Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter books, and I make no money of this story or any other fanfiction I have or will write.
The Dark Lord's return caused many things to change. One of these was, of course, Snape's spying duties. Surprisingly, Snape did not feel too bad about going back to the crazy man with an unhealthy interest in Potter.
For the past fourteen years, he had been unhappily teaching children who nearly peed their pants at the sight of him. It was about damn time something happened in his miserable life besides grading papers.
"I'm sorry, Severus, but we both suspected his return could not be postponed long," Dumbledore had said after the Dark Lord's return. "You knew your freedom wouldn't last long. If it was in my power, I would do anything to keep you away from him, but we need you and your skill."
Snape had nodded. Yes, he would play an important part in the war to come. Even if being the Order's spy meant constant alertness, and regular nightmares, at least he was needed.
A soft snort came from the dreary hallway. His thoughts sounded like they were from some sentimental Hufflepuff, or worse--a Gryffindor.
One thing remained the same through these hectic and worrying times: Snape still stalked the halls of Hogwarts. Some large clock in a classroom he was passing rang twice. It was officially two in the morning.
To anyone without experience, it seemed unlikely that any student would be awake during the early hours of the morning.
With tests and teachers to put up with during the day, and most of them being teenagers, the students knew sleep was vital to their daily lives--and to their survival should the Potions Professor find some fool asleep in his class.
The names the students called Snape, at least the ones he knew of, did not perturb him.
In fact, he would have loved to hear any student mock him; the possibilities for detention were endless. The dungeon floor did look grimy of late, and everyone knew that the only way to get in between the crevices was with a toothbrush.
Snape's eyebrow twitched with grim amusement.
He was the nasty old Potions Professor who was despised by many, but for reasons he was proud of.
Sometimes, one had to create fear first to get respect. Fear is nothing more than a perverse form of respect, and while the students did not respect him (except for some Slytherins), most of them feared him, even Potter to some extent.
The unmistakable sound of shoes from the landing below made Snape look down the stairs. With a smirk, he recognized that another student had decided that sleeping was beneath them.
Unsurprisingly, he saw a head of messy hair go around the corner of the hall that went under the stairs. He was momentarily disconcerted to discover that he'd seen a head--but no shoulders to connect it to.
Eyes narrowed in suspicion, Snape cast an invisibility spell on himself and descended. He doubted Potter would run if he saw his dreaded professor, but the spell helped him stay undetected for as long as he liked.
Snape liked to stay unseen and unheard when he spotted students out of bed. Although most of them were just wondering around without reason, others, like Potter, were out to cause chaos.
Even if the trouble was not caused on purpose, as the Headmaster had told Snape several times, 'it's not the boy's fault, Severus.' Snape scowled and went down the last few stairs to the third floor landing.
He rounded the corner; maybe he should put this in a Pensieve to let the man see how his sweet little boy really acted around school when he thought no one could see him….
Potter was gone.
Blinking in irritation and suspicion, Snape went quietly up the hall. Sconces lined the hall and the candles they held barely lit the path. Potter was nowhere in sight. Snape had suspected before that the boy had some way of staying undetectable. He clenched his wand. If he could find Potter, he could prove that the boy had that damn Invisibility Cloak and get it confiscated. Why was the brat out and about anyway? Even Potter had to have some reason, no matter how unimportant it may be.
From the statue of the humpbacked witch came a tapping sound.
Snape stared at it; recognition and triumph glinted in his dark eyes. He knew Potter had some secret about the statue. It seemed he was going to get some questions answered.
"Dissendium," Potter's voice said in a hiss.
A ratty trainer came into view as the boy pushed the hump of the witch aside. Snape crossed his arms over his chest and watched as Potter climbed into the passage.
Wanting to know more, but aware that Potter might hear him should he try to open the statue once Potter closed it, Snape crept closer. Without looking back, he swept inside the tunnel he had not known existed.
Potter paused. Snape could still see that horrible shoe peaking out from under the cloak, and then the boy shut the secret entrance.
What Snape really wanted to do was let his invisibility spells collapse and see if he could scare Potter. Instead of that, he followed as Potter took off--an invisibility cloak. Snape pressed his lips together firmly and decided to have a very vocal chat with Dumbledore later.
He was supposed to watch the boy, and yet the headmaster let him roam the school with an invisibility cloak; sometimes he pondered if the man was all there.
Maybe all the sweets had rotted his brain.
