AN: People rightfully pointed out that this makes zero sense months into fifth year. So I'm pretending this is second week of first term. I know this is not canon-compliant, but humour me?
"I never thought I would see the phenomenon in my life time."
Snape stared down at a shaking Harry Potter; he was on all fours, glasses smashed, rasping. Severus felt a small satisfaction: it was just like when he was a child at home; Potter could feel just a fraction of what he felt.
"What phenomenon, sir?" Potter asked, voice hoarse. He clenched his jaw, glaring up at Snape.
Snape merely sneered. "Get up, Potter."
They had been at it for months and it had been the same every lesson: Snape attacking and Potter barely defending.
"Hurry UP," snarled Snape.
Months and months.
Potter rubbed his temples, but stood up this time.
Snape sighed, loudly. "Spare me the melodrama."
"It's not melodrama, sir. I'm allowed to rub my head... and what phenomenon?"
Snape could see Potter physically hold back his anger. You did not need Occlumency with this boy. His emotions were all too obvious - and Severus knew how to release them.
"What phenomenon?" Snape echoed, stepping towards the boy. As he did, he felt a rush of power: Potter was fifteen and Severus, tall anyway, stood inches above him. He glared down at his student. "Merely, that we have been at this for months, Potter" he said, flicking the words like whips, "and you have made no progress. And on top of that, your sheer arrogance-"
"I'm not arrog-"
"-astounds me. Because, despite failing to grasp simple Occlumency, you are more full of yourself than your loathsome father ever was-"
"My father," Potter suddenly said, stepping forward. His words were like bullets: short, sharp, separate. "My father."
Potter was obviously trying to control his rage but just a glance at the boy's clenched fists and shaking jaw told Snape that he was going to burst any minute. Breathing heavily and with cracked glasses, Potter looked like an escaped criminal.
Potter took another deep breath, furious beyond control, and Snape's insides stirred with glee at the next words: "My father was a better man than you'll ever be!"
Something snapped within Snape. He grabbed both of Potter's wrist, holding them until it must have hurt; he could feel the boy's bony forearms shaking from anger. Something had changed in their relationship in that moment. It had somehow become even more hateful - and Snape was happy to oblige.
"Do not insult me, Potter."
With his red, straining, shaking face, Potter could roar. Snape would give him that. Their faces moved closer together, as Snape clenched Potter's wrists harder, eyes on each other, unblinking. For a moment, there was silence apart from the mingling of heavy breathing.
Snape loosened his grip and lifted his upper lip delicately, almost like a shrug. "Or this."
The force that Snape entered Potter's mind was brutal. It was Snape at his worst. Like an ocean he roared. Potter fell to the floor through a blur of water. He expected, as he entered Potter's mind, Diggory TO BE dead on the floor or Voldemort waving his wand or himself, the evil potions master. But instead of hitting angst-ridden rocks, he found a smooth beach. Snape gazed around Potter's mind. Memory after happy memory floated past him.
Potter pouring milk on his cereal-
Potter sitting on the Hogwarts express, chatting to fellow Gryffindors-
Potter stroking Hedwig lovingly-
Severus left Potter's mind quickly to see the boy standing up and grinning; it was impossible to tell that mere minutes ago he had been rasping on the floor.
"Potter!" Severus eyed him intently. "What was that?"
"My memories, sir."
"Do. Not. Lie."
Snape should have seen a bright and beautiful selection of Potter's worst memories, yet all he got was trivial rubbish.
"Didn't you see any?" asked Potter lightly, unable to stop the disgusting smile creeping across his face. "I saw lots: me eating cereal, me-"
"That was full-fledged attack, Potter! No wizard apart from a select few - and you certainly are not one of those - should have been able to withstand it. You shouldn't have been able to hide anything from me! Where was Cedric? Where was the Dark Lord? Where were your parents?"
Where was Lily?
Snape took a deep breath, well aware of how desperate his voice sounded.
Potter put his hands in the air. "Maybe I'm more talented than you give me credit for."
Growling, Severus dove into Potter's mind once again, with even more force than last time and found himself in a soft blue. Memories, again, flittered past like annoying little birds.
Potter, once again, happy-
For once, Potter was standing up and Severus was on the floor. Potter leant over him, his annoying, grinning face upside-down against the dark stone ceiling.
"Want a hand, sir? I know how you hate seeing me happy."
Snape stood up in one fluid moment, batting Potter away.
"Shut up. You are still useless at this. There is something beyond you at play here…"
He gestured at a seat on one side of his desk.
Snape stood at the other side. Staring down at Potter, with both hands on the wooden surface, would make it feel more like an interrogation – and, yet, Potter managed to ruin even that by sitting down with a little bounce.
"What did you do?" demanded Snape, hands tight on the table edge.
Severus's breath rambled with anger and he leant forward to glare at the boy.
