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Rely On Me

Chapter Text

Harry Potter’s life was sealed in love. It was so, since his mother fell to the floor at his cribside in a flash of green light. It was so, since his mother sacrificed herself for him and confounded the second-greatest wizard to ever live (second only, of course, to Albus Dumbledore). Harry had no knowledge of what happened… at least no one expected him to have an understanding of it. All they knew was that he was the Boy Who Lived. And he needed a place to stay.

Harry Potter needed a place to grow, and become a good wizard—a place that would welcome him into the world of magic, ease him into the reality of what he was intended to be.

The thing was, after a mere day’s observation of the Dursley family, who were Harry’s only living blood relatives, Minerva McGonagall made an executive decision. It was, of course, one that Severus Snape would criticize for the rest of his life (but then: No one really cared). Any life that Harry could have with the Dursleys was bound to be with conflict, fraught with anger and frustration and perhaps even a deep seated resentment or hatred. Either from Harry to them, or them to Harry, and that simply wouldn’t do in the opinion of the Headmaster’s second-in-command. The Dursleys were indeed the worst kind of Muggles. Chances were, they would never accept or understand Harry, unlike a startling number of other Muggle families (the Grangers, for example) who embraced their children even after magic began to manifest.

So Minerva McGonagall made an executive decision, and sent a patronus to Albus Dumbledore, beseeching him to find any place whatsoever different to keep Harry during his formative years.

In later years it was a strange thing to think about, for Harry and his friends, that life for Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy could have been very, very different. Had Harry Potter grown up in the Dursley house, one could assume that he might never have befriended Ron until later years of life—something that neither of them could even fathom. Hermione Granger might never have married Harry Potter: Another fantastic story, in the opinion of those involved. Draco Malfoy would never have had his own life sealed in love—something that he couldn’t understand anyways, but nonetheless still was grateful for. Severus Snape?... Well... Most people, including Minerva McGonagall and Harry Potter himself, thought that maybe, had Snape never met Harry Potter until the boy came to Hogwarts, things might not have turned out so unbelievably unfortunate. Ron Weasley and Remus Lupin were more skeptical, of course... Though, Hermione, ever the scientist, believed that while some events stayed the same in potential alternative universes, others were indeed mutable.

At any rate, Albus Dumbledore still appeared on Privet Drive, and so did Hagrid in a flying motorcycle. Dumbledore still utilized the deluminator, and met the bespectacled tabby. The note, however, was a very different one than the Headmaster of Hogwarts had first intended to send. It read as follows:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive--

Please accept into your care for an as-of-yet-indeterminate time, Harry Potter, Lily Evans’ son. He is protected here by blood relation, but will not be required to remain except on your request, and will only be kept here until such time is fitting for him to be moved to more conducive arrangements.

Albus Dumbledore Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Chapter Text

For nine days, there was no word in or out of a small cottage in the English countryside. The cottage was hidden from view of laypeople, only visible if you were actually looking for it—of which, most people weren’t, as they believed that the entire area was nothing more than a forest.

The inside of the cottage was larger than it seemed to be from the outside, but was nonetheless a snug-looking affair. It looked to be comfortable perhaps for a man and his dog, or a woman, and her kneazle. As it stood, it was home to a man and a great snowy owl.

The owl generally, up until that week, came and went as it pleased, picking up mice and squirrels and… what the little elderly lady in the farm house next to the forest could have sworn were scrolls of parchment. But no one was ever sure. The little elderly lady was awfully hard of sight.

But for nine days after the disappearance of the second-greatest wizard to walk the earth, there was no word in or out of the little cottage. Even the owl, whose name was Jacques, refused to enter the house, taking his meals of squirrel and skunk to a nearby shed.

So the lone inhabitant of the cottage was in peace. Would he rather have had people to be with him, no one knew for certain. All that anyone knew was that the new Potions master of Hogwarts had absolutely shut himself in, and no one could get to him.

He sprawled on a couch listlessly, for the last three of those nine days. His legs were too long for the couch, and his feet draped over the arm rest. His books, which were usually kept clean and in their proper places, were strewn about the floor in stacks on the ground collecting dust. His potions and brewing supplies were locked in their cabinets as usual… but his most prized possessions, his books, were discarded like old clothes about the cottage. All of the books that were open or had their spines strained as they sat face down on the floor were about Dark Magic. All of the pages whose corners had been folded as place markers had something to do with the Killing Curse. Or Horcruxes. Or death. The afterlife, even. Or really anything at all to do with the idea of bringing back people from the dead, regardless of how utterly outlandish it was.

The man on the couch was entirely motionless as he lay with his left hand touching the floor and his right arm hooked around his head to cover his eyes… Except for once or twice every hour, when he gave a great shudder and a tormented wail resounded throughout the tiny cottage before the heavy silence would fall over the entire area once more. Only once did tears escape the heavy fabric of his sleeve, on the second day.

Day or night, it was the same thing, for three days. Finally, on the ninth day, he sat up and looked around at his cottage—his home. His eyes were red, but seemed hollow and had dark rings of sleeplessness hanging about them. His hair was greasy—it always had been, but now even more so, he supposed. His features were reduced, and his complexion sallow…. He picked up one of the books, looked at a page with a folded corner, and then gave an enraged howl before throwing the book towards the far wall—instead of hitting the wall, the book struck and broke a window as it flopped over into the bushes outside. The man buried his face in his hands and gave another shudder… and tears were streaming down his face again as he looked up and pulled out his wand, angrily hissing at the window, reparo!

He stood up, his cloak that had been draped over the couch in disarray following his shoulders in silky ease—like ink rising up a quill.

He went to the washroom, and filled a porcelain basin with water from the flowing well in the wall. He rinsed the salt away and tried to freshen up what little he could at that moment—he didn’t bother looking in the mirror—he knew what he would see: A broken man. He didn’t want to see that.

Upon stepping outside, he found the day to be perfect. It was strangely warm, and sunny, absolutely perfect in every way other than the fact that he would never truly live again.

He found a series of scrolls—likely an accumulation of three or four a day—piled up outside of his door.

He picked one up; it looked to be the earliest one, since it was on the bottom, and had been snowed on, and he unrolled it as he returned inside. It was in Dumbledore’s handwriting.

Severus,

As you know, Lord Voldemort has fallen. Harry Potter, the son of James and Lily Potter is desperately in need of permanent lodgings. He is currently staying with Petunia and her family of Muggles at Number 4 Privet Drive, Surrey. While this blood barrier is strong, as a connoisseur of Dark Magic you are surely aware of the stresses exerted on the blood ties, given Petunia’s…persuasion and history. Harry is in need of lodgings that can provide him with a permanent protection until he comes of age, and, while most can lay a part of a claim to him for no other reason than that he is the Boy Who Lived, Severus, I am aware that you are at present—

Severus didn’t read any more of the letter, simply tossed the half-dried scroll into his fireplace.

He barely looked over the other envoys. Dumbledore, Dumbledore… McGonagall, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Dumbledore... And so on. The only one that caught his eye, that he did read most of the way through, was a rather distressing one from McGonagall… but nonetheless. All thirty four scrolls went into the fireplace. The last three letters he received from McGonagall were Howlers, all of which he quickly defused to keep them from quite literally exploding in his face, before tossing them into the fireplace along with the others, where they continued to smoulder angrily at being ignored. Dumbledore, he was pleased to say, did not send him a Howler.

As much as he was loathe to admit it, had Dumbledore sent a Howler, he would have likely opened it, because he respected Dumbledore, and not just because Dumbledore always put a tamper-proofing charm on his Howlers that McGonagall hadn't quite figured out yet... Until then, he could ignore McGonagall's Howlers.

He promptly lit his fireplace with a simple spell, watching for a moment as all the scrolls and the three Howlers from McGonagall burned to ash, and then flopped back over onto the couch, his face to the back and his dark eyes once again concealed by his arm.

Then there was a great pop—one that was unmistakable. Floo powder.

“Go away,” he snarled into the back of the couch as the great grey wizard stepped out of the fireplace. “I don’t want to speak to you!” If he hadn’t had been so angry, his voice would have cracked with emotion. It still did as it was.

The wizard from the fireplace simply shook his head. “I knew that you had a habit of burning your mail when it is from someone you do not wish to speak to, but I did not expect the habit to be so overreaching...”

Snape shot up from the couch, now in a duelling stance and unwisely pointing his wand at Dumbledore, the greatest Wizard to walk the earth.

“I said, go away,” He growled, his face betraying him as tears slid down his cheeks and desperation sounded in his voice.

“Severus,” Dumbledore said, his voice as calming as it ever was.

“Cannot a man even grieve in the peace of his own home without people flooing in and out as if it's platform nine-and-three-quarters?!”

Dumbledore said nothing, just looked at him sadly, with those clear blue eyes…

Snape paused for a few moments… then deflated, his wand arm falling to his side as he nearly collapsed to sit on the couch again.

Dumbledore walked to stand before him. “He needs you Severus,” he said simply. “You’re the only one I know.”

Severus gave a bitter laugh. “Because Sirius is in Azkaban, and Pettigrew is dead… I have to be the last on your list—whatever happened to Lupin? What about him?”

Dumbledore shook his head. “There was a brotherly affection, but also a reservation, even on Lupin’s part. Nothing so strong… nothing strong enough. You know it to be true. Don’t deny it.”

“But the boy doesn’t need protection now; the Dark Lord is gone.”

“The Dark Lord will return. When he does... What happens to the boy?”

Severus looked down. “Surely there must be another… another way.”

Dumbledore tipped his head, and his great hat followed suit. “Why, certainly there is… if you would like Harry to be raised by Lily’s sister. We can simply say that there was a misunderstanding.”

Snape sighed lightly. Then quietly: “Was it true? What McGonagall said? That they would trample her memory?”

Dumbledore looked at him unblinkingly, as if to say, 'have you ever known Minerva’s instincts to be wrong?'

The younger man didn’t move for a few more moments. “I don’t want to, Dumbledore. It was my fault as it was… that child is paying for my mistake… what kind of life can that possibly be?...”

“You’re the only one who can.”

Their bodies are barely cold and you want to hand their child over to some stranger,” Snape hissed in a quiet fury.

Dumbledore said nothing.

Well?

“Severus, you are the last person who would be a stranger to the Potters. You might have even been his blood—” his voice fell away.

You meant to finish with ‘If you hadn’t called her a Mudblood’, Snape thought, and a fresh round of tears traced down his cheeks. It was all James’s fault. That’s probably what he wanted anyways.

Dumbledore’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts. “You can make your decision… preferably sooner than later, but I won’t rush you. I don’t want you to decide hastily. If nothing else, just go and observe the Dursleys, and how they react to him… then make your decision. I know very well that you are a man who will let logic and sensibility guide your decision. Send me an owl once you do. I’d need at least a day’s advance to warn the Dursleys if you did want to…. Well. Good day.”

With that, Dumbledore turned and tossed Floo powder into the fireplace. “Hog’s Head, Hogsmeade!”

With a flash of green light, Dumbledore was gone, leaving Snape alone in the middle of the room.

Severus stood there for a few more moments, his dark eyes narrowed into chips of obsidian. The last time he had seen a flash of green light…. He sighed.

It won’t… it won’t hurt to look, just to see it, his rational side argued. And still his mind complained and his body didn’t will it to be so.

Snape looked around at the books… he would take care of them later. He looked down at his robes…. Right now, he needed to draw a bath—if nothing but to relax.

He rubbed his eyes—he hadn’t slept in ten days. The second he had reached home after That Night, he pulled out all of the elixirs for strength and endurance that he had stored away, blended them in proper doses, and used most of them up for his vigil, all in one sitting. It was a practice that he had dubbed a 'Wake', but this was the first one he had done in years... easily since his NEWTs. For the first six days, he was researching any way of at least contacting Lily again, maybe bringing her back, but at least just to see her again… He had been sustained on nothing but the Wake potion for nine days… of course, it was now coming back down on him a thousand-fold for having used so much in so little time. He would liken it to an incident when he was sixteen and still living with his family, when he had dabbled in Muggle wares to keep himself awake (for reasons only he knew), and was promptly sent, not to St. Mungo’s but a Muggle health institution as he suffered from an overdose on what they called ‘amphetamines’…. This was certainly more mild than that; Muggles were insane if they made their strength potions so deadly… but nonetheless he felt the effects compound as the potion wore off—Drowsiness, hunger, thirst, a throbbing ache in every nook and cranny of his body… a misery that weighed on his chest and magnified his grief—the whole works.

So a hot bath certainly and then maybe some potion for dreamless sleep…

The washroom itself was attached to his bedroom, and it was lower into the foundation than the rest of the house—there was a small incline from his bedroom down into it—he thought that it quite gave the house a rustic feel, having much of it a part of the natural features of the plot of land…

He drew a bath in the tub that was carved into the stone that the house was built upon. The well had three mouths, two near each other, so one opening became a sink and the other became the bath. A natural plumbing was carved into the stone as well—he had practically built this house for himself, so he would know. The water was warmed by magic on command, and the well never really stopped flowing. It was convenient, and one of the things he found to support his simple life.

He walked to his bedroom, grabbed sleeping clothes. They were a dark grey—not much of a difference from his black robes that he wore all the time… but what did you expect, blue patterned pyjamas, or something? He certainly didn't sleep naked.

He sat on a bench next to the tub (the tub was really more of a depression in the stone, but still) and took his boots off… it felt like forever since he had. His feet were sore and protesting against him as he rested them on the cold stone. He carefully shed his cape, which fell from his shoulders into a pool of fabric like a puddle of ink, then the remainder of his clothes before sitting on the stone and easing into the almost-hot water.

It was glorious. Severus couldn’t help but sigh in contentment as he laid there, the water almost up to his chin, and simply let the water warm him. He moved his arms through the water, trying to work out the stiffness that came with taking too much Wake potion in one sitting, and from lying listless on a couch for three consecutive days.

He moved to a kneeling position, and allowed the water to fall onto his head and shoulders. He tipped his head up, holding his mouth open so he could drink. The water was clean and hot and almost-sweet… and his thirst was so intense… he couldn’t imagine how Muggles survived without things like this. The simple pleasures in life—drinking from one’s own well.

He continued to kneel there for a little while longer, just to allow his shoulders to relax, and the water to cleanse him. He wasn’t unfamiliar with the practice of soaps, however it was a consequence of the artesian well that he never decided to use legitimate soap— at least not the Muggle kind. For the most part, Severus simply used hot water and some natural soaps that could be distilled from berries and were safe for the well, that wouldn’t damage it with harsh chemicals.

Indirectly a consequence of this—the soaps that he did use were not quite so efficient at cleansing hair. Thus, an unfortunate casualty—his hair never felt quite clean. But it didn’t matter much to him. His hair was always—and always had been—greasy, regardless of what he did to prevent it from being so.

Snape stood from his bath some forty minutes of relaxation later, and the water automatically drained itself as the well returned to running cold…

He dressed himself in his sleeping garments, and used his wand to instruct his day clothing into a more acceptable state after a small bit of conniving and magic before walking back into his bedroom.

Severus draped his clothing neatly over a chair before going to a small cabinet and taking a sip of Potion of Dreamless Sleep. It was, of course, likely only four or five in the afternoon, but at this point he didn’t care. He put the potion back, then near-collapsed into his bed, exhaustion finally overtaking him.

Chapter Text

Severus must not have taken quite enough of the potion, because he woke up the next day at 7:03 AM feeling like he’d just been crucioed, several times over.

He rolled out of bed, groaning as he did so. All of his muscles screamed violently at him in protest, and in his temples a splitting headache pounded away at the last vestiges of today's happiness. Hunger gnawed at him like an animal, and he was still thirsty.

He groaned again as he stood up straight. This was his punishment for abusing himself so, and taking pick-me-ups to get him through it. As if staying awake for ten days straight after his lone childhood friend had died wasn’t punishment enough already....

He quickly got dressed and went to the kitchen so that he could get food, ignoring the aches and cramps that tried to prevent him from doing so... It didn't matter much to him—it probably should have mattered more, but it didn't.

He had experienced pain before, at the hands of his father, the Marauders, Voldemort, the other Death Eaters, and (on occasion when he was young and careless and very foolish) at his own hand, even, when he was testing spells and accidentally Sectumsempraed his own arm, or... or something of the sort. Snape suddenly and inexplicably appearing at Madam Pomfrey's with grievous, inexplicable, only-partially-healed wounds in his arms or legs was an occurrence that happened at least seven times after young Snape's OWLs (usually after holidays, when Snape returned home), but after the third incident Dumbledore showed considerable concern for Severus's safety during the latter's school days.

He'd even been crucioed by Lord Voldemort and by his fellow Death eaters on more than one occasion—it wasn't a terribly common occurrence, because he was considered a very good Death Eater, even more than the older Lucius Malfoy.... but it was something that happened often enough that he trained himself never to scream. Although, he suspected that he had already learned that, courtesy of his drunken, violent Muggle of a father.

Hence, Severus Snape was no stranger to pain. In fact, as he would often think later, Suffering was a very old friend of his, and Misery was a cruel mistress who wrapped sensual arms around him in a comfortless embrace.

Severus had managed to put together a solid breakfast (technically several— he could duplicate it as needed) to sate his deep-seated hunger. He ate at almost the same speed and almost continuously for an hour before he began to feel like a human being again.

Thanks to the magical penalties that came along with the Wake potion, the food was almost instantly metabolised and began restoring him to a healthy appearance. Well. Healthy for him, anyways. He was still as sallow as he ever was, but he wasn't so thin or weak-looking, and his cheeks had somewhat filled out again. In addition, he felt as if he could actually do something, instead of lying listless all day. Not that it wouldn't still be difficult to get up the drive to do something today, because the mental aspect of the potions' magical penalty was still weighing heavy on him—a deep-seated sadness that seemed to drag at every move that he made... although it was hard to tell at this point what was definitely just side-effects, and what was just him being... him. Severus Snape, with all the usual issues.

Damned potion withdrawals, his mind grumbled at him as he finished the food and began cleaning up. Then the rational side of him spoke up. You asked for it, taking all of it at the same time.

He cleared away his dishes with the use of copious amounts of spells, because he was feeling too lazy to do the dishes any other way and he had no house-elf to speak of. He didn't trust the little devils, and he really didn't like them all that much as beings who could see his every action, even if they were sworn to secrecy. The best way to keep a secret was to keep it to yourself.

Severus went about his cottage, tidying up for some time. He didn't use spells to tidy up his books—he had done this damage to his precious books by his own destructive self, and for that it was only fitting that he do it himself. Besides, it was therapeutic to pick up the books, to look at them, look at the spells on the pages.... then to close them again, and accept the past. He picked up every book gently, using carefully whispered reparo spells to make certain that the bindings and pages were not damaged in his fits of rage and grief that has rocked the cottage in the past ten days. He distinctly remembered at some nebulous point in the past that there were bright flashes of Dark Magic and unpractised necromancy proceeding from his own wand. It was quite an interesting last ten days. Luckily the books seemed unharmed—no pages had been ripped out, the bindings were intact, the spines were a little beaten, but that was to be expected. The one book that he had sent flying through the window yesterday was an ancient study into the nature of Horcruxes.... he retrieved it from the bushes and carefully brushed away any debris that had fallen onto the leather cover before putting it away.

The cottage was finally clean again. The books were back in their places and the dust was gone. Now what to do?....He hastily scribbled a message to Dumbledore, and went outside to find a beautiful fall day—considerably cooler than yesterday... bad winter this year. By now, it looked to be about noon. He trilled a few notes (two short low notes and a long high one) in the still silence. Jacques the great snowy owl immediately came back to rest on his arm.

Quite frankly, there were other, worse dangers to Snape's forearms than stray Sectumsempra spells these days, and Snape was glad that he had trained Jacques to only grasp his arm as tightly as was needed to stay upright; otherwise he might have needed to become a licensed healer, just to negate the damage his pet owl would do to him on a daily basis.

“Jacques,” he said, and punctuated it with another note, of medium duration and tone. The owl worried one of his wing feathers in only mild interest. Snape gave the message to his owl, and then whistled another several notes: two short high notes, and two short low notes, and then one long and medium. The owl leaned over, and tipped his head at the wizard as if he understood perfectly well, then took off towards Hogwarts.

Snape paused to think about what he had just sent to Dumbledore.

Albus,

I have not decided yet. I will observe the Dursleys today, and make my decision by no later than noon in two days' time. I was under the influence of vigil potions when I last saw you, and I beg patience and your forgiveness for my foolish brashness.

Severus

He'd probably gotten himself into more trouble than it was worth, but no matter.

Meanwhile, the little elderly lady who lived in the farmhouse next to the forest yelled at her son-in-law to come and see the owl with a scroll of parchment tied to its foot...

Snape stood there for some time, partly regretting his decision. Then he decided that he better make good on his word and go to.... what was it Dumbledore had said, Number 4 Privet Drive, Surrey.

The first matter of business was an invisibility cloak—not a particularly fantastic one, just enough to do the job, and one that he had with him at easy access down in his cellar. Or course, he usually didn't bother—sneaking around beneath a cloak of invisibility always seemed a bit low to him. If he was going to sneak around, he was going to do it without cheating.

Now the second order of business was obviously going to be a firewhisky. He quickly disapparated from his house to Hogsmeade, and dropped into Hog's Head for the glass of spirits. Or two.

He strolled out of Hog's Head with a pleasant, comforting numbness blanketing his thoughts and a familiar confidence in his chest after planting two galleons down on the table.

Without another word, he disapparated to Privet drive. He couldn't, of course, disapparate into the house or anything of the sort—the blood wards refused that. He could, however, disapparate to the doorstep, if his intentions were not malicious, that much he knew about a blood ward.

He wasn't able to watch much.... what he could see was that Petunia for one was still just as much of a hag as she could be without actually being inhuman. She was still prying from the safety of her curtains, still with those beady eyes and wretched form—even more decrepit than himself.

Severus also spied a child in the middle of the living room floor, half obstructed by Petunia but the Dursleys' boy, obviously. James was not that bulky, Severus would have assumed, at any point in the wizard's all-too-short life, and those blank, dull eyes were not reminiscent of Lily's at all. For that was what Dumbledore had said, that Harry looked much like his father, but had his mother's brilliant eyes. For that matter, this child was a straw-haired, toe-headed blonde, almost like a Malfoy, and it seemed highly unlikely that James had so much as the capability to create a child with either of those characteristics.

Still, Severus stood there, watching Petunia watch the overly-mundane Muggle neighbours until she left the window, and strolled outside with the child and a purse in tow, for what reason he neither knew, nor cared at all. He was easily able to sneak inside given that she had absolutely no idea whatsoever what was going on. From there, he decided to inspect the house, to see if it might be a good fit for a future wizard.

It was about as Muggle as one could possibly get—in a way it reminded him of his own childhood home, where magic was unfortunately suppressed, he noted with a jolt of painful memories. In fact, it was unbelievably Muggle-ish. He figured it was for the best—best if Harry not be particularly acquainted with the world that caused the deaths of his parents.

Despite the fact that he was invisible, he still took the utmost care not to disturb anything, nary even to disturb the dust. Even while visible, Snape was only ever a shadow, gliding from place to place silently like a great big blot of ink that managed to move on its own accord. He ultimately found himself exploring much of the house.

However, and this was not because of the glasses of firewhisky he had chosen to drink before he came here, he found evidence of only one child living with the Dursleys, and that was obviously one by the name of 'Dudley', by the embroidery on a bib he found hanging in the kitchen.

Even among Muggles, who the hell would even have embroidered bibs?

Dumbledore did send the boy to the right place; he didn't misread any of the street signs or anything, correct? Severus mused to himself worriedly as he still found no sign of another child. What happened to Harry?? He scoured the house again.... another troubling feature of this house was that, if Harry was here, he was not taken along when the family left the house.... a troubling state of affairs to leave a toddler alone in an otherwise empty house. The other boy was taken, but Harry most definitely was not. Well, Dumbledore had said that he had left Harry in Petunia's care, and that bony, nosy little hag peering through the window was as close to the Petunia Evans he knew as a woman could possibly be.

Snape stood for a very long time standing in the middle of the living room, just trying to figure out where a toddler could have vanished off to in a Muggle's house.... he would have said at least four minutes.

Then a sound—if he hadn't paid attention, he would have absolutely missed it, even in the otherwise silent house. It was just a scratch, coming from the direction of the.... the kitchen, and the stairs combined. He whirled around, for the first time his invisibility cloak genuinely shifting around him to reveal only the bottoms of his boots.

Then the sound changed to something unmistakeable. Crying—and not just any crying; a very poignant crying from an unhappy child. But where?

Snape rounded on the cupboard beneath the stairs.

Barbaric, worthless, mud-blooded... He threw caution to the wind and pulled the invisibility cloak off as he ran to the cupboard, and threw the door open.

Bastards.

Harry was there, left in the cupboard. The child was crying, his face red and clearly disapproving of being left behind. Or potentially because of soiled nappies, Severus thought to himself as he wrinkled his nose.

Severus looked at Harry, and Harry looked up at him, for a moment his tears ceased... then promptly resumed. Dumbledore was right; Harry did have his mother's eyes.

Snape looked back around—there was no telling how much longer the Dursleys would be away for, and he couldn't simply let the son of Lily and James Potter wallow in filth. It simply wouldn't do. Regardless of how much he didn't want to do it, how much he would have sworn not a day ago not to get involved.... It just didn't seem right.

Severus scooped up the little one from the crib wedged into the cupboard, and took him upstairs to where he had seen a convenient place and supplies as well.

