Title: Apprentice: Chapter 6 (07/?)
Pairing: None yet, previous Snape/OC
Warnings: Violence, child abuse, manipulative but not evil Dumbledore, OOC-ness.
Disclaimer: Nope, doesn’t belong to me. I only play with them a bit.
Summary: The war had been over for several years, and Harry’s life did not turn out the way he expected it. He ended leaving England and travelling the world. That’s where death found him, but he was the Master of the Hollows and second chances were a given. He would not waste them.
THIS IS AN AU STORY (AUAlternate Universe), even though I try to follow the original novels as close as I can.
Not a native English speaker writing.
Characters might be Out Of Character (OOC)
There might be spoilers for all books.
Author Note: When I started writing this story, book five was not yet out.
I have decided to include details from the fifth book, not may and not yet, but there will be certain aspects of the book included.
Author Note: After much thinking, I have decided to include details from the fifth book, how much will depend on how the plot is working. But so far, in what I have already plotted in my notebooks, there will be more than I originally thought. It’s really working great, even though this will definitely remain an AU.
For those who disliked (or liked) toad-woman Umbridge, she will be making an appearance in later chapters. I had planned on creating a character that would have a similar role anyway, so why not use the one that J.K. Rowling had already created? And I barely have to change a few things of what I had already plotted.
I had originally planned to break this chapter in two but since I took so long in updating I decided to leave the 18 pages it is in one file. I’m also already working on typing the next chapter so with luck I won’t take as long.
In this chapter some things will be explained, so it’s not one filled with a lot of action. This is to keep building a background and also explain things that will be happening in later chapters.
Also Phoenix Angel, please e-mail me if you’re still interested in beta‘ing’ this fic for me. I had some problems with my e-mail program (my own fault for not backing up and experimenting with the stuff) and lost all my archived e-mails and addresses.
For the reason above, this chapter is not beta‘ed’, although I did as much proof-reading as I could some errors might have slipped past either MSWord’s grammar/spell checker or myself.
The rest of the drive was relatively uneventful except when the traffic got heavier, something Harry did not think that could have been possible. He could not see more than blurs outside the window, but noticed the vehicle they were in moved much slower than it had been doing. He sighed and got more comfortable. The car seat was such an improvement over his previous bed, and the temperature inside was cool –he felt on his face the slight breeze of the air conditioner– it was a respite over the oven-like temperatures his cupboard had reached the past weeks. Those things, added to his lack of sleep, and the fact that he was finally feeling almost no pain, contrived to lull Harry into a light doze, despite all the questions that were forming in his mind.
Snape noticed the boy had fallen into a light sleep, and considered going the whole trip back to his flat in silence. But in the end, he decided to turn on the car stereo to take his mind of things. There was just too much to think about, and he needed to tackle each problem one at a time. Under normal circumstances -at least normal for him- Severus could take on several different problems at a time. But when those problems involved completely revising his views, feelings and attitudes towards someone or something he needed to go slower. That kind of introspection was hard for him.
For the moment, the Potions Master decided to concentrate on what actions were needed immediately, and he hoped the background music would distract his mind and keep it from wandering to questions and areas he was not ready to deal with. Attending to the boy’s physical condition was his first priority, and he was reluctant to take him to St. Mungos. He was sure the Death Eaters would probably be on the lookout for him there, given his condition when the light rescued him. Appearing with an injured ‘boy-who-lived’ was like gift wrapping them both for Voldemort.
It was while thinking that he needed a trusty medi-witch or wizard that did house-calls when Severus remembered that one of his cousins in law, on his mother’s side of the family, was a medi-wizard, a very good one in fact. Eldon Lloyd was in charge of the non-magical accidents in St. Mungos, or at least he had been the last time he talked to the man about a year or so ago. He then made a mental note to either owl Eldon or ask Nan to fire-call him later. He knew he could count on his discretion and that was something he was sure Albus would want in this situation.
At the thought of the Headmaster his mind began wandering into those problems he did not want to think about; like the best way to give the old coot a piece of his mind with the highest shock value. Severus focused his attention on the music instead, as he did not want to deal with it that at the moment; out of consideration for the teen boy he had left the volume low. One of his favorite songs, a classic by Queen* – Bohemian Rhapsody* – was playing, so he went through the lyrics in his head and even dared to hum under his breath. Potter was asleep after all, he probably would not notice. And if he did, well, he better begin getting used to it. He liked music and was not going to do without just because the boy was his apprentice.
Harry had been dozing slightly, and the soft sounds woke him up. He was a bit disoriented for a few seconds and he thought he was still at the Dursleys. It was the music that finally told him he was not there anymore. No one at their house listened to that type of music. The boy then remembered that he was in a car, which Snape was driving, and the Potions Master was taking him to his place in London.
