Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 04 :: Back Again

04 • Back Again

“Of course you did.”

“No, I would never have said that out loud with Dobby standing right there. It might have hurt his feelings, Tom.”

Tom glanced sideways at the book Harry had cast aside earlier. “Then I suppose it is somehow related to the soul bond.”

“I expect you’re correct,” Harry said. “We shall see, I suppose. Anyway, assuming that you are able to leash all of my relatives, how am I supposed to get back into Privet Drive unnoticed? The Order does have people on duty, you know. Frankly, I’m not sure how you managed to get me out so easily.” Harry paused, frowned slightly, then added, “Though, I suppose Dung might have been the one. He’s not exactly . . . sharp.”

“You’ve only been gone the one day so far, Harry. I imagine that Severus can assist with the duty schedule. If this Dung is back up quickly, it may not be an issue. Otherwise, it may be easy enough to create a diversion somewhere in the neighborhood. Severus will be back tomorrow—earlier if necessary.”

“I don’t suppose you have an invisibility cloak handy?”

“Not offhand, no. But there are potions for that, and I could send you in after dark through the back door. All you might need is a magical lockpick.”

“All right.”

“It’s getting late. I need to start making preparations for tomorrow, so I’ll leave you be for now. Dobby can find me if you have need of me.”

*

Severus arrived the next morning at ten and was duly informed that the issue of portraits was already being handled. Harry could not tell if the man was annoyed by the news or not. Certain people might have taken the information to mean they were not trusted with the knowledge of where the spies had been placed rather than being pleased they would not have to manufacture reasons for being within the castle over a holiday. In the end, it really didn’t matter.

Severus was able to report that there was no news as of yet about the date on which Dumbledore planned to retrieve Harry from his family—Harry suspected it would not be for several weeks yet—and was able to produce the address for the firm Vernon worked at. Tom and Severus left shortly thereafter, leaving Harry alone for quite some time.

When Tom did return, he was alone, and Harry was deeply engrossed in a book on Occlumency. Harry did not look up until startled out of his studies by the sound of a throat being cleared.

“Your aunt and uncle have been handled,” Tom stated with a slight smile.

After shooting him a suspicious look, Harry said, “In the expected manner, I assume.”

“Yes, of course. Your uncle seemed a little resistant at first, but caved under my will fairly quickly. I was worried there for a bit that we would have to come up with a new plan because of him, but it’s fine. Your aunt, on the other hand, has no will at all. We’ll give it another day, then sneak you back in. I’ll swing by once a week to make sure everything is still all right. As I believe you know, the Imperius Curse must be reinforced from time to time.”

Harry nodded. “I remember that from Barty Crouch. What if Uncle Vernon is stronger than you think?”

“Dumbledore didn’t set you up with any contingency plans, did he?”

Harry shrugged and shook his head. “He doesn’t think it would be necessary. Though, after I was attacked by those dementors, I would have expected something from him in case I needed to alert the Order. But . . . nothing. One would have thought being beaten would have triggered some sort of alarm. . . .”

Tom sighed. “Every three days, then.”

“You can always send me dreams, Tom,” Harry pointed out with a slight smile.

“Yes, I can. I find it hard to believe that Dumbledore is naïve enough to think that your muggle family is thrilled to have you.”

“Well, he always has had a watcher in the neighborhood, but I think I can safely say that it has been a less than efficacious idea.”

“I’m not sure I follow you.”

Harry gave a slight shrug and a lopsided smile. “If you consider that I had to be rescued by the Weasley boys for my second year after I was locked and barred in, you might see. Obviously, the watcher noticed nothing out of the ordinary, or was put off by my family. Every year I’ve returned to school looking thin and overworked, but no one has ever questioned it.” After a pause he added, “At least, nobody in charge. And of course, I was locked away and beaten this summer, and the only person who noticed was you. What does that say?”

“Yes, I quite see your point. Dumbledore cannot believe, despite any evidence, that your family would harm you, so has never given you any way to alert your watchers. He is a bit too blinded by his faith in humanity.”

Harry shrugged again. “Or, he believes that adversity breeds strong men.”

Tom snorted loudly. “Yes, and we all know how well I turned out, no?”

Harry smiled faintly and changed the subject. “Were you able to obtain more portraits?”

“Indeed.” Tom produced a packet from his pocket and placed it on the bed, then enlarged it, revealing a neat bundle of portraits tied together with string. After loosing the bindings they set out to instruct the newest set of serpents in their duties, then turned them over to Dobby for placement.

“Then, aside from getting the reports, that’s the end of that,” Harry said with a relieved sigh. “I am not looking forward to returning to the Dursleys.”

