A/N: Well, that didn't take too long, now did it? Yes my friends, I have returned with a sequel, and much sooner than even I anticipated!
This is the sequel to The Sleeping Sickness, and so I highly recommend you read that story first if you have not already.
Background: Deceptive Cadence takes place about one month after The Sleeping Sickness ended. Harry and Severus have been getting along fine with their new found respect for each other, and Albus, of course, couldn't be happier about it. Hermione and Ron have been properly filled in, and Snape does not have to act quite as nasty to any of the Golden Trio in Potions class, as Draco's father has undoubtedly filled his son in on Voldemort's newest plan. Severus and Harry have been continuing their Occlumency and DADA lessons, and Harry has been (GASP!) actually improving!
Hats off to my wonderful beta Sindie, as she will be correcting my grammar throughout the story! And she does such an impressive job :-)
Chapter 1: Unfinished Business
The full moon appeared slightly hazy through the thin layer of cloud that covered it. The dim light that it created would have lit up Privet Drive, had there not been an obnoxiously bright street light every twenty feet. The autumn air of the night was crisp, and the cool breeze sent dried leaves somersaulting.
It was All Hallows Eve in Little Whinging, Surrey, and the night was drawing to an end. Only a small amount of children littered the streets, as most had already returned home. Those that remained clutched their candy-filled sacks with joy, eager to get home and eat as much as their mums and dads would allow.
A small girl gasped suddenly, stepping aside as a tall, dark-cloaked man strode purposefully down the sidewalk, almost knocking her over. His face was set in determination and his appearance was quite intimidating, despite the limp in his step. His dark eyes made contact with the girl for only a moment as he continued on his way quickly, causing his black robes to violently billow out from behind him.
"Bumbling little whelp," the man muttered in annoyance.
As he continued to stalk down the street, he grew increasingly irritated with the way each house was a mirror image of the one that preceded it. When he had finally reached number four, he decided that the address truly was the only way he'd ever be able to locate a specific house, as none held any distinguishing features.
He headed up the stone walkway and wasted little time before knocking on the door.
A shrill voice came from inside the house.
"Dudders! Could you get that for Mummy, please?"
A whale of a boy answered the door, his red cheeks covered with smears of chocolate. The boy slowly looked up until his wide eyes made contact with the dark orbs of the intimidating man in the doorway.
"We don't have any more candy; we ran out a while ago," the boy muffled around a mouth full of chocolate.
The dark man carefully looked over the boy with an expression of distaste. His eyes roamed over the rotund belly, flabby arms and chubby cheeks before making eye contact once again.
"Indeed," he replied simply.
The furtive insult went right over the teenager's head as he swallowed his mouthful of sweets. He looked at the man with confusion, and began speaking with a tone of superiority. "Aren't you a little old to be Trick or Treating? What are you supposed to be, anyway?"
The man tapped his lower lip with a slender finger in mock thoughtfulness before looming over the plump boy menacingly.
"Angry," he replied with a scowl. "Why don't you run along now and fetch your parents, Dudley Dursley," he whispered perilously.
The teenager's eyes widened in fear before he quickly turned around and waddled off. "Mum! Dad!"
A smirk of satisfaction spread across the man's lips as he remained in the doorway.
"What's all this about?" A thin woman with a long, horse-like face rounded the corner. She was wiping her hands on a towel as Dudley dragged her down the foyer towards the mystery man. Upon noticing him, the woman stopped in her tracks.
"YOU!" she shrieked.
The man responded by crossing his arms over his chest and looking her up and down hatefully. "What's the matter, Petunia? Angry that you actually have to do some of the housework yourself these days?"
Petunia Dursley ignored the comment, but her face tinged red with anger all the same. "Severus Snape! You-you have no business here!" she bellowed.
Professor Severus Snape, Potions master, glared fiercely at the woman. "Aren't you going to invite me in?"
