Since ffn doesn't make it easy to implement series, future installments of this fic will be posted under the original fic.

Here's the year 2 description from ao3:

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened, and new mayhem is brought with it. Dumbledore is ruthlessly attempting to find whatever is possessing his students, Parvati begins to wonder why people aren't taking her seriously, and Harry doesn't understand why talking to snakes is such a big deal. Tom Riddle isn't going to take any opposition lying down, though, so he just has to be more clever about how he does things.

Fortunately for everyone, Gilderoy Lockhart, Gentleman Adventurer, is here to save the day.

Welcome to Harry Potter and Slytherin's Chaos

Harry ducked under Dudley's punch, then sidestepped as the boy fell over. Dodging was always the best way to deal with Dudley, as the boy lacked any sort of grace, and Harry's reflexes were pretty good. In fact, dodging Dudley's punches was probably why Harry was so good at blocking spellfire by levitating objects. In a way, that meant that Dudley was indirectly responsible for him surviving his encounter with Quirrell. That was a strange thought.

Still, Harry was only passively aware of this train of thought. Most of his focus was on "staying in the moment". Staying in the moment was hard when the moment was about dodging punches, but Harry thought he was doing pretty well.

What little remained of his attention was focused on feeling out the environment around him. He kept feeling until a slight ripple to his right caught his attention. Harry focused on this ripple and put every ounce of his willpower on pushing at it. He continued this for what felt like minutes before the memory faded from around him and he was face to face with the occlumency teacher.

"Your skills with the basics of Occlumency continue to be impressive." She said as Harry tried to regain his bearings. "That said, while your ability to detect intrusions is exemplary, you really should be able to push me out of your mind at this point."

Harry groaned a bit as he adjusted his position on the couch. He really was trying to push her out, but no matter what he did, he could never seem to manage it.

Harry watched as Sarah moved over to Tracey and performed the same task. A minute later, she stopped and pinched her brow.

"Miss Davis, I don't know exactly how you are doing it, but you cannot simply light your memories on fire to keep me from looking at them."

Tracey crossed her arms. "Well, it keeps you out, doesn't it?"

"Miss Davis." Sarah hissed at her. "I am trying to teach you an art. You cannot simply circumvent the proper method of learning."

"But that's so boring! I can just burn it all down and then think about something else and it keeps you from reading my mind regardless."

Sarah took several slow, deep breaths before moving on. Harry felt kind of bad for her, actually. Really, would it kill Tracey to do things normally once in a while?

Still, at least she was doing better than Hermione. Speaking of which…

Sarah sighed as she stopped reading Hermione's mind. "Miss Granger, surely you can detect something? Anything?"

Hermione squinched her eyes for a moment before shaking her head. "I don't know what I'm even looking for!" She exclaimed, frustration leaking into her tone.

Hermione had, though an unlikely feat of accidental magic, created an advanced occlumency construct known as a "Mindscape". Harry vaguely recalled that detail coming up in the first term, but didn't pay it much mind. After all, accidentally recreating advanced magic would surely be a good thing, right?

Well, it turned out that the truth was more complicated than that. Mindscapes had advantages that came with them, such as perfect recall, but they also had disadvantages that came along with them. Sarah stressed that the biggest problem with mindscapes was that they prevented any sort of "dynamic defences", which were apparently the basis of all forms of occlumency defences. Moreover, since mindscapes were inherently organised, that meant that anyone invading Hermione's mind could more easily pick out whatever information they were after.

So, Hermione was stuck. She couldn't learn the basics because she lacked the ability to "dynamically alter her conceptual space" — a term which Harry only vaguely understood — and thus she couldn't learn basic defences. And since she couldn't learn basic defences, she couldn't use them to learn the types of defences she needed to keep her more advanced mindscape safe.

So Hermione wasn't doing so well in the lessons.

"I understand that you're frustrated, Miss Granger, but if you cannot even detect my intrusions, then you'll have no hope of being able to create adequate defences." Sarah explained.

"But I keep imagining all sorts of traps in the library!" Hermione whined. "How are you still able to get past them!?"

"Because those are not traps. They are the idea of traps. You have not yet attuned them to intruders because you have no idea what an intruder feels like."

Luckily, any further discussion was cut off as Daphne's mother entered the room. "Is now a good time to break for lunch? Tillop made sandwiches."

Sarah sighed. "I suppose now is as good a time as any. I believe we are about done for the day anyways. Harry just needs more practical experience to improve and Hermione has no way to progress at all barring a miraculous breakthrough. Daphne's progress continues to be above average for her age group, and Tracey could do with… well, many things. I suppose I'll start by asking her to try meditating without falling asleep."

"No promises!" Tracey yelled.

Sarah sighed. "I'll be taking my leave, if that's alright with you, Isabelle."

Daphne's mother nodded. "That's fine. You know where the floo room is. Are you kids ready for lunch?"

