The Night I Met You
by The Velvet Ghost
It's been a while guys, huh? I was browsing through my file earlier and found this little forgotten gem. It was originally going to be the start of one of the many failed third books in my Phoenix's Flight series, and why leave it to rot when I'm sure you'll all enjoy it? It's just a little scene, based around the night when the Potters died and Severus first met Harry Potter. This scene contains spoilers for Phoenix's Flight and Ankh of Khepri, so don't say I didn't warn you!
Also, just a note to keep you all content and brimming with anticipation. I'm rubbing a block of pine as I say this, but I think Snidgey and I have stumbled across a wonderful idea for the third book. It's in the early stages of development so far, but things are going very, very well. If all goes to plan, you won't have to wait too long. All criticism and comments are very, very welcome.
He was coming for the Potters. Tonight.
The Order of the Phoenix first became aware of the situation an hour before midnight, when the most prominent spy buried within the ranks of the Death Eaters heard the message of the attack. The time was thirteen minutes to midnight when Albus Dumbledore finally received the warning that before sunrise, the Potters would all be dead. With seven hours until the first rays of the sun touched the horizon, there was time to gather the Order and organise proper defences, take action that would stand a chance against the deathly powers of Lord Voldemort.
At least, there was as far as Albus was concerned.
"Severus, please be calm. Panicking will do us no good. I agree that the situation is urgent, but we have time to prepare. I can have the Order gathered within three hours."
"We might not have three hours. Why is this so difficult for you to understand? He will not attack just before sunrise. The Potters have a child. Young children wake up at ridiculous times in the morning. He will catch them when they are all asleep. We must act now."
"I understand your frustration, but - "
"No! You have no idea of my levels of frustration at this moment because you refuse to listen! I heard it with my own ears, from the mouth of the Dark Lord, and leaving so soon after hearing it will make me seem ultimately suspicious. And I am damned if I risk my life only to have you and your stubborn, stupid, spiritual ignorance - "
"No, Severus. I have made my decision, and in my personal belief, it will be for the best. Please go and inform Minerva that I require her immediate assistance."
Professor, I - "
"Severus. Minerva, if you will."
The last thing that Dumbledore saw of the twenty-two year old Severus Snape was the vicious swish of his long black cloak and a glimpse of a rageful expression before the door slammed. The headmaster sighed. He stood, moved to the fire and cast a handful of glittering powder into the flames. "Minerva? Come to my office, please. We have a situation."
The clock in the entrance hall chimed midnight as Snape streaked past it. It had taken the journey from Dumbledore's office to come up with the bare skeleton of a plan, and though the details were hazy, he knew what he had to do. He would get outside the castle grounds, apparate to Godric's Hollow and warn the Potters. James was an arrogant twerp and always would be, but he had enough brains not to ignore a warning when it came. If all went well, they could escape from the house and to a safe place, perhaps even back to Hogwarts, before the Dark Lord came.
Of course, he would know. Voldemort would know somebody that leaked the plans for the death of the Potter family. He would pick the people who had contact with Dumbledore, and if he was unable to torture the culprit's name out of them, he would simply kill them all. Snape was a dead man walking either way.
Terrible storms had ravaged the castle grounds all through the day, and the ground underfoot was soggy and slippery as Snape ran. The rain was no longer falling, though the night sky above harboured sinister dark clouds that stared down at the world, just waiting for the right moment to open once more. A sickly wind travelled weakly across the dark canopy of the Forbidden Forest and turned the lake to rippled shadow. It was the perfect Halloween night.
Finally, Snape was racing through the gates into the grounds and tearing to a stop. He knew he should have put on appropriate clothing, something created to face the worst that weather could offer, but there was no time. His thin shirt would have to do. Raising a hand, he visualised Godric's Hollow, praying that his apparation worked. Vampires were not skilled in the subject, and he had only passed his test very recently, mostly due to a fluke.
He snapped his fingers. Instantly, the wind was gone and the whisper of the trees behind him disappeared, replaced by sudden ground beneath his feet, so hard that it brought him to his knees. His hands smashed against the pavement. Snarling with anger and pain, he wrenched himself to his feet and looked around. It was a tiny street, cosy houses and red-brick cottages, cradled by climbing ivy and sleeping peacefully, without any idea of what would happen tonight. Snape had seen the Potter's house only once before. Clinging to that memory, he began to run.
Houses flew by on either side, but none stood out or appealed to him as the one in his memory. If he had only stopped to grab Minerva, or that oaf Hagrid, anybody who knew where the Potters lived, they could have saved him the search. If he apparated back and found another professor, forced them to come...
Deep down, he knew it was too late for that. It was too late for anything.
"Damn it all!" He skidded to a stop, angry and frustrated, whirling on the spot and glaring at the houses. They stood quiet and still as ever, almost mocking him. A street sign caught his eye, reading Godric's Hollow, and the home before him was number thirteen, but he didn't know which one the Potters lived in. If he woke one of the neighbours, asked and wiped their memory... there wasn't time.
There wasn't even time to finish making the decision.
His subconscious mind recognised the flash of green light and the vibration through the ground before the rest of him, and as he turned around, flinging up his arms to protect against the blinding, terrible green, he knew it was all over. Far down the street, just next to where he had first apparated, one of the houses was ablaze with emerald. It was shaking, shuddering, as though in horrific pain, before the unearthly green flare burst free of its crumbling walls. The house exploded instantly and Severus fell to his knees and smothered his ears to protect against the force of the noise. It was roaring inside of him, through him, blowing him backwards and knocking him flat to the ground. He screwed up his face and prayed for it to end.
