It had all happened so very quickly, from Harry’s point of view. He’d been out playing and had gotten tired, so he’d been walking back home. Fawkes, riding on his shoulder in mynah bird form, had been humming a song about grass and trees – it was a song Harry’s godfather Sirius Black had taught him to help him remember botanical names, and it was quite catchy. Harry had been just about to start singing it along with his familiar when something like very small lightning shot out from behind a tree and hit him. It froze him in place, and then a voice told him to turn around and start walking.
Harry recognized the voice – even though it had been nearly six months since he’d last heard it – and didn’t want to do anything the crazy old wizard said, but his body turned around and started walking in spite of that and then he was really scared. Fawkes hummed reassuringly inside his head, though, and told him it was alright. And Harry had been taught that fighting a binding spell was a sure way to make it stronger – and he trusted his familiar – so he relaxed as much as he could and just kept his eyes open.
They were heading for the edge of the magical barrier Sirius and Fawkes called the Fidelius, and once they’d reached it the old wizard’s voice ordered Harry to stop walking, take his familiar off his shoulder and send it away. In Harry’s head, Fawkes laughed and then started humming the tree song again, and although Harry did raise his hand he just stroked his familiar’s sleek black feathers and didn’t do anything else. The old wizard behind them gave the order again, and this time Harry shuddered hard, which made him swear under his breath. He ordered Harry to walk through the Fidelius, coming up beside him the moment he was clear of it and grabbing his arm tightly…and then something flashed and twisted and hurt and they were somewhere else entirely, someplace with stone walls and grim-faced painted portraits, a large fireplace, shelves and shelves of books and curiosities, and a very large and messy desk.
The old wizard, Professor Dumbledore, ordered Harry to stay right where he was at and circled around him, frowning. “This absolutely will not do,” he insisted, more to himself than to Harry. “I had intended to fix your memories prior to this, but the very strong bond you’ve formed with that bird will have to be undone first.” He ruffled Harry’s hair. “Don’t worry, we’ll replace him with a proper familiar and you’ll never know the difference – you’ll never know the difference about any of it, I promise.” He went back to his desk, summoning a large, ratty-looking black book off one of the deeper shelves so that it was there and flipping itself open when he sat down. “Just let me find the spell I need to sever the bond and then we can get on with things the way we should have done over a year ago. I know you must be frightened,” he told Harry, with almost convincing sympathy, “And I don’t expect you to understand why this must be done, so you’ll just have to trust me that it really is all for the greater good.”
Fawkes was still humming, but Harry could tell those words had made him angry. The disguised phoenix cheeped and looked around the room, then cheeped at one of the portraits on the wall…and to Harry’s astonishment the man in the portrait nodded and then turned and walked out of his painting, disappearing. He was back a moment later and nodded again, and Fawkes sung a sweet little snatch of a song for him that made the painted man smile and go sit down in a chair in the painted room behind him, where he crossed his legs and picked up a painted cup of tea.
Harry was so caught up in watching this – especially when a painted lady from one of the other portraits walked out of her frame and joined the painted man for tea in his – that it quite startled him when the door to Professor Dumbledore’s office opened and a tall, severe-looking woman wearing a witch’s hat came hurrying in with a sour-faced man in black robes right behind her. “Albus, what…” the woman began, and then she saw Harry standing there frozen and stopped, her hand going to her mouth. “Oh my. Is this…”
“I’d say it is,” the man in black robes said. He had dark eyes and oily dark hair, and it looked to Harry like the neck of his high-necked robes was too tight. He examined Harry the way someone might examine something found at a boot sale that they were considering purchasing, which made Harry feel somewhat uncomfortably offended although he wasn’t sure why; Fawkes assured him that his uncles would explain it to him when they got back home, but that the man wasn’t looking at him that way for a bad reason, only because he was curious and trying to figure Harry out. Sure enough, the man stopped looking a moment later, frowning. “He was throwing such a fit you had to use Imperious, really?”
“Not exactly,” Dumbledore told him, ignoring the tall woman’s horrified gasp. “His guardians had told him not to come with me, so I had to force the issue somewhat to get him past that. It will be fine, we’ll get it all sorted out forthwith. So what brings the two of you here right at this moment?”
The words held a veiled reprimand which made the black-robed man stiffen and the tall woman huff. “You sent for us, Albus – in fact, the message you sent said to hurry, it was an emergency, so we came running.” She scowled. “I would say this qualifies as an emergency, yes.” The wand in her hand flicked, and Harry squeaked and staggered just slightly when the spell that had been holding him still suddenly came off. “Welcome to Hogwarts, Mr. Potter,” she said.
Harry frowned, shaking his head. “Thank you, but my surname is Angel, not Potter – my parents formally adopted me.”
She looked startled by that. “Your…parents?”
Harry nodded. “Uncle Nick and Uncle Danny, yes. Uncle Nick was my mother’s cousin.”
The man in black looked scandalized by this. “He was raised by a squib?”
