A/N: I've always wondered if James could have ever shown compassion towards Severus. This oneshot is my answer. I don't own Harry Potter and never will. Enjoy~
"Hurry up now. Yeh all are movin' slower den a pack o' slugs."
The group of Slytherin sixth years glared up at the giant oaf as he continued plugging his way down the narrow winding path through the trees. It was a strangely cloudless night, and a chilly breeze whipped at furiously at the pale-faced students as though it were trying to worsen their punishment. It was bad enough that they were stuck with Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper who spoke in crude, broken English, but his presence was nothing compared to the torture of hiking through the snow-covered Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night.
None of them understood why Dumbledore had sent them on this pointless mission, and all but one of them thought that those Hufflepuffs deserved what they got, so receiving punishment for their actions was absurd.
As he looked up and saw the full moon's light filtering through the increasingly dense thicket of trees, Severus Snape exhaled slowly. He could see his breath. Up ahead of him, he saw his three friends shivering as they followed in the giant's footsteps through the snow. They had been out here for forty five minutes already, but according to Dumbledore, they would be serving detention for at least two full hours.
It wasn't his fault they had gotten into this mess. If they had only cleaned up their mess, they might have been sitting around a warm fireplace right now, drinking cocoa.
Down the path, he saw Walden and Alecto whispering furiously to each other just behind Hagrid, and Evan was moodily trudging onward just in front of Severus.
For some unknown reason, they suddenly stopped walking. Hagrid didn't notice this, instead he continued marching along, oblivious to anything that was occurring behind him.
Evan opened his mouth to speak, but Alecto immediately shushed him and motioned for the boys to follow her off the trail. Walden wasn't exactly thrilled about getting lost, but followed behind Severus as they ran through the trees, trying to get as far as they could from the gamekeeper.
"What are you doing?" Severus hissed once they were out of earshot.
"Getting out of detention, that's what," Alecto said with a cruel sort of gleefulness twinkling in her eyes.
"Well that's rather stupid of you," Severus called after them as they resumed walking. "He's obviously going to look for us once he notices we're gone."
Not watching where he was going, he stepped on a branch, which loudly snapped in two under his foot. Alecto muffled a shriek and settled for glaring murderously at him instead. The foursome waited several seconds to see if someone had heard them, but the only noise they could hear was each other's ragged breathing.
"We'll take care of the oaf," Walden said grimly, pulling out his wand. Alecto and Evan did the same, then waited for Severus to follow. He simply stared at his friends, hoping that 'take care of' didn't mean what he thought they meant.
"We—we only have an— an hour left," Severus said, his teeth chattering from the cold. "Can't we just use a warming charm and get it over with?"
Alecto grinned maliciously. "Aww, we're not afraid of the cold are we boys?" Evan and Walden shook their heads, but continued shivering violently nonetheless. "I think ickle Sevvykins is scared of taking on the great bumbling fool."
"I am not a coward," Severus spat as he pulled out his own wand and held it level to Alecto's face. Instead of backing away, she laughed.
"Feeling brave, Snape? Alright then, you take out the giant."
Severus licked his blistering lips and continued staring at the girl, unwilling to give into her. But attacking Hagrid? The Hufflepuffs had been easy, but somehow he didn't think confronting a half giant would be nearly as effortless. And the punishment for attacking a school staff member would be severe. Was it worth swallowing his pride and saying he wouldn't do it?
Alecto seemed to have figured it out for herself. The laughter on her faced vanished and she raised her wand to Severus' face. "Well?"
"Well then. That settles it. If you wish to be a traitor then fine…"
Severus had been so busy watching Alecto that he hadn't even prepared himself for Evan's assault. He knew they were tired of serving detentions, but he didn't know that they had privately agreed to attack him if he refused to go along with their plan.
Severus flew backwards and would have continued on if he hadn't struck a tree. It was a harsh blow that cracked a few bones in his back, but he forced his mind to ignore the searing pain shooting down his spine and got to his feet, preparing for another curse.
