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That Awful Snape Boy

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Chapter 1: To you I am nothing more than a fox

 

Minerva McGonagall didn’t really notice the boy on the first day; what with all the first years to manage, the Sorting Ceremony to supervise and finally the Feast to live through after two blessed months of silence, free of exuberant teenagers. And well, he was sorted into Slytherin too.

If she was honest with herself, she didn’t even really notice him on the first week either, not before he managed to annoy her to no end during class the week after that. Nothing really serious but any teacher was wary of this particular kind of swot: the ones that would argue to no end – and with annoying clarity – if you happen to let yourself be a little less acutely precise than they would like in order to break through the thick skulls of school children. The bulldog kind, as they called it.

Strangely, he should have been the recipient of some indulgence from the Hogwarts’ adults: he was a little thing really. Small – even for an eleven year-old – clad in second-hand clothes that had definitely seen better days, same with his schoolbooks. The boy had a painfully sharp mind too, obviously raised in a poor and sordid background, so pale as to be on the border of sickly in appearance. Really, all the professors should have been moved by the tragic story already written all over this obviously very intelligent child.

The thing is, he was also quiet but in a sly way, sharp-tongued when provoked, angry, not really well groomed. He was always polite in his words but the flame in his dark eyes baited his interlocutor, provoking. No respect came from those two dark pits.

Simply put, he was not very likeable and too rough at the edges to inspire any sympathy for his situation from the adults around him at school. He wasn’t cute, even as a child; his prickly personality already written all over his too sharp features.

It was the same with the students and it was evident after a month that he was very alone and the target of name-calling and general hostility. It is universally known that children aren’t little angels and like their grown-up counter-parts they tend to turn against the weird and the odd. And when the target doesn’t show any sign of submitting and goes through it all with an unashamed look of superiority and contempt…. Well, let it be said that this was a recipe for disaster.

And then, there was Lily Evans. The Exception with a capital “E”. The little girl was so all that the Snape boy was not: their relationship was mesmerizing.

So sharp was the contrast between those two, it became a topic of discussion even in the staff room. The general feeling was that the girl had a good heart and was feeling sorry for the little socially inept boy. Looking back, this friendship could have cast some light on the dark figure of the boy but in the end it only brightened the already shinning image of Lily Evans. Such were the depths of hostility that Severus Snape could cast just by being his annoying disagreeable self – even at eleven.

How it all made sense when an unexpected light had been forced into his dark situation two years later. A sad realisation indeed.

Minerva remembered being hit really hard that day. Albus looked grave and sad; A look on him that could brew worry in the hearts around him such was his preference for benevolent geniality.

“I already told you Headmaster, I’m quite sure of it or we wouldn’t be here”, said Poppy Pomfrey, hands on her hips with that trademark no-nonsense look on her face.

“He’s denying everything though…”, interjected the Headmaster.

“OF COURSE he’s denying everything! They always do for Merlin’s sake!”, answered the irate nurse.

“It makes an awful lot of sense Albus… and you know it does”, added Minerva sadly.

“The boy never wants to see me you know, he always find excuses and tricks to avoid it. I saw him only a couple of times in the last two years really; I remember counting them some months ago, after the purple pimples incident. It should have been enough to raise suspicion though. I hate to admit it but his open hostility put me off the trail easily. It’s obviously a very efficient strategy…” Poppy sighed.

“We should try to talk with Miss Evans I think. If the boy isn’t talking, she is surely a good way forward to shed some light on his real situation at home; they were friends before Hogwarts I’m told, she may know the details. We need those details if we are to know what we really are fighting against here. Perhaps all that is needed is some parental counsel?”

Minerva was aware of her own lack of conviction but, well, it was still a possibility. Maybe they were just in one of those too numerous cases where a hard life was more at fault than any lack of parental goodwill.

“We should talk with Miss Evans”, concluded Dumbledore.

“Someone is to inform Horace, he is, after all, his Head of House”, added Minerva sharply.

She would often think about this discussion in future years. That quiet discussion in the Headmaster office, only Poppy and Albus there, and that wonderful bergamot tea they used to drink together in the evening while discussing diverse school matters.

How strange and how telling in the end that it was her – and not Horace Slughorn – discussing the possible abuse case that was Severus Snape, third year Slytherin.

At the time, it had been a very uncomfortable situation for all of them: no need to beat around the bush here. It wasn’t a welcome sensation; something like a diffuse itching guilt. It was a little sore on their conscience, being suddenly aware that they deeply wished for all to be taken care of as soon as possible, if only not to have to think about the unlikeable boy for any extended period of time.

It was acutely eye-opening for Minerva to realise that sometimes we don’t have to like the ones that need us the most for us to help them and that in a sense, this was a truer test of our hearts.

It had all happened on Wednesday 3rd of September 1973; she committed the date to memory. She would always be amazed that this discussion could have taken place in the first place. If the boy hadn’t been unconscious, would they even have learnt anything before it was too late?

Surely, in some cold alternate universe, that “awful Snape boy” was left to fend for himself in the world… and what would his life have been then?

A darker thought was that she wasn’t sure who would have been hurt the most: the hostile little boy or the rest of the world?

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Are the 1st Years shrinking a little more each year?

The Great Hall was strangely subdued despite the sun not having yet completely set at this period of the year. The giant fires roaring in both enormous fireplaces were warming the atmosphere and casting long, friendly shadows on everything. The three first years were seated at the end of one of the tables, several books opened before them, murmuring vehemently.

This was useful because it allowed them to work together and they didn’t have to be silent, as was the case in the library. And, in all honesty, it was also useful when one just wanted to talk and laugh with their friends while remaining inside the castle rather than outside or in their Common Room.

One of the boys huffed loudly before leaving the two other children brusquely, his face angry.

Lily looked at Severus with worry. She didn’t like it when he was rude. It was like he couldn’t help himself sometimes.

« Sev, really, you could try to be NICE for once! »

« I will be nice when they are! »

How childish, she thought, rolling her eyes.

« Mum says that you should always try to be nice and if the others don’t change their mind then it is their loss and you are the winner anyway”, she explained patiently.

“Did she tell that to Tuney too then?”, he sharply answered.

“You’re infuriating!”, she laughed.

“I’m sure it is part of my charm, don’t you think?”, he arched his left eyebrow in a playful challenge.

“Obviously”, answered Lily, annoyed not to be more annoyed with him, she called it the “Sev Paradox”.

They were interrupted in the midst of their usual bickering:

“Miss Evans, Mister Snape, it is nearly curfew, what are you still doing here? You don’t want to be late, I’m sure?”

Professor McGonagall made Lily start briefly. Damned first year curfew! It was a shame that Sev and she weren’t in the same House, really; she didn’t want to go to her Common Room so early without him.

After only a month here, she really liked Hogwarts, she loved it actually. She had good friends already, and not only Severus.

It was all he had promised her when they talked about it for hours in the summer. It was a dream really and, even if she missed home and especially her parents and Tuney, she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and she was so happy to be a witch for real.

She was a little worried for Severus though. He didn’t seem as happy as she was and it was a shame; after all, he was the one with the shiny eyes during all those months when he was telling her all that he knew about Hogwarts and the Wizarding World. Somehow she had the impression that reality didn’t match his dreams in the end. It made her feel a little sad.

“See you tomorrow Lily”, he said softly, interrupting her musing.

“See you Sev, try to sleep for once, those books aren’t going anywhere!”

They laughed together at the old argument.

“Hmmm…”

Remembering at once that Professor McGonagall was still there and waiting, they quickly hurried in opposite directions, each towards their own Common Room.

 

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The staff room was a large rounded area, with its door opposite to the lone fireplace. Various comfortable armchairs were arranged in groups of two, three or four, with the occasional loner. A selection of teas, coffee, various juices and some flavoured waters were available on an oak table seated against the left side of the room, as well as some snacks. Large windows were offering the golden light of Scottish Fall on both side of the fireplace.

Some professors were working in silence, grading piles of homework near the comforting fire. Some were having a most needed caffeine beverage before running to their next class and, finally, some were chatting amiably:

“They’re just having fun Minerva”, said Horace lightly, “sure, they love a good laugh in my classroom too but I have to say their work is quite good so far.”

“It has only been a month”, she answered vehemently “we should wait in order to see the depths of their academic grandeur, don’t you think? And you know as well as me that the wizarding children are always more at ease at the beginning of the first year.”

She was quite annoyed. She had this forceful intuition that those two were going to be trouble. Oh, they were quite good – even if she wouldn’t admit it right now out of sheer stubbornness – but REALLY, she couldn’t believe the cheek of those little monsters!

Discussing the new students’ antics was always a prominent topic during those first months of school life. After the initial assessment of the fresh blood had settled, everyone was fair game. If the students only knew how their professors amused themselves on their behalf… In the end, it was only fair that being immersed in a sea of cheeky children and hormonal teenagers should have its perks.

Filius took one look at Minerva and hid himself behind his hand to laugh more discretely. No decorum at all.

“Ahhh, Albus” exclaimed Filius suddenly, seeing Albus Dumbledore entering the staff room, “surely you will be able to solve the matter at hand?”

Sensing the amused undertone of his Charms professor, the Headmaster took the scene in, slowly; infuriating Minerva a little more in the process.

“Oh”, she interceded, “I’m sure our Headmaster will find the whole affair deadly amusing.”

The old coot always did.

Said Headmaster only looked at her above his glasses, the silent question tangible. Horace took the opportunity to enlighten him:

“Minerva found misters Black and Potter last night, quite late apparently, on top of the astronomy tower, trying to test the living matter anti-fall charms on “borrowed” school brooms. They were quite vehement that this was an experiment in order to better understand the theory behind levitation charms. They swore they were only doing homework after Professor Flitwick told them in class that Wingardium Leviosa will be their first charm to practice.”

He sounded definitely very amused by the whole thing, the old walnut. To add insult to injury, Albus laughed quite unashamedly before patting his eyes lightly with some awful multi-coloured handkerchief. He finally said:

“Well… my dear Minerva, I’m sure you punished the little miscreants accordingly?”

Why was she always made to feel like the bad Auror in this school? Definitely annoyed, she answered sharply:

“Of course they were punished!”

Filius, always the diplomat, choose this moment to slightly divert the topic of conversation:

“The Snape boy was quite adamant during this same lesson that First Years shouldn’t be trusted with any spell without knowing the theory thoroughly…”

Horace lost his smile at once. Minerva won hers back. Only one month of school and this boy – a Slytherin to her delight – was already a pain in their collective academic arse. Minerva couldn’t help but ask:

“Well Horace, how are you managing YOUR little terror then?”

All eyes turned to Horace Slughorn at once. He swallowed noisily before answering:

“I don’t know really how to handle him. I tried to talk to him about his tone, I’m not sure he was even listening. Quite a brat this one.”

Albus absentmindedly protested:

“Now Horace, he’s just a child I’m told. I’m sure he will come round in the end.”

Minerva and Filius snorted at the same time. A child for sure, but a very annoying one! Minerva was still quite irked by the little menace’s vehement argument two weeks ago in her classroom. He absolutely wouldn’t let it go, she had never felt so inadequate in her own classroom. It was the first time, and she wasn’t green in the teaching department thank you very much, that she had felt herself on the verge of slapping a student. She was still quite shaken by the experience.

Really, never had she felt so unnerved by an eleven year-old! It was bordering on insulting. Since the incident, she was watching herself closely having observed that she tended to be more abrupt with the boy now. She was a little ashamed to admit that a mere child definitely succeeded in hurting her feelings.

Still wondering about the incident, she became more serious:

“Just a boy Albus, yes, but I must confess that I am already feeling a little out of my depths with him. I can see also that his peers aren’t amused by his arrogance in the classroom either. We must find a way to convey to him that his attitude isn’t doing him any good.”

Albus seemed to have refocused his attention on the discussion at Minerva’s more serious tone. He looked at her intensely before turning to Horace:

“Should I try talking to the boy, then?”

“It wouldn’t hurt I think” admitted the Potions Professor at once.

 

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Severus was feeling humiliated. That damned broom! What was it even for? Nobody needed a broom and he was going to learn to Apparate soon enough! Brooms were for brainless worms. Why should First Years have mandatory flying lessons anyway? This was useless!

“Hey Snape, need some help?”, mocked Potter, casually seated 5 feet above the ground, like it was nothing at all.

Severus saw red. He just couldn’t control the raging tide and launched himself at the laughing fool at once.

He existed in the blinding red in his mind until the crimson fog was dissolved by an irate professor grabbing him by the ear, painfully, while sending Potter to the infirmary with Lupin as a chaperone, without releasing her grip on him.

“Now, Mister Snape, what was that?”

She looked really angry with him and he couldn’t help but shrink a little under her glare. She seemed to pick up on this and calmed herself a little before adding:

“I’m waiting. What in Merlin’s name possessed you to attack a fellow student so brutally?”

He stayed mute. Absolutely mute. Now, some might think that it was a clever defence strategy but the more shameful reality was that he just couldn’t talk. He was physically locked inside himself. Terrified.

The other students seemed to look at him with something akin to shock and fear. He should have been glad for it; he was hurt instead. He looked at Lily and all the air left his lungs. She didn’t look scared: she looked sad.

He had made Lily sad. Again.

Lowering his head he finally found it in himself to unfreeze and softly said:

“I’m really sorry Professor…”

“You should be. You broke his nose you know? His parents will need to be informed and you, young man, will be seeing the Headmaster as soon as he is available to receive you.”

He sighed and looked at his shoes, absolutely deflated.

“You will have detention with me on Tuesdays and Fridays at 7pm until the end of the month, is that understood?”

“Yes Professor.”

“Now, you will go in your Common Room quietly until the next period and if I hear anything about you during this time I can assure you that you will be very sorry indeed. Professor Slughorn will, of course, be informed about this incident, now shoo.”

What a stupid fool he was.

 

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“He broke his nose, I was shocked!”

No light was entering through the windows of the staff room at this late hour but it was buzzing as if it were midday.

“There is something wrong with this child”, said Silvanus Kettleburn vehemently.

“He’s only a child…”, corrected Pomona.

They stayed silent for several minutes, thinking.

“Is Mister Potter well now?”, asked Pomona to Minerva, worry on her motherly face.

Women! thoughts Horace Slughorn, always a little exasperated by the Herbology professor protective style.

“Yes, quite well now” answered Minerva, unaware of Horace wandering thoughts, “he’s already out of the Hospital Wing. He was a little shocked, of course. He told me he indeed mocked the Snape boy a little because he was having trouble on his broom but he didn’t intend it to go that far.”

“He’s an only child, it’s obvious”, contributed Filius with his flute-like voice.

“Who, James?”, asked Minerva, lost. It was after all common knowledge that James Potter was the only heir of the Potter family.

“No, the Snape boy”, clarified Pomona, “he is, isn’t he?” she continued, addressing her question to Horace.

“Yes, yes he is. I don’t know what it had to do with anything anyway…”

What was the woman getting at?

“Horace!”, Pomona rolled her eyes, “of course it matters! You’re a brute you know that? The child evidently doesn’t know how to interact appropriately with other children; it’s painfully obvious that he’s struggling with all the social codes of a boarding school, hence the only child hypothesis.”

The great Snape boy debate was only at its beginning, and still: nobody made the real connection after this first shocking display of violence.

 

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Severus was standing before the door, absolutely still, for forever. At least it felt like it. His palms were sweaty and he was singularly aware of his ragged appearance. He tried to take a deep breath, but it was no help at all: he was in so much trouble. He wiped his hand on his robe, gulping for air.

Suddenly, the door opened without any action on his part. He froze some more, only becoming aware that this was even possible. Silence. Outside anyway. Inside: a really loud and obnoxious bell was ringing in his ears.

“I’m sure it will only get better if you finally enter Mister Snape”

Dumbledore’s voice was both very friendly and very scary to Severus’s ears. It was the first time ever that someone as important as Albus Dumbledore had even talked to him: that awful Snape boy from the bad end of Cokeworth… And it was because he screwed up… Like, big time.

Was he going to be expelled?

Mother would be so disappointed… and father… Better not to think about Him. He shivered. He was still rooted to the floor; it was becoming really embarrassing now.

Something made a squeaky sound inside and he heard some steps becoming louder and louder. He stayed glued to the spot, like a fawn in the middle of the road blinded by the lights of a truck. Before he could comprehend what all of those noises meant, he was looking up to a very tall and very impressive, if smiling, Headmaster.

“Now Mister Snape, no need to be scared, I haven’t yet eaten any children. I prefer lemon drops you know, would you care for one perhaps?”

It was surreal. Surely, the great Dumbledore wasn’t offering him some muggle sweet? He had lost it, that was the only explanation.

And still, he didn’t move. He felt more embarrassed than he ever had before in his life.

Seeing that the boy was clearly a little unsettled by his strange attitude, Dumbledore slowly took Severus’s hand –the boy didn’t even flinch, such was his frozen state – and led him inside.

 

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The Gryffindor Common Room was as always very animated. The armchairs were very comfortable-looking and everything had a warm and used quality to it.

In a little corner, a little far from the fire since First Years never get to have the good places, three figures were animatedly talking.

“He’s disgusting too”, added Sirius, full of sympathy for his friend.

Remus didn’t really know how to convey his silent empathy. Sirius was so much better when it came to being loudly supportive. He sighed.

“I was really taken aback by how violent he became. I know I shouldn’t have taunted him but, man, he’s an animal!”

“He’s a Slytherin”, concluded Sirius, as if it explained everything in the world.

“You’re sure you didn’t say anything else to him?”, asked timidly Remus, not wanting to intrude but feeling more and more confident around the two other boys as he spent more time with them everyday.

“I swear I didn’t! There’s something seriously wrong with him, let me tell you!”

Remus smiled a little. Sure, James seemed to be a nice enough boy but it was obvious that he had been very protected at home so far and a broken nose was certainly the most traumatic event that had ever happened to him in all of his life. Lucky bastard.

“I don’t understand what she’s doing with him though”, said Sirius for what seemed the millionth time.

Remus didn’t need to ask who was spending too much time with Snape. Lily Evans was a true mystery. She was sweet enough, and really fierce too, kind and smart; she had quite the personality, which was very intimidating if he was to be honest. She was also friend with a violent, nasty boy capable of breaking James’ nose just in retaliation for a childish taunt. She puzzled them all.

“I don’t know”, added James, thoughtful, “it’s not because of his looks, I can assure you! Uglier than my arse!”

They laughed together.

“Exploding snap anyone?, asked an excited Sirius.

“Sure!” answered Remus and James at the same time.

 

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The boy looked petrified. Surely, this wasn’t the little First Year nightmare that was terrorizing all of his staff since the beginning of the school year? Dumbledore relaxed. This was already going in an unexpected way. He was a little relieved to see that he wouldn’t need his stern mask tonight.

He led the child inside and gestured for him to sit on the seat opposite his desk. The Snape boy sat slowly; his eyes still as big as saucers and unnaturally unblinking.

