Chapter 2: The Prince and the Dragon
"…Now, your name."
"Harold James Potter."
A strangely sardonic look came across the professor's face, and his scowl twisted up in a mockery of a smile. "Of course it is."
Harry frowned, wondering if the man thought he was lying. It would be the first time he had used that name since moving in with the Dursleys. They knew he was Harry Potter. At least Vernon and Petunia Dursley did. He wasn't so sure about Dudley. The idiot only ever called him things like 'sauerkraut' and 'lederhosen-boy'. Regardless, the Dark Man continued with his questions.
"Date of birth?"
"August 1st, 1996."
"Parents?" Again that sardonic tone, as if he knew already and found it amusing.
"James and Lily Potter."
"They keep my evil twin in the closet under the stairs."
"Ha. Ha. Stay on topic, boy. Have you ever been informed of wizards or witches outside the relation of fiction or religious fanaticism?"
"Er... I wouldn't know?"
"Do you have any objections to witchcraft due to religious beliefs?"
Harry hadn't been allowed near the Christmas tree, let alone gone with the Dursley's to church on Sundays, and his youthful memories of it with his parents had all seemed rather dull. He couldn't ever remember them lecturing him against it in Sunday school. Why was he being asked such an absurd question to begin with?
"As long as Satan isn't involved in anyway, I guess I don't care."
Snape looked ready to sneer, then seemed to remember something or someone, and moved on.
"Any allergies or health concerns?"
"Er… I'm allergic to penicillin."
"And your eyes?"
"What about them?"
A sigh. "Near-sighted, far-sighted? Astigmatism?"
"Er… I couldn't see a barn while standing next to it without them on?"
"Astigmatism, then. Is your prescription current?"
"Are you taking any medication or nutritional supplements?"
"What? Of course not!"
Snape eyed his dirty, ragged appearance critically. "We'll see."
"Let us be on our way then. This has taken more than enough time as it is," Professor Snape said with an air of finality. The other two strangers nodded in agreement and rose to their feet. Harry stood instinctively. The Dursley's were about to stand as well when the three strangers each removed what looked like twigs from out of thin air, and simultaneously called out 'stupefy'. His relatives suddenly slumped back limply onto the couch, their expression's dazed.
"What did you do?!" Harry cried, moving to Dudley's side to make sure he was still breathing.
"A simple stunning spell, Mr. Potter," 'Mr. Tweed' said, patting him on the shoulder. "No cause for alarm. We've found it's easier for all parties involved if muggles are stunned just before they're obliviated. Less of a struggle. Less chance for mishaps."
"What? Stunning spell? Obliviated? What are you doing to my relatives?! Who are you people? What are you people?"
"Why, we're wizards, Harold," 'Mr. Tweed' said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Just like you." Harry turned to him, looking for any sign of mockery or dementia. The elderly man stared back, his expression calm, his eyes sparkling with intelligence and confidence. A hand landed on his shoulder, making him jump. He looked up to see Professor Snape's cool regard.
"It's time we were on our way, Mr. Potter. Do not bother with goodbyes. In an hour, they won't remember you anyway. You will take nothing…" With the speed of a cobra, he snatched away the sketchbook Harry had been clutching through the entirety of the strange interview. "…of your current or past life with you."
Harry immediately went to grab the sketchbook back, but Snape held it above his head, and the boy was more than a little embarrassed that he was short enough for the tactic to be effective. But as the man had said earlier… there are men who try and men who do. Refusing to be defeated, he leapt up onto the back of the sofa, and then made a lunge from it once again. Snape was actually caught off guard, and rather than be taken down along with the boy, he released his hold on the book. Harry landed heavily on his arms, but with his prize in hand, he scrambled to his feet and made a dash for the front door.
He was half way down the hall, when he heard the shout of 'ligo' and his legs snapped together. He fell forward, his sketchbook flying the rest of the way down the hall. Shaking, and a bit stunned by the fall, Harry lifted himself on to is elbows. He tried to move his legs, but found them firmly stuck together.
The Dark Man strode forward, his expression promising violence. The boy cringed at his approach, but the man strode right past him to snatch up sketchbook once again. As he did so, however, the picture Dudley had assaulted days before, fell out of the binding and landed at his feet. Snape glanced down, seemed to disregard it, but then looked again. Longer this time. His expression turned inscrutable. He then turned to look at Harry, still sprawled out in the middle of the hall glaring daggers at him, and seemed to consider something. He finally picked up the picture, getting a closer look, then carefully replaced it in the sketchbook.
"Mr. Potter, I can tell you are going to make this difficult. I am sure I can make it doubly so. In the interest of your health and my time, which I would rather not spend filling out paperwork on why you are no longer intact, I am willing to make a deal with you. If you come along quietly and behave yourself, I will consider returning your little scribble book."
"And if I refuse?" Harry snarled.
