Disclaimer: I don't own any characters or anything else related to Harry Potter; it all belongs to J.K. Rowling and her publishers. No money is being made.
What Percy Saw - Part One
Eleven-year-old Percy is lying in his four-poster bed with the curtains drawn shut, crying. It's wide after curfew, and he's glad his dorm-mates are sound asleep, because he couldn't stand them asking what's wrong, why he's crying. He doesn't even really know himself. All he knows is that he's never been so confused in his life.
"This is no solution, believe me."
He had detention with Snape this evening, for convincing Simon Denison to add hellebore to the Forgetfulness Potion they had been brewing – it was a revenge for the Slytherin's attempt to set his tie on fire last week. Percy is often underestimated, because he is studious and takes a liking to rules, but every now and then, he sows his oats, too. At home, the few pranks he's ever pulled have always been blamed on the twins, and he watched the scene unfold, grinning behind his book, free of any suspicion. Unfortunately, Snape has a way to creep up behind his students without them noticing, so he overheard everything, and, even worse, the potion blew up directly in his face.
For three hours, Percy scrubbed crusted, stinking cauldrons – there are rumours that Snape dirties them on purpose every evening so that he will never run out of them for detentions. Worse than the slimy, disgusting cauldrons, though, was Snape himself. Percy shudders, now that he knows what his teacher was thinking about all the time, and pulls the blanket up to his nose, his sobs now muffled by the soft fabric.
"I have been thinking about it thoroughly during the last months, and also tonight."
Beside "Enter," and "Scrub them," Snape did not speak a word, and during the entire time Percy was there, he didn't move a single time, it seemed. He sat at his desk, staring down at a pile of papers, essays maybe, but did not turn one page, nor look up once. It was eerie, to say the least, and Percy was more than relieved when finally, he had finished his task and Snape waved him out of the door. He almost ran, so eager was he to get away from the brooding man.
It was only when he had almost reached his common room that he realised he had forgotten his robe. He had taken it off when he'd begun sweating too badly, and placed it on a chair beside him. Wonderful. He had to go get it back, because he owns only two (inherited from his older brothers), and one of them is in the laundry right now. He hurried back to the dungeons, anxious not to be caught by Filch or his ugly cat: curfew was only ten minutes away.
Approaching the Potions classroom, he heard voices coming from behind the door, which was only ajar. He stopped, wondering if he should knock or rather wait for whoever it may be to finish their conversation.
"…not honestly believe I am thankful, do you?" Snape snapped right then, more upset than Percy had ever heard him before.
A low, much calmer answer. Percy couldn't identify the voice.
"No, and surely not next year, either, or at any time at all! You can't change my mind." Something in Snape's voice was… off, Percy couldn't explain it better, and he had the decided feeling he should much rather go and leave the stupid robe behind. He could come back tomorrow during breakfast and get it. But instead, he leant forward to be able to hear better.
"This is no solution, believe me." The headmaster, he realised.
"It is the only one. I have been thinking about it thoroughly during the last months, and also tonight."
"Severus, it would help no one if you were not here any more."
Snape wanted to leave? Oh, but of course that would help – every student would be overjoyed! But Percy knew that Dumbledore couldn't possibly say such a thing to one of his teachers. Excited at these bright prospects, he had to force himself to stand still and breathe calmly in order not to be caught.
"Ridiculous," Snape retorted disdainfully. "The brats would dance with joy to be free of me, and my so-called colleagues wouldn't mind too much, either. Face it, Albus: no one beside you would miss me, if at all."
Percy silently agreed with him. He doesn't exactly hate or fear his Potions Professor, as some of his fellow students do, but he surely wouldn't miss him.
"Then, what about yourself? It will not help you, either." Dumbledore sounded sad and old, something that made Percy feel extremely uncomfortable. This was personal, and he shouldn't be here.
"Please, Albus." Suddenly, all venom was gone from Snape's voice. Percy doubted he or any other student had ever heard him say 'please' to anyone. "I hoped you, of all people, would understand. I cannot do this any longer." He sounded tired and, strangely, even older than Dumbledore. It still sends chills down Percy's spine to think of it. That would have been the point to leave, still blissfully ignorant. But he didn't.
