Chapter One: You Know What Day
When the sun rose on the morning of July 31st, Harry Potter found himself excited because of two things: firstly, that it was his sixteenth birthday at last, and secondly, that it was finally saturday. He didn't know which wait seemed longest between the year and the week. It could well be the week. Saturday was a big event for Harry, and he always anticipated them eagerly, because saturday was the day he could escape from the horrible Dursleys. Once a week, he was allowed to spend the day with a member of the order of the phoenix. These visits were a beacon of hope in the comparative gloom that was his school holiday, and July 31st was the outing he was looking forward to. Today he was going to be spending the day with Lupin. In his last letter, he had hinted that they might do something special for Harry's birthday, and when Harry hadn't done anything special for his birthdays ever, this was certainly something to excited about.
He woke up at about half past seven, which was quite a lot earlier than normal. Most other days he preferred to languish in bed, after all, there was nothing else to do, but today, there was a reason for him to wake up. Lupin was going to pick him up at about nine o' clock, so according to the clock on his bedside table, he had an hour and a half to get dressed, pack his bags and sit hopefully by the back door in the kitchen. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had strictly banned Order members from using the front door.
"We don't want the neighbours to see your... your friends calling at our house," his aunt had sniffed, trying to sound casual, though her nostrils had practically stuck together.
Mad-Eye Moody, to Harry's delight, had disobeyed this rule and swaggered up to the front door in all his grizzled glory to hammer on the wood with his gnarled fist and growl, "Open up, muggles, I don't have all day," and when Harry had been unable to fix a knot Dudley had tied in his shoe laces, Moody undid it with magic. Uncle Vernon nearly died with rage, though didn't say anything, probably too scared of Moody. He had that effect on people, with the magical eye, half a nose and so forth.
Chuckling at this memory, Harry rolled over in bed and pulled off the covers, rubbing his eyes. Lupin would stick to the Back Door Only rule, he was sure, though Harry almost hoped he wouldn't. Antagonising the Dursleys was now one of his favourite hobbies. It was even better when adult wizards did it though, especially watching Dudley's reaction. Hagrid had picked Harry up the week before for a day at London Zoo, and Dudley's last encounter with Hagrid had been for the wizard to give him a curly pig's tail. Harry's cousin had stayed upstairs all that day with his back to the wall.
Downstairs, Harry could hear the Dursleys talking in the kitchen over breakfast, and after a moment, he managed to pick out Uncle Vernon's gruff voice.
"... better be better than the last two... totally unacceptable... neighbours could have seen... cloak and everything..."
"... can't even complain," said Aunt Petunia's nipped voice, and Harry distinctly heard her sipping tea through pursed lips. He'd heard it enough times over the last sixteen years to recognise that sound.
"... have to say something if any more such behaviour... personal rights... our nephew, we'll do what we like with him... don't see what they have to complain about... fussy... always knew that their kind... petty problems with the boy... wild accusations of favouring Dudley..."
Harry knew what that last bit meant, and he grinned quite wickedly at the thought. Uncle Vernon was talking about Hagrid's reaction when he'd seen Dudley with a gigantic plate of bacon and eggs, and Harry with a slice of bread and a sliver of jam. He kept listening as he pulled on his only good pair of jeans, looking for a belt to keep them up. Dudley's trousers were, after all, four sizes too big for him, and he didn't want to have his jeans start to fall in public again as they had done when boarding a train with Moody two weeks ago.
"Don't know WHAT the neighbours would say..." said Aunt Petunia's voice, followed by some rough mumbling from Uncle Vernon about going to buy a paper.
"Want to come, Dudders?" he then said, cheerily.
"Mno," was the only reply Harry heard from his massive cousin, and he was clearly eating something as fast as he could. Obviously, Dudley would be having his real breakfast now, and when Lupin arrived, Harry would be treated to a huge plate of the best food, while Dudley would be pretending to eat a rice cake.