....

For all of his knowledge about Potions, Charms, Spells, and even Healing.... Severus Snape would have most certainly achieved a T in anything regarding parental matters. Not a D, but a T, most certainly, for 'Troll'.

By the time he had set Harry back down in the crib to rest again, his headache that had existed even before he had come was absolutely unbearable. On the more positive side, it seemed that Harry at least had taken a liking to him, even though Severus had to place him back in the cupboard, as he had found the child. It would be better if no one knew.

As Severus replaced the invisibility cloak over his head, a deep-seated rage was beginning to simmer inside of him. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the son of Lily and James Potter, was kept in a crib, penned in a cupboard. It was disgraceful to all wizard kind, and most chiefly disgraceful to Dumbledore, who had thought for even a moment that the likes of Petunia Evans and an unseen Vernon Dursley would ever sufficiently care for the boy that represented everything remaining of a shattered world... A dead era.

He went back to the cupboard to check on Harry every few minutes (every minute, the clock on the wall told him) and every time he did, Harry just looked up at him and cooed.

When Petunia and Dudley finally returned to the house, Snape was huddled in the corner of the living room, content now to sit instead of stand between his checks on Harry's wellbeing... Petunia went upstairs with Dudley, and didn't come down for another... almost forty minutes.... which was altogether too long to leave a baby out of sight and unattended, when you are in the house.

When she did come down, she turned on the Telly and began to make dinner. Harry seemed to be all but forgotten.

When Vernon Dursley returned from his workplace, Snape almost instantly decided that he liked Vernon even less than he did Petunia, and that was saying something, given that he had known Petunia all his life.

The rest of the night was passed in general peace. Harry was taken out of the cupboard for the meal, and to change another soiled nappy, but other than that it was if the Boy Who Lived didn't even exist to them.

The Dursleys retired Dudley at about seven-thirty in the evening, and went to bed themselves at about nine thirty. Harry, meanwhile, was still in the cupboard.

Severus waited until snoring indicated that they were asleep (he assumed about eleven, but it was hard to tell since he could no longer see the clock), and snuck out of the house. A high-pitched, screeching wail sounded from the upstairs as he closed the door.... he could only assume that was Dudley, throwing a fit.

He took a long walk down Privet Drive and down the road itself to have some time to think about what he had seen, then disapparated back to his cottage, where he found Jacques waiting for him with a letter from Dumbledore.

Thank you for at least considering the matter, Severus. It means a great deal to me, and I am certain that it would mean a great deal to Lily and James. All is forgiven from last night, I assure you... Though, I would beg that you refrain from any over-indulgent usage of your Wake potion, as you call it, for its effects on you are most unseemly.

Albus

The slightest suggestion of a smile passed over Snape's face before he remembered that he was extremely upset with Dumbledore, as well as with the Dursleys, and he decided to write another message to Dumbledore right then and there. Even Jacques seemed to know that something was definitely up, and instead of going for hunting, as he usually did, he watched as his owner took up paper and quill and wrote.

Headmaster Dumbledore,

I have made my decision, and I would like to care for the young Harry Potter, until such time arrives for him to leave my care as he comes of age, or until he no longer sees my provisions for him as sufficient and ceases to call my home, his home.

Severus Snape
Future Potions Master, Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry;

Caretaker of the Boy Who Lived

His hand protested every word he wrote, but his mind drove him forward. The moment he finished writing the last word of his letter, the dark ink flashed a luminous gold for a split-second before becoming dark again.

He tied the note to Jacques' leg as he whistled a note of medium tone and duration.... then paused, and before sending his owl off again, pulled out another, much smaller slip of paper and wrote another letter. He quickly trilled the notes in succession as he tapped the talon with the note to Dumbledore— two short high notes, and two short low notes, and then one long and medium. The talon that carried the other letter was tapped as Snape whistled a short low note, a short high note, then another short low note. The owl seemed to nod again, then set off in the direction of Hogwarts

What was in that letter?

Well, no one was precisely certain, but for many years after that, a tiny slip of paper was displayed proudly behind glass in Professor McGonagall's office, and even followed her when she eventually became Headmistress. The paper was not addressed, nor did it have any names on it at all, and the three words that were on it were in a nearly-illegible and thoroughly angry scrawl. Still, Professor McGonagall refused to take it down from her constant sight.

Damn your intuition.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“You worthless, idiotic boy! Get back here! You are not going to that... that freak show, and that is final!”

“No! I’m going, I don’t care! I don’t care! I want to be a wizard, and I’ll be a better man than you ever were!”

Ripping pages. A brand-new wand that a small boy had bought with his own money, snapped clean in two. 

“You’re not going to go off chasing pixies like your mother!”

“Stop, stop!”

“You damned, motherless brat; let me tell you what I really think about you!”

Heavy blows.

...

“Hey, are you alright, Lily?”

“I don't want to talk to you right now.”

“Wha-Why not? What's the matter?”

“Tuney hates me.... Oh Severus, you shouldn't have looked at that letter from Dumbledore!”

“...”

“She's my sister, Sev, and I know you don't like your own family much, but I care about her a lot!”

“...Come on, cheer up, Lily; she'll get over it eventually, and besides, we're finally going! We're going to Hogwarts!”

The little red-haired girl smiled at the mention of school, and made room for him on the seat.

“I wonder if we'll be in Slytherin. Mum says that they're the best House to be in.”

A messy-haired boy with glasses sitting opposite them gave a guffaw of laughter. “Who wants to be a slimy Slytherin ? God, I think I'd leave .” He nudged the boy lounging next to him. “Wouldn't you, Sirius?”

“I dunno, James. My whole family was in Slytherin.”

“Blimey, mate. And here I thought you were all-right,” the boy James said as he playfully slapped his friend on the shoulder.

“Well, I dunno. Maybe I won't be a Slytherin,” Sirius mused. “What about you?” 

“Gryffindor's the only place for me, just like my dad. It's where the brave-in-heart go.”

Severus gave an indignant snort and James rounded on him.

“You got a problem with that, Sev ?” 

“Of course not,” the younger boy sneered. “It's none of my concern if you'd rather be brawny than brainy—”

“Hey, Snivellus, where do you think you're going to get sorted, seeing as how you're neither of those!”

James roared with laughter, but Severus' cheeks flushed a bright pink.

Lily glared at both James and Sirius as she stood. “Come on, Severus. Let's find another compartment.”

...

He was overly bookish, studious, and astoundingly clever, and, as he later discovered, he would have been a fantastic Ravenclaw.

He would have been a brilliant Ravenclaw.

The Sorting Hat, in retrospect, was a vile little creature who decided to put him into Slytherin, on the grounds that he was ambitious enough to want to outdo his father in life, and therefore deserved a chance to have that happen. Stupid hat.

So perhaps he belonged in Slytherin... But he didn’t belong there. Not insofar as his blood was impure. Lucius Malfoy, one of the eldest Slytherins when Severus came to Hogwarts, made that quite clear to him... Mind you, Lucius was pleasant enough—it was a strange of passive-aggressiveness that tipped Severus off that the only way for him to atone for his crime of being born to a witch and a Muggle was to fall in with the crowd... The so-called Young Death Eaters, in Slytherin. 

He didn’t agree with them... He never agreed with them, but it was nice to belong to a group of people who were just as influential as James Potter, but were on Severus’s side.... All the same, he hated thinking of any people as inferior; his father did that all the time, and Severus’s greatest wish was to be a better man than his father was... It was acceptance, and a defence against Potter and the Marauders was a thing that Severus was always keen on.

Still, he was bookish, and ugly, and he could never say what he wanted to the way that he wanted to.... Which left him with Lily, who seemed to appreciate him for his mind and heart. He loved her, for her mind, her heart, her eyes, and smile... And so very much more. He would have wanted her to see that... But he didn’t know how. All he knew for certain was that he wanted to see Lily smile. He wanted to see her smile, at him and with him... He wanted her to be happy. There wasn’t anything in the world he wanted more.

She found what made her happy elsewhere.

 That, of course, crushed him.

...

“Madam Pomfrey! Come immediately, please!”

“Is he dead, Dumbledore? He can’t be dead, he just can’t; it’d be my fault!”

“Shh, shh, Lily, don’t worry, Madam Pomfrey is the best healer we have.”

“What’s the ruckus—oh my goodness... Careful now, lay him here, Dumbledore... What happened to this boy?”

“Lily?”

“I... I found him. I found him by the lake. He was singing... At least it sounded like he was singing... Then he flicked his wand... He said a spell... Oh, Madam Pomfrey, there was so much blood!”

“And that’s what did it to him?”

“I think... I think...”

“Calm down, dear. Calm down... Dumbledore, if you could hold this compress—careful, there is a lot of blood.... Dear, we can’t help him unless we know what happened. Now... You said that he spoke a spell—do you know what it was?”

“No, it wasn’t familiar to me... And I daren’t speak it aloud—just look at him!”

“You can speak it; it will be safe as long as you aren’t pointing your wand at someone.”

“He said... He said... Sectumsempra . Is that a normal spell? I’ve never even heard it before.”

“Dumbledore—stop—you’ve got to hold the compress more firmly than that if it’s going to work.”

“Indeed, Madam Pomfrey.... Lily, perhaps I should speak with you in private. Madame Pomfrey, can you address this without further assistance?”

“Well, he is in bad shape.... But I think I have an idea how to deal with this. I don’t think I’ll need your help anymore, and besides that it would be better if there was peace in the infirmary anyways.”

“Come Lily... We have a lot to talk about...”

...

“Severus Snape. Come in. Thank you for coming here on such short notice. I assure you, I have sent word to Professor McGonagall. She has agreed to null your detention, for this little chat of ours.”

“Er... Thank you? If I may ask, sir, what is this all about?”

“Sit down, Severus.”

“Oh... Yes, sir.”

“... Madam Pomfrey tells me that you’re in her care quite often these days.”

“... Yes, sir. I... I keep having... accidents... Studying various practical applications of Magical Theory..”

“Accidents. Yes, of course..... Tell me, Severus, how familiar are you with Augustus Rathworth’s Treatise on Magical Theory ? He was one of the earliest authorities on Magical Theory and its relationship to Muggles and Wizards, before he was admitted for instability after his application of that facet of Magic Theory on Dark Magic.”

“I... I have read it, sir.”

“Then I am certain that you are aware— Treatise on Magical Theory is in the ‘Restricted’ section of the library?”

“Yes, sir.... I... I convinced Professor Slughorn to allow me to check out the book three years ago. I said I needed it for Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

“Mmn... Yes. Horace was always generous with knowledge to his select few... Not that generosity of information is a bad thing, you see... But how that knowledge is used is an important matter.... An important matter indeed...  Severus. If you have read the book, and I am quite certain you understand it... Do you know why it is in the Restricted section?”

“It details how spells are written.”

“...”

“Er... Um... How spells are.... discovered , I suppose.”

“That’s the Severus I know... Continue. What do you know about the discovery of spells, from the Treatise ?”

“That... That all spells that can exist already do exist, but that the problem is writing the proper invocation in order to tap into the effect, and connecting the words with the action. Usually they’re in Latin. And it’s the same with potions—the objects tap into a base of magic, and in proper quantities and preparation, they can be used to manipulate the base into effecting desired actions.”

“His conclusion?”

“That it explains why you can’t simply write spells whenever you want to, and why potions have to be prepared perfectly or they won’t work; he proposed that magic is closer to a kind of energy—just a kind that Muggles haven’t found a way to harness yet. He says that they will, eventually, but until then, it’s exclusive to wizards and witches.”

“Do you hold to this explanation of Magic Theory, Severus?”

“...Er... Well... With all due respect, a lot of his conclusions about Muggles seemed like rubbish, sir.”

“But the remainder of the Treatise ?”

“The remainder of it made sense, even for something written so early. Magic always has seemed like a specialized science, I suppose. Potions and Transfiguration, especially, but even Charms. The way he explained blood purity made sense. But the spells... I’d never thought of it that way.”

“Severus... Do you think that you would like to write a spell or create a potion at all?”

“Er... Um.... Yes, sir. I would. I do believe the forefront of discovery would suit me well.”

“And if you created a spell, what would it be a spell to do?”

“...”

“Severus. I’m sure you know by now that I know why you’ve been visiting Madame Pomfrey almost every weekend. Grievous injuries, she tells me.”

“...”

“She doesn’t know how you get them—she would have thought you had been fighting with Fluffy. ‘Practical Applications of Magical Theory’ indeed ... Tell me, have you developed an effective countercurse in the summer holiday since then?”

“...”

“Severus. I know about Sectumsempra . In fact, I know about the whole lot of it. Corpus leviosa, Muffliato—I am certain all students wish they would have had that sooner. I assure you, you are not in trouble for your innovations. I only want to know if you have a countercurse for the dangerous one, or not.”

“I think I’ve made a countercurse, sir... I keep trying, but it only works most of the time.”

“Is that the truth?”

“....No, sir..... I developed Vulnera Sanentur first. It works on almost all wounds, if done properly...”

“Severus, Madam Pomfrey believes the absolute worst of your state right now. She told me yesterday after you departed the infirmary that she is but one incident away from having you forcefully admitted to St. Mungo’s on the grounds that you are too unstable to be allowed to roam free—that you are a danger to yourself and this school in your experiments with Dark Magic. Quite frankly, I understand precisely why she is considering it. So tell me, if you developed the countercurse first, why do you not use it?”

“Sometimes I use it... Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m too distracted, and I don’t do it properly. So I go to Madam Pomfrey’s... I only go to her if I think that I’m in actual danger. If I can’t stop the bleeding quickly enough...”

“Severus, you cannot do things like that. Regardless of the fact that you are engaging in destructive behaviour in your use of Dark Magic—an entirely dangerous practice and one that I would beseech you to refrain from, with the utmost urgency—you are worrying Madam Pomfrey, as well as the rest of us, terribly. Even Professor McGonagall excused you from detention to have this issue resolved.”

“...Sometimes my arms hurt less than the rest of me,” the boy mumbled. “Headmaster.... Am I to be expelled and admitted to St. Mungo’s for this?”

“.... Severus, I am not going to expel you, or punish you in any way, because I see no value in it, and no need for it... From what Madam Pomfrey has told me about the, to say the least, extensive scarring, you have done a superb job of punishing yourself. One does not administer lashes and beatings to a sick man, simply for the reason that he has become ill...”

“But then... You do think that I’m ill , don’t you? Ill enough to send me off to St. Mungo’s, right?”

“No, Dear boy, no.... Severus, the only circumstances by which I would forcibly admit you to St. Mungo’s is if I thought that you truly had no control over your own behaviour, or you posed a threat to your own life or the safety of other students here. If you desire to go to St. Mungo’s for help, then I would be willing to help you be admitted... But if you do not wish for that, I will not force you to leave Hogwarts... I can tell that you would prefer for this to be resolved here, rather than at an institution.... For now, all I would like to have from you is an explanation of why you’re doing this.”

“... It’s personal, sir.”

“It is also important, Severus.”

“I... It’s not something I really want to talk about... At least not right now.”

“I can understand a desire for privacy, however, this is quite getting out of hand, you understand.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you certain that there is nothing you have to say? Even in the highest standards of my confidence?”

“I.... Er... No, sir.”

“... Very well. If you cannot control the urges you have... At least speak to Madame Pomfrey. Simply by virtue of the situation at hand I would guess that we will be having more of these talks... though I sincerely hope not.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, Headmaster. Am I... Am I dismissed?”

“Yes, Severus. You may go.”

Chapter Text

A prisoner’s preparation for Wizengamot was likely the most inhumane practice of all practices known to witches and wizards. Even the Muggles’ burning of witches was easily negated; Muggles couldn’t, prevailingly, seriously harm wizards... at least, not trained wizards.... But, and it was for this reason that Dumbledore and the entire Weasley family worked against Mudblood Laws, wizards could harm Muggles. And wizards could harm wizards. And if the wizards are in a position of power—even worse, a position of justice, the Ministry of Magic, for example.... Well then. In Severus Snape’s mind, you had better strap in and brace yourself, because you're going for a ride.

He was called to Wizengamot along with all of the other alleged Death Eaters. Most of them had been ones that Snape had given up to the Order, and then the Order promptly informed the Ministry... But of course, alleged was one of those little nuances of words that the Ministry of Magic didn’t trust. Not when it came to Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix. The Ministry of Magic seemed to regard the Order of the Phoenix as only a little better than Voldemort himself. Of course, Snape knew that the Order was better—and that was coming from the other angle of things. At least Order members weren’t branded.

At any rate: Wizengamot.

Snape’s own cross-examination lasted a long and arduous month. One long month of being chained to the floor, stripped of his wand, most of his clothing, and (because he was like Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Lord Voldemort, capable of performing many wandless spells other than accio) blindfolded as well. He’d never felt so vulnerable in his life, of course... In all honesty it was about as powerless as you could make a wizard to be, without causing irreparable damage to them or their souls. Luckily, it was Arthur Weasley who did most of the interrogations. He asked questions, but he wasn’t terribly prying about things that weren’t really related to Snape’s involvement with Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He also sat in a chair in front of the chained man—he refrained from circling around him like a shark. Snape, in turn, agreed that, for a technical blood-traitor, Arthur Weasley was an alright bloke.

The Ministry of Magic might, however, have been playing good auror-bad auror with him. Toying with him. Because the second Arthur Weasley left the room, the dementors came back in.

Quite frankly, Severus Snape, with all the usual issues, had enough of a store of horrible memories from his childhood and time with the Death Eaters that it often seemed like he had a personal dementor following him around, regardless of who (or... Or what) happened to be in the room with him... The only bright star that was with him always was Lily, and she’d broken his heart, ran off with another man, and then died at the wandpoint of Voldemort. So naturally, the Dementors let him have that one. Damned dementors.

Of course, in retrospect, the dementors probably thought similarly of him. He wasn’t an awfully plentiful food source for them. Likely due to this (that their assignment to him was practically starvation for them as it was), they tried to administer the Dementor’s Kiss at least thrice during that month. The first two attempts were thwarted by Arthur Weasley, and the last was put to a stop by a put-off Dumbledore. (Quite frankly, Snape never wanted to be on the receiving end of that reaction from Hogwarts’ Headmaster, ever.)

Severus would always say that it was somewhere around this time that his patronus changed to a doe. Thoughts of Lily maintained his resolve and kept his mind from being a Dementor’s playground... He was still utterly miserable, but at least he was sane.

Thankfully, after Arthur Weasley’s cross examination and several compelling testimonies on Severus’s behalf by Dumbledore and others, the former Death Eater was declared a free wizard. His wand and robes were returned to him, and he was instructed to not be seen on the business end of the Wizengamot again, for his own good. He had no argument with that idea.

After that ordeal (and he did consider it to be an ordeal) there was still the matter of fetching Harry. The Ministry of Magic didn’t seem to very much care about Harry’s future, and Arthur Weasley, thankfully, did not ask.

...

It was two painful days after Snape had finalized relations with the Wizengamot that Dumbledore allowed him to gather Harry.

Severus had been given two more days to have horrible regrets and to wallow in sheer reluctance... What on earth had struck him to agree to this? But then he thought of any baby held in a cupboard like some sort of hexed gerbil that one hid because they couldn’t get rid of it, and rage boiled in the depths of his soul before his emotions tried to beat it back down with the proverbial stick.

I have to.

I don’t want to.

I care about what happens to the son of Lily Evans. He deserves to know what kind of brilliant and amazing people his parents were.

Why am I kidding myself? James Potter was a selfish, irresponsible bastard.

But James died protecting Lily and Harry... That has to account for something.

Selfish bastard—did I somehow not just say that? Do you listen to me anymore?

Harry at least deserves to know about his mother. I know Petunia won’t respect her memory at all.

Not my problem.

But the conditions he would live in!

Again, it’s not my problem.

It was Lily’s problem. She would want me to help.

She respects what happened between us after I called her a Mudblood. She wouldn't bother.

It’s what a good man would do.

Since when was I ever a good man? How could I face those brilliant green eyes again? How could I live civilly with the spitting image of my own worst childhood enemy...

Well, I am contractually bound, still, the second I signed that letter. I’m still the Caretaker of the Boy Who Lived...

Damn you.

So that’s how Severus found himself on Arthur Weasley’s doorstep at three in the afternoon, exactly, the day before he was supposed to get Harry. It was a Saturday, coincidentally, so he knew Arthur would more than likely have the day off.

He was there with reluctance equal to that with which he signed the letter off to Dumbledore. Firstly, he was an awfully proud man, in his own admission. He disliked asking for help, if he could stand it. That, and knew he was commonly disliked among...Well... Basically everyone. Everyone, especially from the Order of the Phoenix, had a tendency to glance at his left forearm, either out of concern, or a morbid curiosity. It was more like a cattle brand than a tattoo, thank you very much.

For anyone else except Dumbledore, whom he allowed to inspect the Mark regularly, instead of pulling up his left sleeve, he had a tendency to roll up his right sleeve more often, because he’d almost never put dittany on his right arm. That quickly stopped them from asking any questions at all.

Arthur Weasley had been the only one of the Order of the Phoenix besides Dumbledore who really understood that the Mark was not to be talked about, and thereby earned himself a place on Severus’ good side. Although Snape certainly couldn’t say the inverse... But then, everyone seemed to dislike Severus Snape. Severus Snape, with all the usual issues.

Another thing that had gained Arthur Weasley a little gold star in Severus’s mind was that he had been the only individual in the entire Ministry of Magic who didn’t seem to want to crucio him. Not crucioing was a very big plus, in Severus’ opinion.

So Severus Snape knocked reluctantly on the door to the Weasleys’ house.

It was Arthur who opened the door.

“Ah. Severus. How can I help you today? Not in more trouble, I hope?”

Snape gave a gentler glower than he usually gave to people... More of an ‘I’ve only heard that comment hundred times this week. Please. Continue.’ glower than his typical ‘I hate everything that lives and breathes’ expression.

“No, Arthur... I was hoping that I could get your assistance. I am entertaining... A very young guest... For a prolonged period of time. I need to make certain that the infant will not manage to accidentally harm himself with anything in the cottage. I admit I know very little about ensuring the safety of infants in a house, but I have an idea... Potions are already locked away; I’m quite certain I’ve missed things... I need to buy proper supplies as well to prepare for the child... But I have no... I would think that you would know the procedure for... Well... Children.”

“So.... You want me to help you with babyproofing your house... And prepping for raising a kid. Huh. That’s something I never saw happening... Well, anyways, I’ll certainly help you. And you were good to come to me... Can I ask... Er... Can I ask who the lucky little lady was?”

“...”

“You know what? I’ll take that as no. But we should get going.”

...

Babyproofing a wizard’s house is quite different from babyproofing a muggle’s house. In Muggle houses, you have to be worried about things like electrical sockets and kitchens, pools, cleaning supplies and stairs. In Wizarding houses, you have to worry about stray wands, broomsticks, spellbooks, potions, knives, swords, some incendiary devices (on occasion)... And somehow stairs still makes it to the list in the houses of both Muggles and Wizards...

Severus Snape owned two wands (one of which was always under lock and key), kept his potions and any books about Dark Magic in a locked cupboard, owned no knives or swords or goblin-axes... And he only had one set of stairs—a set of circular stone steps that led down to the... Well. He would call it an office, combined with a potions lab. Most other people would have called it a dungeon because it too was carved into the rock and tapped into the artesian well of the kitchen, but, as he told Arthur: Hogwarts Potions Master Severus Snape did not have a dungeon beneath his quaint little vine-covered cottage in the English countryside. He had an office, which doubled as a potions lab. After weathering a round of uncontrollable chuckling (at Severus’ expense), Arthur Weasley informed him that stairs were easily enough guarded against with a few simple repelling wards that would keep young wizards out until they reached a certain age.

Snape’s lone broomstick (a rather sorry-looking old thing whose bristles were falling out, and that was more than likely just a regular old Muggle broomstick with minor enchantments) was locked up in the shed outside. That was probably for the best anyways... Although if Severus had found it first, rather than Arthur Weasley, Severus would likely have simply snapped the handle. Better there be no broomstick in the house at all, rather than weathering the sheer embarrassment that came with having to show Arthur that his broomstick, if it even was a legitimately magical broomstick, was a crotchety old thing that didn’t even lift to anyone’s hand without a frustrated accio! and barely flew at all.

At any rate, Severus Snape’s little cottage in the English countryside was subjected to a definitive babyproofing.

After that, Arthur took Severus on a trip into the world of Muggles to procure supplies for raising a child.... It was well past ten when they arrived back and set everything up in the guest room... This, Snape supposed, meant that he really didn’t have a guest room anymore.

The only matter of concern that Severus noted as Arthur left, was a grin that the man cracked at him. “Take a look around your cottage, Severus,” the man had said. “Take a good, long look.”

Severus had obliged him.

“By this time tomorrow, you shall have a child in the house. This is the cleanest, most pristine your cottage will be for a very long time.”

Severus eyed him as he walked out the door and promptly disapparated off of the front step.

 

Chapter Text

If he never saw Privet Drive again, it would be too soon. Much too soon.

Severus had apparated on the doorstep of number 4 Privet Drive at eight in the PM, looking a great deal more like great big bat on the stair instead of a man.

Dumbledore was already there, as well as McGonagall. He was obviously ready to remove the blood wards—Severus had already set the grounds of that by writing the letter. By this time, all they had to do was transfer the actual child from house to cottage.

“Evening, Severus.”

“Mmn.”

McGonagall spoke up. “We will be waiting for you, in the street,” she said, holding up the deluminator.

