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Dark Side of Light

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The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure.
Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader.
The mind is a complex and many-layered thing!
— Quote modified from Severus Snape’s speech to Harry Potter regarding the art of Legilimency —

 

 

“… the traitor is late again Albus, and after tonight’s news, do you not see that he cannot be trusted?” Alastor Moody’s voice resonated down the hallway as Severus opened the door to the kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place where the majority of the Order of the Phoenix was gathered. At the head of the long scratched and bare old table that had been scrubbed until it’s dull shine had all but vanished and it’s lustre was gone, just as it was from the rest of the old house sat Albus Dumbledore watching with a disappointed scowl, the twinkle gone from his eyes completely, as Severus entered. Severus gaze took in those gathered around the table. On Albus’s right sat Minerva McGonagall, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Alastor Moody, Fred and George Weasley, Dedalus Diggel, Ephias Doge, Emmeline Vance, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Sturgis Podmore, Arthur and Molly Weasley, Bill and Charlie Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, Filius Flitwick, Pomona Sprout, Oliver Wood, Monique Westingburgh, Arial and Darin Westingburgh. Those sitting on Dumbledore’s left leaving an empty chair between them and Darin surprised Severus only slightly: Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, Nikolai and Alivia Snape. The expressions that was varied between grief, anger and disappointment bit into Severus as he regarded each member in turn. 

 

Severus glided over to his seat and sat down between Lucius and Darin, his eyes having met each in turn. He knew that this meeting would not end well for him. It was like ice sliding into his heart. He knew that as surely as he knew that no matter what he answered next none of them would believe him, except his family of course. Those four people that sat between him and Albus the only ones who appear to be angry about the turn of events that was to follow.

 

“I want it known that I object to this,” Nikolai began. His cold eyes landing squarely on Albus as he spoke in a dark and deadly voice. “My brother has done nothing to warrant this level of hostility and I am frankly getting rather disappointed in the lot of you. Your constant harassment and distrust of his actions will end tonight one way or another.”

 

“I am well aware of your reservations and opinions on the matter Nikolai, however, Severus refuses to allow the rest of the Order to know why he is loyal. After tonight they are right to be concerned with where his loyalties fall. Was it not only half an hour ago that all four of you underwent questioning by Veritaserum to prove your loyalties to them?” Albus inquired softly. Severus felt his blood freeze in his veins. So they had questioned his brothers and sisters. His family. Now they wanted to do the same to him. 

 

“It matters not brother, I will undergo their interrogation,” Severus responded in a deadpan voice. “I will answer under Veritaserum.” Severus repeated coldly before anyone could speak again. 

 

“It isn’t that simple Sev,” Lucius told him laying a hand on the man’s arm. Severus flinched slightly, though he hated himself for the betrayal his body had on his iron will. He hated any physical contact he was not explicitly expecting. The quick movement had caught him off guard even though he’d been watching everyone steadily since he’d sat down stiff. The flinch was intensified by the pain his battered body had suffered. 

 

“How ever not?” Severus demanded coldly. He did not enjoy the look in his brother’s gaze. Lucius looked worried and hurt.

 

“You are perhaps the most powerful Occlumens Severus, It is well known to all that even Legilimency would be in question with you. You won’t just be taking Veritaserum, you will be put under Imperium Romanum to insure that you cannot fight the serum at all. They don’t just want to question you Severus, they want to see your thoughts, emotions and deepest hid secrets. They want to bear witness to the events their questions will invoke in you, not just your words,” Lucius explained in a tired voice.

 

“What exactly do you mean Lucius?” Severus inquired, though he knew exactly what the man meant. He could resist Imperio, easily enough, he had done it in the past. An Imperium Romanum spell he could never hope to overcome, no one could. Though the fact it took three people to cast the spell meant it wasn’t used, outside of the Auror’s. Neither of these options that Lucius spoke of would be able to show his thoughts or memories. Not unless they continually removed them while they questioned him and viewed them in a Pensieve. 

 

“They want you to hold a Pensieve quia lapis while they question you,” Lucius said softly. Disgust dripping from his aristocratic voice. Severus regarded Lucius with horror. He didn’t even known one of the seeing stones remained in this world let alone one that acted as a Pensieve. He shuddered at the very thought. He could well be driven to insanity by this very thing. 

 

“Severus, I’m sorry, but after the death of the Dursleys and the destruction of their home,” Albus said gently his hands spread in a helpless gesture. “I would spare you this if I could, but as you made me vow never to reveal the best of you, this is all that is left. I’m sorry, my boy.”

 

“So it has finally come to this,” Severus said gazing at his mentor. A man he has trusted for many years now, almost unconditionally. His gaze is impassive, but he knows that Albus can see the hurt and pain lingering in his haunted eyes. He turns to regard everyone of the Order members. “I take it that none of you trust Albus’s words anymore? This is the only way you’ll believe my reports?”

 

“Not all of us agree with this Severus,” Minerva said her mouth set in a thin line, “we are simply outvoted.” She added glaring darkly at the group of Auror’s before turning her angry gaze to Albus.

 

“I see,” Severus responded, though in truth knowing that not everyone in the order wanted to see him undergo this process made him feel mildly better. Though the bitter and biting pain that laced through his back as he leaned back in his chair did nothing for his current angry mood. “I presume that everyone here will be a witness to my degradation?” 

 

“Yes,” Alastor barked out before anyone could respond. “You do this boyo or I will personally see to it that you’re in Azkaban tonight!”

 

“Alastor that’s enough,” Albus said in a dark tone. “We have agreed that Filius and Pomona will be leading the questions. Kingsley has put together a list of all the questions that the Order needs answered. No one else will be allowed to speak during the proceedings.” Albus reassured him, though to Severus this wasn’t reassuring at all. If anything it was distressing. His narrowed gaze focused on the man. He seriously doubted that those terms would be followed at all. Knowing Alastor as he did he had no doubt the Auror would jump in the moment he was given even the slightest chance he could get. Never the less he gave Albus a cold gaze and sighed heavily.

 

“Very well,” Severus stated. He rose and regarded the gathered group. “We will required the use of your den Black, I trust that much isn’t beyond your hospitality?”

 

“Not at all Snivellous, I relish the experience. I’m looking forwards to being proven right about you, slimy little bastard that you were.” Sirius said with an evil grin. His eyes dancing maliciously. 

 

“Say that name again cousin and I will hex out your tongue,” Narcissa said in a silky smooth voice. Though the dark undertones were quite prevalent. 

 

“We will all retain a civil tongue for this discussion,” Albus said rising. His tone was cold. “There will be no need for name calling or provocation,” Albus added looking between Sirius and Severus. Severus gave a curt nod. Spinning on his heel he left the room in a billow of black cloak and stormed from the room. 

 

It took but a few moments for the rest of the Order to make their way into the den and situate themselves on the armchairs and settees that encircled the fireplace. Albus waved his wand and caused one of the unoccupied settees to float into the centre of the room and settle there before he caused it to lengthen so that Severus could lie down upon it stretching himself out. Severus lay on the burning cuts of his back and winced slightly feeling the chaffing of the material against the open wounds. He wondered with grim satisfaction if his blood would stain the rich white material. Or if the Black matriarch hard been smart, or sane, enough to cast an imperious charm over the furniture. 

 

Kingsley Shacklebolt, Nymphadora Tonks and Arial Westingburgh stood up. Each taking a place to form a loose circle around Severus, their wands pointed directly at his head. Severus didn’t close his eyes as he watched from his back the people around him. Those that he could see, the three Auror’s as well as Filius and Pomona who rose as well each standing on either side of him. Filius held a small black stone in his hands cradled on a cloth of blue velvet. He held the stone out towards Severus who gently took it into his hands laying them over his stomach with the stone cradled in his open palms. Resting there so that it’s glittering surface shone brightly as Filius cast a soft spell. Whispering a string of latin words as he did so. 

 

“Quia lux splendens lapidem superficie dilata. Propono cogitationes animam hominis istius. Paravit onera. Enim eum requiescere secreta revelaret. Sana vulnera, et opitulentur olim videns onera ferre praesidium.” Filius’s soft and squeaky voice reverberated the words as a bright white light shot from his waving wand towards the stone making it glow a vibrant white before snaking black lines spun out around the stone turning it’s surface black once more as his words finally stopped.

 

Pomona walked forwards then holding out the bottle of Veritaserum towards Severus. He obediently opened his mouth and she let three drops fall onto his tongue before she returned to where she had been standing. 

 

The three Auror’s spoke in unison as they chanted, “Imperium Remanum, Imperium Remanum, Imperium Remanum”. A combination of three blue beams of light converged just over Severus’s forehead before a single thicker beam of light sank into his head and vanished. His black eyes became unfocused and glassy. His whole body relaxed and as it did the surface of the stone he cradled in his hands pulsed a bright white light to each beat of his slowed heart rate. 

 

Kingsley spoke in his deep baritone intoning the words deliberately as the two others slowly lowered their wands until they stood at ease in their space. Not moving or looking away from Severus’s face. They looked like statues. “Severus you will speak the truth fully and completely, you will hold nothing back no matter how small or inconsequential the detail.” With those words spoken Kingsley lowered his wand as well, though he too remained still as stone his unwavering gaze fixed on Severus. 

 

Pomona spoke for the first time, “What was your earliest childhood memory?” She asked. Though her voice was gentle and soft she cringed at the question. Those who had known Severus during his career at Hogwarts knew that the answer to this would be perhaps worse then even they suspected from his tenure as professor.