‘SNAPE is driving!’ His brain finally caught up with him. Somehow he had not processed that the Potions Master was a pureblooded wizard and as such should not know how to drive. ‘I never thought the ‘greasy git’ would even come close to a car, much less know how to drive and actually do it like any muggle.’ Well he guessed he was doing it like any muggle, so far they had not crashed, no one had honked their horns at them nor had any traffic officers stopped them.
‘Didn’t he tell you he found muggle technology fascinating at the Dursleys? And that he had things to DO in muggle London?’ The Hermione-like voice reminded him.
‘He did, but…’
‘Well then there’s your answer. How can he do things in muggle London if he doesn’t know how to pass as a muggle?’ he gave a mental sigh. Something was definitely wrong with him if he was talking to himself like this. ‘I think all of this is going to take some adjusting.’
To the driving, and the man finding muggle technology interesting, he had to add that the kind of music he was hearing, -and was that soft sound humming? – was definitely NOT what he would have expected the surly Potions Master to listen to. First, it never occurred to him, as it probably had not to any student the man ever taught, that Snape might like music. Second, well all right the man liked it, but… it was not classical, as he believed someone like him would probably listen to, with how he and the dungeons looked… Third, it was rock or something of the sort. That much he knew from the time he had lived at his relatives’ house. Dudley sometimes heard something similar when he was watching that music channel* on the telly. In all, it was becoming apparent that the man beside him did not conform to the image his students, and probably the Death Eaters had of him.
As they made slow progress towards wherever they were going, Harry decided that trying to figure out Snape, at the moment, was too much of a headache. Instead, since he had a slightly clearer mind than he had had for a while, he decided to focus on remembering and trying to analyze some of the strange things that had happened to him that summer.
The visions where coming every other day and sometimes even daily; and when he had no visions, the nightmares about Cedric’s death and Voldemort’s return haunted him. The most he had been able to sleep were light dozes, or when he fell unconscious from pain and exhaustion. The visions had also become increasingly painful and tiring. The boy attributed that mainly to Voldemort gaining strength as the time passed, although there was probably something else causing it, but he had yet to find out what it could be.
During the visions, Harry felt the victim’s pain when under the ‘cruciatus’ curse, which appeared to be Voldemort’s favorite curse. He found it strange that it was only that curse that he felt, but so far he had no clue as to why that happened, and was grateful that it was so, otherwise he might have died already from either pain or an ‘Avada Kedavra’. He also knew he was not feeling its full strength -having felt it once- and for that he had to thank every deity he could remember. However, what really wrecked havoc with him in the beginning, was that he had to watch the people being tortured and he had no way of stopping it.
The Dark Lord was intent on getting his original followers back in shape, and on recruiting new ones. He held constant meetings for planning and strategy, and there were always muggles for them to practice with. Though from what Harry managed to hear during those sessions, when the pain was still bearable, his people were being discrete.
Death Eaters were ordered to choose muggles that were homeless, drug addicts or alcoholics that no one would miss. A few had been muggle families that lived isolated; some had not even been British. The Dark Lord had allowed his followers to capture and torture some wizarding families that lived partially isolated or that had few communications with others.
At least a couple of those had been related to or were Aurors, and he heard the Death Eaters mention revenge in regards to them, but Voldemort had made it clear that none of them should have any Hogwarts age children. The Dark Lord did not want to give Dumbledore any chance of spoiling his plans, if his students or their families began disappearing suddenly, the old fool might see fit to take more drastic measures than just talking to that inept imbecile of Cornelius Fudge. Voldemort wanted to bid his time before he made his presence known to the whole world, not just the British. But when he did, he was planning on creating widespread panic.
Things had changed for Harry after the fourth or was it the fifth vision? He really could not remember clearly, but he had been praying to any deity that listened to find a way to stop them. Suddenly, after an odd surge of magic, he had the freedom to move about the room or whatever area Voldemort held his Death Eater meetings. At least a couple had been outside, even Dark Lords suffered from the extreme heat wave the rest of the mortals were going through.
Harry went undetected, as no one seemed to see him even if the boy stood right before them. To test this, at first he had jumped and stood in front of several Death Eaters. For a few moments, he even indulged in making silly faces or obscene signs at them, and even dare to poke at Crabbe and Goyle Seniors. Once he was sure no Death Eater could see or detect his presence, he took a bigger risk and tried the same with Voldemort and he got almost no response.
During that first time he had freedom to move, he noticed that Voldemort became a little uneasy when he got closer and looked around –red eyes narrowed- to find the source of his uneasiness. That night Harry decided to keep his distance from ‘Voldie’ just in case. He worried that the maniac was able to sense someone or something there; although he barely gave any outward indications of it, except for the narrowed eyes. As the night progressed, and the ‘entertainment’ took place, the boy could sense him growing more comfortable and even relaxed.
