Disclaimer: The characters belong to J.K. Rowling.
Warning: Non-Magic late 19th Century AU
Summary: In the end I could only love him because that was all there was left to do.
Author's note: Inspired by - 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë, The story of Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan, 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James.
It's my birthday. So, I come bearing a gift. I'm sorry I've been so busy all day I didn't have time to post this.
When I first met him he was seventeen.
I convinced myself that I needed to break him in order to fix him, but I quickly found out that this was not to be. He was already mesmerizing. All untamed spirit. He was as wild as a lion and free. Too free perhaps because he made everyone angry. He made me angry and he made me hate him. And in the end he made me just as wild as he was. In the end I could only love him because that was all there was left to do. And so I loved him; this wild child who was born to fame and fortune. I would hold him in my arms and forget that there was a world outside of our world. I could not destroy him and perhaps that meant that I failed in the task that I set out to do, but he was all I needed.
He was my everything, and he still is.
The manor loomed on the horizon, tall and elegant and proud. The pure white that it was painted, rivalled the sun's intensity and it had a courtyard that was just as magnificent. The courtyard was a mixture of nature's colors with a garden that contained flowers of all calibre and a fountain that sprung glittering water from the lips of a triad of stone creatures who seemed to be the essence of imagination and dreams. The shod feet of the horse-drawn carriage made a cloppity sound on the cobblestone path as it approached the magnificent oak doors. Inside, the single passenger curled his lips at the sight of such finery. But it was his choice to accept the position and so it seemed rather hypocritical to sneer at the fact that the place he would be employed within seemed to be beyond the finery that he had imagined.
"Welcome to Château Chez Moi, Mr. Snape." The footman bowed low as Snape exited the carriage. "Madame McGonagall awaits you inside."
There were extremely few servants, except for the two or three he encountered as he was ushered through a candle lit hallway, past a staircase of marble and through rooms lined with the finest portraits and paintings, it was obvious that they knew their duties and carried them out well. The place sparkled which was something that met with Snape's immediate approval. He was a firm believer in cleanliness and it was his utmost intention to see that the child he would be caring for would learn this quickly.
"Severus Snape I presume?"
After the state of the manor, Severus expected nothing less than the regal lady who stood before him with a tight smile on her face. She was certainly older than he had thought her to be from her letters, but that was hardly a mark against her. In fact, he was quick to realize that it would not take much for him to give her his utmost respect. She seemed the type to be related to royalty, and perhaps she was indeed.
"Madame McGonagall?" Severus nodded at her. "It is a pleasure to finally meet with you."
"Well you are right on time." She swept by him in a flurry of silk and perfume. "For lunch that is. You are hungry aren't you?"
He wondered how exactly he should answer such a question. He had expected to be set to work on whatever little miscreant he was being assigned to take care of. Nothing in their agreement spoke of lunch before duty. Except that he was a little hungry. Carriage rides were not his favorite means of transportation when there were so many new and civilized means of getting around now.
"Certainly Madame." Was that mirth he saw in her eyes? She didn't seem the type to laugh out loud at someone so perhaps she was indeed chuckling silently to herself.
It happened so suddenly that at first Severus was confused. There was a loud disturbance, like the entire upstairs of the house had caved in on them. If it were not for the lack of debris, Snape would have been convinced. Instead the loud crashing sounds escalated and there was definitely the sound of someone shouting. The words were indiscernible, but there was no mistaking the thundering of feet crashing about above their heads. The noise was moving towards them. Running feet now. Furniture being thrown against the wall. And someone laughing.
"Come!" McGonagall repeated in a more urgent tone.
She grabbed his hand. This was something else that Severus did not expect. He despised physical contact more than anything else in the world so he really did not hesitate in pulling his hand away from her and chiding her in an angry voice. She barely even blinked at him, seemingly more interested in the way the laughing had turned to howls and shouts. Still indiscernible, but definitely getting closer.
Snape made the decision to follow her quickly as she all but ran from the room, waiting only to usher him into the other room before she locked the door that they had entered through.
It was a dining room and the ridiculously long table was set for two.
"Sit." The madame had obviously caught her breath back, but all sense of formality had been abandoned since she all but collapsed into one of the chairs.
Severus sat somewhat gingerly on the seat near her. In the next room there were extremely loud crashing noises and the sound of breaking glass. Someone was shouting ever so often in pain while the mad laughter returned again. There was no way that the room would survive the uproar.
"I suppose you're curious as to what is going on."
Severus turned to the lady beside him and gave her his most polite but demanding glare.
"No need for that look Sir." She waved her hand about her face as if to shoo a fly. "Surely at the price we're offering, you did not expect to come up roses? It must have occured to you that this would be no normal situation. Well, as I am sure you are rather close to meeting him yourself right now, I may as well tell you what you will need to know about your charge."
She rose from her seat, no longer interested in food.
"Do you know the name 'Potter'? Well yes, I'm sure you do. Everyone and their pet hounds know the name. James and Lily's story was most unfortunate. They had all the money and fame they could ever desire in the world and none of it was enough to save them from the hands of the monster that murdered them. It's just as well that the man is dead as I rather think that there are a couple people out there willing to kill him all over again."
She stopped pacing long enough to draw fresh breath and to make sure that he was still listening to every word that she said.
