Nazis, homicidal Catholics, and Severus Snape's cousins, Harry certainly has his hands full of people trying to kill him this year. (Sixth year AU, elements of HBP incorporated)
Rating: PG-13 to light R (for swearing, violence, and general misanthropy)
Spoilers: Sixth Year AU (elements of HBP incorporated)
Summery: Nazis, homicidal Catholics, and Severus Snape's cousins, Harry certainly has his hands full of people trying to kill him this year.
All That History Gives You
Part I: Yorkshire Summer
Harry Potter left Privet Drive at about ten that night dragging his trunk behind him. It was the middle of the summer, and whatever hope he had had about this summer being even slightly more tolerable than any other summer had been dashed when Vernon Dursley had realized Moody probably wasn't going to make good on his threats. It had gone back to how it had been before he had left for Hogwarts. He had no leverage left on them, no magic powers, no psychotic godfather (just the mere thought of that made him bite his lip and want to find someplace very small to disappear into, he endeavored not to think about that as much as possible and was rarely successful at it), and certainly no Aurors.
Maybe five years ago he would have just accepted his treatment but now, he knew, not matter how reckless and pig headed he was, there was something out there that wasn't the Dursley's. The last straw had been Aunt Petunia's bony-handed stinging slap to his cheek an hour before. They'd never laid a hand on him before, only berated him for his freakishness.
Harry fumed, let them cook their own breakfast and see how badly they arse it up!
Ten minutes later he exited the ward boundaries as he stepped off the pavement on Privet Drive and turned into Oak Ridge Lane. He'd spent much of the summer scouting around the neighborhood locating the exact ward boundaries. He felt the tell tale prickle run up his spine as he stepped outside of the wards. He half expected to see people rushing from the bushes to bundle him back to the supposed safety of Number Four. But there was no sign of any of his guard rushing out of he bushes to insist that he return immediately to number four, where they insisted he might possibly if he squinted really hard be safe. That or hordes of Death Eaters would descend upon him.
Instead, there was nothing.
He would take the Knight Bus he decided. Somewhere. The Burrow. Maybe he would spend the rest of the summer at the Leaky Cauldron. It wasn't like he didn't have enough money.
A small tawny barn owl had swooped low over the carefully manicured trees of Little Whinging and landed on his head. It pecked hard at his scalp before it let him wrestle it off his head. Then as Harry untied the note from its leg the owl bit his finger. It then flew away with an annoyed hoot. The whole exchange took less than a minute
"Bloody bird" Harry sucked on his bitten finger and unfolded the letter.
The letter began.
Since you refuse to have any common sense in regards to your safety, other arrangements have been made for you this summer. Enclosed is a train ticket. If you retain a single iota of good judgment you will use it.
"Figures it was his bird"
The enclosed train ticket was from Bansted station to the outer reaches of the Yorkshire countryside. So Harry sat down at the Muggle bus stop and waited for the bus that would take him to the train station.
That was how Harry had ended up sitting in a rattling BR coach at one in the morning waiting for the train to finally arrive in according to the train ticket Groton-on-Ware. Which according to his rail map was exactly in the middle of nowhere, and barely rated the classification of village. It was probably just a pub, a church and a few farms.
When he had first gotten on the train he had noticed its emptiness. It wasn't one of the shinny new privately owned trains; instead it was a rattling, battered proper old BR coach. Some how relived, he curled up in his seat and cried.
Harry kicked his trunk in anger as the train finally started to slow into Groton-on-Ware. His earlier despair had given way to anger, and by the time the train came to his destination he had worked himself into a foul mood. He kicked his trunk again rattling Hedwig's cage. He was of half a mind to just stay on the train and ride to the end of the line and then disappear or something.
He reminded himself that that was the angry pig headed side of him that probably shouldn't be indulged. He would get off at Groton-on-Ware where he probably would be safe and he wouldn't have to deal with the Dursley's, and when he thought logically about it Snape, or what ever had been arranged for him was probably better than the Dursley's.
