Continuing Tales

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 3 of 27

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Harry clutched his Firebolt in one hand and Hedwig's empty cage with the other. He had let her fly ahead to the Hogwarts Owlery. Snape had performed a reducing charm on Harry's school trunk and carried it easily under one arm. With his shorter legs, Harry had to take two steps to every one of Snape's, but his Potions Master made no effort to slow down and Harry was bloody well determined not to ask. On sudden inspiration, he stopped, swung a leg over his broom, and soared up and over his surly professor, streaking for the edge of the Forbidden Forest. He gained the Hogwarts entrance in seconds, landed gracefully, and waited with a cocky grin on his face for Snape to catch up. The grin faded when he saw Snape's furious expression, and he braced himself for a blistering lecture that didn't come. Snape merely tapped the entrance with his wand and said, "Go on."

When they were through the gates, Snape said, "If you're so eager to fly, you may do so, assuming you go straight to the castle. No stops, no visits to Hagrid – straight to the castle. Are you capable of following such simple instructions, Potter, or do I need to hold your hand and suffer your company?"

"I want to know what this is all about," Harry said defiantly, now that the ice had been broken and Snape had deigned to speak to him. "It's summer. Why am I here? What was Sirius so upset about? What did you tell him?"

"You are here for your own safety and for your godfather's piece of mind," Snape said coolly; he sounded less angry and more tired than he had before. "That is all that I can tell you right now. You will stay here as long as he deems it necessary. I am exhausted, Potter, and have a long night ahead of me. I would like to return to my chambers for a few hours. So either get on that bloody broom or start walking." Snape did the latter, striding away from Harry in the direction of the castle. Harry sighed, annoyed, but mounted his broom and flew ahead, unable to resist practicing a few dives and feints along the way. If Snape noticed, he gave no indication of it, appearing to be single-minded in his quest for bath and bed.

Harry landed at the entrance to the castle. The silence of the massive structure was eerie to one who was used to being there only when it was filled with adolescent energy. He pushed the door open and stood in the unnatural quiet, waiting for Snape to come and tell him what to do.

"Mr Potter?" Minerva McGonagall's voice echoed through the empty Entrance Hall and startled him nearly out of his wits. He whirled around and saw her standing in a doorway.

"Yes, Professor," he managed.

"May I ask what you're doing here?" Professor McGonagall pursed her lips suspiciously and glared over her glasses. She couldn't remember a time when a student had arrived unannounced in the middle of summer break.

"You can ask, Professor, but I can't give you an answer," Harry said, tempering his sulky tone but still realizing that he was walking a fine line. He wondered briefly if house points could be deducted during the break and then decided he didn't much care. "Snape brought me here. Apparently I'm not meant to know why."

"Professor Snape, Mr Potter," McGonagall said reprovingly. "Where is he now?"

"He's on his way." Harry waved his broom a little. "He let me fly ahead."

"I see." She stared at him another long moment and then perched primly on a nearby bench to wait, standing only when she heard the massive door grinding open.

"Professor Snape," she said, and then she paused as she took in her colleague's appearance. She betrayed her…concern? distaste? Harry wasn't sure…with only the slightest flicker of an eye and then went on. "What is the meaning of this?" She gestured at Harry, and he felt like a troublesome Boggart she'd found hiding among her under things. The rest of the wizarding world might think he was a hero, but his professors certainly had a knack for keeping his ego in check.

"Mr Potter will be staying here at the castle for a time – perhaps for the rest of the break," Snape answered, and both Harry and McGonagall looked at him in surprise. "It is necessary," he added to McGonagall, giving her a look that said he would brook no argument on the matter. He put Harry's trunk down by the stairs and tapped it with his wand, restoring it to its normal dimensions.

"Is the Headmaster aware…"

"Not yet," Snape interrupted, "but I plan to speak to him immediately."

"I'm afraid not. He's in London on Ministry business at present. I believe he's set to return tomorrow afternoon."

"That will be soon enough," Snape said, and privately, he was glad of the reprieve. He wanted a bath and a nap, in that order, and he had not been looking forward to delaying either one with a potentially lengthy conversation with the Headmaster. "I assume Potter can lodge in his dormitory?"

McGonagall nodded automatically and then checked herself. "Of course," she said, "but I'll need to have the room…aired out and his bed made up. Can you give the house-elves a half-hour to prepare your room?" This last to Harry, who shrugged.

