By Jessica Beaubien (alias Niaf)
Word Count: 27542
Rating: PG for situations of peril
Summary: The alternate account of the Chamber of Secrets seen through Snape’s eyes.
Severus leaned back in his seat. His long black robes pooled around him on the black dragon-hide sofa in his secret home. His long black hair curtained his features. His dark black obsidian eyes gazed absently into the fire. The tea on the table next to him was forgotten. Curled up on his lap was a child much too small for his twelve years, slight of build and definitely malnourished. The boy’s jet black hair was much shorter than his and stuck out in every direction, unruly and untamable.
Round glasses had slid down his nose. Vibrant green eyes lay hidden behind the closed eyelids, and his chest rose and fell rhythmically in sleep. Severus’s long arm draped protectively around the child, who even in sleep clung to his shirt, bunching the material of his robes in tight little fists. The boy’s face was leaning against his shoulder and the barest hint of wetness could still be seen on the black fabric where the boy had cried moments earlier. Staring into the flames of the fire, Severus couldn’t help but think back to the moment when this had all started. When he found himself holding a child for the first time in his life.
Severus had been pacing the headmaster’s office while Albus looked concerned and worried. He was trying to figure out something, anything really, that would help him understand what had Albus so concerned. He had been called into the office a mere ten minutes ago, having been told that all would become clear in time. Well, Severus was growing frustrated. He was just about to speak after another dozen laps of the office when the Phoenix appeared, gave a loud screech, and flew to Albus.
“It is time, Severus,” Albus called out, looking up at Fawkes.
Severus turned back to him, crossing to his side in moments. He took the man’s offered hand, holding it tightly. The next thing Severus knew, he felt a rush of warm air, a dizzying sensation, and then began to fall far too rapidly. He barely managed to land with dignity as he collided with a bone-littered floor, and his knees jarred painfully. He could not suppress a faint gasp of pain. Severus shook his head to clear it. He looked over to where Harry crouched near Ginny, the boy’s hand having dropped a book with a long fang imbedded in its cover. Blood had pooled around both children. The unmistakable smell made Severus’s stomach clench. The sight of the dead basilisk made his worry intensify, and before he realized it, he was almost running towards the boy.
“Potter!” he called as he stopped and knelt next to the boy. “Are you hurt?”
“N-no sir, Fawkes healed m-me,” the boy replied, dazedly. “He’s gone now. Is she going to be ok?” Harry asked Severus, not even caring that his least favourite professor was the one looking at him with wide fearful eyes.
Severus did a brief visual scan of both the girl and the boy. Finding nothing to account for all the blood, he responded to the boy’s concern. “I am sure Madam Pomfrey will be more than capable of healing the girl. Tell me what happened. Where were you hurt?”
“H-he was here. It was him. He was controlling Ginny. He used this. He let the snake out. The basilisk. It bit me. I thought I would die. I don’t want to die. I used to think I did. But I really don’t want to die,” Harry babbled. Tears rolling down his face. He fell forward against Severus, clinging to him and weeping openly now. Fear and the aftermath of the encounter had made the boy emotional.
Severus stiffened at the sudden contact. He didn’t know how to respond. Tentatively and hesitantly he put an arm around the boy. Since the child wasn’t making much sense, he looked up at Albus, who had picked up the book and was looking at it questioningly. There was a light of understanding in his eyes. But Severus couldn’t be bothered to care about the old man’s foolish theories right now. He had two children in need of medical attention.
“Harry, can you walk?” Severus asked gently, startling the boy by using his first name. The child nodded, but didn’t let go of him. Severus frowned. Sighing, he gently pulled the boy’s hands from his clothing, keeping his hand on the boy’s hand to make sure the child didn’t panic. “Come then, we need to get Miss Weasley to the Hospital Wing.” Severus said very gently.
The boy looked so lost and startled that Severus felt an unknown protectiveness rise up in him. Harry seemed far too thin, far too small. He looked so young and scared that Severus could hardly believe it was the same cheeky child he’d had in his class not even a week ago. There was such vulnerability in those large green eyes. It was like seeing Lily, though he’d never seen those emotions in Lily’s eyes before and he never wanted to see them again. They ate at him.
Standing up again, he bent down and lifted the girl into his arms and cradled her against his chest with one arm, while taking Harry’s hand firmly. “Is there anyone else down here with you, Harry? Mister Weasley, perhaps?”
“Ron’s with Lockhart at the entrance,” Harry whispered, pushing into Severus’s side. Severus gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Headmaster, can you see to getting Weasley and Lockhart?” Severus inquired.
“Of course. How will you get Harry and Ginny to the hospital wing, Severus? Might as well come with us,” Albus said absently.