The headmaster conjured some tea and biscuits, pushing a mug towards his student absentmindedly. He then smiled, trying to calm the scared child. This wouldn’t do if they were to have a serious discussion.

“So, Mister Snape, do you know why you’re here?”

The boy looked slowly up, swallowed and opened his mouth. He hesitated before answering very quietly:

“Yes, Headmaster.”

Well, definitely, this wasn’t the boy who had irritated Minerva to no end some weeks ago. Dumbledore shook his head, intrigued. He looked into the dark big eyes, discreetly sounding them. He immediately felt some weak barrier in his way. Startled, he immediately pulled away.

The child frowned deeply at him. Well, this was most intriguing indeed. The boy had felt him! His mind sharpened at this very unexpected development, he smiled again, twinkling madly at the scowling youth.

Studying him, Dumbledore was sure almost immediately that the boy didn’t understand what had just happened. Still, he had felt something and it was impressive for such a young boy. A little worrying also.

“Can you explain to me what it is that you’ve done that earned you this friendly tea time with me, Mr. Snape?”

The boy immediately lost his scowl and looked afraid again. He timidly answered:

“I broke James Potter’s nose, Headmaster.”

Well, straight to the point then. He sounded genuinely repentant too.

“And can you tell me why you did it?”

The boy frowned again. Merlin, it was like pulling tooth. He opened his mouth, closed it and frowned again.

Dumbledore kept silent: he knew that this was the surest way to obtain some verbal answer in the end. Children with guilty consciences tended to fear the silence and almost always ended up trying to fill it with anything at hand. And as expected:

“I was angry… I think”

“Why were you angry, then?”

A little help couldn’t harm at this point, Dumbledore looked discreetly at the clock on the opposite wall.

“He was mocking me, sir”

Here it was, the insolent “sir” his professors were talking about. Dumbledore arched an eyebrow, looking at the boy sternly. He seems to shrink into the seat. The Headmaster fought not to laugh; it wouldn’t do at this time.

“I’m sure you know, Severus” and the boy clearly started at the use of his first name, “that no situation, ever, can be an excuse for using violence.”

It wasn’t a question. The boy nodded vigorously, his eyes huge.

“So, can I trust you to think hard and to reign this temper of yours next time? Can I trust you to never again raise a hand on any student in my school?”

Another fit of vigorous nodding.

“It’s settled then, Mister Snape”, and he smiled genially again.

The boy looked awestricken; it was very funny.

“I have another matter to discuss with you, if you will be so kind as too remain a little longer in my company?”

No legilimency was needed to read plainly in capital letters “IS HE MAD? HOW CAN I SAY NO?” all over the shocked face of his pupil. Do. Not. Laugh.

“Sir?”

“Your professors told me that you’re doing very well in all your subjects, my boy. They are unanimous in finding you quite sharp-minded and intelligent. I’m sure you will continue to take your studies seriously?

It was not an outward lie but then, he was bending the truth a little here. Sure, all the professors were very vocal about his clear intelligence but it was only to deplore his total lack of humility, respect and above all, social skills.

The child looked very surprised. It saddened the old man a little to see such a look of utter shock upon his face at receiving a well-deserved compliment.

“Thank you sir.”

No cheek in that “sir,” at least. Dumbledore was even prepared to call it progress.

“The thing is, Severus” those big eyes again at hearing his first name, “sometimes, being intelligent is also understanding that nobody learns at the same rhythm and giving the slower ones the time and space to catch up?”

Frown and then, calculating look.

Well, maybe they were getting somewhere here.

“I’m sure that, if someone was always answering before you in class, you will be a little annoyed, right?”

Thoughtful nodding.

“And I also must convey to you that your Professors are very qualified and it is not your place to tell them how they should do their work. Surely, you mean well, but please, keep your notes to yourself; you wouldn’t want to discredit my staff and, ultimately, me, would you?”

Dumbledore let his words sink in a little before concluding:

“Can you do that Severus?”

“Yes sir, sorry sir”.

Direct eye contact this time. Dumbledore understood better why his friends and colleagues were finding this boy unsettling.

“Well, no harm done then! I congratulate you again on that brain of yours young man, keep filling it with good studying and making Hogwarts proud, okay?”

Heartfelt nodding at last.

“You can go now”, Dumbledore told the first year, not unkindly, “oh, and Mr Snape, as pleasant as I find your company, do try not to be sent here again this year, understood?”

Frenetic nodding. The Headmaster made a dismissive gesture with his hand, signalling the end of the discussion. The boy was up in the blink of an eye and nearly ran to the door.

Dumbledore shook his head, amused, before getting up himself and sending a handful of floo powder in his fireplace:

“Minerva McGonagall’s office!”

He then proceeded to put his head through the magical fire and entertain his friend with the tale of what just happened in his office.

 

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Minerva realised some years later that Severus never irritated any of them again with incessant questions and smug advice after this talk with the Headmaster. He didn’t exactly become a loveable puppy of course, but clearly, he understood perfectly what the Headmaster had tried to convey to him that day.

This should have pointed them all to the fact that this child had never learnt before the normal boundaries of human interactions. A subtle if worrying clue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: If you're not a bad influence, I'm afraid we can't be friend

 

She had been waiting for so long now, she was beginning to worry. She slowed the swing a little, and looked carefully around for any sign of Severus. Seeing nothing, she resumed her movement, going higher and higher again, enjoying the sensation and trying not to think that something awful might have happened.

It was weird being here again waiting for Severus to join her, as if last year at Hogwarts didn’t happen. As if she hadn’t finished her first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry just a week ago.

She was lost in thoughts when he finally appeared at the playground’s little barrier.

“Lily!”

“Sev!”

She jumped off the swing smoothly and ran towards her friend:

“I was so worried! Why are you so late, stupid?!”, she exclaimed, slapping him lightly on the arm.

He flinched and she immediately felt guilty. Deadly serious now, she added:

“Did he hit you again?”

“No!”, answered Severus, not very convincingly, “I’m sorry I’m late, but I’m so happy you’re still here, can you forgive me please?”

Something was very wrong here. His eyes were red and too shiny, his voice trembled and Lily was sure he had cried earlier and was currently trying very hard not to do it again. She immediately hugged him, her heart breaking for her friend.

“Of course Sev, best friends, remember?”

He gave her his little smile, the one he only showed for her and she squeezed him a little more. She felt him sigh against her hair.

Why couldn't they just play and talk and everything? She really liked Severus but sometimes… she felt guilty immediately. It wasn’t his fault… She sighed too.

“What happened then?”

“Nothing!”

“Nothing my arse! Am I your best friend or not?”

She knew she was getting angry but she couldn’t help but feel hurt every time he didn’t tell her something. She told him everything! It was only fair that he would do the same!

He paused, and then looked suddenly at her directly in the eyes. He repeated, slowly and coldly:

“Nothing happened.”

Exasperated, she just couldn’t help herself and imitated his cold tone:

“As you wish. Don’t come crying later then.”

He looked hurt for a brief instant and then slightly raised his chin, saying nothing more.

Still angry, Lily decided to make him pay a little:

“It’s too late now, I need to go back, see you at dinner tonight, right?”

And then it was, the panicked look on his face. She felt bad at once; she knew how he always looked forward to spending time with her; it wasn’t very nice to use this against him like that… He had it coming though, she decided. And they would see each other at dinner at her home in a few hours; it wasn’t as if she was abandoning him!

“I…” he looked so sad she almost reconsidered, “I’m not sure father will let me go…”

He was definitely crying now.

“Why not? Ask your mother maybe?”

His eyes became very big and a sob escaped him, shocking Lily. Something was definitely wrong. He looked around, a hunted expression on his face and finally offered in one shaky breath:

“I have to go, I will try to come tonight.”

He turned around and ran, leaving Lily with her mouth open and her fists closed and shaking. That. Stupid. ARSE!

 

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The summer was definitely over now and Horace Slughorn was exhausted. Frankly, he had other matters – important matters! – to tend too. November was always a very busy month after all.

The Head of Slytherin’s office was the epitome of soft comfort and luxury. It was bordering on decadent. A large cherry desk with obnoxiously decorated curved legs was covered with some scattered rolls of parchment and various trays of delicious-looking sugary snacks. A delicate-looking china cup was emitting a very refined smell, probably from the rare tea still warm in it.

The walls were overlaid with warm tapestries and foggy paintings of dull-looking old wizards. The atmosphere was stuffy and the fire added to the feeling by slightly overheating the large room.

Horace sat in his soft armchair, looking critically at his student. Said student was siting somewhat stiffly in the hard-backed chair on the other side of his desk. He was sweating a little and his hair looked as greasy as ever. His face was black and blue, his left eye looked very painful and was almost completely closed.

Horace grimaced.

“Now boy!” the second year flinched, “what have you got to say in your defence this time?”

“He insulted my mother, sir!”

No trace of shyness this time. Deciding that he definitely didn’t have the time for such silly children tales, he decided to get on and be done with it:

“Detention, with Filch. Every night for ten days in a row, including the weekend. Beginning tonight. Do we understand each other Snape?”

The boy made eye contact with him, somewhat impudently without blinking, and answered brazenly:

“Of course, Sir.”

“Out with you then!”, he looked critically at his student standing up at once, “and do go to the hospital ward immediately.”

The Snape boy frowned and left his office.

What an unpleasant matter. Children were so annoying sometimes.

 

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“I’m going to kill him next time James, I promise you!”

Sirius was furious. He walked quickly towards the front door of the castle. James called after him, trying to calm his best friend down “I know Sirius, I know. He looked worse than you in the end, you know?”

Only because they were three and he was alone, thought James shamefully. He didn’t say it aloud, not wanting to incense Sirius even more. Trotting behind the irate boy, they reached the door and were suddenly outside in the cold fine Scottish drizzle. Great.

Peter appeared all of a sudden in front of Sirius, red faced and breathless. Still catching his breath, he said excitedly:

“Slughorn was furious with him! Apparently he gave him TEN days of detentions, Ten! And with Filch! Can you imagine?”

Well, that should cheer Sirius up, thought James. As if on cue:

“He deserves it, the sneaky snake!”

Peter enquired, a little worried, maybe having sensed at last the sour mood of Sirius:

“How’s Remus?”

“He will live”, was the laconic answer.

Even Pomfrey was worried this time… James frowned at the thought. The Matron was never worried! Well, maybe it was related to his… condition? Sirius and James had only known for three weeks about Remus lycanthropy and it was still a bit of a shock.

But in the end, what could be more cool than to have a werewolf as a friend?! James smiled a little, thinking of all the mischief they will be able to manage with a werewolf on their team!

Refocusing on the current condition of said werewolf, he frowned. Maybe this was the reason Pomfrey was worried? Maybe being a werewolf made finding counter-curses more difficult?

Peter was still blubbering nonsense about Snivellus, it seemed to be his favourite past-time those days:

“… and with hair like that and that face, and his friendly temper” he laughed a little, “ I’m sure even his mother doesn’t like him, he was only angry because you were right Sirius!”

“Sure I was right! I’m always right!”, answered Sirius, a little more cheerfully.

 

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The potion classroom was buzzing with excitement. Deep in the dungeon, the large room was divided in two rows, each one made by five two-seat desks disposed from the top to the back of the classroom. A middle-sized cauldron was sitting in the centre of each of those desks. The central alley was used mainly by the professor, walking slowly up and down among the students, examining each cauldron on both sides and distributing advices and congratulations as needed.

The lack of windows was not completely compensated by the several torches hung on the naked stonewalls every meter or so. This lighting arrangement was casting long dancing shadows on everything and everyone.

Lily sat at the front, left side from the professor’s point of view, partnering with Severus; as indeed she always did in this class. She really loved Potions and was very excited to brew her first Sleeping Draught today.

Severus was crushing the wormwood in his chipped mortar with obvious delight. He liked to crush things; it was as simple as that. Lily looked around briefly, her eyes narrowing at the Slytherins glares. She absolutely didn’t care; they were idiots anyway.

“Lily?”

Turning again to look at her friend, she asked:

“Yes? Have you finished with the wormwood?

“Yes, will you add it while I begin to chop the valerian?”

He liked chopping things too.

“Sure”, she answered, smiling.

They were a very good team.

Nearly an hour later, she found herself looking intensely while Severus added the essence of nettle, his movement full of this liquid fluidity he only showed when preparing potions. It was amazing how he tended to lose his jerky quality when brewing. Lily was always in awe of him when they were working like that.

Sure, she was really good at potions too, but she couldn’t lie to herself and think that they were on the same level. She was very good at following instructions and she had some intuitive skills with ingredients’ properties. Severus was a genius at it; it was as simple as that.

She could always console herself by remembering their first flying lesson last year. Damn, he really didn’t like flying on a broom…!

She was interrupted in her daydreaming by Professor Slughorn:

“Well, what have we got here, hmmmm?”

Severus was stirring very slowly and carefully anti-clockwise; just five more times and they will be done.

“It’s the right colour professor, isn’t it?” asked Lily, enthusiastically.

“Now, we should wait for Mr Snape here to finish…” he stayed standing up looking closely, a smile on his fat face, “here it is!”

Severus delicately put the stirring rod on the tray and looked up, a smug smile on his sharp face.

“Wonderful! Class, come here, come here! Look at this perfect Sleeping Draught, look at the pale lilac colouring, the exact shade it should be! Very well done Miss Evans, very well done indeed!”

Slughorn was looking at her with a predatory smile. Lily knew him well enough now to know that he was considering her future and the multiple ways he could help her before sitting back and waiting for her to pay him back.

Everyone knew how it was with Slughorn. She didn’t mind though, she would take all the help available – as long as it was morally acceptable of course – to have a good life in this new world. At least Slughorn was transparent, if self-interested.

“Thank you Professor!”, she answered, beaming at him.

“Five points to Gryffindor!”.

She frowned at him and he immediately added:

“And five points to Slytherin of course, good work Mister Snape.”

This was another of those things that everyone knew: Severus was no favourite.

 

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It was winter and the lake had been frozen for nearly two months now. Pressed closely around the fireplace, Minerva McGonagall, Horace Slughorn, Poppy Pomfrey – which wasn’t very often in the staffroom but had felt like having a well-deserved breath – and Pomona Sprout were speaking amiably about one of their recurrent topics: Lily Evans and Severus Snape.

“They are kind of cute…”, said Pomona, dreamily.

“I don’t find it very cute that one of my best student”, interjected Minerva, “should be as often as it is all alone with a somewhat violent and unpredictable boy”.

Poppy shook her head slightly. Minerva was like a lioness, it was okay for her to be strict to the point of dryness with her charges, but if someone happened to hurt one of those children: run. Well, a lioness or a female cat anyway… She intervened:

“Surely you’re not referring to Remus Lupin’s misadventure again, Minerva? Those things had happened nearly three months ago. He had been right as rain in a matter of hours.

Horace answered before Minerva could:

“Oh, that one time he was covered by oozing purple spots? It definitely looked painful. Never saw something like that before!”

Minerva, looking somewhat outraged by the Potions Professor’s light tone, quickly added:

“It WAS painful! The poor boy was whimpering the whole time, and he knows pain this one!”

A reproachful look passed from Poppy to Minerva. Oblivious, Pomona said:

“It was very inventive, if a little dangerous. You can say what you want about the Snape boy, dear, but he has some brains.”

“Obviously” answered Minerva, “you know as well as me that having some brains can be worse when wrongly used”.

Poppy didn’t like Minerva’s tone. She was usually very fair but since that first month last year when the boy had apparently put her authority – and worse, her knowledge in her field – under question in the middle of class, she was seeing him as some kind of dark wizard in the making. That it had been all over the staff room for weeks didn’t help either. Her attitude wasn’t right, even if they were living in darkening times.

“He’s thirteen Minerva, thirteen. And as I remember the tale, he was quite hurt himself after the altercation you’re referring to. Not that I treated him mind you…”

The boy was like an elusive eel when it came to have him in the hospital wing…

“Didn’t he come to see you, Poppy?”, asked Horace, distractedly.

“Of course not. What did I just say?”

Thoughtful, she quickly added:

“Now that I’m thinking about it, I can say that, all in all: I’ve seen him twice. Considering all those violent outbursts between him and the likes of James Potter and Sirius Black it seems very few times. I sure as hell saw Black and Potter a lot more than that in the same amount of time.”

She paused for several seconds before adding:

“Twice! and it was a very quick affair both times. A broken finger one night in spring last year, well after curfew too if I might add, for which I’m still waiting for an explanation. And then, some months ago, an embarrassing itching that had most definitely been there for a few days judging by the state of the area when he finally came to the hospital wing… He was quite adamant that he wasn’t going to stay and was quickly out of the room on both accounts.”

“I wasn’t aware of that the boy was injured Poppy, do you want me to ask he boy about it?”

“No Horace! Every student in this school sees me for one little secret mishaps or two, me telling you when and why I saw the boy isn’t the point and I don’t want any student to be scared to come to me when something happens, whatever the cause; it would only be worse for everyone. Let my hospital Wing be a safe place for the children, you know how I work!”

Horace looked somewhat relieved. He nodded vigorously and said:

“Of course dear, of course, I wouldn’t dream of making you lose the students’ trust!”

Poppy narrowed her eyes at him. She liked Horace well enough but she found him somewhat too light-handed in the affairs of some of his little charges sometimes.

 

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It was the third time this week alone… Severus was tired of the drama really. Why couldn’t they leave him alone? What was so hard about it?

Stretched out on his bed, he looked around angrily. His bed was the nearest to the window. The submarine view under the lake was beautiful enough but he was under no illusion that it was given to him as a kindness and knew that he was left with this bed because of the uncomfortable humidity seeping through the old anti-condensation spell at all times.

Inconveniently, it was also the farthest from the door. He had experienced this specific disadvantage on too many occasions if you asked him. Not that anybody ever asked, mind you.

As always, Mulciber’s bed, the one nearest to his, was a mess of clothes (both clean and dirty…), school books, blank rolls of parchment and quills. Then came Avery’s, only clothes on this one. The boy was so dense anyway… did he even own books? Whatever for?

Severus snorted at his uncharitable thoughts. It was funny only because it was true.

Near the door was Evan Rosier’s bed. So neat, it was freaky. Severus always thoughts of him as some sort of school boy/soldier hybrid. You could easily imagine him standing rigid at attention during some military parade. Not that he would ever tell him as much, he wasn’t suicidal. He knew not to mention anything muggle aloud.

He scowled even deeper: they called him “half-blood scum” often enough as it was. Like tonight. Stupid cunts.

He didn’t want to keep going as it was. Next time they wouldn’t broke only his index finger and he needed a strategy. He was interrupted in his musings by no other than Evan Rosier himself, predatory smile and blonde hair included. So like a Nazi, thought Severus, quietly smirking.

“What it is Snape, something on your mind?”

“Nothing, just thinking about my Charms essay that’s all…”, quickly answered Severus. No need to antagonize the boy even more after all. He needed all of his fingers if he was to brew for a living after Hogwarts, as he planned to do.