“Well, aside from manufacturing a reason to trip the wards, I can see no other alternative. And even then, you would have to return first, even if only to grab your treasures and fly out the window as if in escape.”

Harry sighed. “I guess it doesn’t matter. So long as they leave me be, I should be all right. I know the Order will come for me eventually. Besides, my broom is still at the school. The earlier I leave, the more people will be around to constantly annoy me.”

“How do you mean?”

Tom looked genuinely curious, so Harry obliged with a grimace. “People always seem to want to know what’s in my head, and absolutely love telling me what they think is best for me, even if that means me spilling every thought I’ve had about everything since I was old enough to retain memories. And when I’m not forthcoming, people start to assume I’m keeping secrets and hiding things from them, or that I don’t trust them.”

“And you prefer to keep your own counsel, speaking up only when you deem it necessary?”

“Something like that, yeah. I don’t think my friends should have to bear the burdens I’m forced to. They don’t need to understand what all this has meant to me, and done to me. They deserve a normal life.”

“And you?” Tom asked, then frowned when Harry smiled sadly. “We’ll just see about that.”

“Tom, even after this is all over, I’ll still be Harry Potter. People aren’t going to let that go, even my friends.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Harry. There are always ways.”

“What, like disappearing? Then they’d all feel betrayed by my choice.”

Tom shrugged. “And if you stayed, you’d be a touchstone for everyone else. You wouldn’t have a life, you’d be a sideshow. Which is better in the end?”

“Something that allowed me to keep my friends, but kept me anonymous. People don’t like saviors, Tom. They don’t like feeling grateful. They don’t like feeling ashamed that they had to rely on someone else, especially a unprepossessing young boy. I make them feel inadequate.”

“All true, and all the more reason to disappear in the aftermath, or fake your own death. They have a martyr and you get a life.”

“With you.”

“Hopefully, yes.”

Harry averted his gaze, staring at the bedcovers as though they were fascinating. Tom got the point and rather than continue in that vein, instead asked softly, “Why are you being so open?”

The corner of Harry’s mouth curled up before he said, “You have to give something to get something, Tom. That’s a basic tenant of life, no? Or Slytherin. I actually do believe you trust me, so it behooves me to try to do likewise. If I’m a fool, I won’t be around very long to regret it, I expect, and if I’m not, I probably won’t have a reason to regret.”

“Something tells me that your friends have absolutely no idea who you really are,” Tom said accusingly.

Harry glanced up, eyes bright. “I think they try very hard to believe their perceptions aren’t affected by my fame, and for the most part, succeed.”

Tom held up a hand and nodded. “How have you been faring with that book on Occlumency?”

Harry blinked and lifted his chin. “Not so bad. Having some idea on the underlying theory is useful. It also helps that there are many examples of ways to protect your mind, as not everyone thinks alike.”

Tom nodded. “I would offer practical lessons, but I do not think that would be wise. I have no wish to intrude further into your mind than necessary, especially now. Severus would likewise be a poor choice, perhaps, and there is no one I would trust to oversee that part of your education.”

“I may not be given a choice. Though, if pressed, I would chose Snape over Dumbledore.”

“It will be dinner time soon. Would you like me to stay, or would you prefer to eat alone?”

“If it’s all the same to you, alone.”

“That’s fine. I shall spend the evening going over the roster, then, to see who must be handled and who might conceivably be set free. Send an elf should you need me for anything.”

Harry nodded and watched as Tom rose and left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

*

“Fletcher is on duty tomorrow evening.”

“Splendid. I expect there will be no trouble, then, slipping Harry back into the house. All he should need from you is an invisibility potion.”

“He still has sufficient quantities of the potions I gave him earlier?”

Tom nodded and after eyeing Severus speculatively said, “He brought up an interesting point with me yesterday. He is well aware that Dumbledore may force him to continue with Occlumency lessons and stated a preference for you over the headmaster.”

Severus sneered.

“I do not believe I betray anything when I say that.”

Severus stared at him fixedly for a minute, then said, “Logic suggests the boy would feel that way.” When Tom said nothing further, he added, “I suppose should it come to that I could not turn him away.”

Tom smiled briefly in response and replied, “It is still a choice, Severus. It might be as simple an act as providing Harry refuge for a few hours each week so that he might escape Dumbledore’s probings.”

Severus arched his brow, then nodded.

Tom smiled a second time and slid a list across his desk. “Your opinion?” he asked, then watched in silence as Severus read through the names and the comments he had written beside each one.

Several minutes later Severus looked up and said, “I see no reason to disagree with your assessments. Though, how you plan to deal with some of them is beyond my immediate ken.”