"They had a son. This I'm sure, you did not know about. He was very young at the time of his parents' deaths and we all thought it best to protect him from prying eyes and wagging tongues." She seemed to retreat into herself for a moment before her eyes refocussed and she was glaring at him. "He is your charge. You have come all this way to take care of him and we would expect nothing but the absolute best that you've got to give. He is a very unique boy. He is rich and he is manipulative, but don't let that affect you. I will be leaving today as I only meant to be here long enough to show you around. No use me doing that now. In any case you will find that there will scarcely be anyone around. I hardly think that you will be bored. Dobby will be here if you need help with anything, but apart from him and perhaps the cook, there will just be you and your charge. I hope you don't find that objectionable as there is nothing I can or will be doing about the situation."
McGonagall approached the table again and stood towering over Snape.
"I'll return in a few months to see how much progress you have made, or to see if you are even still here," she informed him in a voice that was much quieter than her previous volume. "Now being the time for you to speak, do you have any questions Mr. Snape?"
"How old is he?"
Snape had been muddling over the information that she had spewed and the more he heard was the more narrow his eyes had gotten. From what he knew of the Potters they had died years ago and if his charge had been a child then, it would mean that the boy was no longer so much a boy anymore. From what he knew of the Potters, and he knew a lot more than most did, he was not going to be too pleased about looking after their one heir.
"He is seventeen." Came the immediate response. "He will be eighteen soon enough, but believe me Mr. Snape until you meet him you will not realize just how useless this information will be to you. Age is definitely just a number in his case."
"Is he ill in some way?"
"Mentally you mean?" She smiled slightly. "No, but this again will mean nothing until you meet him. And sometimes I'm sure you will wish that he is indeed lacking mentally, if only to use that for justification. But I should be going now and leave you to do just that. Wait a while, I will send in Dobby."
Dobby appeared in the form of a slim fellow dressed in clean but barely respectable clothes. He looked slightly younger than Snape but certainly older than Severus' charge was said to be.
As soon as he entered the room he too slammed the door as if to keep the Devil out. From the indignant shout that emerged as a result of said slamming, Severus was beginning to think that whatever was out there was more possessed than mad. The very idea that said creature might just be the infamous charge he was hearing so much about, was enough to make him more and more curious.
"Dobby at your service sir." The servant bowed low, peering up only just a bit as he gave Snape a quick glance.
"Dobby. I am Severus Snape, the new governor."
Dobby arose to a more natural position. He too carried that hint of amusement that McGonagall had been sporting earlier in the meeting. As if he was a part of a private joke that Snape was only going to have to learn on his own.
"Yes sir. I was informed."
"What exactly is your duty Dobby?" Snape asked in a voice that he deemed to be kind enough.
This time Dobby laughed. "Me sir? You'll find out soon enough what I do. Believe me, it won't matter what you were hired for in this house. Soon enough you'll forget. If you intend to last the night, my best suggestion is to forget your label this very minute. Madame McGonagall is gone. There isn't anyone that you'll be impressing now."
Snape was so affronted that for a second he could only stare at the ill-mannered servant. Then he gave him such an icy glare that hell would have soon frozen over if he had continued long enough. In any case it worked. Dobby turned an interesting shade of red and managed to swallow the grin on his face to a more nonchalent demeanor.
"Now, perhaps you can serve me some lunch?"
Dobby nodded. "Of course sir. Pardon me while I get the tea."
Snape got more comfortable in his seat while the servant swept out of the room almost silently.
It didn't even register to him that while he had heard the door being opened by the man there had been no telltale signs of it being closed. It was only after he heard the distinct sound of bare feet that he realized that like it or not he was about to meet his charge. Severus turned away from the table slowly and rose fluidly. It was his intentions to exude an air of authority as soon as possible.
The figure that stood before him was dressed in the sloppiest manner possible. Shirt tucked out of pants, barefeet as Snape had presumed. The hair on the boy's head looked like it had not been combed in hours as it stuck up in more than one places. But it was the bright green eyes that glared like daggers under the candlelight and the ruby lips set in a scowl that got Snape's attention. 'Boy' was not the right label, as there was no doubt that at seventeen he had no physical disabilities or encumberances that might or might not have affected him. He was a tiny bit on the short side but with the no-nonsense stance he had taken up near the door, it was obvious that he knew how to use what height he did have to his own favor.
"Who are you? And what are you doing in my house?"
Now that, Snape had not been expecting. Everyone had been acting so formal and cool that to have this boy address him as if he was nothing more than a thief in his midst, set Snape into an irritated mood.
"I am Severus Snape. Your new governor."
The heir laughed and it was the untamed laughter that Severus had been hearing since he arrived.
"How quaint," the boy mocked with dancing green eyes and a tone that was no doubt meant to infuriate. "I haven't had a governor since I was two. I don't need one right now."
"I don't remember asking your opinion on the matter boy," Snape snapped.
The mocking smile became a sneer and the sculptured face twisted into an ugly expression. "What did you call me?"
"I'm not one for repeating myself," Snape reproached as he watched the dishevelled boy approach him. "Instead of asking unnecesary questions why don't you sit and eat. Perhaps then I might learn more about you."
