What Price Innocence
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Sirius Black/ Severus Snape
Disclaimer – no, still don’t own any of the Harry Potter characters. They are owned by JK Rowling who gave permission for fan fiction with her approval of fan fiction as stated in a Barnes & Noble chat.
Serious note – there is rape in this chapter. The rest of the fic will deal with those involved coming to terms with what happened. I know there are people who are upset/offended by so called ‘rape fics’ and I do understand their reasons. This is not going to be one of those ‘victim falls in love with rapist’ fics. However, if this fic is likely to upset you, please hit the back button, as I would not wish to cause unnecessary distress.
What Price Innocence?
Chapter 1 – The Pensieve
Harry, Ron and Hermione were almost numb after standing under Harry’s invisibility cloak in the dungeons for over half an hour. Finally, their patience was rewarded as Professor Snape left his office for the night.
Using the Marauder’s Map, they took down Snape’s wards and entered his office. Taking off the invisibility cloak, Harry crossed the office and unlocked the cupboard. He poked around for a while before giving a soft exclamation and holding up a round grey object.
"Got it," he gasped, "Snape’s pensieve."
"Harry, I don’t think we ought to be doing this," Hermione said anxiously.
"Come on Hermione, this is our chance to prove that Snape’s untrustworthy." Ron, who had never believed that Snape was trustworthy, seemed keen to press on with the night’s adventure. Harry was also keen to get this over with as he had no desire to find out what Snape would do to them if he discovered them in his office.
Looking down into the swirling mists of memories in the pensieve, Harry said "Show us why Snape became a Death Eater."
The mists swirled faster and faster, pulling the trio into the scene that was stabilizing in the bowl.
The three looked at each other as they recognised the Great Hall at Hogwarts.
"Snape was a Death Eater when he was still at school," Ron breathed, astounded.
Harry was looking round the room trying to catch sight of his parents but he couldn’t see them anywhere.
"Over there," said Hermione, making Harry jump, "That must be Snape."
The two boys looked in the direction that Hermione gestured and saw a tall, thin boy with sallow skin and long black greasy hair sitting at the Slytherin table, slowly eating a piece of plain toast.
Suddenly, the post arrived, hundreds of owls flew around the hall looking for the person to whom their letter or package was addressed. Hermione tutted as she saw several copies of The Daily Prophet arrive at the Slytherin table. As people caught sight of the front page, a deadly hush fell over the room, followed by the scraping of chairs as people stood up to look in Snape’s direction. Snape was reading the front page of The Daily Prophet, a look of shock on his face. The trio leaned over to see what the newspaper said.
The headline read ‘Dark Wizards Defeated by Ministry Hit-Wizards.’ The story went on to describe how Snape’s parents had been accused of torturing muggles and the ministry of magic had sent a team of aurors after them. After a short battle, the couple and several of their friends had been killed by the aurors. Hermione drew in a shocked breath as she saw that the picture on the front page was of a man who could only be Snape’s father (as he had a rather familiar large
bent nose). The man was clearly dead and appeared to have died as a result of having his neck broken. The sound of a chair scraping against the stone floor of the Great Hall alerted the trio to the fact that Snape was walking out of the room, hushed whispers and quickly stifled giggles following him.
The memory dissolved, to be replaced by another. Snape was sitting on his bed in the Slytherin dormitory, staring into space. Two other boys were in the room, but they were being very quiet, trying not to disturb Snape. The dormitory door opened and a man entered. The other two boys scrambled out of the room, but Snape seemed unaware of the man’s presence as he approached him.
"Get up Snape, Dumbledore wants to see you. Now boy!" the man ordered harshly.
Snape looked up, hollow empty eyes staring at the man looming over him. He didn’t move, so the man grabbed his arm and hurled him off the bed, kicking him as he landed on the floor. Hermione gasped, Ron and Harry looked away, but Snape barely flinched.
"I told you to get up, you useless filthy piece of scum!" As he said this, the man dragged Snape roughly out of the room by the collar of his robes.
Snape still looked slightly disheveled as he entered Dumbledore’s office, the trio following close behind him. The man who they learned during their trip to Dumbledore’s office was named Professor Malachy and was the Head of Slytherin when Snape was a student, had left Snape at the door, after telling him to keep his mouth shut about earlier or he’d make sure Snape paid dearly.
"Ah yes, Mr Snape," said Dumbledore looking up from his desk, "Sherbet pip?" he offered. Snape shook his head and took the seat Dumbledore offered him.
Dumbledore looked at the boy who refused to meet his eyes and said sadly, "Severus, I’m very sorry about your parents. Unfortunately, the Ministry is demanding that your family’s assets are used to compensate the families of the muggles and squibs that…yes, well…" Dumbledore paused. "This means that their Gringotts vault has already been emptied and their house is being
stripped before being sold." Snape’s head jerked up at this news. "I’ve spoken with the Minister and he will allow you to pick up a few personal belongings tomorrow. As Professor Malachy is unable to go with you tomorrow, Professor McGonagall has offered to accompany you. Is that acceptable?" Snape nodded.
"Can I go now Headmaster?"
Dumbledore looked as though there was plenty more he would have liked to have said but he allowed Snape to leave.
Again the scene disappeared, to be replaced by a small house which was surrounded by a crowd of people. Harry, Ron and Hermione saw Snape arrive with Professor McGonagall. As soon as the crowd saw Snape, they erupted into jeers and hisses. Professor McGonagall put an arm around the boy’s shoulder, which he immediately tried to shrug off, as they passed through the crowd.
Once they entered the house, a young auror came rushing up to meet them. Hermione gasped and said, "That must be Neville’s father."
Professor McGonagall confirmed their suspicions when she said, "Hello Frank, nasty business this."
"Yes Professor McGonagall, not the first nest of Dark Wizards we’ve found lately though."
They saw Snape tense at that comment. He abruptly walked off to look around the house. The trio noticed that it had been turned upside down by the Minstry. It seemed as though they were looking for Dark Arts trinkets or things that were worth a lot of money; everything else seemed to have been smashed.
Suddenly, they heard a cry of pure rage from upstairs and Snape came charging down the stairs and knocked Frank Longbottom to the floor.
"How dare you," Snape screamed, "How dare you touch her stuff. You have no right. She never hurt anyone. I hate you, I hate you."
By this time Frank was on his feet and was holding Snape’s arms behind his back, away from his wand, before Snape could attack again. Although tall, Snape was thin and not strong enough to break free from the auror’s grasp.
"That’s a nasty temper you’ve got there son," said a younger Mad-Eye Moody, who had followed Snape downstairs, "You want to watch that doesn’t get you into trouble."
"I want to go," Snape said to McGonagall, "Now, please."
"As you wish Severus; isn’t there anything you want to take with you?"
"It’s all gone," he said bleakly, "Anyway, it won’t bring her back."
The mist swirled around them again and when the new memory had formed, they saw themselves on Platform 9¾ where students were being greeted by happy parents. All except for one boy, Snape, who was struggling with his trunk on his own.
"Oh," breathed Hermione, "If his parents are dead, where’s he going to live?"
"Relax Hermione," assured Ron, "I’m sure they found a relative to take the greasy git in."
Snape finally got his trunk off the train and dragged it to the side of the platform, where he was able to shrink it to a more manageable size. Looking around at the almost deserted platform, Snape sighed and set off for the barrier and the entrance into muggle London.
The trio followed Snape as closely as they could, fearing to get to close to their potions master even though they knew that they were in a memory and couldn’t be seen.
Eventually, Snape reached The Leaky Cauldron. As he entered, all conversation stopped as people looked at him. "Death Eater scum," someone hissed, inspiring more insults to be hurled in Snape’s direction. Ignoring everyone, Snape walked through the pub and tapped the wall, opening the hidden entrance to Diagon Alley.
Once they were in Diagon Alley, the trio noticed that people avoided Snape. They stared at him, talked about him and turned their backs on him. Seemingly unperturbed, Snape entered Knockturn Alley.
"Should have figured Snape would head here," said Ron, shivering at the sight of Knockturn Alley.
"Come on Ron, or we’ll get left behind," insisted Hermione.
"Um," Ron hesitated, "I’m not allowed to go into Knockturn Alley, mum’ll kill me."
Hermione choked back a laugh as she replied, "You’re not really there Ron, it’s only a memory, we’re still in Snape’s office and, believe me, if he comes back while we’re in here, Knockturn Alley will seem like paradise compared to Hogwarts."
Chuckling at Hermione’s perspicacious comments, Harry guided his two friends into Knockturn Alley.
Once they were in the Alley, they saw snatches of memory, as though the pensieve were showing them ‘highlights’ before moving them on to something else in an almost dizzying whirl.
They saw Snape reading copies of The Daily Prophet and applying for the jobs advertised. They saw the look of pride on his face when he received his exam results – 13 NEWTs.
"Wow," breathed Hermione, "Only 5 people this century have done that well." Harry and Ron decided to just trust her on that.
Then they saw his growing despair as he was rejected for all the jobs he’d applied for. It seemed that his name preceded him; people didn’t even look at his qualifications, they just saw the name Snape and remembered something rather nasty in the papers, something about dark wizards.
Snape’s money had run out days ago and he hadn’t eaten properly in weeks. His already thin frame was now practically skeletal. He was desperate and the man who watched him realised it.
Harry, Ron and Hermione watched as the man approached Snape and propositioned him.
"Oh no," said Ron in disgust, "He’s not going to…yuck!"
Harry emulated Ron’s feelings of revulsion. He couldn’t imagine selling himself, however bad things got.
The three of them turned away, unable to look, once they were in a dingy bedroom in the Knockturn Alley inn. They heard Snape’s gasp of pain, they heard the man grunting away, the steadily increasing squeak of the bedsprings and a final yell from the man, before they heard the clink of coins and the sound of the door closing.
Hermione wanted to comfort Snape as he lay on the dirty floor of the room, hurt and bleeding. She was shocked and horrified by what she had just witnessed. The way the man had treated Snape was inhuman. She tensed as she saw Snape try to sit up and wince. A single tear rolled down his cheek as he pulled his robes to cover himself again and slowly bent to pick up the
"10 sickles, what price innocence?" he said to himself bitterly. After a pause he said dejectedly, "All for nothing. All those years of teasing and struggling and studying. I might have some of the highest marks in the year but no-one will ever give me a job." A harsh sob of ironic laughter left him at this, "Guilty by association. Well you have a job now Severus: whore to anyone with a
little silver to spare." He winced as he slowly stood up and left to find his next client.
Hermione choked back a sob as the scene changed again. This time, they found themselves still in Knockturn Alley but it was now winter and snow lay thickly on the ground. They saw a figure drag itself out from under a pile of rags in the small dark side alley between two shops. They all gasped, realising that the boy whose skin was gray where it wasn’t covered in bruises and who had an almost dead look in his eyes was none other than Snape.
The figure tensed as two boys about the same age as Snape charged over to him. The trio started as they recognised Sirius Black and James Potter, who were carrying wrapped presents and were both dressed in thick warm robes, in stark contrast to the practically threadbare robes worn by Snape.
"So it’s true then Snape, you’re a whore," Sirius crowed cruelly.
"Get lost Black," Snape snapped, trying to push past the other two.
Black was too quick for him and, being easily stronger than Snape, pushed him back into the small dark side alley where Snape slept.
"Keep watch, James," Sirius said.
"Sirius, what are you going to do?" James asked nervously.
"He wants to sell, I want to buy. It’s a simple deal, just make sure no-one comes down here." With that, he retreated into the side alley.
"Get off me Black, oofff."
Snape fell silent as Black punched him in the face. Harry watched in unbelieving horrified fascination as his godfather, Sirius Black, beat and raped Snape. After the first few thrusts, Snape stopped struggling, whether he had given in or lost consciousness Harry couldn’t tell. After what
seemed like hours, Black came and pulled out of Snape, giving him one final kick to the groin for good measure.
"That’s for everything you did to us at school."
"James, where’s Sirius? I didn’t think you’d be down here. What’s going on?" Harry’s breath caught in his throat as his mother walked towards them looking confused. Sirius leapt out of the side alley and said, "Here I am Lily."
"What’s going on?" she repeated.
Lily pushed past James and Sirius and squinted into the dark alley. "Who’s that? Lumos. Severus? Sirius, what have you done?"
"Lily stay away from him."
Lily ignored them, "Severus, is this your wand?"
"For gods sake, don’t give that lunatic his wand until we’re well clear of him," Sirius barked.
"Lily?" Snape asked weakly.
"Severus let me help you."
"Stay away from me," he hissed. Lily paused and, in that moment, Sirius dragged Lily away, turning as he did so and throwing two bronze knuts on the ground. "Payment for services rendered Snape," he said, chuckling as he left.
Harry, Ron and Hermione stared at each other horrified.
Snape just sat in the alley as the snow fell on him and around him.
"Do you want that money?" a small boy stood near Snape looking fearfully at him but longingly at the two bronze knuts on the snow covered ground.
"Take them," Snape said listlessly.
The little boy grabbed them and was about to run off when Snape said, "Here, you won’t get anything hot for two knuts, take this aswell." He handed the small boy five sickles.
"Thanks," said the awestruck boy as he ran off excitedly. Snape didn’t notice him leave as he was once again sitting in the snow, staring off into the distance.
Hermione was weeping openly now and Harry had to admit that he had a lump in his throat as he saw Snape’s kindness to the younger boy. Even Ron had stopped insulting Snape.
The scene shifted again slowly and they saw Snape on another cold snowy day, buying a hot baked potato from one of the shops in Diagon Alley.
"What do you want on it?"
"Nothing, plain’s fine," Snape said, anxiously fingering his money.
"Nonsense," said a familiar voice behind them. They turned to see Lucius Malfoy who said, "Put everything on it, make that two, and we’ll have them inside."
They were just about to follow Malfoy senior and a protesting Severus Snape inside when the sound of someone clearing their throat made the trio spin round. Professors McGonagall and Lupin were standing there, identical looks of intense fury on their faces.
Chapter 2: Dumbledore’s Wrath
Harry, Ron and Hermione gasped as they were escorted from Professor Snape’s pensieve by Professors McGonagall and Lupin. As the murky dungeon office of the Potions Master swam back into view, Harry noticed that the office’s usual inhabitant was thankfully absent. Apart from his fear that Snape would blast him into a million tiny pieces for this latest transgression, Harry didn’t feel he could face the man having seen what his father and godfather had done.
Harry looked up to see both Professors staring at him and his friends. Professor Lupin looked curious, but Professor McGonagall was livid. Her voice shook as she stammered out the words, "Never…in all my days…Professor Dumbledore…now!"
While Harry was still struggling to understand the general gist of Professor McGonagall’s comments, he found his arm being pulled by Hermione as she whispered, "Come on, lets get out of here before things get any worse."
"How could they get worse?" breathed Ron, as they stumbled through the corridors away from the dungeons.
"Snape could turn up and decide that we’d make nice test subjects for his latest potions experiments," said Harry grimly.
Ron gulped and their journey to Dumbledore’s office was fairly quiet, the three of them walking ahead of the two professors. Professor McGonagall was levitating Snape’s pensieve ahead of her, a blue aura surrounding it.
"That’s a cushioning charm," said Hermione, "To stop the contents of the pensieve from spilling. If a pensieve gets dropped or cracked, all the memories come flooding out of it and back into the mind of the witch or wizard who owns the pensieve. Just imagine," she shuddered, "All those thoughts coming back to you in one go. There are records of people who have been so overwhelmed by the sudden return of their memories, that they have gone mad."
"Hermione," groaned Ron, "This really isn’t the time or place for this."
Hermione didn’t reply as they had reached the gargoyle guarding Dumbledore’s office.
