Title: The Watcher
Pairing: Implied Harry/Male Canon Character
Word Count: 1500
Summary: Harry extends his hospitality to someone badly in need of it.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Potter stopped before a stall filled with baby vegetables and smiled as he ran his hands over the miniature purple, red, and orange cauliflowers.
"They look like tiny brains," he told the owner of the stall. "I'd like five of each color, please."
He also purchased baby golden and purple beets, blue potatoes, and pink pearl onions.
By the time Potter had left the open-air market, there were three large baskets bursting with colorful veg levitating behind him, and he was whistling.
He sang while he cooked, which he did all afternoon.
For whom is this feast? Potter's watcher wondered, inhaling the delicious scents of roasting meat and fruit, among others, from his position up the hill from the kitchen's open window.
As dusk fell, Potter busied himself arranging his comestibles in baskets and then Vanishing them.
No, not Vanishing them—sending them somewhere.
Under cover of darkness, the watcher crept down the hill and peered in the window. Potter had saved something for himself. Spread before him on the kitchen table was a tasty looking repast of roasted beef in mushroom gravy, fresh bread, steamed "brains," pea soup, sliced tomatoes, and a pie of some sort. The watcher's stomach complained.
It's been a long time since I've eaten that well. I wish—
"You know, it's kind of creepy how you've been following me around. You might come inside if you're going to keep staring like that. I've got two plates here, after all," Potter said, looking out the kitchen window as if he could see him.
He probably can, the watcher thought, feeling oddly un-startled at having been discovered.
"Are you coming in, or not? The door's unlocked," Potter said.
"All right then," the watcher replied, walking around to the front of the cottage and letting himself in.
"Hello, there," Potter said, smiling. "Please, sit down. I'm famished!" he continued, smiling at the wizard blinking in his doorway.
"Thank you," the man said, crossing the small room and taking a seat at the table. "Do . . . you know me?"
It seemed a reasonable question to ask.
"Do you know me?"
"I know you're Potter. . . . Why do I know that?"
"Couldn't say, really," Potter replied, passing the platter of meat to his guest. "I did . . . serve in the war. Perhaps you remember me from that?"
"No, I don't think so," the man replied, helping himself to meat and passing the platter back. "Do you always invite strangers into your home, Potter? That doesn't seem wise."
Potter laughed. "You haven't changed."
"You know me?"
"Not . . . personally, but I do know your name."
Potter's eyebrows raised. "Do you not want to know your name?"
"I . . . don't think so," the man answered, feeling somewhat alarmed that Potter—who seemed pleasant enough in a disturbing manner—knew anything about him. "I don't mean to be rude, but . . . but you did say that you were hungry."
"By all means," Potter replied.
They ate in silence until the man felt ridiculous. "To whom did you send all that food—if you don't mind my asking?"
Potter stifled a laugh. "Sorry. It's just—"
"You know me. You know me, and I'm not . . . nice."
"You never let on that you were, true, but I don't know for sure. We weren't . . . friends."
"Don't worry. It's all right. I won't tell you anything until you want to hear it. Apple pie?"
After dessert, the man helped Potter tidy up and then followed him to the back porch.
"Do you smoke?" Potter asked, when they had sat down on the long, cushioned bench that was set against the cottage's exterior wall.
"When I can."
"Well, we'll have to roll it, but I've some decent tobacco," Potter replied, conjuring a bag, papers, and a lighted candle. Preparing two fags, he passed one to his guest, saying, "It feels odd, not calling you by name. Are you sure you don't want to know it?"
"I am. But, if you like, you may call me Brian."
"Yes. It's what I've been calling myself since . . . ." I forgot my own name. "I like the name. I don't know why," the man said, inhaling.
"How have you been living, Brian?" Potter asked, leaning back and blowing out a smoke ring.
The man watched Potter's mouth.
"Forgive me. How did you manage that?" he asked, not yet ready to discuss himself.
"A professor of mine taught me," Potter replied, "during the war."
"This . . . professor, did he teach you how to be a soldier?"
