Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 15

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15

“So what is this gossip?” Viktor asked as they walked.

Harry had decided to take his boyfriend on a stroll around the area, down various paths outside of town and through the woods. “Well, it seems that my mother told Snape she had no intention of setting foot back in the UK unless she had to so the only relationship they could have is one of friendship. Apparently Snape didn’t much care for that and promptly resigned Hogwarts. He’s moved into town, actually. Decided to start his own apothecary. It also seems that he screwed up his courage and got a message to Tom, asking for some languages.”

“Oh, wow. What exactly was his relationship with your mother before?”

“They met when they were kids. Snape witnessed her doing some accidental magic and used that as a way to talk to her. He spent a lot of time away from home because his father was an abusive drunk and his mother disowned from her family for marrying a muggle. Not that I told you that, of course.”

“Of course,” Viktor said smoothly.

Harry smiled. “They became best friends, went to Hogwarts together, but she was sorted into Gryffindor and he to Slytherin, and you’ve seen that rivalry. Despite that they somehow stayed best friends. My father and his friends, all Gryffindors, were absolute beasts to Snape and took great pleasure in bullying him. Mum always defended Snape when she could, of course, but it all eventually blew up. Snape was getting in too deep with the pure-blood bigots and future Voldemort supporters, for one thing. But what tore it was an afternoon shortly after their OWLs. Snape was just minding his own business when my father and his cronies showed up to bully him again, and this time they humiliated him so badly that my mother witnessing it saw Snape losing it. He called her a mudblood.”

Viktor frowned. “I can see where that might make your mother strongly reconsider the friendship. If it had just been a heat of the moment reaction that’d be one thing, but the build up to it is something else.”

“Exactly,” he said with a nod. “And let’s face it. Most people at fifteen or sixteen aren’t the epitome of mature or worldly and experienced. You play the cards you’re dealt, and not always well. The other factor was that Snape fancied himself in love with mum, and she knew it on some level. Anyway, eventually, my father managed to reform enough to stop causing so much friction between himself and mum, and, well. . . . But later on, when Snape realized just who the prophecy might refer to he tried to save her, begged Voldemort to spare her, and luckily for all of us Tom actually listened. So now Snape sees a second chance, especially since mum and my father parted ways years ago.”

Viktor let out a vaguely disbelieving huff. “It is not every man—or woman—who would drop everything and move to a new country just for a chance at blossoming an unrequited love.”

“I’m just surprised he got away with it,” Harry said, reaching out to pick a wildflower. “Dumbledore supposedly kept Snape from going to Azkaban as a Death Eater and has kept him close ever since, more or less forcing him to teach Potions. Mum says he’s brilliant at Potions, but most likely a poor teacher. Even Draco says he has no business teaching, not kids, anyway. So he’s here. And he’s been over to dinner a few times already.”

“Does he know? Your identity, I mean.”

He shook his head. “I guess if it really goes that far I’ll let mum know it’s okay. It’s got to still be twisting him up inside, that conflict. I notice he tends never to actually look at me if he can help it, and that I obviously look like my father’s son can’t help. Not really sure how I feel about all of it. Yes, I want my mother to be happy, and if he’s it, all right. It’s just so strange the idea that he was a Death Eater, and technically still ‘belongs’ to Tom.” He shrugged and tossed the flower aside.

“Has Tom said anything about hunting trips yet?”

“Ah, we did a few in the woods, but they only hold so much game. We’re going to have to go farther away from civilization. I have this weird feeling, though, that he’s been waiting for you to get here, which makes me wonder just what he has in mind.”

Viktor reached over to take his hand before saying, “Well, whatever it is I expect it will be interesting. Tom doesn’t strike me as the type to—” He shrugged. “I expect he’s going to step things up, and an extra person on hand would be a wise thing.”

That had not occurred to him, though why not also escaped him. They walked in silence for a while, simply enjoying each other’s company and the day, then Viktor asked, “Is that offer still open for me to do repeats with you?”

He blinked and looked over, a little surprised. “Of course. Do you want to add in another bed, then?”

Viktor hesitated, then shook his head. “I think we can behave ourselves. But we will check with your mother. The more work I can get done ahead of time. . . . And besides, I would like to try to see if I can use the aetherial spells.”

Harry smiled at him. “Okay. I’ll grab one of the spell books and you can give it a try. Maybe you could learn enchanting, too, though that requires a whole lot of soul gems. Still, if we’re going hunting it means it’s easy enough to get them.”

