Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Induction :: 12 :: Summer Interlude

12 • Summer Interlude

Some say the mind is a mystery never to be fully explored, a black hole from which almost nothing escapes but for a timely progression of memories that gives a creature a somewhat steady foundation on which to build and continue from. The consciousness was inclined to agree.

It existed, floating in that black abyss, intimately connected to its physical host, and yet not. It transcended and co-existed. It knew, at this level, that the mind was a confliction of physical and mental, picking and choosing what it would be able to access and what was too painful to remember. And over time the conditions of those choices would change, and time itself would bring about a massive change in many, to the point that the black hole would spit up old, forgotten things, and steal away what once had been part of the foundation.

It was the consciousness’s opinion that scientists were correct. The mind never truly forgot anything. But it would store things away behind barriers of its own making. Every sight, every sound, every touch or taste or smell was there, somewhere. And it was the way of things that if a portion of the physical mind was damaged, nature’s decree insisted that corrections were to be made, to try to preserve all that a person was.

People were layered beings—nuclei for cells, cells in clusters, clusters to perform certain functions. Great rivers in miniature to act both as delivery of nourishment and remover of wastes. Pieces and parts to cleanse, create, dissolve, communicate and learn. And along with all that, something that had for centuries mystified and delighted countless men and women. The soul.

Was there really some divine being or beings? Was humankind its own creator and creation? Did it matter? The consciousness was ultimately indifferent. In the things it could understand and relate to, it saw far more clearly than what normally merged with its physical host to create and display an example of man.

It didn’t have shoulders to bow beneath the burdens placed upon it. It didn’t know fear or worry or pain. Or, for that matter, anger, lust, or love. Its lesser self was starting to become a bit more like it, though not quite. His host had been freed, though, to a large degree of those things which had chained it and restrained it, blinded its eyes and ears.

And the consciousness was well aware of how that had come about, and who was responsible. It knew about the myriad manipulations. It knew that the being called Severus Snape, for all his ulterior motives, rationalizations, and hidden goals, had done a great deal for the betterment of its host, which could now make decisions from a position of greater security and strength. It knew that the one called Dumbledore also manipulated, pulling the thin threads like spider silk that bound one person to another by shared experience, or memories that could be used to induce guilt or gratitude as befitted his intentions.

The host, like it, could see beyond the superficial layers of interaction. The host could also see that like the body, with its many pieces and layers, people as a whole worked in much the same way. Disease and cancerous growths could and would invade, attempting to subvert and corrupt, maim or kill, until it was either forcibly excised, driven to death by chemicals or radiation, or was allowed to remain unchecked to the point where it caused its own annihilation out of victory by destroying that which it had fought so dearly to conquer.

The Dark Lord was like that. And his minions. The consciousness imagined a scenario in which they had won, only to lose because with no more opposition to strike down or convert, they would take to fighting among themselves, or become complacent enough to start the entire cycle over again.

The consciousness knew that its lesser self wanted to eradicate the entire group as though it were a cancer of the body of earth. Not merely to strike the head from its own host, or bind its soul in helpless neutrality, but to take them as a collection of cells bent on destruction and wipe them clean.

It also knew its host was worried, feeling the very things it could not feel, and was beginning to strive toward an answer to the problem of its current mentor, and dare it think, friend. Safe within the new cocoon of obfuscating and reflecting barriers, the host was thinking of striking out and striking back to find its own answers to the questions that had come up, and had not yet been addressed, even if it was not yet aware of what percolated in the back of its mind.

*

Harry was safely at the Dursleys, though one might wonder at the term “safe” given their reputation. However, as there were members of the Order on duty every hour of the day and night, it might be construed that way. And at least once a day one of those members would enter the house, usually as the new guard came on duty, and go up to Harry’s room to visit with him.

Severus had heard that the Dursleys were beyond scandalized by this turn of events, not to mention outraged that they could not command the services of the boy during his sojourn with them. It had been made quite clear to them by Moody, Lupin, and Tonks that no such trivialization of the boy’s condition was to be allowed. Nor would they be able to get by on shoving cold soup through the flap, still in its tin, and call having fed him good.