"You do not know how it is to sit in this classroom with these children, whose parents or uncles or aunts…"
"No! I cannot sleep at night. I… I see them in my dreams! Sometimes, they talk to me. Hell, some of them were still children!" If it hadn't been Snape, Percy would have sworn he was going to cry at any moment.
"Severus, you were almost still a child yourself."
"That does not change anything."
Silence. Percy held his breath, his heart beating so wildly that he was sure they must hear it inside.
"Let me help you, Severus." Never had he heard one of his professors speak so gently.
"You can't." Or so sadly.
Another silence, steps, the rustling of clothes.
"For me, Severus."
The voices were closer to each other now.
"Do it for me."
"You are my friend. I need you here, by my side."
Their voices had become softer and softer, and Percy's ear was almost pressed against the door by now.
"I hate you." Snape sounded utterly defeated
"Thank you. Will you promise me?"
"Please, say it."
Snape's voice was strained, every word forced and pointed. "I promise that I will not attempt to commit suicide again. Are you happy now, old man?"
The robe was forgotten. Percy stumbled back from the door and fled.
Now, over an hour later, he is still crying. He doesn't even know when he has begun, or why. Surely, he's not crying for Snape – he doesn't even like him.
"Let me help you, Severus."
He does know, however, what 'suicide' means, and maybe he cries because it hurts his sense for how life should be, maybe it's because this is something that shouldn't happen. People shouldn't want to consider something like this.
He is only eleven, after all.
And maybe it's because of the strange feeling that someone should cry, and somehow, in a way he doesn't understand, he knows that Snape won't.
Before he finally falls asleep, still sniffing, cheeks and pillow wet, Percy makes a vow to himself: never again will he get himself into detention.
He never tells anyone.
Percy is patrolling the corridors, like every Hogwarts prefect and professor does at this moment. It's almost midnight, and an hour ago, the Heads of Houses got the prefects out of the common rooms to help them search the castle. It's cold, and Percy is tired and would much rather sleep – but instead, he has to look for a boggart that escaped his absolutely inept Defence teacher, Lockhart. How all the girls can be so infatuated with him, he will never understand. Even Penelope has a picture of him in her dorm – that's what a friend of hers told him, and he has seen the dreamy looks she always shoots their professor. It's sickening.
The headmaster wants the Boggart to be found before morning, so there won't be any nasty surprises for the younger students. The hallways and classrooms are first, and only if they don't catch the creature before breakfast will the common rooms and dormitories be searched as well. Percy hopes it will be found soon, and preferably not by him. He doesn't know what his boggart is – his class only learnt about it from books - and he has no desire to find out. Not exactly a Gryffindor attitude, is it? But he has always considered mindless boldness stupid. He doesn't need to prove anything to himself, or anyone else. He knows he can be brave if he needs to. Everything else – like the stunts his younger brothers pull so often - is a waste of energies. Sometimes, he asks himself why he is not in Ravenclaw.
Anyway, he had better concentrate and pay attention, because if he's the one to find it, then he shouldn't be unprepared. He raises his wand – the tip is glowing with dim light – and peers into the History of Magic classroom. What he sees makes him almost drop his wand, but he pulls himself together just in time and stays silent, watching, too surprised to speak or move.
Professor Snape is standing in the room, with his back halfway turned to him. Snape doesn't notice him, but instead is staring at – himself. There are two Snapes, looking at each other, and for some moments, Percy has no idea what it could mean. The two men seem absolutely identical: voluminous black robes; long, greasy black hair; sallow skin – even paler in the dubious light of the "Lumos" Charm both of their wands emit - too large nose; thin lips curled into a sneer.
Then he takes a second look, and now he notices that the Snape with his back to him has difficulties holding his wand – his hand is trembling, and what Percy can see of his face is twitching nervously. The other Snape, whom he can see better, is calmer, just staring at his counterpart, his eyes hidden in shadows. It can't be more than some seconds until the silence is broken, but to Percy, it seems far longer.