"Sorry to wake you Albus," Professor McGonagall said to the wizard who was sitting at his desk wearing a blue fluffy dressing gown and matching slippers.
"No trouble at all, Minerva, Remus. Now what appears to be the trouble here." Dumbledore’s words were not matched by his tone, which was decidedly less affable than usual. Harry couldn’t really blame Dumbledore; he wouldn’t want to be woken in the middle of the night to deal with things like this either.
Lupin took over the story, "Minerva and I had just finished resolving the quidditch match timetable for the year and we were taking it to Severus for his opinion. On passing his office, we noticed that the lights were still on and entered. There was no-one in the office but the pensieve was out. As Severus would never leave his pensieve unattended, we went to look in and found Harry, Ron and Hermione there."
Dumbledore looked at the three of them, anger clouding his tired features. "Why did you do this?" he asked quietly.
Harry explained about them not trusting Snape and how they’d wanted to know why he’d become a Death Eater and why Dumbledore trusted him. Hermione took over, dissolving into tears as she told everyone what they’d witnessed: how Snape had had nowhere to go after finishing school,
how he’d lived on the streets of Knockturn Alley, how he had had to prostitute himself to earn money to eat and how Sirius had come along teasing Snape, contrasting Snape’s degradation with his and James’ success, violating and humiliating him. By the time she’d finished, Professor McGonagall was also in tears, Dumbledore looked as though he were about to cry any second and Lupin looked furious.
Professor McGonagall was the first to speak, "Albus, why didn’t you ever tell me what Severus went through?"
"Because Minerva, I didn’t know. Severus never told me, although it would explain why he hated Black and Potter so much."
"But," Lupin interrupted, "I mean, Sirius wouldn’t have, couldn’t have…" his voice, which had lacked conviction from the start, faltered.
Seeming to reach a decision, Dumbledore strode over to the fire and threw some powder in and called, "Severus? Could you come to my office immediately please?"
The figure of Severus Snape span in the fireplace and appeared in Dumbledore’s office. Snape was drawing his black robes around himself. His nostrils dilated slightly and his usual sneer crossed his face when he saw Harry, Ron and Hermione. The effect was spoiled however by the
fact that under his black robes his grey nightshirt could clearly be seen and his black hair was tousled from sleep.
Snape looked around the room, surprised to see so many people in the Headmaster’s rooms in the dead of night. His heart leapt in his throat as he saw his pensieve lying on Dumbledore’s desk. He glared at the three students and was disconcerted to see Potter and Weasley turn their eyes to the ground. Miss Granger met his gaze for a moment, before her eyes clouded with tears and she too suddenly found the rug on the floor completely fascinating.
Instinct and training prevented Snape from showing his fear as he raised his head to meet Dumbledore’s wise rapier-like blue eyes.
"Headmaster?" he queried coolly, all the time fighting the instinct to turn and run away from the gaze that seemed to stare straight into his soul.
"Ah Severus, thank you for being so prompt."
"Not at all, Headmaster." This formality and politeness was driving Snape mad. Doubt suffused every corner of his mind. What had they seen? Which of his crimes were about to be exposed? Would he be asked to leave Hogwarts? Where would he go?
Abruptly regaining control of his errant mind, Snape cleared his throat pointedly.
Dumbledore started and began to speak, "Tonight, Mister Potter, Mister Ronald Weasley and Miss Granger broke into your office and entered your pensieve, which is where Minerva and Remus found them. They wished to know why you joined Voldemort and they saw certain events relating to both the reaction to your parents’ deaths and your life in Knockturn Alley after leaving school."
Snape heard the inflection in Dumbledore’s voice when he mentioned Knockturn Alley and realised what had been revealed to Professor McGonagall, Lupin, Potter, Weasley, Granger and, worst of all, Professor Dumbledore. For once, Severus was unable to conceal his reaction and shock, horror, anger and shame were all mirrored in his face in a split second. Shame won out though and he hung his head, blank unseeing eyes boring into the top of Dumbledore’s desk as his body went numb with shock.
Dumbledore’s voice pulled him back to reality. "What I would like to know," he was saying, "is why you lied to me Severus."
Snape jerked his head up, startled both by the question and Dumbledore’s unmistakeably angry tone.
Dumbledore continued, "When you came to me to give yourself up, you never said that you joined Lord Voldemort to escape a life of prostitution on the streets of Knockturn Alley. Didn’t you think it was important that I should know? Neither did you tell me that Sirius Black raped you, not even after he escaped from Azkabahn. What happened? Did it just slip your mind perhaps?"
Severus fought not to flinch at the anger in the Headmaster’s voice and forced himself to reply.
"No, Headmaster Dumbledore," spat Snape, "It did not slip my mind, although I dearly wish it would. In answer to your other question, I did not, and indeed do not, consider it to be any of your business. As for Black, why should you care what he did to me? After all, as I recall, you did not object when he tried to put an end to my worthless life whilst I was a student here, I doubt a small matter of the rape of a prostitute would have been of any interest to you." So saying, Snape turned and stalked out of the office, levitating his pensieve before him and causing the door to slam loudly behind him.
Immediately regretting his tone, Dumbledore knew it was better to let Severus go as opposed to forcing him into continuing such a public confrontation. It was just one more thing Dumbledore would have to apologise for when he spoke to Severus.
Stunned, tired and empty of emotion, Dumbledore slowly looked up to see Minerva McGonagall glaring angrily at him and, noticing that her lips were so thin they were practically non-existant, he shuddered. Minerva rarely lost her temper with him, but each of those occasions was etched indelibly on his mind.
"After all these years Albus you still haven’t the faintest idea how to handle that boy. You do realise that he’s probably packing as we speak."
Dumbledore turned and whispered to a portrait of Hogwarts’ only Headmistress, who promptly disappeared from her frame.
"There," he said, "the doors have been told not to let Severus pass; now he cannot leave."
This did not seem to please Minerva, who snapped at him exasperatedly, "And I suppose you intend to tie him down and force him to talk to you. Hmpprrh! And as for you three," she turned to Harry, Ron and Hermione who flinched away from the livid witch, "A person’s pensieve is an
extremely private object and should never be entered without the owner’s permission. Your punishment for such a serious trangression shall be to clean the Owlery without magic. Now, get to bed and do not discuss tonight’s events with anyone, on pain of expulsion."
Harry, Ron and Hermione fled at that, as they had never seen Professor McGonagall so angry.
Remus stood still, as he had since they had heard about the memories contained in Snape’s pensieve. Shock, pity and dismay clouded his expression.
"Remus, you look exhausted, you should get some sleep too," Minerva said rather more gently.
Unable to escape the feeling that he too had been dismissed, Remus Lupin left, thinking that sleep would doubtless elude him that night.
As the door closed behind Remus, Minerva McGonagall looked at Dumbledore and said, "He never told you?"
"Albus, I…would you tell me what Severus did say?"
Albus sighed and sank into his chair, letting the memories sweep across his mind.
"It was little more than a year after he left Hogwarts when Severus returned. He told me that he had joined Lord Voldemort but that he regretted his choice and wished to speak to me before handing himself over to the Ministry. He said that he had information for me; that Voldemort was going to attack the Potters, that he planned to kill James and the baby,"
"I thought Severus hated James Potter."
"He did and, I believe, still does. However, he always cared for Lily and he knew that such losses would destroy her more completely than any curse.
"I could sense the repentance in his voice as he spoke of the murder and torture he had witnessed and taken part in. He looked into my eyes and I saw a man, old beyond his years, who was prepared to accept the consequences of his actions. He was barely eighteen years old and he had already accepted that he would die. He offered no excuse for his actions and I, like a fool, didn’t ask or even look for any. I condemned him; I thought he had had a choice.
"I told Severus how badly he had let me down and how disappointed I was that he had chosen to follow the Dark path. I offered him a way to redeem himself. He returned to Lord Voldemort as my spy."
Minerva gasped in horror.
"The one time in his life he came to me for help and I judged him without understanding or even asking him why he had made his choices."
Dumbledore broke off and put his head in his hands, saying, "How could he let us think him a willing supporter of Voldemort? We all turned our backs on that child. The things he endured just to survive. As for Sirius…"
"Yes," said Minerva sternly, "I intend to have a word with Mr Black. Albus, be careful when you talk to Severus. This information being out in the open is bound to make him feel raw, vulnerable and ashamed. His self esteem is fairly low right now, the poor child referred to himself as worthless." Minerva looked like she might cry again. "Don’t say anything to make this situation worse, please."
Although Albus Dumbledore was a great wizard, Minerva McGonagall knew that there were certain things he could not handle very well: people who were not as open as the Gryffindors and his own failures were two of those things.
There was a long pause before Dumbledore spoke again. "You’re right, Minerva, I have no idea how to handle Severus," he confessed.
"If he will talk about his past, listen to him Albus. Don’t judge him and don’t take your sense of failure out on Severus; he deserves better. He admires you greatly you know, Albus and your approval is important to him, even if he doesn’t openly admit it."
"He shouldn’t admire me," said Dumbledore shortly, "I’ve failed him so many times. I didn’t even see that Professor Malachy was abusive towards him."
"Towards all of the Slytherins from poorer families, Albus."
Dumbledore was past the stage of being shocked by the night’s revelations; he just felt failure like a stone around his neck, weighing him down.
"And they never said anything. Why Minerva?"
"I wish I knew Albus. I only found out long after he left and quite by accident at that. Maybe Severus will tell us more."
Yes, that’s if he ever speaks to us again, thought Dumbledore.
Feeling that the conversation was at an end, Minerva got up to return to her chambers to cry for both the boy who had been abandoned in hell and the intensely private man who now had to deal with the shameful events from his past being known by people she knew he did not trust.
Professor Dumbledore sat in his office for a long time that night, feeling the despair of having misjudged Severus all the more keenly as he had prided himself on never making those sort of mistakes. Dumbledore had seen himself as the man who gave any child possessing magical abilities the chance to come to Hogwarts. Whatever their background, he gave them the chance to prove themselves. Yet, when it came to Severus Snape, Dumbledore had judged him at the age of eleven. How many other Slytherins had Dumbledore misjudged, and lost to Voldemort as
a result, over the years? Dumbledore felt the sickening sense of failure and self-loathing that chased away all thoughts of sleep as he struggled to come to terms with his actions.
Sleep eluded those who had been affected by the night’s revelations.
Harry, Ron and Hermione had left Dumbledore’s office and returned to the Gryffindor common room, unwilling to dawdle in the corridors, afraid that they would bump into Snape.
Upon entering the now empty common room, Ron pointed his wand at the dying fire and the flames sprang up again, providing both warmth and a subtle flickering light to the tower room.
"What a night!" said Ron, collapsing into a comfy armchair near the now roaring fire.
Harry and Hermione sat down too, their legs practically giving way as the enormity of the night’s events overtook them.
"Do you think Snape’s OK?" asked Hermione tentatively, unsure how to start this conversation.
Ron goggled at her. "OK? Would you be? I sure as hell wouldn’t. How demeaning, selling your arse to anyone with a few sickles."
"Bad enough to do it," agreed Harry, "Even worse that people should know you did it."
"Don’t be so sanctimonious," snapped Hermione. "You saw what happened, how no-one would give him a job. He had no choice." She paused as she tried not to cry, her mind still whirling from the events of the evening. She continued more quietly, "I always thought Voldemort was the prejudiced one and that we fought him to ensure a better world, for wizards and muggles alike. People on our side are just as bad, aren’t they?"
Harry nodded, "You know, I always thought that joining Voldemort would be the worst thing in the world, maybe though there are worse things. I mean it doesn’t excuse becoming a Death Eater, but…"
Harry fell silent again, unsure how to judge Snape now he knew why Snape had become a Death Eater.
Hermione said, "It doesn’t look like Snape used it as an excuse, from what Dumbledore said."
They all flinched as they recalled Dumbledore’s anger.
"It’s not right though," said Ron, "For Dumbledore to take it out on Snape." He paused, "I can’t believe I just said that; I stood up for Snape."
They all sat in silence for a while, thinking that many things had changed that night and how they reacted to Snape was one of them.
Harry broke the silence after a while, by saying, "How do I face Snape in Potions knowing what Sirius did to him?"
The three of them looked at one another, unsure how to answer that question, or indeed, how any of them were going to face Professor Snape having seen him naked, beaten and used by
anonymous men and, even more disturbingly, by Sirius Black.
Dumbledore sat behind his desk, exactly where Minerva McGonagall had left him over an hour earlier. He sat frozen in defeat, self-disgust radiating from him in waves.
The realisation that Severus had had little choice but to join Lord Voldemort hit Dumbledore hard. The man, actually he’d been no more than a boy at the time, had offered no excuses when he had come to Dumbledore to give himself up. He had not mentioned the fact that he had tried to enter respectable wizarding society, where his name had effectively precluded acceptance. He had never told Dumbledore what he had had to do in order to survive or how he had been abused, first by filthy wretched men whose sexual tastes were so depraved they had to pay another to submit to them, then by one of his own classmates, whose humiliation of Severus, Dumbledore knew, would have wounded the man more deeply than any of the blows he suffered from his ‘clients’.
For a man who prided himself on knowing what went on in the wizarding world, being able to judge people and being a natural confidant, the knowledge that he had failed Severus Snape so
completely pained him. Severus had not trusted him, not enough to explain himself, to want to be understood; he had just accepted Dumbledore’s condemnation and tried to make up for disappointing the Headmaster by risking his life and sanity through his spying duties. When had he lost the child’s trust? Dumbledore snorted. How very presumptuous of him: a more pertinent question would have been had he ever had Severus’ trust?
As he pondered that question, he remembered the small greasy-haired boy who had entered Hogwarts at the age of eleven. He’d known that the boy had a questionable background and his behaviour had certainly reinforced that view. Fighting, throwing hexes, curses and punches with
equal venom even before the sorting ceremony, no-one had been surprised when Severus had been sorted into Slytherin. Had Severus been an evil child or had he just lived down to everyone’s expectations?
Hostility and anger were Severus’ trademarks. He had been a hardworking student but his manner had never endeared him to his teachers or his fellow students. Enmeshed in the political
hothouse of the Slytherin dungeons, Severus had had allies and comrades but not friends.
Often involved in fights, usually with Potter and Black’s gang, Severus had quickly gained a reputation as a mean fighter, unleashing curses that few students knew or indeed should know. All the signs of a child brought up in a dysfunctional family were there to be seen, had anyone cared to look.
When Severus’ behaviour had been discussed at staff meetings, Professor Malachy had said that he knew how to bring the boy into line. Naively, Dumbledore had assumed that the man meant
counselling the child, not beating him into submission.
Systematic abuse had occurred at his school under his headmastership yet he had had no idea. None of the Slytheirns had trusted him enough to tell him. Dumbledore felt the hot flare of fury burn through him as he realised that his school, which was supposed to be a safe haven from the evils of the wizarding world, had been consistently failing at least a quarter of its students.
Then again, Severus cared about his charges; they knew they had someone to talk to, someone who would take their side and defend them against those who believed that to be sorted into Slytherin house was to be branded as evil. Severus gave them ideals to live up to, a sense of honour at being in Slytherin. Severus was the only teacher to believe a Slytherin over a student from any other house, even when he knew they were guilty. Perhaps, in appointing Severus, Dumbledore had done much more than he had ever realised or intended towards helping the Slytherins.
Neither Severus nor his Slytherins, it seemed, expected help or support of any kind from Dumbledore. Severus’ words about Dumbledore’s treatment of him following the Shrieking Shack incident had cut through Dumbledore like a knife. Dumbledore had failed to act to protect Severus or to punish Sirius. Why then would Severus consider coming to him for help when Sirius attacked him again? Dumbledore wondered if he would have helped the young Slytherin or whether he would have turned his back yet again. Doubt had appeared in his mind. He had never questioned his actions before and yet now he didn’t even know what his actions would have been.