Back at the house he rummaged through the shelves in his room and found the book for Candlelight, a novice-level Alteration spell. He held it out, but before letting Viktor take it he said, “To explain how this works. These books are magical themselves, so when you read it you’ll be getting more than just words on the page. You’re going to sense things, like how it feels to actually ready and prepare and cast the spell. You can kind of think of it like someone giving you their memory of how to cast a new spell, except not really. It’s hard to explain. So. . . .”

Viktor nodded and accepted the book, taking a seat in the nearby reading chair. Harry grabbed the book he had already been reading for pleasure and sprawled on his bed, and when he glanced up a while later Viktor seemed engrossed. His mother poked her head in a chapter later and smiled when he looked up, then took a closer look at what Viktor was reading; her brows went up.

Harry quietly got up and went over to her, drawing her back out of the room and down the hall. “He wanted to try an aetherial spell and I saw no reason not to give it a shot, so I gave him a copy of Candlelight. He’s been at it steadily, but I can’t honestly tell if it’s working.”

“Huh.” Lily looked a bit nonplussed. “You know, if he can do it, I might just start learning them myself. For all I know Petunia could learn them. Whatever it is that awaits you out there—well, it might not hurt the least bit to have options not available to anyone else. At the very least for Petunia, because then she’d have a way to defend herself that wasn’t, you know, a firearm.”

He nodded. Having Petunia try hadn’t occurred to him, either. “Oh, mum. Viktor would like to do repeats with me so he can have more time working at spell mastery. He wants your permission first, because it’d mean him sleeping in there, well, repeatedly.” He snickered.

His mother shot a “why me?” look at the ceiling and smiled at him. “Well. . . . I want your word. No intercourse until you’re sixteen.”

“You have it,” he said seriously. “And we already made an agreement with each other not to until then. I asked him straight out what his limit was and he told me. My only question would be when, technically, do I turn sixteen, but I’m thinking it’d be safer all around to wait for the official day.”

She nodded. “The official day, preferably. You know the ministries are fussy about this whole illegally meddling with time thing. It’s not like you can get pregnant or anything, honey, but still.”

“You’re a really cool mother, you know?” he said and hugged her. “Something tells me most kids can’t talk to their parents like this, that they don’t feel they can be honest.”

Lily gave him a misty-eyed look at that. “You’re probably right. Okay, lunch will be soon, but if Viktor is still absorbing that book I’ll set something aside for him. We’ll see. One of us will wander by when it’s time.”

He nodded and went back in to resume his reading, but didn’t get three paragraphs when Viktor sat up straight and caught his attention. He eyed his boyfriend curiously, setting his book back on his bedside table.

“That was incredibly weird,” Viktor finally said. “I see what you meant, though.”

“So. . . .” He watched as Viktor looked down at his hand like he’d never before seen it, and stared. Nothing happened, even after a minute.

Harry sighed in disappointment. Maybe part of why he could was as compensation for his weak core? A core which might be weak because of Tom’s attack on him? Or because it was deliberately limited due to the other gifts he was given? “That sucks. Well, lunch is just about ready. And mum said it was fine, you doing repeats with me.”

Viktor nodded, then frowned. “Lunch?”

“Yes. You’ve been, er, assimilating that for a while now. Learning them takes time.” He shrugged and slid off the bed to reclaim the book and add it back to the case. “Now come on. Let’s wash up and see if they need any help.”

Viktor nodded again, a bit absently, and stood. Several minutes later they were in the kitchen and Harry offered their help. His aunt smiled and shook her head. “No, it’s fine. We’re almost done. But if you want you can set out the table.”

Harry nodded and started grabbing plates, which Viktor took from him, then cutlery, then napkins. By the time Dudley wandered in to check they were ready to eat. Naturally, at that moment Snape was ushered in. Harry heaved a tiny sigh; it was just too weird, the idea of his mother falling for someone who wasn’t his father. He was not about to stand in her way out of some selfish desire to keep her to himself, but it was all still very weird.

He ended up sitting across from the man again and realized part way through his chicken parmigiana that Snape was again doing everything to avoid directly looking at him. He finally got fed up and set his cutlery down with a clink. Harry took a deep breath, looked at his mother, and said, “Just tell him. Because if he doesn’t stop doing that I’m going to chuck a wobbly a two year old would be jealous of.”

His mother tried very hard not to smile, and almost succeeded. “Okay.” She scooted her chair over toward Snape and crooked her finger at him, then whispered in his ear once he leaned in. She returned to her proper spot and began eating again.

Snape looked up at him squarely; he gave off a bare hint of bemusement.

Harry tilted his head and arched a brow questioningly. “So, can I hope that you will stop acting like I’m the elephant in the room? Please? I’m starting to develop a complex here.”

“It’s not good for his delicate psyche,” Viktor said seriously.

