The House stank. Snape's well-trained nose detected Rosemary and Monkswort from the front gate; heady smells that almost masked the rankness that underlayed them. He frowned, the garden was ill-kept, the grass had been allowed to grow long and weeds had choked the roses. It did not fit the up-tight girl of his memories. All that still bloomed was the great bushes of lavender that almost obscured the front door. Plants of protection, he noted, even in muggle-lore.
Snape paused before the front door, the letter already in his hand. He wished to have this over and done with as soon as possible. He could not account for why Dumbledore had taken it into his head to foist this task onto him. McGonagal had taken the time to extensively advise him on the procedure but he was not a welcoming or a welcome presence amongst children. Surely there were many others who would have killed for the chance to reintroduce the anointed brat to the wizarding world. Even that oaf Hagrid would have made a a better messenger.
The paint on the door was more than a few years old. A sigil had been scored through the paint and into the wood below. The Evil Eye. He stared at it, finger on the bell. From what he remembered, Petunia's fascination with the magical world had soured quickly once she had realised she had no place in it. She had taken pleasure in becoming almost offensively mundane. The idea that buttoned-up Petunia would ever consent to having a magical symbol carved on her door for all the world to see was… troubling to say the least, but then he had not set eyes on the woman in nearly fifteen years. Who knew what happened in the interim?
Well Dumbledore did with any hope, he thought sourly.
He raised his hand and gave the door an impatient rap. Finally, there was movement from behind the frosted glass. The door creaked open.
The smell nearly rocked him off of his feet. A claustrophobic stankiness that wafted towards him; the product of dozens of different herbs and layers of sour incense. Yet beneath it there still lay that fetid odor of something animal, something foul. Snape felt old instincts stirring. He let his wand drop into his hand, keeping it hidden beneath his long sleeves.
A thin face peered out at him, grey hair falling out of a straggling bun. Lily's sister looked old, Snape thought, older than she should look. Muggles aged more quickly, he knew, but she should not have aged thirty years in the space of fifteen.
"Can I help you?" She asked, eyes cast down. "We do to wish to buy any goods or services nor convert to a new faith."
Snape waited a moment to see if she would recognise him, but her eyes remained fixed downward. Finally he spoke.
"I have come from the boy Petunia."
Her eyes flew upward, taking in his face.
"Severus?" She breathed.
Of all the reactions he had expected from Petunia Evens, joy had not been one of them. He found himself locked in a bony hug as her thin arms reached up to wrap themselves behind his neck. He stood there for a frozen moment as she clung to him.
"I was so afraid nobody would come," she half sobbed into his chest.
"Petunia," he said, finally gaining the presence of mind to try and unwrap himself from her grip. The wards thrummed with power as she half pulled him over the threshold, the magic as potent as the day that they had been paid for. Snape tasted copper on his tongue and knew whose blood had paid for them. No harm should have befallen the boy in this house, her sacrifice had to have meant at least that much. "Petunia," he said, trying to quell the dread rising in his gut. He pried her arms off and forced her to face him. "Where is the boy? He is not..."
"He is sleeping," she said, finally gathering her wits, She shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. "We should not wake him, you had better come in."
He stepped inside, his head brushing against the dried herbs hanging from the ceiling. Agrimony and Aniseed, Feverfew and Elderflower and a score more besides; all hung up in bundles and bunches. The door closed behind him. It's back was a mess of symbols and incantations from a dozen different religions. Most was muggle mystic nonsense, yet a crude ward had been achieved. Warding and Locking. Protection and Peace. Snape took a ready grip of his wand as he followed Petunia to the kitchen. For a woman like the one she used to be to resort to this. It spoke of fear. Fear and desperation. Snape wondered if, for all his genius, Dumbledore had ever considered that the boy might need more protection from his own relatives than from any outside enemy.
