Summary: Well, well, well, looks like another Snapefic. When summoned by Ron and Hermione, Snape heads off to 4 Privet Drive, from which no word has been received since the beginning of the summer holidays. The result is an unfortunate and revealing encounter with Harry's family, a rather disheveled Harry himself, and a very surprising Snape.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter, Severus Snape, the Durselys and anyone else I mention in this fic that has already been published is not mine. A damn shame, too, because that would mean I was a successful author in the real world and making money. But I'm not. I'll deal. The one bright spot is that if you don't recognize anyone I may mention, they probably belong to me. ::Facefall:: however...since this is fanfiction, I still can't make money off them. ::sigh:: Oh well...enjoy the fic, I'm going to go stare at my dwindling bank account.
Sins of Omission
Chapter 1: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Damn and blast. All of them and all of it. Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hogwarts, Weasley, Granger, and most of all that wretched boy.
Snape fumed as he sat on the train to London, his fingers twitching in his lap. He all but snarled as two terrified first years skirted around him as they crept through his compartment. Bad enough he had to take the student's train back to the city, but it was the reason why that irked him.
It had been almost a month into the summer holidays when Snape had received the summons back to Hogwarts. Upon his arrival, Dumbledore had greeted him with a somber look and a letter in place of his usual smile. That had been Snape's first sign that something was about to go very badly for him.
How right he was.
"I have just received word from Mr. Weasley- the younger- and Miss Granger." The Headmaster had told him. "It seems they are most worried about their friend Mr. Potter and request immediate assistance. Although it behooves me to ask you this-"
"Why can't you send McGonagall?" Snape interrupted, knowing what the Headmaster was going to say. "Or Hagrid? Or even you-" He stopped himself in mid-sentence, realizing he was on the verge of impertinence.
Dumbledore frowned. "Minerva is on holiday somewhere in Scotland," he told Snape. "Hagrid is nowhere to be found, presumably he is off somewhere in the Forbidden Forest, preparing for next year's class. I would go myself," he said with a level stare that was not lost on the Potions Master, "but that would leave no one here at Hogwarts. You are the only one who I can get a hold of in such short notice, and I fear the matter is urgent to the point where it cannot wait." The blue eyes never flinched. "The school term has ended and I cannot force you to do anything you don't choose to, Severus. But I am asking you. As a favor to me, would you investigate this matter? If there is something wrong with the boy you know that now is not the time to risk ignoring it. Voldemort is growing in power each and every day and we can not let even the slightest possibility for risk go unchecked." He held the parchment out to Snape, his blue eyes pleading where his voice would not.
Snape stared at the Headmaster for a moment more, but he could not bring himself to deny the man who had done so much for him. Frowning, he took the letter with his fingertips and unfolded it. Hermione's neat, straight lettering stood at attention on the parchment.
Dear Headmaster,it began.
We do not wish to disturb you this far into your well deserved summer holiday, but we feel that this matter is of some urgency and may require immediate attention. You are most likely aware of Harry Potter's home situation, and we do not wish to bother you with details. However, until this point in time we have been receiving regular letters from Harry via owl post. Last week, the letters stopped. We have sent several owls with letters voicing our concern over the matter, but they have all been returned unopened and unread. Although it may be a fluke of some kind and no cause for worry, there is always the threat that something unfortunate has happened to Harry and we would like to request assistance from a qualified teacher or similar authority. Either way, please return a letter with Pig.
Thank you for your time-
Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley.
Snape frowned as he read the letter again. We have sent several owls...they have all been returned unopened and unread. He handed the letter back to Dumbledore, the storm already gathering on his face. He looked at Dumbledore for a long time until he finally sighed. "When do I leave?"
Now, as he sat silent and foreboding on the student train, Snape felt the first bands of pressure gathering behind his eyes, the sure sign of a buggeringly nasty headache on its way. He clenched his fingers over his wand and tried to drown out the shrieks of a group of first years.
Ordinarily, there wouldn't even be a train running this late in the year. Not right in the middle of summer holiday. Luckily for Snape, or perhaps not so luckily, this year was different. A group of first and second years had remained an extra month at Hogwarts for a special trip with Hagrid and were just now returning to their homes. As a result, Snape saved himself the energy associated with Apparating, but was forced to endure the antics of students who- in his mind, at least- were too young to even be let out into the world.
Snape reeled as something hard and feathery hit him in the side of the head. He narrowed his eyes and glared at the tiny little bird that had the gall to consider itself an owl. He stopped himself with his hand half raised to strike, wand ready in his fingers. Weasley would already not be pleased at the thought of having to meet his sour, grim-faced Potions Master at the King's Cross; finding his owl dead at said Potion Master's hand would likely send him through the roof.