He raised his head again. There were people screaming in the houses nearby, lights flicking on, and the green light was gone. It was done. He struggled to his feet, his mind numb with shock, and fought his way through the darkness towards the wreckage.
Shattered building work lay in heaps, smoking and unleashing clouds of dust into the liquid black night air. A water pipe somewhere had been severed. Spray arced into the darkness, bursting between two collapsed walls and causing them to crumble into dust. Everything was wrecked. Severus reached the edge of the rubble, his mind awhirl with aching shock, staring around at the broken furniture and the destruction of the cottage.
Covering his face with his hands, he fell to his knees. His forehead pressed against a smashed cupboard, the wood splintered and jagged, the beautiful glass front shattered and the pots inside broken into a thousand pieces, a sea of fragments. Severus felt himself shaking. Too late, by throwaway seconds. If only he had turned the other way upon apparating, he would have been able to stop this happening. If only Dumbledore had listened. If only he had left the meeting straightaway. If only he had bumped into Rookwood a few terrible minutes before, and learnt the news just a fraction of an hour earlier.
He felt no misery for the death of James Potter, and Severus's love for Lily had been battered to death many years before. The self-hatred and horrific disappointment he felt was for this opportunity, his chance. The Order were all suspicious of him. They didn't think him trustworthy, but he knew he was, even if they never listened. He longed for a break from Voldemort. Hearing the message from Rookwood had been his chance to save himself, to shatter his reputation. Being the one to save the Potters... but now, he was the one who had killed the Potters. He thought of all the wasted seconds, and surely, they added up to minutes. Fifteen, twenty minutes. With twenty minutes, he could have been in, taken the Potters out, had them in Hogwarts and safe. If he hadn't gone to Dumbledore, he would have saved their lives.
The muggles would come swarming soon, and representatives from the Ministry would arrive to spin lies to the neighbours. A gas leak, a water problem, an electrical fire. Some other pathetic fault in mankind's brilliance.
He was so wrapped up in such terrible thoughts that at first, he didn't notice the tiny noise coming from across the wreckage. As his brain began to clear, as he tried to think of what he could do now, his ears became slowly aware of it. He paused, lifting his head from his hands. It sounded like a puppy whimpering. Severus had not realised the Potters owned a dog. Wherever it was, if it had survived the curse and the explosion, it did not deserve to be left to die.
Snape clamboured quietly over the heap of stone that had once been a wall, landing atop a sofa torn in two and then stepped onto the ground below. He listened. The noise was coming from the very far end of the rubble, beneath the shattered frame of a bed. The poor animal must have run underneath and hidden. Severus made his way carefully over the ruins and curled his fingers around the edge of the bed. Vampiric strength flowed to his muscles, easy as a river, and he closed his eyes with a quiet groan as he coaxed the hefty furniture out of the way.
Beneath lay the broken limbs of a baby crib. And curled in a tangle of pastel green blankets, crying softly, was the Potter's son.
Shock seized Severus in its grip once more. The baby had survived? How? Why had the Dark Lord left him alive? James Potter as an auror would have been first to go, and Lily as a vengeful witch... but wouldn't it have been easier to simply kill and leave no survivors?
Muggles were pouring from their houses, shouting to each other. Nobody had noticed Severus in the wreckage. His breathing quickened and he knew he had to act, or the child would end up taken by the neighbours and handed to the police. The Ministry would need to deal with Harry. Involving the muggle law would complicate things. Crouching, Severus scooped the tiny baby out of the shattered remains of his crib, bundling him gently in the blankets and sliding quickly away from the ruins, behind a nearby garage.
He sat himself down upon the cold, wet stone pavement. He was well hidden here. Only a muggle purposely searching the area would check such a place, and if they believed it to be a gas explosion, none of them would approach the house at all. Severus held his breath nonetheless and listened to their cries.
"Oh good God... Margaret! Margaret! Phone the police! And somebody call an ambulance, there's been an explosion!"
"It's Mr and Mrs Potter!"
"What's happened? What's going on?"
Severus closed his eyes and rested his head against the back of the garage. The warm bundle in his arms stirred and gave a tiny sob, clutching at his shirt. Parenting instincts came to Snape's mind and he gathered the little boy closer, tapping his back gently to get him to shush. Slowly, the child began to quieten. As Severus felt a dampness on his fingers, he glanced down to see a terrific slash weeping blood across the baby's forehead, no doubt left by the curse. He tore off some of his shirt sleeve to wipe it up. As he worked, a tiny little hand enclosed around his thumb and held on tight. A pair of curious green eyes looked up at him. He glanced down into them.
Those were Lily's eyes. Severus felt his breath catch in his throat. There was something of James's nose there, and the baby already had a fair amount of soft, downy black hair, but those eyes belonged to the Lily Evans that Severus had loved. Somehow, he felt an obligation to protect the baby. He had found Lily's son, he was the only person who could look after him for now, and he made it his duty to make sure the boy would be alright.
He tried to remember what the baby's name was. H-something came to mind. He remembered Dumbledore announcing to them all, that James and Lily's first son had been born, little H-something Potter. Henry? No, it was more boyish than that. James's son needed an active, frisky sort of name that suggested mischief and popularity and fun.
"Harry," he remembered, the name coming from his lips without thinking.
Little Harry Potter could only gaze in awe at Severus's thumb, as though he had never seen something quite so fascinating in his life.