New Beginnings

A Harry Potter Story by Kelly A. Brown

Severus Snape was pacing around in the dungeons, waiting to hear the familiar sound of the Headmaster flooing in. The Weasley boy and the Granger girl had informed the headmaster that Harry had not written to them for an entire month since the summer break began. Normally, Severus would pay this fact no mind and just assume the insolent brat was too lazy to Owl his friends. This time, however, he did worry.

Exactly one month ago, Severus Snape had been called to duty by the Headmaster to accompany the students as they rode the train home at the end of the term. Since the incident with Cedric Diggory, Albus was not taking any chances on any more harm coming to the students of Hogwarts. Characteristic of Professor Snape, he certainly did not wish to accompany the students on their ride home. He felt he received enough of their entertaining wit inside the classroom during the school year. He snarled to himself at the reminder of how dimly lit the minds were of many of his students this past year, with the exception of a few bright bulbs in the class.

While stepping onto the platform to board the train, he spotted Potter and his friends talking a few steps ahead of himself. He noticed that Harry had an unusually light bundle of luggage with him. Well, he carried no actual luggage at all, save for his trunk, his owl, and a pitiful looking carry-on bag. After Severus had boarded the train, he saw Harry again, curled up in his seat, staring absently out the window while his friends nonchalantly chattered away about their summer plans. Every so often, Harry would engage in a weak nod or a laugh, but his mind seemed to be elsewhere. Severus Snape took a seat by himself, about two yards away from the boy. He ordered a glass of firewhiskey and a slab of bread and butter for the trek. He wished he had brought along the new music player he had recently acquired (a muggle contraption, yes, but perfect for circumstances in which he found himself amongst hundreds of screaming teenage witches and wizards). The muggles have something there, he thought, and made a mental note to find out which other muggle electronics may prove to be useful in the future. Yes, this was most certainly one of those times when he needed soft, delicate music to fill his ears. As he sat there, staring curiously at the Potter boy, he wondered what the boy thought about the recent events that took place only a few days prior. It had not been very long since the death of Cedric and he knew Harry well enough to know that he would blame himself for the tragedy. Harry was many things-outspoken, disrespectful, bold, dangerously curious, and extremely headstrong. But, he was never one to be complacent or uncaring about what happened to other people. No matter what happened, he always had a tendency to place the blame solely on himself. He had overheard the boy one night, talking to himself in the library. It was past midnight when Severus saw him and his first reaction was to run and strangle the boy and send him straight off to his common room with a week's worth of detention. If there was one thing Severus could not stand, it was children wandering about the castle late at night. It's what James Potter did seemingly every night when they were young. James and his cronies, who thought they were above school rules. Severus mentally prepared some harsh, biting words that he would lash out at the boy once he had him where he wanted him. However, as he slowly approached the boy, it became increasingly clear that he was distraught. Severus stepped back and secluded himself securely behind a bookcase, where he could not be seen, but was still within earshot of the boy.

"I'm sorry, Mum…" Harry sobbed into his hands as a photo of Lily and James fell like a feather onto the floor. "I'm sorry you had to die…for me to live. Everybody says it. They tell me constantly…all the time…that I wouldn't have lived…if you hadn't died. Sometimes, I really wish I didn't live…I wish…" A wretched sound escaped the boy's throat. It sounded as though it had been pent up there for quite some time and had finally escaped through his vocal passage and out into the open air. It was a horrible, ghastly sound that made the hair on the back of Snape's neck stand up. The boy gasped for breath and soon enough, another awful sound escaped his throat, although this time, it didn't shock Severus's ears as much. Finally, after calming himself down to a soft, silent sob, he picked up his photo and his bag and raced out of the library under the wondrous protection of his invisibility cloak.

