‘Harry?’ Dudley swayed slightly, hand grasping the doorframe for support and fingers curling round it with deadly force that turned his knuckles white. A thin layer of sweat appeared on his forehead as he absentmindedly wiped it away with the sleeve of his dressing gown, his slippers scuffing the carpet as though too heavy to lift properly in spite of his apparent desperation to be far away from the figure huddled on his doorstep.
‘We really need to come in,’ Tonks said gently, taking a cautious step forward as Dudley jumped nervously, drawing a hurried breath as his gaze flickered between her and Harry Wand once again stashed away, Tonks held both hands up in front of her, trying to reassure the frightened man he was in no danger.
‘But, how did he...’
‘We will explain it all inside,’ Snape interrupted impatiently, casting Tonks a disdainful and intolerant glance before stalking towards the open door, head held high and with a look of unquestionable authority that left Dudley little choice but to jump aside to allow him entrance, and too shocked to do anything else. Casting her own glare at his withdrawing figure Tonks stormed after him, bending down once again to lift Harry, who was drifting in and out of sleep, now fighting against the effects of the potion. Dudley’s back was pressed protectively and fearfully against the wall as she stepped through the door, although the generous years meant his attempt still maintained only a small distance between the two of them as she cast a quick look round for somewhere Harry could rest.
The hallway, adorned with family photos that hung from the wall and covered the top of a long table, was far from wide enough for her passage to be easy or comfortable. Harry’s legs smacked lightly against the wall as Tonks sidestepped his cowering cousin, who’s large, round eyes were almost bulging from his pink face. He was spurred into movement though as she approached the open door to the living room, moving forwards with an unstoppable drive to deny her access, his eyes flickering towards the far end of the hallway, his brain providing instructions that had been long since engrained into his behaviour. As far as he was concerned there was only one place Potter had ever belonged in his house, and he would not be intimidated into acting as though it were otherwise. He had always thought his dad had been too weak, caving at the first indication the freaks were watching him. Dudley would show them though, show them that for all their tricks and deception he would not be cowed. Not when he was so much better than them.
‘I would reconsider before you voice that thought,’ Snape said silkily, as Dudley’s firm command stuck in the back of his throat, only the smallest of noises escaping in acknowledgement it had ever even existed, pathetically weak as his legs moved him out of the way whilst his mind yelled obscenities at himself for being so weak and so fearful. What could they possibly do to him, in his own house when it was his help they needed? They should be begging him for assistance, he reflected bitterly, banishing memories of a pig’s tail that hinted at why they shouldn’t.
Tonks stepped past carefully, as Dudley’s hand moved of its own accord to clutch at his backside, as if seeking affirmation of something. ‘There really was no need for that,’ she whispered gruffly as she passed by Snape, flashing him a contemptuous look. ‘We want their help, not to bully them into submission.’
‘They’re muggles,’ Snape declared scornfully, distaste rearing itself in an ugly expression that twisted his mouth as he surveyed the room, from its false fire to the ugly plastic box that dominated the corner, overshadowing everything around it, it’s curved surface reflecting the scene with eerie distortion.
‘You’re not with the Dark Lord anymore Snape,’ Tonks reminded forcefully. ‘Try to remember that if you can.’
‘You can put him on the sofa,’ Dudley’s loud interruption cut her off, delivered with all the grace he could manage whilst trying to maintain a façade of control, even as Tonks lowered Harry onto the soft cushions. He cast Harry a furtive glance out of the corner of his eye as he said it though, looking deeply and profoundly bothered by his presence.
‘Where are your parents?’ Tonks manner indicated it was not the first time she had asked the question, that she had been trying to pull Dudley’s concentration from Harry for a few moments even though he was sure his look had been no more than fleeting. His head snapped up to meet her gaze, arrogance causing him to pull himself upright stiffly, overruling his fear and battering it to surrender, his tone drowned in superiority.
‘How should I know?’
