Disclaimer : I don't own anything you'll recognize
A/N: Well, first of all, I need to give to P.L.S.'s story: Bringer of Death for inspiring me to start on this story, though it will take a very different turn.
Second, I need a beta reader for this fic since I'm sorely lacking in the grammar, spelling and punctuation departments…
Third, this is an AU story, there will be no pairing (be it slash or het) at least as far as the main characters are concerned. A few characters might be a bit OC or different.
Well, that's about it for now. I hope you'll enjoy this story. It will be a bit darker than my usual works.
« Now, boy, hand this bag. »
Severus looked up, lips curling with distate at the crude display.
A boy barely ten from the look of it had been backed against a wall by a group of Muggle teenagers and from the look of it wasn't going to get away unscathed.
He was clutching a bag to his chest.
The Potion Master's snarl deepened. Muggles…. That was filth like this that made Voldemort's ideals realistic.
He saw one of the little delinquants ready to punch the breath out of the boy. As his fist was about to connect with the boy's face, the teenager faltered and took a step back.
"What the fuck is going on!"
His friends wore similar expressions where awe and fear were mingled.
"Let's get the hell out of here, Wally."
The one who had been about to hit the child shook his head.
"I won't let this freak scare me, now, gimme the bag, weirdo!"
The child shook his head, clinging to the bag.
"I said GIMME THE BAG!"
The teen took two step forwards and throw his fist.
It didn't have time to connect.
Suddenly the five youths were violently flung back, hitting the walls with sick thuds before slumping on the grounds like ragged dolls.
Severus' eyes had widened at this impressive display of wandless magic and he quickly made up his mind as he noticed the boy was about to bolt away.
In several strides, he was close enough to catch the child, whispering a mild sleeping charm. Holding the now unconscious child, he examined him, trying to find clues as to the boy's parentage. He was small and on the frail side. Well defined features, that while still childlish held promises for the future, a mop of black hair, glasses. The hair and glasses reminded Severus of an old classmate of his, but a quick check showed an unblemished forehead. He couldn't really find any hints as to the boy's identity… Maybe a Muggle-born?
Severus lips twictched with disgust. Even if he was, the boy had power. Any untrained wizard who could blast five people several meters away was not to be dismissed… The man had not survived this long and had not been a Slytherin for the goodness of his heart.
Getting a better hold on his charge, he disapparated with a quasi silent cracking sound.
Once back to his family manor, he summoned an house elf and ordered him to ready a room for the boy. Placing the child on a couch in his office, he observed him as he would have a new potion. Knowing he wouldn't get any answers if the boy was asleep, he swished and flicked his wand, muttering the counter to his first charm.
Stirring, the youth nearly bolted out of the couch, eyes opened wide, instinctly knowing he wasn't in his usual surroudings, a fact Snape did not miss.
"Don't even try to flee, the door and the windows are locked and I assure you, nothing you could do would open them."
The boy eyed him warily but remained silent. That puzzled Severus. From his experience, a ten year old child would have been distraught at the idea of having been taken by a stranger and would have been crying by now, calling for his parents.
"What's your name?"
The boy kept on watching his every move, his piercing green eyes virtually dissecting him.
"Julian Richards," he finally said.
"That's not your true name"
The boy shrugged carelessly.
"It's how I've been called at the orphanage…"
Severus eyebrows raised at that, an orphan?
"How long have you been there?" he finally asked.
"I was left there when I was five…"
Severus gritted his teeth, reigning his anoyance at having to wrench every piece of information from the boy.
"Who left you, boy?"
"They only found a letter in the bag the man whose family I had living with had given me. It said my name was Julian Richards and that I was born July, the 31st." The boy said that in a bored voice, as if he had been asked this countless times, which he probably must have.
Severus did a double take at the date, but dismissed it… countless babies must have been born at that time.
"Are you happy at the Orphanage?"
The boy shrugged, his eyes looking everywhere in the room, curiosity filling them, a widening visible occasionaly as he spotted moving pictures, Severus owl resting on its perch or one of his cauldron simmering quietly over blue magical flames.
Julian looked back to him.
"There are worse places to be."
Severus eyed the boy, finally coming to a decision.
A house elf popped in the room, startling the child who starred at the small, crinkled creature with wary eyes.
"I want a lunch for two to be brought to these rooms."
"Yes, master. What should Kala bring."
"Whatever, just bring some food here."
