My second story! I hope that people will enjoy this one even more than my first one.
I don't own Harry Potter; that's J.K. Rawlings privilege.
Chapter 1: Keeping silent no more
"And the Hogwarts champion is Cedric Diggory!" The table clad in yellow and black exploded in cheers; finally Hufflepuff would get the recognition it so deserved. When the tumult died down at last, Dumbledore started speaking again. "Excellent! As we have our three champions, the Triwizard Tournament can now officially begin. I'm sure that every student present will support his of her champion the best they can. Such a contribution might make …" He stopped speaking and all looked in surprise at the goblet, flaring up red one more time. A long flame shot out, deposing a fourth piece of paper in Dumbledore's hand. He stared at the name on it, for what seemed like ages, before he cleared his throat. "Harry Potter."
Harry began to panic; this was supposed to be the one year he wouldn't be able to get into trouble, not matter what. And yet here he was, indicated as the fourth champion in a dangerous tournament well beyond his knowledge and power. Again he was facing to become a social outcast, the hufflepuffs would never forgive him for what they would perceive as stealing their chance to shine. His word wouldn't be enough to convince them, or anyone else, otherwise. Then he remembered the little book that had found its way into his bag one day. His word wouldn't be believed, this on the other hand…
Standing up he faced the whole Great Hall, allowing his desperation and fear to be visible on his face. "I, Harry James Potter, swear upon my magic that I did not put my name in the goblet of fire, nor did I engage any magical being in anyway to do so for me. So it mote be." Raising his wand, he cast one of the first spells he had learned back in first year and the light that lit up the tip of his wand shone brightly. He had not lost his magic; his oath was the absolute truth. "Well if you would just go through the door, Harry, we can discuss this further." He complied with Dumbledore's words, still shocked to his very core and incredibly afraid of what might happen in the next few months. He had avoided becoming a social outcast in the nick of time, saving his life would not be as easy.
The room he found himself in was rather small, but lined to the brink with portraits and had a fire going on the opposite end of the room. The three real champions, in Harry's humble opinion, were seated around the fire. Fleur Delacour noticed him first. "What iz it? Do zey want us in ze 'All?"
Harry didn't answer, couldn't find the power to, as the reality of it all crashed down on him. He stumbled towards an empty chair, nearly falling into it and buried his hands in his messy hair. "My name came out of the cup, but I didn't put it in and I swore this upon my magic! I won't survive this competition, there is so much magic I still have to learn!"
Maybe he was overplaying his panic a little, he had faced a lot challenges well beyond his years without dying after all. But he felt that having the support of these three grown-up students would protect him from the awful backlash that was sure to follow. It was an even year after all; which meant deadly situations and being shunned by half the school. His oath wouldn't protect him from people, who only believed the worst about him, nor would it keep him out of this dangerous tournament; nothing ever did! Looking up at the other three he noticed that his ploy had worked. Fleur looked decidedly ill at the thought of an innocent child being forced to take on tasks so far beyond his capabilities. Viktor and Cedric however looked murderous, which was a good thing as long as it was on behalf of him. This line of thought was cut short by the entrance of a large group: Professor Dumbledore, Mr Crouch and Ludo Bagman, Madame Maxime, Professor Karkaroff, Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape.
Fleur addressed her headmistress at once, while taking a stand behind Harry's chair. "Madame Maxime, iz thiz innozent little boy to compete az well?" The other champions had followed the beautiful girl's example and together they formed a formidable sight. Harry was just grateful that they had decided to stand up for him; all support was welcome right now. He didn't see true concern on Professor Dumbledore's face and Professor McGonagall was frowning.
Madame Maxime on the other hand drew herself up to her full height of 11'6. "You can not be serious in wanting thiz little one to continue to ztay in the Tournament, Dumbly-dorr."
Professor Karkaroff butted in, his countenance steely and frigid. "No one ever said anything about two champions for one school. I insist on resubmitting my students names until every school had two champions."