‘They don’t live here?’ Snape interjected shortly.
‘No,’ Dudley sounded dangerous as he spoke now, his self-control wavering precariously on the borders of violence, an angry red flush creeping up his neck. ‘Haven’t done for years. They retired early, went to some cottage in the country. Left me this place.’ The last comment was prideful as he gestured vaguely to indicate the house but was ignored, Snape approaching Tonks and leaning down to whisper in her ear. Indignant at being actively and purposely excluded in his own home Dudley sidled closer, ears straining to pick up their soft comments over his pounding blood.
‘They are alive though.’ Tonks asked suddenly, causing Dudley to almost yelp with surprise as his neck muscles worked of their own accord and nodded stiffly. She turned away again, leaving Dudley to abandon all hope of eavesdropping. Instead he inched his way towards Harry, peering cautiously at his dozing face huddled amidst the cushions. It was always Harry’s fault, whenever anything went wrong, and Dudley refused to believe some sort of accident had brought him back to further ruin Dudley’s life. Rather it was probably some scheme he had concocted in an attempt to get one up on him. Never mind that Harry had set some foul creature on him all those years ago, now he was back for more. Tonks watched him carefully, eyes narrowed as Dudley scowled menacingly down at his cousin whilst she spoke quietly to Snape. ‘I thought proximity was an issue,’ she didn’t really blame Snape for his obvious dislike of the man; she was having a hard time finding a single redeeming aspect of Dudley herself. ‘His aunt was the key, but they seem to be working fine without her.’
‘No doubt Lily’s blood has not been too watered down,’ he too was watching as Dudley examined his cousin, hovering over him with barely concealed malicious intent and poking Harry none to gently in the ribs, getting nothing more than a muffled grunt in response. ‘Nephew is not that distant a relative, they must have passed to him.’ The last word was spoken with venom and unrivalled revulsion, although whether it was borne from dislike of the muggle or the fact that he was the effective owner and keeper of some fairly powerful and impressive magic Tonks refused to guess. Still, Snape’s stare was turning almost predatory in nature as she sought to distract him.
‘So the wards are still up and strong. That doesn’t explain why we aren’t swarmed with your old friends though,’ Tonks itched to throw open the curtains blocking their view to the street outside, her mind conjuring images of the massed ranks of the Dark Lord congregated, unable to enter but nevertheless waiting, silently and with the patience of Gods. Knowing there was nothing out there was not as reassuring as seeing there was nothing out there. Snape looked thoughtful, running his hand gently up the length of his injured arm in an attempt to quiet the itching that consumed it, a sign of the swift healing the mark promoted. He could almost feel it reforming, tendrils of black weaving through his flesh and latching on even deeper than before.
‘This is not your normal magic,’ he answered vaguely. ‘It is based on blood and may well only be detected by blood.’
‘The Dark Lord is blood,’ Tonks reminded, just to have it rejected by Snape without consideration.
‘They are bound only by the scar.’
Tonks shook her head. ‘He took Harry’s blood; he used it to rise again. It runs in his veins now too.’ It was unnerving as apprehension rose in Snape’s eyes, stemmed only by his unwillingness to accept the knowledge of another over his own. ‘He still can’t gain access, but that doesn’t explain why he isn’t here, trying.’
‘Potter can’t feel the wards himself, therefore the Dark Lord cannot either,’ Snape reasoned flatly, exhaling heavily in a way that made him appear to deflate along with it. ‘Besides, we haven’t long until my Mark leads him here anyway. What difference does it make what draws him here and whether it is now or in a few hours time?’ It wasn’t quite defeat in his voice, but there was a definite level of acceptance that there was only path to walk, only one future that waited. ‘We should count our blessings, not worry needlessly over pointless trivialities borne from over anxiety’
Outrage paused her response for a moment, as Tonks stared with astonishment. ‘Over anxiety?’
‘It really isn’t like you to be so pessimistic,’ Snape continued.
