Harry Potter wasn't known for thinking during the best of times. That was Hermione's job. She was a brilliant thinker. Had she known what her best friend was up to, she'd be lecturing him right now and showing him the folly of what he was about to do to his life. Hermione was in Australia with her parents, though, and had no inkling of what her friend was about to do.
Harry had very cleverly stolen a book from the Hogwarts Library. Not just any book. This was the tome Hermione had discovered in the Restricted Section in their second year, Moste Potente Potions.
The ingredients had taken some time to gather as he had to owl-order the ones he didn't have. The other difficulty was he could only work on the potion at night. If his relatives had caught him...
If Aunt Petunia had caught me, she'd smash my brains from my head with her iron skillet, and then toss me out with the trash.
No one would suspect, since it was a common stereotype, but the verbal abuse, the beatings, had mostly come from Petunia, not Vernon. Harry's Uncle Vernon was no prize since he helped to spoil his pig of a son Dudley rotten. Vernon would make up lists of chores, and he'd yell, but he'd never raised a hand to his nephew. He hadn't the stomach for it. There were times, though, when he'd had to step between Petunia and Harry. Petunia had a terrible temper and an unreasoning hatred for her late sister and Lily's 'freakish kind'. Vernon was frightened of the wrath that could come down upon them if Petunia's temper ever slipped so quickly, she'd not hesitate in killing Harry.
Harry knew this and did his absolute best this summer to hold his tongue and to do everything required of him. It was not perfect, and some of those days he related in his journal. Once he gathered all the ingredients he needed for his potion the nights were then his to brew.
Finally, today, his potion was finished and Harry sat on the center of his lumpy bed staring at the cerulean blue liquid. He was rather proud of the job he'd done and almost wished that his despised Potions Master could have seen it. For a brief moment he pretended that this blue, crystalline shimmering potion was just the thing to melt the wizard's hard exterior. Maybe the man would even award him a few points.
Harry chuckled at the absurdity. Severus would never view any of Harry's work with pride and he'd certainly never award Gryffindor points.
Lifting the jelly glass that his potion was in, he tipped it back into his mouth, swallowed, and smiled. It didn't taste bad at all.
As Harry slowly passed out, he wondered if he would remember his friends.
Dressed in casual dark grey trousers, a black cotton shirt, and a lightweight jacket, Severus Snape strode down Privet Drive. The cookie cutter appearance of all the houses annoyed him and he snorted derisively. It was an oddly silent summer afternoon, except for a few homeowners that were watering their lawns.
Is that an activity they schedule?
As he approached #4, he heard a grating voice screeching as a deeper voice thundered. He rapped his knuckles hard against the door and there was instant silence behind the door. A few minutes later, Lily Evan's pinch-faced sister, Petunia answered the door.
"You!" she spat.
"So good to see you as well, Petunia." The inflection he gave her name made it sound like a bad taste in his mouth. It was something he'd perfected from the moment he'd met her and Lily when they were all children.
"Vernon!" her voice screeched so high it was like fingernails on a blackboard and Severus could barely stop himself from cringing. "Bring him!"
A moment later a very large man appeared at the narrow doorway with a small, dark haired boy hanging limply in his arms. Petunia ripped the child from her husband's hands and shoved the child, hard, right into Severus's abdomen.
"I don't know what that little beast did to himself, but I raised him once and I'll not do it again!" Her tiny, black eyes practically pierced Severus's bewildered gaze. "If you don't take him back with you, I swear..." she stepped through the door and leaned towards him and hissed, "I swear, you great, freaky, bat, I'll drown him at the pond in the park! Do you understand me?"
Severus took a brief moment to look down at the child in his arms that was tangled in a swath of a dirty, knit shirt many sizes too large for him. Automatically he shifted the child's unconscious body until he was better supported in his arms. The child he held couldn't have been more than five, possibly six years of age. To his horror, he knew this was Potter.
"What happened to him?" he demanded sharply.
"Pet, maybe he ought to see?" Vernon said softly. Petunia shot her husband a glare that had him backing away swiftly.
Turning back to Severus, she crossed her arms over her thin chest. "Up the stairs, second door. Take all his things, Snape, and then get out."
