I am so sorry for such a long wait. I have been so busy with life and working on ideas for the actual novel ideas I wish to one day publish. Not that I don't appreciate these fanfics as true stories in their own right, my other writings just hold a little more priority. I hope you enjoy this next chapter, and thanks for having patience with me. I am doing my best to keep these stories going as often as I can.
Two weeks flew by since Harry had fallen sick with wizard's flu. He had fallen into his schedule easily, passing his first exam on everything he had learned in the past two weeks. He was glad to spend any amount of time with Mr. Snape, and Minny was nice and fun to be with on Wednesdays and Saturdays. However, Harry quickly found himself bored with the same routine, and his curiosity of the castle and magic grew more each day.
He wanted to see more of the castle. He wondered if Mr. Snape would let him explore at any point. Harry had managed to get sneak peaks when Eve would walk him to Minny's for his lessons on the magical world. There were knights aligned in one hallway and moving portraits and paintings everywhere, and some days, the stairs under his feet moved, making his trip to Minerva's even longer and more entertaining. And some days, Harry say the many students wandering the halls, rushing to get to their classes, some flipping through their books for last minute studying of charms or ingredients, and others stroking the binding of their snarling and biting books.
What fascinated Harry the most was the wand.
Everyone had one. Even Minny. Even Mr. Snape.
If only he could just touch one. Minny's lessons were fun and all, she taught him a lot about how the wizarding world differed from the "muggle" world and how he, Harry, was famous and all. She even talked about his parents when they were students at Hogwarts. And as much as Harry loved time with her, he wished she would talk about her amazing wand that made magic happen.
And Mr. Snape always had his in their quarters. Except when Mr. Snape had to leave. Harry wanted a closer look at the man's wand. He had managed to touch it before, but Mr. Snape had scolded him and told him it wasn't a toy. But he knew that now. He wouldn't do anything with it – just look. Harry paused in his quill writing practice and looked across the table at Mr. Snape, who had just returned from his morning lecture.
The man was sitting at the dining table reading the Daily Prophet, his face obscured. The man's wand rested on the table next to a cup of tea. Harry swallowed dryly and looked back down at his writing. He finished with the letter "z" and dipped the tip of his quill in a small bowl of water, rinsing it as he had been taught.
"All done," Harry announced. He dried off the tip of his quill with a handcloth.
The Daily Prophet was folded and set aside.
"Let me see your quill," Mr. Snape said, holding out a hand.
Harry handed it over and began biting his thumbnail anxiously.
"The nib is quite dull. You are using too much pressure when you are writing with it. A dull nib can affect your writing and makes most quills undesirable. Let's see your writing."
Harry handed it over.
"See these scratches? Too much pressure. You need to lighten up on the quill. Any harder and you might tear the parchment. And these blotches, that tells me you stop a lot when you are writing. If you must pause, lift the quill away from the parchment so it does not leak ink out."
Mr. Snape stood and came around the table to Harry's side, picking up a new quill and dipping it in the ink. He took Harry's hand, making sure Harry was holding it correctly. Keeping his hand over Harry's, he helped the boy write the letter "A," big and small, making sure the boy kept minimal pressure on the parchment and kept moving so there were no blotches.
"There," Mr. Snape said, "write the alphabet once more and then we shall have lunch."
Harry nodded and started writing the next letter while Mr. Snape moved into the kitchen to make more tea.
Harry looked across the table at the wand still resting next to the teacup. He swallowed again, looking over his shoulder. He leaned forward slightly, allowing his quill to fall from his grip. He slowly reached cross the table and lifted the wand, glancing over his shoulder again. He slowly sat back in his seat and studied the wand in his grasp. It was long and slim, and when Harry moved it, it seemed flexible. The ebony wood was smooth on his skin. Harry traced the natural patterns of the wood with a finger. He wondered if he could make any magic happen with it. He experimentally pointed the wand at the abandoned teacup.
"What are you doing?" Mr. Snape's voice snapped.
Harry jumped and dropped the wand, looking up at Mr. Snape, who snatched the wand and glared down at the boy.
"Sorry, I was just looking at it," Harry said.
"What did I tell you about touching this?" Mr. Snape asked, holding up his wand pointedly.
"Not to, but I was just looking."
"Just looking?" Mr. Snape shoved the wand into a sleeve before pulling Harry out of his seat, keeping a firm grip on Harry's arm. "Tell me, what did I tell you about touching my wand? I've told you a couple times now, so you should know."
"That doesn't answer my question, little boy. What did I tell you?"
"You-you said that it can be dangerous and-and not to-to touch it. That it's not a toy."
