By Jessica Beaubien (alias Niaf)
Word Count: 27542
Summary: The alternate account of the Chamber of Secrets seen through Snape’s eyes.
- What Will the Future Hold?
Severus sighed heavily. Change. That was not something he wanted to think about. Change meant complication. Complications that would impact too many aspects of his life and this bloody war. When the Dark Lord rose again, he had obligations. How would having this child in his life–any child for that matter, but more specifically this child–affect his abilities as a spy? His role was crucial to winning this war. Some days Albus really didn’t think, or simply chose to ignore the complications he kept throwing at him. Did Albus really believe that he could hide the child’s connection with him were one to develop? There were still Death Eater children in the school. Or was the old man that foolish?
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose as a headache began to form. How had he gotten himself into this mess? Oh, right. Albus.
These thoughts were not helping him find a solution to the current problem. Neither were the dark thoughts of how he could have seen Potter as ‘spoiled’ when it was more than evident the child was anything but. But Severus wasn’t an idiot. He knew why he’d seen the child as a spoiled brat. He had seen what he expected to see. He had seen the physical resemblance to James and assumed the rest. Yes, he still hated James. It burned like a fire inside him, but he couldn’t believe he’d let that cloud his judgement of a child. Then again, he was only human. He didn’t want the boy to know the extent of his promise to Lily. He really needed another train of thought. This was getting him nowhere. Letting the memories of that first month of summer wash over him again, he tried to think, tried to figure out his next move, all the while seeking answers from his memories.
…Severus had finished grading the last of the exams, and sighed heavily. This was perhaps the worst part of being a teacher. In his opinion, anyways. Having to pass dunderheads who just barely manage to scrape by. Some of the answers on the written exam made him wince in absolute agony. How did these dunderheads even think? Well, he’d never really liked children, anyways.
Rising from his desk, he glared at the exams, as if by doing so they would just vanish or better yet burst into flame. At least now he was done. Striding out of his office, leaving the stack to deal with later, he slammed the door with a solid thud. He reset his wards to insure no one could enter his office, then strode up the steps and out of the dungeon. He’d take a nice walk outside, where he was certain he could take some points off dunderheaded idiots for something. That would raise his mood immensely.
Stepping out into the bright sunshine made him wince as the light burned his sensitive eyes. After hours spent in the near darkness of his office where only the gentle flickering of candles illuminated his desk, the bright sunlight was torture. Glaring intently at a group of giggling children sprawled on the grass, he strode towards them, causing the group to fall instantly silent as he drew near. He smirked at this and his scowl intensified as his black eyes focused on Harry.
“Potter,” he barked out, causing the child to flinch back. Every eye turned to Harry and he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “A word,” Severus said and turned back to head inside to his office.
It was too hot up here. He had no interest in being out in this much sunlight. He would patrol the school, instead. After all, he could see a few other teachers walking the grounds and chatting with some of the students. He wasn’t needed outside.
“What did you do?” Hermione whispered as Harry rose. Severus could hear them, but he made no movement to slow down his pace as he neared the doors.
“Dunno,” Harry said shakily.
“You better hurry, he didn’t look pleased,” Hermione added.
“It’s Snape; when does he ever look pleased about anything?” Ron asked loudly.
“Ron!” Hermione groused.
“I’ll see you guys later,” Harry said miserably.
Severus spun around just as he reached the door, impatiently waiting for the child to run and catch up before he resumed his trek back to his office. He could tell that his longer stride was causing the child to have to jog to keep up. That didn’t cause him to slow down as he swept from the hall down the steps, black robe billowing behind him.
Severus had time to settle himself into his seat behind his desk before an out of breath Potter walked through his door. He indicated the chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat, Potter,” Severus drawled in his typical ice-cold voice. He watched as the child hesitantly took a seat and looked down at the floor, evidently too scared to meet his gaze.
“You will not be taking the train on Friday with everyone else,” Severus began, getting straight to the point. “You will meet me here at 2:00 pm. Do not be late, Potter. I do not tolerate lateness.”
“Yes sir, but…” Harry began and then trailed off. Severus sighed inwardly. Impatient and annoyed at the boy’s lack of vocalization. “Spit it out, Potter. I do not have all day to wait for you to decide to speak,” Severus growled.
