By Jessica Beaubien (alias Niaf)
Word Count: 27542
Summary: The alternate account of the Chamber of Secrets seen through Snape’s eyes.
- The Beginning
Severus tried to push himself away from thoughts of the last month. Since those first few days, they had fallen into something of a routine. He had found strengths in the boy he didn’t know existed. He had grown to almost liking the boy, or at the very least tolerating his presence. Or so he told himself. He didn’t really allow himself to dwell on many of the emotions he’d felt in those days. Now, sitting here cradling the sleeping child against him, he realized that after the last two hours he’d grown to actually care for the boy in his own way. Resigned to the fact that he would have to relive the memory to fully understand what had happened, Severus let his mind drift off again while he passed his hand through that messy black hair. Deliberately avoiding the thoughts of what the future now held for them, he sighed heavily. The future was even more a mystery then it had been before. He knew only one thing for certain. He had changed.
…It had been an hour since they returned from Diagon Alley. Severus’s order of potion ingredients and his new books were in. They had made a trip of it. The boy had been excited by a display on a new broom, and so Severus had picked him up a book on it, figuring the boy would enjoy reading about it, seeing as he was so fascinated with the Firebolt on display. It surprised him that he’d actually allowed the boy to look through the window, much less go in and look at it closely. And actually buy it. He didn’t have any books on Quidditch or flying in his library, because frankly he hated both.
They had a quiet supper, and he sent the boy to get ready for bed. When the boy didn’t come back down, Severus wasn’t worried. He figured he’d gone straight to bed, or decided to read his book. So he settled in his living room with a book of his own.
He heard the charms on the floo sound, and sighed. He’d only gotten through the first page and he was irritated at the disturbance. Rising, he made his way down to the den to find Albus Dumbledore standing in its centre, dusting himself off. In a garish lavender robe that made Severus’s nose crinkle in distaste. The man had horrid fashion taste.
He saw a slightly shocked expression cross Albus’s face and realized he was wearing his light forest green robes with his hair pulled back and tied at the base of his neck. Well, it was warm and he was much more comfortable in the lighter robes without his hair draping loose around his face. He gave the man a dark glower as those blasted blue eyes twinkled at him.
“Headmaster,” Severus said in greeting. “Why don’t you come up to the living room and have a spot of tea?”
“Splendid idea, Severus, but please call me Albus. This isn’t a formal meeting. Just a couple of friends having a nice chat over some tea,” Albus said happily.
“Right this way, Headmaster. I believe you remember where the living room is? I’ll just gather the tea and meet you there. Make yourself comfortable,” Severus stated, refusing to address the man by his first name.
Without another word, Severus walked into his kitchen and started to prepare the tea. To his
frustration and irritation, Albus stood in the doorway and watched him do it. He wanted to growl at the man, but it didn’t really matter, anyways. Once the mix was finished and the water boiled, he handed Albus an overly-sweetened cup and took his own plain cup of dark herbal tea up to his living area.
Settling down on couch, with his tea on the small side table, he regarded Albus with calculating dark obsidian eyes. He knew he wouldn’t like this conversation. There was something odd about the way Albus was looking at him. A sort of reservation that did not bode well, like he knew Severus would explode in temper.
“Severus, how has your month been with Harry?” Albus asked, almost hesitantly.
Severus didn’t like this beginning at all. His eyes narrowed on Albus, who had settled in an armchair across from him. “As well as can be expected,” Severus stated, and Albus nodded. “Why are you here, Headmaster?” He did not want to exchange pleasantries, but wanted to know the nature of this conversation.
“All in good time, dear boy,” Albus said, taking a sip of his tea. “So you two are getting along well, then? He isn’t showing any ill-effects from his school term?”
“What is the meaning of this, Headmaster?” Severus demanded, refusing to answer these questions.
“You are aware that without the blood wards, the boy is vulnerable,” Albus said evasively.
Severus nodded, his hand splayed out in a clear gesture to continue. He took a sip of his tea, watching as Albus set his cup down, looking worried and showing his years.
With a slight intake of breath, Albus stated, “I must return the boy to the Dursleys this evening.”
