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.
On the first day of September, there was hardly a person on the Hogwarts Express who wasn't talking about the Quidditch game, the Death Eater riot or the conjuring of the Dark Mark.
Some people were deeply anxious ("I haven't felt safe stepping foot outside since…"), some mildly concerned at the most ("Wish they'd have captured at least some, but I figure it was just a joke in really bad taste, eh?") while some were outright dismissive. ("Look, if there was something to be worried about, there'd have been a statement in the Prophet.")
But even though the Quidditch game dominated most conversations, it wasn't the only thing on people's minds.
"It's so crazy," said Dean as he poked his head into their compartment for a quick hello, "just last year he broke into our dorms with a knife. And they're sure he's not a criminal?"
"It was all a misunderstanding." Harry – who'd been asked variations of this question several times now – tried hard not to lose his patience. "I visited him a few times over the summer. He's alright."
"Oh yeah, he was something like a family friend, right?" Dean winced. "Seamus said something like that earlier."
"Get used to it," Ron muttered after Dean had beaten a hasty retreat. "This'll be all over the castle by the time we arrive."
But Ron was quickly proven wrong as Dumbledore's speech at the feast gave them something quite different to be excited about.
"I can't believe they've canceled Quidditch," George groaned on their way to Gryffindor tower.
"Oh, please." Hermione scoffed. "You can play Quidditch every year, but the Triwizard Tournament is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We could learn so much about magical education in different countries! A different focus, different subjects… Their entire outlook on magic might be different!"
"It's only three students competing, anyway." Angelina scowled at a nearby painting that had broken out into high-pitched laugther with its neighbor. Somehow, most of the Gryffindor Quidditch team had flocked together on their way to the tower. "They could've kept Quidditch for everybody else."
"Just lucky Wood already graduated." Fred grinned. "We'd have had to scrape him from the bottom of the Astronomy tower."
Hermione was the only one who didn't laugh.
Despite their grumbling, not one of them could pretend not to care about the tournament. Harry would miss Quidditch for sure, but it was hard not to be swept along by everybody else's excitement.
"Ten points to Slytherin for this show of marksmanship." Snape stopped Malfoy's salamander eye from hitting Harry's cauldron with a flick of his wand. "As delighted as I am to know that you are as talented a chaser as you are a seeker, Mr. Malfoy, I would prefer it if you practiced with a goal that will not spew poisonous gas, once hit."
Harry took much delight in watching Malfoy's cheeks turn faintly pink. He promptly had to be saved by Hermione from adding his powdered lionfish spine too early.
Ron, who was busy glaring after Snape, didn't notice that the daisy roots he was supposed to 'cut neatly' were starting to resemble mush. "Can you believe this? Now he's giving out points for almost poisoning all of us!"
Harry shrugged, largely unbothered. "You realize that two years ago he'd have let Malfoy throw it and given me detention for ruining the potion, right?"
Besides, he had other things to worry about. Their first lesson of Defense Against the Dark Arts had wiped every thought of the tournament from his mind.
Ever since Mad-Eye Moody, their newest Defense professor, had used the Unforgivable curses in front of them, Harry had trouble thinking of anything else. He'd imagined the night his parents had been killed many times over the past years – based on half-forgotten nightmares, stories, and the voices he heard in the presence of a dementor – but for the first time he felt like he had a realistic idea of what had happened to them.
For years he'd wondered about the eerie green light filling up his dreams in his childhood. Now that he had his answer, he almost wished he'd never learned about it.
Snape caught his eyes at the end of the lesson, so Harry dawdled packing up his things. His friends were used to it from last year, so Ron only rolled his eyes and Hermione told him they'd save him a seat in the common room.
"Based on the look on your face I assume that your first lesson with Professor Moody has left an impression," Snape said as soon as the classroom was deserted.
"You could say that," Harry muttered, unsurprised that Snape seemed to know his timetable.
