Disclaimer: If I owned Harry Potter, I wouldn't be struggling to pay off student loans, now would I?
I really shouldn't be starting another story right now... All right, things you need to know before reading:
This story follows most of the major canon events of book two. How the events come about might be different, but the major, underlying plot won't change at all.
This story takes a while to get going. In other words, the first few chapters are mostly contemplative and (possibly) a little boring. It will pick up.
Snape and Harry interaction (at least the nice kind) won't start for a while. You'll have to wait patiently.
There is an OC who plays a major part. This was necessary because none of the canon characters fit what I needed.
Harry might seem a bit OOC at times (though I've read enough HP fanfics by now that I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as an OOC Harry anymore), but there's a VERY good reason.
Finally, there is child abuse in this story. If this bothers you DO NOT READ!
All that being said, thanks for stopping by and enjoy the ride.
Chapter 1: Just Harry
Boy. That was the most common one by far, boy, but there were always others. Whelp. Burden. Brat. Freak. The list was longer, to be sure, but sometimes it was difficult to remember them all; and that was just the nouns, the adjectives had a whole nother, longer list of their own (because yes, he did know the difference between the two parts of speech). These were the names one Harry James Potter had grown up with, had listened to, heard himself called day in and day out for the past eleven years. No, strike that, ten years. Because his first year of life had been with his parents, hadn't it? And surely... surely they hadn't called him such names... had they?
No, surely not. Most parents didn't say such things. His were likely no exception.
Regardless, that didn't change the fact that his parents were no longer around. Gone... Dead. The only family he had left were the Dursleys, and they did call him such names, often, every day. When he was younger he could remember being confused, unsure which one was his real name, eventually deciding on 'boy' since that was the one used most. It made sense. Then Uncle had gotten angry when he had introduced himself as such to a nice old lady on the street. Apparently, boy was not his name, neither were any of the others. He was Harry, Harry Potter, and when outside of the house that was always to be his name. It was only inside Number 4 Privet Drive where this name was not good enough. Where the other names came out. He began to understand more as he grew older, began to truly realize the insults for what they were, rather than simply gather their meaning from the menacing tone in which they were said. And when he was old enough to fully understand, he couldn't lie and say he was surprised. A kind word was the one thing he never received from the Dursleys.
Well really, there were quite a number of things he never received from the Dursleys. A room of his own, for one (because as he grew older, he refused to consider his cupboard a proper bedroom). Toys, books, games, all the number of lovely things they'd bought for Dudley were never meant for him. Clothes purchased with him specifically in mind were never seen, forcing him into Dudley's oversized castoffs. A real meal... that was one he craved without doubt. To be able to sit down at the table with the rest of the family, to eat his fill the way Dudley always did, to not have this gnawing, aching feeling attack his belly several times a week if not more because he'd been 'bad', and bad boys didn't need to eat...
Harry supposed there were many things he wanted, though he knew he would never receive them. There had been many times during his youth where he had tried. Tried to be good, to follow his uncle's orders, to do exactly as his aunt told him, to not do anything freakish. Tried to gain their attention, their affection, even a fraction of what they always gave to Dudley. Except he was never successful. Because the Dursleys wanted Dudley. The Dursleys loved Dudley. Harry wasn't even worthy of a proper name to them.
Sometimes thinking on it too much still managed to make him sad. That was why he shoved such things from his mind and instead let it wander freely. It really could take him to such amazing places, places where he never felt sad or lonely again. Places where his parents were still alive, where he had a real family, where he never again had to set foot in the Dursleys' home. Places where someone wanted and loved him, though that was really pushing it; so maybe instead, just somewhere where he was given a few kind words. Yes. That would be nice. He wished for it so badly, even if he knew wishes never came true. For a place where his name really was 'Harry'.
Then on the day of his eleventh birthday, a giant man blew down the door of the rickety shack his uncle had dragged them to in a fit of madness. And everything began to change.
Well, look on the bright side. At least no one had died.
Of course, Harry was forced admit that it was rather difficult to look on the bright side anytime you were forced within ten feet of the man known as Severus Snape, let alone when you were standing in said man's office, filled to breaking with any number of odd, disgusting things floating lifelessly in different sized jars. It was especially difficult when said man was standing with palms flat on his desk, leaning over the furniture menacingly, smiling at you where you sat. Because Professor Severus Snape did not have a pleasant smile.