By dawn, Dumbledore’s anger had been more or less brought under control again. He still wanted to hex those who had forced Severus into selling himself, those who had bought him and indeed Severus himself. Unfair though he knew it was, Dumbledore was angry with Severus for suffering in silence and cheating Dumbledore of the chance to save the lost lamb. Irrational to be angry with the victim, yet it was the only way Dumbledore could assuage his guilt. How could he have helped Severus when Severus had never asked for help? Sighing heavily, Dumbledore realised that he just felt tired: tired of the petty injustices of life. He knew he would have to face Severus, but, other than apologise and try not to lose his temper with a man who did not deserve to feel his wrath, he had no idea what to say to him.
Minerva McGonagall sat in her chambers, tears rolling down her eyes. She cried for lost innocence. Although, to be fair, she suspected that Severus Snape had had his eyes opened to many of the harsh realities of the world long before he had even started Hogwarts. That didn’t make it right though.
In that moment, if she could have got her hands on those who had hurt Severus, she would have killed them all, without the use of any namby pamby killing curse.
Contrary to popular opinion, she liked Severus. She had even liked him as a child, although his sullen manner, his unkempt appearance and his talent at involving himself in fights with her
Gryffindors had made liking the child difficult. However, she had seen a spark light itself in the boy when it came to learning; he had always been an eager student. Yet there was something
else within Severus that had piqued her interest: his indomitable will. Severus had never backed down from a fight, even when his opponents were bigger, older, stronger or more numerous than
himself. He was even brave enough to tease her about Gryffindor’s chances in the Quidditch Cup. Yet surely even Severus’ refusal to surrender had been tested by taking on He Who Must Not Be Named in his own stronghold.
She clucked angrily as she thought of how Dumbledore had sent Snape back to Voldemort as a spy. To put the child in such danger was unforgivable. Condemned by those on the Light, yet unable to ally himself with the Dark: an unenviable position in anyone’s eyes.
Minerva wished she had the right to offer Snape comfort, yet she had the shrewd suspicion that he would shy away from anything even remotely approaching affection. Never having had children of her own, Minerva had always seen the students as her surrogate offspring. Often, she had comforted her charges even as she punished them for their latest transgressions. Yet Severus had never accepted comfort, or punishment for that matter. She smiled as she remembered those black eyes burning with hatred at the deemed injustice of his punishment for misdemeanors that he considered acceptable forms of retaliation. She had to stifle a laugh as she remembered James Potter running down the corridor sporting pink rabbit ears and a fluffy tail, Severus chasing after him intently, waving his wand, trying to complete the transformation. The laughter died as abruptly as it had begun when she recalled that Severus had intended feeding ‘rabbit James’ to Hagrid’s new pet.
She sighed, tears rolling down her cheeks again as she thought of how much Severus had changed by the time he returned to teach at Hogwarts. The enthusiasm and energy he had had as a student
were gone, had been replaced by a bitterness, a grim acceptance of the inherent evilness of the world. Hardly surprising given what she now knew of his past.
Severus had grown more distant after the Shrieking Shack incident, no longer volunteering information in class, barely responding even when asked a direct question. After his parents’ deaths, he had retreated even further, creating an almost visible barrier of hatred and indifference around himself. No-one had thought about where the boy would go after leaving school. Had everyone assumed that someone else would sort it out? Had they expected Severus to sort it out? Well, she supposed that he had, in a fashion.
Miss Granger’s description of the boy, who could only have been just eighteen at the time, bruised, beaten and bedraggled, living in a cold, snow-covered alley, tugged at Minerva’s heartstrings. That
such a talented student should have been forced to sell his body. Minerva could feel the anger rising again as she thought of it, her blood practically boiling in her veins. To have to sell that which by rights should only ever be given freely, to then have that sullied gift taken forcibly by a hated enemy. She wanted to scream. She took a deep breath and made the effort to relax. She intended to have words with Sirius Black, and Severus Snape for that matter. Welcome or not,
she would make her young colleague see that he did have people he could call friends. She only hoped that Albus wouldn’t make things any worse than they already were. She knew that he was angry with himself and she hoped that Severus wouldn’t have to bear the brunt of that anger. The poor man had enough to cope with now that his secret was out in the open.
Remus Lupin sat in front of a dying fire, neither caring or seeing that it was about to go out. Mentally, he was far away, back at the Hogwarts that he knew from his childhood, with people who now existed only in his memory.
He remembered Severus Snape as a child: small, unappealing, almost urchin-like with his greasy hair, his starved angular features and his dark darting desperate eyes. He was practically a tightly
wound ball of fury that launched itself at the Marauders any chance it got. A rather disquieting event in his forth year had provided some explanation of Severus’ behaviour.
It had been a few days after they had returned from the Christmas holidays. James and Severus had had a fight over…frowning as he tried to recall what the fight had been about, Remus gave up: there had just been too many fights over the years. Still, the catalyst itself was not important, but rather the result it wrought. Unable to beat Severus in a duel, James had quickly resorted to a
fistfight. Although no longer the smallest child in the year, Severus had still been smaller than James at that point. Severus was losing the fight when James pulled away as though Severus’
skin was itself red hot. Remus had looked on in horror as he saw that Severus’ robe had been ripped and several of his shirt buttons torn off, exposing his scrawny torso, which was covered in bruises, cuts and burns. Severus had blanched and gathered his robes about his shoulders before hissing some threat and stalking away.
As an adult, Remus now had a disturbing view of how Severus had spent that Christmas and maybe many other school holidays; as a boy who had had devoted loving parents, it never occurred to him that there could be any explanation for Severus’ injuries other than that he had picked a fight with some Slytheirn who had got the better of him. Yet surely even that poor excuse for a homelife had to have been better than life as a whore on the streets of Knockturn Alley, living and working amongst the very dregs of wizarding society.
As a werewolf, Remus had suffered from the prejudices of the wizarding world, yet he had always had a roof over his head, always had food to eat. He couldn’t imagine what it would be
like to be homeless, hungry and totally without hope. To resort to permitting strangers inside your body, allowing them to know you intimately, in the hope of earning enough money to eat.
To know that violence was an integral part of your customers’ pleasure. The very thought of it made Remus’ stomach clench in fear, to actually have to live through it, waking up knowing what
each day would bring…Remus had experienced many feelings towards Severus Snape over the years: hatred, revulsion, fear, indifference and then hatred again, yet now for the first time he felt pity and some measure of understanding.
Remus felt almost physically sick as he wondered if Severus had ever known what it was to live without fear, pain and abuse. That his friend, Sirius Black, had been responsible for launching
a terrible attack on Snape was a matter of shame for Lupin. He was unable to defend Sirius even in his mind for he knew what Sirius was capable of where Snape was involved. Unthinkingly,
Sirius had threatened Remus’ own safety when he sent Severus to the Shrieking Shack after him all those years ago. Perhaps if Sirius had been punished for the Shrieking Shack incident… Maybe changed nothing; Sirius had raped Snape. Remus had had no idea that Sirius was even attracted to men. Attraction couldn’t explain rape though. Rape was about violence, hatred, domination and humiliation not tenderness, love, desire and reverence.
Remus knew that he would have to talk to Sirius, indeed Sirius would be returning to Hogwarts in just over two weeks for the next meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. However, he couldn’t count on avoiding Snape for a fortnight so, uncomfortable as he knew any such meeting would be, he needed to see Severus and to try to discover how they were going to deal with these revelations.
Severus Snape stormed down to his dungeon chambers, making the candles in the corridors flicker and die out as his cloak swept past them. The dungeons echoed as he slammed the thick oak
door to his rooms shut. In his fury, he warded his rooms so tightly that even dust would have been hard pressed to get through without being annihilated.
He flicked his wand, directing his pensieve to the table in the centre of the dark room. The contents was jolted hard enough that it slopped dangerously up the side of the bowl, threatening escape even as the shimmering silvery surface settled once more.
Severus collapsed shivering onto the cold hard stone floor of his dungeon abode; so like a prison cell in many respects, yet it was the one place where he had felt safe, where he had dared to dream that his past couldn’t touch him.
The memories that had been revived tonight had been particularly painful in a life in which pain was the background to many tableaux. These memories had hurt so much that Severus had decanted much of their vitriol into the pensieve. He still remembered the events: a pensieve did not ‘take’ a memory, yet it lessened the emotion attached to the memory, almost as if the events had happened to someone else. Yet the pensieve had betrayed him; had shown his weakness and failure to the world.
Severus groaned, how was he supposed to keep the students in line if they didn’t fear and respect him? They would never respect him now, not when they knew that his body had once been for sale for little more than the price of a butterbeer. Maybe the fathers of some of his students had bought him. Shame flooded Severus’ heart, only to be replaced once again by anger. How dare Potter and his cohorts do this to him?
Severus rose to his feet, anger coursing through his veins. He saw the pensieve on the table, the symbol of his foolishness, his weakness, his shame. Severus grabbed the offending bowl and
hurled it with all his might at the stone walls of his room. The silvery thought strands fell in slow motion, dissolving into a beam of light before they hit the ground. Shocked, Severus stared as the
light faded to dark, feeling a sudden stab of pain in his head. Suddenly, the sensations of those discarded memories engulfed his mind. Severus fell to the floor gasping for breath as he tried to
deal with all the images that burned themselves bright behind his eyes.
Anger at a world that scorned him faded to be replaced by Severus’ darkest fears: fear of returning home, fear of no longer being able to return home, fear that he would starve to death, fear that he would have to continue to live the life of depravity that claimed his body for its own and finally, fear that he would die and have to pay for the sins he had committed. Fear was replaced by shame at his weakness, at the knowledge of just how cheap he had been to buy: first, his body had been bought for a few sickles a time, then, his soul had been bought for an empty promise.
Severus lay on the cold floor, his arms wound tightly around his body, yet the gesture seemed to offer him no comfort. Severus remembered looking into Headmaster Dumbledore’s eyes and
seeing the disappointment mirrored in their blue depths. He knew that he should have fought harder: shouldn’t have let his father beat him, shouldn’t have let Professor Malachy abuse him, shouldn’t have let strangers buy him, shouldn’t have let Sirius Black inside him, shouldn’t have let Lucius Malfoy lead him to Voldemort. Tears fell from his eyes for the first time in years. His whole life should never have happened! How could Dumbledore not see him as a disappointment?
Swamped as he was in despair, the one thing Severus Snape never considered was running away, as he had never had the luxury of a place he could call safe, a refuge from the harsh realities of his life, a place to run to. Hogwarts was the closest thing he had to a home. True, the inhabitants of the castle looked at him with something akin to hatred and distrust, but he wasn’t beaten, tortured or made to perform sexual acts for the amusement of others.
Severus remembered how his childhood had been lived in the dark, in the shadow of his violent overbearing father; an infancy spent listening to the terrified screams of his mother. Severus couldn’t recall how old he had been when he had first realised that if he provoked his father when he was drunk or angry, he would be beaten instead of his mother. He could remember crying afterwards, trying not to move so as not to jar his bruised and beaten body, but he had also gained some satisfaction from knowing that his mother had not suffered. Severus knew that his father preferred hitting him, as his spirit had not yet been broken.
Severus had viewed his Hogwarts letter with a mixture of apprehension and joy: apprehension that there would be no-one to protect his mother and joy that he would finally be escaping his miserable home life. But Hogwarts had been little better. Severus was sorted into Slytherin for his cunning; ironic really, his noble self-sacrificing gesture of protection towards his mother had led to
him being shunned by three-quarters of the school. Even amongst the Slytherins, Severus found it hard to fit in. Many Slytherins were from rich old wizarding families; people like him were looked down on for being poor and not having an old pure-blood name (Severus’ great grandfather having been muggle born). Professor Malachy had made it quite clear that such ‘filth’ was not welcome in Slytherin House and many students followed his lead as they feared his wrath.
Pain coursed through Severus as he remembered seeing his father’s lifeless body on the front page of The Daily Prophet. He had been upset, truly he had. Yes, a little voice in his head said, but you were relieved too weren’t you? Severus had known that his parents were involved with Dark Wizards; his father had always been trying to make up for having a muggleised name. He himself had been brought up to know many dark curses; hard not to really when so many had been cast on him. His father had expected him to bring glory to the Snape name by becoming a powerful dark wizard. His parents’ deaths had left Severus bereft but feeling that he could finally escape, that he could finally choose his own path.
Bitter laughter echoed around the dungeon chambers as Severus mourned the naivety of his young self. He had never had a choice; he had been a fool to dream of such opportunities. Respectability did not exist for people like him. He had tried. Those last months at school, he had separated himself from the few Slytherins who had claimed to be his friends. He had, however, been left with nobody as none of the other children wanted to associate themselves with the child of a pair of murderous, muggle-torturing dark wizards.
Once he left school, he had been completely on his own. No-one had cared if he lived or died. He’d gone to the one place where he could be relatively sure he wouldn’t be killed while he slept; ironic really that the one place most wizards feared (Knockturn Alley) had been the only place left for him to go. He could still remember the fear he felt the first night he slept on the streets, but he had had no choice so he had just had to accustom himself to that life. Never having had many creature comforts, Severus didn’t miss them. Still, he had known that Knockturn Alley was too dangerous a place to make his home and he had tried to get out. Severus had applied for any and every job he could but it had made no difference. He had tried to convince himself that he could go without food but his weakened body had threatened to betray him on many occasions. Finally, he had given in and accepted that he was going to starve to death. Then, a man had come up to him and offered him money in return for sex. Deep in the depths of despair, Severus had agreed and found himself used and abused in ways he couldn’t ever have imagined.
Severus winced as he remembered some of the things he had done whilst earning his living as a prostitute. He felt dirty, right down to the depths of his soul. As he slowly came back to some
realisation of his surroundings, Severus noted that he lay on the floor, legs akimbo wearing only his nightshirt and his robes. He felt cruelly exposed. He stood up cautiously and, able to find his balance although still rather shaky on his feet, he walked over to his bedroom to dress himself.
He gulped as his hands touched his skin, feeling instead the grasping grabbing hands of others, reaching out to him across the years as though they had never let him go. He could feel
them inside him, could practically taste them. Worst of all, he could feel the shock and indignity of being seen in his degradation by Potter and Black. They had both looked warm and well fed. The very epitome of success and respectability, the two young men provided a stark contrast to Severus in his torn threadbare robes that failed to keep out the cold that simultaneously gnawed at him from the inside as his empty stomach cried out for food and his soul cried out for salvation.
Black had seen what he was in an instant, had taken his chance to humiliate Snape more thoroughly than he had managed even when they were at school. Severus licked his lips gingerly as though he could still taste the snow as he remembered being forced to the cold wet white ground. He shivered as he recalled how Black’s punches and kicks had winded him as Black found areas that were still sore from his earlier customers. He had struggled, he had tried to stop it: he knew he had. It had been rape. He knew it, Black had known it, even as he forced himself inside Severus, he just hadn’t cared. The money Black threw at Severus as he walked away smug and sated had made no difference, not to Severus.
There had been no preparation, there never was. His only sexual experiences having been as a whore, paid to please others, Snape had not even known that it shouldn’t hurt like that, indeed, wouldn’t hurt like that if they had only taken the trouble to prepare him. Still, the tighter the better, his clients enjoyed the hiss of pain he gave as they entered him. Black had enjoyed it too.
Severus hadn’t enjoyed it. The last vestiges of control were wrought from his world as he felt Black climax inside him. Severus knew he was a whore, invisible to those decent witches and wizards who had heard his name and shunned him. Yet, in the midst of the hell in which he lived, Severus had always felt that on some level he was safe. He slept undisturbed amongst the rubbish, barely distinguishable from the rest of the waste that littered the streets. Black had destroyed that illusion. He had attacked Severus in the very place in which he slept: his home.