 

“My father was a violent drunkard and my mother was too weak to defend either of us against his violent nature…” Severus began. As he spoke those words the stone in his hand pulsed brighter and slowly like mist figures began to take shape in the air. It appeared almost like ghosts moving through the motions of every day life, or a movie on a screen. Giving grisly details and reality to the emotionless monotone words that Severus spoke. 

 


 

The small four year old woke with a start. Sitting bolt upright and flicking his black startled eyes about the room. Looking desperately for any indication of the sudden harsh and loud noises that had awoken him in a cold sweat. The harsh screams of his father and the soft pleading of his mother reached his ears moments later. Something slamming to the ground and the sound of shattering resonated over the harsh loud noises. Severus couldn’t make out what was being said at all and was wondering if it was another fight about money, alcohol or him. He didn’t known what his father would be angry about now, but it didn’t matter. The boy knew intimately that his father’s anger was nothing short of terrifying. Severus felt cold and wondered what he should do. 

 

Sneaking out of his bed and slowly making his way to the window he looked out over the desolate street. The muddy dirty river snaking across the muddy and grassy expanse between this row of houses and the next. Severus gave a shiver at the blank and grey cloudy sky. Another rainy day then. He sighed. 

 

He wondered what he’d do now. He didn’t know if he should leave his room, but as silence fell over the house he made up his mind. Silently sneaking from the dark room and into the dim hallway beyond he tip-toed to the washroom and went about getting ready for the day before he silently made his way down the creaking stairs to the lower levels. He found his father seemingly passed out on the couch and breathed a sigh of relief as he dashed past the living room and into the kitchen. He spotted his mother making some sort of soup on the stove. No doubt they were out of food again and his mother was using what they had left in order to offer him a meal at least. Severus wondered if she’d eaten today. Her pale face was facing away from him, but he knew it would be deeply shadowed by lack of sleep and aged beyond her years by near starvation and poverty.

 

“Severus, eat your breakfast, you’re coming with me to the store today,” Eileen said gently to her son. Her hand waving at the plate on the table where a single slice of bread sat with a glass of water next to it. Severus climbed up to his seat and settled himself on the large chair taking the bread in greedy hands and beginning to eat it as fast as he could. Pausing every once in a while to gulp down as much water as he could before devouring the rest of the bread in his hands. Never letting the bread out of his grip. He’d just finished his meal and was sliding down from the chair when his mother turned.

 

At first he didn’t see any difference in her black eyed, pale face framed by dirty blond hair that hung limply about her face. Until his gaze saw the left side of her face that became visible as she moved closer to him. A dark bruise covered that side of her face, abrasions cut into her cheek and her eyes was swollen and nearly closed. Severus gasped loudly.

 

“Who hurt you mom?” The boy demanded loudly. So loud in fact that his words reached the living room where his father was resting. 

 

“Silence Severus,” his mother warned, but it was already to late. Severus wasn’t letting it go.

 

“Who. Hurt you!?” The boy shouted. Wanting to known who’d dare hurt his mom. 

 

“Shut up you ungrateful brat!” thundered the angry voice of the dark shadow that leaned heavily on the doorframe of the kitchen glaring with blood shot brown eyes was the dark haired male. His hand shot out and he grabbed the boy. “You think you can make such racket in my house you ungrateful worm? I’ll teach you to disturb your betters!” 

 

“Tobias, don’t hurt him,” Eileen pleaded reaching for her husbands arm. He backhanded her with his open hand and threw Severus towards the entrance of the kitchen so the four year old landed in a heap ungracefully. Terror written plain as day on his face. His wide black eyes staring at the advancing male as he grabbed Eileen and pushed her roughly against the counter. 

 

“Woman, I thought I’d made it clear you were not to challenge me. Now take the boy and get out of my sight,” Tobias growled. His fist slamming down into her chest causing her to cough as the air left her. She gasped for breath as Tobias flung her away from him. It was all Eileen could do not to fall on Severus who had yet to move from where he’d huddled up against the wall. As Eileen fell to the ground she watched her son scoot over to her.

 

“Mom?” the little boy whispered reaching out for her. 

 

“Shut up! GET. OUT!” Screamed Tobias. Grabbing Severus’s outstretched hand and yanking the boy to his feet before bodily throwing him towards the front door. Eileen was rising to her feet unsteadily trying to get between Tobias and Severus.

 


 

The scene swirled into a greying mist before re-solidifying into a white ghostly memory once more. Everyone in the order watched in horrified silence as the scene shifted from moment to moment. The shouts and arguments blending into each other. Though at the core all the same. It was evident to everyone in the room that Severus’s childhood had been filled with anger and fear. 

 


 

The four year old sat on the stool next to his mother as she worked on a cauldron. Explaining every step of the way. The boy was unnaturally still, eyes focused and wide. She would point out the instructions and the boy would read it aloud to his mother. His voice shook as he stumbled over some of the words, but it was evident that the four year old was far more advanced in his reading ability then a child that age should be. Eileen would explain the steps to the child as it was clear that he didn't always understand. She quizzed him and he answered. She explained and he listened. She would go over the formula and instructions with him and when she was certain he understood they would begin the process.

 

“What do we do now Severus?” Eileen said having set up the cauldron. Today they would be making a basic Sleeping Draught. She had already had him read the instructions. Put all the ingredients on the worktable, knife, mortar and pestle, measuring scales and bowls lay in wait for their work to being. Eileen regarded the small four year old as he looked at the instructions again. A slight frown creased his brow. 

“We count out 4 sprigs of Lavender,” Severus said after a brief hesitation at the start of the sentence. 

 

“Go ahead love,” Eileen told him with a gentle smile and the small boy got off his stool to stand in front of the work table, having to climb up onto the short stool so he could reach. Slowly taking one sprig at a time until four of the dry Lavender sprigs lay before him. He looked up at his mother who gave him one raised eyebrow to tell her the next step.

 

“We need to crush it to a fine powder,” Severus told her. Eileen nodded and brought the mortar to bear. Adding the Lavender to the mortar she began to crush it gently into a fine powder. 

 

“Go on Severus what is next?” Eileen demanded. Her tone sharpening as she slowly lost her patience with the young boy.

 

“We add 2 measure of Standard Ingredient to the mortar and mix with the Lavender powder until it’s a creamy purple paste,” Severus said pointing to the bottle of mixed powder on the desk. Eileen gave a nod and did exactly that. 

 

“Now what do we do Severus?” Eileen demanded, her voice gentle still, but it was clear her patience was running out at having to ask that question each time. Severus regarded her for a long moment before turning to the book while Eileen demanded again, “enough of this Severus. Read the instructions, I will not ask again.”

 

“Yes mother,” Severus replied pulling the book a little closer and reading out hesitantly. “We mix three measures of water with two measures of Medical Base number six to the cauldron and set over low heat,” Severus’s voice wavered and he looked up to point out the large jar of black liquid. Eileen did as the instructions said and her gaze turned back to Severus. He went on. “Add 2 blobs of Flubberworm Mucus and 2 measure of Standard Ingredients,” Severus read out and waited. Watching as his mother did what the instructions said. “We raise the heat to high and let it heat for 30 seconds.”

 

“Good,” Eileen told her son. She did just that with a wave of her wand and upturned a 30 second hourglass. Severus watched intently as the sand trickled down until nothing remained slowly counting the seconds by mouthing them. He was delighted with the exercise. When the last of the sand had run it’s course he read the next line.

 

“Add 3 measures of the Lavender and Standard Ingredient mixture. Stir three times counter-clockwise, wave your wand three times over the mixture and then let simmer for 70 minutes,” Severus said to his mother as he read the next lines. He looked up to watch her empty out the measures into the cauldron before she took up the ladle and had him count the stirs. He did this slowly to make sure he got it right. Watching in delight as the color began to change from an almost midnight black to a midnight blue. 

 

His mother put the stirrer down and waved her wand in a slow figure eight over the mixture three times before she turned over the one hour hourglass. Turning to quiz her son on the properties of the ingredients they had used and the base. Severus kept his eye on the hourglass and when the hour was up his mother turned a 10 minute hourglass over and they continued their lesson. 

 

Severus rose as the last of the sand trickled down and read out the next step. “Add two measures of Standard Ingredient. Turn the heat up to high and heat for one minute,” Severus took the one minute hourglass and waited patiently before his mother gave him a nod and he turned it over. Watching intently as the sand trickled down. Until it was all gone.

 

“Add 4 valerian sprigs,” Severus said and at his mother’s nod he counted out four of the sprigs and handed them to her. She dropped them evenly into the cauldron one at a time and Severus read out. “Stir seven times clockwise. Wave your wand once over the mixture. Turn off heat and wait until it is pale blue before decanting your completed potion,” Severus smiled as he knew they were nearly done. He looked at the colour and found that the mixture was sky blue. 

 

He counted as his mother stared the mixture and watched with bated breath as she waved her wand in a z pattern over the cauldron once before turning off the flame and Severus watched the mixture lighten until it was the palest shade of blue he’d seen and he gave his mother a wide smile as he watched her decant the potion into the small bottles that would later be sold with this weeks order.

 


 

Though the flashes were brief it was evident that the small child had spent hours reading and studying and learning with his mother. Each one of them nearly the same. Spinning from scene to scene. Some of them showed the four year old picking out ingredients and handing them over to his mother. Measuring out what was needed. Reading the instructions. The boy in his room reading the books his mother provided him to read. Hiding away from the constant background of screaming that seemed to fill the house. Quicker and quicker the flashes of his childhood flicked by. Moments trapped forever in time and memory.