“By a pair of Muggle law-enforcement officers,” Dumbledore corrected, not looking happy about it. “The one may be a squib, I can’t be sure and it really doesn’t matter. The boy was removed from the custody of his mother’s sister and her husband, which has changed my plans considerably. I’ll soon set everything to rights, though, and Mr. Potter will be back to using his correct name.”
“Which is Angel,” Harry told him politely. “I was formally adopted, they have papers to prove it.”
“Yes, yes, you won’t remember any of that shortly,” Dumbledore told him with a dismissive wave of his hand. “And don’t talk back to your elders, young man.”
Harry shook his head, frowning. “That doesn’t apply to you though, sir, because you kidnapped me. Uncle Nick says it’s very important to be polite, but that it’s not logical to follow propriety off a cliff, either.”
On his shoulder, the mynah bird trilled and squawked, “Not logical! Not logical!”
The tall witch gasped again, and then glared at the wizard in black, who seemed amused by her reaction. “It talked! Familiars can’t talk, and you can’t bond to an animagus…”
“It isn’t an animagus,” the man corrected. “It’s…one of the several species of birds which can be trained to mimic human speech. Muggles do it to amuse themselves.”
“They do?” She looked at the bird again, and it cocked its little black head and looked back at her with bright, intelligent black eyes and gave a little twitter. “What an astonishing idea, I never would have guessed. Did you teach it to do that, Mr…Harry?”
Harry shook his head again. “He mostly just does it himself, ma’am,” he told her. He cocked his head, much the same way his familiar just had. “I’d like to go back to my family now, please,” he requested politely. “This man had no right to kidnap me and bring me here, he was specifically told to leave us alone and that my education, magical or otherwise, was none of his business. And I find his repeated insinuations that my familiar is not appropriate and needs to be ‘replaced’ both frightening and disturbing.”
Hmm, that had bothered the black-haired man. Harry focused on him next when the woman looked away and didn’t answer. “Is it legal for him to do that here? I was taught that the bond between a familiar and a wizard was inviolable.”
The black-haired man almost choked. He shook his head. “No, it is not legal – nor is it acceptable,” he gritted out. He had a deep voice that somewhat reminded Harry of Bob, only a good deal clearer. “You were taught correctly, in that at least.”
Harry looked at him with fresh interest. He’d heard that tone of voice before, from his maths teacher. The man was often cross and crusty, Uncle Danny said he was a sour old bastard, but he loved his subject and Harry adored him for it. He beamed, making the connection. “You’re a professor too! What do you teach?”
The man looked momentarily taken aback. “I…I teach Potions.” He raised a challenging eyebrow. “Do you know what that is, Mr. Potter?”
“It’s Angel, please.” Harry thought, then nodded. “That’s chemistry with magic added, right? You add the magic to the chemistry to create reactions which wouldn’t normally be possible.”
Severus Snape’s mouth dropped open, and then, for the first time in a very long time, he smiled at a child. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, that’s it exactly – there’s more to it, of course, but that is a very astute encapsulation of the subject.” He looked the little boy in the eye. “You like…chemistry, do you?”
Harry beamed. “We got to do some in science class, it was great! They only let us do simple things, though. Uncle Nick says that’s for safety, but they’ll let us do more in the upper grades. He said if I still love it then, I might want to major in that at university – he said chemists do lots of things that help people, just like police officers do!”
Severus looked into those oh-so-familiar green eyes, alight with love for learning and his uncle, and he realized something; he realized that he wasn’t looking at his hated rival James Potter’s son, he was looking at ‘Uncle Nick’s’ son. A happy, well-brought-up little boy who was shrewd and smart for his age but did not appear to be either conniving or a liar. Severus decided to test him. “Do you know what a Death Eater is, Mr.…Angel?”
“They wore robes with hoods, right?” Severus nodded, and the boy nodded back. “They weren’t called that in Sandford, but we had some. They killed a lot of people, and Uncle Nick and Uncle Danny broke their group up and sent them all to prison.” He made a face. “One of them, the leader, was Uncle Danny’s father.”
All right, that was surprising. Severus pushed back the sleeve of his robe and rolled up the shirtsleeve underneath it, revealing his Mark. He ignored McGonagall’s gasp. “I used to be a Death Eater, that’s what this mark means. What do you think of that?”
Harry looked. “It’s a very nicely done tattoo,” he said politely. “Is it like a gang tattoo? Do you have to keep it covered all the time, even in the summer, so that people won’t see it and think badly of you?”
Severus thought he understood what the boy meant, but he wasn’t sure. “I am not sure what you mean by ‘gang’,” he offered. He went down on one knee. “Here, look me in the eye and think very hard about what you mean, and I’ll be able to see it.” The boy hesitated, and Severus shook his head. “I’m not going to hurt you; I just want to understand what you’re talking about, and this way is quickest. You can tell me about it later if you like.”
