Snape's Invisible Friend

Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling, I am not a multinational bookselling company, nor am I a multi-million dollar movie company, so I don't own anything that you recognize. I am a retired former teacher who likes to twist plots and play with characters, so enjoy.

Summary: AU Harry rescues himself as a baby and chooses Snape as his protector, why no one knows, because the toddler isn't telling, and no one can see him but Snape. No spoilers, No Slash, No Mary Sues.

Chapter 1: Congratulations! It's a Boy!

June 1984

Severus Snape was happy. Everyone else had left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the next four weeks, four blissful weeks alone to brew and read to his hearts content. He had been a Professor at Hogwarts teaching dunderheads and imbeciles for the last four years; but life had been too dangerous at first and then too hectic for anyone to take a true vacation.

His first year of teaching had been unbelievably frantic, between teaching classes, spying for Dumbledore, and trying to keep his cover from being blown at death eater meetings. Luckily he never had to go on what Lucius Malfoy liked to call 'revels'. His skills as a potions master were irreplaceable, and much too important to the Dark Lord to jeopardize them torturing muggles, and his distaste for needless torture and especially rape had been well established long before he became a death eater. He had joined because it was inevitable; the sadistic and cold uncle that had taken his mother and him in after the suspicious death of Severus' father would have killed his mother slowly in front of his eyes if he had even tried to say no.

But he had always hated being a Slytherin and hated the dark arts that his Uncle forced him to learn. He had been jealous of the friendships that students in other houses seemed to make so easily. Slytherins had no true friends, they had acquaintances and alliances, easily forged and easily broken when a better opportunity arose. So in his sixth year he had evaluated the situation carefully and then went to Dumbledore; hoping for sanctuary but instead the old man had taught him Occlumency to protect his mind and an opportunity to serve the side of the Light as a spy and something he had never had, the respect and caring of a mentor and friend.

His duties as a death eater were minimal after receiving the dark mark on his seventeenth birthday; finish his final year of Hogwarts and then the six years of training to complete his Masters in Potions. The next year, Dumbledore had encouraged his old potions teacher to retire and Severus had been perfect to fill the opening. Voldemort was pleased to have the opportunity to place a spy so close to the only wizard he truly feared and Severus was protected from the worst of the death eater activities. And then the fateful evening of Halloween, his second year of teaching, Baby Potter had removed Voldemort from his physical body.

Severus had no illusions; he knew the dark and evil rituals and potions that Voldemort had employed in his quest for immortality. He just hoped no one ever figured out how to give the evil spirit that was the dark lord another physical body any time soon.

The rest of that year and the next two school years had been so hectic and frantic, first he had been thrown into Azkaban and only Dumbledore's insistence and unyielding fight for him had even allowed the farce the ministry called a trial. He had finally been proven innocent but the nightmares of that place would probably haunt him for years.

The death eater trials were finally over; of course if you were wealthy enough or had enough highly placed friends, it was easy to convince the court that you had been under the imperious curse, Severus gave a harsh barking laugh, Malfoy could have shown up in his full death eater robes, a dead muggle in each hand and that fool of a Minister would have let him go!

But after almost three years since that Halloween night, for the first time, the teachers and staff of Hogwarts had felt it was safe enough and past time enough to leave the school for the first vacation many of them had had in years. And that left him free to remain in the castle all alone for most of the time. Professor Sprout would return once or twice a week for a few hours to tend to her greenhouses, and that oaf Hagrid would be out in his shack, but other than that, the castle was his, well, his and about 100 house elves, twenty odd ghosts, and who knew how many wandering portraits.

Severus selected his ingredients with care and precision. He finally had time to work on a potion that would allow a werewolf to keep his mind when he transformed during the full moon. He had always been terrified of werewolves, probably because that bastard of his uncle had always threatened to leave him out in the forests of Snape Manor on a full moon if he misbehaved in any way. Then that idiot Sirius Black had sent him after the werewolf Lupin in his fifth year, Merlin save him from idiot Gryffindors!