"So what made you think that you could pick it up and play around with it?"
"But I wasn't playing with it. I was just-just looking."
"You were pointing it at something. Clearly you were trying to make it work, were you not? After I've told you that this is not something to mess with on numerous occasions, you still disobeyed me. And you knew you were disobeying because you waited until I was out of the room to pick it up. What was going through your head that made you think that that would be okay?"
"Nothing. I'm sorry, Mr. Snape, really."
Mr. Snape used his free hand to swat Harry's bottom before he released the child. Harry gasped at the sudden smack and his eyes watered immediately. Slowly, he reached back to rub as his lower lip trembled. In all his time with the man, he had never been smacked by him. He looked up at Mr. Snape with a pout.
"Don't look at me like that," Mr. Snape frowned. He rested his hands on his hips. "You knew better."
Finding no sympathy, Harry avoided Mr. Snape's stern eyes and looked at the man's shiny black shoes instead. At least those couldn't look at him disappointingly. He wondered if Mr. Snape would realize he was too much trouble and ship him off back to his relatives. The thought made him cry harder.
"Enough already," Mr. Snape scolded, though his tone was softer. "I smacked you once – I told you that would happen if you touched my wand. You knew that. This is hardly something to carry on so about."
"I'm really sorry," Harry cried. "Don't send me back."
"Send you back? Back where?"
"To Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia."
"I never said I'd ever do such a thing, calm yourself," Mr. Snape kneeled in front of Harry and gently patted the boy's shoulder. "You are never going back to them so long as I can help it. Calm down, deep breaths, that's it."
Harry slowly did as Mr. Snape said, trying hard to take deep breaths.
"But I'm-I'm . . . all I do is not listen and . . ."
"Stop it, why are you working yourself up so? I told you I'm not sending you back. That is something you never have to fear. More deep breaths. In . . . out. In . . . out."
After a few more deep breaths, Harry managed to calm himself some. The sting in his bottom had already faded, and he wiped at the remaining tears on his cheeks with a sleeve.
"I see we still have some inner insecurities to work through," Mr. Snape said, reaching around Harry to pat his back.
"Your fears are nothing to apologize for; they are beyond your control. We will work on them. As for my wand . . ."
"I'll never touch it again."
"It is for your own safety, young man." Mr. Snape reached out and dragged a thumb along Harry's cheek, wiping away a stray tear. At the small action, Harry lurched forward and wrapped his arms around Mr. Snape's neck. The man didn't even hesitate as he wrapped his own arms around Harry, gently rubbing the boy's back. After a moment, Mr. Snape asked, "Are you calm now? I apologize for bringing up such emotions in you. You could never get in enough trouble for me to want to send you back to those horrid people. You are a good boy, but you are also a child and children make mistakes. And they must learn from them. Understand?"
Harry sniffed and nodded.
A knock at the door caught their attention. Harry looked at Mr. Snape, wondering if he should go to the bedroom and shut the door. Mr. Snape stood and pulled out his wand, giving it a flick at the door. The wood became transparent, and on the other side of the door stood Lucius, little Draco standing at his side. Mr. Snape frowned and walked over to the door, opening it slightly.
"Good afternoon, Severus," Lucius greeted. When Draco remained silent, staring down moodily at the ground, Lucius used his cane to tap the boy's thigh. Draco gave his father a sideways glance before looking up at Mr. Snape.
"Good afternoon, Severus," Draco greeted. "How do you do?"
"Well, Draco. And you?"
"I am well." Draco looked to his father and received an approving nod.
"I apologize for the intrusion," Lucius began, "but I thought we could discuss a few things over lunch?"
"Of course," Mr. Snape said, opening the door to the older man. "Please, come in. I assume Professor Dumbledore knows you are here."
"Under the impression that I am catching up with an old friend, yes, he does." Lucius walked into Mr. Snape's quarters, eyeing Harry and the red-trimmed eyes. "I am not interrupting anything, am I?"
"No, we were just finishing up." Mr. Snape closed the door and stepped in between Lucius and Harry. "I'm sure the boys would like to spend some time together once more out here. Harry, why don't you pull out that Wizard's chess set on the shelf there and set it up for your friend while Lucius and I talk?"
"Yes, Mr. Snape," Harry said, doing as the man asked. A couple times, he and Mr. Snape had played Wizard's chess, so he knew some of the basics. Draco sat himself on the sofa, watching Harry set up the game.
"I'll ask Eve to bring us what is being served in the Great Hall today. The boys can eat out here while we talk privately."
"Excellent," Lucius smiled, following Mr. Snape. "I believe I may have a solution to your problem . . ."
