Hunted child in a broken home
Soon to crack like a broken stone
Blood only his to be for him
Heartless actions blamed on nonexistent sins
Soon to a castle whisked in the night
Hoping for a beacon, some leading light
Instead a thoughtful prison, another broken home
For who will care for him when he's all alone?
"How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers' names." Alice Walker
February 3rd 1992
Severus Snape was finishing his nightly rounds, feet walking on their own, eyes staring, ears listening intently. However, his mind was not on the castle or the dark corridors, the dancing shadows or the students that would hide in them. His thoughts strayed far from the damp stone walls and the dimly lit torches.
He had come from the Headmaster's office three hours ago and yet, it was still all he could think of. The report had gone simply; he had been brief, too tired to stay there and too unwilling to continue looking into Dumbledore's troubled eyes. Severus had always been a thorough man and Albus trusted him to take care of it, not for the first time leaving Snape speculating on just what the old man saw in him.
Dumbledore trusted him and, more importantly, most importantly, he trusted Severus Snape with something as important to the powerful wizard as this. But Severus wondered, was it really trust or was it because Dumbledore knew that Severus was the only one who could do it? That Severus was the only one to truly reach the boy?
The child, who had lived, amongst all odds that he lived, had been placed in the House of the Snakes. The Savior of the Wizarding World, the seed of a prosperous future, had been deposited into a den of thieves and left there to grow. The glorified son of Saint Potter and kind, beautiful Lily Evans had been housed in Slytherin.
Severus had been in shock when that stupid hat yelled out that the boy would be under his responsibility. After all, he had been fully prepared to hate the child, fully prepared to drive whatever essence of Lily from his mind by his cruelty to her own son. Fate had other plans. The Great Hall had been deathly silent – for hardly a person breathed in that moment. All four houses stunned into a complete stupor, making little Harry confused as he made his way to the table, for there had been no clapping for him like there had been for the other children. He sat next to Pansy Parkinson and looked over at Ron Weasley, still waiting to be sorted. The red-haired boy he had befriended on the train had turned slightly green and refused to look at him.
The confused child looked up at the Head Table and Dumbledore lifted his glass to him, smiling. Harry had smiled shyly and scanned the table until his eyes met Severus. Realizing that he had to do something for his new charge, Severus began to clap and finally his House followed suit while the small few from other houses politely clapped with them. The hall, as quickly as it silenced, broke out into ridiculous whispering that lasted through the end of the Sorting and all throughout dinner.
During dinner, Severus ignored everyone around him, refused to meet the Headmaster's eyes and slowly, carefully, began to devise his plan.
He intended, as he did every school term, to hold private meetings with all the first years. He posted the notice while the dorms were all safely tucked into bed with Harry Potter's name, unsurprisingly, at the very top. The boy truly belonged in Slytherin; there was, after all, no doubt since there was no fooling that absurd hat. But Severus longed to know the why of it all, as well as the rest of the castle, but unlike the rest of the castle, Severus Snape had the means to learn.
And oh, learn that he did.
The child had come to Hogwarts with no clothes of his own save the uniform he wore that night and the scant, muggle rags in his trunk. He had walked in with his broken glasses and sickly pallor, afraid and mystified but so ready to prove he really belonged. He looked almost every bit James Potter but the child had his mother's eyes as well as her disposition, thank Merlin. His mother had wanted to prove herself as well and he was very much like her in that, even though he was half-blood and both of his parents magical, he was as ignorant as a Muggle when it came to the Wizarding World.
Lily Evans lived on in her child.
A broken child.
Harry Potter had been taken from an abusive home life and thrust into a different and possibly more violent situation. He had been put in a place, in a circumstance, that Severus feared, would, eventually, suck out all the joy from his life, not that the boy had much joy to begin with.
As the first weeks passed, it became apparent that Harry would have no true friends, save the books in the library. He was shunned by most of his house and the only Slytherin that had dared approached him forwardly was the young Mr. Malfoy – no doubt on commands of Lucius himself. Harry, it appeared, had developed quite a dislike for Draco and still refused to join his group of lackeys, which was all the better anyway as far as Severus was concerned.
Gaining friends from the other houses was something that was not quite done for any Slytherin, even one as unique as Harry Potter. When Hermione Granger, a Gryffindor muggleborn, lingered behind her fellow housemates after the first Potions lesson to answer a question that Harry had so innocently asked her, Ron Weasley and Seamus Finnegan assaulted the smaller boy. Harry Potter was left with a bloodied nose and late for his first flying lesson. Even when Potter rescued Longbottom's rememberall from Malfoy, he was scorned for not being punished and he was especially tormented when it was announced he would be the new Slytherin seeker, youngest in a century.