"I will burn it right in front of you, cast a full body bind on you, and drag you along… without consideration for stairs, broken glass, or any sort of foul matter we should happen upon along the way… to WYRA Headquarters. Don't get the delusion that you actually have a say on whether you are going. You may only decide on how you'll get there."
Snape smirked. "Don't worry, Mr. Potter, you will be well acquainted with WYRA soon enough." The man strode back down the hall, over Harry, and back to the living room to inform his compatriots that he was taking their charge on ahead. They cheerfully waved him off, then continued to do who knows what to the Dursley's. He pointed his stick, Harry believed it was called a 'wand', and muttered 'solvo' at him. Immediately, Harry felt his legs release and he scrambled to his feet. Snape's thin, powerful hand was on his arm before he had even balanced himself, dragging him purposefully towards the door.
They left the house and made their way to the street, where Harry was surprised to find a sleek black car, that looked better situated for the 1920s than the 1990s, was parked. The door opened for them and once both were seated in the back seat, it started and drove away without a driver. Harry balked, a thousand odd, incredulous thoughts flitting too quickly through his brain.
"So… a wizard," Harry said, forcing himself to focus on something solid. At the moment, the most solid thing present was the snarkiest bastard he had ever had the misfortune to meet.
"And you're abducting me because I'm a wizard?"
Snape didn't turn his head from the front window, but his dark glittering eyes slide over to him. "Wizards belong with wizards."
A jolt of excitement ran through Harry at the prospect. Other wizards? Like 'Mr. Tweed' and 'Miss Blue'? Like him? There must be other children wizards then. Would he finally make friends? Would he go to school again? Did they have schools just for wizards and witches? Wizarding teachers? Wait…
"Do you teach at a magic school, Professor?"
"Yes, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the finest wizarding school in Europe." There was a definite sound of pride in the man's voice that time.
"Will I go to a magic school?"
"Can you read?"
"Can you write?"
"Can you cause spontaneous combustion, seal a room, and animate bed sheets into relative-eating monsters?"
"Er… I guess."
"Then the chances are that you'll go to Wizarding school. Considering the level of accidental magic you performed, you'll probably end up in Hogwarts, or maybe Redbridge if you continue to be an utterly incorrigible brat. Although... you're rather a bit older than most children WYRA comes to collect."
Harry shrugged. His thoughts were dizzy with the possibility of wizarding school. Of any school at all really. He hadn't been to school since he came to live with the Dursley's. They had been so convinced when the social worker dropped him off that he wouldn't know a sniff of English they had immediately went off into a long, meaningless dialogue that would be the defining moment for the rest of his life with them. Out of spite, and more than a little fear, he had not disillusioned them. It had been a very small, but very real power he had held over them. The only form of control he had over his life.
"Tell me, Potter, where are your parents?"
There was a pregnant pause.
"They're dead, Professor. They've been dead for three years now," he said finally, and then, just to keep the other man from asking he continued. "They… they were shot to death in a robbery. In the middle of the day. Just like that. No one saw a thing. Perhaps if they had…"
There was another pause, one that Snape shared with his charge in quiet introspection of some past memory. Finally, the man plowed through the silence.
"Where was this?"
"That would explain why it took so long for us to find you. You probably did accidental magic when you were younger, just not in England."
"There isn't a Child Abduction Squad in Germany?"
Snape let out a snort at the ridiculous title.
"WYRA's jurisdiction extends only to the British Isles. Germany's policies on magical children's upbringing is considerably more… liberal."
"But what is WYRA?"
"Look out your window and see for yourself."
In the fifteen minutes Harry had been concentrating on Snape, the view outside his window had changed from a monotonous suburbia to... something else. The roads were cobblestone, although the car ran smoothly along, and everything outside seemed to come out of a Victorian novel. Gas lamps lined the narrow street, illuminating shop windows with store names like "Madam Madora's Magical Menagerie" and "Popkin's Artificial Anatomy and Prosthetics". A few vendors selling jewelry, or furs, or small animal corpses were packing up for the evening, flicking their wands about until their stalls and wares folded themselves down to the size of a suit case. People strode about, many of the men dressed like 'Mr. Tweed' and the women in frilly full length dresses, most of them with robes of various colors in the place of jackets and shawls. Even as it was approaching eleven at night, the entire neighborhood was still bustling with activity.
Where were they? They couldn't possibly be anywhere in Little Whinging. But where could a community this large and this... unusual go unnoticed? Just as he was about to turn ask Snape that very question, the car stopped in front of a large official looking building.
At first, Harry though it was a bank with its Greek style collumns and sturdy stone architecture, but then he noticed the statue. It was a bronze statue of a tall, handsome man with a young boy on his right side and an even younger girl on his left, both clutching either of his hands. Harry noticed that while the man was dressed in elaborate robes, the children looked like he had just pulled them out of a slum in their tattered clothes. It all looked a bit contrived to Harry. Then he noticed that there were words written on the pith of the statue.
