arthur wondered if he were forever going to seem so stupid. McGonagall just smiled kindly and waved her wand. A dark brown bottle appeared in her hand. She handed it over. It tasted sweet, and buttery.
“Thanks,” he said to her. She smiled easily in return, easing his hurt pride considerably.
She moved to pour a dark liquid for everyone else. This led to the conversation getting even more strange than it had been. They discussed Quidditch teams for a while, then argued about scoring for something called the House Cup. Arthur tuned them out and looked at the strange instruments in the room to occupy his frazzled mind. Most of them were delicately balanced affairs with spheres and pointed metal rods, a few had feathers. He tuned back in when he heard his name.
“Well, we won’t know, will we,” his dad was saying, seemly to end the discussion. They had turned to Arthur, who gave them a questioning glance.
The headmistress stood up. “Actually, we can find out,” she said as she swept beside Arthur and reached up on a high shelf. She took down a battered, old black witches hat. “Hold still, this won’t hurt a bit.”
“You’re going to sort him right now?” his dad asked in surprise.
McGonagall held the hat out beside her. “Why not? We sort the teachers who are candidates for Head of House but did not attend Hogwarts.”
“Afraid of what it will say?” Snape asked Harry with a snide tone.
Harry sat back and exhaled. “I know what it’s going to say,” he said with confidence and drank down the rest of his small glass.
“Such certainty,” the black woman said. “Sort him out then, Minerva.”
The dark hat fell over Arthur’s eyes. Hmmm, what is this? A voice in his head said. Very interesting. Arthur held his breath as the voice deliberated with itself for a while. He hoped this was supposed to happen, that he wasn’t cracking up. You wish to be great . . .? “Yeah,” Arthur replied aloud. Then it will have to be . . . “Slytherin!” The voice announced aloud.
The hat was ripped from Arthur’s head and the headmistress looked at him very oddly. So was everyone else for that matter, especially Snape.
“I knew it,” Harry said calmly. He gave a grin to Snape when the teacher spun on him in surprise. To Arthur, he said, “Told you you could be great, didn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Arthur said in confusion. “How did you know?”
“Said the same thing to me,” his dad replied. “I had to talk to it out of putting me in Slytherin,” he added with a very victorious look at Snape who appeared about as surprised as Arthur could imagine he would.
“You didn’t!” he said, stunned. He turned to the headmistress. “Did you know that?”
She shook her head. Harry said, “I only told Dumbledore and only because I was a little worried it shouldn’t have let me change houses.”
“And what brought that on?” Snape asked a little derisively.
“Oh, just everyone thinking I was the Heir of Slytherin,” Harry replied lightly. His brow furrowed as he thought a long moment. “Makes me wonder though if my dad didn’t do the same thing . . .”
Snape had started to refill everyone’s small glass. He froze at that and turned his gaze to Harry with a positively amazed expression. Then he laughed. Arthur assumed based on the other reactions, that this must be a rare thing. Snape grabbed Harry’s glass and filled it before handing it back a little unsteadily. Harry looked very chagrined as he took a gulp. Snape continued to chuckle.
Finally, he soberly stated, “Potter, I do think we are quite even.”
“Well, that would be a relief,” McGonagall breathed in such annoyance it made Arthur grin.
After a while McGonagall said. “Severus, why don’t you take Harry around the school a bit. Arthur and I will stay here and get to know each other a little better.” She gave him a wink.
Harry stood. “You all right with that?” he asked Arthur.
Arthur, rather finished with living paintings and moving staircases for the day, nodded emphatically.
“We’ll be back in a while, then. It’s getting late, so we shouldn’t be too long.”
When the door closed, McGonagall put the hat back up on its perch where it settled in. She then stepped beside Arthur. “Will you satisfy my curiosity, young man?” she asked kindly.
“Sure,” Arthur said.
She took an egg shaped crystal from her pocket and held it out. “Take this.”
Arthur accepted it. It was heavy and it had gold and silver running through it he noticed, when he held it up to the light. She took it back without comment.
“Come here,” she said mildly. She led the way up a small staircase to the raised half of the office. More instruments were laid out on a table here. She directed him to stand beside one of them, then stepped away. Arthur watched as the needles drifted around as though blown by a draft. She stepped back over, two of the needles sprang to her as though she were the north pole. She stepped back and they returned to drifting.
“Amazing,” she said.
“What?” Arthur asked, hoping this wasn’t yet another stupid question.
“You seem to have no magic in you at all,” she said.
Arthur gave her a smug smile. “Dad says he doesn’t care,” he pointed out.
“I would imagine he doesn’t,” she said in agreement. “Being here doesn’t make you feel left out, I hope?”
“Not really,” he replied to avoid insulting her. An emphatic ‘no’ was really on his tongue.
“Because if you did, I could give you a spell,” she suggested. She stepped around the table and handed him her wand. Hers was pale colored and lighter weight than his father’s. “It will only last for a few days, though. But you could tease your father with it,” she suggested.
Arthur grinned at that. She put her hands on his head, her thumbs she positioned on his eyebrows. She spoke a few long phrases of latin ending with, “Lumos.” A light came on in the air around the tip of the wand Arthur held.
Arthur stared at it, feeling dizzy. He couldn’t feel his feet, as though his legs had gone numb.
“Shake it and say, ‘cancel’,” she suggested.
Arthur did so and the light went out. The wand seemed to be vibrating in his hand now, warm and willing.
“Try it,” she urged. “Say ‘lumos’.”
Arthur did. The light came on again. Something in his chest warmed with it. “Is this what magic feels like?” he asked. He felt like he was floating an inch above the floor. He had to look down to assure himself that he wasn’t. He shook the wand to make the light go away.
“Don’t use it up. It will only work a few times,” she said.
“What else do students learn?” Arthur asked as he examined her wand more closely. The handle was worn very smooth where his fingers fell. He was having a hard time with this concept of school for waving a wand around, but he felt curious now . . . curious and lightheaded.
“Lots of things,” she said in that school marm tone he was too familiar with.
“Dad always fetches things with his wand from around the house.”
“That is probably an Accio. That is taught much later than the spell you have.”
“It is a lazy one, really,” Arthur commented with more than a hint of criticism. He pointed at the crystal egg she had left down on the desk and said, “Like if he wanted that, he wouldn’t walk over, he’d just say, Accio egg.”
The egg left the desk and zipped to his hand, striking his palm hard enough to jolt his arm. Arthur nearly fell backward in surprise. The egg was flickering in his hands as he caught it to keep it from falling to the floor.
“Arthur . . . “ McGonagall said in surprise.
“Did you do that?” Arthur asked her.
“By no means,” she said forcefully. Her eyes went over his features with renewed interest before they slid down the the instrument on the desk. The pointed rods were aimed at Arthur now.
“What did you do?” he said accusingly. He stepped backward and tripped on the three steps going down to the main area of the office. He caught himself on the railing and stumbled to the bottom. He was shaking badly.
She followed with much more grace. “Arthur,” she said soothingly, “it’s all right.”
He stared at his hands, afraid to move. “Why did you do this to me?” he asked in a pained voice.
She took his hand, firmly, with a grip he could not have broken if he had tried. “I did not do anything. I cannot make someone magical, Arthur. You were before, apparently.” Sounding helpfully adult she went on, “Sometimes magic gets forcefully suppressed if a child is under a lot of stress when the magic first manifests. Do you remember something unusual happening to you when you were younger?”
Arthur looked frantically around the room, wondering what he was going to do. He forced himself to think about the question posed to him. His shoulders drooped as he exhaled hard. “Once when I was five. Mum was yelling at some people in the living room. She was furious about something. I was in the front bedroom and I wanted to get away from it. The people in the house scared me for some reason.” He shook his head. “I don’t remember why now. But all of a sudden I was in the kitchen, in the back of the house. I could still hear mum yelling about people appearing out of thin air, without warning.” Arthur closed his eyes.
McGonagall shifted the hold she had on his hand. “It isn’t anything to be afraid of. You can stay here,” she said kindly. “Learn to be a wizard.”
“No!” he said sharply, jerking his hand free and stepping back from her. “I don’t want to stay here! I want to go home.” Arthur’s voice broke at the end of that. He was breathing heavily, wanting to flee from her and this room. The future looked very confused now. In a sadly pleading voice, he said, “Please don’t tell him.”
McGonagall stood in thoughtful silence.
“He’ll want to send me here,” Arthur argued painfully. “I know he will. This place is all he talks about.” Desperation was coming through in his voice and he couldn’t stop it.
McGonagall sighed. “All right, Arthur. I won’t say a word to anyone.”
Arthur almost passed out in relief.
“I will leave that to you,” she added sternly. When Arthur gave her a wary look, she went on. “Untrained magic is a dangerous thing, my boy. One of the reasons this school was founded was to collect the children who needed training, so that they would not be a hazard to those around them. One of our founders did not see it that way, but the other three did. Even now children go unidentified, as hard as we work to avoid that. Most, although not all, have a tragic result. Unrefined witches and wizards are a menace in adolescence. Magic manifests itself in damaging ways when it is unleashed late, as firestarting, animal transformation, and dementia.”
Arthur had seen Hermione’s daughter and didn’t doubt the first one.
“All I ask of you, Arthur, is that the first time you harm another, or almost do, that you tell your father immediately.”
“All right,” Arthur agreed dully. He would have said anything to assure her silence.
She stepped closer. In an exhausted voice Arthur said, “I just got my dad back. I don’t want to leave him,” he said, pleading still for her understanding.
“Arthur,” she said soothingly as she touched his shoulder. “Sit down.” Arthur retook his seat, reminding himself what she had promised. He set the egg on the desk, the flickering faded out as it rolled a bit and stopped. She pulled out a box of sweets and held them out. “Have one of these.”
He took one and unwrapped it. It smelled of strawberries. As he sucked on it, he felt the tension in his back loosen.
“Feel better?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he admitted. “You promise?” he asked.
“Yes. Arthur. I do. And I apologize for pushing too hard. I did not understand your feelings.” She closed the box of sweets. Arthur squinted at the label which looked like Weasley Wizard Wonders.
“More Weasleys?” Arthur asked.
She glanced at the side of the box. “George Weasley. The company used to make gags. Now they make sweets that make you happy.”
Arthur swallowed hard. “Don’t tell that to my dad,” he said.
“I wasn’t planning on doing so, though I expect he will learn it on his own as he gets out more.”
Arthur, needing understanding where it seemed to be free-flowing, said, “He’s having a hard time with that. It just happened a few weeks ago for him. He used to tell me about it, but he’s forgotten it.”
The headmistress rubbed her forehead. “I can’t imagine reliving that for the first time,” she breathed. A crystal paperweight on her desk flared once. “They are returning. Do try to pretend we have not been discussing such dark topics.”
“Can I have another sweet?” He held his hand out. She pulled one out and handed it over hurriedly. He peeled it and popped it in his mouth with the other one.
As they waited, she said with a small grin. “I am gratified to have been correct, though. You must have inherited some magic.”
Arthur rolled his eyes as the door opened. He found a smile for his father much easier than he had expected. Harry returned his grin and said, “Things haven’t changed much around here.” He stretched his shoulders back. “Ready to go, I expect?” he asked Arthur.
Arthur had to restrain himself from jumping out of his chair. He stood up normally and nodded.
“It was nice getting to know you, Arthur,” the headmistress said in a nice level voice.
Arthur nodded, then reached over the desk to shake her hand. She had an understanding, sympathetic expression on her face, which made him ache as he released her grip.
“I’m tempted to invite you back at the beginning of next term,” she said to Harry.
“I’d like that.”
“Consider it done, then.” As they reached the door, she said, “Good luck, Arthur.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
The walk back down through the dimness to the train station was a blur for Arthur. His heart raced when he considered how much things had changed in just the last few hours. As the train pulled away he watched the warm lights of the castle over the trees. He slept on the way back to London and had to be led out, eyes half closed, when they arrived. “I can’t hover you here,” his father admonished him. “It would attract too much attention.”
Arthur managed to wake up enough to make it on the underground to Little Whinging. Then he collapsed in bed, fully clothed. His dad pulled his shoes off and covered him with a light blanket before leaving him.
Chapter 9: The Changeling
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Chapter 9 -- The Changeling
For the next few weeks, Arthur studiously avoided uttering anything spell-like, especially when his dad was around. One night, in the wee hours, he needed to use the toilet. As he turned the light off behind him to return to his bedroom, the darkness of the hallway encompassed him. He actually raised his hand to utter a lumos spell before cutting himself off with a whispered swear word. He felt his way along the wall instead back to his room and his bed. If he ignored it, it would just go away, he hoped as he lay in bed, wide awake.
School went all right for Arthur. His dad wasn’t much more help with assignments than he had been when he slept most of the time, but at least he quickly admitted ignorance. Roger’s dad pretended to know what he was talking about, leading to confused answers on his friend’s assignment sheets.
Arthur started to relax and fall back into his routine. Having a dad awake and remembering made life a breeze. Elsa hadn’t been bad, but she didn’t preemptively look out for him as his dad did, by making sure he remembered to take his assignments, by reminding him he needed to ring someone, or most importantly, make sure there was ice cream in the freezer when he got home from school. A smile seemed to be all his dad ever wanted from him in return.
One day when he came home, Harry was more preoccupied. He had a lot of papers out on the dining room table.
“Everything all right?” Arthur asked.
“Yeah,” his dad replied. “Although, this foundation thing bothers me a lot,” he said as he rubbed his chin without looking up.
“Oh. Elsa wondered about that for a long time. She didn’t get it.”
“On one hand, I am very grateful you didn’t have to worry about money. But it is really hard on the pride, I have to say.”
“I’m sure they thought you were worth it,” Arthur offered.
Harry held up a sheet of parchment upon which handmade tables were written out. “The major donors list,” he said. “The solicitor in Hogsmeade made me a copy.” He breathed in and out. “It’s taken me down a notch, I have to say.”
Arthur put his bag on the floor. His dad’s tone made him worry. “You got rid of Voldemort. What is that worth? Put a pound value on that if you can.”
Harry stared at the sheet in silence.
“The Weasleys are a good example. Everyone was under the same threat. How much would they all pay to be safe? A lot more than that, I’m sure, if you made them come up with a number.”
Harry started putting the papers away in a large folder. Arthur found the silence hard to take. “You have to admit you deserved something.”
Harry frowned. “Something,” he said in reluctant agreement.
Arthur began to think that the headmistress at Hogwarts had exaggerated when she had warned him about untrained magic. He had had almost no trouble re-suppressing his new found powers. Fear worked very well for this.
When Arthur arrived home from school one Friday, Harry said, “I invited Severus over for dinner tomorrow. I assume you are all right with that.”
“He will be a little derisive about our lack of a house-elf, so lets try to run dinner smoothly if possible.”
“What are we having?” Arthur asked.
“I was thinking easy. Like spaghetti. Salad.” He shrugged. “Ice cream for pudding.”
“I think we can manage that, Dad,” Arthur said, amused at his concern.
The next evening, Snape arrived with a pop! in the living room. Arthur stepped down the hallway and greeted him. “Since your porch is not charmed, I didn’t know how else to arrive,” he explained.
Arthur then understood the invisibility shield Snape’s house had. “No troubles,” he said reassuringly. “Please,” he gestured for the wizard to follow him.
Snape slipped off his cloak and put it over his arm, making Arthur realize he should take it. He hung it in the hall closet after urging Snape to take a seat in the dining room. He exhaled nervously as he shut the closet door; he really wasn’t used to this hosting thing.
Back in the dining room, Harry was pouring something sweet and alcoholic for himself and the guest. Arthur hoped that didn’t mean the conversation was going to get weird already. He took a seat across from the professor, since he expected his dad would take the end seat.
“How are classes going, sir?” Arthur asked. He had mentally prepped a bunch of questions and that was the safest one.
“Fine,” was Snape’s even reply. He took a sip of the dark red liquid Harry had poured out. “Several of my students have asked about you, though. You haven’t told anyone you were sorted into Slytherin, have you?”
“No,” Arthur insisted.
Harry brought out warm bread at that moment. They all took a piece. Arthur spent a lot of time spreading garlic butter on his, hoping the subject moved on. His dad started up a conversation and Arthur just rode out the bread and pasta courses. Harry disappeared again to make the salad, leaving Arthur to make conversation.
“You teach Defense, Dad said.”
“Defense Against the Dark Arts, to be precise. I used to teach Potions when your father was in school.”
“Oh, that’s why you are good at that,” Arthur said to fill in his side. Their guest took this as a compliment, which was okay with Arthur.
“I don’t think your father liked my class very much. Not enough wand waving for his taste, I think.” He studied Arthur. “You could even do it, I should think.”
“Really?” Arthur said. “What kind of potions do Third Years make?”
“Brew, is the word you are looking for,” Snape said. He then went on to describe a variety of really bizarre mixtures that could revitalize, quiess, or transform people or animals. Arthur really wanted to not believe him. Before he could ask more, his dad returned with salad.
His dad and the guest chatted through the salad course. Arthur tried to imagine sitting in a class cutting up pickled rat brains to mix with gum root and mint tea. He ate far more of his salad than normal to have an excuse for not talking, which took effort with rat brains on his mind. Too soon though, his dad disappeared to scoop ice cream.
Snape sat back and crossed his arms. “You look appalled at the concept of Potions,” he said.
“It does sound pretty off,” Arthur said honestly, playing with his napkin ring.
Snape shook his head. “It is amazing to consider that Potter of all people managed to sire a Squib, I must admit,” he said.
Arthur met his gaze, mostly to judge whether he was stating this off the top of his head. Snape’s eyes went wider as he did so and then his look went positively knowing. Arthur looked at him in alarm, not sure what had just happened. It was clear, that somehow, Snape knew.
“Don’t tell him,” Arthur whispered.
With a sneer Snape said quietly, “You have a good reason for keeping this to yourself, I presume.”
“I don’t want to get sent to Hogwarts,” Arthur said as though that were obvious.
“You wouldn’t at your age.”
“Headmistress McGonagall said I could stay,” Arthur came back.
“Did she?” Snape said as though this were very interesting news.
“She didn’t tell you?”
“By no means.”
“Then how did you know?” Arthur challenged him.
Snape, with a crooked mouth, leaned back in his chair. “There are a few things your father has not told you, apparently.”
Arthur tried to read him as his father appeared with bowls of chocolate ice cream coated with chocolate sauce.
“Thanks,” Arthur said when his was placed before him. His father and the guest again became engrossed in some conversation. Arthur ate his pudding without tasting it. He moved to clear the plates, only to be cut off by his dad. Frowning a bit, Arthur retook his seat.
When they were alone, Snape said, “If your concern is being sent away to school, rest assured that cannot happen anymore. The year is too far advanced.”
Arthur considered that. Somehow bigger things loomed even when he put that one aside, but he couldn’t have identified them if pressed. Snape crossed his arms. “If you do need advice, your owl knows where to find me, or McGonagall for that matter.”
Arthur gave him a pained look as his dad reappeared to urge them both to the living room. As he walked down the hallway, he rubbed his eyes.
“If you are tired, Arthur, you don’t have to stay up with us,” Harry said.
“Oh.” He glanced at Snape who raised a brow before looking away. Arthur decided he could trust him to keep the news to himself. “I think I’ll turn in, then,” he said. “Good night, sir,” he said to Snape, garnering a small nod of the head in return.
Arthur lay awake for a very long time. He couldn’t hear any of the conversation from the other side of the house. He assumed if Snape had said something that his dad would have charged into his room long ago. Still, he couldn’t find rest in his mind. He held his fingers up before him and whispered, “Lumos.” A ball of light formed between his thumb and index finger, making him jump in surprise. He shook his hand and it went away. He shouldn’t have done that, it only made him feel worse.
Sunday night, Arthur was trying to finish school assignments, when Harry came in and sat on the bed beside him. “Due tomorrow?” he asked. At Arthur’s nod he said, “Usually you don’t leave it quite so late.”
“I couldn’t get going on it,” Arthur explained. He yawned as he turned the pages of his textbook.
“Are you sleeping all right?” Harry asked in real concern.
Arthur shrugged, finding that he couldn’t outrightly lie to his father. Harry stood. “When you are finished, come to my room,” he said sternly.
Arthur finished, finally. It wasn’t the best set of short answers he had ever written. World War I probably deserved better, but he didn’t have it to give. He put his books and notes aside and stepped to his dad’s room.
“Sit, down,” Harry said, indicating the bed beside him. He put aside the book he had been reading--a history of the first decade of the new millennium. “I have to think that having professor Snape over upset you somehow since that is the only thing that has been out of the ordinary.”
Arthur fished around for some kind of explanation. “I’ve been obsessing over the notion of Potions class. Mixing picked rats brains into things.”
“Hey, you didn’t have to pickle those brains in detention,” Harry retorted. Then in more seriousness, “Really bothering you that much?”
“I don’t know,” Arthur replied.
“Anything else bothering you? Your school? Roger and Allen?”
Arthur shook his head followed by a shrug.
Harry touched his arm. “There’s nothing I can help you with?”
Arthur shrugged again.
“All right. Let me know if you think of something I can do.”
Arthur stood and departed, feeling bad in a very unspecific way.
Day school was usually a quiet affair. It had an interesting mixture of foreign children as well as English. Roger was probably the biggest troublemaker, and only because he tended to aggravate people. He had an ongoing tumble with another pair of boys, Will and David, which meant Arthur did as well, since he stood by his friend even when he wasn’t sure he was in the right.
They were walking from the underground stop one morning when the pair came up beside them, then blocked their path. “You told the teacher about the fake note from my mum,” David said to Roger.
“No way,” Roger scoffed. “What do you think I am?”
“A snitch,” Will said.
“Get off,” Arthur said, pushing past them with his shoulder. Roger followed. Will grabbed Arthur’s arm in a tight grip, pulling him up short and pulling his hand out of his jeans pocket. Annoyed and a little angry, Arthur jerked his arm away. A blue light flared between them and Will jumped back in surprise.