And he only smiled at the students when they were in some serious trouble. Say, for instance, when they stole a flying car from their father and best friend's father respectively, then used aforementioned, somewhat illegal piece of enchanted machinery to fly to school, consequently being spotted by several Muggles along the way; and that was only before crashing into an apparently valuable, violent tree located on school grounds. Harry had known they were in trouble the minute the Potions professor had swooped up behind them like an overgrown bat.
"Well, Potter?" the man sneered, black eyes boring into the small boy before them. "Nothing to say for yourself?"
Harry decided it was best in this situation to just keep silent. He and Ron had already tried to explain about the barrier, not that Snape had much cared. That and... well, maybe it had been a bit of a stupid thing to do... possibly... no need to dwell on that. Then Snape swept out of the office in that way he always did and returned with an extremely irate McGonagall, leaving the savior of the wizarding world wondering if he wouldn't rather take his chances with the Head of Slytherin house instead. At least an angry Snape he was used to, had learned how to deal with. An angry McGonagall had the ability to make his stomach twist in knots, almost like he would be sick all over the floor. Especially when she was so blatantly disappointed in him and brought up a very valid point.
"Why didn't you wait for the Weasleys to return and send us a letter about the situation?" She gave Harry in particular a pointed look. "Don't you have an owl, Mr. Potter?"
Okay, so it had indeed been a very stupid thing to do. "We weren't really thinking, Professor—"
"Yes, Mr. Potter, that much is becoming increasingly obvious."
By this time both Harry and Ron were sure this would be the last they would ever see of the castle that for at least one of them had over the last year become the definition of home. A small shiver ran down the raven-haired boy's spine at the thought of showing up on the Dursleys' doorstep expelled from school, especially after what had happened the last time he'd seen them. He had to swallow convulsively several times or he really would lose his lunch. Maybe he could go and live with the Weasleys instead. He had enough gold to pay them for a room at the Burrow until he could find a job of some sort. Maybe it wouldn't be too bad.
He had just set his mind to the task of trying to figure out what sort of occupation a twelve year old could possibly get in the wizarding world when Dumbledore entered; and while, like the other professors the Headmaster was most definitely not happy with recent events, he also had no intention of expelling them. Harry felt like a huge weight lifted off his chest as he released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Thank you, sir."
Snape, on the other hand, was hardly pleased. He listed the reasons Ron and Harry should be expelled, making Harry feel even dumber by the second when they were all genuinely valid. Though he nearly had to laugh at the way the Headmaster just brushed the Potions professor off. It was rather apparent Dumbledore wouldn't be sending Harry anywhere anytime soon.
Still hesitant to believe his good fortune, Harry nearly took a step back at the look of pure loathing Snape shot his way, his sallow face twisted in an expression of malice, making his appearance even uglier than usual. Even if he had grown accustomed to it, it still sometimes took Harry by surprise just how much his teacher truly hated him. He sighed lightly once the man was gone, trying not to be too bothered by the disappointed, thin-lipped look McGonagall was still aiming towards him.
Just another wonderful start to a new school year at Hogwarts for the Boy-Who-Lived. Why couldn't anything ever be normal?
Children, despite what most people were inclined to think, were not the bane of Severus Snape's existence. In fact, if you ever truly got to know Snape, something very few ever did, you'd be surprised to discover he actually somewhat liked children at times. He hated teaching them, oh yes, but he rarely hated them themselves. Even the Gryffindors.
Snape was, laughable as it sounded, particularly fond of the first and second years. Again, trying to keep them from blowing themselves and each other to pieces in class was a downright nightmare, but when they were out of class, when he would have the occasional conversation with his snakes or he would somehow get into a discussion about potions theory with an exceptionally curious Ravenclaw, he really did like them. There was something about them at that age, still young enough to undoubtedly be called children but old enough, for the most part, to look after themselves so he didn't always feel as though he were babysitting.
Then they would go away for the summer after second year and come back as –shudder– third years. Third and fourth years were undoubtedly the hardest students in the school to handle simply because most of their actions didn't even logically make sense. They would be calm, mature little things one moment, and the next they were doing something absolutely ridiculous like –he got a glimpse of the Weasley twins at the Gryffindor table– like throwing your arms around your identical brother and pretending to snog him into oblivion simply because it made all the older girls sitting around you watch and giggle at the display.
