Guess who I brought back in! ;) whattttttttt? Haha enjoy!
Glimpses – Chapter 9
Snape's words had been weighing heavy on Harry's heart for hours now. He lay in the warm bed, staring at the dark ceiling above him. It was by no means the first time he was unable to sleep and his green eyes raked slowly over the well-studied black curtains hanging above him. He knew every crease, every fold, every inch of the stitchery. He could draw it from memory by now.
As much as he tried to forget his aunt and uncle, he could not. They had engrained their way of life in him from the moment he had arrived on their doorstep, and Harry knew it wasn't something he would be able to put behind him quickly. A quiet sigh escaped the boy. It's not failure. I haven't failed, he struggled to reassure himself, trying to put the miserable thoughts behind him. Yet.
Harry looked around again, before remembering there was no clock in the room. How the hell am I supposed to tell the time? he thought to himself angrily, one of Uncle Vernon's choice swear words worming its way into his inner dialogue. He'd never be able to get up to make breakfast on time without a clock to wake him up. Stupid freak, he chided, reminding himself that he was not expected to make breakfast at this new home.
Severus Snape was. . . different. Nice, even. He had never met an adult who treated him as such. His entire life he had known adults who either hated him or were entirely indifferent to him. But this was different. Snape gave him what he needed, things he couldn't possible have asked for. The only other person who had ever cared for him at all was Mrs. Meath, and Harry doubted he would ever see the kind woman again.
It doesn't change who you are, Harry reminded himself miserably. You're still a freak. A worthless, unwanted, little freak. He climbed out of bed and quietly followed the well-worn path his mind had made through the quarters, finding himself outside the ingredients cupboard with a sigh. He knew why he came here. It was the only place he felt comfortable being in after all these years.
He inched inside hesitantly, imagining how angry the man would be if he found him in the cupboard once again. He would just have to deal with it, or move before the man found him. He was good at hiding.
Harry curled himself into a familiar fetal position as he let his nose become accustomed to the smells of the apparently accurately-named items on the shelves, drinking in the comfort that he received from the small space. His shoulders rested against the underside of the bottom shelf, and he thought vaguely that it felt suspiciously soft, but let it go as he felt himself drift off into oblivion.
Snape scrawled a note swiftly with his quill, its quiet scratching the only sound in the quarters. He left it on the table before popping his head into Potter's room. Reassured by the boy's even breathing, he grabbed a pinch of Floo powder and tossed it stiffly into his fireplace, whispering his destination and letting the green flames whisk him away. He held his breath, whether that was merely because of the soot he refused to inhale or something like apprehension for the upcoming encounter, he was unsure.
Coughing slightly, he righted himself with a quick charm to clean his robes, rising from where he had been rather unceremoniously dumped onto the floor in front of the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron. The pub was empty but for a few lone wizards sitting miserably at the bar and Severus shivered. He so easily could have become that. So easily.
He loped casually through the pub and out the door, quite suddenly finding himself on the cold streets of Muggle London. Christmas would be coming soon, much to Snape's disappointment, but he cast off the thought. He was reveling in the fact that there were no dunderhead students to bother him at the moment. And mind you, there was no way Snape was leaving Potter in his quarter unattended. Not that you're not doing that now.
He charmed his boots to repel the cold wetness of the snow and began marching down the street, scowling at the Muggles—several of them drunk—who dared to look at him in the dim glow of the streetlights. As soon as he found an alleyway dark enough, he Apparated, feeling the sickeningly familiar squeeze around him as his body was transported a short ways away to Surrey. He took a steadying breath once his feet hit the cool concrete before setting off walking again.
He stopped outside a small hotel. Merlin, it had been years since he had stayed in one of these. He suddenly found himself wondering if he had ever stayed in a Muggle hotel. As he walked inside, he figured the answer was a firm and resolute 'no.' He had most definitely never been graced with the disgustingly soft music and nauseating smell that bombarded him as he walked through the automatic doors. Automatic doors? It seemed Muggles had magic of their own.
"May I help you?" The voice dripped with false pleasantries, and Snape did nothing to make his expression portray anything but the disgust that had wrinkled his face into an all-too-familiar sneer. What kind of question was that?
"I suppose you can," he replied frostily. "I need a place to stay for the night."