Petunia's already thin lips pressed into a line. "No! Absolutely not!" she shouted as she began stalking toward the door with intent to slam it shut. When she grabbed hold of the door, however, it seemed to be stuck in place. She tried shutting it several times, using all of her strength to push and pull at it, but it would not budge. Panting, she looked up to see Snape smirking at her.
"I-I want you to-to stop using that freak magic!" Petunia attempted to be demanding, but her obvious fear at what Snape was capable of was showing right through her façade.
Severus snarled angrily at the woman's use of the word "freak", as he had seen it yelled at Harry Potter so many times in the boy's memories.
"The only thing 'freakish' that has happened in this house was the blatant mistreatment of one of my students!"
Petunia paled and began shaking her head. "You-you can't prove anything! We took that good-for-nothing child out of the goodness of our hearts! It's certainly not my fault that his parents had to go and get themselves killed! We've been taking care of my worthless sister's freak child for years, and-"
Petunia stepped back in fear at Snape's dangerous tone and malicious appearance. He looked as though he could snap at any moment.
Severus tilted his head to the side in contemplation, his dark eyes burning with anger. "One thing is for certain, Petunia. You did not inherit the manners that your sister possessed. The filth that is spewing from your mouth is unfathomable! I, fortunately, have a remedy for that."
Snape waved his hand casually, and a look of horror washed over Petunia's features. Coughing and sputtering, she took a step backward as soap bubbles began seeping out of her mouth.
Wide eyed and mouth gaping, it took only a moment for Dudley to run down the hallway, screaming as he went.
Severus stepped inside of the house, leaning over Petunia with a scowl. "Not very pleasant, is it?" he seethed. "If you're wondering how long it will last, I don't have an answer. But when you consider how long Harry Potter has had to endure this punishment wrongfully throughout his unfortunate time under this roof, you'll begin to get an accurate picture of the length of your punishment."
Snape backed away and smirked at the look of terror on Petunia's face. Something told him she would be coughing up soap bubbles for quite some time.
"WHAT THE DEVIL IS GOING ON HERE?"
Snape turned from Petunia to witness the larger-than-life form of Vernon Dursley thumping down the hallway. The obese man paled at the sight of him, before his chubby cheeks turned purple upon noticing his wife's condition.
"Vernon Dursley," Snape's deep voice hissed. "The very reason for my visit…" he trailed off as he began stalking menacingly toward the shorter man.
Vernon stood his ground as Snape drew closer. His arms were crossed over his chest, but his eyes displayed fear at the tall, dark wizard walking toward him. "I demand that you undo whatever freak magic you put on my wife and leave my house!"
Snape's eyes darkened more so at the use of the word "freak" again. He quickened the last few steps between himself and the whale, grabbing Vernon's shirt collar and pushing him up against the wall forcefully. He scowled down at the man as he loomed over him, his wand out in an instant and against the man's throat threateningly.
"I would say 'trick or treat', Dursley, but I'm not giving you the option," he snarled as he poked the tip of his wand even further into the man's double chin.
Vernon trembled underneath the wizard's gaze. The image of a scowling Severus Snape with such intense anger in his eyes, hovering above with his wand pressing into the shorter man's throat was not something to be taken lightly.
"Look, whoever you are! I don't know what you want and I don't care! I want you out of my house!" Vernon's face was turning purple again, and he spat as he shouted, trying to gain some form of control.
Snape inched in closer and began whispering, his voice seething and venomous. "I am Professor Severus Snape; see to it that you address me as such. The boy, your ownnephew, was placed into your care for a reason. I have witnessed the horrors you have committed against him, and I'm here to let you know it will not go unpunished."
Vernon Dursley swallowed nervously, his eyes darting side to side. "Look, ah, Professor Snape, is it? You've taught the boy, right?"
Snape nodded slowly, curious to see how Dursley would try to wiggle his way out of his current predicament.
Vernon nodded as well and leaned in closer as he began talking quietly. "You must know what a troublemaker the boy is. Sometimes it's necessary to discipline with a firm hand; you know what I'm saying?"
