Chapter Seven: Snape's Secrets
The drawing room was the cleanest and least dangerous place in the house, and so when the initial greetings were over, everybody proceeded to there. Percy was released from his binds under the agreement that he wouldn't try to run or be unco-operative, and he had stalked ahead of them all up the stairs, his nose in the air, barging roughly past his father. Uncle Vernon on the other hand had been deemed dangerous, and they all agreed that it wasn't safe to let him out of the binds, so he was practically dragged up the stairs by Fred and George, who delighted in complaining loudly about having to 'haul the fat muggle'.
Harry now sat in the middle of the room on a chair, with everybody arranged rather neatly around him. The Weasleys minus Percy were to his right; Uncle Vernon was tied to a chair by the window, where he could do no harm; Professors Lupin, Dumbledore and Snape were standing in various places around the room; Mundungus Fletcher was sitting by the fireplace pretending not to admire the silver; Tonks stood with Lupin, and Percy was as far away from his father, arms folded, hunched by the door.
"Now then," said Professor Dumbledore, pleasantly. "You are all here to help determine Harry's future residence."
"Ahem," said Percy, contemptuously. "I do not need to be here."
"You are a member of the Weasley family," said Dumbledore. "And therefore, you do need to be here, as much as you may not like it."
"And my presence is required because...?" Snape said, silkily.
"That's coming in a moment," said Dumbledore. "Now, as we know, for sixteen years Harry has lived with you, my good Sir." He smiled to Uncle Vernon.
Uncle Vernon glared back at him spitefully. "Unfortunately," he said in a gruff voice after a moment.
Dumbledore pretend not to have heard him. "Of course, at first I thought that you and your family were his only living relatives. That is why I sent him to live with you, for the blood protection of your wife, and so that he wasn't in the constant glare of spotlights from the wizarding world. However, because of recent developments, we have found that Harry does indeed have living relatives - the Weasley family."
Harry had the feeling he was the guest on a talk show, Dumbledore was the host, introducing all the different characters in a tale of confusion, relevations and a young boy with a family he never knew he had.
"So what needs to be decided," said Dumbledore, "is where Harry is to spend the rest of his childhood. Of course, we can't expect him to live with his family all his life - but for as long as possible I think."
"They can have him," Uncle Vernon said quickly, though in a clear tone, as though Dumbledore didn't speak much English.
"Agreed," said Fred. "Well, that's all sorted, now who's for cocoa?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "I'm afraid it's not quite that simple, Mr Dursley, Mr Weasley... we have several things to consider. Firstly, the relationship between Harry and the Weasley children is third cousins, once removed. My worst fear would be for this particular blood protection to not be strong enough."
There was an ominous pause, where Mrs Weasley and Hermione looked worry, Mundungus didn't seem to understand and Snape shrugged slightly. Then George said, loudly, "Well, this will have to be tested. Does anybody have anything sharp and fatally pointy?"
"I can get you - " began Mundungus, but Bill cut across him.
"How can we tell if it's strong enough, Dumbledore?"
"Of course, the only way we can know for sure is to have a Death Eater or Voldemort - " There was a general flinch throughout the room " - attack Harry."
"Before anybody suggests," said Snape, darkly, "no."
"You, Severus, are loyal to our side," said Dumbledore. "Therefore, if you should attack Harry which I must insist you do not, it would not constitute as a Voldemort attack." He sat down in one of the old armchairs, resting his elbows on the arms and watching Harry closely over steepled fingers. "Harry, we have two choices. I could give the relationship between you and the Weasleys the benefit of the doubt, and leave you here to stay at Grimmauld Place for the rest of the summer. Of course, if we are wrong, and the protection is not strong enough, Lord Voldemort may strike." Dumbledore peered at Harry over the top of his half-moon spectacles. "Or you can remain in the certified protection of your aunt and uncle."
