By Jessica Beaubien (alias Niaf)
Word Count: 27542
Summary: The alternate account of the Chamber of Secrets seen through Snape’s eyes.
Chapter 2: Death Grip
Severus found himself absently carding his hand through the boy’s black hair, still left wondering how things had gotten to this point. He pushed away the thoughts of his own possible losses. His own emotions and concerns. He needed to understand everything that had transpired, from that night to now, how things had changed. He sighed heavily as he remembered back to the day after that event in the chamber.
Severus had awakened slowly, not sure what had roused him this time, though knowing he would need to deal with whatever it proved to be. His eyes snapped open as he realized he was not in his chambers. He was not on his leather couch or leather armchair. No, he was on a soft, plush chair in a much too warm room. He looked around, taking a moment to realize he’d fallen asleep in a chair in the Hospital Wing. Something was loosely curled around his left arm. He frowned as recollection slowly came. Looking over to the bed by which he sat, he found Potter evidently asleep. His head was pressed up against Severus’s arm, and his arms loosely wrapped around his, hands tangled in the material of his sleeve. The boy’s legs were loosely bent and he was lying on his side with his mouth slightly open. His eyes were tightly shut and his breathing was even. Still asleep then. Someone had removed the boy’s glasses, and though he looked a lot like James, still there was something of Lily’s much softer features in the way he looked without those frames.
Severus yawned and stretched out the rest of the aches in his stiff body, at least as much as he could with his arm so trapped by the boy. He looked around the room and realized what had woken him—three sets of footfalls entering and very hushed voices speaking. Severus couldn’t see who it was due to the privacy curtain pulled halfway around the first bed. The one next to him held the Weasley girl.
“…Ginny in there?” A soft female voice asked as they neared the curtain. Severus recognized the voice instantly as Molly Weasley.
“I’m afraid so, Molly,” Albus’s soft response followed the question.
The curtain was pulled away slightly to reveal Albus with a very worried Molly and Arthur following after him. Molly ran forward to her daughter’s side, not even noticing him at first. Severus stiffened. He couldn’t move from where he was unless he wanted to yank his arm out of Potter’s hold, and he was sure that would wake the child.
“GINNY!” Molly cried loudly, tears openly running down her face.
A soft moan from Potter and a tightening around his arm told him that the boy had heard the noise. A quick look to the boy told him that he was falling back to sleep. The arms loosed once more.
“Molly, speak quietly, we should not wake any of the children,” Severus said in a soft hiss. He really was not awake enough to deal with any of this right now.
“Severus!” Molly cried out in alarm, though her volume was much lower and gratefully did not disrupt Potter’s sleep.
“Why are you…” she began, but then stopped as she caught sight of how the Potter child was wrapped around his arm. A soft smile played on her lips. “The poor dear. Is he alright?”
“I’m afraid not,” Severus responded gently. He wanted to answer sarcastically, but at the moment snide remarks would not get him out of this awkward situation. He did not want to rile her up and have her begin yelling at him. That would surely wake Potter and then he’d have the child to deal with as well. No, this was preferable. His sneer told her all she needed to know about his mood.
“Albus told us what you did for Ginny; thank you Severus,” Molly began.
Severus waved away her thanks with a brief nod. He did not care for thanks. He glared instead at the headmaster. If the foolish man had told him where the chamber was, instead of lolly-gagging in his office waiting, none of the children would be in this position right now. Well, ok, maybe the Weasley girl would still be in this position. He’d had some time to think about things a little—what he’d felt when he encased her in his magic. It had been a strange combination of his own magic and that of the Dark Lord, only so much weaker. He knew it the moment he felt the magic, as it caused his dark mark to warm. The two felt identical.
“You will have to take her to St. Mungo’s when she wakes. She will need to see a mind healer,” Severus told her, matter of fact.
“Why?” Molly asked, concerned. She looked from Severus’s blank features to Arthur’s shocked expression, and then to Albus’s sad eyes. She frowned even deeper.
“Tell me what is going on,” Molly demanded, taking her daughter’s hand in her own. Arthur had sat down on the bed and was now running his hand through her long red hair.