A boy of the right age peered over the banister but he was blond and big boned and obviously not Lily's child. They passed the living room door and the rank smell of animal seeped through the herbal miasma. The potents and sigils followed them down the corridor, obscuring the once tasteful wallpaper with paint and tape and markers that converged on the cupboard under the stairs. It's paint had been all but obliterated by the layers of mysticism. Slumber and Calmness. Placidity and Quietness.
Snape paused to take a closer look, but Petunia gripped his arm and tugged him into the kitchen. Snape narrowed his eyes as he let her, whatever was in there, Petunia had defaced her home to keep it contained. He would report it to Dumbledore. It was dormant. Let he be he once to deal with Petunia's paranoia.
Still that trace of foulness lingered.
The kitchen was an island of cleanliness and Snape finally saw something of the house-proud girl he had known before. Petunia moved towards the kettle, her face vacant as her hands moved through the motions. There were herbs here too, shelves of re-purposed jam jars, neatly labelled, lined one wall. A drying rack was propped next to the fridge Snape noted with some approval, at least she knew how to adequately prepare her ingredients. An archway of branches garlanded the entranceway, Yew, Holly and Witch Hazel, woven together to form the faintest of protections. The air felt cleaner in here, less tainted, or else the smell was simply less overpowering.
She placed the tea in front of him and sat down, staring sightlessly into her cup.
"Petunia," he said, not even trying to mask his impatience. "I need to see the boy. Hogwarts has accepted him, yet you have sent no reply to their missives"
The woman flinched, there was a clatter and a crash as delicate china hit the floor.
The boy from upstairs was in the doorway. He had the unhealthy look of a heavyset child who had lost weight too fast. His skin had a greyish tinge that started at his hands and webbed over his chest.
"Are you OK?" He asked, eyeing Snape mistrustfully as Petunia knelt to pick up the pieces of the shattered china. He held a knobbed walking stick half-raised in one hand. With an irritable wave of his wand, Snape vanished the broken cup.
This garnered a surprising lack of reaction from either Petunia or the boy who observed his use of magic with flat, uninterested eyes. Yet something else had noticed. The malodourous undercurrent suddenly surged. A wave of foulness swept past Petunia's son and wrung closed his throat. The boy turned his head, nostrils flaring, as Snape gripped the countertop, fighting for each breath. He pointed the wand at his throat.
"Effelo," he choked out. This provoked another vile surge, but clean, fresh air was gusting from his wand and he could at least breathe.
"I am fine dear go back upstairs." Petunia said, oblivious, as she rose to her feet. Her hand went up to pat her straggling hair like a habit from another lifetime. The boy looked uninclined to leave Snape alone with his mother.
"He will be waking up soon," the boy said.
"He will be hungry."
"I know," she said quietly. The boy shot one last mistrustful look at Snape and slid shut the door. "Would you like to sit?"
Snape had to methodically released each tension-locked muscle, he took a seat, his eyes narrowed in thought. Beyond the range of his breath-giving spell dark magic curled like graveyard fog. It permeated every inch of this dwelling, broiling beneath gossamer-thin web of muggle charmwork. He cursed his own stupid arrogance at walking blithely past the threat, dormant or not. Peace had made him complacent. He took a measured breath and eased the white knuckled grip on his wand. Any further magic could trigger an awakening and he knew of no unmagical method of contacting Dumbledore quickly. Each step would have to be considered if he was to get the boy and his relatives away safely.
Petunia was cupping the surviving mug of tea. She did not offer him a replacement.
"We received no letters," she said quietly into her cup. "Post does not reach the house any… anymore."
Snape twisted his expression into an approximation of sympathy. The woman was clearly fragile. Those paper thin protections were tied to her, agitation could make them scatter like confetti. He needed to persuade her, gently, to flee behind Hogwarts wards with the boys and allow a HITT Team to burn out whatever had been allowed to fester here.
"Dumbledore gave you no means of contact?" He said as softly as he could manage. He felt the network tremble as she looked up at him and for a moment, he saw Lily in the ruined lines of her face.
