Disclaimer: The author does not in any way hold the rights to Harry Potter or the world in which he lives created by J.K. Rowling.
Spoilers: This story follows OoTP and will include information from that and the previous four books. So, basically, pretend that HBP doesn't exist while reading this. This story was finished long before HBP was published and I had no intention of completely revamping my work to reflect the new book.
Unlocking Harry Potter
It was a quiet dank night. The air was still and there was a slight chill on the breeze combating the heat left from the harsh afternoon sun, a precursor to the predicted storm. Severus Snape and Remus Lupin sat at the kitchen table at number twelve Grimmauld Place, the Headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix. Though Floo access had been restricted, there was always at least one Order member waiting by the fire ever since the fiasco with Potter and Kreacher that June... just in case.
The house had been left to Remus in Sirius Black's will, which had activated at Gringotts instantly upon his death, along with a sizable portion of the Black fortune. A small percentage, though still a considerable sum, was left to Fred and George Weasley with a provision that it be used in the pursuit of magical mischief, and a smaller amount went to the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. A respectable pile of gold Galleons was transferred directly to the Weasley vault as the will was read, giving them no chance to turn it down. The rest... properties, money, and random belongings... all of it went to Potter. Still, though, the werewolf was wearing threadbare secondhand robes, as though using the money would be admitting Black was dead. A bottle of Ogden's Firewhiskey sat half empty between them. Another empty bottle lay on its side, already consumed by the time Severus joined Remus at the table.
He was amazed that he sat there drinking with Lupin. The two men were not friends, had never been friends, and most likely never would be friends. They had put aside their animosity, or at least attempted to, for their work in the fight against the Dark Lord Voldemort. Severus studied the werewolf. The man's eyes were empty, dead. He had seen it before, when someone lost their family or loved ones. Lupin's family had abandoned him long ago because of his 'condition.' The only one that had stayed with him was long dead.
He had found friends at school, at Hogwarts, but now they were all dead, or almost all. The only other one left of the four infamous Marauders that terrorized the halls of Hogwarts was Peter Pettigrew. The next time the two men met, though, Severus was sure only one of them would survive. Pettigrew had betrayed his friends. Despite Lupin's current health and Pettigrew's silver hand Severus was betting on the werewolf. He had seen this man angry before and never wanted to witness it again.
Severus despised Sirius Black, even in death. Despite that, looking across the table, he realized that he would give anything to bring Black back. That infuriating mutt's death was killing the man that sat across from him. If it was doing this to Lupin, Severus cringed to think of how Potter was reacting. He had seen the headmaster's office after the battle at the Ministry of Magic. Potter had trashed it, destroying everything he could in his rage, and even Severus had never dared go on a rampage in the headmaster's office or even considered doing so.
Dumbledore of course had just smiled that infuriating small smile of his and repaired the majority of the destruction with a flick of his wand the next day and a twinkle in his eyes. To the shock of the Potions Master, and the rest of the staff, some of the items had been damaged beyond repair. That took more strength than he had ever seen in Potter. Grief brought out both the best and worst in people, and sometimes both together.
Lupin was drinking to forget. Severus was drinking to ease his guilt. He had not been able to save James and Lily Potter fifteen years ago. His information on the attack had gotten to the headmaster too late. He had a hand in Black's death. If he had only managed to act his age and stop tormenting the fugitive, Black might still be alive. Then there was Severus's behavior towards Harry Potter. After twelve years in Azkaban Black couldn't be expected to act properly, but Snape hadn't even considered what damage that prison had done to his nemesis.
He had killed in his days as a loyal Death Eater, and still did to maintain his cover, but these three deaths, that hadn't even been by own hands, plagued him more than any others. Of course, the first two deaths had resulted in the thirteen years of peace that the wizarding world experienced. The third resulted in an admission on the part of the Ministry that Voldemort was indeed back. He had at least succeeded in saving Harry Potter's life once or twice, as much as he disliked doing so at the time.