His uncle laughed heartily, probably ruffling Dudley's hair, and the door shut as he left to go buy the latest tabloid and a gossip magazine for Aunt Petunia. Harry pulled one of his Gryffindor jumpers from Mrs Weasley over his head and checked his appearance in the mirror. His hair, as always, refused to lie flat, no matter how much he brushed it, so he left it to its own devices. Once his glasses were on, he set about packing a day bag to take to Lupin's house. In his letter, Lupin had told him to pack some homework, so that he could do it in wizard company for once. Harry packed his potions essay, a few text books and lots of spare parchment. After a few minutes of cramming it all in to fit, he got all his necessities together, and in they went. His wand, some money, and a small bag of owl treats for Hedwig. She always got grouchy when she was hungry and he had nothing to give her, so to avoid the possibility she wouldn't deliver his letters, he always kept something at hand.
It was half past eight by the time he got downstairs, just in time to slide into a seat at the table and have a slice of rye bread thrust into his face by Aunt Petunia. "Eat quickly," he snapped. "There's only half an hour until your... friend arrives."
Aunt Petunia insisted on calling the Order, "his friends", though you could see in her eyes she despised the fact he had friends at all. There were several words that seemed to be completely censored from the Dursley's house: wizards, magic, Harry, the Order of the Phoenix, Hogwarts, Saturday and Mad-Eye Moody seemed to be along the list. To the Dursleys, they were: that kind, you-know-what, the boy, those people, that place, you-know-what-day and "that horrible man". It got quite confusing sometimes to hear Aunt Petunia having a conversion with Uncle Vernon about the boy and that kind, performing you-know-what at that place, with all those people and "that horrible man" invading their house on every you-know-what-day.
Harry took the rye bread uninterestedly, picking it apart bit-by-bit and flicking most of it into the potplant in the corner when Aunt Petunia wasn't looking. Dudley glared at him beadily from the other side of the table, and after the sixth or seventh flick, he mouthed, "I'll tell Mum..."
Harry grinned. "Be my guest," he whispered, flicking some rye bread at Dudley, trying hard not to laugh as it landed in his ear.
Dudley shook his head angrily. "Mum! He's flicking rye bread at me!"
When Aunt Petunia turned around, the whole slice of rye bread was gone and Harry was at the sink washing up. He looked innocently over his shoulder. "When I'm all the way over here?" he said.
"Hmm," his aunt said, frowning, biting her lip. He could see that she knew he had been doing something to Dudley, but she couldn't accuse him properly, so she turned around again and started buttering more bread.
"MUM!" Dudley howled.
"Oh, Dinkydiddidums, Mummy's sorry," said Aunt Petunia motherly. "But if all that horrid boy can do is throw crumbs at you then he's very silly, isn't he? Here, have a sandwich..."
And not another word was said on the subject as Dudley ravished the sandwich his mother handed him. Harry beamed into the washing up.
"What are you smiling at?" his aunt snapped at him across the kitchen.
"I just can't wait until Lupin arrives," said Harry. "So we can go do something fun for once. The Order are great."
Aunt Petunia made a noise like a boiling kettle, about to shout at him for saying one of the filtered words, but there were three knocks on the front door that distracted her. "That'll be... your friend," she said, remembering in time, drying her hands on a tea towel and heading for the door.
Harry grabbed his bag off the floor and clattered eagerly into the hall just as she pulled open the front door.
"Professor - " he started, beaming, but when he saw who it was, his face fell. "Snape?"
"Potter," said Snape, silkily, casting him a mere glance. He was about to say something to Aunt Petunia when Uncle Vernon came up the path behind him, his merry whistling ceasing as he saw Snape.
"It's not one of those Denture Menders, is it?" he said, suspiciously.
Snape turned around with a raised eyebrow and a dry remark of, "No, it isn't."
"Why are you here?" said Harry, pulling the attention back, realising he'd put a little too much emphasis on 'you'.
Snape stepped back to allow Uncle Vernon into his own house, and the two swapped disapproving glares for a moment before the professor decided to answer Harry's question. "Lupin regrets to say he's away doing something important this morning, and so unfortunately, I have to have you until his return. Though rest assured Potter, I'm no happier about this than you."
Uncle Vernon looked up from his paper in the kitchen, a great deal more interested in Snape than he had been before.
