Disclaimer: I don't anything but the hope in my heart, and the mould in my refrigerator.
Warning: definite spoilers for Half-Blood Prince.
Useless, boy, useless, you're not even trying, you're handing me weapons-
I am trying!He was there in the great hall while he talked to the weak new teacher who has had a sudden personality change from when Dumbledore interviewed him. On the outside he is nervous, to be sure, but there is something else there; something perhaps only Severus himself picks up…
And there he is, like an ugly taste in the mouth, the spitting image of his father. He looks up in nervousness and Severus realizes with a jolt that he has Lily's eyes. He is on his guard through the naming ceremony, only daring to delve slightly in his mind when they make eye contact. The boy gives a cry of pain and breaks it, but not before he has seen enough. The boy is revoltingly average, not even bothering to give his books more than a cursory glance.
He sipped wine, dredging up his own memory of waiting to come here, reading fervently every minute he was alone; muttering jinxes and countercurses under his breath at breakfast. He had given the boy the benefit of the doubt, of course, had given him a chance to defend himself in class. He had demanded tersely what the basics of potionmaking were, and the boy had been unable to answer. Had even shown cheek.
Severus had coolly cut him down to size, had spent the entire semester cutting deep into his pride, pride like his stubborn father's…
He had not hesitated to save the boy's life either chance he got, though the fact that Quirrell had tried to get the alchemical stone was laughable and hardly seemed a true threat.
It was three years before Severus found out just how wrong he was.
The second year was just as uneventful. The boy constantly derided authority, grabbed for glory like a greedy child whenever he caught scent of it. It came as little surprise to Severus that the boy was a Parselmouth. It was just like his father, to appropriate his enemy's weapons for his own use. The boy proved again and again how inept his potionmaking skills were, while triumphing again and again at Quidditch. How like his father as well. It was telling that all of the boy's worst subjects relied on concentration and critical thought, while his favorite thing in the would was to whizz about like an idiot on a broomstick. It was also telling that he was monstrously awarded for said activity, while people tended to dismiss his faults in those other areas.
But Severus didn't really get how like his father the boy was, until that disastrous third year.
That year, he had to deal with not one but two of the "old crowd"; simpering, bookish Lupin occupying his most coveted position while Black the psychopath stalked the grounds. It had come as a shock to everyone but Severus that he was a killer. He could have told anyone exactly what Black was capable of , if not for the unfair favoritism Dumbledore showed the foursome. He was almost loath to count Pettigrew, who was almost as low in rank as he was.
He didn't quite know the depths of the treachery until he had listened that fateful evening to the conversation going on in the Shrieking Shack, feeling strangely vindicated as he heard the first half of it. But it was when Black began raving that the smugness was wiped from his face and he burst in, getting between the threat and the children. As they had been too young to know Black in school, they could not know just how dangerous he was, or how unhinged.
He could almost forgive them for stunning him.
He had seemed vicious, true, to have said what he said about the Dementor's kiss. And he meant every word of it. But he was motivated by more that just hatred. He had wanted an end to the James-hero-worship that some of the faculty had encouraged in his son, introducing the unhealthy attitude that James was less than a god but more than a man. He tried to tell Harry, a few times over the years, that James had indeed been a man. He had lived like one, and died like one as well.
But the day was saved without his help, though he tried his damndest to stop it, and Black escaped. To add insult to injury, Dumbledore forbade him going after Black, citing his supposed innocence from murder. He could have told Dumbledore how guilty Black was, even if it wasn't of murder, and how he deserved much more than a twelve-year stay in Azkaban.
After all this, he could have forgiven and forgotten. It was true. He was not vindictive by nature. But the people that surrounded him brought out that quality, even if they didn't always mean to.
And after all of this, the boy proved at last just how much he was beyond Severus's reach.
The fourth year, and one of the worst years of his teaching career. It was worse than the disastrous year he had spent the end of every lesson putting out fires from exploding cauldrons.
It had started out boringly enough, but was there more than just their usual exchange of animosity between him and the boy? He had been surprised by the Goblet of Fire's decision, but not as much as most of the faculty. He knew Potter lived for glory, any chance to play the hero, and if he hadn't put his name in he most certainly didn't mind someone else had. He had tried to keep a closer watch on the boy that year, but he was often waylaid by Moody; who acted more erratically than Severus thought he had a right to. He turned out to be just another Trojan horse.
If he could find one outstanding fault with Dumbledore, it was his blind faith in people. He had trusted Trelawney simply on the grounds that she had (unintentionally) made a prophecy concerning the boy. He had trusted Lupin against Severus's advice, and in the end he had been willing to let Black go. But he trusted those he was closest to the most. And perhaps, just perhaps, that was why it all had to happen.
