Continuing Tales

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 2 of 27

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Harry awoke to the soft thud of a pillow hitting his head and a gruff voice saying, "If you want your breakfast, you'd better get your lazy arse out of bed, hear?"

It was not, he reflected, terribly different from the way the Dursleys had always awakened him, but in this case the affection in the gruff voice was unmistakable, and he smiled even as he groaned into his pillow. "Gimme a minute," he mumbled.

"Fine then," Sirius answered with a chuckle. "Just don't blame me if there's naught but crumbs left by the time you get downstairs. Remus and I are hungry." Sirius left the room then, and Harry heard his heavy footsteps descending the cottage stairs for the living areas below.

Harry inspected his pillow for another minute or two and then reached for his glasses and settled them in place, feeling more awake as the room came into proper focus. He rolled himself out of the bed and pulled a wrinkled T-shirt over his head before staggering into the loo. Having completed his most pressing business there, he glanced into the mirror and made an automatic yet futile effort to smooth down his hair. Unfortunately, what passed for "bed head" with most people was normal for him, and as ever, his hair defied his attempts to tame it. He paused for a moment as his hand passed over his smooth forehead. It had been nearly two months since his scar had disappeared in a blinding flash of green light, and he still hadn't grown accustomed to its absence. It was as if his nose or one of his eyes had suddenly gone missing; the scar had been his most prominent feature, in a way, and though he'd thought he detested it, now that it was gone he found that he missed it somehow.

"Weird," he muttered.

"I'd not worry, dearie," the mirror replied comfortingly. "You're just at a bit of an awkward stage right now."

"Oh shut up," Harry said, shooting the mirror – and thus, himself, a glare. Since the onset of adolescence, he'd developed a distinct preference for Muggle mirrors.

He clattered downstairs to the pleasantly cluttered kitchen and seated himself at the table with his father's two closest friends. "Morning," he said, reaching for a piece of toast.

"Good morning, Harry," Remus replied pleasantly. "Sleep well?"

"Fine," Harry answered. "Just stayed up a bit late reading my new Quidditch magazine."

"I notice your school books haven't made it out of the trunk yet," Sirius said pointedly.

Harry glared at him. "I've got a month yet before classes begin. Don't know why they make assignments over the summer anyway. Snape wants three feet of parchment on the uses of Mandrakes and two feet on mermaid tears. How are you even supposed to get mermaids to cryanyway?"

"'Spect that's part of what you'll need to include in your essay," Sirius said. "Leave off the Quidditch rags and start hitting the schoolbooks."

Harry shoved another piece of toast in his mouth and didn't answer.

"Pumpkin juice, Harry?" Remus asked.

"Thanks," Harry mumbled, holding out his glass.

"I believe Sirius made a mermaid cry once," Remus said reflectively as he poured, and Sirius choked on his coffee.

"Don't go telling the boy about that," he said firmly, and Harry laughed when Remus shot him a wink.

"You know, Sirius, you're quite big on 'do as I say and not as I do,'" Harry pointed out smugly.

"'Course I am." Sirius acknowledged his guilt without a trace of shame. "Your father would have been the same, you know. I promise whatever I was in, James was in just as deep."

Harry nodded his understanding and turned miserable eyes to his plate, but he left the obvious words unspoken. He and Ron had been like that. Never saw one without the other. If one was caught at something, the professors tended to assign detention to both of them just because the plausibility of joint involvement was so great. Remus and Sirius cast sympathetic looks in his direction but said nothing. There was nothing left to say, nothing to do but wait for time to do its inevitable work, smoothing out the jagged ridges of the pain until they became something manageable. The day would come, Sirius knew, when simple comments such as the one he had just made would pass unnoticed, or nearly so. Until then, he tried to tread gently around Harry's feelings, but he still made the occasional misstep.

"What time is Hermione coming?" Sirius asked, attempting a change of subject.

"I think she said late this afternoon," Harry answered, lifting his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "In time for dinner."

"I'm looking forward to seeing her," Remus said with a smile. "She's a delightful girl."

Harry snorted at that. "Well, Sirius can leave off nagging me about my homework. Hermione does enough of that for any ten people. She's probably written twenty feet for Snape already."

"Probably," Remus agreed, laughing. He remembered quite well the special challenges that came with teaching Hermione Granger.