Yes, third and fourth years really grated on his patience at times. Yet, he was surprisingly patient with them, more than you might think he would be, simply because he could still remember all too clearly what it was like to be that age and have your hormones start pulling you in about ten thousand different directions at once. How your arms and legs suddenly grew faster than the rest of your body so you were constantly tripping over your own feet like a bumbling idiot while there always seemed to be those token few (Potter and Black) who never looked uncomfortable or out of sorts in their own skin. How the girl you'd been best friends with for years, had thought of as a sister of sorts, suddenly looked entirely different almost overnight and the feelings you had most definitely were not of the familial type...
He shook himself as soon as he became in danger of slipping too far into the past. Dwelling on old feelings and pondering over what could have been if you hadn't been a teenage fool was never a good idea. Not without copious amounts of firewhiskey on hand at least.
Raising an eyebrow as the eldest Weasley currently attending school stormed over, chest puffed out pompously, to get his brothers back under control, Severus decided he'd had more than enough of Gryffindor watching for the day. His dark eyes swerved back towards more familiar territory, perusing his new batch of Slytherins once more. He'd seen the sorting, of course, but hadn't gotten the chance to properly examine his new snakes, being too busy detaining a certain pair of miscreants...
Watching the first years' interactions carefully, a small crease appeared between his brows when he noticed one girl was exceptionally quiet while the others talked around her and one boy was dressed in a particularly ragged pair of second-hand robes (a rarity these days in the now mostly pureblood Slytherin). He'd have to keep an especially careful eye on both of them, seeing as how they'd stick out like sore thumbs to an experienced bully bent on making someone's life miserable. Much the same way he had.
What was even more distressing, though, was that only slightly further down the table, second year Theodore Nott picked listlessly at his food, not eating nor talking with his yearmates, despite Blaise Zabini's best attempts to draw him into conversation. Seeing as how it was only the first evening back and the boy couldn't possibly be homesick yet (not that Nott had ever gotten homesick before), it was far more likely he'd gotten into yet another row with his father before boarding the train. Something that, after many long, painstaking meetings with the quiet, dark boy the previous year, Severus had learned was a rather common occurrence. He would give the boy a day or two to sort himself out, but if he didn't appear to be improving, he'd speak with him. It would hardly do to let the boy starve himself over his father's hurtful words; someone like Theo, a well-behaved, polite, studious young man, didn't deserve that. Why had fate tossed a boy like Theo into the Nott family and not the more deserving Potter boy instead?
Immediately after thinking it, Snape felt the smallest twinge of remorse in his gut. He didn't truly wish ill of any child, not even the Potter brat, but...
Remembering the events of only a few minutes earlier, he felt his appetite leave him completely. Potter. Harry sodding Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived-to-Make-his-Life-Miserable. His breath left him in a huff. He'd been so sure he had the little brat this time. The boy had stolen and flown a bloody car to school for goodness sake, he'd been seen by Muggles! But did he get in trouble for his reckless, juvenile, downright dangerous actions? No, of course not; the Gryffindor Golden Boy didn't get punished for anything. Rules meant nothing to the wizarding world's precious little prince. No wonder the little blighter was such a menace; if you continually let a child get away with everything, how were they ever supposed to learn? They were children, they were stupid, and they needed consequences!
Dark eyes narrowed to slits and a rather sadistic smirk crossed the Potions Master's face. Fine. Everyone else wanted to wait hand and foot on Potter, let them. He'd just have to do his... sacred duty as a teacher and put Potter in his place himself. It was his job to educate and guide his students after all, was it not? He very nearly chuckled aloud. This year. This year he would make sure—
"Ah, Severus, have you tried the custard tart?"
Why did Albus always insist on interrupting his plotting? "I'm sure you're aware by now, Headmaster, that I detest such sweets."
"Well, you could always change your mind." Blue eyes sparkled mischievously as he himself took a large bite of the dessert. "I've been meaning to ask; you did finish your lesson plans for this term incorporating the new curriculum the Board of Governors insisted on?"
A wry face was made at the reminder of such information. Like those idiots on the Board knew better than he did about the proper way to teach a Potions class. "Of course."
"Good, good! How do you think lessons will fair?"
Snape sneered. "I'm quite sure the level of incompetence I'm usually presented with hasn't deteriorated unfortunately."
"Now, Severus, you know the students try their best."
If he had been anyone else, Snape would have rolled his eyes at that one. The day his students actually tried their best in class was the day he willingly wore red and gold. "As I've already said, Albus, I've no doubt it will be the same as any other year. Another group of hopeless dunderheads working with dangerous substances and injuring themselves with their own inability to follow simple instructions."
"Good to hear!"
Snape felt his left eye begin to twitch.