“I can fly without a broom, Albus, surely you haven’t forgotten that?” Severus said darkly.
“I’m afraid I had, my boy. Yes, yes, I’ll see to Ron and Gilderoy,” Albus said, clapping his hands together and moving off towards the entrance.
Severus shook his head. He always did wonder if Albus was actually addled-minded, or if he simply chose to act a little insane. Severus took a few quick strides, gathered Harry close to his side with a tight protective hold, and took off. His body became a smoky black trail as he flew up through the entrance and down the deserted hall, landing them all just outside the infirmary.
His arm steadied a disoriented Harry. Ginny hadn’t woken. The energy drain was greater than he expected and he staggered, barely regaining his balance. They must have made a loud noise, for suddenly Madam Pomfrey was standing at the open doorway gaping at him.
“Severus, what happened? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine Poppy. Potter and Weasley however are not. Albus will be bringing the Weasley boy and Lockhart,” Severus said pushing past her and into the infirmary.
Ginny, though small, was starting to get heavy, and he had to put an arm back around Harry to coax the child to move again. Slowly walking him into the infirmary, he set Ginny down on a bed and then lifted Harry onto another one. The boy was in shock. Severus slumped down into a chair, barely gathering his breath back when Albus entered the room leading a tired-looking Ron and a confused and dazed-looking Lockhart.
It didn’t take Poppy long to do her diagnostic. Severus was, however, quite concerned for Potter who had yet to release his hand. He could, of course, have forced the child, but the raw fear and uncertainty in the boy’s gaze made him hesitate to do so, though he really wished nothing more than to go to his bed. Flying as a Death Eater was not overly complicated, but it was advanced and draining form of magic. It took a powerful, determined wizard to achieve it. There were some Death Eaters who could not do it, and those never made it past the outer circle, for they lacked the necessary discipline and power.
Severus had just shown two students and one idiot exactly what he was. He did not consider the Weasley girl to have noticed anything, but Harry and Ron had definitely seen him in action. He couldn’t help but wonder if they actually realized what he’d done. Did they know it was an obscure branch of magic that was now mostly associated with Death Eaters since the first war? Harry wouldn’t; he was fairly certain of that. But Weasley’s family would have known it for sure. However, Severus had to wonder how much Arthur and Molly had told their children about those times.
Severus was beginning to drift off when he heard someone calling his name. Blinking his tired eyes open, he looked up into Poppy’s concerned face. Sighing, he raised one quizzical brow at her.
“You look exhausted, Severus; are you sure you’re well?” Poppy asked kindly.
“I am fine,” Severus responded in his typical cold baritone.
Flying on his own wasn’t usually this tiring, but extending his magic to accommodate Harry and Ginny had been, even for so short a time. He was drained, both magically and physically. With everything he’d done today, that last bit of advanced magic had just about finished him. He’d had a lot of work in the early hours of the morning, before classes, making potions for Poppy. The batches of Healing Potions had extended beyond what he usually made for the Hospital Wing, as he’d gotten an owl from St. Mungos requesting some, as well. Though he did not work for St. Mungos anymore, he did often find himself filling requests, usually for complicated potions. Whenever they were tight on time, they seemed to turn to him. Having done his apprenticeship there and working as their Potions Master for a number of years, Severus was not very surprised to hear from them. They had been sad to see him go.
During his time at St. Mungos, he’d mostly worked as their poison expert, creating cures and antidotes. It had been rewarding work. He still enjoyed visiting the ward during the summers to assist when he had free time, which was coming less and less often. He knew the main healer from that ward well; the man was somewhat a friend.
It wasn’t as though Severus was the only one who could do the work, but he figured it was just Robinson’s way of saying that he missed his talents. St. Mungos had a fine team of potioners. Why they still felt the need to contact him for basic potions from time to time always surprised him. He could remember asking Robinson that himself, and the answer had been an odd one.
“There is something you do that has a greater effect than regular potions; no one can seem to figure it out.”
That had left Severus thinking. He’d been puzzling away at it since the summer. Maybe it was time to write another journal, this one on basic healing potions. Maybe if he broke apart his formula and the slight modifications he’d made over the years, he would find out why his potions proved a little more effective than common ones. It was an interesting concept.
Severus was pulled out of his thoughts by the next words spoken to him.
“SEVERUS!” came Minerva’s shout.
“What?” Severus demanded angrily.
“Are you alright?” Minerva asked with concern.
“Why does everyone feel the need to ask me that? I am FINE,” Severus grumbled at the repetition of the question.
“I’ve been calling your name for five minutes and you didn’t even react! You are NOT fine!” Minerva said bluntly.