Dumbledore and McGonagall both walked out to the middle of the sidewalk... They seemed to be in some sort of deep conversation... He puzzled over what it might have been, whether it was Minerva, thinking about how strange it seemed for the wayward child that she knew oh-so-long-ago to be voluntarily choosing to care for a child. And the child of his arch-nemesis, James Potter, no less

Severus lifted his hand to the doorbell... And then paused. I don’t.... I don’t know how to do this. I’m not a good enough man for this. I never was. I’m a coward; it’s in my nature...

It’s my fault.

...

A young, dark haired man opened a pale door to find his mother sitting on her bed. Her head was down, her hair let down to conceal her face from view. He ran to her side, knelt in front of her, tears forming in his eyes as he heard the sound of breaking of glass and a string of profanities coming from the living room.

“Mum...Mum..... I can’t do this anymore.” He looked down, and then looked back up at her. “I can’t... Look at what he’s done. What I allowed him to do...” He tipped her head up, so that he could see the cuts and bruises on her face. “Look at what he’s done to you...” He pulled out his wand, and began to murmur an incantation that sounded like a song. Her hand grasped his, and he stopped chanting the spell.

“Dear boy... It doesn’t hurt.” She held his chin with a gentle finger as he tried to look away. “Look at me, Severus. You’re seventeen now, almost eighteen; you’re of age under wizarding law. Go. Find a place for yourself. A nice place, where you’ll be safe.”

“He would never approve... Mum, I can’t leave you here; I can’t leave you here with him.” He rolled up his left sleeve. “Look,” he said simply.

She gasped, her hand over her mouth. The magical brand was still fresh.

“Mum, I did it for you,” the youth said, his eyes sparkling. “I did it for you. For... For us. It’s just going to be a little bit longer before we can go. We can leave, far away from here, where he can’t follow us. We’ll be safe under Lord Voldemort; we wouldn’t have to fear... him. He wouldn’t be able to hurt you anymore, even after I leave home.”

The woman sighed. “My dear boy, no one is safe under Lord Voldemort; you have to know that.  Not me, not you... No one is safe under Lord Voldemort. Not purebloods, not half-bloods, not Muggle-borns like your friend Lily Evans. Least of all, the Muggles themselves. Voldemort's kind will kill Muggles for entertainment. Surely you know that.”

“Who cares about Muggles?! They’re cruel, and destructive!” As if to punctuate the boy’s statement, another sound of glass breaking, punctuated with more curses of a distinctly non-magical variety. “Mum, I’m not doing this for me! Everything I’m doing, all of it—it’s for us... For everyone I care about! They’ll leave Lily alone—Lord Voldemort likes me, I know he does. Even more than he likes Lucius Malfoy. He’d listen to me, and keep them in check! And I don’t care for Muggles. Especially not the one in this house.”

“It’s Tobias’s home as well, Severus,” she said weakly, though she seemed to concede his point. “Just promise me... You won’t do anything foolish.”

“Mum, the world is changing. We’re... We’re going to win. I just know it. And then I’ll be able to take you away from here, far away, and you’ll be safe.”

She looked up at him sadly, and he gently stroked her face, careful to not graze any of the cuts. “Severus....” She lay on the bed sideways to still look at him. He moved to stay in her field of vision. “Severus... Even when you’re not sure where to go... You’ve got to accept the past... Look at the present.” She sighed. “Make your decision, and live for the future.”

“Mum? ... Mum!”

...

Severus took a deep breath. Make your decision. Live for the future.

He rang the doorbell.

The rather portly Vernon Dursley opened the door.... Severus would have said a little too quickly. There was an expression on his face; Severus couldn’t quite tell what it was. It seemed to be a mix of enthusiasm for being able to ditch Harry, prejudice against Snape’s appearance, and something else that just made Severus angry and he couldn’t understand what it was. A cheeky, arrogant look, perhaps? Something reminiscent, perhaps, of a Malfoy?  He wasn’t certain.

“Good evening,” Severus said, his voice as even and quiet as ever. “I understand that you have in your care one Harry Potter. I am here to retrieve him.”

“Ah, yes, sir. Thank you... Won’t you come in?... Your name is—”

Severus Snape,” a familiar voice finished.

Said wizard turned to the blonde woman, who had taken to looking even more like a hag than usual. “Petunia,” he said with a curt nod.

“You know this man,” Vernon asked, looking quite as if he had suddenly felt the effects of a latent confunding spell.

“Yes,” Petunia sniffed and didn’t even look at the wizard in the room. Snape had hated that about Petunia Evans when she had done that same exact nose-in-the-air sniff when they were all children... He still did, he supposed. His expression began to level out from ‘cordial’ into ‘mildly annoyed’ as she continued—still barely acknowledging his presence in the house. “We knew each other as children. He took a fancy to Lily.”

Severus’s eyes narrowed into chips of obsidian, and his expression struggled to remain at ‘mildly annoyed’. I’m still here, and I am not a housepet, thank you very much!

Vernon paused. “Mmn. More of her kind. That cannot be a good influence... But I’m a reasonable man. You may take him.”

Severus refrained from saying something inappropriate and offensive as to their flippant remarks about Lily Potter.... but the temptation was becoming quite fierce by this time. He settled on a full-blown glare and an “Mmn.”, with undertones of if you didn’t give me your permission to take him, Vernon Dursley, I likely still would have anyways, because I loved Lily, James grew up (mostly), and because I hate your guts. No hard feelings, you understand...

Petunia retrieved Harry from the cupboard—god, that just sounded so unbelievably wrong to him—and Harry promptly began to wail.

Vernon winced as Harry screeched. “He’s been doing that quite a bit.”

Severus unclasped his hands, and gave a pointed look at the man. That sort of thing happens when you neglect a child.

Petunia quickly delivered the crying child into Severus’s arms. Harry didn’t look all that much different from when Severus saw him last.... Perhaps a bit thinner, but still alright. At least they remembered to feed him... Then he realized that Harry had ceased bawling and was grabbing at dangling locks of dark hair with chubby fingers. Charming.

Snape gave a curt nod at the Dursleys, tipping his head back to sweep his hair well out of Harry's reach. “Thank you. It will be good to have young Mr. Potter back in the wizarding world.” He said nothing more but was gone with a flick of his cloak (which, unbeknownst to the Dursleys, had been used to wrap Harry up to defend from the nip in the air).

He returned back to the sidewalk, where Dumbledore and McGonagall still stood.

“You have him,” McGonagall observed happily. “For a moment, I thought we might have to hex them.”

Snape shook his head. “No, Minerva. They were... Troublingly willing to turn his care over to me.... Dumbledore, are you finished with the wards?”

The elder wizard finished flailing his wand, and nodded. “Yes. The blood wards are revoked. They still exist, however they are considerably weaker now. Their strength has been given to the wards around your cottage. They are weaker than I would like, but I think that could change. It all depends. Minerva?”

Professor McGonagall pulled out her wand. “Ah, yes. Will future Potions Master Snape need assistance getting back to his house? A disapparition of three wizards is safer than with one.”

Snape balked. “As if I would risk splinching him at all,” he snorted. “Arthur Weasley has agreed to give me a ride in his car.”

Dumbledore gave a slight nod. “Then we ought to wait for him.... My, my. It does look like it may snow.”

It only took about ten minutes of waiting for Arthur Weasley to arrive even less than fashionably late. It was just downright late. Somehow, even within that short time frame, Professor McGonagall found it to be a new favourite pastime to look at Snape—something that the latter found quite off-putting.

Severus had just been standing there, slowly pivoting on his foot back and forth, and Harry seemed to be falling asleep—a startling development since the yelling they had heard come from the house. And then he found McGonagall staring at him—not just looking, staring, as if he were back in Transfigurations and she was assessing his work. The third time he looked up from Harry to find her looking at him with a contented smile on her face, he was a bit more than put off. “What? What on earth could you find so amusing?” He drew up more of his cloak to wrap Harry in.

“Oh,” Dumbledore said quietly. “Minerva simply never thought she would see you holding a baby. I do believe it makes her feel rather proud. And rather old, I should think." He grinned and moved his shoulder to dodge a hat swinging in his direction. "I admit that I feel rather old, suddenly, seeing you holding a child.”

Minerva simply gave a smile and returned her hat to her head, clearly pleased to now have a proxy grandson, and turned to look back at the road. Meanwhile Severus just stood there and tried (failingly) to look small.

Severus still held Harry during the ride back to his home, but less than an hour later Harry was dressed in a little pyjama onesie and was sleeping soundly in a low-bar crib.

For about half an hour after tiny, soft baby snores had begun to sound in the otherwise quiet house, Severus watched over little Harry from a wooden rocking chair next to the crib. If Harry chose to wake, he wanted to be right nearby, because, as Severus himself knew, transition times are difficult, and it’s unbelievably rare for a small child to wake up in unfamiliar surroundings and not be alarmed. He knew that much from experience. Well, he reasoned to himself. At least it’s not a cupboard.

A thought crossed his mind as he sat there, motionless and looking at Harry in the soft light of the winter moon as snow began to fall outside the window... You could have been mine, little one.... You could have been my own son, not just my charge, but my very own son. He sighed lightly. It was not to be. Perhaps for the best. I suppose things could have turned out quite differently...

He leaned over to set his right elbow on the armrest. I did love your mother... Very, very much... She watched over me when I was young and without hope... Kept me from doing things I would regret... Kept me alive, once or twice, not out of guilt or pity, but because that was the person who she was... And then my careless words... His eyes closed.

My greatest hope is that I might repay my debt to her, little one.

Chapter Text

“Yes? Ah yes.” The wandmaker walked down from the ladder and came to the counter. “A young wizard, seeking to buy his very first wand, eh?”

Severus grinned “Yessir. I’d very much like to walk home with a wand today.”

Ollivander gave a noble nod. “Well, then, I shall see what we have.” With that, he turned and went for a boxed wand.

The wand maker returned with a smallish one—he said that it was wood from an apple tree, with a Unicorn Tail Hair core. Severus took the wand, but the moment he did, the wand gave a great shudder. Severus’s eyes were wide as the wand seemed to twitch in his hand

“Er...”

“Give it a flick, test it out.”

Severus did as he was asked, although he purposefully pointed it at the floor, because, as he suspected there might be, there was a great popping sound, and the smell of burnt flooring rose up to him and the shop owner.

“All due respect, sir, I think that this wand might be allergic to me,” Severus said, only half-joking.

Ollivander’s brow furrowed. “Quite,” he said as he took the wand back.

He continued searching through the stacks. “Not a Holly-Phoenix feather... eleven inches? No, no, that doesn’t seem to fit you for you , does it?”

Ollivander produced another wand from the stacks. “Willow. Ten inches, Dragon Heartstring. Pleasantly supple... It seems to fit your hand nicely.”

Severus’s brow furrowed as he grasped the wand. “Er... It doesn’t feel quite right. Not as bad as the first one, but still not... Right, I suppose.”

Ollivander gave a slight nod as he took the wand back from Severus. “Don’t worry, my boy. We’ll find you a wand that wants you...”

The next one Ollivander procured was a Pine, 9 inches, with a Dragon heartstring core. Then came a Vine with Horned Serpent horn. Then Severus lost track, as there were at least five more.

Each time, the wands either reacted violently or did absolutely nothing at all when he flicked them, and none of them gave the warm feeling that Ollivander told him to look for.

Then Ollivander took out a box that looked different than most of the other boxes.

“This one... This one might suit you,” he said as he opened the box. “Cypress, 13 and ½ inches.... Odd, the wand seems to have lost flexibility during its construction, it says in the notes... Not unheard of, but not typically looked upon favourably, as the wand may require maintenance to prevent it from becoming brittle in the future...”

 It was a long, rather slender wand—not particularly formidable-looking and not nearly so ornate as many of the other wants he’d tried, but Severus knew better than to judge on first appearances. Besides, it kind of seemed to suit him. He didn’t like flashy things much.

“A strange thing; this one’s core came from America, a gift from Thiago Quintana. My father constructed it,” he said, observationally. “The wand core is a White River Monster’s spine... Such cores have primarily fallen from the market since Quintana’s death, you see... Which is indeed a shame. They were fine cores for wands as I understood... Not quite the calibre of the three supreme core types from what I saw from their spellcasting... But I would not sell it if I did not believe that this particular wand was worth a chance.” He held the wand out to Severus, and the boy plucked it from the box.

Severus’s eyes narrowed at the wand. He moved his hand this way and that... He could tell that the wand at least wasn’t averse to him, like the ones of Unicorn Tail Hair... It seemed to move with him, always finding a subtle balance in his hand, not at all awkward or clumsy in its handling, but... Elegant, if he had a word for it.

He gnawed on his lip, and drew his arm up to point the wand at a nearby flower vase, confident that nothing would happen since the wand seemed to hold a certain power within, but one that it was content to unleash only at the proper moment, and not a moment before. “What else can you tell me about White River Monster Spine cores?... I mean, I think it likes me, and I’d like to know a bit more about it.”

Ollivander smiled. “Always refreshing to see a young one enthusiastic about wandlore.”

Severus eyed the wandmaker. I don’t want a comprehensive history; I just want to know why my wand doesn’t hate me like all the others seemed to!

“White River Monster Spine fell out of circulation in the early 1900s after the death of the only man in history before or since who had the capability to procure them—Thiago Quintana. In his lifetime, he only made several hundred wands, but they were all considered very fine—enough that my father wished to try his hand at making one. I have never had the ability to create a wand with that particular core, but from what my father told to me and what I have seen since, their wands are powerful. Not quite so powerful as a wand of dragon or phoenix, but with a distinct elegance and precision that is unparalleled among other wand cores. Again—tis a shame that Quintana never bestowed upon another the knowledge of how to properly capture White River Monsters. I certainly would have liked to attempt it in my search for the best core materials.”

Severus nodded, and twirled the wand again with a quiet lumos! before flicking it, whereupon a bright blue glow started from the tip. He grinned broadly. “I’ll take it.”

...

Why did he have to have double Transfiguration with the Hufflepuffs first?... He had been fine the whole remainder of Sorting Night, but the day after that, he found himself stuck (no, no. Not even stuck. Trapped .) in Transfiguration for his first class, without a wand.

Luckily, Professor McGonagall had been kind enough to spend most of the time lecturing. Severus had managed to read as much as he could about Transfiguration—at least, before Tobias had torn all of his books to shreds. They were still taped together, but it was awfully hard to read the pages that had tape quite literally covering them.

“Wands out,” Professor McGonagall had said when they were about to attempt the practical aspect of what she had just spoken of.

She directed them in the swish-and-flick method of wandwork, and Severus did the exercise just about under the cover of the table. He really only had half a wand, and it would have been humiliating.

Professor McGonagall looked at him judgmentally when he did not perform the proper swish-and-flick method in her field of view... But she blessedly did not call him out on it, and they moved on to attempting to turn matchsticks into needles.

By the end of class, Severus had indeed succeeded in transforming his matchstick into a needle—he was quite stunned himself, because he had always thought you needed a whole wand to be able to perform spells. But no, his broken wand sufficed quite well, he was pleased to announce.

“Huh—look here, Mr. Snape has managed to transform his matchstick almost entirely to a needle.”

All of the other Slytherins and most of the Hufflepuffs gathered around him.

Severus looked up at the witch unhappily. “Almost, ma’am? Only almost?”

She nodded sombrely. “Do you see the chemical residue left in and near the eye of the needle? A full Transfiguration would not leave even that. All the same, outstanding work. I should like to see you do it again, Mr. Snape, for everyone to see the proper wandwork,” she said, placing another matchstick before him. Oh here it was. She called him out, now even worse since quite literally everyone in the whole year of Slytherin watching him, not to mention the Hufflepuffs. Some seemed fascinated, others disgusted by a show-off.

But he couldn’t show his broken wand... He just couldn’t.

So instead of pointing his half-a-wand at the matchstick... He quickly grabbed his notes, and his quill before McGonagall could stop him... And with a few muttered words... A  new, shiny needle was there in the matchstick’s place, and Severus’s trembling hand was still pointing the rolled-up notes at it.

The notes—good god in heaven , he picked the most mundane thing. The most non-magical thing in the world of magic. He could have at least swung the quill and made it look neat. Now he just looked like a wandless freak.

The other Slytherins, meanwhile, had one of several kinds of reactions to what they had just witnessed. Some of them looked still-flabbergasted. But some of them (as well as virtually all of the Hufflepuffs) were now backing slowly away from him, eyes lit in abject terror. He looked down. He didn’t... Didn’t want people to be afraid of him.

He looked up at McGonagall... By now, her eyes were wide, both in worry and fascination. “Mr. Snape...” But she didn’t finish, because the bell rang. “If you could see me after class,” she said in a low voice to just him as the other Slytherins and the Hufflepuffs all but ran for their things as Professor McGonagall issued out homework.

Once they were alone, she spoke to him. “I would like to know, Mr. Snape, how you managed to turn your matchstick into a needle.”

Severus blushed—which really wasn’t saying much. He was still pale as ever. If her were completely honest, he hadn’t even half an idea himself.

“I don’t know. Truly... I.. I simply used the exact same wandwork you told us to use...” he gave a sheepish shrug. “Just without the wand, I suppose. But I did it, didn’t I? No one else even came close,” he said tiredly, wanting to just escape McGonagall and get to History of Magic with Binns, who hopefully was more intuitive than the witch (no pun intended) before him.

Said Professor stood up from her desk, and Snape suddenly felt the urge to shrink down into a pile of nothing, akin to when his father came home fully drunken and ready to draw blood. She approached him, and it was all he could do not to curl into a ball. “Mr. Snape, I don’t think I like your attitude.” For a moment Severus felt faint. “Where is your wand? I should like to see it.” And then he almost did faint.

He sighed deeply, and pulled the pieces of his wand from his bag. “’M sorry, Professor. I... I just didn’t want them to see it... I was embarrassed; I’m sorry.”

For a moment Professor McGonagall’s brow furrowed, then her expression returned to impassive. “When, may I ask, did that happen?”

“Yesterday, ma’am.”

“How did you manage to break your wand just before school?... Did you think you wouldn’t need it, given that you seem to think you have mastered wandless spells?”

Severus shook his head, and for a moment, he thought he might cry. Show weakness... But he knew he oughtn't. “No, ma’am, I... I’m sorry.” He picked up his books. “It was just, broken. Yesterday, it was broken.” He packed up his books and notes, and the pieces of his wand. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I really must get to History of Magic.”

“No.”

Severus whipped around to face her, fear lit in his eyes, though he didn’t know it... “Ma’am?”

She held out her hand. “Your wand, Mr. Snape. I should like to have use of it for tonight. If you have Charms and Professor Flitwick asks, tell him that I have requested use of it, and that he should take it up with me... Though I have to admit that you do show promise, even without a wand. By the way,” she called as he was trying to sneak out. “Don’t think that your little song-and-dance exempts you from the paper due next Monday.”

...

He was able to get out of needing a wand the remainder of Monday. He determined that, as his Monday classes went, Transfiguration would be decent, History would be absolutely dreadful, Herbology would be vaguely tolerable (mostly because they had Herbology with Gryffindor and Lily was among them), as well as that he shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of a broomstick. Madam Hooch even asked him if he had ever even touched one before. Of which—no. No, he hadn’t, for obvious reasons (one named Tobias).

Tuesday, as he was getting breakfast, Professor McGonagall motioned him aside. He quickly left his mates... And returned beaming with his wand in tow, the wood now fully repaired and the core functional. While he still didn’t expressly like McGonagall for her mildly abrasive personality and the copious amounts of Transfiguration homework that she had doled out to be due on Monday, he had to admit that she was the one who had helped repair his wand, and for that he at least owed her. And when Severus Snape owed someone a favour, he was certain to repay it.

Chapter Text

It was a strange thing to have tiny feet pattering around the cottage. It was entirely enjoyable, but it was strange indeed.

It had been... Oh good god. Harry was four months past his fourth birthday. It had been over three years since that fateful day when Dumbledore flooed into Severus’s house via fireplace to snap him out of a funk. It seemed like forever ago. And yet... And yet it seemed like yesterday.

He was still, unbelievably, Potions Master at Hogwarts. And since then, he had become Head of Slytherin house... This, of course, meant that Harry had to stay someplace other than the cottage... And that place, unfortunately, happened to be at Hogwarts, with Hagrid the groundskeeper. Hagrid took a tremendous liking to the boy, and the boy had a liking for Hagrid.... Although, for some strange reason that Snape could not, not even to save his life, understand—Hagrid wanted Harry to call Snape “Dad”.

“Come on ‘arry! You can do it! For good old ‘agrid! Say it now with me, ‘arry. Da-da.”

Snape had just come from a very long day at Potions, and was looking forward to bringing his son (Argh. Not son. His... Nephew.) up from Hagrid’s house, and watching Harry and marking papers... What he found startled him.

“Say it for me, now, ‘arry. Severus Snape is... Da-da.”

“Ba-ba,” he could hear the child coo.

At this point, Severus didn’t bother knocking. Instead, he burst in to the language lesson. “What are you doing, Hagrid??”

Hagrid was standing in a matter of milliseconds. “Ah! Potions Master! Yeah, I jus’ I jus’ figured tha’ li’l ‘arry ‘ere migh’ like to start learning to speak right properly.”

Severus was still livid, but at least his shoulders relaxed. “Hagrid.... I’m not his father. I’m his caretaker, at best.”

Hagrid just rubbed his neck sheepishly...

After Hagrid taught Harry to call Severus ‘Da-da,’ Severus had to enact damage control. Severus tried to get him to settle for ‘Uncle’, but Harry couldn’t really pronounce his L’s very well for awhile... And eventually Snape’s insistence on not being called Harry’s father bit him back. One thing led to another, because Harry was a very bright boy, and he could figure things out, and in the June before his fourth birthday, Harry asked, since Snape was his uncle, then where were his parents. That was a conversation Severus had hoped to avoid for as long as possible. But again, Harry was clever. Severs ended up sitting with Harry until well after two in the morning as the child cried himself to sleep.

Of course, Snape left out his own connection to Lily, as that was would have made the whole situation even more needlessly complicated for Harry to understand. He would tell him, of course, just... Not now. Eventually.

After that, Harry had taken to addressing Severus as ‘Pater meus’, and, on the grounds that so very few people fluently knew Latin, Snape let him, on the sole condition that it would switch to ‘uncle’ once Harry learned to pronounce his L’s.

All in all, it seemed to work quite well over the fall of this year.

But back to the present. They were both home for winter holiday. Harry was scrambling around the cottage, ‘decorating’ for Christmas (Severus was unbelievably grateful for the reparo spell these days...). Harry swept his messy hair out of the way of his eyes quickly as he ran around with tinsel, and Severus simply watched... Harry was already looking unbelievably like his father. He had the exact same hair, the exact same lanky look about him as James... But Severus had to admit, Harry was far closer to Lily in personality than to James...

A smile tugged on his face as Harry tried to hang an abused paper snowflake. The boy had gotten a hold of Severus’s wand, he realized with a start—good god, he needed to keep better track of his wand—and was currently trying to use a levitation charm to hang the flake. “Wingardium weviosa,” he chirped, his lisp getting the better of him, as it tended to when he got excited. (Again, why Harry was so averse to the word ‘uncle’.)  The paper snowflake did nothing. Severus noted that his own wand seemed to give off a strange, vaguely visible aura... As if it were laughing at Harry’s clumsy attempt and knew better than to allow anything to happen.

Severus gave a dry chuckle before he stood up from his chair, his cloak rising up with his shoulders like ink up a quill, and he walked over to Harry, his boots clicking on the scuffed wood floor... Professor McGonagall once mused to Severus that he should try to “look less...Well... Like yourself, Severus. You keep walking around like a great big black cloak moving of its own accord and it’ll frighten the patronus out of Harry.” But Harry was far more accepting than McGonagall gave him credit for. He looked up from his snowflake, and promptly held Severus’s wand out to him. “Pater meus, pw-ease?”

“You took my wand, little wizard. You oughtn’t take my wand,” he said, gently laying his hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“’M sorry, Pater meus,” Harry said... Although Severus suspected that he wasn’t all that sorry at all. His green eyes were wide as he held his little project up. “But my snowf-wake! I must hang it up for Christmas!”

Severus bit back a laugh and settled for the beginnings of a tiny smile. He picked Harry up into his arms, and held him up so that the little one could hang up his project. Harry quickly taped the snowflake up the way that Severus had showed him. Severus drew him back down, and the snowflake hung at eye level. Hm... He would have to dodge these during the Christmas season... A shadow of a glower of dissatisfaction tried to spread over his face... But then he saw Harry’s eyes... So very much like Lily’s eyes—big, bright and curious, and content to watch the snowflake spin...

Severus glanced at Harry. “So, little wizard,” he said as he knelt back down and set Harry down. “The Weasleys invited us over to their house for Christmas again this year.”

Harry’s smile became impossibly brighter. “We’re going over to Ron’s house for Christmas?”

Severus gave Harry a pointed glance. “That depends. It’s a week until Christmas, you know. If you can promise me that you will not touch my wand again without my permission, then we can go.”

Harry quickly nodded, but his expression was sombre. “Yes, sir. Your wand is...” his brow furrowed as he searched for the right word. “Off-wimits.”

Severus nodded, that dratted smile threatening to overtake his face again. “That’s my little wizard. You may go play now if you like.”

...

