A Season for Healing
Summary: Circumstances lead Harry Potter to stay with Severus Snape for the summer before his seventh year-- a development neither of them expect to be happy with. But they both have a lot to learn about each other... and a lot to unlearn. And perhaps, in the process, they can each find some healing.
(Yes, I *know* it's been done, by many many people. I have no control over other fics, only my own.)
This will eventually be a romance piece. You have been warned. Don't read if the thought of Harry and Severus bothers you.
Rating: The series overall has an adult rating due to the Severus/Harry plotline... This part is G.Prologue. In which Harry finds himself rescued from an unpleasant situation by an unlikely ally.
Severus Snape irritably adjusted the collar of the Muggle shirt, though his annoyance stemmed not so much as for the clothing itself, which he hardly minded-- indeed, he sometimes found Muggle clothing to be more comfortable than robes-- but from the reason he was wearing it at all. The reason he was standing, in Muggle clothes, on a Muggle street, in a Muggle town, at the foot of a Muggle sidewalk that led up to a very, very Muggle house.
He remembered the argument with Dumbledore vividly; he had more than made his displeasure at being the one to run this little 'errand' known, but the headmaster was ruthless, truly and utterly ruthless, and had been so nonchalant and blasé about the whole thing that it really had made Severus feel ridiculous over raising such a fuss in the first place.
But damn it. It was summer holiday; if he didn't want to have to see any of the little twits during these precious months away from them, wasn't that his affair? And if he didn't want to see that one particular student, surely, oh surely, Albus could have sent someone else.
But no. And here he stood. He snarled briefly, shook his hair out of his eyes, and began to walk determinedly up the pavement towards the door of Number Four Privet Drive.
He knew the bloody Boy-Who-Lived was supposed to live here, with relatives called the Dursleys. The displeasure on his face grew. Muggle relatives-- probably fawned over a wizard in the family, gave Potter even more attention than he already got from every single bloody person at Hogwarts but the Slytherin Head of House.
Severus paused at the door, spared a glare for the rest of the darkened street, quiet at this time of night, then turned back to the door and knocked.
Sounds could be heard from the other side of the door... probably the contraption the Muggles called a 'telly.' And from the sound of it, going at full volume. Snape rolled his eyes and knocked again, louder.
"Someone at the door, Petunia?" a gruff, loud voice hollered inside.
"What, dear?" a shrill feminine voice answered, and Snape winced. He hadn't even met the people, and they were already irritating the hell out of him. But of course, they were Potter's relations...
"I said, sounds like someone's at the door," the loud voice barked, then muttered something Severus didn't quite catch, but sounded like, "Damn salesmen, never an evening's peace..."
"Have Harry go see," muttered a new voice, lazy and indolent.
"Right. Boy!" the loud voice shouted.
A moment's pause, and then from a different part of the house, sounding muffled, came a voice familiar to Snape... though he didn't think he'd ever heard it sound quite so... weary. Flat. Dead. "Yes, Uncle Vernon?"
"Make yourself useful, you waste of space-- go see who's at the door."
"I thought I wasn't supposed to leave my cupboard," the voice sighed, not particularly surly, just resigned and making an observation.
"Don't you give me any lip, you worthless little freak!" roared the angry voice, and Severus blinked. "Or you know what you'll get, that's for certain!"
A sigh. "Yes sir."
Snape heard footsteps, then the porch light flickered on and the door opened to reveal one of his least favorite people. But all the Potions Master could do was stare.
Potter looked... bad. The ridiculous clothes he wore were ill-fitting, loose around his tall but bony frame-- and surely the boy hadn't been that skinny at end of term?-- but their baggy folds didn't conceal the slump of his shoulders, the way he shuffled his feet. There was a certain depressed dejection in the way he hung his head, looking at the ground as he opened the door, before bringing up his face to look at the new arrival.
Severus's lips compressed into a thin line and he inhaled sharply. Potter's eyes behind those ridiculous thick glasses were shadowed and tired, but that wasn't what made him catch his breath so much as the bruise on the right side of the boy's face. A nice shade of purplish-green, very attractive... it went so well with his split lower lip.
Potter, for his part, was doing a double-take at the sight of his Potions professor standing on the door-step. The green eyes widened with something unidentifiable, then Potter... cringed? Yes, the boy bloody well cringed, very slightly, looking away, and something in Severus's gut clenched.
"P-professor Snape," murmured Harry, looking at the ground. Severus said nothing.
