Seven Drops and Asphodel Blooms

Summary: When Harry blows up his aunt during the summer, Dumbledore is much quicker to react. Snape finds him far before the Minister does, but his plan of dropping him off with a lecture and half a dozen additional summer assignments doesn't work out.

In which Harry spends the summer at Spinner's End.

Chapter 1

It wasn't the first time Harry had gotten into trouble over the summer. It wasn't even the first time he'd held a professor at wandpoint.

Watching Severus Snape's face turn a color that largely resembled one of Aunt Petunia's meat loaves, Harry had trouble deciding what he'd rather do: have a rematch with the part of Voldemort he'd faced during his first year, or stare down his furious Potion's professor after having blown up his aunt into the ugliest hot air balloon Surrey had ever seen.

If only he knew how he'd done it. If he was going to be punished for attacking his relatives and fleeing into the night like a common criminal, he could at least round off his evening by letting Snape share Marge's fate.

"Go on." Snape sneered, mouth thinned into a joyless smile. "Do your worst. I dare hope it will secure you a more interesting punishment than a mere school expulsion."

Heat rose up in Harry's chest. It ballooned into a white hot bubble that pressed against his lungs and flushed his cheeks with embarrassment and anger. Of all the people to catch him at this time, of course it had to be Snape.

"Hand it over."

Harry froze, his wand half-way into his pocket. "What?"

"You've done quite enough damage with it for one evening." Snape kept smiling that nasty little smile of his.

Anger seethed in his oil-slick eyes, and Harry knew better than to give him more reasons to transfigure him into an insect. He handed over his wand, glowering all the way.

His hands felt empty as soon as his only defense disappeared into Snape's pocket.

Harry clenched his fists and breathed through a wave of resentment. "What are you doing here?"

"Don't be daft." Snape scowled. "You do not genuinely believe the headmaster would allow you to gallivant about Muggle Britain as you please."

"Dumbledore sent you?"

"Professor Dumbledore has requested I resolve this situation." Snape's lips curled in displeasure. "You will follow me and refrain from voicing one single word of protest. You will do and speak as I say so that by the end of the hour you will be back with your relatives. Is that clear?"

Harry considered refusing. The thought of facing his uncle made his stomach cramp.

Even worse was the thought of Snape's punishment. Compared to him, Uncle Vernon was as tame as a lamb.

"I will not repeat myself."

"Yes," Harry growled, glaring daggers into the ground at his feet.

Snape's eyes narrowed. "I do not care for that attitude."

If only Snape hadn't taken his wand. Harry was itching to utter a hex or two. "Yes, sir."

"Good." Snape's voice dripped with triumph. He flicked his wand and Harry flinched before realizing he'd merely cast a summoning spell on his luggage. Hedwig's cage and the single backpack Harry had stuffed some of his meager possessions into hovered mockingly next to his teacher.

Harry followed along, a lump the size of a Quaffle lodged in his throat.

The Dursleys were refusing to take him back. Uncle Vernon made so increasingly clear through yelling threats of bodily harm and calling the authorities while Aunt Petunia was audibly consoling Dudley in the background. Vernon finished it off by slamming the front door right in Snape's face.

For a short moment, Harry was convinced that Snape would force his way inside. He'd never seen a wizard looking more capable of blowing a door off its hinges without even touching his wand.

Harry wisely kept his mouth shut. Snape wouldn't need much provocation to take out his anger on him. Harry would try not to give him a reason right off the bat.

"You could just leave me here," Harry suggested reluctantly. "I'm sure they'll have come to their senses by morning."

Harry doubted they would. He definitely wouldn't hang around to find out how they'd punish him for what had happened to Marge. But as long as it meant Snape wouldn't be sticking around...

"Quiet," Snape bit out through gritted teeth. "I will contact the headmaster. We will wait, right here, for his reply."

Harry's shoulders slumped.

Neither of them spoke a word while they waited. It had been a long day, but Harry wasn't tired. Anxiety kept him wide-awake – he kept imagining what would be done to him. How did wizards punish criminals? By locking them away? By banishing them from the wizarding world?

Hagrid's wand had been snapped in half after he'd been kicked out of Hogwarts. Was that what would happen to Harry? Would he be forced to live among Muggles, without magic and no contact with any of his friends?

Harry would rather die than let that happen. He'd flee. Live his life on the run. Right then, he would have given his left arm in exchange for his wand.

A burst of fire flared up in the middle of the sidewalk. Harry flinched back and stumbled over his backpack.

"Finally," Snape muttered, plucking a piece of parchment out of the air where the flames had just vanished.

The nausea in Harry's stomach doubled. He didn't want to know what the message said. He wanted to pretend like the day had never happened. He wanted to pretend like he wasn't about to be kicked out of Hogwarts. Like he hadn't messed up the single best thing about his life.