Walden crumpled to the ground before aiming a single curse at him, leaving just Evan and Alecto on the battlefield against Severus. He was considerably more talented than the other two, even when they were fighting together, but the throbbing pain in his back prevented him from dodging their curses.
Severus normally didn't go against his friends like this. He was usually fine with going along with whatever they were doing, but the last time he went along with assaulting a staff member he had almost been expelled. Luckily, Mulciber's attempt at Imperiusing Madam Pomfrey had failed, and Severus, whose participation was minimal, had been released with a strict warning. He didn't want to risk expulsion after that.
Both spells hit Severus at the same time. His wand went flying over his head, landing somewhere in the snow, and his body was now completely bound together by thick ropes. Screeching manically, Alecto ran over and, with Evan's help, dragged Severus over to a tree, where they tied him to the trunk to prevent him from escaping.
"There you go, nice and snug," Alecto said as they stood back observed their handiwork. Severus' right leg throbbed painfully under the ropes, and he felt a steady flow of warm blood trickling down into his frozen socks.
"Enjoy the fresh air Snape," Evan jeered at him as he and Alecto pulled Walden up from the ground and walked away. Severus stared after their faint figures as they made their way through the trees until he could no longer see them. Suddenly he realized that he was all alone.
It was a horrible feeling, to be injured and trapped and unable to do anything. He yelled out for help, but after several minutes of straining his ears for some sign of a rescuer, he gave up.
Thrashing around in his restraints didn't help either; that only made his back ache more. He let his head bob down to calculate the damage inflicted on his leg: it had already bled through the white rope and was swelling up like a balloon. After some effort, one hand managed to slip through the rope, but he could not get his entire arm free, so it lay there, useless.
"Hagrid!" he yelled out in desperation. His voice echoed spookily amongst the trees, but was unheard by anyone but himself.
Trying to keep his mind off of the bitter cold and his aching leg, Severus surveyed his surroundings. There was nothing but rotting trees and yellowing snow as far as he could see. And shadows. Lots of menacing shadows. This was the Forbidden Forest, after all. His shoulders slumped wretchedly as his eyes landed on a familiar-looking stick that was poking out of the snow just four feet in front of him. It was his wand. So close, yet so far.
He cursed freely and loudly; it wasn't like anyone could hear him anyway. He fought a bit more, but the ropes tightened their strangling hold on him, rather than loosening.
All was quiet for several moments. There was the occasional owl hooting in the distance, but aside from that and his own breathing, the silence was deafening. His friends were long gone by now, and he had to be at least a quarter mile or so from the outskirts of this hellish nightmare of a place. He could only hope that someone would notice his absence and set up a search party for him. Given his popularity, however, that didn't seem likely.
All of a sudden, Severus heard a soft rumbling that sounded an awful lot like a running animal. He strained his ears for more, praying that it wasn't just the sound of him slowly going mad. Sure enough, something huge and furry ran right past him a moment later, its figure obscured by the trees. It howled as it went along, making the hair on the back of Severus' neck prickle uncomfortably. He sincerely hoped the thing wouldn't see him or smell him; the last thing he needed right now was to be mauled to death by some forest monster.
At least it would be quicker than starving to death out here, Severus thought glumly.
Out of nowhere, an enormous stag leaped out of the grove of trees from the direction the other animal had come from. Startled, Severus inhaled sharply as it ran past him. It continued cantering across the clearing until it too, was out of sight. Severus sighed. Apparently it hadn't noticed him either.
It was going to be a long night.
James Potter nearly toppled over himself in an effort to slow down. Was his mind playing tricks on him or did he actually see what he thought he saw?
Once his legs were functioning properly again, he turned around and immediately sped back to the clearing in which he had come from. Moony, Padfoot, and Wormtail were already ahead of him; he could always catch up later. In the meantime, he needed to go back to that tree and make sure he wasn't just dreaming.
