Chapter 4 - The Weight of the World
Previously in To Have A Home: "Hem Hem," the woman prompted in her sickly sweet, high pitched voice, causing Dumbledore to nod. "Severus, I'd like you to meet our new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, Dolores Jane Umbridge." And at that moment, as if the woman's name was a trigger, the castle's warning signals went off. Harry was in danger.
It took all of Severus's strength and restraint to not run in the opposite direction in order to continue his search for Harry. A peculiar expression crossed the headmaster's face before he turned to his newest employee.
"Dolores, I believe this concludes your tour of the school. You may return to the ministry and I shall be in contact before the students arrive tomorrow." Dumbledore informed her. He spoke in a strained tone that Severus had only heard once before in all of his years that he had known the older man.
It looked as if Umbridge was about to argue, but with an insistent look from Albus, she bit her tongue and apparated back to her office at the ministry. As soon as she left, Albus wasted no time in turning to Severus.
"Severus, what in Merlin's name is going on?" He asked in a somewhat angry tone. "Would you care to tell me why the school's alarm is going off?" He asked frantically, hoping that none of his faculty were injured or worse. It didn't cross his mind that a student, especially Harry Potter, would be the one in need of assistance, as they usually arrived on September 1st, and not a day sooner.
Severus took a deep breath and exercised his carefully practiced poker face, mastered after years of being Dumbledore's spy.
"I do not know, Headmaster. I am going to find out, and will send you a message if your presence is required. I am fully capable of handling this situation." He stated, holding back a sneer.
Albus stared at Severus with narrowed eyes for several moments before nodding.
"Alright, Severus. Please keep me informed." He sighed before starting to walk away, only to turn back for a moment and look Severus in the eyes. "And how many times do I have to tell you, Severus, please call me Albus." He stated, the twinkle in his eyes having returned in full force. With those parting words, Dumbledore turned and walked in the direction of his office. The moment he was alone, Severus ran down the halls, using the "Point Me" spell to aid himself in finding the runaway Gryffindor.
Another half hour of searching yielded no results, which caused additional panic to rise within the Slytherin. Suddenly, the man stopped in his tracks, an idea dawning on him as memories from long ago flooded his mind, pulling him into a flashback.
Fourteen year old Severus Snape stalked slowly down the abandoned corridor, his scrawny shoulders slumped as if he had the weight of the world upon them. The only thing tethering him to his miniscule amount of sanity and happiness had been taken from him mere hours ago. During breakfast that morning, an official owl from St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries had informed Severus of his mother's passing. In an instant, the young Snape's world had come crashing down around him.
He waited until midnight to sneak out of his dorm, not that any of his roommates would even sense the lack of his presence during the day. With his wand in hand, he exited the Slytherin common room and silently ventured up to the Astronomy Tower. The beauty of the clear night sky, with stars sprinkled throughout went unnoticed by the teen as he stepped up on the ledge of the large window. He took a moment to survey the landscape of what he considered his true home.
Severus knew that should he return to Spinners End at the conclusion of the school year, he would not be welcomed back with open arms, as he usually would be when his mother greeted him at King's Cross Station. With his mother now gone from this mortal plane, there was no buffer between him and his father's wrath. In his mind, he felt he had no other choice than to follow his mother into the afterlife. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and was about to jump, when a hand grasped the back of his robes and yanked him back, causing him to fall to the floor.
He was about to unleash his temper on the other witch or wizard when he opened his eyes and found a pair of familiar green eyes staring back at him. Severus laid there, paralyzed, as if the witch before him held the same power as Medusa. A few moments later, the fiery ginger broke the deafening silence, speaking in a voice as soft as silk, and as calming as the scent of the lavender flowers they used to run through as children.
"You are loved, Severus." She started, kneeling down next to the boy she considered her other half. "Even if your mother is not physically here, her love for you lives on. My love for you lives on." Lily assured. "You're okay. I'm here, and I always will be. You aren't alone, Sev."
Severus snapped out of his trance and took a stuttering breath as Lily's words echoed in his mind. He hadn't even considered the people he'd leave behind, should he have completed his task. Lily Evans was the only person, other than his mother, to show him true love and compassion. He mentally chastised himself for being so selfish, knowing that should he have died, the pain he would have inflicted upon his best friend would be irreparable.
