AUTHOR'S NOTE: I know, I know, it's a dreadfully old idea, but—I want to do it anyway, and I hope I do it some more justice than some other fics.
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Severus Snape was not a morning person. Nor an afternoon person, and he was certaintly not a nigt person. In fact, he was rarely any sort of person at all. If he had to state a time in which he was at his most pleasant and most agreeable, he would glare at the wall for a good twenty minutes trying to think if there ever was a time. Then he would state five or ten minutes after four in the morning after working on an extremely complex potion. But only for about five seconds, and then he would revert to his dour, unhappy self.
Though he was rather agreeable after finishing a mystery novel. But he did not admit to anyone that he read such a thing, and no one ever knew he was agreeable after that because he most often read them about five or ten minutes after four in the morning, and if you happened to run across him and he did not snarl at you, you would most likely assume he had just been working on an extremely complex potion and never suspect he was really patting himself on the back for pegging the killer in the first two chapters.
So, on the morning in question, you can assume that Severus Snape was certainly not any more agreeable than he normally was in the morning. He was doing exactly what he did every morning—he woke up, had a shower, brushed his teeth, growled at the mirror, and made his way to the Great Hall for breakfast. One thing that did make his dour face less sullen was the fact that it was summer holidays, so he didn't need to wade through whiny, snot nosed children on his way to the head table. One thing that made his lip curl was the fact that, as soon as he sat down, he heard Hagrid twittering on and on about Harry Potter.
Mentions of any sort of Potter, or Lupin, or Pettigrew often made his lip curl (though mention of Black often made his lips twist into a smug grin), and it was that way that his lip remained as he helped himself to eggs.
"—las' time I saw 'im 'e was only a baby, but wi' the sweetest eyes an' smile yeh ever could see! Even after all tha'—" (here Hagrid started to sniffle, and Severus guarded his plate from the massive tears that were rolling down the giants face) "—tha' had happened afore it, 'e was sweet as an'thing yeh could imagine, an' quiet. Wailin' up a storm at firs', a'course, but fell asleep jus' over Bristol."
"I remember, Hagrid," Minerva said kindly, and Severus sneered. Just like the woman to coddle the giant. Severus respected his old professor, could even stand a conversation with her now and than, but her main failing was that she was soft. Oh, you wouldn't guess it, the way she treated the students—stern but fair McGonagall!—but in private, she was soft as a marshmellow. Severus tasted his eggs, then pulled a face and reached for the salt and pepper.
"An' wasn' 'e jus' the sweetest—"
"We've heard how sweet the boy is, Hagrid," Severus ground out as he angrily shook the salt over his eggs. "Any sweeter and he would melt in the rain, we understand! Something that sweet—" the way Severus said it made it sound like he was intoning the deadliest potion on Earth, "—should not be conversed about at breakfast, do I make myself clear?"
The entire table glared at him, and Snape scowled back as he retasted his eggs. Worthless.
Hagrid continued in that vein the entire meal, delivering a detailed account ofhow he had rescued the boy from the ruin in Godric's Hollow. Minerva fretted about the boys relatives—if they were actually as bad as Minerva had said, he felt he ought to award them a medal—and Dumbledore merely smiled genially and said he was happy to finally be able to see the boy again.
Severus felt about ready to puke.
The weather above his head seemed to share his view, for the sky turned thunderous, stormy and windy and black, and Snape allowed himself a small smile. He had always loved storms, and he planned to remove himself to some abandoned tower with his latest mystery novel—disguised as a potions treatise—for a day of reading and silence.
His plans were shattered when he saw Hagrid rise from the table and promptly slip.
He fell with a great crash, echoed moments after by a roll of thunder. His enormous leg lay at a sickening angle, and Severus allowed himself a moment of rejoicing—he wouldn't have to hear about Potter for the rest of the damnable day!—before looking at the man with concern.
Poppy was over him, waving her wand and administering diagnostic charms, and Severus slipped out of the hall to retrieve his book and scout out a tower. The man would be fine in Poppy's hands, he knew, and what was there to be gained by hovering?