"There was a neighbour – Miss Figg, I felt that she was watching up sometimes. I suspected-" she looked down, "but she came to the house one day and there, there was an accident."
"It's alright," he tried, awkwardly patting her hand, she stated at the touch. He drew back, restraining a scowl. He was in no way proficient at this kind of emotional pandering, only Lily- he stopped that thought dead even as the old, familiar pain flared in his chest. Her sister stared across the table at him and he suddenly wondered how long she had been trapped here. Those pathetic protections needed an anchor and she had made it from herself. She would have had to stay housebound to keep whatever held her family hostage contained.
They could have been here years.
The state that the wizarding world's saviour would be in after an upbringing in this house did not bare thinking about. Judging from the other child, magic was not going to be welcome nor a surprise.
"Do you know the nature of what you have trapped here?" He asked her.
"A monster," she said simply, Snape opened his mouth but her eyes focused elsewhere. "I tried you know," she said, the words spilling over each other. "I did as Dumbledore commanded, I raised him, kept him safe, kept-kept it contained."
"Keep what contained Petunia?" He asked, but she went on her voice barely a whisper.
"Vernon could never understand. That we needed to keep it locked away. He thought there could be a medical solution. He tried to…" She trailed off and turned to look at him. Her eyes were as empty as one of the kissed. "What it did to him…"
"I need to see the boy Petunia" he said carefully, her sanity seemed balanced on a knife edge. "Perhaps you can wake him?" She blinked at him as if she had forgotten he had been there at all. "Petunia?"
Petunia flinched so hard that her tea spilled across the tablecloth.
The boy was back in the doorway. His eyes resting on his mother.
"Feed him Dudley dear," she said as the dark liquid spread and soaked into the white material. "So that he can be in a state to... to receive visitors."
Dudley nodded and retreated to the living room door. The rank, animal smell intensified as he pulled it open. Snape frowned as he went inside. Petunia sat unmoving, her eyes fixed on her soiled tablecloth. She was trembling he realised, frozen like a mouse beneath a cat's paw. Snape frowned. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with him. The foulness of the magic that had permeated this house was blatant. He should have snatched up the boy and left the moment he detected it.
Yet here he sat, drinking tea while waiting for the brat to finish his nap in the middle of an unsprung trap.
His brow wrinkled. His mind felt strangely sluggish as he stared at the spreading stain. Thoughts of action seemed to seep away at the slightest distraction. He looked up and the garlanded door caught his eye.
Peace and Placidity. Calm and Quiet. Unfocused and muggle-made those herbalistic charms may be, yet they were still more potent against those magical blood. His eyes flew to the enscrolled corridor and its miasma of lethargic aromas. Petunia had been unknowingly bewitching him before he had even stepped through the door. In his arrogance, he had not even considered the possibility that a muggle could have such an effect on him.
Snape forced his reluctant mind into gear. The steady breeze from his wand helped clear away some of the airborne humours but he dared not perform any further magic. He tried to strategize, to use the adrenalin sparked by his embarrassed anger at being so foolish but his mind was settling once again under the gentle but insistent suggestions. Calm. Peace.
A moment later the boy Dudley backed out of the living room. Tucked gently against his chest was a pair of kittens, no more than a week old. They mewled as the light hit them, their eyes barely open. Dudley stroked the back of their heads with a thumb even as they sank their needle-sharp claws into his jumper. They began to purr, nuzzling their furry little heads under his chin.
Snape noticed for the first time that the child was missing two fingers above the knuckles.
The boy shifted his knobbed stick into his spare hand even as he reached for the cupboard door. Feed him. Snape stood, even as the wave of black nausea returned.
"Petunia what in Merlin's name-"
He did not finish. Petunia suddenly moved. As Dudley lifted the latch she seized a fistful of robe and slammed him back into his seat.
She was too slow. Dudley's head snapped round, his attention deviated for the barest of moments.
The door was open.
