A/N Yes, I KNOW I should be working on completing my existing stories and not writing new ones, but I was reading fanfic and I began to wonder 'hey, what would have happened if Severus hadn't let the Marauder's torment drive him to Voldemort' and all. So I HAD to start writing. Apologies to those of you waiting for me to finally get some work done on Magic Prohibited or Training on the Job. I AM working on those, I promise!
The eleven year old crouched behind a statue. It would appear the cost was clear, but he could never be sure. Clutching his library books to his chest, he nearly ran down the corridors leading to the dungeons.
Just as he past the Entrance Hall and into the final corridor that would bring him to the Slytherin Common Room, he felt his feet trip over something invisible and he stumbled, dropping his books. A trip jinx. It could have been worse, he supposed. If this was the last of it.
"Ah, the poor snake. Snakes aren't supposed to run, you know. They crawl on their bellies. Crowl, little snake," he heard the hated voices of his tormentors.
Potter and Black, with Pettigrew peering around their arms, sniggered as he quickly tried to pick up his books.
"My mother taught me a funny hex," Black said to Potter, "the snake's not the only one whose parents showed him their Dark Arts books."
"Dark Arts? Sirius…" Potter turned to his fellow Marauder in shock.
"Oh, not Dark Arts, silly! Here, I'll show you: Furnunculus!" Severus bit back a scream as his hands suddenly filled with painful boils, some of them breaking as he moved his hands. They oozed a greenish pus onto the library book he borrowed.
"Now, don't go ruining Madam Pince's books, snake," Sirius drawled, "you know how attached she is to them. Here, let me clean it up. EVANESCO!"
Sure enough, the pus disappeared, but also half the book. It was as if the pus had burned holes in it.
"Oops," was Sirius's very insincere response.
"Why – why can't you just leave me alone?" Severus tried, his voice shaking, "I never did anything to any of you!"
"It's not so much what you DO, it's more that you exist, if you get my drift…"James pointed his wand at the miserable boy.
Severus let out a single sob before he clutched his wand in his damaged hand, ignoring the pain. "Stupify!"
James toppled over, unconscious. Pettigrew screamed.
Sirius cradled James's head. "You ruddy snake! You'll pay…"
"What is this?" a voice squeeked behind them, "what is going on?"
"Professor Flitwick, Snake – Snape killed James!" Pettigrew wailed, large tears on his cheeks. Severus stared at him. The boy was faking, it was clear to anyone who would look at him closely. Flitwick, however, bent over James's prone figure.
"Ah, no, dear boy, he is merely Stupified. Finite!"
With a simple flick, James woke up.
"Well, now that you are all back into the land of the living, I shall escort you up to the Headmaster's office," the Charms Professor decided.
Severus stood staring at the large desk. Besides him, the three other boys were talking feverishly.
"He started it, sir…."
"….suddenly jumped up and tried to kill James…"
"I still have a headache!"
Professor McGonagall, Professor Dumbledore and Professor Flitwick stood behind the desk. Severus's own Head of House, Professor Slughorn, wasn't there. Apparently he'd had one of his get togethers with Hagrid and was out cold from firewhiskey.
"Now, now, boys. I am sure Mr Snape did not intend to kill Mr Potter. Who threw the first hex?"
The three boys pointed at Severus, who shook his head. "I didn't…"
"Mr Snape, we must all accept the consequences of our actions. Mr Potter? What were you doing in that part of the castle at this time?"
"Well," James said nervously, "We were just walking down the corridor back up to the Tower. We wanted to ask Professor Slughorn to explain something about our homework, but he wasn't there."
Now that they knew the Professor had been getting drunk with Hagrid all night, this was an easy excuse.
"Snape was coming back from the library I guess. He threw some sort of Dark hex, but missed. It backfired from the wall and hit his own book."
Flitwick picked up Severus's library book. "Ruined," he sighed, "fortunately very easy to replace."
Dumbledore sighed. "Very well. Messrs Potter, Black and Pettigrew will go up to their tower. Mr Snape will replace the library book…"
"I- I don't have the money for that, sir," Severus said, "and why should I replace a book that I didn't ruin in the first place?"
"Don't make your situation worse by lying," the Headmaster admonished.
"He does so have money!" Pettigrew accused, "He had three galleons in his pocket earlier!"
"That's all my money for this year," Severus softly replied.
"What you ruin, you must replace," The Headmaster began, but was interrupted by Professor McGonagall.