It didn't occur to him to transform back. He didn't have a wand with him, and he always felt safer like this in the middle of the Forbidden Forest. Especially with Moony running around.
He watched from a small clearing in the trees and saw that his eyes had not deceived him: there, tied snugly to a tree, was Snivellus. How he had ended up like that or why he was out here so late at night, James didn't know, but this was too good to ignore. It was a dream come true for him, James only wished that he had been the one to tie that greasy git to a tree.
Figuring he had nothing to lose and everything to gain by witnessing Snape's impossible struggle, James ventured out of the trees until he was in plain sight. The git quit his thrashing at once and stared at him. He looked so pathetic that James could have laughed until he wet himself. Instead, he merely snorted. Oh, if only he had a camera…and hands to operate it, of course.
Snape continued staring at him, both in shock and hopeless marvel. James wondered what that expression might have been if he had looked like his usual self. If the dangerous possibility of exposing the Marauders' little secret hadn't been a factor, he would have transformed before going out to meet Snape. But even the happy thought of Snivellus pleading to him for help couldn't convince him to betray his friends like that.
After several long moments of silence, Snape broke their staring contest. "Get out of here," he growled at James, thinking he was just a useless deer that had wandered into this realm of the forest.
James snorted. The temptation to transform and verbally revel in Snape's helplessness was growing stronger every minute. His friends were so far away by now that he didn't even hear Moony's howls anymore. He didn't care. Seeing Snape like this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Severus continued watching the stag, wondering why it wouldn't leave him alone. He tried shooing it away with his one free hand, but the thing barely flinched at this movement. Deer weren't part of the Care of Magical Creatures curriculum, but even with this lack of knowledge, Severus was fairly certain that they were supposed to be fearful animals.
"Go away!" he shouted at the deer. He suffered through enough mockery as it was, courtesy of Potter and his friends; couldn't animals at least leave him be?
At last, he realized the stag wasn't leaving any time soon. Perhaps ignoring it was the way to go.
His leg was vigorously pumping out blood in epic proportions; Severus wondered how he was still alive after so much blood loss. It seemed possible that the ropes were working as a tourniquet, but he knew if he didn't get help soon, he was doomed.
"I'm going to kill Alecto," he muttered furiously under his breath as he tried once more to free the rest of his arm. This latest attempt failed just as the others before had. Not surprising, really.
The deer snorted again.
Severus looked up at it. Its gentle eyes were slightly wider than they had been earlier, but it still hadn't changed its position. He almost thought that the animal was actually someone's helpful Patronus, here to rescue him, but then why wasn't it silver and transparent? This animal looked brown and thoroughly solid.
It was maddening.
Severus' head was throbbing from trying to ignore so much pain, and the overly-friendly deer wasn't helping his headache. If only he could get his wand and put himself out of his misery, at least temporarily…
Curiously, the stag finally lay down. It continued watching Severus, but it did not come any closer to him.
"I'll bet you're enjoying this," Severus spat, feeling nothing but spite for the free animal as he sagged here like a cat caught in the clutches of its overbearing owner. Severus' eyebrow rose as the deer cocked its head.
Can it possibly understand a word I'm saying? he pondered deliriously.
"You're like Potter and his lot," Snape continued, channelling the rage he felt toward whoever had attacked him into his words. He didn't seem to comprehend how strange it was to be talking to an animal. "They love seeing others suffer. It's a sport for them. Potter and Black especially."
Easy with the insults, Snivellus, James thought heatedly as he stamped his foot. He didn't have to stick around and hear Snape going on about how awful he and his friends were; he heard that kind of talk everyday from the git. Here he was, giving the fool a chance to prove he wasn't such an evil bloke after all, and the little bugger was blowing it.
As Snape continued his furious rant, James got to his feet and began walking away. It was about time he went back to his friends, and listening to this future Death Eater's sob stories were hardly interesting.
Just before James was nearly out of sight, he heard Snape calling out to him.