The adults disappeared in the kitchen and Harry finished setting up the game.
"This is bloody awful," Draco muttered from where he sat cross armed and slouched on the sofa. "Father has boring business to take care of and I get dragged along for it."
"Do you want to play?" Harry asked, gesturing to the board he just finished setting up.
Draco rolled his eyes and looked down the hall at the closed doors. He slid off the sofa and walked toward the bedroom, opening the door and glancing inside.
"We can play something else if you'd like," Harry suggested, following the blond boy.
Draco closed the door, finding nothing interesting the bedroom. He tilted his head at Harry.
"You share a bedroom with Severus?"
"Well, there's no other bedrooms here."
Draco walked to the next door and opened it, seeing Mr. Snape's study. Harry looked over his shoulder, afraid Mr. Snape would catch them – or Lucius. Harry looked back at Draco, seeing the boy shut Mr. Snape's door.
"What are you looking for?" Harry asked.
"The door," Draco answered, moving on to the next door. "It was here during my last visit."
Draco didn't answer. The blonde stepped into Mr. Snape's potions lab, scanning the far walls. Harry gulped and looked over his shoulder, wondering if he should get Mr. Snape. But surely the man would not want his conversation interrupted. Maybe he should keep an eye on Draco since the boy seemed to have his own agenda.
"We're not allowed in here," Harry said.
"We're not doing anything," Draco replied. "We're just looking for the door."
"I don't get it, what door? There's no other doors."
"There's always another door. Hideaways and pockets in the castle, secret tunnels and shortcuts. You'll see what I mean."
Draco crawled on the floor near some shelves against a wall. Nothing. He stood back up and looked around, Harry watching him anxiously.
"You could help, you know," Draco said.
"But I don't know what . . ."
"It's just a door. Have you ever been in this room before?"
"A couple times." Harry thought back to the few times Mr. Snape had let him aid him in the lab, chopping and prepping ingredients while the man worked on cool potion stuff. I've never seen any other door in here."
"That's because it only shows up now and then. Severus explained it to me. Said I shouldn't be crawling into rooms like that. But I was fine, and it only goes away when you're not around. Help me see if it's back. Just look for a door."
"Okay," Harry said, glancing around and feeling the wall. A thought hit him. "Draco, do you have a wand?"
"No. Why, do you?"
"No. I was just wondering."
"Don't you know anything? We don't get wands until we are eleven."
"Oh – I mean, why eleven?"
"Because we go to Hogwarts then. Besides, we couldn't control a wand now anyway. I've tried. Did you ever try?"
"Err . . . yes. But Mr. Snape caught me."
"Adults are so annoying. They don't let us do anything fun. They just expect us to be good and polite and boring. They never want us to experience life."
"Right . . ."
"Hey, look," Draco exclaimed. He was kneeling down near the potion ingredient shelves, smiling at a hidden, small door. "I found it. It's over here now."
Harry ran over to it and kneeled next to Draco. The small door had not been there the previous times Harry had been in the lab. Draco smirked at him.
"Want to see where it goes today?"
Harry smiled and nodded, excited to explore the magic of the castle.
Severus paced the length of his kitchen as he listened to Lucius's words. The man has so many good points, yet Severus wasn't sure he was ready to accept the simple solution.
"I can't," he said. "I can't get them involved in this."
"And why not?" Lucius asked after a sip of tea. "Not only is the MacAuley estate nearly unplottable, it's heavily warded and the name wouldn't cross a million minds – not even the mind of someone who knew the Princes well."
"I cannot take Harry there."
"Cannot? Or will not? You need to grow up and think a little, Severus. I don't care where you leave your relationship with your mother at but think outside the box and see the glorious opportunity presented to you. A perfect hideaway for the Boy-Who-Lived. He'll be out of your hair and far away from this senile headmaster and it'll give you time to search for a family who will take the boy in. It's ingenious."
Severus sighed and took a large swallow of tea himself.
"I can't just abandon him there," he said.
"Abandon him? What are you on about – oh, don't tell me you've grown attached? After I warned you not to. You care about that boy, don't you? I dare say you've grown to see him as your own son."
"Please, the Potter spawn?" Severus snapped, though his voice held no malice.
"Do not give me that load of bollocks, I see right through you. Damn it, you'll put yourself at risk. You must distance yourself at once. You've spent far too much time with the boy. He's nothing but trouble."
"He is not, he's a good kid. Even after everything he's been through."
"So that's it then? You relate with him. Just because you share similar situations does not give you a good reason to keep him."
"I never said anything about keeping him. I want the boy to go to a good home."