Fame had turned to fear and fear had turned to hatred, leaving a scared little boy with hurt feelings and no place to go.
As the school year dragged on, Harry became a shell and dived not only into Quidditch practice but also, and almost obsessively, into his schoolwork. He excelled in all of his subjects and became the top of the Slytherin first years in academics – and most likely the whole House but Severus had never looked. He was only rivaled in the other houses by Granger, oddly enough. However, he was the top potions student of his year and not because of Severus aversion to other houses. Harry became such a wonderful potions student that he could rival even his forgotten mother's talents.
However, no matter how well Harry performed in Charms, no matter how much his mother's talents shone through the boy, Filius Flitwick refused to acknowledge it. Filius was certainly more boisterous with Miss Granger on the other hand. The tiny professor would grant house points in a flash to Granger when she was the first to achieve the demanded assignment. Nonetheless, if Harry was the earliest to accomplish the spell, there would be no house points, no beaming smile only a timid and reluctant 'Well done, Potter'.
Not that Harry particularly cared anyway. The child, obviously, was quite happy with the praise and would push his little mental speaking of outrage back into him. He was, after all, too used to being different, too used to neglect.
Harry also excelled quite well in Transfiguration and also rose above Miss Granger in this subject as well. As much as Severus hated it, this was one trait of magic that Harry had taken from his father. Transfiguration had been James' forte and Harry was soaring through the subject, colors shining bright. Quite the opposite of Filius, Minerva McGonagall was quite pleased with the young Slytherin's talent. After all, one could see just how attached she was to Harry if they just knew where to look.
In fact, despite her aversion to punish on bounds that resulted from Slytherin/Gryffindor rivalry, she raised a very formidable hell when word of Harry's harassing reached her. Her own house resented her for it and in the beginning they sought rebellion. After Gryffindor being negative in house points by the loss of several hundred in a space of only nine hours, most of the House of Lions took her warning seriously from then on. The other houses, Slytherin included, walked on proverbial eggshells around the Headmistress, fearing too for their own house points. Albus had indeed been quite pleased that the number of hex and jinx injuries diminished severely.
Severus had also had taken it upon himself to give the few honorable Gryffindor first-years – sadly only Granger and Longbottom – a rather strong discussion. These were the only two students that had ever approached Harry in something other than malice and sadly, Harry had been abused because of their foolishness. Once the two were aware just what their actions had cost their classmate, they distanced themselves and never again made the same mistakes.
However, neither Severus nor Minerva could be present at every interval. And Severus was not foolish enough to believe that Harry's only threat came from the Gryffindors. Severus knew – though the boy had never told – that Harry was threatened from within his own house. Most Slytherins, in any case, had been raised to hate everything that Harry Potter represented.
After all, Severus knew it wasn't the Gryffindors that had killed the boy's owl, a snowy owl whose wings were cut off and whose neck was broken, lying in wait upon Harry's bed to be found after he completed his first day of classes.
And it was then that the torment of Harry James Potter truly began.
Harry Potter did not move as his Professor sauntered into his classroom. Instead, he sniffed and hurriedly wiped the tears from his eyes. He knew Professor Snape was aware he was there. The man had sort of an extra-sensory perception when it came to Harry's presence. Harry glanced up as Snape swished his wand to light the torches along the walls. Snape cast his student a barely detectable look before seating himself behind his giant desk, leaving his charge to his own devices.
Harry looked back at his text book before adding the next ingredient to the simmering potion beside him. The boy simply went through the steps mechanically and he was not even aware he was crying again until a tear splashed into the cauldron. Harry let out a strangled sob as two more tears entered his potion.
"Potter, you do know that saltwater will render the potion useless, don't you?"
"Yes, sir…" Harry mumbled, standing with his head bowed, ignoring his potion as it now was frothing over the edges of his cauldron.
With a single wave of Snape's wand, the potion vanished and the cauldron flew to the sink. Brushes flew from the other side of the room and the water filled within the basin. The brushes set to work cleaning the pot as Severus waved his wand once more. The ingredients that lay out on the worktable put themselves back into their respectable jars. The jars were swiftly replaced into Harry's case and finally, the book closed gently, placing itself atop the container.
