Chapter Twenty-Five: Matty is not Severus
Summary: After Professor Snape fails to return from a Death Eater meeting, Hagrid finds a young dark-haired boy who believes the year is still 1968. The victim of an experimental time-reversal potion, young Severus tries to adapt to a changed world without his parents, his familiar classmates, or his illusions that his life is his own.
Spoilers: Through GoF, this takes place in Harry's fifth year.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and associated characters, events, and places remain JK Rowlings'.
Note about OOTP: This story just went fully AU. I am ignoring the fifth book; there are no spoilers. The auror Mundungus Fletcher in this story is not the same Mundungus Fletcher that is in the Order. Pretty freaky, them having the same name, huh?
Severus had a pounding headache. His throat was dry. Despite having just woken up, he felt exhausted and drained. Magical overdose, he self-diagnosed. At least, he hadn't felt this . . . 'empty' wasn't exactly the best way to describe it, but he couldn't find better words . . . since the day he had awoken at St. Mungo's after attempting a far-too-complex charm without supervision when he was five.
His mother had banned him from the manor's library for three months, and only his father's intervention had prevented his illegal wand from being snapped in a burst of maternal overprotectiveness. From his father, he had gained a lecture about knowing one's limits and the importance of not scaring one's mother by nearly dying. Father had never been terribly good at expressing his own concern. But by the sudden shift his tutoring took toward knowing a spell's strength and gauging his own magical reserves, Severus suspected Druscella was not the only Snape that had been frightened by the episode.
During the exercise with Voldemort and Peter, Severus had known the final spell he had cast required magic levels far above what he had left. That it was a first casting of a spell new to him would have made it need exponentially more. He would never have attempted it under normal circumstances. His father had not suggested that he could have died merely to scare him. In some cases of magical overdose, the witch or wizard had burned out their ability and been left a squib.
Severus quelled the instinct to cast a simple lumos to make sure this had not happened to him. Trying anything, even something so simple, when he was this drained, particularly so soon after a previous brush with overdose, would be phenomenally stupid. That he had awoken at all was pretty good proof that he had managed to borrow Peter's magic. Still, it was probably bad that he had been knocked out. When he had taken from Voldemort to maintain the Cruciatius, he'd been left standing then. Of course, Lord Voldemort had a lot more magical potential than Peter Pettigrew did.
He struggled to sit up in his bed, finding the reluctance of his muscles to comply disturbing. He managed it, and looked at the open floor between the door and the bed, willing a House Elf to appear with food and an energizing potion. He wondered if there even were House Elves here. He'd seen no evidence of them, but, somehow, he doubted Peter or Voldemort cooked
The floor remained annoyingly House Elf free.
He tried willing Peter to appear with an invitation to lunch or dinner or breakfast or whatever meal it was closest to. He'd even settle for second breakfast, elevensies, or afternoon tea if that's what time it was.
But that did not bring Peter anymore than it had a House Elf. He was left with only one option: Bellowing. He drew in a deep, preparatory breath, then, "PETTIGREW!" He figured bellowing for Voldemort himself was a bad idea. Dark Lords weren't really known for catering to the needs of twelve-year-olds.
Pettigrew did appear after a few minutes. "You're awake," was his former yearmate's astute observation.
"A point to Gryffindor for that brilliant deduction, Pettigrew."
Peter ignored the sarcasm. No, it was less that he ignored it and more that he didn't notice it. "You're expected downstairs, Snape."
Severus nodded. Hopefully, that meant food. He tried to rise from the bed, but his legs didn't support him, and he sat heavily back onto it. His hands braced him against falling back lengthwise across the mattress. He waited for his vision to clear before facing Pettigrew again. "I don't suppose you have some energizing potion?" he asked, pretending that being unable to stand under his own power was nothing out of the ordinary.
Peter looked impatient and annoyed. He approached the bed, grabbed Severus by the back of his collar (causing Severus to yelp), and dragged him from the room (arguing and protesting the unfair handling). It was the first time Severus truly noted just how much larger the adult Peter Pettigrew was compared to his own ten year old body.
