Author's note—In this story, Severus is married to a FOC, but don't let that scare you off. This story is all slash! Also this story was under another name on TSS-- I am Sora...so no, this isn't stolen.
Say You Love Me
Chapter 1: The Ward
Lord Severus Snape frowned as his carriage rocked beneath him and then came to a halt. He was in no mood for this sort of thing today—nor any day, as a matter of fact. Muttering to himself, he opened the door and glared at his driver-cum-stable master.
"Looks like we've got a cracked axel, mi'lord," Hagrid explained. "Won't make it the whole way back ta Spinner's End like tha'."
Severus sneered at the simpleton. He spotted a cozy looking farm manor just below the hill. "Could we make it to that farm?" Though structured like a question, his tone made it entirely clear that it was a command.
"Should be able ta make it."
Pulling himself up to the driver's seat, Severus removed his jacket. He had no intentions of being inside the carriage if the blasted thing did indeed overturn. "I do not mean to spend my entire day here," he said flatly.
"Right, mi'lord." Hagrid pulled himself up beside him.
The ride to the farm was painfully slow, and made even more unbearable by the giant man's constant chattering to the horses. If the man were not such a marvel with animals, Severus would have sacked him years ago. Even as thick as Hagrid was, he did his job admirably, and Severus was a man who respected competence—demanded it.
Finally, the carriage pulled up to the farm. Severus noted that the manor was well kept. The three-story home was fitting of a gentleman farmer, and the rose gardens out front were impeccably groomed. A short, rat-like man came out of the stable to greet them as they stopped.
"'Lo, mi'lord, what brings you here today?" he asked eying the signet ring on Severus' finger hungrily.
"My carriage has a cracked axel, and I was hoping that I could find some assistance here," he replied coldly.
"Aye, let me ask the master." The little man disappeared into the house leaving Hagrid and Severus alone.
"There be somethin' abou' tha' one tha' don't sit well," Hagrid murmured.
Severus nodded his agreement.
Not long after the man had left, he returned in the wake of another man—this one nearly as wide as he was tall with no neck and fine clothes. The newcomer bowed nervously. "My lord, you are welcome to whatever you require while you are in my humble home," he said with a twitching mustache. "I am Vernon Dursely."
Severus gave a curt nod to the farmer. Dursley. The name was oddly familiar, but he could not say why. Hmm, perhaps it was from some bit of scandal that Victoria had prattled on about. No matter… "I thank you for hospitality, Mr. Dursley. My man will see to the repairs if you but give him leave to use your tools."
"Why of course!" Dursley snapped his fingers. "Peter, show him to the stable and help him."
Peter raised a brow. "But what of…"
"It can wait!" Dursley interrupted.
"But he ain't been…"
"I said it can wait!"
Severus sat in silence through the odd exchange, but made note of it. He would not be stopping here in the future. He would rather walk to Spinner's End.
Dursley made a show of straightening his cravat. "My lord, would you care for some tea? My wife was just fixing it when you arrived."
In truth, Severus being eaten alive by the dogs sounded much more appealing, but he was resigned to his fate for the day. "Thank you."
The formal parlor of Dursley's home was elegantly appointed. He could only assume that the man did well for himself. The settee beneath him was an expensive piece on its own, and was by no means alone in that regard. He doubted even Victoria could find fault with the room's appearance. To him, decorating was a wasted investment. The only furniture he gave a whit about was the desk and comfortable armchair in his study at home.
"My lord, I would like you to meet my wife, Petunia."
Dursley's wife was not nearly as pleasing to the eye as the parlor. She was a gawky looking thing with a gaunt face and hard eyes. Though she curtsied passably, she would never be considered quality. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my lord."
Tea was a horrid affair. He was sure that his darling Victoria would be scandalized by how poorly Mrs. Dursley preformed the ritual. Severus was glad that he took neither sugar nor cream in his tea, because he was unsure he could bear listening to the spoon scrape at the bottom of the cup once more. The conversation was even decidedly less appealing than Mrs. Dursley's skills as a hostess. Severus found both husband and wife to be abhorrently ignorant.