Severus barely caught sight of the quick hand movement required to grab one of the two pitchers of water set on the table. He barely had time to sidestep the missile. A wave of water arched from it as it flew through midair and then managed to soak Severus' legs from his knees to his shoes before it crashed onto the floor where he had only just been standing, breaking into clear shards of glass.
Snape glared first at his ruined pants and then at the smug look on his charge's face. He swallowed the comment that rose to his lips, choosing instead to act like a civilized adult.
"I really should slip you over my knees and spank the daylight out of you," he growled low instead. "But I will ignore what you have done, for now. Sit down Potter!"
This time Potter screeched in indignation. "Don't call me that!"
"Stop that incessant wailing this second. Sit down," Snape returned, still not raising his voice any higher.
Potter seemed to take that as his cue to raise his volume. He shouted a string of words that were disrespectful in any language, but he did not stop there. The more he shouted was the more his tantrum seemed to grow and soon he reminded Snape of a little three year old that was prone to violent behavior. He was also very quick, Snape realized as the vase of flowers at the centre of the table was thrown next. When that missed, the salt and pepper shakers followed suit. Food sailed across the room, then chairs went smashing into the walls and on the floor before somehow, Snape managed to shove Potter out of the room. He immediately slammed the door and spent a moment wondering what exactly he had agreed to do.
"If you will pardon me and my brazeness Mr. Snape. May I offer you some advice?"
Dobby's voice came from somewhere nearby, which left Severus turning around in a startled manner as he had not even heard when the servant had re-entered. Dobby was in the far corner, covered in lemon pie and various forms of pottery and flowers. He rose to brush himself off, picking out pieces of crust from his person and looking over the cuts and bruised on his palms, which he had no doubt gotten from shielding his face. His own blue eyes were flashing just as wildly as Potter's own, but this time there was more anger than madness in the gaze.
"If that is the way you intend to treat him while you are here then let me just tell you that you will get nowhere," Dobby finally found the voice to say. "You may as well leave Sir. We have all been treated by Mr. Potter in this exact way and by now, we few servants know what to expect and how to deal with him. There is no use adding your lot in the mix if you don't intend to cause some improvement."
Severus stared at him. "And what exactly do you propose I do then?"
Dobby shrugged. "I don't propose you do anything than whatever it is that you deem to be necessary. I'm just pointing out that trying to treat him all civilized is not going to be causing any big improvements. It's been tried before Sir. I'm sure that you can see that not a thing came out of it except to make him even more like an animal."
"But he is a sane human being and should be treated as one," Snape pointed out.
Dobby raised an eyebrow and looked towards the door, beyond which there were even more sounds of destruction emerging.
"Yes I agree sir. But he doesn't much remind you of one now does he? He spent his whole life hearing how dangerous he is and how mad he should be. He's just doing what everyone told him to be. Doesn't really help those of us who has to live with him. He's not crazy sir. That boy has more sense than you and me combined but he's been allowed to do whatever he wanted for longer than anyone is supposed to. You remember that next time."
Snape scowled deeply, but he gave a tight nod to Dobby to show that he would certainly keep this new bit of information in mind as he considered what to do.
As it was, he didn't have much time to think as there came the most abnoxious sound of banging against the dining room door. The house itself seemed to shake in its foundation as the sound got louder and louder. When that didn't work, there was the briefest pause before something even heavier was being used .The hinges of the door actually began to show signs of rattling.
Severus had taken all that he could bear.
"You little brat!" He snarled as he sent the door slamming outwards.
On the other side of the open doorway, Potter looked even worse for wear. His hands were bleeding from the flying splinters he had evoked from his tantrum and his hair was colored by dust and dirt. The expression in his eyes had transformed from madness to untamed anger and the green of his gaze seemed to swirl.
"Come here boy," Snape commanded.
Potter growled. "You don't listen very well. That's not my name."
"Then what is your name?" Severus asked, taking a step forward, then having to sidestep the wooden chair that Potter had been holding just seconds before. "What is your name!"
Potter stepped up to him, raised his right hand then slapped Severus as hard as he could.
Severus' head snapped to the side. He saw the color red behind his eyelids, and for all he knew it was the color of the blood that he was going to spill. He was beyond livid at that point.
Severus hit Potter on the face so hard that at first he thought that he had broken the boy's jaw.
They stood before each other in relative silence with only the sound of Potter's small whimpers of shallow panting as he held a hand to his reddened cheek. Snape watched him, expecting tears and another explosion of temper. But there was nothing.
"How old do you think you are? If it is your deepest desire to return to your childhood then I pity you. But as long as I am here you will learn to act like a civilized young man of seventeen!"
There was no response.
"What is the name you wish for me to call you?" Snape enquired in a voice no softer than his tone of anger. "Tell me now or we will have many more repeats of this performance."
The green eyes glared like steel but this time when he spoke the words that tumbled from his lips held no obvious hostility. "My name is Harry."
Snape reached out his hand. "As I said I am Severus Snape. You may call me Professor or you may call me Snape."
Harry spat on the outstretch palm.
Snape slapped him again, this time with the sting of spit to add to the impact. His eyes dared the boy to try something like that again. But Harry seemed to have gotten the hint.
He turned and walked away, leaving Snape to watch his retreating form.