Harry didn't know what he expected Snape to do. Would he mind them being shown the Unforgivables? Harry doubted some of their teachers would approve, but then again, Snape wasn't exactly the coddling type.
"Be careful around him," Snape said.
That was fair enough. Mad-Eye seemed like the kind of person who'd react to a friendly pat on the back like an attempt on his life. Still, for some reason Harry felt the need to defend the man. "He's a bit intense, but his lesson was really interesting."
"Be that as it may, Professor Moody has been working as an auror for longer than most. It has left... traces."
Harry imagined a lifetime of hunting down Death Eaters. Did all aurors Mad-Eye's age look the way he did? Or did most of them die young?
He quietly wondered if Snape had once been one of Mad-Eye's targets.
"I'll be careful," he said, even though a part of him was convinced that Dumbledore would not have hired him, were Mad-Eye actually dangerous.
Then again, Dumbledore's track record of choosing Defense teachers wasn't stellar seeing as one of them had hosted Voldemort's soul on the back of his head, another had attempted to wipe Harry and Ron's minds and yet another had once gone on an involuntary rampage through the Forbidden Forest during a full moon.
Harry picked up his bag when it was clear that Snape wasn't going to say more about Mad-Eye, but paused halfway to the door. "We're back at school now."
Snape raised a rather unimpressed eyebrow. "Indeed we are."
Harry couldn't hold back his grin. "You know what that means, right?"
"Do enlighten me."
"You no longer have an excuse not to show me that trick with the hippogriff feather."
"Merlin help me." Snape's mouth twitched as he said it, so Harry felt confident that he'd soon have something to replace his Patronus lessons from last year.
Harry, who wasn't used to receiving letters (other than from Hagrid) regularly, was pleased to spot Hedwig in the cloud of owls filling up the Great Hall during breakfast.
"It's from Sirius," he told Ron and Hermione, too excited to lower his voice.
I HEARD ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT! Arthur and Molly told me when we went to Diagon Alley for my new wand (yew and unicorn hair, 13 inches – nothing like my old one, but I suppose I'll have to get used to it) – I can't believe they've known all along and didn't tell me! I know Arthur almost let something slip during the Quidditch Cup, but they seemed to be under the impression that I'd have told you immediately, had I found out during the summer.
"He definitely would have," said Harry, grinning.
Kreacher's been combing the house lately. No idea what he's up to – though he's probably looking for things we haven't yet thrown in the trash. Maybe I should add some security in case he's planning something.
Harry sensed Hermione taking a deep breath beside him, so he hastily folded the letter, pretending like he only meant to have a better look at the bottom part.
It's a bummer you won't get to enter as a champion. Still, it's gearing up to be one hell of a school year, even if all you can do is watch. (Sure there's no way to sneak your way in?)
Write to me as soon as it starts. I want you to tell me everything!
PS: Remus is looking over my shoulder and making me tell you to thank Snape for the Wolfsbane. Like he would've bothered if–
The rest of the sentence was blotted out by a large ink stain.
PPS: He's gone now. Tell Snape if you must, but don't you dare mention that it was my letter.
"He sounds like he's in a good mood," Harry said once all three of them had finished reading.
"You'd be too if you'd finally gotten a new wand after a decade." Ron was doing an admirable job pretending like Snape's name hadn't made an appearance. Perhaps owing to Snape saving their lives from the dementors and helping clear Sirius' name last school term, Ron seemed to make an effort not to rekindle their old argument. "Though that part he said about the tournament, about entering. Makes you think, doesn't it?"
"It really doesn't," said Hermione, giving him a snide look.
"Just think about it though. Representing the whole school… Showing off your skills in front of everybody... And imagine what you could do with all that prize money."
"You'd just embarrass yourself. There's a reason they decided on an age restriction, Ron."
Ron ignored her. "Fred and George are going to try entering. I heard them debating how to trick whoever's going to pick the champions."
"They won't succeed." Hermione waved her hand dismissively. "Even if they did, they're almost seventeen and in their second-to-last year. You're fourteen and not even halfway through."
