A/N I rewrote a plot bunny from the storage. It was depressing people on Potions&Snitches, so I expanded it there and made it less depressing (well, except for SomeGuyFawkes who will be incredibly depressed with this one:-) I figured I might as well post it here, too. At least, what I have so far. It's not done yet.
Not for Sirius lovers. Definitely not.
"You will have to take him, I'm afraid."
Sirius Black scowled heavily at the ancient wizard. "I most certainly will not."
"Sirius, we really have no other choice. It will only be for a few weeks."
Before the Animagus could retort angrily, a knock on the door heralded the arrival of another visitor.
"Ah, Harry," the Headmaster greeted the boy, "do sit down. We have some things to discuss."
"Yes, Professor," Harry flashed a grin at Sirius.
"As you probably have noticed, Harry, Professor Snape has had a minor mishap with one of his experiments," Dumbledore began.
"It was rather hard to miss, Sir," Harry smiled weakly.
"Indeed," Dumbledore's eyes winkled merrily, "there is a rather…ah…significant difference…"
"He's six bloody years old!" Sirius burst out, "so instead of a big greasy git he is now a small greasy git. I am NOT taking him!"
Harry raised an eyebrow. The Headmaster sighed, ignoring Sirius for the moment.
"Fortunately, an antidote is available. Regrettably, the only person holding the patent and capable of brewing it on such short notice is in the United States. Thus it will be a fortnight, perhaps three weeks before it arrives here. Severus will have to stay somewhere safe during that period, and Grimmauld Place is the obvious choice. I know your godfather and yourself were going to spend Christmas together at the house, and I simply ask that you take Severus along with you."
"And I already told you no!" Sirius banged his fist on the table.
"Siri, he is only six years old," Harry pointed out rather unnecessarily, "he is, isn't he, Headmaster?"
"You will find that he is very much a six years old child, Harry, though he has retained some memories of his adult life."
Harry turned to his godfather. "Honestly, Siri, how much trouble can a child be?" he asked.
Sirius was about to snap at his godson when he paused and seemed to think for a moment. Then he sagged back into the chair.
"Oh alright," he practically pouted, "but I don't want the entire Order on my doorstep constantly to interfere with us! I promised Harry a nice, quiet Christmas with me and I don't want that taken away by an endless throng of people who insist on coming over to push unwanted advice down our throats."
"I understand," the blue eyes twinkled merrily, "and I'm sure you will gain a new understanding for Severus in these weeks. Who knows, perhaps you will even grow to enjoy having him around."
"Not bloody likely," Sirius muttered, "but alright. Bring in the brat."
Dumbledore opened the door to his private rooms and a few minutes later, coaxed out a wary looking, small black haired boy.
"Severus, this is Sirius and that is Harry. You will be staying with them until your medicine is ready."
The boy looked at them and turned around. "NO! Noooo, I don't wanna stay with them!"
Dumbledore grabbed a bony shoulder and spun the child back. "Don't be silly, my dear boy. You cannot stay here on your own and I have too much work to do. Sirius, I will give you some money to owl-order him an outfit or two."
"I'm not going, I'm not!" Severus stamped his feet, "you can't MAKE ME!"
"You just watch, you ill-tempered monster," Sirius held the small arm in a strong grip and simply dragged the child into the Floo. "Grimmauld Place," he yelled and disappeared with his charge. Dumbledore looked slightly concerned, but quickly changed to his customary smile when he faced Harry.
"Well, my boy, I hope you will have a delightful holiday," with that, Harry felt himself dismissed to go find Sirius and the small Potions Master. Also taking a fist of floo powder, he relocated himself to Grimmauld Place, where Sirius and Severus were now engaged in a shouting match.
"I'm going to make us some dinner," Harry interrupted the argument, "It will be ready in half an hour. Maybe you should show him where he will sleep, Siri."
Sirius sent one last glare at the boy before he gave a short jerk of his head, indicating he expected the child Snape to follow. Upstairs, he led him to a small room off the hallway. It had a narrow, hard bed.
"Don't expect me to do you any favours just because you are undersized now," he growled, "I expect you to work for your food and stay out of my and Harry's way. Dumbledore made me take you, don't remind me that you are even here if you can help it."
With that, he returned downstairs where Harry had started on a simple dinner of baked potatoes, steak and salad. The table was set for three.
"You don't expect us to eat with that…that…thing, do you Harry?" Sirius shook his head, "I am not going to let his ugly gob ruin my appetite."
"He is a child, he needs to eat," Harry replied.
"Harry, he is SNAPE. He's seven. He's dependant upon us. Now you can get him back for all the misery he caused you."
"Sirius!" Harry looked appalled.
"I'm not saying beating him to a pulp," Sirius reasoned with his godson, "only, let him experience what it is like being on the receiving end for once."
"I think he got plenty of experience being on the receiving end with you and Dad around," Harry retorted, but his voice was hesitant. Sirius noticed and honed in immediately.
"It might do the git some good. We would be doing him a favour. If it makes him nicer to his students, we will be doing generations of young wizards and witches a favour."
Harry shrugged. "All I wanted was a nice quiet Christmas with you – get to know you better."
Sirius slung his arm around his godsons shoulders. "And you will, Harry! I'm not going to let Snivellus take that away from us! Come, lets eat."
"Save him a plate if you must," Sirius said, unconcerned and unwilling to spare the brat another thought, "we're going to have dinner together and play some Wizard's Chess, okay?"
Harry frowned when he entered the kitchen for lunch. Severus was standing on a stool, cleaning the stove. When Harry stepped in, the boy looked up, startled and dropped the bucket of water over the floor.