Sirius had picked up the Daily Prophet and was absently skimming the headlines, muttering things like, "bloody Ministry idiots" and "no ideawhat they're up against." Harry and Remus, used to both the content and manner of Sirius's editorialising, ignored him completely. Harry began reading the Quidditch news on the back of the paper Sirius was holding.

"They're holding tryouts for England's reserve team," he noted. "I wonder if I'd be good enough to play professionally?"

Sirius lowered the paper and looked at his godson. "You think that's something you'd like to do?"

"Are you daft? Of course I would!"

Sirius chuckled. "Well then, yes, I'd say you were good enough. You're better than your father, and that's saying something. Just do me a favour and wait until you finish Hogwarts to try out. I'll have to meet your mother again one day, and I'd just as soon it be a pleasant experience."

Harry was so excited he could hardly sit still. "I'm going to practice harder this year than ever," he said. "The team's not going to know what hit 'em. They'll wish Oliver was back by the time I'm through with them."

Sirius put down his paper and looked like he was about to start talking about Harry's schoolwork again when he was interrupted by a knock on the door. He gave Harry a we're-not-finished-with-this-conversation glance and got up to answer it.

An extremely dishevelled Severus Snape stood on the doorstep.

"Snape," Sirius said by way of lukewarm greeting, and then he opened the door wider and indicated that the Potions Master could come in. Snape nodded and crossed the threshold, closing the door behind him, and Harry could swear that all warmth fled the room.

Snape was wearing wizard's robes, open at the front with wrinkled Muggle clothing beneath. It appeared that he had slept in his clothing at least once, and perhaps more than that. His hair, always greasy, framed his sallow face in lank clumps.

"You look awful," Harry blurted, and then he immediately wished he had simply severed his tongue upon rising that morning instead of wasting his time with all that futile patting-down-of-the-hair.

Snape fixed him with a familiar black glare. "Thank you, Mr. Potter," he said scathingly. "Although I might point out that I, at least, am wearing trousers."

Harry looked down at his boxer shorts and shrugged. "I always eat breakfast in my underwear."

"How delightful. I'm sure it will make for equal parts entertainment and indigestion in the Great Hall come fall," Snape answered smoothly. "Now, if you don't mind, I have a matter I need to discuss with your godfather and Lupin. Perhaps you could employ yourself elsewhere for a few moments."

Harry shot Sirius a look of outrage. He was conditioned not to argue with Snape upon penalty of detentions and loss of points, but it was summer, damn it, and he was in his own house. Sirius read Harry's thoughts, and his lips twitched slightly but he didn't say a word.

Harry marshalled his courage. "You can't throw me out of my own kitchen," he said. "I live here."

"Congratulations." Snape folded his arms and fixed Harry with the glare again. "Get…out."

"Really, Severus," Remus said mildly. "Must you always…" he didn't finish the sentence. He didn't need to. He sighed and turned to Harry. "Harry, would you please go upstairs and let us speak with Professor Snape in private?"

Harry was still furious, but he looked at Sirius again and got a slight nod this time. "Fine," he snapped, scraping back his chair. "So much for all that rot about me being a 'full member of the Order.' Now that I've conveniently killed Voldemort, everyone can go back to treating me like a child."

"Ungrateful wretch," Snape spat out. "Has it occurred to you that perhaps being treated like a child is the greatest gift anyone could give you right now?"

"That's enough, Snape," Sirius said firmly. "Harry, leave us alone, please."

Harry dared to shoot Snape a final glare and stomped up the stairs.

"Now, Severus, what can we do for you?" Remus rose from his chair and pressed a cup of coffee into Snape's hands.

Snape didn't bother to voice his thanks, but he wrapped his long fingers gratefully around the cup and took an appreciative sip before sinking into the chair Harry had so reluctantly vacated. He steeled himself to say hated words.

"I need your help."

Sirius raised an eyebrow and dropped back into his own seat. "What is it?"

"Since the end of term, I've been actively monitoring my old channels of information," Snape said carefully. "There are many Death Eaters out there who are still unaccounted for, and it is too much to hope that they will just quietly subside into law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, Voldemort was particularly careful in recent years about keeping us from knowing exactly who our fellow Death Eaters were. Some, of course, I do know, and those I've taken care to either hand over to the Aurors or, in one case, to deal with myself."