She smiled forcefully. "The room fees are as posted here," she ground out, handing him a crisp blue sheet of paper. He took it, politely pretending to glance over it before crumpling it up. "Are you able to afford –"
"I am bloody well able to afford it, thank you very much!" he snapped, eyeing her nametag. There was no last name, catching him slightly off-guard. "Miss. . . Verity, I assure you I would not have set foot in this dreaded building had I been unable to cover the required fees. Now if you would kindly show me to my room, I need to be up early for a meeting and sleep is desirable at the present time."
At his icy and insulting tone, her face twisted into a look of distaste. Never had anyone used her name so. . . insultingly before. And he hadn't even said anything about it at all! She led him to his room, fuming silently before shutting it angrily. She stalked back up to the front desk and settled down, opening up a browser window on the internet and checking her favorite social media site to ascertain how many boys had liked her latest update. Not nearly enough. Not to her, anyway.
Snape sat broodingly on the hard mattress for a moment before pulling a vial of aquamarine liquid from the pocket of his cloak. Dreamless Sleep. He didn't get kind greetings from anyone – except Albus, of course – but he hadn't been expecting such from a girl in Muggle Surrey, a girl he had never met before, no doubt. He emptied the contents down his throat and reveled in the feeling of utter exhaustion as it overtook him, the angry lines smoothing from his face as he let himself be taken by sleep.
The next morning found Snape unusually rested, and he slid out of bed promptly at five, peering blearily around at his surroundings before slipping into the shower.
A mere hour later, he found himself sitting across from two Muggle men – Agents Edwards and Leatherby, as they referred to themselves. He tonelessly supplied that they could call him Snape, looking levelly across at Leatherby, who seemed to be in as unpleasant a mood as the Potions Master himself. The agent looked back at him, unflinching, the hazel eyes filled with years' worth of bitterness.
Snape moved his gaze to the agent's more pleasant counterpart, Edwards. The man's sandy hair and soft smile made him much more likeable, but the man's eyes made Snape tense up slightly before returning to his usual indifferent position in the chair. He had been convinced – only for a moment – the electric blue reminded him fleetingly of Dumbledore – but of course it wasn't him. On closer examination, there were too many differences for Snape to conclude that it was the Headmaster himself sitting across the cold table. The look of casual detachment on Edwards' face, and the questioning glint that appeared in his eyes was enough to convince Snape that Albus Dumbledore was in fact sleeping in his bed at Hogwarts. Snape shook his head infinitesimally before opening his mouth to speak.
"I was under the… impression… that you removed Harry Potter from the home of his relatives five days ago," he began quietly. Something hardened in Leatherby's face at the mention of the boy's name.
"Yes," came the harsh reply. "We did."
Snape turned his attention toward the bitter-looking black-haired man before him. "And, Mr. –what was it—Leatherby? It appears the boy's name strikes recognition with you. What did he do to you?" His question was simple and sincere. He was eager to find out more about the boy, find a reason to hate him, and this angry middle-aged man seemed more than capable of anger. To Snape's surprise, Leatherby jumped to his feet, anger surging through the room.
"What did he do to me?! I don't know who you are, Snape, or why you suddenly have an interest in this young man, but I can fully assure you that Harry did nothing to me!" Snape looked on with mild interest at the man's reaction. He was finding Leatherby strikingly similar to himself.
"My sudden interest in the boy?" Snape sneered, now on his feet as well, face to face with the CPS agent. He felt the need to correct Leatherby because, from what he had seen, Potter was not a young man – far from it, in fact. Sure, the boy could care for himself, but there was much more than that to the boy's state of mind. "I'll have you know, Agent Leatherby, that I showed up at that Mu – at the local orphanage four days ago and adopted the boy."
The man's eyes widened with slight shock before narrowing again and the man continued his tirade. "Clearly you were the wrong man for such a boy, because you have done nothing but suppose that he has done wrong! What have you been doing to him at your home? I reckon you're no better than his relatives, are you, Snape? I could take him away from you quicker than you could blink."
A flash of cold fury swept through Snape at the agent's words. His sudden anger found him nearly speechless as he struggled not to pull his wand on the man. "How dare you." Snape's icy voice cut across the small room. "How dare you ever accuse me of laying a finger on the boy. He is but a child, and no child deserves what he has gone through. In fact," His voice lowered – not in anger but in distress – to the point that the two men across from him had to strain to hear it. "I came to hear your take on what you saw in the boy's home. I need to know."
Leatherby's face softened considerably at this confession, but his voice was still harsh. "If I ever hear of you doing anything to him, I will cut –"
"Leatherby!" Edwards' voice cut in dryly. "Let's try to keep this conversation legal. Death threats are far from friendly ways to greet the newly adoptive father of Mr. Potter. You should be happy the boy has found a home."