After Black’s attack, Severus never felt safe on the streets again. He was always looking over his shoulder, trying to determine which of the passers by might be his next attackers. Severus barely slept as he was forced to remain in the dingy little side alley where Sirius had raped him. Every time he prostituted himself, he felt like he was reliving Sirius’ attack. Still, he went on, existing from one day to the next, one customer after another, his own stubborn refusal to give in was all that kept him alive.
Then one day, Lucius Malfoy had appeared. Severus knew Lucius by sight as he had been in his sixth year at Hogwarts when Severus himself had been in his first year. The Malfoys were one of those old rich powerful wizarding families that Professor Malachy had been so proud of. Lucius had not ridiculed Severus, he had merely offered him protection, work, a chance for revenge and a place in society, and by accepting, Severus had damned himself.
Never having believed Lord Voldemort’s rhetoric, it had taken Severus relatively little time to become disillusioned with his new life. He saw in the other Death Eaters many of the characteristics his father had had. Not wanting to become like his own father, Severus had known that he would have to leave. Fearing the Ministry of Magic, Severus decided to go to Dumbledore first. Severus knew that the Ministry would perform the Killing Curse on him or send him straight to Azkabahn; either way, they would not listen to the information of a self-confessed Death Eater and Severus had important information about Lord Voldemort’s targets.
Severus remembered the terror that had turned his stomach to ice and his knees to jelly as he walked towards Hogwarts. The castle that had seemed like a sanctuary to a jaded eleven year old offered no security to the eighteen year old who approached it as one would a priest’s confessional.
Dumbledore had listened to his tale. When Severus had explained that he had joined Voldemort and what his role had entailed, he looked up to see disappointment in Dumbledore’s eyes. Severus
had felt angry: he hadn’t had much of a choice; he couldn’t have stayed in Knockturn Alley where he had had to sleep in the very spot in which he had been raped, he just couldn’t. Still, Severus hung his head, unable to meet Dumbledore’s searing gaze. He stayed silent, making no effort to defend himself. Dumbledore’s disappointment was bad enough; to have the man know of his shame and degradation would be too much. Severus had been offered the chance to redeem himself and he had taken it. Having prepared himself for death at the hands of the Ministry’s aurors, he left Hogwarts that night terrified that Voldemort would somehow discover that he was spying for Dumbledore and would exact a revenge far more painful than mere death.
Still, Voldemort had not discovered him and had eventually been defeated by a baby: the irony of that made Severus want to laugh hysterically. But the memory of whose son and indeed godson had defeated his former master stifled the laughter before it left Severus’ lips.
Severus’ life had been fairly peaceful until Harry Potter had come to Hogwarts; he had been left alone to slowly descend into bitterness. To be fair, his disillusionment had helped him to grow into his new role as Hogwarts’ Potions Master. Severus tried to make himself stern and unapproachable, anything to distance himself from the boy who had been approached and taken by the very worst elements of wizarding society.
Still, Severus’ world had been thrown into turmoil once more when Potter junior had started Hogwarts. Dumbledore’s Gryffindors could still do no wrong, Severus had noted with rancour. Yet, on a deeper level, Severus knew that Harry Potter could not be held responsible for the actions of his father and Black, neither of whom the child remembered and, as the boy was Lily’s child, Severus felt some deep-seated need to protect him, so that Lily’s sacrifice for her son would not have been in vain. Still, there were times when Severus cursed this oh so noble instinct; he had often thought that he would end up being resorted into Gryffindor if he didn’t pull himself together.
Then Black had escaped Azkabahn and Severus had just known that he would be making his way towards Hogwarts. Severus sighed as he recalled the night they had come face to face in the
Terror had been Severus’ only companion as he made his way along the secret passage towards the Shack, as memories of a similar journey made almost twenty years earlier filled his mind.
Then he had seen Black, thin and weakened from his years in Azkabahn and his months spent on the run, yet Severus felt the threat the man represented; the menace rolled from him in waves
as Severus watched. Thankfully hidden from sight under Potter’s invisibility cloak, Severus shivered as he saw his assailant in the flesh for the first time since the rape.
Even though those particular memories had been in his pensieve at the time, Severus had felt enough of the fear, disgust, pain and humiliation he had experienced following Black’s attack to leave him shaking as he held his wand before him, protecting himself and ready to threaten Black. On one level, he knew that Black was not physically a threat to him in his poor condition, yet a traitorous part of his mind recalled being forced down into the snow, kicked and beaten for the other’s pleasure and then being taken, the illusion Severus had created of his own safety in Knockturn Alley crumbling around him each time Black thrust deeper within him.
That night, Severus had thought that he finally had Sirius Black at his mercy, and he was damned if he was going to show him any. But Black had escaped, helped by Potter and Dumbledore. That
had been a bitter pill for Severus to swallow. Then, little more than a year later, Dumbledore had asked him to shake hands with Black. Severus’ skin had crawled as he touched the man for the
first time since the rape; he spent hours washing his hands later that night; they had been red raw from the heat of the water he used as he tried to make himself feel clean again.
Now they worked for the same side, Dumbledore’s side, against Voldemort. However, Severus was not prepared to let his guard down for a second while Black was around. He feared the pain
and humiliation that Black was easily capable of creating. Yet, now Black had managed to humiliate him without even being in the castle.
Oh well, Dumbledore now knew why Severus hated his golden boys. Ironic really, Severus mused, from the way Dumbledore reacted you would almost think it had all been Severus’ fault.
He paused, maybe it had been. A fresh wave of guilt and despair hit him as he tried to think of some way he could have changed all that had happened to him.
Severus knew he was worthless: his father had told him so, Professor Malachy had told him so, one way or another, the rest of the wizarding world had told him so. Why should Dumbledore,
or indeed anyone, care about what happened to him? Now that he had once again taken up his role of spy in Voldemort’s camp, Severus often returned to his rooms early in the morning with
painful injuries. He covered and healed them as best he could but if anyone had cared to look, they would have seen his pain. Yet Severus knew from bitter experience that nobody cared enough to look. Most of the time, he was grateful for the lack of scrutiny, but sometimes he wished that someone would care enough to notice his pain. Well, they knew about his pain now, didn’t they? The shame that knowledge brought Severus was overwhelming.
Some of Severus’ oldest and darkest secrets were now out in the open and those who knew had not reacted well. Potter, Granger, Weasley, Lupin and McGonagall had been disgusted, unable to
meet his eyes. Severus had actually been grateful for that, as he didn’t think he could have faced their scrutiny. As for Dumbledore, well it was obvious that he thought that Severus had deserved his fate and was once again disappointed in him. Dumbledore was the greatest wizard of the age and one of the most noble of all time, if Severus disgusted him then that must be because Severus was disgusting. Dumbledore was strong, great and good whereas he was weak, greasy and pathetic.
Severus had been to places, mentally, emotionally and physically, where no-one should have to go. He believed the things that had been beaten into him over the years: that he was worthless, that he was unloveable, that he was bad and deserved all the pain that had ever been inflicted on him. Severus accepted all this and yet, on some deeper level, he rebelled against the injustice of it. It was this rebellion that fuelled his anger, both when he had seen the disappointment in Dumbledore’s eyes earlier that night and now, as the sun rose slowly into the morning sky and Severus knew that he would have to face the world again. At least it was Saturday though and Severus knew that if he stayed in his dungeon he would not have to face anyone for two more days, unless of course Dumbledore came down to ask him to leave Hogwarts.
Severus’ thoughts had just turned to where he could go when his musing was cut short by a soft knock at the door. Severus gulped. All he wanted to do was ignore the sound and forget about the rest of the world for just a little longer. Hesitantly, he looked towards the door and hoped that whoever was on the other side would just go away. Once more, his frail hope was shattered as the person outside knocked again, louder and more insistently. Sighing, Severus pulled himself to his feet and, his heart in his mouth, he went to unward the door.
By the time he reached his door, Severus’ mask was firmly back in place. To any casual observer, it would seem as though he was the same irascible dour Potions Master he had always been.
He disabled his wards and flung open the door, ready to terrify the unfortunate student on the other side. He stopped abruptly, his wand falling from his grasp on to the floor where it rolled
away across the room as he recognised his fellow head of house, Minerva McGonagall.
Minerva noticed that Severus was again wearing his usual black robes. There was not a glimpse of skin visible from the neck down. As he pulled his robe around him and tipped his head forward
slightly, practically no skin was left visible at all. For the first time, Minerva understood why Severus wore such concealing robes, that they were in fact his armour, protecting him from the blows of the past and the threat of any repetition in the future.
The witch stood in the doorway, making no effort to forcibly enter her younger colleague’s chambers. Snape noticed that she looked tired and her lips were drawn tightly, as though in anger or trepidation. Fear clutched at the man’s heart as the thought came to him that Dumbledore had sent McGonagall to tell him to leave Hogwarts. It hurt that the wizard he admired more than all others should dismiss him in such a peremptory fashion yet he knew that, disgusting creature that he was, he deserved no more explanation or consideration than that.
"I’ll go and pack," he said defeatedly.
Minerva looked surprised as Severus moved away from the door and turned back to his rooms. Suddenly painfully aware that Severus thought he was being asked to leave, she followed him
into the room and closed and warded the door behind her.
She looked around Severus’ austere rooms and felt surprised that anyone could live in somewhere so cold, drab and without comfort. She met Severus’ eyes as he slowly straightened up from picking up his wand. He quickly looked away, shame colouring his normally pale features as he moved to sit down.
"Severus," she began gently as she sat on a chair opposite her young colleague, seeing him flinch at even this sound, "I am not here to ask you to leave Hogwarts. I came to see how you were."
Disbelief crossed the young wizard’s face for a split second before the usual sneer settled upon his features. Although she knew that he had been through a terrible shock and that he had obviously not slept at all, there was still something wrong with his expression. There was a dazed look on his face that not even all his experience at hiding his feelings could shield. Then she saw the cause, lying in pieces on the floor. The pensieve had been smashed, more likely in anger than by accident, based on what she knew of her colleague’s temper.
"Oh Severus," she sighed.
He looked at her curiously, suspiciously and her heart ached for this poor boy whose life had been so harsh that he constantly prepared himself for further pain, further scorn, further rejection.
"As I said I wanted to see for myself that you were alright. I was afraid that you would try to leave us before anyone could talk to you, reassure you."
He looked at her incredulously as though the thought had never even entered his head. "And where do you suppose I would have gone to?" he asked, the vitriol he tried to inject into his tone
sounding more like a plea of despair to the old witch’s ears.
"But how can I stay?" he asked, "Now that everyone knows what I did, I’ll be ridiculed. If I leave, I shall be constantly at the Dark Lord’s mercy."
"Ah yes," Minerva said, her tone growing colder, "I wanted to talk to you about that. Exactly what was going through your mind when you agreed to take that monster’s mark?"
Startled by the anger in her voice or maybe just exhausted from the previous night’s traumas, Severus Snape did the one thing that Minerva McGonagall was not expecting: he answered her question.
"All I wanted," he said, an air of desperation in his voice, "was to get away from Knockturn Alley. I didn’t want to sleep in the very place where Black had raped me. Sleep," he said sarcastically, "I didn’t really get much sleep after that. I kept imagining that he was
standing there, watching me with that lascivious look on his face. Every time I closed my eyes I saw him, punching me, kicking me, tearing me in two from the inside out, planting his seed like poison deep within me and there was nothing I could do to stop him. Every time I felt another man inside me, it was like it was happening all over again. I couldn’t detach myself from it the way I had before. With every thrust I could hear his taunts, every time they came all I could feel was disgust, every time I felt their seed dripping down my legs I felt dirty."
"Why didn’t you ask for help?" asked Minerva, shocked at the pain in her younger colleague’s deceptively calm voice.
Severus laughed bitterly at that. "Who was there to help me? The Ministry perhaps? They would have just taken my earnings from me to give to the ‘victims’ of the war and then watch me
starve in the street."
Minerva understood his hatred as Severus had been one of the first victims of the war, had arguably suffered the most, losing his parents, his home, his security (both physical and financial)
and his peace of mind. Barely more than a child, Severus had been abandoned by everyone, left totally destitute and yet would never have been considered fit for help or compensation by the
"Professor Dumbledore?" she suggested.
Severus snorted. "He would never have believed me. I was just an evil deceitful snake to him whereas Sirius Black was his golden boy. He would never have believed Black capable of such violence. He’d have probably found some way to blame me and get me sent to Azkabahn."
There was a long pause, eventually broken by Severus who said in a small voice, "I tried so hard not to be evil. But sometimes I got angry. Black and Potter had everything; their parents came to
see them off on the Hogwarts Express, I always had to make my own way there. They had love, warmth and laughter and I had nothing except for the knowledge that for a few months a year I
was safe and they even tried to take that away from me." He broke off, lost in some distant memory.
"Severus, I’m sure they didn’t know how you suffered, none of us did. The wizarding world isn’t very good at spotting abuse. People tend to believe that domestic violence is a private matter. Divorce is rare and…"
Snape took up where she left off, "…And those people, especially witches, who divorce carry a social stigma and are considered unfit to be part of wizarding society. Believe me, Minerva, I know, I know." He continued, "Most wizards may not be able to spot pain and abuse, but I can, I’ve had plenty of experience. It comes in useful."
"What do you mean?"
"Pansy Parkinson and Draco Malfoy, for example."
"Ah yes, two spoilt troublesome children."
"No Minerva, two abused children."
"No. Draco is a spirited lad, far too independent for either Lucius or the Dark Lord’s liking. They have used violence and threats against the child to try to ensure that he will do what is required
of him. Miss Parkinson is used as a pawn for her parents’ advancement within Voldemort’s ranks; she will be married off, or sold is perhaps a more appropriate phrase, to the highest ranking
Death Eater they can attract."
"But Severus, that’s barbaric!" said Minerva in shock from her colleague’s revelations.
"That’s the world we live in Minerva. I do what I can to protect them but the children of Death Eaters are not high on most people’s list of priorities and I can’t risk blowing my cover or I’ll
be unable to help anyone."
Snape fell silent once again and Minerva tried to adjust her world order as her old certainties crumbled around her.
"Perhaps," she said quietly, "Albus hired you hoping that you would be able to help the Slytherins where we cannot. Whether that was his reasoning or not, you have done a fine job with them
Snape looked up at her incredulously through his lank curtain of hair. Minerva longed to sweep his hair away from his face and look him in the eye, to try to see what he really felt. She restrained
herself, knowing that the recent revelations had already left Snape feeling red raw from the shame at this exposure.
Seeing that Snape was unable or unwilling to reply, she continued, "And you will continue to do a good job with them. Nobody is going to ask you to leave Hogwarts, you belong here."
"But I can’t face everyone. How do I look Potter or Professor Dumbledore in the face now that they know exactly what I am?"
Minerva tried to comfort the wizard in front of her by saying, "Only those of us who were in the Headmaster’s office last night know about the contents of your pensieve. No-one will say a word
to anyone else. So, for most people nothing will have changed. As for those three students, they will soon learn that there are things that should not be meddled with…"
Snape looked up questioningly and Minerva smirked almost evilly and said dreamily, "Oh yes, they will have plenty of time to consider the inappropriateness of their actions whilst they are cleaning the Owlery without magic."
Snape’s smirk matched McGonagall’s. "And people say I’m cruel."
"Ah, but few people realise who taught you all you know."
Minerva cursed herself as she saw Snape’s face fall at her comment. She had meant it as a jocular remark referring to the way she had dished out similar punishments to him when he was at school but there were dark shadows in Severus’ past that she neither knew nor understood and she had obviously just touched on another sensitive area.