"Clean it up," Harry shrugged, "Did you peel the potatoes?"
"Yes," Severus pointed to a pot on the counter before grabbing a mop to get to work.
"What happened here?" Sirius asked as he entered the kitchen and nearly slipped on the wet floor, "useless twerp! Can't you do anything right? No food for you today!"
"Don't be ridiculous, Sirius," Harry looked pale but his godfather didn't notice, "it was just an accident."
"Accident my arse. He is a no good lazy git, Harry, who is determined to ruin our holidays. I'll be back when the kitchen is clean and lunch is on the table – for the two of us!"
Harry sighed and started preparing lunch. When Severus had wrestled the heavy bucket to the sink, emptied it and put it away, he called the boy over.
"Here," he shoved a stack of sandwiches in his hands, "go to your room and don't let Sirius see you."
The black eyes locked into his and he was uncomfortably reminded of the Potions Master. "Go away," he shouted, "leave me alone!"
The six years old scurried off towards the attic, cradling the precious food.
"I'm going to spend a few days with Ron at the Burrow," Harry announced over lunch. They had already discussed this long before the Holidays and Sirius nodded.
"Gives me time to decorate and hide your presents," he joked.
Harry smiled. Presents. Decorations. Real holiday.
"I'll probably be back before the weekend," he said, grabbing an overnight bag and heading to the Floo.
Severus grabbed his sore head and reeled from the impact. Sirius pulled him up roughly.
"I told you to get these chores done before dinnertime," he snarled, "can't you do anything right?" he slapped the child around again.
"No food for you again, then," he curled his lip, "get out of my sight." He ignored the longing look the boy cast at the food on the table, but he did catch the trembling lip.
"Going to cry again, Snivellus?" he taunted, as he aimed a kick at the small backside. It connected with considerable force and the boy suppressed a yelp. All he could do was make his way upstairs with all haste and not let the man see his tears.
Sirius eyed the table happily. It was perfect. Tonight Harry would be back from the Weasleys, in fact he was expecting his godson any minute now. Sure enough, moments later the Floo opened and Harry stepped out, tanned and smiling brightly.
"Hi Siri," he greeted his godfather, "Molly and Arthur say hello."
Sirius embraced the boy. "I hope you had a good time and a few Quidditch games," he enthused, "come, I have dinner ready, you must tell me all about it."
After a pleasant dinner, Sirius went to take care of a Boggart that had taken up residence in a cellar closet. Harry started the dishes. The dark-haired boy snuck into the kitchen, quietly helping with the plates.
"Throw that away," Harry instructed, but the boy held on to the plate with a few pathetic leftovers.
"Please?" he begged.
Harry frowned. He knew that look all too well. On impulse, he grabbed a clean plate, put some food from the pans onto it and shoved it into the child's hands.
"Leftovers are for dogs," he said, not knowing Sirius had told the child the same thing on the few occasions he had allowed him a few scraps of food, "Sit and eat this."
Severus dug into the food, shovelling it into his mouth with his bare hands, afraid that it would be taken away from him again. Sure enough, Sirius soon entered the kitchen and glared at the boy.
"Shall we play a game of chess, Harry?" he asked, "you go set up the game, I'll finish this."
As soon as his godson left the kitchen with a slightly wary glance, he pulled the plate away from the boy and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.
"Obnoxious little beast," he shook the boy, "disgusting snake."
He dragged the boy upstairs and shoved him under a cold shower, clothes and all. Then he threw him into his room and locked the door.
"Tomorrow is Christmas. I MAY let you out the day after, if I don't hear a thing from you until then," he threatened.
It would be four days before the boy was let out to do his chores.
By the end of the holidays, Sirius, Harry and the small Potions Master returned to Dumbledore's office where the antidote had finally arrived.
"Ah, hello my boys," he greeted merrily, "It seems you will have to say goodbye already."
He motioned the child closer and handed him a vial. Severus drank it down. His body shimmered and shortly afterwards the adult Snape stood where the child had been. Dark eyes regarded the Headmaster dispassionately, devoid of any emotion.
"That went well," Dumbledore nodded, pleased. "Now, I think you have something to say to Sirius and Harry, don't you, Severus?"
"Go to hell, Black," Severus said, not vindictive or snarling, but calm and without any feeling at all.
"SEVERUS!" Dumbledore thundered.
"He hit me. He starved me," Severus hardly moved.
"Severus! What a horrible thing to say," Dumbledor exclaimed, "apologise immediately."
"He…he abused me," the Potions Master turned to his mentor with a pleading look in his eyes.
"Of course not," Dumbledore shook his head, "Sirius would never do anything to a child. You owe him and Harry your gratitude for sacrificing their holiday for you. A thank you would be appropriate."
The Potions Masters eyes closed off completely. He quietly moved to the office door and went through, presumably to his dungeons.
"I am sorry, Sirius. You know how difficult he can be sometimes," Dumbledore apologised.
Sirius shrugged. "He'll come round."
"I will make sure he does," the old wizard promised.
Harry shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
"I am leaving now," Sirius announced, "Are you coming, Harry? You can take the train back tomorrow with your friends."
"I…no, I think I'll stay here now," Harry replied, "I'm here now anyway."
"That is fine," Dumbledore assured him, "I hope you got to know Sirius a lot better this holiday, Harry."
Harry lowered his eyes to the floor. "I think I did, Sir," he whispered emotionally.
"Well then, you can go to your Tower and Sirius, Remus will stop by Grimmauld Place soon, he told me," the old wizard smiled as the two said goodbye.