“Ways will present themselves, or we shall think of them. I, Harry, or you. So long as the right people go to the right places, I shall be satisfied. I need to do something about Peter and Bella soon, though.”

“Send her out on a raid,” suggested Severus in an odd drawl.

Tom gave him a patient look, knowing there must be more to it than the obvious. He was rewarded when Severus continued with, “Something you would trust only her with, because of her strength, her cunning, and so forth. And, if she were to unwittingly test a potion for you prior to her departure. . . .” Severus sneered and straightened, then said, “Of course, she failed you in the Department of Mysteries. She would not have escaped Azkaban, I believe, had you not arrived when you did. You could make an example of her.”

Tom tilted his head to the side and considered. “You present an interesting idea. There are a number of Death Eaters who are getting more than a bit too bold. I could lose a few simply in the power struggle to fill her place, or many.”

“Lucius is no longer at issue,” Severus said abruptly. “Perhaps you could, as a show of faith, send Peter out with some of your more . . . special . . . people, such as Goyle, on some trifling task doomed to failure.”

Tom quirked the corner of his mouth and gave Severus another speculative look. “And what are your thoughts on the Malfoy boy?”

“He blames Potter for the capture of his father,” came the disdainful reply. “If you want my honest opinion, the boy is not very smart. Intelligent, yes, when it comes to certain things, but he is much too caught up in his own sense of importance. He lacks subtlety and resorts to childish methods to both provoke others and protect himself. He is a bully, with all that implies.”

“How very interesting,” Tom said thoughtfully. “And your thoughts on the boy as a Death Eater?”

“Poor. I have every reason to suspect that Lucius shielded him from reality and spoiled the boy rotten in all things that matter very little. He would come to you, puffed up with pride, and probably very enthusiastic about hurting people. The consequences of his first failure would blindside him. He might become dangerously unpredictable in that event.”

“You are not certain if he wishes to enter Voldemort’s service?”

“At the present time, I am certain only that he wishes to kill Potter.”

“I see. Well, once Harry is back at Privet Drive, I will see about Bella and Peter. Draco is a different matter. Perhaps I should pay a visit to Narcissa. In any case, I should like you to check Harry over one final time. Tomorrow you can bring along that potion and we can escort him most of the way back to his home.”

“As you wish.”

The walk to Harry’s room was short and silent. At the door, Tom paused only long enough to knock and receive an answer before opening it and entering, taking his customary chair near the bed. Severus produced his wand once through the door and stepped forward, saying, “Another scan, Potter.”

“All right,” Harry said agreeably enough, placing his book flat on his lap. Tom stifled a laugh when, once Severus was done and had pronounced his patient likely to survive the next ten minutes, Harry piped up with, “Thank you, professor. I do believe I prefer your bedside manner over that of Madam Pomfrey’s incessant fussing.”

Severus shot the boy a dark look and said, “Don’t get used to it,” then whirled and stalked out.

“I daresay you seem to be feeling better,” Tom observed. “You should be able to return tomorrow evening. You can take along the remainder of the potions Severus left with you, and those books, of course.” When Harry nodded he said, “Severus and I went over the roster. He appears to agree with my choices as regards the current list. However, he is concerned about Draco Malfoy, though naturally, he is not on it.”

Harry arched a brow and said, “Draco wants to kill me.” Then, “He’s a depressing topic and I’d rather not talk about him.”

Tom inclined his head. “Back to tomorrow evening, then. Would you like the snakes to be sent in first to make sure your family is soundly asleep for the night before you head back in? It worked well enough last time.”

“All right. It would be one less thing to worry about. Thank you. I just hope Uncle Vernon didn’t go ahead and burn everything while I’ve been gone.”

“If he did, simply tell me. I’ll arrange for your things to be replaced. Though, even with your family being leashed, as you put it, I doubt it would be wise to do anything about your clothing just yet. People may become more observant than we’d like.” Tom paused, then said, “I see one major flaw with our overall plan, Harry. Let us assume that things do go to plan, and the more dangerous Death Eaters are incapacitated, while the others are released. The Ministry may yet see fit to imprison them even if their Dark Marks go missing.”

“I understand that, but they would still have had the chance at freedom. If the Ministry ends up believing that the marks disappeared because of their real loyalties as a result of Voldemort’s death, they may leave them alone. If not, we tried, right?”

Tom smiled. “So long as we’re all being realistic. Though, Severus’s lack of a Dark Mark may provide the extra nudge in that direction as he is well enough known to have been—”

A pop had both of them turning to see Dobby entering the room with a tray in his hands. “Master is to be eating lunch,” said the elf firmly, advancing on the bed. After placing the tray across Harry’s lap he stepped back and stared at Tom. “Is master’s friend wanting lunch as well?”