‘This coming from you,’ her retort was angry and loud, any and all patience destroyed by the fatigue and despair on which she was functioning so that the comment struck far deeper than was intended, if there was any intent at all, leaving her feeling open and vulnerable and desperate to stop it.
‘Listen,’ Dudley interrupted haughtily, tapping Tonks on the shoulder to get her attention, although the brief contact was obviously abhorrent to him. Her anger faded as she turned to face him, dwindling away impotently. ‘You have to be quiet. If you wake Claire then Emily will have my guts.’
‘Emily?’ Tonks questioned tiredly as Snape stepped forward, his expression harsh.
‘You have a daughter?’ he barked.
‘Yes,’ Dudley suddenly puffed his chest up, glaring down at his cousin for a moment before turning back to Snape. ‘I won’t let you hurt her.’ He declared threateningly.
‘I’m not going to hurt anyone, you imbecile,’ Snape snorted derisively, habit leading him into crossing his arms, an act he quickly stopped with a grimace as Dudley stared expectantly at him.
‘I thought you were going to explain,’ he was refusing to look at Harry now, the confusion it caused being quickly warped into something much more manageable; anger. Something he had never been very good at controlling and that had been steadily building inside him. It washed over him now, leaving his hands trembling and his head pounding against the pressure of reining it in. His voice rose with the fury too, loud and booming in the small room as his only outlet, surging through it wildly and quickly becoming impossible to stop. ‘You barge into my home with your damn freakishness, with no thought or concern for the danger that follows you. You put my life at risk and bring him back, swanning around like you own the damn place, thinking you’re better than me with your magic and your abnormality. And you know it isn’t true, you know it else you wouldn’t be here asking for my help. But you don’t ask, you demand and think that I should be scared of you, like the whole world owes you. Well I’m not and it doesn’t. God only knows what the neighbours will think.’
Snape looked ready to kill, with his bare hands if necessary, as Tonks dragged him backwards, putting herself between the two livid men in the knowledge that Dudley would not have had the sense to back down, and Snape was too furious to care about the consequences. ‘The life of your cousin is at stake,’ she said soothingly, trying to placate a turbulent Dudley as he paced backwards and forwards in front of them.
‘He is not my cousin,’ Dudley snapped angrily, his face hovering close to hers as he said it so his breath grazed her skin before he strode away again as far as the confines of the room would allow. ‘He is some fake you brought here as part of your sick games.’ Snape growled over her shoulder
‘He is Harry,’ Tonks confirmed with indisputable gentleness, as Dudley swung round to point a trembling finger at the body sleeping on his couch.
‘Potter would be over thirty years old by now,’ his voice was shaking too, lit with a hint of hysteria as Dudley gave a distressed laugh. ‘He looks no different to the last time I saw him.’
‘Because he is no different to the last time you saw him,’ Snape ground out, his voice a menacing rumble. ‘I believe the last time he had that misfortune was, in his mind, about three days ago.’
Horrified dawning crept across Dudley’s face, as the terror that had hidden behind his shield of white fury grabbed a foothold and launched itself back into his immediate thought process. ‘I remember you,’ he suddenly exclaimed loudly, eyes widening as he took a step backwards, the heel of his foot hitting the couch as his hand shot out and he steadied himself on its arm, unconsciously putting the solid piece of furniture between him and the Potions Master. ‘You did something to my dad, just before Harry left for good.’ Snape shrugged as Tonks cast him a questioning look at Dudley’s admission. ‘You pointed that wand of yours at him and tried to kill him.’ His face was turning a deeper shade of red now, his breathing deep and shuddering as his conflicting emotions grappled and fought for dominance. ‘Get out,’ he hollered. ‘I don’t want your kind here.’
Snape didn’t move, staring at the enraged man with displeasure. ‘Mr. Dursley, I don’t think you are quite comprehending the gravity of the situation,’ he said flatly.