“I believe your daughter was possessed, in a manner of speaking, by a very dark spell,” Albus explained softly. “A diary from Voldemort’s school days somehow ended up in young Ginny’s possession. As she was regularly communicating with it, the magic inside the diary was able to slowly take over her body.”
Severus listened intently as Albus explained things, though he began to see far more than what Albus’ words conveyed. If what he said was indeed true, then that diary was not simply a
dark artifact as he had believed, but was instead a Horcrux. Severus shivered involuntarily at those thoughts. A part of the Dark Lord’s soul? Could it really be? Severus didn’t want to even think on it.
“She talked with it?” Molly asked uncertainly.
“It would seem that young Ginny used the diary as any young girl would,” Albus confirmed.
“How did she get it?” Molly asked, shocked and appalled.
“At this time I’m not entirely certain. I am hoping when young Harry awakens, he might shed more light on what happened in the Chamber than young Ronald was able to provide last night. Everything will be alright, Molly. Right now all we can do is wait and see,” Albus said gently, laying his hand on Molly’s arm. The woman nodded slowly.
Severus was glad that he was spared any more conversation, and wondered just how long he would have to sit there until he could figure out how to disentangle Potter from his arm. Strange indeed, that he had come to be in this position. He did not like Potter; he’d be the first to admit it. However, that being said, the child didn’t seem like an arrogant brat. There had been genuine fear in the boy’s eyes, and it was strange how he had clung to him.
Severus had meant what he’d said to Minerva last night. He could not just push the child off; he was not that much of a bastard, after all. Yes, he often gave off those vibes, and if anything he relished his reputation. That being said, he didn’t want to hurt the vulnerable child clinging to him. What he really wanted was to understand what exactly was going on. Why was Potter reacting so violently now? This couldn’t be normal. Could it? Then again, Severus didn’t have much knowledge of children, outside of his Slytherins during the school year.
Sighing softly, Severus leaned back once more in his chair. There was nothing to do but to wait for Potter to wake up. Closing his eyes, he let his mind drift off, trying to piece together everything, but there were simply not enough pieces.
A soft startled cry and a sudden jerk on his hand woke Severus instantly. His eyes shot open and he looked in the direction of Potter. The child was now fully pressed up against his arm. Wide terrified eyes stared back at him. Lily’s terrified green eyes. He couldn’t look away. It pulled at his heart to see this, almost like a stab right into his gut. He swallowed down the lump of pain that suddenly rose up. Was that how Lily had looked moments before she died? Those morbid thoughts did not help him right now. Forcing them away, he focused on the child clinging to him like a Gindylow.
“Potter,” Severus called out, his voice neutral, held in tight restraint so he would not show a single emotion. Neither on his face, nor in his words.
Though the child jerked in fear and started trembling, his eyes didn’t move. Albus started to come around the bed from where he’d been talking with Molly. As soon as the child caught the movement, he curled up further upon himself, trying to pull Severus’s arm with him. The grip on Severus was starting to get painful, and if the child pulled any harder on his arm, he was certain he’d not enjoy the feeling. Severus held up his hand to still Albus’s movement. Either his own raised hand or the boy’s reaction told Albus that he had to remain still and silent right now.
“Potter, look at me, child,” Severus said as gently as he could. He was not usually a kind man, but he was a Head of House and he did keep an eye on his snakes. He’d seen a few of them in harm’s way before, and knew the tone of voice to use. His past made him ideal for spotting certain behaviour.
Potter looked at him hesitantly, alternating between him and Albus, clearly uncertain of who else was around him. That probably had to do with the fact the child didn’t have his glasses on. Finally, after a few long moments, the child seemed to settle on looking at him.
“Do you know who I am?” Severus asked the child gently, hoping to see if the child was with them or lost in some delusion.
“Snape?” Potter asked hesitantly. Well that was something at least.
“Professor Snape, Potter, but very good. Now where are we?” Severus asked, his voice taking on a light tone of reprimand. The child could still be polite. “Especially when he is clawing my arm off,” Severus thought darkly.
“Ummm,” Potter stuttered out, clearly trying to think of the answer. His eyes blinked a few times, owlishly, before he finally continued speaking. Again a question, “Hospital Wing?”
