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A Father's Vow

Chapter Text

 

Potter was nothing like any one was expecting him to be. He was a good head shorter than the other first years for starters, and his shoulder length hair reminded Severus more of Lily than James, no matter how the colour matched the boy’s father’s. He was pale, almost sickly looking, enough to rival even himself, another stark difference from his parents. Whilst James Potter had always been rather tanned from the sun, and Lily Evans had been pale but healthy, their son seemed to be on death’s door. A further difference was the child’s lack of eyewear, letting his emerald eyes be clearly seen. There was a stiffness to them, a cold edge. Pain. It was startling to see.

The biggest difference came when the boy sorted into Slytherin, and many students caused an uproar that had to be silenced by Dumbledore setting off a small explosion. It stunned the students into silence, and sent Potter running for the Slytherin table like the hounds of hell were after him. An understandable thing since it had gone off over his head. His wide terrified eyes were not. Severus could see the child better now that he was closer, and he wasn’t sure what to think about him.

It took a few moments for everyone to calm themselves enough for the sorting to continue, and Harry Potter curled in on himself, like he wished he could simply vanish into the aether. For someone raised with the best of everything, pampered like a prince, this behaviour was rather odd. Draco Malfoy attempted to slide down the bench towards Potter, but Parkinson’s hand on his arm pulled him to a pouting halt.

The feast began and normal chatter resumed, but Severus kept his eye on the Potter boy. When the child looked up at him, he seemed scared, and quickly looked away, going back to picking at his food. He didn’t eat much, and it mostly seemed to be vegetables, though Severus watched him tear apart a bread roll. Perhaps he was vegetarian?

The feast came to an end and the houses led the first years back to their common rooms. Severus watched the boy twiddle his fingers on the edge of a couch, nervous for whatever reason. Malfoy was next to him, looking smug, probably for the best right now. If the Malfoy’s took an interest in Potter, he’d be better protected in his dorms.

He gave his usual welcoming speech and headed back to his own private rooms for the night, he could deal with whatever fallout there was in the morning.

By the time he got to the Great Hall for breakfast, things had already taken a turn for the worse.

He reached the doors to find Potter sprawled on the floor, the Weasley boy and a few others from Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff around him. Weasley’s fists were bloodied, and Potter seemed to have a broken nose and split lip. McGonagall was already berating her lions, passing out detentions and point loss like Honeyduke’s chocolates.

As he approached Minerva gave him a terse smile, and explained how Weasley had attacked Potter without cause. The glare he sent the red-haired boy made him blanche and look away. Potter sat up and made to stand, but Severus crouched next to him, pulling out his wand to heal him. As he put his hand out to halt Potter’s movements, the boy flinched and froze, as though he expected Severus to pick up where Weasley had stopped. He ignored it as he quickly cast the spells to set and heal Potter’s nose and lip. He even cleaned his face and clothes, much to the surprise of the small boy. He had seemed resigned to the pain and blood.

So as to not appear to be taking too much interest in the ‘Boy-Who-Lived’, Severus swept away after that, and got on with his breakfast. He didn’t so much as glance at the Slytherin table until it was time to hand out the class schedules.

He dreaded the first class. Slytherin and Gryffindor first years. Now with added Potter spawn…

He arrived to find Potter already waiting by the door, Potions textbook right in front of his face, squinting hard. Perhaps the boy did need glasses? It mattered not, the boy was not his responsibility. Perhaps he could write a letter to his guardians suggesting he be taken for an eye exam though. Considering the advances in Potions in the last decade, there might even be one that would fix his sight completely.

He let the child in, not looking at him, and swept to the front of the room. Quickly setting up the board with the potion they would be taught, and pulling out the homework sheets to set them neatly on his desk, took bare moments. His routine was perfected. The other students began to arrive and took their seats, his snakes with more silence and grace for certainty. Malfoy joined Potter at the front of the class, and the pair whispered to each other for a second before turning their attention to their professor.