With a small, barely noticeable sigh, Severus approached the boy. He placed his hands on Harry's shoulders, gently steering the child into a chair. Kneeling in front of Harry, he lifted the student's face. Weary, pain-filled emerald eyes, red from tears, stared back at him from behind broken lenses. One of his cheeks had a disgusting dark bruise and the space below his nose was caked with dried blood. Angry red scratches marred his neck before disappearing beneath his robes.
"Who was it?"
"Finnegan and Weasley," Harry muttered, wiping his running nose with the back of his sleeve.
Severus fought back a wave of disgust at the mention of his two least favorite students and masterfully kept his voice stable and mask unhindered. "Why, Harry? What provoked them this time?"
The boy seemed hesitant to answer but, in the end, mumbled quietly, "…I was talking to Hermione Granger in the library."
"Harry, I specifically told you to not-"
"I know!" He burst out sitting up in his chair, eyes wide and fearful. "She was just telling me she found an old yearbook that had some pictures of my parents in it! She was telling me where to find it! That was all, sir! Honest!"
"You did not approach her?"
"I'll have to have a little chat with Miss Granger. I specifically made myself clear."
"Professor, please don't punish her! She was only helping!" Suddenly Harry grew quiet and looked down at his incredibly worn shoes. "She was just being nice, sir…" A bitter snarl crossed the child's face. "…and I honestly didn't think that those two would ever want to step foot in a library…"
Severus swallowed down the laugh rising within him, but allowed himself a smirk for the boy's sake. "Did you find the book she told you about?"
"No sir. Weasley saw me with her before I had a chance to look."
As Harry wiped his nose once more, Severus stood and made his way to his desk and opened a drawer. He rummaged for a while before pulling out a scrap of paper. He walked stiffly over to Harry and thrust it into his hands. Harry gasped when he saw what he now held and looked up at Severus with a happy, surprised glow now shining in his eyes, eyes that reminded Severus too much of Lily Evans.
"Sir, I thought you didn't-"
"I don't." He answered simply, a little harshly although Harry took no offense to his tone. Severus knew all to well that the boy was no doubt used to severity. "The Headmaster sent it to me. There is only the one of your mother, I'm afraid. He said he would look for some more to give you."
Harry smiled as another tear ran down his face, only this time it went completely unnoticed. Severus watched as the boy gently traced his mother's image with a single trembling finger. He smiled at his picture mother as she playfully blew a kiss at him and then twirled in the snow, laughing and trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue.
"Thank you, sir."
Snape nodded and placed his wand under Harry's chin to make him raise his head. Harry watched with the silly, blissful smile still on his face as Severus wordlessly repaired his glasses. Harry did not even blink, too used to the administrations to even care. Severus reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle of ointment, handing it to Harry.
"Put this on those scratches tonight before bed. Get on back to the common room with you. It is way past curfew."
Harry placed his mother's picture tenderly down on the desk top and collected his things, all the while casting glances at the object as if he was certain it would disappear. Severus finally drew his eyes from Harry and turned to the sink along the far wall. He quickly cast a drying spell on his cauldron and than shrunk it so it would fit easily into Harry's bag.
"I will fix it before class tomorrow."
Harry picked up his mother's photograph and cradled it to his chest. He made his way to the door all the way never taking his gaze from Lily's image. Finally, he paused, stopping cold in the classroom doorway, and turned to face his favorite Professor.
"Thank you, sir."
Casting Severus a wonderful smile, he made his way from the room.
Severus' reply was so quiet that the boy never heard him.
"You're welcome, Harry."
"Well, look who it is! It's ickle Harry Potter!"
Harry tensed but kept walking, staring determinedly at the staircase. He could sense their eyes on him and he was determined to not show how scared he was. This was the one thing he hated more than his abominable family. He hated the students' faces, the sneers, and the taunts he struggled with relentlessly, constantly. All Harry had ever wanted was just to feel loved, to fit in, to be a part of everyone else.
"What's the matter, baby?"
"Yea, what happened, Potter? Did you run into a Gryffindor's fist again?!"
Harry clenched his mother's photo to his chest and darted up the stairs, his fellow Slytherins' cruel laughter following him. His back stung from where their eyes had watched him, where their insults had been hurled. Taking a deep breath and blinking back the tears that flowed unbidden into his eyes, he made his way to the dorm.
Pushing open the door at the very top, he was bombarded with the horrible grating sound of Crabbe and Goyle's snores. Wincing, Harry took a step into the room. He noticed Malfoy at the small desk in the corner scratching away at something and Zambini reading on his bed with cotton stuffed in his ears. Nott was lying on top of his bed coverings, staring blankly at the ceiling.