“Very good Potter, now, do you think you can loosen the death grip on my arm?” Severus stated bluntly, wondering if the child would actually allow him some feeling back in his hand now.
“So-sorry sir,” Potter stuttered out before slowly releasing his death grip a fraction.
Severus could finally feel his hand again and it was not comfortable at all, the tiny pins and needles making themselves prominently known. Not that there was anything more than scowling that he could do about it, as Potter still had a fairly strong hold on his arm. He was fairly certain if he pulled his arm away now, the boy would latch on tightly again.
“Now kindly explain to me what happened. Slowly this time, so I can at least understand you,” Severus demanded. Though he asked it kindly enough, the scowl he always wore made the boy tense and flinch at his words. Sighing, he resigned himself to having to be extremely delicate. It would test his patience to no end.
“The monster is a Basilisk,” Potter said, stating the most obvious fact Severus had ever heard from the boy.
He barely resisted rolling his eyes. In a voice laced with impatience, he said, “Yes, funny enough, I had gathered that much on my own, Potter. Tell me how you ended up in the chamber with Lockhart and Weasley. Did you go after the Weasley girl yourself?”
“Y-yes sir, but it wasn’t my fault!” Potter quickly defended.
Severus sighed. No, of course it wasn’t Potter’s fault. Nothing ever was, he thought darkly, his eyes narrowing on the boy. “No, I suppose you just happened to fall into a gaping hole that wasn’t there before?”
“N-no sir, Ron and I went to tell Lo…Professor Lockhart that we knew where the Chamber was. He made us show him, sir. He was going to obliviate Ron and me. He was going to leave Ginny down there and – and – and…” Potter stuttered to a stop, his eyes large and wide. He took several deep breaths before he continued.
“Well, then he tried the spell, but he used Ron’s broken wand and it backfired and hit him and caved in the entrance and I was trapped and Ron couldn’t get out to get help and I couldn’t just leave Ginny. So I went on hoping I could find Ginny and maybe get us both out before whoever was opening the chamber- whoever took her could find us. But then when I got there, I saw this ghostlike boy…only he wasn’t a ghost. He was older than me. He – he – he was…” Potter again stuttered to a stop, gasping for breath, eyes wide, his whole body tense. He started to cry in large gasping sobs.
“Easy Potter. You need to breathe, child,” Severus said, not unkindly, gently laying his other hand on Potter’s shoulder. Still unable to believe he was doing this.
“Take a deep breath, that’s it. Now breathe out. Do it again. Breathe in. Now out. Keep doing that. Good.” Severus kept encouraging him until the child had gathered himself enough to keep going.
Harry’s tearful voice wavered. “He said he was Voldemort. Or at least his younger self, anyways. I didn’t understand what he meant though, sir,” Potter said looking up at him with pleading eyes.
“I will try and explain later Potter, just keep telling me what happened,” Severus told the boy.
But he didn’t really know how to explain. He needed to know more before he could even try.
“Well then,” Potter continued, “he said that soon he’d be alive and Ginny would be dead. He was draining her, using her life to come back. Then he called the Basilisk and I tried to talk to it, but it wouldn’t listen to me. Then I ran and that’s when Fawkes came and gave me the sorting hat and I pulled out a sword from it. It was really weird. Well, after running a lot, I sort of stabbed the Basilisk with the sword and it bit me. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t want to die and have Ginny die too. Well, the fang broke off in my arm. So I ripped it out and stabbed the book. The Diary. That’s how he was able to use Ginny to open the chamber and set the Basilisk on all those people. Then Fawkes healed me and then you came.” Potter said by way of explanation.
Severus looked at the boy, at a loss for what to make of this. Surely the headmaster didn’t allow the boy to fight the Dark Lord? He couldn’t be hearing that right, could he? Then again, Albus had done the same thing last year. How could the headmaster believe a child was up to these tasks? This was ridiculous. He should be protected, not allowed to go gallivanting off to fight the Dark Lord.
