Author: Laura of Maychoria
Summary: Snape deals with being stuck in bloody North America with the incapacitated savior of the wizarding world. As he hates kittens and apple pie and everything, really, this is torture. AU, not slash, rather dark, some humor, implied abuse.
Author's Note: I've been reading way too much Potterfic lately, and this just sort of came out. I don't know if I'll ever do anything with it. It will probably stay as simply a vignette, but if I get enough pleas and puppy dog eyes I may possibly be inspired to write more. Or I might not. Or I might get inspired without any encouragement at all, just to be annoying. In other words, anything is possible. This is basically just me writing the sort of thing I enjoy reading.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not getting paid.
Severus Snape did not like it at all. Any of it. He hated every last thing.
He always had, really. The Hogwarts staff had recently filled out a survey, a very basic thing with questions like, "What aspects of the course of work at Hogwarts seem effective?" and "Which aspects do you think could be improved?" When Snape came to the question that inquired, very simply, "What do you like about your experience of teaching at Hogwarts?" he had stared at the parchment for a full ten minutes.
And then wrote: "The free quills are high-quality."
And now here he was, without even the free quills. Stuck in bloody North America with a teenager who was expected to save the world. While all of Wizarding England burnt to the ground.
Except that this teenager was currently incapacitated. Barely able to feed himself, his hands shook so badly. Literally afraid of his own shadow. Jumped when the fire crackled. And endlessly terrified of Snape, his only human contact.
At least he managed the loo all right. Thank Merlin for small favors.
Snape buried the growl in his throat, tugging on his ridiculous muggle t-shirt to straighten it. It was horrifyingly cheerful, a sunshine-y light blue with a silk-screen of a . . . basketful of kittens.
Kittens. On his shirt. It was humiliating in the extreme.
But the shirt had cost only a single American dollar at the local thrift store. As Snape was currently hiding out, struggling desperately to put the traumatized savior of the wizarding world back together while avoiding all contact with the world in question, money was a bit tight. He had grown to . . . appreciate thrift stores. Not like. He did not like anything.
He especially did not like these stupid "blue jeans," which were a rather faded grey, and a bit too small, which meant that they rode up in . . . erm. In an uncomfortable place.
Well, the clothes certainly were not getting any more comfortable. There was absolutely no point in lollygagging about his bedroom anymore.
Snape ran a hand distractedly through his hair as he crossed to the door. Most of his hair had been cut off when they went into hiding. He still wasn't used to the shorter length, barely long enough for a good distracted hand-running anymore, and he found himself touching it at odd moments, as if reminding himself of how much had changed in the last two weeks. It was not comforting at all, yet some twisted part of him found it steadying, like a tether to his old life. Because after all, hair could grow out. Some things could go back to the way they were.
And others couldn't. Snape paused in the doorway of the kitchen, an annoyingly adolescent sigh pushing at his lips, demanding release. His young student . . . ward, responsibility, burden, enemy, last-chance-at-redemption, whatever! . . . sat at the table in the wash of early sunlight from the bay window with his usual dazed, empty stare, shoulders slumped, hands in his lap, lips slightly parted, unhealthy color in his cheeks. He looked like a small child recently roused from sleep, hair rumpled, glasses askew. At least he'd managed to dress himself this morning, albeit a bit crookedly. No shoes. But then it wasn't as if he'd be going outside anytime soon.
Snape let the sigh go as he crossed to the fridge, gentling his voice with great effort. The boy did not respond well to harsh tones. He had discovered this the hard way. Repeatedly. "Would you like some cereal, Harry?"
Harry closed his mouth and nodded slightly, once. He did not look at his professor. He rarely did.
The man fetched two bowls and spoons, cereal, milk, juice, napkins. Two weeks ago he would just be making some toast for himself. Through trial and error he had learned that Harry favored the disgustingly sweet cereal that resembled cartoon characters—Snape liked the one that looked like yellow pebbles. He poured for them both, added a careful dollop of milk to the boy's bowl, watched him handle his spoon. The young hand wasn't shaking too badly yet today. He knew it would get worse.
Harry kept his head lowered, holding his spoon in his fist like a toddler, so that his elbow bobbed up and down as he ate. The milk in his bowl turned a sickly shade of pink from the "marshmallows" as Snape watched, morbidly fascinated. He turned his attention back to his own food, knowing that the boy would just get more nervous if he noticed he was being scrutinized.
Harry tugged at the collar of his green shirt unconsciously, as if it was too tight, though Snape knew it was the right size—if anything, a bit big for him. The boy often seemed bewildered by his clothes, as if he had not grown up in the muggle world at all. Snape knew he remembered. It was the wizarding world that had been blanked from his mind. Yet another incomprehensibility to add to the list. And it was a long list.