A plaid hand darted out of the gap between the door and the frame. It clamped down on the childs wrist with a crackle of bone. Petunia screamed as her son was dragged violently forward but Dudley, his face set, braced a foot against the doorframe. There was a screech of dissatisfaction from the cupboard under the stairs. Snape saw his face whiten as his arm was nearly wrenched from its socket.
Snape stepped forward raising his wand, consequences be damned. Yet even as he did so Dudley gently detached one kitten and then the other and without a change of expression, tossed them mewling through the gap. He scrambled backwards as his arm was released, kicking the door closed as he did so.
The latch clicked. Twin squeals of infant terror rose and rose until they blessedly passed beyond the point of human hearing. There was a silence, and then a terrible crunch.
Slowly, Dudley made his way over to the frozen adults. A stark white handprint was sunken into the skin of his arm.
A child's handprint.
Petunia looked at Snape and he finally recognised the dulled horror in her eyes. For a handful of seconds sheer shock pushed back the enchantment.
It would not last, and soon the boy would be done feeding.
His eyes flickered fruitlessly around the mundane kitchen. He had always scorned wizards who were rendered useless without their wands. Yet here he was, helpless.
His eyes alighted on the drying rack.
Or perhaps he was just stupid.
He darted to the stove. Ignoring Petunia's exclamation he snatched down the biggest cast iron pot and set it on the hob. Calling up memories of long ago he twisted the dials. There was nothing but the hiss of gas. Snarling he reached reflexively for his wand.
"Here you have to push it down." Dudley appeared beside him, he pressed down and with a click a flame sprung up under the pot.
Snape took stock of his ingredients, such as they were. Most were useless, the few herbs with any power intended for the enchantments that would soon pull him back under. There was little that could be made to have the opposite effect, but he was not a Potions Master for nothing.
He opened a cupboard at random and pulled out a bottle labelled 'Tebasco Sauce.' He glanced at the ingredients and a thin lipped smile tugged at the corners of his moth. This would do as a base. He emptied the bottle into the pan, his eyes watering slightly. He perused the herbal collection, Mint, Yarrow and Lavender followed each other into the makeshift cauldron. He cast about, his eyes alighting on a half empty bottle of gin. His eyes cut towards Petunias slumped figure but this was no time to speculate. In it went.
"What else do you need?"
"Nettles, Ginseng, Basil, Astragalus, Garlic," Snape reeled off, trying to think of herbs that might be found in a muggle kitchen. Dudley nodded.
"The spice cabinet is to your right." He said.
"Here," the boy was back at his elbow. In one hand was a plastic bag, in the other a milk carton filled with chunky red liquid. Snape paused.
"What's in there?"
"The remains of Harry's meals, not that he leaves much."
"Blood, mostly kitten," the child said matter of factly, "If he eats them full he gets all restive, plus it dulls their pain some, I think. You are trying to wake yourself up right? The herbs make you sleepy too."
Snape looked at him speculatively, there was a spark of power in him, though obviously not enough to merit a Hogwarts letter. Then again, there was a certain dull sheen over Dudley's eyes that spoke of the long term effects of the somnolent spells. He inspected the bag, it was mostly full of small bones and scraps of fur, useless, but young blood would give it a kick. The potion turned a deep violet as he stirred it carefully in. Dudley watched with interest as the surface rippled unnaturally. It was not ready. It needed an activating ingredient.
"Personally I use this," Dudley said as if answering him. He pulled two cans from the fridge. He handed one to Snape who read the label.
"Mum says its pure caffeine," the boy said, shrugging as he snapped the tab. Snape copied him. The bubbling mixture stilled. It turned lavender and a gentle smell of lilac filled the room, crowding out the foul aromas for the first time. Snape breathed deep, feeling the clawing fatigue fall away. Petunia sat up and Dudley straightened, as if a great weight had been suddenly lifted from his shoulders.
"That is better than caffeine," he said, eyes suddenly sharp. "Can I learn to do that?"
Snape looked at him.
"That depends, is all this yours?" He said, waving towards the drying racks.