Several hours later he was disturbed by a knock to his office door. Harry entered, nervous and clearly upset.
"What is it, my boy?" the Headmaster asked, "lemon drop?"
"No thank you, sir. I wanted…I…I think…I….have to tell you some things," Harry stammered, "about the holidays."
Dumbledore put his quill down. "What about the holidays, Harry?"
"I didn't think at first that it was strange, since the Dursleys did the same to me," Harry said in a hurry, "but I remembered how I used to feel and I think…I didn't want to let Sirius down…"
"Of course not," Dumbledore nodded, "did Sirius do something to worry you?"
"To Professor Snape," Harry whispered, "He never hit him when I was around, but I saw bruises…and he often forgot to feed him, I know. One time he, Snape, was gone for four days…Christmas it was. Sirius said you had collected him to celebrate Christmas here."
Dumbledore had paled significantly. "No, I did not collect Severus," he said clearly, "I gave Sirius money to buy him a present. What else, Harry?"
The boy squirmed uncomfortably. "Sirius called him 'Snivellus' all the time and lots of other names. He always was saying what a good for nothing nuisance he was…and after I came back from the Weasleys I saw bruises on his face often, and he was thinner. I didn't want to believe it…"
The Headmaster rested his head in his hands. "And I wanted to make him thank Sirius…make him apologize…Oh Merlin...I must go check on him…"
With that he got up. Casting a last glance at the distraught boy, he patted a bony shoulder reassuringly. "I know this was difficult for you, Harry. It was a good thing you still did it."
Rushing off the the dungeons, the Headmaster entered the rooms belonging to his Potions Master, only to find a grim looking nurse and a pale Deputy Headmistress in the living room.
"Headmaster," Poppy said, "I did not think you would get my message this fast."
"Message?" Dumbledore repeated, "what message? Is Severus ill?"
Minerva took his hand. "Albus…"
"It was a poison cocktail," the nurse shook her head, "a highly effective one. It took me three hours to more or less stabilize him, but I do not dare move him yet. I had to put a Bezoar under his tongue and inject him with a Bezoar extract and still he needed several antidotes as well. I'm not even sure at this point that he will wake up again…"
The Headmaster stared at her. "Do you mean…Severus…"
"He tried to commit suicide, Albus," Minerva said softly, "I found him when I came by to bring him the staff meeting notes. I immediately called Poppy, but we didn't have time to send you a message until we had stabilized him. I sent a memo a few minutes ago."
"I was already on my way down here," the Headmaster was close to shaking as he approached the bedroom door, "I want to see him…"
The nurse silently nodded and he walked in, gasping at the sight of the pale young man on the bed. A little blood flecked his face. His chest barely rose and fell, and Dumbledore could feel the spells that kept him stabile.
"If you could put him in a Stasis spell, Albus, we would be able to transport him to the infirmary where I have a lot more resources at hand," the nurse quietly checked pulse and temperature, "he did a very thorough job this time," she sighed, "only minutes later…"
"This time?" Dumbledore squeeked.
"He tried this too when he was sixteen," Poppy said matter-of-factly, "after he and the Marauders were caught outside at the full moon. He lived under monitor spells for most of his sixth year because he couldn't be trusted not to try again. I suppose I will have to put them back now…or rather, you will have to, since he has grown far too strong for mine – he would break them even without his wand."
The old wizard carefully rested a hand on the dark, damp hair. "I will put the Stasis spell on him now," he sighed, "lets get the private room ready in the infirmary, Poppy."
Severus wondered why everything hurt so much. Then again, he was probably in hell. Everything was supposed to hurt when you're in hell, right?
He moved a little, trying to get his eyes to open. A hand rested on his forehead and stroked hair from his face – that was strange. He had never heard of the demons of hell being gentle and caring. Huh. Must be a new policy.
Dumbledore took a thin spidery hand in his own. "Come, my boy, wake up. You can do it. That's right, open your eyes all the way."
The Headmaster felt a surge of guilt at the terror in the black eyes when he was recognized, but he smiled encouragingly.
"Good boy. Poppy will be pleased. Nurse Pomfrey!" Dumbledore called into the ward where a few youngsters were recovering from a hexing incident, "He's awake!"
The nurse immediately rushed into the room. "Oh my, you are right! That is wonderful."
She ran a few scans and her face relaxed. "And doing well, too. No, hush, your voice will be hoarse for a while and you should try not to talk too much yet. Do you want a drink?"
A tired nod. The nurse got a glass of juice with some potions added, and Dumbledore carefully helped Severus sit up to drink. A few sips, and sleep overtook him again, but the Potions Master regaining consciousness and being able to understand them heartened the two.
"It will be a long way yet, Albus," Poppy cautioned as she fussed over the younger man, tucking in his blankets and making certain he was comfortable, "I am afraid that he won't be returning to teach and his….other duties…anytime soon."
"His other duties have ended," Dumbledore said firmly, "I will not allow him to perform them any longer. As for teaching, I'll arrange a substitute. Since I bear most of the blame for this, he will stay with me while he recovers."
Poppy frowned, having heard the entire story over the many days they had sat guard over the young wizard together.
"I'm sorry, Albus, for putting it so bluntly, but he is terrified and has no reason to trust you."
"I know," Dumbledore sighed, "I will apologise to him next time he wakes up a little longer. I know this is just the beginning."
The nurse nodded. It would be a long, rocky road, but the Potions Master was alive, that's what mattered.
When Severus woke up again, the Headmaster was sitting next to his bed, nodding uncomfortably in the chair. Confused, he looked around. Why was the old man here?