"Tell them we don't want any, whatever they're selling," snapped the loud male voice from the room with the telly.
"It's, ah, not a salesman, Uncle Vernon," Potter said quietly, uncomfortably.
"Well then, who the bloody hell--"
Snape decided it was time to say something. "My name is Severus Snape. I'm one of Harry's teachers at school," he said, letting the chill he used on some of his more recalcitrant students seep into his voice, which he made loud enough to be heard over the sounds of their programme.
Though he was looking into the room with the unpleasant voices, he saw Potter flinch again, out of the corner of his eye.
There was an unpleasant silence from the other room, except for the sounds of the TV. Then a sort of indignant gasping wheezing noise, which was followed immediately by the emergence into the hallway of a large and fairly disagreeable man.
Severus was well aware of how cold he make his gaze appear, and allowed the full force of that gaze to rest on the Muggle... for all the good it did. The man was not aware of it, or indeed even looking at him. His small, piggy eyes were set, quite furiously, on the young man standing hesitantly in the hallway.
"What's this then, Potter? Eh? Somehow sneak some little note to that freak show school of yours with some blather about how you're being 'abused'? Is that it? Well? Answer me when I speak to you, boy!" growled Vernon Dursley nastily, towering over the figure of the young man. Potter was no longer exactly short-- during his fifth year, he'd had a bit of a growth spurt and shot up several inches, making his slenderness even more noticeable-- but his uncle was a large man, and still had several inches and a good two hundred pounds on him.
Potter had his eyes fixed on the floor, but he muttered, "How could I have sent a note? I don't have Hedwig here, there'd be no way for me to send any message. I didn't--"
"Don't you lie to me, you scrawny punk," the Muggle said, his bulldog face getting red, as he took a threatening step closer to Potter. "You think being grounded in the closet all summer's bad? You haven't seen anything yet, you little filth..."
Severus registered, almost subconsciously, the arrival in the hallway of a woman, drying her hands on a dishtowel, and a boy that looked to be about seventeen or so-- Potter's age. But there any resemblance between them ended, as the boy was a large, stocky thing more-than-tending to pudginess. Beady eyes glinted with delight from a porcine face as he watched the verbal tongue-lashing his father-- for such it had to be, with such a resemblance-- was dishing out to Potter.
The woman, on the other hand, was regarding Snape nervously, seemingly the only one aware he was there. Unlike her portly family, she was a bony thing, with a distinct pinched look around the face and mouth. If her husband and son had a piggish look to them, then she was a rat-- her slightly long and very pointed nose twitching forward, her hard little eyes glittering with a mixture of greed and fear. Severus was reminded, distinctly, of Peter Pettigrew.
But this was not the time for such ruminations. Snape brought his attention back to the scene in front of him, and then effectively brought their attention back to him by stepping inside and closing the door behind him.
Vernon Dursley turned and looked at him with faint surprise and anger. "Here now, you think you can just waltz in here like--"
"I think," said Snape quietly, his voice cutting easily across the other man's blustery tones, "that we didn't get this started off properly. Let's try again, shall we.
"I am Professor Severus Snape. I am one of Harry's instructors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And you?" he asked in a professionally cool tone.
The beefy man, reddening even further, stared at him and blinked for a few seconds before muttering, "Vernon Dursley. I'm his-- uncle."
Snape pressed his lips together. Obviously not a relationship the man liked to think about.
The Muggle had his composure back again, and said in a nasty tone of voice, "What do you want, then?" His swine eyes fixed on Severus's own, and the Slytherin felt the slightest of smiles twitch the corner of his lips.
The Muggle wanted to have a staredown, did he? Arching one brow, he let the full impact of his black, black eyes drill into the other man, holding the gaze with his own cold, ruthless stare until the other man began to twitch uncomfortably. The Dursley looked away first.
Severus spoke, purposely keeping his voice quiet and precise, unlike the raw angry tones of the man he was dealing with. "I am here at request of Harry's headmaster, to check up on him. Potter hadn't answered some letters regarding next term, and we faculty like to make sure our students are... all right." Careful insinuation into the last phrase, watch the pig-man redden some more...
Again, out of the corner of his eyes he saw Potter twitch.