"Oh my, look at the time." Pushing his chair back to stand, the Headmaster clapped twice and a hushed silence slowly fell over the Great Hall, students waiting patiently for the announcement. "I shall endeavor to be brief," Dumbledore called, his voice raised but far from a shout. "Firstly, I am delighted inform you all that Professor Sinistra of the Astronomy Department has been invited to engage in some very special research and will therefore be taking a leave of absence from teaching this year. Filling in for her during this time will be Professor Jenkins. I do expect you to all be on your best behavior and make him feel especially welcome here at Hogwarts."
Down the table aways a brunette man stood a bit hesitantly, giving the crowd of students a smile and a nod to scattered applause.
Snape frowned at the newcomer, vaguely recalling the man was a Hufflepuff a few years ahead of him in school. From the looks of things, the brats would chew him up and spit him out within a few days. Then again, Pomona looked that way as well, and she had held her own in that school far longer than he had. Never judge a book by its cover, Severus.Surely he had learned that much by now.
Of course, that may not always be true, he mused as the new Defense professor was introduced and Gilderoy Lockhart stood up in robes that somehow managed to outdo even the Headmaster's. There was just no way that man was anything more than an over-confident, narcissistic fool. This was already looking to be one hell of a year.
Harry let out a soft, contented sigh as he plopped himself down on the familiar bench at the Gryffindor table between his two friends, all too ready for lunch. He smiled as the platters appeared and helped himself to a sandwich, sticking the end into his mouth and simultaneously pouring himself a glass of pumpkin juice from the nearest pitcher. He was glad he'd been able to spend some time with the Weasleys before coming back to school this year, consequently building his appetite back up. Last year, after eating his fill at breakfast, he'd been so full for the rest of the day even dinner he could only pick at. His stomach had eventually expanded to accept the normal amount of nourishment an eleven year old consumed, but it had taken awhile to get there. This year, though, he'd already gone through that awkward and at times painful period before coming back to Hogwarts... even if it had been unnerving the way Mrs. Weasley had watched him like a hawk, carefully committing to memory everything he did and didn't eat, and then making that face she always did. The one where her lips pursed and her cheeks got red, like she wanted to hex something but was forcibly holding back. He hadn't yet been able to figure out just what that look meant.
It was after lunch in the courtyard when he was approached by a nervous looking little first year, one of the few actually smaller than Harry himself, even if only by a centimeter or so. The child introduced himself in shy tones as Colin Creevey, asked for a picture, and went on to gush about Hogwarts and all its oddities in a breathless tone of wonder. Harry took all of this in slightly amused stride... all up until the boy asked him to sign a photo that was. Then he bit back a curse, trying but failing to not look as annoyed as he felt. Why did people always do this? Treat him so special like this? Like he was some sort of bloody celebrity. The savior of the wizarding world.
It nearly made him laugh every time he heard it. Because really, how could he be anyone's hero? Him, the shortest boy in his entire year, the skinny little kid with the broken glasses and messy hair who constantly got the snot beat out of him by his bully of a Muggle cousin. He wasn't anything special. He was... just Harry.
But no, he wasn't, not here. One thing at school hadn't changed from his time with the Dursleys, and that was the fact that he still had a litany of names.
The Boy-Who-Lived. That was now the new most common one, along with a number of similar variations. There were some that sounded even worse, things like The Golden Boy and (shudder) The Chosen One. It was all quite ridiculous in his opinion. Yes, he understood how people were grateful he had defeated some megalomaniac dark wizard when he was a baby, but that was just it. He had been a baby. Besides the occasional nightmare with a flash of green light (even that was incredibly fuzzy and vague), he had absolutely no recollection of the event that got everyone so excited. It seemed a bit silly to all but worship him over it.
Even the teachers acted differently with him. Most of them treated him normally for the most part, but there was always a little something there. He still remembered back to first year when he'd shown up at school. Professor Flitwick was the perfect example, the way during first roll call he'd squeaked in that particularly excited way of his and toppled out of sight. Even McGonagall, stern as she was, had said his name with a certain soft inflection to her voice. It was the little things like that, things that let him know he was different, special. He supposed he should be thrilled, so many people were always being not just kind to him but actually seemed to like him... Except he wasn't.
All right, at first he had been, he admitted that much. When he and Hagrid had entered The Leaky Cauldron on his eleventh birthday and everyone had stared in open-mouthed shock, people had clamored to be able to shake his hand... it had felt good. Really good. Then, even after he learned why he was known, even when he felt oddly torn because his fame had come about the night of his parents' deaths, it still felt good. It also made him feel a bit guilty because it still felt good, but... it's just that after growing up with the Dursleys, without any sort of praise at all...