"Potter, you may think you've seen me at my worst have no idea yet how creative my punishments can become." Snape's mouth twitched, "I have been inside your mind. I know all about Cho Chang and soon the whole school could tool."
It was low, and he knew it. Not that he cared.
Potter blinked hard. "Not even you would dare to-"
"Yes, Potter, I would. Even me."
A quick glance at Snape's expression was apparently enough to convince Potter that Snape was telling the truth.
"I don't get why you care so much," said Potter, shrugging. "But I found a hole and I buried them all in there."
"A hole?" said Snape quickly. "What do you mean a hole?"
"Like you know one of those big round things or have you not-"
"Potter!" snarled Severus, swiftly interrupting Potter's wave of ego that had been rising since the Happy Memory Debacle began. "How did the hole get there?"
Potter paused, as if deciding whether to continue his jibe; thankfully even he had enough sense not to.
"It was there," he simply said. "I found it, already made."
"What do you mean?"
Potter smiled. "Have I discovered a method that you haven't?"
"No!" Snape suddenly realised he was clutching the table with both hands until his fist were white. He took a deep breath, before letting go, and walking around the desk, gesturing for Potter to stand up. They both returned to the middle of the room. "Do not resist me. At all."
Potter smiled. "Of course I'll resist you. That's what I'm meant to be doing isn't it? Good luck-"
Snape, happily, cut off his words.
A blue space-
A happy Potter-
A happy Potter-
A happy Potter-
Where are they, Potter? Where are they? Where are your bad memories?
Quietly, Snape split himself in two, one to watch the constant memories and distract the boy…
A happy Potter-
A happy Potter-
A happy Potter-
… And one to dig.
Snape pulled rock away.
"Sir! No! Sir, it hurts!"
Ah. He had found it. Not perfect defences after all. Snape could feel a force tackling him; it was as easy to push away as feathers. And so it crumbles-
The Dark Lord, drawing back his wand arm-
Diggory, face pale on a dark floor-
James Potter, hand stretching out-
And dying was-
Just a wordless cry from Potter this time...
Severus drew out sharply. They were both on the floor, in silence apart from heavy breathing. Slowly, Snape stood up to see Potter, who was on his front, spread-eagled, no doubt trying to appear unconscious, but Snape could see the flicker of an eyelid.
"Potter," said Snape, after a while, once he could trust himself to speak. "What was that?"
There were a couple of moments of silence before Snape lost his patience and crouched down at Potter's head. Potter could not help but meet his gaze.
"What was what?"
"First, you concealed some memories from me- Yes, yes, congratulations Potter. You have managed to reach a first year level." Potter frowned, recognising the blatant lie; Snape didn't care. "But how," continued Snape, watching Potter unwaveringly, and feeling his heart beat hard, "are you managing to hide yet some more?"
Snape closed his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose. He snapped them open again. "Do not pretend you do not know Potter."
Potter, even lying down, stuck his chin in the air. "What? I-"
Again, Severus took a dive into Potter's mind, finding no resistance, and a whirlpool of all his memories.
The Dark Lord-
Severus left Potter's head once again, the real world materializing in front of him in the form of a frowning Potter.
Slowly, Potter sat up. Snape remained crouching. "What sir?"
Snape's eyes were fixed on Potter. "You are not doing this knowingly?"
Snape narrowed his eyes in search for a lie within Potter's pale expression.
"I suppose there's only one request to make then," said Severus slowly, "Tell me about your life before you came to Hogwarts."
They returned to the desk, both sitting down this time, opposite each other. Potter leant forward in his chair, smiling, still feeling in control.
"Um, that's quite a lot of time to describe."
"Start with your home life."
"My home life, sir?"
"Yes, well repeated, Potter."
"Well er, I live with my aunt, uncle and cousin Dudley."
Snape wanted to slap him. "Are you being deliberately obtuse?"
"I don't understand what you want from me!"
"Years don't just disappear Potter!" Snape stood up once again, leaning forward across the desk. "I did not see one memory from under the age of eleven!"
"Well, maybe you just didn't look properly-"
"Impossible!" answered Snape immediately before eyeing Potter intently, as he let out a slow breath, tilting his head. "Where are the first eleven years of your life..? What is stuck in that hole of yours?"
"I don't care for your ideas. Shut up."
Once again, Snape dove into the boy's mind.
A swirl of memories, still turbulent after getting ripped from the crevasse. Snape waited until the last image of the Dark Lord's face to pass before there was silence. He strolled through Potter's mind, finally reaching the small hole he had ripped open. To be fair to Potter - however much he hated doing so - the handiwork was good, even if it was subconsciously made.
It wasn't just a shelter for memories of the Dark Lord. It couldn't be. Eleven years didn't just disappear.
Severus peered into the hole.