"Riddikulus!" Snape's voice is hoarse, almost croaking, and only now does Percy realise that his Potions Professor has found what they all have been looking for. He waits for the second, calmer Snape, the boggart, to turn into something amusing, something the professor could laugh about, but nothing happens. The boggart keeps staring at Snape silently, and somehow, he seems darker than the real Snape, more intimidating, menacing. Evil.
"Riddikulus!" Snape tries again. He is shaking visibly now.
Percy knows he should enter and make the boggart turn to him, because obviously, Snape isn't up to it, but he can't help thinking the man would never forgive a student for seeing this. What should he do? He watches for another excruciatingly slow minute, and just when he decides to forget about the consequences and just do it, he hears steps and voices from behind the corner.
"…History of Magic classroom. With all the large cupboards for the books and maps and so on, it would be a perfect hiding place."
"You are right, Minerva. I will have a look. You go to the Ancient Runes classroom."
Dumbledore! Never has Percy been so relieved to hear the headmaster's voice. Quickly, he turns and hurries away. He stops behind the next corner and peers around it, only to see how Dumbledore enters the classroom. Only a few seconds later, he hears him, loud and confident:
Percy sighs, relieved, and turns to leave. Halfway on his way back to the dormitory, Dumbledore's voice echoes through the corridors: "Every prefect and colleague may go back to bed now. The problem is solved. Thank you all for your help; I hope you will sleep well."
Percy, however, lies awake far into the early morning hours, thinking.
June 10th, 1994
Only eight days until summer holidays. Percy is glad to get back home. The recent events have caused an uproar in the whole student body: Sirius Black first caught, then escaped, Professor Lupin exposed as a werewolf. He has resigned and left this morning, and Percy has no doubt that tomorrow, the post will be full of Howlers, many of them for the headmaster for employing a Dark Creature and endangering the students. Percy is not so sure what he should think about all this: he liked Lupin, but something like last night should never have happened. His own little brother could have been turned into a werewolf himself, or, even worse, killed!
But now, the immediate danger is over, and all he has to worry about are his prefect duties tonight. He likes patrolling the silent corridors, though it has lost some of its appeal since the boggart incident. Every time he comes past the History of Magic classroom at night, he has to think of Snape. In fact, every time he has History of Magic, he has to think of him. He doesn't like the subject that much any more.
Percy sighs and tries to stop that train of thought. He doesn't know what to make of Snape. It's he who has spread the word about Professor Lupin's lycanthropy, and Percy loathes denunciating – it conflicts with his sense of justice. But he really should stop thinking about it. He will only attend Hogwarts for some more days, and after that, he'll never have to see the man again.
He now pays more attention to his surroundings again, and he notices he has almost reached Professor Lupin's now empty office. Or at least it should be empty, because there is light coming from under the door, and now he hears a loud, crashing noise, as if something were thrown to the floor. He has to think of Peeves – or, as he muses uncomfortably, maybe it's some Slytherins who regard it a good idea to demolish what is left of their former teacher's office. They, in contrast to most others, are glad that he left; in fact, many of them are practically gloating, telling everyone how vile and loathsome a creature Lupin is in their eyes.
Setting his jaw determinedly, Percy approaches the door. Whoever is wreaking havoc in there, he will put an end to it.
What he has not expected is Snape.
The man seems to be completely out of his mind: Lupin's desk and chair are lying on the ground, and right now, he tries to push over one of the glass cabinets at the wall, not with magic but with raw physical strength. He manages to do it, and with a loud crash, the cabinet falls, glass and wood splintering at the collision with the floor.
Percy has frozen in the doorway, practically goggling at his professor, who now turns to the next shelf. He doesn't stop until the last one is lying on the floor, then draws what seems to be a halfway empty bottle out of his robes, opens it, takes a gulp and smashes it against the wall. It breaks, the air smells of firewhisky, and Snape stands in the midst of destruction, his back to Percy, head bent, arms dangling limply at his sides, panting, still not noticing him.
"I hate you, Lupin," he grinds out, his voice slurred, and Percy realises he is drunk.