Snape didn't look like he'd been delivered the news of Harry's expulsion. He looked rather like somebody had spit in his cauldron.

"What does it say?" Harry asked when Snape's eyes flickered down the short message a third time.

Snape took his eyes off of the letter slowly. "You will not return to your relatives until the headmaster has managed to talk some sense into them."

Harry's heart made a leap. "I'm not going back?"

He'd thought for sure he would be punished. He knew on some level that he deserved it. Instead he'd be free from the Dursleys a month early? Harry almost didn't believe his luck.

"Where will I be staying?" he asked, pushing down the giddy smile tugging at his lips. He strongly suspected Snape to be allergic to happiness. Harry's happiness, for sure.

Snape glared at the letter so intensely that it looked as though he tried changing the words through willpower alone. "It would appear," he said, each word sounding as though it was scalding his tongue, "that you will come with me for the time being."

Happiness turned into horror so abruptly, it gave Harry whiplash.

Harry had been too distracted by shock and hatred to wonder how Snape had gotten to Surrey. He got his answer regardless when Snape latched a vice grip around his arm and teleported them into an industrial looking town in a way that felt like being stuffed through a garden hose. A shabby looking sign proclaimed the street to be 'Spinner's End'. Any excitement Harry might have felt over the fact that teleporting was something wizards could do evaporated through the sheer effort needed not to puke at Snape's feet.

Snape didn't speak a word to him while they walked, his fury almost tangible. Harry kept his mouth shut; he was used to Uncle Vernon's short temper and Aunt Petunia's sharp tongue. He didn't know what to do with this quiet seething.

"Couch," Snape bit out as soon as they'd stepped foot into one of the narrow brick houses, seemingly too enraged to manage more than that single word. He flicked his wand and sent Harry's luggage tumbling to the floor of a small living room.

Harry did as he was told. He held his tongue, sat down on the sofa and didn't ask for his wand – nor anything else – as Snape stormed up a narrow flight of stairs. Harry followed the sound of his steps for another few minutes before everything was quiet.

Harry tugged his backpack and Hedwig's cage closer. He laid down, but found himself unable to relax.

Impersonal furniture was packed into the lifeless looking living room. There was only darkness beyond the dusty windows, instead of Privet Drive's orange street light. No sound of garden sprinklers sputtered through the night to keep alive neat rows of impeccably groomed grass. Harry strained his ears and caught what sounded like faint whispering.

He didn't dare search the house for a bathroom or his backpack for a pair of pajamas. He kept still, channeled all of his experience in acting as though he didn't exist, and stayed awake long until after sunlight started filtering through the windows.

Severus avoided his own living room like a horde of pixies had escaped within it. He hadn't slept. He'd finished a vastly unsatisfying conversation with Dumbledore and wished – not for the first time – that he'd never let himself be talked into becoming a teacher in the first place.

"If you expect me to treat him more favorably than at school," he'd bit out, "you are sorely mistaken."

"Keep him safe. That is all I ask." Dumbledore had given him a look. "Although I ask you not to treat him any worse. Harry did not ask for this any more than you did."

"Perhaps he ought to have considered the consequences before attacking his aunt." It was typical Potter behavior. The boy's father would have been proud.

Dumbledore's sigh always made Severus feel like a schoolboy. "I will reach out to his relatives." He'd looked at Severus past the rim of his half-moon glasses. "Promise me you will keep him safe."

Were it not for a formerly incarcerated mass murderer roaming the streets of Muggle Britain, Severus would have sneered about Potter being coddled.

"He'll be safe," Severus had forced out. "But nothing more."

It had been hours since then. Surely Potter was already itching to cause more trouble, having been deprived of the attention he so desperately craved.

Severus glowered at the Baneberry Potion he'd been forced to put under stasis the night before. Potter wasn't a toddler in need of constant supervision. He could wait until Severus had finished projects far more important than him.

Severus almost hoped Potter would dare stick his nose where it didn't belong. If he thought Severus was strict in his classroom, he oughtn't dare step a toe out of line under the Potions master's roof.

Harry felt like he hadn't slept a wink. His stomach churned. He couldn't tell how much of the nausea was caused by hunger and how much of it from anxiety.

The sun crawled higher behind the living room window, but Snape hadn't shown his face since last night. Harry felt like he was simultaneously falling off of a very high cliff and squeezed into a space roughly half the size of his old cupboard.

He couldn't stay at Snape's for long. Even returning to the Dursley would be better – but how? Harry didn't know where he was. He couldn't teleport like Snape. Maybe if he could get his hands on some floo powder... But the Dursleys wouldn't take him back. They'd toss him out into the streets after what he'd done to Marge. Snape would just come after him and be angrier than ever.