Severus looked from Potter to the Headmaster, noting the look of sadness and realization in those blue twinkling eyes before they clouded over with grief. Vowing to have a stern word
with the old man, Severus turned back to Potter.
“Potter, can you sit up for me?”
The child looked at him with big watering eyes, but nodded shakily. He didn’t, however, release Severus’s arm. He scooted up and clung to his hand with both of his, pushing himself up until he sat more or less upright. Severus sighed. This was going to be a long day.
“Potter, I cannot get you any potions to help you if you do not release my arm,” he stated gently. It was worth a try. Unfortunately, it did not work how he planned. Instead of releasing him, the boy pulled his arm tightly to his chest and clung to it, shaking his head emphatically.
“P-pa-please don’t leave me al-alone,” Potter whimpered, crying anew.
Just what was the matter with the child, Severus wanted to know. Something must have seriously frightened the twelve-year-old for him to be acting this way. Sighing, Severus turned to Albus.
“Will you have Madam Pomfrey come here, please. I require a few potions from my private stash and cannot go acquire them,” he asked the old man.
“I can retrieve them for you Severus; I need to go and let Minerva know that Harry is awake now. What do you need?” Albus asked kindly.
“A stronger calming drought than what is kept here. It’s the blue vial on the third shelf from the bottom. Black cupboard. I will also need the small bottle in the black cupboard, topmost shelf. It’s locked inside a black enchanted box. You’ll know it when you see it, Headmaster,” Severus said. “There is one more thing I require. On the fourth shelf, black cupboard, there is a red vial of anti-venom; it isn’t specific to Basilisks but the phoenix tears should have taken care of it. This anti-venom is designed for snakes, so it should at least ensure no further venom remains in Potter’s system. I would rather be safe than to have him slowly die of poisoning,” Severus stated.
“I should be able to manage that Severus. I’ll return shortly,” Albus said politely before heading off towards Poppy’s office, no doubt to use the floo.
Severus turned his gaze back to the bewildered child, who still gripped his arm tightly against his chest like a stuffed animal.
“Potter, if I promise not to leave, and I transfigure that pillow into a stuffed animal of your choice, will you release my arm?” Severus asked the boy, hoping that with both those things he could finally be free of the clinging child.
Potter appeared to consider this with wide eyes. “A snake?” He asked very softly, as if terrified Severus would deny him that.
Severus took out his wand, gave it a flick, and mumbled the spell that transfigured the pillow into a large, stuffed, blue and green snake. He put his wand back up his sleeve, picked up the plushy toy, and handed it to the boy who slowly let go of his arm. Hesitantly the child took the stuffed snake and pressed it to his chest in an alarmingly tight hold. Severus was glad it was no longer his arm getting crushed by the terrified child.
“Here Potter, put your glasses on so you can actually see,” Severus said, picking them up from the bedside table while shaking out the numb fingers in his left hand.
Potter put his glasses on with a relieved sigh. He could see everything better now. At that moment Albus and Minerva walked in, coming from Poppy’s office.
“Here you are, Severus,” Albus said, handing him the three vials.
Severus checked each, nodding in satisfaction.
“Potter how are you feeling?” Minerva asked kindly, coming up to the child.
Potter pushed himself closer to Severus and the headboard while staring at her with wide terrified eyes. Well that was strange, Severus thought. Why was Potter acting afraid of Minerva? Severus was utterly bewildered. He uncapped the calming drought and handed it to the boy.
“Drink it all Potter, it will not taste good, but it will help,” Severus stated coldly.
The boy took the vial in shaky hands and Severus was forced to help him in order to prevent the boy from spilling the potion everywhere. He drank it down with only a grimace as complaint. That was equally odd, although Severus wouldn’t complain about it. At least the child didn’t whine at him when forced to take medicine.
“Good, now this one here is just to be on the safe side. It’s an anti-venom. I want you to drink it,” Severus said holding up the small vial.
The boy nodded meekly and did as he was told. Severus held the vial steady for the boy.
“Good. Now I need to prepare this next one with some juice for you. I want you to answer Professor McGonagall. She’s your Head of House, after all, and it’s rude to ignore her.”
“Severus!” Minerva chastised him for being so harsh with Potter.