Oh. Of course. Committing suicide was something the Headmaster undoubtedly frowned upon. He wasn't allowed to make any decisions on his own life after all. If this kept him out of commission for too long, he wouldn't be able to spy and teach. His usefulness had probably already ended, so the Headmaster was here to express his displeasure before sending him to Azkaban.
Dumbledore opened his eyes, not really rested after his short nap, and noticed in surprise that Severus was awake again. The lips still had a bluish tint to them, due to the poison weakening his lungs, and the face showed pure terror.
"Hello, my boy," the Headmaster greeted softly, "are you thirsty?"
No real response was forthcoming, but Dumbledore still carefully lifted the Potions Master in his arm while letting him sip from a glass with the other.
"I am so very sorry, Severus," he whispered into the dark hair, "I should have believed you. I can never make this up to you, but I am going to try."
The body in the circle of his arm trembled a little but Severus still did not react to him. He sighed.
"I'll call Poppy to check you over," he took care not to let his disappointment over this silent treatment show. It would not help Severus any.
The nurse tsk'ed and fussed, but declared Severus was making good progress, health wise.
"And you, Headmaster, are going to bed," she ordered, "You've been here for three days. Naps in a chair do not count as 'rest'! Minerva will be here any minute now."
"You'll call…" the old wizard began.
"Of course. Go to bed, Albus."
Severus watched the exchange. His mind was a bit clearer than last time he woke up, and he didn't miss that the Headmaster had apparently spent days at his side. It was too much for him to dwell on, but the comment stuck in the back of his mind.
As predicted by the nurse, shortly after the Headmaster left, the Transfiguration Professor entered, carrying a book.
"Hello Severus," she leaned over to kiss his forehead, which surprised him. Minerva, while generally pleasant and kind, was not overly demonstrative. She too, did not appear to be angry, which was even more startling.
"M-Minerva," he managed in greeting. His voice barely reached a whisper and he croaked like Longbottom's old toad.
"Right here, Severus, and staying for at least the afternoon," the witch patted his hand as she took the comfy chair Albus had deserted only minutes before, "do you want me to read to you?"
He shook his head, determined to get a few answers. "Albus said…" he managed.
"What did he say?" the witch encouraged him to continue.
"He said…sorry…" Severus eyed his colleague apprehensively.
"He is sorry, Severus. He knows now what Sirius Black did to you," Minerva almost sweated. This would likely be a very difficult conversation, one she was not exactly prepared to have.
"How?" Severus lowered his eyes, "didn't believe me…"
"Harry came forward," the witch explained slowly, keeping her eyes on the pale face for any sign of a bad reaction, "he told the whole story."
"Harry feels very guilty and is very sorry for what happened, Severus," Minerva wondered if she should have mentioned that. Harry's feelings and guilt were her and Albus's problem – definitely not Severus's.
"Potter…not so bad…" Snape's eyes began to close again, his very small energy supply depleted, "gave me food…didn't hit me…"
Minerva picked up the book, one of Severus's favourites that she retrieved from his room, and began to read to him until he was fully asleep and even long after.
"I don't understand, Poppy," she complained later, "he didn't appear angry with Harry, but he won't speak to Albus. He has not mentioned trying to kill himself at all – although I must admit the conversation was brief and he wasn't awake long enough to cover all ground."
"And he won't for a long time," the nurse patiently replied, "as to Mr Potter – compared to Sirius Black Harry was a saint to him. When Harry was around, the worst of the abuse stopped. It is – perhaps not quite Stockholm syndrome, since Harry was part victim, part accomplice, but to Severus he was part of the package, so to speak. He was dependant upon Mr Potter, who at the very least, fed him and protected him from the excesses of Mr Black's abuse. It is very possible that once he recovers a little more, he will begin to grow angry with him."
The nurse paused and frowned. "As to Albus – Severus is terrified of Albus. He is dependant upon Albus also, but Albus has NOT treated him kindly. Right now he is, but Severus is merely waiting for the other shoe to drop, if I read him right. I am no student of psychology, Minerva, but I would say it is entirely possible that Severus is actually incapable of talking to Albus at this point."
They had hired a mind healer, Aidan Lythe, put him under all kinds of oaths, tested him with Veritaserum (at his own suggestion) and Legilimency, interrogated him in a manner that would make Moody proud and finally concluded he was safe.
Since both Harry and Severus would need his services, it was decided Aidan would visit three times a week to speak with them. The Healer was also given all information leading up to the recent crisis as far as they knew them, including the Headmasters actions. The Healer naturally expressed his concern about Severus staying in the Headmasters quarters during his recovery.
"I know it is not ideal," Poppy Pomfrey said, ignoring a glare from Dumbledore, "but he needs to be kept safe not only from himself, but also from outside attacks. We've already seen that St Mungo's is hardly safe."
"And Hogwarts is, Madam Pomfrey, with the children of his enemies walking the halls daily? Forced into being locked in with his greatest tormentor? Forgive me, Headmaster, but this is not the time for mincing words. Severus is not entirely capable of making his own choices right now, but that does not mean he shouldn't be given a choice."
"I want to make it up to him, by taking care of him!" The Headmaster protested.
"This is not about what YOU want or need, Headmaster," the Healer shook his head in frustration, "it is about what Severus needs. You may feel the need to purge yourself of your guilt, but you can walk around with it a little longer. I daresay it will do you some good. I will speak with Severus and present him with the options – does he want to go back to his rooms under monitor spells, stay with you, Headmaster, or come with me to St Mungo's secure ward. I will explain the pros and cons of each option with him and then his wishes will ultimately decide where he will go."