The tunnel was very dark until Potter cast Lumos, and even then, Snape had to stay uncomfortably close. The narrow beam of light that shone from the wand's tip only helped Potter a little.
Within the next few minutes, Potter stumbled plenty of times. Snape found this annoying; then he heard the boy sniffle and narrowed his eyes.
He hoped the boy was getting sick from the draft. Because Snape did not know what he'd do with a crying Potter. There were plenty of things to cry about, Snape thought reluctantly.
Diggory dying right in front of his eyes…but that was almost two years ago.
It was Potter's sixth year, winter was upon them and everyone was dreadfully cheerful. Maybe the boy was just catching a cold--or he could be moping in his self-pity, Snape thought to himself.
Apparently, Potter was staying at Hogwarts by himself this year, with a few other students, that was. Dumbledore wanted the boy to stay for reasons Snape detested.
The boy was to take up Occlumency lessons again, and guess who had been chosen to teach Potter; even after said person had cursed up and down, he would never do it again?
That's right, the lovable, adored Potions master himself. Note the sarcasm. Seems Potter has been suffering from nightmares since the return of the Dark Lord.
Snape could tell that was the case before Dumbledore gave him the sob story.
Potter had shadows under his eyes; the green eyes that were always filled with some sort of obvious emotion seemed deadened and no longer glared when they saw Snape. It was disconcerting to say the least.
But, no doubt the dark looks on Potter's face could have been placed there by a well cast glamour.
It was the kind of trick Snape had seen before. The Weasley twins used their talents to make themselves sick and get out of class. James Potter and Sirius Black had cast glamours and once even put their fingers down their own throats to see if it really worked.
Why should Potter's son be any different?
Just then, Potter leant against the wall. His back was still to Snape. The professor could not see his expression--and truly, Snape was not sure he wanted to.
"Nox," Potter spoke softly. The light went out and submerged them both in darkness.
Years of spying had heightened Snape's senses; he knew very well that one could not always count on one's sight. He heard Potter sliding down the wall to a sitting position and imagined the boy had pulled his knees up to his chin.
Whether that was right or not, he was not sure. Snape would not know until he decided to show himself.
The Potions master was becoming puzzled, and chilled since he could not cast a warming charm aloud because it could not be cast silently.
He wanted Potter to get up and lead him wherever this tunnel led, but it seemed the boy was content to just sit there in the cold.
This aggravated Snape; he wanted to shake the boy and tell him to get his arse back inside. And at the same time, he would be happy to seal the tunnel so Potter would be forced to come out where the tunnel led.
They had walked for about five minutes, and Potter was still blissfully ignorant of the fact that he was being watched--or not watched since Snape could not even see his hand in front of him.
For many minutes, Snape just stood and listened. Potter made no noise except the random mutter to himself.
This stupid and seemingly pointless act of sitting in a cold tunnel was getting old.
Then, just when Snape had decided that enough was enough, Potter cast Lumos--and then saw Snape.
It was rather funny, Snape thought, how Potter's eyes widened and how he screamed in alarm. He might even have chuckled at the boy, but the boy was already firing curses at him.
Snape replied by drawing his wand, casting a shield, and firing Petrificus Totalus.
Two spells the boy had managed to cast rebounded. Two hit the rock and the third sent Snape's wand flying when he let go of the shield too quickly.
Potter dodged the Body-Bind Curse expertly and landed on his side when he stumbled on loose stones.
"Idiot," Snape growled at Potter. Potter took a deep breath at realizing he'd tried to curse a professor--or maybe it was a sigh that he had not managed to hit Snape.
Either way, he had some explaining to do.
Then, the stone behind Potter made a crumbling sound where the spells had hit.
Snape barely had time to gasp out, "Move, Potter!" His alarmed tone startled Potter, but the boy was too slow for once and part of the wall fell on him as it collapsed. Snape pulled his cloak in front of his eyes and partially over his head. He warily lowered the cloak when the massive cloud of dust had dissipated slightly.
He could see nothing, stretching out a hand; Snape willed his wand to light up with a powerful call of, "Lumos!"
Nothing happened. Snape closed his eyes briefly. He had to get to Potter. Carefully, with hands low to the ground, Snape made his way to where he saw Potter last. The rocks in his path got larger and Snape took precautions not to trip. Should he fall unconscious due to a rock hitting his temple, they could both be dead before morning. His fingers found a massive quantity of rocks all varying in size. Gritting his teeth and cursing Potter for getting him in this position, Snape carefully started to dig.
