Snape stepped out of the kitchen fireplace at Order headquarters, home of the Blacks. He hated the place. It was filled with an aura of dark magic, it was home to the mutt, and people distrusted him here.
He was surprised to find Kreacher staring at him in astonishment. "Elf," he said, "I am looking for Black."
The elf seemed to straighten his shoulders. "Master Black is not here," the elf stated.
"Not here in the kitchen? Or not here at all?" Snape asked.
"Not here," the elf repeated.
Snape rolled his eyes, raised his wand, and uttered "Hominum revelio." The spell revealed that at least one human was in the house.
"Black!" Snape called, stepping around the elf. "Black! I need to speak with you!" When there was no answer, Snape ascended the stairs, his impatience growing with each flight of steps.
"Ah, my dark friend," the portrait of Mrs. Black cooed as he walked past her landing. "Welcome to the House of Black. It is a pleasure to welcome you to my home."
Snape bit back a sharp retort. "I am here to see your son."
Her expression darkened. "He is not worthy of you," she scoffed.
"I agree," Snape said, "but I need to find him nonetheless. Do you know where he might be hiding?"
"The disappointing spawn of my loins is likely in his room," she said, not bothering to hide her contempt for her son.
Snape nodded and continued up the stairs. He found Black in the man's bedroom, nursing an injured hippogriff.
"Snape!" Sirius shouted in surprise, jumping to his feet, his wand at the ready. "What are you doing here?" He pointed his wand at Snape's chest. "You aren't welcome here."
"I assure you," Snape sneered, "I have no wish to be in this disgusting place." Snape looked around, disdain clear on his features.
"Then why are you, Snivellus?"
"Unlike you," Snape bit out, "I am saving your godson."
"What?" Black said, his wand dropping and his face paling. "What's wrong with Harry?" Raising his wand again, he said, "If you so much as touched a hair on his head…"
"Calm yourself, mutt," Snape said, turning to walk away. "Your godson is fine. Physically anyway."
"Wait!" Black called out. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"He seems to be under the impression that the Dark Lord is torturing you for information."
"What?" Black gasped.
"And you might want to check on that elf of yours, he seems a bit… off."
"Kreacher?" Black asked dismissively. "What are you talking about? And where's Harry?"
Snape found it amusing that Black was easily caught off guard. He kept walking, ignoring the man following him like a well-trained dog. He could feel Black's growing impatience and alarm and didn't feel the least bit guilty for causing it.
Back in the kitchen, Kreacher was still hanging around, mumbling to himself. "The spawn of my mistress is still here, oh what would my mistress say, such a scab on the Black family tree…"
"Kreacher!" Black yelled. "Go do something useful! Go clean the drawing room!"
"Yes, master," Kreacher said, shuffling out of the room, still muttering under his breath. "Such a disappointment to my mistress…"
Black slammed the kitchen door behind the elf, turning back to Snape, his wand drawn once more.
"I want to see my godson," Black demanded.
Snape rolled his eyes, throwing green powder into the flames.
"Snape…" Black said, a threat clearly imminent.
"I'll send him through," Snape said. "You have five minutes," Snape declared as he spun away, but not before seeing the look of outrage on the mutt's face.
Stepping out of the fire and back into his sitting room, he found Harry huddled on his sofa, stroking Earl Grey who had curled up on his lap—traitorous cat—his friends on either side of him.
Harry jumped to his feet, upsetting the cat, "Where's Sirius?"
Snape raised a hand. "He's fine," Snape replied. "He is waiting for you in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place." Snape gestured toward the fireplace.
Harry looked both confused and relieved.
"You have five minutes, Harry," Snape said, handing him the jar of Floo powder.
Harry nodded. Just as he was about to throw a handful into the flames, he met Snape's gaze. "Thanks, Professor."
Snape nodded as he watched the boy go.
School had ended and exams were over. Summer plans had been made, promises exchanged, and the Hogwarts Express boarded. And Harry was going to the Dursleys' once again. He'd worked extensively on this with the Stanleys. He'd worked on what to do if he had a flashback, or the onset of a panic attack. He'd worked on how to handle any memories that were triggered there. He'd still see the Stanleys weekly, and it was only for four weeks, even if a month seemed like an eternity at present. After that, he'd be heading to the Weasleys' for a couple of weeks, and then he'd finish off the summer at Headquarters with his godfather. The only person he wouldn't be seeing regularly over the summer was Professor Snape, and he wasn't sure how he felt about that. While he'd finally worked out how to stop the dreams, he wasn't sure it would be enough. And what if it wasn't? Sighing, he watched as the scene outside the windows slid by, greens and blues, mountains and sky.
"All right there, mate?" Ron asked.
"Yeah," Harry said. "Just not looking forward to the next four weeks."
"It'll be all right," Hermione said. "I'll be with you for the first two, and Ron the last two, and we can always call on Dobby if we need to."
Harry smiled. He appreciated his friends giving up their summer to be with him. He just didn't know what to expect when it came to his aunt. She'd have been released from her two-month stay at Azkaban a week ago, and she'd be the only one in the house. Surely she'd hold the absence of her son and husband against him.
