Rating PG-13 or in this case T
Summary: Snape goes to check on a young Potter and finds something that not even he can ignore.
A/N: This is a new story that I am writing. Why am I doing this when I haven't finished AIOT? Because I had this idea bite me in the brain and I couldn't shake it loose. I had to write this... it should be noted that this fic has a younger Harry than I have ever dealt with in the past. He's five years old in this fic. You all know the drill, Snape saves the kid and the fun begins... I'm not abandoning the other fic... I promise I will update it, eventually... BTW this hasn't been beta read yet, but I'm too impatient right now to wait to post it, and my Beta is stuck offline.
Dumbledore looked to Snape with his eyes glittering irritatingly. Snape stared at the man impassively as he sat in front of the older wizard's desk in a squishy armchair. Snape was sure that whatever Dumbledore had called him for was not going to be something that he was going to like. It was the middle of a perfectly good night that could have been used for sleeping, but instead he had been summoned to the Headmaster's office for some reason.
"Severus, my dear boy. Would you care for a Chick-O-Stick?"
"It's a muggle treat, Severus. I find it to be quite tasty."
Snape's eyebrow went up. Muggle candy? He wasn't even going to touch that. He didn't even bother with the wizard version of candy, so he had no idea why Dumbledore always offered him something. Candy, even wizard candy was good for one purpose alone, and that was shutting up bratty children. He watched with a sneer as Dumbledore took a stick of unnaturally orange colored candy and bit into it with enthusiasm. Little splinters of candy fell onto Dumbledore's dark blue robes and to the floor beneath his desk. Snape tried not to focus on the older wizard's obnoxious crunching. It was a wonder that the Headmaster had any teeth for crunching with the way he consumed sweets. He was worse than a small child.
Once Dumbledore had finally finished munching on his stick of candy he brushed crumbs from his beard and from his robes. "Now then Severus, I have an important task for you."
The night was still. It might have been unnerving had there been anyone outside to observe the atmosphere. The stillness was broken by the sound of a loud POP, and a figure dressed completely in black robes appeared out of thin air.
Snape walked briskly towards the house on Privet Drive. The sooner he got there and saw that things were in order the sooner he could leave. Then he could focus on important things, like sleep, lesson plans for the next term, potion ingredient stocks and other matters.
Snape sneered at the unruly lawn in front of the number four house, it hadn't been cut for some time by the looks of the tall grass. He noted that as he made his way down the walkway to the front door that all the asinine little flowers that had once been growing there were shriveled to stalks that would eventually turn into powder. Apparently someone had been neglecting the grounds keeping.
Just as he was about to charm the door to open he discovered that the muggles had left it unlocked. In a smooth motion Severus opened the door and entered the house. He frowned as a strange scent hit his nose. The place smelled stale, as if noone had let in fresh air for quite some time. Snape lit his wand with a charm. A cursory glance around showed that the muggles had taken most of their possessions with them. Dumbledore hadn't mentioned anything about the muggles moving to a new residence. What in Merlin's name was going on here?
He stalked through the house and up the stairs to search for Potter's bedroom. He growled as empty rooms were all that he found. Well, perhaps that would make sense. If the muggles left they should have taken Potter with them. He was their kin after all.
As he descended down the stairway once more his nose caught a new scent. Snape's face screwed up with displeasure. That was... How in the world had he not smelled that when he first entered? He followed the foul smell down the stairway, and discovered that his nose was leading him toward a small storage cupboard. The little vent to the cupboard had been closed, and the door was latched shut. He undid the latch, turned his face away to take in a deep breath of cleaner air and flung open the small door.
The first thing Snape caught sight of when he looked into the cupboard was a red plastic bucket in the corner. Surely it was meant for muggle cleaning methods, but it seemed that it had been used as a makeshift toilet. That explained the horrible stench. It was filled beyond capacity, and there was a wet ring surrounding the bucket. Snape narrowed his eyes and looked away from the disgusting bucket. He noted that there was a plastic water pitcher and a white glass plate sitting in the corner near where Snape was standing. The pitcher was bone dry, and the plate had been cleaned so that there weren't any crumbs left to tell what had been sitting on it at one time.