 


 

A small six year old sitting at a table drawing as his mother worked on a soup for their evening meal. It was pre-dawn outside. The dreary light shifting through the window of the kitchen. The house was silent beside the sounds of bubbling and the soft splashing of ingredients being added to water. The boy’s attention was purely on his drawing. So much so that he didn’t notice when a towering figure appeared nearly behind him.

 

“What is the meaning of this rubbish?” demanded an irate and mostly drunk Tobias as he grabbed the paper on which Severus had been drawing. Severus looked up startled and fear suddenly darkened his gaze. His eyes wide as the man waved the paper in the direction of his mother. “Trying to turn the boy into a wimp Eileen?” 

 

“Leave him be Tobias, Marjory gave the children an art project for homework and Severus is only completing his work,” Eileen told her husband, though her voice wavered as she looked at the nearly murderous look in the man’s eyes. 

 

“I will have none of this nonsense! Not from you and not from some teacher!” Tobias growled and took out a lighter from his pocket. One he usually used to light his cigarettes. Severus tried to reach out for his drawing to rescue it from his father’s temper. The man glared at him and pulled it further from the small boy’s grasp. “Silence!” he thundered as the boy’s soft voice had begun to plead with him in near inaudible words.

 

Without warning Tobias clicked the lighter and watched with malicious glee as the paper caught fire and his son’s eyes filled with tears. “That’s right boy, cry. Prove how weak you are. Worthless bastard!” The man growled out tossing the burning paper onto the floor of the kitchen and walking away. Severus watched in horror as the paper curled and the flames licked out. Touching the floor and singing it. Eileen grabbed water and threw it over the fire trying to put it out before it could spread. It was too late for Severus’s drawing. The picture was ruined. What wasn’t ash already was nothing more then blackened crumbling paper with the smallest traces of his drawing still on it’s ruined surface.

 

Tears fell down the boy’s face and he looked up helplessly to his mother. Wondering why his father took such joy in destroying his things. His efforts. He let his head drop back down his eyes moving away from his mother’s sorrowful gaze.

 

“Go up to your room Severus, I’ll call you down for supper,” Eileen told her son and the boy left without a word.

 


 

The small six year old sat curled up on his bed, the quiet of the night and the darkness oppressive as he tried to see the page. Wishing desperately for light. He wanted to read. Wanted to distract himself from the ever louder shouting from downstairs. The shattering noises and the breaking of furniture resonating ever more frequently from whatever fight was unfolding bellow him. 

 

So suddenly that the boy shrieked and fell sideways off his bed to land in a  sprawled heap on the floor a flood of light filled the room chasing all the dark shadows away until it seemed the very sun was in his room. Severus shielded his eyes as the ball of glowing white light dimmed until it was just a normal light floating over his bed. He gaped open mouthed at it. The perfect sphere of light.

 

BANG

 

The door flew open almost off it’s hinges as two figure entered the room. His father leading the way with his anger a force of nature itself to the boy who lay gaping between the light and the door. Scooting backwards until his back was to the wall as the towering man advanced on him. 

 

“Your a freak! Just like your worthless mother!” Tobias shouted at him advancing on the boy with a raised fist. His other hand going to his belt intent on teaching the boy to be silent. A lesson the small boy knew well.

 

Eileen stood in the doorway watching as Tobias advanced on Severus and the small boy curled up into a ball as the man took his belt and began to lay into the small crying form. Severus only prayed that his two year old brother wouldn’t come to see what the noise was all about. The sharp searing pain exploding over the boy’s back as the first hit landed on him, over and over until Severus didn’t know if it would ever stop.

 

What felt like hours later the boy looked up to feel the gentle small hand of another child. He gingerly reached out and took his little brother’s hand. “Shh Nik it’s ok. You shouldn’t be here, if he comes back you’ll be hurt.” Severus said softly as he forced himself to get up. Pulling the terrified two year old close to him. Holding his brother in his arms. Too tired and sore to do more then sit on the floor holding onto the one person besides his mother that he loved more then life itself. Tears flowing down his face until both of them fell asleep.

 


 

Severus woke up to a small hand shaking him. He looked over at the four year old boy standing beside his bed. Tear stained blue eyes looking at him with pleading in their gaze. Severus scooted over inviting his brother up onto the bed. Severus was eight years old and he knew that he’d have to get them both out of there today. He had tried ever since Nikolai was three to make sure they were rarely home. Either studying in their mother’s apothecary or hiding out in the park that was down the block from there house. 

 

The boys had just been lying in bed for a few minutes when the shouting downstairs got to the point neither could stand to hear it. Severus sat up and looked at his brother, “go get dressed Nik, were going to the park.” Severus instructed deciding that it was nice enough outside today. 

 

A few minutes later, both boys were dressed and Severus took Nikolai’s hand and began to lead him silently down the stairs pausing at the bottom to check that his father and mother were not able to see them. He snuck to the kitchen doorway and watched as his mother and father’s fighting got physical. Reaching back he grabbed Nikolai’s hand and pulled the younger boy out the door and into the street outside. Both of them took off running never letting go of the other until they reached the park. It was still far to early morning for anyone to be around and so they sat on the swings together in silence. Slowly enjoying the cold and peace of silence. Nikolai looked over at his big brother. Severus still had bruises on his face from where their father had hit him for accidental magic. Nikolai knew that Severus had taken the blame for his magic, but he also knew that Severus wouldn’t want to hear that he knew. 

 

“Do you think things will ever change?” Nikolai asked Severus in a soft frightened voice.

 

“Dunno Nik, but no matter what changes, I’ll always protect you,” Severus said firmly. His eyes holding a fire that no amount of pain could extinguished. Nikolai gave him a thin smile.

 

“Hi,” a bright red haired green eyed girl called out as she danced towards them. “Can we join you?” The girl inquired.

 

“Sure,” Severus replied, though he seemed to be transfixed with the girl. Another girl with blond hair and equally green eyes walked more slowly up. The older of the two looked at her younger sister and glowered.

 

“Come on Lily, I don’t want to be here, not with those two!” the older girl said to her sister in what was suppose to be a whisper.

 

“Well I do Tunney, plus you shouldn’t judge! He’s the smartest boy in my class and I hear rumours that his brother’s even smarter then he is,” Lily said mater-of-factly to her sister. Before she turned to the two boys and got up onto the swing next to Severus’s separated from him by the bars of the swing set. Unlike the two boys Lily began to swing in earnest. “I’m Lily, Lilian Evans and that’s my sister Petunia Evans.” 

 

“I’m Severus Snape and this is my younger brother Nikolai Snape,” Severus introduced being polite, though his voice was cold and untrusting. He looked suspiciously at Petunia as she got on her swing and began to lightly swing back and forth. Lily kept going higher and higher. Uncaring what anyone thought. 

 

“You want to see something wicked Severus?” Lily asked as she reached the top of her arch. Severus shrugged not really caring, wondering why this girl was talking to him. Nik’s eyes were wide with interest as he gave a warm smile to the girl. Lily reached the top of her arch again and jumped off to Petunia’s shrieks. 

 

As Lily flew into the air she seemed to hover there for a moment before gliding gracefully back to earth with a wide smile on her face.

 

“You're a witch!” Severus stated having stopped moving completely. Lily glared at him insulted.

 

“I’m telling mom! You’re such a freak Lily!” Petunia shrieked as she rose angrily from her swing before running off.

 

“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” Lily told Severus angrily.

 

“He didn’t mean it as an insult you know. It’s true though. You can do magic, that makes you a witch. Were wizards and our mom, she’s a witch, but dad’s not,” Nikolai told Lily with wide innocent eyes. Severus frowned at her, at a loss for why she thought being called a witch was an insult. In his mind it made her worthy to be his friend.

 

“What do you mean?” Lily inquired curious.

 

“You did magic,” Severus said bluntly, “that makes you a witch,” Severus went on. His hand outstretched he looked over at the tree and willed one of the seeds to spin down and into his open palm. The seed did exactly as he wished and spun around and around about a centimetre from his open palm when it reached his hand. “Just like we are wizards because we can do magic.”

 

“Wow,” Lily said grinning, she looked over towards the houses on the good side of town and frowned. “I have to go, cuze Tunney’s gunna tell mom and try and get me in trouble, but are you guys going to be here tomorrow? I have so many questions. I would love to ask you if you don’t mind.”

 

“We’ll be here,” Severus replied simply. Wondering why she’d want to hang out with them, but glad that they would have a friend at last. He always wondered if he’d always be so lonely. Nikolai had friends his own age. Proven the next moment when a group of younger boys came into the park with a much older sibling and called out to him. Nikolai ran to them and the play structure while Severus sat on the swings watching with a sense of loneliness he’d become so familiar with. 

 


 

Many more scenes flicked through the smoke. Nikolai with his friends while Severus watched on in the shadows. Severus in class being teased for being intelligent. Severus being bullied in the school yard. Severus defending Nikolai against some of the older bullies and taking the punishments. Severus getting into trouble. Severus being beaten by his father for various things. Severus covering for Nikolai’s accidental magic. Severus sitting with Lily under a tree talking about Hogwarts. Time spent at Lily’s house. The growing friendship between the two. Lily and Severus at school where they spent time in the library with Nikolai and sometimes with Nikolai’s friends. The evident favouritism Eileen displayed to Nikolai. The lack of violence Tobias shows Nikolai. Always finding Severus in the shadows watching his parents being slightly warm to Nikolai while being either cold, in the case of his mother, or violent, in the case of his father, towards Severus. The hours spent reading every book he could get his hands on. 