By the time he was dumped into his chair at the dining table, he had digressed from arguments and protests to threats and insults that his mother would strongly disapprove of. Voldemort's red-eyed gaze regarded them in unamused question. Severus did not respond to it because it was then that he noticed the plate of sausage and eggs in front of him. He'd been too distracted during his bodily removal from his bedroom to notice the wonderful smell of it, but he did now. Such sweet fragrance definitely called for devouring, and he set to his meal with full concentration. If Peter had just said there was breakfast waiting for him, he'd have let the man carry him.
When he had consumed everything on the plate, he laid down the silver at the proper angle to indicate he was finished, and sat back in his chair. Looking at Voldemort, he found he was being watched closely. He briefly regretted utterly ignoring his host while he feasted, but decided the meal had been worth the rudeness. "Thank you, my lord. I was very hungry," he said politely, hoping that would make up for it.
Voldemort merely raised an eyebrow in mild amusement. "You will study quietly today, I think. I will summon Lucius to instruct you."
Malfoy would tutor him? Father had always said the older boy was a quick learner and had an almost perfect memory for anything Dark. If anyone could challenge the knowledge the elder Snape had passed to his son, it would be a grown-up Lucius. Severus smiled in excited delight, "Thank you, my lord!"
Voldemort smiled back, somewhat chillingly though Severus didn't notice, and looked pleased. "Wormtail, help young Severus back up to his room. Severus, you will rest until Lucius gets here, understand?"
Severus gave a put-upon sigh. "Yes, sir," he grumbled. Dark Lord or not, anyone who told a twelve year old to rest - regardless of said twelve-year-old's current condition - would not receive compliance without complaint.
Katryna Tragyl sat on her bed with the green curtains drawn for privacy. She wasn't entirely sure how it got back to her, but she had found Severus blood-inked letter in her trunk after the day's classes. Its arrival had given her an idea, and now she was chewing on the end of her quill trying to decide how to reply to it. The parchment in front of her had only two words on it so far: 'Dear' and 'Severus'. These words were followed by a comma. After forty minutes of 'writing' this letter, that was all she had to show for it.
She dipped the quill in her inkwell and rested the tip on the blot where it had rested the countless other times she had attempted to just let the letter write itself. This was no more successful than it had been before. Then, in a sudden burst of inspiration and creative genius, she wrote, "I got your letter." While it tripled the number of words on the page and doubled the punctuation marks, she had no more idea what to say next than she had before it was written.
But she had a direction now, she congratulated herself, a starting point. That was an improvement. She had mentioned the letter. That opened the rest of the paragraph to say something about the letter. So she looked at it again and began re-reading it. After only the first bit, she had the next two sentences ready for her own correspondence. "The broom was right where you said it was. If you need to borrow it again just ask, I'm sure my grandmother could get it to you." After that, the words seemed to spill easily onto the page.
I'm glad you got to your destination all right. I got in some trouble over helping you, and Fletcher wanted to arrest me, but my father talked my way out for me. I'm stuck with no Hogsmeade privileges and detentions and I lost points. Surprisingly, you didn't. I think in the confusion, they forgot. Matty's in the Hospital Wing still. I tried to check on him, but Pomphrey wouldn't let me in. His face is messed up bad, and he only lets Potter, Granger, and Ron visit him. Or so Clarence told me. That was an vicious potion to use, Sev. Gryffindor-Slytherin fights have gone up in both number and violence. Draco and Potter got in a bad one earlier today. I heard Potter turned Draco's hair pink. Then Draco hit Potter with a cutting hex that made him bleed. Ron hit Draco with another hex that made Draco start coughing up slugs. Crabbe and Goyle got involved after that, and most of the fifth year Gryffindor and Slytherin classes are spending the night in the Hospital Wing.
There. Nice and gossipy, like they were friends with nothing better to discuss than the latest news from Hogwarts. Plus, anything about Harry Potter would qualify as Important Stuff to a Death Eater. The problem was remembering to call him Potter instead of Harry. With Ginny as her favourite cousin, Tryna had spent the past three years (less so this year, thank Merlin), hearing about 'Harry this' and 'Harry that'. As the only Tragyl of her immediate family recognized as kinsfolk by the Malfoys, she had little difficulty calling Draco by his first name, though they were not, by any stretch of the imagination, friends.