"Why? Can you tell me? Why did it have to be like this? Why can't I just once get what I want?" He wraps his arms around himself as though he were cold.
"Why do I always have to destroy everything?" If Snape had been hateful and furious at first, the anger has dwindled quickly. He sounds resigned, and it reminds Percy of a night five years ago, and a chill runs down his spine. He should leave.
"I couldn't… I just couldn't…" Snape goes on, but Percy never finds out what he couldn't do, because suddenly, the professor slumps down to the floor, groaning. He looks small, cowering between the overthrown furniture, and Percy thinks he would like to help him. Only he doesn't know how. But when Snape begins to slowly rock himself and speaks again, Percy realises that there is one thing he can do.
"I love you, Remus. I'm sorry. I love you…"
He silently steps back and closes the door, then locks it and puts a Silencing Charm on the room. No one should find Snape like this.
One more night without sleep. One more night spent lying in bed, staring up at the dark canopies and wondering about Snape.
June 30th, 1997
Percy puts down the Daily Prophet and almost knocks over his cup of tea, but he doesn't notice. He isn't hungry any more. He looks down at the front page of the paper unbelievingly, like so many others right now.
Dumbledore gone, murdered by Snape.
Immediately, Percy thinks back to that night in his first year at Hogwarts, and all he can do is shake his head.
"This is no solution, believe me."
"Do it for me." "Promise me".
"Do it for me."
Snape, a traitor? After all he has seen of him, he can't believe it. But it has to be true, doesn't it? Or why else would he have done it? Murdered the man who has saved him? He is still staring at the picture of Snape in the paper: dark, ugly, disagreeable; and his mind returns to four years ago, when he had seen two identical Snapes staring at each other.
His former professor was a wise man, he now realises, to fear most what lay inside himself, what he was capable of doing.
Percy gets up and goes to work, his breakfast untouched. The Ministry is busier than usual, and everyone only talks about Dumbledore and Snape. Percy doesn't participate, because unlike the others, he isn't so sure what he should believe. The Auror offices are buzzing with excitement. He accidentally listens to some of them talking about what they'll do if they are able to lay a hand on Snape. He wishes he hadn't heard it.
He can't sleep at night.
Percy is on his way home from buying groceries after work. It's seven and already dark outside, and a little snow has fallen in the course of the day. He's in a cheerful mood, because Mr. Pomeroy said today that he has never had such an apt assistant before, and so he's whistling and swinging his shopping bag, enjoying the crisp air and the glow of the lanterns on the white snow. He passes a narrow, dark alleyway and just thinks about tomorrow's work – cataloguing the newly arrived books on archaeology and travelling – when a loud, crashing noise to his right makes him stop. It's a familiar sound, although he hasn't heard it for over six months: someone Apparating.
Percy wonders who it could be: usually, wizards try not to Apparate in a city like London, because the risk of being seen is too high. No one turns up, though, and he has just decided to move on – the person probably left to the other side of the alley – but then another noise makes him halt once more. It sounds like a pained groan, then a cough, and another groan.
It seems that whoever Apparated there is hurt, or at least not well. After a moment of hesitation, Percy steps into the dark shadows of the alleyway, his wand drawn. His eyes take a few moments to get used to the dim lighting conditions, but when he looks around, he sees what must be a human shape, halfway hidden behind some skips. Slowly, he approaches – after all, nowadays, you can't know if its not a Death Eater.
"Hello there, are you all right?"
No answer. He comes nearer and realises the man – he can see now it's a man - must be unconscious or at least badly hurt: he is lying with his face to the ground and doesn't move, and his black robes are torn in several places, the shreds smeared with red. Percy kneels down beside him and carefully turns him around.
For some moments, Percy is flabbergasted, frozen. Then he automatically raises his wand,but stops his hand in mid-air. He looks down at Snape again, takes in his battered, worn-out appearance: pale face, torn robes, bony form, and, with a sigh, puts the wand back into the inner pocket of his parka. He knows he should call the Ministry, the aurors, to take Snape with them, put him under arrest. He is a murderer on the run, after all. So why, instead, he lifts him up in his arms and Apparates them both back to his flat only a few streets away, Percy has no idea.