He had been thinking for years of ways to make it safer around werewolves, he had just never had the time with his other duties to really experiment. He had worked with Lupin for the last four years before the Dark Lord's downfall, as a fellow member of the Order of the Phoenix, fighting in secret against the Dark Lord, and had come to begrudgingly respect the man. He still scared him, but Lupin had volunteered to be a human, well guinea pig didn't really work, but tester.

Severus lit the fire under his favorite cauldron, set out a new quill, parchment and a full bottle of ink. Wolfsbane potion, variation number one he began…

The toddler knew he was hated, he wasn't sure just why, he just knew that Dudley was loved and he wasn't. He wasn't sure exactly what his name was; it was perhaps Freak, Boy, or maybe It, as in "What are we doing with It while we go to the store? Or… What did It do now?" But whatever his name was, it was never spoken in a soft voice or a caring manner, always yelled, or hissed, or even spit at times.

He sat in the dark, smelly and spider filled cupboard under the stairs and played with his hands. He spent a lot of time by himself there and had discovered over a year ago that if he thought hard enough; he could make his hands glow with light so he wasn't afraid and alone in the dark any more. He had begun sneaking old books of Dudley's in with him, that slug would never miss them and now that he was almost four, he could read all of them and in fact had moved on to the magazines that his Aunt threw away.

He knew he was almost four because Dudley was having his fourth birthday party today and he wasn't. There had been a couple of times when old Mrs. Figg couldn't watch him so his Aunt had been forced to take him with her to the store and he had heard Aunt Petunia answering some neighbor that 'Yes, It was her nephew' and then 'Dudley and the Boy were the same age', so if Dudley was turning four, then so was he.

He made a small ball of light appear in his left hand and tossed it easily to his right hand as he made another ball appear in his left hand. He had gotten up to juggling four balls together before he couldn't manage any more and was actually feeling fairly proud of his accomplishment. He had learned a long time ago to make sure that no light or sound ever escaped his cupboard or his aunt would scream at him, or worse, his uncle would 'punish him'.

He hadn't heard any sounds in quite a while so maybe everyone was gone to the play park where Dudley was having his party. He wasn't sure what exactly a play park was, except for the pictures he had seen in Dudley's books or the magazines he filched out of the trash. He knew his aunt would be looking in his cupboard soon, she did that about twice a year, he wasn't sure why; but he knew he would have to find some way to keep his aunt from finding his reading material.

He sifted on his very sore bottom. He wished that the fat lump, Dudley, learned to be potty trained soon. He, of course, couldn't learn anything before her precious Dudley, so he was stuck wearing a smelly, soggy nappy that she only changed twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening. He of course knew perfectly well how to use a toilet, it wasn't that hard after all, but he never had the opportunity with his aunt and cousin in the house all the time.

He pushed the pain of his cracking, and bleeding diaper rash away from his consciousness and concentrated on the problem of his aunt finding his books. He didn't want to put them back in Dudley's second bedroom, it was too hard to sneak up the stairs and then sneak something back down, and he was rather fond of the magazines he had now, especially the food ones. He thought for a moment and wondered what it would be like to taste something besides toast, celery and water. He occasionally got very brown bananas and sometimes old cheese and meat, but none of that really tasted like he imagined the pictures of food would.

So if he didn't want to get rid of his books, how could he keep his aunt from finding them? There was nowhere to hide anything in the small cupboard, he had two small shelves to keep Dudley's old clothes on and his small dirty cot with a blanket that had the initials HJP stitched on one corner. Where could he hide them so his aunt didn't see them? Wait, he didn't have to hide them, he just had to make sure she didn't see them. She never actually came into the cupboard after all; she just looked in from the hall. He put a small book on his lap and with all his might he concentrated on making it invisible.

