Harry's New Home

Author's Note: This is a sequel to "Harry's First Detention" and makes reference to events in that story. If you haven't read it, this story may not make much sense... If you have read the story, then this sequel tells the tale of how Snape fulfilled the tasks Dumbledore assigned him. This story picks up only a few days after "Harry's First Detention". Hope you enjoy!

"So, Severus, you wished to speak with me? About Mr Potter, I believe?" Albus Dumbledore said encouragingly, proffering a dish of lemon drops.

"No, thank you, Headmaster," Snape replied, managing not to roll his eyes at the ubiquitous candy. Really, even with magic, how did the man have a tooth left in his head? Anyone in doubt as to Dumbledore's magical prowess had only to compare his snacking habits with his dentition to confirm his enormous power. "And yes, it is about Potter. You had requested – " ordered "- that I determine the appropriate substitute to those horrendous Muggles whom you considered suitable guardians for the past decade."

Albus sighed. "I doubt I will ever be able to forgive myself. I am only glad that you were able to learn the truth of their abusive behavior so quickly after Harry's arrival here and to convince the boy to speak up."

Snape allowed himself a small smirk. Of course, it wasn't as if it had been due to anything but his own blind luck and the boy's completely misconstruing the situation, but he wasn't about to admit that.

"Clearly you have a special bond with the child," Dumbledore continued approvingly.

Snape lost his smirk. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to think he cared about the brat. This was James Potter's spawn, for Merlin's sake! Already Minerva had contracted some wildly incorrect notion about his relationship with the boy, calling Snape his "protector", of all things. He certainly did not want the Headmaster to fall into the same trap and imagine that he felt anything but loathing for the little creep.

After all, Harry Potter had already been the reason Dumbledore had actually levied a death threat against Severus – and meant it. Snape suppressed a shudder. He could still feel the power of Albus' magic blasting past him as he issued the warning – the only warning Snape was likely to get on the topic. Obviously, his best strategy was to stay as far away from the brat as possible lest he do something stupid. Again.

Snape forced away the surge of guilt that still accompanied the mere memory of the skinny, raven-haired child with the enormous green eyes. It wasn't as if he meant to strike the child – well, yes. In fact he had, but he hadn't meant to strike him so hard – well, actually, at the time he had… But he instantly regretted his actions. Now he was tortured not only by the fact that he had lost control of himself enough to injure a child, but also by his memory that at the time, he had actually wanted to do so.

During all his time as a dedicated Death Eater, he had consoled himself with the thought that unlike many of the others, such as Lucius Malfoy or Voldemort himself, he had never taken pleasure in the torture and killing that accompanied their raids. Even before he lost faith and fled to Dumbledore, he had felt himself superior to the others for not sharing their perverse pleasures. When Dumbledore had saved him from Azkaban and encouraged him to spy on his former Master, he had been able to do so knowing that his attendance at any future Death Eater revels would only serve to strengthen his commitment to the Order of the Phoenix and cement his revulsion for the Dark Lord. How then was he to square that image of himself with the one who deliberately slapped a small boy hard enough to throw him into a wall?

Better not to think about it at all, and much better to avoid the boy in question as much as possible.

"No such bond exists," he said firmly, frowning at Dumbledore. "The boy confided in me because I tricked him. As usual, Gryffindor naïveté proved no match for Slytherin cunning."

"If you say so, my dear boy," the Headmaster's tone made it clear he was humoring the Potion Master.

Snape scowled more fiercely, but Dumbledore just twinkled back. "As I was saying," Snape decided it was better to continue with the task he had come to discharge, rather than get immured in an argument he suspected he would not win, "I am here to discuss where Potter is to be placed."

"Yes?" Albus invited.