The boy considered that, then nodded and looked Severus in the eye, frowning in concentration. Severus used a very light touch of Legilimancy and looked, then broke eye contact and nodded, standing back up. “Thank you, Mr. Angel. Yes, like that – except a Death Eater’s Mark is put on with magic and can’t be removed, ever.”
To his surprise, the boy looked upset by that – and put out a tentative hand to touch his sleeve. “I’m so sorry for you,” he said. “That must be awful.”
“Especially in the summer,” Severus agreed, keeping a straight face with an effort. He looked at McGonagall, who was astonished – a good look on her, he rather liked that – and then at Dumbledore, who was starting to scowl and look a lot more dangerous than he probably meant to. And then he looked back down at the boy. Who loved his two uncles, and loved school and his cranky old maths teacher, and who very much wanted to help people when he grew up because he’d been taught that helping was simply the right thing to do. He’d been taught a lot of things, actually, all very good. Harry Angel was going to grow up to be the best kind of man someday, the very best kind.
Not if he stayed at Hogwarts, though, because if he stayed under Dumbledore’s control he wasn’t going to grow up at all. And although Severus was relatively sure the boy’s familiar – he couldn’t believe Dumbledore and McGonagall hadn’t seen it – wasn’t going to let this particular farce go on too much longer, he had made a decision of his own. “I would very much like to meet your uncles,” he told the boy, and held out his hand. “Let’s get you home, shall we?”
Harry hesitated. “Will they hurt you if you help me?”
Severus’s lips twitched. “They might try,” he admitted, and cocked an eyebrow. “Did you look back while I was looking, then?” The boy blushed, and he smiled. “That’s all right – it’s considered a bit rude if you do it without asking, but you wouldn’t have known that since you haven’t been taught that particular type of magic yet. It’s something only the…upper form students learn, sort of like the chemical explosions you wanted to try last term.” He leaned down, just a little. “I have to admit, now that I’ve seen them, I want to try them too. I normally don’t make any explosive larger than a very large firework.”
The boy absolutely lit up with delight, and if Severus hadn’t already been decided, that would have done it. This was a boy, an innocent child, not a pawn to be played with and sacrificed for power the way so many, many others had been. Albus could…go fuck himself, as the boy’s Uncle Danny would say it. He held out his hand again, and this time Harry took it. “We’ll be going,” he told McGonagall, politely. “You might see about getting Professor Dumbledore some professional help, I don’t believe he’s quite sane anymore.”
That made the mynah bird squawk uproariously, like it was laughing, and Albus Dumbledore went almost purple – not a good look on him, not at all. “You aren’t going anywhere,” he ground out. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Severus, but everyone is staying right where they belong. I’ll fix Harry’s memories, and both of yours, and we’ll get the boy a proper familiar to go on with. I know what I’m doing and it’s for the best, you’re all just going to have to trust me.” And then he stood up and pointed his wand at Harry and let loose a spell which was probably intended to do exactly what he’d just said.
Or it would have, if it hadn’t fizzled out against a golden shield that suddenly appeared between himself and the other three people in the room…and the golden phoenix which was now perched on Harry’s shoulder where the mynah bird had been. McGonagall put a horrified hand to her mouth. “Albus, you…he…Fawkes!”
“He’s my familiar,” Harry told her, reaching up his free hand – he was still holding onto Severus with the other – to stroke the phoenix’s golden feathers. “He came and found me one day while I was out playing, he said he was there to be my friend for as long as I lived. Uncle Danny came up with his disguise so he could stay with me when other people were around.” He cocked his head, looking at Dumbledore. “I feel like I should apologize for him, sir. You may be a very bad man, but it’s still quite rude of him to laugh at you the way he does.”
The phoenix chirped a sarcastic-sounding scold at him, then butted its head against his cheek affectionately. It glared at Albus, though, and at McGonagall, and then it let out a short, sharp burst of song…and just that suddenly Harry, Severus and Fawkes were gone.
Albus dropped back down into his chair, going somewhat gray and clutching his chest. McGonagall looked down at him – figuratively as well as literally – and shook her head. “You,” she said, “are an idiot. And I’m sorry I ever slept with you. Are you having a heart attack, then?” He looked alarmed and opened his mouth, but no words came out. “Hmm. That would make me headmistress, I suppose – and head of the Order as well, wouldn’t it? I suppose that would be all right. At least maybe then we’d get some things done instead of playing your convoluted power games that just keep all the messes dragging on forever without any real resolution.” She angled a look up at the portraits, who were now all in one frame having tea together and all studiously avoiding looking out at what was going on. “Alright, since this was a false alarm, I will see you tomorrow afternoon at our regular meeting, and I’ll let everyone know you don’t want to be disturbed.” And then she swept out of the room, head held high, and if any of the people in the portraits saw what looked like a very small bolt of lightning shoot towards the desk as she closed the door…well, they pretended they didn’t and just continued having their very nicely painted tea. The self-caused problems of the living weren’t really any of their concern anymore, after all.