"This is to be your room then," Dobby said as he opened the door. "Here is the key. I suggest you take care of it if you'd rather keep him out. You saw the bother he caused downstairs. No one will be happy if we have to go about fixing up your room too. I told you to stay out of the East wing because his room is here, but you want to stay here with him so then here you are."
"Thank you." Severus accepted the key and brushed by Dobby to see the room.
Severus had explicitly requested to be placed in the room nearest to his charge. From the sounds coming from the adjoining room Severus was quickly rethinking his initial decision. He walked over to the closest wall and pressed his ear against the cold stone. It may as well have been built from pieces of paper. The whimpers and sobs were loud enough to be unmistakeable. Even the sniffling was apparent. But what really caught Snape's attention was the lack of passion he had been treated to all day when Harry had been wandering about the house causing damage. There were no objects being thrown or cursing to punctuate the constant, mournful sounds he was hearing.
"Why is he crying?" Snape finally asked, retreating from the wall to approach Dobby.
"He is afraid of the dark," Dobby responded softly. His eyes told Snape that the matter was more complicated than that.
"Isn't he a little too old to be afraid of the dark?"
Dobby turned away, almost as if he did not want to respond to the question. So when he did answer, his voice was soft. "If you saw half the things he does when he closes his eyes, you would be afraid of the dark too."
"Something in the dark frightens him?"
"I just said that sir." Dobby treated Snape with a wry smile. "We used to put candles in his room to keep the dark away, but we learned very quickly not to do that. Something you best pray you never find out why. Anyway, since we can't burn candles for him he has to stay in the dark. He cries every night. Always has. There is nothing to be done about it."
"Why does he cry?"
Dobby laughed. "Oh no Mr. Snape, that is not my story to be telling. You want to know the answer to that then you ask him. And if he tells you then count yourself worthy. But pack your things before you ask. His last governess ran so fast that we didn't even have time to ask her if she had somewhere to be running to."
Snape arched an eybrow in intrigue. "Is it so frightful?"
"Yes sir, it is." Dobby inclined his head in a gesture very close to a mocking nod, especially since he was grinning again as if he shared in a private joke. "But I'll better be leaving you to your night Mr. Snape. I need to see what can be done about the drawing room. So pardon me sir."
Dobby gave a nod in Snape's direction again before he quickly approached the door. He was nearly on the other side of it when he paused, then turned to look at Snape again. His expression softened from the air of disrespect and duty that he carried ever since the first moment he had met the new governor. For a while he didn't speak. Instead he stared for so long that Snape opened his mouth to speak. Only then did Dobby voice his thoughts.
"When he was still young he used to scare the saints out of us with his antics. There were days where we'd find him swinging from a rope in the garden and everyone would think he'd finally done it and killed himself. When that didn't work he'd throw himself down the stairs. I think that's what got to his first governess. It would give her the fright of her life to find him bleeding at the bottom of the steps and him pretending to have broken his neck from the fall. There were two governesses before his guardian thought to hire you and we can all see how much Madam McGonagall wishes for this to work out well. So you ask him why he would do that when he was just a boy and asked him why he thinks there are red eyes watching him in the dark. And if he tells you the truth I hope you don't run like everyone else did."
The door closed with a resounding slam when Dobby said his piece and all Snape was left with was the silence and the graphic images that the servant had conjured up for him.
It became apparent very quickly that no amount of sleep would stop the thoughts from churning about Severus' mind. Made worse by the soft sobs that he could still hear, Snape gave up on actually finding peace enough for sleep to claim him. Instead, he moved away from the view he had been so entranced with from the only window in the room, as he decided that Dobby had a good idea when he had beat such a hasty retreat back to the comfort of the South wing. Potter seemed bent on crying through the entire course of the night and Snape wasn't sure how much he could be tolerant of this.
The hallway outside his room seemed endless. The walls on both sides were a line of white interrupted frequently by brown wooden doors that all seemed firmly closed. The ground was covered in a blood red carpet which proved that the Potters had been considerate in their thinking when they had built this wing. Hallway carpets were rare and expensive but usually built to muffle excessive footsteps whilst one's house was frequented by overnight guests.
From what he remembered of the Potters, it was just like them to waste money on something so frivolous and rather unnecessary in Snape's opinion.
He weaved his way along the corridors, turning one way and then the next. All the while he checked the doors randomly. Some did not budge while others opened easily. Portaits would line the walls of the rooms he was granted entry to. Red haired women, dark haired men. Blue eyes, green eyes, grey eyes, brown eyes. No one smiled. Not one. For the still figure that peered down from the canvas they were immortalized within, everyone held a gaze of boredom or sadness. Regal as the men were or as enchanting and beautiful as the women appeared, there was only lonliness. The emptiness of the rooms would add to this loneliness. The beds were always spread in the finest silk and floors were lined with persian rugs or hand woven carpets and a flame burned in every fireplace. But there was only silence.
Snape walked on and on until finally he came upon a room that was different than all the rest.
Instead of the usual bedroom furniture, this room only contained a beautiful black grande piano set strategically at the center of the room and accompanied only by a stool on which to sit on. Apart from that it was only the expanse of white walls that made the room seem even larger and the dangling candle chandelier that seem to have never been lit in all its time. Light was left up to the candles that were mounted high upon each of the four walls.