A little flicker of red in the corner, stuck like gum to the walls. Gum so thick that there was no way Potter could have consciously formed it. He had just used to it to hide memories of the Dark Lord – but it had been subconsciously formed to hide something else.
Quietly, Severus slipped once again out of Potter's mind.
"Sir?" the boy asked, still at the opposite side of the table, his eyes wide. "Do you mind…er…actually telling me what's going on?"
Snape raised his wand and, before Potter could react, whispered "Stupefy".
Potter slumped back on his chair.
Snape wasn't a complete monster; he did feel bad. If he was found out, Dumbledore would never forgive him. But he had to know – and the gum did not look good. If Potter was awake for its extraction, no doubt there would be a lot of screaming and Severus did not want to torture his ears.
Severus flicked his wand and with a satisfying click the door was locked and warded. He stood up and turned Potter around to face him, murmuring a spell so that the boy stayed upright. He put his hands on either side of Potter's face, opening his eyelids with his thumbs.
"Ready, Potter?" Snape caught himself asking.
Snape entered Potter's mind, glad for the lack of resistance, and made his way across the soft blue and to the black hole in the corner, entering it softly, over the gunk that was almost as solid as rock. He began removing it, working at the edges, prizing it away...
After the final chunk of red had been removed, the rush of memories battered him.
Before he could make sense of it, Potter was four and blood was pouring from his mouth-
Potter was five and he was cowering in a corner-
Snape wanted to claw his way out of Potter's mind but something strange within him anchored him there, in the crushing, pounding waves of a stormy ocean.
Potter was six and avoiding his Uncle's blow-
Potter was seven and getting slapped-
Snape shook his head.
Potter had just turned his aunt's hair blue-
Potter was eight and he was curled up, crying in the corner-
He had, with unnatural gymnastic ability, dodged Dudley's punch-
Potter was ten and nearly unconscious, leaning against a bloody wall-
He couldn't even remember what he had done wrong-
Five, shivering in the garden, at midnight, not even with a sleeping bag-
Anything but this.
When the Dursleys 'forgot' to let him back in-
Potter hadn't done anything that time.
Snape fell, not stepped, back into his office. For a couple of minutes, he could do nothing but sit on the floor. Then he quickly picked himself up and began to pace erratically.
How could Potter have possibly planted those images in his brain, got rid of all previous, nice memories of the Dursleys and tricked Severus into spending three hours extracting them - all for attention?
Slowly, Severus stopped walking and just stood, finally looking properly at the boy on the floor – the boy on the floor, whose face was pale, who had purple smudges on his eyes, whose soft breathing was slightly laboured, whose messy hair was matted with sweat and whose eyes were still open.
Green, so green.
There were a few minutes before Severus drew the courage to crouch next to him. He took a deep breath. Slowly, with his index finger and thumb, he pulled back the sleeve of Potter's robes.
Severus closed his eyes.
A big purple bruise, bright and glowing and shiny - as if proud.
Potter, getting wrenched into his cupboard, by one huge fist-
He, a tiny Severus Snape, cowering in the corner of a small room, lank locks in his eyes, the door closing, the lock clicking shut-
Severus opened his eyes.
He felt numb.
He had always prided himself for taking whatever was thrown at him, whether spying for Dumbledore, enduring the sharp flicks of the Cruciatus curse or even the first year pranks directed at him.. but this. This was an upheaval of what he had lived his life by for years. His three commandments that he based every action on:
1) Potter was incompetent
2) Potter was spoiled
3) Potter was arrogant
Since when could an incompetent child protect themselves from not just their own memories, but Snape's attacks?
And since when was an abused child spoiled?
And how on earth could an abused child be arrogant?
Potter had been abused, horrifically, and he was not the boy Severus had thought he had known. Severus could not stop his fists clenching. He looked directly at Potter, until his fists uncurled, like they had given up hope.
"I am sorry, Lily" he said so quietly his voice was barely a rustle.
He stood up and flicked his wand. A bed appeared, large and comfortable. Snape gently picked Potter up and laid him onto it. He flicked his wand and Potter was just in his boxers.
The boy's body was covered. From the tip of his toes to his head, there were cuts, bruises, scars, welts, red patches: he was, quite simply, tortured. Snape didn't realise that his hands shook as he slowly retrieved and unzipped his potions bag. He looked from Potter to the kit and, for once in his life, didn't know where to start.
He tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling.
Potter's subconscious must have created a hole to bury his past - in other words, suppress memories. The abuse. By happenstance, it would have made a good hiding place for other memories – the Dark Lord, for example -when Severus attacked. Potter hadn't known what lay hiding in its murky depths.
Snape waved his wand, and waited for the list of injuries to appear. As he had expected, broken bones, a sprained ankle - and a ruptured spleen. Snape glanced up and sucked in a sharp breath. No wonder the boy had had a headache.