Snape thought of this memory as he was on the train, watching the boy closely. He knew that the child had witnessed the murder of Cedric Diggory. Along with that, he knew that it was quite possible that Potter blamed himself for the tragedy. After all, Voldemort was after Harry, not Cedric. It was simply unfortunate that Cedric happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If he knew the boy at all, he was most likely dwelling on the fact that the only reason Voldemort had come back was to attempt to kill him a second time. Severus had known Harry long enough to know that Harry would have offered to die in place of Cedric, if given the chance. Severus never really liked the Potter boy much, always reminding him of everything he hated about James. However, when it came down to it, he knew Harry cared deeply about his friends and those closest to him. Perhaps he cared a bit too much.

Snape, however, knew that Harry was supposed to live. He had to live. If Harry had died that fateful night all those years ago, Severus was sure that Voldemort would have destroyed the entire wizarding world within a year or at the very least made it intolerable. He was much too power hungry to lie down and die quietly and without protest. Severus stared intently at the boy and, for a moment or two, felt sorry for him. That was until he caught something peculiar peeking out of the boy's carry-on bag. It appeared to be the glass top of a very familiar looking potion vial. Snape grimaced in his seat and immediately mentally accused Potter of theft. If Potter had been a decent potions student, he might surmise to believe that he bottled a sampling of a particularly good potion he had made in class. If the boy was outstanding in any subject at all, he may have even believed that he had received a free vial of some really useful potion from a professor for doing such an excellent job in class. But, no… Potter's performance in Potions was dismal, at best. He had never concocted a potion yet that was edible by another person. Severus watched curiously at the bottle, bobbing up and down as the train car bounced haphazardly while strutting along the tracks. Potter looked away from the window and, for a moment, his eyes and Snape's met. After their eyes became locked, Harry nervously darted his eyes down only to see the potion-in-question sticking out of his bag. He immediately shoved it back in. Hesitantly, he picked up his head and looked once more into the deep obsidian eyes of his potions professor. He knew what the professor was thinking, assuming. He knew that Snape thought (again!) that he had stolen from his personal potion stores. However, instead of accusing Potter or verbally attacking him at the sight of the vial, the professor simply turned his eyes away and went back to reading his book. He had been wrong a week ago when he accused Potter of stealing from his stores and he was not about to make himself look like an idiot two weeks in a row. He felt like a fool when it turned out not to be Potter, but the miserable low life working for the Dark Lord, posing as Alastor Moody. If there was one thing Severus Snape hated it was being wrong. He hated being wrong any time, but especially when the Potter boy turned out to be in the right. So, this time at least, he begrudgingly let it go.

Snape turned his view back to Harry though as they prepared to get off at the station. As the train halted to a stop, Severus could see a growing look of dread appear on the boy's thin facial features. As the train ceased to move, that look of dread transformed into an almost panicked look on the boy's face. Severus had seen that exact facial expression on Potter before. He saw it before the boy went in to do the third task of the Triwizard Tournament. It was entirely different from the look he gave Snape whenever the professor gave him an unfair detention or whenever Snape accused him of something he didn't do. No, in those situations, the boy was defiant and bold. He didn't seem intimidated by Snape the same way the other students were. Sure, Harry didn't find the man pleasant to look at or talk to, but he never looked apprehensive or scared the way Neville or Weasley looked whenever they encountered the dark-haired, beady-eyed man. Harry was not afraid of him. Not one bit, in fact.

After Harry got off the train, he gave a long hug to Hermione and then to Ron. They promised each other that they would Owl one another at the very least once a week over the summer. Hermione firmly protested that she didn't believe Ron would write as he vowed he would. After a drawn out goodbye session, Harry looked around the station, presumably for his family. Something about the boy's contorted and worried face made Severus uneasy. He was startled when he saw the boy's expression change from worried to absolute fear in a matter of seconds. When he followed the boy's frightened gaze, his eyes landed on a rather large man and his tall, lanky wife. Next to them, a scowling boy lazily tagged along behind them. Harry walked toward them slowly, timidly…uncharacteristically so. The boy stopped when he saw the angry look in the older man's eyes and for a split second, he thought the boy might turn and run back onto the train. A sliver of visible pain and sadness flashed brilliantly across the boy's emerald eyes and Severus thought for a moment that he looked much more like Lily rather than James. James's eyes always held that cocky, snarky sentiment. His eyes often glazed over from time to time in a rather vacant expression. Not that James Potter was stupid. By no means was he stupid. But, one could tell by his expression that he didn't exactly have academics on his mind. He truly hated the way he looked at Lily too, with that animal like lust in his eyes. Severus never looked at Lily in that way. More often than not, he looked directly into her warm, soulful eyes and listened to whatever criticism she had of him that day. Lost in his short reverie, he almost missed Potter being dragged practically by the neck towards his uncle's car.