Harry reached over without looking and smacked his boyfriend. “Can we get past that I look unfortunately like that—sperm donor?”

A gleam of amusement lit Snape’s eyes for a moment. “You could always dye your hair red,” the man suggested.

He considered that, eyed his mother’s hair, then looked at Viktor, who shook his head. To Snape he said, “Nn, no. But I, at least, have been taught what a comb is.”

The tendons in Snape’s neck flexed, telling Harry he had provoked the man into forcing back laughter.

Harry favored the man with a small smile, then looked down and reclaimed his utensils, and began eating again.

“Viktor?” his mother said. “Did it work?”

“No, though apparently I was . . . reading . . . far longer than it seemed to me.”

The corners of his mother’s mouth drooped down and Harry knew she had to be thinking of her sister. “Well, it was worth a try,” she said.

Unfortunately, Harry would have to keep checking in with his mother before practicing out back, to see if Snape would be dropping by. That would not be an issue if he knew, of course, but it would still be nice to be able to practice at home rather than in his trunk or wandering in the wilderness. “I wonder if it would work against transfigured animals,” he muttered and had another forkful of chicken.

“Experience?” Viktor asked.

“Hm? Yes. Not trapping, but. . . .”

His mother tapped his wrist and arched a brow at him.

“Destruction,” he replied to the unasked question, his eyes flickering toward Snape.

His mother’s brow furrowed and she looked down, but Harry could see her gaze cutting slightly toward Snape for a moment. “It’s all right if he knows,” she said.

“. . .We can try after lunch,” Viktor offered. “Just because an animal is created doesn’t mean it won’t attack.”

“You okay with that, mum?”

“Ah. . . . Let me think here. What sort of animal are we talking about? Because rabbits aren’t likely to attack. This isn’t a Monty Python skit, after all. And I don’t think I want a bear in my back yard.”

Harry’s head swung back around to Viktor.

“How about a boar?” Dudley suggested. “So long as you were high enough above it that it couldn’t reach you, that is.”

“It’s only cheating if the other guy does it,” Harry said, grinning at his cousin.

“I think I could manage that,” Viktor said slowly. “We would either need a pit or an enclosure with scaffolding to stand on.”

“Well, all right,” his mother said after a moment. “You can try after lunch. Severus, will you help keep an eye on things?”

“. . .Yes.”

“Thank you.”

More than half the room was incited to eat faster at that point and lunch was over quickly. Harry retrieved some potions for himself, just in case, then joined the others out back in time to hear Snape saying, “A pit would be safer. An enclosure could be rammed into, causing people to lose their balance and fall.”

Viktor nodded and the two of them began to dig up part of the yard with their wands. Half an hour later they had one six feet deep and ten feet square. Viktor picked up a rock and tossed it in, then transfigured it.

Harry readied Ice Spike and nailed the boar with it. It squealed in pain and anger and began searching for a way to get to them, so Harry began lobbing spikes at it every few seconds, keeping count as he did so to get an idea of how tough it really was. At the same time he was “listening” to that odd little internal sense that surfaced whenever he was using aetherial spells.

The boar finally went down and reverted to its base, and Harry lowered his hand. “Okay. Can I have another one, Viktor?”

His boyfriend transfigured the rock again, but this time Harry readied Firebolt and used that, again keeping count. “It took one less, so—” he muttered. “Okay.”

“Is it helping?” Dudley asked.

“I think it is, actually.” He fished a potion from his pocket and knocked it back, putting the empty vial in his opposite pocket. “Are you okay for another one, Viktor?” Thirty seconds later he was sending Lightning Bolt at it, focusing even harder on that hard to grasp sense. Once the boar was dead he smiled. “Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s working. I’m actually getting somewhere.” He grinned and pulled Viktor’s head down for a kiss. “Thanks for the suggestion, Dudley, because I was drawing a blank. And thank you, sir, for helping with this,” he said to Snape.

“May I ask what exactly did this accomplish?” Snape asked.

“Well, to be blunt, I’m defective when it comes to wizarding magic. But there’s—”

“Wait,” Snape interrupted, shaking his head. “What do you mean by ‘defective’?”

Harry sighed. “I started having trouble my third year, so when I got home I brought it up with Tom and my mother. Tom ran some tests. My mean core strength is below average. It’s extremely doubtful I’ll ever be able to do the higher level spells. If I’m lucky and I keep grinding away at it I might be able to manage NEWTs in wand classes, but I’m not going to bet on it. I should know soon enough if I’ll have to drop those after the OWLs and stick with my other classes.”