They did not, however, insist that any of them actually lower themselves to playing nursemaid to Harry. Severus could not help but smirk at the idea of the florid Vernon heaving his fat carcass up the stairs several times a day to deliver a decent meal to the boy or assist him to the facilities. Not that it would have been any great strain on an able person.

After a week of the boy’s absence, Severus was moved to visit, to ensure that Haze was not being damaged in any way. After all, the boy would be of little use to him broken; he was only protecting his investment. And so he appeared one evening as Lupin was getting ready to go off duty and the stars were just coming out in the dimming sky overhead.

Lupin, who had been leaning against a tree nearby and appeared on the surface to be half asleep, straightened up directly Severus rounded the corner. For a few heartbeats they stared at each other, then Severus walked easily over to the tree and gave Lupin a brief nod of greeting.

“I didn’t expect to see you here, Severus. Is there something the matter?” asked Lupin, now more obviously keeping an eye on the surrounding territory.

“No,” he said curtly. “I merely wish to ascertain the boy’s condition as I know Pomfrey cannot be at his bedside, and I seriously doubt he would mention if he were ailing more than he ought to be. I did not spend so much time shoring up his defenses to have him fall apart now.”

Lupin gave him a curious look, one that invited further elaboration, and one that Severus ignored. “I suppose that’s just as well. He’s not had a visitor yet today. I was going to go up when Tonks got here, but since you’ve arrived. . . .”

Severus nodded. “I will tell him you were here.” He paused, glanced at the house, then asked, “The Dursleys are within?”

“Having dinner, I believe, which makes it a good time to check,” supplied Lupin with a slight smile. Severus got the distinct impression that the werewolf would have enjoyed seeing him intimidate the muggles who were supposedly such a blight on Harry’s life.

“Very well.” Severus gave another nod and turned, missing the feeling of his robes swirling around his ankles, and stalked up the drive to the front door to ring the bell. He affected obliviousness to the intense eyes of Lupin on his back.

Several long moments passed before he heard footsteps within the house and the door was opened. He looked down at a rotund whale of a boy approximately Haze’s age and sneered. The boy took a step back and widened his eyes.

“I am here to see Potter,” he stated, giving the young man one of his most potent expressions of disdain and disgust. That the boy wouldn’t be sure if it was meant for him or for his cousin was a bonus.

“W-who are you?” stammered Dudley.

“One of his professors. Were you going to keep me standing here like a tradesman, which is highly insulting I might add, or let me in that I may discharge my duty. I should think you would know better by now than to upset a wizard.”

Dudley couldn’t seem to decide between flushing or blanching, stepping back hastily in order to make room, then closing the door quietly once Severus was inside. “He’s upstairs, the room at the end of the hall to the left. It’s not locked.”

Severus gave Dudley a sharp look. “And why, pray tell, would you find it necessary to impart that little bit of knowledge to me, hmm?”

Dudley shook his head and backed up, turned, and dashed the length of the hallway and through the door at the end.

Severus snorted and looked around. Spotting the stair he advanced, taking the steps two at a time and trying to ignore the astonishingly tidy surroundings. He glanced into each room as he passed, noting the horrendous display of materialism and bad taste. He would have nightmares if he had to sleep in this dwelling. It was a wonder Haze had turned out as well as he had.

At the end of the hall he stopped beside the only possible door which Haze could be behind. His eyes scanned the numerous locks that adorned the frame and took in the flap at the bottom he’d heard about. Standing there he was forced to acknowledge a part of those things he’d prevented Haze from telling him months earlier.

Severus rapped on the door three times, then entered when he heard a faint voice from the other side, closing the door behind him firmly. It was definitely not locked.

Haze was propped up in bed with a book in his lap, looking a bit bored. His expression changed when he got a good look at who his visitor was.

“Hello, sir,” he said, letting his book drop flat onto the covers.

“Haze.” Severus scanned the room quickly. There was only one chair, a rickety affair that looked as though it might collapse at the slightest provocation. Mentally shrugging, Severus pulled it over to the bed and sat down.

“I’m happy to see you, sir. Though, I didn’t expect to.” Haze angled his head, plainly curious.

Before he could answer a knock came at the door. After calling out, “Come in,” the door opened to reveal Petunia carrying a tray. She sidled into the room, keeping a nervous eye on Severus, placed the tray on the desk, then scurried out of the room and closed the door.

