Sequel to Blind Faith. Harry's second year at Hogwarts begins and something sinister stalks the halls. Muggleborns are being petrified by someting unknown, and just who could be the Heir of Slyth...
Chapter 2: Mending Fences
Harry woke the next morning to a screech and the sound of shattering crockery. Galvanized by the noise, he threw himself out of bed. Unfortunately, half asleep and still wrapped in bedclothes, Harry found himself in a tangled heap on the floor boards. Tearing free he half crawled, half ran to the door. Cursing, he tried to remember any of the defence spells he had learned last term as he headed for the stairs.
Harry had just reached the top of the stairs, wand in hand, when he heard Dudley behind him. "What's going on?" the smaller boy asked.
:"Stay here Duds," Harry replied, trying to sound calm. Just then, they were interrupted by Petunia's voice, and she sounded nearly murderous, "Harry Potter!"
Heedless of what obstacles might be on the stairs, Harry leapt down them, two and three at a time. He'd just made it to the Kitchen doorway, when Harry heard a sound he never thought to hear again. Between the crash of broken pottery and Petunia's, quite predatory, growls, was the unmistakable sound of a snake snickering.
Heart hammering in his chest, Harry edged into the kitchen. Extending all his senses to the limit, the only thing he could make out with his inner eye was Aunt Petunia. There was something else though, something he could sense with his heart more than any of his senses.
"Hedwig," he breathed.
As if her name was a conjuration, the moment he whispered it, the Coatl crashed against Harry's chest, much like she had just weeks ago. Unlike then, however, she wasn't a limp form. Hedwig coiled excitedly around her master and slithered inside his shirt. Harry began to dance about wildly, caught between tears of joy and uncontrollable laughter caused by her feathers against his bare skin. A stamp of Aunt Petunia's foot, however, caused them both to freeze. Harry had a feeling that Hedwig had gotten them both into quite a bit of trouble.
"I thought you said that thing was gone!" snapped Harry's aunt sharply.
"She was," Harry replied as he lovingly stroked her feathers. "I thought she died - Oh, Hedwig, I'd of waited for you if I would have known." The Coatl, as if to assure Harry, that all was forgiven, began rubbing her snout against his cheek in a very cat-like way.
"Well, that's all fine and good," grumbled Petunia. "But your snake has made a horrible mess that will have to be cleaned up..." Petunia paused; looking at the two wrapped up in their reunion and heaved a mental sigh. "So take that beast upstairs and get your cousin ready. We have to be at the station in an hour to meet the early train. And no coming downstairs without your shoes until I say it's alright!" she called after him.
The moment Harry got back upstairs; he was grabbed by Dudley, who began rattling off all kinds of questions about what had happened downstairs. Harry began to explain, but was cut off by a squeal of delight from Dudley as Hedwig freed herself from his pyjama top and flicked her tongue in his direction.
Doing his best to answer all his cousin's questions, Harry got Dudley in and out of the bathroom in good time. Of late, Dudley had been able to handle most of his morning chores by himself. But with all the excitement, between Hedwig's return and their trip to Diagon Alley, Harry knew some supervision was needed.
Twenty minutes later, both boys came down dressed neatly with Hedwig draped invisibly over Harry's shoulders. When they arrived in the Kitchen, Petunia had cleaned up the mess and had a simple meal of tea and muffins before leaving for the station. At the front door, Petunia asked, "What about that little monster, Harry? I'm not leaving it alone to destroy my house."
"It's alright Aunt Petunia, "Harry reassured. "Hedwig's coming with us."
"And you think no one is going to notice a flying snake on the train? Where is it anyway?"
"Right here," answered Harry as he patted her feathers. Petunia yelped when Hedwig chose that moment to become visible as she perched on Harry's shoulders.
"Saints preserve us!" she moaned. "Now I have to worry where that thing is every second of the day? It could kill us all in our sleep!"
"Oh Aunt Petunia, she won't hurt you." Harry said dismissively.