Surely if Potter was buried he would be dead…Snape dug faster and ignored the uncomfortable sensations of rocks scraping his skin.
His hand slipped on a rock and it cut a gash into his hand. "Damn it!" Snape cursed loudly as he moved his hand to pull it away--but in the process, he touched something limp and cold.
He rubbed the hand between his, "If you're dead Potter…" Snape trailed off and used he traced back along Potter's arm to find his body. Very soon after, his dirty and cut hands found hair thick with dust.
Breathing a sigh of relief he was glad the boy could not hear, Snape carefully stood.
Now all he had to do was find his wand. Snape changed the direction of his hand and cast Lumos; the sixth time he did this, a faint light appeared.
He pulled the wand out from under some fine gravel and looked it over critically. Clutching the unharmed wand to himself gratefully, Snape turned.
"Accio Harry Potter's wand." The summoned wand flew into Snape's waiting hand.
Turning back to Potter, Snape cast a diagnostic spell on the teen to make sure his spine was not injured.
A cracked rib, broken leg and a large cut on his waist along with several less urgent injuries. Sighing in slight relief that the boy was not dead--yet, Snape pocketed the boy's wand and kneeled.
Having turned Potter over gently, he examined the slice in the material. It gave Snape an idea of the damage underneath.
Potter's glasses were gone and there were scratches on his pallid face. However, what worried Snape was the dark stain spreading across the fabric of the boy's Muggle shirt.
Snape frowned at the unconscious child. Potter found a way to cause trouble even when he was asleep, it was amazing. Amazingly frustrating, he corrected himself.
Lifting the shirt, which was limp with moisture, Snape frowned more fiercely.
There was a lot of blood; which made the wound look more serious than it was, and the bruising that was already showing up around the cut did not help to lessen the way it looked.
Snape took a handkerchief from his pocket and used it to wipe away some of the blood.
His monogrammed handkerchief was now definitely ruined, but he could see what needed to be done.
A muttered cleansing spell had the cut free of blood for the moment. Snape quickly ripped a strip of his cloak off and held it in the wound.
"Wake up Potter," he said. There was no response, not that he expected one.
The boy could have a concussion though. Snape slapped him--maybe a bit harder than was necessary. Nothing immediately happened: hoping the boy would become conscious soon, Snape bent closer to look at the other injuries.
A small groan got Snape's attention from where he had been examining the small stone imbedded in Potter's ankle.
Potter was blinking up at the ceiling.
"About time Potter," Snape said and judged the boy's reaction. The boy's unfocused eyes turned to him.
Snape almost felt sympathy. Potter was in obvious pain.
"Professor Snape?" Potter rasped. His head thudded to the stones dully with no strength to keep it up.
"Unfortunately," Snape said as he removed a few bits of gravel from the boy's bicep.
Potter frowned at the insult but the pain sidetracked him. Trying to sit up proved useless, and it only caused pain as Potter soon realized. He couldn't seem to stop the small whimper when he shifted. Potter moved his arm; it tried to go behind his back and rid himself of an object digging into his back. Snape watched silently as the boy struggled. Then with a muttered oath, he pulled Potter up by his arms. Surprised at the action, Potter stayed still.
Snape returned him to his previous position, after sweeping away the bits of gravel that had obviously been causing Potter discomfort.
"What are you doing here? Why--" Potter stopped and drew in a sharp breath.
Snape wondered if the action came from the murderous expression on his face, or pain. When Potter bit his lip and looked down at his hand clutching his stomach, Snape had an answer.
Slowly Potter took his hand away, only to see that it was covered in blood. The broken rib probably didn't help either.
With a woozy expression on his face, Potter bit his lip.
"I'm here Potter, because you are here where you are not supposed to be, and you are here because you're an idiot," Snape said as he tried to heal the gash on Potter's stomach.
"I'm not an idiot," Potter slurred. Snorting slightly, Snape knelt in front of him, before reaching out and pressing the back of his hand against Potter's forehead. He frowned.
"You're all clammy," Snape mused.
Potter seemed to be barely holding back a snide comment, he said something--or tried to, but the words came out wrong.
Snape reached into his robes. A good Slytherin was always prepared for the worst; he had a pain reliever in one of pockets.