A small movement in the far corner jolted Snape to attention. He'd spotted the dirty forest green shirt in the corner, but ignored it because it was only soiled laundry. Now he could see a small toe just peeking out from the hem of the muggle shirt. The boy was curled up on himself almost like a kitten. The muggle shirt he was wearing was large enough to hide his whole body from sight while he had his back to Snape.
Snape let out the breath he had been holding and stepped back to take another. He squatted down so that he would not hit his head on the low ceiling and ducked into the small space to grab the boy. He noticed a bag of nearly empty dog kibble as he reached for Potter's small body. "Lucky Boy" dog meal, so that explained what the child had eaten when his rations had run out, but what had he drank? There was nothing in the cupboard that the child would have gotten any use of. Obviously he was intelligent enough to leave the cleaning liquids alone that had been left in the cupboard with him. The options were limited for a child so small to survive severe dehydration, but the boy lived.
A few kibbles of dog chow crunched under Snape's boots as he shifted his weight. He leaned forward, grabbed one of Potter's arms and gently pulled the boy back to him. He felt the little body tense in his hands as Snape lifted him from the floor and backed out of the cupboard. He cradled the little boy to his chest and was surprised to feel small hands pressing against him. The boy was trying to push him away.
Potter was weak as well as being small so his efforts to escape Snape's hands were in vain. Snape shifted his hands so that he would not lose his grip if the boy really tried to fight him. With the child safely in tow Snape left the house, not bothering to close the door behind him.
Once Snape had made it to Hogwarts by portkey he headed for the hospital wing. He deposited the filthy boy on a clean bed, snapped at Poppy to tend to him and then left to clean himself up. After holding Potter Snape felt like he had been through a romp in a sewage drain.
Snape was sitting in his quarters, intent on fixing himself a stiff drink, when Dumbledore called for him through the fireplace. "Severus, I wish to speak to you. Please come to my office."
Snape didn't even get the chance to protest the request before Dumbledore ended the call. His stiff drink was just going to have to wait. So with a frown he left his room to go to the Headmaster's office.
Harry watched with leery eyes as a strange lady approached him. Where in the world was he? This certainly wasn't his uncle's house, and this wasn't his cupboard. He wasn't supposed to leave the cupboard. The only reason he had tried to get out was to get a drink of water, but the door was locked and it hadn't done him any good to make the attempt.
The lady was pointing something at him... some kind of a stick. She was talking in funny words, words that Harry didn't understand. What he did understand was that this was all very weird. Maybe he was just dreaming. So all he had to do to make things go away was wake up. The little boy closed his eyes tight and thought to himself very hard: wake up!
Harry felt his body tense when his right hand was lifted from his side. He opened his eyes. The lady was looking at his hands! She was going to know that he had tried to get out of the cupboard, and Harry was sure that she would tell his relatives about that! He tried to pull his hand away from her, but her grip on him wasn't lax enough. Finally she let him go and she walked away. Harry didn't know where she was going, and he didn't care. All he knew was that he had to get back to the cupboard before his Uncle came home and found out that he was no longer there.
Harry tried to push himself up onto his elbows so he could swing his feet over the edge of the bed and stand, but he was so weak! He licked at his dry lips and rolled onto his side. It turned out that rolling was much easier on him than trying to push up onto his elbows so he proceeded to roll out of the infirmary bed and onto the hard floor below. Harry hissed in discomfort as his elbows and knees protested the sudden impact from his deliberate fall. He lay there for a second to let his limbs recover and then he tried to get to his hands and knees.
The little boy froze when he heard the lady come back into the room. She was humming a cheery tune to herself, and he could hear her pushing a cart of supplies in his direction. Harry winced when she stopped humming; it would only be a matter of moments before she saw him lying there on the floor and ruined things.
"Oh dear. Did you fall off the bed?" Poppy asked gently as she went round the bed and knelt to lift the boy and put him back in his place. Harry just stared at her blankly. She gently set him down and tucked the sheets around him snugly, leaving his arms free, so that he wouldn't fall from the bed so easily next time. "There we are. That's much better."