Half an hour later, he looks down at the still unconscious man now lying in his bed, wearing one of his pyjamas. He has rid his former professor of the ruined clothes, has performed some basic Healing Charms they all learnt in seventh year on the most obvious injuries – some cuts and bruises along his left side and leg – and has managed to make him swallow something for the fever he is running, because on top of all, Snape has a bad cold.
He can't think of anything more he could do, so he pulls the blanket over the man and goes to the tiny kitchen to put away the groceries, leaving the bedroom door ajar, just in case. He refuses to think of what exactly he has done until he is sitting in the living room on the couch, staring down at his cup of tea.
After almost an hour of this, the tea is cold and Percy is none the wiser. He finally decides to sleep as well, but finds that he can't. Hour after hour, he listens to the noises of nightly London until he falls asleep long after midnight. When he is woken by Snape having a nightmare and screaming, he casts a Silencing Charm on the flat, not the bedroom.
At ten in the morning, Percy awakes with an aching back due to the too hard mattress of the studio couch, but he has no time to dwell on it, for as soon as he has put on his glasses, there comes a loud groan from the bedroom, and then a thudding sound, as though something – or someone! – had just fallen on the floor. There are more groans, and within a second, Percy is standing in the doorway, finding himself staring at a swaying Snape who seems ready to keel over at any moment.
"You shouldn't be out of bed," is all he can think of saying, and it's at this precise moment that Snape's legs decide to give in under him. Percy manages to bring him back to bed, even though the man keeps struggling; fortunately, he is in no condition to succeed in his efforts. In the end, Snape gives up resignedly and lets Percy cover him with the blanket again.
"I think I should check on your wounds first, and after that, it's time for breakfast."
Percy knows just how ridiculous that must sound, but he simply has no idea what else he could say. He leaves for the bathroom to bring fresh bandages and the ointment he has used on the cuts last night, and when he comes back, Snape stares at him darkly, but doesn't speak. He keeps looking at him like that until Percy is finished, and also when he brings him something to eat and drink. When it's clear that Snape's hands are shaking too much, he lets Percy feed him the broth, never taking his eyes from him. Only when he is already on his way to bring the tray with the empty glass and bowl back to the kitchen, his guest finally speaks.
"Why didn't you call the aurors?"
Percy turns to look back and once more finds himself pierced by those black eyes. He shakes his head.
"I don't know."
Snape sneers, or at least tries to, but it ends in a cough.
"Would have made quite an impression with your superiors at the Ministry. The one who caught Dumbledore's murderer." His voice is harsh at the last words, and Percy feels decidedly uncomfortable. "Would have been the perfect chance for a promotion, wouldn't it?"
"I don't work there any more," Percy replies curtly.
Snape stays silent for a moment. "Will you turn me in?" he then wants to know in a matter-of-fact tone.
"No. I… don't think so."
The man in the bed keeps staring at him for several more moments, as if trying to figure out whether or not Percy is saying the truth. Then he just leans back against the pillows and closes his eyes.
Percy goes to pick up the phone and call in sick for some days.
The next four days go by quietly: they hardly talk – in fact, they hardly are in the same room at all. Snape sleeps and eats and sleeps more, and Percy tends to his wounds and spends most of his time sitting in the living room, trying to read, failing. He still doesn't understand why he is helping Snape. It's not as though he knows him well or even likes him. All he knows is that he does not want to see him in Azkaban. All he knows is that, for whatever reason, he trusts him, even though he doesn't know on which side he is. It's terribly illogical, and that irks him, but he can't help it.
On the fifth day, Percy still doesn't consider it a good idea for Snape to leave again, but he can't do anything about it. He managed to hold him back two days ago – it would have been ridiculous, honestly - but he knows that the other man is right in saying it's too dangerous to stay any longer, for both of them. Percy has given him some of his clothes – Snape looks strange in Muggle trousers and a Weasley jumper – and now they're standing in the living room, Snape ready to Apparate away.