"Still." Ron shrugged, turning to Harry. "What do you think? Reckon we should ask the twins how to get in?"
It wasn't like Harry hadn't considered it. He didn't care much for the prize money, but representing the school and proving himself... The logical part of him knew that Hermione was right and that they wouldn't be able to compete with students close to graduation, but it was still nice to think about. Besides, a part of him couldn't help but to think that after everything they'd already been through at school, a silly sports tournament was nothing in comparison.
But before Hermione's glower could escalate and shoot actual sparks at them, he said, "I don't know. Might be nice, just watching from the sidelines for once."
Most of him – a much larger part than the silly part imagining himself holding up a large trophy greatly resembling the Quidditch cup – actually meant it.
"Besides," Hermione said, "you've got plenty of other things to focus on."
"Let me guess." Ron rolled his eyes. "Gotta get a head-start preparing for exams?"
"No." There was a glint in Hermione's eyes Harry had come to associate either with her breaking rules or the almost fanatic obsession she'd begun pouring into her house-elf activism. "You were going to convince Professor Snape to show you some of his spells."
Harry remembered then that he'd let his summer discoveries slip at some point during the Quidditch World Cup.
"I already asked him after Potions," he admitted. "We haven't agreed on anything specific, but he definitely didn't say no."
Ron looked intrigued against his will. "Guess you'll find out if he'd be any better as a Defense teacher, if he ever manages to get the job."
It was a good thing Hermione had dropped enough classes so she no longer had to use the time turner. Harry thought she'd rather lose it if she was too busy with her regular workload to spend time on whatever Harry was going to learn from Snape.
But Harry didn't end up having a single lesson with Snape outside of Potions for the first several weeks of the school term. Maybe it was the preparations needed to host the foreign students, or maybe there was much more going on behind the scenes that Harry didn't know about, but Snape didn't call him back in class or find ways to issue out detentions that ended up as quite the opposite.
Harry, too swept up in the buzz of the nearing Halloween feast (and, with it, the arrival of the other schools), didn't bug him about it as much as he could have.
Potions wasn't nearly as horrible as it used to be (though it would have been even better had Snape let him bring his old school book scribbled full of brewing advice). Dean and Seamus revived their old theory of somebody having slipped a mind-altering potion into Snape's tea after a whole month without Harry landing himself in detention ("Really? A poison slipping past a potions master?" Hermione scoffed) and Harry looked forward to their Astronomy lessons after yet another summer of inspecting the star constellations formed by Snape's night sky flowers.
Then, a few weeks before Halloween, Harry got another letter from Sirius.
Snape's gotta come to Grimmauld Place. Now.
Tell him to bring the locket.
"Harry!" Sirius whisked him into a firm hug that felt like they hadn't seen each other in months instead of a few weeks. "You came along!"
"'Course I did." Harry returned the hug, mouth splitting into a grin. "Who else was gonna make sure you don't murder each other?"
Snape let the door fall shut behind him. They'd taken Snape's fireplace to Spinner's End and apparated from there, seeing as Snape didn't "trust the mutt to have made sure his fireplace was safe for travel."
"Why are we here?" Snape asked, keeping most of his contempt out of his voice.
Sirius, returning the courtesy, kept his scowl to a minimum. "Did you bring the locket?"
"Don't tell me you want it back after all." But Snape pulled the gold chain out of his pocket and held up the locket bearing Slytherin's crest.
"Definitely not." Sirius gestured for them to follow him. "My house-elf's throwing a fit about it."
If Harry had thought Sirius was exaggerating, he was instantly taught better once they were ushered through the kitchen door.
"Give it back! Give it! It's not yours!"
Harry winced, resisting the urge to press his hands over his ears. The sight in front of them was pitiful to watch: Kreacher lay on the floor in his dirty rags, pounding down his small fists again and again while screaming. He must have been at it for a while, because his voice kept giving out in painful rasps. Harry doubted Sirius had tried especially hard to make him stop. There wasn't even a blanket or something else to cushion his assault on the floor – something Harry would have done, had it been Dobby punishing himself for something.