But the Human Swine (Severus mentally named him with delight) was flushing guiltily now. When he spoke, his voice was louder and kept getting more so. "If you're talking about those damned birds that kept fluttering around and trying to get into the windows, being a bloody health hazard and what not-- had to use my rifle just to get the blasted things to leave--"
Like a bartender making a drink, Severus made a calculated addition to his tone: more ice and vinegar. "Am I to understand," he said softly, viciously, "that you have been keeping a Hogwarts student from receiving important correspondence?"
The shade of red on the big man's face darkened; the small eyes flashed. "We don't hold with any of that nonsense here! We won't have it. I won't stand for it," he snarled, taking a step closer to Snape.
A mistake. They were practically of a height; the Human Swine couldn't use altitude as an advantage here. As for the admitted advantage in bulk... well, if Severus Snape could stand in front of Lord Voldemort himself and not cringe... this man had no chance in hell.
He simply looked at the man, cold scathing menace in his eyes, until Vernon Dursley took an unconscious step back, then another, beads of sweat appearing on his brow. Snape spared him one last withering look before turning to Harry.
"Potter," he said crisply, "I take it you never received your letter from the Headmaster? Or the one from McGonagall, informing you of your summer assignments to make up for your failed Transfiguration test?"
Harry shook his head, the faintest of smiles playing around his mouth as he looked at his quailing uncle. "No, sir," he said quietly. "But I wouldn't have been able to do my work anyway-- they won't let-- I mean-- I haven't had access to my books."
"Lies! All lies!" snapped the elder Dursley. "You rotten little ingrate, we feed you, we take you in, we--"
Severus decided he had really had had quite enough of this man. From the pocket of the long black wool coat he was wearing, he drew his wand and leveled it at the Human Swine. "Petrificus Totalus," he said quietly, and had the immense satisfaction of seeing the pig shut up, immediately and without fuss.
He turned to the lady of the house, who had backed up against the wall with a little scream, clinging to her son's arm (although he didn't look too sure of himself, either). "Mrs. Dursley, I presume?"
She gave a frightened, rat-like little nod. He continued. "May I take it that you and your husband are not exactly transported with euphoria by having Potter stay with you during the summers?"
The woman found her voice. "Of course not! We don't want the little freak-- but what are we supposed to do with him? The ungrateful snot! After all we've done for him--"
"Yes, I'm sure your contributions to Potter's welfare have been absolutely underwhelming," Snape drawled casually, crossing his arms and leaning back against the door. "In light of the... extreme avuncular concern you both bear the boy, you will no doubt be devastated to hear he is no longer any of Your Problem.
"Potter. Get anything you may wish to take with you. You're leaving. I am not about to allow you to remain here, among these... these... Muggles... until September."
The young man appraised the frozen form of his uncle, then looked at his aunt, then finally back at Snape, and gave a little shrug. An unreadable expression on his face, he turned and opened up a door to a sort of closet/cupboard thing under the stairs and disappeared within.
Potter's cousin and aunt were still hunched together, as far as they could get from Snape in the hallway, and alternating fearful glances between him and the still-petrified Vernon Dursley. Frozen meat, Severus thought with amusement, closing his eyes and quite effectively ignoring the Muggles.
"Er." That would be the younger Swine. Snape didn't open his eyes or move from his position leaned against the door. Swine, Junior, cleared his throat nervously, obviously feeling like he should be standing up to this dark stranger in their house, and equally obviously not wanting to.
"Ah. Um. You," said the boy. Severus exhaled slowly and reminded himself that there were punishments for casting irreversible curses on Muggles. However...
"Silence," he said icily. His wand was still in his hand; he'd been tapping it irritably on his arm but now held it very still, veiled threat. The teenager silenced, and Severus returned to waiting.
In less time than he'd thought, he heard the scrape of Potter's feet on the floor and opened his dark eyes to regard the boy.
Potter was carrying pitifully little with him-- a small duffle bag filled with clothes, presumably-- and looked about to speak, but Snape beat him to it.
"Is that all you've got, boy?" he said flatly, keeping the usual reserved-for-Potter-sarcasm from his voice. Not tonight.
"Um... no, but... well, they have some of my stuff locked up... sir," the boy muttered, ducking his head.
Snape gave an impatient sigh and fixed his gaze on the Muggles once more. "Mrs. Dursley. Kindly instruct your otherwise useless offspring to retrieve Potter's things from wherever you have them stashed."