"Wizarding Youth Reclamation Agency," he read out loud. He turned to Snape, who was smirking at him. "It's an orphanage!"
"It is not an orphanage," the man snapped. "It's just was it says it is. A Reclamation agency. Only in this case, they reclaim wizarding children."
"And do what with them?"
Snape made a dismissive gesture. "Quarantine. Then adoption. Some preliminary education if necessary."
"It's an orphanage."
The Dark Man sent him a rather wicked smirk. "Orphanages are for children whose parents are dead or abandon them. I assure you most of the children you find here do not fall under that category. Now, get out of the car."
The car door opened, and Harry scurried out of it if only to avoid being mowed over by the taller man. He whirled around to face him, but was struck speechless when he realized the car they had arrived in had completely disappeared. He probably would have stood there gawking for several minutes, if Snape hadn't grabbed him by the collar and pulled him roughly towards the Agency's doors.
"Bloody hell, you really are a Child Abduction Agency. That's sick!"
"Oh, Mr. Potter, you have not even glimpsed the depravity of this world. This is likely the most humane aspect of our government that you will ever encounter. Now stop dallying. Your romp through wild suburbia has set us days behind schedule, and I do have more important matters to attend."
"Need to go back to your lair to pull the wings off pixies, eh?" Harry groused under his breath.
"Now that you mention it, I am running low," the man said evenly. Harry couldn't tell if he was joking or not. There was really no winning against this man... bat... ghoul... whatever.
They entered through a set of large marble doors inlaid with a carving of a phoenix, which opened and closed with an ominous rumble. Inside, Harry was surprised it looked just as grand as the outside. There was thick gold carpeting, antique but comfortable looking couches, several small potted trees, and pictures of children decorated the wall. Strangely enough, all the children in the paintings appeared to be asleep. He was dragged to what seemed to be the reception desk, and as Snape began talking to the pretty woman behind the counter, he thought he might have seen one of the children yawn.
"Yes," Snape said, and then turned to leave. Confused, Harry moved to follow him, but the witch behind the counter placed a hand on his shoulder to stop him. She gave him a comforting smile.
"You'll be with me for now, sweetheart," she said.
Just as Snape reached the door, Harry remembered why he had been following the man in the first place. He turned back, slipping out of the woman's gentle grip, and ran towards him. "Hey! My book!"
Snape stopped. "What about it?"
"You said if I behaved and came along quietly I could have it back."
"No," he said, his voice dripping with cruel condescension. "I said I would consider giving it back to you. And I have considered... and decided against it. Goodnight, Potter." With that, the man walked out the door. Flabbergasted, Harry just stood there, then made a rush for the door only to find there was no handle with which to open it.
"How the bloody hell- That slimy, greasy, lügen, diebstahl, Bastard. Ich töte ihn!" he raged at the door.
"Mr. Potter..." came a deep voice from behind him.
Harry turned around to see the pretty woman still standing where he had left her. Only now she was joined by an older, much larger man with a no-nonsense face that rivaled his previous warden's. Though he wasn't wearing what Harry normally associated with guards, there was a hardy blandness about his robes that reminded him of security guards. In one hand he held a clipboard, and in the other a wand.
"... I trust we won't be having anymore trouble out of you, eh lad?"
The only thing Harry could do was nod meekly, and follow the pretty woman deeper into the mansion.
Severus Snape returned to his private quarters in Hogwarts just after one o'clock. He went immediately to his liquor cabinet and selected the strongest bottle of brandy he had. In thirty minutes, he had shed his robes and was nursing his third glass in his favorite chair. His thoughts twisted about, finding paths to old memories he had thought forgotten. Memories of less complicated days, when enemies meant fist fights and jibes, and his greatest responsibility was to pass his NEWTs. Nostalgia was strange company for someone like him, and memories of his childhood nemesis and crush were particularly unexpected.
He had heard about their deaths of course. Albus had mad a vague reference to it. Murdered by a muggle. Ironic. Sad. Vaguely pathetic. He had not thought about it much then. He hadn't seen or heard from the Potters in seven years, when- in a rather unGryffindorish act- they had fled Britain and the fight.
He had completely forgotten that they'd had a child.
Forgotten about it until he came face to face with the incarnation of them. James's, the plebeian narcissist, shaggy hair and stubborn mouth and Lily's eyes, so brilliant they should have glowed in the dark. It had been... painful? to see those forgotten features in living form, no longer a past idea, but something that thought and spoke and felt. He had almost forgotten that James and Lily had been actual people.
He wished he didn't remember.
He wished for purely selfish reasons, that whatever cruel bit of fate had thrown Harry Potter right back into the twisted hands his parents had fled the country from had never occurred. And knowing that wish was now utterly futile, he wished that he never saw the boy again. Yet even as he repeated that wish over and over in his head, his hand rested on the stolen sketchbook, twitching every so often as if to fight the urge to open it.