By Jessica Beaubien (alias Niaf)
Word Count: 27542
Summary: The alternate account of the Chamber of Secrets seen through Snape’s eyes.
Chapter 3: Changes Are Coming
Severus was drawn from his thoughts once more as another memory invaded his mind. He sighed, for this particular memory was not his fondest moment. Oh, he always knew how manipulative Albus was, but being backed into a corner had never set well with Severus. It certainly never ended with him keeping his temper, he mused wryly.
…On that fateful day, Severus had sat bolt upright, his hand automatically grabbing the wand that was under his pillow. His eyes wide and searching, he scanned the room, ready to hex whatever dared disturb his rest. His many years as a spy had heightened his senses, making it almost impossible for him to sleep a whole night without waking at the slightest sound or shift. Probably the only thing that staved off the worse of his paranoia were his almost OCD tendencies towards organization. Nothing left out of place–one of the very qualities that made him a master at potions.
His eyes landed on the small elf that stood awkwardly in his doorway, wide eyes staring at him in horror. His own eyes narrowed at it.
“What do you want?” he demanded rather rudely.
“Master Dumbledore asks that you see him in his office, Master Snape sir,” the little creature babbled, wringing its hands in front of it. It was clearly scared of his reaction.
He sighed, lowered his wand, and fell back against the bed.
“Tell the Headmaster that I shall be up to see him in fifteen minutes,” Severus instructed the elf, knowing it had been told to wait for his answer. “There is no need to punish yourself for waking me or intruding,” Severus added bluntly.
He had forbidden the house elves from waking him or entering his chambers without prior permission during the night, but that did not apply when sent here by the headmaster.
“Thank you, Master Snape sir. Misty is most pleased to help Master Snape, sir. Is Master Snape requiring anything, sir?” The elf beamed at him.
“No thank you, Misty. You may go,” Severus responded and the elf popped out of his room.
Sighing, Severus pushed himself up out of his bed and quickly changed from his pajamas, into his regular black robes. Sighing in frustration and annoyance at being woken so early? Late? He didn’t even know what time it really was. He didn’t care enough to look, at this point. He’d already been up far later then he’d wanted to, after spending so many nights in the hospital wing.
Making his way to his living room, he pulled on his shoes and headed to the fireplace, too damn tired to be bothered with stairs and a long walk. No, if Albus wanted him up at this ungodly hour then he’d have to deal with having him floo to his office. Grabbing the ornate box that held the floo powder, he took a small handful and returned the box to its place.
Tossing the floo powder in, he called out “Headmaster’s Office” and stepped into the fire. In moments he was gracefully stepping out into the Headmaster’s office and dusting off his robes.
“Ah Severus, my boy, good morning!” Albus called cheerfully. “Care for a lemon drop?”
“No I do not,” Severus stated scathingly. His tone clearly said: I hardly think this early in the morning is time for lemon drop.
“Do take a seat, my boy,” Albus said, waving his hand to the seat across from his desk.
Severus walked over and sank gracefully into the seat, letting the black fabric of his robes pool around him.
“Would you care of some tea?” Albus asked once he was settled.
“That would be acceptable,” Severus stated. “No sugar,” he added hastily, to keep Albus from making the tea any sweeter than it already was. Taking the offered cup with a brief thank you, he got down to business. “What can I do for you, Headmaster?”
“We have a bit of a problem, dear boy,” Albus began.
“And what exactly, pray tell, is this problem, Headmaster?” Severus asked, clearly annoyed. He was not in the mood to deal with any of this.
“It would seem that Harry has taken a liking to you, Severus,” Albus said, clearly trying to lead up to something.
“Forgive me, Headmaster, but it is early, I am tired and have much to do today. Would you mind getting to the point?” Severus snapped out. He was not about to dance around whatever it was that Albus wanted. Severus was not keen on mornings of any kind. Those after little to no sleep were his least favourite and tended to make him exceedingly grumpy.
“I need you to take Harry in for the summer,” Albus finally said after a long pause in which Severus simply glared at him.
“No, absolutely not!” Severus barked out. There was no way he would take in the Potter brat, regardless of the fact that he had been forced to spend his nights in the hospital wing because the child wouldn’t calm enough to sleep until he was there. Why the boy suddenly felt the need to have him around both annoyed and surprised Severus. Albus had already coaxed him into allowing this much. Tomorrow was the start of exams and there was no way he wanted to be thinking about this while he had a week worth of exams to administer to dunderheads.