Harry dropped his bag beside his trunk, startling his familiar as she lay asleep. Aella, a black kitten with one white paw, gave her owner a dirty look at being disturbed. Harry rubbed his hand down her back, smiling as she arched into his touch and purred. The boy patted her head and laid his mother's picture down beside the feline. Aella studied it and put her nose right up against it, whiskers twitching.
"That's my mum, girl," Harry whispered, removing his outer robes and draping them across the top of his trunk.
Harry quickly stripped and pulled on his pajamas. Harry breathed in their clean scent and rubbed his hand across the silk. They had been a present, the first Harry had ever received and there had been no tag. But Harry did not care. He loved them and every night when he pulled them on he was thankful for whoever sent them.
Breathing in once more, Harry scooped up his kitten and the photograph. He pulled back the curtain with his foot and placed them both on the bed. He put his glasses on the nightstand and crawled into bed, pulling the curtain closed. Harry pulled back the covers and sat for a moment with the cover over his legs. He softly kissed the picture, smiling sadly. Pushing it under his pillow, Harry laid down; the kitten collapsing on top of Harry's feet.
"Goodnight, Aella," He whispered. Then, he slipped his hand underneath the pillow, fingertips brushing the edges of the photograph. "Goodnight, Mum..."
Minerva was having a tough night indeed. She had just had another chat with Longbottom and Granger, who came in to report the attack on Harry Potter in the Library. She had listened only for a moment before sending the blubbering girl to the Infirmary for a Calming Draught.
Harry had been assaulted for talking to Granger by Finnegan and Weasley.
In the library.
Really was there no place in Hogwarts safe for the boy?
Minerva sighed and poured herself a hot cup of tea. If she called the Burrow to report Weasley one more time, Molly would have kittens. Minerva winced as she imagined the volume level that would be used and knew that she would rather not. But the boys' brutish behavior could not go unpunished.
Harry was a quiet child, very shy and a lot more like his mother than Minerva first would have pegged he'd be. It was not as if she expected the boy to be exactly like his boisterous father but he was timid, almost afraid of failure. He had ambition, it was true, and – even though it nearly killed her to admit – Minerva could not help but see that Slytherin had been a good choice for him.
Personality wise anyway. Considering history, it was a bad call. To Minerva – and much of the staff – the hat had condemned them to a nightmare.
Harry looked so unhealthy, so worn down, and always with another bruise before dinner where he sat alone at the end of his house table. Minerva wondered, no she knew, that the Slytherins abused him as well. He was, after all, the Boy Who Lived and she had never seen him with any of his housemates.
She hated to know what went on behind the dungeon walls.
She had never mentioned any of this to Albus for she knew that Severus was informing him of things in the boy's life. No, if she mentioned just how much that child meant to her, Albus would… Oh, she would rather not think of it at all. She could barely stand his cheerful attitude now.
She could talk to Severus, of course. Yet, Severus would not be very sympathizing towards her own wards, not that Weasley and Finnegan needed anyone's sympathy. She couldn't expel them. It was entirely out of the question as the trial would prove to be fruitless – however much she wished she could threaten expulsion if only to get them out of the castle for a few days.
Severus had not dared tell the boy that it was too hard to find a picture of his father. Every image that was ever created of James Potter contained the figures of the murderous Black and the poor oaf Pettigrew. Dumbledore claimed that Harry was too young to know about his past, too young to know the conspiracy behind his parents' murders.
It had occurred to Severus that Harry was suffering as much as he himself did when he was young and ironically, most of it had come from the boy's own father. Yes, it was so utterly poetic that James Potter's son deserved all the pain that was inflicted on him.
But this wasn't James Potter's son as far as Severus was concerned.
Harry was Lily's son.
The only reason Harry still lived was because of his mother's sacrifice. It was ancient blood magic and Severus was certain of his theory. That poor child had been loved so completely that words would never be able to describe it. Lily Evans had offered the greatest sacrifice for her only child. She had placed such a loving protection that it simmered unseen in the boy's own skin.
Severus wondered what Lily would have thought of her son's suffering. He wondered what Lily would have thought of her baby being destroyed, belittled, and tortured day after day. What would Lily have done when she realized that James Potter's sins had cursed her son?
I warned you, Lily. I told you. I swear you would have been safe with me. I would have taken care of both of you…
I loved you so much more than he did...He didn't at all. We could have run away together, forgetting the war, forgetting what Dumbledore hat us do. I would have denounced everything for you. I loved you more than anything else in the world.
I believe I never stopped…Severus stared at the empty doorway.Even today you haunt me…