Severus tilted the bottle and poured himself another shot. He filled the glass in front of the werewolf and put the bottle back in its place. Were Molly Weasley awake she would no doubt scold them ferociously. She mothered everyone who stepped inside Headquarters, regardless of their age. The majority of the Weasley family was asleep upstairs, along with the Granger girl, as it was nearing midnight.
They were on call, so to speak, but a simple sobriety potion would take care of any problems. As a Potions Master, Severus was prepared for such a need. Two vials of Sobrie Instanter stood at the ready. He threw his head back and downed the shot of room temperature amber liquid. There was a brief burn in his throat followed by spreading warmth. Lupin poured the next two shots immediately, still drinking two or three to every one Severus consumed.
"Has Harry written this week?" Lupin asked listlessly, surprising Severus with his lucidity.
These days the mention or thought of Harry Potter was the only thing that roused Lupin from his perpetual state of apathy. The boy was all he had left and was shut up at the muggles' house out of reach. If Severus ever needed proof of the inferiority of muggles he had it in the Dursleys. Molly Weasley had related to the Order all the stories of Potter's childhood that she had coaxed out of her youngest son Ron, and it was a given that what Ron knew was only scratching the surface.
The boy had admitted that Potter avoided the topic of his relatives whenever possible. Molly's rant was a blatant attempt to get Potter out of that home and Severus had been disgusted at what she revealed, especially when the headmaster insisted on leaving the boy there for at least a month, without explaining why. Though the end of that month was near, the headmaster gave no indication of releasing Potter from the muggles' care.
Severus's guilt extended beyond the deaths of Harry Potter's parents and godfather. He had treated The-Boy-Who-Lived horridly, seeing only his popularity and fame... and his father. It did help maintain his cover in the eyes of Voldemort and the Death Eaters, but Severus had taken it too far, transferring his rivalry with the father and godfather to the son.
It was childish, and worse it had quickly become vicious and nearly uncontrollable. His reaction to Potter's intrusion on his privacy was enough to get any other professor fired, but Albus couldn't fire him if he wanted Severus to live. He had actually thrown one of his students across a room. To put it simply, Severus was disgusted with himself, and was forced to reexamine his attitude towards Potter over the years.
"Not yet," Severus responded. "We should be seeing Hedwig soon. He's late, but not more than a day." All the members of the order were now familiar with the snowy white owl that Hagrid had bought for Potter. She was pampered by the vast majority of them, especially Mad-Eye Moody in an odd showing of softness on the ex-Auror's part.
"I'm worried," Lupin said. He tossed back another double shot and reached for the bottle. "Those letters aren't like him and I just have this feeling."
"He saw his godfather die, was possessed by the Dark Lord, and used an Unforgivable Curse on a fellow human... if you could call Bellatrix human," Severus stated calmly, having learned of the last in a Death Eater meeting and reluctantly shared it with a shocked Order. "No doubt the Harry Potter we knew in June no longer exists."
The werewolf made a choking sound and Severus did not look up. He probably blamed himself, along with Severus. Chances were Potter was blaming himself too. If the boy were only a few years older he'd have been there drowning himself in the Ogden's with them.
"I used to think it was one of the only advantages of lycanthropy, a great sense of smell, hearing, sight, and that it was nearly impossible to get completely pissed," Lupin muttered as he tossed back another shot. So far he had imbibed probably four times as much as Severus and still seemed rather lucid. "I could always drink James and Sirius under the table, one after the other. They kept trying to outdo me until Lily put a stop to it."
Severus raised his eyebrows. After being forced to work with the man for years, he was only now getting used to him and the casual mentions of his lycanthropy. After the prank that Black pulled in their fifth year at Hogwarts, where Severus had seen Lupin on the full moon and was nearly killed, he had been terrified of the man. His way of dealing with the situation was to treat him with contempt and hatred. Now he was responsible for the small amount of relief the man had on nights of the full moon, the Wolfsbane Potion that allowed him to keep his mind when he transformed.