"Yes and no."
"Ah. You don't wish to discuss your past, either."
"Why were you following me, Brian?"
Dragging on his cigarette until it was one long column of ash and then exhaling, Brian replied, "It seemed the thing to do. You were familiar." And I was hungry. And . . . I liked your mouth.
Potter stiffened suddenly.
"Is something wrong?"
"No. No, but I think you should probably call me Harry."
A few hours later, after Harry had persuaded him to bathe and accept fresh clothing, Brian found himself ensconced in a spare bedroom. It was clean and warm and comfortable—everything he had not had in some time.
How long? Brian wondered. How long has it been since I knew who I was?
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.
"Come in, Harry."
The door opened, and Harry walked in carrying a stack of books. "I thought you might like something to read," he said, setting the books down on the night table.
"You're very kind. You're certain we weren't friends?"
"Quite," Harry replied, making as if to leave.
"Wait—please. Why are you being so . . . hospitable?"
"Suspicious of me already?" Harry asked, smiling.
"No. It's just that I'm . . . I've grown used to people being unkind to me, is all."
Harry pulled out the chair from under the desk and sat down, and Brian sat down on the edge of the guest bed.
"Tell me about it?" Harry asked.
Brian sighed. "I've been living in the forest, scavenging—stealing sometimes, as well—and . . . and making use of a glamour when going into town. People didn't seem to like me much when I first . . . ."
"Go on. I'm not going to judge you."
"Honestly, I don't know when I first arrived in the forest. I woke up there, near that school, and wandered toward the town, Hogsmeade. A . . . a little girl . . . screamed when she saw me, so I buried what I had been wearing—there was a mask, which must have been what frightened her, even though I wasn't wearing it—and hid for a time. I was confused. I'm still confused."
"Didn't you discover anything about the war?" Harry asked, his brows furrowing.
"No, actually. I don't like hearing about it. I haven't read any newspapers—no money to buy them—and I've kept to myself."
"But you were in town today."
"Yes. I . . . ."
"It's all right. I told you that I won't judge you, Brian."
"There were students meeting in the forest, in a clearing. They, well, while they were preoccupied, I stole some of their money and made for Hogsmeade. I get tired of rabbit, truth be told."
"And that's when you saw me."
Harry sighed. "I think I should tell you that people are looking for you. I'm amazed you haven't been found before now. That glamour of yours—"
"Wait! I never took off my glamour," Brian interrupted, disturbed. "How did you know it was me, whoever the hell I am, anyway?"
Harry leaned forward, as if to impart a great secret. "I'm not an ordinary wizard, Brian. Glamours don't work on me."
"Yes, well, in any case, I'm sure you're tired. We can discuss this more tomorrow."
"It is tomorrow," Brian said, as the clock below-stairs chimed one in the morning.
"So it is," Harry answered, straightening up. "Let's just say that you're not the only person who lost his memory, or his way, because of the war. The last battle was ugly."
"Ah. I'm not the first stray you've taken in?"
"No," Harry replied, laughing softly, "but you are the most unexpected one."
"Is that good?"
"It's not bad. Goodnight, Brian. Porridge and bananas for breakfast suit you?"
"I'm in no position to—"
"Just answer the question," Harry said, good-naturedly.
"Yes. That sounds delightful."
Harry stood and walked to the door, stopping when Brian said, "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Do you think you'll want to know your name in the morning?"
"Later today?" Brian asked, unwilling to be imprecise.
Harry turned but said nothing.
"Yes. I suppose I will."
His eyes darkening, Harry intoned, "Then remember as you sleep."
Severus awoke to a stream of sunlight and an inexorable rush of unwelcome memory. Before he could cry out, he felt Harry's arms around him.
"It's all right. You're safe here."
"I don't understand."
"You don't have to try to, yet—at least, not until after breakfast, all right?"
Severus snorted, remembering what Harry had promised him before casting his spell. "I despise porridge."
"I remembered, so I made sausages."
For some reason, that did make Severus cry.