Chapter Eleven: Summaries and Summoning
Harry found himself thankful as he and Snape started to walk off towards the stream he'd found the day before while foraging. Sitting in the shed keeping watch over an occasionally unconscious Snape had been no picnic, and he was glad to be doing something that at the very least seemed to be progress, out in the fresh air.
Beside him Snape limped as he walked, moving at a brisk but careful pace and using his walking stick which made soft thunks in the layer of dirt and decomposing leaves that covered the forest ground. "Unless you're unused to exercise, you should start telling me the background leading up to our current situation while we travel."
Harry glanced aside at Snape, a dark smirk wanting to find its way to his expression from the almost Snapelike statement, but instead he felt a wash of uncertainty and sighed. Keeping his pace even with the still hurt man, Harry began.
"Hurry up, boy. Or you'll be going without anything to wear on the trip."
At the time, Harry felt a touch of disbelief at that particular threat from Uncle Vernon; he didn't imagine his uncle would tolerate Harry causing his family any discomfort having to wear the same dirty clothes which would eventually start to smell, or to have to make Dudley give up any of his current wardrobe- or even worse- to have to purchase something else for Harry to wear.
In hindsight Harry understood now. Vernon didn't care if Harry took anything with him because he wouldn't be with the Dursleys for much longer. Vernon knew what was going to happen once he brought Harry to America. Harry just wondered what the actual arrangements were and how they were made. Not that it mattered much any longer.
Harry hefted one of Dudley's old and torn backpacks to one shoulder, filled with as many of the overlarge clothes he could cram in, "Coming, Uncle Vernon," he called to the downstairs landing as he headed for the stairwell only to be nearly knocked down the stairs as Dudley came running at him from behind. Catching himself with difficulty, Harry just knew the trip was going to be yet another time he'd rather forget. Just like...
"Just like what?" Severus asked, glancing curiously at the boy walking at his side. Now that he was on his feet it brought across more strongly the difference between his few memories and now. His hands were different, not to mention his wiry frame. The former were tapered and dexterous as well as showing a few scars that numbered among the many things he was currently unaware of. But the largest difference was in his height; he felt slightly disoriented at the change in distance from the ground from his memories and the sudden addition of several inches in reality.
Harry looked rather uncomfortable and muttered, "It's a long story," putting extra energy into his next few strides as though trying to get away from his thoughts. It took the boy a few paces ahead, and Severus worked to close the distance with just a little more effort from his long legs.
Taking another breath, Severus decided that it was likely that Harry had been avoiding the issue for much longer than he'd been in his company. "Summarize, then," Severus suggested with a deliberately dry and irritated tone to his voice in the hopes it would distract Harry from his inner conflict long enough to get him talking. "Use your developing literary skills. This sounds to be part of the issue, and as such I should be aware of it."
"Fine," Harry growled and came to a sudden halt to face Severus. "Last school year there was a competition called the Tri-wizard Tournament. An evil man named Voldemort commanded that it should be arranged that I was in the tournament so that they could use the last task to transport me away to him. The only problem is that I didn't get transported alone; one of my classmates was with me. They killed him." Harry's voice broke, and he looked away from Severus. "... They should have killed me, too."
Severus' hands clenched his walking stick as he stared at the boy whose expression was far too old for his age. Uncertainly, he murmured, "I'm ... sorry. I was unaware that the thing bothering you was that serious."
"What did you think it was? My awakening hormones? Perhaps I was turned down by a girl I had a crush on?" Harry's words were bitter, and he remained turned away, "It seems I'm not allowed such normal problems- no, not me. Not," And Harry smiled bitterly, "Harry Potter, the Celebrity."
Severus didn't know what to say to that, so he allowed the silence to lengthen. Eventually, Harry resumed walking in the direction of the stream, and Severus followed. With a sigh and a shake of his head, Harry resumed his story.
Traveling with his family in close quarters felt excruciatingly long, but the whole of it blurred together into a steady level of the usual verbal and emotional abuse which Harry just packed away or ignored in favor of his own self-recriminations. He became less and less responsive which made Uncle Vernon more and more annoyed with him and more than willing to vent his displeasure upon the ready target Harry made. Some of the black and blue marks Harry currently had weren't from the fall from the car.
"Damnit, boy, get your lazy body out of bed and start packing the luggage into the car!"
Harry avoided most of the kick that his uncle aimed at him and got up from his 'bed' of the floor where he'd used his sweater for a pillow. Aunt Petunia was sitting at the hotel room's table, pouring over a map and chattering at Dudley over likely places she would take him for a lovely breakfast. Dudley himself hadn't yet rousted himself from his bed in the room, lounging in his pajamas as he listened contentedly to his mother's gustatory options.
Silently and holding his side, Harry got to work.
"From Uncle Vernon's last comment before they dumped me out on the road, I think that he was approached by Voldemort or one of his Death Eaters to do that so that they could come and get me. What I want to know is why you got shot down like that."
"Like what?" Severus asked, spotting the stream in the distance with a touch of thankfulness.
"From what it sounded like, you got hit with a hex- maybe even the Cruciatus- then crashed your broom into a tree and fell. I found you unconscious next to a cracked tree with the broomstick broken."
Severus arched an eyebrow and diverted his attention from their goal to the boy walking at his side. "Do you mean to say I was flying the thing when I came here?"
"Yup," Harry replied unrepentantly.
"And this person who shot me down. You think it was one of those ... Death Eaters?"
"It makes the most sense; no one else knew I was here. Unless you heard about this from Voldemort and told Headmaster Dumbledore."
Severus almost tripped as he suddenly halted and his splint made it more difficult to keep his balance. Control reasserted over his body, he stared at Harry. "What do you mean by that?"
Harry looked up at him almost sheepishly, "Oh yeah. You didn't hear about that part. Um. Remember your tattoo?"
Severus' hand moved to his left arm in a movement that somehow felt habitual. "I remember... it hurt. You said that he was... summoning me."
Harry looked left and right as though checking that no one was in the area listening in. Little chance of that; the visible forest was deserted apart from the natural wildlife that was out of sight but not out of hearing distance. "Well, I don't know all of it, but I know that you work for Headmaster Dumbledore. Not just as a potions master, I mean. As a spy. The ... last time I saw you, you were about to ... return to Voldemort. To see what you could learn."
Frowning, Severus made a gesture to encompass their situation as a whole, "And now this."
"Yeah," Harry sighed as they started towards the stream again. "Now this."
As though in response to their last topic of conversation, Severus suddenly felt a searing pain that traveled swiftly from his arm to his brain. With a gasp, he slowly crumpled to the ground, Harry's voice sounding like a distant and distorted roar in his ears before another voice overwhelmed his senses, sinister and sibilant.
/I've been informed of your whereabouts, Severus. I didn't send you there. Come to me now before I find I must punish you further./
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