She tried to re-engage Snape’s attention. "Albus isn’t angry with you, you do know that, don’t you Severus?"
"He seemed angry enough last night," Snape responded, his reply slightly muffled by the fact that he had his head in his hands.
"He’s angry with himself, Severus. He’s disappointed that he never saw how badly you were hurting, that he failed you so completely. Albus misjudged you and he’s the sort of wizard
who prides himself on being right all the time." Minerva bristled as she said these last words.
"Maybe, maybe he didn’t misjudge me. Maybe I am evil, dirty and worthless, just like he thinks."
"Oh child, how could you have grown up with such a low opinion of yourself?"
"I saw other children. Their parents obviously loved them. They kissed them and waved them off on the train at the start of each year. They wanted them home at Christmas. They sent them
Howlers if they misbehaved."
"You wanted a Howler?" asked Minerva, confused.
Snape smiled wryly. "It would have been better than the beatings I got. At the end of every year I knew what I was going back to. For every owl that was sent home about my behaviour during the
year, my father would give me ten lashes and then lock me up in a dark room for a day. Then if I sobbed and begged enough, he would heal me and let me have some food. Before I came to Hogwarts, I just thought that that was how it was. I didn’t know…"
Minerva tried hard not to let the disgust she felt show on her face as none of it was directed towards her young colleague.
"Listen to me, Severus," she said, her voice trembling despite her resolve, "You did nothing wrong, it wasn’t your fault."
Snape looked at her disbelievingly.
"You came back to us. Having been hurt and abandoned, you returned to us. Not to beg for forgiveness or to make excuses but to do what you knew was right. That makes you a very
special person indeed, Severus."
Minerva relaxed as she felt some of the tension seep from the body opposite her.
"You look exhausted. You really should try to sleep."
"What if the Headmaster wants to talk to me?" To his credit, Severus almost managed to keep the dread out of his voice as he thought about facing Dumbledore.
"Then he can wait until you are ready." Severus started at the cold determination in Professor McGonagall’s voice. She spoke more gently as she said, "Severus, it is high time that your needs
were put first. Now go to bed. I’ll be here when you wake."
Snape got up and moved over to his bedchamber in a daze, unsure whether he felt threatened or reassured by McGonagall’s presence in his rooms whilst he slept.
Minerva had been alone in Snape’s rooms for over an hour and had been passing the time reading one of his books; it was on potions naturally, he didn’t appear to have any texts on transfiguration.
Suddenly, the fire burst into flame and she looked up expectantly, all thought of the properties of burbisroot completely forgotten. Albus Dumbledore’s head appeared in the flames and he looked
around the room before seeing Minerva curled up in a chair.
"Ah Minerva, I should have known I would find you here. Where is Severus?"
"I finally convinced him to get some sleep; he had rather a hard night."
"Do you think he would mind if I came to wait with you?"
"I don’t know, but I take it you’re not intending to take no for an answer."
Dumbledore ignored the sharpness of her tone and stepped out of the fire and into the room.
"How is he?" he asked. Minerva was pleased to hear the concern in his voice. Severus was well overdue both some consideration and concern in her opinion.
"He is still in shock. He…" She broke off, gesturing at the broken pensieve that she had placed on the table.
"Oh." Said Dumbledore in disappointment. "I had hoped to go into it myself." Minerva glared at him. "I would, of course, have asked Severus’ permission."
"Knowing full well that he would never deny you anything, however much such revelations hurt him."
"Minerva," Dumbledore said in exasperation, "I need to know how badly I let him down."
"Try from the second he got his letter to Hogwarts onwards," she said harshly. Her tone softened as she saw the hurt in those blue eyes. "Albus, Severus has told me a few things about his past.
I’m sure he’s deeply in shock as he would never normally tell anyone such private things. That child has been abused since the day he was born. He has never known what it is to be free of fear, to be safe. We have all let him down by failing to see that. He never considered running away after last night because he has nowhere to run to, Albus. He has no home, no family who will own him, no friends: nobody to care for or about him."
"I care, Minerva."
"About Severus or about your spy?"
Dumbledore looked as though Minerva had slapped him. "I care for Severus, we care for Severus. It’s just hard, as I’ve no idea who Severus truly is when he isn’t being the archetypal evil
professor, the Death Eater or the spy."
"Don’t you think it’s a shame that nobody really knows him when we have known him for more than half his life? How badly must he have been hurt to put up so many defenses?"
Before Dumbledore could respond, a terrible terrified scream came from Severus Snape’s bedchamber. Panicking, both professors ran towards their young colleague, dreading what they would find.
A/N: "Puffskein - The Puffskein is found worldwide. Spherical in shape and covered in soft, custard-coloured fur, it is a docile creature that has no objection to being cuddled or thrown about.
Easy to care for, it emits a low humming noise when contented. From time to time a very long, thin, pink tongue will emerge from the depths of the Puffskein and snake through the house searching for food. The Puffskein is a scavenger that will eat anything from leftovers to spiders, but it has a particular preference for sticking its tongue up the nose of sleeping wizards and eating their bogies. This tendency has made the Puffskein much beloved by wizarding children for many generations and it remains a highly popular wizarding pet" - definition taken from Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (a book which was released in England last year for charity, the rights of which are also owned by JK Rowling). I wasn’t sure if it was released in other countries, so I added the definition here as, surprise surprise, there’s a puffskein in this chapter.
Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore rushed into Severus Snape’s bedchamber to see him thrashing around wildly on the bed, as though trying to fight off an invisible attacker. As they
approached the man in the bed, the screaming stopped and he lay still on the bed, sweat running down his face, his hair plastered to his head, his breathing rapid, his eyes still closed in sleep.
Minerva looked at Dumbledore in confusion, "Albus, what’s going on? Is someone attacking him?"
Dumbledore looked pensively at the sleeping figure of Severus Snape and said sadly, "I suspect so, Minerva, although not in this time."
Fear for Severus turned to anger at Dumbledore, "Albus Dumbledore, stop being so evasive, you are not after all Sybil Trelawney. Tell me exactly what you mean!"
Dumbledore looked at McGonagall, secretly amused at her obvious concern for their young colleague. Still, he thought, if anyone could do with some maternal care it was Severus Snape. He was jerked out of his reverie by Minerva McGonagall angrily stamping her feet.
"Ah yes, the ‘attacks’. It is possible that Severus had certain repressed memories, say of things that happened in his life that were too painful for him to deal with, so, in order to protect himself, his mind blocked off the memories, repressed them if you will. These repressed memories may then have been transferred to the pensieve when Severus siphoned off his other painful memories. Severus would have been totally unaware of this, as he never consciously remembered those events anyway. Once Severus broke the pensieve, all the memories stored in it would have been returned to him in full, even those he had subconsciously repressed. As they have remained unacknowledged by Severus for so long, they are taking the form of ‘nightmares’ for want of a better word, as his subconscious tries to deal with whatever happened to him."
Dumbledore looked up to see tears welling up in Minerva’s eyes. "Minerva?" he queried.
"Oh Albus, it’s just that so many of Severus’ acknowledged memories are so terribly painful, I just can’t believe that he has memories that are so much worse that his subconscious mind would have to protect him from them."
Dumbledore patted Professor McGonagall’s arm awkwardly. Then his attention was drawn back to the bed, where Severus was starting to toss, turn and moan again. Without pausing, Dumbledore flicked his wand and a sheet of parchment appeared on the wall over Severus’ bed. It contained jumbled images and noises that changed rapidly and seemed to have no particular pattern as people appeared and disappeared.
"Albus, what do you think you are doing?" asked Minerva McGonagall in outrage.
Dumbledore pulled her wand arm towards him, preventing her from casting any spells to dispel the parchment.
"Minerva, it is necessary. The only way Severus will be able to deal with these memories is if he faces them. We have to record them, to give him that chance. I’m sorry," he added more gently,
"If I could protect him from this any other way I would do it, but I cannot. The events he is remembering have already taken place and cannot now be altered, all we can do is to help him come to terms with his past."
Knowing Dumbledore to be right, this time, Minerva let the argument drop and, dreading what she might see, she turned, as did Dumbledore, to look at the events unfolding on the parchment.
The room they saw was large and dark, lit only by the dying embers of the fire in the grate. A very young Severus Snape, who could have been no more than four or five years old, entered the room and whispered urgently, "Puffy, Puffy are you in here?"
As if in answer, a small custard yellow ball rolled towards him. Relaxing, the boy ran towards his puffskein and picked it up. He cuddled the little ball to him and whispered comforting words to it. It began to hum in pure contentment as he scratched it gently under the chin.
Suddenly the door flew open and Severus yelped, almost dropping his pet as he tried to hide them both behind a large winged armchair.
"What are you doing in here boy?" came a cold voice.
Severus looked up fearfully into the cold dark eyes of his father as his arms tightened protectively around his pet. He opened his mouth but no sound came out.
"Are you spying on us, boy?" his father asked menacingly.
Severus shook his head as he looked up to see a group of six or seven men standing behind his father looking rather amused at the tiny child cowering in front of them. Dumbledore started as he recognised his former student Tom Riddle amongst them.
"I…I only came to find Puffy," Severus managed to stutter.
"Puffy the puffskein," laughed Tom Riddle mirthlessly, "Great imagination your son has, Snape. It must have taken him hours to come up with that one." All the wizards laughed at the little boy and his pet, except for his father who looked at his child in disgust.
"I…I…I" mocked his father. "You are a disgrace boy, do you hear me?"
Severus looked down at his feet as he nodded dejectedly.
"Answer me!" His father demanded as he raised his hand to the child.
"Yes sir, I know that I am a disgrace to the name Snape and I beg your forgiveness," the child managed to stutter out the oft-rehearsed phrase as a single tear ran down his cheek.
"Truly pathetic!" said his father turning to the other wizards. "What can you do with such a spineless cowardly brat?"
"You should toughen him up a bit," said one of the other wizards. "At his age, he shouldn’t still be playing with puffskeins," he added scornfully.
Severus’ father smiled evilly as his son shrank away from them in fear. "Give him here boy," he ordered holding out his hand.
Severus shook his head and tried to run past the group of wizards blocking the door. One of them caught him and held him tight as he tried in vain to twist away. Severus’ father approached him
and grabbed the puffskein, which was no longer humming. He pointed his wand at the fire, making the flames shoot up again in the grate.
"Puffy! Nooo!" Severus – the child in the memory – and Severus - the adult lying asleep on the bed – both screamed. Their screams were matched seconds later by the high-pitched whining of the puffskein as it was hurled into the flames. Soon the whines and screams stopped, although they still echoed in the ears of the horrified Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts.
As both observers struggled to take in the events they had just seen, the scene changed and they again found the parchment to be dark. This time, though, they could hear a woman’s high-pitched desperate screams. Then they saw Severus; he seemed little older than in the last memory. He was rocking backwards and forwards and he had his hands over his ears and was moaning incoherently, as was the Severus on the bed at Hogwarts, trying desperately to drown out the pitiful screams.
Suddenly there was a flash of yellow light under the door of the room in which the child was hiding and the screaming stopped. Choking back a sob, the young boy got to his feet and crept out
of the room. Severus found his mother lying on the floor, beaten and bloody. Automatically, he got a wet cloth and tried to clean his mother up.
"Mummy, are you OK?" he asked, getting a slight grunt in response.
The child found himself lifted off the ground by his father who had returned carrying a metal chain. Severus was carried through the house and thrown into a small cold dark room, where he
landed heavily, as all the breath was knocked out of his small figure. He began to scream himself as his father brought the metal chain down hard on his body. The man, who was well-built and seemed like a giant compared to the tiny child who was curled into a ball on the floor, beat the boy viciously as he said, "Keep your nose out of my business, boy, or you’ll be dead long before you’re even old enough to go to Hogwarts. Do you hear me?"
The boy nodded although he seemed barely aware of his surroundings.
Severus’ father ripped Severus’ shirt off and took a good look at his handiwork: the bruises were already starting to form, in the shape of the links of the chain. Grinning cruelly, Severus’ father said, "Maybe I’ll leave you here to die now, to starve, to rot, after all, nobody would care because you are not worth anybody’s concern." So saying, he left the child struggling to breathe without aggravating his injuries and soon the woman’s screams could be heard again.
Albus looked across at Minerva through the tears in his eyes. She seemed to be beyond tears, as she just stared open-mouthed at the scenes shown on the parchment.
"How could he?" she whispered, "To do that to a child. How did Severus ever survive?"
Dumbledore was saved from trying to respond to that question by the new scene that was taking form on the parchment. They were again in the dark cell-like room Severus had been beaten in before. He was again lying injured on the dirty floor. The door opened yet no light came through. The observers strained their eyes to see something in the gloom. They saw the glint of an eye and the glint of a knife before the adult Severus screamed and jerked awake, sweat still pouring down his face. The parchment rolled itself up and flew into Albus Dumbledore’s outstretched hand.
Panic was the first emotion that Severus felt upon waking. As he saw the familiar surroundings of his rooms at Hogwarts the panic started to subside. Then he saw Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore watching him, both wearing looks of horror and sorrow. Dumbledore was crying. What could be wrong? Surely Voldemort hadn’t got hold of Potter. Severus hoped not, he felt too drained of both power and emotion to have to go spy on Voldemort right now. Still, he knew that if that was what Dumbledore wanted him to do, that was exactly what he would do.
"What’s wrong?" he asked, dragging his weary body upright. His clothes stuck to his body, which was wet with sweat. Severus could not work out what was going on. The last thing he remembered was laying down in bed and listening to Professor McGonagall moving around his rooms. He supposed he must have fallen asleep but after that, he could remember nothing, yet he felt more exhausted than he had before he had gone to bed.
Albus Dumbledore, now thankfully dry eyed, sat on the edge of Severus’ bed. Severus backed away cautiously, unsure how to react to such unaccustomed proximity to another human being.
"Severus, do you remember dreaming just now?" Dumbledore asked cautiously.
Severus shook his head. He remembered … something, but it was just out of his reach and the harder he tried to remember it, the further away from him it seemed to move.
"It appears that when you smashed the pensieve certain memories that you had repressed since childhood were given back to you. Your subconscious mind is trying to deal with the enormity of
these memories, the result being that you are remembering those events as you sleep."
"I can’t remember them now," Severus said. "Why can’t I remember them when I try?"
Professor Dumbledore looked down into those questioning black eyes. ‘Why?’ they silently begged him. Dumbledore also wanted to know why: why a child should have to suffer the torture Severus had suffered, why he had never spoken out, why he should have to come to terms with so many difficult memories.
Turning back to the man before him, Dumbledore answered gently, "You could not deal with those memories as a child. Your mind shut them off, so that they could not harm you. But now, if you wish to move past them, you will have to face them."
Severus looked at both him and Minerva before saying, "You saw these memories, didn’t you?" They both nodded. "Aren’t I ever to be allowed any privacy again?" he bellowed. "Why won’t you just leave me alone?"
"Because we care Severus," said Dumbledore. "Because you don’t have to go through this alone anymore."
"You shouldn’t bother, I’m not worth the trouble," mumbled Severus.
"You are to us, child," said Dumbledore firmly.
Severus thought about this for a long time. "You have seen things I can’t remember. I don’t know how to…" he broke off. "I want to hex you," he admitted quietly.
Dumbledore smiled at the bent head of his Potions Master. "I’m sure it isn’t the first time, Severus," he said softly. "You should rest for now. I would like you to come to my office later. Your memories have been recorded on this piece of parchment. You can watch them and then the parchment is yours, to keep or burn as you wish. This time, there will be no side-effects from
destroying the parchment as it is merely a copy of your memories."
"If you leave the parchment here, I will look at it, sir."