Losing his haughty and detached act, Rosier childishly exclaimed:

“But it’s not due until next week!”

Sensing something, Severus refocused at once and answered:

“It needs a lot of research and I like to be on top of my work.”

Even to his own ears he sounded a little too smug. He just couldn’t help himself. Looking at the jealous expression on the other boy’s face, Severus added on a whim:

“Do you want help with it? I already completed all the research, it would be no bother…”

Bingo.

The blonde looked at Severus with the most open expression since they had known each other. Surely, this was his way to buy some peace in his own dormitory and maybe even in the Common Room? A plan was already emerging in his mind.

Severus got down to business immediately. All those arrogant purebloods could be so useful; he wasn’t going to give away his chance to get the respect and influence he deserved.

 

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And then, Second Year was done with too.

It was one of those miserable hot days in Cokeworth. It only happened once or twice a year but it was oppressive and just plain unpleasant.

Emma Evans looked at the hunched shadow of Severus, he was focused on wiping his sweating palms on his dirty jeans, he took a deep breath before knocking on the light-wooded door. She sighed, she was worried about her daughter’s friend. She knew that his mother had left last year while Severus was there for the summer holidays and she was sure it hadn’t done anything to reign in his father’s violent temper.

She vaguely heard Tom yelling, “enter!” from the other end of the house, still deep in her thoughts.

She didn’t usually keep a very attuned ear to all of Cokeworth’s gossips but it was the only way to learn about Severus’s family.The boy was so quiet.

She remembered how Lily had been so furious to learn of the missing Eileen last summer when Petunia told her. He had eaten with them and had just left to go back home after having been somewhat more subdued than usual… Lily was impossible for days after that.

Anyway, he was there for dinner and he needed a good feeding too if you asked her.

“Hi, Mrs Evans”

“Hello Severus, how are you these days?

“I’m well, thank you, I hope you are too?”

“Quite well, quite well, are you happy to be on holidays at last; Lily told me that you did very well this year too, I’m sure your father is very proud.”

She knew she was fishing but she couldn’t stop herself.

“It’s good to get to rest a little and also being able to read late into the night. It’s nice.”

She didn’t miss how he didn’t mention his father or even his schoolwork. She didn’t had the time to add anything when Petunia’s voice was heard:

“Why is HE dinning with us, mum?”

“Hi Petunia, happy to see you too.”

“Now children, be nice please!”, she scolded quickly, “Lily! LILY, come here! Severus just arrived!”

Severus seemed to light up when Lily entered the hallway, as he always did.

She was right to invite him tonight. Tom was always too partial to the boy appearance and bad background. Emma knew that if Lily liked him, then his brusque and neglected appearance was just that, appearances, and there was something worth knowing here.

Tom was always adamant that “that awful Snape boy” was a bad influence on their Lily… He and Petunia teamed up often enough on that topic. He meant well but she was glad she won tonight.

If anything, she felt sad every time she saw him so unkempt, so thin in his ragged clothes. No child should live that way.

 

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“I HATE you!”

“Keep screaming you filth, if you think I will let you play the good middle-class poof at your little stuffy friend’s house, you’re even more of a stupid ugly fool than I thought! No son of mine will go to “dinners” and such like some pansy boy!”

Severus knew he should shut up, he knew it, he just couldn’t, he couldn’t! It wasn’t FAIR!

And here he was just two minutes ago, coming home, thinking he had been smart enough and what a good time he just had with Lily... he should have known that good times weren’t for him.

He hollered back:

“At least I have some friends! You couldn’t even get mum to stay here with us!”

“You shut your filthy mouth!”

Severus felt his chest exploding with pain before his brain registered the blow. He curled up on himself under the violent attack of his drunk of a father. He had just the time to hear: “She left because of YOU!” before all went black.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Dear bad luck, we need to talk

 

After a quick passage to the loo, Remus walked back to his compartment. Upon seeing Evans, apparently sitting alone in hers, he was about to enter to ask her about her summer when he became aware that she was, in fact, not alone at all.

On second glance, he noticed a familiar looking small boy stretched out on the other side of the carriage table and appearing to be asleep. It was weird that Snape didn’t undergo any growth spurt during the summer. All of Lupin’s friends seemed to have grown two feet in the last two months.

Remus had been prepared to entertain Lily alone but he wasn’t ready to face the unpleasant Slytherin anytime soon; not after the awful purple pustules of last year anyway. He scratched his forearm absentmindedly while shuddering at the memory.

Looking discreetly inside one last time, he couldn’t help but think that Snape looked very small and somewhat worn out.

 

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As the Feast was on a Monday this year, they just had been informed of the bad news: lessons would begin the next morning. No rest for the wicked. James, already in an understandably foul mood thanks to this less than welcome news, didn’t need his best friend proverbial sulking’s on top of it.

Sirius had been bad tempered all day on the train and, apparently, even the delicious food in front of them wasn’t enough to appease him. It was becoming annoying, to say the least.

“Look at Snape”, tried Peter for the third time, “he seemed to have had an even worse summer than you Sirius!”

Well, it was worth trying. Badmouthing Snivellus usually cheered Sirius up. Looking briefly at the Slytherin table, James found himself agreeing with Peter. Snape looked paler and uglier than ever.

Turning to his friend, he tried again: “What happened Sirius, I know it isn’t just ‘nothing’”.

“My mother happened”, angrily whispered Sirius.

James exchanged a meaningful look with Remus.

Well, that certainly explained the fool mood. Walburga Black wasn’t known for her good heart or peaceful relationship with her rebellious first born after all.

He sighed. This was already a shitty year.

 

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Eude Parkinson, the Sixth years Prefect, had the task of distributing the Third Years timetables. It was a shame really that the 1st of September should end up being on a Monday this year. What a long first week in perspective.

Avery, the next in line, took his schedule quickly before retreating back.

An on looking Evan Rosier searched Avery for any sign of weakness as the other boy looked over his schedule. Avery’s father had his reputation tarnished during the summer while in the midst of the last political scandal. Apparently, Avery senior was quite fond of prostitutes and other scandalous little soirées.

Sensing that he was being watched, Avery junior raised his eyes from the timetable he’d been looking over. The two locked eyes, each of them weighing the other up. Avery nodded briefly at last, conceding the point. Satisfied, Rosier answered with a little nod too.

Having thus ensured the continued existence of their mutual alliance, the blonde switched back to his careful observation of the Common Room before he was interrupted by another of his fellow third years.

“Hey, Rosier, how are you?”, asked Mulciber as he joined the silent boy in his observation spot at the back of the room.

“Quite well, thank you. I hope you had a good summer?”

“It was ok”, answered Mulciber dismissively before digressing to his point, “have you seen that filthy half-blood?”

Rosier rolled his eyes. “Now, we talked about that, his name is Snape, remember?”, he let it sink in a little before adding: “What’s wrong mate, trouble with your summer homework maybe?”, he smiled cruelly, enjoying the frown on the other boy’s thick face.

Searching among the students in attendance, he located the aforementioned dark third year in no time:

“Just there, near the fire”, Rosier pointed out to Mulciber.

Satisfied, Mulciber inclined his head briefly in thanks and strode towards his target. Rosier kept observing, his eyes sharp and alert.

He saw Mulciber engaging with Snape in what seemed like an animated bargaining match. No doubts to have the half-blood agreeing to do one or the other of Mulciber’s summer essays before tomorrow… The two talked for several minutes before Mulciber finally seemed satisfied and patted the shoulder of the smaller boy roughly in a gesture meant to be friendly but which made Snape flinch violently. Oblivious, Mulciber turned away to go catch up with Avery.

Rosier took a mental note to remind his fellow third years not to annoy Snape too much. A little reminder couldn’t hurt, especially with thick skulled boys like the likes of Mulciber and Avery. Snape might be a half-blood but he was definitely useful. Rosier had the intuition that soon they would need to bring the Snape boy to the attention of his father’s friends.

Satisfied that his back-to-school duties were complete, Rosier finally stumbled exhaustedly to his dormitory. He’d have to remember to write to Lucius tomorrow.

 

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After the commotion in the corridors leading to the Hospital Wing, the room felt painfully silent. Lily felt as if her ears might pop at the abrupt change in environmental noise level.

Though she knew she looked dishevelled at the moment, she couldn’t bring herself to care.

She should have known, surely Severus wasn’t to have two good days in a row. And now he was lying unconscious on one of those beds, hidden behind a white curtain. It was only day three and here she was, telling the school matron all about the newest incident.

Mary McDonald had been telling her all about her summer boyfriend in the Charms corridor when it had all happened.

Potter and Black had been arguing - they seemed to do only that these days - and Severus couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He had to put his big nose in between the two Gryffindor-Chief-Buffoons! Severus had commented something unkind about Sirius missing his mummy – and Black had lunged at him, shoving the smaller boy into the wall with force.

Severus never got up.

She hadn’t thought he hit his head, but when he’d remained motionless…

As Lily explained the incident, her tone became slightly hysterical, even to her own ears. The worried expression on Pomfrey’s face didn’t help either.

 

After giving a Calming Draught to the distraught girl, Poppy Pomfrey called upon Minerva to take Miss Evans somewhere else. She needed to tend to her patient immediately now that she knew the context of his current health situation.

Usually, Poppy wasn’t quite so cautious, but prolonged unconsciousness could have many root causes and it called for a sensible approach. If she was honest with herself, she still didn’t know enough to be certain of anything right now. The most probable cause was that he had hit his head against the stonewall; but the Evans girl wasn’t so sure about that…

Poppy opened the curtains around his bed and looked at her patient. Without the usual hostility and scowling act, she was taken aback by how frail and small Severus looked for his age. The old nurse made a mental note to look at his weight and search for any issues regarding his growth later, when the most urgent matters were cared for.

Well, it can’t be helped, she thought as she prepared to cast a full diagnostic spell. Usually, she had a better understanding of the cause behind a student’s injuries and just focused on one area or the other. But this time she didn’t have such a luxury.

Casting a general deep diagnostic spell on him, Poppy prepared to deal with whatever the hell afflicted the boy.

She quickly discovered that nothing could have prepared her.

 

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Severus woke to a Hospital Wing empty of all but himself and the Headmaster. His head was killing him and he felt like running away. Like just jumping out of the too comfortable bed and running until his legs gave up.

And then it began: the interrogation.

He hated them all with their questions and their false pity. He simply wanted to close his eyes and sleep and never wake up.

“Severus,” said Dumbledore for the hundredth time, “we just need to understand what happened, nothing else. We just want to help you, my boy”.

Severus frowned. He wasn’t his boy! As if Dumbledore cared for him anyway, the stupid old bastard! He repeated the same answer, again:

“I have nothing more to tell you. Nothing happened to me. I’m just clumsy sometimes and Potter and Black like to bounce me against walls and stuff. Why aren’t you talking to them? Why is it always my fault anyway?!”

Dumbledore looked at him with sad blue eyes that were missing their normal twinkle. Severus felt something too big trying to escape his throat. The old fool was a good actor; he needed to be careful here.

The Headmaster kept going:

“Surely, Mister Snape, you can’t believe that your story is in any way plausible? Let me remind you what Madam Pomfrey found out when you were unconscious…”

“She didn’t have the right!”

Dumbledore looked at him sternly for several seconds before continuing as if Severus hadn’t just rudely interrupted him:

“I will spare you the list of old – more or less correctly healed – injuries, way too numerous for your short life. Including several broken bones, I must say.”

How was this sparing him the list, thought Severus? Oblivious, the Headmaster added:

“On top of moderate malnutrition, subsequent fatigue and extensive bruising, you had two broken ribs, Severus. Now, you can tell me that Sirius Black did this just by pushing you into a wall yesterday all you want, but it just doesn’t add up. Nor does it fit with the timing of your last injuries, which point to an extended period of time during the summer holidays.”

So, he was going to try the severe persona now. Good: Severus was sure that this was way easier to deal with than the worried grandfather act. He looked directly into the blue eyes, deliberately challenging.

Dumbledore didn’t looked away.

“You blacked out because your brawl with Mister Black happened to jar your already broken ribs, I’m sure painfully so, and in your exhausted state it was your body’s way of protecting you.”

Traitorous body! It was shameful enough to be punched into a wall by Black, but to faint in front of everyone on top of it? Severus grit his teeth in frustration.

“Now, Severus, for the last time, can you tell me how you got those injuries, please?”

The boy turned his head away, stubbornly keeping silent.

He heard Dumbledore sigh deeply. The old man stayed there, on the chair at the head of his bed, for some time. After what seemed like hours to Severus, he finally got up and strode outside, without another word.

Severus turned on his back, it was more comfortable on his newly healed ribs, and looked blankly at the ceiling.

What a mess he was in.

 

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The air in the Headmaster’s round office felt exceptionally heavy tonight. A faint bergamot scent filled it anyway and Fawkes looked unnaturally still.

“Yes, we should talk with Miss Evans”, concluded Dumbledore.

“Someone needs to inform Horace, he is, after all, his Head of House”, Minerva added sharply.

“He’s at the Ministry tonight, he won’t be back until tomorrow morning I’m afraid”, explained Dumbledore before seeing the look of complete disbelief on Poppy’s face and adding quickly “it was planned a long time ago and I gave him my authorisation to leave the school on a weekday.”

Poppy didn’t seem pacified at all. :“Well, it’s good to know that even discovering that one of the children he is responsible for is probably badly abused at home won’t keep Horace from his Ministry obligations!” she replied sarcastically.

Dumbledore raised both his hands in an appeasing gesture but Minerva intervened first: “Should I go and fetch Miss Evans then? How should we proceed here?” she asked, looking at Albus, and silently asking for his guidance. He didn’t disappoint.

Immediately taking charge, he commanded: “You, Minerva, will go find Lily Evans. Poppy, you should return to your charge; the boy definitely needs looking after I think. I don’t want him to try to run away and I had the feeling he was contemplating it earlier.” his eyes twinkled briefly before he added “I will ask the House Elves for some more tea and biscuits and we will have the conversation here, in my office, just Minerva, Me and Lily Evans.”

Poppy nodded and was out of the room at once. Minerva stayed behind, looking at Albus’ serene face like she was trying to draw some force from him.

“We will get to the bottom of it Minerva, try not to worry too much. We will make sure the boy is safe from now on. He’s young. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for. We will do better from now on. Now go and fetch his little friend, it’s already very late.”

Albus looked at his Deputy while she exited his office. He needed to be the one keeping a cool and level head here. He reigned in the gnawing fury that festered inside him and cleared his mind. The boy didn’t need another adult furious on his behalf right now; he needed a new situation in life.

Albus was going to provide that.

 

It was some time before one of his delicate looking glass and gold instrument sang airily, letting him know that someone had just passed the gargoyle guarding his office. Fawkes modulated a few beautiful notes, warming Albus from the inside out.

He looked gratefully at his phoenix friend, thanking him for his support.

It wasn’t long until Minerva entered, the red-haired girl in tow. The girl looked a little frightened to be led to the Headmaster office at this late hour. Albus smiled benevolently at her, trying to put her at ease.

“Good evening, Miss Evans, please, do sit with us.” He looked at her while she gingerly sat in one of the hard-backed chairs on the other side of his desk. “Would you care for some tea? I find it always soothes my nerves”

He smiled kindly at Miss Evans. She visibly relaxed a little.

He took the time to arrange a warm cup of tea in front of everyone and to have the girl take a biscuit. Minerva looked at Albus, silently giving him the lead for the needed conversation. He nodded imperceptibly at her before refocusing his attention on the girl.

“Miss Evans, I’m afraid we need your help.”

She startled a little, intrigued now. Albus was glad to see that she didn’t appear apprehensive anymore she was just waiting for him to continue.

“Let me inform you first that Mister Snape is doing very well. He’s recovering in the Hospital Wing right now and should be back in his dormitory in a few days.”

Miss Evans immediately became very animated.

“Oh. Is he all right though? Really all right? It was awful seeing him on the ground not moving like that! When will I be able to see him? I hope Black will pay for it!”

The Headmaster chuckled at her heartfelt defence of her friend. No trace of shyness left at this point. It was a shame they were about to have a more serious conversation here…

“Now, Miss Evans, please hear me out.”

She looked at him again with questioning eyes. Her expression was as open as could be and Albus knew it was the right time; sighing, he dove in.

“Ultimately, even if I do not condone such a behaviour I assure you, Mister Black was not the one responsible for your friend’s stay at the hospital wing.”

Her green eyes widened at that before narrowing. Good, she knew something. He kept digging.

“It appeared that Severus has sustained some serious injuries before returning at school this year. It was the extent of those injuries, aggravated by Mister Black’s outburst, that were responsible for your friend fainting this morning.”

Now she looked worried and angry. It was obvious at this stage that she was aware of her friend’s situation and that she was about to confirm their collective grim hypothesis. Minerva hadn’t moved one hair during the whole exchange; she probably knew too.

“Now, Lily, I want you to take a deep breath and listen to me very carefully”, he paused for dramatic effect, “Do you happen to know something about your friend’s home situation that could help us understand his current state of health?”

He saw her opened her mouth immediately and he stopped her straight away with a raised hand, effectively silencing her. He knew that she was about to deny everything to keep her friend secrets safe. It was always the first reflex of those who cared too much.

“I want you to think very carefully before answering me, Miss Evans.” he paused again, looking at her fidgeting, “I know this is a difficult position we are putting you in; we wouldn’t ask if we didn’t care for Severus. He needs our help. He needs your help.”

He glanced at Minerva, signalling her non-verbally to provide the coup-de-grâce. The Head of Gryffindor moved a little forward, entering her student’s virtual bubble a little to get her attention.

“Miss Evans, this is one of those times when being courageous and true to oneself means doing the right thing instead of the easy thing.”

And Lily Evans burst into tears.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: First things first, but not necessarily in that order

 

Evan Rosier looked at his schoolmate more closely. The half-blood had been very subdued this last month or so and nothing he had tried had cheered the boy up. Snape was currently stretched out on his bed, his eyes fixed ahead with something of an empty quality to them.

It was time for it to stop.

“Snape, have you finished your essay on the Shrinking Solution yet?”

“No.”

“You know it’s due tomorrow, right?”

“Yes, I know.”

Well, was this conversation flowing like a flying snake? Frustrated, Rosier tried another angle.

“You know, I only extended my protection to you because you were really good at honouring your end of our bargain… now I have to say that I don’t really see it anymore, if you know what I mean?”

“Everybody always knows what you mean, Rosier.”

The little shit. He should count himself lucky that nobody was around or Rosier would have had to make him pay for such a provocation.

“Don’t get cute Snape. I’ve tolerated your little moody outbursts for far too long already. I don’t know what’s eating at you but I do know that you’re supposed to be a Slytherin: what do you plan to do about whatever’s bugging you?”