Harry didn't say anything, but looked at the items she had pushed over on the cart with her. She'd brought a pitcher of clear cold water, and a bunch of other things that Harry found he wasn't interested in at all.
"Now then, Harry, we're going to have to take things slow," she said as she poured a small amount of water into a tumbler and helped Harry to sit up so that he could drink without choking. "Small sips."
Harry tried to reach for the cup to pull it from her grasp, but she insisted on holding it so that he could only take in the tiniest bit of water before she pulled it back away from his lips. Harry let loose a sharp whine of protest. He was bloody thirsty! It seemed like it had been so long since he'd had real water to drink! He wanted to grab that full pitcher of water and gulp as much as his little stomach would hold. He shuddered as his stomach rolled suddenly. He knew that feeling... he was going to be sick all over the nice bed!
Harry felt his stomach bunch as he heaved, but nothing came up. The bed was safe! Maybe it was because he hadn't eaten much recently. It wasn't much fun to eat when all it did was make him thirsty. Then he had to wait until a certain time to be able to drink at all, and even when he did drink it was only because he had to. He certainly hadn't enjoyed it, but he didn't like to think about that.
The lady talked to him in a quiet voice, and asked him to open his mouth. Harry shook his head. He wasn't stupid, he knew better than to try drinking so soon after his tummy wasn't well. "Come now, this will make you feel much better," she coaxed.
Harry let her feed him what he could only assume was medicine. He began to relax as he felt his stomach beginning to settle down. "Better?" Harry responded with a weak nod. She fed him another potion, and this one made him feel warm and fuzzy inside. "That will help you get some strength back. Do you feel well enough to try some more water?"
Harry shrugged. If she was going to offer him a drink he wasn't going to refuse it.
Snape entered Dumbledore's office and was seated at the Headmaster's request. He refused a mug of hot chocolate when Dumbledore offered him some and waited for the man to get on with things.
"Thank you for coming, Severus," Dumbledore said softy. As if Snape had had any choice in the matter. "I'm sure you know why I called you here tonight."
Snape waited. "I assume that this has something to do with Potter."
Dumbledore smiled. "Indeed it does, my boy."
Snape shifted in his seat and played with his robes for a moment. He had an awful feeling about this.
"Harry was alone when you found him?"
"Yes, I saw no sign of the muggles. The boy had been locked in a cupboard, and was left with noone to care for him. At one time there had been some rations given to the boy, but when I found him I can only assume that he was surviving on food meant for a dog. I can only imagine what the boy was doing to prevent death from dehydration," Snape said coldly.
"Ah yes. It is fortunate for Harry that you came along when you did."
Snape narrowed his gaze at Dumbledore. The elder wizard looked remarkably calm in spite of everything that Snape had just said. Did it not matter to the man that the boy had been in danger of losing his life? From what Snape could discern there was not even a flicker of remorse in Dumbledore's tone or in his eyes. The man was a blank, unreadable smile with twinkling eyes. Whatever that meant it couldn't have been something pleasant.
"Now then I must come to the point. Poppy has agreed to stay on school grounds until Harry has gotten a bit stronger, but when he is well enough she must leave."
What? She was going to leave? Where was she going to go? What in Merlin's name did she have to do outside of Hogwarts?
"I assure you, Severus, that she would not leave if her business were not very important."
"May I ask what this important matter is about?" Snape tried to keep the annoyance from showing in his voice.
"It is of a personal nature I'm afraid, and I must respect her wishes to keep it as such."
Snape breathed out a heavy sigh that resembled a growl. "Very well. What does this have to do with me then?"
"I need you to look after Harry while Poppy is away."
Snape looked down at the floor for a second and then stood up to walk out of the room.
"Severus," Dumbledore called, and Snape stopped with his back to the man.
"You ask too much of me, Sir," Snape said quietly.
"I would not ask this of you if I did not require your help."
Snape nodded out of obligation in spite of his feelings that Dumbledore would have pawned this boy off on him no matter what.