Severus looked at her with one raised brow. Now that was interesting. For that matter, he didn’t remember her walking in here.
“Oh, he spaced out even before I finished talking with him, Minerva. Don’t pay much attention to it,”
Poppy said, walking over after having check on Ron. “You,” she stated, pointing at Severus. “You are going to get out of that chair and into that bed right there, and don’t you dare argue with me!”
“I cannot,” Severus responded and as explanation raised his hand which now had two very small hands wrapped so tightly over his that it reminded him of a Grindylow.
“Ummm,” Poppy hummed. “Well that certainly explains why you’ve remained in the Hospital Wing this long. Minerva, if you would?”
“Not a problem,” Minerva responded. She flicked her wand at Severus’s chair and transfigured it into a comfortable armchair, complete with a foot rest. Severus gave a half smile, lifted his legs up, and was all too happy to recline back in the seat and close his eyes. His arm remained resting on the side of the bed, where it had been since he’d gotten Potter to lie down.
Minerva looked at her tired colleague and gave a small smile. “I’m surprised you’re letting him hold you like that.”
“I hardly had a say in the matter. Regardless, I’m not so much of a bastard that I would cause a traumatized child more discomfort by removing myself from his grasp. It is clear to me that Potter finds some form of comfort in clinging to me so desperately. It will do no harm to allow it,” Severus stated simply, surprising even himself with his words.
Evidently it was not the answer Minerva was expecting because she gasped, open-mouthed. Severus sighed. Did they really have such a low opinion of him? Though he felt a pang of hurt in his chest that they would think him that much of a bastard, he didn’t let it show on his face and quickly occluded the feelings. Instead he focused his dark gaze on Minerva with cold, narrowed eyes.
“Severus, dear boy, you will never cease to amaze me,” Dumbledore declared proudly, stepping over to them.
Severus looked from Minerva to the old man and was at a loss for what to say. Why was it such a surprise that he would allow a child to hold his hand? Why did they all think he was such an evil man?
This time however, he didn’t hide the hurt he felt as he glared openly at Dumbledore.
“Oh Severus, we didn’t mean it like that!” Minerva said quickly, catching the look he had passed to the headmaster.
“No, it’s quite clear how you both see me. Not that it is any of your concern, but I will have you know that I would never hurt a child. Nor would I allow any undo harm to come to them. That includes your lions, Minerva.” With that, Severus closed his eyes and leaned farther back into the armchair. He was determined not to rise to their verbal quarries of him again. He was already embarrassed by his current show of outrage and hurt. Since when had he become emotional?
“Severus, dear boy, calm yourself. None of us think you’d ever hurt a child intentionally. It is simply surprising that you would allow Harry to touch you, after the hatred you’ve show the boy,” Dumbledore said gently.
Severus didn’t know why the words bothered him, but they did. Remorse seemed to pool inside him, along with the guilt and hurt. Why was he so emotional now? Even keeping his eyes closed, it took a lot of focus to occlude his mind solidly and force everything away until nothing but a calm emptiness remained. Finally satisfied that he was in control and his mask back in place, he opened his eyes.
He blinked a few times to get everything back into focus, and then regarded them. “Is there anything important you wished to discuss with me, Headmaster?” Severus inquired, rather than respond to their words.
“As a matter of fact, there is. I wish you to tell Poppy what is wrong, or allow her to do a scan on you.
We are concerned for you, dear boy,” Dumbledore said, kindly smiling down at him.
Severus glared intently. “There. Is. Nothing. Wrong. With. Me,” he said, each word clipped and cold, determined to get the point across. “I’m perfectly fine.”
“Then why are you pale and clammy?” Minerva asked, raising one eyebrow at him.
“If you must know, I have been up since 2 a.m. this morning, brewing potions for both Poppy and St. Mungos. I have taught two double potions classes today and oversaw a test in my third potions class. Following that, I was dragged into the Chamber of Secrets to assist the Headmaster in retrieving the students who’d gone down there. Miss Weasley and Mister Potter were badly in need of medical attention, and the climb out of the chamber would have been impossible for them. Performing the advanced magic required to get two children from that chamber to the hospital wing was quite draining, especially after a long day with very little time to rest. I am simply exhausted and require a little rest. Does that answer your questions?” Severus said in a cold, dark voice. He was frankly annoyed now.
“You flew them out?” Minerva asked aghast, finally catching on.
“Yes,” Severus said.
“All the way here?” Minerva continued on. “Several floors away from the Chamber?”
“Yes,” was Severus’s clipped response.
“Two children?” Minerva pressed, clearly annoying Severus with her incredulity.
“Yes, Minerva. I flew two children from the Chamber to the Hospital Wing without stopping. Now are you done asking rudimentary questions?” Severus all but growled.
