The Old Walls Crumble by cearrae
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Using some hair he had garnered on his last trip to the barbers, Severus sprinkled the last required ingredient into the phial of Polyjuice Potion he had taken with him to London. He hid behind the large bins standing outside the building facing The Leaky Cauldron and downed the vile potion. He hated the moments of transformation and gritted his teeth as his stomach roiled and his body reshaped itself.

After an agonizing minute, Severus emerged as a middle-aged, balding man with a spreading waistline. He wore non-descript old-fashioned Muggle clothing; his father’s in point of fact. He enjoyed the irony that his sire’s idea of fashion was quite acceptable in Wizarding society.

Snape checked the briefcase he had secreted behind one of the bins for one last time. Crossing the street in an ambling gait to establish his character, Severus entered the public house and made his way to the back to enter Diagon Alley. Pulling his wand, he touched the wall in the prescribed sequence and passed through the portal as it opened. The street appeared as it always had; quaint, bustling and unkempt. He walked forward to feel the atmosphere but, instead, he was almost overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety midst the shoppers on the street.

Maintaining his unnatural gait, Severus made his way to Knockturn Alley for a visit to Borgin and Burkes. He was on the clock and had little time to waste. He entered the dimly lit shop and cast his gaze around the myriad of grotesque objects on display. The one item he sought was not in sight.

“May I help you?” The voice of the proprietor pulled Severus from his thoughts.

“Yes, I’m looking for something to add to my collection of ancient heirlooms. Would you have anything like that here?” he asked.

“Perhaps,” Borgin replied. “How ancient an object are you considering?”

“Fairly early, prior to the Norman Invasion.” He replied.

“I see.” The oily looking man scratched his chin and looked at Snape thoughtfully. “Any particular reason you’re looking for these things?”

“Personal history, whimsy, does it matter?” Snape asked.

“To some, my friend, to some.” He turned and beckoned Snape to follow him. “I’ve a few items that might interest you. What is your fancy?”

“I particularly enjoy Clan symbols. They hold such nostalgia for some who are so inclined.”

“And you are not, I take it?” Borgin stopped and opened a glass case.

“I rarely dabble in nostalgia. I do however invest in possibilities.” Snape listened to the wheezing laugh of the proprietor.

“Well said. We think alike, my friend.” Reaching into the case, Borgin pulled out an inlaid goblet. “Behold the wine cup of a Roman Veneficus or Lamia; one of our early ancestor’s.”

“Indeed, however, I seek objects of indigenous design. I’ve found they are more eagerly sought.” Snape watched as the man before him re-thought what he was going to offer.

“I have a feeling you have a specific item in mind, sir.” Borgin stood up and looked Snape in the eye.

“A clan object; perhaps similar to a sceptre with an avian surmount?” Snape suggested.

“Indeed, I have two or three items similar to what you seek.” He walked to a chest of drawers and opened the bottom to reveal three items lying on a velvet cushion. “Are any of these what you seek?”

Snape stepped forward and saw the Clan of the Raven staff along with two others. “Indeed they are, Mr. Borgin.” He listened to Borgin describe each item, only taking in every other word or so.

“What are you asking for them?” asked Snape.

“A mere one hundred galleons…each,” Borgin replied.

“You jest sir. Where is their certificate of authenticity?” Snape retorted.

“If you had wanted authenticated antiques, you would not have visited my shop, sir.” Borgin waited for a response.

“Touché, sir. How much for just one?” he asked.

“Fifty galleons.” Borgin replied, lowering his price.

“Thirty five.”

“Forty five,” countered Borgin

“Thirty eight,” said Snape.

“Forty,” offered Borgin, “Not a sickle less.”

“Agreed,” Snape pulled out his money pouch and took out the requisite amount of coinage. “I shall take the one with the eagle on top. Please place it in a box.”

Borgin withdrew the Ravenclaw relic from the drawer and took it to his counter to wrap.

“’Tis a fine artifact, sir. You’ve a keen eye. What did you say your name was?” asked Borgin.

“I didn’t. Good day.” Snape replied.

Taking up his purchase, Snape made his way out of the shop and back to Diagon alley. Looking at his watch, he estimated there was a half an hour left before he reverted to his true form. He returned to the Leaky Cauldron and approached the bar to order a Firewhiskey. As he sipped, he looked around taking in who was there. He noticed Moody sitting in the corner with another Auror and almost flinched as the magical eye Moody wore passed over him. He finished his drink and left.