"Really Albus, taking all the child's money will do him nor his studies much good. He will need to buy school supplies, if only parchment and quills. If you insist on him repaying the book, have him serve detention with Irma in the library. I'm sure she could use a hand, as I believe she is changing the library system – again."
"Very well, then," Dumbledore conceded, "One month of detention for the book, and another month for starting a fight. Now all of you, back to your Common Rooms."
"Mr Snape, you are with me," the Transfiguration Professor said sternly, "I shall leave a note for Professor Slughorn."
Severus obediently followed her out. But instead of heading to the dungeons, she took another route. He looked up at her in fright. What was she going to do to him?
He stumbled along, nearly blind with fear when she took his shoulder and pushed him into the Infirmary.
The nurse came from the door that lead to her private quarters. "Yes Minerva?"
"Would you mind taking care of Mr Snape's hands?" the witch pushed the boy forward, "the boils have opened and I fear for infection."
"Oh, my," the nurse motioned the boy over to sit on the bed, "that is the worst case of this hex I've seen in many years."
She picked up a bowl, filled it with water and poured some potions in it.
"Here, dear, soak your hands in this. It has murtlap essence and an antiseptic in it. It will ease the pain and clear out the boils. I'll put on a cream and bandage your hands. They'll be fine by morning."
"Murtlap?" Severus asked softly.
"Yes, dear. They have a growth on their back that resembles a sea anemone. Usually these growths are pickled and eaten, but essence of murtlap soothes pains caused by hexes or curses. It was widely used up until the beginning of the century to ease the pain caused by the use of Blood Quills. I also use it in some basic healing potions. Makes them more potent when added in the right amount."
Severus looked up, very interested. The nurse and transfigurations teacher laughed.
"I think you found yourself an apprentice, Poppy," the stern Head of Gryffindor smiled.
"I usually brew Sunday afternoons," the nurse patted Severus's knee, "you are welcome to come and help if it interests you. Mind you, I am not nearly as skilled as Professor Slughorn…"
"Skilled enough if you can adapt a basic recipe," Severus blurted out. He immediately blushed, but the nurse seemed flattered, not annoyed.
"Thank you, dear. Now, give me your right hand. Leave the left one in for the moment."
Soon Severus was bandaged and no longer in pain.
"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," he muttered from under his long hair.
"Come along now," Professor McGonagall said, "It's past curfew. I'll walk you to your Common Room."
"W-Why were you so nice?" Severus asked shyly, "I mean…they're Gryffindors…and I'm not."
"That's exactly the reason," the witch seemed to frown a little. "You are a Slytherin, Mr Snape. Far too cunning to pick a fight when you are outnumbered three to one. Perhaps Professor Slughorn will be able to get the Headmaster to reduce your detention time."
"I doubt it," Severus sighed, "I'm not important enough to him."
He didn't see the thin lips pursed together in disapproval at that. "You are a member of his House," the Deputy Headmistress said, "that alone should make you important enough."
Or course, Professor Slughorn didn't share that opinion. He didn't bother interfering for Severus's sake and the boy was stuck in detention for two months. Not that he minded very much. He enjoyed the work and Professor McGonagall had spoken to the Librarian for him, so he was allowed to do his homework each day before starting to work. On Sunday afternoon he helped Madam Pomfrey with brewing.
Since he was now nearly always under the supervision of an adult, Black and Potter got very little chance to ambush him. Glares in class and attempts to destroy his homework were all they could do. Severus took to asking Madam Pince to check his homework for spelling mistakes – something she was extremely attentive to, going so far as to owl publishers who failed to remove all errors from the books they published. Apart from handing in grammatically correct homework, it also gave him a very credible witness.
"I did do my homework, Professor," he would insist, "Madam Pince has read my essay yesterday, she will remember."
Since the Librarian's memory was legendary, all Professors accepted this and the Marauders saw their efforts be in vain.
For two whole months, Severus was safe.
To his delight, Madam Pince called him to her the day before Christmas break.
"I know you did not really destroy the book, so at least one month of your detention was undeserved. You have worked very hard, and I have taken some money out of the Library budget to pay you. Here."
Severus stared in shock at the twenty gold galleons that shone in his hands. Twenty galleons! That was a fortune!
"Now, no one else has to know about this," she admonished him and Severus nodded.
"Professor McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey and myself have an offer for you, since obviously your parents are not capable of sending you much pocketmoney. There is no shame in that, Severus – not everyone can be as rich as the Malfoys."
Severus thought of the snobby fifth year, and shook his head. Even though Malfoys robes were of the finest quality and he had to make do with second hand clothes that rarely fitted properly, he would not want to become like that family.