During the next vision Harry, still unsure of how he was managing to do what he was doing, wished with all his heart to remain unnoticed by the Dark Lord. The least he wanted was for Him to find out Harry was spying on him -or worse- to find out just what kind of life the-boy-who-lived led at the Dursleys hands. At the start of the vision, he noticed Voldemort looking slightly uneasy, the same way he did in the previous visit. The fiend then wearily concentrated his attention on each of his followers present, muttering some odd sounding spell.
On most, he barely remained focused for scant seconds, and his silence made more than a few of his lesser followers nervously squirm, but they all had learned the hard way that it was better to wait quietly. His focus became intense when he reached the members of his inner circle –with the exception of Crabbe and Goyle Seniors- and even more so when he reached Professor Snape. The maniac seemed to be searching for something; he did not find anything unusual with anyone, though he had thought to himself quite amused that, even after twenty or so years, Snape still had that thick skull, as well as his lack of tolerance for incompetence and being saddled with imbeciles. After Harry made his wish, the Dark Lord seemed to ‘relax’ and loose that edge, and he did not use that muttered spell on most of his followers again, except for Lucius Malfoy and Snape when they were discussing information or plans.
That was when he realized it was a one-way link, and Harry had been immensely relieved by it. Unfortunately, the Death Eaters had chosen that day to have fun torturing a poor muggle girl that could not have been older than five years. Snape had been there again, though he refused -in no uncertain terms- to participate in the ‘fun’ and kept himself well away from the child’s tormentors. A clearly disgusted expression on his face, and those in charge of the ‘fun’ had been subjected to his sharp and derisive tongue –as well as some well placed hexes- if they so much as dared to address him.
Snape’s attitude did not surprise the boy as much as he thought it would, the man was, after all, on the side of the light and he surely would avoid getting involved; though he had participated at some point when the victims were adults. But what did surprise him, was that Voldemort actually seemed to indulge Snape, and found his comments, retorts, and actions amusing.
At one point, he had made it clear that only the Potions Master was allowed the ‘eccentricity’ of not participating when children of any age were involved. But he made it quite clear –by casting a ‘cruciatus’ on the new recruit that dared to point it out- that it would not be tolerated of anyone else. Seeing the little girl tortured had sickened Harry, he had retched, and threw up the water he drank before he fell asleep in it. Only after he woke up did he find out he had actually done it outside the vision.
Harry could not stand watching without doing anything. So acting quite irrationally, he stood in the path of one of the curses. To his surprise, and shock, he found himself on the receiving end of a very painful ‘cruciatus’. In the midst of his pain, he noticed the girl was not feeling the curse anymore. Harry covered the child with his ‘body’ to shield her, but the curses only got stronger. They were being cast simultaneously by several Death Eaters at one point.
The young boy had screamed his throat hoarse from the immense pain, and he felt on the verge of loosing consciousness. He sincerely wished he could take the girl to some place safe, because he did not know if he would still be able to block the curses once he passed out. The next thing he knew, they were no longer in the room with Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Instead, they appeared outside Hogwarts with a resounding pop that caused Fang to start barking like a maniac. Harry did not remain there though, and was propelled barely conscious to where the Dark Lord was. To say ‘Voldie’ was furious would have been an understatement; He ‘crucioed’ all of his followers present including Professor Snape.
Moving Voldemort’s victims to safety became his new task. It was extremely tiring, and he made some terrible decisions that only added to the guilt he felt over the death of Cedric Diggory. He could rescue one, maybe two people a night, but no more. Harry had to tear up families, separating the children from they parents. He could only save one child and had to leave the rest of the family to suffer at Voldemort’s hands. It broke his heart to see them hope that they would be rescued and then see that hope crushed when he could not; though he somehow managed to let them and those he rescued know the despair and helplessness he felt at not being able to save them all.
The maniac was always extremely vicious after one of his victims disappeared. But sometimes, the death of those that remained was more merciful and swift. The Dark Lord was in no mood to enjoy torture, and started to kill them himself with ‘Avada Kedavra’. Still, Harry had been able to see the relief of the parents –after he let them know how he felt- when at least one of their children survived. He clung to this image to be able to keep going, it had to be enough or he would go crazy with guilt.
That was how he had rescued Professor Snape almost three weeks later. Crabbe’s, Goyle’s and Malfoy’s fathers had gotten to the Professor before informing Voldemort, acting under the eldest Malfoy’s initiative. Harry had noticed that power struggles were common between the Death Eaters. And Lucius was the most vicious of them all. He wanted Snape out of his way to become ‘Voldemort’s’ second in command. The Hogwarts Professor seemed aware of this and played his role carefully. So far Snape seemed to be winning, though he had not yet reached the position he had at the end of the first war. He guessed Draco’s father was tired of waiting and decided to get rid of the Potions Master before he managed to earn the maniac’s trust. The boy had not been aware of the blonde’s intentions or he might have tried to get the Potions Master out of there before he got hurt. Harry needed the maniac to be present to know what was happening in the room. So what ‘Voldie’ did not know, he did not either.