“What was that?” Roger asked.
Arthur shook out his hand, it stung rather badly. “Uh,” he stammered. The pain was now bad enough to make his eyes burn.
“Did you have a lighter in your pocket?” Roger asked.
“Yeah,” Arthur said, latching onto that. He looked at his hand, which was bright red and streaked with glowing blue stripes. He put it in his jacket quickly, against his abdomen.
“Let’s get to the nurse,” Roger said. He gave the other two boys a dangerous look and they stepped aside.
As Roger opened the door to the school, Arthur said, “I don’t want to go to the nurse. I’ll just get in trouble.”
“Don’t be stupid. It’s a burn. You should probably go to the surgeon’s.”
Arthur ignored him and stalked to the boy’s toilet. He ran his hand under the faucet. His skin was bubbling in spots, but the blue sparkling had stopped at least. What the hell had he done? he wondered. He wrapped tissue around it and gingerly put his hand in the front pocket of his hoodie.
Roger was waiting outside the door. “You’re being dumb,” he stated as they walked to their first class. He took Arthur’s bag, however, and carried it for him.
The day was a haze of agony for Arthur. Roger went and got aspirins for him from the school nurse, but it only made a fractional difference in the pain.
The day seemed to take a week, but finally it was over. Outside on the pavement, as they walked back to the underground stop, Roger said, “Let’s see it,” in a tone like his father would have used.
Arthur shook his head. He was afraid to look, really.
Roger walked him to his house. He had given up cajoling Arthur in the middle of the underground ride, for which Arthur was grateful--it broke his concentration on ignoring the pain. Roger opened the door to his house for him and gave him a disapproving frown.
“Hi, Mr. P.” Roger said to Harry, who was sorting though newspaper clippings on the floor.
“Hello, Roger,” Harry said. He stood up. “Ice cream?”
Roger frowned. “I need to get going. Thanks anyway.”
Arthur stepped to his room to set his bag inside the door. When his back was turned, Roger pointed at his hand and then at Arthur. Harry gave him a quizzical look. “See you later, Arthur,” Roger said as he stepped back out the door with one last intent glance at Harry.
“You want ice cream, right?” Harry asked his son.
“Yep,” Arthur said and followed him to the kitchen.
They ate at the small table beside the window. Harry pretended not to notice that Arthur kept his hand inside his sweatshirt pocket. “How was school?” he asked, in the normal routine. When Arthur shrugged, Harry added, “Too bad it isn’t a little more interesting for you.”
“Interesting is harder,” Arthur said. He stood up and took the bowls away one-handed.
Harry glanced at that but didn’t comment. “Do you have school assignments to finish, or should we go out for the evening?”
“I don’t feel like going out,” Arthur said, trying to sound easy-going about it. A strain underlined his voice.
“You all right, Arthur?” Harry asked. Arthur didn’t reply, just rinsed the bowls longer than necessary. “Is there a reason you are keeping your hand in your pocket rather than using it?”
Arthur turned the faucet off. He exhaled hard. “It’s not a big deal,” he said.
“What happened?” Harry stood up and turned Arthur to face him. He gave Arthur’s left arm a very slight tug.
Reluctantly, Arthur said, “I had an accident with a lighter.” He let Harry take his hand out and began unwrapping the packed tissue.
“Arthur ” Harry admonished him. “That looks terrible. What kind of accident did you have?”
Arthur flinched as Harry pulled off the tissue that now clung firmly to the worst of his skin. “I topped up my mobile this morning and I think it damaged the valve on the lighter. I was just fiddling with it, like, and a ball of flame came out of it.”
Harry gave the boy’s shoulder a pull. “Come on, get your jacket.”
Arthur pulled free. “I’m not going to the doctor’s,” he insisted in a hard tone.
Harry turned slowly and considered him. “Why not?” he asked.
Arthur shifted on his feet and dropped his eyes. “’Cause they’re useless. They give you lots of drugs that make you sicker. They say they can cure things, but they can’t--it’s a lie.” Saying this seemed to deflate him completely.
Harry put an arm around his uninjured side. “Arthur,” he said. “Come on. I wasn’t intending to take you to the doctor’s anyway.”
Wary now in a new way, Arthur said, “Where are we going?”
“They couldn’t help you either,” Arthur pointed out petulantly.
“What I had was complicated. What you have is simple. Come on. This isn’t a choice.” Harry sounded unyielding now rather than sympathetic. Arthur followed with the next tug. At the hall closet, Harry pulled out a large fleece mitten. “Put this on to help keep it clean and we’ll take the Floo. Unless you want to take the underground.”
“All right. Put it on anyway.”
At an abandoned storefront, Arthur eyed the old dummies with a doubtful expression. During a gap in the pedestrians behind them, Harry said to one of them. “I have a patient.”
Arthur looked around them nervously then gaped as the dummy gestured with its chipped finger for them to approach. Harry grabbed him above the elbow and pushed him through the glass. They were suddenly in a waiting area. Arthur flinched in alarm at some of the maladies as they stepped along a row of chairs. Harry stopped before a guide sign. “Artifact Accident, I guess,” he said. “That’s here. Have a seat.”
With a dubious expression Arthur looked for a reasonable place to sit. He settled for sitting on the end beside an older man who’s ears were very large although Arthur wasn’t certain that was what he was here for. He tracked his dad as Harry went up to a desk and spoke with the witch there.
“Yes?” she said and then, “Oh ” when she recognized him.
Harry gave her a polite smile. “My son has a burned hand,” he explained.
“Magical, chemical, or heat?”
“Heat, I should think, although it was a flammable liquid.”
Arthur listened in on this and frowned, hoping that mistaken explanation didn’t matter too much. Harry came over and sat beside him when the old man was called up. It was a half-hour wait. Arthur was very grateful that something was going to happen for his hand . . . the pain had begun to make him a little crazy. Sitting in this spot, across from a woman whose eyes spun like pinwheels, didn’t help the impression that he was losing his grip on reality.
They were called up finally and led down the corridor and into a small room. A small, middle-aged wizard, with salt and pepper hair that stood straight up from his head, bustled in after them. “Hello, hello,” he said in a singsong. “What do we have here?” Arthur sat down on the hard bed and held out his hand. “Ah,” the man said. He went to a cabinet and took out a bottle and a wooden cup. He poured out an amount measured with his eye and handed it to Arthur. “Drink that.”
The liquid was blue and fizzy and immediately after he swallowed it, he couldn’t feel his body, let alone his hand. Dazed, he watched as the man poured a clear, oily liquid into a pan and pushed his burned hand into it. Pink threads floated away from his fingers. Arthur feared deeply that it was his skin. The man pulled his hand out. Apparently this fearful assumption was correct. Arthur whimpered at the sight of his hand and wrist which were now no more than a science demonstration about muscles and tendons.
“Maybe you shouldn’t watch,” Harry offered, sounding a little queasy himself.
Arthur closed his eyes since he felt very faint. As more things were pulled from the cabinet he opened them and watched the wizard mix something orange and gloppy. With a wooden stick like something from a frozen pop, he spread it over the face of Arthur’s palm and up his wrist. Arthur wished he could feel something. Feeling nothing was stranger than the pain was intolerable.
The man finished up. “We’ll let that set. I’ll be back.”
When he was gone, Arthur stared at the glop on his hand and said, “Uh . . .”
“Burn plaster. I’ve had that before,” Harry reassured him.
Arthur swallowed hard and propped his hand out in the air to keep from getting the stuff on himself or the bed. By the time the wizard returned it had formed into a rubbery coating.
The Healer said, “Now, don’t peel that. Let it fall off on its own.” He used a tone that admonished preemptively. He handed Harry a small parchment slip and another bottle of blue potion. “Here you go and you are all set,” he said with a patent smile.
Arthur put his hand back in his front pocket for the trip home. Walking without being able to feel his feet was much harder than he had imagined it might be. Harry put an arm through his as they walked to the station. By the time they were back on their street, Arthur could at least feel his toes as they touched the ground.
Evening was descending when they opened their side door. “I’ll make a little dinner. Why don’t you take it easy,” Harry suggested. Arthur dropped down on the couch and leaned his head back. He was utterly wiped out. From the kitchen at the other end of the hall, Harry asked loudly, “Do you have assignments due tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Arthur shouted back.
“I’ll call the school and explain. Tomorrow’s Friday so you can catch up on the weekend.”
Arthur mulled over the stuff adhering to his hand. His dad’s consideration made him feel pretty bad.
The next morning, Arthur held up his hand. “I can’t show this around school,” he said.
Harry went to the medicine cabinet and took out a roll of gauze and tape. In short order he had covered the wizard plaster with a Muggle one. “Take the tape,” Harry said, slipping it into Arthur’s pocket. “In case it starts to fall off.”
At school, Roger gave Arthur a questioning look but didn’t comment until they were walking home. “How much trouble are you in?” Roger asked.
“None, I guess. He just seemed very disappointed.”
“Mrs. Marple didn’t complain when you didn’t turn in your problem set.”
“Dad rang this morning to explain.”
“Man, you have it so easy,” Roger breathed.
Yeah, I’m an effing wizard who almost blew his hand off. That isn’t messed up at all, Arthur thought. He remembered his promise to McGonagall with that and decided that he had only hurt himself and that didn’t count, really.
By the following Tuesday most of the rubber glob had sloughed off. Arthur was very relieved to find normal hand beneath it.
“Not bad, eh?” his father asked him.
“Better than Muggle medicine, that’s for certain,” Arthur agreed. He wore the gauze over his healed hand a few extra days so no one would be suspicious.
Chapter 10: All Hallows
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Chapter 10 -- All Hallows
Halloween came around on the calendar and Harry started discussing what they could do.
“You are really into this holiday, Dad,” Arthur commented, feeling like he was a little old to get too excited.
“Major Wizard holiday, Arthur. We’ve had an invitation from Hermione and Roger to a party at their house. That sounds like fun to me.”
“Do I have to dress up?” Arthur asked cautiously.
“If you go like you are now, you will be--you’ll be a Muggle,” Harry teased.
“I guess I could wear something simple. Go as a dog or something,” Arthur said unenthusiastically.
“We’ll work something out,” Harry said happily.
The night of the party, Arthur got help from Allen’s older sister and by the time they were ready to leave he had floppy spotted ears, a black nose, and a lopsided brown ring around his left eye. He put on an old yellow workout suit he had painted spots on and a large red dog collar.
“You look so cute ” Alisha said as she stood in their hallway admiring him. Arthur kind of liked her, so he decided he could survive this night just on that. She looked beyond him and her eyes went wide. “Whoa, Mr. P,” she breathed.
Arthur turned and found his father standing in the hallway in a dark suit and cape, holding a pitchfork and wearing horns. His skin was the color of a very bad sunburn. He almost jumped despite himself. His dad’s eyes were even red and slitted like a cat’s.
“Nice make-up,” Alisha said in a very impressed voice. “Like the contacts for sure. And the horns.”
Arthur’s eyes went wide. The horns looked way too real. “We should get going, Dad,” he said quickly. “Thanks a lot, Alisha,” Arthur said, stepping to the door to let her out.
“Ready?” Harry asked when they were alone. He took Arthur’s arm and the house was replaced with the porch of the Davies’ residence.
The door opened immediately. Hermione, dressed as a cat with very realistic ears and whiskers, welcomed them both inside with hugs for each of them. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “I didn’t tell anyone you were, so there may be some craziness. More embarrassing, I think one of the kids came dressed AS you.”
Arthur made a sound of distress at that thought. Hermione laughed and led him in by the hand. “Have some punch,” she said when they reached a table laden with treats. She picked up a glass beside the bowl and the ladle automatically poured some in. Arthur accepted it. As she and Harry started talking, Arthur wandered into the living room, glad for the makeup--no one gave him a second glance.
In the corner there was a small boy of maybe eight, eating candy from a cauldron at his feet. He wore a cape, black-rimmed glasses with no lenses, and a lightening streak had been drawn on his forehead. Arthur didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sight. Doing nothing seemed strangely inappropriate. He wandered over that way, drawn to the boy a little unwillingly. Arthur stopped before the child who had to adjust his fake glasses to look up at him. “Harry Potter, I presume,” Arthur heard himself say. Of all the weird things that had happened to him in the last few months, this one felt the most strange.
The boy grinned widely. “Yep,” he said. “And who are you?”
“Just a dog, a mutt.” Arthur felt tenser as he spoke.
“Want a flubber?” the boy asked, holding out a sweet.
“Only if you eat one first,” Arthur said, remembering his dad’s stories about cursed sweets.
“As if,” the boy said. He took out another and popped it in his mouth and chewed. He had not finished the last piece and now his mouth was really full.
“Okay,” Arthur said and held out his hand. The boy laughed as he handed one over. Arthur chewed it down. It tasted salty, sweet, oily and a bit like cinnamon.
“I don’t think we’ve met,” the man beside the boy said. He held out his hand. “Bernie Weinstein,” he said.
“Fido,” Arthur said with a grin, hoping to get away with that.
The man smiled. “Haven’t seen you around this group,” he said, making conversation.
“I rarely manage to chew through my leash before my master notices,” he said, sticking with his theme since it felt much safer to. The boy held out another flubber for him and Arthur accepted it. “I guess Voldemort didn’t make it tonight,” he said to the boy, who looked shocked that he had said that. It took the child a moment to swallow to avoid choking.
“If he does, tell him I’m not here,” the boy said when he was able. Mr. Weinstein laughed beside him.
“Lawrence is a real jokester,” he explained proudly.
Arthur felt oddly numb. “Thanks for the sweets,” he said, sounding strange to his own ears. He stepped away before the feeling could overwhelm him. He wasn’t sure what would happen if it did. Trouble was, he didn’t have anyone to talk to at this party.
Cassandra came running over to him as he meandered around the room. She ran straight into him and gave him quick hug. “Did you see Harry Potter?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye. She pointed at the boy in the corner who looked up with a shining grin at the attention.
“Sure did,” Arthur replied levelly.
She giggled and ran off. Arthur checked to be certain he was not on fire. He needed more punch. Feeling dark, he stepped to the corner on his way. “Lawrence,” he interrupted the child, who was giving a tour of his sweets to his father. “Someone you should meet,” he said. He must have said it oddly, because Mr. Weinstein gave him a close look. “By the punch bowl,” he pointed at the back of his dad’s cape in the next room.
“Go ahead,” Mr. Weinstein urged his son.
“You should definitely come too. Otherwise the screaming will surely attract too much attention,” Arthur stated dryly, trying for a tone Snape might use.
The man stood up, looking highly doubtful. Arthur’s hand on the boy’s shoulder shook a little as he pushed him into the next room. When he reached his dad and Hermione, he said lightly, “Hey, Beelzebub. Someone you should meet.”
Harry turned around. His eyes dropped from Arthur to the boy, then became a trifle dark. He covered it in the next instant. “Well hello,” Harry said.
“Hi. Who are you?” the boy asked.
Arthur then realized how unrecognizable his father was. The horns and the eyes distracted greatly from his features and his scar was under his fringe. “Well,” he stood straighter. “I was supposed to be only an average demon from the fifth level of hell, but my son here has promoted me.”
“You aren’t so impressive,” the boy said, disappointed.
“I’m not?” Harry pounded the end of his pitchfork on the floor and a cloud of glowing red smoke puffed from around his feet. It startled Arthur far more than the boy. It even smelled of sulfur. Arthur coughed.
“I thought maybe you were He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named,” the boy said petulantly.
“You mean Voldemort?” Harry said, sounding dismayed. “You don’t dare name him?” he asked with a tone edged in demand and disappointment. “He’s dead; why not name him?” Arthur watched his father’s demeanor change, making his expression match his costume. The boy’s father stepped in front of his son and held out his hand. “We haven’t been introduced,” he said a little forcefully. “Bernie Weinstein.”
The man blinked and stared at him. Before he could recover, Harry added, “My son, Arthur,” as he gestured at him.
Mr. Weinstein looked to Hermione for help or confirmation. She stepped closer. “Harry and I are old friends from school.”
“Really?” the man said as though that would take some time to sink in. “Uh, my son, Lawrence.” He pulled his son over by the shoulder and bent over. “This is the real Harry Potter,” he said to the boy. Lawrence stopped mid-chew and gaped up at Harry.
When the man straightened up and seemed at a loss for words, Harry said, “Please teach your son that the only power a name has is what we give it by avoiding it.”
The man blinked at that. “Certainly,” he promised instantly, but his face was full of confusion.
“Nice to meet you, Lawrence,” Harry said graciously to the boy.
The boy didn’t move. “Are you really . . .?” he stammered.
Harry leaned forward and pulled his hair back. His red skin made his scar stand out more than normal. The boy took a step backward, then promptly grabbed his dad’s hand.
“Honored,” the man said unsteadily with a nod as they stepped back into the other room.
“Yes,” Harry said, ironically, “I am disguised as a demon to avoid scaring people.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have brought him over,” Arthur suggested.
Harry waved him off. “It’s queering me out, as you tend to say, but that’s my problem.” Hermione gave him an apologetic look. “Don’t worry about it,” he said to her as he moved Arthur’s hand close enough to the punch bowl for the ladle to notice his empty glass.
“Thanks,” Arthur said. He glanced into the other room, where the small Harry was trying to convince another child of something with grand arm gestures.
“Maybe you can give me a hand in the kitchen, Harry,” Hermione said innocently.
Harry stepped to follow as did Arthur. Harry spun on him. “You know, that was your fault. Mind the punch bowl for a while as punishment.”
Arthur, too stunned to feel hurt, watched them turn the corner out of the room. Someone tugged on his sleeve moments later as he stared at the continuously moving poster of people flying on brooms over a mountain scape, which hung on the wall of the hallway.
“Excuse me,” a little girl, dressed as what might have been Gretel, said. “He insists Harry Potter is here.” Lawrence stood beside her, hands on his hips.
“He just was,” the boy insisted.
“He’s escaped to the bat cave,” Arthur said. “I’m sure he’ll be back later.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said to Lawrence. “You are fooling, as usual.”
“Ask Cassandra,” Arthur said, glad to pass her off.
The two of them stalked off. Arthur sampled some of the other food, assuming he had seen the last of them, but they returned presently, Cassandra in tow.
“Where’s your dad?” she asked Arthur.
“He’s chatting old times with your mum,” he explained.
“Ah, boring stuff,” she said knowingly. “Hey, let’s go scare Muggle children. You have a wand, right?” she asked Arthur. “This is the only night we can do it.”
“I am a Muggle. Just what were you planning?” he asked her stridently.
“Oh. Nothing much,” she said quickly while shrugging airily.
Mr. Weinstein came in. “Come on Lawrence--don’t make Arthur have to spell you to make you kids find something better to do.”
“He’s a Muggle, Dad. He can’t spell us,” Lawrence said as though everyone should have known it.
Mr. Weinstein looked at Arthur with a flicker of pity before leading his son away again, telling him that games were starting outside. Arthur swallowed with difficulty, the bite of muffin he had in his now too dry mouth. He hadn’t been faced with random pity in a long time and it made him feel unwell. I am a Muggle, he thought stubbornly, and I don’t care what any of them think of that.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen Hermione said to Harry, “You do the same things by hand that I do.”
Harry dried his hands on a towel and replied. “Seems easier and it breaks fewer dishes.”
“Tell that to Roger, will you?” She picked up a tube of orange frosting and outlined each of the cookies before her on the tray. “How are things going with you, anyway?”
“I’m still catching up. Arthur is adjusting slowly to the notion of magic. I feel bad because I don’t mean to frighten him, but I can’t predict what is going to disturb him.”
“For example?” she asked, now adding sprinkles.
“Apparating seemed cool, but healing a small cut on his hand scared him half to death.”
“Huh,” she said. “How does he do in school?”
“Very well, considering that he has been and still is doing it all on his own. I didn’t realize how very little I know about the Muggle world until I asked what he was working on one evening. I’m useless in science, history, politics . . . pretty much everything, even maths, frankly. Fortunately, he is used to working on his own or with his friend Roger, who is a topic all on his own.”
“Yes. But that doesn’t begin to cover it.” Harry checked the door. “He did fink on Arthur when it mattered, though, so I am soft on him at the moment.”
Hermione slid the cookies into a large bowl and started on the next tray, this time with black icing. “Do tell.”
“Arthur had an accident with a lighter, burned all the skin off his hand.”
Hermione gave him a long look. “Why did he have a lighter?”
“He uses them to refill his mobile battery.”
“You are sure about that?” Hermione asked him.
“I’ve seen him do it,” Harry insisted. “I’m sure I would have noticed what had happened eventually, but he’d already gone the whole day without saying anything to anyone. His skin was turning grey by the time I got him to St. Mungo’s” He shook his head.
Hermione put the icing down and stared at him. “You’re certain he’s a Squib?”
“Pretty certain. Why?”
“Firestarting, Harry. How many times has he burned himself?”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “Just the once.”
“Hm,” she said, returning to decorating. “If it happens again, don’t assume it’s an accident. Or let him insist that it was--get him tested for magic for real.”
Harry rubbed his hair back and then adjusted it back over his scar. “Sending him to Hogwarts would be tough,” he said.
“Why? You liked it there,” she said as she added silver sprinkles to the cookies.
“I like having him around, for one thing. More importantly, he sorted into Slytherin.”
Hermione dropped the jar of sprinkles and the little silver balls scattered over the counter and floor. “You had him sorted?”
“Minerva sorted him after we started arguing about what house he’d have been in. Apparently you can just drop that hat on anyone.” With a sweep of Hermione’s wand, the mess vanished. She slid the cookies into the bowl and picked it up. She was chuckling now. At the door to the kitchen Harry sighed. “Snape even seems to have taken a liking to him.”
“To Arthur?” she asked in shock.
“Yes. Can you imagine?”
As they stepped out and down the hallway, she said, “Clearly, he must be mellowing.”
Arthur was still beside the table, nibbling on the gold appearing, but actually chocolate, coins. He looked pensive. “How long are we staying?” he asked Harry.