"Food!" Tracey yelled, grabbing Daphne's hand and dragging her towards the door. Tracey grabbed Harry with her other hand, and attempted to grab Hermione, but attempting to drag three people just ended with all of them on the floor.

"Why don't we just walk?" Isabelle asked with an amused smile.

"Now, then," Dumbledore began, "I know that many of us are eager to get on with our summers, but I felt it very important to have this one last staff meeting due to recent events."

Minerva, the only one who was fully in the loop on everything that had happened at the end of the term, nodded solemnly. Everyone else looked like they just wanted to get this over with.

"As you are all aware, a few days before the leaving feast, Quirinus Quirrell fought Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Tracey Davis, and Daphne Greengrass at the end of the gauntlet in the Third Floor Corridor. All four of the students were injured to varying degrees of severity before Quirrell killed himself with a backfired killing curse. What you were not aware of is that this conflict only happened because all five of them believed that the Philosopher's Stone was hidden at the end of the corridor. Quirrell hoped to steal the prize for himself and attempted to kill the students when they showed up."

He was leaving Voldemort out of the official story. Minerva already knew, and Severus would be told afterwards, but the less people who were aware that Voldemort not only persisted, but was active, the better.

"Now, I know that such rumours could have come about benignly, but I need to make sure that this wasn't a deliberate effort to attract potentially dangerous people to the school. So, who among us was under the impression that the Philosopher's Stone was being kept here?"

Everyone except Minerva raised their hands.

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at that. "All of you? Really? Do you truly think me so reckless that I would use the school full of children to protect an artefact so valuable that wars have been waged for its control? The Philosopher's Stone wa- is in France with Flamel where it belongs."

Everyone seemed at least a little abashed by that. Minerva heard Septima mutter "Well, you are known for being eccentric…", but that was all.

"Well, now that we've established how many people were misled, I'd like to trace it. Where did this rumour begin?"

The meeting room was overrun by voices as everyone traced back who'd heard it from whom. This continued for several minutes until all gazes were pointing at…

"Hagrid, it seems that you're the origin here. Where did you hear about this?"

Hagrid's face flushed beneath his beard. "Well, I just sort of assumed… since you mentioned that you were altering the protections around the Philosopher's Stone and then had me bring it here from that vault at Gringotts."

The vault at… Oh. Dumbledore resisted the urge to sigh deeply. "Hagrid, that was a sample of alchemically purified metal that I kept stored in a high security vault at Gringotts due to its value. I had you retrieve it because your… heritage makes you highly resistant to magical coercion and Flamel and I were very busy trying to reformulate the wards."

Hagrid flushed deeper and hunched his shoulders in shame. "Oh."

"But, Dumbledore…" Pomona asked. "If the Philosopher's Stone was in France, then what was the point of all the challenges on the third floor-"

"That's not important." Dumbledore cut her off. "What is important is that, while I may be prone to fits of fancy and mania, I will absolutely keep all of you informed about any potential security threats to the castle. If something is dangerous or liable to attract danger, then I will want you to be as informed as you can safely be."

Everyone was sufficiently chastened, Dumbledore dismissed the meeting. "I hope you all have a wonderful summer, and that this coming term will be less chaotic than the last."

As everyone filed out of the room, Minerva walked up to him. "Albus, what was the point of the gauntlet on the third floor corridor?"

"Well, that's a rather complicated situation to explain. The first thing you must understand is that life is full of mysteries. After all, what good is life without some mystery to it? Yes, we do our best to understand how magic works, but there is an elusive core to the very nature of magic that adds a beautiful element of mysticism to the world."

"Albus…" Minerva said, her tone warning.

"I'm getting there, Minerva. Another thing to note is that life is full of illusions. Yes, we rely on our senses to perceive the world, but sometimes our senses lie. They lie to us on their own, and magic just adds in further complications. For example, you think that you've been talking to me, but I'm not actually here. I've already fled the castle."

Minerva blinked as Dumbledore disappeared from where he was standing. An illusion? On her? Oh, he was really in for it now…

Snape apparated to the boundary of Malfoy Manor's wards, pleased to find that they still opened for him. He was fairly certain they would, but he could never be sure if Lucius was going to block him out at some point.

The fact that Severus was Draco's godfather was fairly common knowledge. Many people assumed that this was because Severus and Lucius were friends due to their… shared history.

This was, of course, utter nonsense. Lucius and Severus had always hated each other. Lucius was the prefect back during Severus's first year, and he made constant derogatory comments about the common rabble invading Slytherin house whenever Severus was around.

So Lucius hated Snape because of his "common background", and Snape hated Lucius for embodying all of the worst aspects of pureblood snobbery. The only reason Lucius didn't protest the public view is because it helped his reputation to have a "token halfblood friend".

No, the reason why Snape was Draco's godfather was because he had maintained a covert friendship with Narcissa since their schooldays. They got together whenever they were both free and vented about how shitty life and everything in it is.