The three of them had delivered extensive physical punishment by the time they presented Snape before the Dark Lord as a traitor. Oddly enough, Malfoy senior had not been able to produce any concrete proof of the professor’s supposed ‘treason’, only conjectures. But Voldemort was getting too mistrustful with the disappearances, and he did not question the elder Malfoy’s motives, although Harry was sure ‘Voldie’ was aware of them. When the blond wizard suggested that Snape had something to do with the disappearances; the prisoners ended at Hogwarts after all, and the man worked there. The Dark Lord decided he could do without a Potions Master of Snape’s abilities and a spy that close to Dumbledore. He allowed Malfoy his small victory.
As they dragged the Potions Master into the room were Voldemort was sitting in his throne-like chair, Harry noticed that neither Death Eater was unharmed. Actually, they had been quite beat up too. So he guessed the professor did not go without one hell of a fight; one that he would have liked to see. His respect and admiration for the man raised up quite a few notches. That did not mean he ‘liked’ him, because he did not. Although he did not ‘hate’ Snape either, he never really had.
Harry observed the men carefully, none wore their masks and their robes were torn in places, taking in every detail and imprinting them in his memory. It really was a memorable sight. Since the start of his visions, he had wanted to ‘do’ something to them for all their vicious cruelty –the trio was the worst of the Death Eaters- and he found it rather ironic that it had been Professor Snape who did.
He had silently cheered at his professor; so far no one had been able to cause any damage to the elder Crabbe and Goyle. Until they met with Snape, though the man did not look to be the type of person who would have been able to hold his own on a fist fight, especially against those trolls. Malfoy’s bodyguards sported black eyes, what appeared to be broken noses, Goyle was barely able to stay on his feet, Crabbe was limping and cradling his right arm. Malfoy too was limping and cradling his wrist, though he only had a dark red mark on his cheek that was probably going to bruise.
Voldemort was not pleased that one of his closest followers had betrayed him, and even less when he found out Malfoy had not been able to break him and extract information about Dumbledore, Hogwarts or Harry Potter. The boy was impressed by the man’s fortitude, determination, and well… ability to withstand the pain. In his experience, many, if not all, would have broken with half of what Snape got. Still, the man would not reveal anything, including the address where Harry Potter lived, and the boy got the distinct impression the Potions Master did know he lived in 4 Privet Drive, Little Whining Surrey.
The day they uncovered Snape, Harry had been particularly weak. He had not eaten for almost a week and Dudley fell on him down the stairs that morning while trying to catch him, during one of his Harry hunting games. He had ended in the barely alive ‘human pancake’ category. He was really hurt and had no strength to attempt a rescue; but he just could not leave Snape there. The man was protecting him even if it meant a more painful death.
It was common knowledge among his Death Eaters that ‘Voldie’ would not spare anyone’s life, especially not that of a traitor. But he was known to sometimes kill them quicker -when he was in a ‘good’ mood- if those he tortured provided the information or even the ‘sport’ he wanted. So far the professor had, provided the ‘sport’ that is. The man had resisted screaming for a long time, much longer than any Harry had seen so far, including the other Death Eaters. And he had not pleaded once, not even to God or any other deity. The boy was almost certain that if Snape broke and spilled all he knew; Voldemort would have killed him quicker, one ‘Avada Kedavra’ and no more pain. But the Potions Master did not break, he seemed determined to take whatever information he had to the grave with him.
It took Harry a lot of time to gather enough strength to move to where Snape laid on the ground writhing from the effects of continuous ‘cruciatus’ and other curses. The man was beyond coherent by this time; though with luck he had not lost his mind yet. Harry shielded him, giving the older wizard a respite before painfully realizing he could not take him to the usual place.
Snape told Voldemort where the drop zone was only three meetings ago. Harry had been suspicious for some time, and only after much thinking ‘the-boy-who-lived’ came to the conclusion that Dumbledore had to have authorized that information, at least he hoped it was so. Snape was making very slow progress in gaining his former rank in Voldemort’s inner circle; this information should have moved him towards that goal. But it had not worked as expected with Lucius Malfoy sowing the seeds of suspicion.
Anyway, he could not leave the older wizard there; a Death Eater would just go to retrieve him. The Professor also needed medical attention, even more than previous victims did; he had never waited that long into the torture session to rescue someone. In his pain fogged mind, Harry surmised that the best place would be to take him directly to the infirmary at Hogwarts, since he had never been in St. Mungos. He pictured the room clearly in his mind, and wished both of them there.
