Author's Notes - Hi! First of all, if you've discovered this story through an author alert, rest assured that I am working on the sequel to Careless Benevolence. In fact, I'm also writing a prequel to The Emissary that takes place during the Time War. So, if you were expecting a Doctor Who story, please give me a week or two to decide which one to post first.
I originally joined FF in order to broaden my horizons, but I honestly never expected to be writing a Harry Potter story. However, the character of Severus Snape has always intrigued me, and this is the result. The story revolves around the aftermath of a sexual assault, thereby earning its Teen rating. And, it's obviously AU, since James and Lily's child is a girl named Rose, not a boy named Harry. Feel free to let me know what you think.
Severus Snape sat brooding in his Potions classroom. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore had cancelled exams as a treat for students after Miss Potter had managed to open the Chamber of Secrets, rescue Ronald Weasley, kill a basilisk and defeat a very not dead Voldemort yet again. It was enough to give him a piercing headache. He had no idea what the Headmaster expected O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. level students to do. It wasn't as if they could postpone their exams. It was bad enough the younger students weren't being given comprehensive finals.
He had rather hoped that Miss Potter could have pulled up her Potions mark by getting an Outstanding on the final examination. When she wasn't giggling with the Weasley boy, passing notes with Miss Granger, or trading insults with Draco Malfoy, she wasn't a bad hand at potions. Not nearly as proficient as Lily had been, of course, but that was to be expected. Much as he wished it otherwise, Rose was Potter's child as well as Lily's.
That had been evident the first time he'd seen her in the Great Hall for the Sorting Ceremony. She was small for her year, and her black hair had looked unkempt even pulled back with an elastic. Her plain features were Potter through and through, but it had been her emerald eyes that had mesmerized him. Even from behind those ridiculous glasses, he could see Lily's eyes staring curiously at him as the young lady had scanned the Head Table.
Naturally, he'd glared back. It would have not be appropriate to return her frank stare, and he'd watched as she had dropped his gaze as if she'd been burnt. For some reason, that had hurt more than he had thought it would, but he had paid it no heed. His job was to protect Rose Potter, not befriend her.
Protecting her was becoming increasingly difficult. The child was as headstrong as her father, and he suspected that she had been given James' invisibility cloak at some point. How else could she seemingly roam the castle at will? Whoever had given it to her must be mad, and he had a sinking suspicion that Dumbledore himself had put the dangerous artifact into the girl's eager hands.
He sighed. Thinking of Miss Potter only made his headache worse. Thoughts of the girl invariably led to thoughts of what might have been. At least she was safely aboard the train, and wouldn't be able to scare him half to death until the beginning of the next term.
In the morning, he would go to Spinner's End. Usually, he avoided his childhood home, but he didn't want to spend the summer at Hogwarts under Dumbledore's sharp gaze. He was Slytherin enough to follow the adage, 'out of sight, out of mind,' and planned to put it to good use. He had delicate potions to brew, and preferred to do so without being interrupted every five minutes by the Headmaster inquiring as to how he was getting along, or worse yet, engaging in gloomy discussions about the inevitable rise of the Dark Lord. He was enough of a realist to acknowledge that his former master would regain his body at some point in time, but that didn't mean he enjoyed discussing the prospect, especially when the thought sent cold shivers of fear down his spine.
Methodically, he inventoried his stores of potion ingredients. He was low on boomslang skin yet again. Cursing to himself, he vowed to get a lock that actually worked against simple opening spells next year. A student or students had no doubt stolen that particular item to make polyjuice potion. Biting back a sigh, he added it to a long list of ingredients that needed to be replenished. He could not wait to leave Hogwarts.
Cornering Lily in the deserted hallway near the Potions classroom, Severus tenderly brushed his thumb against her cheek. She wore odd Muggle clothing, a ridiculously bright green miniskirt made of snake skin and a silver blouse unbuttoned low enough to expose her cleavage.
"You look ravishing, Lily."
"I wore it for you, Sev."
"Truly?" he asked with a raised eyebrow, hardly daring to believe her desire for him, even in his dreams.
"Of course, silly! What do you think?"
Slowly, he pressed languid kisses against her neck, inhaling the warmth of her lilac scented skin. "I think that you look like the embodiment of temptation, Miss Evans. The snake in the garden of Eden couldn't compare to you."
As he unbuttoned her shirt to move his mouth downwards, she whimpered with desire. Emboldened, he put his other hand underneath her skirt, discovering to his satisfaction that she wore no knickers. When she moaned, an all too rational part of his brain realized that it was going to be one of those dreams. He promptly ordered it to shut up and did his best to enjoy what had forever been denied him in reality.
He was poised on top of her, gazing passionately into green eyes that implored him to make her his own, when another Lily appeared nearby. This Lily was nothing like the adolescent girl of his dreams. She was most certainly a woman; her maturity was evident in her silent patience.
For an instant, he forgot about the younger Lily, the one of his fantasies, and he looked the older Lily in the eyes. The overabundance of compassion he saw there made his breath hitch. However, it was the anxiety and grief in her gaze that caused him to be wary. He didn't need yet another guilty conversation with his subconscious.
