Title: Starting Over: Chapter 1 – 2/?
Warnings: Post war, Torture, Abuse, Child Abuse, Character Death (SS o HP)
Disclaimer: Nope, doesn’t belong to me. I only play with them a bit.
Summary: This is based in the Adoption Challenge issued in WIKTT. I did not make the deadline, but I still think I’ll post this one.
Severus apparated to the improvised orphanage in Diagon Alley and stood outside for a few moments gathering his courage. He had never wanted children, and did not consider himself parent material under any circumstances. He actually feared becoming a father like his own, abusive. That was why, at an early age, he had made up his mind, no progeny; let the Snape line die out with him. But now he had no other choice, because of that imbecile Cornelius Fudge. He thanked Merlin that the moron was no longer in office, but it had been too late to avoid the stupid law. With a resigned sigh, he gave the decrepit building one more look, and went inside.
A young witch sporting a faint scar that went from her right temple to her left cheek received him, and led him into a small cubicle. There she introduced herself as Jenna Clearstone. He remembered her; she had been a Hufflepuff and had just graduated three years before. She had been at the battle, but then, most able bodied witches and wizards for both sides had been. Miss Clearstone explained the procedures for adopting a child, which were actually simple. Go in, watch the children, and select one. Come back to her, fill all the paper work and that was it, instant parenthood.
Miss Clearstone warned him that a large majority of the children that remained had not been able to attract parents because they were either too troublesome, too traumatized, or had some… defect, be it a sickness or injury that made them less than perfect. If he was to choose one of the ‘defective’ children, he would receive the complete information about their condition and medical treatment, as well as the name of the medi-witch or wizard that was currently in charge of the child’s treatment.
If Severus was not thrilled about adopting a brat, he was even less so now. Perhaps it had not been such a good idea to wait that long. He gave a barely noticed sigh; it was done now and he could not change it, so he left the small cubicle and roamed the halls and rooms of the orphanage, observing the children there. Some were behaving normally, playing and drawing; the older ones were taking lessons. Others just sat with their gazes fixed on imaginary things, curled up in corners incessantly rocking back and forth, or simply hiding under chairs or tables. Severus looked at all of them, and could not help feel a slight pang of pity at facing the real victims of Voldemort’s war.
The Potions Master must have already been in the orphanage for more than two hours, without finding a child that interested him or caught his attention. Not that he really had something in mind, though he would prefer an older more independent child. Actually, all of the children he saw so far looked over six or seven years old, and there were also a few teenagers around, but these last children were among the most perturbed. When there was nothing else he could see in the lower floors he finally made his way to the top. At first glance, it seemed to be an improvised infirmary, and there were more than a few occupied beds. He almost left without looking when he felt the piercing eyes of someone looking at him.
Three beds from where he stood by the door was a crib, around it were all sorts of magical medical equipment. In it sat a small child, with very pale white skin, black curly and messy hair, and incredible large green eyes. The small child stared at him for a long time, as if looking through him, then an odd tingling sensation ran through the Potions Master. After that, something that looked like recognition flashed in his -too serious for a boy that small- face and he smiled. One arm reached out for him, the little hand opening and closing in a clear ‘come here’ gesture.
The gesture was familiar for Severus, and it only took him a moment to remember the small child he had rescued from the dungeons the night of the last battle. Those large green orbs had looked darker in the faint dungeon’s light, but there was no mistaking him, it was that little boy. The Potions Master felt sorry that the child was still alone, all of the children he had seen were at least two maybe three years older, so he guessed the younger ones had all been adopted.
When he took long in going to him, the small boy’s smile faded and his eyes looked like those of an older -way older- person; someone that had seen and been though a lot of pain and rejection. They filled with sadness and tears, his whole appearance became dejected, and he slumped in his crib. Something odd tugged at the Potions Master’s heart at the sight, and for a moment he thought he was coming up with something. He should be going down to take another look at the children, and he actually turned around to leave, but the image of immense sadness he had seen on the little boy’s face just would not go away, and with it the odd tug in his heart. With a sigh, he turned around and walked the few strides to the crib in his customary silent pace. The little boy was sobbing softly and not paying attention to anything but his other arm, it was clear he could not move it.