"Not unless you ask, my master," came Hedwig's silky and amused reply in his ear.
"You're not helping," Harry only half admonished his pet under Petunia's disapproving gaze. Harry was so wrapped up in Hedwig and Petunia in locking the house; they didn't notice the shocked expression on Dudley's face as he stared at the Coatl.
With only a little more fussing from Petunia, they walked to the station. There were a few called greetings from some of the neighbours. Mr. Evers, he lived a few doors down, was a teacher at the local elementary school. He'd donated some of his time coaching Dudley over the winter in bringing his reading skills up. Later they passed Mrs Figg. A friendly old woman that smelled of cats, and also radiated magic, Harry realized for the first time. Harry made plans to visit her at least once before they moved, to find out if she was a witch.
When they arrived at the station and got their tickets, Dudley led them on the train and dragged them from one seat to another until he found just the right ones. When the train pulled out of the station, Harry settled back to enjoy the ride. Harry loved the train. The constant motion and clacking of the wheels was soothing. Dudley, on the other hand, was everywhere. Any new experience, to him, was a great adventure. He bounded Between Petunia and Harry, describing everything he saw and petting an invisible and infinitely patient Hedwig.
It was only as they neared their stop in London that Harry started to feel uneasy. The meeting with Professor Snape in the Leaky Cauldron was only minutes away and it was tying his stomach in knots. Harry knew he'd have to confront the professor eventually, but it didn't mean he was looking forward to it. After arriving at the station, the three made their way toward the wizard's pub.
Passing through the front door was like entering another world. Magic washed over Harry's weakened senses like a low wave. Luxuriating in the feeling for a bit, he barely noticed his aunt and cousin's gasps. He knew they would be seeing a pub that looked as if it were pulled from a hundred years before, with most of the patrons looking quite scraggly. Not all of them, however, were completely human. Harry could sense a goblin, likely from Gringotts, sitting on a high stool at the bar, and a house elf meekly standing by beside the table of its master. What he didn't appreciate, was the reception he got when people realized who he was.
"Harry Potter!" came a voice from behind the bar. "It's an honour to see you again!"
Out from the shadows, Tom, the toothless bartender came around the bar and took Harry's hand. "Would the young master like me to show him too a booth?"
"It's really not necessary-yeaiiii!" Harry yelped as he was nearly pulled off his feet by the barkeep as they made for an empty booth. Petunia, trailing behind, barely had time to move, before Tom had helped a humiliated Harry sit down at the table. The entire pub had gone silent, watching the little scene and Harry decided that he'd rather the whole thing die down, rather than argue.
"This yer family then, Harry," asked Tom as Petunia and Dudley sat down. Unseen by anybody, Hedwig had stretched herself out from the back of Harry's collar and was resting partly on his head with her wings half spread for balance. Waiting for the old barkeep to try and touch Harry again.
"This is my aunt and cousin," Harry explained. "Could you get us a couple butterbeers and some hot tea please? Two cups if you would, we'll be expecting somebody else in a bit."
"When Tom went for their drinks, Harry cast out his senses for Professor Snape. He searched for several moments and was about to give up when he felt the potion-master's presence across the room. He almost hadn't spotted it; the professor's mental shields were clamped down so tightly, that it was even dampening his magical signature. Excusing himself, Harry went over to the professor's table.
Harry stood silently, waiting for Professor Snape to acknowledge him. Snape, sounding a bit nervous, was quick to oblige.
"Take a seat, Mr. Potter."
Harry paused for a brief moment before sitting. While their relationship had been strained as of late, Severus had been calling him Harry since the Christmas Holidays. It felt odd for Snape to be so formal when they were essentially alone. Grudgingly, the boy sat down and waited while Severus erected several privacy spells around them.
"So," Snape said when he'd finished. "Here we are..."
"Right," returned Harry uncomfortably.
"You've been shutting me out since our confrontation with Quirrell," the potions-master began carefully. "If it's because of Hedwig, you have to know there was noting I could do to save her."