Hoisting the young Potter more firmly in his arms, he was momentarily startled as the child woke from his stupor and wrapped his thin arms around his neck and buried his face in his shoulder. Patting the boy's back, Severus pushed his way into #4 Privet Drive and ascended the stairs.
At the top of the stairs was a door glinting with six locks upon it. It hung partially open. As soon as he pushed through the door, he saw the remains of Harry's Potions Kit at the end of his bed. He gently addressed the child, "P-Harry, can you tell me what was brewed here?"
Harry leaned closer to Severus's cheek and whispered in his ear, "I was having horrible nightmares and when I woke up I was here. The skinny woman screamed at me and the large man yelled. I'm sorry for what I did, mister. Are you going to drown me now?"
"Certainly not!" he spoke firmly. "Would you sit on this bed whilst I pack all of this? Then, I'll take you someplace much nicer."
Harry nodded his head and then let the tall, dark man seat him on the bed. Clasping his hands between his knees, he waited, very politely, as the man studied the remains of a homemade lab for brewing. On a rickety table by the bed was what appeared to be a journal. Severus picked it up, and leafed through it. His frown deepened and small Harry scooted back on his bed just in case the tall man might yell or hit him.
Severus closed the journal. He glanced at the child, then spoke, "Accio Harry's trunk!"
There was thumping, then a crash followed by Petunia screaming a variety of obscenities. Harry grinned as a battered steamer trunk sailed into his room, and settled neatly on the floor. He then let out a yelp, and clutched the surface of the bed as it moved towards the wardrobe.
After moving the bed Severus crouched down, and eyed the floorboards. Harry, now curious, scooted back to the front side of his bed to watch carefully. Severus found what he was looking for, tapped his wand against a floorboards, and whispered a word at it. The floorboard popped up to reveal a jumble of items, most that were shrunk. Severus carefully packed everything in the trunk open on the opposite side of the room. He caught a glance at the wide-eyed boy.
"Why Batman?" asked Severus.
Harry was puzzled but he replied with what he knew of his favourite ever superhero. "Batman is this really wealthy guy who lives in Gotham and he fights crime and injustice wearing a black cape. Like yours! Are you a superhero?"
Severus' right eyebrow raised to express his dubious feelings, and then returned his attention to the small brewing lab in the center of the floor. Beside the remains of the brewing was an open book he was well familiar with.
Severus preserved the remains of Harry's brewing work so that he could analyse it later in his lab. Without a doubt the foolish boy had de-aged himself, but the Potions Master needed to know how well or how badly Potter had succeeded in his brewing, and just what potion recipe he'd used.
Once the potion and the kit were preserved, he summoned Harry's trunk and began to pack everything away. Missing was Harry's wand but Severus unfortunately knew where that was.
"Time to leave," Severus announced. He shrank the trunk, and as he slipped it into an inner pocket he stretched out his hand towards the boy.
Harry slipped off the bed. He almost tripped over the long hem of the dirty shirt and Severus caught him.
"Wait, child. Let's fix this mess, first."
Harry watched with wonder as the man waved his stick over the shirt and it changed. It became a small green t-shirt, and a pair of white shorts.
"You're magic!" Harry gasped with awe.
"I am a wizard, child," smirked Severus. He offered his hand again but at the sound of Petunia's quick, angry steps on the stairs he scooped the boy up into his arms.
"Don't bring him back, Snape." Petunia, the perpetual scowl lining her face stopped in the doorway.
He turned sharply. "Are you willing to give up all rights to the child, Petunia?"
"Send the paperwork or whatever you need to do," she sneered a sneer that rivalled one of Severus's own. "Now leave."
Without another word, the little boy and the Potions Master Apparated away.
Little Harry clutched Severus's "cape" in his small fists and let out a whimper as he felt his insides turned out. Luckily the feeling only lasted a moment and the man rubbed his back to soothe away the nausea.
"Better?" Severus asked. Harry nodded. A slight smile graced the side of Severus's mouth briefly as he pointed over to Harry's right. "Take a look."
Harry twisted his body until he beheld the wondrous sight of a huge castle rising up into the sky. He clapped his hands together delightedly. "Do you live there? Are you the king?"
"There is no king, Harry," said Severus as he walked through the gates and towards the castle. "This is a school of witchcraft and wizardry. I am a teacher here."
"Will I go to school here?" he asked hopefully.