Severus let his fingers linger on the smooth wood of the piano as he savored the silence that he had been cheated of all day. He allowed his mind to wander to the boy who was his charge. He knew that it was unfair to think of the seventeen year old in the context of a child but the immature behavior that he had been treated to all day only made Severus reluctant to modify his opinion of Harry Potter. He tried to gather his thoughts on what he did know about the young man.
Harry was headstrong and had indeed been left to his own device far too long. He was wild and therefore resisted all forms of censorship. He was impulsive with an almost cruel streak and was perhaps not entirely sane despite his guardian's objections.
He was also indisputably attractive with his cold green eyes and raven hair, especially to one such a Snape who's ideas of attractiveness were outside of the usual tolerance of others. From what Snape remembered of the Potters it was no wonder that their offspring would posses the face of an angel with the temperament of the devil himself. But then, Snape was no saint and he had no intentions of treating the handsome young heir like a god on a pedestal. If Potter thought that Snape would fall to his face in obedience like every other servant in the house then he would be mistaken, for although Snape was Potter's governor, by birth he was certainly no servant and he too knew how to rule a household through fear. So while Snape stood in the Piano Room indulging in the silence, he pondered a way to get his unruly charge in order.
An opportunity for Severus to exert some form of control presented itself two weeks later.
By then, Severus had learned quite a lot about the household that he had integrated himself within. That there were only a maximum of ten servants on any given day and in fact were usually far less than that to care for the house. Most of them served to put their energy into repair and replacement of the items that Potter destroyed on his angry rampages. Although, it had come as a great surprise to Severus to realize that there was a method to the boy's madness that only one with a keen eye would notice. There was never anything destroyed that could not be replaced within a day and should he be left to his own devices, peace would often reign for hours where the boy would disappear to haunt the large grounds of the estate and the servants busied themselves with other less demeaning tasks than cowering on the floors or ducking quickly at flying objects.
He also learned that Potter could read and write rather well. None of the servants could answer Severus' queries as to how the boy had learned to do this without proper tutelege, but on those rare occassions where Severus would spy him through a window as Harry laid down unconcerned in the middle of the carriage pathway, it was often with a book to read or scribble within.
Potter had no sense of safety, it seemed. Or perhaps it was that the boy did not seem to care about his own mortality. Severus often wondered at a human who acted so much like an animal at times. Harry was always barefoot and sometimes when the mood struck him in the early parts of the night he would be seen splashing about in the glistening water of the fountain naked to the world and everyone who occupied it. He climbed trees and hung from their branches. He threw himself in the paths of the servants' carriages. He would spend hours sometimes lying absolutely still as if his spirit had left his body and only the bright green of his eyes would afford a hope that he had not indeed passed on. And he screamed. With his palms over his ears and tears flowing from his eyes he would suddenly round a corner of his house, stand stock still and begin to scream like a wild banshee. As if some injustice had happened to him and his mind could not be free of its torment.
All this Severus was forced to accept without protest, for it helped no one if he did protest the running around of Potter. Like Dobby had advised him, Severus quickly found that like it or not his qualifications as a governor was useless in this particular household and it was easier to shed his title than to chase the boy down and try to impart knowledge to him. So Snape chose instead to direct the servants and indeed everyone seemed grateful to have firm directions for once in all their years. If Severus thought about this, it would have probably struck him as strange that the entire household was willing to elevate him to the status of a more active master for the house.
Which was why Dobby merely stood aside when the chambermaid of the South wing came running into the dining room and prostrated herself at Severus' feet.
"Sir you must come quickly. He's aiming to kill her sir and lawds if he ain't goin' to do it this time!" She hollered. "The master told her not to be interrupting him in the East wing but she's always taken a fancy to him and thinks it's her duty to try and civilize him. I was telling her that she wouldn't get far if a fine sir like you couldn't do it and it was mighty brazen of her to think she could do it. Well he's got her bout the throat up on the North side where he done hauled her and has been dangling her from the banister and shouting how he is going to let her go spinning down into the landing cause he did tell her to listen to him when he speaks."
Severus was out of his seat in seconds and was quickly racing from south to north. He knew the scullery maid and had even reproached her on her lack of tact when it came to Potter but having worked there far longer than Snape, she ignored him and did as she pleased. Snape allowed himself the sadistic curl of pleasure even as he ran to her aid.
Potter was indeed standing with the poor girl, his fingers curled around her throat, as he tilted her precariously over the banister and shouted tirelessly at her. Below, all the servants had converged to behold the sight. Five pairs of eyes, including Severus, Dobby and the chambermaid, watched the way Potter shook her like a rag doll. She was beyond merely crying and instead was pitifully whimpering or howling as ever so often he would shove her further until she was nearly perpendicular with the banister with the only thing stopping her imminent death being the rounded portrusion of her bottom.
Severus had seen enough.
He quickly made his way up one of the staircases that were to the sides of the room and did not stop until he was standing behind the shouting man. Then he buried his fingers in the sea of black hair and painfully tugged Potter's head backwards. Immediately the angry words spewing from the boy's lips stopped and all that was left were the sharp gasps of surprise from the four servants who were watching and the whimpers of the scullery maid who was still being dangled.