"Following extensive research into child psychology, proper child-rearing practices, and best treatments for the victims of child abuse –" Dumbledore briefly closed his eyes, the pain on his face making even Snape feel a twinge of pity "- I have determined that Potter would be best served by a combination of environments. Having no experience with normal families, he requires exposure to typical family life. By immersing himself in a family, he will be able to observe a healthy parent-child dynamic as well as observing how siblings normally interact with each other. While he may have been raised alongside his Muggle cousin, it is clear that their relationship was anything but brotherly. Potter needs to learn about normal sibling rivalry as well as the closeness that – I am told – is possible. This will serve him well later in life, should he have children of his own, as well as assisting him in his interactions with classmates."

"This sounds very reasonable, Severus. Do you have any potential candidates for such a family?"

"Potter has already befriended the latest Weasley, and since the parents were both Order members in the War, I assume they would be all too pleased to foster The Boy Who Lived. What is more, with the size of their litter, an extra child will hardly be noticed." Noticing Dumbledore's frown, Snape lifted a defiant eyebrow. "Besides, the always-impecunious Weasleys could doubtless use the allowance which you had provided to the Muggles. There is no doubt in my mind but that despite their greater need, they would be infinitely more likely to actually use it for things that would benefit Potter as well as the Weasley whelps, rather than, as the Dursleys did, reserving it for the exclusive advantage of that walrus of a son of theirs."

Dumbledore nodded gently. "I quite like your idea, Severus. I have noticed how Ron and Harry have become close friends quite quickly, and I think Ron will benefit from Harry's presence in the family as well. He is a bit too tempting a target for the twins, being without a twin of his own for backup, and while his younger sister might ally with him, Ginny's status as the only Weasley girl in seven generations tends to result in her being protected from the twins' more excessive pranks as well as causing her to overshadow Ron in her own right. I think having an ally his own age might be very good for him."

"I hardly consider the Weasley child's welfare to be an important factor in the decision," Snape objected forbiddingly.

"Yes, Severus, I know," Dumbledore's tone was reproving. "That is why I had to consider it. Harry will hardly experience a harmonious and helpful family experience if his presence negatively impacts members of the family, particularly the one member with whom he is likely to bond most closely."

"I… had not considered the matter in that light," Snape admitted reluctantly. "Perhaps it was my own experience as an only child that made me less attuned to the complexities of inter-Weasley relationships."

"No matter," Dumbledore's beaming smile reappeared. "After all, we are agreed that it will in fact be a good thing for both boys, and I also think that Molly and Arthur are very likely to agree to the arrangement. But I believe you mentioned something about a combination of environments? Does that mean you do not want the Weasleys to be named Harry's guardians?"

Snape shuddered at the thought of consigning anyone – even a Potter – to the exclusive mercies of the redheaded clan. "Hardly, Headmaster. I envision the Weasleys to be a frequent destination for the boy but not, under any circumstance, his guardians. While it is important for Harry to experience normal family life, it is even more imperative that he have a guardian with whom he can develop a close, trusting relationship. Given his history, this will be difficult. He has been told for years now that he is worthless and freakish; he will require guardians who can work to overturn this conditioning. They will have to be dedicated to assisting him in this by focusing on his unique needs. The books make it clear that Potter may not himself know what he needs, let alone be able to request it. For this reason, his guardians will have to be able to give him their undivided attention. The Weasleys can hardly do that."

"Hmm. I see your point. Perhaps some young couple –"

Snape frowned. "Young couples breed, Headmaster. Did I not make myself clear? Potter must be their sole concern; I will not have his guardians distracted with their own mewling brats. Besides, Potter will likely require a firm hand – " Snape colored at Dumbledore's sharp look. "I do not mean that literally, Headmaster," he protested defensively. "I meant simply that even under the best circumstance Potter must be considered a troubled child, and as such he will require his guardians to establish a clear structure for his life with appropriate consequences for misbehavior." Snape cleared his throat. He hadn't come up with a way to say this next bit without sounding all touchy-feely. "They will also be required to provide Potter with something called 'positive reinforcement' which seems to refer to copious amounts of support, encouragement, and reassurance. In short, l-l-love."