It was cathartic. Also, Narcissa provided good booze for the occasions.

Narcissa was waiting for him on the back patio, as was tradition. She began pouring him a cup of tea and generously spiking it. Severus all but chugged it.

She raised an eyebrow. "Rough term, Sev?"

"I fucking hate my life, Cissa."

"I know that. You have told me that easily hundreds of times over the years. Another cup?"

Severus shook his head. "I'll pace myself for now. So, you know how I told you about Dumbledore keeping the Philosopher's Stone in the school?"

Narcissa nodded. "Of course. Lucius spent several months trying to find a clause in the Hogwarts Bylaws that he could use to remove Dumbledore based on that knowledge. What came of it?"

"It was never there in the first place." Severus said through gritted teeth. "The actual Stone was in France, with Flamel, where you'd expect it to be, but Hagrid severely misunderstood the situation, and you know how he is with rumours."

Narcissa pursed her lips. "Ah." She poured Severus another spiked cup of tea. "You need it."

Severus silently thanked magic for being able to heal damaged livers and drank it down. "I spent most of the year keeping track of that idiot Quirrell to make sure that he didn't try to steal the Stone that was never there. I tried to inform Dumbledore on multiple occasions, but he was never concerned because why should he be!? As far as he was concerned, the Stone was in France, and the third floor just served as a way for students to get in trouble!"

"Lucius has been antsy over the past few months." Narcissa said, changing the subject. "The Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office has been cracking down and greatly increasing the frequency of their sweeps and searches."

"Can you blame them? Someone sold half a dozen carnivorous soda bottles to some hapless muggles. It took the obliviation squad two months to fabricate a serial killer to take the fall for all the deaths, and even longer to clean up all of the witnesses."

Narcissa sighed. "I hate that idiots constantly make life harder for the rest of us."

Severus raised his cup. "I'll toast to that."

Hermione fell in love with the grounds of Greengrass manor the first time she saw them. While grounds were as grassy as the name would imply, large, gorgeous trees of all sorts were spread evenly throughout, providing just enough sun to keep the grass healthy while still maintaining pleasant amounts of shade. The patio felt more like a garden, with various planters and flowerbeds interspersed among the various sets of tables and chairs.

If Hermione had to pick a place to live, this would be it.

Today, Isabelle had set them up at a small table near the edge of the patio area, so they had a gorgeous view of the grounds while they ate.

"Right, what do you kids want to drink?" She asked as they all sat down.

"Lemonade." Tracey said. "Actual, American lemonade, not the soda that everyone over here calls lemonade."

"That actually does sound good." Daphne admitted. "I'll have one, too."

"What's American lemonade?" Harry whispered into Hermione's ear.

"I think it's just lemons, sugar, and water." She whispered back.

Harry gave her a weird look. "Well, it's better than water, I guess… I'll give it a try."

"Me too." Hermione said as she sat down."

"Lovely." Isabelle clapped her hands. "Tillop, four lemondes and a tonic water."

A weird, short thing appeared on the table and placed the drinks in front of each of them before disappearing. Hermione was wondering what exactly it was, but Harry beat her to asking the question.

"Er… What was that?"

"That was Tillop, our house elf." Daphne said as though it should be obvious. "Didn't I mention her to you?"

"I just sort of assumed she was a butler or maid of something…" Harry said. "So they're creatures that work for you?"

"We just have Tillop, but yes." Daphne explained. "House elves form a magical bond with the family they serve that keeps them loyal and prevents them from betraying their family's secrets. The elf gets all of its living needs taken care of and the family gets a servant."

"Oh…" Hermione said. Something about that felt a little… off. "How much do they get paid?"

"They don't. They get offended if you even suggest it."

Wait, WHAT!? "But that's slavery!" Hermione yelled.

Daphne sighed and rubbed her forehead, which Hermione recognised as her tick for being annoyed. "House elves need the bond to survive. If house elves aren't bound to a family, they tend to disappear."

"That's…" Well, it still sounded quite awful, but if they needed it to survive…

Tracey just scoffed. "Please, Daph, that's total bullshit."

Daphne groaned. "Oh Morrigan, not this shite again…"

"I'm just saying, doesn't it seem a little too convenient that there's a species that supposedly needs to form bonds of servitude with humans, and likes to do housework, and refuses to accept money for it? It's more likely that the entire species has been brainwashed and the modern explanations are just long standing lies that become the dominant narrative as the centuries have gone by. The elves don't need the bond, they've just been conditioned to think they do."

Now that sounded believable.

"That's just a conspiracy theory that's been pushed by the Quibbler!" Daphne protested. "And if elves don't need the bond, then why do they disappear if they've been freed for too long?"

"Well if they 'disappear', then why has no one seen it happen? It seems more to me like they become recluses or kill themselves out of a twisted sense of shame. Besides, if they need the bond then why do they refuse to talk about why they need it? And why is there still the odd house elf that desires freedom?"