“Ho-How am I getting to Kings Cross?” Harry mumbled out, barely audibly.
Severus was glad he was well-versed in listening intently or he’d have completely missed what the child asked. “You won’t be,” he replied adding, “speak up Potter,” when the child started to mumble even softer.
“… Why not sir?” Harry asked loud enough that Severus could actually catch his words now without having to strain to hear them.
“We are going to Floo from my private quarters to my Manor without needing to take the train. The house elves will bring your belongings here in the morning, so I suggest you pack the night before and ensure you have everything before going down to breakfast. Everything will be at the Manor when we leave at 2:00,” Severus explained. It was just simpler to tell the child than to have him ask more stupid questions that were trying his patience. A patience he didn’t have.
“Yes sir,” Harry said and looked up. It was evident he wanted to ask another question.
Severus sighed and asked, “What is it Potter?” He wanted this to be over, and walk around a bit. Being caged in his office grading exams and now sitting here being asked ridiculous questions was starting to make him edgy.
“Can I write to Ron and Hermione over the holidays?” Harry asked as if this was the most important thing in the world.
Severus narrowed his eyes on the child. “Potter, that has got to be the most idiotic question you have asked me yet. Of course you can write letters over the holidays. You have an owl, don’t you?” Severus snapped, clearly annoyed.
“Yes sir, but…” Harry said and trailed off again.
“Well then, she can take your letters, so what is the problem?” Severus demanded.
“I’m-not-allowed-to-send-letters-in-summer,” Harry babbled all in one breath, and Severus was left wondering just what the mumbled nothing was.
“Potter, speak clearly!” Severus barked, getting beyond annoyed now.
“Sorry sir,” Harry responded.
“I don’t want an apology. I want you to speak clearly and at a level that is audible. Now repeat yourself,” Severus demanded, his tone stern and without room for arguments.
“I’m not allowed to send letters in summer,” Harry said again, resigned, looking down at his hands.
“That’s absurd. Of course you’re allowed to write letters in the summer. Whoever said that is an idiot. Now any other problems I need to be aware of?” Severus demanded.
“No sir,” Harry said shaking his head.
“Good, go back outside. It’s too nice a day to be inside,” Severus said, rising, satisfied that the child rose as well and headed out without further incident. Sighing, Severus shook his head. This was going to be a long summer. He couldn’t figure this child out at all…
Now Severus regarded the child in his lap. He was still asleep, his head leaning against his shoulder. Curled up in his arms. Funny how things could go from complicated to simple in a heartbeat. It had all been so complicated at first. Now it was almost simple. Yet, it was not simple enough. Nothing about the situation was simple. Only his course of action was. What he’d learned, at first in little strange snippets, like the letter question. Tonight he’d learned everything he needed to know, even though that didn’t make it any easier. He knew what he’d have to do. Even if he didn’t like it.
More memories came quickly in flashes. The departure from school. The first day at the Manor. The silence of the second day. Unnatural silence. A child should not be so silent. It had been as if the boy were a ghost, yet every time that Severus had checked on the boy those first few days, he’d been working on his assignments or reading something. That seemed so odd to Severus that he didn’t know what to make of it. For the first two weeks Severus had simply let the boy be. Now he began to wonder if he really should have.
…Severus had stepped out of the hidden door to his chambers and into his office at 1:50. He grabbed up the stack of reports he had to finish writing during the next month before letters could be sent out with OWL and NEWT results to the students. There were also lesson plans and regular semester reports. Slipping the lot of papers into an open notebook caused them to shrink and become a part of the book until such time as he reversed the spell. Tucking the small book into his cloak pocket along with a handful of vials from his personal stash, in case he didn’t have a chance to restock his home shelves, Severus opened the door to his office intent on heading to the grounds in search of Potter. He froze the moment the door opened fully and scowled at the sight before him.
Potter sat on the floor across from his office, knees draw up to his chest, eyes closed, a book seemingly forgotten and about to fall from his loose grasp. Severus grabbed the book a moment before it hit the floor.
The boy evidently came awake at this and blinked sluggishly. Severus turned the book in his hands. Quidditch Through the Ages, the title read. Sighing, he regarded the book a moment before looking at the boy.