Returning to his spot behind the bins, Snape retrieved the briefcase and opened it. He pulled out a trench coat he had shrunk to fit and shrugged it on. Just at that moment, he felt his body begin its transformation to its true form. When he’d recovered, he apparated back to Manchester and returned home with his purchase.

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Kingsley Shacklebolt arrived at 12 Grimmauld Place just after dinner on a wet October evening. There was a meeting called to discuss recent Death Eater activity. Pulling off his wet outer robes, Kingsley retrieved a Muggle newspaper from an inner pocket before hanging them up on a hook to dry.

“Would you like some pudding, Kingsley? I’ve got a nice apple dumpling and custard,” offered Molly.

“No thanks, Molly but I’d love a cup of tea about now. Foul weather outside,” replied the Auror, pulling out a chair and sitting at the table. “So, Harry how goes your search?”

“I’ll know better after you tell me how your meeting with Dung went in Azkaban.” Harry was finishing his pudding and preparing to clear the table. Shacklebolt had been to the prison to speak to Mundungus Fletcher regarding his penchant for lifting and selling off items not belonging to him.

“Molly, can I steal Harry from you? We need to talk somewhere quiet,” asked Kingsley.

“’Course you can. Run along, Harry, the twins can pitch in,” said Molly, placing a mug of steaming tea before the Auror. She turned and looked at her sons who were scowling at their mother. “Can’t you boys; you’re always willing to pitch in, right?”

“Right,” they chorused in unison. George finished clearing the table and Fred began to sweep the floor.

Kingsley led the way to the library and checked to make sure it was empty. He closed the door and warded it behind Harry.

“I need to show you a couple of things, Harry. I’ll share them with everyone later but I thought you should see them first.” Kingsley pulled out the Muggle newspaper and spread it on the table.

Harry looked at a picture appearing on page two. It had been rendered by an artist but it was very life-like. He read the short side bar then stared back at the auror.

“I recognize her. I saw her at the World Quidditch match fourth year. That’s Narcissa Malfoy.” Harry pulled out a chair and sat down. “They found her where?” he asked.

“Saltom Bay just south of Whitehaven; her body was picked up floating in an area popular for dropping Lobster pots. It looked like she’d been in the water for a while.” He indicated the paper. “Muggle authorities had to call in a forensic artist to recreate what she looked like. The fish and what not had gotten to her.”

Harry shook his head. “You said you had something else to show me.”

Kingsley passed over a Wizarding photograph. “We got this from a sympathizer.”

In the picture, Harry saw a group of youths wearing Durmstrang uniforms. In the background he noticed a boy about his age with short-clipped blond hair. He was obviously avoiding attention, only looking at the camera occasionally out of the side of his eye.

“Malfoy,” Harry guessed.

Kingsley nodded, “We think so, but there’s no Malfoy registered at the school.” He shrugged and added, “They don’t release names of enrolled students at Durmstrang; at least, not without a price.”

“What does this mean?” asked Harry.

Kingsley shook his head, “Too many pieces of the puzzle missing, Harry. We’ll just keep looking.”

Harry nodded then, taking a deep breath asked, “What about Dung? Did he tell you anything?”

“Yeah, but you won’t like it,” Kingsley told him.

“He pawned it didn’t he,” concluded Harry.

Kingsley nodded, “When Aberforth wouldn’t do a deal, he took it to a pawn shop in Cheapside,” he replied, as he fumbled around in his pocket. “Here, his redemption ticket.” He handed the numbered receipt to Harry.

“How much did he get?” asked Harry.

“Twenty pounds, he said.” Kingsley stood and scratched his chin. “Just one small problem though. He can’t remember the exact address of the shop.”

“There’s nothing on the ticket either,” stated Harry.

“I know. You up for a challenge, Harry?” asked the Auror.

“I’ve had my fill of challenges, Kingsley.” Harry sighed in resignation, “This is a job for Hermione and her bloody lists.”

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Snape was making his way to see Jenny and her computer. He hadn’t spoken to her but he supposed she would likely be home. Hadn’t she said there was no man in her life? He turned onto her street and noticed her door was open. Three small figures were holding open their bags to receive Halloween sweets. Just as he reached her path, two boys and a girl ran in front of him. Hallow-bloody-een.