"The plants? Yeah they are mostly me. We needed a way to keep him quiet."
"Then perhaps it is possible, where did you learn this?"
"Books mostly, and the internet. Mum collected a lot of them while I was little. Most were mental but some looked, I dunno, realer than the New Age and Wicca ones. I just kinda worked it out." He shot a half defiant look at Snape. "I had to do something, things were really bad when we couldn't cont- we couldn't calm him, it weren't just animals, dad-."
The boy broke off and looked down at his feet.
"They have to be young?"
"As young as possible. He can't help it. He cries after, but if he doesn't eat…"
There was a silence from the hallway.
"Boy what is your cousin?" Snape asked quietly.
Dudley's mouth twisted into a parody of a smile.
"A nightmare, cept you never get to wake up."
Dudley walked towards the door, gently touching his mother's slumped shoulder as he passed her. He lifted the latch and something from the inside pushed it open.
The abhorrent creature that followed his cousin meekly through the door could barely be called a boy. Snape struggled to keep his face neutral, he had never seen something so repulsive, so warped in the body of a child. Then it looked up at him, and for the first time in a decade Severus found himself looking into Lily's eyes.
It struck him like a physical blow. The gaze that haunted his nights stared out at him through a living face. For a moment he could take in nothing else. The features would have been all James had it not been so caved inwards. All save the cheeks, which swelled out like a pair rotten apples. Gore still coated his pointed chin and soiled shirt. He licked the dribbled of leftover kitten from his fingers, his head tilted with animal curiosity,
"Who is this Aunty?" Harry Potter said in a child's voice, those awful eyes refusing to release him. Snape was almost surprised the creature could talk at all. He was tiny, nearly half the size of his cousin. His limbs were nothing but white skin stretched over bone and sinew. His clothes, such as they were, were crusted in old filth and his hair was a mess of dark dreadlocks that fell to his waist.
Snape felt his stomach heave. He clenched his teeth and dragged his eyes downward to confront the true perversion of what had been done- what had been allowed to be done to Lily's child.
Harry stood with his feet splayed, his hands resting on his distended stomach. The tumescent mass that stretched tight his ragged t-shirt made him nearly as wide as he was tall. Harry smiled nervously at him with red-stained teeth. There was a pause. Snape forced his face into some kind of imitation. The result was probably truly frightening but the boy seemed delighted. He was treated to a full foul-toothed grin. Snape tried not to be repulsed, the putrid presence roiled beneath the childs stretched skin, befouling the very air around it.
"This is Severus dear." Petunia said, seeming to surface from her reverie. Harry's head snapped around to look at her, his eyes inhumanly bright. Snape remembered to late the reviving potion still bubbling on the stove. Dudley followed his gaze, he slid casually over to the stove even as his mother prattled on. "He was a friend of your mother, he has come to take you to school."
"You mean I could go outside?"
There was a naked longing in his voice. Petunia shot a worried look at Snape, as if afraid she had kept this cursed creature so cloistered. Snape could feel the tendrils of lethargy curling through his mind even as a placidity settled back over the boy. He gripped the back of the chair. Dudley appeared at his elbow, a jam-jar of the mixture in his hand. Snape took it and breathed deep, trying to clear the dark miasma from his lungs before he choked on it. He wondered if Dumbledore would let him take the cousin on, whether he could wield a wand or not. Common sense was so much rarer than magic.
"Would you like to?" He bit out., but the boy did not seem to notice his tone.
"I would like to make… friends," Harry said, rolling the word around his mouth as if it were something sweet. "I would like to go outside in the daytime."
"You probably have fifteen minutes," Dudley said quietly, "before he becomes… not himself again."
"There will be many students to befriend." Snape said, retreating into McGonagall's script. "Your parents attended, they would be proud to have you follow in their…" He trailed off, staring at Lily's malformed little legacy, the lies twisting away into nothing. Cold rage was filling him. He needed to leave, needed to drag this thing before Dumbledore and the rest of his smug supporters and showed them what had grown through their arrogance and their neglect.
