What if Snape listens to Harry after Harry sees Snape's memories (Order of the Phoenix)?

A/N – I know Harry crying at the beginning is slightly out of character, but I needed something shocking to catch Snape's attention. Just blame it on the fact that Harry is extra emotional in his fifth year, because Voldemort is in his head.

Snape, mad with rage, was about to start yelling at the boy, all his usual dignity and eloquence forgotten, but then he noticed something odd. Potter was crying. This was unusual in itself, but Potter wasn't just crying, his whole body seemed to be wracked with sobs, despite the boy's obvious desperate attempts to stop. Snape paused, "What is it, boy?" bitterness and accusation lacing his tone. He may be curious, but anger was still pounding uncontrollably through his veins.

"Four against one," Potter managed to choke out. Snape didn't reply. The thought that had just occurred to him just didn't make sense. Potter looked up, looked him in the eye, his sobs quickly receding. Snape resisted the urge to sigh in relief. If there was one thing he couldn't stand, or indeed, cope with, it was crying children. Which was unfortunate since he worked in a school, and it was partly the reason Snape moulded his reputation as the Dungeon Bat. Crying children didn't come running to him. Then Snape had to almost bite back his surprise. The look that Potter gave him could almost be called calculating.

"My cousin is the leader of his little gang," Potter explained, then he gave a laugh that held no humour, "by virtue of being the biggest and the stupidest of the lot. Their favourite game, it might interest you to know, before Hogwarts, before I knew I was a wizard, was called 'Harry Hunting'. As you can imagine, I just simply loved it. I was Dudley's favourite punch bag," Snape's first instinct was to accuse Potter of being a lying, attention seeking brat (as he usually did), but there was something in the way he spoke, the deep pain, that meant he didn't need leglimency to see whether Potter was telling the truth. It was there, written in his face. Why this truth had come spilling out now, to him, of all people, Snape did not know. It wasn't like they exactly got on. But Snape found that, as Lily had once listened patiently, sympathetically to him, he simply could not turn her son away, no matter what their past, or who his father was. Never mind the fact he simply wasn't talented in the area of patient, sympathetic listening,

"Didn't your Aunt and Uncle do something about this?"

"Them?" Harry gave an oddly twisted, bitter laugh, and Snape had the odd feeling that Potter was forcing himself to laugh, to stop himself from crying. The boy's emotions seemed all over the place, and for a moment it was all he could do to stop himself from sneering. Couldn't Potter control himself at all? No wonder he was terrible at occlumency, "They practically encourage him. My Uncle thinks it shows you're a 'proper man' or some rubbish, and my Aunt, well … they hate me, because they hate magic, they think I'm a freak. They're convinced if they keep me as miserable as possible they'll somehow squash it out of me. Besides," his voice took on a terrible derisive tone, "their precious Duddikins can do no wrong. The only way I cope these days is by mentioning the fact that the escaped convict they saw on TV is actually my godfather. I might have forgotten to mention he's innocent, not that he'd be innocent for much longer if Sirius knew how they treated me. They used to be terrified I was going to turn them all into fruit bats or something, but then an insane, if annoyingly lovable house elf came and used a Hover Charm in the house, and the Ministry thought it was me, so the Dursleys found out I wasn't allowed to use magic outside school." Snape watched Potter curiously. Potter, understandably enough, spoke about his family with a violent hatred. But beneath that, and he only saw it because he recognised it from his own childhood, there was a deep longing, Potter wanted, especially from his Aunt, to be loved. Snape knew how he felt, he had hated his father more than anything else in the world, but however much he tried not to, it always hurt when his father turned away.

They sat in silence until Harry glanced at Snape's slightly dumbfounded expression (of course, should anyone accuse Snape of wearing even the slightest dumbfounded expression, they might find their food mysteriously contained a slow, painful poison) and smirked, "Not exactly the spoilt prince you were expecting then?" Snape didn't answer immediately, because he knew Potter was right. How was it that in such a short space of time he was realising that it was only in looks that Potter resembled his father? Of course, there were quite a few annoying personality characteristics in which Potter also resembled his father, but now was the moment he had to admit (as painful, and as much as he knew Minerva would gloat) he had been wrong to immediately decide that the blasted brat was a carbon copy of James Potter (may he rot in hell for all eternity) as soon as he saw him.

"Not exactly, no," he admitted extremely reluctantly, he still had his pride after all. "But how did they get away with it?" Snape knew all too well how guardians got away with abuse, having experienced it himself, but he also knew that his and Potter's situations had differed greatly. Potter grew up in a much richer area than himself, and would have been watched, not only by the normal Muggle authorities, but by the extra protection Dumbledore had placed around the boy,

"A couple of school doctors, one teacher, noticed something amiss. But the Dursleys are kind of like the Malfoys – 'upstanding citizens' with a lot of influence. They would never do anything so terrible," he said sarcastically, "and so those doctors and teachers suddenly found themselves without a job, and I, of course, learnt never to go to adults with my problems again," Snape sneered. Of course, corruption was everywhere, and money and power was the real law. It also explained why Potter felt the ridiculous, foolish need to sort everything out himself.

Suddenly Potter let out a great sigh, and it was obvious that Potter was struggling with himself about admitting what was bothering him, but eventually he seemed to decide to trust Snape, which in itself told how much Potter needed to get the words out, "The worst thing, the very worst thing is that … is that … everyone's always told how bloody wonderful my Dad was, and so I felt so damn proud when anyone compared me to him. They made it so easy to throw off your lone criticisms, after all, it was no secret you hated each other, and it wasn't like you were my favourite person in the world," Snape wanted to nod along and agree, but, to his great surprise and discomfort, Potter looked so distressed he found himself wanting to comfort him,

"If it makes you feel any better, Potter, Lily, your Mother … never partook in any bullying, even after … I - I made my dreadful mistake," Harry gave a half smile, and some wild of Snape's brain thought it might be some acceptance of his pathetic, far-too-late, semi apology,

"I know, I saw. But that almost makes it worse, because she seemed to - to hate my Dad so much," again, Snape wanted desperately to agree. But, despite what his students might think, he did have a heart, and he saw how much the idea that his mother had hated his father, and so reaching the logical conclusion, James Potter had forced Lily, was torturing the boy. Besides, he couldn't let Potter run away with the idea that James Potter could ever have even the slightest talent to force Lily into doing something she didn't want to do,

"She definitely hated him at fifteen. And I could say with absolute certainty that he deserved it, though nearly everyone would disagree," he added bitterly, "perhaps even Lily would disagree, later in life. But even I have to admit that James Potter improved, and though there was never any chance of us being friends, I will not insult Lily Evans by doubting her taste. Besides, you need never doubt that anyone would ever stand a chance of forcing Lily Evans into doing something she did not want to do. We were friends, once."

And for the first time since Harry had stepped into Snape's office, he smiled genuinely.

A/N – This whole thing has pretty much driven me insane. Since it's pretty much from Snape's point of view, and has a lot of Snape dialogue, I had to get Snape's voice absolutely right. Which I still don't think I've done completely right. But I've spent ages going back and forth over it, trying to get it right, so here it is. Please review with all the constructive criticism you can think of. Thank you.