Potter must have moved around school, unnerved by the various aches and pains plaguing his body, not knowing the cause of them. He had probably assumed that Voldemort was beating him physically in his dreams as well as mentally. Terrified. Of course, the boy would never have gone to the Headmaster who had been ignoring Potter. He would never go to Black, not wanting to look weak and he would never go to his friends, probably for the same reason.
He would never have even considered Severus Snape.
So, Potter had no one left and faced everyday with bruises, broken bones and a ruptured spleen.
And for how many years had he done so?
With a deep breath, Snape two quick strides forwards. Waving his wand, he muttered with ferocious concentration, cursing the Dursleys for every bruise he healed, every cut he sewed up, every welt he soothed. Each wound of Potter's body took minutes to heal, some nearly an hour. And there were so many. The minutes added up until they became hours.
Potter's torso and back were the worst, littered with crimes; Snape had to pause to steady himself.
It was dark when Snape had begun. Even as the light filtered through the windows and Snape swayed with exhaustion, the potions master carried on working. Even when his hands were shaking from tiredness, Snape carried on working. Even when he heard scraping above him as the teachers arose, the potions master carried on working.
The room was completely light when Snape stepped back from the bed, wand held loosely in one hand, staring at Potter, mouth open in disbelief of what he had done and in disbelief of what the boy had suffered. And in disbelief that it was Potter.
Snape took a soft step forward, before steadily lifting Potter up and, once again, placing him on the chair opposite his desk. He positioned Potter's head exactly the way he had left it. He vanished the bed. Closing his eyes, he once again entered Potter's mind and walked across the blue expanse, which now was stained in black and red. An hour later and all the memories were congealed into the same red gunk as before.
Snape left Potter's mind slowly and stared at him for a couple of minutes, finally deciding what to do.
"Enervate," whispered Snape, his heart thumping.
Slowly, Potter started to blink. A moment later, the boy sat up straighter and glanced around until his gaze eventually fell on Snape and his mouth opened and closed and his face turned white as he remembered, remembered everything, and his jaw shook and his-
Snape waved his wand, and the boy blinked once again, until his eyes fell on Severus.
"What the- Snape?"
"Potter," said Snape quietly. "You lost consciousness."
"What?" asked Potter, scratching his head. "How? The last thing I remember is...you saying that you had never thought you would see this phenomenon in your life time...What phenomenon?"
"I assume you fainted from the Occlumency," said Snape, ignoring the question. "You hid some memories from me."
"I did?" asked Potter, grinning. "I beat you?"
Snape took a deep breath. "And once I had eventually extracted them, you fell unconscious from the upheaval I assume."
"Really?" said Potter quietly, before looking up and catching Snape's eyes. "And what memories were they?"
Snape didn't even blink. "The bad ones."
"Oh," he rubbed his arm, touching where – Snape thought –the thirtieth bruise Snape had found would have been. "Well, I can't be that bad then, can I?"
"Potter," said Snape, trying to make himself hate the boy once again. He knew his voice was lacking. "You are not that bad, congratulations, but that does not mean you are good. As usual you are settling for mediocre, just like your-"
Severus almost couldn't bring himself to say it.
Potter was obviously confused by Snape's lack of bite.
"My father was not mediocre!" he protested weakly, as if trying to inject some normality. There was an awkward pause. "So shall I go?"
"To bed," said Snape. "It is nine 'o clock in the morning. We've had a hard night I believe we both deserve the day off."
The healing sleep would do Potter good.
"Oh, er, right."
Potter stretched out his arm and frowned slightly. "Are you sure? I actually feel surprisingly good, sir."
Snape's expression became steely. "Quite sure, Potter."
Potter shrugged, grabbed his satchel from the floor, and walked out the room with a slight bounce. Snape was left staring at the space where Potter had been. A moment later, however, Potter popped his head around the door once again.
"And why didn't you take me to the hospital wing?"
Snape blinked. "I thought you were better off with me," he said. Quite truthfully.
Potter frowned slightly. "Er, right." He paused. "Thanks and, er, what phenomenon?"
"You," said Snape before he could stop himself.
Suddenly there was a crash from the Great Hall, no doubt some idiot Hufflepuff dropping their breakfast. Potter flinched violently and then looked surprised at himself. He really didn't remember. Well he would.
No doubt sometime in the next few years, he would remember: when stress levels were high, the mind often collapsed-
Potter was gone in a flash, the door closed behind him.
Potter would have no idea what to do, no idea why those horrors were suddenly crashing down on him-
Snape listened as the boy's footsteps faded.
The boy would probably lose all grip on reality. There was nothing Snape could do to prevent the process-
Snape took a deep breath.
Memories so awful the mind had tried to forget them-
Snape closed his eyes.
And when it did happen, Snape had already decided what he would do-
Snape put his head in his hands.
He would be there for him. He would be there for Potter. He would be there for Harry.
He just had to.