A/N: I do not own Harry Potter
As you can tell, I am going through with thorough beta'ing from a friend. No major plot points have been affected, though.
It's Bloody Better - Chapter 3
Severus and Lily were on the sofa with a chessboard between them. She looked frustrated, Severus, however, looked like he was enjoying himself. They were blissfully unaware that Ron and Harry were downstairs scheming, though it was familiar to Severus and Lily. They were wasting time before they took Harry out for the day, with Ron, of course.
They had planned a lovely day out to the Magizoo, but that was a surprise. It would be a fantastic family day out; though it had taken some effort to prove that to Lily. She had concerns about the safety for themselves and the children and the freedom of the creatures. In her mind, locking up dragons for children to ogle at was abhorrent. Severus had assured her that the enclosures were excellent; huge and fitting for every single species. It meant that they could safely enjoy seeing almost every magical creature there was, but with none of the danger. There was even a room where you could — if you were brave enough — see your Boggart. Three sickles to scare yourself silly. What a bargain.
'Severus, don't,' Lily said, her cheeks tinged red in her frustration.
'Don't leave your king unattended, and I won't take it.' Severus smirked as he removed yet another chess piece. There would only be one or two moves until checkmate now.
'But I'm your wife. Good husbands do not steal their wife's king.' Lily crossed her arms, her brows puckered together. 'Not if they know what's good for them.'
'Good chess players do,' said Severus with a slightly disturbing smile.
Severus was ruthless when playing any game. He played to win, whereas Lily expected everyone to give their opponents a fair chance, and she hated the vicious nature that games could unleash. Severus was also a lousy winner, which made the loss that much harder to bear. It was not a good combination. Severus was saved from Lily's frustration when there was a gentle knock on the door.
'Who is it?'
'Just Albus,' Lily said, looking out of the window. 'I'll get the door.'
The chessboard now lay abandoned, and Severus would not get his victorious "checkmate" moment.
Lily welcomed the man at the door, greeting him with a smile. 'Albus.'
The elderly wizard walked in, behind his voluminous, bright red and gold robes stood a small girl. She was about the same age as Harry: she had rather large front teeth and the bushy brown hair.
'This is Hermione Granger,' Albus said. 'Hermione, this is Lily Snape.'
The young girl looked frightened and confused. 'Hello,' she said, her voice was small and shaky.
'Hello, dear. Do you want to come in?' Lily reached out for the young girl's hand.
Hermione didn't take the hand. She seemed very wary and suspicious of those around her, and wore simple Muggle attire: faded jeans with both knees showing severe wear; her leather shoes were scuffed but clean, and well looked after. Finally, she wore a woollen jumper in a dull beige; this too showed its age with threadbare sleeves. The entire outfit was too small; the jeans showing too much leg and the sleeves on her jumper finished at her forearm.
Lily ignored the small girl's mistrust and allowed her to follow her back to the living room. Severus was now sitting on the sofa, a mildly irritated expression on his face.
'Albus?' Severus asked, his lips pursed.
'Severus, I wanted to speak to Harry if at all possible?' Albus asked.
'I already told you that we're busy. It's Harry's birthday.' Severus looked at the young girl. 'I told you last week; Harry wouldn't be spending time with any of the new students. Not today, Albus.'
Albus continued to look at Severus with a calm but resolute expression which demanded he would have his way.
'I have tickets for us to take Harry and Ron to the Magizoo,' Severus explained.
'I'm sure that Hermione would find that most fascinating. Harry, Ron and Hermione could become fast friends.' Albus remained calm, but his pointed tone gently forced the issue, as only he could.
'I told you last week: great idea, but not today.' Severus' forced smile was no longer in place. 'It's hardly fair for Harry to have to spend the day with a stranger, not when next week will do just fine.'
'Why don't we ask Harry?' Albus seemed utterly unaware that he was pushing the matter or that Severus was irritated, bordering on annoyed.
'Because I'm his father, and I said no.'
The young girl, Hermione, watched the two men argue in the politest way possible. It could have been the most prolonged volley of verbal tennis she had ever seen. Her head darted back and forth as she watched them make arguments and counter-arguments. Neither was willing to drop it, and one might wonder why the matter was so important to Albus, or to Severus for that matter.
'As you said, it's Harry's birthday, and he should have his say. You know what they say: "the more, the merrier!"' He sounded practically cheery.
'Do I seem like an overly merry person to you, Hermione?' Severus asked.
Hermione stood there, wide-eyed. Her cheeks flushed as she realised the verbal volley had ended; they expected her to speak. She froze, her mouth half-open, however, nothing came out. Her fingers went to the loose threads on the knees of her jeans and started to tug. Hermione was focused intently on the hole she was making. She shook her head.
Severus' reaction didn't faze Albus at all, and instead vacated his seat and went to call on Harry.