“Potter, why didn’t you knock on my office door?” Severus asked.
“You said to be ready at 2:00, sir,” Harry answered hesitantly.
Sighing, Severus ushered the drowsy child into his office. “Do you have everything you need for the summer, Potter? We will likely not return to Hogwarts until a month before term starts,” Severus stated simply.
“Yes sir, my trunk was packed as requested last night. I double-checked this morning,” Harry said, wondering why the man felt the need to ask if he had everything. No one had ever asked him that before.
“Excellent then, let us be off. I presume you have used the Floo network before?” Severus asked the twelve year old boy.
“Y-yes sir, but I don’t like it,” the boy hastened to add.
“Why is that?” Severus asked a little curious as the boy was backing away from him now.
“Well, last time I ended up in Knockturn Alley,” Harry stated to his feet.
“I see,” Severus responded. That place would scare any child, and being there alone and unexpected, even more so. “Come here Potter, we will Floo together to my Manor. It is simpler, anyways, since you have never been there.”
“Together, sir?” Harry asked hesitantly, not moving from where he’d backed up into the door.
“Yes Potter. I will pick you up and Floo us over to my Manor. All you have to do is hold on and close your eyes. It’ll be over soon,” Severus assured the frightened child.
“You can do that?” Harry asked wide-eyed.
“Yes Potter, it is how most wizarding adults take their smaller children until they are old enough to Floo alone. Seeing as you are clearly too frightened to Floo alone, it would be unwise for you to do so. Who knows where you could end up and I do not have the patience or time to search every manor whose name could be remotely close to mine, therefore I will simply carry you through. It’ll be faster, easier, and hopefully alleviate your fears,” Severus responded, his voice matter of fact, though not cold as it usually was. He was trying to use a gentler tone, knowing the boy was already frightened enough.
“O-okay,” Harry replied. Part of him was relieved that he wouldn’t have to Floo alone. Another part of him was angry that his professor was treating him like a child. Yet another part of himself was ashamed of his weakness and fears. And another small part was enjoying being treated almost kindly by the stern man whose touch was such a comfort. Harry didn’t know what to make of all the confusion. Ever since he had thrown himself at Snape in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry had been confused about the overwhelming feelings and emotions that kept spinning around. Between the constant fear and uncertainty, he didn’t know what to make of any of this. Especially not when the man who made him feel safe was also the man who he was certain hated him.
Severus watched as the uncertain child walked up to him. Leaning down, he picked up the far too-light boy and resisted the urge to sigh in impatience. Grabbing the jar of Floo powder, he threw a handful into the flames, stepped into the fireplace, and called out, “Spinner’s End.”
The trip was quick and soon Severus was setting Harry down on the floor of his den—large spacious room with far too many books covering every available surface except for two chairs and a coffee table. Bookcases covered the walls from floor to ceiling. The sight was quite impressive to the boy. As he looked around, he wondered if he’d be allowed to touch the books. Many of them looked to be old and rare. What struck him, though, was the lack of personal artifacts in the house. It seemed so devoid of life.
“This is the den. It’s also where the Floo is located. Follow me this way and I’ll show you to the rest of the house,” Severus said as he walked towards a wall of books. “Most of the doors in the house are hidden and unless you know where they are, it’ll be hard to get out of certain rooms. This room is one of three that are like this. It is also out of bounds for you during the summer unless I am with you. The door leading out of the room that you can see over there,” Severus said, pointing towards the wooden door across from them, “leads to the front door.”
Severus placed his hand on the bookcase and it slid open. “I’ll key you into the wards so your magical signature will also open the doors, since none of them will open by muggle means.” As the door slid away, a long stairway led upwards. “The upper floors of the house have been enlarged by magic,” Severus went on to say as he walked up the long stairwell. Harry hurried after him, not wanting to be left behind. Severus was still speaking as he showed Harry to the upstairs rooms. “The living room is located at the end of the hall here, as is the bathroom through that door. The library is on your left here. The dining room is right this way at the end of the hall.”
Severus showed him each room in turn. The living room looked much like the den, except with a much smaller fireplace and two large couches around a much larger table. The library was insanely packed with books, or so Harry thought. Looking in the large room, he couldn’t figure out how it even fit in the house or where Severus could have gotten so many books. The dining room was large enough to house at least a dozen people comfortably. That surprised Harry.