Snape looked faintly shocked, then his brow furrowed just a bit and Harry assumed his brain had just kicked into overdrive trying to figure a few things out. “And what you were doing?”

He nodded. “There’s another kind of magic I’m capable of without the same limits. The problem is that some of it can’t be mastered unless it’s used in real circumstances, hence the potentially deadly animal,” he said with a nod toward the pit. “Just like with wizarding spells, mastery grants you a stronger result for less effort, though some of the other benefits differ. In this case, however, it means I can do it for longer, more times, if I’ve mastered the particular discipline the spell comes from. And, until today, none of us knew if it would work for anyone here but—” He paused, hit by a thought, and shot a look at Dudley. “I wonder. . . .”

Dudley looked at him quizzically, then gasped. “Oh. I see where you’re going with that.”

“You think your aunt might be able to,” Viktor said, “because she’s classed as a squib.”

Harry nodded. “Maybe? I don’t want to dash her hopes by suggesting it, but if it works she’ll be able to defend herself. I’d rather my aunt be packing Chain Lightning and not a gun.”

Dudley snickered. “Let me talk to her about it, okay? If she agrees to try I’ll get a book from you.”

He smiled. “Right.” He paused again, then sat down on the grass and started worrying the hem of his shirt. “Now, the real question here is whether or not there’s an animal small enough that would work and that I could transfigure.”

Viktor nodded and sat next to him. “Right, because I can’t be there during all your practices to keep providing the animals.” He scratched the back of his neck absently and let his hand drop into his lap.

Dudley wandered off at that point, though Snape stayed, choosing to take a seat with them. They were still thinking about it, Harry plucking blades of grass and peeling them into thin strips, when Tom showed up and asked just how many people they planned to bury.

Harry’s head snapped up. “Tom! Query, O Wise One! Please bless us with your wisdom!”

Tom scowled at him so murderously that Snape flinched back. “Wise ass. What is it?”

So he explained.

Within a minute Tom replied, “Wolverine, honey badger, Tasmanian devil.”

“Did you absorb a complete copy of the Encyclopædia Britannica when I wasn’t paying attention?” he asked.

Tom favored him with a sarcastic smile. “Now, see, I was planning to take you tomb raiding in Egypt, but now that you’ve solved the essential problem. . . .”

Harry perked up. “Tomb raiding? Really?”

“. . .No. Your mother would kill me.”

He flopped back and growled, then asked hopefully, “When I’m an adult?”

Tom nodded. “You might already have mastered everything by then, but it would be one way to get you experience with something human.”

He sat back up with a grin. “Will you help me to learn to transfigure one of those? I wouldn’t even know where to find one to study.”

Tom nodded again. “Of course, Harry. It will be a few days, but yes. Now, your mother has finally hashed things out with Petunia and given permission regarding Valdis. We need to pick a place for a sepulcher.”

“Above or below?”

“Either, but appropriately warded or within the existing wards here. The latter is preferable, because then I don’t have to do as much work.”

Everyone got up, and they delayed that decision long enough to fill in the pit and put the turf back in place. While they were doing that Harry was thinking about what was included within the wards, then led them off to one of the back corners of the ward lines. “It’s not in line of sight to any of the windows in the house,” he explained, “which means it won’t be an obvious reminder of us keeping a corpse. Because really, I’m not sure Aunt Petunia will ever quite get a handle on that part of things.”

Tom nodded. “Sensible enough. This will do. It’ll be more trouble for me to transport Valdis and all her ‘relics’ than it will be to build the structure.”

“I won’t even ask,” he said with a shake of his head. “You’ll be giving Serana a different set of portkeys, too?”

“Yes. Now, go away. I have work to do,” Tom said, including all three of them in that.

Harry reached out and squeezed Tom’s forearm in thanks, then sprinted off to the house. Viktor was right behind him, and once inside the house Dudley popped up with a nod, so Harry headed upstairs to get the book. “Just get it back to me whenever,” he said. “I realize she may dither a bit over actually reading it.”

“Sure,” Dudley said, then disappeared.

Viktor grabbed him and pulled him into a hug. “I’m happy for you,” he said quietly. “Once you learn how to do that transfiguration it will be so much easier. Perhaps Tom can come up with some kind of cage with a magical barrier that prevents physical passage, but still allows magic through. Then you could just keep a stone inside like I used earlier and keep reusing it.”

“I wish it could have worked for you,” he whispered.

“It’s fine,” Viktor said, holding him tighter for a moment. “I already have all the magic I need. It was still an interesting experience and I’m not sorry I tried. I hope that it works for your aunt, though. She’s likely gone her whole life always thinking she’s second best and a part of her must be bitter what with her sister and son and nephew capable of it.” He pulled back and gave Harry a kiss. “I’m also happy that Valdis will soon be away from a place she dislikes so.”