"But - " began Harry. He fell short when he realised he didn't really have a good excuse for not going with Snape, apart from that he loathed the man. He glanced from Snape to Aunt Petunia, wondering which was worse. After a moment or so's thought, he decided that a day out was a day out. He sighed. "Okay, okay, I'm coming."
"What a shame," said Snape, coldly. He gave a curt nod to Aunt Petunia. "Lupin is supposed to have him back for seven PM, but knowing Lupin's pathetic concern for punctuality, expect eight o' clock or later."
She smiled politely, opening the door for Harry to step out, and as he followed Snape dejectedly up the path, he heard Uncle Vernon say to Aunt Petunia through the open door, "What a nice fellow."
"Mmm, much better than that horrible man," was her reply, before the door shut.
Harry kicked a stone as he followed Snape up the gravel path. This was just great. He had to spend the whole morning with Snape, and there were no promises that Lupin would be free at all. On his birthday as well. This was one of his worse presents ever, second only to the visit from Aunt Marge, though the way things were going, he half-expected her to come marching down the street with all her dogs in tow.
"Stop daydreaming Potter and hurry up," said Snape icily, glancing over one bony shoulder at Harry. "I have things to do today, if you hadn't realised."
Harry took his time to amble angrily up the path, kicking out at a pot gnome and smashing it accidentally on the rockery. He stopped, leaning over to pick it up, intending to hide it or fix it, but Snape snapped,
"Potter! What on earth are you doing?"
"Give me a second," Harry mused, slotting the head back in place.
Snape tutted, folding his arms and drumming his fingers impatiently on his biceps. "Potter! If you continue to waste any more of my time - "
"You'll take points off Gryffindor?" said Harry, bitterly, perfectly aware that Snape could hear him, not really bothered, taking his time to make sure none of the gnome had broken off. His hatred of Snape had definitely increased because of... the events of last year. He instantly blocked the idea from his head, resorting to his usual strategy of not thinking about it at all. If he didn't dwell on it, it didn't hurt.
Snape's fists curled, and he hissed, "You want to keep a civil tongue in your head when you're talking to me, Potter. We might not be in school but you'll be spending a good deal of your day with me, and unless you want me to turn it into living hell, I suggest you pick up the pace!"
Harry opened his mouth to reply with something scathing, but heard from the front window, "He's broken one of the gnomes!" He glanced up, and saw all the Dursleys peering at him from under the net curtains. They gasped, dropped the drapes and huddled out of sight again.
Harry made sure the gnome was as fixed as he could make it, placed it on the ground and then reluctantly followed off after Snape.
"Where are we going?" he said, jogging every few moments to keep up with the professor's swift pace.
Snape didn't bother to reply, so Harry supposed he'd just have to wait and see. Maybe, he thought, this was all a trick and Snape would lead him into a large, abandoned building where all his friends and the Order would jump out for a surprise party. However, the professor turned a sharp left down between two hedges, beckoning him to follow.
Harry saw a complete dead-end ahead. "Um, Professor?"
"I know it's a dead-end, Potter, I don't have the brain of a Hufflepuff that you seem to possess," said Snape silkily. "Don't step in that," he added, glancing at a half-eaten dead bird on the floor.
Harry glared at the professor's back, taking a very melodramatically wide step over the bird, followed by a sarcastic, "Thankyou for pointing that out, I never normally look where I'm going or what my feet are sinking into."
"I know," said Snape in a deceptively pleasant voice, leaving Harry feeling rather stupid after all.
They walked in silence to the end of the path between the hedges, where Snape looked around carefully, making sure no muggles were around to see. Harry yawned obviously and widely, and earned himself a glare from Snape as the professor slipped an empty crisp packet and a watch from his pocket. Checking the time, he offered the packet to Harry, who stared at him.
"Professor, it's empty."
"I know it is, Potter, take a hold of it, you stupid boy," Snape snapped. "Couldn't you have guessed it was a portkey?"
Harry rolled his eyes and reluctantly nipped the corner of the packet. "Am I allowed to ask where it's going to take me to?"
"No," came the short reply. "You can wait seven seconds."