Shaking his head, Harry answered, "You know what this is about," he said in an accusing tone. "You were working for Voldemort before he disappeared the first time. You were working for him the night my parents were killed, weren't you."
Severus rocked back in his chair as if he'd been slapped. Struggling to gather his thoughts, he started, "Harry..."
"Just tell me!" the boy cried. Hedwig, still invisible coiled herself on the table before the Harry in a ready stance, her jaws half open to shoot venom.
Sitting for a moment to collect himself, Snape heaved a sigh and said, "Alright, but you have to promise not to interrupt until I've finished." At Harry's nod, he continued. "Firstly, I was working for the Dark Lord then." Snape held up a hand and begged, "Please let me finish before you condemn me. Neither of them noticed a drop of clear fluid drop to the table between them and begin eating through the wood. "I did work for him, but not as you'd expect."
"For as far back as I can remember, I'd always been told that there were two kinds of wizards, those who were of pureblood descent and those who were not. Raised in a pureblood household, I was always taught that we were better than the half bloods. I never met one until I entered Hogwarts. My time there as a student was - tumultuous and by the time I graduated, I was full of anger towards just about everyone. It was then that Lucius Malfoy came and offered a release."
Snape took a sip of his drink, from the smell, it certainly wasn't butterbeer, before continuing. Harry, on the other hand, was dreading the rest of the story. Everything Severus had said so far made him think that the potions-master must have had some hand in h is parent's death. Clearing his throat, Snape continued his story.
"I was young, stupid, and full of ideals that didn't reflect real life. At the time, the Dark Lord hadn't begun full scale raids on half bloods or muggles so I had no doubts when I joined. The power and satisfaction he promised was like a drug to my system. It wasn't until my first raid that I understood what I was in danger of becoming.
"It was a small muggle village; we were supposedly going to give them a good scare. In retrospect, I expect we did, but it went much further than that. The moment we arrived, the others began casting unforgivables; these were dark spells so terrible, that to cast any one of them was an automatic life sentence to Azkaban prison. I watched as the Dark Lord tortured a girl, not much older than you are now, until she went insane. He killed her right in front of her parents, before finishing them as well. I knew then that I'd made a foolish, possibly fatal mistake. I couldn't see, however a way out of it on my own."
"Dumbledore," reasoned Harry.
Nodding, Snape agreed, "Dumbledore. He was the only person I could think of that wouldn't have judged me on the spot. He agreed to help me, but at a price. I became a spy for him, reporting everything I saw in the deatheater ranks and reporting it back to him. It was then that I was hired on as the potions professor at Hogwarts. Between the headmaster and I, we had the Dark Lord believing that the idea had been entirely his. As a double agent, I supplied information to the order and false information to the Dark Lord."
"And my parents?" Harry asked. "Why did he kill them?"
"First," Snape began, "We all knew that your parents were targets, but I didn't know about the raid on their house in Godric's Hollow until after it was over. We thought they were safe. Their house was under the Fidelius charm; unbeknownst to us, however, the Dark Lord got hold of him and extracted their location.
I want to be honest with you, Harry. Your father and I didn't get along. There was too much - history between us. But I swear to you on my magic and my very life, I did not betray you or your family, not that night and not ever"
Harry breathed a little sigh of relief. All through Severus' explanation, he'd been observing the professor's aura. Even with Snape's defences and Harry's weakened senses, he could tell that Snape was being genuine.
"I believe you," Harry said at last. "And I'm sorry I've been avoiding you for so long. It's just there's so much I don't know about my parent's deaths and why I was spared." Harry seemed lost in thought for several minutes before he spoke ever so quietly, "He wanted me to join him, you know."
"Voldemort," Harry supplied. "He called the headmaster a fool for underestimating me and asked me to join him."
"Obviously you said no," came Severus' dry response.
"Of course, the man killed my parents. It got me thinking, though. There had to be something about me that Voldemort and even Mr. Malfoy sees that Professor Dumbledore doesn't.
"He used to," Snape mumbled lamely.