The house-elf bobbed her head up and down before popping away.
"Very well, Julian; I have an offer for you."
The boy just looked at him, something which was unnerving the older wizard greatly.
"I am a wizard, just as you could be if given the proper training… How old are you, by the way?"
"The fact that you did not received an invitation for Hogwarts is curious, but there are no doubts that you can wield magic. I offer to send you to a small magical school one of my friends rules. I want to warn you that this is not your typical schooling. It will be hard, it will hurt, you will probably curse my name for getting you in this, but once you'll be out, you will have a chance to survive this war."
Julian was still watching him.
"Why are you going through this for me?"
Severus's eyebrows rose at the questions.
"You aren't wondering about the truth of my words? About Magic and this war?"
The boy shook his head.
"I already knew about magic and the war, the snakes told me."
For the first time, the black-haired youth showed some surprise.
"Can't you do it?"
Severus shook his head faintly.
A parselmouth! Great Merlin! How could this boy had escaped Dumbledore's watch and not get an invitation to Hogwarts!
"Too bad, they are interesting to talk to, even if they love confusing people and talking in riddles…"
Severus composed himself quickly, there was no point in letting that brat know he had been surprised.
"So, boy, what is your answer?"
The child looked back to him, eyes narrowed.
"You did not answered my question, Sir, Why?"
Severus was amused that the boy had not been distracted from his questions.
"I am a Potion Master, M. Richards. One of the best there is, but I can't reach the title of Adept without forming an apprentice. You have potential and this schooling will allow me to see if you are worth my efforts."
He hadn't told the full truth, but enough to placate the child, who nodded his agreement.
"So you agree?"
The black-haired child rolled his eyes.
"Yes, sir" he answered in the same bored tone he had been using before. Severus decided that the school he was going to send the boy would cure him of this particular trait, no point of aneliating the child now.
"Do you have any possession at your current residence you wish to keep?"
Harry shot him a bewildered look.
"You mean…. At the orphanage, sir?
"Well… maybe, and I need to go back or they'll look for me…"
Severus seemed to weigh the pros and cons of allowing the child to return the orphanage. In the end, it seemed less of a hassle to clear the child situation with the muggle authorities… No need to make them think the brat had been kidnapped or something.
"Very well, Take my arm and whatever happen, do not let go, do I made myself clear?"
The boy nodded, his eyes still darting around the room…
Severus Snape sighed, children and their thrice damned curiosity!... Gathering the child in his arms, he made sure the boy was gripping his arm and apparated them to an alley near the Leaky cauldron.
"What's the name of your orphanage, boy!"
"St John's Orphanage, sir."
The Potion master sneered at the name before hailing a cab, internally shiddering at the prospect of having to use the muggle contraption.
Barking their destination to the driver, the man seated himself in a corner, watching with barely concealed disgust the Muggles running around them. So mundane…
After a twenty minute drive that seemed way longer to the older wizard, they stopped in front of an old looking building from which Children cries and squeals could be heard.
Giving his money to the driver without according him any tip, why should he, after all the man was doing his job. He was not compensated for doing his job, so why should this Muggle be?
"Richards, come… I don't have time to waste, despite what you may think."
The boy obeyed quietly and led him to the secretary. A middle-aged woman was busing speaking on the phone.
"Yes, small boy, eleven year-old, green eyes, black hair, glasses, wearing a blue shirt and grey pants. His name is Julian…"
She paused as she spotted the shadow of a man looming on her.
"Excuse me an instant, sir."
Placing her hand over the speaker, she looked at Snape.
"Do you need anything, Sir?"
Snape nodded, trying to be as agreable as possible.
"Yes, I found this boy and he told me he was living here." He pointed at Julian who was trying to appear as innocent as he could.
The woman's shoulder sagged down in relief. She took her phone again.
"Yes, sir, yes… He was just brought back by a man… Apparently, he got lost in London. Yes, sir. Good afternoon to you too, sir and my apologies again to have disturbed you…"
She put the phone down and stood up.
"Julian Richards! Do you know how worried the Sisters and myself were?"
Snape had to bite back a smile as the brat looked up with wide innocent eyes, appearing years younger than his eleven years.
"I'm really sorry, Miss Browns… I just wanted to go to the parc again…"
The woman wasn't fooled however.
"This doesn't work with me, Julian. You know you are not allowed outside without chaperons!"
"I'm sorry Miss Browns."