“I came to check up on you. I—” Severus stopped and pulled out his wand, layering a few spells on the room to prevent eavesdropping. “I would not put it past you to remain silent on the subject of your condition if it were worsening or if you were feeling anything they had not led you to expect. So I will ask, how are you feeling?”

“I’m all right, sir. Just some residual aches, I suppose.” Haze looked off to the right for a second, then flicked his eyes up to meet his professor’s gaze. “I’m rather . . . bored, though,” he said, then lifted his chin.

“Are you now. And what do you suppose would remedy that condition?” The boy’s manner was perhaps laden with innuendo, but then again, it might be innocent. After removing the book from Haze’s lap, he twisted in the chair and grabbed the tray, settling it where the book had rested.

“Well, I’ve got nothing to do all day, sir,” said Haze, watching him closely. “I’ve read all the books here, and they weren’t that interesting to begin with. And while I’m happier when they stay downstairs, it means I haven’t got anything to do besides sleep, read, and eat since I’m not supposed to get out of bed.”

Severus suspected that while his muggle relatives might bring his meals up, he doubted that they did anything more than placed them on the desk and forced Haze to struggle over to get at them.

Haze picked up his knife and fork to cut into the breast of chicken on his plate, slicing off a neat portion and swishing it in gravy. He added a bit of potato and popped it in his mouth, waiting patiently for a response.

After a lengthy pause during which Haze had devoured half his dinner, Severus said, “I think it would be useful, then, for you to have some advanced Potions texts.”

Several things crossed the boy’s face—surprise, worry, and hope. “But I wasn’t able to take the Potions NEWT, sir.”

Severus waved his hand in dismissal. “That is of no consequence, Haze. You will take it at the end of the coming year. But in the meantime there is nothing to stop you from continuing your stated aims. I have every expectation that you would have passed the NEWT admirably, so I see no reason to hold you back simply because there is a delay in the quantified result.”

“Oh,” said Haze, then brightened up considerably. “I would like that, sir.”

“Then I will arrange it, and one of your . . . guardians . . . will bring you a selection which should suit your need.”

“Not you, sir?”

“Possibly. Given that Lupin was on when I arrived and gave up his visit with you, it may be him.”

“Well, that’s all right too, sir,” said Haze, then attacked his meal again.

Severus made an agreeable noise and took the time to give the room a once-over. It was not much to look at, all told. The walls were devoid of decoration aside from what he presumed were artistic efforts on Haze’s part, and the floor was bare wood. The furnishings, much like the chair he sat on, were clearly outcasts from the remainder of the house—there was no sign of conspicuous consumption here—and on the few shelves was a motley collection of dusty books and broken muggle artifacts.

“Charming, I’m sure,” he murmured with a sneer, quite without thinking.

“Sir?” came Haze’s voice.

Severus turned back. “The room.”

“Oh.” Haze shrugged, clearly uninterested. “It does have a nice hiding place, though,” he said rather cheerfully, “so that’s all right.”

Severus arched a brow.

“I considered sprucing it up a bit, sir, but then they told me that taking the NEWTs doesn’t absolve me from the statute about underage magic,” the boy said mournfully. “And then they scolded me for even thinking about exerting myself unless I had to.”

Severus almost smiled at the petulant look on Haze’s face. “You will need somewhere to place your books, even for the short time you must be here. Continue your dinner while I consider the omission.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Severus pushed back his chair, wincing at the sound it made, and stood. Pursing his lips for a moment, he considered where to start. While it wouldn’t hurt to make this a nicer room for the boy’s sake, it would be a foolish waste of energy in the long run.

The current shelving was inconvenient to the bed, and filled with rubbish besides. As Haze was supposed to stay in his bed and not wander around, the desk was likewise useless. He considered simply transfiguring something into a bookcase, but decided that with Harry’s condition as it was, something more complex was in order.  In the end he decided that it might be wiser to bring in something Haze could take with him when he left, and resolved to hunt down some sort of chest or trunk that could be placed by the bed, which was easy to open, and could store things in such a way that Haze would not need to get up to access them.