He was entranced and in a better sort of mood than normal, tucked in the hidden West Tower and most un-Snapely curled in an armchair when Dumbledore hunted him down.
"Whatever you are about to ask of me," Severus said, slamming the book shut before Dumbledore could see it had nothing to do with the latest steps with the Wolfsbane Potion, "I firmly refuse."
"You don't know if I am to ask you anything, my boy," Dumbledore said with a frustrating eye twinkle.
"I do so. Now ask it, and I will answer no, and you will leave and I will get back to my treatise."
"Harry Potter—" the man started, and Severus shook his head.
"No. Good day to you, Headmaster."
Dumbledore conjured a chair. "Severus, I wouldn't ask you, but no one else can go."
"Delay it a day. Hagrid will be up and about by then."
"Poppy's afraid that the Skele-Grow she used won't be potent enough for his bone structure, he's confined to his hut for the rest of the week."
"She's receiving the owls and overseeing the elves."
"I could do that and she could go."
"She cannot—the owls are keyed to her specifically, to prevent interception. You know that."
Severus rolled his eyes and thought. "Flitwick?"
"Too excitable," was the answer.
"Pomona? Oh, I know, too round. And Poppy is too busy and you are too old—"
"Severus, please." The old man's eyes were pleading with him, and Severus held backa snarl. "I am asking you as my friend. Do this one favor."
"Headmaster, no. Now, if you'll excuse me—"
"I'll tell the staff."
Severus blinked. "Tell them what, that I refuse to go? Go ahead, though I doubt it will be a surprise."
"I'll tell them about that delightful treatise you're reading—Christie, isn't it?"
Severus gave Dumbledore a frosty glare. "Excuse me?"
"Agatha Christie, isn't it? Murder on the Orient Express—well, that's been a favorite of your for years, hasn't it?"
"I haven't the slightest—" Severus started, but the old man just smiled at him and his damnable eyes just twinkled.
"I hate you," Severus snarled, throwing the book at Dumbledore. The man smiled as if Severus had just professed undying devotion to him.
"Quite right, my boy. Now—I've located Mr. Potter in—"
Severus sulked and listened and swore that Potter would reach the castle whole—
But only just.
The weather continued to be miserable and that suited Severus just fine. He was levitating himself over a damned ocean, following a weak tracking pattern in the middle of a bloody thunderstorm, fuming and plotting what he would do once he located Potter.
He was to take him—shopping. Severus Snape, take a worthless brat like Potter shopping. Severus Snape, taking anyone shopping, was a stretch. He ordered everything by owl-order except for his clothes and shoes, which he bought froma reliable tailor in Hogsmeade. He hadn't set foot in Diagon Alley for years. Years. And he was to spoil the Potter boy rotten and treat him like a bloody king, bringing him around to all the shops and fawning over him.
Well, Severus wouldn't do it. He would not. He would get the boy as far as Gringotts, then let him fend for himself while he helped himself forget this day with a few pints in the back of the Limitless Night—only good thing about Diagon Alley. See how smart the boy was then.
The tracking pattern seemed to strengthen up a bit and it was leading down to a little rock.
What was Potter doing on a rock? Why the bloody hell had Potter brought him to a rock?
He then noticed a small, weather beaten shack on the rock, and he smirked. Probably meant to be some sort of vacation, ruined by the weather. He gloried in Potter's ruined vacation as he landed on the rock, cast a quick drying spell, pasted his most menacing scowl on his face, and apparated inside.
It was just after midnight.
Harry Potter was not a morning person, an afternoon person, or a night person. He tended to be small, thin, messy-haired, knobbly-kneed, bespectacled and quiet at all times. If you had asked him what time of day he was most agreeable, he would probably offer a tentative smile and say that whatever time of day he was not with the Dursley's was the best time of day for him.
He was, of course, rather agreeable whenever he was left alone in his cupboard. But other people weren't technically supposed to know about the cupboard, so he doubted that he would say that to anybody, however much it was true. He was decidedly not agreeable, however, when being chased by Dudley's gang, being scolded by Aunt Petunia, smacked around by Uncle Vernon, or having his letters stolen and his whole life overturned.