Snape realized something was wrong as his hand wrapped around the vial, it wasn't the same shape as the pain reliever, and it was too cold. Looking at it, Snape saw it was a pain reliever, but one made for light surgery. He had used the regular pain reliever last night after a dose of Crucio when something displeased the Dark Lord. The anesthetic-like potion in his hand would dull pain, but it also made the drinker quite befuddled and talkative.
A few hours with a giggling and verbose Potter--Snape was tempted to just knock the boy unconscious instead.
Then, Potter's back arched off the ground. Snape could see the pain written on his face as he tried to hold in whimpers.
Snape nudged the cork out of the vial. If nothing else, he would have some good blackmail material.
This anesthetic potion caused the taker to become less then lucid. In fact, it was noted by several Healers to be entirely normal for the patient to speak rather freely.
Unsure if he wanted Potter to talk to him without barriers or not, Snape clenched his jaw and lifted the boy's head.
"No," Potter mumbled and turned away.
"You will drink this or I will hit you with it instead, your choice Potter."
With wide eyes, Potter complied. The glass landed on the hard floor as Potter swayed slightly.
"You may begin to feel confused--"
"--I was already confused."
"--but it will pass. Any pain you are in will numb, and if I'm lucky, you'll pass out."
Potter snorted. Then he blinked; the pain must have been diminishing although the foggy look in his eyes did not go away.
With a small sound that sounded rather perplexed, Potter lay down on the floor from where he had been sitting slumped.
Snape watched the boy closely. Truly, he was more so worried about the effect the potion might have on the boy. He was no longer in pain, but Snape could not heal the injuries completely.
He needed his potions--and to finish reading that dust-covered book on healing.
As loath he was to admit it, Pomfrey was right, his healing spells did not go beyond the common cold and paper cut.
The silence lasted ten minutes. Snape closed his eyes and waited. Perhaps Filch had heard the tunnel collapse and was getting help now.
"Potter?" Snape was reluctant to break the silence, but he wanted to keep the boy awake.
Sleeping in such cold temperatures could not be healthy, and the boy didn't need a runny nose on top of everything else.
"Where are we?" Potter said as he gazed around. "I think I knew a minute ago--but it flew out of my mind, like Hedwig--and the answers to that test you assigned."
Perhaps sensing the alarm from the nearest person, Potter rolled his head so he could see Snape.
"And what are you doing here," Potter mused to himself before turning to stare at the ceiling.
"I didn't expect the potion to work so fast--"
"At least that one didn't taste like crap," Potter said boldly.
"I beg your pardon?"
Potter crinkled his nose. "That's not a bad thing, so don't be offended or take points."
Snape crossed his arms as his temper raised its ugly head. "We're in a bloody tunnel Potter, trapped because of you and in danger of suffocating and yet you're worried about house points?"
There was a pause as Potter looked around. "We're in a tunnel!"
Snape bit back a groan and a surge of worry; hopefully it was just a side effect of the potion. "Brilliant deduction, how long did it take you to figure that out?"
"One, two, four, five…" Potter trailed off as his eyebrows crinkled. "Oh Merlin, I can't remember what comes after five."
"That's one of the effects of the potion Potter."
"Not knowing what comes after five?"
"No, you do remember but your head is feeling thick…more so then normal, no doubt. You forgot about three as well."
"Like pea soup," Potter said with an understanding nod. Snape did not grace that with an answer.
"I don't like pea soup," Potter continued oblivious to his professor who was contemplating a short, quick death compared to hours of inconsequential words.
"At least--I don't think I do. Aunt Petunia never let me have it, so I decided it couldn't be good to trick myself into not wanting it. Do you like pea soup Professor?"
"I like quiet children," Snape snapped. Then, after a pause, "And no, I don't like pea soup."
"Good. Even though I could trick myself into thinking pea soup was nasty, I could never trick myself into thinking that onion sandwiches were good. That's what I had to eat a lot of, they stank."
Making a noncommittal sound, Snape positioned his wand on his thigh to shine a low light around them.
"Do you like dogs or cats?" Potter asked, clear out of the blue.
Thinking of Black, Snape scowled in dislike, "Cats." He then blinked, realizing that he was conversing with Potter about animal preferences; among other things.
No matter, the boy probably wouldn't remember anyway--and if he did, well that was why Snape had his wand.
"I like dogs, reminds me of Snuffles," Potter said. "Dudley had a dog; it bit Uncle Vernon when he was screaming at me. I never saw the dog again, but I really did like it."
It was tempting to ask Potter what the man was screaming about. Even though Potter was not a raconteur, Snape found he was intrigued. And since the boy shouldn't remember anything anyway….