 

Overall the picture that was being drawn of Severus’s childhood the Order soon realized was one of loneliness, solitude, learning and silence. It was little wonder to those who knew him at Hogwarts as to why the brilliant child was silent, rarely speaking unless directly asked. His every movements were usually so silent that it was hard to tell where exactly the boy was at any given time. Now everyone there knew exactly why the man was so quiet. Overall the environment of neglect, violence and abuse was abundantly clear and it made the adults who had known the child in school feel regret that they had not seen it sooner. For those adults of the Order who had not known him as a child it made them sad he had had to endure that level of upbringing and made their own interactions with the grown man understandable in a way it had never been before. For Nikolai, Narcissa and Lucius it brought home the true horror his life had been. For Narcissa and Lucius they fully understood how much Severus was the protector of his family and why he had demanded their promises when he’d been eleven and they had discovered that he was mistreated at best at home. For Nikolai he realized the full extent that Severus had sheltered him during his childhood. He’d known of course that his big brother had protected him, but to the full degree he had, it was astonishing. It was heartbreaking.

 

Worse of all this was only the first question to be asked and already the majority of the Order were regretting having given in to this endeavour to understand their spies motives. 

Chapter Text

Occlumency, Potter.
The magical defence of the mind against external penetration.
An obscure branch of magic, but a highly useful one.
Used properly, the power of Occlumency will help shield you from access or influence.
— Quote from Severus Snape’s speech to Harry Potter regarding the art of Occlumency —

Molly had always considered herself a fair and caring women. She had tried to be just as warm and friendly to Severus as she had to everyone. Constantly inviting him to dinner, and every invitation he turned down had made her more suspicious of his motives. For she knew her cooking rivalled that of the House Elves and she was proud damn it! The fact that he drifted like a shadow in and out of the Order as if he was nothing more than a ghost. Or on a mission unnerved her. Honestly would it kill the man to socialize with them? Or even be civil to anyone that didn't have a last name of Malfoy or Snape?

That's why she agreed to this. To find out why the damnable man was so cold and distant and mean spirited. She had expected a dark family. Something you'd expect to see from someone like Malfoy. Full of dark magic and bigotry. Never in her life had she expected to see Eileen Prince in such a situation. Eileen who had been, slightly eccentric mind, the perfect pure-blood daughter. No Molly had definitely not expected what was being seen before their eyes.

Tears welled in Molly's eyes as she began to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about Severus. Everything that she had assumed was his anti-social behaviour and bigoted attitude of thinking that he was better then they all were. None of it was true. Severus was distant, cold and sometimes mean as a defence mechanism to keep others at bay so they couldn't hurt him. He didn't socialize because the majority of the Order had made it known that they didn't like or mistrusted him. So he did what he'd always done. He drew away, closed himself off and sheltered his mind behind masks that pushed everyone away before they could get near enough to hurt him.

How could no one have seen the signs that were so evident and laid bare now that she saw inside his home. How could they have all looked at the skittish seventeen year old who stood facing them for the first time, giving a near emotionless report on Death Eater activity, without seeing what was right in front of them. How could none of them have seen the horror that this child had suffered? Was it really a wonder he'd sought some escape from home? Some way to be strong enough to protect his brother and escape the hell of his life?

To say Molly felt wretched was an understatement, she felt so horrible for the child and for the man he'd become. How lonely he must be. How betrayed he must feel right now. The people who claimed to be 'good' and 'decent' were torturing him. Exposing him. How could they do this and still claim to be any better then the Dark Lord? Sure they were not murdering innocent defenceless people, but they were destroying a man who'd lived through enough horrors already. They were torturing someone they hoped was on their side, but after this would he really still fight for them? Would she be surprised if he'd never been on their side? How could he be? None of them had ever showed him compassion. Hell were was common decency at this point?

Molly looked at her husband and read horror and doubt on his own features. Silently she wondered if the Order could survive what they were doing.


Kingsley's main focus was the spell that held Severus under their influence. It was much harder to hold the spell on a powerful Occlumens like Severus. His shields and raw untapped power fought and resisted every step of the way. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see that Tonks and Arial were beginning to perspire from the magical effort. He could feel his own skin begin to moisten with the beginning of perspiration.

Kingsley missed the details of the memories and verbal answers, but he could sense the emotions flooding Severus's mind as if they were his own. The overwhelming pain, desolation, loneliness, protectiveness. It was so dark and intense that Kingsley could hardly process it. If he could break concentration even for a second without risk to all four of them he would have been seeking to understand what he was feeling through the mental link he held with Severus.

Kingsley was simply grateful that he'd chosen his two strongest mental wizards for this. Tonks and Arial were the only two besides himself that he could trust to hold onto their emotions and concentration while exposed to this mental mind field. It was little wonder the man seemed distant and cold all the time. If memories of his childhood had brought up such depth of negative emotion he'd have locked them away too. For that matter it was little wonder he'd turned to Occlumency to dull his emotions and build near perfect masks. He'd been doing it naturally to survive. It was little wonder the man was so strong in the mental arts.

If Kingsley could see what was going on in the memories he was certain he would be out for blood. If the emotions were anything to go by, Severus's childhood had likely been as bad as his adulthood under the Dark Lord's reign had. He was suddenly reminded quite painfully of why he'd become an Auror. And it hadn't been to fight Dark Lords. No, he'd become an Auror after he'd seen his neighbour beat his own flesh and blood daughter to death when Kingsley had only been eight years old. All of this he'd seen through the window and when he'd told his mother and the muggle police had investigated they hadn't done much, except arrest the guy. Which was in Kingsley's mind, to little too late. He'd wanted to be in a position where he could stop them before such dark crimes happened. He'd wanted to make a difference. Looking at the man he was staring at statue still locked in the spell of interrogation used on the worst criminals, Death Eaters, during trial. He realized he wasn't helping or making a difference. He was tearing apart an innocent man's mind over a crime they were near certain Severus hadn't been involved in, but they didn't know if he'd spoken of the Dursleys to anyone in the Dark Lord's circle.

Kingsley wondered if they found evidence that Severus was indeed still a Death Eater, which Kingsley serious doubted, would it make this cruel interrogation worth the cost? What would happen to their spy after this, when it was proven he wasn't a real Death Eater. Likely had never been. No Kingsley couldn't sense that darkness in him. His emotional responses to the memories didn't match the mould of minds twisted by Dark Magic. He felt a tear slide down his cheek as he realized the magnitude of what he was doing on Mad-eyes order. How could Albus agree to this?


Pomona liked to think of herself a calm, laid back and hard to anger individual. Right now she wanted nothing more then to hex half the order and scream at the others. She wanted to reach down and pull Severus into a tight hug and promise that no one would ever hurt him again. She didn't know what she felt. Horror, pain, anger, frustration. So many things. The heaviest burden to bear was having to continue, because if she interrupted the process now, she could kill Severus and seriously injure the three Aurors. Maybe even kill them from the backlash of magic.

Pomona regarded Severus with a deep sadness to her gaze before she poke the next question. Though there was hesitancy in her voice. “Severus describe your time at Hogwarts and the influence it had on your decision to become a Death Eater.”

“I attended Hogwarts starting on September 1st, 1971…” Severus said in that same monotone voice that had droned on, even as the memories had played out as he’d explained his childhood while the memories showed them the depth of his words. Pomona was certain that these memories were could to be worse. Because where he should have been safe, he had not been. If he survived this with his mind intact, she was going to find a way to make things right. Though she might just cave and hex Albus if Minerva didn't beat her to it at this rate.

Albus could have convinced Severus to void the oath. To do this, knowing what they would all see, it was just as horrible as what Tom did. Pomona felt ancient beyond her years as she watched the white haze of memories coalesce into images. One thing was for sure, many people had things to answer for and after today they better damn well answer or there wouldn't be an Order left standing to fight the Dark Lord, they'd have effectively become just as corrupted as he was.


The eleven year old sat at the kitchen table with seven year old Nikolai doing some kind of research. Severus was thin, his hair was long down to his shoulders. Nik knew he kept it like that so the scars and bruises, even sometimes open welts, wouldn't show. He'd asked his brother once why he didn't want a teacher to see, when they were at school, where they were constantly being told that all they had to do was ask for help. Severus had told him that the one time a police officer came to the house Tobias had nearly killed the next door neighbour in a drunken brawl. No one had dared to call anyone about Tobias, because they would likely bleed for it. This side of the neighbourhood held a lot of domestic violence and very little could be done about it. Severus had told Nik that if he told or the teachers found out, Tobias had promised that the moment they were alone he wouldn't live to see the light of dawn. It had so terrified Severus, especially with the beating he'd received right after the words were spoken that he'd taken to heart. He'd let his hair grow and was never seen wearing anything except long sleeves and long pants. Mostly baggy clothing to hide his emaciated frame, and so the clothing would stick to still weeping wounds. The biggest change was the almost hopeless resigned edge to the black eyes. The way that he never reacted to pain, shouting, violence. He simply watched with cold black eyes.

Nik scooted up so he was on his knees on the chair. Tired of working on. His summer Math homework. He glanced at the book his brother was reading, but he couldn't understand half the words that were written. "Sev, what language is that?"

"Mostly Latin, though there are a few English notes here and there," Severus's voice was emotionless, though not as cold or silky as it was now, it was still dull and flat compared to what one would expect and eleven year old to sound like.

"Why do you do that?" Nik asked Severus after a long pause.