Snape didn’t even look at him. He just replied in that cold voice that was quite impressive for his little frame:

“Get lost, Rosier. As you just extremely clearly explained, we’re not friends. Now, if you need me to lend you some brain cells, then please do ask; if not, let me be.”

Rosier didn’t flinch. He tried his best to imitate the other boy freezing tone and replied:

“Your temper was always your weak spot, half-blood, you should work on that”, before leaving the room slowly.

As soon as the door of the dormitory was closed behind him, Rosier kicked the wall. He would have to act on that now, damn it! This would need careful preparation. Long forgotten were the days when they could simply put Nettle Rash Powder on all the filthy mongrel’s underwear. Now he wouldn’t dare touch anything belonging to the little shit. Avery’s painful first attempt after the underwear stunt had seen to that.

Having now entered the Common Room, Rosier sat by the fire, thinking hard. He was often found deep in thought during the whole following week.

 

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Lily was hurrying up; she didn’t want to be late, not when he had finally agreed to meet with her!

She’d been free since 4pm but he had Ancient Runes until 5pm on Fridays. She had deliberately waited a little so he could have some time to reach the old abandoned classroom in the dungeons before her. It was so ridiculous that he would have chosen that dusty room that they had discovered on their first week back in First Year. She rolled her eyes at her friend and his attempts at symbolism; pompous arse.

This deep, the dungeons were even gloomier than she remembered. She shivered a little and adjusted her cloak in order to keep the dampness at bay.

She really needed to convince him to forgive her today, she missed him so much, it had been weeks! Severus could be so stubborn really; she wanted to kick him in the arse, hard. She stopped and took a deep breath. She needed to be calm; being angry with him wouldn’t help making her pig-headed best friend see reason.

She arrived just on time – no need to be late by one minute and antagonize him further… he was such a sticker for the rules sometimes.

As predicted, he was already there, waiting for her. She entered without a word, closing the door behind her before turning around and looking intently at Severus’s face. He still looked very angry with her and she sighed at the sight.

“Hi.”

Her voice seemed strangely loud in the dank silence of the room.

“Sit down.”

Eyebrows flying to her hair, she went to the chair on her side and obeyed reluctantly, no need to tell him how rude he was being, not yet anyway. She waited for him to begin what was sure to be a very long and tedious conversation.

“Well?”

She looked at him, annoyed that he was apparently expecting something from her first.

“Well what? What do you want from me Severus, I’ve already apologized, twice – even if I’m still convinced that I shouldn't have!”

Well, this wasn’t going as smoothly as she had planned… so much for keeping her cool.

He looked absolutely speechless with outrage, pale and everything. She decided that she wouldn’t let him get away with one of his tantrums; they weren’t eight anymore:

“Did you agree to meet with me after nearly six weeks of giving me the cold shoulder just so you could be mad at me again? Because if this was your plan, well, I don’t have time for such stupid things and I would much prefer to be with my friends celebrating the beginning of a well deserved weekend!”

She was so angry she stood up at once, ready to leave - Severus’s stubbornness be damned - and then, a miracle happened: she felt him grip her arm, holding her in place.

“Please stay…”

Still furious, she freed her arm in one brisk movement and turned again to look at him. All her anger deflated at once: he looked so sad and distraught; her heart couldn’t help but ache. Moved, she immediately hugged him hard, sensing him tense before he relaxed in her embrace and then began to hug her back.

They sighed together; this felt so good!

She was lost in the happiness of having him close again when she became aware that he was quietly crying, nearly without making any sound. She tensed, suddenly very alarmed that he was clinging to her for dear life.

It wasn’t the first time that she had seen him cry of course, not by a long shot, but, until now, he had always taken the “escape” option in such a situation. And now, for the first time in her embrace, he was vulnerable but he wasn’t running away.

He finally pulled away, his face bloated and covered in ugly red patches. Severus had a very spectacular blush.

She smiled at him. He looked at her a few seconds, then he gave her his little smile in return, her smile; it was still tinged with sadness but she was very happy to see it again.

“Best friends?”, he asked, somewhat shyly.

“Always!”, she answered.

The necessary conversation that followed became just another of those things that needed to be done, there were no more worrying consequences attached to it.

Severus understood that Lily did what she did out of love for him, and that she wanted her friend safe and happy. And Lily understood the depth of the fear that Severus had to face – was still facing – when everything he knew about his life was erased in one day.

So, it was a tedious conversation in the end; but they came through and found out that their friendship was even better now that they were on the other side of it.

 

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The staff room was unusually deserted, by humans anyway. A large round table had been put in the centre of the room, as it was always the case for all the staff meetings. Thanks to the House Elves, some as comfortable-looking straight-backed chairs, more practical to put around a table, had replaced the usual comfortable armchairs.

In the middle of all the preparation, stood only Albus Dumbledore, deep in thoughts.

His mind ran in circles as he contemplated the same issues over and over. It was simple; he didn’t want the boy to stay in the current legal limbo. This needed to be dealt with today.

After confirming the gruesome truth from Lily Evans, everyone had done his or her part. Horace had informed Severus that his painful secret was out. They had needed to stun him afterwards but he seemed to be all right now, if even quieter than before. It was to be expected anyway that the boy would be disturbed for some time after such a dramatic disruption of his already very troubled short life. It couldn’t be helped.

The appropriate Ministry department had of course been informed as soon as possible. The father had been visited and ultimately handed up to the Muggle justice system – Albus had had the dubious honour to be the one to handle that part, thankfully accompanied by two designated Aurors.

They didn’t succeed in locating the mother and since Eileen Snape, née Prince, had apparently left her only son to the questionable care of her abusing husband for more than a year already, she was deemed unworthy of her parental rights and deprived of them by contumacy.

Now, the “only” remaining thing to be done to close this sorry affair was to appoint a new guardian. Easier said than done.

The Ministry had delegated all the remaining responsibilities regarding the boy to Albus – his current temporary guardian. They couldn’t honestly care less about the fate of an impoverished half-blood 3rd year Slytherin apparently. Albus already planned on raising the issue of the lack of Family Protection Laws Enforcement Services in Wizarding Britain at the next Wizengamot’s Assembly; but this was a medium term goal at best. Maybe they could learn a little from the Muggles on this particular topic?

He knew he couldn’t really be the boy’s guardian. He sympathized with his current predicament of course, but he was old and very busy, this wouldn’t be right for the child.

He wanted someone who would embrace this responsibility. Someone who could be a real parent in the child’s life and who could provide what he obviously lacked in terms of structure and affection. Someone right, it was as simple as that.

It had been more than a month now since the Ministry had been notified and all the procedures had been ran through thoroughly and in the right order. It was time to contemplate the truth: there was no one; hence today’s meeting…

The remaining members of the Prince family didn’t even want to acknowledge the very existence of a child of Eileen Prince and some lowly Muggle; on the other side, Tobias Snape didn’t have any remaining family – with the exception of a shady cousin not fit at all to take a child in.

A call for testimony had even been scattered all over Cokeworth but no one came forward - with the noticeable exception of the Evans; not even a family friend or something.

Emma and Tom Evans had been really accommodating in giving all the details they could during their interrogation but it was obvious that their daughter had never disclosed to them the extent of Severus’s family issues. They did had their suspicions though, especially Mrs Evans.

He would be damned if he, the Great Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, couldn’t find a perfect guardian for one of his students who deserved something better out of life than the likes of his first thirteen years.

He was pulled out of his dark thoughts by one of the Hogwarts’ elves, standing in front of him and looking anxious; he was called Tidy if his memory was right.

“Headmaster Sir, Tidy needs to know what the good Professors will want to eat for the important meeting tonight Sir?”

“Well, good of you to ask Tidy, thank you. Let me think…”

The little creature looked delighted to have been complimented by the Headmaster.

“A variety of snacks and various hot beverages should do it, I think? It will be after dinner in the Great Hall after all so I do not think anyone will need a real heavy meal, what do you think?”

“Headmaster Sir is really smart Sir! Tidy will explain to the other elves Sir, Sir does not need to worry!”

And with that, he vanished in a slight cracking sound.

Albus took the chair opposite to the door, the one with its back to the fire, and sat down. He needed to be ready for the discussion he was planning to lead. He let his thoughts arrange themselves in some semblance of order while he began to wait.

 

Albus knew it was her before the door even began to open. Minerva was the first to arrive for the meeting, as she often was. She also didn’t beat around the bush:

“Good evening Albus. Now, can you maybe lift the mystery and tell me what this is about?”

He sighed. He should have known that she would be irritated by the secrecy. He just couldn’t help himself; it was his little personal vice.

“Please Minerva, take a sit. You will know as soon as the others have joined us.”

“And who had also been invited to this little party, if I may ask?”

“Only the Head of Houses and Poppy. Don’t look at me like that Minerva; I need your help with something of a delicate matter. Please, sit and trust me a little, you will know soon enough.”

She did as asked but didn’t say another word until the arrival of her colleagues.

They showed themselves in a quick row. Poppy first, swiftly followed by Pomona and Filius and then, five minutes late, Horace.

Everyone greeted everyone else happily for a moment, before Albus stood up and raised one hand in a call for their attention. They immediately fell silent, the mechanic as smooth as a well oiled engine. Once he was sure he had their full attention, Albus began:

“Thank you for joining me tonight my friends, I’m very happy to see you all in the privacy of the staff-room instead of the usual very public display of Great Hall dinners. It has been too long.”

Minerva coughed a little too loudly for it to be an accident. He smiled and took the hint, cutting to the chase:

“I won’t keep you on your toes any longer. I need your help tonight concerning Severus’ Snape current situation.”

A deafening silence fell in the room for a full minute, and then, they all began to talk at the same time. When a semblance of order finally reinstalled itself, Pomona was the first to speak:

“I thought it was all dealt with now, the poor boy won’t be returning to his father I hope?”

“Not at all, not at all my dear Pomona…”

Horace interrupted him:

“Then, what can we do for the Snape boy, Headmaster?”

“Has something new happened to him, Albus? He’s a little behind in my class at the moment but nothing too worrying given the circumstances surely?” added the Head of Ravenclaw in his flute-like voice.

He sighed again, no need to prolong the ordeal, he needed someone and those were the most suitable people that he also happened to trust with his life.

“To be brutally honest: he needs a guardian, a real one.”

At once, all Hell broke loose.

In the end, it took nearly an hour of shameful excuses and shifty looks, but, and he always knew it would eventually come to this, they finally agreed on someone.

Pomona argued that she had always been too soft on her nephews and nieces and that she wouldn’t be any good at raising such a troubled child.

Filius was deemed more interested in pursuing Knowledge than trivial practicalities like feeding and clothing a teenager.

Poppy was always on call for St Mungo, when she wasn’t attending students at the school, and didn’t have the time for such a responsibility.

Horace was never really considered, let’s be honest.

In conclusion, and even if it wouldn’t be official for some time yet, Minerva McGonagall looked anything but happy at having just acquired a thirteen year-old ward.

 

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“A full month?! Surely this is impossible!” exclaimed James loudly”

Remus immediately took up his role of “reasonable one among the Marauders”:

“Quiet! We don’t need a Prefect interruption now! Not after yesterday…and the day before that…”

Several floating candles – courtesy of Sirius who was very good at Charms – airily illuminated the 3rd Years Gryffindor dormitory. The four boys were sitting in a rough circle in the centre of it, looking very comfortable on the thick maroon carpet.

A very big and dusty-looking grimoire was opened between them – courtesy of James’ Invisibility Cloak without which they couldn’t have fetched it in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library.

Remus bent forward in order to take a look at the outrageous instructions.

“Well, it does say that the mandrake leaf should stay in the mouth of the “aspirant” for an entire Moon cycle…”

“More precisely full Moon to full Moon”, added Sirius, frowning.

“Morgana! Have you seen those examples of permanent half-animal, half-human mutations?”, asked Peter while pointing at the gruesome illustrations, shivering a little.

James laughed loudly; all need to be quiet already forgotten.

“You would definitely look better with a piggy tail Pete! What about a graphorn’s horn on me, though?”

He then began to imitate, very badly, the graphorn’s call.

They couldn’t help it, they were all laughing helplessly in a matter of seconds. Remus was the first to be able to breathe again:

“You couldn’t be a graphorn anyway James, animagi are always non-magical creatures only, remember?”

Sirius tapped him on the back gently while advising in a mocked-stern tone:

“Now Moony, you’re always too serious.”

“No, you’re too Sirius!” said James immediately.

They all laughed again, even if it was the millionth time that James did this particular cheesy pun, until Peter added:

“I’m sure Snape would become a slimy snake!”

Sobering at once, Sirius replied:

“Merlin’s pants! What he’s got to do with anything Peter? If I didn’t know better I would think you’re in love with the slimy git”

Sensing the trouble, Remus swiftly diverted the conversation:

“We don’t need to think about the mandrake leaf yet I think, we should work on the potion first, don't you reckon?”

James turned the spell-book toward himself to read the part Remus was talking about.

“Yes… I think it’s a plan comrades!”

He then proceeded to provide three butterbeer bottles and some treacle tarts out of nowhere, before adding joyously:

“To the Marauders! May we become glorious animagi to spice out our legendary Premium Pranks Repertoire my friends!”, he paused dramatically and then concluded with a little bow: ”and to Moony, our pet werewolf who won’t have to taste Mandrake for a month, the lucky bastard!”

They happily toasted to that.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Endure the presence of the caterpillar

Minerva was looking blankly ahead. She had been sitting in her office for two hours now and the pile of 4th Years essays wasn’t decreasing at all. She just couldn’t stop her brain going round in circles about her new circumstances. How could she be his guardian? Minerva didn’t know anything about children for Merlin’s sake!

She attempted to smother the little voice answering traitorously that she had been a professor in a boarding school for years now.

It just wasn’t the same – not at all!

Shame filled her as well. While she was feeling sympathetic for the boy’s living conditions – learning the gruesome details had been horrifying to say the least – she just couldn’t help thinking that she didn’t even like Severus Snape. Not at all. Knowing what she did now, Minerva should like him… but she just couldn’t force herself to like someone she didn’t, even a child.

The supreme irony was that Filius, Pomona, and especially Horace were congratulating her on the brilliance of her future ward. It was funny that, her being the Transfiguration Professor, he was good enough but absolutely no genius at Transfiguration. Not on the same level as Potter or Black for example.

Most telling of the entire situation was the face that everyone focused on his intelligence rather than any other aspect. It seemed to Minerva that it was a poor attempt to hide that there was little else on which to compliment the boy. The staff could at least agree on disliking Severus Snape.

He’s thirteen she reminded herself; a child. Surely, a thirteen-year-old boy deserved better than one of them as a guardian? She truly felt like a terrible person and the guilt ate at her. Adding to the weight of her new responsibility.

It wasn’t official yet. The boy hadn’t been told and wouldn’t be immediately. Needless to say, Albus wanted her to do it. Minerva just couldn’t see how to inform the Snape boy – Severus, she should call him Severus - that she would be his guardian as soon as the paperwork would be in order.

Merlin, no one had even asked him if he had a preference or anything. They simply lacked any other options at this time.

 

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Filius Flitwick had been a professor for years now, one of the advantages of which was that he could easily explain to Third Years Slytherins and Gryffindors the differences between Cheering Charms and a Laughing Potion while letting his mind wander on others things.

Today, said other things was, in fact, one of his students. One sitting in this very class, actually.

“Now”, he added automatically with all the practice of said years, “please, practice the Cheering Charm with your partner”.

A collective enthusiastic buzz took over the classroom. It was one of the laws of the Universe: all students of every age preferred the practical part of the lesson.

He frowned a little, seeing Sirius Black using a perfectly executed Levitating Charm on a little vial and tipping it over Severus Snape’s head, unseen by the Slytherin. Seeing that nothing untoward happened for several minutes after the little trick, he decided to say nothing this time. Keeping the Marauders – as they had apparently chosen to call themselves – under his sharp eye until the end of the lesson. Soon he’d forgotten the incident entirely.

His face a study in concentration, the Snape boy absentmindedly scratched the top of his head while trying to do the correct wand movement. Lily Evans thoughts seemed to run in the same vein as her Professor since she began to laugh at innocently at her partner.

Frowning, he replied in a voice too low for Filius to hear. Whatever he said only caused Lily to laugh harder.

Well, it was good that those two were talking again. It had been a little worrying to see the boy alone for weeks. Filius hadn’t noticed before, but Severus seemed to talk with only Lily Evans.

Filius continued walking around his students’ desks seemingly at random, but purposefully drawing nearer to the two students he had been watching. Lily was still laughing and he began to smile without realizing it.

“Stop being so twitchy Sev! Look, just like that.”

And she demonstrated the correct wand gesture perfectly.

“That’s exactly what I am doing!” cried the boy, apparently annoyed.

“Don’t be a jerk just because I did it before you, you’re always better than me, let me beat you in Charms sometimes, grumpy!”

He mumbled a little under his breath and Lily laughed again, deepening the frown on her friend’s face.

What could the girl get from such a strange friendship? As if the universe was trying to enlighten the Charms Professor, the boy let a very small smile touch the corner of his lips at Lily’s antics – she was still laughing at him.

Filius Flitwick had the sudden certitude that he was observing a the rarest of phenomenon and that, had the boy seen he was being watched, he wouldn’t have let anyone see this facet of his personality.

“Show me again, please Lily?”

His voice was so gentle that it struck something deep within Filius’ chest.

“Like that Sev, you just need to do it more fluidly, I don’t know, think that you’re stirring one of your potions maybe? You’re always so graceful behind a cauldron!”

Real unaltered awe filled the girl’s voice.

The Snape boy looked in her eyes and smiled, a real, beaming smile. Then he focused again and did the gesture perfectly, sending the girl into hilarity again. Spelled induced hilarity this time.

Seeing that he had overdone it, the boy frowned and then reversed part of the effect of his spell, adapting the incantation and wand gesture minutely. It was truly impressive and the boy did it as an immediate reaction to his first mistake, without any planning. Lily stopped laughing, an air of pure contentment spreading on her face.

“10 points to Slytherin, Mister Snape”

The Snape boy startled at that, surprise written all over his young face.

The Professor didn’t know what made him give that many points but his mouth made the decision for him. Maybe they were more for the rare smile than for the brilliant reversing spell?

He would be sure to tell Minerva of the little scene. She’d been so worried about taking the boy as her responsibility… Filius’s thoughts were interrupted by Snape’s voice again. The boy sounded excited this time, even if he successfully managed to keep his voice low.

“Lily, did you know that Cheering Charms were invented by Felix Summerbee in the 1400’s? Some historians think that it was at least two hundred years later but I tend to approve the first hypothesis. After all, there are countless eyewitnesses in several cases where this charm seemed to have been used!”

Filius smiled. He quite agreed with the child. Truly, he didn’t know if it could be chalked up to the boy’s eventual status as Minerva’s ward but his views on the Snape boy seemed to have shifted a little. It was strange.

He wondered how Minerva would manage such a boy. One thing was sure: it would be interesting to watch: they were both strong-headed and wasn’t he the only First Year in Hogwarts memory to have unsettled Minerva’s McGonagall? Interesting indeed!