The boy was obviously exhausted, judging by the weakness in his voice. If James left now, nobody would find him. Of course, he could go back to the school and inform the adults of what happened, but how would he explain what he was doing in the middle of the Forbidden Forest in the first place? And everything looked the same around here; would he be able to locate Snape a second time? James seriously doubted this.
What ho? Was that desperation he heard in Snivvykin's voice? Was he actually pleading for him to return?
James grinned inwardly. Perhaps he would go back after all.
Make him beg for it, James mused.
Hearing Snape ask him, James Potter, for help would be golden music to his ears. Of course, the git wouldn't know whom he was speaking to, but that didn't matter to James at the moment.
Snape's face lit up in a way that James was not accustomed to seeing upon his arrival. He had clearly lost a lot of blood, and fallen over the brink into total delirium, to the point where he truly thought a stag could understand him.
He's actually right, James thought as he walked over to where he saw Snape's wand poking out of the snow, and laid down right next to it. He stared back up at the sallow boy's face, pretending he didn't even notice the wand.
"There!" Snape wheezed almost drunkenly. "That—that's my wand."
His freed hand flapped around wildly, motioning to the stick next to James' front right hoof, but he gleefully continued to ignore it. Snape was going to have to work for it.
Severus you're being an idiot…look at yourself, you're talking to a deer, Severus mentally hit himself. Still, there was no one around and he had been stuck for several hours: he needed to get out of here by whatever means possible, even if it meant asking an animal that couldn't even understand a word he was saying for help. He hoped the motioning would prove sufficient.
Suddenly, the deer nosed his wand.
"Yes! Yes, that's it, that's my wand," Severus said, hoping for a miracle. How the deer would know to bring him his wand, he didn't know, but that didn't matter to him right now. "Accio!"
As expected, the wand didn't budge. The deer looked at him once more, and Severus felt a horrendous wave of frustration come over him.
Kicking and cursing, Severus gave his greatest effort yet in escaping. The knots on the rope tightened, but he was so enraged that he continued lashing out against his bindings anyway.
Slow down…think this out; you're a Slytherin, are you not?
Severus stopped for a moment, trying to collect himself. He had been thinking about possible escape methods for hours, and nothing had been successful yet. This unpleasant little reminder brought on a new bout of rage.
Clearly alarmed, the deer got to its feet and backed away, but it did not flee. Severus didn't even notice its movement; he was too busy struggling against his restraints with everything he had left. If he was going to die like this, then at least he wouldn't give up without a fight.
He found it frightening to feel so helpless. All of his power was contained in a wand. A stick. Without it, he was nothing. Even if it was just a few feet away from him, he was completely powerless against his imprisoning ropes.
James cringed as Snape went all out in his efforts to escape. It was a surprisingly pitiful sight, even to him. He wouldn't have really minded if Snape died out here, but without that git around, who would provide the Marauders with such excellent entertainment then? Snape served a purpose after all.
Sighing resignedly, James stepped forward and plucked Snape's wand up from the snow with his teeth. He grimaced, thinking of how much grease was probably imbedded into the wand, but if Snape kept screaming like this, he was going to alert Moony. James did not want to be held responsible for holding Snape hostage here and letting a fully realized werewolf attack him.
There, now will you please shut it? James thought irritably after he shoved Snape's wand into his hand. The boy stared at it in disbelief. James could only imagine what kind of crazy notions were going through his head. What a shocker it would be if he found out it was not just an Animagus, but James Potter…
Are you going to stare at me until morning, or are you going to release yourself? Go on, you little idiot…
As though Snape could read his mind, he muttered "Releashio."
The ropes fell at once, and Snape fell right along with them, unable to keep his balance on his bad leg. James shivered at the sight of the enormous bloody gash in the Slytherin boy's leg; was he going to be able to get himself out of here like that?