"Sure Professor. I don't have anything I particularly need to do."

"The library is open should you wish to work on some of your summer assignments," Professor McGonagall said crisply.

"Oh joy," Harry snapped, and he instantly regretted it.

She glared at him over her glasses and immediately reduced him to feeling like a first-year. "I suggest you watch your tone, Mr Potter, unless you'd like to spend your summer break assisting Mr Filch with his duties."

"I'm sorry, Professor," Harry said, and the apology was sincere. It wasn't Professor McGonagall's fault he was here in an empty castle instead of at home awaiting Hermione's visit.

"Apology accepted, Mr Potter." She gave him a tight smile and then turned back to Snape. "Severus, is he permitted out-of-doors?"

"As long as he stays on the grounds, I don't see why not," Snape replied, too weary by now to sustain his customary sneer.

"Good." She turned to Harry. "Hagrid is away on business for the Headmaster, or I'd suggest you pay him a visit. But since it is such a nice day, perhaps you'd like to make use of the Quidditch field. I have every intention of you leading our team to victory this year."

"That sounds great, Professor," Harry said, with the first real enthusiasm he'd felt since he left Sirius's house.

"Well, thank goodness that's settled," Snape said sarcastically. "I was beginning to fear that the great Harry Potter might actually get bored . Go, Potter." He waved a hand at the door. "Go fly."

Harry didn't need to be told twice. He and his Firebolt made straight for the Quidditch pitch, leaving Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape facing one another in the antechamber.

"The Granger girl was supposed to pay him a visit this afternoon. He doesn't know it, but Lupin is going to bring her here. Can you ready her room as well?"

"Her room is ready," McGonagall said. "I only said that to Harry because I…I thought I should have Ron Weasley's bed moved out of his room before he went up there." Her face twisted in a brief spasm of grief, but Snape merely nodded.

"Fine. Miss Granger should only be here a night or two, and it's possible that Potter will be here a similar length of time. I thought it best to prepare him for the worst, however."

McGonagall closed her eyes. "Will it ever be over for that poor boy?" she murmured, more to herself than to the man in front of her, whom she suspected really didn't care.

She was surprised when he answered her and further surprised when he did it without a trace of his usual sarcasm. "It will," he said heavily. "The question is only whether it will be a happy ending."

She nodded. "I'll wait and hear about it later, Severus. Right now, you should go to your chambers. You look dreadful."

"Ever tactful, Minerva."

"You're one to talk," she replied tartly.


Harry spent several hours on his broom and felt considerably better for the experience. His stomach drove him back to the castle, and he peeked into the Great Hall but saw no signs that it was in use as a dining room during the summer break. His things had apparently been moved up to his room, and he wanted to go up and stow his Firebolt, but he hadn't thought to ask Professor McGonagall for the password.

So he was still clutching his broomstick when he tickled the pear and descended into the kitchens, which were, as always, buzzing with activity. He had no idea why – there were only a handful of faculty members in the castle to cook for – but apparently the house-elves just continued cooking to keep themselves busy. Dobby launched himself at Harry's legs, and it took some time for Harry to disentangle himself.

"Oh Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby exclaimed, his huge eyes shining and his ears twitching with joy. "Dobby is so very happy to see you back at Hogwarts. But why is the great Harry Potter here, sir?

"I'm not sure of that myself, Dobby," Harry said lightly. "Mostly what I'm sure of is that I'm hungry. Can I get something to eat?"

"Oh yes, sir, Harry Potter! Right away, sir!" Dobby and the other elves bustled around and soon Harry had a dazzling array of food on the table in front of him. He heaped his plate thinking that this, at least, was one nice thing about being back at Hogwarts. He had never in his life dined in a fine restaurant, but he found it hard to believe that any food on earth was better than this. Certainly Sirius's cooking didn't compare. He ate until he was in pain, and then he pushed his plate away, much to the elves' dismay.

"By the way," Harry said. "Where do they serve meals during the break?

"Well, the professors is usually eating in the staff room," Dobby answered.

"Oh. Thanks." Privately, Harry thought it would have been nice for someone to have told him that. Oh, well. Professor McGonagall had been startled by his appearance. She clearly wasn't used to having to take students into account over the summer.

