Chapter 5 : Rude Awakening
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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.
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