Arthur and Molly always invited them to Christmas almost a month in advance. Of course, by virtue of just not wanting an exceptionally impatient Harry, Severus told Harry only about a week before—if not less. (It varied in a narrow range of how long he could keep Harry on best behaviour.) This, of course, meant that much of their time in that last week was finding presents for the Weasleys, but that was alright.

So they spent Harry’s fourth Christmas at the Weasleys’ house, just as the second and third had been spent at the Weasleys house, because quite frankly, the Weasleys were worlds better at cheer and merriment as a whole than Severus had been his entire life... It was good for Harry to spend Christmas with the Weasleys, and Severus had to admit that Christmas cheer was therapeutic for himself as well... He was so accustomed to horrible holidays; it was nice to have some new memories along for the ride. Besides that, Harry had developed a budding friendship with the youngest Weasley boy, Ron. Ron didn’t seem to take a liking to Severus quite so much, but that was about par for the course with most people.

William Weasley and Charles Weasley were in Hogwarts already, and Snape was their Potions Master. Of course, since William took more to Charms (most specifically: breaking them—oh, yes. Flitwick loved him.) and Charles took more to care of Magical Creatures, there wasn’t much to speak of between them.

Percy.... Percy was different. Snape couldn’t say that he expressly liked, nor disliked Percy.... Percy was in his first year of Hogwarts, and, as much as Severus appreciated the boy’s ambition to serve at the Ministry of Magic like his father and Percy’s competitiveness with his older brothers.... Well, judging from Percy’s behaviour and manner during Potions... Severus just couldn’t help thinking that Percy may well have made a considerably better Slytherin than a Gryffindor.

Fred and George Weasley meanwhile seemed to take a genuine liking to Severus.... Although the latter suspected that it was more than likely because Severus had great knowledge of potion ingredients, a subject matter from which they riddled him with questions even before they began Hogwarts... Later on during their school years Snape would remark to Arthur in passing that, had the Weasley twins put half of the work into their potions homework as they did into their prankish conniving, he suspected that they would have easily gotten Es in their Ordinary Wizarding Levels for Potions... Maybe even Os and a NEWT.

In the year of Harry’s fourth Christmas, Severus gave the Weasley twins a copy of his own personal set of rules for brewing potions which included ingredients effects, stirring methods, among other assorted things, as well as what to do when a potion went south—the colour and odour changes in a failed potion were signals of other things occurring within the potion, and Severus Snape had always been determined to discover how every action or mis-action affected a potion (unwittingly aided, of course, by his Potions students. Also, it was for this reason that Severus Snape put so much emphasis on the value of Bezoars. He tried every failed potion himself if he had confidence that it wouldn't instantly kill him, and it was always a good idea to have a Bezoar easily at hand.). He kept all of his copious amounts of notes, and he copied all of what he had so far (an admittedly comprehensive report on the technicalities of potions) into a grand notebook of potions for the Weasley twins to use, with the full expectation that they would use the knowledge wisely.

As it was, they were content to use their gift and... As loathe as he was to admit it—their potions and healing genius—for skiving off of school and vandalizing the grounds. He caught them with some of their little tricks in later years, thought he refrained from reporting them to Dumbledore... Why, he hadn’t the slightest, but he suspected that it had to do with the fact that he appreciated other potions enthusiasts—had they applied themselves, he could have seen them giving him a run for his job...

All in all, Severus appreciated the Weasleys—appreciated them more and more as time went on.

They opened up their home to Harry and to him... They showed him common decency, of which he was, admittedly, not accustomed to receiving. He was thankful to Arthur especially—he presumed that the Ministry most likely would have had him serving out a life sentence in Azkaban by now, and what would have happened to Harry then? He would be living with the Dursleys, no doubt, probably still held captive in the cupboard.

For a few years, Severus still half-wanted Harry to officially meet the Dursleys, but his trepidation was practically palpable. He still mostly-didn’t want them to have any contact with Harry whatsoever until Harry had enough sense to know that they were, in particular, a family of Muggles unworthy of Harry’s attention.

Now, Severus would meet Muggles who were just fine. Perhaps a bit scatter-brained and not very observant of the world around them, but were entirely pleasant and amicable... Hermione Granger’s parents, Martin and Wendy Granger came immediately to mind for an example of perfectly amicable Muggles.

But the Dursleys were neither observant, nor pleasant, nor amicable. They were, as Minerva had put it to Dumbledore oh-so-long ago, the worst kind of Muggles.

Of course, and this was completely by accident, Harry discovered for himself what the worst kind of wizards were at a rather young age, just before his fifth birthday...

...

“Pater meus?... What.... What’s a... A Mudblood?”

Severus Snape very nearly spat his coffee back into the mug. He settled for swallowing. “A m-where on earth did you hear that sort of language?”

Harry looked down at his breakfast. “N-nowhere.”

Severus leaned forward, clasping his hands on the table. “Mr. Potter. You do not learn that sort of ghastly word from ‘nowhere’. Where did you hear it?... Did someone call you one?”

Harry shook his head. “No, no sir!” He looked up. “It’s just that when Draco Malfoy and I were playing yesterday...” he trailed off, clearly regretting his choice of words.

Severus leaned back into his chair. He had needed to see Lucius about a matter yesterday... Lucius said it was urgent Death Eater business, and Dumbledore had put it to Severus to investigate, so... Technically, knowing what the Death Eater business happened to be was the Order’s business.... Or some confusing state of affairs like that. Severus had brought Harry, because... Well. Might as well leave Draco a playmate... Lucius’ urgent Death Eater business was considerably less urgent than he made it to be, but... Well. At least Harry got to play with someone his own age, who wasn’t a Weasley.... Now, in one fell swoop, Severus was regretting... Most of his life.

He came out of his thoughts to find his hand partly over his own mouth, and Harry shrinking ever-further down. “How did it come up?”

Harry tipped his head. “Well... We were playing pretend, because Draco’s father gave him a de-cored wand.... Draco said that we were great wizards at the front of a huge battle, and we were fighting the Muggles who wanted to shoot at us with guns, and the... He said ‘filthy mudbloods and blood-traitors’ wanted to come and get us and feed us and our friends to the Dementors.”

Severus could only describe his own expression as ‘angered’. Harry continued.

“After we won the Great Wizard War and put all of the bad wizards and Muggles in jail, I asked him how he learned that game.... He said his father taught him.”

Severus bit back a snort. Figured, Lucius Malfoy would train his boy to hate Muggles, Muggle-borns, and the so-called blood traitors. Now he himself believed that many times, Muggle-borns were at a genuine disadvantage compared to pure-blood, or even half-blood wizards such as himself, but that Muggle-borns could rise above their situation given the proper training and support.... But the term Mudblood was forbidden in the house of Snape, for rather obvious reasons.

Harry spoke up again. “So... What does ‘Mudblood’ mean? Why did they want to hurt us?

He sighed lightly. “Harry... So-called ‘mudbloods’ don’t want to hurt you. Neither do what Draco called ‘blood-traitors’. Do you remember what we talked about, when we go to the market, that we try not to use magic?”

Harry nodded. “Yes sir. We don’t use magic, because we have to be secret. We oughtn’t let the Muggles know about magic, or the Ministry won’t be happy with us.”

Severus felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth. So he had managed to teach Harry something in the past four years... But at any rate, he nodded. “Yes, Harry. But sometimes, very magical children are born to non-magical people—Muggles. We call them Muggle-born wizards or witches. Many of them are very talented. They may need a bit more help, since they cannot be easily taught by their parents, but they can become extremely able and powerful. Your mother was one such witch. But some people.... Some people do not like Muggles, or Muggle-born wizards. ‘Mudblood’ is a very, very mean word for Muggle-borns, and you must never, ever call anyone a Mudblood, Harry. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir....” Harry picked at his breakfast momentarily, but then spoke again. “Why would they not like Muggle-borns, if Muggle-borns are talented?”

Severus tipped his head slightly. “Well, many people who dislike Muggle-borns are pure-blooded wizards and witches from ancient families, that is, both of their parents were magical along with their grandparents and great-grandparents.... But they believe that only other pure-blooded magical children deserve to be taught magic, and they call other pure-blooded wizards who don’t agree with them ‘blood-traitors’. Put simply, they are rude...”

He caught Harry’s expression, and decided to nip a hatred for pure-bloods in the bud. “However, not all pure-bloods are bad, Harry. Your father was a pure-blooded wizard, and he married your mother, a Muggle-born witch. All of the Weasleys are pure-blooded, and I don’t see them calling Muggle-borns rude names...”

Harry nodded.

“Your blood status is not what says whether you are a good person or a bad person, Harry. Your heart determines that.”

“And you,” Harry asked, and for a moment Severus wondered if that the last part of what he’d said fell upon deaf ears. Are you a pure-blood?”

He paused before answering. “No, little wizard. I am what is called a half-blood.... My mother was a witch, and my father was a—” his mind put words in the blank for him, with increasing force.

Drunken,

Violent,

Cruel ,

Detestable

BASTARD .

“Muggle,” he finally settled on.

“Oh,” said Harry... Although Severus wasn’t certain whether that was a good ‘oh’ or a bad ‘oh’. “Er... May I play with Draco again some day? I want to tell him what we talked about.”

Severus’s face remained forcefully impassive. “If he is already calling people names like that in his games, then I think that you should keep this little conversation between the two of us, Harry... But if you would like to have another playdate with Draco... I could arrange it.”

The little boy nodded. “Yes, sir!... May I be excused?”

Severus nodded, and the little boy scrambled away to do who-knew-what...

Chapter Text

Over the course of Harry’s next seven years—learning how to do basic magical skills, learning basic life skills (translates: Being indoctrinated by Muggles), figuring out that Harry was a Parselmouth (terrifying for everyone involved. Including the garter snake), and Harry getting glasses (perfectly round frames—dear God in heaven, child. Must you insist on looking more like your father?), Severus Snape discovered three things.

Firstly, the Muggle world was extremely different from when he last fully detached himself from it, as evidenced by Harry’s tales as he came home from school with homework that Severus could... Mostly help with. He supposed that this was why it could be beneficial to have a Muggle spouse... Although you would have to choose one who would be open-minded enough to understand..... Severus supposed that his own mother just really knew how to pick them.

Secondly, Severus did actually enjoy having Harry around... He learned that the very first day Harry went off to school, which happened to be a week before Hogwarts started...the cottage was much too quiet.

Things, of course, became complicated when Snape went back to teach at Hogwarts, however Severus and Harry found a way around it. Severus knew he couldn't trust a five-year old to stay at home while his father taught.... So it then became a matter of having enough floo powder. Harry learned to floo earlier than most children—Severus was determined to teach him, the week he turned five, and by the time Hogwarts’ new school year rolled around and Snape had to leave the house, Harry was a master at the use of floo powder, and.... Well. Severus couldn’t have his son trying to disapparate at the age of five—of which all he could see in his mind’s eye was a horrible splinch.

Harry would go to school and come home, after which he would floo from the cottage to Hagrid’s. Harry would spend the night at Hagrid’s, and then early the next morning, Severus would accompany Harry in flooing back to the cottage, whereupon Harry would go to school, and Severus would return to Hogsmeade via disapparition, and re-enter Hogwarts. The same cycle, day after day. Except on weekends, when Harry and Snape stayed at Hagrid’s.... They did spend an awful lot of galleons’ worth on floo powder... But overall it was an excellent arrangement.

Thirdly.... Severus Snape and Harry Potter were very nearly absolute opposites.

Severus was a quiet, introspective type who measured his words to make them meaningful and didn’t bother with idle chat. Some called it stoic and brooding, but... Well, they didn’t know him.

If Harry Potter didn’t have a personality that read loud in great big neon letters, Severus would have paid a hundred galleons to watch someone who did. Harry was always going somewhere—always. You couldn’t get Harry to stop, much less get him to stop and think.... Although he was clever, so maybe he thought as he ran around pell-mell with Ron Weasley. Or Draco Malfoy, but never both at one time...

Severus was tidy and preferred to have things where he knew he could get at them. He was some hybrid between orderly and disorderly, especially down in his office.... Although the illusion of disorder could have been cast because there was just so much down there. There were enough books that he could have made his own library. And, as Hogwarts’ Potions Master, Snape took it at his liberty to have even more potion brewing supplies than Hogwarts did—not to mention a box with a liberal (even excessive) number of bezoars in it, because you just never knew when one might come in handy, especially when dealing with young wizards.

Harry, meanwhile, preferred to have everything... How did he say it? Out where he could see it. Which, of course, meant that Harry’s room looked as though it had been raided by mountain trolls. All. The. Time.

Furthermore, Harry was... Well... Dreadful with potions. Snape had held out a tiny vestige of hope that Harry would grasp potions somewhat... But Harry was truly his father’s son. James didn’t carry a NEWT in Potions, despite having at least something of a grasp of the topic. This was clearly evidenced by an incident during the winter holidays when Harry was nine.

The magical barriers were taken down from the stairs when Harry turned six—there were still some things Harry knew better than to touch, but it was safe to let him downstairs to watch while Severus laboured over his cauldron.... Trying to figure out what on earth went wrong with Quirrell’s potions work, or something or other like that. Severus would be hunched over the cauldron, testing everything, a quill in one hand and a Bezoar in the other. Did the boy not stir it sufficiently? In which direction? What were the effects?.... Harry always watched with fascination, but Severus suspected it was more due to the constantly changing colours of the potions in the cauldron.... It had to have been that... Harry liked the colours. Dear god, Severus dreaded the day of Harry’s first Potions lesson....

After eight years of teaching potions, Severus had discovered many different ways to ruin a potion, the effects of those ruined potions organized by method rather than effects, as well as the proper ways to return them to acceptable condition. It was one thing to brew pre-OWL potions accurately, that was easy. All you had to do was follow the instructions and be able to count, essentially. (Evidenced by future potions lessons, Harry apparently failed at one of those skills. Severus dearly hoped not the latter of the two.) However, Severus swore to himself early on that if any of his pre-OWL students showed enough proficiency in Potions to visibly ruin a potion and then return it to him in working condition would receive his full recommendation for early NEWT Training.

Of course, no one ever did succeed at that. Not the least of which was Harry Potter. Harry was positively dreadful. Harry, at the tender young age of nine, discovered a brand-new method to ruin a Potion for Dreamless Sleep that even Potions Master Severus Snape had never seen in all of his years of teaching unruly potions students.

Severus had been making dinner in the kitchen. That was how it started. Then came a strange smell. Snape was no Molly Weasley when it came to cooking, but carrots did not make that smell when they were cut. Then he heard laughter like a madman’s.

So it could be only one thing... Or rather, one person, and one person alone. Harry.

Severus rushed downstairs, half-expecting the lab to be destroyed.

Rather, he found Harry, still-laughing, his nose in a standard book of potions and Severus’s book of notes held oven by the boy’s elbow, his left hand on his chin and his right hand on a stirrer stick in the cauldron... And... Thank god Harry at least had some sense in him—a Bezoar right next to the cauldron. Severus expected to be angered—those were still his ingredients that were now being cooked into some offensive experiment of his nine-year old son’s (God-dammit! Not his son! His ward... His nephew, perhaps).... But Harry looked so unbelievably dedicated to the task, despite the fact that he was laughing...

Then Harry pulled out the stirrer stick, and what proceeded to drip from the stick made Severus panic. It was a sickly, toxic-green sludge, belching green smoke. Contrary to everything that Muggle culture about witches and wizards might tell you, no potion should ever, under any circumstances, look like that. Harry was still laughing, and his laughter had changed to make it seem like the boy was drunk on butterbeer... Severus wondered for a moment what on earth Harry found so amusing....

Then Harry made like he was going to lick the stirring stick.

DROP THAT STIRRING STICK, LITTLE WIZARD,” Snape bellowed as he practically flew across the room.

“Uncle Sev,” Harry squeaked, and instinctually did as he was commanded, because that was more than likely the first time Severus had ever raised his voice in... Years. The stick plopped into the cauldron, neon green potion sloshing over the side and hissed as it splattered on the table and floor.

Harry was frozen, likely in shock, and maybe some fear as Snape loomed over him like a great big shadow in the low light of the basement. Although there was still a huge smile plastered over his face.... Severus wasn’t certain what to make of that, still.

“H-help, Uncle Sev,” Harry said breathlessly. “Was supposed to be—” he broke off into another laughing fit. “P-potion for Dreamless sleep.”

Severus’ brow furrowed as he looked at Harry, and then at the potion. He quickly took a vial of the offending green potion, and observed it, rather judgmentally. “Smells foul... Dreamless Sleep potions are supposed to be purple.. What did you do to this potion?....”

Harry was still laughing. “I k-know. Uncle Sev, help! C-c-can’t stop laughing!”

Then it clicked in his mind: Involuntary potion effects. He handed to Harry a small vial filled with a clear blue-tinted liquid. “Drink all of it,” he commanded, his voice now returned to its normal volume.

Harry took the dose... And immediately the giggles ceased. Harry drew a deep breath. “Thank you,” he said timidly.

Severus capped the vial of neon green potion, and set it aside for... Later use. “You have pilfered my potions supplies, little wizard. You have also tasted your own... Clearly wanting potion—something that only an experienced potioneer should do, and even then, only when he is quite certain he knows that the effects will not be particularly harmful. You could have seriously injured yourself. Luckily the effects of this potion seem to be mostly benign... But that does not hold true for all potions. What have you to say in your defense?”

Harry looked down, clearly drawing a blank.

Severus’s eyes were still judging as he cleared the cauldron with a flick of his wand. “I thought not. Do you have your notes of exactly what you did to make this potion—not what the instructions said, but what you did?”

Harry just shook his head.

Severus nodded slightly. “After dinner, you will stay in your room and record precisely what you did when you attempted to brew this potion, and tomorrow we will speak more on proper potion handling. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said, though it seemed that he was still quite stunned that Snape had even shouted at all....

If Severus was honest, the fact that Harry had even attempted a potion was incredible. Harry wasn’t keen on the idea of the precision and patience involved in potion brewing. He tried, he really did.... But if Harry were made to research any sort of Theory of Potions akin to Magic Theory, that was separate from Golpalott’s Five Laws... Harry might just as well have been a Muggle when it came to Golpalott’s Laws as it was. Any sort of Potions Theory would have been completely lost on him....

But despite the boy’s utter inability to even fully remember the function of a Bezoar (dear God in heaven, Mr. Potter. I have a box of nine of them in my office desk downstairs!) there was one way in which Harry excelled that Severus did not, and never truly had.

Harry, like his father, was a natural born Quidditch player.

It was the summer of Harry’s seventh birthday. Severus had been doing some ingredient collecting in the forest, Harry was playing in the yard with Ron Weasley.

Unfortunately, Harry had taken to sharing Draco’s game, The Great Wizard War, with Ron and Ginny Weasley... Thankfully he did refrain from the use of ‘Mudblood’ and ‘blood-traitor’, preferring ‘dark wizards’ to be their enemies instead... Although Dementors were still a big player in the Wizard War, and Arthur Weasley did have a solemn discussion with Severus about Harry sharing with Ginny “exactly what Draco told me!”, which (obviously) came straight from the mouth of a Death Eater named Lucius Malfoy. Damn Lucius.

At any rate, Severus came back from gathering potions ingredients to find Harry and Ron standing over the—good god he couldn’t even leave them alone for five minutes without them getting into everything! He walked over to the boys, who were fiddling with the broomstick that, up until likely three minutes ago, had been in the shed. Now, while the shed was no longer locked, Harry was still technically not allowed to get into it.

Severus Snape remained silent, like a great big blot of ink moving of its own accord until he was practically standing over them...

“How do you suppose we get it started?”

“I dunno, Ron, but I’ll figure it out...”

Ron saw Severus looming over them earlier than Harry did. The young redhead immediately looked back to the broom, suddenly seeming rather skittish.

“Harry... the shed wasn’t locked, right?”

“No, it wasn’t locked.”

Ron said nothing more, but tugged on Harry’s shirtsleeve and once Harry looked at him, he pointed speechlessly up at Hogwarts’ Potions Master.

“Uncle Sev,” Harry said with a start.

Severus had taken that particular tone to mean that Harry knew he’d been caught with his hand in the proverbial jar of cookies.

He looked down at the both of them. “What, may I ask, are you two gentlemen doing?”

Harry looked up at Severus. “I didn’t know we had a broomstick!”

Ron nodded. “I’ve ridden on a broomstick before, Professor!” Severus did not miss the mumbled “sort of” tacked on as afterthought.

Harry held up the stick. “Please, Uncle. Can you show us?”

He sighed. “Gentlemen, the broomstick does not fly, that I know of. If I am to ride a broomstick, it will be a reliable one.”

“Please? I know you’d be able to make it fly if you wanted.” Harry’s bright green eyes were fixed on him, wide and curious.... Dammit, he would have rather turned his wand on himself than had to deal with those eyes on his conscience... “Alright, set the broomstick down.”

Ron practically slapped Harry in excitement as Harry set the broom neatly on the ground.

He recalled to his mind a very old broomstick riding lesson that he hadn’t even really finished if he were honest. “You must always mount a broom like a horse, from the left side. So the broom is on your right.” He struggled to remember the mechanics of flying on broom... “Lean whichever way you want to go, hold on with both hands...” He coughed delicately. “Up, broom,” he commanded... As usual, nothing happened.

Severus gave a slight sigh, called accio, broom!, and the broom snapped up to him, reluctantly.

He mounted the broom the proper way, and attempted to coax the broom forward. The thing begrudgingly levitated him about a foot above the ground, and went forward impossibly slowly. It went forward about twenty feet, then he turned, and went back to the boys.  He still could have crossed the distance in half the time on foot.

He sighed and dismounted. “Quite frankly. I would like to have a new broomstick, as this one does not seem to function as a broomstick ought to.... I’m going to be storing these herbs,” he said as he picked up the basket again. “Now... Please return the broomstick to where you found it.”

He made a few strides towards the cottage, then he heard: “Up, broom!” and Ron’s scream.

Severus whirled around to find Harry Potter on the broom, flying about a foot above the ground at about the pace of a slow jog, with Ron scrambling after him.

He sighed lightly. “Please return the broomstick, gentlemen...” With that, he went inside, but all he could see in his mind’s eye was Gryffindor’s new second-year Chaser, James “Prongs” Potter.

Chapter Text

“We swear it. Headmaster! We didn’t know, we thought he was just going to do some... Strange magic, we didn’t know what.” James looked into the infirmary. His expression wasn’t quite that of... Sorrow, but it wasn’t the expression of merriment that he’d had just a few hours prior.

“We thought that it’d be funny to... You know... Figure a way to... Bug him. That’s why we drew the crowd... Sure, we wanted to make him look like an idiot in front of the whole school, and yeah that sounds bad, but—”

“Shut up , Sirius.”

Dumbledore’s eyes were strangely calculating... It was impossible to read whether he was angry or not.

“You are dismissed back to your common room. We will speak later.”

The three of the Marauders left the hallway, and started back to Gryffindor’s Tower. Peter Pettigrew wasn’t so much as involved, having had detention, so he was already back at the Tower...

But halfway to the stairs, one of them stopped.

“Remus, what’s the matter?”

“Are you blind , James? Didn’t you see what happened?”

“Yeah, kid pitched himself off the Astronomy Tower without a broomstick; half the school saw it, thanks to us. We’re probably gonna get expelled for this,” James grumbled.

“Or he is,” Sirius said musingly.

Remus shook his head. “Do you know what would have happened if we were Muggles?”

James and Sirius looked at each other.

“He’d be dead, and the whole school—that’s second and first years, eleven year old kids would have seen him die, thanks to us. Woulda seen him crush his own head into the pavement!”

“They... Pretty much did,” Sirius shrugged.

Remus gave a growl of annoyance and walked back towards the infirmary.

James called after his friend... Remus was his friend, after all,, and, despite the fact that Remus wasn’t quite as much of a Marauder as an observer most of the time.., James genuinely did care about what his friend had to say. “Remus—Remus, mate, where are you going?”

“I’m going to clear my head!”

James and Sirius made to follow him, with a “Wait, wait up!” At least, they did before Remus turned around.

“Piss off!”

“Well, same to you, Mister oh-so-holier-than-thou Prefect! I’m glad you weren’t made Head Boy!” Sirius hollered after Remus, his voice echoing in the otherwise empty hallway.

James gave Sirius a hard look, as if to say, Too far, mate . But then he rolled his eyes, nudged Sirius and nodded his head, and they both ran off back towards Gryffindor’s Tower.

...

She’d not seen it coming. In fact, she had no idea that he was that... Good lord, he could have killed himself.

She drew her hat off, ran her hand over her short, steadily greying hair. Oh, she swore, he was responsible for most of those grey hairs.

... All the same, she didn’t think that he would do anything drastic... Hi And as much as Dumbledore was infuriated with the Marauders... It was likely thanks to them that she even realized anything was wrong, and, by direct extension, that the young man resting in the bed in front of her was alive.

She’d passed him in the hallway... He’d been subdued, even more than usual. He was without his books—a rare occurrence, but something that she had foolishly not thought was strange... He’d stayed home from Hogsmeade as well... Not that that was a rare occurrence... But he was looking different. Older... More... Well. He looked as if he were more peaceful. That should have tipped her off right away.

But it wasn’t until the students were due back from Hogsmeade for curfew that everything just... Quite frankly, everything went to hell in a Howler.

She heard a rallying call. “Come one, come all, see the spectacle!” James Potter... Undoubtedly some sort of attention-grabbing scheme. Then she heard a chorus of shouts and screams, and half expected it to be Tom Riddle, or even (somehow) Grindelwald, descending from the sky upon Hogwarts... But when she looked out the window, and her eyes followed the direction that all of the children were looking and pointing...