Harry's uncle was scolding him for packing so much, which made Severus blink twice in disbelief. The boy hadn't packed much at all. Most of the young wizards had tons of stuff they didn't need that they brought to school from home. But, not Potter. Potter wasn't known to keep a lot of junk in his room. Vernon watched as Harry struggled to put his trunk inside the car and scowled at him angrily.

"Serves you right for packing so much...freakish little good-for-nothin'…" Vernon hissed at his nephew. After Harry finally got his things inside the trunk of the car, Vernon pulled the trunk down, nearly hitting Harry's fingers.

Vernon's chubby face seethed with nonsensical anger as he pulled his nephew by the neck and threw him into the backseat.

That was the last time Severus saw Harry Potter and it left a bad taste in his mouth. No, he did not usually care much for what the boy did once he left school, nor should he care. He always thought the boy's aunt and uncle would tend to his needs, at least on a relatively basic level. But, something about the way his uncle seemed to take perverse pleasure at his struggle to get the trunk into the car made Severus think ill of the man. Sure, Snape picked on Harry, mocked him, and occasionally snapped at him for botching up a potion. But, usually he refrained from outright laughing or making fun of the boy.

Severus felt a rush of relief wash over him as he saw the familiar sight of the Headmaster stepping out from the floo. Usually, he wasn't so keen on seeing the tired old bat over the summer break, but today was an exception.

"Severus, I need you to go check on Harry. He is with his relatives in in Little Whinging, Surrey." Albus stated, panting from whatever panic had just erupted before he flooed into Severus's quarters.

"I beg your pardon?" Severus asked in a huff. "I thought that is what you were doing this whole time! I was waiting to hear from you about the boy's condition. I thought you went to check up on him?" Severus snapped, forgetting momentarily about Potter and focusing more so on his anger towards his superior.

"Severus, you know I've been ill these past few weeks. Since his relatives are muggles, I contacted them using a telephone. I called the boy's family several times and they assured me that the boy is fine. However whenever I asked to speak to Harry myself, they refused and told me he was out. Finally, I called late at night and they still insisted he wasn't there. I'm worried about him now, Severus. Very worried…" Albus looked visibly distraught.

"Well, if he was hurt, surely his family would let you know. It doesn't make sense for them to withhold that sort of information." Severus snarled. "Unless they are completely incompetent."

"You see, Severus, his family is actually the cause for some of my concern. Knowing them, I highly doubt they would inform anyone in the wizarding world about Harry's whereabouts. They have a strong prejudice against magic and anyone who practices magic. Anyway, they've never been very good at looking after Harry. The few times I've spoken to them, they acted as though they didn't care for the boy at all." Albus said, mournfully. "Nevertheless, they are the only family he has."

"You knew this whole time that he wasn't being looked after properly?" Severus asked, appalled. "And you allowed him to remain there all this time regardless?"

"Well, I don't know for certain. But, I've had a hunch they don't treat him nearly as well as his parents would have…" Albus muttered. "Either way, I am far too ill to apparate or fly in my present condition and I know you aren't too busy today to go and check on the boy. I won't be able to sleep until I know he is safe and alright."

"What if I go all the way to Surrey and it turns out he's happy and healthy as a horse? What do I say my reason is for showing up to his relatives?"

"Simply say that his friends reported a strange absence in letters and we wanted to check up on him. Just say sorry to disturb your home and simply head back to the castle. It shouldn't take too long, Severus. Won't you do me this favor?"