The fifth year had begun and even before school started the boy (unsurprisingly) had made a name for himself once more. He didn't doubt the boy had fended off the Dementors bravely, it was what his father would've done. Save everyone, no matter the risk to your own neck, no matter if it wasn't strictly necessary. He wasn't surprised when that notoriety -mongering had brought him into conflict with the revolting new ministry install.
The first half of the semester had passed by uneventfully, the boy trying to warn everyone against a dire event no one but him could see. Of course he knew the boy was telling the truth, how could he not, but he ignored him for his own sake. He should've learned not to wear his heart on his sleeve before the toady Umbridge ordered his borderline-illegal (and ultimately useless) punishment. He could have told her making him suffer was only going to turn him into more of a martyr, that making him do menial work would have reminded him just as easily that we are all subject to another's whims as we grow up, but he hated her. She was the sort of pig who roots greedily for undeserved power, he would have gladly worked with the false Moody or even Quirrell over her. But he stayed stoic, even through the worst of her tantrums, until holiday break.
When he could, he avoided going to Black's household. It smelled of fallen splendor and false blood ties. He enjoyed giving Black a dig or two now and then, he was entitled to a few, wasn't he? But he hated the domicile that lorded it most ancient store-bought nobility that made him want to turn up his collar, he was so conspicuous. But agony upon agony, Dumbledore asked him to teach the boy that which had taken him years to master; the devious art of Occlumency.
He knew it would be a disaster from the get-go; the boy could be as impudent as he wanted with his guardian right there, and Black irritated him so that he couldn't resist a final dig at him as he left. Of course Black overreacted; like all Griffindors he was too eager to prove his "courage" . He would have hexed Snape right there if not for the odd timing of the Weasleys. It was no wonder the boy was so impudent, he thought as he turned the corner and dissaperated, if Dumbledore encouraged him to see people like Black as role models.
Occlumency had been a nightmare; he was too impatient to go slow with the boy who seemed even younger than he was when Snape delved into his mind. The boy was unwilling or unable to stop him, and time and time again Snape dismissed him with a warning he knew he would not follow. He saw the seeds of rebellion growing in his heart, felt him sliding farther and farther away from his influence under the influence of Black and others. But he was still a boy, and boys needed to be taught, needed to be defended, didn't they?
And then he broke past Snape's defenses. The first time it had been accidental, the boy had finally blocked him and gone in reverse, ending up inside his head. He understood, at that point, that nothing the boy said could be trusted, and he could not be let near something so vulnerable again. Because, like his father before him, he would tell. There was no way he wouldn't. But he still only felt contempt and loathing for the boy, he was just a shadow of James, committing tributes to his father and going through the motions of a dutiful son. He hadn't started hating Harry until he had seen firsthand how far the boy could go.
He had been interrupted in his final lesson, and had to depart hastily. He warned the boy not to touch anything, but he trusted him as far as he could throw Binns. He finished up the mild annoyance as quickly as he could, but arrived just in time to have his suspicions confirmed. The boy viewed a very personal memory, perhaps not the worst but definitely up there, and had seen his father's exploits firsthand. Now Snape knew for sure that he could never reach him.
He had forced him out, worried about what else he might have seen, angry with himself for leaving his mind open like that. He cooled down eventually, telling himself the boy was only naturally curious and couldn't be expected to follow rules from him any better than he had the other teachers. But he never asked him back for another lesson. One humiliation a year was enough.
He almost laughed when the boy tried to warn him in code of the department of mysteries, it was about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face. He had been able to shake off Umbridge, and made sure that Black was securely installed at home; but the boy hadn't come back from the woods. And then Severus thought of just how praise–hungry the boy had proved himself to be; and though he initially thought the matter was simple enough, foolproof plans do not always take into account the ingenuity of fools.
He found it laughable that the Potter thought him responsible for Black's untimely death. As if he had anything but a gnat's influence over bull-headed Sirius. He hadn't celebrated his death, either. He was just happy to get it over with. He was further cheered by the thought of not having to teach the boy in the coming year. In no conceivable scenario could the boy pass his exams with an "O", and if Snape didn't have to teach him something he didn't want to learn, conflict could for the most part be avoided.
But all of that was before that final year.
To even his shock, Dumbledore had awarded him the Defense against the Dark Arts post. Slughorn, that old favouritist spider, would take over potions. He was glad to be rid of it, even if it meant seeing Potter more.
The boy's cheek had increased, to the point where Severus had to restrain himself from hexing the boy when he showed up in class. This semester, he had the added difficulty of protecting Draco, who was becoming as stubborn and arrogant as his father. He had ignored his first two attempts as they hadn't reached their intended target, merely the clumsy effort of an apprenticed killer. But he warned Draco that further involvement without him would bring consequences.