"That's…" Daphne seemed hesitant. "Mother, Tracey's just talking nonsense, right?"

Isabelle gave an exaggerated shrug. "Maybe? That wasn't really my division. I wouldn't be too quick to discount something just because it's in the Quibbler, though. A lot of their stuff is bogus, but they do get things right once in a while. I actually remember that there was a lot of hubbub in the Department of Mysteries about stuff that the Quibbler was publishing right before I quit. I don't know any of the specifics, though."

"I don't know how to handle this." Daphne muttered.

"The Department of Mysteries does that to you."

Daphne planted her face on the table. "I am never following your career path."

Hermione made a mental note to look into what the Department of Mysteries actually did. It seemed like it could be an interesting, if potentially frustrating, career path.

"What sort of stuff did you do at the Department of Mysteries?" Hermione asked.

Isabelle laughed. "There's quite a bit that I can't tell you — they bind everyone who works there under vows of secrecy. I've found quite a few loopholes, but there are still a lot of things I can't talk about. In general terms, the DOM deals with magicks too dangerous or unpredictable for the public to know about. I ended up quitting my job because I found out that my research into magical tracking was being sold wholesale to any magical governments that wanted stricter versions of the Trace, including variations that work on adults. Luckily, I burned all of my findings before any of the sales could go through." A grin stretched across her face. "Speaking of the Trace, how would you four like to get some spell practice in before you leave?"

Hermione's brow furrowed. "But we're not allowed to use magic outside of school." Professor Snape had been very sure to emphasise that particular rule to the first years, and put particular emphasis on the fact that the pureblood students were not exempt from that rule.

"The basement has Trace suppression wards." Isabelle said offhandedly. "Not legal for civilian use, but it's not like anyone can stop me."

Hermione really didn't know how to feel about the fact that she kept getting wrapped up in things of dubious legality. Didn't only bad people break the law?

"Mum, I told you not to experiment on my friends." Daphne said with a slight whine. "Why are you always so embarrassing?"

"It just happens when you become a mother." Isabelle said with a shrug. "So, that's a no to getting in some spell practice?"

That explained a lot about why Hermione's mother was so embarrassing, actually. She didn't realise that it was so universal.

"Not today." Daphne said, leaving no room for argument. "Besides, Harry owes me a broom race."

Harry perked up at that. "I'd love to give one of those a try. They didn't have any race setups at Hogwarts."

"Of course not. The Board of Governors hates spending money on anything fun. It's why they haven't replaced the school brooms in years, and why there are so few extracurricular clubs. Fun is only allowed at Hogwarts when they don't have to spend money on it." Isabelle snarked.

Neither Harry nor Daphne seemed to pick up on the sarcasm, if their befuddled expressions were anything to go by.

Tracey didn't seem inclined to let them sort through their sarcasm blindness. "Come on, if you guys are going to race, then let's get to it!" She leapt out of her chair and dragged the two of them off. Hermione sighed and followed them through the grounds.

Their destination was a podium of sorts, positioned near the corner of the patio. Daphne tore herself free from Tracey's grip and pressed a button on the side of the podium, causing several blue lights to spring forth from the podium's smooth surface.

"Tracey, go make yourself useful and grab some brooms for us, would you? Two Nimbus 1770s."

"On it, Daph!" She said with an exaggerated salute before half sprinting and half skipping towards the manor.

"Now then…" Daphne began pressing at the various blue lights, causing them to change configuration.

Hermione was in awe at what she was seeing. She moved closer to get a better look before asking. "Mages have holograms!?"

Daphne gave her a weird look. "This is a haptic illusion interface. What the hell is a hologram?"

"It's… nevermind, don't let me interrupt."

Daphne shrugged and turned back to the interface, continuing to interact with it while Hermione pondered this new revelation.

The entire magical world was so aesthetically antiquated that Hermione had never considered how futuristic it could be with the right application. Holographic interfaces were something that she never dreamed would be possible in her lifetime, if at all. But with magic…

Hermione didn't have any practical applications for this concept, nor did she know how it worked, but it looked so cool.

Daphne tapped one last point on the interface, and the grounds were lit up with several bright turquoise rings. "This is an intermediate course." She explained. "It has several sharp turns and altitude shifts, but it doesn't have any obstacles. Some of the more advanced courses involve maneuvering around the trees. They're really fun, but not exactly safe for people of our age to do unsupervised. You have to fly through each ring to complete the lap."

Harry was transfixed by the sight. "Awesome."

"I got the brooms!" Tracey yelled as she skidded up to them. Daphne took them both and tossed one to Harry.

"This will have better handling, speed, and acceleration than the ones we used at school." She explained. "It should be easy for you to adapt to. Let me know when you're ready.