‘Your cousins life is at risk,’ Tonks pleaded before Snape could speak again, ‘he will be killed if we leave.’
‘Better somewhere else than here,’ Dudley pointed out hysterically. ‘Typically selfish of your kind though. Lumbered mum and dad with his useless carcass for years, now you put my family at risk by bringing him back.’
‘Neither he, nor your family, can be harmed whilst we remain.’ Tonks offered reassuringly.
‘I don’t want you here.’ Dudley’s voice dropped sullenly as he found himself once again furtively staring at Harry, expression filled with hatred. He jerked upright seconds later, startled as he heard a door close upstairs, as all eyes in the room followed his to the ceiling, falling silent as Dudley listened with dread for anything further, holding his breath and flashing Tonks with an accusing look.
‘If you do anything…’ the threat started desperately, wavering slightly as Dudley moved slowly towards the door. It didn’t get to finish though, a voice calling anxiously down the stairs.
‘Dudley?’ It was followed by footsteps on the carpet as a pair of furry slippers came into view behind the banisters, the stairs creaking quietly under the weight. The woman walked with more controlled grace than Dudley ever managed, despite the fact that any difference in their sizes was probably negligible. Whilst Dudley was no longer pushing the limits of obesity, he was by no definition slim. Her face was gentle though, more motherly than attractive as she chewed nervously on her bottom lip
‘Em’s,’ Dudley looked flustered as his wife entered the room, dressing gown tied round her ample waist as she surveyed the guests, freeing her long, faded brown ponytail from where it had snagged down her back. She didn’t move, despite Dudley’s uneasy attempts to steer her gently from the room. Shrugging his hands from her shoulders she pushed him firmly away, brushing off his protective embrace.
‘Who are you?’ she questioned curiously as Tonks put a hand on Snape’s arm before he could reply. ‘Is he all right?’ she nodded to Harry, who was trying to shift his position sluggishly, his arms too heavy to offer any support or help as he fought to keep his eyes open.
‘Perhaps I had better talk to her,’ Tonks said softly to both Snape and Dudley. ‘Explain a few things whilst you two sort yourselves out.’
Dudley looked appalled. ‘I will not permit you to speak to my wife,’ he fumed, earning himself a sharp look. ‘Especially not about this unnaturalness.’
‘Well, someone had better tell me something?’ Emily looked round the room again, her expression hard and determined before a tiny wail echoed down the stairs. ‘Oh damn, you woke her,’ she headed hurriedly back towards the staircase. Glaring disapprovingly at Dudley, Tonks ran out the room after her
Emily paused in her ascent, looking harassed, an expression that was emphasised by her tired timbre. ‘Yes.’
‘There are things I think you need to hear.’
‘I cannot leave Claire.’
‘Can you not bring her down?’ Tonks implored. ‘I guarantee that neither myself of my friend mean you or any of your family any harm.’
‘What about the boy on the sofa,’ the cries were growing loudly, Emily’s hands twisting urgently in her dressing gown.
‘He is your husbands cousin,’ Tonks explained quickly.
‘Dudley has no cousins.’
‘I’m afraid you are mistaken, Harry is undoubtedly related to him, from his mother’s side.’
‘What, Petunia? She was an only child, she told me so herself.’
Emily turned to her husband, who was fretting at the foot of the stairs, fiddling aimlessly and unsure of what to do. ‘Is this true?’ Dudley scowled and nodded. ‘You lied to me?’
‘I didn’t have much choice,’ he declared in retort, staring with absolute loathing at Tonks. ‘You’ll understand when she tells you. Good for nothing, the whole lot of them. Potter there even got himself sent to a school for the criminally insane. Tried to kill me twice he did too.’
‘Criminally insane?’ Tonks looked disbelieving. ‘You may not like what we are, but that is no excuse for saying such a foul thing.’
Impatience tainted the following question rudely, the growing cries of a small baby adding to the tension as Emily commanded shortly. ‘And what are you?’