"Madam Pomfrey told me you are very gifted in Potions, and I am very pleased with how quickly you picked up on my new system – not everyone is able to, you know. You can help both of us out in the weekends and earn a little extra cash that way. Professor McGonagall has already given her permission as Deputy Headmistress. What do you say?"
What could he say? Getting some pocketmoney for doing what he loved? Of course he was up for it!
"Then you'll spend Saturdays in here. You can work extra during breaks if you're staying."
Severus left the library happily. He had some extra money to order some things he needed, and perhaps he'd have some left to send to his mother. The Marauders were going away for Christmas break and his father didn't want him to come home. He'd have liked to see his mother again, he worried about her, but he was happy to stay away from the bully that was his father.
"Sounds like the little snake has found some treasure, Sirius."
"Sure does, James. Now where does he get that, I wonder?"
"Stolen, most likely," Pettigrews voice sounded excited.
"You know, Peter, you may be right."
"Oh, leave him alone," came the soft voice of Remus Lupin, a frequent visitor to the library, "he's not doing anything. Let's just go up and finish packing."
The others ignored him.
"If you have so much money, I'm sure you can give us some," Sirius's grinning face loomed over him. Both Potter and Black were half a head taller than he was, and he stepped back.
"Siri!" Lupin nearly shouted, "leave him alone!"
Black suddenly launched at him, dragging his moneybag from his robes and opening it.
"Wow! Look at this! And the little snake claimed he had no money! I guess we will have to tell the Headmaster that he lied," Black sneered.
"N-no," Severus shook his head, "I didn't lie…give that back!"
"Siri, stop it! Give him back his money!" Lupin ordered.
The other boy turned on him. "Did you still want to come with us to James' house?" Black asked, "he's only a snake. Just go to the Tower already if you don't like this."
Lupin hesistated, shot an apologetic look at Severus and ran off towards the Gryffindor common room.
"Now, we're just going to keep this," Sirius emptied the moneybag into his own, "and you better tell us how you got it."
"I earned it," Severus protested, "I worked for Madam Pomfrey and Madam Pince. Give it back!"
"Or what? You'll tell that drunk Head of House of yours? Like he'd care," Potter scoffed.
"Now run away, and be happy we don't tell anyone you stole money."
Severus reached for his wand, but he was heavily outnumbered. It would only land him in the infirmary again.
He turned and ran, not wanting them to see the tears in his eyes.
Severus finally began to grow, thanks to the potions the nurse forced upon him every Sunday, and by the time he was thirteen he reached average height for his age. Unable to call him 'little snake' any longer, the Marauders now settled for 'slimy snake' and 'Snivellus'.
The first time the Headmaster heard it he had to hide his smile behind his hand.
The first time Professor McGonagall heard it she took points from Gryffindor.
By the time Severus was fifteen and ready for his OWLS, he'd become used to the taunting, although he did indulge sometimes in absurd fantasies of the Marauders getting their comeuppance – he even took to scribbling down his own invented spells on whatever he had in his hands at the time; usually a Potions book or an essay that he then promptly had to redo without the potentially Dark spells in the margins.
Fighting back occasionally tempted him enough to throw hexes, but his detentions got harder and longer, and he wasn't quite sure Filch wouldn't take to whipping him for real next time he was sent to his office. So he bit his lips, clenched his fists and recited ingredient lists to the most difficult potions he knew.
Until that OWL afternoon. He was generally an E student who excelled in Potions as well as in Defense against the Dark Arts. The written OWL had been a walk in the park for him, and he became so engrossed in writing down every bit of information he knew that he felt several pops in his vertebrae when he finally sat up straight again.
Happy with how the afternoon had gone, he ran into the Marauders. The taunting made his content feeling disappear completely, and he fought against the sudden feeling of despair that overwhelmed him. He would never be good enough, for anyone. They were never going to let him be happy.
Before he knew it, he had hexed James. It was pure chance Potters back was turned to him – he had not expected that. Before he knew it, he was upside down in the air. He cursed under his breath, his face going red. His last pair of somewhat decent trousers had ripped that morning, and a kind house elf had offered to repair his clothes for him. With Black still forcing him out of his hard-earned galleons regularly and what remained being needed by his mother, he had not yet been able to buy himself new clothes.
He had felt humiliated. Even more so when he was awarded detention for calling Lily Evans a mudblood. Like the Headmaster didn't know he was a half blood himself.