"Most certainly. You are a wizard, child." Harry's green eyes sparkled brightly and for the first time, Severus did not see James Potter, but Lily Evans. Her green eyes had sparkled in the same manner when he had told her she was a witch. Examining the boy's face further he was able to see more of Lily in Harry's face. He wondered how much more of Lily he might wind up seeing in the boy.
With his long legs, the walk to the castle entrance was a swift one. He then let the boy down to the ground as he navigated his way towards the Headmaster's tower. Severus' mind was so concentrated on what he would have to tell the Headmaster about what Potter had done to himself he did not realise that Harry, with much shorter legs, was quickly getting left behind. Of course, the child was so fascinated by tall, stained glass windows, enchanted armor that waved to him, and whispering, moving portraits, he had no idea that he was almost out of sight of the tall man with the stern look.
"Potter!" Severus, suddenly noticing that the boy wasn't beside him, turned and saw Harry staring up at the portraits. Harry heard his last name being shouted, and obediently turned from the paintings and ran down the corridor to Severus.
"Who are you?" asked Harry.
Severus scowled. "I am Professor Severus Snape the teacher of Potions." Adjusting his long-legged stride, he motioned for Harry to keep up beside him. He was slightly startled as the little boy slipped his fingers around his.
"This is a really neat castle," he commented. "I bet you're real happy living here, sir."
"I find it to my taste," he replied noncommittally. Giving the child a surreptitious glance, he asked, "Do you think you might like living here?"
Harry's green-eyed gaze brightened and he smiled. James Potter's grin always had a superior smugness to it that irritated Severus when he was unfortunately in school with Potter's crowd. Harry's smile had an open honesty to it that truly reminded him of Lily. He wondered why he could not have seen this before the boy had foolishly aged himself. Severus now recalled many times when he had seen the boy smile at his friends, or during some interesting tale, so he knew it had not changed as Potter had grown.
Her green eyes, her smile... how much more of Lily is in her son?
"Well, child?" he prompted when Harry hadn't yet answered his question. "I expect you might have some opinion where you'd like to live."
Harry stopped, causing Severus to stop walking as well. Concern, worry, and even a touch of fear flittered across the child's face. "I'm not going to have to go back to them? Aunt Petunia's always mad at me."
Severus knelt down so he was looking directly into those worried, green eyes and placed his hands lightly upon the shoulders that felt so thin. "I promise you, Harry, you're never going back. You'll live someplace where you're wanted."
There was not a smile to be seen on the dour face of the older man, but Harry could see in his eyes that the promise was a true one. He let out a puff of air in relief. "Thank you for taking me away," he said shyly as he reached for Severus's hand again.
Standing straight, Severus curled his fingers around Harry's and they continued to walk to the Headmaster's office.
Soon they arrived at a statue of a gargoyle as tall as the Potions Master guarding a stone, spiral staircase. To Harry's delight, the gargoyle winked at him.
"Ice mice," Severus bit out. The gargoyle slid aside and once more Harry was lifted into the man's arms. The stairs spun them about and Harry giggled and clapped his hands again.
"Severus! There you..." Dumbledore stared at the little boy with messy, dark hair, and bright green eyes in the Potions Master's arms. "Oh my! What have we here?"
Harry stared at the curious old man with the long hair and beard, but he slipped an arm around Severus' arm and with his other hand he clutched spasmodically at the wizard's robes.
"Harry Potter, meet Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry."
"Hi," he said softly with a tremulous smile. He then whispered. "He looks like Merlin. Is he nice?"
"Very nice," he assured the child. "I have something that I must attend to, child. Would you be all right with the Headmaster?"
"You promise to be back?" he asked, a slight edge of fear to his voice.
"I promise. Albus will watch over you, I'm sure." Severus glanced pointedly at the old wizard who nodded. He then nudged the child towards the Headmaster. "As you can see, Albus, it seems the Boy-Who-Lived de-aged himself. I found a recipe for the potion but I will analyse the remains of Harry's work to see what just the damage is."
As Harry's curious gaze was drawn by the moving portraits that watched him, Severus lowered his voice and stepped closer to the Headmaster. "I was... ordered... in no uncertain terms that he is not to be brought back to the Dursleys. They wish to relinquish their rights immediately."