They arrived with an extremely loud ‘pop’ that immediately brought Madame Pomfrey out of her room wearing only a thin robe over her nightgown, clear sign that she had already retired for the night. The trip left Harry almost completely drained, it had been hard to get inside Hogwarts protections. Before he returned, he got the feeling that professor Snape was not going to survive, and it both saddened and made him feel guilty. If he had only been stronger he could have gotten the man out before it was too late. It was rather strange feeling for the young boy; he had not been able to sense anyone else before. Snape knew there was no escape and that he was going to die, so he had made his peace and welcomed it. This rather surprised Harry, none of the others had accepted their imminent death. But he was in no condition to ponder long about it so he pushed it to the back of his mind.
The guilt started to take over, someone else was going to die because of him. Was it not enough that his parents and Cedric had died already? How many more were going to die because of him? True, Professor Snape was a spy, and probably knew the risk he was taking, the fact that he accepted his death proved that. Still, the Dark Lord had pressed more insistently for information on his whereabouts than on anything else from Dumbledore or Hogwarts.
If only he had not been weak, he would have been able to get the man to safety sooner; he could have kept him from the extreme suffering Voldemort and his Death Eaters inflicted on him. He owed him, and he had to admit that he respected him for going through so much to protect Gryffindor’s-golden-boy, whom he had made no secret he disliked above any other student. Before he returned -as if pulled by an invisible elastic band- Harry sincerely wished the man would survive, and that he could give the Professor enough strength to heal and recover fast from his injuries. He wanted him to live; he would not be able to bear knowing the man had died. He… he needed to thank him, to tell him that he was the most courageous man he had ever met, and that he was sad no one really knew that aspect of him. Harry was sure he would get some snarky remark about it, but he really did not mind. Also, despite their previous animosity; he had never desired the man’s death.
Upon his return to the building were the meeting was being held he saw a raging Voldemort cursing just about everyone and everything before him. By the time his anger and frustration were down to manageable levels, there was no Death Eater left standing and most were unconscious. Harry had surprisingly remained conscious for the whole treatment, and he fervently hoped he might have a few days respite from the visions; it was clear the madman’s followers were not going to get up anytime soon.
Rescuing Snape left its toll on Harry, he was too weak to move or do anything at all for more than three days, and was oddly thankful that his aunt had left him locked in the cupboard. After all, according to them, he had screamed his head off all night. Who would not after so many ‘cruciatus’? His body was also suffering from the event, his throat was raw from screaming and he felt like he was not healing normally, in fact, the boy could say his body was not healing at all. Harry had involuntary tremors for some time. At first they were so strong that he could not have moved if he wanted to without falling down, thankfully, they had started to ease to more manageable levels slowly.
That week he got no food, only two glasses of water a day and, to his utter humiliation, no bathroom outings, not that he believed he would have been able to make it to the bathroom in his condition anyway. Still, he got a minor beating for making a mess of himself, and for vilifying the place with his foul stench. Harry had been afraid that if he did not find a way for the smell of his cupboard to remain unnoticed, this time his uncle might get involved and finally relieve him of his miserable existence. It was not a bad prospect to contemplate with the way he was feeling at the moment. But that would mean more pain, at least until he passed out, and he definitely had enough of that already. So he had wished again, concentrating on keeping the smell inside; and it must have worked because he had no more complaints about the stench. He had only been out of the cupboard for about an hour before Snape made his appearance.
They arrived to a very nice part of London, and Snape drove the SUV to the underground parking lot of an eight-storied building. He parked the car in a reserved space beside the elevator cube, checked he had all the boy’s things and the documents with him, and then proceeded to get Harry out of the car. Potter had squeaked in surprise at the movement and gasped a bit in pain. It seemed he had been so deep in thought he did not notice the car had stopped. Severus replaced the numbing charm again while on the road, but he guessed that it was starting to wear off if the previous two times, and the gasp, were any indication. The professor then made his way to the elevator and managed to press the PH button without bumping the boy against the walls.
“Sir?” Harry asked hesitantly. He was curious about where they were, and why were they using a muggle elevator instead of floo, apparating or a portkey. He also cursed his near blindness without glasses; he just could not make out any relevant features of the place they had arrived to.
“Later Mr. Potter,” was all the Potions Master said. The elevator was not the place to talk. One of his neighbors, or a visitor could board it, so it was better to wait until they were inside the wards and silencing charms of his flat. They reached their floor and went out straight into a flat.
“Nan, I’m back,” Severus called raising his voice a little without stopping his stride as he went to the guest bedroom, though he managed to drop his SUV’s keys in their place lest he lost them again.
Whatever Harry was expecting the place to look, even as blurry as he could see, it definitely was not it. The areas of the flat they passed were all in warm tones, the walls appeared to be a soft raw color, and there was a lot of light, unlike Hogwarts’ dungeons. Snape took him to a room that appeared to be mostly decorated in blues. There was also a lot of light there, and he could tell there was either a large window, or a floor to ceiling one from where the light came into the room.