Though it quickly became clear to him that he still wasn't receiving any. All those people, the ones who smiled his way, who sent him well-wishes, who shook his hand, none of that was actually for him. It was all for the Boy-Who-Lived. Even Ron, he had a feeling, had become friends with the defeater of You Know Who before he ever became friends with him. No one ever really spared a thought for Harry.
Not that he was complaining; he really wasn't! Hogwarts was amazing, and he loved it there. It was loads better than anything at the Dursleys could hope to be. Some of his wishes from when he'd been smaller had even come true. Hot meals three times a day, as much as he could eat, no Aunt Petunia to screech at him and work him like a slave, no Uncle Vernon to yell about some imagined wrong or other and terrify him with just a look, a real bedroom of his own (even if he did share it with four others) with a wonderfully soft bed and always clean sheets, a school uniform bought specifically with him in mind that fit him like a glove, and even Ron and Hermione, true friends for the first time ever and no bullying cousins to scare them off. Harry had never been happier in his life, and he knew how selfish it was to wish for anything more.
"Look, Colin, I really don't—"
"What's this? Potter's giving out signed photos?"
Harry winced as Malfoy's voice carried loudly to everyone within earshot. Why was the blond bastard always there at the absolute worst times? "Malfoy—"
"Line up, everyone! Potter's giving away signed photos!"
"I am not, Malfoy," Harry hissed in irritation, wishing he could physically shut the pompous brat up. "Knock it off!"
Mind you, it was far too late by then. Lockhart, of all the people who could have heard the blond prat's taunting, it had been Gilderoy Lockhart who swept his way through the crowd, somehow forcing a very unwilling Harry into taking a photo with him before the poor boy knew what was going on. Then he swept back up towards the castle, dragging Harry along with him, prattling on all the while about fame and publicity and all manner of other things the twelve year old couldn't care less about. Just as he was contemplating how much trouble he'd get in for kicking a professor in the shins and running, green eyes spotted the dark figure lurking in the doorway of the castle and felt his stomach bottom out.
Oh no, not him. Anyone but him.
"Ah, Severus, good to see you again!" Lockhart called congenially, obviously not registering the particularly nasty sneer the Potions Master wore. Harry wanted to sink into the ground and never come back up. Why did Snape have to see that whole mess with the photo? Absolutely anyone else would have been preferable. What was the bat doing out of his dungeons anyway, it was still daylight. Wouldn't he burst into flame or something?
"Lockhart," the man spat, managing to make his colleague's name sound like a particularly infectious disease. "I would advise you to encourage neither Potter nor his adoring fans here at the castle." He stared down his nose at the wide-eyed, red flushed boy. "The attention tends to... go to his head."
Harry glared back defiantly, refusing to be cowed by the irritable man in front of him. He was used to Snape's insults and nasty taunts by now, and he would love to say they just rolled off him like water off a duck... only for some reason, they still didn't. Not really.
Shaking his head a bit to clear the odd thoughts that had begun to pop up, the bespectacled boy was met with the sight of Snape still glowering down at him while Lockhart's inane chatter washed over the both of them. Swallowing a bit, the boy once more considered running when he looked into those black eyes. Snape... looked really pissed about something.
"Detention, Potter," the man suddenly said, his soft hiss effectively cutting through Lockhart's rambling with ease. "Tonight, my office at seven sharp. Don't be late."
Harry was stunned speechless for a moment. Blinking bright green in bewilderment, he managed to choke, "Detention for what, sir?"
Snape smirked. "For disrupting the peace of the courtyard for the other students of course."
Pure, unadulterated fury flashed through the boy. What crap. He'd had nothing to do with the damn photo-taking in the first place, Colin had approached him. Furthermore, the one who'd escalated the situation and disrupted the damn peace was Malfoy, the same as it always was. He wasn't surprised Snape was trying to pin all the blame on him, but how dare the git actually give him a detention over it. Nothing had even really happened!
"Now, Severus, I don't think—"
Lockhart's attempt to come to Harry's defense was cut immediately short with one look from the Hogwarts Potions Master. Apparently Lockhart did have half a brain in that inflated blond head of his after all.
And Harry was stuck spending his first evening after classes in the dungeons. He glared daggers into the back of Snape's greasy head as the man turned and billowed away, jaw clenched so hard it hurt. Harry was clever enough to read between the lines. This meant war.