Longbottom causing an explosion was surely a sign of things to come in this class, and Severus started to dread the rest of the year. No, the next seven years.

The following morning brought a distraught Malfoy to his side during breakfast, claiming that Potter had not returned to his dorm that night. Severus dismissed him, stating that Potter was bound to show up for classes and that he’d probably been homesick, or off causing trouble in the castle at night, just like his father. Malfoy didn’t seem convinced, but let it go and returned to his meal.

When it came to dinner time and Potter still hadn’t shown up, Severus knew he had to find the boy himself. Minerva had been shooting glares at him and was certain to go into one of her rants if she got him alone. He finished up as quickly as he was able without looking the fool, and headed out of the hall.

A quick Point-Me spell had him headed for the dungeons, towards the Slytherin common room. He must have retreated there after skipping class all day. Of this Severus was certain… until his wand let him past the entrance. He walked deeper into the dungeons, and down a tiny spiral stair, into a short hallway with only one door.

It was barred from the outside with a heavy metal bar.

Severus moved quickly, removing the bar and unlocking the door. Pushing it open, he saw nothing but darkness. From the light of his wand, what he saw horrified him.

Strung up by his wrists, facing the wall, at least a good foot off the floor, was Harry Potter’s limp body. He was covered in blood, the floor, the walls. Saturated. Someone had whipped the boy’s back to shreds, his robes, jumper and shirt with it. On the floor, in the drippings of red, lay a long barbed whip.

With a soft cry Severus darted forwards, he released Potter’s arms and cradled his tiny form gently. He was so cold and limp… Fearing the worst, Severus cast a diagnostic charm to tell him if the child was dead.

Faintly, but still present, his life-force flickered against the charm.

Severus hurried towards the infirmary, sealing the room to anyone but himself, Potter in his arms. When Poppy emerged from her office at the sound of his voice, she was shocked to see her patient in such a state, and immediately got to work. Severus gave what aid he could, but with the boy as weak as he was, neither were sure if he would live.

They worked for hours, spells and potions, again and again. Constantly monitoring the mostly dead child. When his heart beat by itself, and his lungs no longer needed aid, they could finally rest. If he made it through the night, he would survive. They both took turns watching over him until morning.

Come sunrise, Severus stirred from his position beside the bed, cursing at himself for falling asleep at such an important time. What he saw however, was nothing short of a miracle.

Emerald eyes squinted at him, full of pain still, but living.

This was the moment Severus Snape vowed to protect Harry Potter, from any and all who would harm him.

This was the moment the Light began to fall.

Chapter Text

It had taken a little over two weeks for Potter to recover from the attack. Physically at least. Mentally… that was a whole other story. Whilst the child was recovering in a private room in the infirmary, Severus and Poppy had discovered just how bad his health truly was. The knowledge struck a place inside him that he didn’t know he had left.

He had been abused. The muggle family Potter had been left with had starved and beaten the boy the moment he’d entered their house. They’d treated him worse than a house elf.

The malnutrition was particularly bad, and Potter would likely always be shorter than he should have been. With specialised nutritional potions however, he could still go on to have a far better quality of life. He would need potions to aid in the strengthening of his bones too, they were so brittle it was a miracle he hadn’t snapped in a strong wind by now.

In the hours after Potter had first awoken, Severus had managed to convince the child to give him the memory of the attack, so that he might identify the culprit and hand them over to the correct authorities. Viewing the memory had been particularly unpleasant.

It hadn’t taken long for Severus to find the three who had been responsible, and soon the Aurors were escorting Ronald Weasley, Oliver Wood and Angelina Johnson to the Ministry for questioning. The results were quite shocking to say the least.