Dismay clouded Albus' face. "Certainly he can stay here temporarily, but... oh Merlin, what am I to do with him now?" He looked over as Harry struck up a conversation with Headmistress Dilys Derwent.
Severus eyed the man who, even at nearly 120 years, had been so vital and with a mind that had been sharper than any other wizard's. It distressed him to see the Headmaster so easily rattled by something he would have had a solution for in minutes.
"He can stay with me, Albus." The older wizard's bushy eyebrows brushed the edge of his conical cap and blended with the ermine trim. Severus sighed. "He seems to trust me and... I find him... tolerable." His eyes briefly closed and he pinched the bridge of his nose. He couldn't believe what he was about to say, but this seemed to be a day for the impossible. He opened his eyes. "Should the potion he took prove to be permanent, then, with your permission, I believe I would like to adopt him."
"Severus! Are you certain? I, of course, would be pleased to help you do so, but I know you've had an uneasy relationship with the teenager. That, and I never have been too certain you even like children." A ghost of a twinkle sparkled lightly in the sapphire eyes of the Headmaster and Severus knew the man was teasing him.
"Quite so, Albus. I'd be entirely too pleased to boil any of my students down to their component parts. However, some children do have merit." He glanced over at Harry who had seated himself on the floor and was relating something to a strangely, intrigued looking, Phineas Nigellus Black. "As I find myself curiously with a future I had not expected..." his voice faded, not willing to finish the thought out loud. "I blamed the son for the sins of the father, Albus. I forgot that he is also his mother's son and there is much that I owe Lily."
Dumbledore smiled, exceedingly pleased. He gripped Severus's forearm. "I shall see to the necessary paperwork, Severus. Let me know as soon as you have the results."
Severus nodded and then looked over to Harry. "Behave yourself, young man."
Harry turned and smiled brightly. "Yes, sir!
Once down in his lab, Severus unpacked the potions kit. He began the complicated analysis of the potion Potter created by using a particular potion he'd created just for separating out the ingredients of a potion and identifying them. While the results brewed, he went through the boy's trunk and found a slim journal at the bottom. Beneath the journal was the Hogwarts' library copy of Most Potente Potions.
"And here I'd blamed Miss Granger for this book's disappearance," he muttered grimly. The recipe for the Second Chance Potion was easily found but Severus was analysing the remains he had found to see if there were any differences. So far the potion had been brewed remarkably well.
Leaving the potions book aside he began to read the composition book turned journal. Harry's entries were sporadic, stream of consciousness, that sentence by sentence revealed his depression. He blamed himself and was full of guilt for all the deaths that had occurred not just the night he'd fought Voldemort, but he also blamed himself for his parents deaths. Many entries were smudged by tears.
The last entry provided the information Severus needed. The teenager, though still very depressed, was perhaps at his most lucid. He seemed to know that someone might find his belongings and so he'd written the last entry in the style of a last will and testament.
Harry had left his broom to his friend Ron and his books to Hermione. He also hoped that someone would look after his owl, although she was currently missing. Severus was certain the beloved familiar was here in the Owlery.
Most curious was that much of the journal was addressed to him, the Potions Master!
Professor Snape you'll probably be angry with me, but I still hope a tiny part of you, that part that Dumbledore trusts, is kind of impressed with this potion. So you don't have to look, it's called Second Chance. The book says there isn't anything to reverse it. I know you probably are thinking this is the stupidest thing I've ever done, but I want a second chance, even if my Aunt finally follows through with her threat to get rid of me.
Professor, I know you were helping me with the tournament. Thanks for doing that and keeping me alive. Call me a dunderhead Gryffindor if you want, but I think you don't totally hate me since you always saved my hide. I wonder, now, if I should have just let the Sorting Hat put me in Slytherin.
"Slytherin?" Severus closed the journal. How different things could have been, he wondered, if Harry had been in his house instead of Minerva's.
A chime interrupted his thoughts, letting him know that his analysis potion was complete. He doused the flame and watched as the results appeared above the cauldron. After several minutes, he vanished the potion and tapped the journal with his index finger.
"I am impressed, Potter. You did a most adequate job." Harry's de-aging was permanent and there was nothing to be done but for the child to grow up again. As Severus cleaned everything up and re-packed Harry's belongings in his trunk, he thought to himself that the boy would get his wish; he now had his second chance.