“Yeah. And for Valdis, too. You’ve not met them—gods willing you never do—but the Greybeards are so infuriatingly pacifistic about their power, and more than a little pushy about how the dovahkiin should be using theirs. I’ve wanted to get her away from there almost since I met her. But, this kind of talk is a bit depressing. What say we go check the newspaper to see if there’s anything playing in town we could go see while you’re here?”

Viktor nodded and stepped back. It was only as they were walking down the hallway that Harry noticed Snape had probably been there for some time, out of direct sight leaning against a wall, listening.

Four days later Tom wandered into the house just prior to lunch and joined them at the table. He made mention that Valdis had been rehoused and needed to show them how to access the place. Harry forced himself to eat at a decorous pace and not just shovel his meal in at light speed, and participate in the conversation. Snape was there again and a part of him was wondering just when his mother would be announcing a wedding date.

After the meal Tom led the group (Petunia opted out, unsurprisingly, and Dudley really wasn’t interested and didn’t need to know) to the sepulcher and explained how to access it. Inside the room looked very similar to where she’d been housed at Hrothgar, except there were “windows” to provide relief from the monotony of grey stone.

“Hello, Valdis,” Harry said cheerfully. “You’re finally free of the old men!”

“That I am,” she said with a nod. “I see there is someone new to meet.”

His mother smiled and said, “This is Severus Snape, an associate of sorts of Tom’s and a friend of the family. Severus, this is Valdis, one of Harry’s teachers.”

“And,” Harry said, spying a familiar reddish glow, “lurking over there in the corner is Serana.”

She chuckled and came forward, stopping next to Tom. “Hello, Harry.”

“I hope it’s dim enough in here even with the windows,” he said.

She nodded. “It’s fine.”

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” his mother said. “I’m Lily, Harry’s mother.”

Serana smiled. “Likewise. Tom has told us that this area is protected, so we may go for walks outside the structure.”

His mother nodded. “I’ll make sure my sister and nephew know.”

“Harry, it’s time I show you how to do that transfiguration,” Tom said. “Let’s go to your work room.”

“All right. I’ll be back later to visit,” he promised, then followed Tom out and walked with him up to his room. He brought them both through to the work room and Tom worked him like a dog that afternoon. When they were finally done for the day Harry brought up Viktor’s suggestion.

Tom nodded and said he would think about it, and then informed him they would be doing this during the afternoons until he had it down. Harry took from that not to plan anything for some time, unless it was for the mornings or evenings, and then said, “One thing. If we’re doing this in here I can’t do repeats. Can we practice in the sepulcher so I can still get in my usual practices?”

“Yes, that’s fine. I’ll just section off an area inside there temporarily. I’ll be back tomorrow, either for or after lunch.”

With that they exited into the house and Tom disappeared. Harry went back downstairs to see that Viktor was helping his mother and aunt with dinner and joined in by getting the table set. As he worked he let them know what Tom had said, then casually asked if Snape was still around.

“Hm? As far as I know,” his mother replied. “He was quite busy chatting away with Valdis and Serana. I suppose having access to two such ancient beings was too much for him to resist. One of us may have to go bodily pull him away.” She shook her head in fond exasperation.

“I have to admit,” Petunia said, “I find it all a bit creepy, even having known of things like this for years.”

Harry smiled at her. “It was a little bizarre being at Hogwarts and having ghosts floating by randomly. And Serana is the first vampire I’ve ever met. But still, ghosts aren’t quite the same thing. Those are like, er, echos of the person they were, I guess? Valdis is something else entirely. Just think of Valdis as being physically challenged.”

Petunia shook her head lightly at the idea, a tiny smile on her lips. “I’ll try,” she promised.

He wanted to ask if she had read that book yet, but decided it was the better part of discretion to refrain. If she had done so and succeeded he expected he would already know. If she had failed she was in a surprisingly good mood. Otherwise, she had to still be screwing up her courage.

“When are Draco and Luna coming exactly?” Petunia asked.

“Oh, er, the last week before school. It gives them some time in a mostly muggle area—maybe Dudley and I can take them to see a film, for instance—and then they’ll portkey with us to school. We can help them get their supplies, too. We already made sure they had our notes from the past years so they have a much better idea what to expect in terms of the difference in teaching styles and general thought processes.”

“I never would have thought Durmstrang would be so superior,” his mother commented, “not after all those years of hearing the nasty things about the place. Just another lesson in not taking things at face value, I guess.”

Petunia decided to go all philosophical on them when she quoted, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”