Severus was left at a loss. “I beg your pardon?” He demanded coldly.
“You heard me correctly, Severus. I must return Harry to his relatives for a minimum of two weeks before the blood wards fall,” Albus responded, the sad look darkening his eyes further.
“No,” Severus stated coldly, “you insisted I take him. You insisted something wasn’t right; well, it’s not. There is clear evidence that the boy is neglected and I suspect abused there. I am not allowing you to return him. He’s only just begun to recover. There is no way you can do this!”
“Have you grown to care for him, Severus?” Albus asked, his eyes twinkling brightly.
“No,” Severus thundered immediately, then sighed heavily. He continued in a softer voice, “Yes, no, I don’t know, Albus. There are just so many factors to consider, and we haven’t even breached the topic of the chamber and his reaction to it. Nor the nightmares he gets on a near-nightly basis. I am not an easy man to approach, Albus. Surely you know that when it comes to feelings and physical contact, I am much too withdrawn for…” Severus let the rest of his words filter away without speaking them.
Albus was the only person he’d ever been completely open with, even when he was angry and cold to the man. He’d seen the change in Albus’s eyes, from the glittering happiness and mad
twinkling he had come to loathe, to a hard cold blue of unhappiness and possibly anger, to now the soft twinkling blue of understanding and resignation.
“I had hoped to give you both more time, my boy, but I cannot. Unfortunately or fortunately,
depending on your point of view. I went to check the wards at his relatives place earlier this evening. They are beginning to fail, Severus. He must return if for no other reason than to strengthen them once more. The protection will not allow for more than a day to pass before they fall completely. Surely you of all people must understand the importance of these wards. After all, you are partially responsible for their creation,” Albus reminded him, seeing the look of pain cross the other man’s face moments before it went completely blank. The cold, empty, aloof mask fell perfectly across the stern man’s features.
“I know, Albus. Logically it makes sense. It is necessary,” Severus said with resignation tinging his otherwise cold voice.
“But?” Albus inquired. His eyes twinkled madly, but there was concern creasing his features.
If Severus was worried about something that overrode logic, by which the man practically lived his whole life, then Albus needed to know. “I fear there is a lot more to the situation in that home then just neglect. There’s something in the boy that is far too much like myself at his age,” Severus said so softly Albus barely heard him.
The moment Albus caught the meaning behind the words, he froze in place. Then opening his mouth, he spoke the words that all but made Severus’ heart stop. “You fear he’ll become dark?”
Severus set his tea cup down to avoid the slight shaking in his hands. He’d only just settled his hands on either side of him when a strangled cry sounded from nearby. Something streaked towards him. Instinctively he went to pull his wand, but before he could, a hard object collided with his chest and forced him back. Arms entangled into his robes, and small hands clutched desperately at them.
Instinctually Severus wound his arms around the small form, not even realizing he’d pulled the child fully into his lap, settling him there as he spoke softly to Albus. Knowing that it was only the tone of his voice the boy would hear, for he was far past the point of understanding words. He was certain of that by the sound of the whimpering and soft crying coming from his chest where the child’s head rested.
“I’m not sure, it is a possibility, but not what I fear, Albus. I fear more that he would follow me down the road of bitterness that has shaped the majority of my life. I fear the damage that has already been done to him. Placing him with Petunia should never have been an option, Albus. I had told you what she was like. I had told you there was little chance she would change. Minerva was furious with you over his placement, but you never told me you had placed him with her. Had I even known that it was a possibility, after you promised you would place him with Lily’s parents, I would have acted to remove him from their care the moment you left,” Severus said, making sure to keep the anger from his words, drawing on the skills of his mental arts to keep all emotion from his body, his voice, his eyes.
Albus looked concerned and frightened. “Surely you don’t think they are anything like Tobias?” he inquired with something akin to fear slicing his words.
“It is exactly what I am concerned about,” Severus intoned. “You were too late when you took me out of there at sixteen, my path was made. My choices solidly in place by then. It is not too late to remove the boy.”
“There is a lot more to consider than that, Severus,” Albus sighed.