The woman shooed him away.
"Go to your room, we will discusss the punishment for this infraction later. However, consider yourself grounded."
Julian didn't try to protest and left without complaints as Miss Browns turned to Snape.
"Thank you for bringing this troublemaker back, Mr. ?"
"Snape, Professor Severus Snape, Chemistry teacher at Hogwarts."
"A pleasure to meet you, sir. I hope Julian was not too much of a burden."
Snape had to stop himself from gagging at the pleasantries he was forced to go through.
"Not at all, he was a real delight. He is an orphan?"
The woman shrugged.
"We don't know, he was abandonned here six years ago. Why are you asking?"
Snape tried to pull his most gentle face as he tried to smile.
" I've wanted to adopt a child for a long time and had not found the right child until now… Julian seemed to be an interesting lad…"
Miss Browns racked her hands in her hair.
"Interesting! That he is for sure! There is not a day that passed without something happening to this one… And we had little hope of seeing him adopted given is age… Did you have all the papers and authorization for an adoption?"
"Very well, then come back tomorrow with them and we'll take care of the paperwork…"
Distracting her, Snape took out his wand. He was not going to wait anymore than he already had; and even if he was, it wasn't a Muggle that was going to tell him.
The woman looked at him, a blank look on her face.
"Julian Richards was adopted today by Mr and Mrs Smith. They are leaving for America soon. All the papers were filled and everything was perfectly legal. You had decided not to warn anybody about the adoption in order not to raise Julian's hopes in case the adoption was refused. The plane is leaving early and so Julian don't have time to say goodbye. You never met a man called Severus Snape. Julian was brought back to the orphanage by a man called John Torn."
Miss Browns nodded blankly then blinked in confusion. She narrowed her eyes at him.
He shook her hands, pasting a smile on his face.
"Mrs Smith and myself will never be thankful enough to you Miss Browns. I am dreadfully sorry we cannot stay any longer, but Mrs Smith is eagerly waiting for Julian to come to his new home before we leave…"
The woman nodded a smile spliting her face.
"Of course, I will explain everything to the Sisters. They will be delighted to know that Julian finally found a home and a family."
Snape heard light footsteps coming their way and looked to his right spotting Julian. The young boy was carrying a sport bag on his shoulder and was wearing a black vest.
"Ready to leave Julian?" Miss Browns ruffled his hair fondly. "Be sure to send us a card from America to tell us how things are going with your new family." She turned to Snape. "I assume you settled everything with the social services?"
Snape nodded, not having a clue what were those social services. He bit down a sarcastic remark and took the boy in his arm, trying to create the perfect picture of a new family. The child seemed to catch up on this as he threw his arm around his neck, all but cuddling to him.
"Bye miss Browns!" he said, waving as they stepped out of the building.
"Bye Julian! Take care of yourself! And no more climbings on roofs!"
Once they were out of sight, Julian let go of Snape neck and he put him on the ground.
"I must commend you on your acting skills, Mr. Richards… What was that bit about climbing on roofs?"
The child shrugged, his bored look back in place.
"I don't know. One seconds I was running from bullies, the next one I was standing on the roof."
Snape managed not to show his surprise… That was powerful accidental magic…
"Now listen. You will spend the night at my house and I'll send you to your school tomorrow morning. I will provide for your school things and clothes. Whatever extras you might wish to acquire you'll have to do so by yourself."
The young boy nodded, eyes intent on him.
"Can I take Salya and Sostris with me?"
Snape frowned and upon seeing his confusion the boy opened his bag and rummaged through it. Two bands suddenly coiled themselves around his wrist, serpentine heads looking around them, forked tongues slipping out, tasting the air. They hissed and even if Snape had known that the boy that a Parseltongue, knowing and seeing it first hand were two different things.
The boy laughed suddenly and Snape found himself with two snakes whose fangs were mere centimeters away from his face.
They flicked their tongues at him, hissing slightly.
"They say you smell of herbs, dead things and damp places…"
"I work in dungeons," replied the older wizard, managing to compose himself quickly.
With that he took Julian's arm and warning him snappishly to hold him tightly, he apparated back to his manor. After sending the boy to his room under the guidance of one of his house-elf, he went to change to proper wizarding attire. The dinner was silent, he assumed the boy must have flooded the house-elf with questions since he did not inquire about anything magic-related.
Snape should have known it was too good to last.
"Yes," he all but barked.