He could not really make out much of the furniture, except that they were mixtures of darker and lighter blurs, and that the short and big one with blobs of color was probably the bed. The professor settled him on it, and Harry realized the dashes of colors he saw were cushions and pillows, fluffy and comfortable ones. Snape used them to prop him to a sitting position on the bed, and to raise his right leg from the bed’s surface.
“Oh my Severus! You didn’t say it was this… bad,” Nan exclaimed seeing the battered boy, he really was a sorry sight. She was carrying the potions and salve that he had asked for on the phone. “What happened to him?” She asked as she placed her cargo on the bedside table.
“His relatives,” was his dry answer, but his face reflected anger and disgust at the sole mention of those people. Not for the first time since he picked the boy up, he regretted not having done more to them. He had been fighting the urge to go back and do… something all the way home.
“I fell down the stairs,” Harry supplied not liking the implications Snape was making, though they were as true as the fact that he had indeed fallen down the stairs. He did not know who the woman was, or if she was trustworthy. And there was already one person too many that knew of his family problems, he did not want anyone else to know.
“And that… that ‘thing’ that fell on you isn’t your relative Potter?” He asked disgusted, though he made an effort to sound neutral.
“Umm… yes, he is,” Harry admitted a bit reluctantly.
“And wasn’t your aunt the one who decided you didn’t need medical attention, despite your obvious injuries?” Severus still kept his voice sounding neutral; he did not want to give the impression to Potter that he was behaving the same way he did at Hogwarts.
“Yes she did,” Harry admitted with a sigh. Whatever Snape was, it was not a fool. The man would be able to tell what kind of life he had with the Dursleys, by just looking at his current condition, despite all his intentions of hiding it.
“So your relatives ARE responsible for your current condition Mr. Potter, are they not?”
Harry nodded slowly fixing his gaze on his hands. Severus could see he was not just uncomfortable, but also quite ashamed, like the boy believed it was his fault. It appeared Potter he believed he should have been able to stop them. He probably thought it was his fault that he was treated the way he was. It was not uncommon for children in similar conditions to believe it. The boy was also probably expecting him to make some demeaning comment about it, and to receive the same or worse treatment from him that he had at their hands. He had not given the boy reason to believe otherwise during the four years he had been his professor. Well, he better disabuse him of that notion from the start.
“Do not make excuses for them, they do not deserve it. That kind of behavior towards children, especially family, has no excuse.” The boy raised his head and looked in the general direction of his voice with a rather surprised expression. “Nothing you could have ever done merits to be subjected to what you have.”
Harry’s eyes were wide at saucers at hearing the man’s words; he would never have expected him to say something like that to him. He had believed Snape would find that he, Harry Potter, deserved any and all punishments -no matter how severe- for any misconduct he incurred in. It was so disconcerting, confusing and… oddly reassuring that he did not.
“Rest assured Mr. Potter, that neither Nan nor I would ever mistreat you. As long as you’re my apprentice, you won’t lack food, a decent place to sleep and medical attention. I also do not believe in punishing children physically.”
“You don’t?” It was all that Harry was able to blurt relieved at that last revelation.
‘Well what were you expecting? The man’s known to be mean, snarky, and a real bastard to students, but no one has ever complained that he beat them. If he had, the rumor would still be going around warning other students about him.’ The Hermione-like voice reasoned, and he had to agree with it. His words also explained his attitude at the meetings when they tortured children. If he did not do it then, when he ‘had to’ then it was clear he would not ‘do it’ anywhere else.
“No, I don’t. There are other methods to keep the little dunderheads in line, no need to beat them. Be assured that if you misbehave I can come with a suitable punishment that won’t involve pain… Umm… a school full of adolescents is always in short supply of bubotuber puss don’t you agree?” He let the implication hang, no one in their right mind liked collecting the stuff, and it always made for a good detention activity.
Harry shuddered a bit, he hated it, but it was no different from getting a detention and he could deal with that. It seemed that living with Snape was not going to be as bad as he originally thought, in fact, just the prospect of three meals a day was improvement enough over the way he lived most of his life. The rest he mentioned, if indeed he meant it, were just added bonuses.
The woman had been silent while he and Snape talked, though he could see her blur standing beside the bed, he guessed she was the same person his professor called on the mobile phone, and the one he called when coming in. Harry was really curious as to who she was, and what was her relation to Snape. Somehow, he could not picture the man as married, though he could not discard the possibility that she might be his wife, he had implied that she lived with him when he said neither he nor her would mistreat him.