“Severus, the boy trusts you. Poppy has already informed me that the only time he is calm is when you are there. He feels safe in your presence. Tomorrow he is returning to his dormitory. He has again begged me to allow him to remain at Hogwarts for the summer, but I cannot allow this, Severus. You and I both know he would not be safe here. The only option is for you to take him in. The boy cannot return to his relatives while he is still this fragile. Poppy is concerned for his mental health. He is emotionally unstable right now. Something happened down in that Chamber that we are not aware of, and I need you to help him overcome this,” Albus explained.
“I am the worst choice for this, Albus; you cannot possibly think this would help the boy?” Severus stated, slightly questioning.
“It is my only other option, Severus. There is something not right with his request to remain here. It isn’t simply that he loves magic, as I first assumed. There’s something else going on, and you need to get to the bottom of this. You are the only one who can,” Albus stated.
“I hardly think I am, Albus,” Severus responded darkly.
“Severus, you are the closest thing to family he has outside of his aunt and uncle. You were Lily’s closest friend. She trusted you. Do this for her,” Albus said, using the one card he loathed to pull against Severus.
A pained look crossed Severus’s face. As he glared openly at Albus, the headmaster flinched slightly, knowing he’d just made a mistake that might well cost him. But it had to be done.
“Fine,” Severus spat the word in such a dangerously low voice that it took Albus a moment to realize that Severus’s jaw was clenched tightly shut, as if he were about to curse.
“Severus?” Albus asked, concern filtering into his tone. It was not the reaction that Albus had
expected. Raw anger sparked even harder in Severus’s eyes. There was a tightening of his whole body, and an infinite depth of loss and pain that etched his normally neutral features. Albus almost thought he saw tears misting the cold man’s eyes.
“How. Dare. You.” Severus rasped out each word, biting and angry. His glare intensified as emotions rose hard in his chest.
“Severus?” Albus said, alarmed at the cold, angry accusation. He really didn’t know what he had said that had made the other man so angry. But he knew that using Lily against Severus was not a wise move. It was a very cold move.
“You. Dare. To use her against me. To tell me that I must do this. After everything I have already done. That you would demand this without giving me a choice. Do you even care? Of course not. Of course you don’t care what I want. You never have. Why should you start now? Fine. You want me to take your precious golden boy with me this summer, and I will. But do not make the mistake to assume I will so easily be manipulated in the future, Albus,” Severus growled, rising to his feet, leaning heavily against the desk, his features twisted with rage.
“Severus, calm down, my boy,” Albus asked softly. “I did not mean it this way. Please sit down and calm yourself.” This time Albus knew without out doubt that if he did not regain the situation, he would lose Severus’s trust and friendship. He had made a terrible mistake with his words and now he could see he had been wrong in his assumptions once again.
“I will not be patronized, Albus!” Severus angrily replied. His emotions were out of control. He knew that the very moment Albus had dared to force him to take the boy using Lily. Thoughts of Lily always brought about far too many powerful emotions. His love that overpowered everything. His guilt at being the cause of her death. His pain at her loss. His anger at his inability to keep her safe. His sadness at having lost her. So many other emotions wheeling up inside him until he couldn’t control them at all. She was his greatest weakness and his greatest strength. Albus should know never to use her name against him like that. The fact that had, hurt Severus on such a deep level he didn’t even want to consider it.
Slamming his fist down on Albus’s desk he growled, “Why? Have I not proven to be loyal? Why do you constantly feel the need to humiliate me thus, Albus? To remind me of what my mistakes
have cost! Have I not paid enough for those? Do I not still pay that cost? WHY?!” Severus ranted
“Severus, please, you need to calm down,” Albus responded. “Have a sip of tea, my boy. Sit down and think for a moment.” Albus was getting concerned. He’d only seen Severus give into his emotions on a few other occasions. The man was almost as stable as a mountain when it came to everything else.
Severus lowered himself back into his seat, breathing heavily. His anger and frustration mixed with outrage and shame. He knew he was acting childishly and out of control. The problem was that he couldn’t understand why Albus would do that to him. To bring her up like that was a cruel blow.