All she saw was a small dark shape standing alone at the top of the Astronomy Tower.

Minerva McGonagall ran . She ran to the Astronomy Tower, climbed to the top where he was... She knew it was him, who else would be doing something like this?... She threw the door open, and the cobblestone was enveloped in a warm orange glow....

The boy stared back at her as he stood on the edge of the guard rail, his eyes wide with terror.

 He looked as if he were caught—trapped, even—between life and death.... It was as if this singular moment was a galleon, spinning end on end in the air, and he was waiting to see if it would turn up heads or tails.

“You can’t stop me,” he said finally, his expression returning to an unsettling relaxation and his voice as quiet and level as it had ever been... She hated it... It made him sound so logical, so determined. “You can’t do anything. It’ll just happen again.”

Minerva looked at him for a moment.... For that moment, she panicked. She’d never had to deal with anything like this before. She’d never even heard of such things happening at Hogwarts, or any other school of magic, for that matter... Then she came back to herself. He was counting on her...

“I don’t... Don’t want to stop you... I just want to talk with you.”

“You’re a dreadful liar, Professor. I’m finished with talking.”

“Then... Well, I’d much rather you stop you from doing this.”

“Better... But I don’t particularly care ,” he spat as he turned back to the dark sky beyond...

“You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, you can’t just, just throw it away !”

“That is my decision, Professor. I’m of age.” He looked back at her. “No one cares. My being gone will not matter... My fellow Slytherins will not miss me. Lily has James now.” His voice wavered momentarily. “The Marauders attracted the crowd, did they not? Everyone in the whole school wants to watch this...” The bitter anguish that laced the soft baritone laugh was unmistakable. “Might as well... facilitate the entertainment of the masses, don’t you think, Professor?”

Damn you and your logic , Severus Snape; you are not going to jump!”

He held up his wand. “ Sectumsempra ,” he said, almost flippantly, flicking the wand tip. The wand tip was glowing white, but the blood was so very red...

EXPELLIARMUS ,” Minerva yowled.

A great many things occurred at that moment. Her Disarming Spell was effective, and it tore his wand out of his hand... But, and even years later she wasn’t entirely certain how this happened, he was able to hold onto it a bit longer than he should have... The force of the Disarming Spell was enough to tip him off-balance....

Minerva McGonagall’s world seemed to be happening in slow motion as Severus plunged over the edge. She knew she was running, her wand in hand... She thrust her hand out, and as she reached the railing, looked down so that he came into her field of vision, she called out, “ Arresto Momentum ,”, and three ribbons of pale energy sped towards the falling man.

Dumbledore would say later on that it was this action that quite saved Severus’s life. Had Minerva been any slower, or any less able than she was in Charms, Severus Snape would not be alive to compliment her on her skill. Dumbledore and even Flitwick would say that there was never a more spectacular rescue in the history of Charms, that the Levitation spells, though they were broken by the target’s sheer velocity downward, were the only thing that slowed Severus’s fall enough so that he didn’t die instantaneously....

As Minerva sat in a chair next to an infirmary cot... Well. She wasn’t sure if he would thank her or not. She couldn’t get the sickening crunch that she heard out of her mind.... So much blood, even afterwards...

She had hurried from the Astronomy Tower... She found Dumbledore and Madame Pomfrey carrying a lifeless, bloodied form back into the infirmary, with Remus Lupin hot on their heels. She had to admit, she thought the worst. But eventually.... Eventually, Severus began looking more like a boy again than a sack of broken bones and internal injuries. He would be kept in the infirmary for awhile (clearly) but what happened then was up for the jury.

Madame Pomfrey wanted to send him to St. Mungo's straight off. Dumbledore was reluctant to, but confessed that it would likely be the proper course of action. They went off to discuss it, with Dumbledore shaking down the Marauders before they went. But Minerva stayed, and watched the boy... Watched him sleep. He looked so peaceful, so very much more than he ever was in the waking world...

Then she heard a scratch, and glanced at the window to the infirmary. Remus. She sat up straighter, replacing her hat, and beckoned him in.

He came to sit next to her. “Professor,” he said with a low voice and a curt nod.

“Mr. Lupin,” she returned. After a moment, she glanced at him. “You sent the third spell from the ground, didn’t you? I didn’t recognise the charmswork.”

The young man nodded as he inhaled slowly, but he kept his gaze still to the floor. “ Corpus leviosa. Another one of his,” he said, nodding at the man in the bed. “Damned genius... it was the only thing I could think of.... Didn’t do much, did it?...”

Minerva sighed, and gently placed her hand on his shoulder. “Thanks to you, I think he’ll live to see his NEWTs.”

“I think that keeping Severus Snape in one piece should be a NEWT class in itself,” Remus said with a bitterness in his voice. “It’s already Nastily Exhausting.”

She gave a tiny smile. “Although he does not forgive slights, he does not forget favours, either, Mr. Lupin.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

Remus finally sighed, shaking his head. “Professor, could I—could I have a moment with him?”

She gave him a tiny nod, and obliged him. “I’ll be outside, when you would like to return to your common room.”

Remus gave a grateful nod.

He pulled his chair silently to the bedside... The right side of Snape’s face still looked scuffed—Remus knew for a fact that it had looked much worse just an hour earlier. He was the one closest—being a prefect of Gryffindor, and not the oafish Head Boy who was just as aloof as he’d ever been—and he’d been the first one to see Severus, before Dumbledore and Madame Pomfrey intervened.... He’d seen it all.

The sleeves of his robes were still rolled up from when he’d tried to give Severus a once-over—checking for a pulse, little things like that... His fingers were still covered in red, although it was dried into a brick brown by now. “This is yours,” he said, “Don’t suppose you want it back...”

He sighed, put his head in his hands. “Look, mate, I’m sorry, alright? You know I don’t totally know how any of what you’re feeling feels, but I know how it feels afterwards to cut yourself up, you know? I know you know I do... And honestly, mate, I’m sorry for all the stuff we did... We thought it was harmless, didn’t know you’d go haywire over it, you know?” He shook his head. “What we did was wrong, I know that... But... You know. Maybe... I mean, you’re the only other one in the whole school who knows my secret, and you want to get us expelled.... But James stopped Sirius’s plan. And... And I know I shoulda done more... But I did more this time... Even with everything that happened, with you trying to get us expelled and watching me and everything.... Mate, if you’ll call the two of us square, I will. And I’m not speaking James or Sirius, just you and me. Man to man. I want to clear the air if you do.”

Remus looked back to Severus, who was still dozing.

“Ah, hell. You probably can’t even hear me, can you,” he said, leaning over and resting his forehead on his crossed arms on the comforter.

He sat there for a few moments, before feeling a tickle on his right elbow. He straightened up a little bit to see what was disturbing them... And found bandaged fingers twitching back and forth. He looked up to see dark, tired eyes, looking at him, puzzled.

A broad grin spread over his face. “Hey, mate, hey,” he said gently as he stood up, getting a bit closer to be able to hear. “You gave us a scare.”

Trembling lips managed a breathless, “Why?’M jus’ Sev’rus Snape.”

“Yeah. With all the usual issues that come with being Severus Snape, I know. I did it ‘cause it was the right thing to do.”

“Right thing? Damn y-you, Remus Lupin.”

Remus gave a tiny smile. “At least you’re still the angry Severus I know...”

Severus gave a splutter, and Remus drew a little closer, so that he wouldn’t have to work so hard to speak. “Did you m-mean what you said? Y’ sorry?”

Remus nodded. “I did. I... I didn’t want it to come to this.... And I should have done something to stop them, because I know it wasn’t right... Can we be... You know... Square? No bad blood ‘tween you and me?”

Severus’ dark eyes fluttered, then closed again.

Remus gnawed on his lip lightly, and brushed his hand over Severus’. “Yeah. Yeah, mate... Just... Just get some rest.” With that, he departed the infirmary, and McGonagall escorted him back to Gryffindor tower.

In the infirmary, meanwhile, the lone occupant was engaged in a fitful, pained sleep. Bits and pieces if the waking world wormed their way into his mind so that sleeping was made difficult .. But one thought seemed to be a regular occurrence.

I need a way to repay Remus Lupin...

...

The next week, Severus Snape was mostly well again, and the Marauders were back to their usual antics.. Madame Pomfrey was dissuaded from sending Severus to St. Mungo’s... For the next three weeks, Severus was only seen in his classes, and went off to do unknown things in his free time.

Only Remus Lupin knew where Snape was the entire time... Although he didn’t actually discover it until almost two weeks after the Incident of the Tower.

It was right after Transfiguration some time later... Remus wasn’t feeling quite well that day—he was getting jumpy and irritable, and he knew exactly why. The Marauders knew exactly why that was, and they too were prepping for their little excursions out to the Shrieking Shack for the next week. They were planning that, much more than they were focusing on homework...

The bell had rang, McGonagall had given out homework, and all of the seventh-year NEWT students began piling out of the room.

Severus Snape had practically shoved Remus out of the way on his way through the door, mumbling something about potions homework. Remus was tempted to do something regrettable.... Then he realized that Severus had pressed a slip of paper into his hand... He pocketed it, not reading it until he’d gotten away from his mates in the bathroom five minutes later.

Remus,

Sorry for the primitive method of mail, but they couldn’t know. I have something waiting for you tonight when you go to the Shrieking Shack. I know it’s not the Cure, but it may make things a bit easier on you this week. I triple checked the dosage of aconite. It’s safe. I’m really sorry that I couldn’t add sugar... It is quite dreadful.

—Slytherin

 

Chapter Text

“I expect you to behave in a manner befitting the respectable young future-wizard that you are, Mr. Potter. They are your relatives, after all. While they are.... denser than most Muggles, they should still command your respect. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir. I understand...”

Harry was eleven now, and he would be going to Hogwarts in just a few weeks. The letter had come by owl, as Snape had assumed it would.... And he had no doubt in his mind that Harry would be receiving one, so it was no surprise when it did arrive...

Before Harry’s fourth year of Hogwarts (known by Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall as: The Year Everything Absolutely Went to Hell in a Howler and We Completely Let It) summer holidays were spent at the cottage, prevailingly... There, or at the Weasleys’ house. Or at Spinner’s End.

Although Snape was still the owner of Spinner’s End, he detested the place, and kept it only for the sake of saving face in the wizarding community, of not selling the house in Spinner’s End, the property upon which it was built having belonged to the Princes for at least seven generations back... He really didn’t want it. But especially among his Death Eater friends it was important that he not cut ties with ‘ancient magical heritage’. ‘Ancient magical heritage’, his arse. Not only was his lineage so hazy with squibs and Muggle-borns that it was impossible to tell if the Princes were actually magical or not, but everything that he had accomplished in his life, his ten OWLs and seven NEWTs, was his. They were not his mother’s, and certainly not his father’s.... They were his, and his alone. A filthy Half-blooded bastard he was, and proud of it, too....

Of course, his hand-built house and much of the rest of his life for the past ten years, had been shared with someone else...

At any rate, while they stayed at the cottage, Severus Snape had decided to bring Harry back to Surrey, just... Just once. It was ten years after Harry had last left their house... Severus held out a tiny vestige of hope that perhaps they had changed. It wasn’t much. But it was some... He’d called ahead, arranged a dinner meeting.... He would hold out hope, that perhaps things would be alright.

Since Harry had been admitted to Hogwarts, Snape was more trusting of a disapparition than he had when he'd retrieved Harry. They disapparated together to the doorstep at the appointed time, but just for the sake of the Dursleys perhaps being... Well... The Dursleys, with all the usual issues... He decided that setting the ground rules down before entering the house was a better idea, rather than ending up having to enact damage control after attempted hexes....

Satisfied with Harry’s answer, because when Harry gave his word, it usually meant that he was going to keep it, Severus reached his hand out and rang the doorbell.

....

He should have followed his instinct, and decided to squash any hope of Harry interacting happily with his Muggle relatives, before trying for a dinner meeting. Because bloody hell, it was horrible.

....

A fat blonde child opened the door. “Mu-um! There are Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door,” he yelled.

Harry shrank behind Severus a little more. As a rule, Severus tried to make sure that Harry’s clothing was more to Muggle standards, but Harry did have a coat that was an antique and looked an awful like a cloak in its own right, and he happened to be wearing it today...

The fat blonde boy looked to be Harry’s age. Figured.

Dudley, his mind told him when he tried to recall the child’s name from the embroidered bibs he had seen ages past.

“We don’t talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Dudley said crossly with a pout on his face.

Snape just attempted to keep his expression cordial. He was failing already. “We are not of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Petunia came down the stairs... Good god. When she wasn’t looking like her usual self (that is, like a hag), then she had a horrible, overly-saccharine smile pasted over her face, which he hated as well. He simply detested everything about the woman... It was almost instinctual.

“Afternoon, Petunia,” he said, forcing his own voice into some semblance of amiability. “You don’t know how much this means, being able to show Harry his family.”

Petunia gave a sniff. “Yes, well, he was never really any family of ours. Neither was... She.”

Severus resisted the urge to explode right there and then, and Harry clearly sensed it, because the young wizard immediately took a cautious step back as he felt Snape's hand move to his wand pocket.

Things only became worse from there. After trying, and failing, to carry on a civil conversation with Petunia and Vernon, Severus took to a secondary occupation: leering from a dark little corner of the living room while Vernon watched crap Telly. Severus also began watching his son (Goddammit.) nephew be entertained by Dudley Dursley. And an intriguing thing that was indeed. Harry seemed excited to see all the new Muggle things... The thing was, Dudley seemed to have a habit of being a destructive little brat. Severus had never seen such a spoiled child in his life. Even the Malfoys would have agreed that this was a crime against the child to allow this to happen.

So, while they was there, Dudley managed to destroy a rather expensive-looking Muggle contraption that Vernon called a 'gaming console', by chucking it out of a window. Apparently it was worth quite a bit of money. Severus could only describe his reaction as being a mix of abject disgust and utter amusement, in equal measure.

They only stayed barely until dinner. It wasn’t Snape’s intention to leave so soon, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately? It was difficult to tell, honestly) the situation deteriorated so much that Severus and Harry practically fled the house.

And it began innocently, as it almost always does.

The Dursleys had served dinner, and they were sitting down, and Dudley had made such an innocent remark that Severus really didn't have the mind to care. Of course, Severus was sitting next to Dudley, so it was difficult to not to at least notice when worse went to disastrous.

“May I please have some, father?” asked Dudley, pointing to a glass of scotch that Vernon had poured for himself.

“Don't be ridiculous, you're too young,” said Vernon with a dismissive laugh.

Clearly dissatisfied with his father’s answer, Dudley turned to Petunia. “Mum, may I please have some?”

“Not now, Duddykins. In a few years,” said Petunia, trying to be soothing. (If Petunia had ever been soothing in her entire life, Severus would eat his shirtsleeves to his elbows. With the buttons, mind you.)

“I want some Scotch!” Dudley yelled. “I want it NOW!”

Harry, meanwhile, had wisely taken to staring at the wall between himself and Severus. For a moment, he glanced up at Severus expectantly out of the corner of a mischievous eye, as if to say, ‘If he manages it, may I have some?’ Severus put a rather swift end to that with just a look... But then rolled his eyes and mouthed, ‘Butterbeers, later.’

Severus just barely managed to dodge flying dishware when Dudley hurled his plate across the dining room. It hit a wall and shattered.

“Now Dud—”

Vernon was cut off by Dudley screeching. Dudley grabbed some rolls and began throwing them every which way.

Harry, ever the clever child, was now decidedly picking away at the food on his plate as if absolutely nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

“Duddykins--”

Petunia was cut off when Dudley grabbed the tablecloth and proceeded to drag it off the dinner table... Along with all the other place settings, Severus neutrally observed with a raised eyebrow as his plate vanished from the table before him in a distinctly non-magical fashion. Well, then.

As it was, Harry, realizing that dinner was effectively cancelled, got up from his place, and nearly ran for the door.

Severus immediately stood as Harry fled the table, but paused for a moment, to allow pass a failing foot that would have been headed straight for his groin. Vernon had stood as well. “Running away from the dinner table; you see, that’s the result of a failure to take disciplinary action; you and James and Lily; freaks all alike,” Vernon announced, while wrestling the bottle of Scotch away from his yowling son, and seeming almost proud at his conjecture.... obviously completely out of his league, given the doom-heralding glare that Severus delivered to him, and obviously not caring at all that he was running. His. Mouth. “Do you use the cane at all?”

A beat.

Vernon looked at Snape as if he expected some sort of praising response, while Snape regarded him with eyes that would cause any sensible person to wither into absolute nothingness... But whether the wizard’s expression was to say that Vernon would meet an unfortunate end at Snape’s wandpoint, or if Vernon was simply the mental equivalent to stepped-on chewing gum was entirely another issue.

“I... feel the need to... inform you,” Snape began, choosing his words ever-so-carefully as to not intermingle the... Er... Stray hex into his statement. “That I shall not raise my hand against Harry Potter.” He gave a tight, measured bow, and missed another solid kick from Dudley as he turned for the door. “Good day.”

...

“I'm... sorry. I thought that things might be different.”

It was some time afterwards... Instead of going straight home, Severus had taken Harry back to the house at Spinner’s End. He didn’t know why, it just felt like a good thing to do—a time to cool down before returning to the cottage. Spinner’s End had always been to them a sort of staging ground, where they went to plan things before a big event, and where they returned after a horrible failure such as this one... Today the dust was unbearable, so they sat on the steps, just the two of them.

Harry hadn’t said a thing since their arrival here .. Severus figured that it was to be expected.

Ugh... So many horrible memories resided here though, at Spinner’s End... Severus hadn’t the faintest idea why he kept the place. It was this house that Severus had fled from, thirteen years ago. It was at this house that he formed so very many of his own personal policies and rules for engagement... Although, in his own mind, Severus knew the answer. Spinner’s End was a fall-back measure, a staging ground, and an insurance policy against a rise in Death Eater activity, so he could keep Harry at the cottage and still save face with Death Eaters by saying Dumbledore had hidden Harry elsewhere. Because Lucius and Draco had only ever visited Spinner’s End... No Death Eater, not even the father of one of Harry’s young friends, knew about the cottage in the country that Harry truly called home.

Although, he supposed that, these days, the sting of Spinner’s End wasn’t quite so sharp. Before, it was just him and his mother... Or really just him. In retrospect, his mother was only better than his father in that she didn’t harm him. Beyond that, there wasn't much of a difference... Perhaps she didn’t strike him, but she still stood by and did nothing while Tobias did...

But now, coming back, things... Were different. He had something... Someone... To invest in. It felt strange, but it felt good, to have someone to care about. That didn't mean that he felt accustomed to it yet... Sometimes it still felt awfully surreal, but it was.... Comforting, he supposed, in a way that he couldn’t explain. He was still the same old Severus, who was hyper-introverted, had trust issues, and was developing an increasingly antagonistic relationship with Albus Dumbledore, but it was nice at least to not be alone in the world...

Severus glanced at his son (god why was this so difficult.) nephew. Harry just picked at his laces. “T’s alright,” Harry said quietly. “T’s not your fault.” He sighed. “But we.... my parents, you, Ron... we aren’t really freaks... Are we?” He tugged on his laces hard enough to loosen them. Severus didn’t need to be a skilled legilimens to know that Harry was thinking about having spoken to the garter snake in Draco Malfoy’s presence two weeks ago, and horrifying everyone.

“That’s... not normal, is it?” Harry’s face was pale with fright, along with Draco’s as Severus beheld them and the garter snake slithered away through a gap in the fence.

“It’s.... different. Not bad, but... different.” All Severus could think of the demented snake that Tom spoke to, in that strange, clicking, hissing language... It admittedly frightened him as well.

Severus sighed, and stared at the far stone wall. “What you believe depends upon your point of view.” He glanced at Harry. “Butterbeers at the Leaky Cauldron?”

Harry still looked down. “No, thank you.”

Severus almost lost a step. It wasn’t like Harry to turn a Butterbeer down. The boy typically asked for a second pint at every visit to anywhere that served it, and Severus always had to drag Harry out of the Three Broomsticks before he chanced a third.

Severus paused for a moment, not wanting to risk physical contact (Harry in his later childhood was very particular about how and when he wanted hugs, just like Severus had been) or being insensitive... So he just sort of sat there, looking like a house elf caught at wandpoint.

Harry made eye contact with him. Severus thought for a moment about another pair of striking, brilliant green eyes... His mind returned to the child before him. He opened his mouth and closed it again, and the unspoken sentence passed between them. Do you want to talk about it?

Harry looked back across the street, despondent if nothing else. “I'm a Parselmouth; everyone's going to think I’m a freak...” A bit more quietly: “I miss Jacques.” He sighed. “It’s just everything, all at once.”

Severus faltered. He hadn’t expected that. “Jacques was a good old owl, son. He lived well, had a long, full life.”

Harry winced, and looked down, drawing his knees to his chest before crossing his elbows around them, and resting his head in the crook of his arm. “I wish he wasn’t gone,” came his muffled response with a voice thick from emotion and possibly tears as well.

Jacques had been with Severus since his fourth year at Hogwarts. It had been more than a decade and a half since then—the owl was quite a bit older than Harry... Jacques had even outstripped the usual age of a snowy owl by a considerable amount... But eventually the old bird couldn’t handle his workload anymore and he was retired from service at the Snape residence.... Soon after that, Severus found him sprawled out on the porch, as cold as the morning dew that soaked his feathers. They’d had a small memorial—mostly for Harry’s benefit, as the boy was rather fond of the creature that had been there since day one.... But Severus had to admit, he would miss Jacques dearly as well... As Severus told Harry, the great old owl had many long years of good service under his metaphorical belt. It was fitting that he be rested from the cares of the world. Harry, being Harry, was still highly averse to the idea of death... A natural reaction, given his history...

So, back in the present, Severus chanced a comforting gesture... He drew his arm up slightly, and (admittedly with the utmost of hesitation) rested it gently on Harry’s back. The boy did tense slightly, but quickly relaxed. Harry gave a shudder and leaned into Severus’s side and began to cry openly. The latter, of course, did not expect this, and was... Rather surprised when he found his hand not just resting on the broad of his son’s back, but around the boy’s arm as well, drawing him closer. He set his chin on the top of Harry's head, and simply let Harry cling to him and weep. They stayed that way for quite some time.

“We could stop by Diagon Alley tonight, for your books and school things...” Severus still held his son in an embrace as he looked up at the evening sky, which was only just beginning to fade from a blue-tinted indigo to a fiery orange. “We still have time tonight... Perhaps even some butterbeers, if you’re up to it afterwards.”

Harry shrugged slightly, and Severus could feel an odd sensation welling in his chest. It was a warm, filling pressure.... This was one person whom he knew he would protect to his own dying breath. This was one person he would care about, forever and always. Not just out of its own merit, nor because of the obligation he felt towards his own lost love, but a strange combination of the two.

No doubt about it, Severus cared about this boy, dammit, the son of his childhood love and his childhood nemesis. As loathe as he was to admit it, he would have been lying if he said there wasn’t a tiny spark in him that more than anything desired for Harry to return at least a tiny piece of that affection.

Harry sniffled, and just leaned more into Severus.

The elder wizard glanced down momentarily, then back up at the sky. “Tomorrow, then.”

Chapter Text

The trip to Diagon Alley the next day was... Eventful, to say the least.

First things first, Harry would have to assess the situation at Gringotts' and determine how much of his school supplies’ costs would be supplemented with money from the Potters’ vault.

Now, Severus had always taken it in pride that he had sustained himself and his son on his salary from Hogwarts, never once having to dip into the funds that he knew James and Lily had left their son....

In addition to his teaching salary, Severus got regular compensation from different literature instalments for being able to publish some of his pioneering work in potions (Second only to Golpalott himself, some said), and (in earlier years) pieces of his progress on his Capstone project, Second Treatise on Magic Theory, with Special Attention to Muggles. He was offered a position at the Ministry after his quote-unquote visionary work in bringing a solid, working theory to the explanation of the existence of Squibs in Pureblood families, and the importance of blood purity (which, of course, was marginal to none)...

Money was still tight sometimes, but they made do. He thought that he had allotted an ample supply of money to go towards Harry’s education, though he occasionally wondered if it would be enough for seven whole years. Which, of course, was why he needed Harry to retrieve at least a few galleons to supplement the budgeted cost this year...

Snape oughtn't've worried. Hagrid went with Harry to Gringotts while Snape went broom hunting (for God's sake, don’t ask), and Harry came back with a pouch chock-full of galleons.

Severus had to bite back a bitter laugh when Harry happily showed him the... Easily thirty or forty galleons in the pouch, and Harry said he’d only taken a little bit from what was stored in Gringotts.... Even as a child, Severus had to work for the neighbours to get the money to exchange into galleons and sickles and knuts in order to buy his own books and his own robes, and his own school supplies, which were painfully expensive given how he barely owned the clothes on his back as it was.... Compounded, of course, by the fact that his father took a liking to tearing his books apart.... He’d always had to earn what he got... But for some reason, the Potters always owned that same silver spoon the Malfoys and the Blacks did. The little green wisp of envy was quickly squashed by another realization: Harry’s financial future was well-provided for. He would be able to attend Hogwarts... He probably would, even if Severus wasn’t giving him aid at all... But that wasn’t important, Severus realized with a start. Harry was his boy, jsut as much as James’, and that was all the reasoning Severus needed to continue to monetarily support the young wizard through school...