The wizard nodded his head in understanding. "Or perhaps a firm belt; am I right, Dursley?" he added as he quirked an eyebrow thoughtfully.
Vernon smiled in response, feeling as though he and the professor were beginning to stand on common ground. "Exactly. I mean, who are we to say what type of punishment is technically right or wrong? If the boy is misbehaving, he needs to be taught a lesson."
Snape felt his blood begin to boil, and he simply could no longer pretend to be civil with the disgusting man in front of him. Grabbing his collar more forcefully, he slammed the man into the wall again. "Harry Potter has done nothing to deserve your brand of discipline. In fact, you should consider yourself very lucky that the boy you locked up was so kind-hearted and loving. The fact that he was so caring and too young to do magic prevented you and your repulsive household from getting what you deserve. I assure you, you will not receive the same treatment from me!"
Vernon wiped his forehead as sweat began to pour. He looked to his wife, but she was still miserably coughing up bubbles. His son Dudley had already run upstairs in cowardice, locking himself in his room.
Snape sneered at the fear on Vernon's face. "What's the matter, Dursley? No one around to help you?" He glared down at the trembling man, feeling no remorse for frightening him in such a way. The bastard deserved so much more. An image of a shivering and injured Harry Potter huddled alone and in darkness underneath the stairs entered his mind then, and he felt his face get hot with anger. "Now you know exactly what it was like for a helpless little boy who was being tortured by his own family! SHOW ME THE CUPBOARD!"
Vernon jumped at the sudden roaring command of the dark-cloaked wizard who still clutched his shirt. He continued to shake, and could not meet the dark, furious eyes of the taller man before him. "I-I… I don't know what you're talk-"
"Don't lie to me," Snape commanded fiercely. "I can guarantee you will regret it."
Vernon found himself more put off by the cold command of the professor's lower tone than by the furious yell he had heard previously. He lifted a shaky finger and pointed underneath the stairs.
Snape turned his head, following the path of the fat finger. He then looked back at Vernon, his eyes blazing. "I know where it is, idiot. Take me to it!"
Nodding dumbly, Vernon began waddling at wand-point toward the infamous "cupboard under the stairs." Snape gave him a malicious look that told Vernon he'd better stay put, before the wizard opened the cupboard and peered inside. Severus' heart ached at what he saw. Despite Harry not occupying the space for a couple of years, it still held small trinkets that proved a child did indeed once inhabit the space. There was a tattered old blanket in the corner, as well as broken pencils and shreds of paper with child-like writing on them. One of the pieces of paper had a childish drawing of Hogwarts castle on it, complete with Dumbledore, McGonagall and even, to his amazement, Professor Snape.
Snape sighed sadly to himself at the sight as he kneeled down. Despite how horrible he was to Harry those first years, the boy had still drawn a picture that included him. It proved that the poor child would have rather been insulted in his classroom than tortured in the blasted house he was forced to call "home."
Snape picked up the picture and shrunk it with his wand. He then carefully placed the drawing into his pocket, before standing and turning to face the nervous man beside him.
"We-we didn't have another bedroom… and I-I didn't have the money-"
"Silence your ramblings, you unbelievable bastard," Snape cut in with malice. "I know, without having to go upstairs, that you indeed have at least one extra bedroom. And what's more, I know that it was loaded to the rim with toys for that spoiled orca who is now cowering in his room!"
Vernon continued to tremble, his hands twitching nervously at his side. "We gave the boy that extra bedroom…" he trailed off.
Snape sighed in frustration. "And how many years did thattake, Dursley? How many years to give a child a room instead of a closet?"
Vernon shrugged in response, and Snape nodded thoughtfully.
"Well, you're about to find out. Get inside," the professor commanded.
Vernon scoffed. "You-you must be joking! I'm not going in there!"
Snape stepped closer to the rotund man, determined to make him lose whatever bravery he felt coming back. "Do I look like an amusing man to you? GET IN."