Imagine how surprised he was when he got wind that the boy had been doing well in potions under another's tutelage. He had been ready to put it down under "New Teacher, Ignorant of Student defaults". After all, one of Slughorn's favourites had been the boy's mother. But as he heard more detailed reports, he became suspicious. How could the boy, who showed no capability for sophisticated work, do so well in a class that he had never even shown competency in? The suspicion of cheating had crossed his mind, but Potter had always used Miss Granger and he still hadn't done very well. The real answer, he had found, was much worse.
This was the first year he had really given Potter even a taste of a fraction of the contempt he felt for him, but now it was peppered with an ever-growing hatred of the boy. He was also aware that he might not be teaching for the entire school year. He could almost say he was glad to see the last of the school, which had been like his own home for so long it nearly hurt to leave it. He was prepared for a final conflict with Potter, but not on the terms it finally happened. He had never expected the school's golden boy to attack another student so openly, even if it was Draco Malfoy.
The look on Harry's face was priceless, the chosen one had finally realized he was as capable of violence as his father. Severus had taken Draco to the infirmary, grateful he hadn't burst into tears in front of the Potter boy. He wasn't sure he could live with the embarrassment if he lived through the wound. When he returned, Harry (predictably) gibbered like an idiot.
"I didn't mean it to happen."
Good god, what an excuse. It was worthy of his father:
"How was I supposed to know what Sirius was up to? If he wasn't after us every second of the day, this might not've happened."
He glared in hatred and revulsion at the young man in front of him. Of course he hadn't really meant to do it, someone like him couldn't really mean murder at that age. God help Draco if he could have. But he wanted to punish Potter for his carelessness, and confirm his suspicions.
True, Potter could have cheated his way to fame in potions class, Severus wouldn't be surprised; but then he used a spell of his own invention. The chances of him finding it out from any of his rolemodels were slim to nil. So he had probed the boy's thoughts. He had gotten out of it, of course, Severus expected no less. He had obviously switched books, but Severus had been unable to penetrate further in his mind, despite the boy's inexperience. So the only thing he had gotten him for was assault.
He tried one last time to warn him of his folly, making him catalogue the idiotic mishaps of his forebears, hoping against hope that something would sink in. He got a small burst of petty satisfaction whenever Potter picked up a card with a name of someone he knew, but that was the only pleasure he took away from that experience.
Despite the reoccurring instances where he felt the urge to hex the boy in the back, the year passed as uneventfully as years can at Hogwarts. Until that night, when he found out how far Draco was really willing to go.
As curses exploded around him, he ran up the stairs, racing to stop Draco from doing anything foolish. He knew what the Death-Eaters ultimately did not, what his mother had tearfully tried to convey to him; Draco was not a killer. Unpleasant, yes. Smug, definitely. Elitist, certainly. But not a killer. He arrived and did what Draco was not strong enough to do; what no wizard who had any fear in him of Dumbledore could do.
Sprinting out of the building, he knew Potter was following them; he didn't know how he could know, but there was no way he wouldn't. And, true to form, he was there; pathetically firing jinxes to slow him.
He sent Draco ahead, compelled to face off with Potter one last time. Amusingly, he tried a few unforgivable curses. He had his father's temper, but also restraint from anything "dark", as evidenced by his horror at what the Sectumsempra spell really did. Less amusingly, he called Snape a coward. Harry, son of old four-on-one James potter, called him a coward. A coward for not fighting back against a boy not even of age, flinging curses he did not even mean, not really.
He could see the hatred in his face as he turned to go, but the scream of pain stalled him. He dismissed the Death Eater loudly and turned once more, only for life to one more time add insult to injury. Potter began trying pitifully to use his own spells against him. Severus roared at him, furious, finally revealing to him that the crutch he had been relying on in potions had been Snape himself.
The boy dared call him coward again, he who had suffered through years of his father's torment, who had saved his life more times than he cared to name. In that moment he saw all of the hatred reflected back from those eyes, her eyes, blazing like the half-giant's house. He fled to the gate with the others, though he was not able to avoid the Hippogryph that slashed at him like ten Sectumsempras. And then he was out of the gate and then he was gone.
He had not started out hating the boy, no; but the boy had insisted upon settling into the groove his father left for him, with all of the accompanying detritus. A smart mouthed, know-it-all friend who couldn't control the others and a numbskull who was big on physicality but could barely tie his own shoes.
He had not hated the boy at first, but the boy had pushed him into it, time after time. He had given him reasons to punish him, had shown behavior Snape could not stand. It wasn't his fault that things ended up this way. It was the boy.
The boy handed him weapons.
Author's Note: Inspired (as you can probably tell) by the Occlumency lesson speech, quoted above. I felt like doing a different perspective, but also a "school years" piece. I guess I compromised with this. This is a companion piece to "memory"; no, I'm not writing a complete sequel, I think it would diminish the effect of the story, don't you? So this is sort of a pre/mid/sequel to it. I've avoided doing something like this for so long because I thought it wouldn't turn out right. But I liked this, and I think I'll do more…