Severus rolled his eyes and called a house elf, ordering the drink while Potter stuttered a response to her.
“C-co-cold ma’am,” Potter said.
“What do you mean?” Severus asked. “Do you need a blanket?”
“N-no sir, I feel cold inside,” Potter tried to explain.
He didn’t know how to describe it, Severus realized, but nodded knowing exactly what the boy referred to. “That is perfectly normal Potter; you were exposed to some powerful dark magic last night. It leaves one feeling cold for a little while. Once you drink your juice you will be fine,” Severus assured the child.
“Is that a side effect of flying?” Minerva asked Severus, her tone chiding.
“Hardly, Minerva; you don’t see me needing to take an anti-dark-magic potion when flying do you? No, the boy was exposed to what I firmly believe was a Horcrux,” Severus stated plainly.
“Are you certain, Severus?” Albus asked, preventing Minerva from replying to his snark.
“I will be in a moment,” Severus stated, adding four drops of the black liquid into the Pumpkin Juice that had just appeared. Turning to Potter he held up the drink.
“Drink all of it Potter, and do try to keep it down. Or at least tell me if you are feeling unwell.”
Minerva gave him a death glare that could rival his own. Potter, however, took the offered glass with steady hands. He appeared much calmer now. Cradling the stuffed snake in one hand
against his chest, he sipped the drink, grimacing at the bitter aftertaste.
“Yes it is quite disgusting a taste, I rather agree,” Severus stated with a bark of amusement at the child’s faces.
Minerva looked from Potter to Severus with rather confused eyes. “Just what is going on?” she asked, pointedly demanding an answer.
“I’m certain the Headmaster can fill you in, Minerva,” Severus responded.
He was not about to repeat the events of the previous night. He was still fuming at Albus for his stupidity in sending the boy down into that chamber. He wanted to have it out with Albus over his recklessness. How dare he put him in a position like this? Did Albus not realize that it made his job to keep Potter safe that much harder? Or did the old man simply not care? Severus was livid. Some of that must have shown through the scowl he cast at Minerva, because she quickly turned to Albus for answers.
“Sir, I-I don’t feel good.”
Potter’s weak voice brought Severus back to the boy. He cast a look at the child’s pale face. The empty glass had been set down on the nightstand. Severus sighed. He had expected this. He should have given the boy the potion to calm his stomach first, but he had hoped not to need it.
Sighing again, he picked up a small vial.
“Drink this, it’ll help, but it will also diminish the effects of the potion I just gave you. So only take it if you really think it’s the only way you won’t be sick,” Severus instructed as he uncorked the vial, holding it out towards the child. To his surprise the child shook his head.
“Maybe if I just lie down for a little bit I’ll be ok,” Potter said very softly.
Severus wondered just how bad the boy felt to willingly pass up the vial of stomach soother. Setting it down on the nightstand within easy reach of the child, Severus watched the boy’s face critically for a few more moments as he curled himself in bed with the stuffed toy. Severus pulled up the blanket, tucking it around the child to a mumbled ‘thanks’. In a few seconds Potter was asleep.
“Come Severus, let us take this conversation to my office,” Albus cut into his thoughts as Severus leaned back into his seat.
He glanced over at the other two who had been discussing the events of last night in hushed tones. “I cannot, headmaster,” Severus replied simply.
“Why ever not?” Minerva asked utterly confused.
“I gave Potter my word I would remain here. It was under these conditions that he released my arm. I will not break my word, Minerva. A simple silencing charm around us would suffice to hold any conversation right here.” Severus explained.
There really was no reason to leave, as it was Saturday, and he had no doubt his prefects were more than capable of handling any problems in his house, or else they would call on him. He had felt no tremor in the wards around his office and knew no one had come calling.
“He was still clinging to you this morning?” Minerva asked in concern, staring at Severus as if he’d grown another head.
“Why does that surprise you, Minerva?” Severus inquired, amused by her sudden shock.
“You hate the boy, and I have heard on many occasions that the feeling is mutual,” Minerva said simply, as if this explained everything.
Severus sighed, resigned to having to explain this.