He just hoped she would give the child a chance. Surely, part of his prickly behaviour so far was due to his horrible background? He was thirteen; there was still hope.

Filius would make sure to discuss the needs of such advanced students with Minerva. The child could have been a Ravenclaw on this account and Filius felt entirely qualified to lead this discussion on the boy’s behalf with his friend and colleague. All the signs of a child needing extra stimulation to avoid boredom in the classroom were definitely there.

 

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Walking around the unusually warm Potions classroom, Professor Horace Slughorn watched his Third Years with joy. Noting a few promising personalities, he delighted in the good sampling within this class.

Potter, for example, while average in Potions, was sharp and charming. He had that je ne sais quoi that told the Potions Professor the boy could go far, Horace was sure of it. The Black boy now… he wasn’t much either in the subtle art of brewing but with his cold, effortless beauty and magnetism, he embodied the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Walburga could well think what she wanted; her first-born was the Pureblood elite spawn from head to toes.

His Slytherins weren’t left behind either. Evan Rosier, for example, was a pure product of his House. Smart and cunning he was seemingly always three moves ahead of everyone. Charming, cold, and thoughtful. Horace could already see the man he would become: at ease with political power, the kind of man someone should have on his side.

Lily. Of course, he was quite partial to Lily Evans but, well, weren’t they all? She was well versed in his subject and so beautiful, the very embodiment of light. Her gentle intelligence and mixture of laughter and loyalty directly contrasted her to the likes of Evan Rosier. In true Gryffindor fashion, subtly didn’t suit Ms Evans, and not even the most foolish boys in her House of Fools would have tried to go against her when her mind was set.

And her eyes were just like her.

All the Professors liked Lily Evans. She was the darling of Gryffindor House.

Thinking of Lily always brought the Snape boy to mind. Horace was quite, hmmm… undecided about this one. And if Horace Slughorn was good at one thing – Potions apart – it was assessing a child’s potential. Usually, his mind was made mid-second year, at the latest.

The Snape boy remained the exception and, frankly, it annoyed Horace that he was such a mystery. On the one hand, he was a true genius in Potions. Horace could easily say that never in all his long life had he encountered someone with such a deep understanding of the fragile art of Potions, and at such a young age too. Severus Snape exhibited the kind of intuitive genius that could revolutionize a field. It had been obvious since his first week at Hogwarts.

It should have been very easy to put this child in Horace’s “very promising” box.

But it wasn’t. How could a child with such hostility and darkness pouring from him ever achieve such a future?

“Sirius!”

Remus Lupin’ voice pulled Horace from his reverie. “What is it, Mister Lupin?”

The cauldron in front of the two boys was boiling vividly now, and a deep electric orange colour was spreading inside it. Not a good sign that…

The deafening BANG of said cauldron as it violently exploded, put an end to the lesson.

The Professor had just enough time to conjure a shield around the unstable liquid while pushing the boys out of the way.

 

Four hours later, while sitting in his armchair nursing a second degree burn, Horace Slughorn concluded that yes: Black, Potter and their little group of delinquents were indeed promising, but also rather annoying.

Maybe Minerva was luckier than they all thought, it could have been worse: she could have become Sirius Black’s guardian!

And, while Severus Snape was not personable, he was some kind of dark genius. With Minerva’s guidance, maybe something good could finally come out of it all. It was time someone did something to ensure the boy’s aptitudes would be useful to future society.

In the Potions Professor’s opinion, such an arrangement would go a long way in classifying Snape into one of Horace’s predetermined little boxes. Wouldn’t it? The latest development involving Minerva, allowed him to see something brighter in the child’s future. Definitely worth some effort on his part.

He was even contemplating having him join the Slug Club someday…

 

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“Lily! I don’t care if he’s just not good at it! Just tell him to be polite at least, would you?!”

Alice Waterhouse was VERY annoyed with her friend right now.

“Just let him calm down a little Alice, you know how Sev is… he doesn’t mean it”

Did she really think so?

“Lily, you’re so delusional when it comes to that… to that…”

“Be very careful of how you end your sentence, it’s my best friend you’re talking about right now.”

“I thought I was your best friend!”

Their voices rose without the two girls being aware of it, until:

“Miss Evans, Miss Waterhouse, would you care to share with the rest of us what is so interesting that it prevents you from paying attention to my instructions?”

Damn. McGonagall didn’t look amused. Not at all.

To add to Alice’s bad day, she could see Severus Snape smirking at them. The little shit; she was so fed up with him manipulating Lily’s kindness like that and mocking everyone around with his irritating air of cold superiority.

“I’m sorry Professor”, answered Lily sweetly, “it won’t happen again”.

Talking about manipulation…

McGonagall look at them both in turn with her most severe face and nodded discreetly before going away towards other students. It had been too close!

“Hey, Waterhouse!”

“What is it this time, Black?”

The handsome boy winked playfully at her while waiting for McGonagall to pass between their desks, and then resumed:

“Don’t worry about Snivellus, we’re taking care of it, greasy hair and all!” he laughed wholeheartedly.

His little friends seemed to find his words funnier than they appeared to be. They were definitely plotting something those four… Well, she didn’t always approve but the damn snake deserved it, whatever it was that was coming for him!

“Don’t you dare do something to Severus, Black! You and your little bullies friends are just disgusting!”, Lily hissed.

Before Sirius Black could respond, the Professor intervened again:

“Miss Evans, please do remain behind at the end of this class, we will have a little discussion if you don’t mind? 5 points from Gryffindor.”

Alice groaned. Well, what was done was done. She turned to look at her friend:

“If we work a little maybe we can earn those points back before the end of the period?”

“Yes, okay…”, answered Lily, a little defeated.

Alice took one last look at the reason for their previous argument. He was leaning over his book with that characteristic slouch. He was the only student without a partner as there were an odd number of students in third year Slytherins.

Turning her head to go back to her book and to Lily, Alice saw something very odd: McGonagall was looking intently at Snape with a strange expression on her face. It was an odd mix of worry, tenderness and a touch of something like shame or maybe even revulsion, or both?

The severe Professor was usually so guarded that Alice felt quite shaken by her observation.

“Alice! Can you focus a little please? This teapot won’t change into a tortoise by itself!”

Alice briefly thought that Lily was a little full of herself to tell her off for being distracted after she just lost them 5 points… She turned her attention back to her book and to the task at hand.

 

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“You can go. Do not forget to learn all the rules of inanimate to animate transfiguration by Tuesday next and I want three rolls of parchment on the use of Telma’s Laws in Transfiguration with animals for Friday next week!”

The noise of a classroom full of students throwing books, quills, and parchment alike in their bags as quickly as possible, was deafening after the tranquillity of the lesson.

“Miss Evans!”, Minerva tried to be heard over the racket, “don’t forget to stay behind for our little chat. Dinner or whatever you were running to will have to wait”

She saw the girl sigh and then resuming putting her things in her bag at a slower pace.

Minerva took a deep breath. She needed to talk to Evans first; there was no other way. Surely the girl was the key to understanding the boy a little and she was painfully aware that she would need all the information at her disposal before breaking the news to him.

She watched the girl as she zipped her bag – a leather muggle backpack – and slowly advanced towards the front of the room. She stopped walking when standing a few steps in front of her Professor.

“You wanted to see me, Professor McGonagall?”

She looked appropriately remorseful.

“What was that all about earlier, Miss Evans? You’ve not accustomed me to such behaviour in my classroom?”

“It was nothing really, I’m sorry Professor, I should have paid better attention to the lesson.”

“Yes, you should have. Do I need to remind you of all that could go wrong while attempting any work of Transfiguration, Miss Evans?”

The girl lowered her head, looking contrite.

Minerva lectured her for a whole ten minutes on the dangers of doing magic in general and Transfiguration especially without being absolutely focused. She was so used to doing this speech that the rest of her mind turned off slightly, already dreading the next discussion; the one that was the real reason for asking the girl to come and see her at the end of the lesson.

Silence fell again in the room at the end of the lecture.

Her student was beginning to fidget slightly, probably wondering if she was dismissed, when Minerva finally gathered her courage:

“I wanted to talk to you about another matter too, Miss Evans, would you mind following me to my office?”

The girl’s eyes were so full of fear that the Professor quickly added:

“You’re not in trouble! Not at all. I just need your… insight on a delicate matter, so to speak. Have you got some time to discuss this over tea maybe, Miss Evans?”

Lily looked reassured at that and nodded before following her Transfiguration Professor.

They walked silently in the corridor before reaching Minerva McGonagall’s office. She gestured to the girl to sit herself on the overstuffed armchair on the other side of her desk and took her usual chair.

Minerva conjured some tea and took the time to silently pour them both a cup, offering sugar and cream to her student. The heady fragrance of Earl Grey filled the room. When they both appeared to be sitting calmly with a warm cuppa before them, she sipped a mouthful of her tea – very little milk and one sugar – before studying Lily Evans’ face.

The girl looked intrigued now, but no longer worried.

“Take a biscuit, Miss Evans… How long have you been friends with Severus Snape? ?”

The girl immediately looked guarded again, a wave of protectiveness showing instantly on her young face.

“Is he in trouble then?”

“Not at all, not at all.”, Minerva quickly said. And then, deciding to be straightforward about this conversation, she added: “I just wanted to assess how well you two know each other Lily, that’s all.”

“We live nearby, Severus and I. Well, in the same little town but Severus is from… not a nice neighbourhood. I met him when I was around 8 or 9 I think. I was in the playground near my home, playing with my big sister Petunia. He was the one who told me I was a witch.”

Minerva frowned at that.

“Are you sure he’s not in trouble Professor?”

She seemed worried for her friend and Minerva decided to not let the girl hang any longer.

“He’s not in trouble Miss Evans, don’t worry. The thing is, as I’m sure you already know, Severus found himself in the heart of some commotion lately and I know you were instrumental in helping the Headmaster shed some light on his true home situation. It was very responsible of you, and I don’t think I had the chance to commend you for that. I know it was not an easy situation to be in, especially for a young girl who seems to dearly care for her friend.”

She took one more sip of her tea before continuing:

“I’m sure you know that Severus will need a new guardian, an adult who will be responsible for his well being and who will fulfil the role his parents so obviously have not.”

Lily’s face lightened at that. Good, the girl didn’t seem to share her friend view on the removal of the parents from the picture. To be honest, the Professor didn’t think the boy would miss the parents themselves. His anger was certainly more out of fear of change than anything else. She was interrupted in her musing by Lily’s voice:

“It’s good that something is done at last… I was SO worried about him. I don’t think he would have survived another summer there. He never told but I could always see.”

Minerva’s heart constricted at the girl’s soft and kind voice. She looked relieved; she must have been very worried indeed.

“Who will be his guardian Professor? Do I know them?”

Here we are, thought Minerva. She took a big breath, and jumped:

“I will be”.

The Professor didn’t know what she had expected but it sure had not been the look of straightforward joy that exploded on her student face.

“Really? Oh, that’s such good news!!! Oh, I can’t wait to see Severus’s face, the Head of Gryffindor? He will never hear the end of it! Thank you so much Professor!” Thank you thank you thank you…”

“Well, I hope your friend will be as happy as you seem to be”

Minerva smiled kindly at the girl. It was good to see that someone trusted her so much with the task. More than she trusted herself, that was for sure.

The girl seemed then to grow serious again.

“He’s a good boy, you know, Professor, I don’t understand why people don’t see that…”

Now she just looked slightly sad. Minerva was beginning to feel a little ashamed again… Had the girl somehow sensed her disliked of the Snape boy? Well, she had been in her Slytherin/Gryffindor lesson for more than two years now… of course Lily had sensed it!

“That’s why I asked you to come and chat with me, Miss Evans. I feel like you’re definitely the expert on the mystery that is Severus Snape.”

 

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Albus Dumbledore looked intently at his Deputy while she slowly entered his office. She looked somewhat exhausted.

Fawkes greeted her with a few flute-like notes that she didn’t seem to hear.

“Are you alright Minerva? Has something happened?”

She startled a little at hearing his voice but promptly refocused her attention on her friend.

“Not at all, not at all Albus.”

“You didn’t tell him, did you?”

“No…”

“You can’t put it off forever Minerva… The child needs to know.”

“Don’t you think I know that!”, she exclaimed brusquely, “I just don’t know how to break the news…”, she paused and then looked the Headmaster in the eyes, “I did have a very interesting conversation with Lily Evans about the Snape Boy today…”

Dumbledore frowned a little at that. She should stop calling him “the Snape boy” now, it didn’t sound right for her to keep calling her ward that. He was about to tell her as much when she interrupted him:

“She really likes him Albus…”

The Headmaster’s heart missed a beat at her tone. She was turning her hands viciously and she sounded distressed. He chose a new strategy to reassure his friend:

“I had a very interesting conversation with Filius today, you know?”

“What does it have to do with anything!”

Good, she was annoyed with him. He smiled: one hundred per cent aware that it was infuriating her even more.

“Actually, it was about your ward Minerva”.

She sighed.

“What did he do this time?”

Of course, she would think he had misbehaved somehow. Dumbledore thought briefly at this instant that they had all been guilty of this sort of “jumping to conclusions” with this boy. Not anymore.

“Oh, he didn’t do anything my dear. Have you ever tried to observe him when he is interacting with Miss Evans?”, no answer, “According to Filius, it was a very eye-opening experience. Maybe you should try it.”

He smiled genially at her, eyes twinkling madly.

She seemed to think about it for a moment. Then a tiny smile appeared in the corner of her mouth… The kind so miniscule that only an old friend would have been able to spot it.

This was the exact moment Albus Dumbledore knew

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: Sarcasm: 404 not found

Severus was hysterically rubbing his hair under the shower spray; nothing seemed to work. He was crying hard by now, making breathing becoming more difficult by the minute – what with all the bubbles, the sobs and, of course, the hot steam in the shower cubicle.

It wasn’t stopping. It seemed like hours since he had noticed something wrong with his hair. If anything, the bubbles seemed even larger now. His scalp was becoming to feel raw and painful but he didn’t stop.

Why always him?!

 

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Minerva McGonagall was fidgeting. It was an extremely rare spectacle to see the austere Transfiguration Professor showing anything else than appropriate decorum at the adult table in the Great Hall.

A careful observer would have noticed something else that was indeed very strange; the Gryffindor Head of House was showing an unusual amount of interest toward the Slytherin table tonight. She was trying to conceal it but it was undeniable: her gaze kept looking at the snakes again and again.

It was the Headmaster who stopped the madness when he interrupted her between her careful looks at the Slytherin table and some chocolate cake:

“Now, calm down Minerva, I’m sure your charge will soon be among us.”

She looked anxiously at him while answering under her breath:

“Half the students are already gone! Where is he? He’d better not be in some kind of trouble again!”

Albus Dumbledore, clearly invested in the whole situation, had come up with a plan to help his friend have the dreaded conversation with her new ward. Tonight they were going to tell him that Minerva would be his new guardian.

They had decided that the Head of Gryffindor would intercept the surly boy after dinner that night and ask him to come to her office for a little talk. The Headmaster would be present during the discussion, as a support to his old friend as well as to defuse any potential tension between the two. It was a sound plan… until the student in question decided not to show up at dinnertime!

“You want to tell him tonight, don’t you?” enquired Pomona Sprout, adding some wine in Minerva’s cup to soothe her nerves. She had been listening to the conversation without really trying to hide it. Sitting on the other side of McGonagall, she’d become tired of all the fidgeting.

“It was what had been decided, but the little menace isn’t here!”

The panic was showing under the false accusatory underline of Minerva’s tone, it was time to take some action before she lost her resolve.

“Do you want me to ask Horace to go search for the boy in the Slytherin dormitories?”, asked Albus, calmly.

“I don’t know…”

They looked at the Potions Professor, who was sitting on the other side of Dumbledore’s and currently engrossed in an animated discussion with Silvanus Kettleburn.

“Or you could go and fetch him yourself Minerva… he’s yours now after all!” said Pomona, kindly.

Minerva only groaned, looking defeated.

After a little pause, she resigned herself and told the other two:

“I should go shouldn’t I?”

Pomona patted her hand softly. “I could come with you if you need me,” she offered. “The Headmaster can go and wait for us in your office.”

“And what if he isn’t in Slytherin quarters? It’s a big castle!”

Pomona knew that Minerva was stalling, she apparently couldn’t help herself.

“Follow me Minerva, we will go together and Albus will join you in your office when we will have located the child!”

Still a little unsure, Minerva McGonagall had no choice but to follow her colleague and friend to the dungeons. It was a start.

 

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Severus had no tears left. He was still scrubbing his scalp like a mad man, hyperventilating. He wondered briefly what the other Slytherin boys would think, finding him in the showers having suffocated to death. He nearly laughed in a fit of hysteria.

Some distant part of him registered that his scalp was really hurting now. He kept scrubbing anyway.

 

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Pomona looked at Minerva with some concern. Minerva looked tired and worried. She really needed to tell the boy once and for all! Surely it wouldn’t be as ghastly as she imagined it would be?

They entered the Slytherin Common Room together. As it was still early, there weren’t many students hanging around. All the children stopped what they were doing seeing the Head of Hufflepuff and the Head of Gryffindor entering their Common Room; it wasn’t unheard of, but it was still uncommon enough to give them pause.

“Trevor!”, called Pomona, “come here please”

The Head Boy obeyed without question.

“What can I do for you, Professors? I hope nothing too serious has you two coming in our cosy Common Room?”

The Herbology Professor smiled kindly at him and reassured him immediately:

“Not at all child, we are just looking for Severus Snape, do you happen to know where we could find him?”

Terence Trevor’s face immediately showed some concern. Minerva quickly added:

“He’s not in trouble Mister Trevor; we just need to discuss something with him and he didn’t show up in the Great Hall for Dinner tonight.”

The boy still looked a little suspicious but he tried to help anyway:

“I haven’t seen him for some time,” he paused, “actually, I’m not sure I saw him exiting his dorm after going there at the end of his last lesson of the day…”

He seemed to think about it a little before adding:

“Do you want me to show you the Third Years boys’ dorm?”

“Yes please Terence, thank you for your help, 5 points to Slytherin!”, came Pomona’s answer.

“Thank you Professor!”, the boy beamed.

They followed him swiftly through a corridor. He stopped in front of the fourth door on the right and knocked on the dark wood. No answer. Trevor knocked again, louder this time. They waited a little but still got no answer at all.

Minerva looked anxiously at Pomona. They exchanged a “what now?” look; finally, Pomona addressed the Head Boy again:

“You can go back to whatever you were doing before we interrupted you Trevor; thanks again for your help.”

The boy looked at them both, his eyes full of silent questions before finally nodding and heading back to the Common Room.

“Should we enter now?”, asked Pomona, a hesitant look on her face for the first time of the evening.

Minerva felt her resolve strengthen in front of this new difficulty.