There was no simpering, no pleading, and definitely no exposed skin as this Lily waited tolerantly for him to stand and face her. She wore the dress of a practical housewife, although it couldn't cover her innate beauty, and her red hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail. But still, her eyes were troubled, and he resigned himself to wallow in guilt once again.
"Sev, you have to help me. You're the only one I trust. Help me, please, Sev."
Well, this was unusual. She wasn't hurling accusations at him as was his subconscious' usual wont. But, he had no idea what she was talking about. A cryptic dream, then—he hadn't had one of those in years.
He decided to be flippant; it was his dream, after all. "Regretfully, Lily, I do not understand what it is you want. Can you come back tomorrow night? I'd like to finish my dream with the other Lily, if you don't mind."
Lily Evans Potter seemed to mind very much. She irately stamped the stone floor of the hallway leading to the Potions classroom. "This isn't time for games, Severus Snape! Rose is in terrible danger! I need your help to save her."
He groaned. Leave it to him to dream of Lily's daughter just when he was enjoying himself with the girl's mother. What kind of twisted mind did he have, anyway?
"While I acknowledge that she gets into more trouble than I would like, I am doing my best to protect her." Feeling remorseful once more for the reason he was the one entrusted with her safety, he added a moving apology.
"I am sorry, Lily—so very sorry that my actions resulted in your death. And, I know I should have handled the basilisk incident better, but I promise you I am doing my best. I won't let her come to harm. I care for you too much to let the Dark Lord hurt her."
Adult Lily was crying now. "Severus, please! You have to listen! Rose is in danger right now! You have to wake up and save her. It may already be too late. Time's a funny thing when you're dead."
That strange statement definitely piqued his curiosity. Still, he answered with his usual sneer. "So, you claim to be the ghost of Lily Potter?"
"I'm no ghost," she shot back, exposing him to her quick temper. Rapidly, though, her righteous anger was replaced by worry and apprehension. "Right now I am nothing more than a desperate mother trying to save her daughter. Please, Severus, you have to help her. You made a promise to Dumbledore."
Dumbledore. Of course. Everything revolved around Dumbledore in the end, he thought morosely.
Suddenly, the location of his dream changed. He and the very grown up Lily were now standing near the playground where they had played as children. Looking down, he realized that he was no longer a virile boy of sixteen, but once again the embittered Potions Master. Tired of the dream, he ordered himself awake.
"Sev, please. You have to hurry."
A prickle of fear shot through him. This was no ordinary dream.
"That's what I've been trying to tell you," she answered impatiently.
"But you're dead. I killed you."
Her features softened as she wrapped her arms around him in a tender embrace. "Oh, Severus, why can't you forgive yourself? No matter what you may have told him, Voldemort was the one who killed me, not you. And, I'm sorry as well. If I hadn't stormed off after you called me a mudblood, maybe we could have worked things out, and none of this would have happened."
He staunchly defended her. "It wasn't your fault. You were right. I was attracted to the Dark Arts, but I've learned my lesson. And, I will protect Rose, with my life, if need be."
"I know you will. But, you have to hurry. Her injuries are grievous, and I must warn you that you will have to protect her from friends as well as enemies. Now, hurry, Sev!"
He bolted upright, his breaths coming in heaving gasps.
What the hell had just happened? Had he actually spoken to a vision of Lily? Or was his subconscious trying to find new ways to torment him?
Springing out of bed, Severus Snape dressed hastily. It didn't matter. He had one true purpose in life and one only—to protect Rose Potter. If there was the slightest chance that what he had seen was in any way real, he had to act. If it were true, Rose could be in mortal peril at that very moment. However, he had no intention of raising the alarm in case his dream proved false. He would not be made a laughingstock. Racing out of his quarters, he was relieved that Hogwarts was practically empty. There would be few to witness his folly should he be mistaken.
As he raced up the stairs of the Astronomy Tower, he occluded his mind. It was not a time for his fears to get the best of him. Perching on the edge of the parapet, he leapt into the air and flew to Hogsmeade. Tumbling to the ground (perhaps his mind was not as occluded as he had hoped), Severus Snape fixed Arabella Figg's address in his mind and Apparated to Little Whinging.
He landed in front of the Squib's house, and quickly scanned for threats. Privet Drive was deserted, although it was not so late that the houses were dark. Striding purposefully down the street, his robes flapping behind him, he was suddenly filled with self-doubt. He would look like a bloody stupid fool if he burst into the Dursley household and nothing was amiss. He could already imagine the look on Petunia's face when she realized who he was. No doubt Miss Potter would also take great pleasure in seeing her least favorite professor revealed to be a gibbering, simpering idiot.
The thought almost stopped him in his tracks, but the memory of Lily's forgiveness was fresh in his mind. He had always dreamed of absolution, but to hear it said with her voice was beyond his wildest imagining. For the sake of her memory, he would chance ridicule. Putting on his best sneer, he rang the bell. A very unwelcome face cracked open the door, but he didn't give her a chance to turn him away. Pushing it open, he crossed the threshold, immediately taking a few steps further inside.