“I do not hate the boy Minerva; I simply do not like him. There is a vast array of difference.”
He disliked going into this again. They had already done this dance.
“Severus is correct, Minerva. We will use a silencing charm and speak of these things here. Pull up a chair my dear,” Albus said, cutting her off before the two could start bickering over the age-old arguments.
Severus raised one eyebrow at Albus, wondering what could be so important that he was willing to actually listen to him.
“However, Severus, I wish to know what your other reasons are for remaining here while the boy is asleep.”
“There is another reason why I must remain, you are correct Headmaster. The potion I have given him could have alarming consequences, depending on the type of dark magic he has been exposed to. I will not leave until I am certain he is not in danger. Were I to do so, the time it would take for me to travel here would no doubt be too long,” Severus further explained.
“I need to hear and see Potter through your privacy spell, Headmaster.”
“Of course, Severus,” Albus said simply, and with a swish of his wand, two armchairs appeared facing Severus’s seat. Another flick and a shimmering haze of blue appeared around them, leaving them free to hear everything around them, but no one would hear them.
“What do you mean by ‘alarming consequences’?” Minerva asked with trepidation evident in her voice.
“All dark magic leaves a taint. That taint interacts with a witch or wizard’s magic. That cold feeling is the taint’s interaction with magic. Uncountered, it can have numerous side effects. Chief amongst these is making it easier to cast dark spells in the future. The potion I have given the boy is a countermeasure. In short, it is liquid magic to which the taint will be drawn. However, because it is derived from the wizard or witch who created the potion, when given to others not of the same bloodline, it can have some alarming consequences,” Severus explained.
“Are you saying that Potter could die from the cure?” Minerva asked, her face paling.
“Not while I am nearby to act in time,” Severus assured her. “I can draw out the potion from his system and into myself. Another interesting characteristic of the potion is that I can feel it when it is not completely broken down. I can interact with it. It is why it is not recommended to give it to someone who is not of your bloodline. When drawn out, it affects both parties equally as uncomfortably.” He was deliberately vague on certain points.
“This sounds very close to dark magic, Severus,” Minerva said, frowning, her mouth in a thin line.
“It could be considered dark. If used as a method of torture, but it is intended as a cure. I have not had to use it on anyone in quite some time,” Severus stated, shrugging. He did not add that he had had numerous reasons to use it on himself. It was, after all, the only thing that mitigated the aftereffects of the Cruciatus curse. He’d had to suffer that curse enough times to have left lasting effects, had he not known of this little potion. That however, was something he wouldn’t say to either of them.
“Do you think it will work on Ginny?” Albus asked, curious.
“Even if it would, I would not use it on Miss Weasley. Let me finish, Minerva, before you go and accuse me of being deliberately cruel,” Severus snapped, seeing Minerva’s mouth opening to interrupt.
Her mouth closed, and her lips formed into a thin, disapproving line. She glared threateningly at Severus who returned the heated glare. His voice, however, held none of the anger he felt at being so harshly judged.
“She opened herself up to the Dark Lord through the diary. It created an open channel between the fragment of soul and the girl. She doesn’t just have a taint from dark magic, as Potter does. She will need to see a mind healer to ensure that there is not still a sliver of that magic inside her. A good portion of her life force and magic were sucked out of her and into that book. Even if it was stopped, it will take a long time for the girl to recover enough so that her body could withstand the potion’s potent effect, let alone any side effects that may present themselves. In any event, the potion will not work against a fragment of soul. It only draws the taint to feed on the potion itself rather than the person’s magic, allowing the taint to dissipate without affecting the person’s magic. Meaning, they will not be affected by the dark magic in a physical way. It is not some magic cure that will remove the boy’s memories of the event or heal his mind or emotional state from such trauma. All it will do will be to ensure that he retains no lasting physical damage.”
“Forgive me Severus, I should have known you’d have a good reason for denying the girl the potion,” Minerva said by way of an apology after he’d finished.
“Apology accepted,” Severus replied, brushing the matter aside. Her apology, though sincere, would not stop her from assuming the same thing next time. He had enough experience with how much everyone trusted him. He did not put stock in their belief in him or their trust in him. Thus he didn’t care overly much for an apology.