By the time they'd reached King's Cross station, Harry had been thoroughly distracted by his friends and hadn't even realized the trip was over. Disembarking, he said his good-byes and walked with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to find Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Then they made their way to a designated café a few blocks over, where Snape would be waiting to take him and Hermione to Privet Drive.
Snape was already there, sitting at a table drinking coffee and reading a Muggle newspaper. He was wearing faded black jeans and a black button-down shirt. Harry blinked. He looked just like a Muggle and it was disturbing.
"Sir," Harry said, walking up to his table, Hermione beside him.
Snape nodded once, before getting to his feet, folding the newspaper, and leaving it on the table. He placed some British notes under a glass and ushered them back into the sunshine.
"There is an alley up here just a bit. We will Apparate from there," Snape informed them.
Harry's stomach twisted. He glanced at Hermione, who took his hand and squeezed.
They made their way into the alley and behind a rubbish skip.
"Each of you take an arm and hold on tight," Snape said, extending his arms for them to grab. "Do NOT let go until I tell you to, understand?"
Harry and Hermione nodded and, in the next second, Harry felt as though he was being sucked into a tube, his body stretching and twisting, his lungs constricting. As soon as it had started, it stopped. They appeared in the alleyway between Magnolia Crescent and Wisteria Way. Hermione swayed while Harry cursed, both of them still clinging to the Potions master, who looked supremely unaffected.
"Steady yourselves," he said. "Then you may let go."
Hermione looked shaken. "Is it always like that, sir?" she asked.
"It is," Snape replied.
"Do you ever get used to it?" Harry asked.
Snape frowned. "In a manner of speaking," he said. "Now, let's get this over with."
Snape led the way to Number Four Privet Drive. "Remember, you aren't to do magic, unless absolutely necessary, and even then it is better for Ms. Granger to do it than you, Harry. Today is an exception as the Ministry has been warned that you are being escorted by an adult wizard."
Harry felt a spark of anger go through him. As if he hadn't remembered how Umbridge had sent dementors to Little Whinging and he'd almost been expelled for defending himself and his cousin. At least that vile woman was spending time in Azkaban for her crimes against the students. There had been so much outcry from the parents of students that even Fudge hadn't been able to smooth that one over.
As they stepped up to the front doorstep, Harry was startled to see how much the garden had fallen into disrepair. The lawn had been mowed once, it seemed, but it needed it again. Weeds grew in the flower beds and along the cracks in the once pristine sidewalks. Snape knocked smartly when they reached the door.
Promptly, the door swung open to reveal Petunia Dursley. She looked thin and pale, her face lined and her lips pursed. She looked over their shoulders, refusing to make eye contact, as she stepped aside to let them in. Snape gestured Harry and Hermione inside, before following them and shutting the door. It was a bit awkward, with no one speaking and no one quite knowing how to act, Harry thought.
He jumped when he felt Snape's hands settle on his shoulders from behind. "Petunia," Snape said coldly.
"Severus," she said in return, her voice lacking her usual venom.
"Here with Mr. Potter is Ms. Hermione Granger," Snape said. "As you know, she'll be staying for two weeks. An additional adult will be checking in at least every other day, if not more often."
Aunt Petunia nodded, her stance rigid, still refusing to make eye contact.
"I trust I will not hear any reports about your mistreatment of Mr. Potter." Harry felt Snape give his shoulders a squeeze. "If I do, you will have me to answer to. Do you understand?" The threat in Snape's voice was unmistakable.
Stiffly, Aunt Petunia nodded once more.
"Very well, then," Snape said. "Let's get you both unpacked."
Snape nudged Harry forward—indicating the boy should lead the way—before removing his hands from Harry's shoulders.
Harry appreciated Snape's show of protectiveness in front of his aunt. He glanced at Hermione and then led her and the professor up the stairs to the where his bedroom and Dudley's were.
"This is Dudley's room," Harry said, gesturing toward the large space filled with everything a boy could want—computers, TVs, handheld electronics, radio-controlled cars, gaming systems, comic books, posters, and more. With a sigh, Harry continued on and said, "And this is my room."
Harry didn't miss the doubtful looks of his friend and professor at his very small, plain room that had none of the things that Dudley's had. His walls were bare and there was only a single bed, a badly scratched dresser, and a tottering desk with a broken leg. Everything looked worn and secondhand. Harry looked at his feet, not wanting to see the pity on their faces. He distracted himself by placing Hedwig's cage on top of his dresser, releasing the latch, and opening the window so she could fly out if she wanted.
"Would you prefer to sleep in your cousin's room?" Snape asked.
"No," Harry said automatically. He'd never been allowed in his cousin's room. But if he thought about it, he didn't want to the constant reminder of Dudley, either.
"Very well," Snape said, waving his wand in a wide arc.