- (meanwhile) -
Harry and Ron were still sitting in the bedroom, wondering how on earth they could destroy the Time-Turner. The offending item was currently on Harry's desk. They were staring at it like it was a problem to be fixed. It was much the same as when they had initially used it — seven years in the future — the golden sand ran gently from top to bottom, and then back again. The artefact seemed larger and heavier, but Harry wondered if this was a trick of the mind; making the thought of hiding or destroying it that much more difficult. Ron thought it was because they were that much smaller.
'You're overthinking it, mate,' Ron said. 'It's not a bloody Horcrux, is it?'
'So you think we can just smash it?'
'We could wait and ask Hermione? I mean, she is smarter than you and me combined.'
'Yea, but we said we would do it before she got here.' Harry mumbled his reply, the words bouncing into the back of each other, making it barely legible.
'Well, she wasn't exactly keen on this to start with Ron. I want to get rid of it before Hogwarts — before we see Hermione.'
Ron looked at Harry. He seemed conflicted, his brow creased with worry.
'Do you think Hermione would take this away from you?'
'I don't know. I just don't want to take the chance.' Harry looked down, avoiding Ron's gaze.
'Okay. We'll hide it, maybe the Shrieking Shack? Or we could try dropping it from the top story?'
Harry smiled. 'Thanks, Ron.'
'We need something to hide it in, but it can't be suspicious.'
They immediately began rummaging through his wardrobe and cupboards, looking for some way to disguise the magical object. The goal was to find something inconspicuous, something that would be completely normal to take outside with them. An old rucksack became the perfect concealment method. Harry placed the Time-Turner inside carefully.
'Erm, maybe put something more innocent on top?' Ron suggested as they were about to leave the safety of the bedroom. 'My dad checks things; he gets way too suspicious.'
'Oh yea, erm…' Harry wandered around his room, looking for something entirely reasonable to take out on what appeared to be a rather lovely day. 'I think that's 'cause we do stupid stuff all the time!'
'You mean like the Dungbombs in Scrivenshafts last week?' Ron picked up a large, black winter coat. 'Coat? My dad is always going on about me having a coat in case it rains!'
'Exactly, Ron. A coat — a brilliant idea!' Harry responded, grabbing a coat from his wardrobe and shoving it into the bag. 'Good to go? I think they will be so happy that we are actually listening and being responsible that they won't question a thing.'
They were about to make their way up the stairs and out into the bright living room when they heard someone calling. They rushed upstairs.
What they found was his mother and father together on one sofa, Albus Dumbledore sitting in the armchair, and Hermione perched on the other couch. She looked frightened and confused, staying as far away from everyone as she could manage.
Harry tried to reign in his features, but his gaze continued to drift over to Hermione. There was a wondering look on his face as he took in the details of his friend. Everything was very much the same but entirely different at the same time. Hermione sat with the same posture and air about her; in the way she paid attention to the conversation, her fingers twitching as though ready to offer her response. She also had a new distant look in her eyes, something was more withdrawn, and altogether less proud.
'Harry, just who I wanted to speak to; I wondered how you would feel getting to know Hermione this afternoon? I also thought we could have a little chat?'
He thought back to the conversation with Ron and everything he was afraid of losing. Seeing Hermione now, he felt selfish for wanting to protect his new reality and for doubting her. She was like a sister, and he really should have been worried about her.
'Erm... Ron and I were going to go to Hogsmeade; she could join us,' he said, careful not to phrase it as a question. He would have to continue with the original plan, and Hermione would come along.
'Nope,' Severus said rather bluntly.
'I said so.'
Hermione seemed to focus on Severus. He was blunt and harsh, and yet there was a slight smile playing on his lips as he watched his son frown with indignation.
'It's my birthday,' Harry said. He sidled up to his father, leaning his head against his shoulder in a saccharine manner. 'Pleeeease,' he whined.
The young girl watched, her eyes were wide with surprise. It seemed as though this meant something more to her.
'Hmm,' Severus responded with thinned lips and narrowed eyes. 'And what are you planning to do in Hogsmeade?'
It seemed that Harry and his family had forgotten about Albus' request. The room, instead, focused their attention on Severus and Harry.
Hermione seemed particularly fascinated by the interaction. He wrapped his arms around Harry, who was pleading with him. Harry wondered if she had any clue that he was her Harry.
'Why?' he asked sceptically, his eyebrow raised as he looked down at Harry.
'So we can have fun. It's my birthday! Please?' Harry was nuzzling into his father's shoulder. His tone was now quiet, almost resigned to a no.
Severus pulled the boy closer — his face giving nothing away — encompassing him in a fatherly embrace. 'What kind of fun are you planning?' Severus seemed to be enjoying pulling the details out of Harry.
'You know, kid stuff,' Ron said, attempting to help his friend.
'Nope,' Severus stated.
Harry immediately backed away, a frown fixed on his face. He crossed his arms indignantly.
'WHY?' he questioned, a little too aggressively. 'You're being mean.'
'I'm always mean.'
