Chapter Two: The Water
Severus Snape barely kept a large sigh from becoming a groan as he dipped the oar into the opposite side of the water. Out of the corner of his eye, Severus saw Potter trailing his fingers in the murky green water. He turned to rebuke him only to see that the boy's thin arms were wrapped tightly across his middle. Severus could see that the boy's eyes were wide with fear as he stared at the water.
"What?" the boy surly replied, finally catching his ex-professor's gaze.
Harry sighed at Snape's unexpressive face and clenched his arms even tighter around his waist and drew his knobbly knees closer. Somewhere in his head, something was screaming at Harry not to appear so weak in front of the his hated professor, but the screaming was faint and strained. He took little note of it, consumed by a fierce fear of the unwelcoming water.
Severus looked towards the water where he swore that Potter had dipped his fingers in. Even in death, Potter would forsake the rules. Harry followed Snape's eyes and eyed the water warily. The dark green water was filled with ominous white flecks.
"Do not touch the water," Snape said curtly.
"I wasn't planning on it."
Seeming unfazed to Potter, Severus turned his back to Potter and continued to paddle with the one oar. He quickly lost himself in the repetitive task. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right.
"What was that?" Harry asked, jolting his body away from the edge of the boat.
"Potter! Are you a grown man or twelve?" Snape didn't want to, but he found himself turning back around to face Potter. Potter, who was indeed the skinny boy that he had first seen in the Great Hall, and most definitely not the old man he had expected to pick up. Then again, Severus had noticed this earlier, but it niggled at the back of his mind, as if it meant something extremely important.
"Obviously, Professor," Harry said Severus' old title with a hiss, "I am not an old man. I don't think I'm twelve though," he said, unfolding his arms and staring at them as if he were searching for answers. It made little sense to Severus, then again, Potter had never made much sense to begin with.
"What in the blazes are you doing, Potter?"
"Definitely not twelve," Harry said, more to himself than to Severus. "How much younger?" he muttered.
"You are the most infuriating passenger I've ever had to pick up. And that includes that bumble-headed fool Lockhart."
The boy didn't reply and lifted up the edge of his shirt instead. Severus noticed that the shirt was surprisingly large for his frame and quite ratty. He glimpsed a strange shaped scar on the left side of the boy's stomach before he quickly pulled down his shirt.
"Eleven, then. Definitely eleven." Harry looked up and directly into Snape's eyes. "I thought Dumbledore sent you. Er, like a one-time deal?"
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. Why had Dumbledore sent him? No, wait, it was his job. It had always been his job, ever since he died. He traced the holes on his neck. At least he didn't have to breathe. As if on cue, he took a deep breath. That was not right. Breathing wasn't meant for the dead.
"Who are you?" Potter's shrill voice suddenly demanded. "Where am I? And what is that thunking?"
Severus Snape had not thought that Potter could look any smaller, but he did with his knees now fully clutched to his chest, his fingers interlaced so hard they were whitening, and with his head darting from Snape to the boat to the water and finally down to his feet. His chest rose and fell at an absurd rate.
"Potter!" Severus yelled. "Calm yourself this instant and come to your senses!" Unfortunately for both of them, his yelling had little effect.
"How do you know my name?" Harry demanded.
"Stop playing these games, Potter," Severus said dangerously, gritting his teeth.
Harry looked up and suddenly Severus was brought back years. He had seen that look once before and even then, he hadn't been the recipient. It was from an Occlumency lesson, from a memory of Potter's that he did his utmost to ignore. It was a look of fear and aching, edged with the slightest bit of hope. The boy had given that look to his uncle right as they argued about magic in front of a small cupboard and now the boy was giving him that exact same look.
Something was definitely not right.
Severus opened his mouth.
"I'm sorry!" Potter added on.
Severus shut his mouth with a click. A Potter had just apologized to him. A Potter. A fearful little boy on a boat with a strange scar hidden behind raggedy clothes. A boy who checked his arms to determine his age. Snape looked at the boy without really looking at him, his mind instead running through the past couple hours. Was it hours? Or was it only minutes? Lost in his confusion, it barely registered that the young boy was sticking his hand in the green water, his eyes clenched shut as if he was terrified to look at what he was searching for.
Realizing that the strange man was not actually paying attention to him, Harry's curiosity got the better of him. He looked over at the funny water and got down on his knees and bent over the side. Had Harry ever been on a boat before he would have wondered why the boat didn't lurch with his movements. Since he hadn't, he assumed that the boat would be somewhat similar to a car. He cursed his inability to swim away; the Dursleys had often mentioned drowning him. Even if he could have swum away, Harry couldn't see anywhere to swim to. The only land around them were completely vertical rock cliffs; he would never be able to get onto them and even if he did, he'd have nowhere to go but up. Those were the highest rock cliffs he had ever seen. There was a strange thunking against the boat. It sounded fairly hard and perhaps he could grab it and knock out his strange kidnapper.
The man was a very strange kidnapper. He looked like he was in his late thirties or early forties. He was clothed in a strange black robe and had a very severe face. His skin was pale, almost deathly-looking, and his hair was as black as his own. Ridiculously black. The oddest thing about his kidnapper was that he had two matching holes in his neck. Maybe he was in a dream. The thunking continued and Harry took a deep breath. He glanced over at the kidnapper who sat stock still as if he were trying to remember something very important. Harry bent over the edge of the boat and stuck both hands into the water, searching for the mysterious object. He ignored the oddly shaped white driftwood in search of the larger object. His fingertips brushed against a smooth, partially rounded object. He couldn't quite reach. Edging himself closer to the side of the boat, he bent his waist over the side until his nose nearly touch the water. His fingers hooked into the hole of the object.
The voice shocked him and Harry jumped. The boat that had finally started tipping during Harry's search leaned dangerously sideway and Harry's feet knocked against the edge before he fell in.
The water was green. So very green. Like the strange light he saw whenever he tried to remember his parents' deaths. The white shards bit into him, but he was determined to get that object. He drew in his hand; only three of his fingers fitted into the hole, so he grabbed it with everything he had. Up. He needed to go up. Harry didn't know how to go up. An arm wrapped around his waist. For a moment it seemed familiar. He thrashed against it, but his lungs were clogged with water and he was losing momentum. He needed to hold onto his object. His weapon. He needed it to get out and get away from the kidnapper. He relaxed his body, gripped his weapon, and let his kidnapper pull him up out of the water.
Severus Snape was relieved for a second when the boy stopped fighting him, but it was quickly replaced by worry. No one ever jumped into the damn lake. Leave it to Potter to bend the damn rules. Snape kicked at the water to bring them up and held Potter's head above the water. The boat had drifted away from where the foolish boy had jumped in and now Severus had to swim back to the boat with the brat in tow. Idiot boy, what had he been thinking? The after-effects of the lake would be severely unpleasant for the both of them. Severus looked at the boy's blue lips and hoped that the boy would get the chance to experience the after-effects. Wait. That didn't make sense to Severus. They were both dead. They didn't need to breathe. So why were Potter's lips blue as if he couldn't breathe?
When they reached the boat, Snape climbed in first so he could keep it steady. The boat was charmed to stay steady, but it appeared that once again the normal rules of magic didn't apply to Potter. He lifted Potter's left side in first. For a moment, he looked quite comical with his left side in the boat and right side in the water. He dragged the boy's other leg in and reached across the boy's chest to pull his right arm in. Before he could the boy coughed up the green water and his eyes snapped open. Severus saw the barest hint of a plan in the boy's eyes but before he could react, the boy dragged his arm out of the water and smashed a skull against Severus' head.