"No Severus, I need to monitor you whilst you relive these memories. I have to keep you safe from any ill-effects you may experience. The mind is a tricky area and you have taken enough risks with your mental health today."
Seeing that the man in front of him was exhausted, Dumbledore stopped and poured him some Dreamless Sleep potion, which was surprisingly close to hand. Dumbledore imagined that it was
another mark of the man’s suffering that Severus had such a powerful potion so close to his bed.
Severus gulped back the potion and fell into a deep sleep almost immediately.
"Dumbledore, do you know what you are doing?" asked Minerva as they moved away from the bed so as not to risk waking the jaded wizard.
"My best," he replied sadly. "It’s all I can do."
"I’ve never seen Severus so open," Minerva commented.
"It’s partly a result of the shock, partly fatigue. He should be more like the spikey, prickly Potions Mater we all love after he has slept."
"And you think it wise to allow him to regain so much of his protective shell before he faces his memories?"
"I think that he will need some mental protection and I do not think he will accept it from us. Severus is not accustomed to asking for help and I do not expect him to start now. I fully expect Severus to storm away from us and to hide himself away down here. Consequently, it seems only fair to at least let him rest now so that he is better equipped to cope later."
"I will not leave him to cope alone, Albus."
"Neither will I, Minerva. I will help him all I can, but Severus has to come to terms with the very worst aspects of his past before he can start to recover. Try not to worry," he said as he guided the witch out of Severus’ chambers, "Severus is stronger than we know and with some support for a change, who knows what he may be capable of?"
So saying, Dumbledore deposited Minerva back at her office and headed on alone to his own office clutching the single scroll of parchment containing Severus’ worst nightmares. He sat at his
desk, his body protesting at having to regain the position in which he had spent most of the night, tapping the parchment thoughtfully on the desk. Minerva seemed to have calmed down slightly, so he must be treating Severus better than he had. His anger towards Severus had now completely faded, he felt pity that that child had grown up knowing pain, fear and rejection and yet had still had so much love to give (first to his pet, then to his mother). He hoped desperately that Severus’ later life had not completely obliterated that sweet natured little boy. Only time would tell if he were still there somewhere under all Severus’ protective layers. But before the recovery could even begin, Severus still had the horrors of his nightmares to face.
Dumbledore got up and looked out of his office window down towards the lake. He remained there a long time, deep in thought. Then, having apparently reached some decision, he returned to his desk and started work on the pile of paperwork covering his desk, waiting until the evening when Severus would awaken from his enchanted sleep. Dumbledore knew that Severus’ curiosity and determination would lead him up here to face his past and Dumbledore would be prepared to give him all the time he needed. He now saw a way to make up for his past failures and he was
determined to take it.
Remus Lupin paced the length of his small cosy study, unable to concentrate on the pile of marking that was tottering dangerously on the edge of his desk, defying gravity every second it stayed upright. He had tried to see Severus earlier that day but had been unable to elicit a response from the Potions Master. Feeling foolish standing outside his colleague’s door, Remus had returned to his own rooms.
If I can’t get Severus to talk to me, I want to talk to Padfoot, Remus thought. I need to talk to someone about this; I just can’t get it straight in my head. Maybe Sirius is the better person to talk to; after all, Severus will probably hex me as soon as I enter his line of vision.
Determined that this new idea was the right way to go, Remus composed a short letter to his friend ‘Padfoot, Can you come to Hogwarts as soon as possible? I need to talk to you about a private matter. Please send reply by return owl - Moony’. Having written this short but hopefully catalytic missive, Remus set off for the Owlery.
Hearing familiar voices as he approached the Owlery, Remus paused and grinned. Of course, Harry, Ron and Hermione were here to do their detention. Having been in their place a couple of times during his own schooldays, Remus did not envy them this punishment. Merlin knew how long they would be punished for, as he for one had never seen Professor McGonagall as angry as she had been the previous night.
"Remus! Hi!" said Harry, straightening up and smiling as he caught sight of his favourite professor.
Hermione smiled in greeting aswell but Ron didn’t even look up as he was moaning away about their punishment, "Muggle cleaning, what use is that to anyone! Pointless punishment anyway!"
Remus smiled weakly as he said, "There is a point Ron and I would imagine that you will be here until you figure it out."
"We’ve been here for hours already!" complained Ron. "Still, we’ve almost finished, then we’ve just got to show McGonagall and we can go."
Remus stifled a chuckle as he wondered how long it would be before they saw the cruel simplicity of their punishment. Hermione might not take too long to catch on; he wished he could be around to hear her explain to Ron the extent to which they were at Professor McGonagall’s mercy.
"Why are you here, Professor Lupin?" asked Harry.
"Ah well, I have a letter to send to Sirius," Remus replied hesitantly.
Harry’s face fell at the mention of his godfather’s name. Oh Sirius, if only you knew what you have done, thought Remus.
"Have you talked to Professor Snape?" asked Hermione. "Only we noticed that he wasn’t at breakfast," she added quietly.
"No," replied Remus heavily, "I haven’t been able to get an answer from Severus’ rooms."
"That would be because he is taking a well deserved nap," said a sharp voice behind them.
Remus looked around to see Professor McGonagall surveying them curiously. She then turned her attention to the Owlery.
"This is just not satisfactory," she said.
"What!" exclaimed Ron, "We’ve been slaving out here since breakfast."
"Mr Weasley," said Professor McGonagall dangerously. "There are still droppings and," she wrinkled her nose, "carcasses on the floor."
Ron looked to where she gestured and groaned, "They weren’t there a moment ago, they must be fresh."
"Nevertheless Mr Weasley, I suggest you three go and get lunch and return here this afternoon to continue your detention and this Owlery must be cleaned to my satisfaction before this punishment
will be completed."
Casting evil looks in his Head of House’s direction, Ron and his friends made their way back towards the school.
"How long do you plan to make them suffer?" asked Remus.
"Until they learn to consider the consequences of their actions, which could be quite some time," she admitted wryly. "What do you have there, Remus?" she asked, gesturing at the piece
of parchment in his hand.
"Oh just a letter," Remus replied in a would be casual voice. No matter that he was now a Hogwarts teacher himself, he could still never quite forget that this woman had been his teacher and was still capable of making him feel like a naughty little schoolboy caught with a stink bomb in his bag.
"I assume it’s to Black," she said darkly.
Remus looked away, concentrating on tying his letter to the leg of one of the school owls and watching it fly away. He hoped he’d done the right thing in writing to Sirius; it was too late to have regrets now, he thought.
He turned back to Minerva McGonagall and asked seriously, "How is Severus?"
Remus noted with alarm that Minerva was suddenly blinking back tears as she said, "He had rather a tiring night. He’s in an enchanted sleep for now but he should be awake later today."
"Do you think he would welcome a visitor?" Remus asked tentatively.
"I think that Severus is going to find it very hard to face people now that his past is no longer locked away in the past. He has to meet Albus later. That may well be enough for today."
Remus looked away, disappointed. He wanted to apologise to Snape. He had barely spoken to the man since he had returned to teach at Hogwarts, as he had held a grudge at the way in which
Severus had exposed his condition to the Slytherins and forced him to leave the job he loved. Yet Severus had continued to make his Wolfsbane potion without complaint, although there was an element of self-interest there as Remus was certain that Severus would not want to run into a wild werewolf whilst returning from one of his Death Eater meetings.
Professor McGonagall turned to go back into the castle saying, "I’ll see you later, Remus."
Remus nodded and walked slowly back to his office to continue pacing, trying to outdistance his thoughts, as he waited for Sirius’ reply.
Several hours later, as the sun began to set, Remus decided to go to see Dumbledore. He had exhausted himself with his pacing, yet he had been unable to outstrip his thoughts. He more than
most understood the need to keep secrets, yet he could not comprehend how Severus had kept such painful secrets for so many years. Had Severus really believed that Dumbledore wouldn’t help him? Had he truly believed that Sirius would be allowed to get away with raping him? Well, said a nasty little voice in his head, why not, after all he did get away with trying to kill Severus.
It wasn’t that he wanted Sirius to get into trouble but they were no longer children: he saw how the Gryffindors’ actions had affected Severus and he knew that Sirius needed to learn restraint,
now more than ever given the danger they were in. If someone tried to hurt Harry, Remus knew that Sirius would not hesitate to kill them. As a convicted murderer who was still on the run from
the authorities, any such act could land him with the Dementors’ Kiss and he would be worse than dead before he could say ‘quidditch’.
His mind occupied with these rather melancholy thoughts, it took Remus a while to realise that he was standing in front of the gargoyle that concealed the entrance to Dumbledore’s office.
As he rose on the moving spiral staircase, he heard voices coming from the Headmaster’s study. Unable to turn back now that he was so close to his destination, Remus knocked on the door and pushed it open to reveal Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore in the middle of what looked to be a fairly intense discussion.
"I’m sorry, I’ll come back later," Remus said as he backed towards the door.
"Not at all, Remus, do come in," said Dumbledore, "We were just discussing Severus."
Remus was quickly brought up to speed regarding the morning’s events and they rendered him speechless. He visibly paled as he heard about Severus’ ‘nightmares’.
"I can’t believe that a man could do that to his own wife and child," he said, quietly horror-struck.
"I blame myself for not seeing it as soon as he entered the castle," said Dumbledore dolefully.
"Yes well we were otherwise engaged trying to pull him off Black, even back then," said Minerva. "What was it with those two?" she wondered.
"I don’t know really," said Remus. "Sirius always laughed at Snape’s family. There was something about a debt between their fathers. He didn’t say very much in front of me, after all, he could hardly ridicule Snape for being poor when I only had two decent sets of robes to my name. It seemed to escalate from there. Ultimately, I don’t think the reason was very important after a
while. Sirius got very angry when Severus retaliated so violently."
"I suppose it was second nature to him by that time. Violence, pain and fear seem to have been all that Severus has ever known," Minerva added sadly.
"And that’s what makes these nightmares or repressed memories so strange," responded Remus thoughtfully.
Minerva glared at him and he quickly continued lest he risk a painful bout of hexing, "I mean, so much of Severus’ life seems to have been characterised by, as you say, violence, pain and fear,
so what makes these particular memories so much more terrible?"
Minerva gaped open-mouthed at his insensitivity and Remus shrank back slightly before noticing the weak smile Dumbledore was giving him.
"An interesting question, a very interesting question, and one to which I devoted quite some time to pondering this morning. I believe that these particular memories pain Severus so greatly as
he failed to protect those dear to him."
As Dumbledore’s words sank in, they made sense to Remus. As the poor unfortunate who had had to bear the brunt of Severus’ rage when he had returned from a meeting with Lord Voldemort at which three of his former Slytherin students had taken the Dark mark, Remus knew how deeply Severus felt his failure to protect others.
Minerva however was riding the crest of another wave of fury. "Hmph and I suppose Severus’ feelings and pain count for nothing…"
My dear Professor McGonagall," said Dumbledore in an attempt to calm the irate witch, "Those are Severus’ feelings. Rightly or wrongly, he blames himself for his pet’s death, for his mother’s
pain. He cannot cope with his belief that he failed them."
"How could he have been to blame? He was merely a child!" Professor McGonagall obviously did not intend to calm down in the near future.
"I know that Minerva," continued Dumbledore, "But Severus believed the things he learned at his father’s knee, as indeed most children do. Unfortunately, Severus’ father told him that he was worthless, unloveable, unwanted. Alas, the treatment Severus received at school and upon graduation only reinforced these beliefs."
They all fell silent, each trying to come to terms with their own personal burdens of guilt.
"Maybe living on the streets was better than continuing to live at home with his parents," said Remus thoughtfully.
"It did more damage than ever," snapped Minerva McGonagall. Seeing the confusion in her companions’ faces, she elaborated, "It wasn’t just Severus father who told him that he wasn’t wanted, it was every one of us." She saw Dumbledore flinch as she continued, "He tried to find honest work, but no ‘decent’ witch or wizard would employ him because of his name." The scorn she put into the word decent demonstrated the contempt in which she held those people. "To avoid starving to death, he had to submit to the degradations of the most revolting, warped, violent members of our community. And what did we do? Stood by in total and utter ignorance. Do you know why he joined Voldemort?" she asked suddenly.
Both wizard shook their heads.
"So that he wouldn’t have to sleep in the alley where Sirius raped him. So that he wouldn’t have to go on reliving the attack."
Remus hung his head. Oh Sirius, why did you do it, he wondered. We had so much compared to Severus: loving parents, safety, friends who would die for us, why did you always want more?
"He never said anything; he would never have said anything if Harry, Ron and Hermione hadn’t discovered his secrets," said Dumbledore sadly. "He went back to Voldemort, at my insistence,
to spy on him. I was so sure that he deserved some form of punishment for his actions. It was necessary, we needed a spy in Voldemort’s ranks but I couldn’t risk one of our own operatives.
Severus seemed like the ideal candidate."
"You mean he was expendable," growled Minerva.
Dumbledore hung his head in shame. "It was never so clear cut. It was war, like now; difficult decisions had to be made."
"Does he bring back valuable information?" Remus asked.
"Yes, we have been able to save several families already as a result of his information."
"But what does he go through in order to get that information?" Minerva asked baldly.
Dumbledore stared at her uncomprehendingly, "He has never said anything, nor has Poppy ever had to treat him following a meeting."
"Based on yesterday’s revelations, that doesn’t really mean a lot, does it?" Minerva said shortly.
"What do I do?" Dumbledore asked weakly.
Remus was surprised and more than a little dismayed that the wizard he had hitherto believed to be omniscient sounded pathetically out of his depth.
"You could try showing Severus some basic human concern for a start. You could show him that he is important to you, that you value him for more than his usefulness."
"But Minerva, he must already know that," Dumbledore protested.
Dumbledore looked nonplussed.
"Face it, apparently no-one has ever taken the trouble to show Severus any form of genuine affection. How would he know the regard in which he is held if he has no idea what to look for?
Given the rather cavalier attitude you have shown towards risking his life, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that Severus believes himself to be no more than a tool to you."
Minerva continued, "When I went to see him this morning, he thought you had sent me to ask him to leave. He did not even consider himself to be worthy of an explanation from your own lips."
Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Growing ever more uncomfortable with the situation, Remus was about to make an excuse to leave when there was a knock at the door. All three of them looked around to as the door opened to reveal Severus Snape standing outside.
Severus slowly walked in and looked at them all before saying quietly, "Professors."
Feeling that he could not now leave without giving Severus the impression that he was trying to avoid him, Remus settled back into his chair and hoped that they could get through the evening
without any unpleasant confrontations.
Severus had awoken slowly feeling refreshed and unwilling to move from his warm comfy bed. The dim light in his room when he opened his eyes told him that it was late afternoon and
the sun was close to setting. He just lay there, letting the events of the previous 24 hours wash over him.
The outpouring of emotion he had felt after leaving Dumbledore’s office the previous night had left him feeling empty, numb, calm. His shameful past had been laid out before others in its entirety and there was nothing he could do about it. He almost felt relieved: after all these years of being hated for being the person he pretended to be (harsh, cruel, vindictive), he could now be despised for being himself (weak, pathetic, worthless).
Dumbledore. How could he face the old wizard? How to keep the little dignity he had left to clutch defensively like rags around his body? How to start rebuilding the barriers he had constructed so long ago to keep people out, to stop them from using him, hurting him and abandoning him?
Control, he needed to regain control, no matter how illusory that control. That meant facing Dumbledore, as he was in possession of memories that Severus could not recall. Severus queried
whether he could get away with casting a memory charm on Dumbledore and McGonagall. A small smile crossed his thin lips at the thought of Professor McGonagall wandering around
Hogwarts with a vague spaced out look on her face wishing everyone an enjoyable summer. On the other hand, if Dumbledore were to do that, nobody would consider it to be out of character. Suddenly, he felt guilty. Minerva McGonagall had always been kind to him, especially earlier that morning. He didn’t want to deprive her of part of her memory; he just wished that she didn’t know all she did about him.