“What do you know of Horcruxes, Severus?” Albus asked, drawing the conversation over to what he really wanted to know.
“Only what I have read of them, Headmaster. They are extremely dark magic. I do not know how they are created, nor do I wish to know it. What I can tell you is only this. It is a way to bind a fragment of the wizard’s soul to an object. If the creator of such an artifact were to die, they would not truly die because that part of their soul would live on. It would indeed explain how the Dark Lord survived the killing curse,” Severus explained to the best of his knowledge. He shuddered to think of such dark magic.
“I suppose it would. Thank you, Severus. Minerva, if you would be so kind as to inform me when Harry wakes. I believe I will be heading down to lunch,” Albus said, rising and banishing his chair.
“Of course. I believe Molly and Arthur are in Poppy’s office. I wish to have a word with them,” Minerva said before both of them left Severus to his dark thoughts.
Severus shook his head lightly to clear it. Trying to piece together all of these memories was complicated. He was trying to figure out exactly what worried him so much. Today’s events proved even more troubling as he looked down at the small child.
There were layers of things he needed to unravel, layers of secrets he’d uncovered in the boy. There was so much beneath the surface that he still did not know, but what he did know scared him to the core of his heart. There was definitely something wrong. The more he learned, the more he was certain. Petunia had not changed from when she was a child.
Severus wanted to believe that Potter was just as arrogant and self-centred as his father had been. Just as cruel. He could still feel the burning anger and hatred at James Potter for what he’d done to him, for what he’d been forced to live through. The one place that should have been Severus’s freedom from his father—his home—had been turned into hell. He had suffered as much at Hogwarts because of James as he had suffered at his father’s hand. The injustice of what that had cost him still burned raw inside. In his humiliation and pain, he had lashed out at the one person he had ever truly loved. Lily. With the cruelest of words, and in that moment he’d lost her forever. In that moment he’d begun losing himself, too.
Although he loved to blame everything on his father and Potter, he knew he could not. He held as much of the blame as they did. Was it really too much to ask for a reprieve from the pain, even for a moment? Now he had to face the all too real possibility that he’d been allowing his hatred for James to cloud his mind where Harry was concerned. He had to forcefully remind himself that Harry was Lily’s son, as well. Lily’s child. It was the only way he could even look at the boy without sneering. But reminding himself of that reminded him all too clearly that he was the reason Harry didn’t know his parents. He had cost Lily her life—his latest torment down memory lane.
Back in the present, Severus forced himself away from those morbid thoughts as he regarded the child on his lap again. How could Potter ever trust him? Surely once he learned what part Severus played in his parents’ deaths, what part he played even now as a Death Eater, the boy would hate him once more. He felt torn between the thought of relief at how easy it would be to be hated again. How normal it would be. How normal it had become to be alone. And yet, he felt torn between that and desiring to be accepted.
A warmth that was unknown to him crept into his heart every time the boy looked at him with those large unguarded eyes. He didn’t want the child to hate him. He didn’t want to lose what connection he still had to Lily, the connection they had come to share. How could he continue on down this road, knowing it would lead to his having to admit the truth to the boy? How could he willingly expose himself to this, knowing he would be hurt by it in the end?
This was exactly why he did not allow anyone close to him. Not since Lily. He could not bear that pain again. He had been in the darkness so long that he feared the light. Worse, he feared he had already ventured too far down this road and that in the end he would burn.
How sweet were the lies we tell ourselves. Life is pain. This Severus could understand, could live with. He focused on that and let the rest of the memories and thoughts drift away. Life was pain. That is what a Death Eater learned from the very first time they set eyes on the Dark Lord. Everything in his world was layers of pain. He had dealt with it all his life, from his father’s drunken rages to the Dark Lord’s angry tantrums. And oh, those tantrums were the worst sort of torture, for the Dark Lord was the most unpredictable being Severus had ever met.
For the last eleven years Severus has lived with pain. The pain of his grief, the pain of his loss, the pain of his duty. His inability to just let it all go and find peaceful rest. No. He was used to pain. What he was not used to was feeling needed and wanted.