Harry sulked, in a manner very unlike his old self, but he needed to get to Hogsmeade. He needed to get rid of the Time-Turner; he needed to get it out of the house and destroyed it.
'Because it's your birthday, and I planned something special, you dunderhead.'
'See, you're not mean!' Harry declared. 'You're just like a spy undercover as someone cruel.'
Hermione looked at Harry with wide eyes, as though something had just occurred to her. 'Harry!' she jumped up from her spot on the couch and flung her arms around him. 'You are my Harry, aren't you?' she asked.
This single sentence ignited the room, filling everyone with a sense of confusion.
Harry stood stock still, dumbfounded by Hermione's response. He, of course, understood what had happened; he had given a very frank description of another Severus. She recognised this other version of Harry's dad, and that made her realise that this Harry — although he looked entirely different — was the Harry she had known before.
'Erm…of course, I'm Harry…'
'No, but you are the Harry I know, aren't you?' she asked, staring at him with her arms folded and pursed lips. It was as though she was daring him to lie.
'We just met,' Harry replied through gritted teeth. He just hoped she got the point.
'Harry?' his mother asked.
Harry spun on his heel, looking directly at his mother trying to look as innocent as possible.
'You know you're allowed to make friends… right?' she asked.
'Yea, but she's not my friend. I don't know her at all,' Harry said. 'She's a Muggle-born from London. How would I know her?'
'How do you know she's from London, you goon?'
'That's where Muggles are from, like Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon,' Harry said matter of factly, knowing it was a silly ignorant lie.
Severus reached and grabbed Harry's arm, gently guiding him in front of him, a reaction that he had never expected. The look on Severus' face was concerned more than angry, but there was still a slight frown in his knitted brows.
'How do you know about Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon?' he asked seriously.
Harry completely missed the seriousness of his tone, the concern, or his face. Harry seemed somewhat oblivious that there was anything wrong with the subject matter at hand. Harry, therefore, answered honestly and sarcastically.
'You do realise that we're related to them, right? I mean, I know we'd rather not be…'
'You haven't seen them since you were three,' Lily replied. Harry could hear the very same concern in her voice.
'So, I have a great memory.' Harry stepped back, catching on to the fact he had knowledge that he shouldn't have.
'No. You really shouldn't remember a thing,' Severus said. His eyes were softer than usual. 'Harry, they looked after you for one night when you were three. While you were there, you had your first bout of accidental magic.' Severus had a sad smile as he remembered something that was both beautiful and tragic. 'Your Uncle Vernon did not take it too well; he locked you in the cupboard under the stairs. Needless to say, you haven't seen them since.'
It seemed like Severus had finished. The room was silent, and he looked at Harry, but there was something more there than affection. Severus was puzzling over a few things — a few strange things. Eventually, he spoke again.
'You shouldn't remember because afterwards, you had nightmares. You slept in our bed for a week before I replaced the memory with something different, something— nicer.'
Harry looked up at the man and swallowed. He felt a little backed into a corner; he had no idea how he could explain knowing these details. His father was confident in his ability to alter Harry's memory. Convincing him the spell hadn't taken wasn't going to wash. Harry, however, seemed to be somewhat saved; Severus' gaze moved past Harry and fixed on Albus.
'I think it's time you told me what is going on, old man.'
Harry and Ron realised it was now or never. Hermione would have to come along for the ride.
'Erm, can we go out while you talk to Mr Professor Dumbledore?' Ron asked.
Harry surreptitiously picked up the rucksack and placed it over his shoulders once more, edging towards Ron. The question and the action piqued Severus' interest. He got up from his spot on the couch and walked over to Harry, kneeling before him.
'What's in the bag?' he asked suspiciously.
'A coat, you know, in case it rains,' Harry responded. 'Ron's dad is always saying we should take our coats...'
'Oh, so you're doing what Ron's dad says?' Severus smirked. 'That just makes me more suspicious. And, the last time you were this eager to go out, you set off five dung bombs in Scrivenshafts!'
'We won't even go to the shops if that makes you feel better,' Harry gripped the bag tight. 'And we could show Hermione round?'
'What's in the bag?' Severus asked again.
He was still suspicious given the morning's events. Albus Dumbledore's insistence on speaking to Harry only encouraged his suspicion. He could only assume that Harry was hiding something big, and Albus knew the details.
'I told you, it's a coat.' Harry did his best to remain inconspicuous — failing miserably. He couldn't help but think that having Severus raise him, he should be better, not worse, at hiding things.
As Severus reached for the bag and Harry pulled away. He pulled out the coat to end the debate, but Severus' expression said it wasn't enough.
'Harry, I want to see what else is in that bag, and if it's dungbombs, I will ground you, birthday or not.'
Harry froze, the tone of voice his father used meant no messing. There was something ingrained in Harry to obey when his father used that tone. Severus pulled the backpack from Harry, who no longer fought his dad on the matter.
The rucksack was still open when he took it from Harry. The previously concealed Time-Turner fell out, rolling along the floor in plain view.
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