Slowly Severus dragged himself out of bed and towards the bath. He could smell the stale sweat on his body and, contrary to popular opinion, he did not like being dirty. He didn’t mind looking filthy; after all, repugnance was as good a shield as any other.
Living on the streets had given Severus a deep appreciation of some of the simpler things in life, for example warm clear water and soft fluffy towels. It had also trained him to be a very light
sleeper; he had developed an innate sense of knowing when something was ‘wrong’ in the castle during the night. That particular talent had done wonders for his reputation as a teacher; errant students never knew when ‘that bastard Snape’ would track them down during their nocturnal wanderings. He smiled as he thought of the number of assignations between students he had brought to an impromptu conclusion over the years. Still, they were only doing what came naturally and for far better reasons than he had ever entered into such transactions. He sighed as he realised that the bath water was now almost cold. As he climbed out of the bath, he felt his shoulders droop with the weight of the burdens they had carried for far too long: guilt, shame and loneliness weighed heavily upon him.
His introspection was broken as he began to dress himself. He fastened the many buttons of his shirt, jacket and robe, feeling safer and more protected as he hid both his flesh and his soul from
view. He spell-dried his hair, not caring that it made it lank. He looked into the mirror and allowed himself a small smirk of satisfaction. In response, a sneer crossed his face and he looked exactly like the evil Potions Master everybody loved to hate. Slowly, he moved towards his door, speeding up as he left his chambers, ensuring that his robes flared out as impressively as ever. All too soon, Severus found himself standing outside the door to Headmaster Dumbledore’s office.
He knocked and opened the door. He was surprised, and not pleasantly so, to see Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin sitting with Dumbledore. It looked like he had interrupted a heated conversation and, given the guilty looks on their faces, there would be no prizes for guessing who they had been discussing. Still, his pride would not allow his cool, calm and collected façade to be ruffled so easily.
"Professors," he greeted them coolly.
Minerva smiled reassuringly at him (which, if he were honest with himself, gave him more cause to panic than almost anything else she could have done) and Remus looked uncomfortably in his general direction without actually looking at him. Good, he thought, at least someone else is as uncomfortable here as I am. Serves him right. Although why it ‘served Remus right’ Severus wasn’t quite sure.
"Do come in, Severus," said Dumbledore cordially.
"If you’re busy Headmaster, I could…" Snape trailed off, seeing from the looks the other three shot him that he would not get away that easily.
"Now now Severus, I fail to see what continued secrecy could gain at this stage," said Dumbledore reasonably.
I’m not trying to gain anything, thought Severus bitterly, just keep the little dignity I have left, if it’s all the same to you of course, he added snidely to himself.
"How did you sleep, dear?" asked Professor McGonagall.
Snape waited for a response and then realised dumbly that she had been talking to him. "I slept well thank-you Professor McGonagall." He desperately hoped that she picked up on the
emphasis he had placed on her title. Calling him ‘dear’. What would it be next? Fluffy slippers, milky drinks and a furry hot water bottle?
Severus’ agitation diminished as he noticed that Dumbledore was offering him a seat and a drink. He took the seat gratefully, glad to no longer be standing in the centre of the room being stared at;
that had made him distinctly uncomfortable, a cross between being analysed like a volatile potion ingredient and being put up for auction. He declined the drink the Headmaster had offered him and stared over at the desk where he thought the parchment would be.
Seeing the direction of the younger wizard’s gaze, Dumbledore picked up the scroll and opened it in front of Severus. He noticed that Severus leaned forward yet recoiled at the same time.
"Severus, if you do not feel ready to see the contents of this scroll, we can wait." Dumbledore tried to speak gently yet Severus still flinched slightly but, when he met Dumbledore’s eyes, his gaze was steady and determined although his eyes were wide with panic.
Dumbledore directed his wand at the unrolled parchment and the scenes that the child had repressed were played out for the man who would have to deal with their consequences.
As the final scene finished the parchment rolled itself up and lay on the table. Severus sat there, acutely aware of the others’ eyes upon him, desperately trying to keep his mask in place, fighting
to calm his racing heart. Now he remembered the child’s pain and sense of failure and powerlessness and it did hurt, yet the adult had experienced pain and betrayal that the child had not. Yes, he would mourn his losses and his failures, later, on his own, in his own way. Here and now, he would not show his pain and weakness to those who would be sure to use it against him in some way.
The others looked at Severus, trying to gauge his reaction. Dumbledore sensed the barriers going up and decided to act. He had to do something. He couldn’t let Severus close down, turn away and suffer in silence again.
"Severus," he said, approaching the younger wizard, who tensed, ready, waiting. "Please let us help you?"
"Help…me?" The disbelief in Snape’s voice was clear.
"Of course. You must know that none of what happened was your fault. You did nothing to deserve it. Your father was wrong."
Dumbledore ignored Minerva tugging on the sleeve of his robes, trying to attract his attention. He had to say this. He had to make Severus see the truth.
"It was your father who was weak, evil and worthless, not you. You did the best you could. You didn’t deserve that sort of treatment. Oh Severus, you deserved so much better."
Dumbledore paused and opened his arms in expectation, waiting for Severus to seek comfort from him. The seconds passed, yet Dumbledore’s arms remained empty. He looked up in surprise.
Severus was standing alone, isolated, out of Dumbledore’s reach. Severus’ black eyes were blazing with barely controlled rage.
"Severus?" asked Dumbledore in confusion.
That one word broke through Severus’ carefully constructed defenses and he allowed a lifetime’s bitterness to wash over him and the other people in the room.
"Oh, I deserved better did I?" he hissed. "Then how come I never got it? Do you think I don’t know exactly what my father was? I don’t need you to tell me," he spat. "This is perfect for you, isn’t it? It lets you off the hook nicely. ‘Poor pathetic Severus’" he mocked, "’He’s only ever known violence, pain and betrayal. Thank Merlin for that. After all, given his background, he
wouldn’t really expect anything better from us. So it doesn’t matter that we ignored his suffering for all those years and then abandoned him in the gutter. There was no benefit for us in helping him, he’s a Slytherin anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.’"
Severus paused to catch his breath and then said quietly but with a bitterness that would have curdled milk, "Well, it does matter! My father was bad and evil, I know that, but you, you
were the great, the good Albus Dumbledore. That didn’t stop you from letting Professor Malachy beat me. You let Black and Potter’s gang do whatever they wanted to me. You made it abundantly clear to me when I was sixteen years old that my life was worthless to you. You saw me alone, homeless, without a knut to my name and you just watched the world turn its back on me. You turned your back on me. What did you see in me that made you treat me like that?
"Yes, it was bad to be beaten by someone who should have cared for me but it was worse to lay in the snow-filled gutter cold, hungry, hurting and afraid and to know that those who could have helped me, who could have saved me, had abandoned me. It wasn’t even because of my parents, was it? You’d abandoned me years earlier."
He laughed bitterly. "Do you know what I was once naïve enough to believe? I thought that maybe you just didn’t see what was happening to me at home or what Professor Malachy was doing but that being the great Albus Dumbledore you would somehow find out and make it stop. Then, when Black sent me to my death by the jaws of a werewolf and you just dismissed it as a
harmless prank by a spirited boy, I finally saw the truth: you’d known what was happening to me all along, but you just didn’t care!"
"Severus, no!" shouted Dumbledore in horror, moving towards the younger wizard.
Severus threw up his arms defensively and shrieked, "Leave me alone!" Dumbledore stopped and Severus lowered his still shaking arms and repeated in a soft determined but trembling voice, "Just, leave me alone. It’s too late."
Severus looked around at the shocked faces staring at him in horror and alarm. He had failed. Somehow. He had let them see his anger and pain and he was certain that they despised him for it. Still trembling and struggling to catch his breath, he swept from Dumbledore’s office and retreated to the sanctuary of his dungeons.
The silence in the room was deafening.
"W…where did that come from?" asked Dumbledore quietly.
"The heart?" suggested Minerva sadly.
Dumbledore sighed heavily. Severus was not the only wizard who felt keenly his failure to protect those in his care. He knew that Slytherins were not as open about their feeling as the Gryffindors, whose emotions were usually written plainly across their faces, but for Severus to have hidden his hurt and feelings of betrayal for so long. He knew that many people considered him to be omniscient, omni-present and omnipotent and, now more than ever, he wished that were true. Still, he had not expected this to be easy and one of Gryffindors’ noted attributes was perseverance in the face of grave difficulties and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Still, Dumbledore thought wryly, Godric Gryffindor himself would have seen dealing with Severus Snape as a challenge. He would not, however, give up; he owed that angry, lonely, scared young man far too much to give up on him now. Oh no Severus Snape, he thought, you don’t get to push me away that easily.
About an hour and a half later, Dumbledore found himself standing in the dark dungeon corridor outside Severus’ rooms. He had tried to stay away, he had wanted to give his younger colleague time to come to terms with his memories and his feelings but, ultimately, he couldn’t leave the man alone.
Oh Severus, Dumbledore thought as he stood opposite the door and felt the strength and anger of the magical wards protecting the entrance, why do you always run away to hide alone in dark corners? The unwelcome idea crossed his mind that perhaps their concern had come too late, perhaps Severus was too far gone to be able to open up to them, to trust them not to hurt him. He thrust this thought from his mind and set about dispelling Severus’ wards.
Finally, Dumbledore was able to open the door. As he closed it behind him, he noticed that only one lone candle burned on the table. This sole source of light cast eerie shadows across the walls
but failed to show any signs of the room’s inhabitant.
Dumbledore pressed on through the oppressively dark chamber. He pushed open the door to Severus’ bedchamber and found the young wizard draped limply across the bed. The room was lit
only by the moonlight which crept in through the windows at the top of the wall. The man on the bed was silent and unmoving. Dumbledore was about to retreat, thinking Severus fast asleep, when the figure on the bed spoke.
"I shouldn’t have said what I did," he admitted quietly.
Dumbledore smiled wryly to himself at Severus’ choice of words. He hadn’t said he was sorry (so he obviously wasn’t) nor had he said that he didn’t mean his words (so he had clearly spoken from the heart); he would only admit to his choice of words and his timing of them to having been inappropriate.
"Maybe it was time that you did," suggested Dumbledore gently. "Severus, I am sorry for more things than you know."
Severus looked up at this and Dumbledore could see that his eyes looked puffy, as though he had been crying. Swollen as Severus’ eyes were, Dumbledore could still see the guarded suspicion in
them, even in the feeble moonlight. Having decided that this conversation would be better held under cover of darkness as it were, Dumbledore had made no move to light the candles in the wall sconces.
"I want you to know," Dumbledore continued, "That I had no idea that you suffered abuse at home. I never suspected that Professor Malachy beat you. I am sorrier than you could ever know that I didn’t see your pain."
Severus had turned his back on Dumbledore. "You don’t have to apologise, Headmaster. I wasn’t worth looking out for." The voice struggled to stay calm, even as it trembled and Dumbledore
knew that Severus was once again perilously close to tears.
Moving closer to the edge of the bed, Dumbledore sat at the very bottom, cautiously close, giving Severus time to realise he had moved before he spoke again. "Of course you were worth protecting, child. Every child is precious and should be protected far better than you ever were. After all, you have protected Harry Potter ever since he arrived at this school, yet I suspect that you feel little warmth towards him."
"Hard to really, whenever I look at him I see his father’s face as he watched Black drag me back into that hellhole to rape me. Why didn’t he stop Black? Why was it only Lucius and the Dark
Lord who tried to save me from my nightmares in Knockturn Alley?"
"Severus, if I had known, I swear I would have helped you. I know people think that I’m the all-powerful Albus Dumbledore and, especially at times like these, I truly wish I were, but I’m not.
I hadn’t been Headmaster of Hogwarts long when you started here and, especially in those early years, I made many mistakes and missed many signs. I damn myself for my errors daily. I know that’s no comfort to you but please try to accept that my not seeing your troubles did not arise from a lack of concern for you, child."
Severus had hidden his face but the slight shaking of his shoulders betrayed his tears. Dumbledore gave him time to recover himself and then asked quietly, "When you returned to the Light why didn’t you tell me what had happened to you after graduation?"
"Why didn’t you ask me?" retorted Severus hotly. Dumbledore was lost for words. Severus continued, "You assumed that I’d chosen freely, that I’d killed lightly, tortured for fun. You didn’t ask because I was a Slytherin. After showing you the Dark Mark, I saw the disappointment and disgust in your eyes. I couldn’t bear to see it grow ten-fold by telling you what other services I had provided after leaving Hogwarts. Can’t you see? I only ever wanted you to see me, to be proud of me. I know it was stupid," he fell silent, unwilling to reveal more.
Dumbledore swallowed the lump in his throat and said hoarsely, "I am proud of you Severus. You have been stronger than anyone else I know. You have been in impossible situations and made hard decisions. You protect the children in your care, all of them. You fight Voldemort, constantly risking your life to bring us information, to help us save countless lives. You are a good man. Despite what anyone has ever told you or made you feel, you are not worthless. You are invaluable to the Cause, to the school and to me and more of the other professors than I believe you realise as a much-loved friend."
They didn’t speak after that; they just sat there together in the darkness trying to cautiously feel their way in this new, more open, stage of their relationship. Albus was comforted by the fact that Severus had listened to him and hadn’t thrown him out of his rooms and Severus was comforted by the fact that Albus was willing to stay with him. Together, they found some level of acceptance of the past and both hoped that they would, in time, be able to move past the traumatic revelations of the past couple of days.
Monday morning arrived all too quickly and with it the first Potions lesson since the revelations of the weekend. Harry, Ron and Hermione arrived early and took seats right at the back of the classroom, deciding that in this case discretion was clearly the better part of valour.
Severus Snape swept majestically into the classroom as usual, listening carefully for any giggles that would advertise the fact that his dirty little secret was common knowledge. When he heard
nothing, he looked up to see that the Slytheins looked eager to begin and the Gryffindors looked apprehensive: all was as it should be. As he glared at Neville Longbottom, the boy shrank away as though he thought he could hide himself behind a cauldron that was less than half his size and would undoubtedly be a molten lump by the end of the class.
As he wrote the instructions for this lesson’s potion on the board, he again noted that there was no whispering once he had turned his back. Perhaps Minerva had been right when she said that her
three students would not spread details of his past around the school.
Once the class had begun to work, he cast a glance at Potter, Weasley and Granger. Weasley was studiously ignoring him and Granger was, as usual, concentrating on the task in hand. Potter
had been staring at him and blushed awkwardly before turning his attention back to his potion. Potter, Harry became Potter, James in Severus’ mind as he recalled how the boy’s father had watched as Black had dragged him back into that cold dark alley, how he had failed to come to Severus’ aide and how he had never looked him in the eye again. Now it seemed that his son was suffering from the same affliction: shame and disgust, if Severus was any sort of judge of character.
Harry eyed his potions’ professor out of the corner of his eye as he tried to concentrate on his potion. Whenever he looked at the man, he could see the boy, cold, hungry, desperate and terrified
who had made his living as best as he could in an impossible situation. He also saw that boy who had been left lying in the gutter once Sirius had taken his pleasure. Harry clearly recalled how that boy had just sat there in the snow letting it cover and chill him. How the shock and indignity of the attack had affected him, Harry, too. How he felt guilty for something that had happened before he was even born.