It took him the better part of a week, but he could finally make his books and magazines invisible now. He smiled happily to himself, proud that he could have something of his own that his cousin couldn't steal away from him. He made the three plastic soldiers he had taken out of the trash after his aunt had thrown them away invisible too. He looked around the small space, his hand glowing so he could see, and was satisfied.

His aunt called him out as usual after his uncle had left for work and told him to eat his piece of toast and half of a banana that Dudley hadn't finished. He was then told to empty every trashcan in the house. He finished his food and headed up to start in Dudley's bedroom, it was always the messiest and so he liked to carry it down first.

But today Dudley wasn't playing over at his friend Piers' house as he thought. Dudley was waiting in the upstairs bathroom for him to go past carrying the full trashcan. Dudley put out his foot out at the top of the stairs and then for good measure, he pushed his fat hand into the middle of his cousin's back and gave him a hard shove.

He fell, tumbling over the full and sharp edges of the square trash can, banging his head painfully on the walls and the steps, and catching his right arm in the banisters before it released with a sharp crack of bone breaking. He came to a stop at the bottom of the stairs by shattering a very large, ceramic pot that used to hold a small decorative tree. He was now covered in sharp splinters of glass, hundreds of cuts with sharp edges imbedded in his bleeding flesh, and a mound of dirt with a cracked and splintered tree on top of him. He knew his right arm was broken, but he wasn't sure about anything else. He knew he hurt all over, and the hurt would only get worse when his uncle came home after work.

Petunia came out of the kitchen at the noise and started screaming, "Look what you did you nasty Boy! How dare you destroy my property after we took you in, Freak! I don't have time to waste with you cleaning it up; my bridge club will be here in an hour." She grabbed him by his unbroken left arm and literally threw him into the cupboard. Dudley was laughing hysterically at what he had managed to do to the stupid freak.

Petunia stopped beside his cupboard door as she walked past with the broom and dustpan, "You just wait until your Uncle gets home, Freak! He'll teach you to destroy my favorite tree you worthless waste of space. Too bad you didn't die with your worthless parents, they were Freaks too!" She banged the broom handle on the door in emphasis and went to clean up the mess.

Everything had gone black when he hit his head on the wall after his aunt had thrown him in his cupboard, but now he wished he could return to the blackness. At least it hadn't hurt. He knew when his uncle came home; he would be soundly beaten and locked in again. He idly wondered how long it would be without food this time, though he really wasn't hungry. His head was spinning, and he felt like he was going to be sick.

He wrapped his beloved blanket tightly around himself and started rocking back and forth, "I wish I had someone to care for me,…I wish I was someplace safe…someplace my uncle could never find me…someone who could make my arm and my head stop hurting…someplace I would always be safe…"

No one saw the flash of white as the tiny boy disappeared from No. 4 Privet Drive through the concealing spells in place around the tiny cupboard. And no one heard the crack he made as he disappeared around the silencing spell he had unknowingly cast. And because he had left willingly, no alarm on the wards sounded, no one knew the boy was gone.

Severus Snape had just cast 'evanesco' on the cauldron he had been brewing his last mess in. He wasn't sure what it would have done, but it sure wouldn't do anything for a werewolf, except perhaps turn its hair pink.

He turned and dropped the pewter stirring stick he had in his hand at the loud crack and the flash of white light that had shone for just a fraction of a second behind him. It didn't sound like the noise of a house elf and no one else could apperate into or dis-apperate out of Hogwarts.

He fell to one knee in front of the bleeding and badly battered baby that had appeared in his lab. The poor child had hold of a very dirty blanket that looked as if it had once been blue but was now mostly dirty grey and brown. The child stank as if it hadn't been changed in days or bathed in months. Severus could tell at a glance that the right arm and possibly the left leg were broken and the toddler was bleeding from hundreds of small cuts, many with small sharp fragments of glass visible in the flickering torch light.