Dumbledore's eyes gleamed with amusement, but he merely nodded sagely. "So you think an older couple, with some parenting experience?"

"That would of course be ideal, but we must be careful that they have done a good job in their past child rearing. And of course, the risk of grandchildren requiring attention would then be present. I am given to understand that grandchildren can be even more of a distraction than children. I am also concerned that an older couple might not have the energy to keep up with a small child, let alone understand the current concerns of adolescents."

"Hmmmmm. I do see what you mean."

"Perhaps the most important aspect – beyond the willingness to devote their efforts to Potter's behalf – is an understanding of what the boy has been through. It can be difficult for those with no personal experience of abuse to understand the behavior of survivors. That said, they must not pity the boy or excuse current misbehavior out of a misplaced desire to make up for the excessive discipline of the past. They will require great strength of character to stand up to Potter when he makes the sad puppy dog expressions that those manipulative little creatures employ."

Dumbledore seemed to be fighting back a smile as he politely inquired, "Has Harry tried such tactics with you, Severus?"

"Hardly, Headmaster," Snape retorted. "In fact, you have just proven my point about the need for Potter's guardians to be familiar with abusive situations. Har – Potter has been trained, no doubt brutally, to accept any sort of treatment, no matter how vicious, as his due. In his current condition, he is incapable of trying to weasel out of a justly deserved punishment or even an unfair one, for that matter." He couldn't help but remember how instantly accepting Harry had been when he thought Snape planned to cane him for poor handwriting. He shivered; that was a little too close to some of his own memories of brutal childhood punishments. For some reason, such thoughts had been uncomfortably close to the surface of late.

"However," he resumed, pushing away such uncomfortable reminiscences, "with appropriate treatment, as well as the Weasley spawn's inevitable encouragement and guidance, it is to be hoped that Potter will eventually reach the point where he will attempt such emotional blackmail. His guardians will have to have sufficient strength of character to treat such blatant manipulation with the scorn it deserves and to enforce previously stated consequences."

"I hope you are not suggesting Harry deserves a martinet. Surely compassion and caring should be the order of the day –"

"Headmaster, providing lemon drops and snuggles in the face of misbehavior will hardly give rise to a healthy adult," Snape said impatiently. "Potter must learn what it means to be held accountable for his actions in an appropriate way – not beaten bloody for something his cousin did, but neither excused from all rules because of his own special status.

"And while I know your position on corporal punishment, let me state that if potential guardians wish to use appropriate physical chastisement on the boy, that is hardly grounds for their exclusion. Harry – I mean, Potter – has been ferociously thrashed for alleged misbehavior for so many years that he may not even recognize anything but a swat as an attempted correction. What is more, he needs to learn to distinguish appropriate treatment from inappropriate, and a blanket ban on any and all violence against his person is unlikely to be helpful in the long term. If nothing else, he needs to get out of the habit of curling into a ball to protect his vital organs at the first sign of conflict or – worse – obediently holding still for anyone who wishes to injure him."

"You are suggesting that being struck will teach him not to hold still?" Dumbledore blinked.

"I am suggesting that abused children have often been trained out of resisting punishment. It would be better for Harry to learn to complain, argue, protest, flee, squirm, and howl. I suspect any of the Weasleys will be well able to teach him," Snape added drily. "Once Potter learns that he does not have to hold still for anyone who wishes to beat him, and then realizes that not every smack will break bones, he will prove a much more adept student in the defense against the dark arts. Regardless of You Know Who's current whereabouts and likely return, Potter needs to learn to protect himself, and he is currently terrified to the point of catatonia by any hint of physical punishment. He merely stands there, Albus! I am not trying to excuse my own behavior, but he didn't even try to dodge the blow."

Snape visibly reined in his emotions. Clearing his throat, he continued much more quietly. "This is why the child requires a guardian who will be utterly committed to him. Someone must help the child - er, brat – regain his sense of self-worth. Without it, he will be easy prey for You Know Who, one way or another," he added darkly.