"You remember what I said before about a prophecy?" Severus asked.
"The way it's worded, you could the child prophesized to end the Dark Lord's reign forever. The full text of it is recorded in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. Nobody knows the entirety of it except the seer that said it and Albus Dumbledore. From the Dark Lord's network of spies, we know the opening verses and it is as thus:
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...
Born to those who have thrice defied him, Born as the seventh month dies...
"This was all that could be discovered about it before Dumbledore could put up a silencing charm," Severus explained.
"Born as the seventh month dies... July 31st, my birthday."
"And Neville Longbottom's as well," Answered Snape. "His Parents were aurors as well, and had faced the Dark Lord on several occasions."
"It could have been either of us," Harry Breathed.
"Yes," agreed the potions-master, "Except when the Dark Lord came after you, he was defeated, by you. At that point, Dumbledore was sure that the prophecy pointed to you alone. It was only after your car accident, that he began to doubt your ability to defeat the Dark Lord. Apparently, in his opinion, you are helpless without your sight."
"But that's stupid!
"On this point, both you and I totally agree, even without the knowledge of your special sense, you've proven to be highly intelligent and to have an incredibly huge magical potential. The fact is the old man is blinded by the possibility that if you are the child of prophecy, his negligence in placing you with Petunia may have doomed the wizarding world."
"So he's making Neville fit the prophecy and hoping that it will work?"
Inclining his head, Severus answered, "Yes, and for all we know it may be what the prophecy demands. There is no way to tell without knowing it in full. Even then, its interpretation is purely subjective."
"Then you think I'm not the prophecy child?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Actually after last term, I've quite decided you are."
"So why haven't you told Dumbledore about my second sight?"
Unable to meet Harry's sightless gaze, Severus stared at his drink for a time before continuing. "You've seen how Dumbledore treats Longbottom, do you know why?"
"I know he tells Neville lots of stories about his parents when they were aurors." Harry answered thoughtfully. "He tends let him bend the rules a bit more than most people."
"It's more than that," murmured Snape. "Do you really think that the Dark Lord could infiltrate Hogwarts, with all its protections and the headmaster not is aware?"
Horrified by what the potions-master was implying, Harry shook his head silently.
"That's not to say that Dumbledore let him in, but I think he may have positioned things so Longbottom could intervene at the proper moment. Last year may have quite possibly have been a test that, thanks to you, Neville passed resoundingly. That, along with that damnable cloak he gave him for Christmas and the extra tutoring Longbottom will be receiving this term... The headmaster is moulding the boy into a weapon against the Dark lord, regardless to any dangers that may be present."
"He was going to do that with me, wasn't he?" Harry asked quietly.
"Yes. Your accident, in taking your normal sight, may have saved you from losing your childhood. He will do what he deems necessary to prepare Neville to face Voldemort one day,"
"Why didn't you tell him about my gifts and potential?"
"This time last year, even up to Christmas Holidays, I would have." answered Snape. "The fact is I have grown to respect you and your maturity more than I do many adults. While I do owe Dumbledore a great deal, taking your childhood away from you won't help. A wise man once told me that one must remember what they are fighting for, or the cause is already lost. As to you preparing for the Dark Lord, I think between you, I and your special tutors at Hogwarts, we'll have you ready if necessary. In the mean time, you will able to avoid the old man's machinations for a bit longer."
"Right then," Harry said, rubbing his temples. "Maybe we can hold off telling him then. If it's alright, I have a favour to ask... two really."
With an arched eyebrow, Severus asked, "What?"
"Well, Hermione gave me a book last term about past wizards that were blind. In it there was mention of a spell called Animadvirto de sanus (sight from sound). The only thing is that there were no wand movements or anything about the spells limitations."
Surprised, Severus asked, "And why would you even be interested, Harry? Your second sight would be clearer and less easily confused."
Nodding, Harry agreed, "You're right. But I don't want people knowing about that ability yet and... well I... wanttotryoutforQuidditchthisyear."