The flames in the fireplace flared and turned green, signaling the approach of someone by Floo. Severus cursed loudly and thrust one of the vials of Sobrie at Lupin, drinking the other. Only very few people had access to this fireplace on the Floo Network from only two other fireplaces. All the warmth, comfort, and fuzziness from the alcohol disappeared bringing cold sobriety and reality as the head of Albus Dumbledore came into view. The headmaster spotted the bottles and raised his eyebrows. Severus held up the vial and Albus nodded.
"I need the two of you to go to Privet Drive and check on Harry. He hasn't written yet. The wards are fine, but I am uneasy," Albus stated soberly.
"This late?" Remus asked, a token objection as the man had been almost pleading to do just that for weeks.
"Would you like to go when the Dursleys are awake?" Albus asked his question in reply. Potter would of course be awake. He had difficulty sleeping even before his godfather was killed. Though he had only rarely been caught, Potter frequently was out of his Tower after curfew.
The Order had backed off, not physically guarding number four Privet Drive every moment of the day and night. It was in part to give Potter a little more freedom, and also because they just didn't have the people to spare. The Dark Lord was much more active once his return became public knowledge.
"We'll leave immediately," Severus said, cleaning up the evidence of their drinking marathon with a flick of his wand.
"Don't do anything to the muggles Severus," Albus warned.
Severus snorted. He may despise muggles, and these muggles in particular, but he was not stupid. He had no desire to be arrested and jailed. They were not worth it. The only thing keeping the Ministry from arresting Severus just on principle was Dumbledore and the Order members in the Auror Corps.
"Is there anything you want to give him?" Lupin asked almost hopefully.
Albus sighed, "Just tell him that it will only be a little longer. We should be able to remove him from there in about a week or so, if he wants to be at Grimmauld Place. If not it will be a bit longer."
Lupin looked down and ran his fingers through his prematurely almost greying hair, "We'll let you know how things are as soon as we get back."
"Thank you Remus," Albus said before disappearing from the flames.
Remus turned to Severus and deadpanned, "So Severus, does that mean I can have a go at the muggles?"
"It would be satisfying Lupin, but you can't help Potter from prison," Severus responded with a mild smirk.
Remus snorted and fished a scrap of parchment and what Severus assumed was a muggle pen from his robes. He jotted a note to anyone who woke up and found the kitchen empty. They both grabbed lightweight black cloaks from the coat tree in the hall and walked out the front door to the London streets. With their hoods up to hide their faces they found an empty alley and apparated to Privet Drive.
The street was quiet. It showed no sign that the most famous wizard of their time lived in one of the cookie cutter houses that dotted the street at a regular interval. Each house was identical, down to the white trim and black shutters. The only difference lay in the gardens and the window treatments. The windows of a few houses were still lit, their inhabitants not yet in bed or trying to ward off intruders. Severus reached into a pocket for Albus's Putter-Outer and extinguished all the street lights. The two men made their way along Privet Drive until they found themselves standing in front of number four.
There were lights on in the living room bay window and some of the upstairs windows. The Dursleys were awake. This in itself boded trouble. The Dursley family was known to retire early in general and wake early. Wands at the ready, Severus and Lupin knocked on the front door. It opened to reveal a horse faced woman with a sour expression and deep worry circles under her eyes. It looked like Potter was not the only occupant of the house who was having difficulty sleeping.
"Petunia," Lupin greeted her with a jerky nod. She flinched.
Severus sneered. This woman looked nothing like Lily Potter. "Where is Potter?" he asked. Both men lowered the hoods of their cloaks as they stepped inside, out of the shadows and into the artificial muggle lighting.
"In his room," she snapped with clear irritability. "It's about time..."
The woman was staring at Remus Lupin with a look of horror. She probably recognized him from Lily's wedding, Severus figured.
"What's this all about," a gruff voice approached them, belonging to a man with very little neck. "Have the freaks finally showed up to rid us of that boy? He's been odder than ever."
Severus ignored the overweight, irate muggle and looked at his companion warily. Lupin had his head slightly tilted up and his eyes were unfocused. He sniffed the air and cocked his head towards the stairs. A faint amber glow came from his eyes and Severus stepped back cautiously. The man was radiating power at that moment. He grudgingly admitted to himself that Lupin did still scare him. Too much of the wolf was accessible to the man, especially that close to the full moon.