"As for Harry, I plan to speak with him too this afternoon, and I will meet you again at 5 to discuss their treatment."
Aidan returned at five, looking troubled. Minerva and Poppy anxiously awaited what he would say.
"I first spoke with Severus," the Healer began, "I briefly touched his suicide attempt but it is plain what the reasons for that are and we will work through it later. For now, he has elected to, at least temporarily, stay at St Mungo's."
"So these are your options, Severus," the Healer softly explained, "it depends on what you prefer. You can choose to come to St Mungo's first, for example, and return, under monitor charms if I deem it necessary, to your own rooms a little later."
"I am…not safe…anywhere," Severus whispered, defeated, "might as well…sign my death warrant…now. Defenceless…"
"You will not be wandless, Severus." Aidan frowned, "has that happened to you before? You will have your wand, only we will put tracking charms and binders on it so you cannot hurt yourself with it. You will be able to cast offensive spells when needed. To leave you defenceless would be very unwise indeed. If you elect to stay in the Headmasters rooms, you would have your wand also."
Severus snorted. "As if…I would be…allowed."
He was quiet for a bit, thinking. The Healer gave him all the time he needed to come to a decision.
"Minerva…Poppy…allowed to...visit?" he asked. Upon receiving a nod, he continued. "Then…St Mungo's."
"He not only refuses to speak to you, Headmaster, but also about you beyond that brief comment about not being allowed to keep his wand if he were in your care. I will be taking him to St Mungo's when I leave here, Madam Pomfrey. You and Professor McGonagall will be given a pass so you can visit him whenever you wish."
Dumbledore covered his face in his hands, a tear running down his cheek into his beard. The Deputy Headmistress looked over at him with some sorrow in her eyes before turning back to the Healer.
Aidan bit his lip. "I am filing child abuse charges with the Muggle authority, as is my duty. Whether or not I press them against the school as well depends on what you tell me now."
"You cannot," Dumbledore protested, "Harry must return to his relatives."
"Don't be ridiculous," the Healer snapped, "of course he won't be returning. Do you have any idea what they DID? The reason it took Harry so long to see that Severus was being abused by his godfather is that he never knew any better, because that is exactly how his relatives have treated HIM! This is not a discussion, Dumbledore! The only reason I haven't pressed charges against you yet is to give you a chance to explain. Don't even think about Obliviating me," he continued when he saw the tip of a wand, "I am well protected against such spells."
"Albus!" Poppy gasped, "what do you think you are doing?"
"It is for the greater good, Poppy. Mr Potter must return to his family's home to ensure the blood protection remains active."
"If you leave him there, pretty soon he won't have any blood left to protect," the Healer grimly stated, "Harry does not go back. If you cannot ensure his safety here, I will take him to St Mungo's along with Severus. Do not forget you do not have guardianship over the boy. With his Muggle relatives in jail, guardianship will revert to the Ministry – who, at this point in time, are probably none too willing to allow you a say in what happens to Harry, but who certainly won't object to MY claim to guardianship based on the evidence I can give."
He eyed the three seriously. "So what will it be? Will Harry remain here, never to return to his relatives, or do I have to get the Ministry involved?"
He left the office only minutes later with assurances from the witches that Harry would indeed be kept safe.
Severus sat up in bed, surveying his new surroundings. The trip to St Mungo's had been uneventful but tiring.
True to his word, the Healer had returned his wand to him, albeit with the promised restrictions. Even so, it was far better than he could expect at Hogwarts. He was in the secure area of St Mungo's, down in the basement, though spells on the walls gave the impression of windows looking out upon a nice garden. Even fragrances of the various greenery drifted by from time to time.
The room was large, with a bed, a table and chair and a few comfortable chairs arranged around a low coffee table. A specially trained House Elf would bring him his meals and whatever else he needed but knew to keep anything remotely dangerous away from him.
Visitors had to check in with security on the ground floor, then go to the basement using their pass, after that undergo a magical signature check. Only then could they enter the secure wing where a Healer awaited them to make absolutely sure the person belonging to the signature and pass was in fact the person who had just entered.
Healer Lythe had briefly mentioned that if Harry Potter had chosen to, he would have been housed here as well but the boy had preferred to remain at Hogwarts with his friends.
Pushing the thought of the boy aside for the moment, Severus closed his eyes. Safe. If only for a little while, he was finally safe.
Minerva McGonagall went through security before walking briskly into the corridor leading to Severus's room. Sounds of crashing objects reached her ears when she was only barely past the hall doors. Aidan Lythe came towards her from the small kitchen.
"Hello Minerva. I'm not sure this is a good time to visit – he is a tad bit upset."
"I gathered as much," the witch remarked dryly, "what is he demolishing?"
"He is attempting to demolish cups and plates that have been charmed to be unbreakable. I must say he is doing a better job than most – he managed to chip some."
"What brought this about?" the transfigurations professor questioned as they moved towards the room.
"We discussed Albus Dumbledore," the Healer sighed, "I knew that would trigger some very strong reactions…or I hoped it would. I guess I got my wish."
"Albus still insists that Severus would be better off with him in his apartment. He wants to talk to Severus."
"He needs to learn that after what's happened, it is up to Severus to take the initiative," Lythe shrugged, "and Severus is nowhere near ready. Although, I believe, he is nearly ready to meet with Harry."
"Harry? After all that's happened over the holidays?" Minerva raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"Yes, Harry. Severus bears the boy no real ill will beyond the reminder of his father and godfather, which we have been working on. Harry did at least attempt to treat the young Severus decently. Furthermore, it is also in Harry's interest to see Severus sooner rather than later. Harry needs to apologise and explain why he had such a hard time acknowledging the abuse that was going on or he will have no peace from his own guilt. What of Sirius Black, anyway?"