"You do not have to remind me how seductive Voldemort can be for the wounded and unloved, Severus," Dumbledore sighed. "I have failed many people in my long life, but perhaps none so badly as you and Harry."

"Please, Albus, no more self-condemnatory angst," Snape snapped. "We are talking about the Potter brat, not me."

"Mm." Dumbledore pursed his lips thoughtfully.

"Now then, as I was saying, the ideal guardian will not only require a strong character to withstand the blandishments Potter will one day seek to use, but also strength of mind. After all, in his day the brat's father was able to talk virtually the whole of Hogwarts' faculty into believing anything he said. He rescued himself and his little band of terrorists from their just desserts many times over. It is reasonable to assume that, once he is no longer beaten into a submissive state, this latest generation of Potter will prove just as facile with a credible explanation as his father, though I do hope that he never is in the position of arguing on behalf of a would-be murderer.' Snape glared at the older man. "You will recall that the elder Potter's glibness proved equal even to that task – a feat I still am unable to comprehend."

The Headmaster sighed again and reached for a lemon drop. "As I have told you many times before, Severus, it was not James' pleading that caused me to show such leniency to Sirius after his actions against you. If you wish to blame someone for that decision, then the entire responsibility lies with me. I made the decision not to expel Sirius out of a desire to save the only other innocent person in the affair besides yourself: Remus."

Snape snorted in contempt and the Headmaster gave him a sad look. "I know you disagree, my dear boy, but Remus was innocent. To this day, I believe that Sirius never intended to kill you. I am confident that his usual irresponsibility and lack of forethought convinced him that you would merely be frightened witless by Remus' werewolf form, thus preventing you from bothering them any longer and giving him the ability to taunt you about your fear. I am, however, equally confident that without James' intervention, you would have been killed, and even you must admit that Remus Lupin would never have desired that."

"Perhaps not my death," Severus admitted sullenly. "But it's not as if Lupin were much better than the other three either."

"As you say," Dumbledore agreed. "But when James did intervene and save you, then I had to determine whether expelling Sirius was worth Remus' life. For while I know you feel that my refusal to expel him indicated a lack of regard for you, the fact is that had I expelled Sirius, Remus would likely have been killed. If it had merely been a question of whether Sirius deserved to be expelled for putting your life at risk, I would have removed him from school by that evening. But I was well aware that, had I expelled the Black family heir, his parents would have demanded a full explanation. They may have been estranged from their son – though they had not yet disowned him – but they certainly would not have accepted the disgrace of his expulsion without a fight. And that would mean that Remus' situation would have come to light. The Blacks would undoubtedly have demanded not merely his removal from Hogwarts but his prosecution for attempted murder – we both know that the fact that doing so would have devastated Sirius would have been merely another reason for them to have done it. Given the Ministry's view of werewolves, the Black family's influence at the time, and fears about Voldemort's rising power, it was extremely likely that Remus would have been tried and executed, and that – especially because you had not been seriously harmed – was what I was unwilling to permit.

"I am so terribly sorry that you felt I cared more for them than for you, my boy. I can only hope that my actions over the last several years have demonstrated to you how very dear you are to me and how much I care about you."

Snape huffed and looked away, but in truth he rather liked hearing Dumbledore announce his feelings like that. It wasn't as if Snape would ever encourage such maudlin statements by murmuring sappy endearments of his own, but if Dumbledore admitted how he felt while apologizing (again) for one of the few incidents in which Severus was morally blameless, the younger man wasn't about to complain. Even adult survivors of child abuse tend to remain insecure about their own self-worth.

"Enough of this sentimental nonsense," he said loftily, waving one hand in dismissal. He chose to ignore the knowing twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes. "We are getting off the topic at hand. Potter will require someone who is smart enough to avoid whatever blandishments the brat invents. That means they must be someone who will not be swayed by protestations of urgent need or heroic intent – which means his guardian should not be another Gryffindor. Do you agree?"