Harry watched as his bed groaned and popped and turned into bunk beds with an ornate iron ladder, the mattresses covered with gold sheets and burgundy comforters. The plain walls transformed themselves into a pale yellow-gold color and deep red curtains formed to cover the single window. His desk and dresser transformed into the dark wooden heavy style of furniture that could be found in Gryffindor tower. The long plain wall opposite the bunk beds now sported a breathtaking picture of Hogwarts, and a Gryffindor pendant hung above the door. Then the room seemed to stretch itself, elongating in a way that Harry knew didn't fit with the floor plan of the house. A table and two chairs popped into existence and an extra-wide wardrobe formed, as well. The locks on the outside of the door cracked and broke off and a new doorknob appeared that could be locked from the inside.
"That's much better," Hermione breathed. "Thank you, Professor."
Harry stared around in awe. "Yeah, thanks," he breathed.
With another wave, Snape enlarged their trunks. He set the briefcase he'd been carrying atop one of them and opened it. The inside was lined with potions bottles held in place by strips of what looked like elastic. He proceeded to pull out a few of them and hand them to Harry.
Harry read the labels: Calming Draught, Dreamless Sleep, Mind Strengthening Solution.
"You know how to use them. Send an owl if you need more."
"I appreciate it, sir," Harry said.
"Is there anything else you need while I am still here?" Snape asked.
Harry shook his head, still stunned by all the things that Snape had thought of, his room in particular. Did Snape know how much of a trigger his room would be? And that by changing it so spectacularly, he could make new, better memories and not be haunted by the old ones?
"Harry," Hermione said, "where is the toilet?"
Harry pointed her down the hall, leaving Snape and Harry alone.
"Harry," Snape said. "You have come a long way and I am sure that returning here must feel like a setback."
Harry looked at his feet but said nothing.
"Are you still wearing the chain I gave you?"
Nodding, Harry pulled out the long necklace with the antique key attached to it. "Where did you get this?" Harry asked, fingering the warm metal key.
When Snape didn't answer, Harry glanced up. Snape was standing there but his focus was elsewhere. Finally, he reached into his shirt and pulled out his own identical chain with matching skeleton key. Then he touched his wand to each old-fashioned key and dark etched lines started to grow and spill out across the ornate surface of the metal. On Harry's key, a lithe Gryffindor lion wound its way around the top of the key on one side, with the name "Lily" in a looping script on the other side. On Snape's pendant, a snake curled around the key's curvature, with the name "Sev" in the same looping script on the other side. Snape was staring at the keys with a faraway look on his face, one that had remnants of loss and regret.
"Professor?" Harry asked tentatively.
"Your mother made them for us," Snape said. "She and I were friends before Hogwarts. We were, of course, sorted into different houses."
Harry stared, stunned. Snape and his mother were childhood friends?
"By second year, she was a whiz at charms. When one of us needed to talk to the other, we simply rubbed them to let the other know, and then we met in a predestined location."
Fascinated, Harry asked, "Did you use them often?"
Snape grimaced. "Your mother was very pretty and very popular. Everyone adored her. I, on the other hand, was the odd one out. I was teased and picked on. Lily knew. She summoned me quite often, more for me than herself, I suspect."
Harry was running his fingers along his mother's name. He had never had anything of his parents' before, and now he had a necklace that she had charmed.
"How did you get hers back?" Harry asked.
Snape sighed. "In that memory you saw in the Pensieve, when she tried to help me. I rejected her help and called her that awful name." Snape shook his head. "I tried to apologize. She said she'd stood by me long enough. She threw her chain at me and refused to speak to me after that."
"I'm sorry, sir," Harry said. He couldn't imagine losing Ron or Hermione. It would crush him.
Snape shrugged. "I'd got mixed up with the wrong crowd by then and Lily didn't like it. Looking back, I can see her point. At the time, I was blinded by the perception of power and fitting in."
Harry guessed that Snape was speaking about some school version of the Death Eaters but he wasn't about to ask.
"In any case," Snape said abruptly, snapping back to the present, "keep this on you at all times. Should you need me, you know what to do."
"Do not play the hero. I am here for you, as is Covey. Whether that be because you are experiencing new memories or panic attacks or flashbacks, or if your aunt is giving you any trouble, or if the Dark Lord is invading your mind. If you need me, do not hesitate to reach out to me. Understood?"
"Also, either the headmaster, Covey, or myself will escort you to the Stanleys each week," Snape said, sliding the key and chain back beneath his shirt; Harry followed suit.
"What about Occlumency lessons?"
"Practice what we have worked on each day and each night before you go to bed. We will resume regular lessons when you return to Headquarters."
Harry nodded. He wasn't sure what to say. "Professor?"
"Thanks. For everything. For helping me this term. And just, everything."
Snape nodded. He put a hand on Harry's shoulder and squeezed lightly. Then he was gone.
Hermione found Harry sitting on the lower bunk.
"Are you all right?" she asked, sitting beside him.
"Yeah, I am," Harry said and, with his friends and professors and the whole Order behind him, he knew he would be.
~*~ The End ~*~
A/N: Yes, I have considered a sequel. I have even outlined some ideas for one. But I also have a file of several other Harry-Snape stories I'd like to write, and I might work on those first. Thanks for reading my story and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.