"You'd better be in serious trouble, Potter," he breathed. "Or you're going to wish Voldemort got his hands on you before I'm through." Even now he winced as he spoke his Lord's name, fearful that the Dark Mark would once more blaze and send its searing pain through the length of his arm. He ducked as Pigwidgeon came zipping through the compartment again. He grit his teeth as his headache really took hold. "Yes, Potter. This had better be worth it."
* * *
"Name of Merlin, wouldn't you know it. Sir Slytherin himself."
Snape stepped off the train at King's Cross and immediately swung his gaze around to locate the owner of the voice. A flash of bright red hair caught his eye and he walked over to where Hermione Granger was elbowing Ronald Weasley in the side.
"Professor," Hermione said brightly, her bony elbow still digging into Weasley's ribcage. "I'm so glad Headmaster Dumbledore was able to find someone who could come. We were worried..." she bit her lip and trailed off, glancing quickly at Ron, then back to Snape. "Anyway, I'm glad you could come." She gave Ron a particularly hard jab and the youngest Weasley boy scowled darkly and nodded in dubious greeting.
"Through no desire of my own, let me assure you." Snape scowled to match Ron and picked up his valise. "Let's get on with it." He noticed Hermione eyeing his robes as she opened her mouth to speak, but he beat her to it. "Mutanis vestia," he murmured, and his robes shimmered and molded themselves into a Muggle outfit of black trousers and shirt with a leather belt and boots to match. "Well?"
Ron's scowl deepened, but Hermione simply turned and walked towards the barrier between the platforms. Snape picked up his case and followed silently. The sooner he could be done with this, the better.
It was Mrs. Granger who was waiting with the car- a perfectly normal, made-for-the-ground car. Snape put his case in the trunk and took a seat in the front, nodding vaguely towards Hermione's mother.
"You must be Mr. Snape," she said, as brightly as her daughter. Snape felt his jaw beginning to ache with the effort of keeping it clenched over the many retorts he longed to utter. Instead he simply nodded again and sat back without a word. He saw the woman glance back at her daughter questioningly, but Hermione simply shrugged and mouthed something that look suspiciously like: normal.
What do you know about normal? Snape wanted to ask, but kept his mouth shut. The last thing he wanted or needed was to be exchanging verbal parries with her of all people just then. Just do what you need to do and be done with it, Snape, he told himself.
"Hermione's told me so much about you," Mrs. Granger said, glancing back at her daughter through the rear-view mirror. "She says it's wonderful having such a brilliant man in such an important position at the school."
Snape caught sight of Hermione through a reflection in the windshield and noticed she was turning a particularly unbecoming shade of red. He rolled his eyes in a way that no one would notice and made some noncommittal sound.
"I admit I don't know a thing about what goes on in your school, or even in your particular society. But the way she tells it, your subject seems to be one of the most crucial in- er- your...world." She trailed off, embarrassed as Snape simply stared straight ahead. Hermione had turned the color of Ron's hair and was slowly sinking down into the seat.
Come off it, child, Snape thought. As if I cared what you say about me, good or bad. He tried to hide a yawn and wished he knew how much longer the trip was going to take. Maybe it would have been worth it to Apparate after all.
Behind him, he felt rather than saw Ron lean over to whisper in Hermione's ear. "It's gonna be a long ride," he said quietly, but not so quietly that Snape couldn't hear.
For once, Mr. Weasley, you and I are in complete agreement.
By the time they arrived at the Granger residence, Snape had his hand in his pocket and was fingering the smooth wood of his wand. It would be so easy- one word and all his problems would disappear. Just one word...but then there would be the problem of explaining to Dumbledore exactly why two of his students were no longer students. Or, for that matter, human. Still, it was an amusing thought; two perfectly ordinary- silent- salamanders sitting in the back seat of a perfectly ordinary Muggle car.
It was a good thing Snape was never one to give in to temptation.
"Would you like me to bring your things to your room, Mr. Snape?" Hermione's mother asked as they all headed into the sitting room. Snape stared at her.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Your- ah- room."
"Thank you, no. I will not be needing a room as I will not be staying long enough for it to be of any use. I plan on leaving as soon as I receive the details of Mr. Potter's predicament from your child and her friend."
"Oh..." Mrs. Granger exchanged an uncomfortable glance with her daughter. "I'll just leave the three of you alone, then," she said. "Can I get you anything before I go? Tea, something to eat?"