"Do what Nik?" Severus asked looking up from his book for the first time.

"Act like you're not at least two years ahead of our class?" Nik asked. It had always sat wrong with him that his brother acted as if he, Nikolai, was more intelligent of the pair. When really anyone who knew Severus would know that he was. Most of it was age, for both loved to learn, but there was a keep almost cutting intelligence to Severus that Nikolai lacked. A drive to learn and devour knowledge.

"Knowledge is power," Severus replied. Shrugging. "Why should I share that with dunderheads who can't be bothered to crack a book?"

"You share it with Evans and she doesn't spend nearly as long as you on her homework, but you always help her," Nik pointed out, "plus if Derek's older brother's big fat mouth is anything to go by you let Evans answer all the questions in class, even though she wouldn't know them if you hadn't told her."

"Lily's a friend," Severus said simply. "Plus I don't care what anyone else in class thinks. All that maters is if I know the answer. The rest of them aren't worth my time."

"Sev why do you do that?" Nik asked frowning.

"Do what?" An irritated Severus asked sharply.

"Dismiss everyone without giving them a chance?" Nik boldly went on. Ignoring the sparkle of anger in his elder brother's eyes. Nik was kind of secretly glad he could still get an emotionless response from Sev.

"I'm not you Nik," Severus said resigned. "There's no point in trying to make friends with them. I'm just the freak they have to see every day. They pity Lily, because she has to put up with my freakish ways, for heavens sake. Why should I give them a chance? They never gave me one."

"I'm sorry Sev, I didn't know," Nik whispered sadly squeezing his brother's arm. He felt the flinch the unexpected contact triggered in his brother and realized even more the changes in his elder brother.

"Sev!" Eileen barked from the entrance hall. Severus closed the book and tucked it under his arm as he left the kitchen and silently hurried to Eileen.

"Yes mother?" Severus asked politely. Resignation in his tone.

"You have a letter, take it upstairs. Do not let Tobias see it or there will be hell to pay. I'll gather up my old textbooks for you tomorrow. I think I might have a few black robes up there as well that would fit you. We'll have to go and get you a uniform, we can't afford more the one. I'll make you a kit for your ingredients you'll need and I've got some spare equipment you can take with you. So that should cover most of the list. I'll need to take you to Olivanders for a wand, but that won't be happening until the day before you're to board the train. No sense in risking Tobias finding it and destroying it." Eileen informed her son. For the first time in years Severus saw pride in his mother's dull eyes.

"Yes mother," Severus replied as he took the letter from her hands. Hogwarts. He was finally going to Hogwarts. His face broke into a grin as he turned and dashed silently up the stairs. Nimbly avoiding all the creaking boards and steps of the old house. He was elated at the prospect of finally leaving here. Finally being able to start his true education. He froze his hand on his door as his smile fell. Nikolai. He'd be leaving his baby brother to his father's mercy. He felt torn. Trapped. How could he do that to Nik? He'd vowed that he would always be there for his baby brother when he'd been a small four year old on a sleepless night. He bit his lip as he slid into his room.

"Sev what's wrong?" Nik asked catching the haunted look on Sev's face.

"I'm going to Hogwarts in September," Sev said softly. His voice catching.

"That's great, but why are you sad?" Nik asked innocently.

"Because you're too young to come with me. You'll be here all alone," Sev admitted. Torment turning his black eyes shiny.

"You known Tobias doesn't beat me like he does you. He thinks I'm normal. I've been ok since you started to teach me meditation techniques to control strong emotions. I haven't done any accidental magic. I'll be fine. This is great Sev, you'll be safe for most of the year. You'll be learning all types of cool stuff and when your seventeen we can both move out and get our own place. 'Cuze you can be my guardian then," Nik said his voice getting stronger and more excited with each word. "Plus I'll get to read all your letters and learn so many cool things!"


Severus sat in the empty compartment of the train, Advanced Potions Making open in his lap as he read through one of the formulas. It was complex. So much more so then what he was used to reading, but that was why he was reading it.

"Do you do ANYTHING except read Sev?" Lily teased as she pulled open the compartment door and walked in. Severus looked up. He was already changed into his uniform with his mother's old robe left open draped overtop.

"What do you want to do Lily?" Severus asked. He closed the book, but left it laying in his lap. He knew sooner or later she'd get bored, since he didn't know any games besides chess. Lily didn't like chess, but she played sometimes just to do something.

"I'm going to change into my Hogwarts uniform, and you're going to draw me! So I can send it to mom in my next letter," Lily announced. Grabbing her backpack back up from the rack where she'd just set and it slipping out. Severus sighed. Why had he bothered to show Lily his drawings again? Oh yah. He'd been drawing in the park and she'd caught him at it. Damn, he'd have to be more careful. Pulling out his backpack, really it was his mother's old rucksack, he rummaged inside for a spare piece of parchment, ink and quill. At least the train was moving smoothly now so he would have a few hours to work on the drawing without motion getting involved. He set up his ink and parchment on the tray by the window.

Sliding over so he was sitting right up against the wall, he examined his quill time with a critical eye. Fixing it with deft movements of the sharp knife he kept in his pocket. Ready he watched the compartment door waiting for Lily to come back.

Lily closed and locked the compartment door before sitting down looking out of the window. She made sure to arrange her skirt and robes so they fell nicely around her. Severus dipped the quill in ink and meticulously began his work. He found it oddly similar to his mother's exercises of drawing various ingredients, plants and creatures. His mother had told him that this was one of the most important skills to have if he wanted to get a mastery in potions. He would need not only to be able to describe ingredients and their source, but to be able to pick out minute details. In an effort to learn that skill he'd begun to draw them. It was apparently something that was useful to the study of Herboloy and Magic Creatures which were very important for potions as well.

The drawing took him half an hour to complete to a point where he didn't need Lily to stay still any longer and he told her that. She rose and left the compartment, no doubt in search of other people her age to meet. Severus kept working on the drawing from memory. Now that the most important details were in place, it wouldn't be hard to fill in the rest. Two and a half hours into the trip and Lily came back to look at his work, just as he was finishing up the last of the shading.

"What do you think Lily?" Severus asked looking up at her.

"I love it, thanks Sev," Lily said brightly taking the parchment from him as a he cast a drying charm at the ink so it would smear when she looked it over. He started cleaning his quill and capping his inkwell as Lily busied herself putting the picture away in her bag. He'd just put his quill in his bag and pulled out his book on potion ingredients when the door opened.

"Mind if we join you?" A bushy haired amber eyed first year asked. Severus shrugged in answer. He honestly didn't care.

"Sure there's plenty of room," Lily said brightly as she sat down.

"I'm Remus Lupin, That's Sirius Black and he's James Potter," the boy, Lupin, who'd spoken early added as he walked in and sat down in an empty chair. Black and Potter followed him in. Black sneered at Severus's appearance while Potter smiled warmly at Lily.

"Anything off the trolley dear?" The woman asked as she paused by the open compartment door. Severus looked down as the others began to ask for things. He flipped open his book and brought it up leaning back against the seat with his legs tucked up so the book rested upon them as he read.

Severus heard the others talking loudly about the sweats they were eating and exchanging with one another. No one really seemed to notice Severus. He liked it that way. He knew from the quick glance of Potter and Black he'd taken that both were rich. Likely pure-blood. From the sneer of derision that Black had cast his way, he was certain the boy had many comments to make on his appearance. Severus silently hoped he could pass unnoticed through Hogwarts. Anonymity was safe.

"What house do you want to be in?" Black asked after an indeterminate amount of time.

"Gryffindor like my dad!" Potter declared. Severus snorted at the bravado tone.

"You think that's funny? Let me guess you want to be a Ravenclaw? Or what?" Black demanded darkly turning his dark glinting malicious gaze to Severus. Intent on humiliating the smaller boy.

"No, I want to be in Slytherin like my family," Severus said simply looking up.

"So your going to be a good for nothing slimy snake are you," Black declared. "I knew there was something wrong with you when I saw you. You're probably one of THEM already." Black sneered. "Come on guys, let's get out of here. This slime isn't worth being around." He rose and a bewildered Lupin followed uncertain. Potter looked at Severus like he was the most revolting thing he'd ever seen.

"Are you serious? You actually WANT to be in Slytherin? What are you?!? Deranged? Mad? Insane? Or just retarded?" Potter demanded. Severus looked at him with narrowed hate filled eyes.

"What's wrong with wanting to be in Slytherin, it's one of the four houses of Hogwarts isn't it?" Lily asked confused at the new boy's behaviour.

"Well yah, but Evans, only dark wizards want to be in Slytherin. It's known as the Darkest House in Hogwarts. You don't get in Slytherin unless you're already seeped in Dark Magic," Potter said.

"Well that's just stupid," Lily said flicking her hair over her shoulder. "I've read Hogwarts a History and nothing like that is mentioned in there!" She said smugly.

Severus remained silent. Watching, he knew that there was a rumour that Slytherin was the dark house, because of how Salazar Slytherin had left Hogwarts, but he didn't believe in that hogwash. His mother wasn't evil and she'd been a Slytherin. The whole Prince family was either Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Mostly Slytherin though.

"Believe it Evans. My whole family is Slytherin and their nutters for all that dark crap," Black said to her. "If I were you I'd be careful around his kind."

With that Black left, Potter following behind and Lupin gave them a small apologetic smile before leaving too. Severus just watched them go. Compared to what he was used to this was nothing. He just turned back to his book. He could all but feel Lily's questioning looks. Just like her sister always spewed the prejudice that all kids who came from Spinner's End were bound to be delinquents, Potter and Black spewed the prejudice of house rivalries. Severus vaguely wondered why Lily cared so much about people's opinions anyways?


