By lethe medusa
1. Trash to Treasure
Severus Snape was having a miserable day. It had begun when he'd stubbed his toe getting out of bed, and subsequently provided him with burnt toast for his breakfast, irritating Ministry twits waylaying him in the Leaky Cauldron, argumentative shopkeepers asking outrageous prices for items he simply had to have, and one scrawny brat attempting to pick his pocket.
Correction: one scrawny, filthy brat successfully picking his pocket.
With an audible growl, Severus put his long legs to good effect in chasing after the little rat who had managed to slip from his grasp. The child was frustratingly quick, and was evidently quite at home darting though the shadier backstreets and alleys of London's wizarding world. Severus was almost as familiar with the nooks and crannies of this area, however, and managed to grab hold of the child after only a few minutes. He then struggled to keep hold of the slippery urchin while he caught his breath, firmly ignoring the stitch in his side. The child was not so hampered by lack of stamina, and was quite happy to put his mouth to other uses than panting for breath or talking.
"You little - !" Severus swore whole-heartedly at the brat, who had displayed somewhat vampiric tendencies and sunk his teeth deep into Severus' wrist. Gritting his own teeth, the Potions Master let go with his right hand long enough to grab his wand from his pocket. The brief respite was enough for the child to wriggle free once more, but he'd barely taken two steps before Severus hit him with a full body bind.
The child should have dropped like a stone. Instead, Severus moved only just in time to avoid the rebounding spell as it bounced off the brat and came flying back at him. The child himself spared a quick glance backwards, and Severus had a brief glimpse of the greenest eyes he'd ever seen staring back at him.
"Bloody hell," he muttered before chasing after the child once again. This time he had his wand out and ready, and made quick work of trapping the child in a specially crafted dead end - taking a little extra effort to ensure that none of his spells hit the child in question. The green eyes were now narrowed, darting every which way as the child sought another avenue of escape; Severus was not inclined to oblige him.
"Well, boy," he said between breaths, keeping his wand hand steady and his eyes trained on the child for the first hint of flight. "I believe you have something of mine."
The child scowled at him; he scowled back. After a brief battle of wills, the boy dropped Severus' purse on the ground. Severus made no move to pick it up, maintaining his focus on the boy himself. A cursory examination provided him with ample justification for his initial assessment of the brat as scrawny and filthy. A mop of messy black hair trailed down to his shoulders, casting his face in shadow when he tilted it just so, and his clothes were obviously the castoffs of people much taller than him, well worn and as dirty as the boy himself. It was really only the boy's eyes that set him apart from any of the other street brats drifting around the area. That, and the ability to reflect magic.
"How did you do that, boy?" Severus pressed him, moving inexorably toward the boy. "How did you deflect my spell?"
The child visibly tensed, and Severus prepared himself to lunge forward to grab the child - only to stare in shock as the boy nervously brushed his fringe from his eyes, revealing a lightning shaped scar on his forehead.
"You..." the stunned man breathed in disbelief, then grasped desperately as the boy tried to dart past him and out of the dead end. This time he succeeded in holding on to the struggling boy, yet he knew he could not hold him indefinitely, and magically restraining him did not appear to be a viable option. After some awkward shifting, two further bites, one near miss for his groin and several rounds of cursing, he managed to activate his emergency portkey.
Snape Manor had never seemed a more welcome sight to him. The child, however, had different views. Scrambling to his feet from where he had been dumped to the floor by the portkey transfer, he stood stiffly with wide eyes swiftly scanning the manor's entrance hall before returning to rest on Severus himself.
The wizard had wasted no time in taking action against losing his unexpected guest, altering the protections and wards on the grounds so that only those he permitted would be allowed out of as well as into the manor.
"Don't even bother," Severus informed the boy harshly as the child's eyes flickered to the doors briefly. "You will not be able to leave this house without my permission." At least, he hoped that was the case. After the reflection of his spell earlier he was loathe to rely on what should be.
The boy's eyes were wary enough that Severus did not fear an immediate attempt to depart, yet he was now left facing the question of what to do with the child. Ushering the urchin with scowl and wand into the adjacent sitting room, he made an abortive attempt to contact Albus Dumbledore by means of the fireplace while the boy made a similarly fruitless effort at escaping by floo - which nearly set both of them alight.
"Let me reiterate, boy!" Severus snarled as he dusted ash off his robes. "You are going nowhere without my express permission, do you understand?"
The boy simply glared up at him from his position on the floor in response, but in his eyes fear was evident for the first time.
Without further ado, the irate man summoned writing implements from the desk in the corner and penned a succinct note to the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Whistling brought the services of a tawny owl to convey the letter, which was sent post-haste. It would be several long hours before a response could reasonably be expected. Severus' mood was nowhere near 'reasonable'.
The boy had surprisingly stayed still, as ordered, during the time it had taken him to write the letter. Making the most of the brief respite from wrestling with the slippery child, he surveyed his wounds. Of the three bites that now graced his left hand and forearm, two had drawn blood. Given the state of the child he was inclined to dose himself with the strongest general prophylactic agent he possessed in addition to applying the more regular healing salves. Not that the boy appeared to be diseased at all, merely as dirty as mud. Indeed, it was a wonder he'd seen the scar at all, half-camouflaged as it was by streaks of grime.