Harry looked down at his hands. He knew what he really wanted. He'd give anything to stay with Ron and his family, though if the protection wasn't strong enough... and that prophecy. The world wasn't big enough for both him and Voldemort. The best time to attack him would be when that blood protection wasn't around.
He looked up and saw all the Weasleys watching him with a hopeful, comforting expression. Ron's eyes seemed to be burning desperately into him. Harry then glanced at Dumbledore, into that piercing blue stare, and he smiled slightly. "I want to go with the Weasleys."
The headmaster's face split into a smile too. "In that case, Remus, Severus, come here please."
They both approached Dumbledore, Remus standing behind Harry with one hand on his right shoulder. Snape languished vaguely between Harry and the headmaster, arms crossed, not looking impressed at being here.
"I'm putting all the Weasley children on Harry Potter Protection Duty," he said. "And I want you both to just keep an eye over things... I daresay Alrister can help when he arrives too, and the other professors. However, I'm putting you both in charge. Will this be okay?"
"Perfectly," said Lupin. He smiled, gripping Harry's shoulder.
"Severus?" asked Dumbledore.
Snape fought to keep his face straight, staring at a place on the mantelpiece as though it was taking every ounce of his restraint to not kill something. "That sounds fine," he said after a minute, exasperatedly.
Dumbledore smiled pleasantly. "Excellent. Now, I believe somebody mentioned cocoa?"
"I'll make it!" said Tonks, brightly, shooting out of the room. Mrs Weasley looked worried for a minute then rushed after her, but Dumbledore said,
"Ah, Molly? I'd like you to stay please. Remus, could you possibly supervise Miss Tonks with the cocoa?"
"Can I please leave?" Snape said, frowning.
"And make sure you put extra sugar in Severus's," Dumbledore added as Lupin left. Snape groaned and rubbed his eyes. The headmaster turned to Mundungus, "Mr Fletcher, could you possibly escort Mr Dursley back home? Severus, I want you to take Hermione and Harry somewhere else. I wish to talk to the Weasley family. All of them," he added, pointedly, as Percy moved to go.
"I - "
"You're staying where you are, Percy, sit down," said Dumbledore, so firmly that Percy didn't question the order and sat down promptly.
Snape beckoned vaguely to Harry and Hermione, then swept from the room in a flurry of black robes and swift footsteps. Harry patted Ron on the shoulder as he left. All the Weasleys looked rather worried.
Snape lead them across the landing, down the creaky old staircase and then silently through the hall, down another staircase and into the kitchen. He cast a glare around at the messy walls, and reached for his wand to clean it. Mid-movement, he stopped, and acted as though he hadn't noticed any of the muck.
Harry glanced at Hermione, though she hadn't noticed, sitting down on a chair and getting out her annoying book. He tried to catch her eye, but Snape was looking at him suspiciously so he gave up and slumped forward on his elbows instead, bored. His mind drifted to Ron, stuck up there with an irritated Percy, the rest of his family and Dumbledore. The rest of my family, Harry reminded himself.
"Why do I have to stay here?" he thought aloud. "I'm part of that family too."
"They know Percy better than you," said Hermione gently. "Let them talk, and you can see them again. Don't worry."
Harry sighed, bored, starting to drum his fingertips on the table before him, tapping out a rhythm to think to. Snape watched him closely. Harry looked up. "What?"
"I said desist, Potter, it means stop. That pathetic tapping noise. Stop it."
Harry rolled his eyes and looked away, though stopped with the drumming.
Snape's face darkened in a frown. "Do not give me that sulky expression, Potter."
Harry started to draw an idle pattern in the spaghetti stain on the table top with his fingertip. "Sorry," he muttered vaguely.
There was a few minutes of more silence, where Harry watched Hermione read and Snape just sat with his arms folded, glaring at a jar of some black leaves on the cupboard top. Every tick of the clock seemed to come hours apart. Harry laid his head on his arms. Why was Snape so incredibly strict and boring, even out of school? Something seriously bad must have happened to him to make him so uptight and bitter.