But now she was stuck again. She wanted to tell him something useful, but couldn't think of anything that he really needed to know. She wanted to find a way to tell him that he should be careful and he should hurry up with his epiphany so that he could escape back to Hogwarts soon and she could stop worrying. But she rather doubted her Grandmother or Voldemort would pass anything of the sort along to the intended recipient. Right now, her purpose was to cover Severus's tracks and maybe open a line of communication to him, so she would at least know that, as long as the letters came, Severus was alive.
Giving up she signed the letter as it was, and sealed it. She wrote a quick note to Grandmother Tragyl, enclosed the one to Severus within it, then went to find Kib so she could borrow his owl.
Minerva McGongall was a wonderful teacher, Albus thought as the very same wonderful teacher frowned severely at him. She was not, however, a particularly subtle woman. She was the type of person who, when entrusted with a secret, would never reveal the confidence but would also make little effort to hide that there was a secret or that she knew it. Oh, she wouldn't advertise the fact, but she would not lie when directly questioned. It was for this reason that she had not been informed that her newest Gryffindor was, in fact, a Slytherin. As Severus had recognized, even as a twelve-year-old, she would have treated him differently if she knew.
For example, had she known, she would not now be in Albus's office. "Mr. Groves has been in the Hospital Wing for two days, Albus! As his Head of House, I should be allowed in to see him!" Poppy had been quite effective in her task of keeping all but Albus and the Gryffindor trio out of Matty's isolation room. The three fifth years had spent both afternoons since the 'poisoning' with Matty's empty bed, 'keeping him company'. "At the very least, Albus, your nephew needs his assignments. He is already behind after transferring schools."
Yes, Severus would have that difficulty when he returned, wouldn't he? Assuming, of course, that the boy still wished to carry on the Matty deception. Albus fought back a sorrowful sigh. Severus had been so happy as Matty during the two weeks he had spent with that persona. Albus desperately hoped Severus would return still able to enjoy the simple life of being a Hogwarts student. "Matty requested that only Harry, Hermione, Ron, and myself see him in his current condition, Minerva," he said, the sadness in his voice unfeigned. "I will collect his assignments and give them to him." In his mind, he could almost see six or seven Severuses hurrying through his missed assignments in the hours between his return and his 'recovery'. Elsewhere in the room, another three or four Severuses would be sleeping off their exhaustion. Poppy would no doubt revoke all his time turner privileges the moment she heard about it.
Minerva pursed her lips disapprovingly. "I can understand keeping out the other students, but I don't think you should be allowing him to avoid the teachers. I am his Head of House. I have a duty and a right -"
"Minerva," Albus interrupted tiredly, "Matty has made his wishes clear, and after his parents, and now this, I am not inclined to deny him the privacy that he so desires."
She frowned, but eventually nodded and sighed in concession. "Very well, Albus." She stood and walked toward the door, pausing just before she left. "Do tell him I wish for his swift recovery, Albus. If Severus is found, I want him punished for this, Headmaster. There is no excuse for using such a poison on another student."
Albus sighed. "Severus is not himself." Merlin, that statement was true is so many ways.
"Matty is your own nephew, Albus! He could have been killed. Don't let Matty become another Professor Snape, Headmaster. You know, as well as I do, that it was your lack of reaction to Black's prank that made Snape's decision the first time. The circumstances are eerily similar. I don't want to see Matty follow the same path."
For a moment, Albus wasn't sure how to reply to the accusation that was so ironically close to what was truly happening. What he finally said was a lie. "Matty is not Severus."
A/N: I sympathized with Tryna entirely too much during the writing of this chapter. Many apologies for the disgustingly long wait between chapters. I could blame it on the time sink that was my thesis, but that isn't entirely true. Truth is, I had a severe case of writer's block that affected this story, my thesis, the Tragyl story, and just about anything else I attempted to write. This was not helped in the least by the tragic death of my laptop's hard drive which took what I did have for this chapter with it. I hate rewritting what I've already written once. Consequently, this bears little resemblance to the original version. So that's my pitiful excuse. With luck, the next chapter will come much much more quickly. I do intend to finish this monster, swear to Merlin. Since I missed the 'finish in twelve chapters' that I had originally hoped for, my new aim is for 39 chapters, since that's Severus's original age, according to this fic.