Silence fell, even the noise from upstairs calming to a muted sniffling as Tonks cast Snape a despairing look, unsure of how to answer.
‘This may be a matter best discussed sitting down,’ Snape offered. ‘See to your daughter, we would not want to cause her any more unnecessary stress. Rest assured we will answer any and all of your questions after.’ Emily regarded him carefully, as though trying to assess his intent through his words alone.
She nodded after pausing for thought. ‘I will bring her down. She needs to be fed anyway, and I suppose I may as well bring her to the bottle.’ Dudley looked furious, but was quieted when his wife regarded him fiercely before turning back to Tonks. ‘Could you put the kettle on for me?’
‘Of course,’ Tonks looked grateful, her shoulders sagging in relief. Thank you,’ said with an emphatic smile as Emily nodded curtly, continuing in her ascent.
A door opened upstairs, the crying scaling loudly again for a brief moment before quieting, as Dudley rounded heatedly on the witch. ‘Can’t you leave her out of this?’ he demanded, Tonks quirking an eyebrow as her only response before stalking away and into the kitchen, closing the door behind her to muffle his continued insults.
‘The benefits of marriage is supposed to be having someone with which to share your problems,’ Snape said snidely as Dudley wound down, having exhausted the limits of his vocabulary. Glowering, Dudley gestured brusquely towards the body curled on his couch.
‘Is that really Harry then?’ Snape nodded. ‘What happened, why isn’t he any older?’
With some effort Snape refrained from his usual sarcasm, instead opting for a fairly neutral tone, although he had no desire and therefore made no attempt to cover his repulsion towards the muggle. ‘Potter has enemies who want him dead,’ Dudley looked faintly pleased by the news. ‘They attempted to kill him many times in his youth and failed, so he was sent to a time that would give them a greater advantage.’
‘Time travel too, huh,’ Dudley snorted incredulously despite the evidence. ‘So who is this they?’
‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the Dark Lord,’ Snape said unhelpfully. ‘He has no title that any muggle would recognise, and he would be loathe to provide one.’ Dudley looked distinctly unimpressed. It all sounded far too much like science fiction, and bad science fiction at that. ‘His followers, his Death Eaters, have been seeking to kill Potter for quite some time now.’ Snape frowned as Dudley bit back on a jeering laugh at the title. It was cut short anyway though, as Dudley’s forehead creased in concentration.
‘You mean,’ he started. ‘They wanted him dead all those years ago?’
‘Yes.’ Snape considered that asking pointless questions he had all ready effectively answered must be a genetic trait.
‘When he was living with us?’ Snape nodded again. ‘And no one told us?’
‘I can assure you your mother was quite aware.’ Snape replied loftily.
Dudley looked appalled at the thought. ‘She never wanted Harry here,’ he corrected definitely. ‘And she certainly wouldn’t have taken him in if she had known my life would be at risk.’
‘But she did,’ Snape revelled in the irony, drawing immense amounts of personal satisfaction in using it to slap the jumped up, spoiled brat round the face and cause his believed position in the universe to wobble. ‘Else the protections guarding the house would have failed. She took him in willingly.’
‘He made her life miserable.’ Dudley argued.
‘Well, Potter does have a way with people.’
‘Always causing trouble. He set a snake on me once, you know.’
Snape sounded bored. ‘Really?’
‘Yes. Didn’t even get punished for it, not really. Got himself a bedroom instead.’
‘Excuse me?’ Dudley seemed to snap out of whatever daydream he was moping dejectedly in, as he met Snape’s questioning gaze with his own infuriated one, refusing to back down and be the first to look away, determined to achieve even this smallest of victories. It was a look he struggled to keep though, as it left him with the feeling that his mind was being slowly unravelled from the inside, that the tiny strands were being individually subjected to delicate scrutiny before tossed casually aside. Snape’s lips pursed when he finally looked away, leaving Dudley crowing triumphantly on the inside. ‘I am assuming it is the stress of the situation that has caused your manners to become so atrocious, so I am going to assume that in any other situation I would have been offered something to drink by now. Tea will be fine, and perhaps a glass of water for when Potter wakes.’