"Potter, are there any glasses in here?" Snape drawled.
Harry glanced over his shoulder, and gestured vaguely to one of the high cupboards above the sink. "Yeah, there I think. Watch the spilled tomato puree," he added, as Snape nearly went skidding.
"Thankyou, Potter, I have my own eyes," the professor murmured, stiffly, crossing over to the cabinet and curling his fingers around the handle. "I know that it takes some reminding you, but - "
There was an almighty crash, louder than anything Harry had ever heard in his life as every single glass in the cupboard came raining down on Snape's head. Hermione screamed at the noise and Harry jumped a foot in the air, and as the last glass fell, Snape was on the floor, swearing under his breath and clutching his right wrist. It was bleeding badly, slashed by a flying shard.
Hermione hurried over, drawing her wand, but before she could reach him to heal it, Mrs Black started shrieking in the hall. Harry clamped his hands over his ears and bellowed, "I'll sort her out, you stay here with him!" and ran out from the kitchen.
She was screaming and screaming at him, her eyes rolling, shaking with the force of her fury. Professor Lupin came tearing down the stairs at the same time, followed by Tonks who was clutching a broken-off handle of a mug. The three of them struggled to cover up the portrait, and as they shut it, her screams fell quiet with a ringing silence.
"What was the crash, Harry?" Lupin panted.
"The glasses in one of the cupboards must have been stacked wrongly, they fell on Snape," said Harry. "He's cut his wrist."
Lupin and Tonks hurried into the kitchen, followed by Harry. Snape was still crouched on the floor, doing his best to stay away from Hermione, and as he flicked his head with a snarl of, "Get off me, Miss Granger!", they saw that there was a nasty cut on his head too. The sleeve of his robes was now soaking with blood.
Lupin knelt down by him, grabbing his wrist quite forcefully and holding it out with a calm expression. "There's still some glass embedded in it... honestly, Severus, we can't leave you alone for one minute..."
"Shut up Lupin," Snape muttered under his breath, though Harry caught it.
Lupin drew out his wand, swept it over Snape's wound and murmured a healing charm. The blood dried over instantly, the slash seemed to seal up like a zipper and all that was left in a few moments was a scar. Snape stood up to go, but Lupin pushed him back down. "Head wound. Sit still, this might feel a little strange."
Snape rolled his eyes as Lupin performed another healing charm, being slower with this one, tongue between his teeth. "Hurry up Lupin," Snape snarled.
"Do you want a great scar across your forehead, Severus? Because if you do, just keep wriggling around and telling me to hurry up."
Snape sighed impatiently, and the moment Lupin sealed the charm with a flick of his wand he got up off the floor, crossed to the sink and filled his hands with a small pool of water. They all watched in surprise as he buried his face in it, splashing it all over his skin. Harry handed him a teatowel with a blank, rather worried expression. Snape snatched it off him and dried his face.
Possibly to disguise the awkward silence, Lupin said, "The cocoa's ready. I daresay you could all need a drink after today." Harry nodded, and as they all left the room, he hung to the back of the group, watching Snape from behind with a frown. Something strange was going on with him. The glasses in the cupboard couldn't have all fallen directly on top of him, even if they had been stacked in a strange way, and from what Harry had seen before they toppled, they were done fine, in neat rows.
He hardly heard a word of Hermione and Lupin's conversation about mackled malaclaws, and he wasn't even watching when Tonks lengthened her face and made her eyes shrink to vaguely resemble one. All the time, he was listening, hoping that Ron and his family would be done arguing soon. Snape wasn't very talkative either. He sat apart from the group by the window, looking out over the grubby suburbs with a frown on his face, sipping his cocoa through pursed lips. He hadn't been this clumsy the week before at his house. Well, clumsy wasn't the word. Tonks was clumsy, cheery and friendly but a little too eager and so she knocked things over. Snape hadn't done anything to make those glasses fall. As disturbing as it sounded, when Harry had seen them start to fall, he was sure they had all surged forward as one to attack him. Was it something to do with being in the Black house? Was Sirius, perhaps, making his presence felt and suggesting Snape should leave?