Percy feels oddly nervous, like there were something he should do, but has not, and Snape's face already shows signs of the concentration you need for Apparition when Percy speaks.
"Wait," he says, and Snape turns to face him,clearly exasperated.
"If there's ever… I mean, if you ever need a place to sleep, you know where to find me."
Snape seems to consider this for a moment, then, without an answer, he is gone. To tell the truth, Percy doesn't expect him to come back.
Therefore, he almost drops his book when about six weeks later, Snape Apparates directly into his living room. He has his wand drawn and, without a word, begins to search the tiny flat. Living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. When he seems convinced that there's no auror hidden in the cupboard, he comes back to the living room and slumps into the only armchair, closing his eyes. He makes no move to speak, and after some moments, Percy gets up and goes to the kitchen to cook dinner. They eat in silence, and afterwards, Percy prepares his own bed for the guest.
Snape leaves after breakfast. Other than about how he wants his eggs, they have not exchanged a word. He hasn't thanked Percy, and Percy doesn't expect him to do so. But just before he Disapparates, he gives a curt nod, and Percy can't help smiling for a moment. All this is completely ludicrous, but he feels more pleased with himself than he has for a long time.
The pattern recurs in irregular intervals over the next nine months. Snape will show up in the evening, they will eat, then he will sleep. He gives up searching the flat after the fifth time, and Percy likes the idea that he feels safe here, that he trusts him – or at least enough to believe he will not give him away to his enemies. Because he doesn't believe Snape trusts anyone.
Often, when Snape is already sleeping, Percy will sit in the living room with a cold cup of tea and wonder. What is Snape up to? What are his plans, his motives? What has he been doing all this time? How often was he close to being hunted down and imprisoned? But he doesn't ask. He puts Silencing Charms on the flat, not the bedroom, and tries not to ask himself why.
Then he gets a letter. He doesn't know how the owl has found him – no one in the Wizarding world knows his address in Muggle London – but after reading it, he doesn't particularly care any more. It's from his mother, and it says that Charlie has been killed while working for the Order. It also tells him the date and time of the funeral.
It's a cold, rainy November afternoon. Percy tries not to draw any attention as he approaches the group of people gathered around the open grave. He recognises his family, Harry, Hermione and several Order members. The coffin has not yet been let down, and a young woman Percy doesn't know is just holding a speech, but dissolves into tears at every second sentence until she gives up and throws herself into Molly's arms. Percy feels like an intruder and stops some metres away from them, next to a large tree. He keeps watching how several more people say something, then how the coffin slowly disappears into the grave. For no apparent reason, he has to think of how Charlie stole cookies for him from the kitchen when Percy had been four, and he wishes he could have said goodbye.
Then it is over, and the people begin to leave. His family, Harry, Hermione and the woman who must have been Charlie's girlfriend are coming into his direction, and he is still wondering if he should go and talk to them or if he had better leave, when they're there already. His mother throws her arms around him and cries, and Bill and George pat his shoulder and mumble something about how they're glad he came.
It's an embarrassing situation when finally, Molly lets go of him. Percy doesn't know what to say – he hasn't seen them for so long. He knows he probably should apologise, only he doesn't know how, and there's something inside him, something he loathes and clings to at the same time, that tells him not to. Pride.
He looks at his family, the family he has left, and they look back. His mother, Bill and George seem sad, Ginny unsure of what to do. His father ignores him completely. Fred and Ron are glaring at him, and he isn't surprised that it's Ron who finally breaks the silence.
"Charlie would be ashamed of you." Percy winces, and from the corner of his eye, he sees that his mother does the same. "You shouldn't be here," Ron goes on. "He wouldn't want you here."
Percy realises that he has waited for something like this to happen, and although Bill and Hermione begin berating Ron and his mother starts crying again, he can see that in a way, they all think the same. He himself thinks of Snape sleeping in his bed, Snape, who is a murderer just like the one who is responsible for Charlie's death. He turns and leaves, and he doesn't answer when his mother calls after him, promising that she'll write.