The station at which the train pulled in was little more than a raised yellow brick platform with a few broken down benches and a weathered sign. A dirt road ran by the platform to the left, and thick dark trees obscured the rest of the area. Harry could hear a river somewhere to his left and scattered in the distance were faint lights.
Harry collected his trunk, Hedwig, and dragged himself off the train. The air outside was thick and soupy. His throat stung from the sudden readjustment from the cold air-conditioned coach.
Then he looked around as the train rattled off suddenly feeling very stupid. He was standing alone on a platform in the left of nowhere in Yorkshire waiting for somebody, and the platform was empty. One of the lights flickered and in the distance Harry could head some kind of animal rustling in the underbrush. He stiffened. He put his trunk and Hedwig's cage down and carefully fingered his wand in his back pocket.
"Harry Potter?" Some one suddenly said to his left. " Lets see in then"
"See what?" Harry snapped. It took most of his will power to throw a hex at who ever this was.
Harry found himself facing a small, skinny, black haired woman with dark brown eyes, and an unpleasantly familiar narrow face. She was dressed in black workpants, work boots, and a dark sweatshirt despite the midsummer heat. She might have been rather pretty if her small thin mouth had not been set into an unpleasant sneer.
"Your scar. And give me the letter"
Harry, still holding Hedwig's cage tightly in one hand, and supporting his trunk with the other, shook his head sideways in an effort to move his hair off his forehead. He failed and the woman leaned in uncomfortably close to him, and roughly brushed the hair off his forehead with a grubby finger before leaning back. Harry felt her rough finger brush over his scar. The woman stank of chemical fertilizer and hothouse flowers. The smell made his empty stomach lurch.
"The one Severus sent you," she said apparently not caring about the effect her sudden unexpectedly intimate touch had on Harry.
Harry flinched at the casual use of his Potion's Professor's first name, but handed the letter over. The woman turned it over between her long fingers and gingerly opened in read it and then stuffed it into the back pocket of her work pants
She nodded to Harry obviously satisfied with the results of both him and the parchment, but she did not look any less sullen.
"Abigail Adler" she said without further preamble " Cars' over there"
Harry didn't budge; he was again struck by the unpleasant sense of familiarity with the woman, as well as a profound sense of distrust. " How do I know your not one of Voldemort's agents" He blurted, and was surprisingly relieved when Ms. Adler didn't flinch at You-Know-Who's name. She in fact didn't even bat an eyelid.
She swung her black hair over her shoulder with a neat flick of her head and scuffed her black work boots against the dirt in annoyance. "Would a death eater drive a pile of shite like that?" She cocked her head over at the car; a yellow Fiat missing half it's front bumper. Harry had to admit a death eater would not drive a pile of shite like that. A death eater would in fact not drive at all.
"Can I see you arms? Please?"
"For the mark"
"Don't be an arse Potter. I'm a just a mere muggle." She spat at him. But she still rolled up the sleeves of her sweatshirt. No mark, just smears of dirt, grease and dead plant matter. She rolled her sleeves back down.
That matter settled Ms. Adler helped Harry load his trunk into the boot of the tiny Fiat, and then strapped it closed with bungee cords, as the car's boot could not contain Harry's school truck with out help. Hedwig's cage with Hedwig inside went on the cramped back seat and Harry got into the passenger's side next to Ms. Adler. Hedwig hooted indignantly at him as he pushed his seat back further in an attempt to get more legroom.
Ms. Adler started the car, at these close quarters with her; she really did stink of plant fertilizer. It was making him a little dizzy.
The drive was not long and they spent it in silence. Harry spent most of the time watching Ms. Adler. Her grim expression didn't change for the whole ride and if possible it deepened when the Fiat pulled into the driveway of a tiny stone cottage.