“Not ready to go already?” Harry asked. “Come on, let’s find the games.”
“Back garden,” Hermione supplied helpfully.
Harry led Arthur through the house. Everyone in the living room looked up and followed them with their eyes. Outside on the grass a half barrel full of water was set up and children were bobbing for apples. A girl, with the encouragement of her peers dunked her head in. After a long moment she came up and took the fruit from her teeth. Smiling and shaking her hair out, she cracked the apple against the edge of the barrel. Inside the smashed pulp was a galleon. She held it up victoriously.
A boy followed eagerly. It took him a little longer and when he came up he was smiling, but the smile faded fast as blue spikes began to grow from his head. He put his hand up in alarm to feel them. Arthur gasped but the other children laughed uproariously.
“Want to skip this one?” Harry asked him with amusement.
“Yeah,” Arthur answered.
Roger stepped forward and cured the spike-headed boy with a tap of his wand, but this didn’t make Arthur feel much better.
“Mr. Potter, sir,” the little girl from earlier said as she tugged on Harry’s cloak.
“Hello,” Harry said amiably. “Where is your brother, Hansel?”
“He got eaten already,” she quipped. “Uh, my mum doesn’t believe you’re here. Can you come say hello to her?”
Harry gave Arthur a suffering glance that turned concerned. “We’ll go soon,” he said to him.
Arthur didn’t argue. He watched as Harry was led away to the far side of the garden where a group of witches, dressed as anything other than witches, were standing in a close circle. The little girl tugged on one of their sleeves and introduced Harry. Arthur couldn’t hear what they said from where he stood, but their cries of surprise carried over clearly. He found himself suddenly understanding his mum yelling at them all to leave them alone. At the moment it was all he wanted.
Harry wandered back over after a few minutes. “Let’s say our goodbyes to the host,” he said.
“If you want to stay longer, you can just take me home,” Arthur said.
Harry led him over to where Roger waited for the next child to snag an apple in his teeth. “Thank you for the evening.” He gestured at the house. “But we’re on our way out.”
“So soon?” Roger asked in concern.
“Arthur has another party to get to,” Harry lied smoothly.
“Well, thanks for coming,” Roger said as he shook Harry’s hand.
Inside, Hermione said roughly the same thing, though as she hugged Arthur she said to him, “We need to break you in a little slower, I think.” Arthur frowned and dropped his eyes. Hermione tweaked his chin. “You’ll get used to us, as insane as we all are.” She waved when Harry took Arthur’s arm and they Disapparated.
The quiet of the house sounded loud as Arthur dropped onto the couch. His head was spinning.
“I realized something tonight,” Harry said as he slipped his cloak off and tossed it over a chair before sitting down. A wave of his wand removed his skin color and his horns.
“What?” Arthur asked uneasily. “Eyes,” he pointed out.
Harry tapped the bridge of his nose with his wand while muttering something. “Took me a while to get that to work,” he commented. “When I finally got it, I thought of just going as Voldemort.”
“You’re as insane as they are,” Arthur muttered. Harry looked him over in silence a long time. Arthur finally prompted, “What did you realize?”
“Uncertainty bothers you. So does the unexpected.” Harry stood up and brought water back from the kitchen for both of them. “I think that is why magic makes you so uneasy.”
Arthur shook his head as he took a long drink. With a frown he set the glass down and stood up.
“Sit down,” Harry said easily.
Arthur debated with himself a moment before relenting. They stared at each other for a long time. Compared to how his dad had looked earlier, he looked downright ordinary now. But now he would not be able to walk down Diagon Alley without attracting a crowd. He shook his head as he considered all the different versions of his father.
“What?” Harry asked.
“They wanted to put you away . . . you know that? Right after you started sleeping for days at a time and Mum took you from one doctor’s to another. I hated them. They thought you were fascinating.” Arthur looked away as his eyes felt hot. “The other half of London effing worships you.” He shook his head to try to clear it.
Harry came over and sat beside him.
“Doesn’t that bother you?” Arthur asked.
“Yes. But the alternatives are still having Voldemort around or being dead.”
Arthur breathed out hard and closed his eyes. An arm slipped over his shoulder and pulled him over. He let his head rest on his dad’s shoulder. He wished he had the guts to tell him that he apparently had some kind of magic, but the unknown of the aftermath scared him silent, even if it would not include attending Hogwarts.
“Are your friends having a party you’d like to go to?” Harry asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Well, next year we can have a no magic allowed party and I’ll dress as Voldemort,” Harry said, patting Arthur’s shoulder. Arthur laughed despite himself. “We’ll be sure to invite the Weinsteins,” Harry went on with a smile in his voice.
“No one understands,” Arthur commented.
“No,” Harry agreed. “And they never did.”
Chapter 11: Passing for Mundane
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Chapter 11 -- Passing for Mundane
Resisting magic became more difficult for Arthur. He found himself practicing the Lumos spell at night, just to feel what controlling that spell felt like in the hopes that it would help him with the other random things that were happening around him. Like the examination papers disappearing the morning of their test that Arthur hadnt felt ready for. Or the day he kept drawing all of the powerful cards in game Random Factors, until his friends quit in annoyance.
He wished the old textbooks of his fathers were still around. He looked in the attic for them one day when his dad was out running errands. After shutting the last trunk, which brought up a cloud of dust, he remembered Professor Snapes offer of advice. He stepped down to the ground floor and pulled out a pen and paper before giving up in disgust. If he could ask for advice, he should just tell his dad.
That night at dinner, Arthur asked, So what is magic exactly? Is there some theory to it?
Harry thought for a long time. I dont know quite how to answer that, he finally admitted.
Carefully, so as to not ruin this opening, Arthur said, Are there books on magical theory?
I think Ive seen some in the library at Hogwarts. Ill get one at the bookstore next time Im out, if you really want one.
Very casually, Arthur replied, Yeah. Im kind of curious.
A few days later, Harry presented him with a slim volume in a cloth binding. It looked like a handmade book, just as his dads old textbooks had.
Thanks, Arthur said, tucking it under his arm so as to not flip it open and read it avidly on the spot.
After dinner as his father wrote out a few letters with Pollux perched on his shoulder, Arthur pulled out the book. Magic just is, it began on the first page. Arthur rolled his eyes. It is a force like the pressure of water or gravity except that it can be redirected by those with the right predisposition. Arthur flipped ahead, looking for anything about control. In a chapter on training theory, it said, Any outlet for skills is better than none, though diversity is best. One cannot run out of magical energy as some believe but one can channel it uncontrollably if not trained properly. It will eventually find some kind of outlet in every predisposed person or creature.
Arthur set the book aside casually and picked up his handheld. His dad seemed to go days without doing anything magical and then he would do all sorts of things in the space of an hour, including replacing the wallpaper in the living room in about five minutes. The old wallpaper hadnt even needed to go in the dustbin, since it had apparently ceased to exist. His science teacher would have told him he was a nutter if he had described it to him.
Up for a little trip today? Harry asked one late November Sunday. I want to go visit an old friend and I think shed love to see you.
Who? Arthur asked as he stood up from the floor of his room where he was assembling a school science project about the galaxy.
Molly Weasley. Harry said. Oh, astronomy. I can help with that if you need it.
Arthur looked doubtful, but didnt argue. Later, maybe, he said.
In the entryway, as Arthur reached to take his coat out of the closet only to have Harry preempt him and hand him his cloak instead, Arthur pointed out, You said we were going to go visit a long time ago, didnt you?
Harry hooked his own cloak and bit his lips as he looked at the floor. I wasnt ready for it until now. I expected the last thing Molly needed was someone around who thought the whole thing had just happened. He sighed as he bent to change his shoes.
You all right, Dad? Arthur wanted to add that his dad didnt sound ready, but held back.
Yep, Harry said as he straightened up. Lets go, he said as he led him back to the hearth.
They landed hard in another hearth after rather a lot of spinning through the network. Arthur had to put his hand out on the sooty bricks to keep his balance on his stinging feet. He followed his father in ducking to get out.
Look at you! A voice of high-pitched joy said. Arthur saw just a flash of clashing flowered prints before he was wrapped up in an alarmingly tight hug. Finally, he was pushed to arms-length, surprised at the deceptive strength this woman had. My, but you take me back, she said with emotion, patting his hair back. Arthur tolerated all of this, thinking it was the least he could do.
Well, come in and have a seat, she said, gesturing at the worn lime green couch in the center of the stone-walled room.
Arthur watched his father take in the small room. He looked like he wanted to ask something, but took a seat instead. Fifteen years, he murmured to himself as he stared at a row of framed photographs on the shelf across from them. Arthur sat close beside his dad so their legs were touching. Harry leaned back and took in a slow, deep breath.
From the kitchen area behind the hearth, Molly said, I was so pleased to get your owl saying you were better. I feel very bad for not checking up on you at all these last few years. Amazing how fast time passes. She brought teacups for both of them and sat in a straight-backed chair beside the couch.
Dont, Harry insisted. There wasnt anything to be done.
And youve cheated time a bit too, it looks like, she admonished.
Harry grinned. Apparently. Still cant keep up with him, though, he commented, indicating Arthur.
So sorry about your mum, Arthur, Molly said with feeling. I dont think anyone knew . . . She sipped her tea. Well, but you are here now and that is what matters, she added, more upbeat.
So, fill me in a bit more on what everyone is doing, Harry said, glancing over the photos, one showing Ginny arm and arm with someone he didnt recognize.
Molly, seeing this, went and brought the photo back over. That is Hugh, but they are divorced now. She pulled down another photo of a boy so redheaded, he almost put the others to shame. Brendan, Ginnys son, Molly provided. Nine now. Very well behaved, almost eerily so for someone with Weasley blood. She put those back and brought back a photo of one of the twins leaning on a broomstick in a garden Harry didnt recognize. George is still running Tri-W as I think you know. At Harrys nod, she went on. Cant settle down though, the little rascal.
She exchanged photos again. And Bill and Iverna with Sara, whom youve met I hear. Arthur nodded along with Harry. Molly went on, Sara has her moments, but she is basically a good girl. Didnt sort into Gryffindor, though, which disappointed Bill. I thought that was a good sign, myself. She put the photographs back, her hand brushing a moment over a larger, older one of all of them. Beside that one sat a black and white wrinkled photograph of the Order that included Harrys parents and Sirius. Seeing Harrys gaze, Molly brought it over to him.
Harry held it before him. On the far right stood Dumbledore, hands clasped before him characteristically. He handed it back to her.
Lot of people to lose at once, she breathed as she examined it as well.
Arthur got a chance to get to know Sara a little, didnt you? Harry said to his son as a distraction.
Arthur nodded. Fishing for something to say, he said, I think she was disappointed when I told her I was a Muggle.
Shed get over it if she knew you better, I think, Molly said easily.
The three of them had a nice, albeit simple, lunch. Over tea afterwards, Harry and Molly fell into a long discussion about how things had changed. Bored, Arthur wandered around the small house looking at all the things on the numerous, many-times-repainted shelves.
Along one shelf were broken appliances. He pulled down a heavy steel percolator and looked it over. It had a scorch mark up the back, but he didnt know if that was from it being broken or something near it burning. He shook it a little, something inside was rattling. On the shelf below, laid out almost lovingly, were a row of tools: screwdrivers, pliers, wiring, some random plugs. Arthur selected a few tools and sat down on the floor with the silver pot.
In the other room the conversation went on. Arthur listened in idly to a discussion about Ministry policy changes. His dad seemed to be keeping up with the conversation better than he had with other magical people in the past. Arthur took the screws out of the bottom of the pot and carefully set the lid aside on the threadbare rug. The screws he lined up on the wood part of the floor where they would be easier to find. Inside it was clear what was wrong, the wires from the power plug had crossed, burning the old cloth insulation away. The small orange circuit board with a diode and a transistor that attached to the thermal switch, had darkened from the heat, but the solder looked okay and the components werent discolored. Arthur sat straight and lifted his chin to looked over the shelf again. He snatched up the small old roll of black tape from the end. With care, he separated and rewrapped the power wires coming in.
Everything else looked fine. The heating element wasnt cracked or anything. He picked up the bottom plate to screw it back on.
No wonder youve been quiet, Harry said all of a sudden from just beside the hearth.
Arthur looked up a little guiltily, thinking now that maybe he should have asked before messing with something he had just found on a shelf.
Molly came around and stood behind Harry. Well, that also takes me back. You named him well.
Harry came over and crouched beside Arthur as his son picked up a screw and turned it back into the base. Harry picked up the rest of the screws to hold them out for him and said, Except he most likely has fixed it.
Really? Molly asked, amused and impressed sounding.
Ive never seen any machine not just work for him, Harry went on as he handed another screw over.
When it was back together, Arthur carefully set the tools back exactly as he had found them and started to put the coffee pot back on its shelf.
No, lets test it out, Harry said, taking it away. You have Muggle electricity here?
I think so. Havent tried it since the real estate agent sold me this place. She led the way to an outlet on the wall in the kitchen. Harry filled the pot from the sink and plugged it in.
Molly put her hands on her hips. Whenever my husband Arthur would do that with something hed been tinkering with, thered be this sound like a Splitting spell followed by smoke.
Harry grinned at Arthur who looked between them before taking the stool at the counter across from the sink. Minutes later, the water in the pot boiled.
Well, look at that, Molly said, pleased. Arthur Weasleyd be proud to see that.
Arthur fidgeted under her glowing gaze; he wasn't used to such a look since he hadn't seen it in over three years. He moved his gaze to the window and refused to let it make him miss his mum.
His dad shifted over to where he sat. "Ready to go?" he asked. Arthur wondered if he had given something away. Molly was giving him an even more sympathetic look, which made him angry at himself.
He forced everything down and said, "No," with an easy manner.
"Anything else you need fixed?" Harry asked Molly teasingly.
"No, I have this," she said, picking up her wand from the counter. Then, appearing to think again, she moved quickly to unplug the coffee pot and dump it out in the sink. Harry insisted upon putting it away. While he was gone, Molly said, "'S'all right being a Muggle."
Arthur couldn't tell if it was a question or not. He rubbed his neck which was stiff from bending over on the floor earlier. "I'm happy without magic," he said with certainty.
She leaned forward conspiratorily. "That's good, my boy. 'S'not good for everything anyway," she added with a wink.
Pollux woke Arthur early one cold Saturday morning by making a racket. Rubbing his eyes, Arthur padded across the cold floor in his bare feet to find the bird had knocked his water dish down. As he pulled it out to refill it, he said to the bird, I think you do that on purpose to get attention.
Pollux hooted disdainfully.
Arthur returned with the dish and remounted it and as he did so, the owl nipped playfully at him. I dont have anyone to send a letter to. Its not that I dont like you, he tried to explain. Itd be funny to send a letter to Allen using you, but then Dad would just have to memory wipe him again, and I dont want that to happen.
Deciding he was awake despite the early hour, Arthur collected his schoolbooks and sat down at the table near Pollux to look over his geometry assignment. A tapping sounded on the window. Arthur went over to it. Roger was standing there, holding up a grouse by the feet and pointing at it gleefully.
Arthur opened the window. Rogers breath steamed as he spoke in excitement, My first! Isnt it it a beaute?
Arthur thought it probably looked better alive, but he nodded anyway. Roger glanced at Pollux and gave a half-smile. No offense to your pet owl, ya know.
I know, Arthur replied with his own half-smile. Roger backed off and Arthur closed the window.
Pollux stepped nervously from one end of his perch to the other and back. Arthur opened the cage door and let him out, thinking the sight of the other dead bird may have made him nervous. The owl jumped to the edge of the door, then fluttered to the back of a chair and fluffed himself. Arthur fetched his books and sat in the same chair to work on his assignments. When he finished his math assignment, he started to grow impatient for his dad to wake up. Eventually he went to his dads room and leaned in the open doorway. His dad was awake and staring at the ceiling.
Im not sleeping in too late, if thats what youre worried about, Harry said reassuringly. Arthur tipped his head to the side, ready to deny it. I was just lying here thinking, Harry explained. He sat up and considered Arthur with a closed expression. He flattened the duvet by rubbing his hand over it a few times. Finally, sounding a little melancholy, he asked, How am I doing, Arthur?
How am I doing? Then after a pause, he added, With you.
It seemed a very serious question. Arthur shifted where he leaned on the doorframe to stand just inside the room. He shrugged. Okay, I guess. I dont know. When his father fell thoughtful, he added, Dads dont usually ask that, I dont think.
Harry made a small noise like a laugh. I dont always feel like a dad, especially when Im using you as an anchor to keep me steady."
Arthur looked at the floor, uneasy with this conversation. If his dad was using him to remain steady, then they were both in serious trouble. Harry stood then, came over, and put a hand on the top of Arthur's head, further ruffling his still uncombed hair. "Nevermind. Time for breakfast, I think."
Later that morning, when the Muggle post arrived, Arthur went and collected it. He returned to the table, frowning at the letter from Kent with the Dursleys name on the return address.
You remember your aunt and uncle? Arthur asked.
Only too well, Harry replied darkly, as he ate a bisquit with tea.
Well, despite moving away five years ago, they apparently remember you as well.
Harry looked up and Arthur handed over the letter. With a frown he tore it open. It was a Christmas card of all things. A little early, I should think, although it is December, Harry commented. It was signed by Petunia as From the family. Do they usually send one? Harry asked.
I dont know, Arthur replied. They used to call until Mum accused them of gloating and threw them out forcefully enough that they got the message. They moved some time later. Sent a picture of their new digs, really nice place on a big property. I doubt the photo is around anymore.
Harry flipped the card open again, apparently trying to understand something. I suppose I could ring them, but I honestly dont want to. If you really wanted to get to know your relatives I could probably force myself to.
I dont feel the need, Arthur said returning to his own snack. The card reminded him that he wanted to get his dad something really nice for Christmas, but he had no idea what it should be.
I really can help with your final astronomy project, Harry said as he stood in the doorway to Arthurs room.
Arthur looked up from his television screen which he had hooked up to use as a monitor since it was larger than the one on his laptop. His dad stepped in and dubiously eyed the complicated wiring and converters hanging between the devices before appearing to disregard the setup. Arthur did need help, the end of term was less than a week away, but he said, I think I can work it out.
On the screen was a star chart, one of many star charts he had found on the web in an attempt to speed the project along.
Whats the assignment? Harry asked persistently.
I need to make an astrolabe, Arthur said dismissively as he tabbed through the images he had downloaded.
A quadrant or a whole one? Harry asked.
Arthur straightened from the hunched posture he had been sitting in. Either, he answered, rethinking his assumption. But I dont get how it works.
His dad grinned lightly and said, Arthur, thats because it was something people used before computers. Remember Hogwarts? Did you see any computers there?
No. You said my handheld would break if I brought it. Arthur pulled his wrinkled assignment sheet out of the pile beside his chair and handed it over. You really think you can help?
Harry read the sheet over. We used astrolabes all the time in Astronomy class, Arthur. Whole ones are much easier to use but harder to make. Do you have to demonstrate that you know how to use it? At Arthurs nod, Harry said, Lets make a whole one then.
The next few days of working with his dad on his project were the best Arthur could remember. His dad knew all kinds of odd things, like how to make a potion to etch glass. They found an old glass lampshade at a junk shop and started with that to make his astrolabe. Harry cheated on cutting the lamp apart with some kind of laser-like spell, but other than that it seemed all legitimate. They worked out the projections together, with a little help from Hermione via owl, and Harry kept him from making a major mistake in laying out the degrees along the metal edge.
When it was finished, it sat on the Prophet-covered dining room table, scented with the etching compound they had used to add the star charts to the glass. Arthur could see where he had started because his star icons and labels had gotten much better as he went.
"Its going to be the best one," Arthur said proudly. He reached out a hand to pat his dad's arm and got pulled into a hug.
"Glad I could help you with something," Harry said in a quieter than normal voice.
Arthur hugged his dad back a bit more. "You always help, Dad," he stated with certainty. Harry held him a bit tighter as well, making Arthur wonder who was clinging to whom harder. Looking for a distraction, Arthur said, "I'll have to pack it well to take it tomorrow."
Harry released him. Ill do that. I suspect you have other revising, Harry said with that understanding, bordering on teasing, tone he used sometimes.
"Just a bit," he admitted. He left Harry to take care of his project and went to his room to work on his essay on the hundred-years war.
Christmas eve came upon Arthur faster than he imagined it would. Having end of term examinations looming probably had something to do with the speed of time passing. He closed the door of his room and took out the things he had bought. He had actually managed a trip to Diagon Alley two days before on the way home from school. But all he could decide on was a nice box of colored parchments. With a disappointed sigh he wrapped them up. They were very nice colors and it was something he would want if he used parchment as much as his dad did. At Marks and Sparks he had bought a nice black jumper with silver threads running through it. It would look good on his dad with his dark hair. He folded it carefully back into the box and wrapped it as well.
His dad had put up a tree earlier in the week, although it only had tinsel on it. It had three presents under it, one for himself and one for each of his friends. Arthur carried his packages out and put them under it as well. Looking at the tree made him wish his mum were here. Harry came through at that moment.
Ah ha, he said playfully. He shook the larger one. Hm, he said at the soft sound. It was kind of obvious what was inside. The other he shook and made a more curious face. He set it back under and said, Want to help make dinner?
Sure, Ill be right there, Arthur said.
His dad gave him a close look before leaving him alone. Arthur sighed as he spread out the foil tinsel a little better on the branches and considered with an empty heart that he was alone in missing his mum. She seemed more absent now for some reason, maybe because there were no presents for her. Quickly wiping his eyes, he went to the kitchen.
A duck was laid out in a roasting pan, its long neck turn around on itself. Cut up some onion and carrots for the pan, will you? Harry asked him.
Arthur nodded, glad for something easy to do. He sat at the table and took paring knife and carrot in hand that were laid out on a worn cutting board. Harry dried his hands on a towel and stepped over as he worked at making somewhat regular slices. Harry lifted his chin with his finger and said, "You haven't started on the onions yet, so I'm assuming something else is bothering you."