By then Haze had finished his meal and looked to be a bit sleepy, so Severus removed the tray and placed it back on the desk. One of the muggles could fetch it later. He also removed the book from the bed and placed it on the chair, which he moved closer.

“I will make up a list of texts for you presently. For now, though, I think you need to get some sleep, so I will take my leave.”

Haze gave him a relieved, sleepy smile and wriggled down further under the covers, pulling his pillow flat. “Good night, sir.”

Severus removed his earlier spellwork and left, closing the door quietly behind him. On reflection, the only thing that bothered him about the encounter was his last view of Haze. Was the boy relieved to know that his boredom was about to be dealt with, relieved that Severus had come to see him, or relieved that Severus was leaving? He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer.

*

It never occurred to him to worry about the cost. He checked his own shelves and cases first, then made up a list to take to Flourish & Blotts. What could not be purchased could be duplicated. He spent an hour browsing the shop, pulling down various books, then paid for them, after which he stopped in at the Apothecary to drop off an order to be delivered to the castle.

Another shop provided a portable bookcase, one which could be packed like a trunk, and when opened would raise selected sections in turn for perusal and use. As the current list of texts he intended Haze to have would fill only one of those sections, it should be useful for quite some time.

It wasn’t until he had finished duplicating those tomes from his own collection that were needful and had packed the trunk, that he realized his fellow Order members which visited the boy would wonder about the largess of his gift.

He left his rooms mumbling, glad that the castle was nearly devoid of inhabitants during the summer holiday, and made his way up to the headmaster’s office. Once he was settled in he explained the issue.

“So you see the problem,” he said, casting an absently disdainful look at the headmaster’s supply of sweets, prominently displayed on his desk.

“Of a certainty, Severus. You have already determined which books?”

Severus nodded. “I will need to duplicate some of my own as well, as they cannot be purchased without a great deal of difficulty. The main issue is what to place them in that will not only hold them, but will not cause the Potter brat to overexert himself in trying to get at them.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” said Albus vaguely as he rooted around in a drawer.

“I am aware of something which might solve that problem, sold in Diagon Alley.”

Albus looked up and smiled. “Would you like me to send someone out to fetch things, Severus?”

Severus shook his hair back and stared down his nose at Albus with half-lidded eyes. “If you wish, though I will need to place a few spells on the trunk before it is delivered, to protect it from both the muggles and from the overly curious.”

“It does not matter to me who goes, dear boy. You might consider picking it up yourself, then, so you are certain it is suitable before you work on it.” Albus glanced in the drawer again and brightened. He pulled out a small sack and tossed it Severus, who caught it neatly.

“I’m sure that will cover things. If not, let me know.” Albus peered over the rims of his spectacles and said with an alarming twinkle in his eyes, “Are you quite sure you wouldn’t like a sherbet lemon?”

Severus shot him a deadly cold look, which didn’t daunt Albus in the least, then turned and stalked out, reveling in both the feel of robes swirling around him and that he’d got the headmaster to ante up the cost of the supplies. He could honestly say to anyone that asked that it was not he who had laid out his own money for this venture. He did, however, disappear from the castle again for a time before going back to his rooms.

Deciding to build on that, Severus sent an owl off to Lupin before settling down to enchant the trunk. Muggles would only notice it enough to realize it was there, and would be subtly deflected from investigating it. Wizarding folk were dealt with in a similar manner, keeping away questing and curious fingers with few exceptions: Severus, of course, and Lupin, who needed to be able to transport it, and naturally, Haze.

Lupin was obviously not a busy man that day as a knock sounded on Severus’s door that afternoon.

“As I do not have the time to waste further on this, there is something I’d like for you to deliver to Potter,” Severus stated without preamble and gestured at the trunk.

“What is it, Severus?” Lupin was more curious than offended.

“The trunk contains Potions texts,” he said curtly, then added, “Since the brat has nothing to do all day, he may as well study, and this is designed so that the boy need not leave his bed in order to use it.”

“Ah, I see. May I try it out so I can explain the workings if necessary?”

“Do so, then, though only one section is filled.” Severus turned and took his usual chair, neglecting to invite Lupin to sit down.

After fiddling with it for a minute or so, the werewolf straightened up and smiled. “This is a lovely gift, Severus. I think he’ll quite enjoy it.”