He reached his hand out and the baby flinched back; a wary look of fear in its face. "I won't hurt you child, I just want to help you. I need to pick you up to help you. I will try not to hurt you but I must move you from here." He was keeping his voice soft and soothing as he moved carefully and slowly toward the frightened baby. He guessed from the size of the child that the baby was about two, perhaps a month or two more, but no older than that. And he had absolutely no experience with anyone younger than eleven. He though frantically, 'I am alone in the castle; there is no one here for another three weeks, except Hagrid and he would be no help at all. Well, there's nothing else I can do, I'll have to care for him myself.'

He continued to talk softly and calmly to the child, inching forwards, waiting for the panic and fear to leave the baby's face. He finally reached out and gently touched one shoulder. The baby involuntarily flinched, but remained calm and allowed the contact to continue. "That's good, child, well, I don't even know if you are a boy or a girl, I don't suppose you talk much yet do you. You couldn't tell me how you came to be so hurt, or even what your name is could you, child?"

He picked the child up as gently as he could, being very careful to not touch the damaged arm and leg, he couldn't help touching the cuts, but the baby never made a sound, even though Severus knew it must be terribly painful, and there was no way he could have picked up the baby without digging in splinters of glass. He summoned a vial of pain potion that he had made laced with a mild sleeping agent. It should be mild enough for the child; he estimated it weighed no more than one and a half stone, yes, most likely just a two year old. 'Merlin, what had happened to it and how had it wound up here?'

(AN: a stone is fourteen pounds for us Americans, I personally always give my weight it stones, it sounds so much better!)

He urged the child cradled gently in his arms to sip the potion, thinking that a small sip or two would probably be enough for one as light as this child. He wished again that Poppy Pomfrey was here, but thrust that thought from his mind, it was no good to wish, nothing would change. He finally convinced the child to drink a couple swallows, and as soon as the even breathing and the limpness of its body told him it was asleep, he headed for his potions supply room. He held it cradled in the crook of his left arm and gently washed off its right arm with a soft flannel he had conjured before applying a bone re-growth potion to the tiny arm. He didn't dare give it Skele-gro before reading up if it was safe for one so young, he vaguely remembered that the potion wasn't to be given to anyone under the age of ten, but he wasn't positive.

He used his wand to check over the rest of the baby. Ah, he breathed out a sigh, the left leg wasn't broken after all, but the ligaments around its knee were ripped. He rubbed in the appropriate potion and finding only a concussion and the hundreds of cuts left, he began the meticulous, slow job of removing the glass shards. He would Accio a fragment and then the next, and then the next. It had taken over two hours of careful work but he could find no other glass. He left the stock room, still cradling the bundle in his arms and headed for his bathroom.

He summoned several big towels and a soft blanket before running a bath only 6 inches deep into his big tub. He knelt on the floor and gently laid his bundle down on the blanket. He removed the disgusting nappy and almost gagged. Cracked and bleeding with open ulcers, he knew he would have to treat the boy's bottom for quite some time to completely heal him. And yes he definitely was a 'him'. Well, that was one of his hundreds of questions answered.

He lifted the boy, blanket and all and laid him in the tepid bath. He gently cleaned the boy, careful of his cuts and bruises as best he could. He had to change the bath water three times before the water ran clean. Leaving the filthy blanket in the tub for the house elves, he wrapped the boy up and took him to lay him down upon his bed. "Nippy!" he called the house elf he had brought with him from Snape Manor to assist him and to help sometimes with his potions.

"How can Nippy help, Master Sn…?" the little creature's eyes goggled at the sight that greeted him.

"Go to Hogsmeade and bring me back nappies for a child about two, I would guess about one and a half stone, no more than two. I also need about three outfits for a child about two years old, again no more than two stone. Ask the clerk for help, tell her they must be soft and comfortable; the child has been injured and will be wearing them in bed and around indoors. I will take the child later to purchase more items. He will also need socks and undershirts, its cold here in the dungeons. I have a money bag on my dresser, no one would believe I have a child here so don't bother trying to charge it to my account. I also need some small toys and maybe some books to read to him when he wakes up. Go Nippy and hurry, please." Nippy nodded at Master Snape and taking the money bag he popped out to do his Master's bidding.