Madame Maxime glared at him. "Zhat iz not the point 'ere, Karkaroff. Mr Potter, waz it not, iz underage and 'az zworn 'e 'az nothing to do with thiz. Zertainly 'e should not be forzed to remain in the Tournament! Are children not preciouz to you Britiz?"
Mr Crouch interrupted what was sure to become a full-blown fight between the foreign heads. "I'm afraid that the goblet of fire makes a unbreakable contract with the champion whose name it spits out. Failing to compete in the three tasks will result in the loss of magic. Nor can new names be added until the Tournament is over and the goblet is satisfied, for it will not light again till a winner had been declared."
"The question is who wanted Potter dead so much they hoodwinked an ancient magical artefact into believing Potter was a champion?" Professor Moody had arrived, rather silently for a man with a wooden leg.
"Surely the boy just did it himself for a shot at fame."
"Have you forgotten Potter's oath so quickly, Karkaroff? It's impossible to lie to magic, so he had nothing to do with this whole disaster. He is very much the victim in it." Harry gave a start at Professor Snape's silky tones. Of all the people who could have come to his defence, he had never imagined Professor Snape to be one of them. Then again he had never thought anything positive about his Potion's professor either.
Cutting everyone's protests short, he addressed Harry directly. "Potter, come with me. I'll escort you to your common room, now that it has become clear you'll not escape your untimely death despite your innocence in the matter."
"Professor Snape, some delicacy in this matter, please!"
"When someone entered Potter into a Tournament he's expected to die in, Professor McGonagall? Better prepare him for the reality of it all; he might even survive the first task in that case. Come Potter!"
"Yes Professor." It was all Harry could do to hide his curiosity and display only tiredness and weariness. This was a very interesting turn of events. Why, he believed he had heard a note of distress in his professor's voice!
Following his (former?) most hated professor, he soon realized that they were entering the dungeons, not going up to the tower of Gryffindor. He kept his silence however, sure his questions wouldn't be well received and used the brain he kept hidden most of the time. He knew the Slytherins were housed somewhere in the dungeons as were the Potions' classroom and most likely Professor Snape's personal rooms. Evidently there was something the professor wanted to discuss with him in private.
Harry was proved right when they stopped in front of a portrait, which depicted a field full of flowers and Professor Snape gave the password. "Dunderheads are not allowed here." The room they stepped into was not exactly cosy, but had a warm and peaceful atmosphere. A magnificent fireplace dominated one wall and in front of it was a rug in soft tones. A sofa with some kind of table on one of the arms sat close to the burning fire. Harry arrived to the conclusion that Professor Snape probably grades their essays there. Another sofa faced the first; this one not as worn or comfy looking as the other, evidently the guest chair. The walls were mostly bare, except for a large bookcase and a closed cabinet.
Professor Snape motioned him to sit down; he himself walked to the cabinet and poured a glass with some sort of alcohol. When he sat down opposite Harry he stared at him for several minutes, as if it was the first time he had a proper look at him. Harry tried his best not to fidget as the silence wore on and found his mind wandering to the reason he was here; in what was clearly Professor Snape's sanctuary from the students he loathed.
At last Professor Snape spoke, but what he said did nothing to alleviate Harry's growing confusion. "You probably aren't aware of this, Potter, but I was friends with your mother once up a time. When she died I swore an Unbreakable Vow to protect you. Do you know what that means? Good. When you arrived at Hogwarts, I resolved myself to my duty, and let me tell you that you haven't made things easy for me. You have tumbled from one deadly situation to another since arriving here, it seems. My hatred for you stems from your father actions. He bullied me, badly, together with his friends, throughout my entire time at Hogwarts. My only wrongdoings at the time we first met were poorness and being close to the girl he wanted on first sight. In fifth year he humiliated me so much I lashed out to Lily and lost her friendship forever. When you arrived looking like a carbon copy of your father, I couldn't help myself but project him onto you. It was incredibly unfair towards you and I recognize that now. You have my apologies for my treatment of you."
