Prologue

"Who are you?" asked Severus Snape coldly, waking abruptly from his sleep. A more appropriate question might have been 'How did you get in here?" perhaps with an expletive in it, but somehow Severus did not feel angry or upset at the intruder's presence in his rooms, just intrigued. The man who had appeared so suddenly, exuded a feeling of safety and peace. Severus's words were still cold, but more from habit than true emotion. He had grown used to being unwelcoming, even to such a benevolent guest.

"Some call me Wilfred," replied the man.

"Wilfred?"

"Yes. And I have come to offer you a choice."

"A Wilfred Choice?" asked Severus.

"Precisely," replied Wilfred. "The path you are on will culminate in murder. You shall kill your mentor within four years if you do not turn now. He will beg you to kill him, but it will still be your hand on the wand. Do as I suggest, and you may gain the two things you crave the most."

"What will be the cost to me?"

"Mild, compared to most choices I offer, but hard enough for you. You shall have to learn to love again. And those who love can be hurt more than those who do not."

"And I shall gain the destruction of the Dark Lord?" asked Severus.

"You may, and that which you crave even more, so desperately that you won't even think it in words," said Wilfred.

"I could gain…" Severus faltered. His mouth moved open and closed but no sound came out. As Wilfred had observed, he was unable to voice his true heart's desire. He wanted it so badly that he could not bring himself to think about it, to feel it. He could not bring himself to feel anything at all.

"Exactly," said Wilfred. "Surely that is worth a small sacrifice?"

"What must I do?"

Severus woke with a start. It took a few moments for him to recognise the significance of what he had witnessed. He had been offered a Wilfred's Choice and accepted it. Thinking back, nothing else could have persuaded him to look after the boy during his well-earned vacation time. Severus relived the dream in his mind's eye. It was promising. For the first time in years, he went back to sleep with a smile on his face.

"Why have you brought me here, Albus?" Severus asked the next afternoon.

"What do you see, Severus?" asked Albus.

Severus paused. "I see a lily," he said.

"Good," said Albus.

Severus stayed standing in front of the mirror, looking desperately at the image it presented to him.

Albus spoke. "He's in danger," he said. "Her son. Lily's son."

Severus did not reply. He continued to stare into the mirror.

"Severus? The Minister has just fire-called me. Sirius Black has escaped. He is coming after Harry."

"But surely he is mad, he'll never be able to function well enough to find him," said Severus.

"I almost wish that were so," said Albus. "The Minister saw Black when he visited Azkaban a few weeks ago. Black just said that he missed doing the crossword and asked for the copy of the Daily Prophet that Fudge was carrying. He's still sane, mostly. I want you to protect Harry this summer. To keep him safe."

Severus continued to stare at the blue eyed figures he saw in the mirror. "And why me?" he asked with great effort.

"You are the last person Sirius Black would suspect," said Albus. "You must take the child to the safe house at Broadwater. Being on an island will-"

"No," said Severus.

"Severus…"

"No," repeated Severus. "I will hide the boy, but not there. The safe houses are known to too many. I have somewhere else in mind."

"Where?"

"It would be safer were I not to tell anyone that."

"Is it safe? Is it secret?"

"Yes. You may scry for our location, but you will not find us."