He was never so glad to see Hagrid as he was at the moment he entered the parlor. "Mi'lord, we be good ter go when yer ready."
Severus had to control the urge to run from the room. "I do apologize for my hasty departure, but I would like to make Spinner's End by eventide."
"Spinner's End?" Dursley inquired.
"Yes, I have come to my ancestral home to conduct my research." Severus considered that the end of the topic, and retrieved his hat.
Unfortunately, Dursley followed him out. "What kind of research?"
"Like with plants? My mother, god rest her soul, always said science was the way of the devil. It's not proper she said," Dursley told him with a sneer.
Severus' own mother had held the same kind of dissent for her son's academic bent, and he was as uncaring about propriety today as he was then. He snorted. "I believe the devil best uses ignorant fools. If you will excuse me, I would like a word with my man."
Dursley stared slack jawed after him, but did not follow.
Hagrid did not appear to be enjoying his time on the Dursley estate either. "Mi'lord there be somethin' mighty strange here. I kept hearin' sounds comin' from the end stall, but t'weren't like nothin' from a horse. I tried ta get a look meself, but t'was all locked up, and tha' rat o' a man say it weren't me business."
Severus nodded. "It isn't our business."
As if to contradict Severus' statement, a loud moan followed by a bang greeted him near the stable entrance. The banging noise didn't stop. Damning whatever fate had brought him to this place, Severus walked toward the end stall.
"My lord," Dursley called after him, "there is nothing inside there but and old nag to be put down."
"Really? I could have sworn horses did not sound so very human. Open the stall. I want to this animal that can do such wondrous things," he commanded.
"Now, there is no reason for you to be giving orders on my property!"
"Mr. Dursley, you will open this door now or you will open it before the magistrate!"
Dursely backed down, and nodded for Peter to unlock the door.
At first, Severus saw nothing through the darkness. He was forced to turn his head from the terrible stench wafting from the stall. Slowly, his eyes became used to the darkness, and he could make out what appeared to be nothing more than a heap of dirty rags. The pile began to move and shift revealing a gaunt, pale face and two bright green eyes staring at him with unabashed fear. Though he could not determine the child's sex, he judged that this poor creature could be no more than twelve or thirteen. The child gasped as Severus moved closer pulling tighter into a ball and using shackled hands for protection. Severus took in every detail of this sad display. He never wanted to forget a single thing. For each atrocity, he would make Vernon Dursley pay.
"You will explain this," Severus said with a glacial tone. The look in his endless black eyes would have cowered a strong man.
Vernon Dursley was not a strong man. He trembled violently, and backed away. "He's my nephew. I only did it to stop him from hurting himself or anyone else. You don't know what kind of a freak that boy is. I was only protecting him."
"What is his name?"
"Harry. His name is Harry, my lord." Dursley calmed. He seemed to think that he had brought Severus to his way of thinking. The fool became a bit bolder. "Now you see why we keep him locked up. We can't have him out and tormenting decent folk."
"No, of course not," Severus said with an unearthly kind of patience. Along the stable door, Hagrid had to hide his wince; the stable master knew what fury was bound erupt. "In that case, why haven't you taken him to a proper asylum to be cared for?"
"You know how much those blasted things cost! And besides, having that freak in the family could ruin my family's reputation. My son is going to be a barrister one day, and I can't have people judging him by what that one does. I knew you would understand, my lord. You are after all a practical man." Dursley smiled.
"I am a practical man," Severus agreed. "You, however, a sad excuse for humanity. There is absolutely no reason for the type of cruelty that you have shown this child. I daresay that if he was not disturbed before, that he probably is now. I would not have a stray dog on my property treated thus. I would expect a visit from the magistrate very soon. I highly recommend that you learn some sort of remorse for what you have done. If it were my decision, I would see you drawn and quartered for this. Do not think for an instant that you have seen the last of me!"
Dursley's face turned from a ruddy purple to a deathly white as he sputtered.
"The boy is coming with me," Severus stated as he dropped to his knee before the stall. "Harry, it's alright. I won't hurt you. Come out of there."