Severus had rubbed in healing ointments and got the child to swallow a few more sips of potions by the time Nippy returned carrying several large bags. Severus asked Nippy to fetch his strongest healing balm from the storage room and then asked the old elf to help him apply it to the ulcers and cracks in the child's diaper area. Severus couldn't help feeling a little nauseous at thinking about the pain the child must live with and how long he had been in such pain to have such suppurating sores, especially in such tender areas.

It had taken all afternoon, but the boy was now healed as well as he knew how, diapered and dressed in warm footed pajamas and quietly sleeping in a large box that Nippy had found. Severus had lined it with the softest sheepskin and covered the boy in a feather light but warm angora wool blanket that Nippy had seen in the shop and purchased for the child. Nippy knew his Master Snape would not mind him buying the blanket, perhaps his master had just forgotten to have him buy it when he was telling him what he would need.

Nippy was now watching the young master while Master Snape slept in the big bed beside him. He was to wake his Master if the child started to wake up, but they both needed to sleep and Nippy was happy to do this for Master Snape's new child.

He felt like he was floating in air, he didn't hurt; even the pain in his bottom was much less than he could remember it being in a long time. He felt cradled and warm with something soft and fluffy under him. He knew he wasn't in his cupboard any more, he had never had anything comfortable to lie on and his aunt had never given him a pillow or a soft fuzzy blanket that didn't smell bad. He sighed, not wanting the comfortable feeling to go away, which he was afraid it would if he woke up. But he finally couldn't sleep any longer. He opened one eye. A ceiling, no spiders, it looked like a huge bed, much bigger than his aunt and uncle's beside him. Soft colors, clean smells, he definitely wasn't in his cupboard! His hand rubbed the soft blanket that covered him, the other hand exploring the knobby feeling of the clean, warm pajamas that hugged him in comfort. He pushed himself back into the floaty stuff behind him and opened the other eye, looking directly into two big round eyes, pointed floppy ears and a big squashed looking nose. He couldn't help himself, he screamed. The tall, skinny man from his dream moved off the big bed and started toward him, he cringed and looked for somewhere to hide but the man was too quick.

Severus woke to a blood curdling scream that jolted him instantly awake. He was up and halfway out of his bed before he remembered the child in the box beside him. He reached down and instinctively picked up the child, cradling him to his chest, rocking him and soothing him as he vaguely remembered his father doing to him. "Shh, child, it's all right. You're safe here; no one's going to hurt you any more. Its okay child, I won't let you be hurt." Severus hadn't wanted to believe, but the more he had treated the child the more he knew that his injuries weren't accidental. There were just too many and there were fresh ones on top of partially healed ones. The baby had been badly abused and neglected for quite some time.

He had never been held or rocked or felt so safe before, well, at least not that he could remember. His aunt always told him he should have died with his worthless parents so he assumed that at one time he had had parents who loved him. It was what he dreamed of at night, particularly when he hurt too badly to sleep.

As the dark haired man rocked him, he eventually relaxed and curled into the embrace, until he turned and saw that THING again, he hadn't been dreaming, there it was again! He tensed and started to cry again when the man told him, "That's okay, this is Nippy. He's a house elf; I guess by your reaction, that you have never seen one before, so we can rule out several families by that. Maybe you aren't the child of a wizarding family, perhaps you are a much abused muggle born, and that might explain some of your treatment if you were already showing signs of magic. It doesn't make it better, mind you, but it might explain it."

He knew he was talking mostly to himself, but the boy seemed to quietly relax as he listened to his soothing voice. He continued to talk to the boy, telling him about himself and where they were until the child's even breathing and the growing weight on his arm told him the child was asleep once more. He laid him gently back into the box and covered him up, brushing a lock of coal black hair back from the terribly bruised and cut forehead. He idly hoped the cuts wouldn't scar, but it looked like the child had landed face first into something made of glass.