"Would you be coming Dudley?" Harry said, suddenly anxious. "Must I go alone?" He placed his hand atop the mark that he had made by nearly ripping his cousins arm off.
There was something wrong with his movements, muscles spasming under his skin. Dudley winced as Harry's dirty nails dug suddenly into his arm, but he gave the smaller boy a hard, sad smile.
"I think the offer is for you only Harry," he said, and Snape could not tell if it was relief or regret that coloured his voice.
"May I come home for the holidays?" He asked, approaching the table where Petunia still sat slumped over her empty cup. His aunt gave a hysterical bark of laughter that dissolved into choking gasps. Harry regarded her worriedly, he reached out one hesitant hand towards her quivering shoulders. It hovered there a moment, then he drew it back. Dudley gently pushed him aside.
"Ten minutes," Dudley said as he pressed a fresh cup of tea into his mums hands.
The spasms were getting more pronounced. Snape eyed him. His caved-in features twitched involuntarily, he moved in spasmodic jerks, holding each position with an unnatural motionlessness. He tapped his fingers on his protruding belly. Something beneath the skin moved to the touch. All of a sudden he stilled, his nostrils flared. Snape followed his fixed gaze. Blood welled from the small crescents he had carved into his cousin's arm. A small, pink tongue darted out to wet his bloodless lips.
"I want Dudley to come," he said, his voice ringing with a childish petulance. "Why can't he come?"
"He is a muggle. " Snape said, holding onto his temper. "He has not the power enough to wield a wand."
"I want him too."
That tone was all James. Snape's answer snapped out unbidden.
"Well you cannot expect to get everything you want Mr Potter. Sit down."
That was a mistake.
Harry's lips curled away from his teeth. He raised his arms, each joint clicked as his hands contorted themselves into claws. Then he whimpered. Something was moving beneath the skin. A fetul hand imprinted itself against the boy's soft stomach, pressing outwards in a bloom of bruises. He curled into himself as an outline of an arm crawled upwards, burrowing between the skin and the sternum. His shallow breaths dissolved into wet choking spasms. Snape took a cautionary step back and rose his wand unsure as to what would lift the boys head.
"I want him to come." His voice was less than a whisper, but it resonated with a low menace that echoed in the halls of Snape's memory. The temperature dropped and his breath curled up between them as black eyes locked him in place. The creature's voice elevated the child's scream to unearthly screech. "He belongs to me!"
Fetid soul-sucking darkness slammed into Snape. It ripped and tore at him as he lay retching on the floor. Foul, wild magic ripped open the cupboards, Petunia crawled whimpering under the table as china rained down onto the tiles.
The unborn arm had its tiny fingers wrapped around Harry's throat. The creature stepped up to Snape's prone form. There was nothing behind the child's eyes but the void. Its mouth distended downwards, the flesh of its mouth ripping as it opened impossibly wide. His face convulsed into a pumpkin grin and suddenly his face was an inch away, the soft flesh of his stomach pressing against his thighs.
"You smell familiar," its voice came out as a hiss.
Fear in its purest chemical form slammed into him as hard as the magic tearing through the kitchen. He scrambled back even as Dudley stepped into the teeth of the storm and took careful aim.
The blow to the throat sent Harry reeling back choking and hacking. The arm retreated and the darkness drained from his eyes. Dudley placed the butt of his stick on the tiles and stood unmoving as they both slowly regained their feet.
Harry stared at the floor, avoiding his cousin's eyes.
"You should put me back soon," he said quietly. He took deep steadying breaths his hand reaching up to massage the bruises ringing his neck. The ruin of his toast-rack chest was knitting itself back together before their eyes. "You're waking him up."
The pair of foetal hands outlined themselves against the child's flesh. Harry looked down in concern brushing his fingers gently over the parasitic imprints even as blood pooled beneath the skin. Snape stilled, suddenly aware of being observed and not by eyes. He slammed his occumancy shields down as something ran its unborn little hands across the surface of his mind.