The woman came closer and fuzzed a bit over him making sure he was resting comfortably on the bed. She accidentally touched him and he cringed, raising his arms instinctively in a protective manner at the unexpected contact. Harry caught himself and tried to make it look as if he was only stretching his arms. She was not going to hit him… at least he did not think so. Had not Snape told him only a few moments ago that he was against physical punishment? That neither of them would mistreat him? He really needed to work on his reactions to people. Cringing like that made him seem weak and scared; he could not allow anyone to know that he really was. These defensive reactions had not been that bad before this summer, though he had had them for a long time -just not as pronounced- and he had been able to keep everyone from noticing for four years.
The Potions Master had cursed the boy’s relatives for living, and Albus Dumbledore for leaving him there when he saw Potter’s reaction. He had tried to cover it, but it had been clear enough. Nan had noticed it too, and looked first surprised and shocked, then anger had lit her eyes. Severus hoped she never came in contact with the Dursleys, he did not fancy trying to save her from Azkaban for casting all three unforgivables on them.
“Hi sweetie,” Nan started talking once she had put her anger under control.
Nan’s tone was warm and friendly. It helped to reassure him that he was in no immediate danger and he relaxed his slightly protective stance a bit; though he could react with very little warning. It was then that he realized that he had been very tense indeed. Harry noticed that her voice did not sound young, but… it did not sound old either. He shook his head slightly, he was probably not thinking straight.
“I’m Matilda Moongoop,” her voice sounded amused, and Harry tried not to chuckle at the last name. “It’s alright, you can laugh, it’s a silly name.” Harry decided it would not be bad to be polite and introduce himself properly. Snape had not done it yet.
“I’m Harold James Potter, pleased to meet you…” He gave her a tentative smile and turned in her direction, “Miss Moongoop.” He added the last a bit uncertainly.
“You’re a charmer Harold,” She chuckled, and then glared at Severus for snorting.
“Please call me Harry, everyone does except the Professor, he calls me Potter.”
“All right Harry and you can call me Nan, that’s what Sev’s called me since he was able to speak, and it’s much better than my names,” Snape snorted again and Harry turned in his direction, although his silhouette got lost in the blue wall.
“You’re Professor Snape’s sister?” Harry ventured cautiously. He did not want to incur in Snape’s wrath for prying, but he was curious. To his surprise she laughed and the professor sputtered.
“See? I told you he was a charmer Sev,” she was still laughing
“Umm… whatever you say sister dear,” his tone was slightly condescending. He had found it amusing that Potter was fishing for information in a rather Slytherin way.
“Oh you! Show more respect to your elders,” she admonished the Severus, though her tone of voice was amused.
“Of course mother dear,” now he was amused at seeing the range of emotions and confusion on the boy’s face.
“You’re his mother?!!!” Harry squeaked, and he heard Snape snigger. It was too much for him; SNAPE sniggering? He raised a tentative hand to his forehead to check if he had a fever and all that had happened was a hallucination.
‘Nope, no fever,’ he thought as he heard his professor chuckling. So he just shook his head disconcerted.
“Severus, you’re confusing him!”
“It would not be the first time,” he had not really planned on making fun of the boy, but it had certainly provided a small relief to the tension he was feeling over the whole situation.
“I’m not his mother Harry; actually, I was his and his brother’s nurse.” At the boy’s still confused look she clarified. “I was his nanny, and as I said before I know him since he was born.” Now it was Harry’s turn to snigger.
‘So she’s his nanny…’ Harry snorted at the thought of a baby Snape, though he ended picturing him all grown up in baby clothes, with a rattle in one hand and a bottle on the other. He just had a hard time trying not to burst out laughing at the outrageous picture in his mind. He felt slightly more relaxed in their presence; the misunderstanding had served to lighten his mood. He wished he could see their faces, especially Snape’s, he had never seen an amused expression on his face and he was sure he had looked it. Nan noticed he was squinting, so she gave Severus an inquisitive look.
“His glasses were broken, irreparably, if what his aunt told him is to be believed,” was all his explanation.
“Yeah, I have to admit I’m blind as a bat without them,” Harry agreed, looking slightly flustered and quite frustrated because he could not see. He was also angry with his aunt; if she had kept them Snape would have been able to repair them, or Nan. He took a deep breath to rein in his temper, and found out deep breaths were not a good idea with broken ribs. The charm had worn off, and they hurt like hell. He tried to hide his grimace, but was not completely successful.
“Has the spell worn off?” Severus asked letting some concern show in his voice. He approached the bed and looked on the nightstand where Nan had left the potion vials.
“Yes Sir,” he replied with a small nod and trying to calm his breathing to less painful rhythm, at the time he held his chest with trembling hands.
“Well, then I can give you some painless potion. It’ll be much better than the charm and last longer too, open up,” he ordered and poured a dose of the potion in the boy’s mouth when he obeyed. In seconds the pain was gone and his breathing became easier. Harry looked both relieved and disgusted, that potion had been revolting. Painless potion tasted particularly nasty, but countering the taste diminished its potency and it took longer to take effect so, at least for his own consumption, Severus prepared the original formula.