"Why hasn't he mentioned it before?" Harry asked loudly so he would be heard over the elf's cries.
"I told you, he'd been searching the house for weeks. I only told him I'd given away the locket when I made him tell me what he was looking for."
"Give it back! Give it back! Give it!"
"What does this locket mean to you?" Snape demanded.
But Kreacher either didn't hear him or didn't care to answer. "Give it! Give it!"
"Answer the question, Kreacher," Sirius bellowed. "What's so important about– Merlin, shut up!"
Kreacher's face contorted horribly. His eyes bulged out of his sockets and his tongue swelled out of his mouth like he'd been gagged by an invisible force.
Something twisted in Harry's gut at the sight. He stole a glance at Sirius and Snape and found that neither of them looked sympathetic or even pitying. They both looked like their patience was dwindling rapidly.
"Permission to retrieve answers?" Snape said without taking his eyes off the now mute elf.
Sirius scoffed, crossing his arms. "Whatever. Fine."
Harry didn't know what they were talking about, but he had a bad feeling. "What are you–"
But Snape was moving as soon as Sirius had given his permission. He seized Kreacher's shoulder, forcing him to sit up while the elf's throat bulged with the words he was no longer allowed to speak. Snape made eye contact, and Kreacher went utterly still.
Harry jerked forward, suppressing the urge to yank Snape away from the elf. "What's he doing?"
"Don't worry. It's fine."
But Sirius' grim look didn't make Harry feel better about what was happening.
Harry had only seconds to agonize over what to do before Snape let go of Kreacher abruptly and rose to his feet, leaving the elf to crumble back to the floor. Kreacher's slack expression quickly turned horror-struck.
"He saw..." Kreacher muttered, pressing his forehead into the floor. "He saw..."
Harry felt sick. While he might have expected something like this from Snape, it disturbed him how completely unfazed Sirius seemed by what was happening. Then again, Sirius had never made it a secret that he deeply resented Kreacher's presence in the house.
Snape stared down at the elf, his face ashen.
"What?" Sirius tugged at Snape's sleeve impatiently, ignoring Snape yanking it out of his grip. "What did you see?"
"I am not entirely certain." Snape whisked out of the room without pause.
Harry and Sirius shared a stunned look before hurrying after him.
"Where do you think you're going?"
They caught up with Snape in the hallway, leaving Kreacher behind.
"I need to speak to Professor Dumbledore."
"You're not doing anything before you tell us what the hell's going on," Sirius protested.
"I do not know what I saw." Snape's voice trembled, stunning Sirius into momentary silence. "Using Legilimency on a house-elf is not identical to doing so on a human. This one is old and not mentally stable."
"So you learned nothing?"
"Hardly." Snape hesitated. "I've learned that this locket is linked to both the Dark Lord and your brother."
"But– But how–"
"The details of which I hope to fill in after a conversation with the headmaster."
Another pause, longer than the first. "Fine," Sirius caved. "But the second you know more–"
"Yes," Snape cut him off, already turning. "I trust that the elf will be available for further questioning, should Professor Dumbledore deem it necessary."
"Sure. Whatever." The dismissive way in which Sirius agreed made the uncomfortable twisting in Harry's stomach double.
With one last glance at the door now hiding the miserable house-elf from sight, Harry followed after Snape.
Harry, watching Kreacher be Legilimencied with Hermione's disembodied voice screaming about elf-rights in his ear:
Harry: ok so that doesn't seem great
Many thanks to To Mockingbird, Igornerd and flyingcat!
PS: I'm cautiously starting to dip my toe into original fiction, so if that's something you're at all interested in, feel free to take a look at my writing blog: gwendolinequinn on tumblr! I mostly write fantasy with all the same tropes I love for fanfiction—especially found family.
I'm still figuring out how to use it properly, so bear with me, but I'd be delighted to hear from you there! :)