“So we meet again little guy,” he told the boy in his softest tone of voice. The child’s head snapped up. His sobbing stopped and instead he beamed him a huge smile that lit his face with something akin to joy. It surprised Severus to be greeted like that; in all his years he could not remember anyone being so happy to see him.
“Up,” the boy asked in a husky voice raising his working arm and bouncing a bit on his behind. Severus noticed that even though the little legs moved they did not seem to respond that well.
“What a mess they made of you child, but don’t worry those people are gone now. They’ll never do this to you or any other child.” He commented softly as he reached inside the crib and picked him up.
“Up, Up, Up,” the little boy crowed happily, eyes shining brightly. A gasp from behind him startled the both of them. Severus turned around to find a former Gryffindor student gaping and looking at him wide eyed.
“Miss Granger, looking like a fish does not become you. Close your mouth.”
“Fish, fish,” the little boy repeated smiling at her from the wizard’s arms.
“Sorry Professor, I was just… surprised. How did you manage it?” She approached him. For a moment the little boy’s face became guarded, but when he remained in his protector’s arms he smiled again.
“Manage what?” He raised an elegant eyebrow in inquiry.
“Making Harry respond and allow you to touch him,” she responded watching him with a bemused expression. Hermione would have never believed that the one who got the little guy to respond would be her old potions Professor. He did not seem to be a person who liked children.
“Harry? Is that his name?” He asked again as he gently rocked the little boy in his arms, who seemed quite content to be there.
“Hhhaaa-dddyy,” the boy repeated and nodded; he appeared to like the name. Or maybe it was his real name; many children had been named after Potter throughout the years.
“No, he actually has no name. No one has been able identify him. The paternity tests just don’t work. We believe it has something to do with the amount of magic used on him, although no one really can be sure of that. He responds well to other magic, just not those tests. The results end giving the name of whoever applied it.”
“That is most unusual Miss Granger. Have you tried potions? The amount of magic as well as the type of it is quite different from charms,” he suggested. It was after all his area of expertise, and he believed it to be more reliable than charms.
“From the reports I’ve got, they did try potions. They even tried some of yours Sir, and the results were the same.”
“I find that hard to believe Miss Granger, I don’t remember brewing any batches of paternity potions; at least not recently.”
“The Ministry always keeps some stored, from what I know they keep well for years. With the large amount of orphans, especially those as young as Harry, they had to use a lot of their supplies if not all. They worked well for the other children.”
“I see… it is rather strange,” Severus said thoughtfully while the little boy was playing with his hair. He found that even stranger, no one in his right mind dared to touch his hair. The potion he used to keep it tame, non-flammable, and in place made it look positively greasy and disgusting. It was just good that he was not a vain man. “You did not tell me why you call him Harry.”
“I started calling him that because his eyes remind me so much of Harry’s.” Hermione closed her eyes and breathed deeply. It still hurt her to know that one of her best friends was considered dead, because in her heart she believed that Harry was still alive. “That was about two weeks ago, when I first came to stand in for the resident medi-wizard. He needed a break, and time to get to know his adoptive child.”
“Yes, his eyes are remarkably like Potter’s, and the color was not all that common. He also seems to like the name.” Severus agreed looking at the happy child. “You say he did not respond to other people? Are you sure Miss Granger? Because right now he seems to be quite lively.” Harry, as she called him, decided to leave his hair in peace and was happily plucking the cauldron shaped buttons of Severus robes. They were, of course, discretely black, but cauldrons none the less.
“Yes, he just sat there in the crib staring at nothing. He has let us know that doesn’t like people touching him, although he tolerates some things. He also has not spoken, or barely made any sound since he came out of the coma a month ago, neither has he ever smiled. But now… well he doesn’t seem the same boy. He appears to remember you, but he was unconscious at the time.”
“He wasn’t when I found him. He gestured for me to carry him, and he smiled before he passed out.” Severus informed her, while he closed the button that the little boy had one-handed managed to undo. The child pouted at him and set to work on undoing it again, believing it a game. Oddly enough the Potions Master let him.