Hermione watched as Harry did a few experimental moves on the broom. She really didn't understand the appeal of flying. There were plenty of ways to entertain oneself that didn't involve being far above the ground at breakneck speeds.

"I think I've got a feel for it." Harry said as he hovered far higher than Hermione would ever be comfortable with. "What now?"

Daphne grinned. "Now, we get in position… and race."

The two of them flew towards the nearest ring and waited for a while.

"Why haven't they started yet?" Hermione asked Tracey after they'd been waiting for several minutes.

"Because I haven't pressed the signal for them to start."

"Why not?"

Tracey shrugged. "You know me — I like to keep people on their toes."

And with that, she tapped the large button on the haptic interface and watched as Harry and Daphne scrambled to get moving.

Tracey chuckled. "That never gets old."

Severus filled out the last bit of parchmentwork and packed his remaining belongings with a quick wave of his wand. He was hoping to escape without any more things being piled on his plate, but alas, that did not seem to be in the cards. Dumbledore was waiting outside his office the moment he opened the door.

"Hello, Severus. Heading off for the summer?"

"Of course, Headmaster." Severus said coolly. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"I just thought I'd keep you company as you walked to the gates." Dumbledore reached into his pocket and then held it out to Severus. "Caramel cream?"

Severus sighed internally. Caramel creams were one of the only candies he actually liked. They were also a signal that Dumbledore had a task for him that he couldn't voice directly.

Severus unwrapped the candy and popped it into his mouth. "What's on your mind, Albus?" He asked as he began walking towards the entrance hall.

"Oh, just mulling over the past year. The Hat's new sorting system uprooted that status quo, so I just wanted to make sure that all of your new students were settling in well."

Severus decidedly did not mention that he had deliberately ignored the situation in his house for months on end. "I believe they settled in well enough. Smith and Nott were rather adversarial, Davis is uncontrollable, Potter and Granger are both loners, and Patil spent most of the year doing some absurd game of imagination."

Dumbledore nodded sagely. "Harry is adjusting well enough, then? As you know, he was raised in the muggle world with his aunt, so it's good to know that he hasn't suffered any setbacks."

"He's not very social, but his mother was hardly an extrovert herself. I imagine he takes after her."

"Still, perhaps it would be a good idea to check in on Harry, just to make sure that everything is working out. I'm sure that the celebrity status he discovered for himself has been no small source of pressure. I'd do it myself, but I'm rather busy, and since you already know Petunia from your childhood, I was wondering if I could bother you to go in my stead."

Severus would have been happy going the rest of his life without ever seeing Petunia again, but he'd make the trip if he had to. "Anything you want me to look out for?"

"Harry made some minor complaints of mistreatment, but I'm sure that they were just exaggerations."

Severus felt his blood cool.

Dumbledore continued on. "Harry even expressed a desire to move to the magical world for good, but I made it clear to him that running away from home was very much illegal. Perhaps you should check in on him and make sure that he hasn't gotten any…" His eyes began twinkling, "…silly ideas. Make sure that he's where he belongs."

Oh, so that's how it was. Petunia was a spiteful bitch to her nephew, and Dumbledore encouraged him to illegally seek solace elsewhere, presumably in a very similar conversation to the one they were having right now.

And now it was Severus's job to clean up the loose ends.

As usual.

Well, at least Dumbledore was using his general disregard of rules productively this time. Far better than most cases, in which Dumbledore ignored the rules because he thought it was funny. Severus never thought it was funny, but then again, he rarely found anything funny. Humour was an overrated tool that fools used to disguise their shortcomings.

"I'll pop by this afternoon." Snape said stiffly as he walked out the door onto the grounds. "Enjoy your summer, Headmaster."

"You too, dear boy!" Dumbledore shouted as he waved his arm in farewell like an overexcited child.

How someone so old, so skilled, and so smart could be so immature was a mystery.

It was with some sense of alarm that Harry took in the sight of the Granger household as they stepped off the Knight Bus. A fire engine was parked in the driveway, and several firefighters were milling around the front yard, talking with Helen and Richard.

Hermione, to her credit, just seemed exasperated. "Not again…" She muttered.

"Well, if it isn't little Hermione!" One of the firefighters said. "We haven't seen you in ages! Heard you went off to some fancy boarding school in Scotland."

She nodded. "It's a very prestigious school, and I've enjoyed it a lot."

"And who's your friend, Hermione?"

"This is Harry." She said, gesturing to him. "He's staying with us at the moment. So, what happened this time?"

The firefighter — Tim — shrugged. "The usual. Helen tried to put on the kettle and started a small fire. Of course, your kitchen is thoroughly fireproofed at this point, so there was no damage. We just needed to come put the fire out. We were actually just about to head out."

Hermione sighed deeply. "Okay, thanks. It was nice seeing you again, Tim."

Harry watched as the firefighters started to go back into the fire engine. "Um… I think I need context."

"Mum is a menace in the kitchen. She can't even use the microwave without starting a fire."