‘What!’ Dudley looked outraged, but faltered as Snape stared at him, expression unreadable. ‘Oh, yes. Tea.’ He left the room somewhat dazedly, his footsteps heavy even on the carpeted floor. Once satisfied he was out of hearing range Snape turned to Harry, who was once again asleep, sprawled out in a rather undignified position, his arm trailing to the floor and his legs tangled impossibly around his cloak. ‘Potter,’ he hissed in his ear.
‘Wha’.’ He sounded slightly more awake now, which was fortunate, although Snape hoped there was still enough of the potion in his system to make him slightly less guarded and rather more honest than his usual self. He helped prop the boy up, sliding a pillow behind his head and unclasping the cloak still tied around his neck, the extra warmth it was providing no doubt unbearable. Harry rubbed his head blearily, wincing at the contact.
‘Does it still hurt?’
‘Just a little tender,’ Snape leant over to examine the scar, which scored a thin red line vividly across Harry’s pale skin, swollen slightly and inflamed. Harry flinched backwards as Snape reached out to touch it, causing him to drop his hand with an unrepentant look.
‘I’m afraid there is nothing I can do about it.’
‘Didn’t expect there was.’ Ah, the Gryffindor nobility and art of self-sacrifice. Snape held back from contemptuousness at the sentiment, but only just, regarding the small boy intently.
‘Why did you not mention the abysmal treatment you suffered from your family?’ he demanded instead, as he moved away, perusing the room methodically and keeping his appearance disinterested, hoping the tone would further inspire Harry to answer before he dwelled on it and realised who he was talking too.
‘Your family,’ Snape reiterated neutrally. ‘You had been at Hogwarts for five years. Why did you not mention to anyone, least of all the Headmaster, the way you were treated.’
‘It wasn’t that bad,’ Harry mumbled, clearly embarrassed as he wrapped his arms around his stomach, pulling his knees up until he was huddled at one end of the sofa. Snape sat carefully at the other end, his features blank as he continued.
‘They locked you in that cupboard under the stairs.’
‘You really shouldn’t pry into people’s thoughts just because you can you know.’ Harry mumbled into his knees, still at least drowsy from the potion if his disrespectful reply was any judge.
‘They starved you.’
‘I said it was nothing,’ definitely defensive, as even half asleep it was clear Harry did not like to be pressed on the issue. ‘And you never cared before. In fact, you found it quite amusing. Besides, Dumbledore knew. If there was anywhere else I could have gone I have no doubt he would have sent me.’
‘Of course Albus didn’t know!’ Snape looked shocked. One thing had been true though, as he remembered the glimpse into Harry’s home life he had seen for himself. And it had been gratifying to know Potter wasn’t heralded as a boy hero by all who breathed, wasn’t coddled in a life of luxury he didn’t deserve. Regardless of his personal feelings for the boy though Harry was still a Wizard, and no Wizard, even one as annoying and insufferable as him, should be treated that way. Especially not by muggles.
‘My first letter was addressed to that cupboard,’ Harry argued tiredly, removing his glasses to rub his eyes.
‘He was a very busy man,’ Snape defended reluctantly, ‘and I can guarantee he did not have the time to handwrite the letters every year. Besides, he would have sooner died than submit his precious Golden Boy to a moments discomfort.’
‘They all returned to him though, he must have read at least one of them then.’ Snape didn’t have an argument for that.
‘Nevertheless, it was stupid of you not to mention it to anyone.’
‘S’not like they hit me or anything,’ Harry shrugged. ‘Well, Dudley did, and Petunia smacked me a couple of times,’ he was rambling aimlessly now, racked by a huge yawn that interrupted his train of thought.