He narrowed his eyes at the boy who glared right back, weighing costs and benefits in his mind. The marks on the carpet and the distasteful odour in the air decided the matter.
"Stand up!" he commanded. "Move! That way!"
Wonder of wonders, direct orders appeared to gain the desired result - although the boy was quite hesitant about moving forward in the right direction, taking the time to survey the stairs and hallways they traversed. Under Severus' watchful eye they made slow but steady progress to their destination: the closest guest room and - more importantly - its en suite bathroom.
Locking the door behind them with a spell, he directed the boy to strip off his ragged clothes while he went to prepare the bath. Upon reentering the main room he discovered the still-clothed boy wrenching at the doorknob futilely.
"Stop that," he told him irritably. Green eyes fixated upon him. "I already informed you that you won't be leaving except by my will."
The boy did not appear to care for the terms of confinement. Indeed, he darted across to the window and had it halfway open before Severus managed to seal off those exits as well.
"Boy," he growled as they circled each other around the room, "you will either take off those clothes and get into that bath on your own, or I will do it for you!"
The boy only stared at him, wide-eyed. Severus gritted his teeth.
An eternity - and several bruises - later, he finally managed to dump the wriggling, naked boy into the bath. The child spluttered and splashed until Severus eventually pinned him to one end of the bath with his arm. With his free hand he started scrubbing vigorously at the boy's skin with a washcloth. The intensity of his ministrations slowly diminished as he came to realise that not all the shadows on the child's flesh were evidence of dirt. The bruises he had expected, and perhaps the odd scar or two aside from the one on his forehead. He had not expected the multitude of markings scattered across the emaciated body of the child, buried as they had been beneath more layers of clothing than he had thought possible.
He blinked to find he'd stopped in his motions. The boy was sitting very still, watching him out of the corner of one eye.
"Finish the rest yourself," he ordered, pressing the washcloth into the boy's hand. "I will be back shortly. I expect to see you clean and dry by then."
He hesitated at the locked door before summoning his house elf, Nippy, to obtain his needs instead of leaving the room. A healing salve soothed the bites the child had inflicted earlier, while a change of clothes improved his demeanour slightly. A quick word to Nippy ensured that by the time the boy was out of the bath some of his old robes were unpacked from storage and made ready for the boy, and that a meal was brought up for them both.
Fortunately, getting the child out of the bath was not nearly so arduous a task as getting him in, once Severus made it clear that he would be wearing the robes provided and not the travesties he had worn previously. The lure of dinner afforded a valuable incentive in gaining the boy's compliance to his wishes, so much so that by the time the Albus Dumbledore appeared the child seemed almost civilized.
He offered the elderly wizard a ferocious glare as soon as he entered the room. The old man was unfazed by the child's expression, however, as he was more concerned with the boy's physical appearance.
"Surely it can't be," he murmured, bending towards the boy and reaching out to brush his fringe aside. The child flinched back and scrambled out of his chair, but not before the Hogwarts Headmaster had seen the telltale sign for himself.
"Oh, it is," Severus assured him in a distinctly understated tone.
"Harry Potter," Dumbledore addressed the child by name. The boy remained silent and suspicious. "We've been missing you for several years, now. We had feared you dead. Wherever did Severus find you?"
"Picking my pocket, off Essentia Alley."
"How happily fortuitous."
"Indeed," Severus agreed sullenly, remembering only now the money pouch he had left behind in his haste.
During this exchange the boy's eyes narrowed further, his posture shifting slightly as his muscles tensed. Severus flicked his wand at the door to renew the locking spell. The green eyes darkened accusingly. Their actions did not pass unnoticed by the aging Headmaster.
"Harry," he spoke softly, seating himself in the chair the boy had vacated. "We will not harm you. We wish to take care of you. You are a very special boy." Severus snorted quietly at this, while disbelief was stamped across the child's face. "We lost track of you six years ago, after you were involved in a train accident. Do you remember that? Can you tell me what happened to you after that crash?"
The boy pursed his lips together more tightly than ever.
"He hasn't spoken a word since I stumbled across him," Severus informed Albus quietly. The elderly wizard frowned in concern.
"Well," he hummed as he considered the matter, blue eyes slightly shadowed, despite their obvious delight in seeing the boy. "I suppose we will all need time to adjust to one another," he mused. "You will be able to accommodate him while we sort matters out, Severus?"
Black eyes glared at the Headmaster darkly at the request, yet Severus found himself nodding nevertheless.
"It shouldn't be long before you are safe at Hogwarts, young Harry," the Headmaster continued, but the boy's gaze was fixed firmly on the man behind him.
Meeting the boy's challenging eyes for the umpteenth time that day,
Severus couldn't help but wonder who it was that had cursed him to live
an interesting life. His only consolation was that he was not alone
in his affliction - and that misery loved company. It suited his
day only too well.
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