Snape slipped the watch back into his pocket as Harry counted. Seven, six, five... he yawned again, this was so boring... three, two... one...
There was that familiar lurch behind his stomach, and the dark hedgeway before him vanished, the rubbish-sodden ground beneath his feet disappeared, and he felt himself flying straight forwards in a whirl of colour and noise...
Harry felt ground suddenly thump the bottom of his feet, and his knees buckled dangerously. Another shape materialised behind him, giving him the last push it took for him to fall forward with a shout of pain. Everything stopped spinning suddenly, the dizziness melted away, and after a moment, Harry recovered enough to ask, immediately, "Where are we?"
Snape sighed exasperatedly, grasped him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him upright. "Are you pathetic enough to need somebody to see for you? Open your eyes, boy, do it yourself for once. Weasley might be happy to bounce along after you like a puppy, but I am not."
The snipe against Ron made Harry scowl, wrenching his eyes open and pulling away from Snape. "Don't talk about my friends like that," he snapped, but any thoughts of further arguing left him quite suddenly as he looked around. He couldn't be in Snape's house, surely? It certainly looked like the sort of lounge Snape would own, but... Snape trusted him in his home? "Is this your house?" he said, amazed.
"Surprise," came the dry reply.
It was quite a spacious room, and dimly lit, the windows shadowed by thick drapes of a wine colour. The floor was wooden, the walls were cream and covered in paintings and photographs, and all the furniture was the same crimson colour as the curtains. Harry glanced at the photos above the sofa, and perhaps to draw his attention away, Snape said, "I suppose I'm obliged to offer you something to eat. Or will you be happy with the squashed rye bread in your back pocket?"
Harry frowned, scooping the mush out of the pocket of his jeans. He'd forgotten he'd stuffed it there after breakfast. He felt an inward sparkle of delight as Snape winced, the crumbs from the bread pattering down onto his spotless floor.
"Something to eat would be - " Harry began. He was about to say nice, but then remembered the end of the year with a pang, and said, " - nice but no, I'll be... fine with my..." He held up the handful of mush. "...squashed rye bread, thankyou."
Snape's right eyebrow arched a fraction, but he said nothing. Both of them were remembering times they would rather not, and so to avoid any more awkward silence, Harry asked,
"What time is Professor Lupin expected to be back? Well... just Lupin now, I suppose."
Snape shook his head slightly. "No, it is indeed Professor Lupin, and how am I supposed to know, Potter?"
Harry glared at him from under his unruly fringe. "Seeing as though he gave you the message he'd be away..." he said, vaguely. "And why Professor again?" His eyes widened behind his glasses. "He's got his job back!"
"Hurray," Snape muttered wryly.
"Is he the dark arts teacher?" said Harry, and it couldn't disguise the eagerness in his voice. The despicable, twisted look on Snape's face was all the answer Harry needed, and he gave a whoop of happiness, barely resisting the urge to dance. It was even better knowing that Snape was fuming because of this. He'd been trying to get the dark arts job for sixteen years now, and Lupin had beaten him for the second time.
"Potter, stop jigging around like a lunatic, you're getting bread all over the floor," Snape snapped. "Professor Lupin will hopefully be back as soon as possible, so he can take you as far away from me as possible."
"Just because you're jealous," said Harry, grinning.
Harry expected a sharp comment or one of Snape's usual insults, but the man's face fell from spite into hollow recollection. Harry frowned slightly, his bouncing ceasing, and they he realised what must have hurt Snape like that. Everybody always said Snape had been jealous of Harry's father, and last year, Harry had found out a good reason to suggest Snape hated James for a far different reason.
They looked at each other for a moment, Snape without his usual glare, and Harry without his usual irritating-Snape expression.
"I wouldn't mind a drink though," said Harry after a moment.
"A drink." Harry mimed it with his handful of hot, sticky bread, and another lump fell onto the floor. "Ooops. Sorry."
Snape scowled, drawing his wand and giving it a few precise flicks. A mop appeared next to the sofa. "I think you know what to do, Potter. Water?"