On top of all, Snape turns up this evening, and now more than ever, Percy is thankful that the man has never shown any inclination to make small talk. They eat in brooding silence, or rather: Snape eats while Percy stares at his food and feels the air thicken around them. The older man seems in a fouler mood than usual as well, and finally, the throws his fork down at the plate and strides into the bathroom without a word.
Percy is preparing the bed when Snape enters. The man brushes past him, their shoulders touching due to the lack of space, and Percy will never be sure how it happened that suddenly, he has grabbed Snape's arms and they are staring at each other with something that can only be called hunger.
Their clothes fall to the floor in an untidy heap – for a moment, Percy is surprised Snape doesn't hex him – and then they're on the bed, Percy on top of his former teacher – yet another surprise. There are no kisses, no silly words and no pretence of any nonexistent intimacy, just their need for touch and release, their bodies rocking together as Percy fucks Snape hard until the man's silence turns into moans and Percy comes and collapses on top of him.
He hastily rolls off him – now that it's over, touching seems a bad idea - and they lie there in silence, their panting slowly dying down. Finally, Percy looks up and notices that Snape has fallen asleep. He pulls the blanket over the naked figure and smiles in spite of himself. He doesn't know why, but it hurt to hear that name from Snape's lips.
"It's Percy, not Remus," he says softly, although - because - he knows that the older man can't hear him.
He sits in the living room for the better part of the night, and when Snape awakes, he has already gone to work. All Snape finds is a piece of paper next to a cup of cold tea: "I would appreciate it if you did not come for the next months, if you have any alternatives."
Three months go by until Snape comes back, and when he comes, they pretend nothing had happened. Then, only two weeks later, they capture him and bring him to Azkaban.
It's in every Wizarding newspaper – Percy still reads the Daily Prophet, just to keep himself informed – and each of them demands that Snape receive the Dementor's Kiss. But the Wizengamot decides on a life sentence, obviously because they hope to derive information from him, one of the highest-ranking Death Eaters they have ever managed to lay a hand on. But all interrogations are useless; he says nothing, and finally, after six months, they leave him alone, most of the time. No more newspaper articles about the unrepentant, loathsome murderer, and no more demonstrations by people who demand his death. Percy thinks the Wizarding world has better things to do anyway: You-Know-Who is still alive.
He had forgotten how the presence of Dementors feels since they had left Hogwarts at the end of his seventh year, and back then, he'd had no intention to ever come near them again. Now, however, he feels their cold creep though his clothes and body and mind once again, even though he is still outside the building, and it's only the thought that he is a visitor, that he can leave whenever he wishes, that lets him enter Azkaban at all.
What he hopes to achieve from his presence here, Percy doesn't know. He is surprised he got permission to come in the first place, but not more surprised than they were that someone actually wanted to see Snape without the obvious intention to strangle or kill him in any other way.
Now he is standing in front of Snape's cell and stares inside. At first glance, there's no difference, beside the fact that Snape seems a little thinner and looks unfamiliar in his prison uniform. If you don't know him, you won't see it, but Percy has studied him in the past, and he doesn't miss the fact that Snape's posture is just a bit more hunched up as he is leaning against the stone wall, he doesn't miss how tightly he clenches his fists to stop them from trembling, or the occasional flicker in the usually unmoved black eyes staring back at him.
"Why have you come?" The same calm, matter-of-fact tone Percy is used to. He can only shake his head. He doesn't know.
"You are an idiot," Snape says, and Percy can't dissent. None of his decisions involving his former teacher have ever been what one would call particularly wise, and coming here certainly isn't, either.
"Leave. Don't come again." The words are forcibly harsh, but Percy hears the almost imperceptible tremble in Snape's voice. He understands what it means, and he nods, and leaves.
But it takes another visit three months later, during which Snape is sleeping, to make him realise he truly mustn't come again. He lies awake at night and listens to voices from the past.
"I see them in my dreams!"
"Let me help you, Severus." "You can't." "You are my friend. I need you here, by my side."
"Let me help you, Severus."
"You are my friend. I need you here, by my side."
And now, spoken while Snape was asleep: "I'm sorry, Albus. Forgive me. Forgive me."
Percy has no doubts about what the Dementors make Snape see.