Snape just kept himself from flinching at the word 'father,' and casually ignored Leatherby's muttered 'not with that man,' feeling quite accomplished at the way he had reigned his anger in. He stared the agent down, bemused at the clear similarities between their personalities, before slipping in his own dry comment, his expression deadpan as usual. "Clearly the boy has affected you quite strongly."
At his tone – the friendliest Snape nearly ever got – Leatherby settled down into a straight-backed chair, keeping his calculating glance on the man. "Yes, well, the way he was treated caught my eye. He was so terrified. My reaction interests me, as well, actually, because I've been around cases such as these dozens of times, but I've never been quite so… concerned."
Snape nearly grimaced at the man's confession. Clearly Potter had done nothing wrong by him. "What did you see?" the Potions Master asked in a low voice.
"Not much, but it was enough." It was Edwards who spoke this time, and Snape gratefully shifted his attention from the challenging agent across from him. At Snape's prompting, the man continued, speaking for both Leatherby and himself. "We did not personally witness much of the abuse we are certain occurred in the household, but what we did see was enough for us to remove him from the home."
"What did you see?" Snape's voice asked vaguely. He considered taking back the question in fear of what he would hear but closed it quickly, prepared to hear Edwards out. Besides, Dursley wouldn't dare do something in front of two agents from Child Protective Services. It would be like begging for a prison sentence.
"He lived in a cupboard." Leatherby's voice was harsh, and Snape sighed.
"I've learned that much from the boy already," he supplied tonelessly, sounding much older than he appeared. He stared at his hands for a long moment before asking a sudden question. "How big was the cupboard?" At the agent's description, Snape found a small bit of understanding making its way into his mind. "That makes sense."
"What makes sense?" Leatherby asked sharply.
"The boy constantly runs for my ingredients cupboard." Shit. At both agents' questioning looks, he scrambled frantically for an adequate explanation. "I'm a… pharmacist. I br – help create medicines and stock… pharmacies and hospitals." Brew would not be the appropriate word here, Severus… I guess you are a pharmacist in some ways, if you turn your head and squint. And if you're a Muggle. "I can't seem to find a way to keep him from running in there. I find him sleeping in there on occasion."
A mixture of sadness and anger flashed across Leatherby's grizzled face. "Those bloody relatives," he growled, struggling to keep a hold of himself.
"Yes, Leatherby. Now was there anything else you witnessed? Besides him being forced to prepare breakfast for them and not eat any of it himself?"
"No, Snape. But I believe you and I both know he needs a physical examination to understand the full extent of what has happened to the boy."
Snape's mind flashed back to a vivid image of Potter exposing his backside on his leather couch and winced. "You have reason to believe—?"
"Yes, and I believe you do as well," the agent added seriously.
The Potions Master rose swiftly. "Very well," he allowed curtly, hesitantly extending his arm to shake hands with both members of CPS. He began to leave but Leatherby stopped him at the door, a firm hand coming to tightly grasp Snape's shoulder.
"Take care of him, Snape," the man muttered. Snape studied the man's eyes, the man who reminded him so much of himself.
"Very well." He swept from the room without a second glance and Apparated outside the gates of Hogwarts, slightly disappointed with the information he had received from the two men. He stalked through the corridors, suddenly finding himself outside the Headmaster's office. He whispered the password before walking up the stairs and banging on the door. The man deserved his privacy, at least.
"Albus!" Snape heard the sound of footsteps before the door opened, brilliant light hitting the Potions Master in the face. He blinked quickly to adjust his eyesight.
"Severus, is everything alright?" When Snape refused to answer, Dumbledore opened the door wider. "Come in, my boy, come in."
After Snape had taken a seat in a plush armchair and quietly refused a lemon drop, he revealed what he had unconsciously needed to ask.
"Albus, I need you to have Poppy here later today, tomorrow at the latest."
"Why?" At the man's silence, the Headmaster prompted, "Severus?"
"I need her to give Mr. Potter an… examination."
Dumbledore spoke sharply. "Why? What has happened?"
"I have sufficient reason to believe that the boy was… abused at his relatives' home, Albus."
Dumbledore's breath came out in a rush as he removed his half-moon shaped spectacles and buried his face in his hands. Snape watched uneasily as the man before him began to shake with silent sobs.
"Can he ever forgive me?"
Snape didn't have an answer to the Headmaster's broken question.
Thank you all for the encouragement to continue writing this!