Harry couldn't believe this guy. He was making him clean his house! The cold-hearted -
After a moment, Harry realised Snape had offered him water, and he nodded. "Yes please."
Snape smirked, a horrible, cold twisted kind of smirk that Harry knew very well. Another flick, and a bucket of water appeared next to the mop. "Enjoy."
The potions master then left the room, his long black coat billowing in the breeze, and Harry gaped. "It's only a few crumbs!" he shouted vaguely, but there was no reply. Grumbling, he grabbed the mop and twirled it around the bread on the floor. Stupid Snape, he thought. Cleaning? On his birthday, and a saturday as well. Not only had Snape ruined the day he'd expected to spend with Professor Lupin, but it was also one of his escape days, and his birthday. Furiously, he mashed the bread up on the end of the mop, not caring what a mess he made. Sirius wouldn't have done something to him like -
What he'd just thought hit him quite suddenly, and he fell silent and still, as a wave of realisation washed over him. Sirius wouldn't even know it was his birthday... he wouldn't know anything... if Sirius was here, he would strangle Snape for making Harry clean, especially on his birthday. It was all Snape's fault...
Harry wiped his face with the back of his hand, determined not to have an emotional breakdown in Snape's lounge, stuffing the mop back in the bucket with a clang and a slosh.
"Finished so soon?" said a silky voice behind him, and Harry turned to glare up at Snape. To his surprise, the professor handed him a large glass of water though. With ice. A lump very nearly came to Harry's throat.
"Thanks," he muttered.
"My pleasure," Snape said, wryly, eyeing him with quite a suspicious frown.
Harry glanced up, and then down quickly, as he realised there were a few rebellious tears in his eyes. "I did the floor."
"Speak up boy, or I'll have to enhance you with a few sonorus charms."
"I said I did the floor!" Harry half-shouted. He fell silent again, surprised at the volume and anger of his own voice. He took a sip of the water, wiping his face with his sleeve again.
"That will do," Snape said, smoothly. "Walls do not have ears, but the neighbours do."
"Not my fault you have nosy neighbours," Harry muttered, loud enough for Snape to hear him, his head still bowed, taking another sip of the water.
"I do apologise," said Snape coldly. "Next time I buy a house, I'll have to visit all the surrounding houses to check whether they listen with paper cups at the walls, just in case an over-emotional teenage boy is in my house."
"I am NOT over-emotional," snapped Harry.
"As you wish, Potter," said Snape, in a vague voice that Harry didn't like at all.
He glared up at the repulsive potions master through his moppy black hair. Now he could identify with his father. Snape was so despicably vile sometimes that it was impossible to not hate the greasy, sallow-skinned vampire-look-alike. He wanted something spiteful to say, anything, anything that would stab Snape to the heart.
His eyes fell upon the photographs above the sofa again, on one in particular, black and white, of a black-haired boy in Hogwarts graduations robes, holding a scroll, smirking into the camera. It could only be Snape. "Who's the ugly guy in the hat?" said Harry, scathingly.
"My father," said Snape, with a grimace. "I don't know how on earth he acquired that degree, he was even more stupid than you. I hated him."
Harry's insult fell flat on his face, and he glared hatefully at the rest of the photographs, sitting in an armchair without asking for permission, drinking his water in silence. "And I'm not over-emotional," he said, suddenly, as though remembering they hadn't finished that debate properly yet.
Snape was now sitting behind a desk in the corner, writing with a black quill, and didn't seem to hear Harry.
"Whatever you think," he added, loudly.
"Dear me," said Snape, lazily. "You are having some trouble with maintaining a regular volume today, aren't you? From squeaking and whispering to bellowing at me across the room... I can't wait to see what gems you have for me next..."
Harry just glared at him, hating him so much it wasn't possible. He wanted to just pull his wand out of his bag and jinx his ugly, hooked-nose right off his greasy face. He checked his watch, hoping past hope that Lupin hurried up with whatever he was doing, because if he didn't, Harry had the sneaking suspicion that he and Snape would just hex each other to tiny pieces by dinnertime.
He put his head in his hands, trying to drown out the irritating scratch of Snape's quill. "I hate Saturdays," he murmured to himself.
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