Severus took the tea cup he’d slammed down in his anger on Albus’s desk and sipped it slowly. His eyes closed as he mentally regrouped his emotions, pushing everything down behind strong shields of Occlumency. Years of Occluding his mind made this easy and efficient until the last of his emotions dulled and slowly faded away, leaving behind the cold hard man once more. Devoid of all emotion and with his mask back in place, Severus stared at Albus with cold eyes, and the expression in those eyes told Albus that Severus felt betrayed by his words. Now he owed the man an explanation and apology.
“Severus, I am sorry for what I said. I did not mean it cruelly. Nor did I mean to imply you were not upholding your promise. I fear I may have made a grave error in placing the boy with Petunia,” Albus admitted. Severus only nodded.
“I will have to go and have a word with Petunia and Vernon regarding Harry, and I wish for him to be nowhere near them until I am certain that there is not something else going on. The boy needs someone to assure him he is safe. Whatever transpired in that chamber shattered his belief in his own safety. I fear allowing him to face Voldemort…” (At this Severus jerked horribly as a sharp pain slashed through the faded dark mark) “…was not the wisest decision I could have made.”
“He’s twelve years old, Albus; he should not be facing the Dark Lord at this time! Surely you could not believe a twelve-year-old boy would be up to this?” Severus demanded, outraged.
“I believed he had a right to,” Albus responded. “As you are well aware, he is the only one capable of destroying the Dark Lord.” Albus did not fail to note that Severus all but ignored his apology. Nor did he doubt that it would be a while before Severus again relaxed in his presence. He knew his friend would be on edge around him for some time, but hopefully he would forgive him. Was this time one too many for Severus? Albus did not like this line of thinking in the least.
“I don’t care what that prophesy says, Albus. He’s just a boy; enough of this. If I agree to take him in, this stops now. He is not going to be put through this every year. It is time he is kept away from the war like the other children. I will not shelter him all summer just to have him racing off next year to get himself killed!” Severus ranted in a cold, annoyed tone.
Severus could not understand how Albus could use a child to win a war. Did his golden boy mean so little to him, after all? The thoughts spinning in his mind were all so confusing. There was concern, fear, a strange protectiveness he did not understand, along with anger. The anger was what he latched onto. He understood that emotion and it was stable. He let it be the force that drove his words.
“You are right, my boy, but I fear the child will be in danger, regardless,” Albus responded.
“That does not mean he needs to risk his life more than absolutely necessary!” Severus argued. They had had this same argument at the end of the first year, when he had assured Albus of his thoughts on this matter. “If the boy continues to put his life at risk, you are making it almost impossible for me to protect him!”
“I know, my boy, I know,” Albus reassured.
“No Albus I don’t think you do. You will not be sending this boy to face this war anymore until he is of age or so help me, I will get involved!” Severus growled.
“You are right my boy,” Albus admitted again after a long silence.
“You keep saying that,” Severus observed dryly.
“That I do,” Albus responded with a wide beaming smile.
“You are purposefully attempting to annoy me?” Severus asked with narrowed eyes.
“No, my dear boy, I am attempting to lighten the mood,” Albus observed before eating a lemon drop, which made Severus shudder.
“Shall we dispense with this pointless conversation then?” Severus asked, clearly annoyed.
“If you wish to. I must ask, though, will you take the boy?” Albus inquired.
“Yes,” Severus responded, deadpan. He added in a venomous tone, “Under these conditions. The boy is not to be used or sent into another confrontation with the Dark Lord or his Death Eaters, supporters, or any other force. He is not to be trained for battle, and his preparation in defense will be handled by me alone. He is not to be used in some harebrained scheme. He will be allowed to lead as normal a childhood as I can provide for him. Is that clear?”
“Yes Severus, dear boy, I think that I can accept those terms,” Albus said sadly. He knew that Severus was right to demand this. Yet, he did not feel guilt at allowing the child a chance to face the man who had tried to kill him. His firm beliefs that Harry was the only one who could kill Voldemort prevented anything else, but he had to wonder if he was hurting Harry unnecessarily. Was it really for the greater good to push the boy like this? Looking at Severus’s cold and angry eyes, he knew that it was not. Maybe Severus was right. He would have to think on this more.
He continued softly after a long silence, “Then that is all. I will make the arrangements and speak to Harry today. Good day, Severus,” Albus said, dismissing him.