Remus's head snapped up at that. "Does Dumbledore know that?"

Snape's mouth turned up in a bitter smile. "Of course. I am an accomplished liar but not quite so over-confident that I waste my time trying to deceive Albus Dumbledore. He was…displeased, but I was able to make him see that under the circumstances it was my only option. Albus and I differ on exactly what it means to be at war. I'm afraid that I have long since lost my confidence in good triumphing over evil."

"We're in agreement about one thing, then," Sirius said grudgingly.

"A first time for everything," Snape said lightly. "However, I didn't interrupt your breakfast to wax philosophical. Last night, while dining with several men I considered worthy of my attentions, I was made aware of something you need to know about. It concerns the young hero currently sulking in his bedroom."

"What? Tell me." Sirius's voice was low, but his eyes blazed and as he leaned across the table he looked nearly out of his wits with fury.

Snape shook his head. "These…gentlemen, for want of a better word, were not in possession of the full plan. They had merely heard through their own channels that there was someone out there who planned to kidnap Harry Potter."

"Retribution?" Remus asked.

"I think not, actually," Snape said thoughtfully. "From what I was able to glean, their interest in Mr. Potter is somewhat more…disturbing than mere retaliation for the defeat of their Dark Lord."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sirius growled. "Out with it, Snape!"

Snape shot Sirius a withering look. "Forgive me, Black. I'll try to express myself in small words that you'll understand. Harry Potter defeated Lord Voldemort. He killed the most powerful wizard in the world. To put it in Quidditch terms, he is the current champion. He has demonstrated, amply, that he is more powerful than Voldemort and that he is willing to use that power to kill. Can you not see why it might occur to people less powerful that now was a good time to recruit Harry Potter to their team?"

"Harry would never…he would die first!" Sirius shouted, slamming the table with the palm of his hand.

Snape rolled his eyes at the display. "As it happens, Black, I agree with you. Which makes twice in one day, incidentally - certainly a record. Potter has demonstrated his very Gryffindor incorruptibility time and again. I agree that he would probably choose death. However, I feel certain you would prefer that he not have to make that choice."

"Tell me what you want us to do."

"First of all, we need to relocate Potter to Hogwarts. Albus can keep him safe there. I need you two to come with me, and there can be no question of leaving him here by himself."

"He's not going to be happy about this," Remus cautioned.

"Forgive me if I don't take the time to give a bloody damn," Snape snapped. "He's seventeen years old, still a student, and we're trying to save his miserable hide. He'll do as he's told."

"That he will," Sirius said grimly. "What will we do?"

"I've arranged a meeting tonight with two men who I hope will have some additional information about the plan. It will be necessary for you to affect a complete disguise, so I've prepared a Polyjuice Potion. You will go as Daken and Philose, two of the least intelligent Death Eaters Voldemort ever had the misfortune to recruit. I chose them because their personas will be easy to assume and because I had some hair samples already. Just grunt occasionally, appear to have too much to drink, and let me direct the conversation."

"Why do you need us along for this?" Sirius asked. "It seems like a lot of trouble for us to go along and keep our mouths shut."

Snape looked away for a moment and then cleared his throat. "The last time a Potter went into hiding based on my information, Lily and James wound up dead. I should like for us all to gather the information together this time so that there can be no possibility of…misunderstanding."

"Severus," Remus said gently. "Neither Sirius or I hold you responsible for what happened to Lily and James. That was Peter's doing."

Snape gave Remus a brief nod and then said, "It is an instinct – nothing concrete, I assure you – but I have a feeling that this may be Pettigrew's doing as well. It is another reason I've asked you along. I thought that perhaps you would welcome the chance to…meet him again."

"Do you know for sure that Peter is alive?" Sirius rasped, his eyes glittering dangerously.

"I have been unable to prove otherwise," Snape answered carefully. "I think it…likely."

Sirius clenched and unclenched his jaw several times, and then he scraped back his chair and headed for the stairs. "Harry!" he bellowed.

Harry appeared at the top of the stairs. "What? Am I allowed out of my room now?" he asked bitterly.

"Get dressed and pack," Sirius answered. "Snape is taking you to Hogwarts."

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 2 of 27

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