“Of course.”

She then called loudly enough to get past the door:

“Mister Snape? Are you in there?”

No answer again. She waited a little before adding:

“Mister Snape, we’re coming through!”

They pushed the door and entered the dormitory.

The first thing Minerva noted was that some of those boys needed to be reminded some rules about keeping a dormitory clean and tidy!

She looked at each bed in turn and noticed that two of the four were in fact quite tidy. The two other though… she would have to talk to Horace about it. Those boys needed to learn some basic manners!

Pomona suddenly interrupted her musing:

“I think he has the bed near the window, I recognize the boy’ scarf.”

Indeed, an old-fashioned Slytherin scarf was neatly folded on the chair near the last bed. Not a lot of students wore this sort of scarfs as they were now out of fashion. Minerva had in fact wore one of those in her own school years; a Gryffindor one of course.

Severus was the only Slytherin that Minerva could remember wearing one now that Pomona had pointed it out. It looked quite battered and thin when so carefully folded.

Minerva had the immediate impression that the boy took a very good care of this old battered scarf… Actually, looking around at his other possessions, she noticed that it was a general impression: old, damaged looking things – only the strict essential – were carefully arranged around his neat and comparatively bare bed. Clearly, the other boys had received a lot of goods from their families to help them personalize their school beds.

This scarf didn’t look like it was at all warm enough anymore for the rude Scottish winter and Minerva felt her heart go out for the boy more sincerely than it had since she had learnt she was to become his guardian.

Looking at his corner of the room, it was suddenly so obvious to Minerva that this child had no one looking after him. For the millionth time that year she wondered how could they have been so blind?

As if to voice her thoughts, Pomona whispered:

“It’s a sad looking little corner, isn’t it?”

Minerva was about to answer to her colleague when Pomona added:

“Is there a shower on? I think I can hear running water. ”

Indeed, now that she had said it…

The two women carefully approached the thick door on the left, opposite the beds. They tried again to knock and then call out through it. And once more, no answer was to be heard. They exchanged a look.

What choice did they have? Without saying a word, they silently agreed and Pomona pushed the door open.

A thick cloud of hot steam entering their lungs immediately assaulted them. There was definitely a shower turned on! They easily identified the cubicle from within which the steam came from and Minerva took immediate action, asking curtly:

“Mister Snape! Are you in there?”

They distinctly heard a gasp inside. Maybe they wouldn’t have to search the entire castle in the end…

“Severus, dear”, tried Pomona, “it seems like you’ve been in there for quite a long time if I go by the amount of steam, are you alright child?”

The occupant of the cubicle didn’t answer but they could hear heavy breathing inside. Quite worried now, Minerva tried again:

“Mister Snape, I’m going to enter now”

“Don’t!”, came the cry from inside.

Pomona answered immediately:

“If you don’t want us to come inside, please turn the water off now, Severus”

They waited and, sure enough, the sound of the running water stopped.

In the relative silence, it was obvious that the child was breathing really heavily, as if sobbing or panicking. Minerva decided to tread carefully:

“Thank you Severus. Do you have some kind of towel in there?”

The two women waited patiently and in silence. Having both been professors in a magical boarding School for so long, nothing could surprise them anymore; even Minerva McGonagall – who could come off as a little austere and stiff – knew how to handle a surprising amount of delicate teen-related situations.

“Yeah… yes I have one”, a soft whisper finally answered.

“Now, listen carefully Severus, please, take your towel and wrap yourself inside. Is it big enough to do that?”

They didn’t have to wait as long this time before the tiny voice bounced back at them:

“Yes Professor, it is.”

“Then, you do that and, once you’re ready, please open the door. All right?”

Minerva was trying very hard to keep her voice low and level in order not to scare the boy who still sounded very distressed. She was wondering what could turn the usually so collected Slytherin into this panicked mess.

“Yes professor.”

He already sounded more like himself.

They heard some rustling inside and then some deep breathing, as if the child was trying to take control back. Minerva was about to talk again but Pomona gestured for her to keep silent a little more.

They waited again.

After what seemed like an eternity to Minerva, the boy’s breath seemed to catch a little before he finally said under his voice:

“I’m coming out now”

He sounded as if he was gathering all his strength to jump in some deep abyss.

They heard the door unlock and the handle began to move. And then, there he was, Severus Snape, the Slytherin terror, all long bones and pale angular face, tightly wrapped in a white Hogwarts’ towel.

His hair was full of big pink bubbles for some reason and the bubbles movement seemed quite unnatural – it definitely looked like some kind of jinx or the result of a potion. The sight would have been funny except for the definitely too thin and too pale teenager under the bubbles, looking very vulnerable.

“What do we have there…”, murmured Minerva while gesturing to the boy to come closer.

He looked… ashamed actually. As soon as she realized it, Minerva frowned and asked:

“What happened Mister Snape?”

The boy shrank a little under her gaze before stuttering:

“I.. I don’t… don’t know professor… it was itching more and more and then it started bubbling and it won’t stop… it won’t stop!”

His eyes were clearly pleading with her to please make it stop. Her voice became much softer:

“Let me have a look at you, Severus”

He hung his head and took another step toward Minerva.

She quickly and nonverbally casted a general diagnosis on his head. She frowned again and worked quickly on whatever that was. It was quite elaborate for some school children joke. After a few more minutes, she was able to stop the bubbles altogether. It was definitely potion based, but activated by a spell. The potion had already been rinsed off by the long shower, leaving only the jinx to be lifted.

“Here, here, it’s alright now, no more bubbles!”, she said gently.

The boy frantically searched his hair for them, carelessly pulling at it in all direction. Slowly, Minerva took his hands and directed them away from his poor head. It was at this moment that she saw how inflamed his skin was looking. His scalp was very red and she could make out angry scratching.

He obviously had been trying to rinse his head for a very long time, maybe hours.

“Do you know who did this to you?”

She was now in full Professor mode.

Pomona snorted at her question for some reason. Minerva didn’t look away from the boy’s face anyway. He seemed to hesitate a moment before offering:

“I… I don’t know Professor”.

He wasn’t even trying to lie convincingly… She sighed. Was it the moment to push him? At any other time she would have but the reminder of what was still to come between them stopped her before she could continue her enquiry. Punishment would have to wait.

She looked at Pomona then and knew immediately that her friend agreed with her.

“Well, if anything comes back to you, do come and talk to me and we will punish the responsible party. If I happen to learn anything regarding this incident I will inform you of it Mister Snape, ok?”

He seemed a little surprised at that, probably because he wasn’t counting on her letting it go that easily? He finally answered:

“Yes, thank you Professor”.

And he was quite polite for once.

Pomona decided to intervene again:

“Now, hear me out Severus, here is what we will do now: you will go immediately to the Infirmary to see Madam Pomfrey for your scalp. She will treat you. Once you are better, you will immediately go to Professor McGonagall’s office. Can you do that for us?”

Minerva had the distinct impression that the boy didn’t appreciate being talked to as if he were five years old. A small frown creased his brow when he answered:

“Yes, Professor. Hospital Wing and then Professor McGonagall’s office. Can I ask why? Am I in trouble?”

Here it was, this irking tone he always managed to summon. Just enough decorum and politeness to keep him out of trouble but not enough to remove the tone of defiance.

Minerva decided to cut the discussion short at this point:

“Shoo then, and do try to be quick and not wander in the corridors Mister Snape, I will be waiting.”

They looked at his back entering the dormitory and followed. As he obviously needed to dress first, they exited the room and the Slytherin den immediately.

At least they would have some time to tell Albus all about the pink bubbles incident.

Now, they only had to wait a little and The Conversation would soon be done with. That was what Minerva was repeating in her head anyway.

 

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Terence Trevor observed the two professors exiting the Slytherin Common Room, deep in thoughts.

He didn’t know what was going on with that awful Snape boy, but something was definitely up. The two women had been in there for quite a long time and he was very curious about that new development.

Knowledge was power and it was especially true in Slytherin’s House.

He wondered if this was the result of the Rosier boy’s little scheme. The blonde believed he was being subtle but Trevor knew that he was plotting something against the half-blood. Trevor had seen him constantly whispering with other Third Years in the dark corners of the Common Room about it.

The Head-Boy knew it was some sort of revenge, a lesson for the secluded boy, even if he didn’t yet have the whole story. He didn’t like anyone pulling this sort of trick on anyone, though. Bullying was something he deeply loathed.

He swore to himself to keep a closer eye on the Snape boy from now on.

Now, time to get back to those revisions. Those NEWTs wouldn’t get themselves an O without pain on his part…

 

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Severus was now angrier than shaken. If anything, he was so ashamed to have been discovered in such a vulnerable position. Sprout and McGonagall just saw him in only a towel for Merlin’s sake!! He blushed furiously at the memory. Why did he panic that much for some pink bubbles? He was so pathetic.

It was in this state: furious, ashamed and his face covered in angry patches of red blotches, that he finally reached the Hospital Wing.

Poppy was as usual very efficient and didn’t ask too many questions - thank heavens for small mercies! Severus was right as rain in no time. Well, he could have done with a little more stalling this time around…

No need to make it even more painful, he would just have to go and accept his death by humiliation he supposed.

It was in this dark disposition that he took his first step toward his Transfiguration Professor’s office.

It really sucked being him sometimes.

It was only when he reached the door that he stopped suddenly. He could make out voices – plural – inside. Great, public humiliation it was then. Was it still possible to change his mind and go to the Astronomy Tower instead?

He couldn’t resist and silently put his ear against the wood of the door, trying to listen into the conversation inside. Between his frantic heartbeats, he only heard sounds and muffled words but nothing understandable.

He sighed again. Better do it now, no gain in waiting longer… He knocked firmly on the wooden panel. The voices immediately went silent. He took a deep breath just before the door opened by itself.

He tried not to panic when he discovered that, in addition to McGonagall and Sprout, the Headmaster was there too. Great. He hadn’t humiliated himself in front of Dumbledore for how long now? Nearly two years?

He remembered being totally frozen in the entry of the Headmaster office that first time. What was it for again? Oh yes, James Potter and a broken nose. Well, he definitely couldn’t fault his younger self for this one: if the little jerk didn’t deserve it at the time, he certainly did now.

He didn’t know how the hell the shitty Gryffindors succeeded in putting something in his hair without him noticing. It had to be something with a timer or spell activated maybe? He would get to the bottom of it and make them pay. A broken nose would be the last of James fucking Potter worry after that.

Get a grip Severus!

“Mister Snape, please do enter and take a sit with us”, was saying Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling madly.

How he loathed that the old man could terrify him that much while being so genuinely benevolent on the outside. It was like he could feel the hidden raw power lurking behind the doting grandpa persona.

He couldn’t help but shiver a little at the thought.

Choosing to be obedient until he could read the situation better, Severus took a sit next to Sprout – Dumbledore and McGonagall sat on the other side of the mahogany desk.

His attention fixed on Dumbledore; it surprised Severus when Minerva took the lead. Generally when Dumbledore was in the room, Severus expected the older man to take charge. It made him feel unsettled all of a sudden.

“Now Mister Snape”, began McGonagall – at which point both Dumbledore and Sprout coughed up disapprovingly for some reason – “before we begin with the matter at hands, can you maybe explain what happened earlier?”

The damned Marauders, bubbles, fucking panic, and humiliation: that was what happened. Why the hell would he voluntarily prolong the discussion on this shaming subject?

“Well…”, he began dumbly before shutting his mouth again.

Dumbledore, always the good guy, came to his rescue:

“Well indeed Severus. Professors McGonagall and Sprout told me that they found you in the shower, the victim of some bubbles hex perhaps? Do you know what happened? Did someone else do this to you or was it maybe the end result of an experiment gone wrong?”

An experiment? Why the Hell would he try to put some damn pink bubbles on his own head?

Oh.

Well done Dumbledore, way to humiliate him some more; the dumb orphan Slytherin boy trying to rid his greasy hair of the slimy look. Nice story, not pathetic at all.

Somehow, the fact that the Headmaster – whom he couldn’t help but admire grandly even if he scared him a little – could think that he would do something like that crushed his heart in his chest a little. Worse, this meant that even the Headmaster was aware that Severus Snape was a greasy slimy git.

Way to boost someone ego…

He became aware suddenly that they were looking intently at him, waiting for an answer. He tried to say something:

“I didn’t do this to myself I swear!”

He cringed a little: it had come out of his mouth a little more plaintively that he had meant.

“Do you know who did this to you then Severus?”

He wished they wouldn’t use his first name that much, he felt manipulated by it.

“I don’t know”, he answered stubbornly.

They looked like they didn’t believe him. He didn’t care, he might be a pathetic worm, but he was not yet so low as to run to an adult in order to sort out his mess; he knew how to take care of himself.

Leaning forward, Sprout inserted herself into the conversation. “Maybe you can explain then child why you were so distressed over a silly prank?”

He couldn’t help himself and stood up, furious:

“SILLY PRANK?! It wasn’t at all funny! I hate this school, I HATE IT!”

“Now, calm down Mister Snape, no need to scream here.”, McGonagall intervened, calmly.

He was so furious that he nearly missed the reproachful look of the other two at the Mister Snape.

Severus knew he shouldn't lose his composure like that, but he was just tired of it all. He’d been through some very demanding weeks lately. He’d just got Lily back and today had been a long day. He was losing his touch.

Forcing himself to calm down, Severus reigned in his self-control. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“You’re not in trouble here Severus”, added McGonagall more softly, “we are just trying to understand why we found you in such a state, that is all. You’re not at fault and if I find the responsible students I can assure you they will be severely punished for this little stunt.”

Yeah, right.

It took all his effort to keep in the little snort bubbling inside his throat at her comment. Sprout chose that moment to get up and bid them a good night. She disgustingly patted Severus’ arm on her way and he had to summon all his self-control not to flinch at the touch.

She turned around just before leaving:

“Do give something to eat to the child before you begin Minerva, he didn’t come to dinner after all.”

She then proceeded to wink at him – was he losing his mind? – and walked out of the room.

With Sprout now gone, he turned his head toward the other side of the desk again and felt somewhat tiny in front of the remaining adults. It was like there was nobody left on his side, literally.

Dumbledore did a little circle with his hand and tea and sandwiches immediately appeared in the middle of the desk.

“I feel like we could all do with a little snack, don’t you think Professor McGonagall?”, he asked, smiling at Severus all along.

McGonagall seemed to immediately take the hook and they each took one sandwich and a fragile looking cuppa. Dumbledore gestured for him to do the same and he obeyed automatically, like a conditioned puppy.

Only Dumbledore talked – mainly mad nonsense as he often did – while they ate together.

Well, he wouldn’t have admitted it out loud but he was a little hungry now that he was comfortably sat in a warm environment and that his hair had stopped bubbling. He worriedly hoped that it wasn’t some set up to have him lower his guard before striking again? He was so tired of being on edge all the time; he could tell his defences stayed lowered despite his dark thoughts.

Dumbledore took the time to calmly clear the desk up, vanishing all but the teapot, sugar, cream and their cups, before asking:

“Now that we’ve all had something to eat, Professor McGonagall has something that she wishes to tell you Severus. Don’t worry, it isn’t a bad news, it’s kind of the opposite I think and, well, no need to beat around the bushes here: I’m very often right you know”.

And he winked at him. What was it with all the winks tonight? Was this some sort of alternate universe or something?

He was way past worry right now: he was fucking terrified. Like earlier though, the exhaustion deeply rooted into his bones these past few weeks let him with only some sort of profound apathy; even if he was screaming inside. He didn’t move and kept looking at the giant trunk coming for him with its lights growing fast.

“Severus, are you listening?”, enquired McGonagall.

He guessed he surely looked a little distant right now. He wouldn’t have been surprised if his own ghost decided to leave the place and left his body behind at this point.

“Yes, Yes, I’m listening.”

“Good. You know that your parents do not have any authority over you from now on?”

Yes, he knew all about that. It had been banging against the inside of his skull since that dreadful day he decided to faint in front of everyone… He nodded.

“Good. As you’re still a child – don’t look at me like that, Mister Snape, you’re still very much a child and will be for some time too – as you are still a child by law then, you will need a guardian from now on.”

“I thought the Headmaster was my guardian as far as the Ministry knew?”

“Well, that’s right. But it was only until we could find you a more suitable person.”

“I don’t mind keeping it like that… It’s just until I finish school anyway and I can take care of myself during the summer holiday if that is the issue here?”

He turned his head to look at Dumbledore, trying to assess why the old man wanted to get rid of him. He wanted to convince him that he wouldn’t be a burden. He had it all planned out already: he would work during the summer holiday in order to pay for clothes, books and all the mandatory things until he could leave school and get on with his life. Simple.

They didn’t let him expose his plan though, and McGonagall interrupted him before he could even begin to explain it to Dumbledore.

“The Headmaster is a very busy man Severus,” she began, “and it wouldn’t be fair on you to have a guardian not capable of really looking after you.”

What did she mean? And why was she calling him “Severus” tonight? From Sprout it was quite normal but from McGonagall: it definitely sounded wrong. He tried to open his mouth only to be interrupted again:

“That is why we decided that I will be your permanent guardian, beginning tonight if you’re ok with this new arrangement?”

She looked worried. He didn’t know why? What was it she had just said? He didn’t understand and he felt like crying all of a sudden – why did he want to cry? What was happening here?

“Severus, try and calm down please, there is no need to panic, we’re here tonight to discuss all of this with you, we will take the time we need”, Dumbledore’s voice got through the fog in his panicking mind.

He kept breathing deeply. What was it with him and panicking today?

“What did you just say?”, he croaked dumbly.

“I’m your new guardian Severus”, McGonagall repeated softly.

Damn. This was unexpected. Was it some sort of a joke? They looked serious enough. He didn’t understand and his mouth decided to say so:

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s quite simple my boy”, Dumbledore said, “Minerva McGonagall will take all guardianship responsibilities from me, starting tonight.”

“But… but… she’s the Head of Gryffindor!”

He couldn't think of something better at this point.

Were they laughing at him? They were!

“I assure you this is of no consequences regarding our new relationship Severus”, explained McGonagall, smiling at him.

 

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It took nearly two hours, but it was done now. The child had signed the paperwork and he seemed mostly ok when she accompanied him back to his dormitory. She felt strangely weightless.

He didn’t even cry or get angry. Sure, it was clearly a bit of a shock for him at first but once he had got his head around the fact, they had discussed the new arrangement quite calmly. He didn’t ask a lot of questions but she guessed that would come later?

They had explained everything: that she was acting as a parent from now on and as such he should feel free to come to her should he need something, anything. That she would provide for him from now on. That he would have a room in her quarter for those times during holidays when she would still inhabit them. That he would come with her should she leave the castle in the summer.

Albus even told him that Lily Evans already knew but had been asked to keep it to herself until they could have this discussion between the three of them first.

She reflected that she had seen new facets of Severus Snape tonight. She couldn’t get rid of his thin frame, wrapped in a towel, all wet and shaking. He had looked unusually vulnerable. It had somehow driven his young age home for Minerva.

