Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. It belongs to the wonderful author J.K. Rowling.

Summary: A sort of prequel to my fic A Different Future. After Severus Snape's friendship with Lily ends, Nikolas Petrov becomes worried for his housemate and has him spend the summer at the Petrov home. This is what occured during that summer. The beginning is in third person, but after that, it will switch to the first person from Snape's point of view.

This fic is dedicated to reviewer Elspeth25, who wanted to know exactly what occured during the summer Snape spent with the Petrovs that the grandparents briefly explained to Harry/Alex and his adopted twin sister Beth in Chapter 9 of A Different Future. Thank you for inspiring me to write this.

Nikolas Petrov looked on in great concern as Severus Snape stalked off, feeling rather alarmed over what his younger housemate was going through. Severus's mother had died earlier in the year, and now to top it off, his friendship with Gryffindor Lily Evans had just ended. All that Niko could get out of him regarding it was that he had said or done something so awful that Lily refused to forgive him despite repeated apologies. The fact that the Marauders, a group of four Gryffindors that had a strong penchant for mischief, were constantly bullying Severus didn't help matters, even if he did always did his best to defend himself. Well, Remus Lupin didn't take part in the bullying, but James Potter and Sirius Black most certainly did. Peter Pettigrew didn't really take part, either, but he had no problem with egging his friends on.

Niko sighed, wondering if there was anything he could do to help his housemate. Well, at least the school year was almost over and Severus would be able to get away from the Marauders for the summer. However, that thought presented another problem of great concern. Severus had told Niko a few years ago that his father was a Muggle, but hadn't said anything more about the father. Unfortunately, if someone didn't talk about another person, it was usually because they didn't like him or her or he or she had done something that caused them to stop acknowledging the person. That told Niko that Severus didn't get along with his father, and it was entirely possible that neglect or abuse was going on.

With that worrying thought, Niko sought out his twin sister Anastasia and her best friend Sarah Horowitz, who also happened to be his girlfriend. "I don't know what you can do about it," said Ana. "After all, this is our last year at Hogwarts and we're graduating in a week's time."

Sarah nodded. "And we're getting married in August, Niko, and Ana's getting married to Stephan once she completes her Potions mastery and he completes his Defense Mastery."

"Couldn't you talk to Lily and ask her to forgive Severus?" asked Niko. "She's in the same house as you."

Ana sighed. "I already did, and Lily wouldn't listen. She said that after what he said yesterday, and the fact that he's been hanging around with Slytherins that are completely awful to Muggleborns for the past year, she can't be his friend anymore. She can be very stubborn about things, so I gave up trying to convince her."

"Well, I can't just let Severus go home in this state!" cried Niko. "His mother's dead, he just lost his best friend, and that Potter and Black keep bullying him! I caught them hanging him upside down and threatening to remove his pants yesterday! They probably would have if I hadn't put a stop to it. I doubt his father is going to be any help, since Severus never talks about him except for the one time when he told me that his mother was married to a Muggle."

Sarah's lips tightened, understanding what Niko meant. She rarely talked about her parents ever since they had disowned for being a witch and insisting on going to Hogwarts. No doubt Snape's father was also the sort that hated magic, though it probably hadn't started right away, since he had married a witch, after all.

"Well, then don't let Severus go home!" exclaimed Ana. "Just-"

"But he can't just stay at Hogwarts for the summer!" protested Niko. "You need permission from Professor Dumbledore, and Severus isn't about to explain why he wants to stay."

"If you hadn't interrupted me, Nikolas, I was going to say that Severus should go to our house. Our parents won't mind, and I'm sure that they can help him. If he's not sure about it, just add that Mother would likely take him on as an apprentice, since he's brilliant at Potions and you need to apprentice with a Potions master in order to achieve a Potions Mastery."

"Oh," said Niko. "I'll go invite him, as soon as you call Mother via the two-way mirror and ask for permission, Ana."

Ana took the mirror out of her pocket, tapped it with her wand, and said clearly, "Ilsa Petrov." A minute later, the face of Ilsa Petrov appeared in the mirror.

"Oh, hello Ana," said Mrs. Petrov. "How was your Potions N.E.W.T. yesterday? Did you do well?"