"Is that… normal?" It would explain why Petunia was so averse to cooking.

"No, it's definitely not normal, but mum in the kitchen is still less destructive than dad in a car. At least kitchens can be fireproofed."

That just made Harry feel even more confused than when they first got here.

"Hey kids, did you enjoy your lesson?" Helen asked from the front stoop.

"It was nice, thank you. We finished early but decided to stay over there for a bit." Hermione said calmly.

"How about you, Harry? Did you enjoy yourself?"

"I, uh, got to race on a broom. I've never done that before, but it was really fun."

Helen smiled. "That's great! I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves. Did the Greengrasses feed you?"

"We had sandwiches and American lemonade after we finished our lesson." Hermione said.

Helen clapped her hands together. "Still feeling up for a spot of tea, then? I never got to have mine earlier."

"Yes, and I'll put the kettle on this time." Richard said from beside her. "At least if I do it, it won't guarantee another fire."

The Grangers were very odd despite being muggles. It was a bit difficult to get used to at times, but it made Harry feel less… out of place. It was a nice feeling.

Number 4 Privet Drive was not a hard place to find, but it was a hard place to access.

Or at least that was what Severus first thought.

Severus knew that Dumbledore was lying when he claimed that leaving Harry with his aunt would enable powerful blood protections, but Dumbledore was not one content with simple mistruths.

The wards protecting Number 4 were designed to feel powerful, imposing, and unbeatable. Strong enough that any would-be attacker would hesitate before even attempting to break them, lest they meet a fate worse than death. Should one push any further, though, then they'd find that none of those wards truly existed, and the house was only protected by a standard ward array.

It was an ingenious strategy for making a place seem far safer than it truly was, and it was also insane enough that only Dumbledore could have come up with it.


Once he'd walked through the false wards and worked his way through the true ones, Severus knocked on the door.

Petunia opened the door, took in the sight of him, and slammed it in his face.

Some things never change. She did the same thing every time he visited Lily.

Severus sighed and unlocked the door with a bit of wandless magic. "I see your manners are still as atrocious as ever, Petunia."

She whirled around to face him — evidently she expected closing and locking the door would keep him out. "What are you doing here? I was told that we wouldn't have to deal with anymore of your kind if we took the boy in. That was my one condition for doing so!"

"Ah yes," Severus drawled, "and where is that boy, if I may ask?"

Severus saw her pale ever so slightly, and her jaw clenched a bit. Not enough to be noticeable for most people, but Severus was very skilled at spotting tells. "What does that matter to you, anyway? You burned your bridges long ago."

"I have professional obligations as one of the boy's teachers and as his head of house." Snape said coolly. "But he's not here, is he? He felt the need to escape your 'tender mercies' and you've been trying to keep anyone from noticing. Afraid of what any investigations will turn up?"

Petunia's face was contorted in a mixture of fear and anger. "I don't have to put up with this — not in my own home. I'm calling the police."

"No you're not." Severus said, and dove into her mind before she could recover from her bluff being called.

Legilimency on a muggle was comically easy for anyone with a moderate amount of experience. Muggles were so easy to use legilimency on that it was how most mind mages learned the art in the first place.

As such, it took Severus very little time to dig through every one of her memories relating to Harry Potter.

"Well, someone's been naughty." He drawled. "Taking a page out of my father's book and trying to 'beat the magic out of him'? Seems you did your research, too. You tried very hard to toe the line, didn't you? For all the suspect actions you took, you were very careful to avoid doing anything outright illegal."

Petunia was dazed, no doubt because Severus was using a less than delicate touch when he dug through her mind. "What the hell do you want?" She snarled.

"What I want from you is simple — nothing. You keep doing what you've been doing — hiding your tracks and keeping the fact that you lost him under wraps. Make sure that no one realises Harry Potter has gone missing from Number 4, Privet Drive. In exchange, I'll refrain from 'accidentally' mentioning any of our shared history to your nosy neighbours. If your memories are anything to go by, then I'm sure they'd eat up gossip about what you've really been doing."

She pulled herself up and glared at him. "Well, if that's all you came here to do, then get out. We stay out of your business and you stay out of ours. Now go."

Severus turned around and opened the door, only to linger there for a bit. "By the way, Tuney, you should be grateful that all Potter wants is to get away from you. It's not uncommon for mages raised in abusive households to seek vengeance on their abusers." He gave her a wicked grin. "I certainly did."

Severus slammed the door behind him and apparated away once he was out of sight.

That was definitely one of the more entertaining errands Dumbledore had sent him on in a long time.

Nicolas watched patiently from where he had hidden himself. "The Masterstroke" was supposed to make their drop of Elixir of Life soon, and Nicolas would be damned if he didn't at least try to catch the perpetrator.