“Umm… he might associate you with feeling safe. You got him out of that infernal place after all.” Hermione ventured while she watched the interaction between the dour man and the little boy. She had to hide the smile that threatened forming when the professor re-did his top two buttons and let the child keep undoing them a little faster. Neither his face nor his stance had really changed, and yet he was being very patient and joined the boy’s game.
“Yes, but I seem to have been too late for him,” He commented touching lightly the child’s unmoving right arm. The child looked at the hand touching him, looked oddly happy and resumed his play with the buttons with a look of concentration.
“There is still a chance for him Professor; the treatment is lengthy and very expensive. It requires some very specialized potions,” Hermione told him as she began checking some of the potions stored besides the boy’s crib.
“Is that the reason why he hasn’t been adopted?” He looked curiously at the potions, but he was not able to recognize them from where he was.
“Yes, most people are having a difficult time getting their bearings financially; and those who have the money prefer the healthy ones. Also, this little guy needs attention,” she said getting close enough to both of them and standing on tip toe to mess Harry’s hair. The little boy looked at her and gave her a small smile, the first he ever gave her. “More than most children,” she moved back to the cabinets clearly searching for something.
“What about the Ministry? Surely they would provide the health care…”
“Sadly Professor, they won’t.” Hermione sighed resigned, she had tried to plead the case to Arthur Weasley now that he was Minister, but there was nothing he could do. “They simply don’t have the money, and if they do this for him, they have to do the same for all the others. Although I believe his case is rather unique, none of the other children in the dungeons were as bad as he was.” She found what she was looking for and moved to the bedside table. Hermione picked the bottle with juice that had just appeared there, put a spoonful of a healing draught, a pain killing one, and one to repair damaged nerves, then shook it. “I would have adopted him if I had known, but I already have Vicky…”
“Yes, Victoria Avery-Granger,” she explained and smiled to finally see some expression in his face. Severus Snape was actually gaping at her.
“You adopted a Death Eater’s child? Why?”
“They are children Professor, regardless of who their parents were. Vicky is nine years old and a very sweet child, but she does have some traumas that require attention. She saw her mother and aunt killed by aurors, even though none of them were You-Know-Who’s supporters.”
“Ah… yes I recall that Avery was separated from his wife, and the child was the only thing that kept him from killing her. He had the sense to admit he was not parent material.”
“I also wanted to give an example; the children of Death Eaters have as much right to a good and loving environment as the others, they are not their parents. As you can imagine, with work and taking care of Vicky, I really can’t take care of little Harry.” She gave the bottle to the child who took it, and started sucking on it happily. The potions for children as young as he was were either nicely flavored or tasteless; otherwise the little ones would not take them. “Why don’t you adopt him Professor? He feels safe with you, enough to actually speak…”
“I don’t know Miss Granger. I really have little time and know nothing about children as young as he is…” Little Harry stopped sucking his bottle and regarded Severus with large pleading eyes, the sad expression returned. The odd tug at the Potions Master’s heart returned too, so he looked away.
“Yes, he does need attention, but you’re actually doing great with him Sir. Also Hogwarts is among the few places were they have a day care center and an excellent health plan. I have been appointed his head pediatrician, and next week I’ll be joining the day care staff as well as being backup medi-witch for Madame Pomfrey, she plans on retiring once the term is over.”
“I don’t think I’m the right person for a child as young as he is…” he hesitated.
“He likes you Sir that should tell you a lot. You are also the first person he responds to. I really don’t think he will be happy or as lively with anyone else. You’re also the best Potions Master in England; you won’t have any trouble brewing the potions Harry needs to heal. The ingredients can be paid by your health plan. This little guy can have a normal life if we threat him before the damage becomes permanent.”
Severus did not really know what to do for the first time in a long while, years probably. For one, a child as young as little Harry needed more attention in general. More patience and actual affection, something he was not entirely sure he could provide for him. On the other side, it was almost a certainty that he was going to remain in the orphanage, as the cure for his injuries was beyond the pockets of many. That meant that he was probably going to end being a cripple for the rest of his life. The pros and cons of adopting him were going round and round in his mind with no definite conclusion. But in the end it was little Harry that -like his namesake- had the final word. He rested his head on the Potions Master’s shoulder, gave him a wet sloppy kiss on the cheek, a one armed hug, and said just one word before falling asleep.