Minerva bit her lip. The question of what to do with the Animagus had kept them busy for a long time. Sirius steadfastly refused to admit that he had abused the boy Severus, stating that he merely tried to educate Snape on how to treat his students. It was Snape's own fault, he had remarked more than once, and he certainly didn't get any more than he deserved. No one was bothered by the feud between them in the past, so there could be no reason to be upset now. Even Remus Lupin, who wanted to believe his friend but unfortunately had too much of a brain to do so, was sometimes baffled with the coldness and obtuseness of his one-time best friend.
Sirius remained locked in Grimmauld Place for the time being. Poppy Pomfrey strongly advocated sending him back to Azkaban and the Kiss, but that was just her overprotective nature speaking. She would not willingly send anyone to those foul creatures. No one could deny, however, that letting Sirius off would destroy Severus and teach Black nothing at all. Albus had tried to argue that the twelve years Sirius spent innocently in Azkaban were payment enough but he had been outvoted. It was tragic that Sirius was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, but that would not excuse him of his wrongdoings from that moment on.
At her silence, the Healer, who had been told the entire story of Sirius as well, cast a side-ways glance at her. "I may have a solution, if you haven't found an answer yet," he offered.
"And that is?"
"You know, of course, that over the centuries England sent many prisoners to Australia," the Healer began, "to do hard labour."
"Yes, of course."
"Well, one of them founded a prison farm for wizard criminals who had been banished instead of sent to Azkaban. Over the centuries it has changed into a prison-slash-rehabilitation camp. It would mean Mr Black will be locked up as he deserves while at the same time getting the help he obviously needs as well."
"Harry would not be able to visit him often, so far away," the witch remarked.
"Harry probably will not visit Sirius for some time to come," the Healer informed her, "Harry has many issues to work through, not the least of which is his feeling that Mr Black has abandoned him – that he always was an afterthought to Sirius's plans of revenge. Harry is very much in need of a stable father-figure, but unfortunately I do not see one in his near future."
"What," Minerva smiled, "not thinking of getting him and Severus together for something like a family unit?"
"Heavens no," the Healer nearly paled, "no, not at all. They neither do well in a position of authority over the other. If they come to regard each other as kindred souls at some point I shall be much pleased. No, Severus does not need responsibility for another, he is in just as much need of a stable father-figure himself."
"Albus would jump at the chance," the Transfigurations Professor muttered.
"Note that I said 'stable' father-figure," the Healer remarked dryly, "not one who will abandon him for Gryffindors – no offence – the moment they come in sight. Headmaster Dumbledore needs to work on his own shortcomings quite a bit before I would feel at ease about leaving Severus anywhere near him."
The witch grimaced. "I know what you mean. Even when Albus admits that he has been wrong, he still manages to make it sound like deep down, he was right nevertheless. It infuriates those of us who manage to see through that ploy, and sends the ones who cannot on a guilt trip. And Severus has been too dependant on him for far too long."
"Too true," the Healer nodded, "I do believe the destruction has ended. Shall we go check?"
Upon entering the room, they found Severus sitting in the corner, his knees drawn up to his chest and his face resting on his arms. Minerva cast a questioning look at the Healer, who nodded encouragingly.
"Severus?" she asked carefully, squatting down before him.
"'M sorry," was the only thing she could make out from the incoherent mumbling.
"What are you sorry about, Severus?" the Healer asked.
"Yelled at you. Angry with A-Albus…"
"You certainly don't have to be sorry about being angry with Albus," Minerva said passionately, "he is without doubt the most infuriating old man I know."
That made the Potions Master look up.
"He was wrong not to believe you, Severus," the witch continued, "we were both wrong in believing the best of the Gryffindors."
"Not your fault," Snape sighed, "you're their Head of House. You're supposed to."
"Not to the point where it blinds me to the suffering of my other students," Minerva retorted, voice full of remorse, "I am sorry, Severus. It is perfectly alright for you to be angry."
She held out her hand to him, and Severus allowed her to help him up. The three of them relocated to the comfy chairs by the coffee table, where the Healer made them all a cup of tea.
"Aidan…" Severus began.
"Oh, hush," the Healer patted his shoulder, "no need to apologise. That's what I'm here for, you know. Letting you get angry."
"Is…is the Headmaster really sorry, like he said?" Severus asked his colleague. Minerva nodded.
"He is. Of course, he is also still stubbornly convinced only he knows best, but he is truly sorry. When you took that poison, I've never seen him so devastated when he realized what he'd done."
Severus sank back into his chair. "I…he wanted to make me thank B-Black," he managed, "after…after…he didn't believe me. It was just like all those years ago and I was trapped. Black just stood there looking like he really wanted me around and that he was oh so disappointed I was so hostile. Albus would make me stay with Black again and again and if I protested or fought it would always be my fault. I – couldn't go on anymore, not like that. It would never be any different, would it? I never mattered to him."
The witch couldn't take it anymore. She rushed to his side and put an arm around his shoulders. Severus turned his head into her robes as tears started. The Healer looked sympathetic, but pleased at the same time.
"It's enough now, Severus," Minerva whispered, "Albus has met his match in the combined force of the people looking out for you now."
"But I want him to care," Severus replied brokenly, "I want to matter to him."
"Of course you do," the Healer said softly, "It is normal that you want that. You are, however, no longer completely dependant upon one person anymore, and your happiness and existence do not have to rely on his approval now. We are going to work hard together to help you understand that, so you can decide for yourself if you want to build a relationship with him. But it will be a relationship based on equality, not fear of going to prison."