“How?” Minerva continued none-the-less with her questions.
Severus gave an exasperated sigh. “As they were held tightly to me. Miss Weasley in my arms and Mister Potter pressed to my side. I was able to extend the field of magic that encompasses me when I perform the spell. It is far harder and requires far greater focus and concentration in order to maintain the spell, but it is quite possible to do,” Severus explained, or else he would never get any rest.
“You used a Death Eater spell inside the school? Where anyone could have seen?” Minerva said, her voice rising in pitch.
“Minerva, calm yourself. There was no chance that anyone besides Potter, Weasley, and Lockhart would see me. The other children are all locked into their Houses, if their Heads of House did their jobs properly. The staff already know what I am. Who was there to find out?” Severus inquired, his voice so cold and deadly that Minerva flinched slightly.
“Severus, you could have been seriously hurt doing that. You could have hurt the children!” Minerva pressed.
“Hardly. You do not correctly understand this branch of magic, Minerva. Believe me when I say that I would not have hurt the children in my care. Now, if you are quite done scolding me and there is nothing else to discuss, I would like to rest,” Severus growled out.
“And what about you? How great was the risk that you might injure yourself?” Minerva pressed, annoyed at the irritating man.
“As it did not happen, I hardly see how that is of your concern,” Severus responded coldly.
“Now, now, Severus, there is no reason to get so testy with Minerva,” Dumbledore chastised gently.
“Enough of this; the man needs rest, and so do the children,” Poppy said sternly.
Having finished with Lockhart and Ron, both were now peacefully sleeping. Harry wasn’t asleep, but he wasn’t paying attention to anyone or anything. He was staring at a spot on the far wall, clinging almost desperately to Severus’s arm.
“We’ll come back tomorrow, Severus,” Dumbledore said. Turning to Minerva he smiled and said, “Come Minerva, let’s go to my office.” With that he put his arm around the witch and began leading her out of the Hospital Wing.
Severus leaned back again into his seat and almost succeeded in falling asleep.
“Get him to drink this, Severus, if you would be so kind,” Poppy said, handing him a vial of Dreamless Sleep after many attempts to get Potter to drink it. The boy didn’t seem to respond to her.
“Potter,” Severus called, turning to the child and taking the vial from Poppy. “Potter look at me.”
The boy just kept on staring.
“Harry,” Severus finally called out a little louder. The boy jumped and looked at him. “Good. Now drink this,” Severus said, holding the vial to the boy’s lips.
He was pleased when the boy did as told. Handing the empty vial to Poppy, he settled back down and allowed his eyes to close. He would have been already falling asleep, but Poppy’s voice called him back.
“Severus, don’t sleep yet, I want you to take this. So you’ll at least sleep a full night,” Poppy said, a little sadness drifting into her voice.
How well she knew he never slept a full night anymore. The nightmares were always there, just below the surface. With a weary sigh he took the vial of Dreamless Sleep she offered him and drank it down quickly. Handing her the empty vial, he let the world fade away, succumbing to the welcome darkness.
Remembering, a small smile curved his lips. He could still not believe how that one moment had changed everything. Here he was, a month into summer, with Potter sleeping in his arms. How ironic, really. He had started out hating the boy because of how closely he resembled James Potter. Of course, he felt horrible at being so petty and having ignored the very real signs of a neglected child. Now he knew better. So here he was, the guardian for this child. How all that had come to pass in the month and a half since that fateful night in the Chamber of Secrets was not entirely clear to Severus, but he knew Dumbledore had something to do with it.
He looked down again at the sleeping child and wondered how much like his mother he really was. He had her kind heart, her forgiving nature. Severus felt an all-too-familiar ache. If only Lily had been able to forgive him his own stupidity, like her son had. If only.
A new and very real problem faced him now. How would he prevent Lucius from discovering that he had custody of Harry? Lucius and he were such good and close friends. Severus didn’t know how he would manage to keep his friendship and hide his new guardianship. With a tired sigh, Severus realized how much more lonely he would be without Lucius’s friendship. He had barely anyone he trusted, and did not think he could bear to lose another. Lucius had been there for him when he’d lost Lily.
When the Headmaster had forced him to accept that he must protect her son. He could still remember when Lucius found him. He still bore the scars across the Dark Mark from that time. Lucius had kept an annoyingly close eye on him after that, and in a short while their friendship had become solid. Lucius knew his true allegiance, but would never betray him—Severus was certain of that. Though Lucius still believed in much of the Dark Lord’s cause, he was becoming disillusioned with his methods. Severus wondered what he would do if he found out Severus had Potter as his ward. Would he accept the boy or let his fears swallow him? If only he knew.