“’Scuse us, mister,” called the oldest boy, as he passed.

Severus looked at their costumes, “What are you supposed to be?” he asked the girl, who was staring at him.

“I’m a fairy. Do like my costume?” she asked, pirouetting before him.

“You don’t look anything like a fairy,” he told her honestly.

“How would you know?” she asked in petulant anger.

“I’ve met fairies. They’re all rude, nasty little creatures who like to argue with everyone around them, just like you, but they certainly wouldn’t wear what you’ve got on.” He was amused by her angry glare.

At that moment, Jenny opened her door. “Sorry, kids, I’m all out.” She looked up and saw him standing there. “Hello, Severus. This lot belong to you?” she asked, grinning at the look of disgust he gave her.

“I should hope not!” he spat back.

The girl pushed him and told him, “You’re a mean man. I hate you.” She turned and walked up the path followed by the boys. Suddenly, one boy turned back and threw an egg at Jenny’s windows.

“Adil Mendhi, you wait; I’ll tell your granny what you did, ooof!” Jenny had followed the children after the egg had been thrown but turned her ankle on an apple core that had been dropped on the path. She’d fallen before Snape could catch her.

“Rotten little buggers,” she said, as Severus helped her to her feet. She tried to walk but couldn’t put the weight on her injured ankle.

“Let me help you,” said Snape, putting his arm around her waist to support her.

Severus got her into the house and seated on the sofa. Sitting beside her, he lifted her leg onto his lap and removed the shoe and sock from the injured foot. Gently, he examined her ankle and saw it had started to swell.

“Just a sprain, but it’s going to hurt. Do you have any ice?” he asked, getting to his feet and resting her leg on a pillow.

“I think there’s a bag of frozen pea’s in the freezer. Teacher in a first aid course I took said they’d do in a pinch.” Jenny winced as she tried to circle her ankle.

Severus brought out the bag of peas wrapped in a tea towel and gently placed the make-shift ice pack on her ankle. He looked up to see how she felt.

“Keeps this on to stop the ankle swelling too much,” he told her as he headed for the door.

“Are you leaving?” Jenny asked.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes. Just rest your ankle. Where is your key so I can let myself in?”

Jenny pointed at a small table in the hall, “Beside my handbag.”

Severus picked up the keychain and, looking around quickly to make sure he was alone outside, apparated home to retrieve a salve of his own design. He walked back to Jenny’s comfortable bungalow and entered to find her on the sofa where he had left her. He took off his jacket and knelt beside the sofa to look at her ankle again.

“That was fast,” said Jenny, watching bemused as the tall, dark man ministered to her.

“It’s not far and I walk quickly,” he replied, opening the jar of salve, not revealing his mode of travel.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Old family remedy for sprains and strains. This should make your ankle feel better right away.” Severus smoothed the salve over her ankle and instep, gently massaging the soothing paste into the skin.

Jenny felt the salve penetrate to where the pain was worst. First it numbed the pain then, with a tingling, warmed her foot until it felt relaxed and pain-free.

“That stuff is magic,” she told him, lying back and enjoying the sensation.

Severus gave a small laugh, “Yes, I’ve been told that before.”

“Thank you, Severus. I’m glad you decided to visit tonight.” Jenny smiled at him as he placed her foot back on the pillow. “Was there a special reason you stopped by?” she asked.

“Well, I had hoped to use your computer once again.” He stood and put the salve on her side table.

“Help your self,” she told him. “What are you looking for now?”

“I’m looking for a dentist in Surrey. I know the name but not where they’re located.” He replied.

“That’s a long way to go for a check-up.” Jenny stood up carefully and went to sit beside him at the computer.

“You should stay off your foot tonight; it still needs to heal more.” He looked over at her, feeling the warmth from her arm on his shoulder where she was leaning on the chair.

“It feels alright, thanks to you.” She smiled at him and watched as he shifted his gaze away from her.

“How would you suggest I begin?” he asked to change the subject.

“Let’s use Google,” she suggested.

They spent the evening together either searching the internet or talking about their time in primary school. They’d both been outsiders at school, made to feel contemptible for their appearance and intelligence. They’d each been bullied and as a result had chosen paths that had left them unhappy.

Severus looked at the clock, “I didn’t realize the time. You work on Saturday.” He stood and started to pull on his jacket.