"I wanted to try out for Quidditch this year. Draco took me flying last spring and it was incredible. I want to be able to do it all the time."
"So there is a bit of your father in you after all," Severus said with an amused snort. "Very well, I'll see what I can find out about your spell. You know, Harry, you let the hat sort you into the wrong house, you'd have done well in Slytherin."
"So I've been told." Harry returned with a smirk.
"You said there was another favour?"
"Yes," answered Harry a little less confidently. "It's more for Aunt Petunia. Do you think you'd be able to start coming by the house again? She's been beside herself all summer."
"She misses me?" Snape asked in an almost unbelieving tone.
"A lot, though you'd never get her to admit it. She cornered me yesterday and kind of pushed me into meeting you today."
Smirking to himself, Severus muttered, "That woman can certainly get her way when she wants."
"You have no idea," returned Harry with a cheeky grin."
Banishing the privacy spells around the booth, Severus stood, smoothed his robes and waited for Harry to join him. "Let's go join your family, then, shall we?" They both wandered back to the table where his aunt and Dudley were waiting. Petunia was sipping at her tea, and seeing their approach, poured another cup for Professor Snape. Dudley, enamoured with his butterbeer, jumped up at the sight of his cousin.
"Harry!" he called. "Have you tried this? It's great!"
Harry, however, was having a hard time paying attention to his cousin. Hedwig, who'd just landed back on Harry's shoulders from her perch on the other table, darted inside Harry's shirt and began exploring all over again. With a forked tongue and thousands of feathers moving about the most sensitive parts of his torso, Harry could barely keep a straight face. Every few seconds he would twitch or jerk in some odd direction with a strangled gasp.
"Everything alright, Harry?" asked Petunia with a peculiar gleam in her eye. From the tone of her voice, Harry was sure she knew what was going on, and was taking some pleasure in his antics.
"FINE!" Harry answered in a too-high voice. Looking for some escape from the audience he was attracting in the pub, he blurted, "Why don't you and profe-eEe-ssor Snape talk a bit, and I'll show Dudley Diagon Alley?"
The amusement left both Petunia's eyes and aura immediately, to be replaced by worry. "I don't know..." she started.
"It's alright, Aunt," Harry soothed. "Now Hedwig's back, she'll protect us."
"What do you mean, she's back?" Severus asked.
The Coatl chose that moment to stick her now-visible head out of Harry's collar and stare at the potions-master. His gasp told Harry that he had seen her.
"So can we?" Harry asked plaintively, sounding a bit like Dudley when whining for something.
"Hedwig is more than capable of protecting them, Petunia," Severus assured. "Let them go explore."
Alright," conceded Petunia, outnumbered and wanting to have time alone with Severus. "But only for an hour. We'll meet you at..."
"Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour," supplied Snape.
"Right then," Petunia sighted. "Harry..."
"He won't be out of my sight." Harry interrupted with a grin.
"Ha-Ha" his aunt snorted. "Just be careful."
"They'll be alright Petunia," Snape soothed as the boys moved away. "Harry had an amazing ability to take care of himself."
"I guess you're right," she relented. "It's not like the boy goes looking for trouble."
Petunia spent the next couple minutes slapping Severus' back as he recovered from choking on his tea.
Two small boys stood in the rear courtyard of the pub. It was close and dingy with trashcans piled haphazardly along its sides.
"This is it?" asked Dudley disbelievingly. "Not much to look at, is it?"
Smiling, Harry answered, "This is nothing... Here, take my wand."
Excited, as he'd never been allowed to touch it before, the blond took the proffered wand. "It feels all tingly," he whispered in wonder.
Harry, feeling along the wall, grinned as he felt the outlines of several bricks. "Come here Duds, I want you to use the wand and tap these bricks... here, here, and here"
Doing just as Harry said, Dudley gaped at the wall as it shifted about and opened to display something out of a dream.
In his best imitation of Hagrid, Harry announced, "Welcome to Diagon Alley Dudley... And close your mouth or a fly will land in it."