"Well, Severus, you have certainly provided an excellent argument," Dumbledore replied noncommittally.

"He will already be spending a significant portion of his time with Gryffindors between his House and his time with the Weasleys – Gryffindors all! Potter should have some exposure to other houses and ways of thinking."

"Hm. I do understand your logic, Severus. Who were you thinking, then? A Hufflepuff family perhaps?"

"Albus! Have you not heard a word I've said? There were all too many idiot Hufflepuffs who were dimwitted enough to believe in You Know Who, then too loyal to disavow him even after his insanity became undeniable. You must first and foremost find someone who will pose no threat to the boy. It must be someone who fought against the Dark Lord."

"The war is over –"

"Are you mad? Who knows when the Dark Lord will rise again? And even if he doesn't return during Harry's lifetime, have you forgotten the Longbottoms so easily? Even in You Know Who's absence, he still has loyal followers and the danger to Potter is ever-present! He cannot be placed with anyone who has not proven where their loyalties truly lie."

"Yes, I see your point…"

"Then you must also see that no Hufflepuff will have the strength of character to withstand the boy's first crocodile tear! They will smother the brat with hugs and presents and excuse any misconduct with sad noises about his past life. I will not allow it!"

"Very well, Severus, if you feel that strongly about it. Perhaps a Ravenclaw would be better after all – Lily was quite an adequate student, wasn't she?"

"Albus, are you becoming senile?" Snape snapped angrily. How dare the man insult Lily with such faint praise? "She was one of the brightest in our class, though she never acted like an arrogant know-it-all. She excelled in both Potions and Charms, and she had Minerva eating out of the palm of her hand – quite literally – with her skill in Transfigurations. How could you have forgotten her accomplishments?"

Dumbledore's smile held an element of mischief. "Quite, quite, my boy. Thank you for reminding me. Well, do you not think Harry might have inherited some of that formidable intelligence?"

Snape sneered. "If you are asking whether James Potter's heritage is sufficiently strong to overpower that of Lily Evans', I would not hesitate to say no. The notion that Harry's – I mean, Potter's – only maternal inheritance is the color of his eyes is absurd. I am confident that Lily's influence will in fact overpower that idiot's, and the boy – brat – will resemble his mother a great deal, once his own personality begins to reveal itself."

"I am a bit concerned, then, Severus. We both know that Ravenclaws, for all their fearsome intellect, do tend to be overly influenced by logical arguments. If Harry is able to combine Lily's cleverness with James' persuasiveness, I wonder if there is a Ravenclaw alive who will be able to withstand Harry's arguments."

Snape frowned. He hadn't thought of that. "Well, Headmaster, there must be someone. It isn't as if we can look to Slytherin. There weren't many Slytherins in the Order during the War, and of those few of us, fewer still survived. Other than myself, I can only think of two, and Giles is in Australia while Jean is out of the question for – oh, no. No, no, no. Not on your life!"

"Now, Severus," Albus said easily, "you must admit that you yourself admirably fulfill the criteria you have identified."

"Absolutely not! I am not going to be that brat's guardian! Have you gone mad?"

"Well, if you are so opposed –" Dumbledore sighed.

"I am! And you must be insane to contemplate it. Especially after my actions of the other night, do you imagine Minerva or Poppy would consent to having me named as Potter's guardian?"

"Well, Minerva seems to think –"

"She was clearly hallucinating. I have long believed that menopause did something to Minerva's mind," Snape snarled, too nonplussed by Dumbledore's ridiculous suggestion to consider the wisdom of making such a statement without instantly obliviating all within earshot, including himself.

"Very well," the Headmaster said airily. "Then let us think of who else might be suitable. It will obviously be important to find someone with whom Harry can form an attachment. After his deplorable treatment by the Dursleys, I wonder how difficult that might be."