There were no streetlights on the road. Harry could not make out any details beyond what the Fiat's headlights had illuminated. He could tell there was another cottage to the right of him, and noises behind him told him that there was a cow-pasture nearby. The particular cottage that the Fiat was parked in front of was engaged in a slow slat to the left. Thick climbing plants of indeterminate species covered most of the front, and appeared to be making a very successful bid to pull off the cottage's fresh thatch. To the left of the cottage Harry could make out a greenhouse.
A small sign was set into the stone wall surrounding the front garden. 'Green Cottage' it read.
"Get your bird Mr. Potter. I'll bring your trunk in the morning"
Harry hauled Hedwig's cage out of the back seat and followed Ms. Adler towards the cottage.
"May I let her out?" He asked. " She doesn't like being locked up at night"
""Yes, I should think so."
Harry put her cage down the walkway in front of the cottage and opened the door to Hedwig's cage. His owl hopped out and after nibbling at his fingers affectionately took off and disappeared into the night.
"Finished?" asked Ms. Adler.
She fumbled with her key ring and pushed open the cottage door. She switched on the light and looked back at Harry.
In the better light Harry could see how closely spaced Adler's features were. Her hair looked unwashed and had frown lines at the sides of her mouth.
"I'm going to make tea since I'm not going to be getting anymore sleep tonight" She continued, the tone of her voice implied that it was entirely his fault that he wouldn't be getting anymore sleep. "Would you like some?"
"Then go to bed. You're room is the first on the left"
It took a moment for Harry to realize where he was. He was in a bed, not in his bed he amended, the mattress was lumpy and so were the pillows. Sunlight streamed into the small room from a single square window above the bed. A feather stuck out of the corner of his pillow tickling his ear. The sheets were threadbare, but very clean. Folded on the end of the bed was a brightly colored quilt that had quite obviously seen much better days.
It was almost like the Burrow, almost, but not quite. The whole room leaned to the left.
The right wall of the small room curved inwards towards the center. The left wall curved out so that it must curve in again in the room next door. The walls were a patch work of blocks of rough cut stone, pale modern mortar, and yellowing mortar, shot through with brown horse-hair that Harry was sure dated back to before the turn of the century. The room wasn't any bigger than Dudley's second bedroom, though infinitely more welcoming, though the dimensions were much more awkward.
He could hear voices through the unvarnished floorboards. There was an older male voice and the voice he recognized as Abigail Adler, his new would-be guardian. Below the human voices, two owls squawked querulously. He could smell bacon and eggs frying.
The thought of Abigail Adler's oh-so-familiar sneer brought back night before came back to him in a rush. Harry quickly rolled out of bed and pulled on yesterday's clothing that he had haphazardly strewn around the room the night before.
He exited the room on to the second floor landing of the cottage. Beneath his bare feet the floorboards creaked ominously.
"Mr. Potter if would do your character a great credit for you not to lurk up there" Ms. Adler's voice drifted up from the ground floor.
" And Mr. Potter" said the other male voice. "Please relieve these owl's of your post and get rid of them before they relieve us of our breakfast"
Harry hurried down the cottage's creaking stairs and came into a remarkably cluttered kitchen. It, like the rest of the cottage seemed to be barely big enough to contain the necessary furniture. And like the rest of the cottage, it slanted distinctively to the left.
The kitchen managed to contain a fairly good-sized kitchen table, a bank of cabinets and attendant counters with a small fridge stuffed neatly between them and a ridiculously old gas stove. A chimney and a wood stove squatted, unused in the corer of the room.
At the back of the kitchen an uneven hole had been cut into the stone wall and a door to the greenhouse that Harry had spotted the night before had been placed set into it. Beyond the door was a lush wall of unseasonable greenery.
Hedwig and the bad tempered owl from the night before were perched on the back of a kitchen chair fighting over a kipper.
Ms. Adler and two old men sat at the table. Alder was deftly cutting toast into the most neat and precise soldiers Harry had ever seen. She wore a black long sleeved shirt and black jeans. She looked up at Harry as he entered the kitchen and smiled tightly at him. "Morning Mr. Potter" she said and got up from the table, as she busied herself spooning eggs and bacon onto a plate for Harry.