Severus nodded and rose, bidding the headmaster a good day before heading down to
…Rising from his memories, Severus found himself fighting the urge to laugh. The old man was so absurdly irritating and strange. Most of the time Severus didn’t know if he was insane or not. He was clearly not normal in any way. It infuriated him how easily the man had manipulated him. Of course, it had been clear that he would have to agree to take the boy. What surprised him was the boy’s reaction to being informed of this. He had expected the boy to be displeased. They hated each other, after all…or so everyone thought. But Severus didn’t hate the boy. He hated the boy’s father and attitude. The boy himself was just a child. Severus couldn’t hate a child. It simply was not in him to do so.
Sighing, Severus stilled his movements, letting his hand fall down to rest on the boy’s shoulder, still holding the child close to him. He had long since stretched out his legs into a more comfortable position. He had briefly considered returning the boy to his bed, but figured it wouldn’t do any harm to allow the child this comfort. After all, it would be all too soon that the child would wake and feel embarrassed to be in his arms.
Severus was contemplating the next week of exams when he thought of that other exam week. He had rarely seen the boy, except for his potion exams. It had been right at the end of the written exam when he had collected all of the papers and told them they could leave. The boy had stayed in his seat. Severus had just looked up from the exams he had been stacking when he noticed Harry was still sitting at his desk. One raised eyebrow at the child brought the boy forward to his desk. The boy looked scared, almost terrified. That confused Severus as he arched another brow at the child, wondering if Potter would actually say anything or just stare at his feet.
“I… um wanted to…um thank you…” Harry said, seeming scared of speaking his words not as fluidly as usual.
Severus looked at the boy. Harry was moving from foot to foot, his hands tangling in the loose robes of his school uniform, his teeth biting absentmindedly into his bottom lip. He
looked so small. This was unusual behaviour and it worried Severus.
“It is hardly necessary to thank me for an exam, Potter,” Severus said sarcastically, wondering what the boy was on about.
“I don’t mean that, sir,” Harry said with a small smile. “I meant for allowing me to stay with you this summer.” His hands stilled as he finally looked up at Severus with large eyes.
It was clear the sarcasm had helped calm the child. Why that was, was anyone’s guess. Severus didn’t think on it long. He was relieved the child had not started to cry, for that was something he had no idea how to deal with and definitely not something he needed.
“Think nothing of it. Now off you go before your friends wonder if I’ve dissected you into potion
ingredients,” Severus said wryly.
When Harry gave an odd giggle before running off, Severus sighed. What an odd child, he thought, watching the small second year scurry away. Usually his dry retorts terrified children, rather than make them giggle. How very odd.
Back in the present, Severus chuckled at his own memory. He still couldn’t figure out how the boy could go from hating him to openly liking him. It was indeed strange, but then children were rather strange beings. Or it could be that even his presence was preferable to the Dersleys? That thought was wholly unsettling. Just what in Merlin’s name was going on here? Not for the first time, Severus wanted to Legilimens the child and find out just what had happened to the boy. Everything he had first thought about the boy had been wholly wrong.
Severus couldn’t simply turn off his Legilimency, he was a natural at it. It was to him as easy as
breathing. This is what gave him the uncanny ability to tell when a student lied. That, combined with his ability to read the body language and facial expressions of others, gave him advantages that often left people thinking he could read their minds. He could, but he usually didn’t since it wasn’t strictly legal to do so. To actively enter a mind required the use of his skills, not his latent ability. To simply see more than others did was his latent ability. It was strange that he’d not seen through the boy’s masks. Then he realized, he’d not wanted to. It had been comfortable that way. Now everything was shifting far too quickly for the man to be comfortable. Change was always hard for Severus.
Gazing at the small form in his lap, he wondered if he was the best person for this task. Was he truly cut out for this? There was so much that needed to be seen to. Organized. Even in a month, he had not succeeded in doing much of it. Too many things didn’t add up. Too many things were not falling into place. What he’d learned this night about the boy had shocked, appalled and angered him. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would not allow the boy to return to his so-called relatives. He would make that point known to Albus. The boy needed a new guardian. The blood wards were clearly not protecting him from what lay inside that house. All too well he knew the damage that abuse did to children, for he had walked down that path and he would not allow another child do to so.
There were three things he knew for a fact. He would have to take responsibility for the child, at least for now. He would need to speak with Lucius at some point. And he needed to know the full extent of the damage done to the boy.
Change was coming, regardless of if he wanted it or not.