The door opened without warning, slamming against the wall with a bang as Tonks threw it open, haste making her clumsier and even less prone to forethought than usual. ‘Snape, I think you should take a look,’ she interrupted them as an anxious looking Emily trailed behind her, peering nervously into the room as though afraid of intruding in her own house. The small child cradled in her arm was making tiny noises that threatened to spill noisily at the slightest provocation as Dudley followed, spitting in blind rage.
Snape stood. ‘For what?’
‘Just hold her for a moment, see if you feel any specific…traits,’ Tonks said meaningfully. ‘Do you mind?’ she turned back to Emily, who held out her daughter to the Potions Master.
‘No, I won’t having you touching her,’ Dudley pushed past his wife, shouting furiously as Snape held the child stiffly, his movements awkward as he shifted his wand to the unfamiliar hand of his injured arm. ‘Or waving that stupid stick at her and tainting her with your disgusting ways.’
‘The child is magic,’ Snape interrupted Dudley’s rant with surprise. ‘Powerfully so, for us to be able to feel it all ready.’
‘You lie,’ Dudley hissed menacingly.
‘I guarantee I do not,’ Snape said flatly, handing the infant back to its mother, who looked stunned.
‘No child of mine will ever be so abnormal,’ Dudley was going red again.
‘She is no more abnormal than you,’ Snape said categorically. ‘You carry the magical gene yourself, from your mothers side, no doubt. Your wife must do too.’ Emily looked taken aback, clutching her child close to her chest. ‘Admittedly the chances of your family producing another Magical child so close to Potter was unlikely, given that the gene is recessive and fairly uncommon amongst muggles.’
‘Don’t you dare insult my mum,’ Dudley yelled. ‘She was no freak, she was a good person.’
‘Is that what you are going to call our daughter next?’ Emily seemed to snap out of her trance, turning on Dudley with a determined glint in her eye.
‘Our daughter is perfectly normal,’ Dudley repeated.
‘And if not, will you lock her in a cupboard until she is of age in an attempt to make her more so?’ Snape voice was silky as Dudley’s gaze flickered to the cupboard under the stairs, his expression darkening as he looked to his daughter.
‘I want you to leave,’ he said softly.
‘It will not change the truth. Can you honestly say you love this child any less for what I have told you?’ Snape questioned harshly as Dudley remained silent under the disappointed scrutiny of his wife. ‘If I were you I would figure it out quickly, as there are those who have no qualms over what she is.’
‘What do you mean?’ Emily asked harshly.
‘A Wizarding child born to muggle parents is an abomination in our World now,’ Snape said slowly. ‘You have at the most another year, if you are fortunate. But no amount of insults or abuse will alter the fact that she is magic, and it will show. And when it does she will be killed, heartlessly slaughtered for the good and continued purity of our way of life.’ Emily gasped as Snape swept across the room back towards Harry without another word, leaving Tonks to place a comforting arm across her shoulder.
‘Is it true?’ Emily’s voice shook as she spoke, stifling a sob as Tonks nodded.
‘You must love her, and love her well,’ she offered carefully, looking forlornly at Dudley, here eyes clouded with sadness. ‘Both of you. Give her at least hope in her future, if you can manage to give her no more.’
Dudley didn’t want to listen though. ‘Leave,’ he said venomously. Emily turned angrily on him, but was stopped as Tonks suddenly gasped, looking terrified as she clutched the nearby mantlepiece.
‘You cannot throw us out, Mr. Dursley,’ Snape said simply.
‘Actually, he can,’ Tonks spoke fearfully. ‘Can’t you feel it?’ Snape scowled as he fell silent, closing his eyes to concentrate better.
‘The wards are dropping!’ he whispered in astonishment.
‘Can you stop them?’
‘No one can,’ Snape turned murderously to Dudley. ‘He has turned Potter out. Petunia may not have wanted him here, but she took him in willingly. It was required of the wards. He is the reason they are falling now; the house belongs to him, the wards were transferred.’ Snape bore down on the man with the full fire of his wrath. ‘You hate your cousin that much you would be the cause of his death?’