"But you do not want to "abandon" him."
Severus growled in exasperation, looking off to the side. He did not have to explain himself. He stepped out of the kitchen and looked at the sofa and his heart jumped to his throat. Where were the kids?
"Lucius, the boys are gone!"
Lucius stepped out as well, tight-lipped and glaring at the spot the two boys should have been, the Wizard's chess game untouched. "Those little brats," he muttered.
Severus opened the door to his bedroom, checking the bathroom before moving to his study, then his potions lab. He immediately noticed the new addition – a small tunnel in the wall. The castle tended to create new tunnels and rooms that vanished just as quickly as they appeared. Or led to some unexplored, potentially dangerous part of the castle. The boys could be anywhere at this point.
Lucius paused next to Severus, admiring the tunnel. It wouldn't allow a man to crawl in, but two small curious boys would fit perfectly. Lucius smirked.
"They can't be too far," the man said, pulling the knob off at the end of his cane. A long scaly object fell to the ground. It was a silver snake figurine. Lucius replaced the knob and pulled out his own wand, muttering a chant. The snake ornament came alive and slithered into the tunnel.
"What is that?" Severus questioned, his brows furrowed.
"A tracker. Spelled to follow Draco's scent should such a situation ever arise."
Harry felt like they had been crawling in the tunnel for ages. His palms and knees were starting to hurt from the hard stone floor. Draco led the way, confident that the tunnel would end in a fun part of the castle. Harry paused to rub at his palms before asking, "How much farther?"
"How should I know?" Draco snapped, pausing as well, shifting to rub his knees.
"Maybe we should go back."
"And sit on the sofa bored? I think we're close. Come on."
Harry sighed and followed Draco onward. Finally, the two hit a dead end. Draco felt the wall in front of him and pushed on it. Slowly, the small door opened – just enough for the boys to peek through. The tunnel had somehow brought them to the Great Hall, behind the table where all the professors were eating lunch, including Albus Dumbledore.
"We shouldn't be here." Harry's voice trembled.
"Yeah, maybe. I'll try to shut this."
Draco reached out and carefully pulled the door closed as best he could. However, the door squealed, and Draco paused, yanking his hand back. A few professors looked back.
"What in Merlin's name?" a female voice questioned.
"There must be something in that tunnel – the door is open." A male voice said.
"A draft, no doubt." Said another voice.
Harry peered over Draco's shoulder to see a couple people walking their way. He bit his lip, his heart hammering in his chest. Draco seemed tense next to him. The door was slowly opened more.
And then Minny's head appeared in front of them. She gasped.
"What are you doing?" she hissed at Harry.
Draco looked back and forth between Harry and Minny.
Another hiss sounded and a snake slithered its way over to Draco, flicking its tongue out at the boy. It turned and slithered back down the tunnel to report the location. Draco groaned, knowing exactly what the serpent was and what it meant.
"You two better follow that snake," Minny said. "Now. Hurry."
Draco sagged in relief and turned, glad to escape trouble for now. Harry followed the boy.
"What is it, Minerva?" a deeper voice questioned.
"Filius was right, Albus," Minny said, standing up quickly. "Just a draft."
Minny discreetly flicked her wand behind her back, sending her cat patronus racing down the tunnel before she closed the door. "Let's return to our meal, shall we?"
The two boys continued crawling down the tunnel. Harry felt like a heat wave had hit him. His palms were sweaty and his stomach nauseous. He was sure Mr. Snape knew they had left the quarters and worse – entered the lab without his permission. If Mr. Snape didn't want to be rid of him before, the man would definitely want him gone now. Harry fought from crying and focused on getting out of the tunnel, tears stinging his eyes.
They reached the end of the tunnel, where Lucius was adjusting something at the end of his cane and where Mr. Snape was waiting with a cat patronus sitting at his feet. Harry avoided Mr. Snape's eyes as he stepped out of the tunnel after Draco, staying at the other boy's side.
"Anything to say, Draco Malfoy?" Lucius asked.
"I apologize for not staying put and crawling down that tunnel. That was wrong of me."
"Come, we are leaving," Lucius waved Draco over to him. "I apologize for our quick departure. It is a shame our lunch must end so early. Think about what I said, Severus. And if you must grow attached, best do it where no one will find you or him. You don't mind if we use your floo?"
With that, Lucius left with Draco tailing.
Severus kept his eyes on the disobedient child in front of him. He was too busy trying to slow his heart and take deep breaths, but his lungs would not expand properly. Minerva's patronus, which decided to take its leave, had told him just how close Harry had been to Albus, how close the boy could have been caught. He was thankful that Minny had helped the children, but he could not risk something like this happening again. He closed his eyes, counting backwards from ten, taking more deep breaths.