Arthur shrugged and waited for his dad to release him, which Harry eventually did. Arthur returned to chopping.
"I'm sorry I don't remember your mum," he said. Arthur stopped chopping in confusion over his dad guessing what was on his mind. "Not hard to guess, really, Arthur," Harry said. "I should have realized sooner, in fact." He took the two chopped carrots to the pan and came back. "Want to talk about her?"
Arthur shook his head and started chopping the onion, not doing a very good job of it. Harry waited for the onion pieces, added them to the pan and returned to intercept Arthur as he stood up. "It's all right," Arthur insisted when his dad pulled him into a hug.
"No. It isn't," Harry countered. He fell silent before saying, "How about this? How about I ask all of our old friends about your mum, how we met, what they remember about her, any stories they have." He paused again. "Then you and I can reminisce about her."
Arthur couldn't have imagined his father ever knowing things about his mother that he didn't. It hadn't occurred to him as possible. "I'd like that," he said, feeling sad and happy about it at the same time.
"We'll do that, then." Harry held him a little tighter and Arthur was pretty sure his dad was clinging to him this time.
After a long impatient wait for the bird to cook they sat down to dinner. Harry had lit candles and turned the main light out. He pulled out his wand and ignited a fire in the hearth. Serve yourself, Arthur, Harry urged him.
After dinner, they played games. Arthur taught Harry the basics of Magic: The Gathering and was promptly beaten soundly with the handheld standing in for a third person. Youre too good at this, Arthur complained.
Lets play something else then, Harry said, grinning.
Arthur went to the closet and pulled out Go. Do you know this one? he asked. When Harry shook his head, Arthur said, Good, as he set it down.
After midnight, they were both too tired to continue. Harry extinguished the fire with a wave of his wand and closed the flue. Good night, he said to Arthur as he gave him a quick one-armed hug. Merry Christmas.
You too, Dad.
The next morning as Arthur padded back from the toilet, yawning broadly, he glanced into the living room and froze. The tree was much brighter. Rubbing his eyes he stepped over to it. It sparkled strangely because it was covered in little glowing white fairies. One of them fluttered up to sit beside another one and they both blinked at Arthur curiously. One of them appeared to giggle at him. Some of them were asleep, tiny heads resting on tiny folded hands. He stepped back, stunned by the notion of thirty or so of the little people hanging out in the their tree. He also noticed that there were many more presents under it now as well.
Curious, he sat down on the rug beside the pile. His presents to his dad were on the right beside the two to his friends. The rest were in a neat ring around the other side. The all had his name in curling, glowing ink. He picked one up and shook it. It didnt make a sound, although it had weight.
Good morning, his father said from the hallway. He disappeared and returned a moment later with a cup of tea. He joined Arthur on the floor.
This is a lot of presents, Arthur commented.
I couldnt remember ever giving you any, so I thought I had thirteen years to make up for.
Arthur counted with his eyes. There were thirteen. Wow, he said, picking up another and shaking it. Both his mum and Elsa had been stingy with gifts under the excuse of character building.
Open this one, Harry said, picking up a small one off the pile.
You first, Arthur said, handing over the large box for him.
Harry obliged by opening it. Very nice, he said, holding the jumper up to his shoulders. Thank you.
Arthur opened his. It was a pocket watch, sort of. It had two hands but on them were little faces, his and his dads and the dial had little locations like home, Ministry, Diagon Alley. You know, Arthur said, If you carried a mobile, Id already know where you were. He kept turning it, reading now lunch, hospital, gaol, mortal peril. Both of the faces pointed at home. Does this really work?
It should, Harry said.
So, if I turn down Knockturn Alley and look at the watch and it doesnt say mortal peril, can I keep going?
Harry thought a moment. I dont know. But dont test it if Im not behind you, please. He handed him the next one.
Many presents later, Harry handed him the last one. It was heavier than the others. I hope I got it right, he said.
Youre doing really well, Arthur insisted, gesturing at the pile of game cartridges, the box of real butane refill canisters, the Gathering expansion packs. Wait, open my other one.
Harry did so. Very nice, he said, flipping through the mutely colored sheets. I got a letter on a lavender one just the other day and was admiring it. Im especially impressed that I suspect you had to go to Diagon Alley to get it.
It was okay, Arthur said. It had been; the doorway to the Leaky Cauldron had been very visible this time and he hadnt had to wait for someone else to go in or out. He had been avoiding going down there with his father except by Floo so he wouldnt have to pretend to be too stupid to see it.
Harry urged the last box on him. Arthur opened it. The box inside was ordinary brown cardboard. He opened it and blinked. How did you get a version three? he asked in amazement. Inside was a peach-colored metallic handheld complete with goggle port.
I asked around. Amazing what people will do for me given the opportunity.
It isnt due out until February, Arthur said, powering it up.
I was warned that it is most likely buggy. I assume that makes sense to you.
Its out of alpha though, Arthur commented, intent on the screen. It is so fast because everything is in crystal ROM. He looked up. Thank you, Dad, he said giving him a hug.
Harry, once released, stood up. Ill leave you to it and make breakfast.
Arthur looked up from the built-in games list. Harry, seeing his expression, hesitated. He retied his dressing gown and asked, Everything all right?
Arthur nodded, then said, No.
Harry turned and stopped.
I cant believe you got a hold of this, he breathed. Only the reviewers would have them at this point.
Im just glad you like it. Merry Christmas, Arthur. Harry stepped away.
A quarter of an hour later, Harry returned to the living room. Arthur was still sitting on the couch staring at his new handheld, flipping through the menus idly.
Do you want some breakfast? Harry asked him.
Arthur looked up at his father, who immediately looked concerned and sat beside him. Whats wrong?
Arthur fidgeted with the device and dropped his eyes in shame. Im sorry, he said.
For what? Doesnt look like youve managed to break it already." He leaned over to look at the screen.
Ive been lying to you. He swallowed hard. But I didnt want to be sent away--I just got you back.
Arthur, Harry admonished. He took the device away and set it on the shelf above the couch back. What is it? Why in the world would you think Id send you away?
Arthur scrubbed his face with this hands, trying to control the ominous tingling in his limbs. Because of this, he said in an upset voice. He held out his hand, thumb and index pointed at each other and whispered, Lumos. The glow came on between his digits the way it always did.
Arthur, Harry breathed in total surprise. He cut off whatever he was going to say and rubbed his hair back. All right, he said, how long has this been going on?
Arthur shook the light out and took a deep breath. Since the visit to Hogwarts.
Harry huffed in frustration. You couldnt even see the castle, could you?
No. And until this visit, I couldnt see the door to the Leaky Cauldron. Headmistress McGonagall said-
McGonagall knows! Harry demanded sharply.
It was her fault, Arthur insisted. Then at his dads doubtful look he explained about her magic tests and her giving him one spell.
Wait, so this is the only spell you have?
Um. No. Arthur pointed at one of the game cartridges on the floor and Accioed it.
Harry took it from him. Arthur, you are doing that without a wand!
I dont have one, he retorted.
Thats not the point.
Concerned, Arthur said, Am I not supposed to?
Harry put his hand on his forehead. Well cover that later, he said. I cant believe Minerva didnt tell me, Harry breathed, staring at the game cartridge in his hand.
She agreed youd send me to school and I didnt want to go. Some of his mothers old comments about ghouls and freaks rose to his distressed mind, but he bit his tongue on them.
She was actually going to let you in that late? At Arthurs nod, he commented, Starting in at Third Year would be rough. Something has to happen though. I can teach you a few things, but I think well need to get you a tutor. And a wand.
Cant I just use yours, if I need it? Arthur pleaded.
Harry looked him over and gave in. Sure, for now. Come and have breakfast, he commanded as he stood up.
In the dining room Arthur sighed as he sat down with Harry across from him. Talk to me a bit here, Arthur. Dont just make noises like that.
Ive been messing things up at school, he said. At his fathers questioning look, he went on, The examination papers all disappeared once.
How do you know that was you?
They had turned into playbills for the show Hedwig and the Angry Inch that Id seen the other day on the closed DVD shop window. It caught my eye because it reminded me of your old owl. Arthur looked up at his father, who was trying not to grin. So here the teacher was with these playbills stapled in groups of five instead of copies of the examination. He was very confused.
No one can blame you though, Harry pointed out, still smiling faintly.
Another time, Will and David, these two guys who are always picking on Roger were coming down the hallway at us and suddenly the floor was really polished up and they couldnt walk. It was like ice instead of tile. They were really angry, but they didnt know who to yell at. His dad didnt look at all upset. Its kind of funny but Im tired of it. Im antsy all the time wondering what is going to happen next.
Well see if you can do school half day for a while and Ill get you a tutor, all right?
Arthur brightened. There are a few other students who do that. The diplomats daughters and an Indian businessmans son. They have private tutors part of the time. He nibbled at his toast. Im sorry I didnt say anything sooner.
Harry gave him a sad look. You told me now. I can live with that. Well start some simple spells right away. Weve got just under two weeks before we are invited back to Hogwarts.
Am I going with you again? Arthur asked in alarm.
I promise not to leave you there, Harry said, attempting lightness.
Maybe I can stay home this time? Arthur suggested.
Im teaching a section on Defense. You dont want to go and watch Snape suffer with me?
Dont duel him again; Im sure hes been working on that.
Harry grinned. Im sure he has, too.
Chapter 12: Brave New World
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Chapter 12 -- Brave New World
Well, good morning, McGonagall said as she met them in the Entrance Hall. She gave Arthur a very intent look.
He told me, Harry supplied.
McGonagall swept away to lead them up the stairs. Good.
She led them to the Defense teachers office. Snape stood as they entered. If it isnt Mr. Potter and his . . . Muggle son, he said, glancing at Arthur.
Harry looked between them before demanding of Arthur, Who else knows?
I didnt tell him, Arthur said. He found out on his own, somehow.
Ah, Harry said. You dont have to tell Severus things for him to know them. Dont meet his eyes if you have something to hide.
Arthur gave Snape a startled look and received a haughty one in return. Arthur looked quickly away and avoided looking back as his father and Snape reviewed what they planned to teach. Arthur investigated the strange things on the shelves lining the room while he waited.
When class started, Arthur found a seat beside Sara again as the students filed in. Hi again, she said.
Did you have a good Christmas? Arthur asked to make conversation.
She shrugged. Pretty good. You?
I got some cool stuff.
Thats good, she said with disinterest, watching the platform where the teacher and Harry stood.
Snape gave an overview of what they were going to cover to the very full room. This was a special class of the Second and Third Years and that alone was a lot of children from Arthurs perspective, given that they were all magical. Arthur, despite reading half of a textbook already couldnt follow the discussion much at all.
At the end of the lecture, Snape and his father demonstrated a few things, then students came up and tried to replicate them. Eventually Sara was called up. While she was gone, someone poked Arthur hard in the ribs from behind. Hey, Mudblood, a voice said. Oh, wait, you dont even qualify for that. Laughter ensued. Arthur didnt bother to turn around, because he recognized Licias voice.
Sara worked out the spells quickly, impressing Arthur, but her partner was slower and she had to wait on the platform as more instruction was given to her opponent. Arthur was poked again, harder. This time he did turn around. Licias bright face was leaning into his with a smirk. Nothing you can do about it--is there? she taunted him.
Arthur turned to the front of the room and tried to ignore her. His dad warned him about trying anything he was not skilled at and the memory of the painful burn on his hand reinforced that very well. Something poked him again and more giggling ensued. Without turning around, Arthur opened his hand before him and whispered, Accio wand. A wand zipped over his shoulder and landed in his palm. That was a pretty safe one after all. A gasp sounded behind him. He glanced up at the platform. Neither adult was paying attention. He pocketed the wand casually and turned around to face an incensed Licia.
Give it back, she demanded in a low tone. How did you do that, anyway? she asked suspiciously. She glanced ahead of him to see if someone in the next row might be involved.
Arthur cocked his mouth at her. Wouldnt you like to know?
Sara returned and Snape was eyeing the room, looking for the next demonstrators. Two others got up and stepped onto the platform. Give it back or Fredryk here will burn a hole through you, Licia threatened.
Fredryk, one of the overgrown boys with bad teeth, looked a little doubtful at first, but then remembered to look menacing.
What does she want? Sara asked in a whisper.
She wants her wand back, Arthur replied. She should have kept it to herself if she didnt want to lose it.
Sara blanched. Youre a nutter, she said without a hint of compliment. She then huffed and turned around. If you lost your wand to a Muggle there isnt much hope for you, she said to Licia.
Hes no Muggle, Licia sneered.
Arthur grinned back at the blonde girl, his eyes sparkling. Turns out Im not, he said.
Are you serious? Sara asked.
Your headmistress tried to give me one spell and it woke up my magic, Arthur explained to Sara, trying not to sound too negative about it.
Wow, Sara said. She turned and told the friends beside her.
The students on the platform were stepping down. Potter? Snapes voice said. How about you . . . and Ms. Malfoy. He gestured for them to come up.
Licia ducked her head and marched up to the platform. Arthur stepped up to the side where Snape was standing to leave her no choice but to stand by his father. Arthur doesnt have a wand, Harry said.
I do at the moment, Arthur said, pulling Licias out of his pocket. Licia stood with her arms straight down, glaring furiously at him. She seemed so very eager to loan it to me, he explained, gesturing at his opponent.
Snape took Licias wand, gave Arthur his own and walked Licias down to her. He leaned close to her ear as he did so and said, A word of warning. Only the most powerful magic is capable of suppressing itself completely.
Licia bit her lip and looked more determined as she swept her wand back and forth at her side impatiently. Snape said, You have both been paying a modest amount of attention, I noticed. Are you ready? Arthur nodded; he had watched the first few rounds. Mr. Potter, Snape went on, you on defense first. He stepped back out of the way.
Licia pointed and shouted her first spell at him. Arthur shouted the counter-curse at the same moment, thinking that he had done well, but he was knocked back and almost lost his feet. Licia chuckled at him. His robe was full of static as he stepped forward. What did I do wrong? he asked Snape.
I think you were actually too fast. That counter does not hold long. The next one does.
Licia cast the next spell and this time, Arthur kept his feet, although his arms tingled ominously as he shook them out. Snape said, Switch now.
Harry stepped in and said, I havent covered control with him at all.
Licia looked alarmed at that. Why not? Snape asked.
I havent had time . . . Ive had two weeks.
Snape raised a brow. I think Ms. Malfoy is up for it, correct? She looked uncertain but did not complain. She is not one for opening a challenge and then backing down, he stated with ominous certainty.
Harry stepped over to Arthur. Take it easy with the spells, he said.
But I dont like her, Arthur said, loud enough to carry. She keeps calling me a Mudblood. What is that anyway?
The room murmured at that. Snape gave his student a disapproving glance.
It means one of your parents is a Muggle, Harry said to his son.
Arthur shrugged. So? he said, not understanding.
Precisely, Harry said. Keep it toned down, anyway.
He is using an unfitted wand, Potter, I expect it will be all right, Snape commented.
Harry swept the wand away from Arthur in a swift motion. Good point, he said as he stepped back and signaled for him to start.
Arthur stretched his shoulders back and focused himself the way he would when a game cartridge booted up for the first time. Snape was giving him a very odd look and Licia looked completely confused. When Arthur shouted the first spell, she pulled herself to the present and put up a block. The shower of yellow energy from Arthurs hand burned it away. He had to shake his hand to get it to stop. Licia had ducked down when her block failed and remained crouched over on the floor.
That was taking it easy? Harry asked his son sharply.
Licia stood up, looking furious. That wasnt a Triavelene she said. I know how to block that just fine.
Actually, it was, Snape said mildly. Hand conjuring results in a very different manifestation of most spells. A purer version, one might say. And now we know why Mr. Potter does not own a wand. He stepped over to Arthur. If you would satisfy my curiosity, Arthur. He handed the boy his own wand again. Please repeat the spell.
Do I have to stand here? Licia demanded with a stomp of her foot.
It is still your turn, is it not? You had your two spells on attack as I recall.
Ill take her place, Harry said, stepping that way.
Never mind, she snapped haughtily. Ill stay.
Harry grinned and backed off graciously. Arthur repeated the spell. It produced a narrow orange beam this time, as Licias had. She blocked it easily. When it faded, she looked obnoxiously smug about her success. Arthur ignored her and handed Snape his wand.
Natural hand conjurers are about as rare as Parselmouths, he commented quietly.
Arthur returned to sitting on the floor beside Sara. She was grinning broadly. That was great, she said.
After Snape wrapped the class up and gave assignments, she said to Arthur, Are you coming to school here?
I dont think so, Arthur replied.
Disappointed, she said, Why not?
As they stood up, he thought about his answer. Im really not a wizard, in the ways that matter for school. I dont get this place at all.
Not everyone is as intolerable as her highness there, she pointed out, gesturing at Licias blonde head departing with nose in the air.
I realize that, Arthur said kindly. My dad is getting me a tutor so I can control my magic. I dont know if Ill do more than that with it.
She gaped a him before getting caught up in the crowd leaving the room. Arthur watched her depart with her friends, then waited for his dad and Snape to finish discussing something.
Lunch time, Harry said, stepping off the platform a few minutes later. Hungry?
Arthur nodded. The food here is pretty good, although I could live without the pumpkin juice.
Oh, its the best, Harry countered.
Can we have Sara Weasleys family over for dinner some time? Arthur asked.
Harry grinned broadly at him. I dont see why not. He took Arthur by the shoulder and steered him out of the room.
In the Great Hall, the same seats were arranged. This time, Arthur didnt have to make up things to distract Snape; he did his own part of occupying Arthur with questions. He was very curious how Arthurs hand conjuring worked. Unfortunately Arthur didnt know what he was doing, really, so Snape had to ask many questions to tease at the answer he wanted. The close end of the Slytherin table was distracted by Licia, whispering something to the students around her, so they didnt seem as disturbed by their Head of Houses attention to him as last time.
After lunch, Harry said, Maybe you dont want to sit through another Defense lesson? You can sit in on something else.
Well. . .
McGonagall leaned over, We have many topics, Potions, History, Arithmancy, Astronomy, Divination-
Not Divination, Harry said sharply. Dont sit in on that, he instructed Arthur. To McGonagall, he explained, Im not taking any chances with him.
You may sit in on my class next period, Mr. Potter, McGonagall offered. Ill be teaching Transfiguration to the Second Years.
That sounds cool, Arthur said.
Follow me, then.
Arthur waved to his dad as he trailed the headmistress along behind the head table. In the hall leading to the stairs, he said, You seem very nice for a school headmistress, maam.
Do I? You have not seen me at my worst. Stick around.
Arthur grinned. My friend Allen goes to Smeltings. He says the headmaster is very cruel.
They were walking along a corridor full of paintings which watched them pass or waved. Well, we do try to run things here a little better than the average Muggle school.
It doesnt seem like that would be very hard, Arthur mused as they arrived at the classroom door. When she stopped and looked him over, Arthur said, Did I say something wrong?
No. I was just thinking how different you are from your father, is all. She opened the door. Come along.
The room was full of shelves with crates and cages of animals. He thought about asking what Transfiguration was, but held back on the assumption that it would soon become apparent. The students wandered in slowly from lunch. Sara Weasley caught his eye and they exchanged smiles.
Can Arthur sit with us, Professor? she asked as she and her two friends sat down at a table.
Of course, McGonagall replied without looking up from her notes.
Grateful to have a normal place to sit, Arthur pulled up an extra chair at their table. Im just watching, he explained to them. He sat still through the lecture while his tablemates took careful notes. He wondered what an examination could possibly consist of as he watched them. At the end, they were all issued small pillows to turn into pillboxes. This part concluded easily enough and they were all given rattles to turn into rats.
Would you like to give it a try, Mr. Potter? Professor McGonagall asked Arthur. The whole class turned to listen in.
Actually, I have a question, Arthur said.
She gestured broadly with her hands. By all means.
It seems like there is some connection between transformations and the names of things.
There is, McGonagall replied. Similarly named things are easier for those first learning.
Arthurs brow furrowed. How can that be? Its just a name.
Words are very powerful, Mr. Potter. If they werent, we wouldnt have spells. She paused to let that sink in. Would you like to try? When Arthur shrugged, she said, Take out your wand and give it a go--it isnt hard.
Arthur cleared his throat and said, I dont have a wand, maam.
Some of the students tittered, garnering a very disapproving look from the teacher. Arthur, however, understood the amusement; they had all been at the demonstration before lunch. Perhaps Ms. Weasley will loan you hers.
Sara stashed her wand as she crossed her arms. No, she said in a mock spoiled voice. She then grinned. Arthur, show Professor why you dont have a wand. Verminus Tracticum, she said, reminding him of the spell. Go on.
Arthur looked at her and then at the closest brightly-colored rattle. Loosely pointing his hand, he repeated the spell. All three rattles on the table, transformed into scurrying grey rats that headed for the edges and jumped off.
Youre right, maam. That isnt hard at all, Arthur said with a grin, ducking under the table to watch the rats head for the nearest dark corner. The class giggled.
The wand just gets in his way, Professor, Sara explained.
I see, she said, eyeing Arthur studiously before returning to the front of the room.
Arthur returned to the Great Hall after Transfiguration. McGonagall said he could wait there through the second afternoon class period. He took a seat at one of the long tables and stared up at the ceiling.
Hey, Mudblood, get off our table, Licias tall, overgrown, companion snarled. Arthur glanced around and realized that he had sat at the table on the left, which during meals, had been the Slytherin one. No one had been there when he had sat down.
He shrugged and moved to the next one over, waiting for any complaints before he climbed over the bench. A few students farther along glanced his way before returning to their conversation. Arthur really wished he had his handheld and his hands fidgeted at that thought. Life didnt remain dull for long, someone shoved him in the back so his face hit the table. Arthur spun quickly and faced the same hulking Slytherins as before.