Whilst Weasley had eagerly participated in the torture, Wood and Johnson were found to have been placed under the Imperious. They hadn’t even been released from it when they’d been taken away. Whilst neither could say who it was that cursed them, Weasley could safely say he was innocent of that. He had not the power to cast the spell even slightly, let alone maintain it on two more magically powerful students for more than twenty-four hours.

Johnson requested an immediate transfer to Beauxbatons Academy in France, unable to return to the place she had committed terrible acts, even if it had been out of her control. Wood was returning however, but would be taking a few months away in order to see a therapist. Weasley was set to be expelled, and was currently on house arrest.

They hadn’t been able to use Veritaserum on him as he was underage, and his parent’s wouldn’t give their consent either. Since he was still a child, and it was his first offence, he would likely not be sent to prison. The Wizingamot was considering allowing the boy to be home-schooled, with strict Mind-Healer appointments every week and a magical restraining order to prevent him from getting within fifty feet of Potter or using magic on him. It seemed quite likely that this was what they were aiming for, and Dumbledore looked to be the one behind it.

Severus was sure that the Headmaster would have allowed the wretch back into the school no-questions-asked, if it hadn’t been for him calling the Aurors himself. The Daily Prophet had picked up the story, though they were unaware it was the Boy-Who-Lived who had been the victim. This put enough pressure on the man to ensure that Weasley would not be returning.

Potter’s mental health was a serious concern. The boy was prone to panic attacks that reduced him to a shivering wreck, and often times he was so anxious that he found himself unable to leave his dorm room, let alone the common room.

Now that it was nearing Samhain, Severus knew he would have to do something. It was that or risk Potter becoming Agoraphobic.

He entered the Slytherin common room and headed to the first year boys dorm. Hushed voices brought him to full alertness, and he listened carefully.

“Harry, we’ll be right next to you the whole time, we’re not going to let anything happen to you.”

“But… I can’t. I want to be normal, but I just can’t. I don’t know why I feel like this, I know they’re not out there, but it’s like my body won’t move. I’m sorry.”

“No Harry, don’t be sorry. What happened to you was awful, no one could expect you to just suddenly be okay. You’re allowed to be scared.”

Malfoy and Zabini seemed to be trying to convince Potter into emerging from their shared room, but weren’t having much luck. Severus moved to the door, and knocked gently. He entered slowly, so as to not startle the boys, and let them all see him clearly before stepping closer.

“Misters Malfoy and Zabini, I have need to speak with Mr Potter privately. Rest assured you may return when our conversation is over.”

The boys departed, throwing less than subtle glances back at Potter, and the door shut behind them with a soft click. The child himself was clearly nervous, his clothes in dire need of straightening, and hair needing a good brush. He looked like he’d slept in his clothes.

“Mr Potter, I have come here to discuss something of importance with you. It is in regards to your health, and the results of your… attack.”

He paused for a moment, checking for a reaction, but the only thing of note was a twitch of the fingers.

“Weasley will not be returning to Hogwarts as he wilfully took part in the act. He will be home schooled and monitored by a Mind-Healer for some time. The magical restraining order upon him will prevent him from ever coming near you again, or causing you harm. As for Wood and Johnson… they were cursed and were forced by this curse to hurt you. Neither of them wished you to go through what you did, and Johnson is even transferring to Beauxbatons. Wood will be returning sometime between the New Year and Easter, but is currently so traumatised by what he was made to do that he’s seeking the aid of a therapist.”

“He’s coming back..?”

“But not to do you harm. He was not in control of his actions. The curse used upon him his highly illegal, known as an Unforgivable. The use of one, at whatever age, is an instant life sentence in Azkaban.”

“What about the person who cursed them?”

“I… I’m afraid we have been unable to discover them.”

A soft whimper slipped out of Potter and he clutched his arms tight about his chest. Head bowed, he made a perfect picture of despair. It pained him to see such an image, a sharp ache in his chest growing stronger by the second viewing it.