Dudley stood his ground. ‘I will not have you putting my family at risk,’ gone was the uncontrollable rage, replaced with a cool resolve that would not be wavered. ‘She told me to love my daughter, and I am doing that as best as I know how, by protecting her from your kind.’
‘She is our kind.’
‘Your kind would kill her,’ Dudley roared. ‘My mum was right all along, you’re all good for nothing. Claire will never belong to your World, I will see to it.’ He stormed into the hallway and flung open the door. ‘Now leave, before I throw you out.’ Snape looked ready to refuse on sheer principal, but there was no point.
‘Can you walk?’ he questioned Harry, who was staring in shocked surprise at his cousin, unable to find words as he swiped against the burning building in the back of his eyes. Turning his head away he tried to push himself shakily to his feet, but his legs refused to co-operate, as though someone had filled them with lead. Tonks reached out to offer him support, as he rested against her shoulder, refusing to look at Dudley.
‘I’m sorry,’ Emily said softly as he passed her, as Harry looked at the tiny body cradled in her arms for the first time, smiling at the wisps of red hair that covered her head like a downy blanket.
‘I understand. She’s beautiful.’ Emily nodded in thanks as Harry stumbled his way awkwardly towards to door, gaining strength with every step he took as Snape hung back slightly, standing imperiously in the doorway and regarding the couple with dark eyes, from Dudley’s protective posture to his wife’s sad expression at doing something she didn’t want to do, but knew had to be done. She may not have liked the harsh words and insults of her husband, but she could see for herself that the sentiment was right. Wizards were dangerous to them, the Magical World a threat to their existence, even more so now. She didn’t hate them, far from. A part of her sincerely wanted to help as best she could. But for the sake of her daughter she would not allow them to remain.
‘Remember everything we have said.’
‘What you have said is nothing but lies,’ Dudley’s final passionate remark as the door slammed in Snape’s face. He stared at it as the seconds passed inevitably, face blank as he swept around and moved silently to the edge of the property.
‘Where now then,’ he asked without emotion, the mid day sun warm against his back as they surveyed the street. ‘We won’t get far without magic, which we cannot use because it will lead the Dark Lord straight too us.’
‘How long before he can find you again?’
Snape refrained from scratching at the itch that had slowly spread across his arm and buried itself to the bone, taunting him mercilessly. ‘Not long.’
‘Then it seems you are finally going to get your way.’ Harry clutched to her arm as she drew her wand again, sighing defeatedly. ‘Can we get back to Diagon Alley?’
‘There are certain areas where our arrival will not be noticed.’ There was an edge to his voice that reeked of smugness; that delicately wiped Tonks face in her prior reluctance to take him exactly where he had wanted to go and was now being forced. Tonks didn’t seem to care.
‘Is there one near the shop?’
‘Near enough,’ Snape said adamantly.
‘We will have to floo in from there so I can fire call ahead.’ She looked to Harry, who nodded although looked a little queasy at the prospect.
‘Once we arrive we will have to be quick,’ Snape directed them forcefully. ‘The Dark Lord has no doubt declared me traitor to the community by now, and I need not remind you that I am not popular.’ Harry grinned spitefully at the comment, memory of his last apparition causing him to rest more heavily against Tonks, bunching the back of her robes in his hand as he gripped.
‘It won’t take them a minute to grant us access,’ Tonks verified. ‘Where is this spot?’
‘The end of a small alley. A large wall blocks it at one end as it runs behind Eeylops.’ There was no point looking for cover from which to disappear, as Snape raised his wand. ‘We must go together, the street will be swarming within mere moments after we leave.’
‘I know where it is,’ Tonks confirmed. ‘Meet you there,’ and with that she disappeared with a loud pop, Snape disapparating a fraction of a second later, but late enough so that the cracks of apparition circling around him still rang in his ears.
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