The boy ate almost half of the cereal before stopping and staring at it in dismay, an improvement from yesterday. He glanced up at Snape, then away, as if asking permission. In the first few days Harry had wordlessly asked permission for almost everything—eating, moving, breathing—trembling all the while, expecting a blow. In retrospect, it hadn't been all that difficult for Snape to learn to gentle his voice. He simply could not be angry with such a pitiful child. Exasperated, yes. Frustrated, certainly. But not angry. Not with Harry.
"You may go, " Snape said gently. "Please drink a little more of the juice, first."
Harry made a face, then froze and looked up wide-eyed, as if he had just committed a grave sin.
Snape actually chuckled lightly. Snape! Chuckling at Harry Potter! "It's all right. You're allowed to dislike it. Just drink it anyway."
Harry nodded quickly and picked up the glass, the orange liquid sloshing a bit in his shaky grip. Snape was very pleased, actually. The boy had shown his first sign of being a normal teenager since they had arrived in this little cottage in the middle of nowhere. And wasn't that a miracle to chalk up with the parting of the Red Sea, Severus Snape being pleased that a youngster had made a face at him.
The boy managed about a third of the juice, grimacing all the while, then made his escape to the living room. He liked to sit curled up by the big picture window, watching the birds fly outside. Their landlady, a distant cousin of Snape's, kept a number of well-stocked birdfeeders in the backyard, and even Snape was impressed by the variety of feathered folk that came to visit.
Snape ate his cereal, his upper lip twisting a bit as he pondered the boy, careful not to look at him. Nobody had suspected. Not all the teachers who were so enamored with the Golden Boy, not the Headmaster, not the doting Weasleys, not even Harry's mangy godfather. No one had guessed. No one had asked.
Well, and why should they have? Harry had never shown any signs of abuse. He'd never flinched from an upraised hand or angry voice, never blanched at the threat of punishment, never avoided attention. Even in that first year, when Harry had been so small and skinny and pale, no one had thought to ask whether or not that was entirely normal. He'd been raised by muggles—obviously there were going to be some differences there. No one had thought it odd when he begged so earnestly to be allowed to stay over holiday. They had all assumed that he was simply fascinated with magic, and wanted to stay near it. A natural response, nothing to take note of or worry about.
Nothing to worry about.
Snape scowled at his empty cereal bowl and pushed it away. Five years, and no one had noticed. Not even he, who prided himself on his observational skills. He'd seen a spoiled brat who basked in the spotlight of undeserved celebrity. The other teachers had seen a bright youngster who did relatively well in all his classes, excelling in a few. The boy's friends saw a normal teenager with normal teenage problems. Dumbledore saw a . . . Snape wasn't sure what Dumbledore had seen. A weapon, most likely, just growing into his strength, needing to be tempered and readied for war.
And now they were all gone. It was just Snape and the savior of the wizarding world now, Hogwarts' most hated professor and the broken, helpless Boy-Who-Just-Kept-Living.
In desperation, Snape had gone to the library in this podunk little town, and checked out a number of books. They had given him knowledge, but no insight. Words and phrases buzzed about his skull, mocking him. He had always believed that knowing his enemy was half the battle, but in this case, he feared that it was only a first step in a very long and arduous journey.
He considered the words, rolling them over his mental tongue as he surreptitiously studied his young problem . . . student. "Regression," "elective mutism," "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," "selective amnesia."
That last one was a kicker. Apparently, in that explosion of power and pain two weeks ago, Harry's mind had decided to forget certain things. So why had he chosen to forget the last five years, his life as a wizard? Could it really have been worse than his life as a muggle? Snape had caught glimpses of the boy's remaining memories in careful, desperate attempts at legilimency just to understand what was going on, and he could not see how it could have been worse. He did not know what event had caused the boy to shut off that part of his life.
He needed to know. And there was no one to tell him.
It was time to try something different. They had fallen into a bit of a routine: Snape avoiding Harry because he didn't know how to deal with him, Harry avoiding Snape because he was terrified. What really got Snape about that last was that Harry was not afraid of his "greasy git" of a Potions Master who had persecuted, belittled, and mocked him for the past five years, for he did not remember any of that. He was simply afraid of a man. Snape could have been the headmaster, or the boy's godfather, or even his real father, and Harry would still fear him.
It was very irritating. Five years of hard work, teaching proper respect—five years shot all to pieces.
He supposed he should be grateful, really, Snape admitted grudgingly. This way he had at least an outside chance of earning the boy's trust. As much as any other random stranger, anyway. Oh, who was he kidding? It was doomed from the start.
Yes, it was definitely time to try something different. Unfortunately, he hadn't a clue of what that might be.