"If I had a galleon for every time you've said that to me, I could probably retire rather early." Severus stated dryly.

Albus smiled. "I trust you'll find Harry safe and sound, but if you should encounter any trouble, here is a portkey. If for some reason the boy is injured or ill, you may need to use this instead of apparating."

Albus handed him the portkey. "Run along then. It's almost dark and you don't want to disturb them too much."

That is why Severus found himself outside of Potter's home at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey roughly one hour later. Not far from this home is where Severus himself had grown up as boy, a few towns west in Spinner's End. He shuddered at the remembrance. He certainly was not looking forward to making pleasantries with Harry's Aunt Petunia. She was a vile woman, even when they were kids. She detested all things magical. Or at least, that was what she said. In truth, she was jealous and afraid. Severus chuckled at the memory of himself and Lily finding a hilarious letter Petunia had written to the Headmaster when they were kids, asking to be let into Hogwarts despite her being non-magical. Petunia was furious when she discovered that Severus and Lily went through her drawers and found the letter. Furious does not even begin to cover it… Severus didn't care. He didn't care for Petunia or any of Lily's family.

Severus walked up the paved walkway of the Dursley home and noticed that the door was locked and there was no car in the driveway. A note rested on the front door, addressed to their neighbor named Donna, instructing her on where to find the pet food while they're on vacation.

Vacation? Severus thought angrily. Potter is probably off somewhere, gallivanting and smiling. This is a waste of time, Severus said bitterly to himself.

However, a nagging feeling some place inside of him made him want to investigate the house anyway. He was sure Potter was not there, but a prickling fear in the back of his mind made him want to be sure. He didn't trust the bastards. They might have been the kind of muggles who would consider leaving a 15 year old boy to his own devices for a week. Muggles came in all varieties, but Severus had a knack for encountering the stupid and idiotic ones quite frequently.

Severus went and knocked on the door. Suffice it to say, he was not surprised in the least when there was no answer. He rounded the house and peered in through the windows. The house was dark and not one light was lit. He apparated into the home after finding that none of the windows could be opened from the outside.

Upon entering, the house appeared to be in normal condition. The kitchen was tidy, the living room hardly appeared lived in. He was positive that Potter was not inside this house. However, once again, a nagging feeling in the back of his mind told him to cast a point me spell to see if Potter was in the home, hiding somewhere.

Point me, Harry Potter.

What Severus saw after reciting the familiar incantation made his entire body feel numb. He recast the spell a second time to make sure there had been no mistake. Sure enough, the same thing occurred and for a moment, Severus could not breathe.

It couldn't be…they wouldn't, he thought to himself, as he crept closer to where his wand was directing him.

A blue glow from his wand was pointing towards a small cupboard under the stairs. Severus immediately dove for the cupboard, ripping the door off entirely by casting a quick destruction spell. The door was heavily padded with locks and bolts, to which Severus could only obliterate through magic. Once the door was blasted open, the professor peered down and moved the forefront of his body inside the small room. The inside of the cupboard smelled like what he imagined death to smell like. There, in the corner of the room, Severus could see a small boy, stripped of all his clothes, lying in a coma-like lump on the floor. His body was ridden with marks, bruises, and cuts. His thin face had turned a deep shade of red from crying. Severus could see a bulbous black and blue forming a circle around his right eye, along with various scratches and what almost looked like burn marks on his cheeks. His body was huddled up in a pitiful way, his body stark naked save for a small, blood-stained blanket rolled up between his legs. Severus lunged over to the boy and instantly began assessing his injuries. In his mind, he was having a complete mental breakdown, but his body had to maintain its outward composure for him to be able to help the child. He gently waved his wand over the boy's body, scanning it for injuries. Severus's wand lit up as he passed over the boy's ribs, arms, and legs. Given the boy's present condition, that much was to be expected.