"What's the name of the school I'm going to join?"
A smirk spread on Snape's face.
"It's a Russian school, known to a select few. Its name is Nightshades."
The boy's brows were frowned as he seemed to ponder over something before he seemed to come to a decision.
"How long will I stay there?"
Snape's smirk widened slightly.
"A few years at least… I would say between four to ten years… It will depend on how quickly you learn what they have to teach you."
Apparently satisfied with this answer, the boy returned to his rather messy consumption of the ice cream the elves had chosen to serve as desert.
Snape repressed a smile. Nightshades would correc the boy of his faults or he would not survive his schooling. He made a not to write a letter to the headmaster to inform him of the situation and to take it into account while assigning the boy his mentor. Karal would handle it with his usual genius and he trusted that his old friends would manage to transform this urchin into a young wizard any self respecting family would die to claim; or he would make sure nobody would find the body.
He spent the night writing his letter and a few other ones to take of the boy furniture and clothes. He received an answer the next morning as he was woken by a tocking to his window. A raven was perched on the window sill, a parchment tied to his talons.
He took it, feeding the bird a dead mouse he kept for his owl. Skimming the letter's content, he repressed a smile as he saw a school ring tuck to the parchment. The portkey-ring would activate at noon. Iy gave him ample time to get the brat and his bags ready.
He called his personnal house-elf, Kala, and asked her to have breakfast ready in half an hour as well as to send another house-elf to wake the brat and have him down to the dining-room by that time. The creature nodded and disappeared, leaving Snape to ready himself for the day. As he entered the dining-room, twenty minutes later he found a pile of bags and boxes waiting for him. It was always a pleasure to make business with those shops… they understood the meaning of promptness and the products had always met his expectations. He supposed that having the Snapes as regulars was something they did not want to lose.
The boy entered silently, his arrival only indicated by the sound of the door closing behind him.
"Good morning, sir."
As he sat down, breakfast appeared on the table and Severus started to help himself to the coffe pot.
"Good morning to you, Mr. Richards. Once we will have filled the empty void that boys' stomachs seemed to be, we will prepare your bags for your coming year."
The youth nodded his agreement before started to munch on his buttered toasts. Fifteen minutes later, they both left the table and walked back to the room Julian's had been given for the night, the packages Snape had received this morning floating behind them.
By noon, the boy was dressed as any proper young wizard would, his three trunks filled to the brim with what Snape had deemed necessary to his school year.
"This should last you the year or at least until Easter. Should you find yourself lacking something, ask the Headmaster to contact me and I will see to it if it is really needed."
"Yes sir. Thank you for what your are doing."
"You won't thank me in the coming weeks, I can assure you of this, boy. Now, put the ring on your finger and hold on your trunks."
Obeying, Julian did as he had said and a minute later he disappeared from England, leaving a thoughtful Snape starring at the spot he had been standing seconds before.
I have to say that I find myself doubting your sanity, my old friend. How can you send this boy to us? He didn't even know that vampires and werewolves existed… I let you imangine how his first confrontation with some of our older students went.
What do you expect from me? A miracle? Because that what it will take for this mubdlood urchin to survive.
Given what you want me to accomplish with this boy, I assigned him to Evan, a young but promising vampire lord, one of the sons of the Princeps.
Yours, Karal, Headmaster of Nightshades.
A Parseltongue… My opinion of your urchin is rising a notch… though it couldn't have gotten worse than my former opinion. His two scaly friends turned out to be quite the poisonous kinds… unless he enhanced their venom somehow… it wouldn't surprise me since he seemed to have developped quite the obsession with his snakes… Evan reported little progress to me. The young man is getting quite annoyed with your protegé since the lack of skills he is showing is becoming quite the joke in the school… Don't say I didn't warned you if we found your boy emptied of his blood one morning. I must say he can be silent. This is one of the only good things I have to say about him, added with the fact he made friends with every snake, ghost and painting he met, it's probably the only thing that have kept him alive to this day.