“Better?” Sev asked when he saw Potter’s expression. The boy nodded. He decided to cast the more advanced diagnostic spell, he noticed the involuntary tremors were still there, and he did not like it. “I’m going to give you another check up, with a more advanced spell, just to make sure everything is still healing all right.” He informed the boy and proceeded with the incantation. He normally would not have used magic in the flat, but it really could not be helped this time.
There was not a lot of change from what he had found at the relatives’ house. He got a better report on the infection, it only confirmed that he needed Eldon to check on the boy, it was more extensive than he expected. Severus told Nan that he intended calling his cousin in law later, when she suggested they should take the boy to St. Mungos. Potter had paled at the mention of the wizarding hospital, it was clear he did not like the idea anymore than his professor did. He explained to his old nurse that ‘the-boy-who-lived’ would attract too much attention and questions about how he sustained those injuries. He was sure the boy would not want that information to be leaked to the press. She reluctantly accepted that indeed calling Eldon was the only option they really had if they wanted to keep the knowledge of Harry’s family life from the press.
As he went reading the spells report, he found out that some of the nerve endings were practically ‘fried’. The ‘cruciatus’ curse was the only thing that could do that to nerves and only after either prolonged exposure or several continuous casts. This result frankly left him perplexed; there really was no explanation for that. He decided to treat it with his cruciatus-after-effects potion just to be on the safe side, though getting Potter’s nerves back to normal would take a long time. He was physically very weak, but it could be solved with proper nutrition, rest, and later some carefully selected exercises. It was also to be expected after what he had been through. The last thing he found was that his magical reserves were very low, but he attributed it to his physical condition and having sustained the stench containing spell for a few days as well as the involuntary ‘notice-me-not’ charms.
Once the injuries were ascertained, Snape left the room without saying anything. He came back a few moments later carrying another potion vial and a mug. He mixed the proper dosages of all the potions in the mug and gave it to Potter. One of them caught Harry’s attention, he was not sure what it was but it masked the flavors of all the other potions. So he could imagine he was drinking a cool mug of chocolate, he loved it and he would have drunk a pint of it, if he could have. While he finished taking the potions, Snape told him he could have his wand, and the man fished it from the boy’s trunk once Harry told him were it was.
The Professor decided this was the time to explain there were several protective and concealing wards around the flat to avoid calling the attention of the Ministry. The place was in fact, what was commonly known as un-plottable, so they were actually quite safe there. They could do magic with no problem there, even if the restriction for underage use of magic was not lifted, Harry would have been able to cast any spell or charm without any Ministry official the wiser. Still, both Severus and Nan preferred doing most things for themselves, the muggle way. Snape still put the boy’s wand on the nightstand just in case he needed it. But he warned him that he should avoid using magic as much as possible, at least until the medi-wizard had checked him over. His magical levels were very low.
The last part of the treatment involved a salve that had to be softly rubbed on the bruises to help them heal. Harry had dared to protest against it. It was enough that Snape had to help him take a bath, and found out how skinny and bruised he was. Having more people touching him, and seeing his condition just made him cringe. In the end Nan talked him into it; the woman was too good at pushing aside any excuses, pretexts, or objections he had. So he ended giving up and allowing them to apply the salve with a resigned sigh. Harry was surprised when Snape helped her apply the salve. He had many bruises, but their hands were careful and very gentle. It was odd how the gesture of being treated kindly made him feel cared for; it was something he rarely felt in his life. And somehow he never felt like that when he was under the care of Madame Pomfrey.
Harry just did not know what to think of Snape anymore. The Potions Master did not fit with any of his pre-conceived ideas of him, it was just too confusing. But he was feeling good at the moment, and safe. So he let himself relax, he would sort his confusion later and decided to enjoy the rare feelings, allowing the gentle hands to lull him to sleep.
* Queen and all their songs belong to themselves and the record company (ies) that commercialized their music.
* For the story’s sake and as background I’ll probably be mentioning songs, groups and solo singers occasionally throughout the story. Mostly Queen, U2, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, The Police, Sting and the like; I’ll concentrate mostly on those I remember were around in the 80’s and some of the 90’s.
* Bohemian Rhapsody, at least here in Mexico – among rock music lovers – is considered a classic in their discography (I personally love it).
* MTV. I know TV in the UK is handled in a different way than in the USA and my own country, Mexico (I think it’s something about having to buy a license or something similar, which we don’t have to). I read somewhere that they do have satellite television (I do get BBC news on DirectTV, so they are at least transmitting). Dudley being the spoiled brat that he is (and couch potato #1) satellite TV is a must, even though he probably does not watch it.