His eyes grew precariously moist, which startled Severus as he thought he had put up a mask and built a wall that hid his true emotions. He couldn't help himself as he grabbed onto Lily, tears now flowing freely down his face as he hugged her, silently thanking her for saving him from himself...
Severus was suddenly thrust back into the present, surprised to find himself at the entrance to the Astronomy Tower. He quietly entered the small room, and as he expected, found the young Potter standing on the ledge, just as Severus himself had done so many years ago. He was morbidly fascinated by the peaceful, resigned expression on the boy's face as he prepared to , wasting no time, the Potions Master rushed forward and grasped the teen's shirt, before pulling him back to safety.
Snape noticed the cuts on his student's arms, bleeding freely and dripping on the old wooden floor. The cuts were precise, too neat to have been done by an average blade. A cutting charm… his mind supplied. The young, damaged teen scrambled to his feet, his face screwed up with pure, unadulterated anger and despair. Harry's voice shook as he stared at the man who had once again thwarted his plans to leave this world.
"Just let me fucking die, Snape!" He pleaded. "I… I can't do it anymore… I can't..." He started, but paused as his voice broke and caught in his throat. Severus took this as his cue and walked forward, enveloping the trembling Gryffindor in his arms. He held the boy, ignoring the growing wetness on his shoulder.
Feeling Harry's knees start to buckle, the two wizards collapsed to the floor, still in a tight embrace. Severus whispered assurances in the teen's ear while said teen sobbed into his Professor's robes.
"I'm sorry… I'm sorry… I'm sorry… I'm-" the boy whispered like a broken record, to which Severus shook his head and promptly shushed the child.
"You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for. It is I who should be apologizing to you." Harry went still in his arms, and Severus continued.
"Harry, you have endured so much pain in your short life. You have every right to be angry. Your feelings are valid and you should not be ashamed to show your emotions." Severus informed. Merlin, I'm a hypocrite, The man thought. And it was true; it had been drilled into Severus' head that he should never show his emotions, and that crying was a sign of weakness. It was a mantra that was constantly beaten into him by Tobias after his mother died, and it was the same mantra that he carried with him to this day.
The boy in his arms was quiet, causing Severus to look down. His eyes immediately went to Harry's arms, which were still bleeding. Severus instinctively tore off part of his robe and used the fabric to apply pressure to the fresh wounds, eliciting a low groan from Harry.
"I know, I know." Severus placated softly as he pressed down on the boy's arms, trying to staunch the bleeding from the gashes. After tying the makeshift tourniquets tightly around the cuts, the man stood up with Harry lying limp in his arms. It was slightly disconcerting to Severus, as he found himself in this position for a second time within twenty four hours. Nevertheless, after making sure he had a secure hold on the boy, the Slytherin began his trek back to the hospital wing.
Severus was not surprised to find Poppy waiting for him as he entered the room. Once again, Harry was deposited onto the bed before Madame Pomfrey descended upon him like a mother hen. Learning from his earlier mistakes, Severus went to a nearby shelf, and retrieved a potion that he should have administered in the first place. He handed the bottle to Poppy, who read the label and raised an eyebrow at the man.
"Extra Strength Dreamless Sleep potion. With it, he will not wake until at least tomorrow evening, giving his body time to recover." He informed the Hogwarts Matron. She nodded before administering the potion, watching as Harry drifted into unconsciousness. Poppy made quick work of healing the long gashes that marred the teen's arms, and placed the blanket gently on top of the sleeping form of the nearly emaciated boy.
Severus made sure to stow away Harry's wand, along with his invisibility cloak and trunk, so as not to have a repeat performance of the recent events. He watched the boy for a few moments, transfixed on the steady rise and fall of the Gryffindor's chest. Knowing that Harry was settled for now, Severus now had another crucial matter to attend to. He nodded to Poppy, a silent thank you evident in his eyes. With a swish of his robes, he exited the hospital wing and started towards the headmaster's office, his anger building with each step.
Dumbledore had a lot of explaining to do.