Severus had watched as Harry was fitted for robes for the first time... He couldn’t help but feel a tiny twinge of pride... He’d kept this little human alive long enough to attend Hogwarts, where the boy would be further prepared to survive in the world of wizards... Both figuratively and literally, Severus would guess later...

They had, of course, stopped in the Leaky Cauldron to meet everyone before going shopping... Harry was indeed quite the celebrity, but Severus couldn’t help but be put off when Quirinus Quirrell showed up to shake Harry’s hand... He’d never liked Quirrell much... The Ravenclaw reminded Snape far too much of himself, and in the very bad way... He also seemed much too skittish since his trip around the globe... Severus had never trusted the man, and he suspected he never would.

When Harry went to get a wand, Severus stayed behind with Hagrid, and helped the man choose a pet for Harry... Although really it was just Hagrid choosing; the half-giant had made it a point to get Harry an owl, and a snowy owl at that. Severus had protested on the grounds that it was much too soon after Jacques for Harry to get an owl... But Hagrid’s mind had been made up (he’d said it was something about her eyes that he liked), he was paying for the gift, and there wasn't much Severus could do to stop him...

Harry had a broad grin on his face as Hagrid showed up with little soon-to-be-named-Hedwig... she was smaller than Jacques was, but that was to be expected since she was a juvenile. She’d be a good owl for Harry.... Just from a cursory observation she had far more sass about her than Jacques ever had, but every owl had their own personality of sorts... Hedwig would just take a while to get used to, just like any pet.

“She’s beautiful,” Harry said, holding up the cage and looking into brilliant amber eyes. “Absolutely beautiful...” His eyes darkened for a moment, but the fleeting shadow passed as quickly as it had come. “Hey, Hagrid, do you want to see the wand that chose me?”

Hagrid had beamed, and Severus looked on in interest as Harry pulled out his wand and waved it, and Severus was very close to ducking to avoid anything that... strayed from the wand. Especially with Harry’s record of.... well. It wasn’t particularly important.  

“It’s Holly, eleven inches long, with a Phoenix feather core,” Harry said proudly as he showed Hagrid the decoration on the wand, and Severus gave a tiny smirk. Well. That Holly-and-Phoenix did actually come to good use after all, didn’t it?

Harry looked up expectantly at Severus. “Could we go for butterbeers now, please?”

Severus gave a relenting look, much to Harry’s (obvious) enthusiasm. “Yes,” he said tiredly.

Harry beamed, and began tugging Severus’ down the street towards the Leaky Cauldron.

Severus  nodded at Hagrid. “I shall see you, beginning of term, gamekeeper?”

“Yessir, you shall,” Hagrid said. “I oughta be gettin’ back ta ‘ogwarts anyways. Have a nice time of things, Harry! I’ll see you soon!”

...

“You’ll be going with the Weasleys in their automobile to platform nine-and-three-quarters.... I shall have... things to attend to at school in the morning... but I’ll see you there, at the feast.”

Harry had his things, and was ready for the busy morning next. Now they were just preparing logistics.

“Molly Weasley will teach you how to go through the dividing wall... It's a simple thing, really, to run through it, but it is... daunting on the first try, and better if you have someone to run through with.”

The boy nodded. “Yes sir...” He paused, then sighed. “Uncle Sev, I have a question.”

Severus glanced at Harry from his chair. “Hm?”

“What.... What House do you suppose they’ll put me into?”

Severus blinked slowly, his mind in a different place, when the Sorting Hat had shouted Gryffindor, and he had lost his best (that is, only) friend to a different House of Hogwarts. He forced his mind back into the present.

“I haven't the slightest,” he said evenly. “You never know until the Hat actually sorts you.”

“Well, what House were you?”

Severus paused, looking for words. “...the House you’re sorted into doesn’t matter as much as people think. You see, there are often Gryffindors who are as clever as Ravenclaws. There are Slytherins as brave as Gryffindors...  Some Ravenclaws are cruel, and some Hufflepuffs are exceptionally brave... Your house does not... define who you’re going to be. You define who you’re going to be.”

Harry, for the present, didn’t seem to be buying it. After Severus’s statement, he simply remarked, “I’ll bet you were a Ravenclaw, you seem wise like a Ravenclaw should be,” and Severus had to bite back a deep sigh.

“Well, you’re simply going to have to wait to see what the Sorting Hat decides, Harry. I’ll....” he’d been about to say, ‘be happy for you all the same.’ The second alternative: ‘still be proud of you.’ He altered his statement at the last moment. “Support you, regardless.”

...

Hermione Granger, Harry’s new Muggle-born friend whom he’d met on the train was a Gryffindor, as was Ron. Well, that was to be expected for Ron at least... Draco Malfoy, who seemed to be rather sore the whole train ride that Harry hadn’t sat by him, instead opting for Ron Weasley, was sorted into Slytherin, practically before the Hat even went on his head. Again, nothing beyond expected. It was Harry’s sorting that had everyone excited... Everyone wanted to know which House was right for the Boy Who Lived....

...

“Hmmmm.... GRYFFINDOR,” the Sorting Hat yowled. A chorus of cheers arose from Gryffindor’s table, and a few unhappy grunts from the other tables.

Harry glanced to his uncle at the beginning of the feast, but the man’s dark eyes were unreadable and distant... Harry lost a step. His uncle had told him that he would be supportive... And yet at the moment, the man just seemed lost in thought.

It was midway through the feast when something rather unexpected happened. Harry had been glancing up and down the table of teachers, and he’d felt a sharp, hot pain shoot across the scar on his forehead... Severus had always instructed Harry to inform someone—either Severus, or McGonagall, or even Dumbledore himself, should the scar begin to hurt. But it was right in the middle of the feast and everyone was happy,  and Harry hadn’t the mind to interrupt it over a twinge....

But he couldn’t help rubbing the scar, just to try to quiet it down a bit, and he instinctively looked to his uncle, who had obviously already perceived an issue, and was looking at Harry, beyond thoughtfully. Of course, to most people, it looked like the usual brooding, but Harry knew better.

Hermione Granger  noticed where Harry was looking...

“Who’s that,” she asked him in a low voice, gesturing to Snape.

Ron piped up instead, eager to at least know something that Hermione didn’t. “That’s Severus Snape. Potions master. I hear he hates it... Everyone knows he really wants Quirrell’s job—the fellow in the turban? Yeah. He teaches Defense against the Dark Arts this year. Snape wants to be D.A.D.A teacher but Dumbledore won’t have it,” Ron said to Hermione in a voice that was extraordinarily close to gossip, before Harry elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

“The bloody hell?... Mate, what was that for?”

Harry shot him a look as if to say, ‘what is said at your house at Christmas time under the influence of butterbeers and eggnog, stays at your house at Christmas time under the influence of butterbeers and eggnog.’

Harry’s scar made another unhappy twinge, and he gave a little yelp of alarm.

Hermione nudged him, and Harry turned to her. “What-what is it?”

“Are you really alright? What’s the matter?”

“Oh, it’s... It’s just my scar. Just hurts, kind of. It’s nothing to worry about.”

Harry glanced at Snape again, who was now looking at him in earnest, and was also almost on the edge of his chair.

Hermione once more followed Harry’s gaze. “You don’t suppose... He’s the one doing it, do you?”

Harry shook his head. “I...”

Ron made a face at Harry’s hesitation. “Have you gone nutters? Hermione, Snape’s a teacher. Besides that, Harry—”

Harry interrupted him. “I don’t think it’s him, Hermione.” He gave a smile. “Besides, it’s gone now. I’m fine.”

And the rest of the day was passed in peace.

...

Potions class was held in the dungeon of Hogwarts castle, which was a great deal colder than the above-ground halls and was in its own right rather creepy, as there were jars of what looked like pickled animal body parts... As it stood, Harry was a bit... Nervous, to say the least. He’d been living at the house of the Hogwarts Potions master, and had virtually nothing to show for it in terms of capability with potions... Well, that would hopefully change.

Harry didn’t expect Snape to come bursting into the class through the door, lending an element of surprise and, in the case of Neville Longbottom, abject terror to the class of first-years.

Snape’s voice was the quiet, even baritone it always was, but Harry found it strange that here in the classroom it carried none of the warmth it usually did at the cottage... Though he supposed it made sense, since it was work and not leisure time.

“There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. As such, I don't expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science that is potion making. However, for those of you who possess the predisposition, I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses; I can tell you how to brew glory, bottle fame, and even put a stopper in death....” He paused, and the dungeons were deadly silent, except for the sound of Harry’s quill. “Then again, maybe some of you have come to Hogwarts in possession of abilities so formidable that you feel comfortable enough to not pay attention...” Harry didn’t even need to look up to know that Snape’s dark gaze was resting upon him. “Mr. Potter, our new.... celebrity.” Harry flushed. This didn’t sound like the Snape he knew.... What on earth was wrong?...

“Potter!” said Snape suddenly. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Harry visibly faltered, and... Ah, this was the Severus he knew. The one whose face looked like he was in actual pain of trying desperately not to cringe when Harry could not, for his life, understand Potions. And there was something else there too.... sadness? It was a mere fleeting shadow. Maybe he was seeing things.

Hermione’s hand shot skywards

“I don't know, sir,” said Harry truthfully.

Snape's lips curled into a sneer.... Huh. That was a new one, too. He solidly ignored Hermione's raised hand.

“Let's try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a Bezoar?”

Harry blinked. He should have known that one, but nothing came to mind. “I don't know, sir.”

Snape’s face was unmistakeable. It was the face that screamed, in no words but rather all the body language in the world:  DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN ABOVE, CHILD. I HAVE EXPLAINED THEM TO YOU EVERY MONTH SINCE YOU WERE FIVE.

His face twitched and returned to normal, which, of course, to everyone except Harry looked like one glare transitioning to another glare

“Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming, eh, Potter?”

Snape was still ignoring Hermione's quivering hand.

“What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?”

Hermione jumped up, almost knocking over her chair in the process.

“I don't know,” said Harry quietly, and not bothering to meet his surrogate’s glare.

“Tut, tut. Fame clearly isn't everything, is it, Mr. Potter?”

Clearly Hermione knows. Seems a pity not to ask her.”

A rumble of laughter in the classroom, before: “Silence.” All was deathly so.

“...Sit down, you silly girl,” Snape growled at Hermione as he strode to Harry's table and pulled a spare chair to it, sitting down. “For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A Bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As for monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite....” He paused, tipped his head, then rolled his eyes. “Well? Why aren't you all copying that down?”

The rustle of parchment and quills filled the dungeon.

Over the noise, Snape said, “And a point will be taken from Gryffindor House for your cheek, Potter.” And it was this judgment that earned Severus a resentful glare—the very first of its kind to date—from the Boy Who Lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

He didn’t hear well out of his left ear or see out of his left eye for some time.

It was the left shoulder that had been shattered, the left side of his head that had borne the brunt of the damage. It was his left hand that required more detailed reconstruction.

Dumbledore was his only visitor while he was in the infirmary, and then seemed to vanish again after Severus departed the care of Madame Pomfrey. Until the trip to Hogsmeade that Severus had stayed back at Hogwarts from, again.... And Dumbledore has insisted that Severus have someone at his side at all times... Preventative measures, the Headmaster called it.

For the first hour, Professor McGonagall had agreed to make certain that Severus went nowhere near the Astronomy Tower. If that wasn’t bad enough, she insisted he study for his NEWTs the entire time. Flitwick resumed McGonagall’s position after that hour was up—on that cold and snowy February day, he taught Severus how he charmed the cupcakes to dance. The final half an hour (or less. Flitwick’s cupcake charms took a bit of time to learn) was to be spent with Dumbledore himself. That was the part Severus was dreading. Mostly because, given the situation, he knew what was going to happen.

“Severus,” Dumbledore had greeted him. “I appreciate you being willing to comply.”

The young man gave Dumbledore a toned-down version of the glare he would become famous for. “Had I a choice, I would not.”

Dumbledore gave a knowing nod. “I’m certain.” He gestured to a nearby chair. “If you would like to study?”

Severus looked down, shook his head. “I’m finished studying; I’ve had enough of it for one day.”

Dumbledore looked pensively at him. “Perhaps you should have gone to Hogsmeade?”

Severus shook his head. “No... I’d prefer to just be here... honestly, I’d rather be in the Potions lab, brewing—” he cut short. “Researching effects of improper stirring.”

The old wizard gave a tiny smile. “Remus Lupin gives his regards,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “It is a noble gesture.”

“He very nearly saved my life, with Professor McGonagall’s help... I owe him for that second chance. He gave me back my life... T’s only fair I give his back to him.”

“Wisely, put,” Dumbledore said.”Wisely put indeed.”

Severus went to sit down. Once in the chair, he remained motionless, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular at all.

They sat there that way for some time. Dumbledore returned to his work, and Severus.... Well, Severus Snape just sat in his chair, like a Snape-shaped shadow.

Dumbledore finally broke the silence. “Severus... You do know why we have put your protectors in place while you stay back from Hogsmeade, correct?”

Severus’ gaze remained fixed at a nondescript point on the other side of the room. “Because I cannot be trusted to not try to hurt myself again.”

Dumbledore gave a slight nod. “I wouldn’t have said it quote like that, but yes.”

“...”

“Severus. Would you like to be freed from an obligation to caretakers, should you prefer to remain from the next trip to Hogsmeade?”

The young man straightened up, clearly interested.

“If you explain to me... Well... Everything... Regarding your actions, the Sectumsempra spells and the Astronomy Tower, all of it.... Then I’ll see about rescinding the necessity for you to be monitored during Hogsmeade trips.”

Severus’ face returned to a normal glare, although he visibly bit back a snort.

Dumbledore shook his head after a few more moments of silence between them.

“Is there still nothing that you have to say? Even, as I said before, under the utmost of confidence?”

“Why should your standards of confidence mean anything to me?”

Dumbledore stood up from his chair, offering Severus a plate of wrapped candies.

The young man’s eyes narrowed, but he took a candy all the same. He slowly unwrapped it, and took it into his mouth without removing his gaze from Dumbledore. Dumbledore also took one, a lemon drop, unwrapping it and popping it into his mouth quickly. He smiled, and beckoned a chair forward with his wand, sitting right across from his charge.

Severus, meanwhile, slowly gripped the armrests with increasing strength. His heart rate was strangely quickened, and his mind felt hazy... He gritted his teeth as his chest began to ache, his lungs fought for every breath and even his wounded left hand grasped the armrest white-knuckled. He glared at Dumbledore with dark, hate-filled eyes. “Veritaserum,” he said, his voice an accusing whisper. “Illegal. To. Use. On. Students.”

“Fear not, all the candies contained it. I am now under compulsion. I am truthful with you, as you are with me.”

Severus now remained silent.

Dumbledore’s eyes were still clear and gentle.... Unbelievable, Severus thought with a start. If he had ever laced someone’s food with Veritaserum, he wouldn't be able to look them in the eye.

“Severus, do you know why I need to know these things of you?”

He willed himself not to answer, but his body evidently took it at its prerogative to shake his head.

Dumbledore’s face was ever-more gentle, ever-more caring... Like a father’s face should be, Severus almost thought, before remembering that he was furious with the headmaster for lacing his candies with substance for the unsuspecting student to consume at their leisure, none the wiser, for Veritaserum had no colour, taste, or smell.... one would only realize the problem when it was altogether too late.

“I need to know why, because I want to understand, I want to be able to help you. Right now, I haven't the slightest as to how I can help you, but I swear to you, I do want to aid you.... Some years back, I knew a boy who made all the wrong decisions... I should like for you to avoid that path.”

Severus shook his head. “A bit late for that, isn’t it?”

Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by that?”

Severus’s chest tightened, and willed him to speak... But he... Would... Not. He kept his mouth closed, his jaw clenched tight. His breath stopped coming so easily. He began to pant, and his joints began to ache... A resounding pain throbbed in his temples, and his breath very nearly stopped coming altogether.... His back arched, and his back surged away from the chair, though his hands still gripped the armrest.

Dumbledore was standing at his side now. “For god’s sake, whatever you’re hiding, Severus, it’s not worth this! I beseech you, tell me!”

It took just that much prompting for the Dark Mark to begun to give itself up. The burning in his forearm was unbearable as it came back to surface... He said nothing, but a screech tore itself from his throat, and his right hand wrenched itself off of the chair to grip his left forearm.

Dumbledore’s countenance lit with a recognition. Whether it was favourable or not, Severus hadn’t the mind to see. Right now, he was only concerned with the matter that he couldn’t breathe. His grip began to falter and he fell back against the chair as his head reeled with a lack of oxygen.

Dumbledore gently took Severus’ right hand, and drew it way from the young man’s left forearm... Then rolled up the sleeve. The Dark Mark was clearly visible, and Dumbledore winced. The moment that he did, though, Severus felt the pressure lift from his chest, and sweet, cool air rushed into his lungs.

Dumbledore's eyes softened as Severus gasped for air. “Oh, dear boy,” he said as the Mark receded.

“I don’t need your pity,” Severus spat resentfully. “I made the decision myself.”

Dumbledore sat down in the chair opposite once more.

“...”

“Severus, people don’t... Do what you have done, unless they have a very good reason to do so.... Does it hurt you much?”

Severus curled up in the chair. “Hurt more to get it,” he said in a low snarl.

“How... How are your parents?” Dumbledore tipped his head.

The young man glared at him, although his breath was quickened, and his face was attempting to mask obvious discomfort.

“Are they well?”

Severus... Just managed to shake his head, his eyes as hate-filled as ever they were when he put on the Death Eater mask and harassed people with his fellows, and with Tom.

“Your mother?”

...

“Mum?... Mum!”

He reached his hand to her mouth... Felt no breath.

Her eyes were open and glazed, sightless and unmoving... His were blinded, by grief, by rage...

A tear streaked down Severus’s cheek. “Murdered.”

Dumbledore paused a long while, and Severus remained tensely bundled up in the chair, trying to manage his breathing.

“Your father?”

...

He ran down the steps to the living room.... The room was in a shambles, broken china and glass everywhere, dirt and grime...

And in the middle of it all sat his father, a bottle of vodka in hand.

“Wh—ere’s your... M-mother, boy,” he slurred, half aware and half not. “I still have...a score to... Settle.” He was on his feet now, his stance as if he were ready to attack....

Severus’s glare remained on the far wall. “Murderer.”

Dumbledore sighed lightly, and looked at a nondescript point behind Severus. Tread lightly, was the order of the day, he supposed...

Severus Snape, meanwhile, was trying to will the Veritaserum to metabolise out of his body.

“Severus, did your father strike you?”

Severus’ glare was cold and hurt, and his answer was painfully obvious though he remained silent, still battling the Veritaserum.

“Is that why you allowed yourself to be branded with Tom's mark?” Dumbledore leaned forward. “You wished power to avenge yourself?”

Severus shook his head and another tear rolled down his cheek. “I joined before,” he said finally and was able to take a breath... Although his voice sounded uncharacteristically small. “I just... Wanted to not be afraid.” He looked back at Dumbledore. “Do you know what it's like? To be terrified of a Muggle?” His voice was like a quiet, bitter jest. “You, who possess powers beyond his comprehension... And yet terrified, because of a drunken rage, his strength? What he does to you under the cover of darkness?”

Dumbledore nodded, himself feeling the effects of the Veritaserum. “I do understand what it is to be afraid of a Muggle... Of what a Muggle is capable of...” Dumbledore trailed off. “Did you retaliate?”

Severus looked back down at the floor. “In a way,” he snorted. “A concerned neighbour who heard a ruckus and called the police...” He looked back at Dumbledore. “The man was implicated for bludgeoning his wife, and then stabbing himself to death.... Although they say the knife they found in his hand was small to have done such damage.”

He flicked his wand upwards, with a wordless lumos. I for one agree with them.”

Dumbledore’s brow furrowed.

“In the meantime... I have to inherit Spinner’s End.”

It was Dumbledore’s turn to snort. “I would have thought that you would want to inherit Spinner’s End to validate your heritage among your Death Eater friends.”

Severus glared at Dumbledore, the effects of the Veritaserum starting to wear off. “I do not,” he said simply. “Now. If you’ll excuse me.... I think I’ve had enough sweets for one night, thank you, Headmaster.”

Chapter Text

In all of his time as Potions Master, there were very few students that Snape truly and deeply disliked. Crabbe and Goyle were close on the list, but didn’t make it, quite. Even Neville Longbottom, whom Severus held a sense of contempt for (for reasons admittedly beyond the boy’s control), didn’t receive the title of ‘disliked’. That title belonged to one person, and one person alone: Hermione Granger.

To be clear, Hermione was a decent child, and a fantastic witch—she was smart and clever, and she was one of the only people in his classes of first years who could brew acceptable potions. (Harry, meanwhile, still couldn’t recite the definition of a Bezoar after his first year...)

No, there was another reason why Severus Snape held a deep dislike for Hermione Granger and it was really rather for one reason, and one reason only: She turned Harry against him. She wasn’t trying to do it, Severus was almost certain, but seeds of suspicion deeply sown are not easily retrieved again before they blossom into mistrust...

Snape had been humiliated by Quirrell, nearly gotten his right leg sawn in two by Fluffy (being the inventor of the Sectumsempra spell, he did not use those words lightly), bitten on the hand... And set on fire by Hermione Granger. All in all, an extraordinarily eventful year, for both him, and for Harry.

He, being Harry’s guardian, was understandably livid about the entire affair... Regardless of the fact that the Granger girl had solved his logic puzzle, and everyone survived (except for Quirrell. But who cared about Quirrell?) Severus Snape was livid.

Harry took the train back to platform 9-and-three-quarters, and stayed with the Weasleys for a couple of days while Snape took care of some last-minute affairs with Dumbledore about the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Severus came back after a few days, and they returned to the cottage. The first week was rather (blessedly) uneventful. Severus’ leg began to heal, although it still hurt on occasion. Harry was surprisingly subdued....

...

“Sir?” Harry peeked a wary head into Snape’s office.

“Come in,” Severus said in a... He never had a warm voice, in his life... The best he could manage was an earnest voice. “Don’t be shy.”

Harry was still jittery- looking as he walked inside and sat down. “Are you my Potions professor, or my caretaker today?”

“Caretaker,” Severus said in a voice that betrayed his confusion... Why would Harry make a distinction. “Are you holding up well? You know the grounds well enough by now, I hope.”

Harry gave a tiny nod. “Yeah. The kids in Gryffindor are really nice, and I have new friends now... “ He trailed off.

“You have a question,” Severus said observationally.

“Er... Yeah. Why... Why didn’t you tell me that you were Slytherin’s Head of House? For that matter, why didn’t you tell me you were in Slytherin at all?”

Severus tipped his head slightly, and leaned back in his chair. “I didn’t deem it necessary for you to know. You do enjoy Gryffindor, do you not? You have friends... Mr. Weasley, and Miss Granger?”

Harry shrugged. “I do, I just... Guess I might have been in Slytherin, if I’d known.” Harry looked at the floor. “The hat really considered it, but I... Uh... Begged it to not put me in Slytherin.”

Severus stood from his chair, his cape rising smoothly with his shoulders like ink up a quill.

“I hope it’s alright that I didn’t want to be in Slytherin...”

“I didn’t want to, either,” Severus said, a tiredness betrayed on his face. “But the Sorting Hat had other ideas,” he said with a bitter laugh. He nodded. “I think you'll do well in any House.”

Harry looked thoughtful again. “Why... Why did you take points away from Gryffindor House in my first Potions lesson? You embarrassed me in front of everyone.”

Snape gave a knowing smirk. “I only deducted six points. I’m certain that you’ll recover them soon, if you haven’t already.” He turned to Harry. “All the same, no student—much less any son of mine is going to get away with that much cheek in class.”

“M’ not your son, and I wouldn’t want to be,” Harry murmured.

...

Severus walked out of his room one evening about a week and a half into summer holiday, bearing one of his older notebooks, and strolled back across the main living space, to Harry’s room. Harry was currently in his room, silently reading through a spell book and taking sparing notes, a thoughtful look over his face.... Not one bit thinking about what he was studying, but clearly about something else. His back was to the door, so he didn’t notice Severus there at all...

The wizard stood there for a long moment. Since when had his son become so subdued?... Severus had, admittedly, grounded Harry instantaneously after the boy had recovered from the debacle with Quirrell and the Stone, but still. Historically, Harry had never taken to being grounded like he did this time.

In all honesty, Severus was hoping to press the adventurous streak out of Harry before the boy went and got himself killed in gallivanting heroically across the grounds. Because if Severus was honest, there were many worse things on the grounds of Hogwarts than just Fluffy. And this, coming from the man who’d nearly gotten his leg chewed off by said three-headed dog.

He left the doorway silently, and walked down to the potions lab. But today, strangely enough, he didn’t feel like brewing anything. So he sat in his chair, relaxing against the fabric back, and re-read his notes... As if he couldn’t recite the book of notes by heart already. He knew where things had been written, and crossed out and amended in all of his notebooks.

Wound-cleaning potion:

Failure to swing the wand left a fourth time in the mixing incantation: Nulls potion effects, turns grey. No vapour, no smell. Not harmful. OWL grade receivable: A. NEWT grade receivable: P

Failure to dip the wand lower on fourth leftward swing in the mixing incantation: Sours potion. Turns grey. No vapour, no smell. Particularly harmful. OWL grade receivable: D. NEWT grade receivable: D

Swinging wand upwards on the fourth rightward swing in the mixing incantation before the fourth, dipping leftward swing:  No detriment to the final product, and increases potion effects. OWL grade increase: Half one level. NEWT grade increase: Quarter one level.