Teacher isnt here to rescue you this time, the boy taunted him. Why he would rescue a Mudblood is beyond me anyway.
Arthur stood up and walked around to the table on the far side. He honestly didnt know where to wait if not in this room. The castle itself seemed hostile, so he wasnt keen on wandering alone. The Slytherins mocked him as he retreated.
A large fire burned in the hearth. Arthur stepped over there and sat close enough to feel the warmth but not too close to get hot. Students on the end of that table looked up at him and stared.
Is it all right if I sit here? Arthur asked them.
Yeah, of course, a tall boy answered before they turned back to their assignments.
After dinner they settled into the headmistress office over drinks of something dark. Everyone except Arthur, that is. He circled the room and dropped into a chair, bored.
Do you want to have a look around? McGonagall asked him.
Arthur shook his head. I dont think so.
No? she asked, surprised. Any particular reason?
Arthur studied her concerned gaze as he tried to find words for his isolation and unease. Its okay. Ill just wait here, he said.
Snape stood up suddenly. To McGonagall he said, Do you still have those honors pins we used to use? The glass ones.
Oh yes. She stood and went to a glass-fronted cabinet in the rear of the office. She pulled out a green wooden box and removed something from it. Snape took it from her and approached Arthur. Arthur stood still as the teacher bent and pinned something to the right breast of his plain robe. It was a glass snake as long as his finger, in green surrounded by a delicate crest shape in glittering grey.
Perhaps, also . . . Snape said to himself. He pulled out his wand and tapped the pin twice. Yes, I think that should do it. You are a Slytherin, after all--no one should take it away. He looked him in the eye. Go on, Arthur--I think you will be somewhat less bothered now.
Arthur remembered too late that he should be averting his eyes. He dropped his gaze and said, All right. He wanted to ask how long they were staying, but his dads voice sounded so happy and energetic, he didnt have the heart to.
He rode the escalator back down to an empty corridor. He wondered where Sara might be and headed to the only place he knew well.
In the Great Hall, he was heartened to find Sara at the table on the right, working on something with her friends. They were chatting as much as writing, so he thought it would be all right to interrupt.
Hey, Arthur, she said brightly as he approached. He took a seat beside her and visually said hello to each of her companions.
Youre really Harry Potters son? an older boy asked.
Whats that like? he asked, garnering admonitions from the table.
Arthur laughed a little. Weird. What else would it be?
They all laughed lightly at that. The boy noticed his pin. Whats that?
A joke, I think, Arthur replied, giving it a glance. The pin sparkled nicely in the firelight.
I would hope so, Sara said. It looks Slytherin, she added with a hint of disgust.
Arthur forced himself not to sigh audibly. They returned to their assignment and Arthur listened in to their discussion, having nothing else to do.
Well, the Mudder is back, a voice behind Arthur said a while later. Whyre you still here if you arent fit to be a student? Licia asked in disgust.
I didnt realize you were in charge of admissions, Arthur quipped, turning sideways on the bench to face them. The table laughed at that.
If my father were in charge of admissions, it would look very different here, I assure you, she said in a dark tone. A well-practiced one, Arthur thought. He shrugged since there wasnt an answer to that. She glanced down at his robe. What is that? she asked rudely.
Arthur looked where she pointed. Oh, Professor Snape gave me that, he said casually.
No, he didnt, she said stridently and reached for it. A spark flew from the pin and literally threw her hand away. She yelped and held her hand to her abdomen in pain.
So, thats the spell Professor Snape put on it. I didnt understand what he was doing, Arthur said conversationally. Worked rather well.
With tear-filled eyes, Licia snarled, Why would our Head of House give you a Slytherin pin?
Arthur laughed easily. Because the Sorting Hat put me there, I expect.
What? Sara asked in surprise.
Your headmistress and a few of the teachers got into an argument about it and so she just put the hat on me to settle it.
Sara looked him over. Youre a Slytherin?
Im nothing. I dont go to school here, Arthur argued.
There is that, Sara muttered.
Licia and her companions looked aghast. We arent supposed to bother other House students, one of the big ones said slowly.
Arthur turned to the table and said quietly. Slytherin has no intelligence requirement, eh?
They chuckled a little. Neither does Hufflepuff, Sara pointed out a little glumly.
Licias companions urged her away, citing the need to avoid trouble. Arthur exhaled in relief as he turned back to the table, now eyeing him differently. Whats wrong? he asked.
Didnt realize you were a Slytherin, one of them said darkly.
Who the hell cares? So was my dad.
No, he wasnt, Sara said.
He would have been if hed let the Hat have its way, Arthur retorted. He said he had to talk it out of it. I didnt know, or care, what I was supposed to. Besides, I like Professor Snape. He looked at her. It really matters that much? he asked a little sarcastically. Im really different from two minutes ago when you didnt know that?
She shrugged and frowned a little. Houses matter a lot. My dad was pretty disappointed I wasnt in Gryffindor, I must say. All the Weasleys before me were.
Is Gryffindor better?
They always win the house cup, someone said. And its Harry Potters . . . uh, well, it is his house.
Arthur snorted. Bunch of idiots with more courage than brains, he said. And I quote.
Your father? the student asked, stunned.
Professor Snape. But my dad said he couldnt argue with it.
They all grinned at that.
Its all right, Arthur. I dont care if youre a Slytherin, Sara said, patting him on the arm. Especially since it upsets them that you are.
You seem to be doing well, Harry, McGonagall said after other topics were long exhausted. She stood up and paced her office. I feel rather bad that we gave up on you.
Dont, Harry said. Arthur has made it pretty clear what happened. Frankly, the potion Severus revised wasnt invented until, what?
A year or so ago, Snape supplied.
Minerva, I dont blame anyone, Harry said. I wouldnt expect you to have time for anything beyond this school, he teased.
A knock sounded on the door. McGonagall opened it with a wave of her wand. Arthur stepped in a little sheepishly.
I have this note from a Mr. Filch, Arthur stated. Harry put his hand out for it. Its for Professor Snape, Arthur said, handing it over to the teacher. Mr. Filch wouldnt let me go until I told him what house I was in. He got very angry when I insisted I wasnt a student, Arthur explained, a little flustered. Filch had scared him half to death. He seemed to think you would take care of things, sir, he said to Snape. At least he was chuckling an awful lot as he wrote out the note.
Snape unfolded the square of parchment. His brow furrowed as he read it. He handed it to McGonagall as he commented, The statues on the fifth floor corridor are the least historically accurate.
The headmistress shot him a look before unfolding the parchment. What happened? she asked Arthur after glancing at it.
Arthur fidgeted. I got talked into trying a spell but I didnt know what it did.
Arthur Harry said sharply. We went over that.
Arthur rubbed his hands together nervously a moment. I dont know whos a friend here, he said quietly, hurt sounding.
Harry sighed. As boring as we are, I guess you should have stayed. He pulled a chair over for him and urged him to have a seat.
Im sorry, maam, Arthur said in a sad voice.
I do think Mathida was actually a hag and not the long-haired beauty the statue made her out to be. She rubbed her forehead and sat down.
You were not accompanied by other Slytherins I presume? Snape asked Arthur.
Arthur shook his head. Id rather not say.
Well, I expect it wont happen again, McGonagall said.
Yes, maam, Arthur replied forcefully. After a moment he turned to his dad. Are we going soon?
Harry grasped his shoulder and shook him lightly. Sure. It is getting late. And I think were all right here. He looked to McGonagall who shook her head faintly before tilting it and giving in.
On the walk back down to Hogsmeade, Harry said, So, we can invite Bill and his family, which would include Sara, to dinner if you wish.
Dont bother, Arthur said grimly.
No? Was Sara involved in getting you into trouble? When Arthur shrugged, Harry prompted, Arthur?
Not exactly. It was her friends, but she didnt exactly stop them. I thought she would if they were telling me to do something that stupid.
After a span Harry said, You are a tempting target.
Thanks, Arthur said despondently. After they passed the gate, he added, I just expect that when people are nice to you, they are trying to be your friend.
Harry put an arm around his cloaked back and they walked that way into town.
Chapter 13: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
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Chapter 13 -- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
“Everything is straight with your school for next week,” Harry said one morning. “An old teacher of mine has agreed to come tutor you. He can come two days next week and then he can’t come until the week after.”
“Why not?” Arthur asked.
Harry thought a moment. “I’ll explain that after you get to know him a little,” he said. “He sent a list of books and materials you should have.” Harry handed over a list on parchment. “We’ll go into Diagon Alley on the weekend for it.”
“I can go,” Arthur said.
“How about we both go, but you can do your own shopping while I visit some old friends?”
Arthur folded up the parchment and pocketed it. “That sounds better.”
Saturday was cold but sunny. They took the underground since Arthur complained about getting grimy in the Floo network last time.
As they stepped through the archway from the pub, Arthur said, “Too bad it’s too cold for ice cream.”
“Florean sells hot cider,” Harry said. He pointed up the street. “See that sign on the first floor with the three Ws?” At Arthur’s nod, he said, “I’ll be there. Come up when you’re finished.”
With a glance at his son, he walked away. Arthur watched a path clear through the startled shoppers as his dad strolled along the alley away from him.
He needed books, so he decided to start there. Inside the bookstore it was blissfully warm from a roaring fire. Arthur pulled off his hat and mittens and loosened his cloak. The parchment had six books listed on it. Arthur wandered around, trying to get a sense of the organization of the store. He found one of the books on a pile of second hand textbooks. It was a little beaten up, but it was full of meaningful looking notes from the previous student. That felt like a bonus, so he tossed it into the bottom of his cauldron. Another two he found when he realized that everything was organized by title, not author, and in sections by audience. The section behind him was Housewitches the one he was in, Learners. In the far corner a locked cabinet with glass doors read Necromancers. Arthur moved that way out of curiosity.
Bright eyes staring at him, made him turn as he reached the cabinet. A tall man with a high-collared cloak and straight blonde hair that hung over his eyes gave him such an intense look, Arthur froze.
The man strode suddenly over, his eyes taking him in. “You . . . must be the Potter boy,” he said with a hint of accusation.
“Arthur. Pleased to meet you, sir,” Arthur said levelly.
“Hmf,” the man huffed and glanced around. “You aren’t here alone, are you?” he said in mock concern. “My daughter tells me you are a Muggle.” He looked Arthur over with a vaguely hungry expression.
Arthur relaxed marginally, feeling an advantage there given the slow news. Arthur shrugged easily. He really would rather be a Muggle than be associated with this lot.
“And your mother?” the man said in question, glancing around the store.
“Dead, sir,” Arthur answered.
“Ah,” he replied airily. He seemed to search for words then.
“I’m a Mudblood if that is what you are getting at,” Arthur continued in the same easy tone. Several shoppers stopped and glanced up sharply at that. “I assume your daughter inherited your obsession with such things,” Arthur explained.
The man seemed a little taken aback by the upfront approach, so Arthur retained his casual gaze and pose with extra effort. Eventually, after an involuntary twitch of one eye, the man said, “And your dear father?”
“Around,” Arthur answered, not unlocking his gaze from the grey-eyed one before him.
“I’d ask you to give him my regards . . . but . . .” The man had such a look of distaste on his face that Arthur had to clench his teeth to keep from smiling. “Your father clearly demonstrates the risks of interbreeding.” He looked Arthur up and down with a look of tired regard. “By producing this.”
Arthur pulled his head back in surprise and tried to think of a response to measure up to that.
“Arthur,” a voice said in question from across the store. Arthur didn’t look up since he recognized the voice and was really starting to think this was getting ridiculous. He wasn’t in the least bit of trouble here, really. “Draco,” Snape greeted the blonde man.
“Professor,” the man said with a false smile. He bowed slightly and took a half step back.
“Are you here alone?” Snape asked Arthur.
“Yes,” Arthur replied challengingly.
Snape raised a brow and disregarded the issue. He looked Licia’s father over. “Rather startling to look at, is he not?” Snape asked him, glancing at Arthur.
“Yes. Rather.” The man sniffed. “At least I don’t have to worry he will end up at school with my daughter.”
“Unless we can convince Arthur otherwise, no,” Snape commented.
The man looked confused at that. “Licia insisted he was a Squib,” he said.
“That would be most unfortunate for her if it were true,” Snape drawled, “since she lost a duel with him.”
Draco looked very distressed at that, his eyes roving between Arthur and his former teacher.
“Arthur,” Snape said in a hard tone. “Finish your shopping, why don’t you.”
“Yes, sir.” Arthur took his list to the counter, thinking that might speed things up. He glanced back at the pair. They were watching him as they talked. Draco’s eyes narrowed as he listened to Snape. Finally he stalked off with a swish of his cloak. As Arthur waited for the shopkeeper to return with his other three books, Snape came up beside. “You should keep in mind, Arthur, your own comment about not being able to distinguish friend from foe.”
“He wasn’t hard to distinguish, sir. He didn’t seem very nice from the beginning.”
Quietly, Snape said, “That doesn’t cover it, Arthur. He is a dark wizard. Avoid him.”
A chill ran along Arthur’s spine. “Yes, sir,” he replied, finding safety in obedience. “My dad says I’m a tempting target.”
Snape’s head tilted to the side almost bird like. “You are that,” he agreed.
With his books in his backpack, Arthur headed down to the parchment store where he stocked up on quills, ink, and paper. No one in that shop looked like a dark wizard or even paid him any attention. After that he found the door to the first floor offices on the correct block and went up the narrow unlit staircase. At the top he could hear conversation coming from an open door on the left. He looked in. A red-haired man of about forty burst into excitement when he saw him.
“You must be Arthur!” he said gleefully as he ran over and pulled Arthur in by the shoulders. “My, but you are a sight! The spitting image of your father at your age. Merlin!”
“Everyone always looks like they’re seeing a ghost when they meet me,” Arthur commented as he looked around the place. It was packed with colored boxes and trays of half bitten sweets and cauldrons of gooey ingredients. “Some guy in the bookstore just now was really disturbed to see me.”
“Do you know who it was?” Harry asked.
“Uh,” Arthur said, remembering how Snape addressed him. “Draco, Licia’s father.”
Harry stiffened and stepped over. “You ran into Draco Malfoy?”
“I happened to him, really. I was looking for books and he came over, rather startled.” Arthur thought of explaining how he had had a little fun with him since he had not heard he wasn’t a Muggle anymore, then decided to stay quiet, given his father’s concerned look. “I’ve already been told to avoid him, don’t worry.”
“Good. I’m glad people are looking out for you,” Harry said.
“Well,” Arthur hemmed. “One person in particular, Professor Snape.”
The red-haired man looked shocked. “Snape is looking out for you. Are you sure you don’t have him confused with someone else? Someone nice?”
Arthur gave him a narrow look. “Yes.”
Harry chuckled and patting the man on the shoulder, said, “Arthur, this is George Weasley. George, you have to understand, Snape likes him.” When George, with a face of disbelief, pointed at Arthur, Harry nodded. “Arthur sorted into Slytherin, just to warn you.”
George’s animated face went to utterly dismayed. “Goodness, that is a surprise.”
“It shouldn’t be,” Arthur said, glancing at this father meaningfully.
“Want to try some sweets?” George asked eagerly, seeming to forget the previous conversation completely.
Arthur nodded willingly.
“So tell me about this tutor who is coming today,” Arthur said at breakfast.
“He taught at Hogwarts one year when I was there. Taught me spells that saved my life more than once. His name is Remus Lupin. He’s a very nice man and one of my father’s best friends at school.”
“Oh. Which one?” Arthur asked. At Harry’s questioning look, he went on, “You said once they all had nicknames, Padfoot for example, though I don’t remember them all.”
“Padfoot was my godfather, Sirius. Prongs, was my father. Wormtail, was a traitor.” Harry stopped there a moment. “The only one left is Remus, who was Moony.”
Harry grinned a little. “I’ll explain it some other time.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “But he’s a nice wizard?”
“Very nice,” Harry assured him.
After normal school, Arthur arrived home for lunch. He liked the short day a lot; he could pay attention better knowing he was getting away much sooner. In the living room his father and another man were just pouring tea. The man stood up when Arthur came in.
“Goodness,” he said. “Even warned, you are hard to take.” He smiled and held out his hand.
As they shook hands, Arthur noticed that his robe was very worn and that the lines around his eyes and his grey hair did not look right on him as though he were aging too fast. “Hello, sir,” Arthur said. “I’ll get my stuff.” Arthur brought from his room the books he had been instructed to buy along with a quill and ink and two sheets of parchment. He arranged these things on the low table beside the tea set.
Lupin considered him as Arthur said, “Dad suggested I read the first chapter in each book, which I did, but I don’t think I understood much.” It was hard to admit he could not understand something, but he didn’t want to be overestimated where magic was concerned.
“We’ll go over things,” Lupin said reassuringly. He sipped his tea and slid down the couch to Arthur’s books. “We’ll start with these two.” He set two of them aside. “Your father mentioned in his owl that you need to work on tempering. That isn’t unusual in a late bloomer. But I have to warn you that it isn’t easy to learn at this point.”
Arthur scratched his head and pulled the two books over. They were fortunately the two easier ones.
Lupin went on, “Did anyone explain to you what happened with your magic?” When Arthur shook his head without looking up, his tutor went on, “Sometimes, when it is strong enough to, the magic inside someone will fold over onto itself, keeping itself completely hidden. It is a self-defense mechanism. It can happen if things are very stressful or risky for magic when it first manifests. What it means is that the normal instincts for it that you would have gained when you were younger, you’ve missed out on.”
Lupin paused until Arthur looked up at him, then continued. “It is good that Headmistress McGonagall brought it to light when she did. It may never have unfolded otherwise.”
Arthur’s look sharped as he considered that McGonagall had lied about causing his magic. Lupin considered him closely before turning to Harry on the end of the couch. Carefully, he said, “He doesn’t want to be a wizard, does he?”
Harry shook his head. “No.”
Arthur dropped his gaze, feelings tugged him apart. “I never said that,” he offered.
“I assumed that’s why you hid it as long as you could,” Harry said evenly.
Lupin shook his head. “When you said you were interested mostly in teaching him control, I didn’t understand.” He sighed. “Well, Arthur. We’ll work on that then almost exclusively. You change your mind and want to learn more, you’ll let me know, I’m sure. Learning control means learning a lot of different spells anyway.” He moved the books aside and pulled over his satchel. He pulled a few wooden blocks out of it and set them on the table. “Let’s see what you can do. Harry mentioned he’s been working with you a little.” He pulled out a wand and said. “Arrangement!” in a French accent. The blocks jumped into a neat stack. He moved them back to sit directly on the table, disarrayed, as he asked, “Done this one?” When Arthur shook his head, he added, “Good, I want to see you try a spell for the first time. Where’s your wand?”
“I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have one?” Lupin asked in surprise.
Harry pulled his out and held it out for Arthur. “I don’t want one,” Arthur insisted stubbornly.
Lupin’s eyes narrowed. As he opened his mouth to speak, Arthur incanted the spell while pointing with his finger. The blocks glowed yellow, hovered, then jumped into a stack, though not quite as neat as the previous one.
Lupin put his hand on his forehead and stared at the blocks before his eyes slid over to Harry. Slowly, he said, “You are telling me that you have hired me to tutor the fourth hand conjurer since Merlin, and he doesn’t actually want to be a wizard.”
Harry poured himself more tea, heating it with a tap of his wand. “Pretty much.” He sipped from his cup. “I always suspected Dumbledore of not really needing his wand. He didn’t always use it.”
“He wasn’t a natural though.” Lupin said. “He told me he worked very hard to learn to cast without a wand. I asked him about it once as a student when I saw him lighting the hearths with a wave of his hand.” He rubbed his bottom lip in thought. “But you,” he said to Arthur. “You just did a spell you’ve never done before.”
“It’s easier without a wand,” Arthur insisted quietly.
“Yes, I can imagine it would be. The wand attenuates. Most of us need that to focus and channel power, but it changes the magic on the way. Getting away without it . . . “ he tilted his head, as though trying to take that in, jealous maybe even.
Harry stood up. “I’ll leave you two alone for the lesson,” he said.
Arthur spent the afternoon discussing and practicing basic spells. By the time six o’clock came around, he was feeling quite comfortable with several simple spells. Harry wandered back in. He stood in the doorway and said, “How are you two doing?”
“Quite well. He picks up on some things very easily. Others he seems incapable of.” At Harry’s curious look, Lupin explained, “Transfiguration is no problem for him. But permanent transformations he can’t seem to get a hold of. Like a Reparo for example.” He gestured at a pile of broken sticks, one of wood, one of marble, one of lacquer.
Arthur glanced up from his mobile as they were talking. He hadn’t checked messages all afternoon and was using this opportunity to do so.
Lupin studied him as he said, “Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to care that entire classes of spelling are out of reach.” He shrugged at Harry who smiled faintly.
“You are staying for dinner, right?” Harry asked.
As they sat down around the dining room table, Arthur said, “I like only having a half day of school. How long will I be tutored?”
“As long as you like,” Harry said as he poured beer for him and Lupin. “If you run out of one topic we can add others. You are good at maths so even things I never studied, like arithmancy, are possible. Potions might interest you if you found out what you can do with them. Or maybe that’s not a good idea,” he said upon further reflection. “Astronomy is interesting, and relatively safe.”
At the end of the meal after Lupin departed, Harry cleared the table and asked, “What do you think?”
Arthur grabbed the utensils and the napkins and followed Harry to the kitchen. “You mean, about Mr. Lupin? He’s nice, like you said. What’s wrong with him, though?”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
Arthur loaded the dishwasher as he said, “Well, his robe was pretty old, even by wizard standards, which aren’t very high to begin with. He seems younger than he looks, kinda the opposite of you.”
“He isn’t very well off,” Harry commented as he handed dishes over. “He gets discriminated against.”
Arthur thought about that as he put the beer glasses on the rack and closed the dishwasher. “I can’t guess why, he seems fine.”
“Glad you think so,” Harry quipped as he hung the tea towels to dry.