He managed to escape the kitchens with only two small bags of food, having assured Dobby that he didn't actually need a whole chicken for an afternoon snack, and he set them down at the foot of the Grand Staircase. He maintained a grip on his Firebolt, not trusting it to the mercies of Peeves, and proceeded down the corridor toward the staff room, hoping he could find Professor McGonagall and get the password for the Fat Lady. He knocked softly at the door, feeling as if he were invading sacred territory, and then pushed it open. Professor McGonagall was indeed there, just finishing her own lunch with Professors Sprout and Flitwick, and from the way they fell silent when he entered, he suspected they had been talking about him.

"Oh there you are, Mr Potter," she said. "We looked for you when lunch was served. Where have you been?"

"Sorry, Professor. I came in from the Quidditch pitch and couldn't find anyone about. I just went down to the kitchens and let the house-elves feed me."

McGonagall's eyes narrowed. "How did you…? Never mind. I don't want to know. From now on you may dine in here with us. Dinner is at 5:30 during the break."

"Welcome back to Hogwarts," Professor Sprout said kindly.

"Yes, Mr Potter. Very nice to see you again," Flitwick added.

"Thank you," Harry said, feeling suddenly odd about the intimacy of the situation. One wasn't supposed to see one's teachers over the summer break. One certainly wasn't supposed to dine with them without even having the support of other students. He was glad he had eaten a big lunch; he doubted he'd be comfortable enough to eat much when dinnertime rolled around.

"Er, Professor?" he asked, looking at McGonagall again. "Could I have the password to the common room? I may go up to my room for a while."

"Of course. It's 'Phoenix feather'."

He gave her a curious look but didn't ask. "Thanks, Professor."

"You're welcome, Mr Potter. I'll see you at dinner if not before."


Harry trudged up the massive stairway and greeted the Fat Lady politely.

"I heard we were having a summer guest," she said cheerfully. "But I still need the password!"

"Phoenix feather," he responded, and the portrait slid open to reveal the familiar Gryffindor common room. Like everything else in the castle, it seemed depressingly empty without the students, and being there alone gave him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. It just wasn'tright . The common room should have books piled on the tables, students trying to sneak a quick snog in the corners, someone playing chess by the fire, Trevor the toad hiding in a corner…but instead, he saw precisely arranged furniture and tables polished to a high sheen. The only movement in the room was the dust motes that twinkled in the ray of sun that streaked through the high windows.

He had to get out of there.

He made his way up to the boys' dormitory and into the room he'd occupied for six years.

The room that now had only four beds.

For a minute he'd forgotten. Ron's bed had been removed and the others had been rearranged to fill the available space without leaving an obvious hole. His own bed had shifted slightly to the right, closer to where Ron's should have been.

He tucked his Firebolt under his bed and parted the curtains so he could sit down. He drew his knees to his chest and stared at the spot where Ron's bed should have been, and at that moment his seventh year at Hogwarts seemed as if it would stretch on forever. It shouldhave been the happiest year of his life. He was captain of the Quidditch team, Gryffindor had a shot at the House Cup for the seventh year in a row, and with Hermione's help, he would have at least a chance at decent marks on his N.E.W.T.'s.

And now he couldn't possibly care less. Without Ron there, the trappings of student life at Hogwarts had no meaning for him. He would still enjoy Quidditch, of course, but he wasn't sure he'd care as much about winning without Ron there to celebrate and recap every minute of the match with him. He would still be proud to be a Gryffindor, but he found it hard to worry much about a silly collection of points awarded on an often arbitrary basis – if Snape was anything to go by. Even his N.E.W.T.'s didn't matter much. He wanted to play Quidditch, not work for the Ministry. Quidditch coaches didn't care about tests. Without his best friend, without all the things that had driven him for so long, he felt thoroughly depressed by the thought of the upcoming year.

Suddenly, 'the boy who lived' wondered what, exactly, he had to live for. He pressed his smooth, unblemished forehead to his knees, and for the first time, the tears made their way to the surface and he cried for all he had lost.

The sobs tore through his body and echoed in the hollow room as he mourned the missing bed and the loyal friendship of the boy who had slept there. The sixth brother, Ron had always fought to stand out in the crowd, to accomplish something significant on his own. He had wanted to matter most to someone - and he had.

He had mattered most to Harry Potter.

The Buried Life

A Harry Potter Story
by Kalina Lea

Part 3 of 27

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