He sighed lightly, continuing to read. The notes catalogued many ways to improve or butcher the potion... The different listings of effects went from beginning until end, from an O-grade to most D-grades, for OWL and NEWT level students. But for Severus, his work wouldn’t be finished until he had completed the Troll grade listings, which would admittedly take a very long time to accomplish.

“Uncle Severus?”

Snape blinked, looked up from his notebook. “Mm?”

“Are you.... are you mad at me?”

Severus gave a long pause.

Dark eyes met green... and Harry looked at the floor, then shrank down further with a little sigh.

“I was not angry.... I was... concerned,” Severus murmured.

“I didn’t mean to get involved, I really didn’t. I just.... I’m sorry.”

“You could have been killed, and how do you think that would have been for everyone? The Boy Who Lived, killed in his first year at Hogwarts, because he was too prone to prying into things that weren’t his business.” He snorted and looked away from the far wall. “Just like your father, always ferreting about and causing trouble, and that’s not even including the Quidditch,” he growled as his leg throbbed deeply and he leaned forward, rubbing it gingerly to keep circulation up.

Harry took a careful step forward... He’d seen the injury after it had happened, when Hogwarts’ Potions Master was tending to his leg, aided by Filch, the quasi-sadistic caretaker of Hogwarts’ halls. “Does it hurt much?”

Severus looked up at him silently. It hurts more to think that you thought it was me trying to throw you off your broom.

“Not much anymore... I’m fine.”

Harry looked at him for a few moments more. “I... I’m sorry that you got set on fire. Hermione and Ron really did think that it was you....”

Severus’ returned grunt practically dripped: Obviously.

Harry sighed lightly, and turned to go.

“W-wait,” Severus stood from his chair.

The boy paused mid-step.

“That first week, when you said....”

A beat.

“You said that you wouldn’t want to be...” He trailed off.

Another beat. Harry looked at him thoughtfully, before walking to Severus, and wrapping a cautious, tentative arm around the man’s waist. “I didn’t mean it.... Not really. M’ sorry.”

Severus’s eyes softened, and he leaned over to return the gesture.

Harry looked up at him “Are... are we all good now, Uncle? I mean, no, no hard feelings?”

Severus gave him a pointed look. “You’re still grounded for the remainder of the week, by virtue that your shenanigans could have cost you and your friends their lives, and that cannot possibly go unpunished.”

Chapter Text

Harry would not go to Hogsmeade in his third year. That was very swiftly and very early-on decided upon. In fact, it was decided upon, practically at the end of his second year at Hogwarts (there were some factors after that, but it was prevailingly decided due to the Chamber of Secrets incident.)

Because no matter what Severus did to dissuade him, Harry was Harry. He was his father’s son. Always going, always exploring, always .... Always in everything.

...

“Cool, a snake!” The little boy was peering down at it, enthralled by the slithering creature. “That’s the Slytherin house mascot, you know. A snake.”

“I don’t think that we should mess with it, Draco. Isn’t it against the law to hurt snakes?”

“I’m not gonna hurt it... Besides. Who cares about Muggle laws anyways.” The boy grinned, his unkempt blonde hair falling in his eyes, covering a cut on the boy’s brow. He picked up a stick and edged around the snake so that Harry was in one side, and Draco on the other.

“Come on, Harry,” he said, his voice cheerful. “Let’s see if we can get him to move.”

 Harry refrained mentioning that blood was still trickling out of Draco’s right ear.... He looked at the snake, who seemed to be mildly perturbed at the whole situation.

Harry still picked up a stick, and Draco nudged the snake, and the creature recoiled.

“Oi, mate! Bloody—What was that for? What did I ever do to you?!?”

Harry’s eyes snapped upwards. He looked around for the person who had spoken. Snape was coming over to see what they were doing....But it wasn’t Snape’s voice that he’d heard. Harry turned back to Draco. “You say something?”

His friend looked at him quizzically, stick in hand. “I said let’s see if we can get him to move. I swear, Potter, you may accuse me of being hard of hearing, but you’re absolutely going deaf.” He returned his concentration to the garter snake. “Hey, he’s going towards you, send him back towards me.”

Harry nodded, and drew his stick down...

“S’cuse me.” The voice was low, scratchy.... Hissing.

Harry stepped aside (almost bumping into Snape as he did so) and allowed the snake to pass. “Oh, sure. Yeah, sorry, mate. Go right on ahead,” he said, not recognizing entirely what he was saying.

The garter snake looked up at him. “What the-?” It darted away.

Harry smiled at the snake as it slithered though a hole in the fence. He looked up at Draco, whom he expected to have a look of disappointment....

But Draco was pale, paler than usual, anyways, and spluttering. “Wh-wh-what was that?!”

Harry blinked, caught off-guard. “What do you mean?”

Draco’s eyes widened. “P-p-professor?”

Harry looked up at Snape, who was presently looming over him.... The man’s face was unreadable.

... Good god, Lily. What has your son gotten himself into this time? I said I’d protect him, I didn't sign up for this ...

Draco spoke up again, sweeping his unkempt hair out of his eyes. “Potter, have you always chatted with garden snakes? Or is this a new thing?”

Harry’s eyes widened. So that was why it gained such a reaction... The implications began to sink in, and his eyes widened.. He looked up at Snape. “That’s... not normal, is it?”

It seemed to take Severus several moments to get his bearings back.”It’s.... different. Not bad, but... different.”

...

Harry was a Parselmouth, and with the mysterious freezings, it was obvious that Harry would have to be the one who would defeat the massive Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, and furthermore encounter Tom Riddle. Severus spent his time that semester being understandably livid. Damn Tom Riddle.

Forget that Harry destroyed the Diary. Forget that he bested Voldemort a second time. Forget that he retrieved the sword of Godric Gryffindor... Actually, that was amazing... but still.

Harry Potter crashed Arthur Weasley’s flying car into the Whomping Willow, and gave Severus Snape a semester-long heart attack. As if Harry speaking Parseltongue wasn’t already the subject matter of an extraordinarily awkward conversation with Dumbledore. The conversation about Harry facing off against a Basilisk ultimately resulted in Dumbledore administering reviving salts to Severus as the latter laid on the floor of the Headmaster’s office, after which, a litany of distinctly non-magical curses proceeded from Hogwarts' Potions Master.

It was because of this that Harry was grounded (really in-name-only) for the entire summer holiday. The true penalty for the tomfoolery of the previous school year came to bear after Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban.... Severus could knock out two birds with a single stone—if Harry could not go to Hogsmeade in his third year, he would not only be considerably safer in the walls of Hogwarts than in the wizarding town, but Harry would finally do penance for the sins of the previous year.

Did Harry listen to this ordinance? Of course not. He got a hold of that damned paper, the same one that James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus had possessed back in their school days. Harry snuck out, even though Severus had expressly forbidden him from travelling to Hogsmeade...

And for much of that semester, Severus felt as though he did everything wrong. He was preoccupied, and he spent almost no time with Harry... He had to deal with Remus Lupin, and teaching a second set of classes for a week in every month. In turn, for the first time in ever, Harry was openly and brazenly defying him. It had never happened before, given Harry’s history, and so was entirely unexpected. Before coming here to school, Harry was rambunctious, yes... But never rebellious.

Severus had his suspicions that Ron Weasley and the Granger girl were behind it, but it could have been Harry just... well turning into his father’s son. Not that it was a bad thing, inherently, for Harry to become more like his parents than his present guardian, but considering Severus’ record with the latter, not altogether convenient, either.

That year, everything just seemed to be in a perfect storm, an utter recipe for disaster, and it began innocently enough, as it really always does.

“Headmaster.... good evening.”

Severus nodded, and allowed him into the cottage. Harry was presently away with Ron Weasley—the boys were on a trip to Diagon Alley for their school supplies, and Severus had stayed behind, as Dumbledore had requested a visit.

“A very good evening, it is, Severus, I’m glad you agree.... thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”

The great grey wizard stepped over the threshold of the door, followed by—

“Remus Lupin.” Severus said with a curt nod. He gave a pointed glare at Dumbledore. “I was under the impression that this was to be a private conversation.”

The man smiled good-naturedly. “Hello to you, too, Professor.”

Dumbledore’s eyes sparkled. “Yes, it is a private conversation, between you, myself, and the Subject of our conversation.”

Severus started for a moment. Subject of...? “Well, he’s not a housepet,” Severus snorted.

Remus chuckled. “Wouldn’t go that far.”

Severus inhaled at the quip, not sharply, but definitely.. Unamused, as he closed the door. “Gentlemen...” his facial expression was clear. Please do not waste my time.

Dumbledore gave a polite nod. “Severus, as you know, we have an issue of the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts Master only lasting a year at most.”

Severus nodded. “I am acutely aware of the circumstances under which I am barred from the position.”

Dumbledore tipped his head. “Remus Lupin was kind enough to agree to help. He will be the D.A.D.A Master for this semester.”

Severus paused for a moment, and thoughts ran unbridled through his mind.

...

A young, greasy-haired boy was suspended upside down by his foot, and he was screeching curses, both magical and not ...

...

“Can we be... You know... Square?”

...

I need a way to repay Remus Lupin... I need a way to repay Remus Lupin.

...

“How much did you spend on the serum? I need to know, pay you for your trouble... It was the difference between night and day last night, it’s never been so easy; I want to make it up to you.”

“No. You already paid in full. I... I wanted to give you something back.”

“... You don’t understand, I’ve never.... Thank you. So, so much.”

“Just don’t mention it to your mates, and we’re square.”

...

Severus gave a snort. “And you’d just, just throw Remus here to the metaphorical wolves like that?” The unspoken, you’d do that, to my friend? How dare you, passed from steely dark eyes to eyes of brilliant blue.

Remus stepped between the two of them. “Whom Dumbledore chooses to be D.A.D.A. Master is his own business... And it’s not really why we're here, anyways.”

Severus remained silent and glaring at Dumbledore. Then why ARE you here?

Remus sighed lightly, then took his jacket off, rolling his sleeve up. “This one, was two months ago,” he said, pointing to a series of healed-over scratches. “This one...this one was last month,” he sighed, tipping his head upwards to reveal a wound on his own neck. “.... I don't have access to wolfsbane potion.”

Severus glared at Dumbledore again. “And who else to brew the potion, but the Potions Master who obviously has nothing better to do than teach seventeen classes to unruly young wizards, and raise a child while he’s at it... And I assume that you won’t be teaching the D.A.D.A. classes during the week that you’re incapacitated, so I wonder... who could... possibly take the job... except the resident Dark Arts expert.”

“It’s not the way we wanted to break it to you,” Remus admitted. “But I guess... Well, you went right for the neck on that one...” He chuckled at his own jest.

Severus gave a deep sigh. “The potion isn’t simple;... it takes time to brew... This is extremely short notice.”

Remus glanced at Dumbledore. “It’s one of the conditions.”

Dumbledore sighed. “Severus, please.”

“You realize, that 'please' is a bargaining agent, solely for small children?” He sighed... “There a few things that I would like clarified... the costs of supplies, for instance....” He gestured for the other two men to sit.

An hour later, all things were well-decided, and Dumbledore and Remus stood up to leave. Snape stood up as well, to show them to the door. Dumbledore strolled out purposefully, as he did almost anything, and Remus followed him.

Snape had intercepted the younger wizard before the man reached the doorway. He promptly tugged at Remus’ sleeve, enough for the man to look at him momentarily before he let go.

Dumbledore glanced back, noticing that Remus was not actually following him. “Are you coming?”

Remus paused, and looked at Severus. “Actually, Headmaster, I think I’d like to catch up a bit with Professor Snape.”

Dumbledore nodded, almost knowingly. “Alright, then.” He smiled, a twinkle in his eye. “I’ll see both of you at year’s start.” He quickly stepped out of the protective borders, and disapparated.

Remus gave Severus a hard stare. “I’m here. We’re alone. What is it that’s so necessary?”

Severus looked down. “I’m still working on.... on It. But progress has stalled.” He paused. “I need more... wolf saliva...”

Remus simply made a face.

“The enzymes are remarkably resilient, but I believe I’m incredibly close.”

“Severus... We... We’ve already done it, twice. We've been over this before. We're done. I don’t....” He walked back inside, and sat down on the couch. “You know I don’t have control if I don’t take the serum... I can’t have anything happen. I’d feel sick about it afterwards.”

Severus gave an amused snort as he walked back and stood next to the fireplace. “Why else do you think you always woke up immobile?”

Remus made a ‘that’s no comfort whatsoever’ face.

Severus gazed at the fire. “It’s so close, I’m certain of it.” He subconsciously clicked the ‘t’. “Within five years of a working formula. A cure for lycanthropy, Remus. Not these, stopgap measures that Dumbledore wants... a real cure.” He looked earnestly at his friend. “You're the one who this matters most to.... How... How could you not want that?”

Remus shook his head. “I do, I do want it... But I’m not endangering more people. There has to be another way.”

Severus looked at him thoughtfully. “Chain you to the floor of the dungeon and force feed testable potions to you seven nights a month until I find a working cure for your werewolfism?”

Remus rolled his eyes. “Not what I had in mind.”

Severus gave an amused snort. “It was an idea.”

“But it really is that close?”

Snape nodded. “I’ve been reading different Muggle Science instalments... They have some very good ideas these days. From what I’ve gathered from you... Thank you for your saliva, hair, and blood samples, by the way... From what I can tell, Lycanthropy is caused by a virus. A water-borne virus that affects the thyroid gland. The full moon is linked to specific energy frequencies that trigger the virus, which in turn cause the thyroid to produce certain unnatural hormones, and those hormones are what effect the Changing... there's a whole five pages dedicated to this in Second Treatise on Magic Theory. Block the virus, or the hormones, and you have your cure.”

Remus looked at him blankly. “You were always more the muggle science-y type, mate... I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Severus gave a huff of annoyance and looked into the fire. “Suffice to say, the current potion doesn’t entirely work. It should work, but it doesn’t.”

Remus looked up at him, now interested. “How much does it ‘not work’? Is it one-time effects or permanent? I’ll settle for just getting a little sick every month, while staying human.”

Severus shook his head, and walked to the locked cabinet, opening it with a silent flick of his wand.. “The current potion, from what I gather... It affects the physical transformation, but the mental transformation still occurs... You won’t be as deadly, but you’ll still be insane and violent. And it could deal permanent damage to both mind and soul. It's the opposite of the Wolfsbane Potion, and I haven't found a way to effectively blend them.”

Remus sighed lightly. “Not close enough, then.”

“No. Not close enough....” He pulled out a bottle of firewhisky and two glasses from the cabinet. “I would want to cure you first,” Severus said as he poured two small glasses of the magical beverage. He offered one to Remus.

“So... Be your guinea pig, you mean,” the man said as he took the glass.

“... In a manner of speaking, I suppose.”

“But... The end of lycanthropy...” Remus smiled happily behind his mousy moustache.

Severus put the bottle back in the cabinet and locked it, before raising his glass. “A promise resolving to eradicate lycanthropy deserves a toast to its binding members.”

Remus’ face parted into a grin. “Eradication. An end to the nightmare.... Never thought I’d see the day.” He raised his glass.

“Nor I.”

“To eradication, then?”

“Indeed.”

 

Chapter Text

“O’s in Potions, Transfiguration, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies, E’s in Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures... A’s in History of Magic, Ancient Runes and Astronomy... You could likely pass Arithmancy if you took the test again. You were only three questions away from achieving an OWL in the class. You dropped Divination the first day in...” McGonagall gave him a look. “...You always were less of a subjective type, weren’t you, Mister Snape?... These particular OWLs... Are you intending to become an Auror?

“N-No, ma’am. I don’t want to be an Auror. I just... If I want the mark, then I get the mark.”

Professor McGonagall smiled at him. “I’m glad for your enthusiasm for learning, Mister Snape. And of course I’ll take you into NEWT level classes.”

“Thank you ma’am. I won’t let you down.”

“Mister Snape, do you have a moment?”

The boy turned to her, and for a moment, he looked like a deer caught in headlights. Perhaps to him, he was. “Oh... er... yes, Professor. Is there a problem?”

“I was curious... the bruise on your face, have you gone to see Madame Pomfrey about it? It does look rather bad.”

“N-no, ma’am. I didn’t think that it was important.”

She looked at him, her eyebrow raised. “You didn’t think that it was important?”

Severus looked down. “No, ma’am. It was just a little fight, with someone in my neighbourhood. It wasn’t.... I didn’t break the Statute of Secrecy, so I don’t see how there’s a problem.”

“Do you have a free period today?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I should like to hear from Madame Pomfrey that you visited her today, Severus.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

...

“Dumbledore, it’s simply... He doesn’t look healthy. He’s a bright, clever boy, even if at times a bit of a know-it-all for his own good... He’s only fifteen... But sometimes I see him running—mind you, running for Madame Pomfrey’s....” She wrung her hands together. “And every single year, after every single holiday, I see him with new bruises and scars... It just doesn't feel right.”

“Then I shall take the liberty of speaking with him tomorrow. You did say that he was due for a detention, perhaps send him to me, instead?”

...

His eyes were wide with terror when he looked back to her.... and it was as if this moment were a galleon spinning end on end in the air, life and death hanging by a spider’s thread in the balance, and he was just waiting to see if it would turn up heads or tails.

...

“Thank you for fixing my wand, ma’am. You don’t know how much it means to me,” the little boy had beamed before he practically skipped back to Slytherin table.

“It was no problem,” she’d said in response, though he couldn’t hear her...

...

Minerva gazed at Hogwarts’ new Headmaster, installed by the Ministry of Magic. A man, at present, hated by one and all, including the Carrows, who had today come within an inch of burning the man alive on ‘accident’ when they had caught Michael Corner. Well.... So they said.

He had called her up to his office, just for a visit, a chat.... He was still tending to the burns on his arms when she walked in and sat down, her eyes trained on the clean linen wraps in understanding.

He was the first to speak, in a low voice and more .... More timid than usual. “Have you ever... Truly and deeply regretted something... That ... One decision changed, that it would better the world?”

Minerva glanced at him thoughtfully. “Are you the Headmaster of Hogwarts, or the boy named Severus, who is my friend, and whom I always thought of as the son I was never able to have?”

The man gave her a pointed look, before it softened and he looked back at his arm. “Just a lost boy.” He tugged the bandage and tied it off. “A lost boy, who.... Who always thought more highly of you, than of his own blood,” he admitted. “Trying to find where he went wrong; why every.... plan he enacts.... collapses,” he spat. “Why every... life he touches.... withers, why every step he takes forward is taken with dread and only puts him further and further and further away from his goal.”

Minerva tapped her finger silently against the armrest. “And what is that goal?”

Snape’s head tipped upwards and his eyes travelled to meet hers.... But he remained silent a moment, then turned back to bandaging his wrist, which he finished, and looked back to her. “I haven’t the slightest.”

Minerva gave a tiny nod. “We rarely do, and that is why our paths seem aimless... When in reality, you are always moving forward, towards the future.”

Severus looked at her after he’d finished, then after a long moment, spoke again.

“The past sixteen years of my life were governed by a decision that I to this day feel I had practically no hand in making...the only question I ever had was why.... Why did you do it? Why did you send the patronus to Dumbledore? Why did you give the boy to me? To me, of all people you could have chosen.”

Minerva was thoughtful for a moment, producing another pregnant pause. “I did it, because years ago, I knew two young men. One I knew when he was a colleague, albeit in Slytherin House, the other I met when he was a boy in my Transfiguration class.” She looked at him, her face earnest.

His returned gaze was neutral.

“The former, took his loss and rage and turned it loose against the world. He became the Dark Lord.”

A pause as the Headmaster stood and gingerly walked to the bookshelf behind his chair, turning away from Minerva.

“The latter, turned his anger and pain against himself, and I stood by and did next to nothing until it was too late to save him. He became one of the most devoted servants to the Dark Lord that the world has ever seen.”

The Headmaster turned to her. His eyes were dark, calm on the surface, but with a violent tempest in the soul behind them.

“Suffice to say, it convinced me of the damage that careless Muggles can do to the minds and hearts of young wizards. And when I saw the Dursleys... My mind took me back to a small boy who always came back from holiday with bleeding cuts and black bruises that were most certainly not from playground rows.”

Another long pause as the Headmaster seemed to be trying to collect his thoughts like water in a sieve. She knew. All those years, she knew.

Minerva gave a sad, knowing smile. “I had past sins to atone for, Severus. I did nothing while I had the opportunity, and I am sorry, but I was determined to do something for the Boy Who Lived. I couldn’t see Harry turn into another version of you, Severus. I’d be a fool to allow that to happen to another young, brilliant wizard, when it would be entirely in my power to prevent it...”

Severus Snape looked at her for a long moment. “And you... assumed that it was your decision to make because?...”

Her eyes blazed into his. “Because, Headmaster, inaction to prevent a known sin, when you have the power to do so, is the same as condoning the act.”

Chapter Text

He never wanted to go to St. Mungo's. Never. It was the one place that he could say that he was terrified to go... And yet here he found himself on the steps on Christmas Eve, with a bundle of flowers hidden in the folds of his cloak.

He'd already delivered a bouquet of lilies to one grave in Godric's Hollow today, just like he did all eight years before this one while the Weasleys watched Harry...

...

“.... Merry Christmas, Lily. James. Harry is well, You'll be pleased to know. He's already trying to walk. I'm certain he'll try to be on a broom as soon as he can... Anyways, have a Merry Christmas... Wherever you are.”

...

“Merry Christmas, Lily. James. It's been a year. Harry is two now, and is running around my house... He's grown a lot. He's trying to speak, but he has a lisp... Erm... Merry Christmas.”

...

“Merry Christmas, Lily. James.”

...

“Merry Christmas, Lily... James. It's another year. Harry asked me where you were this last summer. I told him the truth, and half regret it. But he knows how you died... And I hope he understands... Merry Christmas, anyways...”

...

“Merry Christmas, Lily. James. He's six now. He looks like you, you'll be pleased to know, James. But he has your eyes, Lily.... Definitely your eyes... Merry Christmas.”

...

“Merry Christmas, Lily.”

...

He made his way into the proper ward... This was the first day he'd ever come here to visit... He figured he might as well... It had been eight years since that very first Christmas.

The Longbottoms were afforded a private corner of the ward, he was... mildly pleased to see. He strode to the chair near the wall opposite their beds. They seemed to be asleep... It was all the better, he supposed. The fewer people who knew about his Christmas Rituals, the better...

He pulled the bundle of flowers out of his cloak and laid them on the table beside the chair, but not before charming them to stay vibrant... at least for another several weeks...

He sat there, just looking at them for a little while. Frank and Alice Longbottom. Even thinking  their names heaped guilt on his shoulders...

If Voldemort had chosen these two, these two unsuspecting people... he had to admit, he would have done absolutely nothing. He wouldn't have done anything at all. He wouldn't have begged for their lives. He certainly wouldn't have begged twice, from both sides of the war. He wouldn't have visited their graves. He wouldn't have cared one bit about their son... if the child even survived.

A part of him resented himself. A part of him resented them. They lived. Lily didn't... but his conscience told him that their fate was quite possibly worse than Lily's... here they were, alive, but only the mere shells of who they were.... in effect, they were already dead, they were just waiting for their body to catch up with the rest of them.

He sat there, just staring, for a long time... Until he heard a sound.

In an instant, he was on his feet, his  wand out and his cloak flying out behind him.

He looked downwards... to find a small child. Harry's age... Neville. The boy was staring up at him, wide eyed, terrified out of his wits.

Even more than his contempt for Frank and Alice in living (good god, what was his mind coming to, anyways?) was his contempt for this boy.

It could have been this boy whom Voldemort targeted...

Why the hell wasn't it?...

Why was it Lily and Harry?

Why did it always have to be Lily?

Why did it always have to be Severus Snape who footed the bill for everyone's faults and mistakes? Why must he pay the price for everything?

He realized his face had contorted itself into a rage-filled snarl. And then with a start, he realized that he had just wished death on this boy... a boy, who was a mere day older than Harry... How could he wish that?.... A bitterness permeated his mind.

Regardless of how much good he did... He was only just Severus Snape, with all the usual issues. He still detested the Longbottoms... he still wished death on people who, even in his own admission, didn't deserve any such thing. But he was Severus Snape, and that was the way of things.

Neville slowly backed away from him before turning tail and running... Undoubtedly it would be horrifying to find a stranger at your parents' bedside on Christmas Eve...

Severus waited a moment before leaving the ward.... It would be alright if he left no traces of his presence... Besides, he ought to get back to the Weasleys house before Harry started to worry....

Chapter Text

Even the year before The Year Everything Absolutely Went to Hell and We Completely Let It did its very best to earn the title.

As if dealing with Harry sneaking about wasn’t bad enough. Snape had to tangle with Sirius coming back, Dementors who recognized him (for god's sake; it always had to be him , didn't it?), and Remus Lupin.

He spent all of his free time attending to the Wolfsbane potion and to working on the Cure—he really didn’t have any time for anything else at all.

He took Remus out to the Shrieking Shack the first month, and gathered more blood, tissue, and saliva samples. After all, it would be worth it to study the agent of transmission, the bite. Poor Remus woke up human, but still under the Petrificus spell, with Severus brewing him a cuppa in the far corner of the room. (Remus had remarked that it was a wonder why Severus accused him and Sirius of acting like an old married couple, and the response was a swift lockjaw hex.)

Progress on the cure proceeded in all haste, even with Severus having to teach extra classes.