The next morning Severus came instantly awake, remembering the odd occurrences of the previous afternoon and evening. He rolled over on his bed and cautiously looked over the edge, being very careful to move slowly and non threateningly. Two startling green eyes looked back at him, the expression much too old for a face so angelically young. The bruises on the boy's face had turned a lovely shade of purplish green, the cuts scabbed and healing. Unfortunately it looked like several of the deeper cuts; especially the two above his right eye were going to scar. Well, at least his hair would mostly cover them and they would fade from the ugly bright red they were now.

He slowly let the boy see his hands, and then reached slowly and carefully toward the toddler, sliding one arm under his back and the other one under his knees. The child stiffened, but allowed him to pick him up. "Hello, little one, are you feeling better today? We need to go and get you changed and cleaned up before I can put more healing salve on your bottom. It may take a few days to completely go away, but I'm sure it already feels a lot better. Too bad you can't tell me who you are, child."

He took a big chance and decided to talk to the man, after all, the man had been talking to him since yesterday and he hadn't yelled once, and he had made him feel a lot better. He supposed it was the man who had made his arm and his head better, and given him such a wonderful bed and new clothes that actually fit him. He looked up at the man, wide eyed and said softly, "Freak, my name is Freak."

Severus stopped walking and felt like his heart stopped. Who named their child Freak? That couldn't be right, maybe he heard the boy wrong, "Are you sure that's your name, child, surely your mummy calls you something else."

The little boy was exceptionally good at reading body language, so he knew the man was angry, even if his words were still soft and gentle, he thought again, well, he hadn't been sure that was his name, after all his aunt and uncle called him It or Boy just as much. He bit his lip in nervousness, "It?" But the man didn't seem to like that answer any better. He decided he would just stay quiet; the man seemed to like that the best. He buried his head in the man's chest and shivered.

Severus felt the small body start to quake in fear, and hurriedly sat into a soft armchair, stroking the small head that was currently buried in his robes. "It's okay, I can continue to call you child if you like, I'm not mad at you. I just don't like what your mummy calls you, its all right. Its all right, no one is going to hurt you, I will keep you safe here, child"

Child nodded his head and looked up at the man, "My name is Child, what's your name?" Severus looked startled, maybe he was wrong about the child being just two, but he didn't know maybe the child was just a precocious speaker, "My name is Severus Snape but you may call me Severus. If you can manage that, it can be difficult to pronounce."

"Sev-e-wus, no Sev-rr-us, Severus, thank you Severus." The small boy struggled to pronounce the name correctly. Severus smiled and softly laughed. Child liked the way it made his head bob softly against his Severus' chest. Severus gave the boy a soft hug and lifted him easily to continue on their way to the bathroom to clean up.

Severus had stripped the boy and given him another warm bath, this time with him awake and sitting up on the soft towel that cushioned his still ulcerated bottom on the tub. Severus gently leaned him back to wash his hair and the boy stiffened in terror, scratching at the hands holding him and trying like a small animal to escape. "What's wrong, child? I was just going to wash your hair."

"No hold me under so I can't breathe? No water in my nose?"

"Oh no, child, never, and tell me if I scare you, I will stop anytime you tell me to. Just say stop and I will." Severus couldn't imagine the horrors this defenseless child had survived.

"Okay, then wash my hair is okay." There was a small quaver in the brave words, but Severus was proud of the child for trying to swallow his fears and allow something that obviously terrified him. He just ran warm water over the back of the boy's head, being careful not to even get the cuts on his forehead wet. No shampoo as yet, that could wait for another day.

Severus had forgotten to bring clean clothes and a nappy into the bathroom, so he left the boy sitting on the floor wrapped in the large, warm towel. He left the door open so the child could watch him the whole way and talked to him so he would know where he was at all times. He was surprised to find the child sitting on the toilet doing his morning business when he returned. "Why were you wearing a nappy if you are toilet trained?" he asked in amazement. The child just shrugged as he finished and climbed down carefully.