Luckily for James, Snape probably thought he was just hallucinating. James remembered an injury he once had, where he too had lost a bucketful of blood. After a while, he began hearing and seeing things until he finally passed out in utter confusion. He certainly hoped Snape wouldn't faint on him.
Snape staggered slightly as he tried maintaining his footing. He was fine until he tried to walk again. He cursed fluently as he stumbled face-first into a pit of shallow snow, and glared up at James, who had snorted in amusement as he fell.
"Damn!" Severus snarled through gritted teeth as he pulled his useless leg in front of him for a quick medical inspection. He nonverbally removed the dried blood, but, to his great dismay, no healing spells for broken bones came to mind. It was very embarrassing for someone who knew so much Dark Magic to know so few healing spells. He tried a nonverbal incantation that he normally used to heal Sectumsempra wounds, but it simply wasn't enough for a gash this deep. He needed Madam Pomfrey.
"I need…help," he informed the deer. It snorted in reply.
Severus slowly pulled himself to his feet and wobbled slightly. This miracle deer had already helped him once, would it be too much to ask for a little more?
He inched his way through the light powder until he was right next to the animal's furry abdomen. It shuffled uncomfortably under his touch, but did not run away.
James tensed as Snape touched his back. God, he was going to need a good long shower after this. His pride was currently screaming at him to get as far away as he could from Snape, but a tiny voice he had never heard before in his mind told him not to. He'd already had his laughs for the night. Snape was in terrible shape, making the aftermaths of James' usual hexes seem mild. He heard Moony howling nearby too; if he didn't get Snape out of here soon, he was going to be Moony-meat.
Alright Snape. If you start snivelling all over me, though, I'll be forced to ditch you.
It was a long, awkward walk. James' pride was badly bruised, but if it kept him and his friends' secret safe, then he supposed it was a reasonably fair trade.
Several times, usually when Snape stumbled and used him to balance himself, James wanted to yell at him. His outbursts only came in the form of a disgruntled grunt, however, so he continued trudging on towards the gamekeeper's hut without a spoken word.
At last, after nearly half an hour of walking, they reached their destination. The lights in the cabin were out, but at least Snape was out of the forest. Snape would wake up Hagrid, who would take him to Madam Pomfrey, and everything would be back to normal. Snape would still loathe the Marauders and vice versa, but James would know who the better person was now. Not that he didn't always know anyway…
When James and Snape made their way over to Hagrid's porch, James shook the weakened boy off of him. Snape, simply unable to retain consciousness, fainted on impact.
For a while, James stared at the boy. He looked so pathetic and useless lying there; quite a change from the evil, Dark Arts-obsessed jerk he knew.
After James ensured that Snape really was out cold, he transformed and pounded on the door. He dove into the bushes just before Hagrid opened the door and watched intently as the half giant immediately picked up the limp Slytherin boy and began running to the castle. In a few minutes, he would be seen by Madam Pomfrey, and James would receive absolutely no thanks for his efforts.
Sighing sourly, James transformed back into a stag and galloped back into the forest. His friends were surely wondering where he had been…
The next morning, the Marauders somehow made it up in time for breakfast. Peter was so tired that he was practically falling asleep into his oatmeal, and Remus was too busy shoving reddened sausages down his throat to notice the strange looks Sirius kept giving James.
James pretended to ignore him, but Sirius was adamant about questioning him.
"Where were you last night?" he hissed at last, unable to control himself any longer. It wasn't like Prongs to skip out on them during full moon, so if he was off doing something more important, then Sirius wanted to know.
James looked up into Sirius' irritated face, then beyond him, to the Slytherin table. As usual, Snape was eating alone. By the looks of it, he had gotten out of the hospital wing just that morning, undoubtedly after a rigorous round of medical attention from Pomfrey.
Just before James turned away, Snape looked up, and they briefly made eye contact. He scowled angrily and James smirked back at him: you don't know anything, Snape.
Turning to Sirius, his lips softened into a lopsided grin. "Sorry mate. You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you."
A/N: Please let me know what you think. Thanks :)