The older of the two old men sitting at the table looked over at Harry appraisingly. "So you're the famous Harry Potter," He said, with a hint of amusement.
He was tall and skinny with a lot of very white hair and square glasses perched in the bird's nest of hair on top of his head. He wore a tweed sport coat over a very wrinkled white shirt. He had parchments stuck haphazardly into the pockets of his sport coat and a wand poked out form his left sleeve. He reminded Harry of Dumbledore, a Dumbledore who was just a slightly eccentric old man, instead of completely incomprehensibly alien. Which, Harry decided, was probably not the worst thing to remind him of. At least he didn't have that unpleasant familiarity that Ms. Adler produced in him
He held out his hand for Harry to shake " Its good to finally meet you Mr. Potter, Albus has told me so much about you. I'm Digory Kirke"
" Its nice to meet you Mr. Kirke." Harry shook his hand as he sat down, shooing Hedwig and the other owl off his chair.
Hedwig obediently left the back of his chair and flew in circles around the kitchen before alighting on to of the fridge where she looked down imperiously at Harry.
"Just Digory please"
"If you don't mind sir, I'd rather not"
Kirke looked blank for a moment then understanding dawned on his face.
"Oh course. How insensitive of me"
The other owl squawked and took a dive at Kirke's hands before the older wizard shooed him towards Harry with a sweep of his wand.
The dark owl again bit Harry's finger as he attempted to retrieve his mail from it. " Bastard!" he told the owl which slowly blinked at him and then turned to finish the kipper Hedwig had abandoned.
Harry sucked on his finger again and tuned the envelope over to open it.
If this letter has found you, then you may have more common sense than I had originally thought. Congratulations.
Only the Headmaster and I know your current location. Not now or ever shall your friends be told of your whereabouts. They have been informed that they may longer send you owls because of security measures enacted at Privet Drive. I have no illusions as to your temperament and that you will find some way to contact your friends through Green Cottage's wards. Nevertheless, may I attempt to impress upon you the absolute necessity of secrecy in this situation.
Mrs. Adler is one of the Order's greatest secretes. She must remain that way. Her location must remain hidden if not for your own safety, than for hers. You might remember there are other people in this war; you would do well to consider their safety.
Beside him, there was a flurry of feathers as Mrs. Adler shooed the owls out of the kitchen and into the back garden.
Professor Sprout tells me your Herbology marks are competent enough that you may be able to help her with her work in repayment for her protection.
Mrs. Adler put a heaping plate of bacon and eggs in front of him, a pile of meticulous slices of toast sat next to the eggs. Harry had never been presented with such a tremendous amount of food outside of Hogwarts or the Burrow.
"I'm to work then. Explaining to Lady Nesbith why her prize begonias are rotting"
The other old man who until a minute ago had seemed to be doing his best not to look at Harry glanced up at Mrs. Adler.
"Why they rotting then?" he said.
"Over watering obviously, Granddad. " Mrs. Adler replied, "Takes a botanist to tell her though." She looked over at Harry. " I leave you in Professor Kirke's capable hands. Your trunk is in the front room"
"Wait. Professor Snape, says I should help you with your..." he paused uncertainly ".... with your work"
" I'm just a glorified gardener. Can you repot flowers, lift heavy things and dig holes?"
"Of course!" Harry poked irritably at the glistening yellow yoke of an egg with a fork and began to mop it up with his bread. "I've been doing that for the Dursley's since I was five."
"Tomorrow then. I want Professor Kirke to finish his magical rubbish today"
She was gone before Harry had a chance to say another word. Outside he heard the car start up. He half-heartedly started to load the egg whites onto the remains of his toast.
Professor Kirke leaned over to Harry. " Ignore Abigail, and ignore him" he nodded over towards the other old man who was shooting a glare fit to kill towards Harry and Professor Kirke. "Not one ounce of good manners in the whole family. Their legendary for their stunning ability to be unpleasant to everybody"
Harry nodded not knowing what to say.