"Of course I did well," said Ana with a slight laugh. "You've taught me everything you know about the subject, Mother, and there's always at least one person in each generation of the Petrov and Ivanov families that is brilliant enough at Potions to achieve Mastery in it. Anyway, Niko and I have something to ask you."

"What is it?" asked Mrs. Petrov.

"Could we have one of my housemates spend the entire summer with us?" asked Niko, taking the mirror from his sister. "His name is Severus Snape, he's in fifth year, and things aren't going well for him at the moment. His mother died earlier this year, his best friend, who's in Gryffindor, just ended the friendship over something he'd accidentally said, the Marauders like to bully him, and I don't think his relationship with his father is a good one. Severus never talks about his father, except for the one time about his being a Muggle."

"Oh dear. That's not good at all. At best, Severus will be neglected, and at worst he could be verbally and perhaps physically abused. And with his mother gone, he won't have anyone to properly look after him at his home. Well, he's definitely not going to go back there, if I have anything to say about it. You have my permission to invite him to spend the holidays with us."

"Would you mind having him as your apprentice for the summer also, Mother?" continued Niko. "Severus is really brilliant at Potions and could achieve a Mastery in it if he wants, so long as he fulfills all the requirements. He probably won't be as hesitant to spend the summer with us if he's also going to be your apprentice."

"Of course I'll be happy to take him as my apprentice," responded Mrs. Petrov. "He will be a great help at the apothecary. Not that you aren't a great help, either, Ana, but I can always use some extra help during the summer. Summer and winter are always my busiest times."

"Thanks, Mother!" exclaimed Niko. "I'll talk to you later." He handed the mirror back to Ana and then ran off to find Severus.

I was holed up in my dorm room, wishing that my life was over. Lily Evans, my best friend and the girl I loved, had ended our friendship. Despite my repeated apologies, she refused to forgive me, and now I felt that life wasn't worth living. With my mother gone, there was nobody at home to comfort me, and I didn't have any real friends besides Lily, unless you counted Nikolas Petrov. Niko was always nice to me, and understood what it was like to be bullied, since not all the Slytherins liked the fact that he was Romany, or a Gypsy, not to mention the fact that Gypsies had faced prejudice from Muggles and wizards alike for centuries. Unlike me, however, he had a loving family, including a twin sister, was enaged to a wonderful girl that was his twin's best friend, and still had his best friend, a Ravenclaw named Stephan Romanov.

Unfortunately, Niko was graduating at the end of the school year, which was in a week's time, and with Lily ending our friendship, there was nobody that would be willing to stand up for me against the Marauders. Not that I couldn't hold my own and fight back against Potter and Black, but they always ganged up against me, so I didn't have much of a chance.

A knock on the door startled me. I looked up to see it slowly open to Niko. "Severus, do you mind if I have a word with you?"

I hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "I guess, Niko."

Niko sat down next to me and said, "The school year is going to end in a week. I don't think you really want to go home, what with your mother gone, so I was wondering if you wanted to spend the summer at my house. You could go straight to us and wouldn't have to step foot in your home at all."

"I have a father," I pointed out rather rudely, even though I hated Tobias and was rather scared of him since he liked hitting me whenever he was drunk, which was often.

"But you never talk about him, which leads me to believe that you don't get along with him," Niko pointed out. "Look, will you please just spend the holidays with my family? My mother is a Potions Mistress and owns an apothecary, and she said that she was willing to take you as her apprentice for the summer. One of the requirements of getting a Mastery in Potions is becoming the apprentice of Potions Master or Mistress for at least four months. So you can apprentice with her for this summer and the next one."

The offer was very tempting, as I wouldn't have to face my father at all, and I could fulfill one of the requirements necessary to achieve a Potions Mastery, which was something I had seriously considered getting, along with a Defense Mastery. I also had the feeling that Niko wouldn't take no for an answer, so in the end I accepted his offer. I sent a letter to Tobias notifying him about the apprenticeship, so he wouldn't wonder where I was when I didn't return for the summer. I wasn't surprised to not receive a reply, since I doubted that he would really care about me or what I was doing so long as it didn't inconvenience him in any way.