The skinny woman twitched, grew a bit paler. In a voice that somehow managed to screech and whisper at the same time, she said, "You freak-- your sort can't order us around like this-- I'll call the police--"
Severus rolled his eyes and abruptly straightened from his slouch against the door, then stalked-- there really was no other word for it-- over to the woman, who 'eeped' and tried to hide behind her bulky offspring, but as he was trying to do the same thing to her, neither of them had especial success.
He stopped in front of her and glared down at her with the full impact of his cold dark eyes. His voice was deceptively soft when he spoke. "Mrs. Dursley. I am approximately three breaths away from turning you into something highly edible-- probably chocolate-- and then transforming your swine of a son into something... perhaps a small rodent... with a ravenous appetite for junk food-- though from the look of his waistline, he hardly needs transfiguration for that to occur-- and letting him eat you.
"Those dinner plans taken into account, I'd advise you to do everything in your power to see us gone before those three breaths run out-- and that means getting Potter's property. If you would be so kind...?"
Petunia Dursley had grown paler and paler during the recitation, and now gave a frightened little squeak which served to reinforce the impression of a rat. "Dudley-- do as he says--" she gasped, and Swine Junior needed no further encouragement, taking off up the stairs.
Snape shook his head minutely and muttered obscenities under his breath.
Harry watched in an odd state of surreal pleasure as Dudley scampered to do as he was told, a first in all the years Harry had known him. He had never before imagined what would happen if his two least favorite sets of people got together-- the Dursleys and Professor Snape-- but now that it was happening, he couldn't help but be pleased at the way it was turning out. Amazing-- who would have thought Snape would be the one to flatten the Dursleys?
But he was-- and how. Harry had listened with bewildered delight as Snape had, with his customary biting sarcasm and cold glares (much easier to watch when you weren't the target) left every one of the three Muggles petrified-- literally, in Uncle Vernon's case. This was turning out to be a very odd evening.
It had been a little over two weeks since term let out and he had, returned, reluctantly, to his Muggle relatives for the summer. He'd always thought that as he grew older, they'd somehow become easier to deal with, but that was emphatically not the case.
Despite the fact that he had six years of training as a wizard under his belt, despite the fact that he'd fought terrible and horrible menaces during every single one of those years, despite the fact that most people he knew respected him and held him in high esteem, despite the fact that he was, in a little over a year, going to be a legal adult... he had somehow never escaped the hold that his unpleasant relatives held over him.
The summer before this had warned him what things were probably going to be like, and he had therefore left Hedwig, his pet owl, with his good friend Ron Weasley over the summer term, since there was no reason both he and his familiar should have to deal with the casual cruelty of the Dursleys. Besides which, he didn't think he'd ever have forgiven himself if something had happened to Hedwig, and it was better to know she was safe.
But the loss of his little pet had left him feeling very isolated. Then there was the matter of the letters from his friends and teachers. He had seen Ron's owl Hermes as well as several other owls he didn't know flying around the house, letters for him on their legs, (he didn't know if that had made him feel worse or better... at least he knew his friends cared about him, but being unable to actually read their letters was torment) but nothing he had done or said had convinced Uncle Vernon to let them in-- indeed, his efforts had only earned him being returned to the miserable little cupboard under the stairs and having all his schoolbooks confiscated. And his broomstick. And his wand.
Things had only gotten worse from there.
And then, tonight.
He had been very surprised-- no, shocked-- to open the door and find... Snape? standing there-- then instantly wanted to duck his head. The last thing he needed was for his most hated teacher to see him like this. He didn't want to see the gloating glint in Snape's eyes as the man realized that Harry was treated, here, exactly as he obviously thought Harry should be treated, all the time.
He had thought bitterly, Well, here you are, Snape. Is this good enough for you? You've always wanted to see me ordered about, put down, treated like dirt, beaten... here you go. Enjoy it, you bastard.
He'd expected some cutting comment, laced with the usual venom-- but Snape had said... nothing. Just stood there.
And then Uncle Vernon had come in, the scene had progressed out of Harry's hands, and he had stood there in a kind of shock as he listened and realized that...
...Snape was on his side. Well, that might be going a touch far... but he was most definitely not pleased with the Dursleys.
It was so much fun watching his uncle bluster and storm and be met with Snape's calculated ice in return that Harry had almost begun to smile. And, oddly, when Snape had spoke to him, it had been... well, again, too much to say kind, exactly, but... but there had been none of his usual malice and cruel disdain. His voice had been business-like, efficient, nothing more... and that was by far and away the nicest Harry had ever heard Snape speak to him.