It was rather annoying, truth be told. He and Perenelle had actually been considering passing on before this had happened. They had both lived long and fulfilling lives, but they were beginning to feel somewhat… bored. There was only so much time one could spend learning and researching before they began to run out of things to do. They'd learned almost all that there was to be learned, studied all that there was to be studied, taught all that there was to be taught, and now they were ready to move on.

Or at least they were until this happened. The last task they had planned to do was destroy their Philosopher's Stone as a way of ensuring that it never fell into the hands of those who would abuse its power.

And yet, it had done precisely that. The Stone had been stolen from right under their noses by some unknown party with unknown motives.

Sure, this "Masterstroke" might be keeping them alive by supplying them with elixir, but that alone was not an indication of good will.

Evil men had hidden under guises of kindness before.

A slight blur of movement on the porch caught his attention. It was barely noticeable, but it was enough for Nicolas to activate his trap. The wards surrounding his grounds slammed shut, sealing it completely from the outside. Not even a tardigrade could get in or out while the wards were sealed.

Nicolas walked over to the blur and cast the strongest dispelling charm he had onto it. All it managed to remove was a simple disillusionment charm, revealing a small crate filled with phials of Elixir and a small note resting on top. Nicolas spent the next half hour scouring every inch of the grounds, but he couldn't find a single trace of any intruder. Once he was reasonably confident that he wasn't about to be attacked from behind, Nicolas picked up the small note left for him and read it.

A valiant attempt, Nicolas, but you'll have to do better than that. You didn't think it would really be that easy, did you?

Sincerely, The Masterstroke

Nicolas had no idea how anyone could have escaped from his wards, let alone have had time to do so while also leaving a note.

Though perhaps this showed that his and Perenelle's decision to pass on was premature. After all, if someone could so easily beat all of their best protections, then that just showed that there were still a great many things that were unknown to them.

Once they'd recovered the Stone, perhaps they'd go on a pilgrimage, one final journey to learn all there was to know.

Whoever this thief of theirs was obviously knew more than they ever would have thought possible.

Harry was lounging on the bed in his… Well, it felt awkward to call it his room, since it technically belonged to the Grangers, but it was the room where he was staying.

It was a nice room. The walls were a rich blue-green colour and the ceiling was white, so it had nice lighting. It had a nightstand with a lamp for reading, a simple closet, and a rather large dresser that Harry only started using because Helen and Richard kept putting his clean clothes in there for him.

It wasn't the room Harry would have picked for himself, but it was nice and he liked it. Harry wasn't even sure what kind of room he would have picked for himself. He wouldn't even know where to begin…

But still, the room was nice. He liked it. Being able to lie on a comfortable bed and read a book of his choosing was never a luxury he'd had before. The bed he'd had in Dudley's spare room was not at all comfortable, and all the reading he'd done had to be covert. Vernon and Petunia didn't like it when Harry did anything he enjoyed, so he'd either read late at night or at the library when he was hiding from Dudley.

"Kids, can you come here!?" Helen yelled from downstairs.

Harry grabbed one of the many bookmarks that were kept in the top drawer of his nightstand and followed Hermione down the hallway to the stairs. Halfway down the stairs, Hermione stopped, and it was easy to see why.

"It's game night tonight, so Richard and I will be out for several hours. There's money on the kitchen counter for pizza. Order whatever you want, but no fizzy drinks, okay? Those are horrible for your teeth, even if you brush them afterwards."

"Mum, dad, what are you wearing?" Hermione asked with audible exasperation.

"Do you like them?" She said, spinning around on the spot. "Once I saw how affordable the robes in Diagon Alley were, I couldn't pass up getting one for each of us. It's really contributed to the atmosphere of the game. I feel like I could cast fireball so many times right now."

Richard rolled his eyes. "What have we told you about casting fireball in enclosed spaces?"

Helen sighed. "That it's a bad idea. It's not my fault that the best spell is so prone to collateral damage. I mean, did you see how easily I dealt with-"

"I'm sorry," Hermione interrupted, "but can we please go back to the part where you two bought robes from Diagon Alley to enhance your games of Dungeons and Dragons?"

"Oh, yeah, the robes are great for that. Perfect for setting the mood and getting into character. The DM actually requested a set for himself."

"Mum, those robes are enchanted. Wearing them around muggles is a clear violation of the Statute of Secrecy."

"Oh tosh, it's not that big of a deal. These are just enchanted to resist dirt, stains, and wear. We just told Pete that they're made by a reclusive old woman who only takes orders by mail and that the explanation behind their durability is a trade secret."

"Mu~um!" Hermione interrupted. "That's still-"

"Hermione." Richard interrupted. "I understand your concerns, but the enchantments really aren't overt. People are going to assume that there's a mundane explanation behind the robes because it's easier for them to accept that than it is for them to accept that there's an entire covertly society of magical people. We've already been wearing them for almost a year. It's not that big a deal."

Hermione huffed. "Fine."