“No there is not. If it is a safe place you need for the child during the summer holidays, then I shall take him. As you already stated at the beginning of the summer, I alone have the resources and skills to keep him safe away from the muggles,” Severus intoned in his cold baritone. His firm speech betrayed a depth of emotion that was overwhelmingly strong and hard to cope with. He was glad they were locked firmly inside his mind, behind thick layers of Occlumency.
“What of the blood wards? Even your own wards on this house are not strong enough to protect him from Death Eaters and Voldemort,” Albus said gently, reminding him of the reasons he had to return Harry to his relatives.
Severus flinched badly as a sharp pain laced his left forearm. He hissed out a breath. “Do NOT say his name in my presence, Albus!” Severus demanded angrily.
“Sorry Severus, you know I forget that it reacts badly to Tom’s chosen name,” Albus sighed heavily. “That, however, doesn’t solve the issue of the blood wards.”
“It can be solved easily; the blood wards tie Lily’s sacrifice of love to her bloodline. However, when the danger comes from that bloodline, the wards are useless. There are other, just as strong wardings that can be cast,” Severus stated.
It was little known that the Potion Master was a master of many old styles of magic that few knew still existed. Few knew because he wanted it that way. But Albus had learned it when Severus was sixteen and he discovered the lengths the boy had gone to in order to ward others from touching his things. He had also learned just why that was necessary that summer, but by then it was little too late to make a difference. Potions were not the only thing Severus excelled at, but that raw intelligence was hardly ever noticed, masked as it was in a snarly barbed personality.
“I thought that all of those needed an anchor,” Albus stated softly.
He knew what Severus was referring to. It was the first layer of protection that had cascaded into the blood wards that now stood between the child, and quite possibly, death. Albus wasn’t even sure that Severus had known that Lily’s loving sacrifice could turn the ward’s power into something else, combined with her own powerful magic. Lily’s sacrifice had left a mark on Harry that could be turned into the blood wards that surrounded the muggle residence where her sister resided. The protection that had kept Quirrell from being able to touch Harry needed to draw its power from the blood wards around the residence to stay strong.
“A human anchor, yes, preferably a living one as it is infinitely harder to cast the wardings without a living presence and active magic,” Severus stated. “It is not exactly light magic, Albus,” he added, seeing the man’s raised eyebrow at the comment. He sighed. “It is just slightly harder to cast it using a corpse rather than a living person. The wards alter from the lack of living magic, but the residual magic can feed and anchor the ward for a short time.”
“That is dangerously close to dark magic, Severus,” Albus stated with a distinct distaste.
“It’s grey,” Severus grudgingly concluded, continuing on with a slightly amused tone, “though casting it on a corpse is rather revolting. I have never tried it, personally, even though the texts do explain it in grand detail.”
“You are enjoying this, aren’t you?” Albus asked with a light laugh.
“There are more than just appearances to the number of books I have collected over the years, Albus. Surely you realize this?” Severus stated, regarding the other with a resigned sadness. He sighed and softly continued on.
“I would need to have someone I trust, someone who could take the boy should something happen to me. Who could shelter him and who had as much, if not more wardings on their property than even I do. Someone who could train him with intimate knowledge of what he will have to face. Hogwarts is the safest place in the world for him. That, however, is not a place where he can be during the summer. Nor is it possible for the boy to truly learn to defend himself there. Not to the extent that he needs to know. Therefore we need an alternate plan.”
“Perhaps it is time you meet my second spy amongst your former colleagues, then. I had hoped to keep both your identities secret one from the other, but that cannot be helped any longer. I will arrange for the two of you to meet in my study tomorrow evening,” Albus intoned, and without another word rose and departed, leaving Severus feeling at a loss. Wondering if he’d just been manipulated into this situation from the beginning.
The parting smile and twinkling eyes had him doubting that this had come about by coincidence…
Rising from his memories, Severus looked down at the sleeping child and sighed. It would be a long couple of days to come. Standing, he took the boy into his arms and walked to the child’s bedroom, intent to put him to sleep before seeking sleep himself.