"I apologize for not-not staying put," Harry began. "And for crawling down –"
"Do not," Severus scolded, his eyes flashing open and pinning Harry in his place. "I do not want a parrot, I want to know what made you think crawling down that tunnel was a good idea. What made you think that coming into my lab without me would be tolerated? Well?"
"I don't know," Harry said, a couple tears gliding down his cheek. "I was trying to stop Draco but he –"
"You could have been seen!" Severus interrupted, the fear of that fact alone stirring up his temper. He stalked toward the silently crying child. "You could have been seen by the entire school and by the one man who has the power to send you back to your relatives and keep you there permanently. Is that what you want?"
"If it wasn't for Minerva, you wouldn't be here right now. Do you get that? He could have seen you."
"I didn't know where the tunnel would go."
"Which is exactly why you should never have gone inside it in the first place. You should have told me what Draco was up to or . . . something."
Severus ran a frustrated hand through his hair, rubbing the back of his neck in the process. He forced out a deep breath of hot air. Closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose, he said, "I'm too angry to deal with you right now. Go to our room. Sit on your bed. Do not move or touch anything. You can consider yourself grounded."
Harry sniffed, "I'm really sorry."
Harry shuffled his way out of the lab. Once the boy was gone, Severus shut the door to the tunnel, knowing it would disappear in time. He shook his head and left his lab, closing it behind him and this time, placing a locking charm on it. He wanted to walk to his study and lock himself inside for a while when he heard Harry's loud sobs. He groaned, knowing he would never outlast Harry's tears. He allowed a minute of Harry's pitiful cried to soften his heart before he detoured to his bedroom, slowly approaching Harry's bed.
Harry was crying into his pillow. Severus kneeled by the bed and rested a gentle hand on the child's back.
"Calm yourself," he said, "you're working yourself up into a fit."
"You-you want to-to get rid of me now," Harry cried.
"I don't recall ever saying those words."
"I told you I'm bad."
"That doesn't make me want to get rid of you. Calm down, deep breaths. As I said earlier, you are a good boy. It's just . . . I could have lost you today. Do you realize that?"
Harry looked over at the man.
"I don't want to lose you, and what happened today scared me."
"Yes. And it's made me realize that . . . perhaps you shouldn't stay here any longer."
"I have to leave?" Harry sniffed loudly.
"Wherever you go, I go," Severus smiled. "I promise you that. We might not live together like this, but I would still see you almost every day. Sound fair? Its for your own safety, Harry. So neither of us loses the other."
Harry sat up on his bed and wrapped his arms around Severus's neck. Severus slowly stood, lifting Harry with him and holding him tight in his arms. Relief flooded through the man as he held the boy, knowing Harry was safe in his arms. Lucius might be right about one thing, as much as Severus hated to admit it.
Later that evening, Severus stepped outside Hogwarts with a rolled-up parchment in his hands. He placed the parchment in his pocket as he neared the Forbidden Forest. Cupping his hands together, he raised them to his lips and blew, creating a whistle through his hands, a loud birdlike call echoing through the trees. A pair of bird eyes high in the branch of a nearby tree looked down at Severus before kekking and gliding down to him.
Severus snorted and held out his hand for the hen harrier.
"I knew one of you might be around," he smiled. He reached into his pocket and handed the latter to the bird, who took it in its talons. "You know what to do."
Severus threw his hand up and the bird took off.
The hen harrier flew high into the sky before diving down and disappearing in a cloud of gold dust. Severus sighed and folded his hands behind his back. He was doing this for Harry.
The hen harrier reappeared miles away in another cloud of gold dust, now near the MacAuley estate in Ireland. Flying over mountains and to a mansion with large white gates and pillars. It flew past an attached tower where other hen harriers sitting in the windows cried at it, before diving for an open window on a lower floor of the mansion. It pecked at a loose feather on the windowsill before gliding to the desk inside, then hopped over to the person at the desk reading a journal.
"Kek," the bird cried, holding the parchment out.
Eileen Prince-MacAuley lowered her journal and accepted the parchment. She unrolled it, adjusting her glasses to read what it said. Her eyes lit up and she sucked in a breath. Removing her reading glasses and setting them back in their case, Eileen leaned forward on the desk, smiling at the bird.
"Thank you, my little friend," she said, giving the bird a quick cheek rub.
"Kek-kek," the bird said. It flapped its wings and flew out of the window.
Eileen looked at the parchment and smiled.
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