The boy seemed oblivious to the creature's mental assault. He turned to his cousin.
"I want you to come," he said, his voice trembling.
The creatures probe vanished as quickly as it came. Snape quietly picked up the boy's cane.
"It was my father's smelting stick," Dudley said.
It was a good sized piece of Sycamore but it was coreless. Nevertheless, Snape had sensed a spark of magic as the boy struck.
"You are not without power," Snape allowed looking at the two boys, "but those decisions are not made by me. Still Potion making requires little foolish wand-waving."
He could not tell if such news was welcome or not, though he thought he saw a spark of interest in the boy's eyes. It was a cruel thing to put into Dudley's head, but Snape would ensure it happened if it meant another person was around who understood what the wizarding worlds saviour was. Plus the boy would need to be catered for until the parasite could be removed and he doubted the house-elves would consent to kittens.
Dudley glanced at the clock and then quickly at his cousin who had gone completely still.
"Dudley," said Harry through clenched teeth.
"Times up, we'll be needing an extension,"
Dudley returned from the living room a few moments later, a baby rabbit cradled in his arms. It kicked weakly, its white fur already stained with blood. Harry's face twisted into something predatory. His eyes darted to Snape and then back to the struggling creature.
"Must it be here?" He pleaded. A tear glistened on his rotten cheeks even as his lips peeled back.
"You can't hide this from them," Dudley said, his voice unyielding.
Snape did not see him move. In a blink the boy was across the room. He snatched the infant creature from his cousin's grip. There was nothing of Lily's child in his face now. He opened his mouth and kept opening it, skin ripping as it stretched unnaturally downwards. Snape braced for the crunch of bone.
The boy did not bite down. He inhaled. Snape did not know a rabbit could scream, but this one did. The shriek rose in pitch and pain, fading as it dissipated into the child's sucking maw even as more tears rolled down his cheeks. Snape felt the bile rising in his throat at the creature inside's gluttonous glee. Finally the little thing went limp. Harry stared at it sadly for a moment, humanity trickling back into his eyes. Then he bit down on its skull with a crunch of blood and brains.
There was silence as Harry finished his meal.
Snape had spent decades cultivating the ability to control his reactions. Harry took one look at his face and cowered back. He turned his face away, wiping ineffectively at his bloodflecked mouth with a filthy sleeve. Dudley passed him a cloth. Harry smiled timeously at him. The flesh at the corners of his moth already knitting back together.
There was something in Dudley's expression that was caught between pity and disgust. Snape sat slowly back down next to the boy's comatose mother, watching as Dudley helped the smaller boy clean himself up. He had an extensive knowledge of dark magic and the creatures spawned of it. He knew many forms of possession. He had seen beings that seeded themselves inside a living hoast and if left unchecked, sucked their container dry from the inside. He knew of curses that could enact their revenge over weeks and years, making each day more unbearable than the last.
He knew of many man people who would wish such a fate on this cursed child.
Academically he had categorised each of this blighted little creatures' signs and symptoms since it had stepped into the light. He had drawn on a lifetime of study, trying desperately to match this unchecked parasite to some known evil.
"I can take you to Hogwarts now," he said, back in control. "I know a man who is dying to meet you." He would drag this creature in front of Dumbledore and his lackey's and show them what had become of their Boy-Who-Lived
There had been whispers amongst the Deatheaters, towards the end of the war, of rites so dark none dared speak their name.
Harry looked uncertain, his hands cupped protectively over his stomach.
Ten years at that school, and he had never had had a chance at redemption. He had failed. Lily's child had been lost from that first hallowed night.
"I don't know… I don't know if Mr Tom would like that, He said, blinking up at him with those green eyes, he winced and glanced down at his swollen stomach. For a moment a serpentine skull imprinted itself against the stretched skin. "Let me ask him."
And for the second time in his life, Snape knew true despair.