Harry had felt his eyes growing wider during Professor Snape's speech. It explained a good deal, but it was so mindboggling! He did feel for his professor, it must have been very difficult to him. "I own you an apology, professor, on behalf of my late father. I hate bullies and what he did to you was disgraceful and wicked. I know that it might be hard for you, but could perhaps tell me about my mother? I know hardly anything of them and well…"
"Surely the people who have raised you told you everything you wanted to know?"
"The Dursleys loath me with a passion. Aunt Petunia would never tell me about my parents. Heck, she lied to me and said they were drunks!"
Professor Snape paled and became red at the same time, creating a rather interesting complexion. He shook and Harry felt the magic in the room growing thicker. "Petunia?! Albus put you with Petunia?! That shrew shouldn't be allowed to care for an ordinary child, let alone a magical one. Lie down Potter. If Petunia has had her claws in you for over a decade, I must see what kind of damage she has managed to do to your body. Don't worry child, as a Potions Master I had to take the course for Mediwizards as well, so I'm fully qualified to do a full check-up on you."
A swish of the professor's wand and Harry sofa elongated so he could lie down on it. Professor Snape began to murmur spells and soon a parchment began to unroll. When Professor Snape finally stopped it must have been as long as he was. Furrowing his brows he began to read, his magic rising as he first checked Potter's general condition; very poor, no shots, malnutrition and weak bones, but thankfully not ill at the moment. The rest of the scroll contained every injury Potter had ever managed to sustain. Most broken bones had never been set correctly, some damage to his internal organs that could be his death every time he stepped on a broom and a bloody Basilisk bite! It was a wonder the boy was even alive. Pinching his nose and raising his occlumency shields, he tried to keep calm so he wouldn't frighten Lily's legacy. To think no one had ever noticed this, it wouldn't do at all. Clearly he would need to take action, however much he hated the necessary steps.
"Po… Harry I want you to tell me about your life until now, starting from your earliest memory. Leave nothing out, however shameful it may feel to you. I need to know. The professor looked so imploringly at him that Harry could feel his hope for a better life grow. And thus Harry started to talk. He spoke about the neglect of the Dursleys; the little food, the cupboard that had been his room until recently, the ridiculous amount of chores he had to do, the unfair punishments and Dudley's bullying. He recounted every adventure that he had stumbled into at Hogwarts: the stone, Quirrelmort, the spiders, the basilisk, the Voldemort in the diary, aunt Marge, Ron's rat that had turned out to be Peter Pettigrew, the death eaters at the Quidditch World cup, his dream of Voldemort killing a muggle. The night had progressed far when his tale finally came to a stop.
Dead on his feet, Harry looked at his professor who had listened to him respectfully, not once interrupting, and asking sensible questions at the right time. It felt rather good to speak about it to someone, he felt lighter already. So light he felt like he was flying. Giving in to his tiredness, he was asleep before his head came to a rest on Professor Snape's chest. With ease, he was carried into the bedroom and tucked under the covers, after being stripped of shoes, robe and tie.
Taking a pepper-up potion, Snape kneeled in front of his fire and began making calls to the goblins, a friend who worked as solicitor and a contact by the MCP, magical child protection. They helped him with the required paperwork and he was assured that it would be filed thus, that no one would be able to interfere until everything was set in stone. He needed to establish himself as Harry's legal guardian before lunch next morning. There was no way he would be able to keep Harry out of trouble otherwise. Thank Merlin that tomorrow was a Sunday; neither of them would be missed until after lunch at the earliest.
When he looked back on Harry's reactions throughout that evening, in a effort create a semblance of order in his mind, he noticed to slytherin tactics that had been employed, too often to be a coincidence, but so subtle it was near indiscernible, except to a true fellow slytherin. He put this and the oath the boy had somewhat foolishly made on a list of things they would need to discuss. Almost absentmindedly he also put hair lengthening, eye correction and a further discussion of the medical scan on it as well. Severus was suddenly very grateful that his sixth years had brewed a successful batch this time around; the potions would be essential in correcting the widespread damage done to Harry's body.
Hope you enjoyed it! I'm fully aware that this kind of plot has been done hundreds of times before, but my plot bunnies didn't let me leave it alone.