No... there was something in his face when his magic had broken that told Harry all too plainly Snape had been dreading that happening for some time.
It was very dark outside by the time the Weasleys came downstairs into the lounge. Mr Weasley looked stressed, and collapsed instantly into a chair, grasping a mug of cocoa and draining it without saying anything - though he was the only one who didn't look happy. Bill and Charlie sat with Tonks and Lupin, talking casually to them about the Order. Ginny and Mrs Weasley were both smiling in a relieved way. Percy was listening to Fred and George talk about all their business plans, occasionally butting in with an anecdote about the ministry, and Ron came right over to Harry, grinning.
"Dumbledore sorted it all out," he said. "We're a family again."
"Great," said Harry, vaguely, "Look, I've got something to tell you."
"What is it?" Ron asked, sitting in an armchair and reaching for cocoa.
Harry didn't answer. Dumbledore had just walked in, and Lupin had excused himself from the group, going over to murmur something in his ear. Both of them looked at Snape, who stared back defiantly. After a moment, Dumbledore nodded, beckoned to Snape and the two of them swept from the room.
"Harry?" said Ron, curiously.
"We've got to follow them," said Harry. "I want to know what's going on with Snape. We were in the kitchen, and he just opened one of the cupboards, and all the glasses just rained down on his head... but... it didn't look like an accident... I think something's going on."
"Maybe he's had a bad luck hex put on him," Ron suggested, shrugging. "Does it really matter?"
"Yes," said Harry, stoutly. "Come on, it might be something important." He put down his cocoa, told everyone that he and Ron were going to get more sugar, and they both hurried from the room quickly, just in time to hear a door shut a few floors below.
Quietly as they could, they crept down the stairs, sticking close to the walls so the creaks were as quiet as possible. Harry saw the door that the two professors must be in, and he pointed, signalling Ron over. They both sneaked down the stairs, across the hall and in front of the door. Ron grabbed Harry's arm, and Harry saw he was gesturing to the next room, where they could hide properly. Harry nodded, and without a sound, they both hurried in.
They sat on the floor next to the wall, pressing their ears right up to it to listen.
Harry could hear the creak of a chair as somebody sat in it, and Snape sighed. "Well. Lupin told you what happened, I suppose."
"He did, Severus," said Dumbledore's voice calmly. "Though he didn't say exactly how it happened. All he knew was what Harry told him - that the glasses fell on you." The headmaster paused for a moment and then said, seriously, "Did they actually fall, Severus, or were they pushed?"
Harry and Ron glanced at each other worriedly.
Snape was heard to sigh quietly, and then say, "They were... pushed, to use your terms, Albus."
"I know," said Snape wearily. "And you of course saw the... failure of my wand, earlier."
"That I did. Tell me Severus, and I do not require details, just an honest answer." Dumbledore sounded very serious. "Has something happened?"
There was a long, rather grim pause. "Yes," came Snape's reply after a moment.
Dumbledore sighed softly, like a parent disappointed with a child. "I warned you about the dangers of intruding in - "
"Shhh," said Snape, carefully. "I know you did, you don't have to tell me again. The whole world around me is reminding me of that little fact more and more every day that goes by."
"What things are happening?" asked Dumbledore, calmly, and there was another creak as he sat down in a chair. Harry could almost see him peering at Snape in that way he was so good at, the way that made you feel as though if you lied, you had failed yourself.
"Things going missing," came the vague reply. "Bad luck. You know me rather well, Albus, I've known you for twenty-five years now and would you say I'm the sort of person to have frequent accidents?"
"Not at all," said Dumbledore's voice.
"Well I am. At least I am now." Snape sighed exasperatedly. "I've obviously been trying to ignore the signs up until now... tell myself that they're coincidences... I've been trying to fool myself. And I can't any longer. My magic broke for the first time today, and it still isn't back. How long will it take?"