“You aren’t going to say.”
“Can I guess?” Arthur said.
“I don’t know, can you?”
As they walked out of the kitchen, Arthur said, “He’s a vampire?”
Harry turned around at that. “They get discriminated against too, but I don’t think I would hire one as your tutor.”
“You make it sound like I might be on the right track,” Arthur said, stopping by his room to get his day-school books. Harry shrugged broadly. Arthur shook his head as he went through his backpack; he really should stop guessing, he decided.
As Harry predicted, Arthur’s tutor was absent for the end of the week. The following Monday, Harry was running an errand to Hogsmeade when Arthur returned home from school. He ate a snack as he waited for his tutor who arrived with a bang! as usual.
“Hello, Arthur,” he said.
“Hello, sir,” Arthur said. He looked up to find his tutor looking paler than usual. The lines around his eyes were deeper as well and he looked rather tired. “Are you feeling all right, sir?” Arthur asked in concern.
Lupin, who had taken a seat on the couch beside him, looked him over closely. Arthur suspected that Lupin was only now realizing that Arthur was uninformed about things--whatever they were. “I’m fine, Arthur. Don’t worry about me.” He took a stack of parchment out of his satchel. “Did you take notes on the next two chapters?”
They went over Arthur’s lesson. “Well, my boy,” Lupin said. “It is clear you read everything, but I have a sense that it doesn’t mean much to you.”
Arthur frowned. He pulled out the book and pointed at a paragraph on matter transcendence. “You can’t create matter. It is one of the laws of physics,” Arthur stated.
“You are a Muggle, Arthur. No insult intended,” Lupin quipped.
“I keep telling people that and they don’t believe me.”
Lupin gave him a small grin. “That spell casting has them confused, I think.” Arthur dropped his gaze and rubbed his foot against his ankle in frustration. Lupin said, “Your father was thrilled to be a wizard.”
“Yeah, I’ve gotten that impression,” he said flatly.
“No one says you have to be thrilled. But we don’t want you to be a hazard to anyone or anything. All you have to do is practice a variety of spells until you naturally get a sense of control. But it is going to take a while.”
“When will I know I’m set?”
“I guess when strange things stop happening around you,” Lupin replied.
Arthur picked up his notes. “Let’s go to the next part, then,” he said, thinking about the cherry cobbler that had shown up for midday tea at school when everyone insisted it had been crullers just minutes before.
Harry came home an hour later. “How are you, Remus?” he asked.
“Fine,” he replied as he watched Arthur try to transpose two objects. Arthur repeated the spell several times before giving up and leaning back in his chair.
“Have you tried it with a wand?” Harry asked as he put his coat away.
“It doesn’t help,” Arthur said. “Can we do something else?” Arthur pleaded. “This isn’t working.”
“Certainly,” Lupin replied. He put the marble objects away. To Harry, he said, “I have been doing a little reading on spell predetermination to try to figure out why he is blocked from some kinds of magic.”
“I don’t need to switch things around. I can always pick them up and move them,” Arthur said a little testily.
“There are more significant spells that use the same underlayment. Apparition for example.”
“Bugger,” Arthur said.
“He likes Apparating.” Harry explained. “He likes anything that is superior to technology and dislikes anything less efficient.”
“We haven’t tried charms yet. I’ll be curious to see how that goes. I also don’t expect he could manage to be an Animagus, but I could be wrong.”
“What is that?” Arthur asked.
“I am not one. But your father is.” He gave Harry an expectant look.
Harry frowned. “I think this is something that will queer him out, as he says. So maybe we’ll wait on that.”
“What does it mean?” Arthur insistently asked them both.
“An Animagus is someone who can transform into an animal,” Lupin replied.
Arthur’s mouth fell open. “What? Any animal?”
“No, just a particular one,” Lupin said as though that diminished it. “Professor McGonagall can turn into a house cat, for example.”
“You’re kidding!” Arthur said, laughing. At Lupin’s serious expression, he said, “You’re not kidding. What do you turn into?” he asked his dad with slight trepidation.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t scare you anymore,” Harry said.
Arthur’s shoulders fell. “I promise I won’t queer out. Come on,” he cajoled.
Harry took a deep breath. “Haven’t done this is rather a long time. But here goes.” He held up a finger pointed at Arthur. “You promised,” he said.
“Yeah, yeah.” Arthur shifted to the edge of his seat in anticipation.
Harry stepped back, moved a chair out of the way and stood in the middle of the open space. He rubbed his hands together in thought and then threw them down to the sides, opening them wide. Like a computer morph, he twisted and grew until a stag stood in his place.
“Whoa,” Arthur breathed. He stood up and stepped over, careful to avoid the antlers. “Deer don’t have green eyes,” he said and got a narrowed look from the beast in return. He reached out a finger and ran it over the very short fur along the stag’s snout. He was butted lightly in return, nearly knocking him over. A second later his father morphed back. Arthur shook his head at him. “That is effing amazing, Dad,” he said a little breathless. He looked at Lupin. “You don’t think I could learn that?”
Lupin shrugged. “Most wizards can’t learn that. It is very difficult in general and not well understood, so I may be wrong about its underlayment. It may be that it classes with transfiguration, in which case you could learn it almost for certain given your ease with spells of that nature.”
“You can’t do this?” Arthur asked his tutor.
Lupin shook his head. “Not precisely.”
Arthur turned to his dad. “I want to learn that,” he said.
“You may be too young to register,” Harry said.
“They lowered the age. It is now fourteen,” Lupin said.
“What do you mean, register?” Arthur asked.
“All Animagi must register with the Ministry of Magic,” Harry explained.
“Of course,” Harry replied. “Photographs of me in both modes are on file.”
Lupin said, “We can start tomorrow on a spell called the Patronus. It tends to reveal the animal you can become or one very close. Your father will remember that spell.”
“Very well,” Harry said graciously. “I’m going to start dinner. Will you stay?”
“I have an appointment, so no. But I appreciate the invitation,” Lupin said.
That Friday, as they sat down to dinner, Harry asked, “Did I ever tell you how I met your mum?” in a tone that implied he himself knew.
Arthur sucked on his lips as he took that in. “A long time ago, but you can tell me again.”
Harry grinned, though his eyes were a little too bright. “Yvonne was working as a liaison to the Ministry of Magic from the British Home Office. They were trying to come up with better ways of coordinating public announcements when there were serious magical threats to Muggle safety. As you can imagine, they had to work with the Aurors on occassion. Because I’d been taken off field work after I was injured, they assigned me to interface with her when she wanted something from the Auror’s office.”
Arthur listed intently. This was essentially the story he remembered although the adult details were new. He really wanted to ask who his dad had talked to, but forced himself to just listen. When his dad grinned mischievously as he said, “She didn’t like me much at first,” Arthur decided that the story was his dad’s now anyway.
“Did you like her?” Arthur asked.
Harry thought that over. “I don’t know.” His gaze fell into the distance but it didn’t look strained or unhappy. “I expect I considered her dislike a challenge. I apparently wasn’t dating anyone seriously at the time and I didn’t have many other work responsibilities distracting me. She was considered a pretty tough cookie around the Ministry and after a month when she softened up we two were quite the topic for gossip.” He shook his head and fell silent again.
Harry continued after a long pause, “I got into the habit of meeting her outside the Auror’s office, but the other Auror’s would just happen to drop by at the coffee shop or pub we were at. We started meeting farther and farther away from the Ministry so it became a game to find us.”
Arthur grinned and rested his chin on his hand to listen more closely.
“We got engaged after three months of this. To everyone’s complete surprise. Probably why we did it--we both liked to ignore everyone’s advice, or so everyone says.”
Arthur worked on the Patronus the whole next week with very little result. He was starting to get very frustrated with the tiny green vapor that was all he could produce, wand or not.
“You can do this, Arthur. You wouldn’t get to the ghost vapor if you couldn’t. Have patience--it took your father a month, I think, to get this. Lucky for you, you don’t need to save your life with it.” Lupin put his things away.
“Is there something I can practice over the weekend?” Arthur asked.
Lupin thought that over. “Yoga or something like it. I think your mind is too crowded with things. I watch you during the afternoon and realize that you are thinking of several other things at any given moment.”
“I forgot to message my friend Eric with an update, I have a big report on cave formation due on Monday, Roger asked me if I could hack a cheat for him on his new cartridge, and-”
“Precisely,” Lupin said, cutting him off. “Your life is too complicated. Here is what you can do. Turn that little alarm of yours to go off once an hour. Then when it does, spend five minutes thinking about nothing.”
“Absolutely nothing,” Lupin said heartily.
“Okay,” Arthur said. “Can’t complain about that assignment.”
Lupin laughed lightly. “It will be harder than you think,” he insisted as he stood up.
“Are you staying for dinner?” Arthur asked him hopefully.
Lupin glanced toward the hallway before saying quietly, “I am starting to feel a bit the interloper.”
“No,” Arthur replied. “Dad and I don’t have much to talk about, really. You know a bunch of the stuff he doesn’t, too. You should stay.” He led the way to the kitchen.
As they passed Harry’s room, Lupin knocked on the doorframe and leaned in. “What are you working on?” he said, seeing the piles of clippings on the bed.
“I’m not sure, beyond catching up with things. Molly sent me her personal clipping file; it’s alarmingly extensive.”
“I’m sure,” Lupin said darkly.
Harry stood up and came out. “What do you feel like for dinner?” he asked the two of them. Before they could reply, he said, “You know what I feel like? Going out.” He sized up Lupin. “Up to borrowing some Muggle clothes for a night out?”
“In Muggle London?” Lupin asked.
“Yes,” Arthur said firmly. “No one knows him in Muggle London,” he pointed out.
Harry gave Lupin a grin at that. “Come on. We could both stand to unwind a bit.”
Dressed in basic jeans and jumpers, they left the house. The weather was turning milder but it was still cool. They took the underground and got off at Piccadilly, then walked at random until they found a pub that looked too inviting to pass. They went to the back and stepped up into a wooden booth surrounded by brass rails. The crowd was noisy, but it was warm and friendly feeling.
They ordered ales and a coca cola as well as a round of fish and chips. Arthur, enjoying being out very much, was happy to eat and listen to the two of them chat about old and new times. Eventually, the crowd thinned and the noise eased off. Both his dad and Lupin were laughing a lot more than he had ever seen them. The bartend brought another round. Arthur pulled his over and sucked through the straw. His dad finished off his last one and exchanged it for the fresh one.
“Where do you get off being twenty-five?” Lupin was saying. “That makes you only twelve years older than Merlin here,” he griped, indicating Arthur by putting an arm around his shoulder. “You know,” he said to Arthur as he leaned closer with ale-scented breath, “The average wizard would be green with envy of your magic.”
Arthur shrugged, thinking the average wizard was a looney anyway.
Harry leaned over the table toward him. “You are enjoying having Remus as a tutor though, right?”
“Yes,” Arthur said, honestly. “Very much so.”
Laughing, Harry said to Lupin, “He’s been trying to figure out what makes you different though.”
“I was surprised you didn’t tell him.”
More sober, Harry said, “I didn’t know how he’d react. I figured if he got to liking you, it wouldn’t matter. He tried to guess one day--he thought you might be a vampire,” he said, laughing.
Lupin turned to Arthur and said sarcastically, “Oh, thank you very much.”
“Sorry,” Arthur said plaintively.
Harry hit Lupin on the arm playfully. “From a Muggle perspective, though, he wasn’t far off.”
Arthur looked between them in concern, his mind trying to conjure any likely possibility. He finally shrugged.
“No more guesses?” his father asked, disappointed.
“I don’t want to be insulting,” Arthur insisted. He sipped his cola again. He did like Lupin. The man not only was a patient teacher but he was always willing to steer clear of topics of conversation that bothered Arthur, which struck him as almost overly considerate considering that he was in charge during their lessons.
“Come on,” Harry cajoled. “You have a clue already.” When Lupin shook his head, Harry said, “He knows your old nickname.”
“Hey,” Arthur said. “Your father’s nickname-”
“He was an Animagus as well,” Harry said. “Same animal. Learned it to be safe around him,” he added, nodding at Lupin who was spending more time with his glass of ale.
“And your godfather turned into a dog, you used to tell me. Well, that makes sense given the name Sirius. Wait, did he have that name before or after he was a dog?”
“Before,” Harry said.
Arthur shook his head. “Wizards are crazy,” he said, thinking that Lupin sounded awfully canine as well. He stared into his cola and thought about the nickname Moony. Nighttime. Phases. Tides. Full moon. It was a full moon the other week when his tutor was absent. Since having to draw his father’s blood, he had stayed aware of that without trying. He blinked and sucked up the last of his glass. He couldn’t guess that, could he? It was awfully darn close to vampire, all right, without being Frankenstein’s monster, which was clearly not correct.
He glanced over at them, watching him expectantly. “So?” Harry asked.
“I think I’ve got it. I didn’t know there really was such a thing,” he commented. He met Lupin’s gaze and found it studying his in return as though looking for something. “Huh,” Arthur said, then shrugged. “You’re normal most all of the time. What’s the big deal?”
“He is rather dangerous during the other times,” Harry commented.
Arthur received another cola. When the bartend left, he said, “So, you become a werewolf when you get bitten, or is that just what Muggles think?”
“No, that’s correct,” Harry said. He looked at Lupin. “How old were you, four?”
Arthur balked severely, partially spilling his fresh drink.
“Sorry, Arthur,” Harry said.
Arthur forced every last vestige of pity off his face before he looked up. “Wow,” he said. He was curious if his tutor had ever bitten anybody, but resisted asking. To his father, he said, “You thought I would mind? It’s kind of cool, actually,” he added with a glance at Lupin where he imagined him morphing into a wolf the way his father had into the stag. Lupin, who looked vaguely uneasy, gave him a small smile.
Harry said, “Well, I’m glad you’re all right with it.”
Chapter 14: Within the Compass of a Curse
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Chapter 14 -- Within the Compass of a Curse
Arthur’s tutoring continued. Transfiguration was fun and less risky since anything transfigured eventually changed itself back. He looked forward more and more to his afternoon lessons. They were much quieter than his day school ones and he found concentration to be much easier during the private lessons and consequently harder at his regular school. Roger frequently asked how his afternoon lessons were going. Arthur made up stories about how difficult and exacting his tutor was since he got the feeling Roger was a little jealous as his friend didn’t like school much in general. Arthur had less time for his friends now, it seemed. Most days it felt like he had twice as much schoolwork as before.
By the calendar, Lupin was absent from his lessons when the next full moon came around and at the next one after that. Arthur sometimes came home to an empty house during these times, when his dad had an appointment, which happened more and more lately.
One day like this, as the weather was finally turning to spring, he came home and made himself a snack and played with his handheld for a while, wishing Roger was off for the rest of the day as well so they could play games. The house seemed too quiet when he was in it all alone.
Arthur set his crumb-strewn plate aside on the floor before the couch and thought about working on the assignments he had been given today in school. He was supposed to research bats for a report. He changed the chip in his handheld to the one with his library account. Too bad his tutor wasn’t a vampire, he thought idly, one could ask a vampire what it would be like to BE a bat.
A pop! broke the silence. Arthur looked up at the cloaked figure that had appeared in the living room, facing the hearth. The figure turned suddenly and Arthur looked upon the pale, intent visage of Licia’s father.
“What do you want?” Arthur asked smartly as he crossed his legs with extra casualness.
The man laughed. Arthur jerked to jump aside as he saw, too late, the wand swinging around to aim at him.
Arthur woke up in a strange place. He was lying on the grey painted floor of a high ceilinged, grey room. The fancy trim along the walls and windows were also painted grey as was the mantelpiece. The room felt chilled even though the day was bright outside.
He stood up, a little groggy from whatever had knocked him out. His hand rested on sharp little bits of something as he pushed himself to his feet. It was his mobile, or what was left of it. It looked like a boot heel had crushed it utterly. This made Arthur angry; he had had to save up two presents--birthday and a Christmas--to get Elsa to buy him the titanium-etched model. He brushed his hand on his jeans and went to the window. The view from it was of a grand estate bordered by hedges and straight stone paths. Arthur, without thinking, rested his hand on the window ledge.
Seconds later, he opened his eyes from being blasted across the floor, his hand stinging painfully. Rubbing his hand and arm, he forced the tears of pain back down and supposed maybe he should just sit and wait for whatever.
What felt like hours, but probably wasn’t based on the sunlight, Arthur wondered what time it was. His only clock was on his mobile. He felt in his pocket though, realizing that he still had that watch thing his dad had given him for Christmas. He shook his head in frustration that it really didn’t tell the time. He almost didn’t pull it out just because it would bother him more to look at the strange thing and still not know the time. Curious, though, where he dad might be, he finally did pull it out.
He stared at the watch hands. His father’s was at Home. His own was on Mortal Peril. Arthur’s heart began racing; he had been sitting here idly, thinking that was the best option, now he knew better. He re-stashed the watch and paced the walls of the room, careful not to touch anything, careful to walk quietly in case someone was listening for him to be moving around.
He stopped, heart still thumping at the thought that there didn’t seem to be an obvious escape since the room had no door and he didn’t see any sign of a hidden one. He tried a Lumos spell. It didn’t work. He tried it a few more times and swore under his breath when it continued to fail. They had suppressed his magic again somehow, he thought. He leaned on the mantel in frustration and pounded his head. Then he jumped back as though shocked because the hearth had not attacked back as the window had.
Arthur looked inside the fireplace. It was clean, unused. His father had explained how the Floo network worked, so it didn’t seem possible to get out that way magically from any random fireplace, but it was an exit to the room. He crouched inside it, forcing himself to touch the damper handle, exhaling broadly when he wasn’t hurt by it. The whole thing was huge, much larger than a normal Muggle one. Biting his lip, but moving quickly, he carefully cranked the handle over. It was long, because the damper was wide and heavy. As it cracked open, he used one hand to move it directly so as to be as quiet as possible.
Arthur looked up through the opening. Daylight sliced in at the very top. It looked narrow up there, but it was wide enough down here. Roger’s athletic club had a climbing wall with a seam climb that Arthur had done a few times. This looked even easier. Arthur tightened his shoe laces snugly before he hefted himself past the damper. Spider webs filled his face as he did so and he had to blow his nose onto his sleeve to keep from sneezing. But the climb, where he bolstered his feet across from his back, or across from each other depending upon his muscles at any given moment, was rather easy given his grippy trainer treads. Near the top though, it became very narrow and now he could see that the chimney cap was cement with only fist-sized holes in the sides.
On a desperate hunch, he tried the Lumos spell again. This time it worked. Arthur laughed lightly in relief and backed down a meter. Bricks into what? he wondered. Brittle? He made up a spell like the ones Lupin had been showing him substituting words as he pointed. With a low whoosh, the top of the chimney disappeared. Quickly, Arthur climbed up, pausing only to set the peanut brittle stacked at the edges aside so as to avoid knocking it off as he exited.
He had to hang all the way down on his fingertips to reach his toes to the peak of the roof. The very top was tar with black slate for the rest of it. Arthur almost lost his balance and had to use the side of the chimney to lower himself gingerly to sit on the pinnacle. He exhaled and looked around himself. The rest of the large house blocked the view behind him. He could hear something like pounding occasionally. It was a long way to the ground and he had to hurry.
His jumper had been snagged a few times on the way up. He tugged at one of the loose threads, then with more excitement, pulled it out. Holding it at arms length, he incanted,“Engorgous.” The thread transfigured into a thick hairy yellow rope. Arthur quickly cancelled it and pulled more thread from the edge of this jumper. He tied four long strands together and repeated the spell. Climbing carefully over the slate, he looped the rope around the chimney and knotted it securely. All transfigurations had their own cancel times and Lupin had insisted that only experience would teach one how long that would be. With a deep, nervous breath Arthur bundled his end of the rope and used it to lower himself to the edge of the roof. The room he had been in was just below him. He shifted to avoid passing the windows and gripped the rope tightly, hoping desperately that the spell didn’t fade while he was in mid air.
As silently as possible, Arthur padded his way down the wall. By the time he was nearing the ground floor, his hands were cramping with the effort of holding him up. He had to resist jumping the remainder since it would be too loud. Finally, his foot touched ground. He canceled the spell, causing the rope to shrink up to the roof, and ran for it.
Arthur loped past the last of the hedges and into the woods. He wanted a straight route out of there and he didn’t care which direction. Eventually, fatigue made him slow his pace. He passed a low crumbled wall in the middle of the woods. It curved slightly and Arthur, elated that this might be the property line, sped up.
After a distance, Arthur heard chopping noises and slowed down. A man with an old wheelbarrow was using an ax to split logs before tossing them into the barrow. His bulky arms handled the task with practiced ease. Arthur thought of asking the man which way to the nearest town, but as he stepped out to hail him, he noticed the man couldn’t straighten completely. He seemed to be a hunchback, which Arthur had never seen for real. As well, he was wearing homespun clothes with no decent hems at the waist or sleeve. Arthur ducked back behind the tree to consider things.
While he hid there, trying to piece things together, a girl’s voice sounded. “Memphis, Father asks that you watch for a boy who might be coming this way.” Arthur swallowed hard; it was Licia. “He says to chop off his legs and come fetch us if you see him,” she went on. The man grunted, in a way that could have been assent. “Actually, that isn’t exactly what he said, but it sounds better to me,” she added matter-of-factly. The man grunted again and the ax struck wood, making Arthur jump severely and almost whimper. “Stupid boy,” she said. “He can’t get out, but since he’s a Muggle-Mudblood he doesn’t understand these things.” He heard her stepping away then stop. For a panicked moment, Arthur was afraid she had turned because she had caught sight of him. Instead, she said, “Oh, yes. Memphis, Father wanted me to tell you that within the hour he would release the giant spiders so you should be in your hut by then.”
Her footsteps on the dead twigs faded. Arthur hit his head back against the tree behind him a few times before he forced himself to stop. He had not left their property. Could not, she said. He peered around the tree where she had gone. He could just make out part of the house though the tree branches, much, much closer than it should have been. With careful footsteps Arthur went back where he came from, immediately away from the house.