“It’s alright, I don’t start until noon. I only work a half day,” she told him, rising to see him out. “Listen, why don’t you take my phone number and call me when you want to come over to use the computer; or just visit.” She wrote her phone number on a slip of paper and passed it to him.

Severus looked at the paper, “I don’t have a phone.” He looked at her face that had fallen at his confession. “I am thinking about getting one of those mobile phones.”

Jenny smiled once more, “Yeah great, so take my number, if you want.” She looked at him with uncertainty.

Severus took the paper and placed it in his pocket before he turned to leave. Jenny put her hand on his arm and stretched up to kiss his cheek in thanks for his kindness. Just as her lips were about to touch his cheek, Severus turned letting his lips meet hers. They parted for a hairsbreadth. Then, cupping her cheek gently in his palm, Severus kissed her lips fully, just once.

“Severus,” she whispered, “thank you.”

“For the salve?” he asked softly.

“That too.” Jenny smiled at him as she gazed into his warm, dark eyes.

He shook his head, “Thank you, Jenny for...for being you and trusting me. Good night, Jenny.” He opened the door and stepped out.

“Good night, Severus. Don’t forget to call,” she called to him, softly.

“I promise.” With a wave, he walked away feeling something he’d missed for a long time. He was happy and someone actually liked to be with him. He was not alone anymore.

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“I wish we had access to a computer,” complained Hermoine, as she flipped through the London Yellow Pages, “this search would go so much faster.”

Harry shook his head, “Do you really think the type of pawnshop Dung would have visited would be on a website?”

Hermione shrugged, “Probably not, but we could check street names against a map for location.”

The threesome struggled on and compiled a list. The Order took the list and split it up by location. By pairs, they went on a hunt for the purloined jewellery. Three agonizing days later, Tonks and Lupin arrived back at the house with the locket.

Harry stared at the Horcrux with a look of loathing. Its very existence was an abomination.

“How do we know that it still contains the soul fragment?” asked Hermione.

Lupin stepped towards the table where he had placed the locket. “Watch this.” He passed his wand over the Horcrux chanting, “Revelo Fragmen Anima.” The locket was suddenly enveloped in a sickly, bile green corona. “There, proof positive of the content and the character of the Horcrux,” said Lupin.

“It looks sick,” Ron said, with a look on his face to match his comment.

“How do we destroy it?” asked Harry, thinking of Dumbledore’s arm.

“Hermione and I are still researching that aspect. You just worry about finding them all,” Lupin told him.

“Yeah, right - easy job.” Harry watched as Remus placed the locket in a cabinet and warded it.

“You’ll manage,” said Lupin confidently before leaving the threesome alone.

“I wish I could be so sure,” Harry said to himself more than to anyone else.

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Severus looked at the modern office building that housed the dental practise of Hermione Grangers parents. He took a deep breath to steel himself for what he was about to do. His memory of visiting the dentist as a child was coloured by a less than gentle experience in a National Health clinic getting a filling.

“Just a check-up, Snape,” he muttered to himself, as he entered the lift to the fourth floor. Their office was directly across from the lift as he stepped off. The waiting room was cheery and bright. Their receptionist was young, pretty and bubbly. He hated everything on sight.

“Good morning sir,” welcomed the girl, whose name tag identified her as Phoebe.

“Good morning, Phoebe. I have a 10:30 appointment for a check-up.” Snape shared a smile which he hoped looked sincere. He was a bit out of practise at turning on charm.

“Mr Tobias Prince?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “I’m not late am I?”

“No sir. Could you please fill out this form while you’re waiting? Our hygienist will be with you shortly.” She passed him a clipboard and pen.

“I had wanted to see Dr Granger “ at least one of them.” He was worried his message would not get delivered.

“Of course, but the hygienist will see you first. Please take a seat.” She smiled at him reassuringly.

He filled out the form and suffered through a cleaning that was excruciating enough to pass as torture. Now, he was waiting to meet one of Miss Know-it-all’s parents. Finally, the door opened to admit her mother.

“Mr. Prince,” Mrs Granger announced as she entered. “Good news, I’ve looked at your x-rays and I can’t find any new caries.” She sat on the stool beside the reclined chair and smiled at him. “Tara, my hygienist, said she found a lot of plaque. You might want to be more diligent in brushing and flossing.”