Severus snorted, highly relieved to have dissuaded the Headmaster from his previous, highly inappropriate line of thought. "I wouldn't worry too much, Albus. After all, the boy has already showed signs of having bonded to me." Too late, he saw the trap.

"No! Wait! I –"

"Well, well, my boy. It does seem as if we keep coming back to the same place, no matter what route we take," Albus beamed. "It would seem to be destined for you –"

"NO." Snape bolted to his feet, looking about wildly as if for an escape route. "This is madness! I am wholly unsuitable!"

"How so?" Dumbledore interrupted genially. He completely ignored Snape's frantic head shaking and panicked pacing. "You are certainly able to give Harry the attention he requires. You have no other family commitments nor plans for any. You have already done extensive research into the proper treatment of such a child. You understand all too well what being the victim of abuse is like. You are also better placed than anyone else to understand the dangers that Harry faces – and will face – from Dark powers. You have sufficient strength of character to withstand any emotional manipulation, and your intellect will certainly demolish any spurious arguments, not to mention nipping overly 'Gryffindorish' tendencies in the bud. I am certain that you will have no difficulty establishing a clear framework of rules and responsibilities, and while I suspect that you may need to work on demonstrating emotional openness and caring, I imagine that Harry will be able to help you in that regard."

"Headmaster, I will not –"

"And your being here at Hogwarts is all the more convenient, as you will be able to provide Harry with support even during the school year. Of course, the strong wards here will keep him safe, even without the blood magic of the Dursleys… Yes, Severus, I think this is quite the best option. After all, whatever else may happen, I know you at least will never attack the child." The "again" was unspoken, as was the threat of what would happen if Dumbledore's faith was misplaced.

Snape swallowed hard. The Headmaster wasn't nearly as dotty as he liked to pretend, nor as oblivious. It was obvious – very, very obvious – that his own protests were going to be ignored, and to continue to fight could potentially lead to another display of Dumbledore's power. Was he prepared to keep remonstrating? When he might, in the end, still lose? Was, in all honesty, likely to do so?

"I can't. Even if I wanted to, I can't. If You Know Who does return and he finds out Potter is my ward, he'll expect me to turn him over immediately. If I don't, he'll know I no longer serve him. I won't be able to function as your spy any more."

"True," Dumbledore agreed blandly, still smiling.

"I am not a nice person, Albus," Snape argued with increasing desperation. "I cannot believe I am the best choice in the entire Wizarding world to deal with an emotionally fragile, abused child."

"Molly Weasley will, I'm sure, be able to provide all the cuddles and hugs Harry could desire. And I suspect you will surprise yourself. In fact, I'm quite counting on it."

At those words, Snape knew his fate was sealed. The whole conversation had been a sham – a way for Dumbledore to get him to agree, more or less, to what Dumbledore was going to make happen no matter what. All the time he thought he was lecturing the old man on what was needed, the infuriating old coot was just nodding and smiling and watching Snape dig himself deeper and deeper. How could he have missed it? He, of all people, should have spotted Dumbledore's manipulation from the start! How could he even call himself a Slytherin after having been played like this? He should replace Sprout as Head of Hufflepuff.

"Now, now, my dear boy, don't be too hard on yourself," Dumbledore soothed, showing that uncanny ability to read the mind of even the foremost Occlumens at Hogwarts. "You know you've always had a bit of a blind spot where Lily is concerned. Now by all means go back to your quarters and sulk about the indignity of it all, but then be sure to go and get the Weasleys' consent. I'd suggest you break the news to Harry this weekend – I know he's been worrying a bit."

Snape was doing a very credible impression of a basilisk, but unfortunately Dumbledore appeared immune, perhaps because of extended exposure to Fawkes. He gently steered the younger, speechless wizard out the door, giving him a pat on the shoulder and a tin of lemon drops. As the door closed upon Snape's outraged expression, the last thing he saw was Dumbledore selecting a sherbet fizz with the unmistakable air of rewarding himself for a job well done.