"My breakfast got eaten by your blasted owl," said Mrs. Adler's grandfather sourly. He got up from the table and stomped out of the kitchen.
"Brilliant minds though" Kirke added the kitchen door closed with a wave of his wand. " For muggles" he added absently.
Harry looked at Professor Kirke again. " You're a wizard." He said. 'But Mrs. Adler and her granddad are muggles"
Kirke nodded vigorously his glasses almost tipping off his head. " Professor Snape has me in charge of strengthening the wards around this place. Not that they're already impressive. Did you see the climbing plants when you came in last night? Some of my best work I think. Though Abigail helped me in selecting the species. I would not have thought Honeysuckle would be the plant to use. " Professor Kirke leaned towards him conspiratorially "I was going to use common ivy."
Harry spent his day sitting out on the front step staring into space and idly drawing patterns in the dust with the tip of his wand. Professor Kirke had finished improving the wards and then left after telling Harry that he'd be returning to recheck the wards once a week, and if Harry had any problems with his summer school work, don't hesitate to ask.
Harry nodded and with out Professor Kirke's agreeably distracting presence he suddenly felt completely drained of all energy and emotion. For the entire summer his mood had been oscillating between fits of extreme anger and bouts of feeling completely and utterly worthless. So much that sometimes at the Dursley's he had just stopped doing anything, and curled up in the nearest corner and cried, and didn't care what the consequences. Right then he just felt empty and drained. He leaned back and bumped his head on the doorframe and ignored the stinging ache in the back of his head.
Moreover, he would have sat there for the rest of the day doing exactly what he had been doing had Adler's grandfather not dragged him bodily inside and insisted he eat lunch.
"You look like a uselessly short scare-crow," The old man told him, sneering. Harry sneered right back at him and the two of them shared a hearty meal of bread, cheese, and ham in a forced silence.
Harry eyed the pickled onions suspiciously and refused to touch the acidic smelling lumpy brown spread in an unmarked jar that was offered.
After the meal was finished, old man regarded Harry expectantly with his black eyes, but didn't say anything. Eventually Harry, for lack of anything better to do retrieved his schoolbooks and parchment from his trunk and started to work.
He wrote a letter to Hermione, which he gave to Hedwig, who returned looking rumpled and annoyed an hour later, Harry's letter still with her. He tried again with Ron, only to find the same result. He could think of three reasons for this, one that they weren't taking his mail, which was very unlikely. Two, that Voldemort was some-how blocking his mail, which was possibly but unlikely considering the ward's he'd watched being erected. Alternatively, three, which to him seemed most likely, the wards on the cottage, prevented the Owl Post from finding their destination.
He thought of the bad tempered owl that delivered the letter's from Snape, probably Snape's own owl and possibly tied into the wards of the house enabling it to come and go as it's pleased. Harry frowned, folded the two letters that he had written up and tucked them into one of his books. The next time the owl appeared he would catcvh it and force it to deliver his letters he decided, baring that he would try to give them to his friends when he got to Hogwarts. Proof he hadn't forgotten them, he just couldn't write to them.
Mrs. Adler returned to the cottage at five, nervously pulling her long fingers through her grubby black hair. She brought with her a thick unpleasantly organic smell and a mesh bag of lumpy bluish mushrooms.
Harry sat at the kitchen table with his Transfiguration textbook open in front of him and a lukewarm cup of tea he had felt brave enough to make an hour ago. Mrs. Adler's grandfather sat across from him, making a show of ignoring him completely. The old man was studiously piecing small gears into the case of an antique pocket watch. A jeweler's loupe was glued to his eye.
"You smell like pig shite" he said. Dropping the loupe from his eye, he regarded his granddaughter disdainfully.
"Cow shite" she replied and carded her fingers through her greasy hair again, teasing out snags. " Did you have a good day Mr. Potter?"
"The best" replied Harry sarcastically.
Mrs. Adler smiled tightly and not very kindly at him " Is all your wizard rubbish finished then?"