He definitely needed a good feeding too; she could see now what Poppy had been raving about those past weeks.

She wondered briefly, before going to sleep that night, what she would have thought should she had known a year ago of this unexpected turn of events.

Well, no need to deny it now, she was officially Severus Snape Guardian: Merlin helps them all!

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Shopping is cheaper than therapy


 

What had his life become? Seriously: of all the crazy things that could happen… Severus Snape was waiting in front of Minerva McGonagall’s office door – his new GUARDIAN – to go shopping of all things. SHOPPING. Had he died? Maybe he had died and this was Hell. Tobias did kill him in the end; this was the only logical explanation.

A group of girls – Second Year Gryffindor – walked passed him in the corridor, not even bothering to hide their stares. Everybody knew about it now – everyone in the whole damned castle! And the fact that he was standing like an idiot in front of McGonagall’s office surely wouldn’t help.

Severus looked at the little bit of paper he had received by owl at breakfast to check the time again: she was five minutes late already. He wished she would hurry up; he felt like everybody was watching him.

He was so accustomed to melt into the wallpaper that all this attention was getting on his nerves. It was his first weekend as “McGonagall’s ward” and now that he couldn’t just hide behind his school schedule he felt naked.

He was so hyper vigilant, he literally jumped when the door opened.

“Severus? What are you doing standing there?”

Was she kidding? Seriously? He breathed before answering, no need to anger her now that she could do anything to him; he would have to tread carefully. He missed leaving his parents home and being free from them at school. It was a nightmarish situation to be at the mercy of someone for every month in the year…

“I thought I was to meet you in your office at 10am Professor?”

Well, that didn’t come out as polite as he would have wished… Really, he needed to be more careful. Tobias was one thing, but McGonagall was smart and wouldn’t be slowed by cheap liquor three quarters of the time.

McGonagall smiled forcefully, and answered:

“IN my office Severus, not in the corridor standing in front of the door.”

“Oh.”

“’Oh’ indeed. Do come in please.”

He could sense that he was already irking her. This wasn’t good at all; he needed to tone down his demeanour immediately. Deciding to begin now, he lowered his head and entered the office without another word, his whole body on alert and ready to jump out of the way.

 

 

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The boy looked tense; even more so than usual. Minerva tried to lose the “strict Professor” persona while letting him in, finally reaching a more private setting. It wasn’t easy at all, it was like the permanent scowl on his face was contagious or something.

She felt like she was waiting for some big explosion. It had been a week and nothing had really happened so far. After signing all the paperwork, they had both returned to their busy week schedule: Minerva to her classes and Head of House/Deputy Headmistress responsibilities; Severus to his Slytherin accommodations and his school duties.

She had kept her professorial demeanour when she addressed him in her classes and didn’t have any occasion to interact with him in private until now.

He had mostly done the same without her ever needing to tell him so. Actually, she felt like he had been even more subdued than before, all eyes and no mouth: she had felt scrutinized under his gaze during all her 3rdyear Gryffindor/Slytherin lessons.

He looked like he was studying her: it didn’t help her discomfort.

After closing the door behind her, she kept to practicalities:

“So, Severus, did you make a list of what you need?”

She had asked him to do so after having spent one of her lessons blushing at the state of his school robes. Remembering his threadbare scarf and sad little corner in his dormitory, she had told him that they were going to go shopping for more appropriate clothing now that he was her ward. He had given her no reaction at the time. It was like talking to a wall… or a flobberworm.

Once more, she was ashamed that it took her becoming responsible for him to notice the state of his wardrobe. She startled at his sullen answer:

“Yes”.

It was going to be a very long day…

She wondered what was going on in that little head of his.

He frightened her a little, she was finally willing to admit it. Something was wrong with this child; he wasn’t acting like a “normal” thirteen year old. She wondered briefly if she might one day know the extent of how poorly he had been treated at home.

“Well, give it to me then child, I need to have a look before choosing our destination today.”

He looked at her with comically big eyes before retrieving something from his pocket and offering it for her to take. Minerva immediately noticed that his hand was shaking, proof that his cold attitude was just what he chose to show her, an act. It strangely reassured her. Fear she could deal with.

Taking one look at his list Minerva frowned and couldn’t help the sigh that escaped. What was he playing at?!

She was ready to reprimand him on his lack of work regarding the list when she saw his eyes getting even bigger. She saw him tense even more: he was ready to get out of the way like lightening should she gave him reason to do so. It stopped her at once. Severus was definitely afraid. He wasn’t indifferent at all; he was just very scared and trying to hide that fact to the world.

Feeling as if she’d just figured out some deep secret of the universe, Minerva softened her tone and asked:

“I’m sure you need a lot more than a school robe and one pair of socks Severus, don’t you want nicer clothes, especially in this cold?”

He looked very small and wary when he answered:

“I… I didn’t know what I was allowed Professor?”

“Is it a question?”, she teased.

“No?”

Minerva laughed.

“You’re allowed whatever you need. And please, do call me Minerva when we are in private. We obviously need to keep the student-Professor appearances in public when we are at Hogwarts but, in private or outside of the school settings, no such formalities are necessary really. Would that be ok?”

She looked at his face attentively; he was visibly thinking hard about it. He finally offered:

“Ok. For the formalities thing I mean”, he blushed hard, before adding without preamble “Could I have some new shoes then? Mine haven’t been waterproof for a long time and even my Impervius charm doesn’t seem to take anymore?”

Practicalities. It really seemed to be their common ground.

“Of course, you shouldn’t have damp feet; we wouldn’t want for you to get down with a cold or even worse would we?

She studied him a little then, she needed that list or it would take forever… No, really, it couldn’t be helped.

“Come, we’re going to make that list looking at what you have. It will save us time in the end, alright?”

He looked suddenly very pale.

 

 

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Surely, she didn’t mean…? Oh no. He literally felt his face pale at the realization that she was asking him to show her his stuff. No no no no no NO.

“I can make the list right now Professor! I mean Minerva… please?”

“Nonsense, I will be able to help you come up with it this way. Come along, Severus.”

They took the floo from McGonagall’s office to the Slytherin Common Room. Severus briefly mused that he didn’t even think it was possible, before resuming panicking of course. So much panic these days. It was getting ridiculous.

He had no choice but to lead her to the Third Years’ dormitory, and then to his bed, livid with humiliation.

It struck him how little he owned and how used, old, and battered all of his possessions looked. He should be used to it now, of course, but he couldn’t help but feel like his six year old self again: ashamed at his weird and too big clothes; hurt by the mocking looks of the other children.

McGonagall, looking at him expectantly, interrupted his dark memories:

“Well, show me your clothes child! We will begin with everyday clothing first, and then we will look at your school robes, that should do it.”

Why did she have to be so methodical about it? He wasn’t going to be able to hide anything…

One floating thought stopped the panic at once: she was his guardian now, she would know it all soon enough, no needs to prolong the inevitable. After the bubbling fear, he suddenly felt only empty.

He heard himself answering, voice hollow:

“Right, does that mean socks and shirts then?”

She stopped her looking around and focused on him once more, her expression worried:

“I was more thinking about sweaters and trousers, what do you wear on weekend and holidays - outside of class, Severus?”

She stopped questioning him to look at the old school robe he was wearing that day. No need to answer then.

His mouth answered for him anyway:

“I only have one good school robe professor, I tend to wear it on all occasions.”

He was shocked by how calm he sounded, talking about his distasteful poverty to a Professor. No, his guardian. She looked at him with an expression he couldn’t really read, pity maybe? What else.

Her voice came out a little strangled:

“Now, Severus, sit down and show me where your possessions are, would you?”

He did as she asked.

 

 

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She knew - she had seen his battered scarf, his full-of-holes robes, and his worn shoes, for Merlin’s sake! Why was she so moved suddenly by this scowling child explaining – oh so calmly – that actually he didn’t really own anything else that what he was wearing right now?

She breathed deeply, summoning a calmness she didn’t feel.

He was pointing to an old trunk beside his bed, murmuring quick counter-spells to open it it seemed. Apparently it held all his clothing. She summoned it all on the bed, where they would be able to look at it comfortably.

Well, his little corner sure looked tidy but it wasn’t the case for the things he kept inside his trunk apparently. Teenagers!

They were going to work on that at a later time. This wasn’t the focus of today. Well, maybe…

“Do you know any folding spell Severus?”

“Huh, no, I don’t think so Professor?”

“Minerva.”

He blushed again.

“Well, look and learn, this isn’t spectacular wand waving, but it sure is a useful life skill to possess.”

She then demonstrated the wand motion, which he copied without her having to ask.

“Now, be careful to pronounce the word clearly: Circumplicare!”

Circumplicare!”, he repeated, focused on his enunciation.

“Quite well, quite well, child. Try it on your clothes now”

He frowned at that but didn’t wait to get up and point his wand to the bed, still frowning. She would have to clear the frowns from his facial vocabulary soon or his face would show lines at twenty at this rate.

“Go on, we need to sort this out.”

Circumplicare!”

All the clothes folded themselves sloppily in a messy pile.

He looked disappointed, not quite satisfied with himself apparently. She smiled at that – it was so typical of the student she was used to teaching.

“It was an impressive first try Mr Snape, just keep practicing and it will come to you in no time.”

Was he smiling that little smile she had learned to spot lately? He was! Well, this wasn’t going so badly then. She resumed the task at hand:

Circumplicare!”

All the clothes rearranged themselves in neat little piles of each kind of clothes, perfectly folded.

He looked at her in awe. Children were so easy to impress. She smiled at him.

The moment was lost as she looked at his meagre possessions: one weird looking blouse that looked as if it might have once been his mother’s, a too big and very battered pair of working-trousers - his father’s surely? Two white threadbare t-shirts, two pairs of grey-looking underwear, one horrible adult-sized greyish night robe, and three pairs of grey socks – with holes in them, of course.

His scarf was folded near the head of the bed. No gloves, no winter hat, no jacket or coat in his little collection… No other school robes either. He really did possess only the one on his back… and it was falling apart.

She felt very sad all of a sudden.

“When did you buy the school robes you’re wearing Severus?”

He looked very defensive at that. She saw him sigh before he answered, a look of utter resignation on his face:

“The summer before first year… but mother helped me freshen it before she…”

He stopped talking and looked at his feet.

It was the only school robes he had ever possessed. He was in third year Merlin’s damp feet! She felt angry on his behalf.

Seeing him take a slight step backward, she tried to bury the anger, not wanting to scare him more. She felt like she was dealing with a wild animal, an injured one at that.

Minerva was about to ask him if maybe his outdoors clothes were elsewhere but why loose more time here – it wasn’t as if she didn’t already know that answer anyway. The child looked shaken and vulnerable already – no doubt due to him mentioning his mother – and they would just have to buy him everything he needed. In a way it was even simpler this way.

She searched his eyes then and once he was looking at her – with a mix of fear, shyness and defiance so Severus Snape’s that she felt like smiling, or crying, or both - she smiled kindly, hoping to reassure him. It wasn’t him with whom she was so angry at. Minerva didn’t know if her silent message got through but he seemed to relax a little, that was good enough, for now.

“We will just have to get you a little bit of everything then Severus, it will be done in no time, come along.”

She sensed him following her out of the dormitory, like a little scowling-shadow. She shook her head fondly.

 

 

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“I don’t need it.”

“Of course you need a jumper Severus!”

She was going to knock him on the head with her wand very soon. Or strangle him with said jumper. He was SO infuriating!

She tried to breathe deeply through her nose before trying again:

“What colour then?”

“We already took one.”

No, correction: she was going to vanish him, in a very public place full of witnesses, and finish her life in Azkaban. That was it.

“You need more than one jumper, you’re studying in a boarding school in bloody Scotland!”

If he was taken aback by her lack of professorial decorum, he didn’t show it.

“I was perfectly fine without one until now.”

She summoned 4 colourful jumpers, the brighter the better – just to spite him – and put them forcefully in her magical trolley.

He only shrugged at that.

The shop assistant – a blonde girl in her twenties – was looking at them with a worried expression. The girl tried to carry on anyway, no doubt wishing as hard as them that this farce would end sooner rather than later:

“I think we’re good for the jumpers then!”

Her false-cheerful tone was doing nothing to appease the fury of Minerva McGonagall.

So far, they had managed to get some underwear – white Y-fronts sold in pack of ten, she hadn’t insisted too much for him to get better ones, not wanting to embarrass the sullen boy. Then a warm overcoat – he wouldn’t try anything else than black obviously – after a very long discussion about its non-optional quality. And then socks: all black and sold by ten also.

Minerva had tried to change his mind about the socks, wanting him to get some better ones, for the cold for example, or Quidditch, and some in other colours maybe, to spiced it all a little? But NO. He was fighting for every little thing, answering with monosyllabic sentences, in an infuriating detached tone.

At first, she had tried to be kind and comprehensive, but it had been 4 hours already and she was definitely losing her cool now. The brat was so ungrateful! She should have let him go naked in the snow!

The horribly cheerful shop assistant turned to the Hogwarts Professor, more intimidated by the teenage boy for sure:

“Trousers then?”

Her false smile was definitely shaking – was she going to cry now? This would surely push Minerva over the edge.

 

 

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He didn’t need any purple jumper! What was the infuriating witch thinking? He wasn’t a charity case.

Severus was boiling with rage. Of all the humiliation! Professor McGonagall helping him choose new briefs was his limit apparently. He wanted to run to the other face of the earth and bury himself forever!

“Severus, trousers. NOW.”

Well, his new guardiandefinitely didn’t look amused now.

Severus’ plan to play it safe and to lay low to assess his new situation was already far away through the window. He knew he would regret it later, but for now he just didn’t care. He was too furious to care.

The boy followed the poor shop girl through pile of clothing after pile of clothing until she stopped before the trousers aisle.

No way he would let her buy him anything else!

He didn’t want to think how much he already owed her. He didn’t know that she had intended to buy him brand new clothes – he was used to second-hand everything.

He didn’t understand why she would do something like that and it scared him to death – what did she want from him? He couldn’t, for the life of him, imagine what sort of things she would ask from him after having spent that much money on him. He needed to put a stop to it NOW.

Minerva interrupted Severus in his frantic thoughts:

“Now, Severus, I’ve had enough already. Choose five pairs of trousers, any pairs you fancy, and be done with it.’

Fuck, she looked angry. That gave him pause immediately.

He felt his own anger deflate like a balloon, replaced by more fear. He was in such a mess. Again.

The blonde girl was looking at him expectantly while Professor McGonagall was looking angrily at some sort of clock device she had retrieved from her pocket.

He tried to look at the trousers in front of him but there were all blurry. Was he panicking again? He ought to see a Healer at this point.

The girl seemed to be in no better state than him. She seemed to decide to take matters in her own hands and took one item from a random rack and gave it to him:

“Those ones would go very well with the jumpers you just choose, Mr Snape?”

He snorted at the word “choose” but took them anyway.

The girl looked at her notes – they had taken his measurement as soon as he had entered the shop – and frowned.

“I don’t think…”

She took the clothes from his hands and swapped them in a well-practiced gesture for the same kind in another size.

“This should do!”

He looked at the offending item in his arms: a pair of classic blue jeans. Well, could be worse he supposed? At least they didn’t look like the ones Tobias wore to work at the mill. His were large and with a lot of pockets; worn and badly-fitted even for his heavy built. Those ones looked nice in comparison.

“Well?”

He jumped out of his skin. McGonagall was inches away from his face, looking very cross.

“I…”

For no reason at all, she seemed to suddenly explode:

“What do you think YOU ARE DOING!”

He stared, completely paralysed, routed in place by his sudden terror.

And then, he felt it: a sharp burn in his hands. He yelped and let the jeans go: they were on fucking fire.

He had set a very expensive pair of jeans on fire. What was wrong with him by Morgana?

Surely this was it: he was finally going to die. On a bloody shopping trip!

He ran.

 

 

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The child had run off, a look of pure terror in his black eyes. Minerva couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt in her heart as she remembered that look in his eyes: as if he was certain she was going to physically hurt him.

“Accidental magic… it is quite unusual in a child this old, he must have felt quite frightened.”

Minerva                  felt terrible. How had she gotten that angry? She had felt so protective toward him while assessing the state of his wardrobe… what a mess.

“Minerva”

She stopped her spiralling thoughts at once, looking at her old friend again.

“What is it Albus?”

“Don’t torture yourself. It’s been only a week and with his history, there will be more incidents on the way I’m afraid.”

“I don’t think I’m up to it…”

“Nonsense, you just need some more of this excellent Ceylan!”

And he proceeded to re-fill her cup with tea; infuriating, crazy old man!

He smiled at her over his half-moon spectacles:

“What happened next? I saw you two coming back to the castle, surely you found your ward again after his little stunt?”

He was smiling at her, as if what she had just told him was just a classic shopping tale!

“It’s not funny!”

She gave him what she hoped was a very stern look before adding:

“I found him under a table, he was shaking the poor thing. He was quiet for the rest of the shopping trip. He even let me buy him some tailor-made clothes and shoes after that…”

“All’s well that ends well then.”

If looks could kill, Albus Dumbledore would have hit the floor of his office with much more force than strictly necessary for a dead body.

 

 

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Severus was looking at himself in the mirror. Not a very usual occurrence. Of course, his dorm mates were already out and he was alone in the boys’ bathroom.

He was wearing one of his new sets of school robes: he looked weird. Even his feet felt weird in his new shoes. They were stiff and tight and he felt like his toes were in prison!

He looked at his reflection again. That didn’t look like him!

He felt like crying – he was such a wimp those days - what should he do?

He knew his classmates were going to mock him for his new clothes and he didn’t feel like himself wearing them… but he also knew that McGonagall wouldn’t take anymore of his old clothes. Especially after the “shopping incident”.

He needed to placate her and he didn’t really have a choice here: he would have to go out like this from now on. He sighed. No other choice than to gather unwanted attention to himself again.

At least he could keep his underwear and socks; nobody had to know about that.

“Hey Snape!”

Great.

“What do you want Avery?”

“No need to be rude now that you have a Professor to protect you, Half-Blood! There’s a letter for you in the Common Room.”

He sighed at the lack of imagination highlighted by the use of the “Half-blood” epithet. Didn’t they know that it wasn’t even an insult? Thickheaded stupid cunts.

“I’m coming”.

No need to aggravate Avery more than he already was…

Severus went to the Common Room, looking right ahead and trying to ignore the looks he was receiving.

He focused all his attention to the little green and silver letter with his name on it. This looked exactly like…

“Slughorn wants you in his little club now? Seems like it’s useful to be under the guardianship of the Deputy Head…”

Mulciber’s tone was scornful but it didn’t do anything to tarnish the joy Severus felt at this instant. He had wanted to be accepted inside the Slug Club for a while now. He needed all the connections possible if he wanted to become someone important in the future. This was the first good news in ages and he wasn’t going to let anyone get at him at this instant.