Maybe he could send out a call for help... to whom? The Weasleys were in Egypt. Hermione was in France. Snape had acted on Dumbledore's orders, so nobody in Hogwarts would take him.

Harry had nobody else.

Harry wrapped his arms around himself tightly. "It'll be fine," he told Hedwig's empty cage. His stomach cramped painfully at the sight.

Would she find her way back to him? She'd found Hermione alright. Even if she'd be able to, he'd sent her away for the duration of Marge's visit and had no way of calling her back. He was on his own.

Harry didn't dare get up from the sofa, much less explore the house. Snape had given him no rules, but Harry wasn't stupid enough to assume there weren't any.

Harry jerked upwards at the sound of a knock. He hadn't realized he'd started dozing. He felt light-headed – like he'd spent too much time tending to Aunt Petunia's flower beds in the sun, without anything to drink.

Another knock. It came from the front door. Surely Snape would be mad at him if he opened his house to a stranger, but would that be worse than keeping the person on the other side waiting?

Footsteps thundered down the flight of stairs and solved Harry's dilemma.

Snape brushed past Harry without sparing him a single glance. He opened the door for a man clad in a pinstriped suit, clutching a green bowler hat in sweaty hands.

Harry sprang to his feet, a bucket of ice water flooding his insides. The Minister of Magic himself had come to deliver his punishment.

"Minister," Snape drawled. "To what do I owe this... pleasure?"

Fudge turned his bowler in his hands. He huffed a nervous laugh. "Now, Professor. Surely you know."

"Enlighten me."

"I've been informed by Dumbledore... that is, difficult to get in contact with him these days, surely you understand... Oh! Harry!" Fudge's expression lit up.

Harry reluctantly stepped closer. Snape's glare prickled on his skin.

"There you are, Harry. Had us in quite the frenzy. Running away from home... disappearing into the night..." Fudge's gaze flickered to Snape. He hadn't invited him in. "Nobody had told us that Professor Snape was so, uh... courteous to take you in."

"Should you have objections about our handlement of this situation," Snape said flatly, "do take it up with Headmaster Dumbledore."

Fudge looked even more uncomfortable. "Now, let's not be hasty. There's hardly a need... Yes, Harry is quite safe, and now that I've, uh. Convinced myself of the fact, I shall... Yes, I believe it would be best."

Harry followed the conversation warily. Why was the Minister of Magic so nervous around Snape? Was it because Dumbledore had acted before he could? Hagrid had once told him that Fudge kept asking Dumbledore for advice on how to do his job. Was he uncomfortable because Dumbledore had gone so blatantly behind his back?

"What about my punishment?" Harry blurted out. He needed to know before Fudge left. He hadn't said anything about an expulsion, but...

"Punishment?" Fudge's voice climbed as though he'd never heard something so ridiculous. "My dear boy, you've made a mistake! We all do. Such a small offense... Please, who do you take us for?"

Harry stared at him. "But last year the Ministry said–"

"Surely you don't want to be punished?"

"No, but–"

"Then please. Harry." Fudge put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a benevolent smile. "We've already sorted out that unfortunate business with your aunt."

Harry winced. He wondered how much of the incident Marge was going to remember after the Ministry people were through with her. "And my relatives? Are they gonna take me back?"

Fudge flinched. His smile turned into a grimace. "Ah. That is... Not yet. I'm afraid they are... quite besides themselves. Unfortunate, yes, but ah..." He threw a brief glance at Snape. "Not to worry, hm? You're in quite... capable hands. Let us take care of your relatives. I'm sure they just need to think it over for a night."

Harry didn't dare look at Snape. He could sense the murderous aura emitting from him.

"In the meantime, Professor Snape will keep you out of trouble, won't he?" Fudge gave a brittle, airy laugh.

Snape's glare bored into Harry. "I shall do whatever lies within my capabilities," he bit out. He made it sound like a threat.

Fudge didn't stay long after that. He seemed anxious to leave – something Harry related to and begrudged him for. He had no choice but to keep standing at the door like a statue as the adults said their goodbyes.

The door fell shut behind the Minister. Now there were only Harry and Snape.

A/N: I've been collecting ideas for this story since... 2018, probably. These books are dear to my heart like no other book series ever was (the first time I've read them I was maybe 8?), so it feels amazing to finally write in the fandom! :D

I've always been intrigued by Snape as a character. He never had a redemption in the books (not in the way JKR perhaps wanted us to believe), but there was potential. It always made me wonder what would have needed to change to see it through.

I've got a whole bunch of wonderful betas for this one: huge thanks to To Mockingbird, Igornerd, JustAnotherOutcast, flyingcat and PyrothTenka!

Let me know your thoughts! :)