"Blood... Harry," the werewolf growled before he shot into the house, moving faster than any human should. In a flash Vernon Dursley was lifted off the ground as though he weighed nothing and pinned against the wall with Lupin's forearm pressed against his throat. The man's eyes went wide in fear. "Where is he? What have you done to him?"
The man spluttered, unable to answer as his wife clawed at Lupin's arm, to no affect. Lupin ignored the woman.
"I would answer him if I were you," Severus said in the cold tone that frightened his Hufflepuff and Gryffindor students senseless. "It is foolish to anger a werewolf."
He didn't think the man's eyes could open any wider, but they did. His face paled, but there was no change in Petunia. She must have known already.
"We haven't touched him," Vernon finally managed in a rough voice. "He shut himself in his room when we got back and hasn't been out all summer. We can't open the door. Petunia puts food through the flap."
Lupin dropped the man and darted towards the stairs. Vernon Dursley rubbed his throat with one hand while slouched against the wall where he had fallen, his wife hovering above him. Severus followed Lupin at a dignified pace, robes and cloak billowing behind him. His expression remained unreadable but inside a chill was creeping up his spine.
He got to the second story hall to see Lupin pounding on a door and yelling for Potter to let him in. Severus pushed the werewolf aside and pointed his wand at the door. Alohomora! Nothing happened. He tried a more powerful unlocking charm, and still nothing.
"Don't you think I tried that?" Lupin growled. The man was more alive than he had been in over a month. "I can't force it open either. Stand back."
Severus had just enough time to take a step back and turn his face away when he felt the very small splinters of wood pepper him. He turned back and saw the dust settle where the door to Harry Potter's room had once stood. Severus now smelled what Lupin had detected downstairs. He knew the smell of human blood all too well. It brought back memories of Death Eaters attacks, memories he would rather leave behind forever, but nothing in his experience prepared him for the sight before him.
There was a blue shimmer in the entrance to the room, almost imperceptible. It was a powerful shield, preventing anything, physical or magical, from getting through. Despite the powerful blasting curse Remus had thrown at the door, all the splinters were in the corridor. Severus tried several countercharms and countercurses to no avail.
The power holding the shield was extraordinary. He stepped towards it and felt a tingle on his skin as he stood as close as possible to the magical barrier. The hair on his arms stood up from the magical energy that exuded from the shield. From there Severus could see into the room.
Harry Potter was stretched out on his back on a bed in a pair of oversized muggle jeans, a piece of rope acting as belt. His ribcage stood out and each rib was clearly defined. There were long open slashes up and down both arms and a few on his chest. Blood soaked into the thin mattress beneath him and his skin was deathly pale. His head was turned away from the door and one arm dangled off the side of the bed, blood dripping from it onto the floor. A pocket knife was sitting in the blood on the floor. His wand was nowhere in sight. There was no sight of the boy's snowy owl and his only window was shut and locked.
Severus stepped back with his hand over his mouth, fighting back nausea. Lupin had collapsed and was shaking with sobs. Severus stepped towards him and slapped him hard across the face. His hand stung at the impact but it seemed to hardly faze the werewolf.
"Get a hold of yourself," he snapped. "He's not dead yet, and nowhere near it at the moment. The shield would have fallen and you should be able to smell it, damn you. Get Albus. He's the only one who could break that shield."
Lupin's breathing was ragged as he gazed at Severus in shock before leaping to his feet. He ran out of the house to apparate to Hogwarts. Severus stood outside the shield, wand ready in case the shield fell. Despite what he told Lupin, he was extremely worried. The amount of blood the boy had lost was dangerous indeed.
He would only have a few moments to save Potter if the shield happened to fall. He searched through his pockets for some medicinal potions he had brought with him. The shock was keeping the reality of the situation from settling in. He had grabbed the potions in case he had to save Harry from the Dursleys, not from self-inflicted injuries.