"Release her this second," Snape snarled with his lips directly upon the curve of Harry's ear.
"If that is what you wish."
For the briefest of seconds Severus thought that Harry was going to comply and release the girl in the wrong direction, thereby hurtling her over the banister to die on the marble floor below. Instead, he pulled her back roughly and then shoved her away so hard that she crash and bounced on the wall before she crumbled on the ground and began to wholeheartedly bawl. Neither Harry nor Snape spared her a second glance.
Instead, Snape dragged Harry by his hair down the other flight of stairs and down the corridors until they got to the East wing. By then Harry began to shout incoherent streams of angry sounds, especially when he realized that Snape had not only discovered the Piano Room but intended to take him directly to it. Which Severus did in fact do. He shoved Harry into the room and managed to slam it just in time as Harry immediately turned and ran towards him as if something frightening was chasing after him. In fact, even as Snape closed the door he didn't stop and there came the distinct sound of the boy throwing himself repeatedly against the obstruction. There was shouting, pounding, even scratching before Harry seemed to slide off the door and lay whimpering and softly crying to himself. On the other side of the door Severus listened to the change.
"NO!" Dobby's shout startled Severus away from the abrupt change in Potter's attitude to one of shock as the servant came tearing down the hallway. "You can't leave him in there!"
"And why not?" Severus inquired calmly.
Dobby tried to open the door but Snape pushed him away. "That was his mother's room. It was her piano. He hates the room Sir! He'll go mad if you leave him in there!"
Dobby made an attempt at sidestepping Snape to get to the door, but again Snape blocked him in lieu of getting more information. Beyond the door Harry's whmipers became sobs that made even the coldest parts of Snape ache for him. It affected Dobby in much the same way because he soon turned to Severus with flashing blue eyes and the angriest expression that he had ever dared in the governor's presence.
"His parents were murdered right before his eyes in there! You cannot lock him in with his memories!"
Snape's expression collapsed into disbelief. He had known the Potters that the world had known, but he had also known Lily and James because he had attended Oxford with James. Lily had in fact been his friend before she became James' wife and it was for her that he had become a governor to this household as a favor to her memory. He remembered her beautiful smile and her bright red hair as much as he remembered James' arrogance and sadistic streak. He had his own pasts however and thefore had his own secrets. What not many knew was that Severus Snape had very intimate knowledge of the details of James and Lily's murder. From what he knew, no child should be privy to such details.
Severus flung the door open and stared at the crumpled form on the floor.
Harry had curled into a tight ball, his knees and head were pressed upon the cold ground while his arms were wrapped around his waist as if his stomach had caved and taken everything but his fear and grief with it. His entire body trembled violently, wracked by the force of his gasps and sobs as he nearly choked from the loud uninhibited sounds that seemed to tear themselves from the pit of his soul. He looked hurt and frightened beyond belief.
Dobby made to rush over to his distressed master's side, but Snape caught his arm in a vise-like grip midflight and stopped him in his path.
"Leave him," he commanded in a low deliberate voice, his eyes never leaving the tearful figure. "He means to hoard our attention. If we go away, he'll stop that incessant racket and perhaps come to his senses instead."
"Sir!" Dobby howled. His blue eyes widened in disbelief.
Snape's strength was unmatch however, especially with the element of surprise that was afforded when Snape unceremoniously shoved him backwards and outside the room. Dobby was so shocked that he didn't seem to remember how to move until the door was slammed shut in his face. He banged upon its wooden frame to no avail. Inside the room, Snape turned calmly to meet the murderous green eyes that glared at him. As he had predicted, the boy seemed more in charge of his faculties than just seconds before.
"Mr. Potter," Snape said calmly, ignoring the way Harry shifted like a wild animal on the prowl. "You and I need to have a word with each other. Here seems a good place to sequest ourselves."
Harry's lips curled into a taunting smirk. His eyes showed none of the panic that he had been exhibiting before. Granted, he was livid and the tears were still sliding from his eyes so he probably was as afraid as Dobby had alluded to, but the tantrum had obviously just been an act. As he sat there defiant even through his tears, he made a more adept image of an angry god to Severus than anyone else ever known. Manipulative, McGonagall had said, how true she had been. But though he himself was just as angry, a part of him had to admire the boy's courage and cunningness.
"As I've suspected for quite some time now and in fact was even warned, you're not as ill as you appear," Severus continued in a low threatening voice. His tone seemed to keep Harry captive, stopping the tears, but there was still the flashing of viridian eyes that told Severus that his charge was only a hair's breadth away from giving into his wild impulses. "You're perfectly capable of acting your age. The question is, why do you insist on carrying out every dangerous act that graces your mind when you do know right from wrong?"
"I'm very dangerous," Harry responded just as quietly. His tone dared Severus to object. "You've heard the rumours by now. You've been here long enough. I killed my parents and my governess. I even killed the man who tried to kill me too. And, I'll just as soon kill you as well, one night when you least expect, when you're sure that I'm locked safely in my room I'll slip into yours and that will be the end of you. I think I'll use my bare hands and strangle you to death. Or use your pillow to suffocate you. Then I'll light the bed with the candle in your room and burn the place down with us all."