All signs of Vernon's courage, however small that amount had been, vanished, and the man looked disbelievingly at the wizard. "B-but! I'll never fit in there!"
Snape's head cocked to the side, his lips twisting in anger at the man's refusal. "Well, then perhaps you should have thought of that before you forced an innocent child to dwell under there! Or before you shoved your fourth breakfast doughnut into that fat trap of yours! Either way, you're going inside!"
Snape raised his wand, and Vernon's body was flung inside of the cupboard, the door shutting and locking behind him. Snape stood by the cupboard for a few moments, smirking to himself as Vernon cussed and shouted from the inside.
Snape knocked on the outside of the door, effectively silencing the angry man inside.
"An eye for an eye, Dursley," Snape commented casually.
"You can't keep me in here! I swear I'll get back at you for this! I will not be forced to stay in here! This blasted cupboard isn't fit for a-!"
Dursley cut himself off, and Snape scowled at what went unsaid.
"For a what, Dursley? A dog? Was your nephew a dog, you tactless arse?" Snape cut himself off, taking a deep breath as he resumed standing his full height. He had to gather himself before he was tempted to conjure up poisonous snakes to accompany Vernon Dursley in the closet. When he began talking again, his voice was calmer, and his deep baritone entered through the slotted cupboard door with fury. "Just like your wife, you will suffer for as long as you forced the boy to endure this… discipline, you call it? I imagine you might want to make yourself more comfortable in there."
Snape smirked as Vernon began cussing again, and the wizard headed toward the door. He made eye contact with a still hiccupping Petunia Dursley, who promptly ran into the kitchen to avoid anymore of the intimidating wizard's wrath.
Snape was about to exit the house until another thought occurred to him. Smiling, he waved his wand and muttered an incantation. He waited until he could hear yells of protest from the obese child upstairs before leaving. Once he heard the boy shouting, he knew he had successfully swapped bedrooms, causing Dudley Dursley to be locked inside Harry Potter's very empty, very boring room.
Severus Snape closed the door behind him and relished in the feeling of the cool air washing over his body that was still hot with anger. Breathing in deeply, he began walking down the now deserted Privet Drive.
It was near midnight, and Severus sat comfortably in his armchair with an open book in his lap. He paused his reading to reach for his glass of firewhiskey, taking a long sip of the comforting fluid. He sighed in content as the warm tingle of the alcohol washed over his body. He was just about to continue his reading when the head of Albus Dumbledore appeared in his fireplace.
"Severus, may I have a word with you?"
Snape looked toward the headmaster's face, sensing the seriousness in his tone. "Certainly, Albus," Snape replied serenely.
"In my office, please," Dumbledore added before the image of his head disappeared.
Severus sighed, this time in annoyance, before leaving his seat and Flooing to the headmaster's office. He quickly performed a cleansing spell to remove any leftover soot, and then stood facing Albus' desk with crossed arms.
Dumbledore sat behind his desk and eyed Snape wearily. "Really, my boy, when have I ever asked you to my office and not require that you take a seat?"
Snape nodded his acknowledgement, and did his best to hide his limp as he headed toward the headmaster. Once he was seated, he folded is hands in his lap and gazed back at Albus expectantly.
"Lemon drop?" the headmaster offered casually.
Snape rolled his eyes. "Really, Albus. When have I ever come to your office and accepted you offer of sweets?"
Dumbledore smiled kindly. "Point taken, my dear boy. On to the reason I asked you here, then. Ms. Arabella Figg contacted me a few moments ago," Dumbledore began casually with a twinkle in his eye.
"Oh?" Snape replied innocently.
"Indeed… it seems she was taking a stroll on Privet Drive earlier in the evening. She said she heard a lot of shouting coming from the Dursleys' home."
Snape shrugged his shoulders. "I really don't see how this concerns me, Albus."
Dumbledore leaned forward, fixing the younger wizard before him with a pointed gaze. "Severus, I know what happened this evening, and I can't help but be concerned."