He smiled at her. "Attagirl. Now, you kids order yourselves some pizza. We'll be back in a few hours."

"Bye mum, bye dad."

Harry just waved awkwardly at them.

"Have fun, kids!" Helen said with a wave. "And remember, no fizzy drinks!"

The door was shut behind them, leaving Harry and Hermione alone in the house.

That was an odd experience. Harry had been left home alone before, but it was only when the Dursleys locked him in the cupboard. He didn't realise that some families left their kids home alone, even if it was just for the evening.

Then again, the Grangers seemed to parent in a more casual style than anyone in Little Whinging did. Parenting there was more authoritative, with the parents having only say in everything. While the Grangers still had final say, they were open to discussion about basically anything. Even stuff as simple as "what to have for dinner" operated as a full discussion in which they tried to find something that everyone was in the mood for.

Harry did find the number of freedoms this new system allowed him to be somewhat overwhelming at times.

Hermione picked up the phone and grabbed a pamphlet from the drawer next to it before dialing. "Hello? …Yes, I'd like to place an order for pickup. …Granger. …Yes, that's correct. …I'd like one order of mozzarella sticks and an extra large pizza with sausage and…" she leaned over to Harry. "Do you have any preferences for pizza toppings?"

Harry had never had pizza, actually, but it seemed a bit awkward to say that now. He just shrugged helplessly.

"Do you like mushrooms?"

He shrugged again. "Sure…?"

Hermione turned back to the phone. "And mushrooms. …Yes, that's correct. …Cash. …Okay, I'll see you then. Thank you."

Hermione grabbed the ten pound note and walked towards the family room.

"So, is pizza good?" Harry asked, trying to break the silence.

Hermione turned around and looked at him with an incredulous look on her face. "You've never had pizza before?"

Harry didn't mean for it to be that obvious. "Uh… no."

She sighed. "Of course you haven't… Well, I think it's good. Not something I'd want to have every day, but I like it on occasion. Mum and dad have game night every Saturday evening, but I don't always order pizza. I like to mix it up."

"Right. So, uh, what do we do now?"

"I usually watch a movie at this point." Hermione said as she walked over to a shelf filled with video tapes. "Is there anything you'd like to watch?"

Harry had absolutely no experience with movies to draw from. "Uh… surprise me…?"

Hermione sighed again. "Right, you haven't seen any movies before, have you? Let's start with the basics, then. I suspect you'll like this one. Take a seat while I get it set up."

Harry watched in as Hermione fiddled around with the TV and video player.

"We'll have to pause it when the pizza gets here, so just be ready."

Harry had minimal experience with movies. Vernon and Dudley liked to play them loudly, but he'd never been allowed to watch. The most he'd been able to get were noises coming through his cupboard. Still, it didn't take him long to decide that movies were much better watched than heard.

A/N (Tendra): We now return to your irregularly scheduled mayhem.

This chapter was an absolute pain to write. More specifically, the scene at the Greengrasses was a pain to write. Once I got past that, the rest of the chapter came easily.

I added the detail about Hermione having a mindscape with the intention of that not being a good thing. It just took me… a lot longer to get there than I expected.

Despite being American, I default to commonwealth spellings. As such, I don't have to worry about that when writing. What always does trip me is all of the different names Brits have for things. While I'm familiar with some terms, like lift and pavement, I was really thrown when I checked what Brits called soda and found out that the answer was usually "fizzy drink".

I'm drawing from a lot of my own experiences with emotional abuse for Harry. Write what you know and all that. I know some readers have complained about how passive he is, but emotional abuse can fuck you up, and Harry is definitely someone who prefers to fade into the background.

Yes, I know that the previous chapter was titled "The Dursley Family's Only Appearance", but it was technically true. Petunia was the only one to appear in this chapter, and she's hardly the whole family. I don't expect they'll be appearing again, but you never know. My writing doesn't often behave.

Several fics have had Hermione's dad play D&D, which I think is fun. What bothers me is that he's the only one who plays it. I thought it would be more fun if they both played. Helen plays a wizard, of course, and Richard plays a warlock.

This chapter was mostly stage-setting. The plot is going to be put in motion soon, and it will go completely off the rails soon after. Have fun!

Feel free to join my discord server at 6YwQewK for early access to chapters like this.

E/N (Xgenje): Emotional abusees have one of a few defensive mechanisms depending on their aggressor. "Out of sight out of mind" is common in ones whose aggressor is a passive confrontationalist.

Back to the chapter tho. The "lighting memories on fire" is so accurate that I was wondering if Ten can somehow read my mind. She even remembered in high school where I 'allegedly' fell asleep.

This Albus is by far my absolute favourite that I have ever read. The sheer Madness that emanates from the mad lad.

Today I have learned that the British are fired from writing the english language. Which idiot decided Lemonade is basically Sprite. Sprite is Lime flavour.

Last but not least, Best typo goes to "The door was shit".