Severus raised an eyebrow. His face was a mask of seriousness. The look in his ebony eyes was so dark and so cold that Harry's gaze fell away for a second in fear. And when Severus spoke his tone was foreboding.
"You have no idea what it is to truly kill in cold blood, little boy," he said softly.
Harry's eyes rose in defiance again to meet the sinister ones that gazed down at him.
"I do know," he retorted in a voice that was just as cold. "I know what it's like to be called evil. I have been hated all my life and feared by everyone. I have killed. I know I have because I have the memory of the blood imprinted in my mind and I see it every time someone looks at me. They expect to find a murderer. Why should I censor myself when they see darkness in my every action?"
He shifted his crouching position, rising to his feet in a fluid motion. All anger and distrust seemed to drain from his countenance and in its place was the mature young man that Severus had suspected was present behind the childish tantrums and the wild, dangerously vindictive streak. Though Severus would never admit it, he could see that this boy would never just be ordinary to anyone who came to be in his presence. Yes, he could see what Harry was alluding to. No child of seventeen should carry the haunted look of being both victim and attacker at such an early age, but Severus had lived it, once long ago, he knew the look but he also knew that true evil did not reside in this Potter's heart.
"Well I know that your governess didn't really die, but that you frightened her away and I know that contary to what you say the murderer of your parents died on the same night. Am I to assume then that the murder that you are so sure that you committed was this man who attacked your parents?" Severus forced himself to keep his tone light, not wanting to give away the fact that he knew more about that muderer than he should.
"I killed him," Harry responded. It was evident that he was lost in thoughts and memories as he turned his attention to the grande piano that furnished the room. "I wanted him to go away and when he didn't I pushed him down the stairs."
Severus' eyebrow raised again. "You did, did you? When your parents died you were not yet even four from my calculations. So I suppose you used your superhuman strength at three years to send a fully grown man tumbling down a flight of stairs? How heroic of you."
"I did!" Harry snarled, immediately livid again. He took a threatening step towards Severus'. His fists were clenched and his eyes had gone wild and unfocussed again, just as it usually did before a violent wave of destruction followed.
Severus was remained calm, almost taunting as he regarded the man before him. "Come then. We're going to scene of the crime. You're going to demonstrate to me exactly how you did this."
Surprise lingered upon Harry's face and for a moment there was a brief flash of anger as well. When the cloud of emotions passed, the young man seemed to almost wither with it, looking less imposing than Snape had ever seen him, and with a sad, tired, almost haunted look that Snape knew very well and recognized of himself. Severus turned away from the beautiful look of innocent confusion on the boy's face.
"I don't know what to do with myself now."
The quiet words made Snape reluctant to turn and face his charge, for he very well knew the feeling that Harry spoke of. Once he had realized his mistake in making the Potters a target of his anger he had done everything possible to save them. It was all in vain and that night, seemingly so short a time now, Lily had died and Harry was left orphaned. The words to make such a confession were things that seemed impossible to say.
"I never liked your father. I've told you this before," Snape said instead, keeping his eyes on the piano and his back to his charge. "But – your father loved your mother – and I'm sure they loved you very much."
"They hid me from the world. And then they died, leaving me to carry on their legacy with no guidance. I am at a loss as to how I can even appear normal now. I've not been the most ordinary child for as long as I can remember."
Harry had taken refuge at the side of the room farthest from the piano. He sat with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped tightly around them. He should have appeared even more like a child then, but to Snape he did not.
"Mr Potter, you were most certainly not born to be ordinary." Snape sat down beside him. "And I'm sure that in time, you will find your way."
Harry's gaze never left the patch of floor before his eyes.
"I am not so sure actually. Who am I if I am not haunted by my memories and my guilt?"
"Free." Snape scoffed, "Or at least, as free as the rest of us."
The hand that Harry reached out to hesitantly touch Snape startled the other man. A voluntary touch was so foreign to him that he almost gave a surprised gasp at the sensation of warm, gentle, fingertips instead of cruel, taunting, nails upon his flesh.
"You knew my mother." It wasn't a question by now. "What was she like?"
Snape considered for a moment.
"Beautiful. She had an angel's face. She was wild and happy most days. I would often tell her that she was too pure for this earth."
"And my father?"
"He tried to give her the world." Snape' voice became thoughtful, "To his credit, when he failed he at least tried to protect her from its evil. And she in turn tried to protect you."
Their fingers were loosely intertwined by now as if neither quite realized that the other enjoyed this simple contact just as much. Harry's head rested upon Snape's shoulder. Snape fought against the raw heat that bloomed in his stomach when Harry's lips feathered across the side of his neck.
"This house is yours. Its legacy of pain and fortune belongs to you too. You must take responsibility of all of it or not at all. It would be very easy to turn away and to lose your self in a reality not so tainted by your past, and you already did that. I think it's time you embrace the good and the bad. Your past does not have to dictate your future."
Harry ducked his head shyly before looking back up at Snape, trying to hold on to the coal colored gaze that stared at him. His green eyes danced in the gentle light within the room.
"Does my future include you?" he asked coyly. "Perhaps if you stayed I might -"
It was too much for Snape to resist, and even before Harry completed the sentence, he knew he wouldn't resist.