"What was he screaming about?" Snape asked unobtrusively. His interest was only because of the boring surroundings, or so he told himself.
"Oh, I snuck out of my cupboard to bring the puppy in with me. He would get away from Dudley at night and come downstairs to me, I'd let him in and he'd keep me warm. Dudley woke up though and started screaming that I was stealing him," Potter frowned.
"Why did you not get a dog rather than an owl?" Snape paused as he remembered that dogs were not allowed at Hogwarts. The cold air must have been meddling with his brain.
"Hagrid got me Hedwig, she's all I need I guess. I saw a puppy. Hagrid sat on it," Potter said solemnly.
"He did what?"
"Yep, it was disfigured anyway, had a pig tail."
The silence and look that came with it would have told an alert person their mentality was under scrutiny. It was a shame that to Potter, Snape only seemed intently interested.
"If I didn't know you were under the potion's influence, I would never allow you to breed," Snape muttered. He said something not coherent about burdening society as he looked away.
"I'm cold, but I wish it would snow," Potter snickered and did not seem to notice Snape's expression. "I could throw a snow ball at you, and if you stayed nice like this I don't think you'd mind too much."
"I assure you, I would mind," Snape said, but a tinge of amusement could be heard.
With a soft grunt, he stood up and crossed the few steps to Potter's side. With a quiet spell, a wool blanket dropped over Potter's shivering form.
"Thank you, this is better," Potter murmured as he tried to drape it around himself. As he tried to wrap the bottom of it around his feet, he frowned.
"I can't sit up," he said in a scared voice.
Sighing, Snape kneeled and tucked the blanket around Potter's immobile body. As he took care of the feet he said, "One word of this and I'll have your tongue Potter."
The temptation to light a small fire almost overwhelmed the fact that smoke could smother them. Snape settled for casting a warming charm on himself, and then with a bit of hesitancy, on Potter.
"You know, when you're not trying to give people rabies, you're not that bad."
The silence that followed this abrupt statement lasted a moment. "Is that your own strange way of giving a compliment Potter? If so, please for my sake and yours, never try it again."
"No silly, it's true."
Sneering at being called silly, Snape looked away but Potter continued with his mad rambling.
"Nobody likes bats--except Nosrepl Aeraton…and I think she's scary," Potter said and he looked around the dark tunnel warily.
Snape was mouthing the girl's name to himself in confusion.
"I wish someone could find us, my toes are falling off, and I've lost seven of my fifteen fingers," Potter said as he waved his digits in the air.
"You're going to hate yourself tomorrow," Snape said in amusement.
"That's Voldemort's job, even though I don't know why--his fault for picking on a baby. Didn't his mama ever tell him to pick on someone his own size?"
Snape was caught between wincing and laughing, "I'll make a not to ask him Potter, in the me--"
"I wish you didn't have to spy for him." The name Voldemort seemed to bring Potter back to being lucid.
"You shouldn't have to do that," Potter said again. "I bet that's why you're so grumpy all the time. With Voldemort being such an arsehole all the time and all."
"Yes," Snape said slowly. "The Dark Lord is a major pain in the arse Potter; I guess you can understand that."
Potter nodded with a scowl on his face, "He just keeps popping up--like acne!"
Snape found himself chuckling and made to stop. "I don't think he would appreciate you comparing him to that…but I have to agree."
Maybe Potter was spurred into doing what he did next by Snape laughing--or maybe the potion had made him mad, but he budged closer and leaned on his professor's shoulder.
Snape stared down at the skinny, dark-headed boy. Well, no one is around to see, he told himself, and he was rather chilled.
Taking part of the blanket, he covered his outstretched legs with it.
"Do you think someone will come soon?" Potter sounded tired.
"A watched cauldron never bubbles."
"My cauldrons never bubble, they just explode…" Potter said with a yawn.
Snape looked down a few minutes later. With the messy head of hair leaning on his shoulder and the slow, even breathing, he realized Potter was asleep.
Probably for the best, no more mindless ramblings--no matter how entertaining or informative they were.
Authors Note: This is an un-betaed piece of work, so if you see any mistakes please point them out so I can correct them. I'm writing fanfiction to improve my writing, I can't do that without constructive criticism! :) This is a response to a fic fest on Potions and Snitches, it won featured story status much to my delight and I'd like to thank anyone who voted for it. Thank you so very much!