When he reached the crumbling wall again, he stopped. It was curving towards him from this side now. He stepped over it and turned. Still it curved towards him. “Effing effing effing,” Arthur muttered. It was an infinite loop. How the hell had they done that? He estimated fifteen minutes had passed getting here, so he was running out of time. The property wasn’t really that large and how long would it take the giant spiders to patrol it anyway? He wondered if spiders could smell, in which case they could track him like dogs. He shook his head and wandered a bit along the wall since it was the farthest point from the house he could get at any time.
A small dead tree caught his eye. He broke it free and cleaned it of branches. It was just taller than himself and pretty heavy, maybe oak. He felt better carrying it, even though magic had really gotten him this far. Arthur meandered slowly, thinking madly of what to do. He needed the Malfoy Manor cheat book, right now. What would it say? he wondered to amuse himself. The daughter looks nice but she’s a black widow--Don’t be deceived. The gamekeeper is a hunchback who can’t talk and is very good with an ax--Don’t trust him--he is an obedient servant of the Evil Master. Arthur shook his head, laughing and crying a little at the notion that this wasn’t a screwed up video game but his real life at this moment.
A rustle of leaves behind him, made him turn as ice filled his veins. He felt vaguely nauseous with fear. Remembering the old video game Return of the King, one of the first goggle games with its gratuitous use of direction tricks, Arthur looked up, just as a huge form descended on a thick thread from the tree above him. With a shout of surprise he jumped aside, keeping his makeshift staff between himself and a spider as big as the neighbor’s Opel. He glanced around himself, remembering the plural in Licia’s statement. Another one stepped toward him from the left, crossing the forest floor like a long-legged animatron. The closer one kicked a spiked leg across the staff, almost knocking it away. Arthur re-gripped it and forced himself to relax and focus. The one on his left stopped as though to give the other first dibs.
Arthur raised his hand and tried a heating charm since he was pretty good at that. It was one of the few he had learned the first few days that were really useful in everyday life. The leg came across again much harder, knocking the staff away as it advanced with an unearthly squealing. Heat was apparently just pissing it off. In response to the noise the other was moving in rapidly as well. Arthur raised both hands and with a shout he incanted freezing spells at both of them. He exhaled weakly when they both stopped. The larger one continued to move forward slowly, creakily. Arthur stepped back to avoid it. Frost was forming on the smaller one’s front.
Arthur, thinking with his gut, picked up his staff and swung it hard. The thick carapace of the thing cracked, brittle from the cold. A sigh went out as the body of the thing deflated slightly. The other one was recovering faster and it surged at him. He incanted another freezing spell and swung the staff again. The horrible beast fell straight to the ground, lowered from its propping legs.
Arthur staggered away from them. He managed to find the crumbling wall again and followed it for twenty meters or so, his mind churning madly. He sobbed once and stopped, as stress and fear overtook him. He had dropped the staff at some point but couldn’t remember at all when or where. Sitting on a slightly better section of the wall, he put his head in his hands and tried to still the shaking in his limbs. His dad’s stories, including giant spiders, were taking on stark new meaning in light of his own inability to cope. The wind blew past, rattling the deadfall. Arthur jumped but no other unnatural beasts appeared. He almost retched when he considered that there might have been only two because they were a breeding pair.
He hefted himself to his unsteady legs and looked along the wall as it curved through the forest. He stepped to the other side and watched it flip the other way. He straddled it and stared at its perfectly straight self. It wasn’t natural, he thought; the rest of the world was here. A bird twittered at him as he moved his head from side to side. Arthur raised his eyes. It took a minute to trace the myriad of branches, but finally he could see it: the height at which the branches disappeared suddenly rather than arching across the wall. The trees at the edge looked a little unnaturally twisted as well, as though the magic disturbed their growth.
With purpose now he walked along the wall jumping from one side of it to the other, looking for just the right tree. When he found it, it was two trees growing very close together. He started up the pine and then leapt to the trunk of the very large tree beside it. The large tree was much too wide to shimmy from the bottom, but big enough to have long branches, including one across the barrier. The ground looked very far away as he hoisted himself to the next set of branches and looked out. Like a transparency being lowered, the world beyond changed, and Arthur felt victorious just to see it. He shimmied out on the higher branch, way out, far enough that it bowed downward under his weight.
With shaking hands he transferred his weight to a smaller tree on the other side, releasing the other branch slowly so as to not attract anyone who might be nearby. He paused a minute to quell his shaking hands before climbing carefully down. He jumped the last two meters, jarring his feet when they struck the ground. Quickly, he walked directly away from where he knew the wall must be, although it wasn’t visible from this side.
Arthur walked a long time, until the sun set and the evening grew colder. He reached a gravel road finally and caught his breath and rubbed his arms for warmth as he looked one way then the other down the narrow road. He had lost all track of direction. He pulled out the watch; his hand now said Traveling which made him sigh audibly. Picking at random, he turned to the left, the hand swung to Mortal Peril and he almost dropped the thing. He spun around and walked quickly in the other direction. It swung back to the much more neutral reading almost immediately. Shaking, Arthur closed it and put it back in his pocket.
After a kilometer or so, the gravel road led at an angle to a blacktop one. The gravel one had been straight, so Arthur followed along the larger road in the direction most away from the one of mortal peril. He didn’t like to walk on the left with his back to traffic, but he really wanted to get a ride if possible. He walked for five minutes before a car passed him, a red one, going very fast. He watched its taillights disappear around a bend. The next car stopped. It was grey and a little old and large. Arthur walked up to it carefully. The passenger had lowered the left hand window, and Arthur could see a full head of grey hair near the window.
“Need help, young man?” the old woman asked.
Arthur, paranoid now beyond anything he could have imagined, decided that a ride was not in his best interest. “Do you have a mobile I can borrow?” he asked. If they were wizards, they wouldn’t. A discussion ensued inside the car. “I got separated from my dad on a walk in the woods and I should ring him,” Arthur explained.
The woman gave him a nice, wrinkled-eye smile and handed an old clunky phone out of the window. Arthur took it gratefully. “Do you know what the nearest town ahead is?” Arthur asked as he keyed in his home number.
“Evesbury,” the old man leaned over and answered. “About three klicks down the road. Nice little pub there.” He waved to indicate ahead of them.
Arthur put the boxy phone to his ear and listened as the phone rang without being answered. The service finally picked up, and Arthur pressed 1 to leave a message. “Yeah, Dad. I’m, uh, walking about three kilometers from Evesbury. I’ll be waiting at the pub there. Sorry,” he finished a little breathlessly. Tears were overtaking him again as he tried to get a handle on his rampant emotions.
As he handed the phone back, the woman said kindly, “Get in the car, dear. We’ll give you a ride.”
Arthur considered that the hour he would spend walking would leave him far more exposed to a search by dark things and people than the short ride with a pair of old, clearly Muggle, strangers. “Thank you,” he said. The doors unlocked and he got in.
The old man pulled back onto the road very slowly. As they rolled down the road, Arthur said, “My dad is going to be really worried.”
“Yes, but young men like you are want to make parents worry,” the woman said. “He’ll get over it. Ourselves, we only have daughters. Three of them. All of them married with such beautiful children of their own.”
Arthur leaned back and listened with joyous emotion to this batty old lady nattering on about utterly normal family things. After a few short minutes, the car slowed and pulled into a small car park beside a historic looking pub. The other few buildings in the town were completely dark. Arthur stepped out.
“Thank you so much,” he said.
“Good luck dear,” the woman said as the man nodded. “Hopefully you won’t be grounded too badly,” she said.
Arthur gave a chuckle as he slid off the seat and closed the heavy creaking door. “I’ll take it, just to get home again.”
“That’s the attitude, dear,” she said through the open window. The car lumbered away. Arthur watched the taillights, the right one flickering occasionally, as they disappeared over a rise. By the yellow light outside the entryway, Arthur pulled the twigs and leaves off of his jumper and out of his hair, which he then combed as best he could with his fingers.
Keeping his head down, he stepped inside. The rush of warm moist air, carrying the scent of brew and food struck him when he stepped in. Everyone was clustered in the bar area watching something on the television. Arthur headed for the unoccupied room on the left. After a little deliberation he took the far table near the fire exit and the back hallway. He liked the thought of having some place to hide if he needed to.
Arthur kept a fifty pound note in his shoe for emergencies. Since this was one, he took his trainer off and pulled it out from under the insert before putting his shoe back on. He thought he should have it out in case he looked too pathetic to pay when he ordered. His hands were filthy, so when the large-bellied man came out from behind the bar and asked him what he wanted, he hid them under the table. Arthur was famished so he ordered a cola and a fish and chips, and asked where the toilet was. The man pointed down the nearby hallway with his thumb as he gave Arthur a disturbingly narrowed-eye look.
Quickly, Arthur thanked the man and headed off, since the man’s scrutiny was making him nervous. Relieved and clean he returned to his table, realizing now that he had left his pound note on the table when he went. He wasn’t used to real money. His bancchip was in his wallet in his knapsack at home and since it only worked with his fingerprint, he thought nothing of leaving it lying around. Paper money anyone could use. It seemed like a dumb way to carry money, given that.
Arthur leaned back and relaxed a little. His cola came and when the man walked away, shaking his head about something, Arthur checked his watch again. His dad’s hand said Traveling while his said Dinner. “Loads better than mortal peril,” Arthur breathed to himself as he put it back away. He sipped his drink. The man flipped the switch on the deep fryer behind the bar and Arthur realized it would be a time for his food.
A while later, when he was halfway through slowly sipping his drink, Arthur heard a voice from the entryway that chilled him to his bones and prodded painfully on his sore nerves. Without forethought, he jumped down the back hallway and pressed back against the wall so he couldn’t be seen from most of the room. The door to the pub creaked open, and he realized he had left his glass on the table. Arthur Accioed it over, spilling its contents on his hand when it arrived. He sucked the remainder down and set it on the floor beside him and listened.
“Evenin’ Mr. Malfoy,” the bartend said in a familiar, hearty greeting.
“Fredrick, my dear man,” Draco Malfoy’s voice rang out in a friendly way. “You haven’t seen a young man come in here alone, have you?”
Arthur held his breath and prepared to launch himself out the fire exit.
“Can’t say that I have, Mr. Malfoy,” the man answered in a mystified voice, startling Arthur. “Who should I be on the lookout for?” he asked in a gossipy way. “I can let you know if anyone has seen him.”
“A guest of my daughter’s got lost while playing a game in the forest. A brown haired, ordinary-looking boy by the name of Arthur,” Malfoy explained in such a normal voice that had Arthur not known better he would have easily believed him.
“I’ll be sure and ring you up, Mr. Malfoy, if he shows himself,” the bartend assured in an equally deceiving voice.
Malfoy drawled on. “It has gotten rather late and I had hoped he had perhaps seen the lights of the road and come in here. Well, perhaps we shall go look elsewhere, although we have gotten rather thirsty searching.”
The deep fryer dinged. Arthur heard its contents being dumped out into a basket. “Carl, your fish and chips are up,” the bartend said loudly, sternly.
“Wha? Oh,” A man’s voice said from the far part of the pub. Arthur, utterly confused, heard footsteps approach the bar and retreat.
“What would ya’ like, sir?” The bartend asked in a servile tone.
“A gin and tonic, perhaps,” Malfoy said in a bored tone. Arthur thought that by the way he talked, his head was moving around a lot. He pictured him searching the pub for him. A woman’s voice said, “A Pimms.” Arthur hadn’t seen who he assumed must be the wife. Tempted as he was to get a look, he wasn’t THAT tempted. He stretched his neck to each side and waited.
When the exit door in front of Arthur cracked open, he jumped but wasn’t certain what to do as the pub was hostile and the toilet was a dead end. Eyes peering in went wide as they met his. Arthur let go of his breath as he recognized Tonks and she winked at him. She slipped in the door by converting to a wisp of smoke with a hand still attached to keep the door from falling closed. She resolidified and incanted something as she waved her wand in a box at the opening to the hallway then pushed the exit door wide. Arthur leapt forward as his father stepped inside.
“Shh,” Tonks said, ever so quietly.
Harry had his arms so fiercely tight around Arthur that he couldn’t breath. He pulled Arthur farther down the hallway and re-hugged him. The stress of the day came out of Arthur then and his dad’s jacket was soon damp where his face pressed.
“Shhh,” Harry said faintly in his ear as he stroked his back. “It’s all right.” He pushed Arthur to arms-length and looked him over closely. Arthur dried his eyes with his fingers in a late bid for some pride, but his dad’s eyes were all concern and affection with no hint of derision.
Tonks made a small noise to attract their attention. Harry stepped over, and Arthur, since he could keep his father between himself and danger, followed. “I want to pin them, but we have to draw them away from the Muggles. Arthur, can you take a seat there?” She pointed at the very seat he had been using. “We’ll have you covered, don’t worry,” she whispered.
Arthur picked up his glass and with a quick glance at the bar to be certain no one was looking his way, dashed to his seat. He tried to sit calmly against the chairback, pretending to sip from his empty glass. Tonks transformed into smoke and slithered off low to the wall. His father gave him a reassuring smile with a hint of pride. Arthur dropped his eyes to steady himself before looking up and over at the bar.
Draco Malfoy sat clinking the ice in his glass in an annoyed manner. He glanced around and froze when he saw Arthur, who pretended to take a sip from his glass calmly. Grabbing his wife’s arm, Malfoy slid from his stool and over toward Arthur. His face, which had looked distressed, now looked crafty and cocky.
“Well, Mr. Potter,” he said smoothly as he reached into his coat.
“Yes?” Harry said as he stepped in front of the table. Arthur had to lean way to the side to see the blonde man’s reaction.
Malfoy stopped and blinked in surprise. “Well, Harry, my old dear friend,” he said in a sickened voice.
Arthur realized the rest of the pub had fallen totally silent. He could not see farther than the bar itself though, to see why. Tonks rose up behind the tall blonde pair and shouted something with her wand out. Cords appeared around them binding them together. They struggled in vain and then stopped as they couldn’t seem to breath. Tonks stepped before them. “Relax and they will ease enough for you to continue living,” she said helpfully.
Mr. Malfoy sucked in a gasping breath and glared at her. Arthur stood up and came around beside his father, who put an arm around him. The rest of the pub snoozed in their chairs, Arthur now saw. Tonks hooked some kind of tether to the Malfoys as more figures Apparated and took hold of them before they all disappeared.
“Come on, Arthur,” Harry said. “Let’s get you home.”
“Mr. Potter,” the bartend said as he stepped over to them, ignoring his sleeping customers. He wiped his hand on his apron and held it out. As Harry shook it, the man said, “’Tis an honor, sir.” He gestured at Arthur. “When that lad came in here, I thought, why ain’t he the image o’ the famous ‘Arry Potter? Kept an eye on ‘im for ya’.”
“Thank you,” Harry said sincerely, pulling Arthur a little closer.
“Are you a wizard?” Arthur asked the man.
The man blushed and scuffed his foot on the floor. “Nah, I’m just a Squib. My mum, rest her soul, was though. She was a maid at the Malfoy place for a lot o’ years. Not very good ones, I ‘ave to say. Be good to ‘ave ‘em away ag’in. Hope the Aurors are takin’ ‘em for a good long while.” He glanced behind him. “They’ll be wakin’ soon--best get goin.’”
“Thank you again,” Harry said.
“Thank you, sir,” the man said forcefully.
Chapter 15: Sweep the Cobwebs Off of the Sky
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Chapter 15 -- Sweep the Cobwebs Off of the Sky
Harry took his son’s arm and the air blasted Arthur’s ears as the pub faded and their living room appeared. Arthur exhaled loudly as he relaxed, although he still felt shaky and jumpy. Harry turned him by the shoulders to face him.
“Are you hurt at all?” Harry asked him.
Arthur held up his tattered jumper sleeve. “Just scratched from climbing,” he replied.
“Come on then and get a shower. We’ll fix you up after: plaster, spell, whichever you prefer,” Harry said, pushing him to the hallway. Arthur could hear an unsteadiness in his father’s voice that wasn’t normally there.
Clean, but with a lot of scrapes stinging, Arthur stepped out of the shower and wrapped himself in a large towel. His pyjamas were stacked neatly on the sink. His dad must have put them there, because he had forgotten to grab them. He put on his bottoms and stepped out with the towel wrapped around him like a cloak. He found his father sitting at the dining room table writing out a note. A strange owl sat on the chairback, waiting. Harry gave the note to the owl and stood up.
Harry steered Arthur back to the toilet. Arthur sat on the closed seat while Harry took out the plasters. “Magic is okay,” Arthur insisted. Indeed, the long scratches were very irritated and just having them gone sounded very nice.
Harry looked sideways at him. “You’re sure?”
Arthur nodded. Harry took out his wand and examined the underside of Arthur’s hand. He quickly healed all but two of them. “Those are too deep for this spell. I can owl a Healer or just put on plasters.”
Arthur nodded at the plasters. Harry did Arthur’s other arm, which wasn’t nearly as bad. “You haven’t asked what happened,” Arthur observed.
“I’ve been afraid to,” Harry said as he put a gauze over one exceptionally bad scratch and tapped it in place. The next few took the normal peel and stick kind. With his cuts covered or healed, Arthur slipped into his pyjama top. He pressed down the large plaster on his palm to make it stick better.
“Why don’t you get some sleep. Tonks will want to talk to you tomorrow,” Harry said. “We won’t put you through your story more times than we have to. It’s nearly one in the morning.” He stood and urged Arthur to follow to his bedroom.
Arthur slid into bed and let the covers be adjusted over him. The pillow was cold. Harry stood and hit the light switch before hovering in the doorway.
“Dad?” Arthur said suddenly.
“Right here,” Harry said.
“Can you stay a little while?” Arthur asked as unease descended on him.
“Of course.” The bed tilted at that. Arthur closed his eyes and tried to relax into sleep.
Long minutes of exhaustion and panic alternated for Arthur until the sound of someone Apparating made him start badly. Harry stood up and went to the hallway. Arthur heard voices. “It’s just Severus,” Harry said, returning to Arthur’s room.
Arthur looked at the figure silhouetted in the doorway. “How are you, Arthur?” Snape’s voice asked.
Harry sat back on the edge of the bed, head bent with fatigue.
“Why don’t you rest, Potter?” Snape asked.
“He’s uneasy,” Harry explained.
Snape stepped into the room. “Stress and lack of sleep are not a good combination for you,” he stated sternly. “A relapse is not impossible to bring about. Go to your bed. I will stay with the boy if he is in need of a guard.”
Harry stood up unsteadily and with one backward glance, left the room. Arthur, up on his elbows, watched him go with concern. Snape went to the dining room and brought back a chair which he placed beside the bed. He sat on it and crossed his arms. “Sleep, Arthur. From what I have heard, you are most certainly in need of it.”
Arthur curled up on his side and tried to drift off. He awoke with a start several times to find his guard still sitting patiently beside the bed, still very alert. Arthur must have eventually fallen more deeply asleep because he woke up to harsh whispering outside his room and the chair beside the bed was empty.
He leapt up, grabbed his dressing gown, and went out to the hall beside the livingroom. He tied his gown against the cool air and watched two figures moving in the dim light. One of them took the overstuffed chair near the doorway, nearly falling into it. Curious and a little alarmed, Arthur went in.
Snape looked up sharply at him then returned to berating the occupant of the chair.
“Came back and found a note,” Lupin interrupted to explain.
“He is back, safe,” Snape informed him.
Arthur turned up one of the oil lamps since the Muggle electric one would be too bright. He started when he noticed the thick hair on Lupin’s arm and hand. It was the full moon, Arthur considered with further alarm. He stepped a little closer since the man was clearly concerned about Arthur himself. Lupin looked up as he approached; his brown eyes seemed larger than normal and his nails were slightly pointed.
“Arthur,” Lupin breathed in concern.
Arthur froze, thinking of Little Red Riding Hood and long, wolf-like teeth. He forced himself beyond it. “Sir,” he said evenly.
“You look all right,” Lupin said in relief.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Snape growled at the half-changed wizard.
Lupin looked at his hands with a pained expression. “It was cloudy early in the night,” he said in a rambling way. “That makes it go away slowly too.” Arthur, now feeling much more sympathy than fear, stepped over beside him. “What happened, Arthur?” Lupin asked.
Arthur tried to keep his eyes on the man’s own rather than his very sharp teeth. “Malfoy showed up. Right here,” Arthur pointed behind him. “I don’t know exactly what happened after he pulled out his wand, but he took me away.”
Lupin reached out a hand and held up Arthur’s with the plaster on it, clearly used to avoiding scratching things with his claw-like fingernails. He pulled his hand back suddenly. “Did he hurt you badly?” he asked a little shakily. He started to reach out and again appeared to force himself to pull back.
Arthur bolstered himself and took a seat with Lupin, on his lap. A rough hand touched his arm tentatively before it wrapped around him loosely. Arthur started to tell him about waking up at Malfoy Manor. Snape stood suddenly and strode across the hall. He jerked open the drapes in Arthur’s room and propped open his door. With almost angry purpose, he came back in and pulled the chair they were in back a meter. The early morning spreading light began to suffuse the room and them.
“Thank you, Severus,” Lupin murmured.
Snape returned to the couch and rested his fingertips on his forehead. Arthur waited to see if he would say anything before he went on with his story. As he was describing finding the flue would open, he noticed Lupin’s hands were normal again. He told of climbing out of the loop in the forest by using a tall tree, prompting Lupin to say, “You have definitely inherited your father’s penchant for cleverness in the face of bad odds.”
“It was like a video game with only one life,” Arthur said.
“How many does a game normally give you?” Snape asked a little derisively.
“Three or five. You can earn more by solving puzzles or making it through difficult spots faster.” Arthur rested his head back on Lupin’s chest, feeling exhausted.