That was not exactly agreeable for him at all.
So, the night in question (for it had been several hours since Hagrid had been proclaiming his sweetness in the great Hall), Harry Potter was basically agreeable, but not at all so to his relatives, and he was also very damp. It was good that he was not quite as sweet as Hagrid had been proclaimed, because the hut's roof was not very well patched and Dudley had shoved him right under a hole, so the rain had been pouring in on him all night. The back of Dudley's shirt was soaked, and Harry rather wished that the crisp bags Uncle Vernon had tried to light had caught, because he was freezing and slightly miserable.
This was not what Harry did every night—normally he stared at the ceiling in his cupboard—which, though small, did not have any holes in it and could be quite warm in the summer, though cold in the winter—and wondered what it would be like if his parents were alive. Not in a missing way—though he did miss them—but in a curious way. Would he be taller? Would he be smarter? Would he be like Dudley, because he had parents who loved him? Would his parents love him? Would he love them? Would his father have a mustache like Uncle Vernon? Would his mother have a face like Aunt Petunia? Would he have two bedrooms, or one, or three? Would he still have to cook breakfast?
Currently, he was too damp, miserable, and less-than-agreeable towards his relatives to focus on that. Instead, he thought about his letter. What did it say? Was it from his parents? Were they alive?
Harry quickly dismissed that and sighed. His parents, he knew quite well, were dead. He used to think about relatives that would come and fetch him, mysterious kings and long lost aunts, but it was really only the Dursleys, and thinking like that would give him a funny pain a little above his stomach, so he stopped.
It was almost his birthday, he noticed, tring to read Dudley's watch out of the corner of his eyes. 11:48. Twelve minutes. He briefly entertained himself wondering what he would get if he had parents—a computer? Books? A hug?—but then he dismissed it. He probably wouldn't get anything at all this year, not with all the trouble his letters were causing, although Dudley would give him birthday punches. Harry winced and touched his eye. Dudley had take his glasses, snapped them, and punched Harry in the eye earlier when Harry refused to give up his bag of crisps. "A taste," Dudley had sniggered. "For tomorrow." Harry had mended his glasses with a bit of sellotape and had been feeling his eye bruise all night. He pulled his ragged blanket tighter around him and sighed. He'd give anything to get a letter for a birthday present.
Dudley's watch said eight minutes. He wondered if Uncle Vernon had gotten any food for tomorrow, he was starving. Though there probably wouldn't be much for Harry, anyway. Six minutes. He wondered when they would head back to Privet Drive. Maybe there would be so many letter there that they wouldn't notice if he took one. Five minutes. What did those letters say, anyway? Who was so desperate to talk to odd Harry Potter, with his baggy old clothes and funny bruises and the odd things that happened to him? Who cared?
Two minutes. The whole shack was making the worst sorts of noises, grinding and howling and dripping from the storm. Maybe the whole place would fall to pieces. Maybe they would have to return to Privet Drive that very night! Maybe he could have a letter by sunrise! That would be the best sort of birthday present.
Thirty seconds. Maybe he'd wake up Dudley, just to irritate him—of course, he didn't particularly want Dudley to remember it was his birthday—maybe he would go into the loo and sing 'Happy Birthday' to himself—that was the only way it would be sung at all. Ten…nine…eight…he was eleven now, at least, or almost…four…three…two…one…
The little alarm on Dudley's watch started to beep, and Harry shut it off quickly before Dudley woke up. He lay there a moment, shivering under a blanket, and wondered if this was all that being eleven felt like.
Suddenly, a dark shadow appeared right in front of him. It looked like a vampire with the most menacing look Harry had ever seen in his life of his face. He was almost as scary as Uncle Vernon was that time Harry found himself on the school roof. Harry let out a little sound—not a scream, though, he was too agreeable for that—and skitted backward, away from the specter.
It was just after midnight.