The invitation was for today too! Sunday Slug meeting!

Severus ran back to the dormitory: changing his clothes for something more formal – after having washed his hair for good measure.

This whole new set of brand-new clothes was suddenly very good news indeed.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Pick up off the floor

 

Severus needed to stop trying to look somewhat better and go already. Like NOW. He knew his appearance was a lost cause but - maybe for the first time in his short life - he was desperately trying to do something about it. Tonight was his one shot; he needed to make an impression.

He let out a final huff: at least he had new shoes and new robes on him…

He had been repeating the three topics he wanted to bring up during the party to impress Slughorn in his head for hours now. He looked intensely at his reflection while going over them once more.

Firstly, how to obtain the juice from sopophorous beans by crushing them instead of cutting them. It could appear trivial to the sycophant but it was a very good technique improvement for any Potion Master worth his salt. At least Severus thought so.

Then, he would be able to link the sopophorous beans to the Draught of Living Death, and from there it should be easy enough to bring up the Wideye Potion, which was his second asset. The fact that his theory had not yet been tested - the six snake fangs weren’t needed if you just added a single counter-clockwise stir before adding the billywig stings and made sure to use a copper cauldron at all times – was of little consequence. He was sure to be right on this one.

You couldn’t obtain anything without taking risks. He was ready to fight tooth and nail for his theory.

It was a matter of logic in the end: the snake fangs were only there to bind with the locolanguor receptors of the billywig stings, thus rendering them inactive while keeping the exsomnis ones free to later being activated by the drinker’s magic.

It was the base of the whole potion: unbalancing the otherwise neutral properties of the billywig stings in regard to their effect on the drinker’s state of wakefulness.

It was obvious that stirring once more counter-clockwise just before adding the billywig stings could do this quickly and way more effectively. This would also deactivate the locolanguor receptors and the added value was that the copper of the cauldron – free of any snake fangs residues - would then catalyse the later activation of the exsomnis receptors via the drinker magic, effectively increasing the final yield of the whole magical reaction by at least 40%.

A simple potion, but a great improvement!

And of course, after the wideye potion, the coup de grâce: the hidden properties of the ever-underestimated peppermint. Severus had checked everywhere; nobody seemed to have written anything about it. He couldn’t believe his luck on this one. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the simple use of peppermint could tame the most tempestuous of draughts – well, that is if you didn’t have to use valerian or lavender – but it was revolutionary enough. Peppermint was cheap and easy to handle. Severus was proud of himself on this one.

He snorted ungracefully at his reflection: he looked as ugly as ever but damn them all, he was fucking smart!

Determined, Severus finally left the bathroom and crossed the Common Room without making eye contact with anyone. On his way to Slughorn’s party room, he had to stop twice to keep his breathing in check. He needed to stop doing this, damn it! None of this recent nonsense would do tonight; not when he finally had a chance to show his potential, to open some doors.

Get a grip Severus!

Reaching the final corridor, he could already hear some voices and definitely some background music. Merlin, he had heard that it wasn’t uncommon for Slughorn to have some fellow Potion Masters from the Guild attending his little parties. What if Damocles Belby was there?

Suddenly, he wasn’t so sure about the suppression of the snake fangs from the Wideye Potion…

He looked at the wooden door. He was a little late – damn hair, damn face, damn everything! – but he hoped that it wouldn’t be too impolite to show up anyway? Severus finally took a deep breath to calm himself and knocked sharply three times, following his invitation’s instructions. The wait seemed too long and too short all at once. Suddenly, the door opened and Severus looked into the confused face of Horace Slughorn. He tried to hear what his Head of House was saying over the deafening whooshing sounds of his beating heart.

“Has something happened boy?”

“Huh…”

Fucking smart indeed Severus!

Why was it that he always froze in the worst of situations? Surely it wasn’t that much of an evolutionary advantage? Why couldn’t he be one of the fighters, or, even better, one of the runners?

And, why on earth was his brain coming up with all sorts of stupid thoughts at times like this? Severus was so damn done with himself right now.

He felt really exposed all of a sudden: why wasn’t Slughorn inviting him in? Was he supposed to show his invitation – that same invitation that was currently below his pillow…?

Slughorn voice was still talking and Severus tried to focus on it again.

“Snape, are you hurt? Come in boy, I need to have a look at you.”

Slughorn took his arm and stirred him inside gently. Once the door had close once more, everyone seemed to stop what they were doing to look at the newcomer. Coming out of his shock, Severus held his head a little higher and tried to ignore the stares. Maybe Slughorn had just forgotten that he had been invited? It wasn’t really promising for him but, well, he could still make an impression later? Showing as much confidence as he could muster, he looked Slughorn right in the eyes and said:

“I’m here for the party Professor, I must apologize for my lateness, it won’t happen again, be reassured.”

Slughorn still looked confused. Why was he confused? Severus felt a strange emptiness growing in his stomach: what the hell was going on here? He felt like he was missing something but surely if there were some sort of code that you needed to know for those parties, it would have been noted on the invitation? Had he done a social faux paswithout even being aware of it?

He was drowning. Severus added quickly:

“I’m sorry, was I supposed to bring the invitation with me Professor? You see, this is my first Slug Club… if it was the case then I must apologize again and…”

“M Snape, what are you going on about?”, Slughorn cut him, now red in the face and not looking amused, “did you think I wouldn’t remember who I invited to my own Club?”

What?

“What?”

Severus heard his voice echoing his thoughts without his permission and froze, again.

His mind was still spiralling like mad when he saw something that stopped the dizziness at once. Just behind Slughorn, Evan Rosier was looking at him with the intensity of a killer shark; smiling his most predatory smile.

At once, all fell into place. Of course. Fuck!

How could he have been so stupid? Of course he hadn’t been invited to the Slug Club! Why would he be? He was the slimy half-blood, the dirty, fool-mouthed, stunted, sickly looking, dark Slytherin boy that no one wanted to have anything to do with!

Fool!

Slughorn was still lecturing him but Severus couldn’t take his eyes anywhere else than on Rosier’s smug face.

“Now, Snape, you will go back to your Common Room, but do not think you’re out of trouble yet! You will stay behind after your next Potion Class and I will let you know your punishment for your little stunt tonight! Are you listening to me, boy?”

Severus reluctantly turned his face towards Slughorn’s and nodded sharply. Seemingly satisfied, Slughorn continued:

“And know that your Guardian will be informed at once! I will not tolerate such blatant disrespect Snape!”

This got Severus intention:

“But… Professor!”

“No buts young man! You tried and you were caught. It is now time to face the consequences!”

Severus tuned out slightly from there. He was in so much trouble right now, he just felt numb. After what seemed like hours, Slughorn opened the damn door again and sent Severus on his way to his Common Room.

In the middle of the corridor, still in shock after what had just happened, Severus became suddenly aware of the silence surrounding him, contrasting sharply with the loud noise of the party only a few minutes ago.

Feeling his world crumpling at the edges, Severus ran to an empty classroom at once and closed the door behind him. He stood alone in the dark, breathing hard, for what felt like an eternity.

He felt small and vulnerable. He had been so happy to be invited – of course it wasn’t real. He should have known that he wasn’t good enough for such shiny things. He was dirty, and ugly and inconsequential. Powerless.

He felt himself thrown back in his uncomfortable body without warning. His first thought was that his feet were hurting him. Damn new shoes!

Wasn’t he pathetic now, in his new shoes, his new clothes, his for once not even that greasy hair, alone in a dark classroom after having made a fool of himself in front of the very people he was trying to impress?

Someone screamed.

Severus felt his voice break and fell on his knees, feeling weak all over again.

He should have remembered that nothing good ever happened to him!

He stayed like that a long time; at least it felt like it. His mind was blank and his body feeble. He couldn’t move and he couldn’t think now.

“What a pathetic little worm you are Snape, snivelling in the dark, as weak as the dirty blood that’s inside you.”

Rosier glacial voice took him by surprise. Severus tried not to panic. He lost the battle when he saw two bigger shadows entering the room behind Rosier, and closing the door. Avery and Mulciber. Of course.

Trouble was but a tiny dot on the horizon right now.

He vaguely heard Rosier instructing the other to avoid his face and everything visible, how merciful of him… Mulciber took the first turn, then Avery, and then Rosier. After that, Severus couldn’t be bothered to keep track.

When it was finally over, he saw Rosier’s blurry face sneering at him:

“I told you there were going to be consequences. You need to control that filthy mouth of yours Snape. Don’t ever forget your place again, filthy Half-Blood.”

And with that they left and the darkness came.

 

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The three girls waited in silence, all deep in thoughts. The dormitory was a little eerie in the late Sunday light, but maybe it was simply the mundane sadness of Monday morning hiding just behind the corner; however, nobody tried to light the torches.

Alice looked at her two friends discreetly. Emily’s eyes were looking ahead vaguely, deep in some fantasyland for sure. Her bright blue hair, her shade of the moment – wizarding hair coloration forever her favourite thing since she learnt that she was a witch – was unusually tamed in the lack of light. Anna was apparently thinking at light speed, her brains’ cogs working hard inside her head and nearly visible through her dark eyes.

As Alice was about to say something, if only  to break the silence, Lily finally pushed the door of their dormitory.

Alice didn’t let her the time to explain herself about this little secret meeting and said:

“It’s about Snape, isn’t it?”

Lily immediately looked somewhat guilty, confirming Alice’s statement without saying anything.

Of course it was about Snape! Lily had been talking about him and McGonagall all day everyday since the news had hit the students’ body.

Not one to be thrown out of balance just because she had been more transparent than she thought, Lily quickly replied:

“Yes, yes, it’s about Severus, Alice. I’ve been thinking you see, about helping him a little now that he’s talking to me again… and I think I need you all. I need my friends.”

Emily, who had seemed to come back among the mere mortals the moment Lily entered the room, turned her dreamy blue eyes towards Lily and said, seemingly off-topic:

“Yeah, he’s not that bad you know”

Alice couldn’t help it and calmly explained her view on the matter:

“Not that bad? Did you see what he did to Lupin that one time when he had to stay in the Hospital Wing for ages? It seemed really painful. Who would do that to a boy who’s already sick all the time? Everybody knows that Lupin is ill.”

“You can’t deny that Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew give as much if not more than what they receive when Snape is concerned…”, interjected Anna, always the wise one.

Alice was about to answer that Potter and company being bullies wasn’t an excuse for Snape’s unpleasantness when she caught the look on her friend’s face. Lily had that damn stubborn air upon her… They may as well let her explain her plan at this stage. Alice chose to be reasonable and let her friend explain herself; she said so out loud for the benefice of all:

“Ok, I’m willing to listen to you Lily. Just know that, even if I feel sorry for him now that I know about his home life, it doesn’t excuse him for being mean to me all the time since day one and for no reason at all. I will try again for you if that is what this mystery meeting is about, but I will also expect him to be respectful to me - and to my friends! - at the very least. Those are my conditions.”

Emily nodded her head enthusiastically at that but Anna was still frowning. They all looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to explain herself:

“Have you talked with Snape about this Lily? I don’t know exactly what it is you’re planning for us to do but let me tell you, if I know only one thing about your little Slytherin friend is that there is little chance that he will let you help him, and absolutely none that he will let us.”

The silence after that was a little awkward; it was weird since they usually got on so well and could be in each other’s company for hours without saying a word and still feel very comfortable.

Alice, once again, volunteered to get the discussion going:

“Maybe you should explain first what it is you have in mind Lily, and then we will be able to discuss this constructively?”

Anna immediately got on board.

“Yes, let’s do that!”

Lily took a deep breath and started talking.

In the end she didn’t really have a plan or anything like that; she was just asking her friends to give a second chance to another friend: it was as simple as that.

Emily reassured Lily immediately, she didn’t like Snape that much but she didn’t hate him either and she knew how it felt to be ostracized for being a little different. She absolutely believed in second chances.

That, considering how hard it had been for her friend during her first months at Hogwarts, didn’t surprise Alice. Behind her apparent strangeness, Emily was a sensitive girl.

Anna was a little more reluctant. Sure, Snape’s life had been horrifying. Worse, everybody knew about it now; she was sure this was even worse for the proud boy than the dreadful parents and horrific childhood. What could they do to help though? They weren’t qualified to deal with this sort of trauma? In the end, she agreed to try the “being kind to him” sort of plan (Lily’s words), but also told the others that she would search if there were any books that could be useful in this situation available in the Library. Typical.

Alice surprised herself in the end. Looking at her redheaded friend who looked back at her with those damn puppy eyes, she thought that she was strangely willing to do it.

Sure, Snape was an arrogant little prat; but if Lily liked him enough to try to convince her to try again with him even knowing very well what she thought about the annoying jerk, surely there was something more to him than what caught the eyes?

Lily was an uncannily good judge of character, usually anyway. Hadn’t she been the first to expand their little group to include Emily? Alice couldn’t even begin to imagine her life at Hogwarts without each one of her friends: Lily, so kind and uncompromising, if a little impulsive; Anna, always the nose in a book but so loyal to her friends; Emily, seemingly leaving on another planet but oh so attentive to details, sensing the little things other might miss and truthful to a fault.

Maybe Snape wasn’t just that arrogant jerk thinking he was better than anyone else?

In any case, this little arrangement would surely annoy Potter and Black to no end and this was always a bonus.

 

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“Severus! Wow!”

“Hi Lily…”

“Don’t go all shy on me Mister! You look GREAT!”

It was Monday and it was the first day of school in his new robes. The first time people outside of his House would see him in anything new too… (the disastrous Slug Club incident didn’t count. He was determined not to think about it ever again.)

Lily’s kind green eyes were nearly enough to make him forget that he was hurting all over.

She was smiling at him, looking oh so beautiful and kind and everything. He couldn’t help it, he felt a little smug smile get loose on his lips. Well, it was maybe a little embarrassing but he would be a fool if he didn’t appreciate not looking shabby in front of Lily Evans, for once!

The sentiment didn’t last:

 “Hey Snivelus! Didn’t know it was a costume-themed school day today! What did you come as?”

“I know James, he went as a real boy, hiding the slimy grease-ball below!”

The Marauders,  great. He still had to make them pay for the bubbles though.

He was about to retort something to bloody Black when Lily shook his arm, trying to stop him.

“Now, what did you sell to pay for decent clothes, Snape, did you make some butter with your hair maybe?”

“You…!”

He didn’t have any words for it, the bubbles incident still so fresh in his mind on top of the Slug Club humiliation. Just looking at the smug face of James Potter, while hearing the student crowd around laughing at the jab, it was too much.

He fired a tripping hex Potter’s way, non-verbally.

He didn’t get the time to feel impressed with himself for it as he sensed a collective gasp and he saw James Potter tumbling from the stairs. He hoped it had hurt. A lot.

He was still taking in the form of Potter trying to get up from where he had landed head first when he heard a tearing noise and felt his brand new school robe sliding away from his body.

And here he was, in his brand new shoes, and his old grey underwear and threadbare shirt, trying to cover himself, feeling his face boiling from the humiliation.

“I told you James! Look, he’s still his greasy disgusting self under the shiny robes!”

Black.

He felt the emptiness inside of him, that weird feeling of unnatural calmness and resignation that had accompanied him since the announcement of his new guardian – maybe even before that - fill-in suddenly with something way too big to fit in its place. And Severus saw red. He didn’t even think about using his wand, or the fact that he was half-naked right now: he ran and then connected his fists with the laughing face of Sirius Black, erasing the mocking smirk.

And he kept pummelling him. The other boy tumbled and crashed under the assault, blood erupting from his face now; but Severus didn’t stop, he kept hitting him with a desperation that came from the thing expanding inside him.

All the laughter, the name-calling, the mocking jabs at his hair and his appearance, and his everything, the cruel pranks, his mother not taking him with her, Tobias being his fucking self, McGonagall and Dumbledore and everything in his life just crumpling under his feet. It was all too much. He was going to kill them, kill them all, kill himself in the process and be done with it, damn it!

He was still hitting the other boy. He noted absent-mindedly that the other students weren’t laughing anymore; there were anguished cries and screams around him, all strangely muffled in his ears. All was very slow and unnaturally quiet. And he kept hitting the bloody face of Sirius fucking Black.

He was crying. He could feel the wetness on his cheek and eyes. He didn’t know why he was crying? It didn’t matter: nobody would ever laugh at him again.

He felt someone grasping his old shirt. Was it Lily? It tore under the assault, in slow motion. He didn’t have the energy to care at this point. All his focus strained only toward hitting Black.

The hand that had grasped his shirt was trying to pull him back, off Black. He didn’t want to, it was really important that he kept going. He began feeling, just at the edge of his consciousness that this was getting really serious now and that if he stopped, there were going to be consequences. He didn’t want to deal with consequences. He couldn’t deal with anything else right now.

His ears exploded suddenly with noises. In a brief flash of clarity, he saw himself, still hitting the bloody face of Sirius Black in the middle of a circle of shocked students. And the realisation hit him like a brick wall:

Oh God: what has he done?

Blinding terror seized him instantly and he stopped hitting the bloody mess under him. He felt raw power trying to escape from within him, his hands were shaking violently and the blood… So much blood on them! He wanted to scream, he felt like he was chocking on air! He couldn’t breathe!

And just like that, he stopped. He stopped everything: looking around, panicking, crying, moving.

 

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“What the hell happened here?!”

The Professors were conversing together in the corridor, on their way to the Great Hall after a morning meeting, when they stumbled upon a scene of chaos.

Minerva McGonagall looked at the scene in front of her blankly: Sirius Black was moaning, his face turning blue and black and blood dripping from it while Severus Snape - her ward! - was being pulled away by Poppy, not moving. Lily Evans was also standing there, looking utterly shocked, a piece of grey fabric dangling limply from her hand.

She heard the voice of the Headmaster questioning the students around.

She was drowned away from her shock by the hysterical voice of Sirius Black.

“He’s insane! He tried to kill me! You need to lock him up, he’s completely deranged!”

Well, it seemed like at least Mr Black was all right under all that blood then.

James Potter seemed a lot more shaken than his friend strangely. She decided to start from there:

“Potter, would you care explaining what just happened here?”

“I… I don’t really know Professor”

The way he was looking at his feet was speaking of guilt and utter shock.

 “I… is Snape alright?”

She was prevented from answering by the shrill voice of Poppy Pomfrey:

“Minerva!”

The matron must have been quite shaken to call her by her first name in front of all the students. She immediately followed the voice of her friend and colleague and was greeted by her worried face and the frail – half-naked for some reason – form of her ward, looking unconscious on a conjured stretcher. He was covered in bruises and scratches that were too pronounced to be from today but too raw to be very old. What had this child been up to during the weekend?

“He’s nearly catatonic Minerva, I don’t know what happened between those boys but I need to give him a calming draft immediately.”

Not unconscious then, it was a new one.

Was that what parents were dealing with everyday? If so she felt like quitting right now, it really wasn’t worth the trouble.