A week later, the school year ended and I was on the Hogwarts Express, sitting in a compartment with Niko, his twin Ana, his girlfriend Sarah, and his best friend Stephan Romanov. Ana, who had inherited her mother's ability in Potions, spent a great deal of time talking with me on the subject. Stephan, who was working on his Defense Mastery, also spoke to me on the subject of Defense. Sarah told me that her biological parents, who were Jewish, hated magic, and had thrown a fit when she'd gotten her Hogwarts letter. When she had insisted that her magical abilities were a gift from God and that she was going to Hogwarts, they had disowned her. After becoming best friends with Ana in their first year, Sarah had essentially been adopted by the Petrovs and spent all her holidays with them, though she still clung to the Jewish faith. Now that she was engaged to Niko, she would soon be one of the family in truth.

I couldn't help wishing that Tobias had disowned me after I'd gotten my Hogwarts letter. He didn't care two knuts, or tuppence as Muggles would say, about me, and then my mother and I could have left him. But he hadn't, and for some reason Mum had stayed with him, despite the fact that they hadn't gotten along since I was four. At least I was able to escape him for ten months of the year at Hogwarts, and during the holidays Mum did her best to protect me from him.

Niko told me a little about his and Ana's sister, Maria, who was a year older than them and married to Stephan's brother Tobias. They were currently in training to be Aurors, and due to the fact of the war with the Dark Lord, were graduating in a couple months time, since the training period had moved from three years to only one. The Romanovs and Petrovs were very close friends, so I would be seeing the Romanovs frequently, as the two families gathered together to have dinner each evening, alternating between the houses. Well, the Petrovs didn't live in a regular house, but instead lived in the two floors of flats above their apothecary. Once Niko and Sarah got married, they would live in the top flat until they could afford to move to a place of their own.

When the Hogwarts Express arrived at Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters, I looked out the window to see Maria and Tobias, plus two older couples that I assumed were the parents. Once we had gotten off the train, Ana and Niko went straight to one couple and hugged and kissed them. The man had raven black hair that was starting to go gray at the temples, dark brown eyes, and square glasses that looked a little like the ones Professor McGonagall wore. The woman had black hair with a few streaks of gray, done in a neat bun, and grass green eyes. Other than the eyes, she reminded me a bit of my own mother, especially as the woman wasn't a great beauty either, but had something about her that spoke of grace and compassion.

When Ana and Niko moved on to greet their sister and brother-in-law, the woman turned to me. "Hello, Severus," she said in slightly accented English. "I'm Ilsa Petrov and this is my husband Vladek. You may call us by my first names, except when you are working as my apprentice. Then you will have to call me 'Mrs. Petrov'." She then pulled me in a hug, longer than she had with her own children. I stiffened slightly, as I wasn't used to getting hugs from anyone other than my mother and Lily, but soon relaxed.

After that, Mr. Petrov shook my hand and then introduced me to Stephan's parents, Lise and Eli Romanov, who told me to call me by their first names if I felt comfortable doing so. Mrs. Romanov also hugged me, and I saw a sympathetic look in her eyes. "I am very sorry to hear that your mother died," she said, also in slightly accented English. "My father died when I was about your age, so I know what is like to lose a parent, Severus."

I simply nodded, not really knowing how to reply. A few minutes after that, the Petrovs and I left King's Cross Station and took a bus to Charing Cross Road, where the Leaky Cauldron was located. From there we used the entrance in the back courtyard to Diagon Alley, and then walked over to Petrov's Potions, the apothecary. A young woman in her early twenties, named Frances Malone, was taking care of the shop while the Petrovs had been at King's Cross.

Mrs. Petrov took me up to a bedroom on the first floor. It was a bit on the small side, but quite nice. It was papered in dark green and silver stripes, with a twin bed that had a green coverlet, a dresser, a small desk with a chair, a closet, and a window that looked out on the street. I set my trunk at the foot of the bed.

"You can get unpacked and settled in, Severus," Mrs. Petrov said in a kind voice. "Dinner is at six and the dining room is at the end of the hall, on your right. The bathroom is next door. Do you have any problem with the walls being green? They were originally blue and silver, but I thought you might prefer Slytherin colors, so I turned them green."

"They walls are fine, Mrs. Petrov," I replied, feeling touched that she went through the trouble to make sure my room was to my taste, even if it was only through the use of a simple Color-Changing Charm. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, dear," said Mrs. Petrov with a smile. Once she had left, I began unpacking my clothes and putting them away in the closet.