Then Vernon Dursley became the victim of a Petrificus curse. Harry had been torn-- oh, what a delight it was to see that-- but he just knew that when Snape left, when Uncle Vernon was returned to normal, that he, Harry, was going to Get It.
And then Snape had rounded on Aunt Petunia, and to a lesser degree on Dudley, and Harry had listened, and oh boy. Oh boy.
Snape was telling him to grab his stuff. He was not going to be here the rest of the summer.
Time to do a double or triple or quadruple take. This was not expected. But then, none of the evening had been, and after one quick glance at his relations, Harry had complied without argument.
Who cared where Snape was going to take him-- just about anywhere had to be better than this. Maybe he'd be staying at Hogwarts for the summer, and the thought of that was enough to send a delicious tingle of anticipation running through him. Oh boy, oh boy.
He'd entered the cupboard, shoved his ill-fitting clothes (inherited from Dudley) into a worn duffel bag, along with the few of his things he'd actually been allowed to keep with him, and come back out. Before he could explain that the Dursleys had his remaining things impounded, Snape was already asking him, then sending Dudley-- sending Dudley!-- to go and get his stuff for him.
Harry watched the resulting confrontation-- if such it could be called-- with extreme interest, almost flinching a bit on Aunt Petunia's behalf during Snape's threat. He'd been the object of Snape's displeasure enough times to know that it was hardly a fun experience, but... well, it couldn't have happened to a nicer person, he thought gleefully.
And it wasn't as if Snape actually would turn either of them into anything. That was just an intimidation tactic.
In any case, it was very effective, and now Dudley had disappeared up the stairs and they were all standing around waiting for him to return. Harry took the opportunity to stare at Snape.
His Potions instructor was standing impatiently, arms crossed again, the wand twitching in one of his long hands. It was very different to see him in Muggle clothing, and with a start, Harry realized that the dreaded and disliked Professor Snape, Head of Slytherin House... had Fashion Sense.
He was wearing a black wool coat that looked very classy (not to mention warm and comfortable), long enough that it was almost like a cloak, and currently unbuttoned, revealing the shirts beneath: a charcoal gray turtleneck with a button-up, dark green collared shirt over it, though it wasn't done up all the way either. Both shirts were tucked into the waistline of his stylish black trousers, neatly belted, and the foot that was currently tapping on the floor was clad in an ankle boot of black leather, just like its companion.
The Wizardly Ignorance of Muggle Fashion Problem, it seemed, did not live in Severus Snape... unlike at the Quidditch World Cup, during which Harry had seen more abuse of taste and style than he had ever believed possible.
Snape's black eyes were fixed on the stairwell Dudley had disappeared up, his thin lips pursed in impatience, and Harry forgot his idle ruminations on the Potions Master's clothing as he remembered the reasons for the man's impatience. Waiting for Dudley, who was bringing Harry's stuff down... because Snape did not want Harry to spend the rest of holiday here.
Because Snape, bizarrely, seemed concerned about him.
Harry wondered when, exactly, he was going to wake up, and decided he'd just enjoy things until it happened.
Now he could hear Dudley's tromping footsteps coming down the stairs, and soon his cousin appeared, lugging the trunk with Harry's school things with one hand and holding the broomstick in the other. Whatever unpleasant things you could say about Dudley-- and there were many-- there was no denying he had muscle under all that fat. Strong, physically, just like his ox of a father.
As Harry could personally attest.
Dudley, trying to stay as far away from Snape as possible, shoved the trunk across the floor to Harry, who quickly opened it to check everything was there. He didn't think the Dursleys would have been able to open it, but you never knew...
But it was all right, his wand and all his books and supplies were there, undisturbed. He sighed in relief and took his broomstick from Dudley, wanting to inspect it thoroughly but conscious of Snape waiting. He forced himself to give it only a brief glance; it seemed to be all right.
"That's all of my stuff now, sir," he said, looking up, and Snape nodded a curt acknowledgement.
"Very well. Let's be off, then-- I've had quite enough of this residence to last me a lifetime," Snape muttered, and Harry privately agreed.
Without a backward glance at the Dursleys, Snape turned to leave, pausing only to unfreeze the senior Muggle, who stared white-faced and speechless at the two of them as they left.
Harry couldn't help himself; he gave his uncle and cousin a wave that included a rude gesture as he went out the door. If this was a dream, he was darn well going to enjoy it for as much as it was worth.