I thought I ought to write to you about the recent development concerning your boy. Apparently Evan was mocked one time to many, but this time, Julian was present. Before the young vampire could pound the offenders to dust, they were blasted to the walls and seemed to be stuck there, three meters high in the air. Your boy's aura was apparently visible, but nobody seemed to remember what it was. Back to my little story, the three victims are now in the hospital wing, unconscious and were diagnosed with a magic overload, coupled to multiple fractures which might be due to their three-meter high fall…
I don't know where you found this boy, but he and Evan are now stuck to the hip. I don't know why or how, but what I know is that he has now all the vampire population either trembling before him or wrapped around his finger. He is still showing little improvement in his class, but no one seems to mock him for it. He somehow managed to pass his second year, much to his teachers' surprise. I must say he has me at a loss…
Forget everything I might have said about Julian. After seeing him break every school records during his third year evaluation, I can't keep on thinking you nuts.
You knew it, didn't you, you sly dog… I admit you fooled me like a beginner. You always were the one to find the hidden gems, weren't you old friend. This Julian is a rough gem, but I now can see what might have spurred you to send him here. He will be a real jewel once his training is done and given his twisted sense of loyalty, I must say that whoever will get it will have gain a real gift.
He somehow managed to get the werewolves under his thumb too. Evan is not leaving his side.
We decided to make Julian skip a year an might do it again if he keeps progressing at this speed. I don't know what happened to unlock his abilities, but whatever it was it was potent.
Your protégé is rising quickly among the school hierarchy, but he mostly keep to himself and let Evan in the limelight, happy to stand in the shadows, watch and back the young vampire.
He recently developped quite an interest in fencing and was started on the basics. Our Fencing Adept seems to be satisfied with his new student.
I must warn you that he acquired a few new scaly pets, mainly a Runespoor and a few magical snakes.
We made your boy skip one year again… I don't know how he does this and frankly he's starting to scare me. Was it not for his complete lack of ambition I would say that that Lord of yours would have had problems. But given the fact that Julian's only goal in life seemed to be reading every book he can get his hands on, you don't have to worry. I'll caution you though. Even if he shows little interest in the outside world, he is by no mean a push over, many a student learnt it in a very painful way. He has some morals and will stay true to them. His loyalty is still strong and I'm starting to think I did Evan a favor by assigning Julian to him.
The year is about to end and your protégé will graduate within the best this school has seen since its foundation. We followed your demands and your gem is by now a amazing jewel. I leave the refining and polishing to you. Joined to this letter, you will find Julian's score for his finals, and I think you will find them as impressive as we did…He will arrive by Portkey at noon, on the 1st of August.
It had been a pleasure to teach him, despites the doubts I had regarding his capacities during his first two years. Should you find any other child like him, they will be welcomed to this school.
P.S: You owe me a dinner, he will return England with his Runespoor, three snakes and a young Basilik. I convinced him to leave the Dragon in a reserve, the asp in the school as well as the ten or so other snakes that seemed to have settled in his room.
Severus rolled his eyes as he placed the last letter back in the box where he had kept every letter Karal had sent him about the boy, in order to keep him updated on his progresses. He had been afraid he had made a mistake at first, but had decided that the boy would either survive and come out of it stronger or that the world would be rid of a weak wizard. But he had not make any mistake. He looked up to the grandmother clock ticking loudly in the corner of the room.
Still a minute to go. He reviewed what he was going to do with the boy. He was going to let him settle, then he would explain the world situation to the brat. He took a sip of the brandy glass he had poured himself some time before. Then he would take him as his apprentice and bring him to one of the Dark Lord stronghold…The Dark Lord had granted him a day leave when Snape had told him he had to go fetch his new apprentice.
The man had been called back from his teaching position as Voldemort had needed his best Potion Master at his side and not under Dumbledore's nose.
Voldemort knew the game Severus was playing. There was no way he could not and if he didn't then he deserved to lose the war. Life was not kind to those lacking wit and intelligence.
Spies did not live long unless they played both sides at the same time. Dumbledore and Voldemort were aware of that fact but both needed the information too much to get rid of the Potion master.
Voldemort had been resurrected five years ago after succeeding in stealing the Sorcerer's stone, despite the meddling of those three Gryffindors… Severus sneered as he thought of the brats. Dumbledore was a fool if he thought that Longbottom would be the figurehead he had wanted to make out of the Potter child. From what he recalled, the brat had been scared of his own shadow; unless he had grown a backbone and had made a break with his powers, he would be killed the moment he was sent to fight.
He was a Slytherin and snakes always looked out for themselves. He was not going to martyred himself supporting a side or another.
Noon rang and soft thud made Severus twirl, his wand springing to his hand. Seeing who it was, he pocketed it and nodded tersely in greetings, appraising the changes that had occurred in his charge.