A few minutes before six, I went to the dining room, which was just large enough for a rectangular table with benches on the sides it. Stephan and Mr. Petrov were setting the table, while Mrs. Romanov, Mrs. Petrov, and Maria were bringing dishes of food from the kitchen. I offered to help, but Mrs. Petrov said, "That's all right, Severus. Everything is taken care of. You can help tomorrow, once I've shown you where the dishes and silverware and such are kept in the kitchen."

After the table was set, everyone sat down. Mrs. Petrov gestured for me to sit between her and Niko. Everyone folded their hands together and lowered their heads, which I quickly copied, and Mr. Petrov said, "We are thankful for the food we are about to eat and for all the blessings in our lives. May we continue to be blessed. Amen."

Everyone repeated the "Amen" and then looked up. Mrs. Petrov proceeded to fill my plate with chicken, steamed vegetables, and two slices of bread. "You need to eat," she said sternly. "You are much too thin, Severus. Have you been eating properly at all while you've been at Hogwarts?"

"I haven't had much appetite lately," I muttered in reply, which was the truth. I didn't really like eating in the Great Hall, since I found it too noisy for my taste, though the Marauders rarely bothered me at meals because of the teachers present, and I usually went to the kitchens to get food. However, after Mum died, I didn't feel like eating at all, and had even less desire to eat after Lily ended our friendship. In the past week, I hadn't eaten except when Niko had dragged me to either the Great Hall or the kitchens and forced me to eat something.

Mrs. Romanov frowned at this. "You still need to eat, Severus. I know terrible things have happened to you within this past year, but you can't just go around starving yourself. Niko, you're in the same house as him. Has he been eating at all the past few weeks?"

"Yes, Aunt Lise," answered Niko. "But only because I've been dragging him to the kitchens or the Great Hall and forcing him to eat something."

Mrs. Romanov shook her head, while Mrs. Petrov tsked. "Severus Snape, you are going to clean your plate and have seconds. Is that clear? I'm not having you wasting away to nothing."

"Yes, Mrs. Petrov," I replied, and started eating. The food was delicious, and I ended up having a better appetite than I had all week, for I cleaned my plate, ate the second helping Mrs. Petrov gave me, and had some fresh fruit and whipped cream for dessert.

When dinner ended, Tobias, Ana, and Sarah cleared the table and washed, dried, and put away the dishes. I offered to help again, but Mrs. Petrov said, "That's not necessary, Severus. There's a schedule as to who washes the dishes and tonight it's their turn. I'll just add you to the schedule tomorrow. Now, let's figure out the terms of your apprenticeship with me."

The two of us went to my room, where Mrs. Petrov drew up a sort of contract where it stated that for the next two months I would learn everything she could teach me about potion brewing and help her with brewing potions, and she would see to all my needs during that time. We both signed it, Mr. Romanov witnessed it, and a copy was filed away for evidence of my apprenticeship when I went to apply for my Potions Mastery in the future.

After that, Mrs. Petrov looked over my belongings, and shook her head when she saw my Muggle clothing. Since my family was poor, most of my Muggle clothing came from charity bins and the like, and they were mainly ill-fitting and rather worn. "You can't go around wearing that, Severus, and you can't wear robes all the time, either." Before I could protest against her buying me new clothing, no matter what the contract said about her seeing to my needs, she left the room. A few minutes later, she returned with a stack of clothing in her arms. "These belonged to Niko when he was sixteen, and they're still in good condition and should fit you."

"Thank you, Mrs. Petrov," I said in shock, taking the clothes from her. They turned out to be three pairs of trousers, in forest green, navy blue, and dark grey, and four shirts, also in dark colors, presumably so that stains wouldn't show like they would in lighter colors, which was practical when brewing potions.

When the clothes were put away, I was informed that breakfast was at eight o'clock, the apothecary opened at nine, and that I could start the duties of my apprenticeship then, unless I needed to take a day or two to rest and recover from the school year. My day was to end at four, so that I had time to do my summer homework and to relax a bit. My evenings after dinner were also free, though I had to be back at the apothecary by ten.

"I'm fine with starting tomorrow, Mrs. Petrov," I told her. "Work will take my mind off things."

"All right dear," she said. "I'll leave you to yourself now. Good-night, Severus."

When she left, I took out a book to read, and at ten o'clock, went to bed.