"A day or two," Dumbledore mused quietly. "Depending on the severity of the cause. Was it...?"
"No," said Snape quickly, and then calmer, "No, Albus, no. I have my limits. It was just... confessing."
Ron frowned, totally confused by what was going on, and Harry had to admit he didn't have any ideas either. It sounded like Snape had done something that was causing him to have a lot of unexplainable accidents and bad luck. Harry wondered whether it was something to do with Voldemort. A Death Eater ritual? It didn't make sense.
"I know this is probably the advice you least want to hear," said Dumbledore, calmly. "But it's the advice which is best for you."
"I know what you're going to say," said Snape. "And you're completely correct, Albus, I do not want to hear it."
"I shall tell you anyway." Dumbledore's serious tones were back. "Do not let yourself wallow any deeper in this business, Severus. Ancient magic is the most powerful and vengeful kind there is, and at the moment, you may as well travel down to Wales and jab a sleeping dragon in the eye with a sharp stick. It would do you just as much good as if you continued with - "
"Shhh," said Snape again.
Dumbledore lowered his voice a notch, and Harry struggled to hear what he said, barely managing to pick up the sounds. "Severus, I say this as a very important warning. You may think you have all the right in the world, but if you do not realise that you're dabbling with danger, you will, and that is will, not might, lose more than just your foolish pride."
Snape was quiet for a moment, then said, "To give up now would be to admit my weakness and inability to fight for the things I want. And that I will not do."
"Sometimes we have to forget the things we want for the things we need," said Dumbledore seriously. "At the moment, you need your life and your magic. I implore you now to back out while there is still time to do so, or the next thing that comes raining from a cupboard on your head may well be a great deal more dangerous than glasses."
Harry caught Ron's eye. They stared at each other as Snape paused again, thinking of what to say.
"I'll try, Headmaster."
"Good." There was a squeak from chairs as they both stood up. There were footsteps towards the door, which opened with a quiet creak, and then Dumbledore's voice added, "And one more thing."
"Stay away from the cutlery drawers in the kitchen. It may be for your own good."
"What am I to do, eat with my fingers?"
Dumbledore said, slowly, "That or die, Severus."
The dramatic effect of this statement was incredible. Both Harry and Ron's eyes widened in shock.
"Die?" whispered Ron. "What's - "
Harry pushed him to be quiet as Snape and Dumbledore's footsteps swept away up the stairs, neither of them saying another word. When they heard the door above shut, Ron sat back, looking still very shocked.
"What do you think he's been doing? Something with You-Know-Who?"
"That's what I thought," said Harry. He bit his lip. "I don't like the sound of this. It's scary."
"Yeah. Maybe Snape's blown it big time. What if he's accidentally given You-Know-Who some important information?"
"No, I don't think so." Harry thought for a moment. "It sounds like he's getting into something bad... maybe it's got dangerous with the Death Eaters and Dumbledore wants him to back out?"
"No, it can't be. Why's his magic failed? And what's with all the accidents? You don't get stuff like that just for being a Death Eater, do you?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't get it."
"I reckon he's up to something," said Ron, suspiciously. "Something really bad. Maybe You-Know-Who wants him to swear allegiance? And he's testing his loyalty by giving him all this bad luck? Hey, here's an idea! Maybe You-Know-Who is tempting him to use black magic by taking away his own!"
"Maybe," said Harry. "Come on, we'd better get that sugar and go back upstairs before Snape gets suspicious."
They retrieved the sugar, and hurried back upstairs in time to see Percy hugging his teary-eyed mother. In all the happiness and reunion, nobody noticed them slide casually back into the room as though they'd ever left, though as Percy and Mrs Weasley broke apart, Harry saw Snape's eyes trained on him through the crowd. He looked away before Snape could get into his thoughts. Even if he didn't know much, he had the feeling that Snape still wouldn't want him to know even that. Snape was up to something, and Harry for once intended to find out what it was.
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