The group of first year students stood in a line. Severus watching the others being sorted one by one. Until only a few remained. He could already see Lily, Black and Potter arguing at the Gryffindor table.

"Snape, Severus," Professor McGonagall called out and Severus walked forwards to sit on the stool as she dropped the hat down over his eyes.

≈'A lot of knowledge for one so young. You like to read do you. Yes I see that clearly.'≈ The hat's disembodied voice in his head startled Severus.

'You can read my thoughts' Severus thought to the hat.

≈'Of course I can boy. How else am I suppose to sort you. I can see everything inside your head. You are powerful, intelligent, but you do not seek knowledge for knowledge sake. No you seek it for it's power. You are ambitious, cunning and like snake you hide behind the tall grass. Deceptive. You would do well to be careful of your masks little snake. They can be your greatest ally, or your worst enemy. Well it's quite clear where you belong. Better be'≈ there was a pause before the hat shouted aloud.

≈SLYTHERIN≈

Severus had know it all along, but he felt a sense of pride at having been sorted into the house of his families heritage. Maybe he could prove to his mother he was worthy of her love. He would prove to her how strong he was. How powerful. Severus rose taking off the hat and handing it to McGonagall as he made his way amongst applaud to his house table.


Flashes of classes passed in quick succession in the white fog. Barely forming before flashing to another scene. The overall feel of these flashes was a quiet, studious, dedicated student who didn't draw attention to himself, but blended into the group's shadows. Flashes of a lonely boy spending long hours in the library. For a brief moment those witnessing the scenes hoped he wouldn't have suffered more then some mild teasing at Hogwarts.

That is until more vibrant scenes began to coalesce in the fog that drove those thoughts away from everyone there. Even drawing some gasps from the witnesses in shock.


It was the first day where Severus didn't have a stack of homework to redo, because someone had destroyed it or stolen it. He'd finally three months into the term managed to find and learn a spell to clean spilled ink from his essays without having to re-write the whole thing. He'd found a few anti-theft spells that seemed to be doing the tick.

So he'd taken the chance to go out and sit under the tree by the lake. It was chilly being mid November, and the fact he didn't have a cloak for winter since they couldn't afford one and his mother's old one had been too worn out and damaged. He was used to being cold and therefore didn't mind overly much. He'd figured out a basic heating charm and he had discovered a spell to create a small fire in a jar that could be carried with you. It was a very useful spell. One he didn't feel like bothering with. He was leaning back against the tree with an old muggle mystery novel in his lap enjoying the mix of sun and shade and the sounds of the squid splashing in the lake.

"Come on Siri, I'm bored of walking around. Let's just go to the pitch and see if we can't get our hands on some brooms," Potter's voice whined as they neared the lake. Severus frowned. Great. Just what he needed. Bored idiots. The group of three had become a group of four, now that the morons had picked up their other housemate Pettigrew. Severus hoped they wouldn't come all the way down here. He knew they hadn't seen him yet, but if they got closer they would for sure catch sight of him. They were stupid yes, but not blind.

"Bella's over there with the Lestrange idiots. I don't want to deal with her crazy ass today James, can't we just skip stones or something?" Black said. His voice sounding just as whinny as Potters. Severus wondered what Black's problem with Bellatrix was. Yah the girl was a little on the eccentric side, but she wasn't all that bad. She certainly had a nicer disposition then Black did.

"Fine, maybe Evans will come down and I can try and talk to her again. What's that girls problem anyways. It's not like steeling Sniv's homework gets us anywhere. It's just a little prank. Plus that kid's just a slimy snake, no way he could have done the homework right. I'm not keeping it, just using all that excess grease to start start the fire in the common room," Potter said with a long suffering sigh.

"Who knows James. Evans is strange. That girl actually seems to think that Snivelly is a decent bloke. Can you believe that?" Black drawled out disgustedly.

"Come on guys, we don't even know the guy. Maybe Snape isn't so bad as all that? I mean he seems quiet enough," Lupin said tentatively.

"Are you high Rem? The guys a Slytherin," Black stated loudly.

"It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for Remi, their always up to something. That's what dad said. If their quiet, then there's something wrong with them!" Potter stated in that same 'I know better then you all' tone he always used when talking about what his 'father' had said. Severus rolled his eyes. Seriously did the boy not have an original thought in his head?

"Oi look what I've found!" Black declared pointing straight at Severus. Severus sighed. Great. Just what he needed. "It's Snivellous in the flesh!"

"Why don't we give the slime ball a bath?" Pettigrew suggested hesitantly. Eagerly waiting to see what the two bigger boys thought.

"Peter's got a point James. Snivellous could use a wash. I bet he hasn't used soap... Well ever actually," Black declared.

"Get him Peter," Potter said. Severus tried to get up before the big lump that was Pettigrew could get near him. He'd just gotten to his feet when the circle of boys closed around him. Pettigrew lunged from his spot and after a short scuffle had the smaller first year pressed nearly flat on the ground using his bulk to hold him down. Severus truffled, but he was trapped between the others. Unable to run. Black laughed and cheered on as Pittigrew flattened him. "Pin his arms Peter. Pin him!"

Severus panicked as he fought to draw air in with the weight of the thick set boy on him. His arms were painful wrenched back and his face was pushed into the grass making breathing even harder. His eyes screwed shut and he went very still. Hopping that if he didn't struggle he would escape the worst of the injuries. He was pulled up by three pairs of strong painful hands. They dragged him to the edge of the lake and pushed roughly letting go of him in the same moment until he fell into open space. He drew in a deep breath and felt the first splash of cold hit him as he touched the surface of the water for a single moment before he sank into it's ice cold embrace.

The murky green depths circled around him as he tried to hold his breath and figure out how to get back up to the surface. Freezing cold and unable to swim. He didn't know the first thing about getting himself out of this mess. He vaguely wondered if the world wouldn't be better off if he just let go. Then he thought of Nikolai and how he'd promised to always be there for his brother. No matter what. He had to survive.

Just as his lungs demanded air and he was beginning to panic a thick tentacled arm snaked around him like a giant snake. Lifting him effortlessly from the ice cold body of water and dumping him unceremoniously onto the bank. He curled up around himself and shivered uncontrollably.

"Come on lad, you need to get up to the school now. You're lucky that Potter saw you fall Mr. Snape. What were you thinking sitting so close to the edge of the lake?" Minerva scolded as she reached down to grab the boy's arm to haul him up to his feet. "That's very irresponsible of you Mr. Snape. Come along lad, Madam Pomfrey will set you to rights."

Severus flinched as she pulled him up from the ground by his arm and silently followed her. She had already picked up his backpack and novel from the ground and was starring him towards the castle. He stumbled over the uneven ground as his cold numb feet didn't seem to want to move at all. He was exhausted and wanted nothing more then to go to his nice warm bed in the dungeons.

He was led into the Infirmary and pushed towards a bed where he climbed gratefully up to it's warm soft surface and sat waiting for the matron. Soon enough the woman was bustling over.

"Tsk Mr. Snape, falling into the lake at this time. Child. You'll catch your death. Here now drink this it'll warm you right up," She said handing him a glass of thick blue potion. He sniffed it tentatively before he took the tiniest sip. "Well now boy, it's not poisoned drink!" Severus regarded her as he counted to thirty. Not feeling any ill affects he drank the cup down in three big swallows and handed it back barely even reacting to the vile taste. "Good, now drink this it's just Pepper Up Potion." The matron instructed frowning at the boy's odd behaviour. Severus repeated the same process with the potion she handed him. Sniffing it, taking the tiniest sip he could and counting to thirty. After no reaction he drank the phial down in one long gulp. Steam came out of his ears and he shuddered at the feeling. Gah he hated that.


Many more scenes just like that one. Scenes where the boy was walking down a hallway and was roughly shoved around by others elbowing him. Taunting him. Calling him names, or laughing at misfortunes. Getting Dungbombs lobbed at him from above on stairways. Books knocked from his hands. Various other pranks and taunting that seemed to amuse the group of four boys known as the Marauders.


Severus was working quietly and efficiently on his potion, he'd made perfect potions every practical. Slughorn had begun to notice. He'd been given a small envelope as he'd come into class and he was fairly sure it was an invitation to one of Slughorn's dinner parties. Severus wasn't too sure what he felt about that. He had slipped the envelope into his bag with a quick thank you. Taken his regular seat and been rather thrilled when Lily sat next to him. She hadn't really had time to talk to him much. Every once in a while she'd come to the library to get help on an essay or study for a test like when they were kids, but most of the time she was hanging out with girls from her house.

The Marauders were working right in front of him and it made Severus nervous. He knew that they had noticed how good he was in potions and since they hadn't pranked him all week. He was expecting a prank. So far nothing. He was on edge and jittery as he worked. Bidding his time, and hoping they wouldn't do anything too horrible.

He moved from his simmering cauldron over to his book to carefully review the next steps when he heard a faint plop sound and looked up. Horrified as Black dropped another dandelion root into his mixture and then sauntered off. No. Severus thought desperately as he moved to check if it was too late. He'd just looked into the violently bubbling cauldron.

BOOM

The mixture exploded and coated him liberally. He screamed as the burning hot acid began to eat into his flesh. Merlin that hurt. He could feel tears in his eyes and knew that he was crying softly. He didn't dare look at his hands. The pain alone was enough to make him wish for unconsciousness. In all of his father's beatings it had never hurt so much as the acid eating through his flesh and clothing.