“Indeed, I shall try to be more diligent,” he told her, while inwardly he was blessing the existence of Wizarding dentistry. “I’m very happy that you were able to accommodate me on short notice.”

“Well, when a client is referred to us, we try to be obliging. Where did you say you heard about our practise?” she asked.

“I’m related to a student that attends school with your daughter. Your name was suggested when I told them I was relocating to this part of the country.” He smiled to reinforce his statement.

“Really, well, I shall certainly let Hermione know you visited and thank her for thinking of her parents when she’s at school.” Mrs Granger returned the smile. “I think we’re all done, Mr. Prince.”

She stood and lowered the chair to let Snape rise. He followed her out to the waiting room and watched as she signed the treatment forms before passing them to the receptionist.

“Phoebe will let you know the damage, Mr Prince. I hope you will continue to favour us with your patronage.” She offered her hand to him as a farewell.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” Snape reached into his inside pocket and pulled out an envelope. “Please pass this along to your daughter. Just a thank-you card to let her know I was here.”

“That’s very thoughtful, Mr. Prince. I’ll pass it along.” She shook his hand and left him to attend to her next patient.

“Here you are, Mr. Prince.” Phoebe handed him his bill. Snape blanched when he saw the total. He’d no idea of the price of private dentistry. Fighting the good fight was becoming expensive.

“Do you take credit cards,” he asked, hopefully.

Phoebe smiled, “Visa, MasterCard and American Express.”

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Hermione, Ron and Harry were invited to the Grangers for Sunday dinner at the end of November. The teens happily spent time playing games on the computer and listening to music on Hermione’s CD player while her parents cooked up a feast of roast beef with all the trimmings. While they sat around the table after the meal, Hermione’s mother told her about their new patient.

“He said he’d heard about the practise from someone who went to school with you,” Her mother told her. “If I’d known you were going to refer people, you could have taken business cards.”

Hermione frowned, “I don’t recall ever suggesting you as a dentist.” She saw her mothers frown. ”That’s not to say I don’t think you’re the best, Mum. It just never came up.”

“Then how did he know about us?” her mother asked.

“What was his name?” Hermione asked.

“Oh, let me think...Prince, that was it, Tobias Prince,” replied her mother, “and he sent you this.” She passed over the thank-you card.

“Prince?” Harry looked at Hermione and Ron, “Wasn’t that...?”

“Yeah,” added Ron, “and didn’t you say his father’s name was...”

“Tobias.” Hermione looked at the envelope and placed it on the table. She pulled out her wand and cast a revealing charm on the innocuous correspondence.

“Nothing, he didn’t curse it as far as I can tell.” She looked at her friends. “Let’s take it outside.”

“Hermione, what’s going on?” asked her father.

“We think this was given to you by a wizard. Mum, do you remember what he looked like?” she asked.

“He looked normal. By that I mean he wasn’t dressed unconventionally.” Mrs Granger added the latter for Ron’s benefit.

“That’s not surprising, since his father was a Muggle,” said Ron.

“He paid by credit card, Hermione,” her mother told her. Seeing the expressions on the youth’s faces, she decided to give a description of Mr. Prince. “He was tall and had dark hair.”

“Shoulder length?” asked Harry.

“No, quite short.” She replied.

“Was he clean shaven with a very pale complexion?” asked Hermione.

“He had a moustache and beard so it was hard to tell” her mother replied.

Harry looked at his friends. “What do you think?”

“I think we need to open this.” Hermione pointed to the envelope.

They all went out to the garden behind the Grangers house where Hermione placed the card on a concrete bench.

“Aperio Litteratia.” Hermione cast a revealing charm on the card. Nothing happened. She glanced back at her friends and parents before picking up the envelope and opening it to read the card within.

“What does it say?” asked Ron.

“Victoria Station, locker 171,” replied Hermione, before passing the card to Harry. “He’s still on our side.”

Harry shook his head, “I don’t know Hermione. It could be a trap.”

Ron thought about it and added, “I don’t think so Harry. If he’d wanted to lure you into a trap, there are a lot of other things he could have done. This was very specific. He wants you to make a move to recover something. Why Hermione’s parents and why a locker in a Muggle location?”

Harry nodded in agreement, “Okay, but I want the Order to back us up. That bastard killed Dumbledore; I doubt he’d give second thought to AK’ing us.”
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