A pale, thin and tired-looking Harry Potter sat in Lythe's office in the secure wing, not able to look the Potions Master in the eye.
Said Potions Master was equally unable to come face to face with the boy. Healer Lythe nearly smiled at the similarities, but put on his 'professional face'.
"I am glad you could both make it to this meeting," he started, "I think it will be good for you both. Severus – is there anything you'd like to say to Harry?"
The man bit his lip. "I am not angry with Harry, just…"
"Talk to Harry, Severus," the Healer gently admonished.
"I'm not angry with you," Severus redirected his remark, "I mean, you treated me decently, a good deal kinder than I gave you reason to. I – sort of understand that you didn't want to believe…well."
Harry's eyes had opened wide and he gaped at the older man. "But you should be angry with me! I didn't do anything until it was far too late! I might as well have killed you myself!"
Severus shook his head. "That decision was mine, and mine alone, Potter. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with adults who should have known better."
Harry quickly wiped at a tear that threatened to spill. "I didn't know…I mean, the chores and all…my relatives hit me, they starved me and as long as I can remember I did almost all the chores around the house. I gave you food because I know how being starved feels but I should have done more…but I didn't know any different…I'm sorry."
Now it was Severus's turn to gape. "You were left there even though they abused you?"
"Not anymore, Healer Lythe forced the Headmaster into letting me stay at Hogwarts," Harry cast a grateful glance at the Healer.
"And…and…S-Sirius…I didn't want to believe that he was doing…doing those things to you, because then it would mean that he was just like Uncle Vernon. He betrayed me!" Harry cried angrily, "He never cared for me, he escaped to take revenge on Wormtail and now getting revenge on you was more important than anything else. I'm glad he's far away and I never have to see him again!"
That took Severus by surprise. "What…where is he?" he tentatively asked.
"Mr Black has been sent to a prison farm in Australia," the Healer explained, "a rehabilitation camp, if you wish. He will stay there for at least five years, possibly more. He will not be released until the staff assure us he has reformed."
"Oh." Severus paused. "I – I didn't expect him to be punished for what he did…I am glad. I am sorry, Mr Potter, but I cannot help that I am glad I do not have to face him again."
Minerva wandered into the Order meeting a bit distracted, and half an hour early. She barely noticed the other persons in the room as a cup of coffee materialized before her.
"Minerva? Professor McGonagall?"
She startled and looked up into the dark eyes of Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Oh, I apologise, Kingsley. Can I help you?"
The bald man smiled. "I was just about to ask you the same. You seem preoccupied."
"I am a little," Minerva admitted, "I've been to visit Severus and to get an update on Harry."
"How are they doing?" the Auror asked in concern, "or are you not allowed to say?"
"Not too much. What depresses me is that both of them really are in need of some sort of confidant, someone older that can be a sort of mentor to them. Unfortunately, neither of them have such a person available and both of them have little reason to trust anyone."
Kingsley sighed. "I can see that. Remus Lupin is a good man, but not a strong character. He seems to compensate the aggressiveness of the wolf with his passive attitude in his normal life – he needs guidance, not give it. And he is the only person I could think of that might help Harry. As for Severus…"
"That is even more complex," Minerva nodded. "In Harry's case, Remus is indeed not an option. He would defend Sirius's actions no matter what, which is not something Harry needs right now. Couldn't you have a chat with the lad sometime, Kingsley? I know he once expressed an interest in being an Auror. Perhaps you could talk while you tutor him a bit in Defense at the same time. Merlin knows he needs extra lessons as well with all the attempts at his life, I don't understand why Albus didn't bother to arrange anything for him…"
"Certainly," Kingsley agreed readily, "How about I come in twice a week – say Wednesday and Saturday – for tutoring? I could offer to help him out with that DADA club he set up, too."
"Actually, Hermione seems to have set that up," Minerva grinned, "and she tricked Harry into teaching it. That girl recognizes talent when she sees it. I hope you get along with Harry, Kingsley. He's a good boy but those horrid Dursleys and the constantly changing attitude of the Wizarding World have made sure he has little trust in mankind as a whole."
The wizard pat her shoulder a bit awkwardly. "I will try, Minerva. At the very least I can give him some pointers and keep him occupied. How is Severus doing? Has he recovered from, well…"
"The poisons have gone from his body," Minerva bit her lip. The images of that day when she found Severus, believing him dead, still haunted her. "He will need time to recover, however, both physically and mentally. Albus keeps insisting he would be a suitable guardian for Severus, but oh, Kingsley, you should see it. Severus is so terrified of Albus, and at the same time longs for his approval so much…"
The dark man frowned. "You know, Aberforth, Albus's brother, always struck me as a level-headed man behind the somewhat biting personality. He, of all people, would understand Severus's issues with the Headmaster. It might be worth the effort to find out if he would be interested in visiting. I am afraid," he added apologetically, "that there is no one else I can think of. Mad-Eye isn't exactly a mentor/fatherly type…"
"Oh dear, no," the witch almost laughed out loud at the thought, "can you imagine?"
They shuddered in unison.
Thank you again for what you said when we met. I guess I needed to hear that I am not responsible for everything that happened. I expect at some point you'll still be angry with me – I am angry with me, too. Talking to you helped a great deal though I still feel guilty about not helping you more. I hope you will forgive me one day.
I am finally getting some tutoring. Kingsley says I should ask you sometime about something called Occlumency, since apparently you are an expert in it. What, exactly, is it?