The boy flinched and scrambled to avoid the blows that he was expecting. A pathetic whimper passed through his lips. His trust would not be so easily won. Severus imagined that the argument he had just witnessed didn't help matters. Severus sighed heavily. "Hagrid, you try," he commanded.
A glare sent Dursley and his man out of the stable as the burly man stepped toward the stall. Severus watched from a safe distance. Hagrid squatted down on the ground and moved slowly, almost as he did when he was working with a skittish animal. "Lo' there, Harry," Hagrid greeted softly. "This fine laird here and me ha'e come ta take yer out o' here. Does tha' sound like a good idea to ye?"
The boy lifted his head slowly, and looked at Hagrid. Though he didn't make any move toward the door nor any sign that he understood, he did seem to be focused on Hagid. The stable master continued: "Ya know, Harry, we ain' gonna hurt ye, and we won't let yer uncle hurt ye neither. C'mon now, lad," Hagrid coaxed. His big hands motioned toward the door gently. "C'mon, t'ain't a thing ta it. One foot and then t'other. Ye can do it."
Hagrid began to back out of the stall inch by inch. Miraculously, the boy shrugged off the old burlap tarp he had round his shoulders and began to push himself up. Severus grimaced as he heard the heavy clanking of chains. Harry took a few steps toward Hagird, but promptly fell flat on his face. The boy shot a mournful look to the manacles on his feet and the heavy bolt that held him tight to the floor.
"Now, tha's a problem," Hagrid muttered. He grabbed a large hammer from the wall, and made his way back to the stall.
This time, Harry let out a cry and balled up once more. His eyes were locked on the tool with horror. My god, Severus thought, what have they done to this child? He knelt down and pulled the boy into his lap. "Just hurry up and get that bloody chain broken. The locksmith will have to deal with the rest of them."
Hagrid nodded. With the first mighty swing, the chain link was almost broken. Harry seemed to realize that he was not in danger, and burrowed into Severus lap for the remainder of the ordeal.
Severus helped Harry stand, and for the first time, he looked at the man holding him without fear. He allowed Severus to lead him to the edge of the stable, but he stopped dead in his tracks at the doorway. Harry shook his head adamantly and made some indiscernible noise. He pointed to the Dursleys' home as he backed away.
By nature, Severus was not a patient man. It had taken the better part of three hours to get the boy this far. He had to force away the desire to carry the boy to carriage whether he liked it or not. Luckily, Hagrid stepped in once more. The burly man pointed to the carriage. "Tha's where we be goin'. Ye won't have ta worry abou' tha' lot anymore. Yer comin' home with us. C'mon, lad, it's naught but a wee carriage ride," Hagrid soothed. He went over and patted one of the horses on the neck. "These beasties are waitin' fer ye."
The lure of the fine steeds seemed to do the trick. Harry squinted at first, unaccustomed to the light of day. Still dragging the remnants of his leg irons behind, he made a shaky trip to Hagrid's side. He lifted his hands toward the horse questioningly. At Hagrid's nod, he gently touched the horse's mane. The boy's eyes were large with a kind of simple joy.
"Ah, ye've got a way with beasts, lad. There's eleven horses as fine as these at Spinner's End. Would ye like to see 'em?"
Harry gave no notice to Hagrid, but instead kept petting the animal. Well, at least he is out of the damned stable, Severus mused. Severus put a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder. Instantly, those two large, green eyes met his. "It's time to go," Severus told him attempting to keep his tones soft. Even to his own ears, he failed miserably, yet the boy allowed himself to be taken from the horse.
The inside of the carriage was also a wonder to Harry. He looked around at the velvet lined vehicle as though he'd never been inside of one before. Looking down at his dirty fingers, he made an obvious effort to touch nothing though his eyes devoured every line and colour. When the carriage lurched forward, Harry gasped slightly. Severus opened the window curtain for Harry, and watched with an amused smile as the boy stared out at a world he had been locked away from for god only knew how long.
There was no doubt—Severus would get to the bottom of this, and when he did, Vernon Dursley and his hideous wife would wish that they had never been born. Forgiveness was not among Lord Severus Snape's list of virtues. Whether by the law or by the slow ruination of all they held dear, Severus would get revenge for the small boy they had tortured so.