He traced a thumb across Potter's lips to stop any further words, then quietly asked. "What if what I want is more than you can bear to give? Will you run away, or would you indulge me as I have indulged your every whim and fancy these few weeks?"
The corner of Harry's lips curled into a small smirk. His fingers, still holding on to the hand he had captured before now tightened further with Snape's. He leaned closer, his lips just inches away from Severus' lips.
"You don't frighten me Mr. Snape," he said confidently. "You never did."
The cold black eyes that never left his gaze seemed to harden fractionally.
"We will see, Mr. Potter," Severus responded.
Then he closed the small distance between them, swallowing the gasp of surprise that Harry made into the kiss.
Madam McGonagall returned on Harry's eighteenth birthday, nine months after Snape had accepted the position of being his tutor.
"Well, there has certainly been a change since your arrival Mr. Snape."
Snape inclined his head in a polite bow at the compliment. On his lips there lingered a secret smile meant more for Harry, who was absent, than Madam McGonagall who was busy scrutinizing the house.
She finally turned her full attention to Snape. "Well, where is Harry?"
Before Snape could send a message with a servant, Harry emerged. His stride was slow and deliberate. He was the epitome of calm. Snape' smile became a smirk of pride.
"Bonsoir Madame." Harry's voice was low and filled with polite respect. "Bienvenue de nouveau à la maison."
The madam looked surprised and delighted at the simple welcome in her native tongue. If Harry had instead begun to glow, Snape rather thought that the lady could not have possibly looked more pleased.
She turned her glee to the tutor. Sensing what was to soon follow, Snape quickly raised a palm and smiled at his charge.
"Harry is an extraordinary pupil Madam but the credit, should there be any, really must go to the pupil himself. I taught him nothing that he did not already teach himself most extensively. My visit was hardly necessary."
He was quick to notice the shadow that flickered across Harry's grey eyes at his words, but he had to contend with the knowledge that he could find a private moment to speak to the boy later.
"But the servants speak so well of you," McGonagall said. "They've been my eyes and ears these few months and not one gave a dissatisfactory report of you."
"Thank you Madam, but as you can see for yourself there is hardly anything left for me to do. Potter is quite capable of running the household himself in your absence." Snape forced himself to not look at the silent man still in their company. "I have already decided that today is as good as any to make my departure. I won't be swayed."
McGonagall turned to Harry. "My dear boy, can't you persuade him to stay? Look at the improvements that he has caused, in you especially."
"I have tried," Harry responded softly. "He is not the – sort – to be confined within brick walls."
"Neither were you, and yet look at you standing before me now!" McGonagall exclaimed with a hint of reproach. "Confinement has its uses."
Harry's response was another polite smile.
"Well then, I better leave you to your goodbyes if you've both already come to terms with this decision." The lady sighed. "I'll retreat to the kitchen and give you some privacy."
As she disappeared beyond the adjoining door to the room, Snape was suddenly reminded of nine months ago when they had all but raced from the room to escape the little demon that had been approaching in all fury. Now there was only an exceptional, if wilful, man in place of the ranting stranger Snape had first met.
Snape' gaze snapped up to focus on Harry at the nearly pleading tone.
"You will be perfectly fine without me," he said firmly. He took a step towards Harry and when Harry did not flee, he took another step to bring them into closer proximity. "You may also write to me whenever you begin to doubt yourself. But do try to remember that you are the heir and not the help in your house."
"So is this really goodbye?" Harry asked softly.
Instead of confirming what they both knew, Snape reached into his pocket then pressed a small package into Harry's palm.
"Goodbye Mr. Potter." He bowed in accordance with the difference in their status. "And Harry, happy birthday."
The manor still seemed to glisten in the sun's light as Snape was escorted within the carriage that waited near the front door. The sound of the horses' feet pierced the silence, pulling Snape briefly away from his memories. He returned to his thoughts, wondering if Harry had opened his present and seen the small, framed, picture of Lily that was the only picture Snape ever had of her.
"Perhaps I've earned your forgiveness now," he wondered aloud in a voice so soft that it was meant only for the gentle breeze that drifted through the curtained window. "I cannot undo what I did Lily. I cannot."
He remembered Harry now. The boy, handsome enough to be considered ethereal and almost beautiful with his sparkling green eyes and ebony hair, was now a man. The man was even more enchanting to Snape than his mother had ever been.
As he drifted away from Château Chez Moi and its occupants, Snape could not help but recall the light of happiness that had briefly lit up Harry's eyes at the reminder that he could always write to his tutor if he felt lonely. Snape considered what things he could mention innocently between the lines of words, in response.
He wanted more. More than the kisses he had taught the boy to perfect. More than the touches he allowed himself in the gentle candlelight of the Piano Room. More than the sinuous way it felt to have Harry naked and moaning in his arms as he introduced him slowly to pleasure that the younger man had never felt before. Every time he spent with Harry, Snape felt his own clutch on sanity retreat. Perhaps the boy was slowly poisoning him, changing him into a being primative and carefree. As if sex could only be enjoyed with loud moans, standing entangled together, outside and naked while a blanket of rain lubricated their skin.
It was intoxicating, and Severus was addicted to the sin and the secret of it. So in the end he had lied. He wanted more, and so Harry Potter would never truly be free now.
x - fin - x