"Oh dear me, Miss Evans take Mr. Snape to the Hospital Wing right away dear," Slughorn said waving his wand and vanishing the rest of the mess. "Mr. Potter, Mr. Black, Miss Elvern, and Miss Loviatta did any of you get any of that on you?"

"No sir," the four answered as one as Lily grabbed their things slung them over her shoulder and slowly led a shaking Severus out of the classroom as Slughorn got the chaos into order and had everyone else return to work. Severus was glad that Slughorn had vanished the mess that had coated him, but he still felt far too shaky to do anything more then numbly be pulled along.

"Oh dear, what did you do to yourself now Mr. Snape?" Madam Pomfrey said as they entered the wing.

"He didn't do anything, Black dropped something in our cauldron!" Lily said annoyed.

"It was just an accident deal, come along now and sit down in this chair right here. Let me get you something to change into," Madam Pomfrey led the shaking Slytherin over to the chair and turned to Lily on her way back towards a cupboard that held hospital pyjamas. "Off to class miss. You can visit your friend later. He'll be spending the night. There's nothing for you to do. Off you go now."


Images flashed by. Severus being tripped going up stairs. Severus being pushed from behind. Severus being knocked into while he carried a stack of books. Severus having ingredients added to his cauldron, sometimes managing to stop the explosion, other times being covered in various substances. Being hexed to enlarge his teeth, his toenails being enlarged, his hair being turned pink and other similar things.

More and more of the same spun about. Each time getting a little more violent, a little more complicated in spell. Sometimes Severus would toss around some hexes of his own. Usually those were darker spells and caused more damage, but all in all it was clear that he was being targeted by the Gryffindor boys. As the years progressed more spells were used then physical force. It was evident that the Gryffindor Marauders enjoyed tormenting and bullying Severus.

Flashes of his home life swept by. Vicious beatings from his father every year he came home for summer. Each time the beatings got more violent, more vicious, leaving a greater number of scars. It became evident that the older Severus got. The worse the actions of his father became. An almost deranged and desperate drive to beat the magic out of the boy seemed to grip Tobias. He became more violent towards Eileen. Even going so far as to hit Nikolai a few times with his fists if he was really angry. He drank more. Spent more of the small amount of money the family made and spent more time away from the house during the summers that Severus was there.

Things didn't seem to change from year to year. Only that Severus became more distant. More silent. His marks improved and he found himself spending more and more time in the library. It was clear that Severus spent far too much time alone.


Severus watched from the Slytherin table as his brother's name was called. He could still feel the pain of the vicious beating his father had given him when Nikolai's letter had come. Accusing Severus of corrupting his normal son with his freakish ways. As if magic could be 'corrupted' into an individual. Severus had nearly laughed at his father's retarded notions.

Severus watched as a nervous Nikolai slid onto the stool and the hat slid over his head. He hopped his brother would be placed in a house where he'd make friends and wouldn't face the ridicule and torment Severus did.

≈RAVENCLAW≈

Nikolai rose and gave Severus a beaming smile before he raced to his table and slid into the seat. He started conversations with the others and Severus knew he'd be ok.


"You want to buy your brother's protection Snivally then I want you to do our Herbology and Potions homework," Black bargained. "And you'll let us test all our new pranks on you."

"Fine," Severus ground out. He would do anything to keep the assholes away from Nik, who was already making friends. He made sure Nik didn't associate with him outside of the library. Safer that way. Nik didn't need to have his tainted shadow hanging over his career. He'd be fine. If Severus could keep the Marauders from getting interested in him.

"Good. I expect to pick up the answers from you tonight Snivally. If I don't have them by then. Your brother's going in the lake tomorrow." Black threatened. Severus nodded. He'd find a way to manage to get the answers in the next couple of hours.

Black left the library. Severus regarded the clock. Tonight meant curfew. Since dinner would be served in the next hour he had just shy of five hours to finish all three assignments and get a good stack of notes copied over for their essay. Nodding Severus rose and began to gather the books he'd need. Sitting down at his desk he pulled out two blank parchments and began to write out the answers to the assignment sheets. Making sure to copy over each answer he wrote so he didn't miss anything.

By the time Black came back Severus had a stack of papers and an even bigger stack of books on his table. He was exhausted. His hand was cramping from doing all the work and research for two essays and three assignments. He didn't what besides good grades Black hoped to achieve, if he didn't read the material himself he'd be missing a lot of the information for the exams. Severus didn't care. He'd kept his end of the deal.

"Where's my notes Snivallous?" Black drawled leaning on the table with a malicious glint in his eyes.

"Here. The assignments are laid out on the first three sheets, this stack is for your Herbology essay and this one for the Potion essay," Severus told him as he handed over the parchments.

"If we don't get EE's on these papers Snivally I'm taking it out of your brother's hide. And then I'm leaving you in the Forbidden forest so the werewolves can get you!" Black told him.

"If you don't get EE's it's because you didn't pay attention to the notes I gave you," Severus said heatedly.

"Whatever Snivally it's on your head either way," Black drawled. Severus glared. Black laughed maliciously and left. Severus returned to his notes. He had half an hour left before he had to leave the library. He could get his answers transferred to his assignment sheets.


Severus looked over at the note he held in his hands. It read:

Dear Mr. Severus Snape,

I regret to inform you that your mother passed away during the night. We've contacted Mr. Tobias Snape to retrieve the body and were informed that he was indisposed. We are informing you that she will be buried at nine today in the cemetery in London if you are able to arrange transportation you may attend the burial. The account that Miss Eileen Snape nee Prince incurred must be paid in full no later then January 30th 1977.

Healer Alexander Smith
St. Mungo's Long Term Care For Magical Maladies Ward

Severus stared at the letter with tears pooling in his eyes. He'd taken the wages he'd had saved in his Gringotts account over the summer and gotten his mother checked into St. Mungo's after her cough and fever kept getting worse. He'd given all the money had over to St. Mungo's then. Now that he had until January 30th, he didn't know how he'd manage to get the funds.

He looked over at the letter from Lucius Malfoy that he had open before. He read it again to be sure:

Dear Severus,

A friend of mine is very interested in hiring you to brew a series of complicated potions. If he is satisfied with the work you do while still in school, he will be offering to pay for your apprenticeship if you are willing to work for him. Please write back no later then September 12, as he needs to find another supplier if you are unable or unwilling to help him. Payments should cover all materials required to brew as well as a decent wage. He pays handsomely my friend. I would strongly recommend accepting this offer.

Lucius Malfoy

Severus sighed. He would have to accept this offer. Or he wouldn't be able to pay St. Mungo's fee. He looked over at Nikolai and was loathed to tell his brother that their mother was dead. They couldn't get to London by nine as it was already eight. Soon they had to be in class. He pulled out a quill, ink and three parchments. Severus began to quill out letters quickly.

Nik,

Meet me in the library after dinner.

SS


Dear Lucius Malfoy,

Please inform your friend that I am interested in his offer. I can have the complete list of required ingredients within a few days of receiving his list. Slughorn told me I could brew in the lab for myself so long as I provided him the cost of ingredients.

Severus Snape


Dear Healer Alexander Smith,

Thank you for notifying me of my mother's passing. Can you sent all her belongings to me here at Hogwarts. I will also require a statement of cost, so I can make arrangement with Gringotts to have the funds transferred.

Severus Snape

He had just enough time to go to the owlery and send off the two letters. He passed Nikolai and dropped the letter next to him. Nik looked up at his worried face and frowned. Severus shook his head and kept walking. Hurrying up to the owlery before class.


Many scenes of Severus working on potions. Looking up various complicated potions formulas in the library. Sending owls back and forth between him and Lucius with lists, finished products and notices of payments. Insuring that all the hospital bill was paid. Having to put on a brave facade as he told Nikolai their mother had died and being strong as the younger of the brothers cried. Scenes where Severus helped Nikolai deal with the loss of his mother. Helped him with homework. Scenes where Severus made himself sick testing potions for the Marauders to keep them from turning to Nikolai as part of the deal he'd struck with black. Each time he tested something out fail or success the Marauders would leave laughing at his expanse and he'd either have to make his way to the Hospital Wing or wait for the effects to wear off.


They'd just finished their Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL and Severus was sitting under a tree studying for the upcoming Transfiguration OWL this afternoon when the Marauders came up the hill laughing.

"Don't lean to close to that book Snivelly you might smear the ink with that big greasy nose of yours." Black snickered.

"Maybe he needs a reminder of how to wash," Pettigrew cackled. It seemed that's all he could seem to think about. Severus looked up at them with a resigned sort of air.

"No I think something a little more fun," Potter drawled. "Livicorpus!" He called before Severus could even draw his wand. He found himself flipped upside down with his robe falling in his face. Severus grabbed his wand.

"None of that now Snivellous," Black drawled. "Expeliarmus!" Black called out and Severus's wand flew out of his hand. He started to struggle and curse. Damned if he'd let them get away with this. He was so tired of them. He'd been struggling to deal with everything. Dealing with all the arrangements of his mother's estate. Tobias suddenly having just become unreachable. No doubt crawled into a bottle and stayed there. Not that Tobias ever did care of Eileen. Having to try and keep Nikolai from failing out due to grief. Trying to remind his brother to eat and sleep, while nearly forgetting that himself. Doing all the work for Herbology and Potions homework for the Marauders. Doing the research and then procuring the ingredients and making the potions for Lucius's mystery friend. Testing things for the Marauders or making potions for them in order to keep them away from Nikolai. Trying to keep the friends he'd made in his house happy with his help on their homework. It had been an insane year and now he was sleep deprived and at the end of his rope.