"We'll be fine, mum," Hermione said, jerking her head surreptitiously towards the door leading from the sitting room. "I'll let you know if we need anything."
"Of course, of course. Well...I'll just be off now..." Mrs. Granger smiled awkwardly and nodded again to Snape before ducking out the door. As soon as she had gone, Snape turned on Hermione and the as of yet silent Ron.
"Let me tell you something right here and right now," Snape hissed through clenched teeth. "I've no time for games. Tell me what I need to know so I may see if I can remedy the problem and be on my way."
"Why you great, greasy bas-Ow!" Ron was cut off abruptly as Hermione stamped hard on his foot. "What?"
"You just keep quiet," Hermione told him. She frowned and turned to Snape. "Believe us," she said quietly. "I wish I could tell you we weren't serious, because that would mean we'd know Harry is okay. But I honestly don't think he is." She handed him a sheaf of papers that had been sitting on a nearby desk. "He usually sends letters at least three times a week since the beginning of the holidays, but they were getting stranger and shorter as time went on. Three weeks ago they stopped entirely. We sent a few owls with messages of concern, but they were brought back." She stopped to clear her throat, and Snape was surprised to see tears glistening in her eyes. "Those are the last letters he sent."
Snape turned his eye to the papers in his hand. For the most part, they were similar to the letters all students write to their friends, giving and asking for news, sharing memories of the previous year and hopes for more in the next. But the writing became stilted as he moved down the pile, the notes shorter until they were barely more than sentences scribbled on scraps of parchment. As he came to the last one, he frowned.
Glad you're well, it said, the letters blurry and smeared. Can't write much now. I'll be in touch soon.
"This is all?" he asked, looking up.
Hermione nodded, still wiping tears from her eyes. "That was the last we heard from him. You don't think- I mean, You-Know-Who can't have-?"
"Don't be ridiculous," he snapped. "Albus wouldn't let something like that happen, and even if it had, we'd have known about it by now." He folded up the letters and handed them back to Hermione. "I suppose Albus was right. This could be serious." He took a deep breath, knowing he was going to regret his next words. "I'll leave tonight to go over and check on him," he said. "If he's in any sort of trouble, I'll see what I can do."
"Professor, thank you!" Hermione squealed and threw her arms around a startled Snape, who disentangled himself with a look of disgust on his face. She did the same to Ron, who looked equally put out. "You've no idea how much better this makes me feel. I'll go tell mum you'll be leaving tonight, though she'll probably insist you stay for supper. This is wonderful!" She skipped out, leaving Snape alone in the room with Ron.
"I'll have you know," Ron growled, as soon as Hermione was out of sight, "if anything happens to Harry, I hold you personally responsible. If you lay so much as a hand on him-"
"Mr. Weasley," Snape said sharply, staring down at the boy. "I am here at Dumbledore's request and nothing else. If you'd like, I will pack up and leave now, straight back to Hogwarts." Ron maintained a sullen silence. "Well?"
Ron glared a moment longer, then shrugged. "Fine. But only because Dumbledore trusts you. But that doesn't mean I do."
"I wouldn't expect anything else from you," Snape told him and lapsed into an unshakeable silence until Hermione and her mother joined them.
Supper was an ordeal rather than an affair. Dampened by Snape's rather sour disposition, the Grangers were oddly subdued. Ron didn't say a word the entire meal; he simply sat there and glared at Snape, his hand poised ominously over his knife. Only Hermione chattered away unconcernedly.
When the hellish meal finally ended and Mrs. Granger drew herself into the kitchen to clean up, Snape decided it was at last time to go. He thanked the Grangers rather stiffly for their hospitality and nodded his goodbyes to Hermione and Ron.
Drawing his wand from his pocket, Snape stepped out into the cool night air. It felt like the first time in months since he had a moment to himself just to clear his mind, though it had only been that morning that Dumbledore had summoned him to the school. As he pulled out his wand, Snape yawned hugely. He was tired and would easily have put off his rather daunting task until another day when he was rested, but he had made promises both to Dumbledore and that Weasley brat.
He murmured the words that would take him to the address where Potter was at and gestured with his wand. If only he hadn't made those damned promises. Although they were not proper wizard vows, Snape could no more break a promise he gave than he could remove his own hand. Still, as the world fuzzed and swirled around him, he cursed the day he had received the summons back to Hogwarts. Cement formed under his feet and soon he was staring at a perfectly normal house, its windows dark and silent.
This had better be worth it, Potter. This had better be worth it.