Unfortunately, with everything that happened, and Sirius still running around—whom Severus hated , mind you, because he still saw the man as responsible for Lily’s death—everything came to a head at the Shrieking Shack. As, again, it only ever did.

It all started with Remus forgetting to take his potion that night.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were running around pell-mell as usual, but that was to be expected... He didn’t expect Sirius to take the children captive... He didn’t expect Remus to go after them all. And apparently Remus was better at hiding true intentions than Snape gave him credit for.

He didn’t expect what happened afterwards... He was thrown into a wall, stunned, but not knocked fully unconscious. He still heard the conversation that proceeded without him, that Pettigrew was the traitor... That Sirius wanted to bring Harry home, and Harry seemed to consider it.

Severus thought that was what caused a deep-seated anger to boil up within him. That Harry would consider going with Sirius... He had a home already, didn’t he? Sirius Black was one of Snape’s worst enemies back when they were both children... Would Harry really sell him out like that?

But then Severus recovered enough to make it back out of the Shrieking Shack and to the Whomping Willow, with full intent to Avada Kedavra Peter Pettigrew on the spot... Just in time to see Remus transform.

Suffice to say, it was a nightmare (although it would have been an excellent time to test a prototype cure if he was honest)... But at the time, he was concerned with preserving the lives of the children... He managed to get Ron and Hermione back to the castle... Harry, he had no idea where his own son had gotten off to...

But it all worked out well enough. Sirius Black would be getting his due... Alright, maybe it wasn’t his due , but still. Severus didn’t mind the idea of Sirius subjected to a Dementor’s Kiss. The man had done his best to earn that, even before the past fifteen years or so.

Severus himself was even to be awarded the Order of Merlin.... A nice added bonus.

But unfortunately... All good things must come to an end, and nothing is free.

As always, Suffering is a very old friend of Severus Snape's, and Misery is his cruel mistress who wraps sensual arms around him in a comfortless embrace.

...

“Remus, we need to have a talk. Something has... come up.”

The poor fellow was only barely aware as it was. He was currently sitting across from Severus in the dungeon, newly transformed back, wearing nothing but Severus’s cloak. Well, they’d have to find those clothes in the forbidden forest later on....

Remus was, quite frankly, looking about as well as hippogriff dung. The man was still filthy and dishevelled and had a few cuts and bruises now, but he’d looked far worse before Severus had set Vulnera Sanentur and a healing potion on him. Severus had also afforded him a washbasin, which had turned a nasty crimson-brick colour before the Potions master cleared it, and put new, hot water in for the man to soak his feet in, which what he was doing at the moment. They’d been here for about two hours, since Severus found Remus, snuck him back into Hogwarts and into the dungeon, to his office, which happened at... about three AM. Poor Remus was still in the throes of the Changing when Severus found him, but he’d settled down at about four, and had gone back to being a normal human at about four-thirty. Remus looked out from under his eyebrows, the bags under his eyes and the diluted filth and bloodied scratches a testament to the horrors of werewolfism.... this was why the two wizards were so bent on finding a permanent cure, they had resolved.

The man sneezed. He shook himself lightly, and rearranged the cloak on his shoulders. Severus decided to promptly turn his head to allow Remus a tiny bit of privacy until the movement in the corner of his eye ceased once more.

Remus shivered and coughed, his shoulders shaking from the strain. He groaned. “What... what is it?” 

Severus paused a moment. “I.... Remus, I was offered the Order of Merlin for.... well, for protecting the children today, when you...”

Remus produced a glower that made Severus almost proud.

“Apparently the attention paid to the incident, especially with Sirius Black escaping.... they needed something to unearth something , regardless of what it would be...”

Remus shook himself again. “Why... why is this important,” he slurred, grabbing at a glass of water on the nearby stand.

Severus’s eyes narrowed for a moment. “They know about the work for the cure, unfortunately that’s just about all they have, and.... well. All they know is that “I’ve been.... in the meanest sense of the word, experimenting on you, Remus.... and, as you are undoubtedly aware, lycanthropy research is strictly regulated...”

Remus stared at the floor, stunned. “What damage could they do?”

“I could lose my research licenses, lose my teaching licenses, and more than likely be sent to Azkaban for illegal and inhumane lycanthropy experimentation on an non-werewolf.”

“Inhumane, my arse . You're the most civil lycanthropy researcher I know. I mean, at least you'd ask my permission before sticking me with needles .”

Severus remained silent, just looked at the fireplace for a moment, his elbow resting on the armrest of his chair, his fingers brushing his lips absentmindedly as he thought.

“So what can we do?”

Severus still gazed pensively at the fireplace. “Unfortunately, not much. If we do nothing, then I might as well kiss a Dementor right now and be done with the act. If you defend me, then you mark yourself out to be a werewolf.”

“Not to say that that would be a necessarily bad thing.”

Severus glared at him, a solemn and unwavering no to the notion.

Remus looked earnestly at Snape. “I’m just a werewolf. You’re the protector of the Boy Who Lived.”

“I think that Sirius Black is the man who hangs the moon for Harry Potter now,” Severus grumbled as he tried to bundle himself up in his cloak... before he remembered that Remus was using it to maintain his dignity. So he settled for crossing his arms and rearranging himself in his chair to just look at the fire exclusively... which, of course, looked an awful up like curling up from the cold.

Remus sneezed again, and let out a little chuckle. “Honestly, Severus, you really need to tidy up in here; it's like inhaling one gigantic dust bunny.”

Don’t change the subject.”

I didn’t change the su— point in hand,” Remus admitted.

“Sirius Black, making Harry keen on leaving,” Severus growled half to himself. “And the Granger girl is no help, whispering things in his ear, telling him not to trust me...” His countenance turned murderous for a split second. “Always pattering about with her books , she probably hasn't got an original thought in her, the little know-it-all—”

“So... she’s you , except considerably better-looking,” Remus said with a wry smile.

“With more friends .”

“You can't blame a child for wanting friends, Severus. You wante...” Remus trailed off, suddenly uncomfortable. “... um... you wanted friends when you were a child, too, if you remember.”

Acutely .”

“So, what's so bad about Hermione Granger? I find her a... well... a charming young witch,” Remus said, laughing at his own joke.

The little ingrate set me on fire in her first year for no reason, ” Snape hissed. “Do I need more than that?!”

Remus gave a little smile. “You always did harbour grudges , didn’t you? I mean, you can be loyal to a fault, but you're vindictive as hell if you get crossed.” He chuckled.

Severus glared at him.

“You make my point for me, Sev.”

“That is a private nickname. Address me like that again, and I'll take my cloak back , thank you very much .”

Remus laughed merrily, before pain shadowed his face, and he nearly doubled over coughing.

Severus uncrossed his arms and stood up, walking to Remus and grabbing as small dish from on top of the little stand before holding it under Remus's chin and patting his back solidly to help the man clear his lungs. Remus panted and spat up, coughs wracking his frame.

When it had passed and Remus was back to looking only emaciated rather than on death's doorstep , Severus cleared the dish with a flick of his wand and then set it back on the table. He sat back down as Remus curled up in the chair and twitched .

A few minutes passed, just the two of them sitting like that.

“Severus, I need that cure; I need it.” He groaned, breathed heavily. “I don’t give a damn if the Ministry knows I'm a werewolf, this has to stop .... your research is the best shot people like me have.”

Severus’ brow furrowed.

Remus’ head lolled.”You’ve done the research; you’ve seen the Changing. Even with the wolfsbane potion, you get your innards scrambled like an egg; afterwards you spend the whole day... throwing up .”

Severus had taken his cue as quickly as it had come, and he had the dish back under Remus' chin as the man expelled the contents of his stomach, which seemed to consist of a handful of small woodland creatures.

Severus rubbed the man's back gingerly. “At least with you being a teacher , I don’t have to lie to your students about where you are. I just tell them you aren’t well.”

“Understatement of the—” he vomited more bile into the dish. “Century.” He shuddered again. “I trust that you're still sticking to the lesson plan?”

“Werewolfism Prevention, yes. My own s... er... Potter is entertaining the idea that I poisoned you. I'm sure Granger still thinks I was being cruel by making you read the papers on killing werewolves. Ron Weasley hasn’t the slightest about anything.”

“They always....mmn... mean the best, Severus. They just don't have all the information. Don’t.... Don’t...” He dry heaved, panted for a few moments before deciding that the bout was over, and he gently pushed the dish away. “Don’t judge them too harshly...”

...

A week later, Remus had his things packed, and he was ready to depart Hogwarts. The letters were coming, he just knew it, but he was fine with the change of pace...

He just wished that Harry could have been told a little more of what was going on... especially after what Severus disclosed to him later that summer, that Harry had barely spoken to him for two weeks after Remus left the D.A.D.A. position... But Severus wasn’t having any of it. Neither was Dumbledore.

Remus supposed that inherently the case of Severus and Harry was one of those strange things that you'd never foresee happening, but somehow still manages to happen. He knew that the situation was far from perfect (because, honestly, Severus was still the exact same Severus as he ever was, still far from affectionate [perish the thought], and unbelievably ill-tuned for things like emotions), but there was just something about it, some energy that Remus saw. Something that he... well... he didn't quite see with Harry and Sirius.

For all the effort that Remus made into convincing himself that perhaps Sirius was better fit to care for Harry, given the former’s relationship to James... He couldn’t find it within himself to agree. It was probably because he'd seen something that no one else saw, ever... or if they did, they’d never really bothered to pay attention.... He’d seen Severus weak . It was only a tiny peek, but it was enough.

Hogwarts’ Potions Master, Severus Snape, was only ever abrasive, cynical and sarcastic... But there was a time, when a boy had cast himself from the top of the Astronomy Tower... That was a boy who had felt, and who had hurt, before he closed himself in from the rest of the world and denied it the opportunity to wound him. Before Lily died, Remus supposed. It would make sense that, when Lily Potter died, a little bit of Severus would go along for the ride.

Remus would never say that he was an expert on the man's emotions... he suspected that no one (not even Snape himself) could claim that title, so he would never really tell what Severus felt, or for whom he felt it... but he was fortunate enough to see when Severus felt. There was a strange look about him, Remus figured, a look in his eyes. It was as if Severus had suddenly detected something deep inside of his soul that he wanted to pull out, look at, and keep in a little jar on his desk. Something that he (because you're looking at Snape, obviously) would quickly put down, below a cutting remark or a sneer, and otherwise squash until it was gone.

For many years, Remus pitied Snape, who had denied himself the ability to feel, or if he did feel, promptly destroyed all traces that it ever existed.

But watching and listening to the man prattle on, Remus caught wind of a few things, some things that he'd never expected to see out of Severus Snape.

The first thing that Remus established from their sparing conversations was that Harry had needed Severus Snape when he was too young to remember anything, when he was handed off to the man because of circumstances beyond the control of either of them. Harry had needed it, because, while it seemed to most that Severus Snape was the last man to ever care about anything.... well, at least Dumbledore sort of paid attention. He knew what Severus' intent was; knew it very well.

So Harry Potter needed Severus Snape, from the moment that Lily Potter née Evans fell to the floor in a flash of green light. What Remus found so entertaining, of course, was that it was so incredibly obvious (regardless of how reluctant Snape was to admit it) that the inverse was also true.

 

Chapter Text

Harry Potter’s fourth year would forever be known as The Year Everything Absolutely Went to Hell and We Completely Let It by Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape. They never really got a straight answer from Dumbledore as to whether he agreed with their synopsis of the year... maybe the man had somehow foreseen it... but that seemed highly unlikely. Maybe Dumbledore had simply figured that Voldemort was due to return sometime, and that it would better to get everything over with.

At any rate, the fourth year...

Severus supposed that, for him, everything began with the Malfoys. Now, not everything wrong and horrible in the world is the fault of Draco Malfoy... However, many, many things that are wrong and horrible in the world are the fault of Lucius Malfoy....  Lucius Malfoy and Tom Riddle , anyways.

Because Draco was only ever a little boy, who tried much too hard to please a father who was disappointed in him. He was a child, called into war by a father who cared so very little, and a mother who clearly didn't want to be there anyways, but sort of got dragged into the whole affair. So, no, Draco was a scared child who had enough insecurities to warrant behaving like a nasty, vile little roach, and joining the wizarding equivalent of a insurgent terrorist organization... and oh, whose fault was that?

 Severus could never find it within himself to have a kinship with Lucius... even as a Death Eater. Lucius was the kind of man who could make your skin crawl .

At any rate, Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts still happened.

There was a Quidditch World Cup that Severus allowed Harry to go to (probably unwisely ) with the Weasleys, which of course had to devolve into a terror attack sponsored by none other than the pale, white-haired Devil himself, as well as the younger Crouch. Other than that it was a typical summer holiday and start to the school year... Or maybe it was because of the terror attack that it was a typical year. Things seemed to just generally become successively worse in subsequent years.

Harry was rambunctious and constantly practising for Quidditch with Ron. Harry and Draco were still not on speaking terms after Harry rode the train with Ron on his first year.

Severus drilled Harry in Potions, and the boy was improving.... slowly. Harry’s progress in charms—especially defensive charms—was impressive.

The Dark Mark on Severus’ forearm was continually throbbing and draining away his contentment with the summer holidays.

Again, it was a typical summer holiday...

...

“You always look so threatening when you run, Severus, do try not to frighten a patronus out of him,” McGonagall warned, just before Harry arrived into Hogwarts, and Snape rushed to intercept him.

Ron and Hermione looked flabbergasted as Snape took Harry by the hand and dragged him away.

He took Harry round-about to the second floor, to a random classroom. As soon as both he and Harry were through the door, he slammed the door behind him.

Harry, meanwhile, looked as though he half-expected a dementor to pop out from behind Snape.

“What did they do, Harry; are you well,” Severus asked, grasping Harry by the shoulders and looking him over briefly for any visible signs of latent Dark Magic the boy might have been affected by.

Harry gave an audible sigh of relief. “I’m fine, Uncle. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. I’m just a little shaken is all...”

Severus silently slipped his wand out of his pocket, gently running the wood over Harry’s shoulders.

“What—what are you doing?”

“Checking for Dark Magic, Mister Potter, what do you think I’m doing?”

“Can you even tell what is any Dark Magic and what isn’t , just doing that?”

“Of course I can, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it, would I ?...”

A beat.

“I... I really wanted to see the Sorting Ceremony, Uncle,” Harry said timidly. “Are you almost finished?”

“Patience,” Severus mumble-growled, still engrossed in his work.

“Could we do this later, please?”

Severus straightened up, slipping his wand back into his pocket. “Do you not trust me enough to allow me check for Dark Magic spells ? Do you not think you can rely on me to try to protect you?”

“I... I just wanted to go to the Ceremony.”

“Do you not believe that you can rely on me, Harry?”

Harry looked down, remembering poor Remus, who, just because there was now proof that he was a werewolf, Snape had to go off and tell the whole world, just because he was sore about not getting the Order of Merlin. He thought about the first Potions lesson, and the Quidditch match, and the practices, and the anger that Snape had doled out to them when they crashed into the Whomping Willow, and everything else in between. “ Can I?”

Harry could only describe Snape’s expression as that of a grievously wounded animal, questioning the cruelty of the world. “ Always ,” he said in a voice that seemed to come from the very depths of his soul.

Harry still looked at him with narrowed eyes, and they stood like that for several moments.

“Dismissed, Potter,” Snape said quickly, the usual sneering... clearly a facade... returning to his face like a hastily-arranged coat as he threw open the door and strode back into the Great Hall.

...

The school year itself, especially the Triwizard Tournament, was rather.... abnormal. Severus spent his time in a constant state of pre-panic attack.

The year seemed to go rather quickly, if he were honest. He barely saw Harry at all, and with Karkaroff getting all nervous, it didn't help his frame of mind. He didn't sleep as much as he would have liked. In fact, some days it felt as though he didn't sleep at all. There was all together too much to think about to not think about everything . So he did think about everything, and lay awake all night in his quarters.

Things became gradually worse between Harry and him, as well. It was as if since the second year, the two of them were suddenly weren't even civil acquaintances. Sure, they spoke... but it seemed that at least for Harry, those discussions were under compulsion.

It was something Severus couldn't understand, but that he attributed to Harry's teenage hormones.

...

Then everything went to hell in a Howler, and they absolutely let it. Everything. Went. To. Hell.

As usual, it was Peter Pettigrew's fault. And Barty Crouch, but who cared about him? He deserved what he got.

Severus knew exactly what had happened the moment the portkey opened.

He knew exactly what was happening and he was half-tempted to go with.... but his cover... his presence would only endanger Harry further, not to mention everyone else. So he stayed back, even as the Mark burned unbearably excruciatingly hot, his head reeled and he struggled to remain upright as he ran for his stores Veritaserum, for he knew what was in store. His rage grew as he struggled not to kill Barty Crouch Junior on the spot, the moment he saw the deep cuts in Harry's arm... The Dark Lord had made his boy bleed. He found it difficult to reckon that thought.

However, Snape had to make sure that Harry was safe, that everything was taken care of, that Dumbledore could and would ensure his cover remained intact before he dared try his fortunes with Voldemort. Good god in heaven , if he didn't want for a drop of Felix Felicis while he was about it...

He was so quickly reinstated to service in the Death Eaters that he became suspicious. Voldemort was altogether too eager to receive word of Severus' progress in gaining Dumbledore's trust. It wasn't like Voldemort to be particularly forgiving...At least not in the common sense of the word.

And, for almost a month into summer holiday, all was well. He most certainly shouldn't have hoped for so much.

....

“Arise, my child.  Your sins are forgiven.”

....

He hadn't seen it coming, and he should have. He should have known from the outset that he, as Voldemort's most loyal and trusted servant from Before, would be the one most expected to having the strongest hand in the Dark Lord's return.

His fellow Death Eaters were in a ring around him when the Dark Mark burned and he disapparated; he should have suspected that something was up from the outset, but it didn't dawn on him until after he was there. It was about the twenty-second hour of the day (that is, about 10 o'clock), the hollow was shrouded in a blanket of darkness, and even the crickets had gone deathly silent.

“Severus. My wayward child.”

Voldemort had stepped forward, announcing himself before he began circling the man caught in the centre of the hollow. He stopped, and approached.... Severus knelt before him, out of habit, out of necessity. He remained motionless, silent... felt a deadly wandpoint trace his jaw from his ear to his chin, then tip his head upwards to set his eyes on a horrible-looking face... 

Hell twisted Tom's mind to evil, heaven malformed his body to match...

“My poor, disbelieving child. My... unfaithful child.”

Severus' eyes were closed in resignation before the first crucio came.

...

He woke up several hours later in the hollow, his nerves still ringing with the spells.

Physical, sometimes referred to as Mugglish effects of spells, and especially the Cruciatus Curse, on the human body was something that had intensely intrigued him since he had begun his research into Magic Theory. Given that the Cruciatus curse was intended to effect pain in the whole body without damaging it, and it was known to cause insanity in the victims after long periods of usage, the curse was more than likely something that stimulated pain receptors in the brain.

Which, of course, was absolutely no comfort, and he was probably the only person in the world who cared, but still. It was something to think about, instead of the blinding pain and disorientation that came with the Cruciatus Curse.

But the fact of the matter is... Death Eaters, despite the fact that they are colleagues and comrades-in-arms, have a tendency to...  hate each other . It likely isn't anything personal... but every person in a mask standing next to you is someone you have to compete with for the Dark Lord's favour. Even then, In the Dark Lord's Favour is a rather dangerous place to be. Not only do your fellows want to kill you and take your place, but the Dark Lord is more wont to hold you responsible for everything that goes wrong with his plans. Meaning that being a weasel and dodging Cruciatus curses becomes second nature, since they come from above in the pecking order, and from below as well.

So, when Severus was laying there, gasping for air, trying to recover his wits about his enough to stand, he reflected on how poorly he had chosen his so-called friends (he was seventeen and stupid, but still), who were willing to crucio the living daylights out of him in order to gain more favour from the Dark Lord.

“Arise, my child.  Your sins are forgiven.”

Voldemort stepped close to him, and offered a pale hand. Severus took it, and was lifted up onto unsteady legs. His head reeled as Voldemort spoke again.

“You may go now. Rest. Recover. I shall summon you again, eventually.”

Severus dipped his head in acknowledgement, and disapparated back to Spinner's End, before disapparating to the cottage. He stopped at Spinner's End to ensure that no one was following him; he couldn't have the other Death Eaters knowing where Harry was.... He was, of course, really in no frame of awareness to be disapparating.... much less twice.

He knew he only stayed at Spinner's End for an instant.... but he was almost certain he splinched himself on the disapparition back to the cottage. He felt intense pain in his leg as he effectively fell forward onto the stair, his exhausted, battered body having finally had enough of his nonsense, and now refusing to answer to his command. His head lolled as he groaned, and he heard stirring from inside as the darkness that had been lapping at the edges of his vision finally overtook him.

...

What dreams may come to those who sleep but leave Dark thoughts to permeate their waking minds?

...

Severus was aware of intense pain in his right lower leg. That was the first thing. Then he was aware that it was early morning.... Then he realized that it wasn't just his lower leg that was in extreme pain... it was the rest of him, too. Then he remembered the crucio spells, and everything started to fuzzily click back into place. Voldemort's face swam in his mind's eye and it occurred to him that perhaps he would have preferred to not know what happened last night

He shifted, his left arm falling off the couch, and hitting something... soft and warm. That also happened to give a yelp. Severus hadn't the presence of mind to think what it was, until Harry popped up into his field of vision.

The boy was dishevelled, the rebellious long hair of course lent itself to that.... but the smile on Harry's face was brighter than daylight.

Severus blinked. Twice. His mind was still, admittedly, not quite present enough to process much of anything.

“Uncle Sev!... I didn't know if the bandage would hold... but it stopped the bleeding, I guess. How do you feel?”

Severus looked blankly at him.... suddenly feeling very ready to throw up. He turned over onto his side, completely ready to empty his stomach onto the floor... But Harry was faster, producing a bucket instead.

When Severus had finished voiding his stomach of bile, he laid back on the couch and just tried to catch his breath.

“You almost died, by the way. Twice,” Harry said matter-of-factly as he set the bucket down. “Also, you’re welcome.”

Severus tilted his head to see his leg, which had a very bloodied bandage tied over it. So it was a splinch... That was a.... comfort, in a strange way. He tried to sit up, before his body protested so pointedly that he decided it would be best not to.

Harry had, by this time, returned with more bandages, a cloth, and a basin of water. He also came bearing a vial of what was clearly wound cleaning potion from Severus' stores. Severus would have to have words with him about raiding the potions cabinet. Again.

Just because Harry knew the Alohomora spell did not mean that he was at liberty to use it... especially at home. Then something else occurred to him. Since Harry was still under the underage ban... Oh god. Harry stole his wand again. Words about that then, as well... He tried to sit up again, a scowl plastered over his face.... Harry put a stop to it this time, pressing him back down with a gentle hand on the older wizard's chest. Severus's head reeled at the backwards momentum and he groaned again before lying back down on the couch.

“Easy, easy Uncle. You lost a lot of blood, and those crucio s don't help matters.”

“How?...” The unsaid the hell do you know what that is hung in the air for a moment.

“Professor Moody... Or, Barty Crouch Junior, I suppose... He showed us warning signs of crucio s to look for. It was, sort of a first aid thing I guess... It was worth it, anyways.” Harry was now near the far end of the couch. “Brace. This is probably going to sting.”

“I expect nothing less.”

Harry pulled the bandages away and Severus got a good look at the damage. It was to be expected, a decent chunk of flesh was still gone... but he also spied dittany under the bandage. Well, Harry at least had sense and some healing magic knowledge.

The next couple of minutes were spent in intense concentration, both on Harry's part, trying to dress the wound again, and on Severus' part, trying to keep his face impassive and not alarm Harry. The wound cleaning potion was... well. It was particularly strong today.

Harry, being Harry, was unaccustomed to the spell used to activate wound cleaning potion and extra dittany. While it was written down in one of Severus' notebooks (Yes, Harry went through literally all of them and made an absolute mess), Harry didn't know the proper inflection, and decided to not do any more damage than necessary if the spell went bad...

Unfortunately the 'golden hours' for regeneration had long since passed, so it wouldn't have made a difference if Severus did it himself or not... Hogwarts' Potions Master learned that he'd been unconscious for more than a day. A bit disconcerting in itself, but not exactly unexpected... After all, the best thing one could do after being crucio ed is sleep it off... of course, often that's not really an option, but it is actually the best thing to do. Sleep, and then have some chocolate. Sleep affords the brain and nervous system to right itself after the intense trauma of Dementors, Legilimency, Occlumency, or any of the Lesser Unforgivable Curses (because after Avada kedavra , of course, you aren't really going to care )...

So that was that. Severus Snape ended up with another nice long scar for his trouble of disapparating when he had absolutely no right to be disapparating. He had no idea where the other part of his leg was... it could have been at Spinner's End... it could have been virtually anywhere. Somewhere there was a chunk of him lying around for some helpless Muggle to find and be horrified at... Well, there were more disconcerting things to think about, for example why Harry was suddenly acting like he cared.

Severus shouldn't have worried about that....

Harry was still Harry, and as soon as Severus was walking again, any form of care that he had seemed to have absolutely disintegrated.

In fact, he should have simply taken it in stride and not even bothered asking why Harry had been acting differently.

“Well, I couldn't let Hogwarts'  Master bleed to death, Dumbledore would've had words with me about that.... but as long as we're talking emotions, could you... not look at me like that, please?”

“What?...”

“Like you're all sad. It's horrifying .”

“...”