"Tell me Snivally, where did you learn such dirty filthy language?" Black asked.

"Let's wash his mouth out Pads," Potter said with a flick of his wand and a whispered word. Severus spluttered and gasped trying to spit the soap that suddenly flooded his mouth out. He was gagging on it when Black continued on.

"I think we should wash his clothes for him Prongs. They seem rather dirty to me," Black said loudly.

"Leave him alone Black!" Lily's shrill voice cried out. Severus spit the last of the soap out of this mouth and glared at her. She hadn't spoken to him since the train ride to school, except to ask him questions when she needed help on an assignment. Honestly Severus was frustrated and humiliated that now of all times Lily chose to stand up for him. She hadn't been there all year for him. When he'd needed her. He was hurt. He was embarrassed to have a girl stand up for him. He snapped.

"I don't need your help!" Severus all but shouted at her. The laughter of the crowd was growing both in number and volume. There must be half the school watching.

"I'm just trying to help Sev, you don't have to be rude!" Lily grumbled. "Fine if you don't want me to help then I won't. I'll just stand here and watch them dunk you in the lake."

"I don't need a filthy little mud blood hanging around me!" Severus growled. He was so angry. Why did she have to show up now? Why did she have to act like he was the one ignoring her all year. Why couldn't she have been there earlier. Why now? He felt tears prickle his eyes.

"That was uncalled for Snivellous, apologize to Evans now," Potter said. "Or I'll wash out your mouth again."

"I don't need you to make him apologize Potter. You're no better then he is!" Lily yelled at Potter and stormed off. Severus could tell he'd hurt her. Honestly he regret that, but he was just angry and frustrated and humiliated.

"Who wants to see me give Snivelly a bath?" Black called to the crowd. He got cheers and laughter. Severus tried to fight the spell holding him upside down, but he couldn't. He felt dizzy and he knew soon he'd be exposed. He was panicking begging them not too. It didn't matter. His pants went flying off underwear and all as his top and robe flew off him in the other direction. He was left dangling naked in the air as his clothing was tossed into the lake. He tired to cover himself with his hands as tears leaked from his eyes and his face burned red. The spell released and the splash of ice cold water was all the warning he had that he'd been over the lake. He scrambled trying to stay above the water as he breathed in and gasped as water entered his mouth. Soon he was sinking. He didn't fight anymore. He was just done. He'd had enough.

He found himself flying upwards and landed on the ground his wet clothing in a heap beside him as Nikolai gently laid his hand on Severus's shoulder. Severus curled up around himself gasping and coughing. Nik laid Severus's robe over him to cover him a little while he waited out his brother's tears. Severus looked up a long time later and didn't meet Nik's gaze. He scrambled to put on his wet clothing and gratefully took his wand when Nik handed it to him. He cast a drying charm.

"You ok?" Nik asked lamely, not knowing what else to say.

"I'm fine," Severus said in a resigned voice. "It's late," Severus pointed out taking his bag from Nik and leaving his brother standing there watching as Severus made his way to the dungeons. He didn't leave his dorm the next morning for breakfast. He didn't leave his room until ten minutes to the exam. He ran from his room to the exam room and ducked inside just as they were letting everyone in. Finding a seat in the furthest corner of the room he avoided everyone.


"I'm sorry Lily," Severus said for what felt like the millionth time.

"I don't care Snape. You're just like them. You're nothing but a Death Eater Wannabe and I don't want anything to do with you. Leave me alone!" Lily shrieked before she ran off. Leaving Severus standing in the deserted hallway feeling hallow.

He turned away and knew, no matter what he said, he'd finally ruined his friendship with Lily.


The house was empty. The lights didn't work. The stove didn't work. The stack of unpaid bills sat on the counter. Just what he expected. The food in the refrigerator was spoiled and the smell of rancid alcohol and vomit permitted the house. This was revolting. To make it worse he couldn't find any trace of his father and had no idea what had happened to the man. The house had an eviction notice sign on it's front door and the date was less then two weeks away. Severus looked over at Nik. The boy was silent and scared. Severus wasn't surprised. What could he expect of his twelve year old brother. At sixteen Severus was not the caretaker and he didn't have a way to pay off the dept his father had incurred and keep the house. Never mind getting the heat and electricity turned back on.

"I'll take care of this Nik," Severus reassured his younger brother. He didn't have a choice. Opening his trunk he pulled out a quill, parchment and ink. He penned out a quick note.

Dear Lucius Malfoy,

Would your employer consider taking me on early?

Severus Snape

Severus took out his wand and with a quick spell sent the missive off to Lucius. He felt the pulse of the magic in his blood as his specially made spell took affect. He smiled, he knew he'd get a warning from the ministry, but because no muggle's were in the house he doubted they would really care all that much. Well regardless it was too late to worry about now. He needed help and he had no where else to turn.

Severus helped Nikolai get their trunks upstairs before he returned downstairs to see if Lucius had responded. He found a not where his original had been before he cast the spell.

Dear Severus Snape,

My employer and I are coming to see you in fifteen minutes. Make yourself appropriate.

Lucius Malfoy

"Nik!" Severus called out. His brother appeared quickly. "I need you to go to the park and not return until I come for you. I don't want you around these people, do you understand? What I'm going to do you can't be a part of it."

"What's going on Sev?" Nik asked worrying his lip.

"I don't have time to explain. I need you to go, I'm going to keep you safe Nik. I promise, everything will be ok." Severus told him gently grabbing his brother by both shoulders before drawing him into a hug. "Please just trust me."

"I do Sev, I always have. I'll go. But please be ok," Nik said with large tear filled eyes.

"I will Nik. I will. Just go, be safe little brother. Be safe. That's all that matters to me. Do you understand? Whatever it takes, you need to stay safe." Severus told him firmly.

"Ok." Nikolai said and he backed up slowly whipping away the tears he turned and walked out the front door. Severus breathed a sigh of relief. So long as Nik wasn't caught in this he'd be ok. Severus knew in his heart that he was about to take a step he could never undo. He was going to do what he'd promised himself he wouldn't do. He was going to sell himself to an evil man to keep his brother safe.

A knock shook the door and Severus opened it tentatively. There on the doorstep stood Lucius looking revolted at the state of the house and neighbourhood. Next to him stood a tall man with blood red eyes and a very handsome face. Rich robes and an air of power.

"Severusss," he hissed almost like a snake. "We meet at last. I am glad you've accepted my ofer so early. A man of your talents shouldn't be wasted. I can get you set up with an early apprenticeship starting this summer. It plus a few extra funds so you can live a little more comfortably while you study. I wouldn't want you to have to worry about reliable income, it might jeopardize your marks. No Severusss, I want you to be the youngest Potions Master in the world. That my dear Severusss will look very good to my investors. Yes. I do believe if you agree to take my mark a little early, I will make your dreams come true."

"I want your work that my brother gets left alone. We get this house paid for and a steady income that will keep both of us here in relative comfort. With enough for me to help Nik get his own mastery. If you agree to that I'll do it," Severus said bluntly.

"Done," Tom Riddle declared.

"Then we have a deal," Severus said holding out his hand. Tom shook it. Grasped his left wrist far too tightly once they had released and spun his hand over pushing up his sleeve and with his wand drew the Dark Mark onto his arm. The litany of Latin words drowned out by Severus's blood curdling screams as the flesh of his arm burned and blistered and turned black. Forming the dreaded mark on his arm. Tom released him and Severus staggered back.

"Contact McNeil Lucius, tell him he has his apprentice and to be here in a week to make arrangements," Tom ordered and Lucius bowed.

"Yes my lord," Lucius said and left. Tom waved his wand cleaning up the house and setting up some wards.

"I will deal with the Muggles and the Ministry. Your father's in jail I'll make sure he doesn't make it out. The wards will keep the Ministry from detecting your magic. I expect you to continue to provide me with potions. I'll come to you for now until you're of age to apparate to me. Do not let the old fool of a Headmaster find out about that mark on your arm Severusss or it will be your life and that precious little brother of yours that pay for it. You're mine Severusss. You better remember that," Tom said before he too left.

Severus fell down to the floor and cried. He knew he'd sold his soul to the Dark Lord, but he'd done it for Nik. He let himself cry and grief. Let himself feel the pain and emotions. He didn't let himself be weak for long. Pulling himself together he went to the washroom and washed his face. Letting the cool water rinse away the evidence of his pain. His loss. Collected he pushed his sleeve down over the mark of his slavery and left the house to go find Nik.


There were many members of the Order that were in tears unable to believe the choices a young man had been forced to make. How could anyone have put so much on the shoulders of a fifteen year old. The care for his ailing mother. The responsibilities of her estates. The responsibilities of raising a younger sibling. And now the financial responsibility. It was little wonder that Severus had turned to the only place he'd had any left open to him.

Albus looked at Severus with pain filled eyes and wondered what he'd done. How could he have failed so badly to have missed the one he'd lost. He had known that Severus faced difficulties in school. He'd watched the boy come into his office after fights and only now realized that what he'd written off as boyhood pranks had been much more then that. He felt as if his world had tilted. He hadn't been prepared for this. He had known some, but never this much. It burned deep inside him to see what he'd are the young man suffer in silence when he could have helped. No wonder Severus never reached out to for help. Never let them in. He'd been alone. A solitary figure since he was a child. Placed in positions that were impossible. Faced with burdens no child should face.