Severus put his hand on the wall next to the dining room, and another door opened before Harry’s eyes.
Severus led the way up the stairs and stopped on the landing, indicating four doors on their left.
“Those are guest rooms, and the farthest leads down to my lab. Touch that door and it will burn you severely.” After that cold warning spoken in a dangerously warning tone, Severus turned to face the other side of the landing. “Down this way, you’ll find the bathroom here.” He pointed at the second door, then at the two doors next to it. “Those are empty rooms used mostly for storing books that are either too sensitive or too dangerous to be in the library, den, or living room. My bedroom is this one. Do not go in there unless I am in the room and you will always knock first. This room here beside mine is yours. Your trunk is already in there. You may go unpack. I do hope you don’t mind, but I will not decorate your room in Gryffindor colors. It is currently blue and green.” After that Severus simply walked back down the stairs, leaving a stunned Harry behind…
Now Severus laughed lightly at this memory. He almost felt bad for how cold he’d been towards the boy. Almost. It must have been quite terrifying being led around the house like that and then just left. To Severus, it hadn’t been much of an issue. There was plenty to do. However, what he’d not expected was the boy to stay in his room the whole time, being afraid of leaving it. That still took him by storm when he thought of it.
…Severus had sat at the kitchen table reading the Daily Prophet, wondering when the child sharing his home would wake up. Maybe he should go and check on him. He couldn’t remember if he’d told the boy where the kitchen was. Sighing, he rose from his chair set the paper down and walked all the way past the kitchen doorway to the empty hallway. Pausing at what seemed like a dead end, he pressed his hand casually against the wall and walked up the double staircase, coming out of the wall at the very end of the hall next to his room. Walking to the next door, he knocked lightly. A muffled noise told him its occupant was awake.
“Potter, are you decent? I’m coming in,” Severus called out and waited a moment longer before pushing the door open and walking straight in without hesitation. He looked to the desk where the boy sat with a pencil in his mouth and what appeared to be a muggle notebook on the desk.
“Potter, do you want breakfast?” Severus asked, confused by the boy.
“Yes sir,” Harry replied, taking the pencil out of his mouth, his eyes far too wide and his face chalk-white.
“Well, come on then, I’ll show you how to find the kitchen. Unless I have guests coming for a dinner, I don’t eat in the dining room,” Severus responded. “I expect you to come to lunch at noon and dinner at five, at the table in the kitchen. You may eat breakfast any time you wish. If you insist on touching the stove, at least make sure one of the house elves is in the room. Though I would prefer you ask them for breakfast.”
Harry rose, not saying a word, and followed after Severus as he led the way downstairs. He was surprised that the house seemed so big inside when he was sure there was no way it could be this big outside. The inside space didn’t mesh with a normal layout at all.
When they got downstairs, a large buffet-style breakfast was set up on the table. Toast, eggs (3 different kinds) bacon and sausages. Harry hesitated while Severus took his seat and started piling food onto a plate for himself. He looked up, noticing Harry had not sat down. One raised brow and the boy quickly took a seat. Still, he did not take food for himself. This was odd.
“I will not serve you, Potter. Take the food you want to eat. You’re not at a formal dinner here,” Severus said bluntly.
The boy blushed crimson, but hastened to obey. This was indeed odd. Shrugging off the
behavior as unusual but unworthy of comment, Severus began eating. Contrary to popular belief, Severus actually ate meals. He ate more than enough food, even though he sometimes forgot to eat for long periods of time. His wire-thin frame was more the result of overwork and too little sleep, along with a fast metabolism, rather than malnourishment.
The rest of the meal passed in silence. Severus couldn’t fail to notice the hesitancy with which the boy had taken his first plate, as if he expected Severus to take it away. It was odd, but Severus passed it off to nervousness and let it be. Instead, he watched as the boy seemed to realize something and began to eat in earnest. Satisfied, he returned to reading the paper while he ate.
“Sir,” Harry asked hesitantly.
“Yes, Potter?” Severus inquired.
“Am I allowed in the library?” Harry asked hesitantly.