Tom looked at Harry, who gave a slight nod, so Tom inclined his head at Dobby. “That would be nice, Dobby, thank you.”

“Dobby is returning shortly.” A second later he popped out.

Harry grabbed a sandwich from his tray and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully as he stared at the bedcovers. Before Dobby had a chance to return he said, “He was able to enter Privet Drive before without tripping the wards.”

“He is known to be quite fond of you?” Tom asked. Harry nodded and took another bite. “Then if I understand you aright, he would likely be another good guardian while you remain there.”

“It wasn’t until he deliberately tripped the wards that anything bad happened,” Harry offered, then took a sip of his juice.

“So if he stayed mainly out of sight. . . .”

“Yeah.”

Dobby popped back in with a second tray, which he presented to Tom with a toothy smile, then looked back at Harry. Harry, swallowing hastily, patted the spot next to him invitingly and had another sip of juice while the elf settled down on the bed. “Dobby, I’ve been wondering something.”

Dobby perked his ears and looked at him attentively.

“Are you still able to enter and leave the house I live at on Privet Drive without setting off the wards?”

“Of course, master.”

“Then you would be able to visit me while I’m still there,” he affirmed. “And you could probably bring me anything I needed without tripping the wards?”

Dobby nodded vigorously.

“Are you able to do magic there safely? I mean, I know you were trying to get me in trouble that one time.”

Dobby looked scandalized for a moment. “Dobby was trying to save master that time,” he said reprovingly, then smiled toothily. “Dobby can do elf magic there.”

“Dumbledore obviously never considered house-elves in his grand protection plans,” Tom said wryly.

Harry grinned. “Well that’s great, Dobby. You’ll be able to visit me daily, if necessary, and no one should be the wiser.”

“Master has only to call and Dobby will come.”

“What exactly did you tell my family again?” Harry asked Tom.

“To leave you alone, not bother you.”

“So, in theory, I could have Dobby bring me my meals and only leave my room when I must.”

“I don’t see why not. He could get the necessary food from here. I don’t know if the other elves would notice anything odd if he were to take it from Hogwarts, so it might be safer if he came here instead.”

Harry turned his attention back to Dobby. “Does it bother you that my friend is the same person you were trying to save me from before?”

Dobby cast a strange look at Tom before answering. “If this is master’s friend now, this is Dobby’s friend. But Dobby will protect master, even from master’s friend.”

“That puts me in my place, then, doesn’t it,” said Tom with a slight smile.

“No one shall harm Dobby’s master and friend,” Dobby said firmly, nodding his head sharply.

“Mm, never argue with a determined house-elf.”

“You do realize,” Harry said, “that back at Hogwarts you cannot be overheard calling me master, Dobby.”

“Dobby knows.”

“Did you find a nice place for the master portrait?”

“Dobby has, though Dobby could also place it on the underside of master’s bed’s canopy.”

“Wouldn’t people be able to notice it there, if they sat down and looked up?”

Dobby shook his head. “Only master would be seeing it since Dobby is being the one to put it there.”

Harry blinked slowly, then said, “I suppose I could use privacy charms, and it would mean you wouldn’t have to transport me back and forth. Less of a chance for people to notice I was missing and start asking awkward questions.” He smiled at Dobby and nodded. “All right, the canopy it is, then.”

“Dobby will take care of that today!” The elf bounced to his feet and popped out.

*

Severus arrived the next evening with no new news. Dumbledore had not contacted him on either problems at Privet Drive, about Harry, or even about when Harry was to be removed from his family. Harry had sent out letters earlier in the day, including one to the Order, and had told Hedwig to return to him at Privet Drive when she was done.

After that, it was fairly simple. The three portkeyed to the neighborhood, though Harry was obviously reluctant to participate in that particular action, and crept closer to Harry’s home under the cover of darkness. Once the snakes had returned, Tom handed over the lockpick, which Harry stowed in his pocket, and Severus handed over the potion with an admonition to remember it would wear off in just over an hour.

Harry downed it quickly, grimacing at the taste, then gave the two men a shaky smile before he faded from view. Moments later he was creeping down the narrow path between gardens, taking care to step quietly, and entered his own garden without issue. Wherever Dung was, he either wasn’t paying attention, or was on the front side of the house.

Harry did need to use the lockpick on the garden door, and on the door to his bedroom. That he locked behind him the conventional way. The lockpick went under the floorboard, along with his wand, and Harry was pleased to see that his treasures were exactly where he had left them. After a resigned sigh, Harry opened the window so Hedwig could get in, then fell into bed.