Snape sighed exasperatedly; the innocence game was long over, if it had even happened at all. "There is no cause for concern; I did not harm that insufferable family… too much," he finished with a smirk.
Dumbledore couldn't help but let a small smile of satisfaction cross his features as well, before he turned serious again. "My dear boy, my concern is not for the Dursleys."
Snape understood Dumbledore's meaning, and rolled his eyes at the older wizard's protectiveness. "Albus, I'm fine. I have been teaching for two weeks, and Poppy has told me numerous times that I'm well on my way to a complete recovery."
"But not yet recovered, my boy," Dumbledore added as he peered at Severus over his glasses. "Do not think I haven't noticed you're still limping."
"For Merlin's sake, Albus!" Snape growled. "It is required that I walk on the leg so that it can regain its full strength."
"Mmm hmm…" the headmaster replied thoughtfully. "And the aching in your back? Does that require you to perform complicated spells and to be dashing about Surrey?"
Snape gaped at the older wizard, not even wanting to know how he had found out about the agony that still racked his lower back at times. Snape stood up out of his chair, fixing the wizard before him with a stern gaze. "I swear you are worse than Poppy sometimes." Snape walked back to the fireplace, intent on returning to the comfortable and quiet solitude of his chambers.
"One more thing," Albus called from behind his desk.
Snape turned around, exasperated. "Yes?"
Dumbledore's face was serious again, with a touch of sadness and no sign of twinkling. "How did it feel, Severus?"
Snape breathed in deeply, his soulful eyes revealing sorrow as well. "Not nearly satisfying enough."
Dumbledore nodded solemnly. "I expected as much, my dear boy."
Severus shook his head, his mouth pressed tightly in anger. "I-I almost lost it, Albus. I almost lost control…" the younger wizard trailed off, his face now held an expression of anxiety.
Dumbledore was standing now, and moved quickly to his young wizard's side.
Snape's head was lowered, his long, dark hair blanketing his features. "There was a moment, a fleeting second when I was looking in that cupboard…" Snape raised his head to meet Dumbledore's eyes, a desperate look in his own dark depths. "Albus, the Cruciatus was on the tip of my tongue!"
Dumbledore placed a comforting hand on the wizard's shoulder, his eyes soft. "But you did not, Severus. You never lost control because you never uttered the curse."
Snape nodded his head slowly. "But I wanted to. Merlin help me but I wanted to."
Dumbledore nodded as well, squeezing Snape's shoulder lightly. "I can most definitely imagine how tempted you were, and I do not blame you for having those thoughts."
Snape understood that his mentor was admitting that he too would have been tempted, and it made him feel much better about the situation. Less weak.
Dumbledore breathed in deeply. "Out of curiosity, what did you do?"
Snape shook his head. "Nothing permanent, unfortunately. The punishments I did inflict will wear off within the next twenty-four hours, anyway," he added casually.
Dumbledore eyes widened ever so slightly. "Well, that doesn't sound too bad at all."
Snape smirked, a mischievous glint in his eye. "Yes, but I didn't tell them that."
Dumbledore smiled. "Ah… yes. Very good, my boy. Very good." After a moment's pause, the headmaster added another thought. "Will you tell Harry about your dealings this evening?"
Snape looked hesitant. "I… have not yet decided."
"He was looking for you, after the Halloween feast," Dumbledore added with a twinkle.
Severus sighed deeply. "I suppose it would have to come out sooner or later."
Dumbledore grinned. "Indeed, my boy. There's no point in keeping secrets."
Snape smirked as he met his mentor's eyes suspiciously, wondering just how many secrets Albus Dumbledore kept inside that pointed hat of his.
To be continued…
*I know that in a perfect world, we would have all loved to see Snape hex that family into oblivion. However, keep in mind that we don't want our Severus to do anything that would land him in Azkaban, that's what I was thinking anyway :-) I really hope everyone enjoyed the opening chapter, and thanks to everyone for reading!