Shortly afterwards, just before the holidays, his father killed his mother and committed suicide. He shrugged off the condolences from the Headmaster – by then he didn't care one bit what the man did or didn't do. But when Poppy hugged him the next Sunday afternoon, he broke down and cried on her shoulder. He was surprised to find that he cried just as much for the bastard that had been his father as he did for his meek and soft-spoken mother.
He often helped her with the potions for the infirmary now, and experimented to improve them. As Slughorn became more and more unreliable, Poppy depended on the quiet sixth year to help her with the infirmary supplies.
Severus often roamed outside during the night, especially on the full moon when plants he needed blossomed. He'd take some pouches and with utmost care collect the precious flora that grew around Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest. The centaurs knew about him – Hagrid had introduced him to them, and they did not disturb him, merely watched over him. He knew they were there because Hagrid had asked them to protect him, but it didn't annoy him much.
"What are you doing here, Snivellus?"
He looked up to see Black.
"Potions ingredients," he answered curtly.
Black grinned. "Do you, now? Shall I show you something?" he whispered.
"I'm not really interested, Black. I have to get these ingredients back to the castle soon."
"Oh, but don't you want to know where Remus is?" Black taunted.
"Don't be stupid. I'm not an idiot, Black. I know what he is."
"But do you know where they keep him? Or what they did to him?"
"No, and I don't particularly care. If you would just leave me be…"
"No? Doesn't it concern you that Lily found out? That she's on her way to the Whomping Willow?"
"Underneath the Willow is a tunnel that leads to Remus's monthly hide-out. You freeze the tree by pressing the knot at the base. Lily knows that much, but not what she'll find there. I'm not going in there, with a full fledged werewolf on the loose."
Severus cursed. "You had better not be lying, Black!" he spat as he sprinted towards the Willow.
Years of ducking for cover and duelling training had made him agile. He dodged the branches and pressed the knot. Panting, he lowered himself into the tunnel.
"Evans? Evans, where are you!"
He saw nothing.
"L-Lumos!" the small beam of light reflected on the dirty floor, the dark, mouldy walls, but did not find Lily Evans.
"Lily?" he ventured, entering deeper in to the tunnel.
"Evans, you've got to come with me, this place is dangerous! EVANS!"
A low growl made him look up. At the end of the corridor, a shadow lengthened. Step by step, second by agonizing second, first the head and then the chest of the werewolf emerged. Its eyes bloodshot and a primordial rage in its posture. It stepped closer to Severus, so close he could almost smell its horrid breath…
"SNAPE! Snape!" Behind him, James Potter came panting, "Snape, come on, Lily's not here, Sirius…Sirius wanted to play a joke. Quick, we have to get out of here."
He looked up into the face of the werewolf. "Oh, Merlin…"
Severus turned around and pushed Potter. "Run!"
James stumbled, and saw Severus standing with his arms spread in front of the beast, trying to give him time to escape.
"Go back!" it was unclear whether the Slytherin was yelling that at the beast or at the boy.
"No! Snape, wait…" James cursed, and then transformed into a stag.
The stag trotted up to the wolf, who sniffed it and nodded. Nudging the terrifying beast back, the stag managed to get the werewolf to curl up in the room on the old bed.
Then it rushed back, changing into James Potter when it reached Severus.
"Don't look at me like that! Run, quickly, run!"
The picture they made in the Headmaster's office must've been shocking. James and Severus were shell shocked. Black was trying to look contrite but failing miserably. Professor McGonagall had pursed her lips so tight she didn't appear to have any at all.
"Mr Black, why would you endanger your friends like that?"
"Snivellus is not my friend," Black reacted predictably.
"Remus is," Professor Dumbledore pointed out, "what if he had hurt or killed either of them? He would have been executed."
Black paled a fraction.
"But…but Remus would never hurt James," he stammered.
"A werewolf does not recognize his friends, Mr Black," Professor McGonagall said curtly.
"But…Remus does! He…he has to," Black finished lamely when he belatedly realized he was about to give away the Marauders greatest secret.
"I think you made an error of judgment, Mr Black."
Severus leaned back, tired. The Marauders had gotten some sleep, but he had been up and about all night.
"So are you going to expel him?" he asked without much conviction.
"Surely you can see that I can not do that. Sirius was merely playing a joke. A thoughtless joke, but a joke none the less. 50 points and a week of detentions with Hagrid would suffice."
Severus stared at the old man in disbelief.
"And 50 points from Slytherin and a week of detention with Professor McGonagall for being out after curfew, Mr Snape, and trying to set up a fellow student."