Severus looked at him in astonishment, "Well, I will have to put a nappy on you for now to hold the salve on your skin since I didn't have Nippy buy underclothes for you. But you may tell me when you need to use the toilet; it will make the sores on your bottom heal much faster. Is that all right, child?"

Child nodded and helped Severus dress him and then waited on a soft sofa reading a child's book while Severus took his shower and dressed for the day. Child got very bored with the book quickly and moved over to the large bookshelves in the corner beside a huge fireplace. He could only reach the bottom two shelves, but there were plenty of interesting choices there. He picked out one about gardening and went back to the sofa to begin reading. Aunt Petunia's gardening magazines never had plants as fascinating as these in them!

Severus dressed quickly and after running a comb through his long wet hair, he tied it back out of his way. He dropped the two sets of dirty night clothes in the hamper for the elves and made his way out to where he had left the child reading in the lounge. He stopped at the sight of the toddler 'reading' his old first year herbology text. He forgot how frightened the child was, and said louder than he meant to, "What are you reading?"

The child dropped the book, stood up quickly off the couch and with a soft cry of despair ran to the bedroom. Severus cursed silently to himself. He knew how skittish the child was likely to be; he would just have to really watch his tone and what he said. He walked softly and yet loud enough for his footfalls to be heard. He certainly didn't want to sneak up on the boy.

"It's okay, child, I don't care what book you look at, it just surprised me that you liked that one. It's fine child, I won't hurt you. Come out now, Nippy has breakfast for us, and I know you must be hungry; you didn't eat anything yesterday night except potions. Come out now and after we eat, we can look at that book together, would you like that, child?"

Child looked around the corner of the wardrobe door and watched the man for a moment. His face wasn't purple, his hands weren't fisted, and he wasn't pinching his lips together like Aunt Petunia, maybe he wasn't mad after all. He was hungry, he hadn't had anything the day before he had come here either. Maybe he could have some old cheese with his toast and water. Or even a banana? He climbed out of the bottom of the wardrobe and quietly stood in the middle of the room, carefully head down, no eye contact, waiting for the man to make the first move.

He wasn't expecting hands to sweep him up and cradle him in warm, strong arms. And he certainly wasn't expecting a nice feeling hug. Severus talked to him softly again as he carried him into a small dining area off the lounge. "Here we go, child, I expect you will need to have a taller chair though." Severus took a funny looking stick out of his sleeve and waved it at the chair, and the chair, …it grew….taller…! Child looked wide eyed, the man could do magic like he could, he had never seen anyone else do things that he could do, but why did the man need the funny stick?

Severus mistook the boy's expression and began to explain, "Child, I am a wizard, and this is a magical castle, a school for magical children like you, only older than you. You had to have used magic to get here so you are a wizard too, and when you are eleven years old you can come here to learn magic too."

Child looked at him as he was put down on the magic chair, "Magic school? I have to be eleven to stay here?"

Severus misunderstood the child's question; he thought he was being asked if he would attend school at the age of eleven, when he was being asked if he had to be eleven years old to stay with Severus. So Severus answered the question he thought he had been asked, "Yes, child, when you are eleven years old the Headmaster and the Professors bring the children here to learn to control their magic and learn to be witches and wizards."

Child let Severus give him a small portion of soft scrambled eggs and a glass of icy cold milk. Child thought he had gone to heaven. Severus gave them to him so they were okay, and he encouraged him to eat them, he hadn't let him take one bite and then grab it away like Dudley did sometimes, so he thought as he slowly ate, savoring each bite of the most wonderful meal he had ever had.