Oh – and Healer Aidan has been telling me (a lot) that what my relatives did to me isn't normal, and it isn't right, and it is not at all my fault. I am not quite sure on that point, but I do know that what Sirius and I did to you was not normal, and not right, and not your fault, and it should never have happened.
Severus looked up in surprise when his Healer announced a visitor. It was the middle of the day, not a time when either Poppy or Minerva would normally be dropping by. He closed his book, not paying attention to the page – he hadn't really been reading anyway. His conversation with Harry left him a bit drained, though he had to admit the boy so far had surprised him. First by not abusing him along with his infernal godfather, then by admitting how wrong the treatment he suffered had been. However, the visitor was unlikely to be Harry, as it was a weekday and the boy was undoubtedly in class.
For a moment he panicked when he saw glasses and piercing blue eyes, but Aidan was beside him already, patting his shoulder.
"Easy, Severus. Take a better look."
The old man stepped a little closer. "I am not my brother, boy. I'm the one that is usually called to clean up my brother's messes after him. Aberforth Dumbledore. A pleasure."
Severus did not reach for the extended hand but continued to regard the man with a large amount of distrust. "Did the Headmaster send you?" Half hopeful, half terrified. Aidan was reminded once again how fragile his patient was when it came to this point.
"Matter of fact, Minnie dropped by the pub," Aberforth obviously took no offence at the refusal and sat down calmly in one of the chairs, "Told me what happened. Figured I might be willing to pay you a visit – said you don't get too many visitors and could use the distraction."
"That's why she sends the Headmaster's brother," Severus replied with something of his old biting sarcasm, "as a distraction."
"Well, that's not her only motive of course, but one of them," Aberforth allowed, not at all flustered, "apparently she thinks that since I know Albus best, you'd feel more comfortable with me than with someone hero-worshipping him."
The old man picked up the book Snape had been reading. "Ah, good one, that. You don't strike me as the Jane Austen type, though."
"Minerva left it here," Snape explained, and then blurted out, "Albus said you can't read!"
Uncaring, Aberforth leafed through the pages. "Yes I know, Albus enjoys making me look stupid to people. It's a good tactic, you know. Since I know him best and have the most dirt on him, making me look silly and untrustworthy is a good way to keep people from believing me. Is he still suggesting I do unsanitary things to goats, too?"
"He mentions illegal enchantments once in a while," Snape slowly sat down in a chair as well. The Healer, reassured that nothing violent would occur, retreated to his office where he could work. Monitor spells would alert him if anything went wrong.
"Can't say I haven't done my share of shady deals," Aberforth shrugged, "but honestly, what would I be charming goats for? And how would I have finished Hogwarts if I weren't able to read and write? No, boy, I may have been a wild child but it's been a century and a half, almost, since I was a small lad. Not to mention most of my shady deals were for the benefit of the Order."
Severus relaxed marginally, sitting back in his chair instead of remaining on the edge of it. "I am not…not sure what to feel…about the Headmaster."
Aberforth smiled wryly. "Me neither, boy, and I've had considerably longer to try and figure it out. A hundred and forty years ago since I broke his nose…"
"YOU broke his nose?" Severus gawked, "We always assume it happened while he was fighting Grindelwald, or something….something…"
"Heroic?" Aberforth supplied helpfully, "of course he would not correct the impression. Truth is I broke his nose in a fit of well-justified rage. That is probably where the pattern started, you know. People didn't know why, and only saw poor brave Albus not even lifting a finger to defend himself against his insane wild brother. I think you know that feeling."
"Insane, bitter Severus tearing into poor innocent Black," the younger man whispered, "yes, I know. At least he couldn't send YOU to Azkaban for acting up, Mr Dumbledore."
"Ugh," Aberforth grimaced, "leave off with the Mr Dumbledore. Abe is fine. No, he couldn't send me to prison, but he built his reputation at the cost of mine. Or did you think tending bar in a shady pub was a lifelong ambition of mine ever since I started Hogwarts?"
Severus looked away. "I still want him to care, and acknowledge that I tried…"
"Of course you do," Abe replied, his eyes softening, "after all these decades, I still dream of that too. We may accomplish it yet, but Albus is far too fickle and manipulative to trust with our well-being, lad. The best way to build a relationship with my brother is when there is nothing at stake. When you don't need him for any kind of support, but want to build a relationship purely for the sake of the relationship. Then, if it doesn't work out, you can simply back away without going to pieces. You are not at that point yet, Sev…mind if I call you that? I was never one for long names."
Snape looked away.
"Now, enough of the seriousness," Aberforth cheerfully announced, "I brought a couple of butterbeers and the Daily Prophet crossword that I never am able to finish. Minerva tells me you're the best person to ask."
Within minutes, one grey and one dark head were bent over the scrap of paper, oblivious to the obviously pleased Healer that walked by the room from time to time.
Occlumency is the art of closing one's mind against intrusion. Auror Shacklebolt ( I assumed it is him you referred to when you mentioned 'Kingsley') is quite right that it could be a useful skill for you to learn. It does require patience and practice. There is a book in Hogwarts Restricted Section (I am certain that when you show her this letter, Professor McGonagall will write you a pass) that will help you on your way.
I shall undoubtedly at some point experience anger and you are all too aware that I am quite capable of expressing it towards you. The fact remains that despite the abuse, you treated me at least halfway decent, and given your background it is not surprising that you did not interfere sooner.
Do make the most of your tutoring – Auror Shacklebolt is apparently using his free time to train you. Make it worth his while. Your mother was quite the strong witch – you must have inherited more from her than just your eyes. Now is the time to prove it.