"S-set up?" Severus spluttered, "I didn't try to…"
"Perhaps you thought it would be fun to expose Mr Lupin as a werewolf," the Headmaster interrupted him, "but his condition must remain a secret. Am I clear on that, Mr Snape? I'm afraid that if this came out, then there wouldn't be any more place at this school for you than there would be for him."
At that moment something died in Severus. All through the years, he had hoped that one day the Headmaster would come to realize that he wasn't bad, that he had talents and gifts. Today that hope died.
"….25 points to you, Mr Potter, for risking your life to save a classmate…" he faintly heard in the distance. A hand took his shoulder and guided him out.
"Are you alright? Do you need Poppy?"
"No, thank you. When must I report to you for detention?" he asked blankly.
"Right now would be good, you are shaking on your feet, child," the usually reserved witch regarded him with a worried expression, "tea and perhaps some calming potion are in order."
She let him stay in her office while she caught up on some paperwork, only allowing him to leave when classes started.
"Come to my office directly after class," she instructed him.
That afternoon he slept on a transfigured cot in the small library behind her office. She woke him fifteen minutes before curfew and sent him back to sleep some more in his own bed.
The rest of the week she let him do homework and read, having tea together every afternoon.
"What are you going to do after you leave school?" she asked.
"I'm going far away," he answered, "away from England, away from Hogwarts. To the mainland, to apprentice to a Potions Master."
"You would be a Master very quickly," she nodded with a smile, "I've never heard Professor Slughorn wax so eloquently about one of his students. No doubt he hopes to keep you as his apprentice."
"Yes, he does. He asked me. I refused."
"I'm sorry you hate Hogwarts so much, Severus."
"I don't hate you. I don't hate Madam Pomfrey or Madam Pince."
He got up to go back to his books. "You know I've spent the summer with Lucius, and will again this summer. I must warn you. Lucius is making overtures to the new Dark Lord. It will not be long before other students are drawn in."
"But not you, Severus?"
His dark eyes bore into her own. "I am loyal only to myself. I don't feel I owe anyone, except perhaps the three of you."
"We did our jobs, Severus, and in my case, I feel I did it poorly. You should have had many more people looking after you."
"Maybe. But they didn't. You did. I'm glad for what you did, but I won't stay here. I've already been in contact with Otto Passies, the lead researcher of the lab in Amsterdam. He will be sending me the material he gives his first year apprentices to work through this year so I can start with him immediately after school ends. If I work hard, I can gain my mastery in just two years."
"I'm proud of you," the witch said, "do write from time to time, Severus, during summer and also when you've moved to Amsterdam. I would be pleased to know how you are doing."
The Marauders left him alone for the remainder of his time at Hogwarts. With NEWTs coming up, pranks weren't on the seventh – years minds, any way, and apparently the group had a bit of a fall-out after Lupin found out what had nearly happened. Lupin and Potter had refused to talk to the other two for quite some time, but after Halloween they seemed to be getting along again.
Severus did not particularly care. He avoided Lupin, though the other boy had tried to apologise. The werewolf still haunted his dreams and while he knew deep down that the human Lupin was not responsible for it, he still feared and avoided him.
At the party when they completed their NEWTs, the Headmaster approached him.
"Well, Mr Snape, congratulations on your distinction in Potions and Defense. I am also glad that you kept your promise to keep certain things secret."
"I made no such promise," Severus replied coldly, "I was blackmailed. That is entirely different. Now, excuse me Professor. I must be with my new Master tomorrow."
He saw Dumbledore pale, and smirked, knowing what the old man was thinking. Lord Voldemort was recruiting heavily under the seventh year Slytherins. Severus let the ancient mugwump to his suspicions and retrieved his shrunken trunk. Walking to the gates, he Apparated to Edinburgh's magical section where he entered the Portkey travel agency.
"Hello. My name is Severus Snape. If I am correct, a Portkey should be ready for me."
"Ah yes, Mr Snape – a one-way Key to the Amsterdam Potions Laboratory. Paid in advance. Here you go."
The clerk held out a card that said "Mr Snape – Amsterdam. Activation code: Amsterdam."
"Thank you. Amsterdam."
And with that, Severus Snape Ported out of England and into this new life.
Two years later, when Severus became the youngest Potions Master ever, an old man sat in a shabby room of a Hogsmeade pub to interview a possible new Professor.
"The one with the Power to vanquish the Dark Lord…" the Prophesy began.
And no one present to overhear it.