If he had to be eleven to stay in the school, then he would make sure no one ever saw him until he was old enough to stay. He would hide just like he had hid his books and toy soldiers from Aunt Petunia. He just needed to practice carefully so he could learn to do it. Severus had told him it would be two more weeks before anyone else returned to the castle, so he had two whole weeks to figure it out. He could do it he promised himself as he finished the glass of the most wonderful drink he had ever had!

Severus had left the child with Nippy when he went to Diagon Alley to purchase supplies for the new school year; he also bought clothes, shoes, and many more items for child. He really had to start calling the boy something else; he wished he knew who he was. He had been scanning the Daily Prophet every day for a story about a missing child, he had made discreet inquiries among everyone he knew, but so far no one was missing a two year old.

He couldn't resist the tiny toy broom he had shrunk and stuffed into his pocket. He had also bought a selection of books for the boy. It had surprised him that morning after breakfast when the boy had brought him the beginning herbology book and then had begun to read it aloud to him. Surely the boy wasn't two, maybe he had been starved, and he certainly loved to eat as if he had been. No matter what was placed in front of him, he ate it as if it was the finest thing he had ever tasted.

But to read like that, he must be a lot older, and Severus thought he was small, but he wasn't a dwarf or a midget, and he tested out as fully human. Oh well, Madame Pomfrey would be able to tell him exactly how old the child was when she returned in three more days with the rest of the staff.

Severus would never admit it to anyone, not even himself, but he enjoyed having the boy shadow him. He was always within sight, never talking much, quietly reading or playing with the toys that Nippy and Severus had brought for him. Severus had gotten into the habit of talking almost constantly to the child, soothing him and telling him all about the potions he was working on. He told him about ingredients, brewing methods, what each potion was used for and how the ingredients worked together.

He had found the child could read and understand beautifully, but he had no math skills at all, so he had been teaching him in the evenings. The child had progressed from simple counting, to more complicated additions. At the rate he was learning, they would be beginning subtraction soon after school started. Severus was beginning to dread the return of his colleagues and the beginning of school. What if someone knew who the child belonged to? Would they take him away from him? Surely they wouldn't return him to the care of those who had abused and neglected him? Well, there was little he could do about that, he would just enjoy the time he had with the child.

The child adored his toy broomstick and flew it carefully around their quarters and then up and down the long halls, never making a sound, but the smile on his face was precious to the dark haired man watching the obvious delight on the boy's face. It was the first time he had seen a genuine smile grace that small face. Unfortunately the rest of the staff would be returning tomorrow and he didn't want to have to share the child with anyone. He didn't want them to take him away; he wanted to keep the small boy who was beginning to melt his heart.

Severus had kept the boy in his quarters with him all morning, but he knew he would have to greet the others in the Great Hall for the lunch time staff meeting. And he wasn't looking forward to the fuss the others would make about the boy. He would have to warn them about how skittish he was, and how easily frightened he was. Surely they would understand how horribly the boy had been abused, for Merlin's sake the boy could read like a first year, but thought his name was Freak! You didn't get much more emotionally abused than that, that horrendous diaper rash that had just finally gone away was evidence of gross neglect, and the broken arm and hundreds of cuts, including the two new large scars across the boy' forehead were enough evidence of physical abuse to put the perpetrator in Azkaban. And Severus was more than willing to turn the boy's parents in himself, if he ever found out who they were!

Severus knew the child was walking directly behind him, he could feel the small hand grasping the back of his robes in a death grip. He had never been able to get the child to hold his hand, he was still too scared to be touched like that, but that was okay. Severus took a deep breath, pushed open the door to the Great Hall and entered; his shadow right behind him. He walked up to the head table and stood in front of Albus. He could no longer feel the small hand, so as he asked the Headmaster, "Do you know who this child is, Albus?" as he turned around to pick up the small child and found nothing. The child had simply disappeared!

AN: Is this an interesting premise, shall I continue? This will not be a Super/Harry or a Severitis. I am just going on the premise that even a snarky Snape would not be intentionally cruel to an abused baby. And Snape had only been teaching four years when this story begins.