“Yes, Potter,” Severus replied easily, wondering what kind of dumb question that was.
“Thank you, sir,” Harry replied before going back to eating.
“There are only two places you are not allowed, Potter. The den and my private lab. The den because it is the access point to this house and therefore would be unsafe for you. The lab because it is a dangerous place and not suited to children. Everywhere else in the house is open to you. Though why you would need to go into the guest rooms, I cannot fathom. As for the two storage rooms, they are locked and even your friend Granger couldn’t break through the wards,” Severus stated calmly, making sure the boy understood this. He waited a moment, then inquired, “Any further questions?”
“No sir,” Harry replied too softly.
Severus lowered the paper and glowered at the boy. Seeing that there was not a trace of mischief in his body language or face, he relaxed back to reading.
“May I be excused, sir,” Harry asked a few moments later.
“Have you eaten your fill?” Severus asked. Lowering the paper, he found the boy’s plate empty and was satisfied that at least he’d eaten a full plate of food.
“Yes sir,” Harry replied.
“Then yes, you may be excused,” Severus answered, returning once more to his paper and coffee.
Severus didn’t mention to the boy the wards he had in place on the manor that would tell him exactly what the boy was up to at any given time. He didn’t see the need for that. After all, it was his home. He heard the boy’s echoing footsteps to the door, but he didn’t hear the pounding up the stairs he expected. That was odd. He’d expected noise from children, not silence. Or near silence. Interesting.
Hours later, Severus went to the library and found the boy leaning over an essay, a series of books sprawled over the desk. At least the child didn’t have to be bullied into doing his summer assignments, though that sat strangely with Severus. If the boy had so much dedication to his homework, how was it that his first year assignment had ended up looking as though the boy had spent literally half an hour on it, if that? This was indeed odd.
“Potter,” he said softly, so as not to scare the child with his entrance. The boy looked over at him. “If you need help with your assignments or wish me to look them over, bring them down to dinner with you.”
“Yes sir, thank you,” Harry said, smiling somewhat uncertainly.
Severus nodded and left, going down into his lab. He cursed silently as he realized it was now almost dinner time and he’d completely forgotten about lunch. He hoped that Potter had called a house elf for lunch. Finishing with the potion he was working on, he poured it into a vial and set it aside to cool. He quickly cleaned up the lab and cauldron he’d been using, with magic, gave his robes a quick cleaning spell, and headed to the sink to wash his hands before heading upstairs. He made his way to the library, and sure enough, found the boy reading a book with his essay spread out on the table in front of him.
“It’s time for dinner, Potter,” Severus stated simply and didn’t wait to see if the boy followed him to the kitchen where a small feast was set up. He smiled as he settled himself down and started making his plate. “Which assignments did you finish today?” Severus asked.
“I only started Transfiguration, sir. We had an essay and two assignment sheets. I have both
assignment sheets done and most of the essay written. Your library has a lot of very useful texts on almost every subject imaginable. Tif helped me find the Transfiguration section. I hope that’s ok?” Harry said as he settled down to eat, still slightly hesitant in taking food for himself.
“Yes, the house elves know where I keep everything. So long as you return the books when you are finished with them, that’s fine,” Severus stated simply.
He knew he didn’t have to worry about his more dangerous and dark texts falling into the boy’s hands; they would simply vanish if the boy tried to lift them up. One of his more ingenious spells. He would find them in his bedroom neatly stacked on his desk, so he would know instantly what the boy had tried to read.
He was trying to be civil with his guest, which was harder than it appeared for the unsocial man. The rest of dinner passed in silence, as Severus wasn’t known to make conversation, and it was clear the boy was still too shy to talk openly with him. Not that it bothered Severus. He enjoyed the quiet…
The next days had been just like this one, Severus mused. That the boy had been so quiet and intent on his assignments had been something that both impressed and irritated Severus. Irritated, because the boy had not shown this dedication in last summer’s homework, or really much homework he received from the boy. Impressed, because the boy was not bothering him as he had expected an attention-seeking child to do. This child was far too shy to seek attention. He was not at all what Severus had first imagined.
Severus regarded the child in his arms with curious eyes. So much about him was different than what he had expected. What surprises would tomorrow bring, he had to wonder.