“Therefore I am going to be taking some rather extreme measures to ensure your safety Potter. For more reasons than this incident. Madam Pomfrey and I have seen the extent of your… injuries from your time with your muggle relatives. We have decided to take you to Gringotts bank this weekend, and perform a guardianship rite, with your permission of course. This rite would essentially mean that Poppy and I would become your legal guardians, and you would never have to live with, or even see, those people again.”

“I’d be free…? Oh but, I don’t want to be a burden.”

“It is no trouble Potter, you are no burden. Those… no, I cannot call them people. Monsters, those monsters, are the ones in the wrong. You are an innocent child, a child they were supposed to love and care for like you were their own. Instead they have committed disgusting acts. They made you their slave and scapegoat, simply for existing. You do not deserve that. No one does.”

The child regarded Severus carefully, as though trying to figure him out. To see if the man could be trusted. Truth be told, he didn’t exactly have much choice. If Severus was unable to become his guardian, then Potter would be forced to return to them. From his own experience, he knew just how that could break him. More so than he was now.

“Whilst here at the school, I am going to be monitoring you, so that I will know immediately, where you are and if you are in danger. That way you can be saved far more quickly than… before.”

Potter nodded slightly, not exactly in agreement, but more to acknowledge that he’d be listening. This was a big step for him, having faith that someone other than himself could help him, save him.

But then… he’d been saved by this man once before. Perhaps it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to assume he would be there for him again. All the same, one good deed didn’t make the man fully trustworthy.

“In order to do this, I’m going to give you a pendant to wear. It will be linked to one that I’ll be wearing. I will not take it off, and neither should you. At night, when bathing, not at all. Is that understood?”

At the slight nod, Severus took the silver chain and pendant, covered in runes. He stepped towards Potter and gently lowered it over his head, keeping his movements slow and gentle. It would do not good for him to startle the boy now. Once it was on, he took a few moments to explain how it worked, and how he could contact Severus with it if he was in need of aid.

“Simply press the back of it with your thumb, like so, and my pendant will alert me instantly.”

Severus also handed the boy a leather bound journal.

“It is keyed only to you. Only you can open and read it. Please use it to sort out your thoughts, or even just to complain about your day. If there is anything you’d like to talk about, but are finding it hard to put in to words, you may write it in here and show whomever you wish. You may also come to my private quarters, the password is Amaranthus. Should you be in need of something, or need somewhere to hide away from everyone else for a while, you may consider it your sanctuary.”

Tear-brimmed eyes stared up at him, a glimmer of hope in their depths.

“Thank you.” came the whispered reply. In a moment of kindness not often seen of him, Severus opened his arms to the child, and was relieved when the tiny figure crashed into his chest, thin fingers grasping tightly at his robes.

Severus didn’t smile, no, but he did allow his features to soften as he gazed down at Harry, weeping silently.

This innocent boy… how could he have constructed such vile thoughts about him? The day he’d gone looking for the boy, he hadn’t even drank his tea in his hurry to begin the search. In fact… he couldn’t remember the last time he’d drank tea, having moved to his own personal store of coffee to deal with all the late nights arranging things.

A sudden chill came over him. He was a potions master after all, he knew exactly what kinds of things could be put into teas that would alter thoughts and personalities.

He remained with Potter long enough to see the end of his tears, and a kind of half-smile reach his lips. After taking his leave then, Malfoy and Zabini rushed back into the room, very un-Slytherin behaviour.

He hurried to his personal kitchenette in his rooms, and ordered tea via one of the Hogwarts house-elves.

Taking it into his lab, he tossed the cup, contents and saucer into a cauldron. His discovery fuelled a volatile anger, right down into his bones.

Someone had been doctoring his tea, altering his behaviour, and he had no idea who it was or how long they’d been doing it.

But now he knew, now, he could plan.

They would suffer greatly for crossing him, and he would ensure they’d walk into his trap of their own will.

There was a reason he was known as ‘The Spider’ to his fellow Death Eaters.