Snape quietly cursed under his breath each time he discovered a new injury on the boy's mangled body, but it was when his wand found its way to the rumbled, dirty blanket between his legs, that Severus truly felt appalled. As the wand passed over the tattered excuse for a blanket, his wand instantly released a bright green glow that sent the signal to Severus that the boy was severely damaged in the selected area. As he felt the wand respond to the newest injury, the pure shock of this discovery caused Severus to drop his wand. As his wand fell to the ground, a horrified cry escaped Snape's throat. It was unthinkable, to do that to a child. To do that to anyone.

Severus's hand was shaking violently as he peeled back the bloodied blanket to find the boy's private area covered in whelps and bruising. His thighs were red and blotched, as though stung by a belt or whip. Severus's hands were trembling and he could feel the prickle of fresh tears forming behind his eyes. He tried to control the natural reaction by thinking about something else, anything else, but the sight in front of him. A young boy, his own student, was lying in a cupboard, his entire body naked and covered in marks and cuts. The sight almost didn't register in Snape's mind as being real, for no less than five minutes prior, he had been outside looking in at a peaceful home, a family gone on vacation. As he was standing outside just a few minutes earlier, he had no idea of the atrocity that lay inside. Severus laid a shaky hand on the boy's forehead before moving down to stroke the boy's bruised cheek.

Choking back on his own tears, Severus managed to speak weakly. "Harry."

Harry flinched a little, stirred slightly, but did not open his eyes.

Severus reached up and stroked a thick piece of hair on Harry's head and said soothingly. "Harry, you're safe now. It's Professor Snape. I'm here to heal you and take you away from here."

With that, Harry opened his one good eye and stared in the general direction of the voice. As his eye opened slowly, Severus's heart leaped with the realization that Harry looked so much like Lily. The boy was not wearing his glasses. They probably were destroyed purposefully by whoever was responsible for this feat of brutality.

Severus's hand hadn't moved from its position along Harry's cheek. The child opened his mouth as though he was going to speak, but no words came out. He clearly had some trouble speaking, but the fact that he was in great pain became utterly clear. After a few moments of trying to formulate a sentence, he resigned to saying "It hurts…it hurts."

A sharp pain stabbed through Severus's heart as he looked down at the boy. Without thinking, he gently tousled the boy's brown locks of hair while gazing deeply into Harry's eyes for a few moments. Finally, he spoke to the boy. Despite the effort to remain calm, the usual silkiness of Severus's voice was blotched by choking on unshed tears. "Albus gave me a portkey. You are too weak to apparate or fly by broom. I will not have it given your condition."

Harry closed his eyes and nodded. Snape quickly transfigured Harry's crumpled blanket into a large sweater and pajama pants.

The clothing was rested atop Harry's legs and midsection, deliberately covering up the worst part of the child's beating.

Snape gestured toward the clothes. "Put these on first. I will wait for you just outside. Take as long as you need to gather your things."

As he got up to exit the cupboard and leave Harry in his privacy to change, Harry grabbed a small chunk of Snape's robes. His grip was extremely light, barely felt by Snape, as he did not have much strength left in him. "No..." Harry moaned.

Snape turned back around and looked cautiously at the boy.

Harry answered Snape's silent question in a small, defeated tone. "I don't think….I don't think I can…" Harry winced in pain and found his hand reaching for the clothes. His hand grabbed the clothes rather fiercely, but Snape guessed he was clutching because of the pain and not because of the clothing. Harry closed his eyes and continued to grimace in pain.

Snape nodded and whisked his wand. Instantly, Harry was wearing the two items of clothing. Still lying like a pile of wounded flesh on the ground, Snape realized the boy did not even have the strength to walk. Severus reached over to Harry and gently cupped his body and brought his entire weight against his chest. The boy was fairly light, Snape observed as he lifted him off of the floor.

"Grab my hand." Severus said gently. "Grab my hand and I'll recite the incantation. You'll be safe soon, back at Hogwarts. We need to get you healed the second we get back to the castle."

Harry did as he was told and latched his small hand into Snape's own. Within seconds, they arrived safely into Snape's quarters.