"You!" she screeched. It seemed that Petunia Evans Dursley remembered him after all.
"Obviously," he answered, his voice full of disdain. "I do hope you will forgive me for barging in here, Tuney, but I have some questions I would like to put to Miss Potter. Please have her come downstairs immediately."
He uttered her nickname like an insult, and she stiffened with distaste. He might be able to use that knowledge later, if it became necessary. It seemed Petunia still harbored resentment over actions taken during their childhood, not that it surprised him in the least. How Dumbledore had determined that she was the best guardian for Lily's daughter was truly a mystery.
What could only be her husband joined her in the foyer; he was a hulking lump of a man who projected outrage from every fiber of his being. "Now, see here! You have no right to barge into our lives at all. Bad enough that we have to put up with that little freak of a niece. I will not have your kind in our home!"
"And, what, pray tell, is my kind?" Severus asked in an oily, dangerous voice.
"Freaks, the lot of you! Wizards and witches and God knows what else."
"Vernon, don't. He's dangerous."
Petunia's hissed warning had little effect on her husband, whose entire face had reddened in anger. However, the word dangerous reminded Snape of his reason for visiting, and he cursed himself for wasting time.
"The child, Petunia. I must speak to her. Now."
He'd had years to practice such a commanding tone. It was part sneer, part scorn and a good part implied threat. So, when Petunia didn't immediately call out for the girl, he got a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Vernon was very happy to explain why that wouldn't be possible. "Little ingrate didn't bother coming home tonight! Petunia had to cook dinner and clean the kitchen. When the no good freak finally decides to show up, you can be sure she's going to be punished for her insolence!"
If Severus hadn't been such a skilled actor, he might have staggered in shock. Sirius Black had escaped just that morning. Why would the Dursleys let Miss Potter out of the house at all? Certainly they had been informed of the danger. Or had she stupidly run away? Again, he almost fell into the trap of pursuing the tangent, but after a few seconds, he focused on the task at hand.
"Where would she have gone?"
This time, the threat wasn't so much implied as promised, and Petunia began to wring her hands in fear. Vernon, however, was not that intelligent. His neck muscles straining with fury, he told Snape exactly what he thought of the question.
"Why would we know where that nasty little freak has gone? Probably just skiving off from doing her chores. And, when she gets back, let me tell you, confining her to her room is the least I'm going to do to her. It's time she's taught a lesson."
His jaw clenching so much that it pained him, Severus whipped out his wand. He had no more time to waste. "I'll ask you again because it is all too apparent that your skull is overly large for your brain. Do you know where Miss Potter could have gone? Can you give me the names of her friends with whom she might be?"
The two Dursleys took a step back at the sight of his wand, and it was in that instant that Severus noticed the boy behind the red-faced man. The child was almost a clone of his father, right down to the enormous double chin. Though, he appeared to be slightly more intelligent than his raging parent. At least he had the common sense to be afraid.
Ignoring Vernon's rant about the fact that Rose Potter was too much of a freak to have friends, Snape focused on the boy. So did Petunia. As she saw the expression on her son's face, her eyes narrowed.
"If you know where the brat is, Dudley, tell me now so we can be rid of this loathsome man."
At once, Severus knew without a doubt that the rotund child knew something. He'd seen that half terrified, half guilty expression on too many Hogwarts students in the past. Scowling, he pressed his wand against Dudley's neck. For some inexplicable reason, the boy clutched his bottom.
"I don't know where she is," Dudley wailed. "I swear; I don't. I just heard . . . ." Here, he trailed off, looking guiltily at the floor.
"What did you hear, boy? Answer me!" Snape thundered, and the entire house crackled as if a massive charge of static electricity gathered in the air.
Gulping, Dudley stammered what he had heard. "N-not much! P-P-Piers told me that he . . . that he and his friends . . . that he . . . ."
"Out with it!"
The rest came out in a tumble of words, spoken so quickly that it took Snape a moment to understand it.
"That he and his friends were tired of Rose acting like she was better than they and that they were going to thaw the ice queen."
Petunia was the first to react. She involuntarily sucked in her breath, the blood draining from her face. Dudley quickly averted his eyes downward, hoping to be ignored. And, the churning in Severus' gut solidified into a cold, hard lump of fear. Vernon opened his mouth to comment, but the Hogwarts professor cast a Silencio, stopping the man's tirade quite effectively.
Seemingly dispassionate, Snape addressed Petunia. "Do you have any idea where they might have taken her?"
The dour woman glanced at her son, but Dudley studiously refused to meet her eyes. "Piers and his friends like the playground. You might check there first."
Nodding brusquely, Severus turned and raced out the door, praying that Rose had run away from her potential tormentors and was hiding where she felt safe. As he approached the dark and deserted playground, however, he cynically remembered that God, if He existed, had not once answered any of his prayers. He had a horrible feeling that this time would be no exception.