“Gift?” Severus sneered. “Save your admiration for Albus. He’s the one who paid for it all. Are you quite done? I have things I need to be doing.”

Lupin raised his brows ever so slightly and grabbed the trunk by the convenient handle. After a nod goodbye, he took himself off and left Severus in peace.

*

It was perhaps a few days prior to Haze’s birthday when Severus next visited. When he knocked on the front door this time, he was ushered in by a silent Dudley and left alone immediately to seek out the boy.

The trunk was sitting next to the bed, currently closed, with a tray resting atop it. Haze was propped up again with a fat book supported by his blanket-covered legs. Severus recognized it as the second book of the collection.

“Hello, sir,” said Haze brightly, looking altogether more alive and alert than he had last time.

“Haze.” Severus inclined his head briefly and pulled up the chair. “You appear to be feeling better,” he said as he seated himself, “so I trust that you are making good use of this.” He indicated the trunk with one hand.

“Absolutely, sir. Some of this stuff is fascinating.” Haze cast a slightly furtive look at the trunk and added, “Remus did add some books to it, though. He thought all Potions and no fun wasn’t very . . . fun.”

“Did he,” drawled Severus.

“But I only read those when I need a break, sir,” said Haze hastily.

“Mmm. I would ask that you be very careful with these texts, Haze. Some of them cannot easily be obtained.”

Haze nodded soberly after another glance at the trunk. “It comes with me, right, sir?”

“Of course. While it is not what I would normally recommend, there is no reason for you not to keep it, and every reason not to leave it here when you go.”

“And never come back,” Haze said quietly, more to himself than anything else.

“One imagines not. Unless, of course, you enjoy this hovel and the delightful company herein.”

“Dear Merlin, no, sir,” said Haze with wide eyes. “If I never see this place again it won’t be too soon.”

The intensity of the response told Severus more than he was comfortable knowing. “A wise decision, I’m sure. Are you experiencing any difficulties—your health or the texts?”

Haze shook his head. “Not so far, sir. I’m actually getting rather restless—they still tell me I shouldn’t get out of bed if I can avoid it. I feel fine, though, and it’s frustrating.”

“I imagine it will take another going over by Madam Pomfrey before you’ll be given leave. The headmaster is most solicitous of your health.”

Haze wrinkled his nose in response. “Then I hope that will be soon, sir.”

“As do I.”

He was given a strangely blank look by Haze, then an abrupt smile.

“And the texts?” Severus asked, slightly unsettled.

“Oh, like I said, sir, these are fascinating. I don’t suppose there’s a book somewhere that self-updates when new potions are registered, for a complete list? I didn’t notice anything like that in the trunk.”

“Probably. I would have to investigate. I’m not sure why you’d be interested, though.”

“To see what’s missing, sir. If you can tell what’s already been done, you can see the gaps that remain, and consider if you’d want to fill them. Besides, simply seeing things laid out often sparks ideas.”

Severus blinked. “I suppose so.” Severus made new potions out of necessity more than from inspiration or curiosity. Perhaps long ago, but with the advent of the Dark Lord, necessity was a cruel mistress, and far more demanding. It surprised him that with so many burdens, Haze was thinking along those lines.

A reflection caught his eye and he looked down to see the twin wedding bands on the boy’s finger. Glancing up, he noticed Haze presenting another blank expression.

“Haze?”

The boy blinked and jerked his head slightly, then looked at Severus attentively. “Yes, sir?”

“Are you quite sure you’re feeling all right?” he asked in a tone that demanded honesty.

“Quite well, sir.” Haze looked down at each of his arms then back up. “Do I look pale or something? I don’t feel feverish or sick, and I’ve been eating plenty.” The boy’s gaze wandered absently off to the right for a moment, then snapped back. “I feel fine, anyway.”

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose and nodded. “As you say. Well then, we shall see how far you get with those by the next time I see you.” He pushed back the chair and stood.

“Leaving so soon, sir?” Haze had his head tilted to the side, his brow slightly furrowed.

“There are things I must attend to, so yes. Do not spend too much time on the frivolities Lupin included.”

“Of course, not, sir,” Haze replied archly.

Severus took himself off before the urge to put the boy under overcame his good sense.