"Good" Mrs. Adler put down her mesh bag of mushrooms on the counter and started banging around with the kettle and teapot.
"Granddad get out," she said to her grandfather, who got up from the table his watchmaker's tools folded away neatly into their felt cloth. He glared daggers at Harry and his granddaughter.
Mrs. Adler continued making tea, filling the kettle from the creaking sink, muttering under her breath as she repeatedly thumbed the pilot light to get the gas stove lit and measuring the tea into the teapot, in three meticulously even spoonfuls.
Finally she sat down at the table across from Harry with an empty teacup in her hands.
" I hope you know you do not have my protection because the Headmaster told me I had an obligation to fulfill," she snarled at him, her fingers going white against the teacup, her gold wedding band scraped against the china.
Harry slammed his book closed "And who says I need your protection? I had plenty of protection at the Dursley's" Harry snarled back.
"Which is why you ran away isn't it?" Mrs. Adler replied nastily.
Harry flushed in humiliated rage as she continued. " Just to get the facts straight in your head. I have no obligation to you or to your headmaster. He labors under the delusion that his control over my family members gives him control over me"
Behind them the kettle whistled and Mrs. Adler got up from the table to fix the tea.
"Then why on earth are you protecting me?"
Mrs. Adler looked over her shoulder at Harry, flicking her black hair out of her face. "Because Severus Snape asked me to."
Harry went to bed still angry. Abigail Adler was as far as he concerned, a nasty, spiteful, mean, unpleasant woman. (And she fed you more for breakfast than the Dursley's did in an entire day, a small voice in the back of his head muttered) And what ever her connection to Professor Snape was just because the stupid git had asked her to protect him (What protection could a muggle give him from Voldemort anyway, even a muggle with spectacularly complicated wards woven into the very stone of her home. Even now he could feel them tickling at the back of his mind) it didn't in anyway mean that he owned Snape anything. (Well no more than he had owed the man for repeatedly saving his life.)
Harry went sleep in a spectacularly bad mood, and just as he fell asleep he realized that he hadn't thought of Sirius once today.
He awoke early the next morning, from indistinct dreams that he couldn't remember, but left his skin crawling with revulsion.
The cottage was silent, and it the gray half light he could barely make out his hands in front of him
He heard the floorboards on the landing outside his room creak as some one walked down the hall. Harry swung himself out of bed and carefully put his feet on the floor
It took him five minutes of agonizingly slow movement to cross the tiny room mapping out each and every creak in the floor. Finally he made it to the door and cracked it open ever so slightly. The landing outside his room was abandoned. Who ever it had been walking past his room was now gone
Harry frowned and stepped out onto the landing, the board beneath his food creaking almost the instant he put any weight on it. Harry stilled, listening for any signs of movement from either of the other rooms. He let out a quiet breath and then with the same agonizing slowness that he had used to cross his bedroom to make his way down the stairs into the safety of the kitchen's stone floor.
4:54 the red digital screen on the old gas stove blinked as Harry entered the kitchen. He had gone to bed awfully early, and his body was used to wakening up at ridiculously early times.
"Do you intend to make breakfast Mr. Potter?" said a voice over his left shoulder, Harry turned quickly to find Mrs. Adler smirking at him wearing a threadbare bathrobe over a cotton nightgown, both of which were black. She had appeared behind him with out even making a sound just like the first time he had met him at the train station. " Or are you going to run away again?"
"Do you want me to?" Harry snapped. " Make breakfast, I mean" He flushed angrily.
"Not particularly. I'm fussy enough about food."
Mrs. Adler sounded bored and more than a little tired. Her hair looked worse than ever in the dim light. She yawned.
Mrs. Adler yawned again. "Do you still intend to help me with my work?" She asked.
"It's not like there is anything else to do!"
"Well then I suggest you get some more sleep" She turned around on her heel, her bathrobe billowing around her and returned upstairs leaving Harry standing alone in the middle of the kitchen.