Lupin placed an arm around him again. “I’m glad you escaped, Arthur. There was a lot of concern here, I expect, given that note I can see on the table there.”
Snape picked it up and tossed it back down. “What is it?” Arthur asked.
“It is written in blood. Yours to be precise,” Snape commented.
“What was the point?” Arthur asked.
Snape stood up. “Frightening your father, I am certain, was one goal. A kind of revenge in itself. The un-identified abductors looked to be planning a long merry chase of ransom and blackmail without much real hope for a safe conclusion.”
“I don’t feel safe here anymore,” he said quietly.
Lupin said, “I’ll help your father spell the house, Arthur, so anyone coming in that you don’t approve will be incapacitated if they come in directly. Maybe Severus will help, even.”
“Is my dad going to be all right?” Arthur asked him.
Snape replied with a faint sigh, “I expect. This kind of thing is not good for him. At worst he will only lose a little. We can re-treat him if necessary. It is good that this concluded as fast as it did.”
“What are you on about?” Lupin asked.
“Professor Snape said Dad could relapse if he were stressed and didn’t sleep. He did look too much like his old self when he was convinced to go to bed earlier. Could barely walk,” Arthur explained in a worried voice.
“We can re-treat him,” Snape repeated.
“I don’t want to start again,” Arthur whined.
“You will if you have to,” Snape insisted firmly. “I am going to make tea,” he then said before stepping from the room.
Arthur gratefully rested his head on Lupin’s chest again and closed his eyes. With his tutor’s arms loosely around him and the knowledge that two powerful wizards were on guard, he slipped into comforting darkness.
Snape returned with a teapot and cups. He set them on the table. “Boy Merlin is asleep?” he asked as he poured out a cup and handed it over.
“Yes,” Lupin replied. Quietly, he said, “It is just as well I’m not an Auror.” At Snape’s questioning look, he explained, “I wouldn’t have bothered arresting them.”
Snape sat down with his tea and did not respond. A moment later, he stood and said, “I must contact Minerva, explain what has happened and ask her to have my morning classes covered.” He took Floo powder from the container on the mantel and contacted Hogwarts. After a moment, a floating head in a sleeping cap appeared.
“Is there any news?” she asked immediately upon seeing Snape.
“Arthur is recovering behind me. Same luck as his father, apparently.”
“Thank Merlin,” she said in relief.
“Remus and I are going to stay and put some protection on the house, which currently has none. Can you manage to cover my classes this morning?”
“Certainly. I will have Grubbly-Plank cover them. If you need a fourth, please let me know, and please stay the day if it will help.” She smiled then, looking like it hadn’t happened in a while. “Thank you for keeping me informed, Severus.” Her head pulled back out of the flames.
Harry finally woke up as the morning grew bright. Awkwardly rubbing his eyes while putting on his glasses, he came into the living room. He stopped at the sight of Arthur asleep with Lupin. He glanced at Snape and asked quietly, “Don’t you have classes?”
“They are being covered.”
Harry blinked at him. “Thank you, Severus,” he said. He stepped over to the overstuffed chair and brushed Arthur’s hair back. Arthur came awake at that and looked up at him, his expression going very hopeful as awareness settled in.
“Want to help make breakfast?”
“Yeah.” Carefully, so as to not wake Lupin, Arthur climbed out of the chair and followed his father to the kitchen. Arthur made toast as Harry fried bacon and eggs. As they heaped them onto plates, Harry made one with four eggs and double bacon. Arthur looked doubtfully at it.
“For Remus. He’ll be hungry after a full moon. I’m surprised he’s here,” Harry commented.
“He said he found your note and was worried.” Arthur intentionally failed to mention the state he had arrived in.
“I should have remembered,” Harry said. “I wasn’t at my best last night,” he said a little chagrined. Harry set down the two plates he held and gave Arthur a firm hug. “Thank you for being resourceful.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Arthur stated quietly, trying for extra casual.
They carried the plates into the dining room. Lupin sat at the table, looking very haggard.
“Where is Severus?” Harry asked.
Lupin raised his head ever so slightly. “He went to fetch a potion for me.”
“Have some breakfast,” Harry said gently, setting the piled plate in front of him along with a tall cup of coffee.
“No coffee, please,” Lupin said. Harry picked it back up and asked, “Juice?”
“I’ll get it,” Arthur said quickly.
He brought four glasses and the bottle form the fridge. He poured out two glasses and set one before his tutor, who really did look unwell. It occurred to Arthur now that he normally only saw him days later after what was apparently significant recovery.
Harry sat down. “I forgot about the full phase last night when I owled. I shouldn’t have worried you.”
Lupin took up the glass unsteadily and drank half of it. As Arthur topped it up, Lupin said groggily, “I would prefer to know you need help, even if I am limited in providing it.” He watched Arthur reseal the juice bottle. “I certainly didn’t come with the intent of making you take care of me,” he added in a self-inveighing manner.
Harry took a bite of his toast. “Don’t worry yourself,” he said, glancing at Arthur who was hovering nearby to see if anything else was needed. “I think you are taking Arthur’s mind off things.” He gestured for his son to take a seat.
Arthur put the juice aside and sat down. His plate had gotten cold. He waved a heating charm at it and started eating. Had he looked up, he would have seen Lupin wink at his father.
“Are you going to be ready to talk to Tonks after breakfast, tell her what happened?” Harry asked Arthur. “I’m curious myself.”
Arthur nodded while Lupin interjected, “He’s already told us.” At Harry’s questioning look, he added, “Not nearly as hard to take as any of your stories,” Lupin teased.
“I was thinking about that as I was walking,” Arthur said quietly.
“That you had it good?” Harry teased darkly.
“That I had someone waiting. That when I found you, everything would be all right.” Arthur shrugged. “You didn’t have anyone.”
Any response Harry might have made was interrupted by Snape returning. He placed a smoking stone cup beside Lupin and took his seat. Lupin thanked him and sipped it with a grimace as Snape began eating. Harry, on the other hand, was paused with his fork over his plate. Arthur ducked his head and wished he hadn’t said anything.
“Ready?” Harry asked his son.
“What? To ring someone?” Arthur asked in mild sarcasm, gesturing at the battered old phone in the booth they were standing in.
“Essentially,” Harry replied with a smile. He picked up the receiver and pressed a few buttons before saying he had a meeting with Nymphadora Tonks in the Auror’s office. Arthur grabbed Harry’s cloak as the phone booth floor descended into the ground.
They stepped out into the Ministry atrium. Arthur looked all around them as they passed the fountain, which had an abstract sculpture in limestone in the center of it. At the reception desk, Harry handed over his wand for registration. The man behind the desk stuttered in surprise when he asked if they needed directions.
“No, we’re all set,” Harry replied in a friendly tone. “Come on, Arthur.” Harry led him across the wide floor with an arm around his shoulder. Everyone who passed them stopped and gawked or ran over to them to say hello and shake hands in emotional ways, very glad to see Harry. Harry introduced Arthur each time so that by the time they reached the lifts, Arthur’s hand was hurting from everyone’s excited grip.
As the gate on the lift closed, Arthur said, “It’s even worse here.” Harry patted him on the shoulder. The lift opened at the next level and a flock of paper airplanes got on and fluttered above them. Arthur watched them circling. “Should I ask what those are?”
“Okay,” Arthur breathed. The lifts opened at their floor and as they stepped out into the corridor, Harry hesitated.
“This where it happened?” Arthur guessed. Harry nodded. Arthur looked around them for any danger, but nothing seemed to be happening.
“Come on,” Harry urged and led the way to an office around the corner.
“Harry, Arthur, how are my two favorite guys doing?” Tonks asked affectionately when they stepped up to her doorway. “Have a seat, both of you.” She pulled out a parchment and a quill, which she let loose to write on its own. It began scratching out the date and the names of those present.
“Can we get one of those?” Arthur asked his dad eagerly.
“Sure,” Harry chuckled.
Tonks leaned toward them attentively. Arthur started the story with his returning from school. He glanced over at his dad, who stared at the palms of his hands while rubbing his thumbs over them. Arthur paused before saying to his dad, “Remember what Professor Snape said.”
“I do, Arthur,” Harry returned with a small embarrassed frown.
“What’s this?” Tonks asked.
“Dad’s not supposed to be stressed--it could make him sick again.”
Tonks grabbed the quill and sat back. “You can leave us for the interview, Harry.”
“I do want to hear this, at least once,” Harry insisted. “My imagination is doing me more harm at the moment.”
“Oh, and like you didn’t go through hell every few months when you were his age,” Tonks said.
Harry looked over at his son. “It’s different when it’s him.”
“But of course,” Tonks said with a hint of teasing condescension. She restarted the quill. “You were telling us Draco had appeared . . . “
Arthur went through the whole story yet again, careful to seem like he had everything under control through all of it. At the end Tonks canceled the quill, stamped the bottom of the parchment with some kind of sparkling ink stamp, efficiently rolled it up, and stashed it in one of several boxes of parchments lined up along the wall of her small office.
Harry said, “You did really well, Arthur.”
Arthur swallowed, hoping he hadn’t made himself out to have handled things too well. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
Harry’s hand gripped his shoulder. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. He’s an old enemy of mine--he should have come after me directly.”
Arthur bit his lip and considered that he would not have preferred that, really.
“You guys have time for ice cream?” Tonks asked with a smile when she had cleared her desk.
“Sounds good,” Harry replied. “Diagon Alley?”
She stood and collected a satchel from behind her desk. Arthur stood as well and, without complaint, accepted the hand his dad held out.
At Fortescue’s, Florean led them to a table inside the small shop since it was too cool to be outside, even though it was sunny. “So good to see you,” he bubbled to the group. Leaning over Arthur, he asked solicitously, “And Arthur, my favorite customer, what can I get you?”
“Chocolate flavor with extra chocolate sauce.”
“Mine as well,” Harry said when Florean looked his way.
“Just a scoop of strawberry,” Tonks said, sounding alarmed at that much chocolate.
Presently, their treats arrived. “So, Harry,” Tonks prompted between bites. “What do you plan to do with yourself? You know, besides chase down this boy of yours when he gets into trouble?”
“Hey,” Arthur began, holding back on a bite to wait for a response.
“She’s only joking, Arthur,” Harry insisted, patting him on the leg. Tonks gave Arthur an unapologetic, mischievous look. “To answer your question, though . . .” Harry closed his lips on a big spoonful, dripping with sauce. Voice thick with ice cream, he said, “I’m thinking of writing a book.”
“Really?” she returned, sounding like she was afraid he was teasing her and she might look the fool believing it.
“It would force me to get everything straight in my own mind.”
“It might make you more famous,” Arthur pointed out negatively, spoon poised with an entire half scoop which dripped on the metal table.
Tonks leaned over to him with a laugh. “He can’t get any more so,” she whispered. “Don’t worry about that.”
Arthur sighed in a suffering way before stuffing the whole bite in his mouth, which made her laugh more.
Back in Little Whinging, Pollux made a fuss from his cage when they came in the door: his usual welcome. Arthur stepped down to the dining room and let the owl out for a flight to stretch his wings.
“I’ll ring your school and see what assignments you missed this morning,” Harry said.
While he was on the telephone, the front door chimed. Arthur walked to it without thought, then hesitated with his hand on the door handle. He glanced back down the hallway toward where his dad’s voice emanated. Harry stepped into the hall just at the moment, waving that it was all right to open the door as he held the telephone to his ear with his shoulder. Arthur made himself open the door and smiled when he saw his dad’s school chum Mrs. Davies on the porch.
“Arthur,” she said in an emotional tone. “How are you doing?”
“Okay,” Arthur replied with a shrug as he invited her in with a sweep of his hand. “Come on in.”
“I brought you some cookies.” She handed him an alfoil-covered tray. “Chocolate-chocolate chip and those ginger ones you ate so many of at the Halloween party.”
She patted his shoulder and took off her jacket. “Geesh, your dad was always in it all the time too,” she commented quietly and shook her head.
“So I’ve been told.”
“Hermione,” Harry said in welcome, apparently finished on the telephone.
“Heard what happened. Glad to see everyone’s all right.” She gave Harry a quick hug.
They sat down in the living room to hot butterbeers and cookies. “Dad’s writing a book,” Arthur began. “Talk him out of it.”
Hermione laughed, quite hard. “Sorry, Harry,” she finally managed to say. “It’s just that after Lockhart, I can’t see it.”
“I think I can avoid doing that badly,” Harry said in a miffed tone before a long swig of butterbeer.
Hermione leaned over to Arthur and said conspiratorially, “He does need something to do.”
“I suppose,” Arthur reluctantly conceded.
“So, Arthur,” Hermione said with a hint of challenge, “what are you planning to do with yourself?”
“I want to do game design.”
“And that is?” Hermione prompted, eyes darting between the two of them.
“Designing games for computers. You know what those are?”
She frowned. “Yes, Arthur. I was raised a Muggle--I do know what a computer is.” She finished off a ginger cookie. “I guess I didn’t think about people making games for them for a living.”
“People wave wands for a living,” Arthur pointed out in a derisive tone.
Hermione covered her mouth as she laughed. More seriously she said, “Just because you don’t need one, I hear. Don’t get down on the rest of us.”
Harry set his empty bottle on the floor beside his chair before heating another one with his wand. “That isn’t it--it’s the wizarding world he doesn’t get in general.”
Hermione said to Arthur, “I hear your magic is pretty good.”
“You hear a lot,” Arthur returned.
“Wizards and witches talk a lot. Or owl a lot,” she explained matter-of-factly. “They have to or they lose touch very easily. News is hard to get when the community you are in doesn’t really exist.”
Arthur considered that and let his distaste with people talking about him ease. The fact that he liked Mrs. Davies made it hard to be annoyed with her for long.
“Thinking of going to Hogwarts next year?” Hermione asked after a quiet time of cookie nibbling.
“No,” Arthur replied firmly.
In a kind tone she said, “I think you would end up liking it. I sure did.”
Arthur glanced at his dad for help. Harry leaned back with his full bottle of butterbeer and said, “You have to realize, Hermione, that Arthur’s a Muggle.” At the doubtful look she gave them both, he went on, “This magic of his is just a computer game he is figuring out. Nothing more.”
She looked even more doubtful then. “He’s a hand caster, Harry. Or is that a rumor?”
Casually, Harry said, “No, that’s true. Good thing, too, because that way Draco couldn’t take his wand away.”
Hermione turned to Arthur. “Do you know how rare that is?” she asked adamantly.
“People keep telling me,” Arthur returned stiffly.
“It’s all right, Arthur,” Harry said reassuring. “I understand, maybe better than you realize.” When Arthur gave him a hopeful look, Harry explained, “I found out one day that this scar on my head meant a whole lot to just about everyone but me.” He shrugged, gaze far away. “Took a long time to really understand everyone else’s regard.”
Arthur reached for another cookie even though he wasn’t hungry. They were super chocolaty, which kept him eating them. He really hoped his dad understood because he didn’t like it that people kept telling him he was confused about things.
The doorbell chimed. Harry got up and went to open it, and his voice carried from the hallway. “Remus, you should be resting.”
“Couldn’t resist checking on how you were doing.” His eyes brightened as he took in the room. “Hermione, good to see you!”
“You have to stay for dinner, then,” Harry insisted. “Have a seat.” Lupin had a very large book under his arm, which he placed beside him on the floor.
“What’s that?” Arthur asked. He was glad to see his tutor looked as though he must have rested some, because he looked much better compared to that morning.
Lupin set down the bottle he had just accepted from Harry. “Well, good news, I think.” He hefted the book into his lap and flipped it open, which was harder than most books that didn’t have covers made of metal. “This is Trafalgar’s Taxonomy of Magical Skills,” he explained. “And here . . .” He flipped a few pages from where a silver clipped bookmark held the page open. “ . . . she classifies Animagical Transformation as a subset of Transmogrifying which is a subset of. . .” His finger moved over the page as he read.
Hermione was leaning so far over the coffee table to look at the book, she almost knocked Arthur’s butterbeer over. He rescued it and offered to change seats.
“No, no,” she insisted and stood up to sit on the arm of Lupin’s chair instead.
Lupin said, “Well, in any event, it looks likely you can manage to be an Animagus should you choose.” He tapped the bookmark and it zipped to a different page, making Arthur blink in surprise. Lupin opened the book at that spot and said, “More importantly, she insists that Apparation is a Masspatial Transformation.”
“Really?” Hermione asked in surprise, leaning farther over the book, which Lupin held at an angle for her. “I wouldn’t have thought so.”
“What it means is Apparition might not be out of reach for you either, Arthur,” Lupin said.
“You want to learn to Apparate?” Hermione teased.
“Apparating is very cool,” Harry said in a falsely knowledgeable tone.
Hermione grinned, then asked, “Are you allowed to teach him that?”
Lupin finished his bottle and placed it carefully beside Harry’s empty one, which he had to lean way over to do. “We have a dispensation from the Ministry to teach him anything not forbidden in general. Not everyone goes to Hogwarts and those that don’t, need some training.”
“So, why would it be out of reach?” she then asked, clearly not understanding.
“He can only do things that are similar to Transfiguration,” Harry supplied.
“Really?” She sounded very surprised. “Why?”
They both shrugged. “We don’t know,” Lupin said.
Her brow furrowed. “Headmistress McGonagall woke his magic, right? Maybe it’s because that’s her strength.”
Harry and Lupin blinked at her, nonplused. “I hadn’t even thought of that,” Harry said, deep in thought.
Lupin handed the heavy book up to Hermione and stood up. Standing before Arthur, he said, “What precise spell did she use to unfold your magic, Arthur? She gave you a temporary charm of some kind, to do a Lumos, correct?”
Arthur placed his hands on the arms of the chair and gripped them. Uncertain and insistant, he said, “I know what you are thinking. I don’t want any more spells done on me.”
Lupin glanced back at Harry, who gestured that he should leave it be. In an unusually serious tone, Harry said, “It’s all right, Arthur. You ever want to try waking more magic, you let us know. I don’t want you to feel you need to be what other people expect you to be. That was how I spent my life and I don’t want that for you.” He set his half-full bottle back on the table and leaned forward with an earnest expression. “You want to design Muggle computer games, that’s fine with me. Change your mind tomorrow and decide to take over the Wizengamot, that’s fine too.”
Lupin covered his mouth to hold in a laugh. “Not really that funny,” he commented quickly, trying to sound sober and serious. “Get Hermione here who is equally good at everything to repeat that temporary spell charm and Merlin knows what we’d end up with.” He looked Arthur over with sad affection. “Just as well you don’t want it. Too much responsibility.”
“I do want to learn to Apparate,” Arthur said eagerly.
“I’ll try my best to teach you, then,” Lupin said with a shrug. “We’ll see what happens.”
“In the meantime, game designer it is.” Harry toasted him with his bottle. Sounding relaxed like he had drunk more than butterbeer, he said, “Anything you need for that, let me know.”
Arthur bit his lip and said, “There’s an emulator I’d like to play around with that is a little expensive.” He paused, waiting for a response that wasn’t more than the scrutiny of his father’s bright green eyes. He gave up waiting and suggested hopefully, “There’s a computer camp in Dublin for two weeks over summer holiday.”
Harry smiled. “I asked, didn’t I?”
“I heard you,” Hermione said, amused.
“I have great ideas for games,” Arthur said sounding fervent.
“What’s that?” Harry asked.
“Voldemort I: The Dark Lord Rises,” Arthur said with a gleefully dark expression. When everyone stiffened and looked dismayed, he went on, “No, it would be great,” he insisted, sliding forward nearly to the edge of his chair in an effort to explain. “You’d have to figure out in the first part of the game who was likely to be a follower or not, a Death Eater, and there would be magic amulets to collect and . . .”
Gesturing before him, Harry interrupted to ask, “Who would the little, uh, hero character be?”
Arthur straightened and looked at each of them. “Well, you usually get to choose when you start the game. There would be five or six characters to choose from. You know some boy characters, some girls.” He gestured at Hermione who looked about to break out in laughter at the thought. “Maybe some mythical creatures like that centaur teacher you had.”
“Really?” Harry verified.
“Yeah.” Arthur went on, “It lets you chose your strengths and weaknesses, basically, by picking a character, which makes different parts of the game harder and easier. And for multi-player you have to have that option.”
“Ah,” Lupin said. “It would be much easier with multiple people playing, right?”
Arthur looked at him as though he couldn’t possibly get it. “No. The evil side is much harder to beat in multi-player mode. Almost impossible, actually.” At Lupin’s confused look, Arthur said authoritatively, “Usually you have to get someone playing for the bad side to secretly help you out. Because the computer doesn’t pick up on it, that works really well.”
Harry sat back with a crooked grin. “No wonder you and Snape get along so well.”
Defensively, Arthur said, “I like Professor Snape.”
Hermione picked her purse up and hitched it on her shoulder. “You are the only one in this room, I think, Arthur.”
“Really?” he asked in surprise. Lupin nodded soberly, his dad however gave a small smile. Arthur said, “Oh.”
“I have to get going,” Hermione said. She patted Arthur on the head before leaning over and kissing him on the top of it.
“Hey,” he complained. “I’m a little old for that.”
“No, you aren’t,” she countered with a sly grin.
Harry saw her out and returned to his seat. “Dinner time?” he asked.
“Can we go out?” Arthur pleaded. “In Muggle London?” he remembered to add.
Harry glanced at their guest, and said firmly, “If Remus is up for it.”
“I think I am. Severus has gotten rather good at that potion; I should get him to make it more often.”
“Muggle London?” Harry confirmed doubtfully with his son.
“Yes,” Arthur forcefully replied, then added in a pleading tone, perhaps too childish, “Please?”
--8888-- The End --8888--
There was an old woman tossed up in a basket
Ninety times as high as the moon
Where she was going I couldn't but ask her
For in her hand she carried a broom
“Old woman old woman old woman” quoth I
“Whither O whither O whither so high?
“To sweep the cobwebs off the sky”
“Shall I go with you?”
--Mother Goose (Old Edition found in Germany)