Harry had thought that his father and Sirius were some sort of all-conquering heroes and that Snape was a bitter jealous old man. He had always assumed that the Marauders’ pranks were funny and that Snape was just too bad tempered to see the funny side. Now, however, he was starting to wonder how many of those pranks had been rather more dangerous than amusing. Feeding someone to a werewolf was hardly hilarious when he came to really think about it. Maybe his father wasn’t the all-round good guy Harry had always assumed him to have been. On the one hand, Harry wanted to talk to Sirius to get some answers and to try to put to rights his view of the world which had taken quite a battering in recent days. On the other hand, even the idea of seeing his godfather made him feel sick and he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear Sirius’ excuses for his behaviour. When had life become so confusing? When had good and bad stopped
being so clearly divided?
Finally, the interminable class was over and in the mad scramble for the door, Severus failed to notice the three students who looked at each other uncertainly before moving towards his desk.
"Professor Snape, sir?" said Hermione Granger timidly.
Severus spun round to face the three students (no prizes for guessing the identities of the other two).
"Miss Granger," he spat in acknowledgement.
"We just wanted to apologise, for Saturday and the pensieve and everything."
Hermione fell silent at Snape’s glare.
"Apology duly noted Miss Granger."
He turned back to the blackboard, where he had begun to write the ingredients list for his next class.
"I’m sorry my father didn’t help you, Professor."
Severus turned around in surprise to see Harry Potter retreating from the classroom, following his friends who had already left.
Severus’ next class noticed that he seemed to be deep in thought although they were not in any hurry to distract their unusually quiet professor and tried to make their potions with the least possible fuss. Meanwhile, Severus tried to work out how to react to young Potter’s words. He had expected only ridicule from the son and godson of those who had made his teenage years a misery, yet he had received what seemed to be a genuine apology. The world still span on its axis,
the seas had not turned to blood and the second year Hufflepuffs still couldn’t make a deflating draught to save their lives. At that moment, Severus was comforted by such constants in his ever-changing world. Maybe he would even risk dining in the Great Hall that day, for the first time since his past had been brutally dragged into the present.
Remus Lupin had been dreading that Monday morning. Having to face Severus after his outburst in Dumbledore's office was not something he had been looking forward to at all. To see a person
in that much pain and to know that he had been responsible for at least some of that pain created an ache in Remus Lupin's heart: guilt. If only he had told someone about Severus' bruises, or perhaps if he had stood up to Sirius and stopped him from teasing Snape when they were children, maybe things could have turned out very differently.
That brief glimpse of pain and turmoil that Snape must live with daily had forced Remus Lupin to finally accept responsibility for the stupid things he and his friends had done. When he had been
teaching at Hogwarts before, he had tried to be civil towards Severus Snape but his efforts had been determinedly rebuffed. Remus had accepted Severus' anger and had tried to go on as
usual, but he had never really understood that anger and why Severus had held onto it for so long. Now, he finally thought he understood. Severus only had that anger to hold on to. Between them, the Marauders had been responsible for forcing Snape into Voldemort's service. Dumbledore's reaction to Sirius' prank in their sixth year had assured the young Snape that he had no protectors or confidants amongst the professors of Hogwarts. He had left school at the tender age of seventeen, knowing that he had nowhere to go and nobody to turn to.
Remus arrived in the Great Hall for breakfast that Monday morning even though he had no appetite. He was not surprised to see that Severus was not at breakfast. He did however catch a
glimpse of Harry, Ron and Hermione. All three looked tired and rather apprehensive. From their faces, Remus gathered that they had Potions that day. He looked again at Harry and felt a strong
sense of confusion and shame emanating from the boy. This must be hard for Harry too, he mused. After all, the boy idolised Sirius and had placed his father on a pedestal in his mind: two great noble men, embodying all the attributes of Gryffindor house. It must be hard for young Harry to accept that his two strongest male role models were far from perfect. Remus made a mental note to talk to Harry about his feelings given what he now knew of James and Sirius.
A sudden flapping of wings drew Remus' attention away from the three students. The owl he had sent to Sirius had returned, carrying his reply. He unfurled the dirty torn piece of parchment
from the bird's leg and read his letter, not even noticing the owl fly away back to the Owlery.
The letter read, 'Sounds urgent. Will come tonight. Will meet you in your rooms after curfew – Padfoot.'
Remus sighed. Much as he wanted to see Sirius, he was also worried that the inevitable confrontation would bring no good to anyone. He smiled wryly to himself, if he were totally
honest, he wanted Sirius to explain how Snape had deserved to be raped, bullied at school, beaten at home. He wanted Sirius to laugh and joke, as he always had, to take away the leaden feeling of guilt that currently weighed Remus down. Remus knew this deep in his own heart and he thoroughly despised himself for it.
Seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione start to leave the Great Hall, Remus pushed his thoughts to one side and made to cut them off before they got to Gryffindor Tower.
"Harry, may I speak with you?"
The three friends exchanged glances before Harry replied, "Yes, Professor Lupin."
They both walked towards Professor Lupin's office and neither said a word until they were inside and the door had been closed.
"How are you today, Harry?"
"Fine," was the automatic reply. Harry paused and then said, "No, I'm not fine. I'm far from fine. I don't think I'll ever be fine again."
"How could he?" The anger in the boy's voice was plain to hear. "How could Sirius do that to Snape, to anyone?"
Remus sighed heavily, "I don't know. I feel I must warn you that Sirius will be here tonight."
Harry looked up sharply, a closed expression on his face.
Remus continued, "You don't have to see him if you don't want to. It might be better if you aren't there when we discuss what…what happened."
Harry nodded slowly, seeming relieved.
He was about to stand when Remus said, "You have Potions today, don't you?"
Harry nodded glumly. "Will Snape be teaching? I mean, no-one's seen him all weekend."
"I know. Yes, I believe Severus will be taking his classes today. At least, the Headmaster has not asked anybody to cover Severus' classes. Anyway, Severus has never been one for missing classes. He does, after all, have an image to maintain."
"How can I possibly face him?" Harry's worry broke through the wall of silence he was erecting around the events he had seen those few days ago.
"What do you mean, Harry? Surely it will be Severus who would prefer not to face you, given what you have seen of his past."
Harry shook his head. "It's not that simple. Whenever I think of Snape, I think of my father letting Sirius rape him and whenever I think of my father, all I can see is Snape on the ground with Sirius moving in and out of him and my father keeping guard like some sort of pimp." Harry stopped,
breathless with emotion.
Remus sighed. How could he defend his schoolmates' actions? Yet, how could he fail to comfort Harry? "Harry, Sirius was always the strongest of the Marauders, both physically and in terms of personality. Often we were carried along in his wake, doing as he said, helping with his plans. He never meant to take over; it just came naturally to him. It was often easier to do as he wanted, not to think about it. We all got used to the way things were: James, Peter and myself. Right or wrong, it's a hard habit to break." Remus fell silent as he reflected on the weakness and foolhardiness of those long-lost boys who had had to grow up fast in the years after they left school. Although, given the mess Remus now found himself in, he wondered if maybe they hadn't
grown up quickly enough.
"So you're saying it's Sirius' fault, not dad's?" Harry now looked confused. "You think that what dad did was OK?"
Damning Sirius and James to hell for putting him in this situation, Remus shook his head slowly, "No, to be honest with you Harry, I don't." The boy's face fell, but Remus had to continue, "I'm just trying to make you see how it was back then. The Sirius you know now is very different from the boy I knew at Hogwarts in so many ways."
"So I have to go on feeling guilty whenever I see Snape? It's not fair!"
Remus was angered suddenly at Harry's outburst. "Perhaps this will teach you that people's thoughts are not to be wandered through to satisfy your prurient curiosity!"
Harry looked up sharply and snapped, "Yeah well I wish I hadn't seen what I saw but I did and there's nothing I can do about it."
"No," agreed Remus, "You can't. You will have to learn to live with the things you learned, as will we all."
"I just hate feeling guilty for something that happened before I was even born."
Remus had calmed down slightly and now looked sympathetically at the young man and said, "Why don't you explain that to Severus?"
Harry looked at him incredulously and said, "You really think Snape wants to hear me talk about my guilt?"
"No," Remus admitted, "But he might appreciate hearing that you feel guilty, that you regret what you did and what you saw."
Harry looked thoughtful as he stood and made his way to the door. "Thanks Professor Lupin, I've got to go…"
"Of course Harry, I wouldn't want you to be late for your first class."
Harry had thought about what Remus had said throughout his classes, unable to think of little else during Potions and, by the end of the lesson, he had decided to add another apology to the one Professor McGonagall had insisted the three of them make to Snape.
He supposed the apology had worked. He didn't feel so guilty anymore, just sort of sick inside, ashamed. He had always been so proud of his father, James Potter, a man who had taken on
Voldemort in an effort to give his wife and baby son a chance to escape and survive: a hero. Now, he was being forced to re-evaluate his view of his father, finally seeing him as a man, just a man, who made mistakes and hurt people and didn't always do the right thing. As for Sirius, Harry wasn't sure he could ever look the man in the eye again, having seen what he was capable
of doing. Yet, Sirius would arrive that very evening and, difficult or not, Harry wanted to hear what he would say to defend himself.
The evening had passed quickly for Severus. Dinnertime came and went without him leaving his workroom. He was intent on brewing a potion, calmly and methodically slicing the gnats' wings. For the first time in days, Severus was relaxed, happy. Brewing potions had always been able to calm him, to enable him to reach a deeper state of inner peace. Over the years, the gently bubbling cauldron had become a refuge for him in times of great stress.
As he worked, he kept replaying Harry Potter's apology in his head. Miracle of miracles; a Potter had apologised to him. Perhaps it had finally ended. Perhaps the teasing that had begun with the boy's father and godfather could now be forgotten, finally consigned to history. But…
Severus frowned. That couldn't happen. He had lived with the hatred for so long that it had become his safety net; his one barrier against the fear that had so often threatened to consume him. If he let go of his rage, he would have nothing left and Severus could not bear to feel empty, as empty as he had so long ago: cold and empty inside.
Doubt suffused Severus' mind. He knew deep down that, despite the things Minerva and Dumbledore had said to him, he wasn't like other people. He never had been. He was shadow to their light, ice to their fire, dirty black coal to their glittering gold.
Once he had been old enough to realise that not all fathers beat their children, he had started to ask himself why his father beat him and his mother. He came to the conclusion that he had done
something wrong. So he had tried to be good but it had all been for nothing. The beatings had continued, even worsened as he grew older. So many times, Severus had returned to school
bearing the marks of brutal violence, yet nobody had seen fit to stop his father. Severus had never been able to bear the shame of telling anybody about his dreadful homelife but he had hoped and prayed that someone would see his pain and make it stop. The only people who had seen had been the Marauders and they had added to his pain, probably felt he deserved to suffer. He
probably did, although then he had been unable to understand why he should have been singled out for such a fate.
After his parents' deaths, nobody had stopped to ask how he felt. Left alone in a sea of grief, despair and guilt, Severus had borne the scorn and hatred of the other schoolchildren with as much indifference as he could muster. Once he left school, he had realised that the adults were more vindictive than the children. Yet even those who reviled him for his name, for his background, had not been too concerned when they had wanted to use him for their own enjoyment. Severus had known that some of them had got a perverse thrill out of making a 'Death Eater' bleed, making him retch in disgust at the things they made him do, watching his limp body struggle to remain conscious as they gave him something to remember them by. At times, he hadn't even known why he bothered to struggle to stay alive; death would have given him peace and, maybe, an end to the pain. He had been vaguely aware that sex was supposed to be pleasurable yet, again, where others found pleasure, he found pain. No caresses had ever warmed his body. No kind words had ever soothed his soul.
All his life, Severus had been ignored. When he was noticed, it was only to be hurt, ridiculed or scorned. Severus had never been able to understand what he had done to make people act in that way towards him. After all, he must have done something, mustn't he? People wouldn't just hurt him for no reason, would they? Now, people expected everything to be different just because they had said it would be.
Words. That was all anyone had given him in the last few days and words could not change the actions of the past. Words meant nothing, not really. Severus knew better than most people how
deceitful words could be; after all, he regularly expressed his support of and devotion to Lord Voldemort. Words were false, actions were real, whether they be the smack of a fist, turning
away in ignorance or a supportive hand on the shoulder. Severus had often been on the receiving end of the first two, yet it was the third that terrified him.
Severus was not used to consideration and compassion. When he saw it, he was suspicious. What was the reason behind it? How long would it be before the gentle hand gave way to the fist once
more? How could he bear returning to the cold shadows if he got used to the gentle warmth of human company? Too many questions and only one solution: Severus knew that he had to keep his distance, had to reject these superficial gestures of concern before those who now offered them rejected him. He had been hurt and rejected too often in the past to believe that anything could be different now. Truth be told, he didn't even feel that he deserved any better. His insecurities had been beaten and bullied into him years before he had entered Hogwarts; Sirius Black had been involved in that too. Why was it that everything in his life seemed to lead back to Sirius bloody Black?
Severus' musings were broken suddenly as Lord Voldemort called, the burn of his dark mark once more driving him inexorably towards danger. He pulled on his long black cloak, using the folds of the cloth to hide his Death Eater's mask. As always, he sent a message to Dumbledore, informing him that he had been called to the Dark Lord. Severus was careful to delay the message so that he would be gone before Dumbledore received it. Severus couldn't bear for the old wizard to see him like this, dressed as the very epitome of evil. More than that, Severus couldn't look Dumbledore in the eye, just couldn't stand to see the disappointment, disgust and loathing reflected back at him from those wise blue eyes.
Once outside, Severus quickly made his way across the grounds, on his now familiar solitary journey towards the edge of the apparition barriers that protected the school. He walked quickly
so that he would not have to think; at times like these, his mind was his worst enemy. If he allowed himself, he would imagine the torture and violent death that would await him should Lord Voldemort discover that his true loyalty lay with Albus Dumbledore. If he started to think of this, he would be unable to move, feet frozen to the ground in fear. So, he forced himself not to think, concentrating instead on the blades of grass shivering in the night-time breeze, the glow of light from Hagrid's cabin and the rustling of the trees as he approached the Forbidden Forest.
Severus put on his mask, touched his dark mark and vanished, his concentration on insignificant details so complete that he failed to notice the man standing in the shadows of the Forbidden
Forest, watching him with hate-filled eyes.
Sirius Black looked at the place where Severus Snape had been standing a mere moment before. His lidded glare was intense as he stared at that one specific patch of ground. Closing his eyes, he made a supreme effort to soothe the hatred that boiled within him at the sight of Snape. Having regained some form of control, he looked towards the castle, anxiety now clouding his features. In his terse missive, Remus had sounded worried, upset even, and Remus Lupin only ever got upset for good reason. Wondering what problem he had now been called to resolve, Sirius turned back into the large black dog that was his other form and set off towards the castle.
Sirius breathed a sigh of relief as he knocked on Remus’ door. He had made it through the castle unnoticed and unseen, or so he thought at the time. As Remus opened the door and Sirius stepped through, they both failed to notice a cat slink into the room behind him.
Minerva McGonagall found herself a comfortable place behind the sofa and settled down to listen. She had been sorely tempted to transform back into her human form so that she could reach for her wand and hex the man sitting on Remus’ shabby old sofa but she restrained herself, at least for the moment. She had also considered the moral and ethical dimension to using her skills as an animagus to eavesdrop on her colleague’s private conversation with his old friend, but she had brushed aside any doubts she may have had, reassuring herself that Albus Dumbledore would also be listening in to this conversation, somehow.
"What’s wrong, Remus? Is it Harry? If anyone’s hurt him, I’ll…"
"No, it’s not about Harry, well not directly. It’s about you and Severus."
"What now? I shook hands with the slimy little creep. What more could anyone possibly want from me?"
"To know why you raped him?"
After the initial shock had passed, Sirius began to bluster, then lash out at the obvious target (well, obvious to him at any rate). "Rape Snape! What has that slut been saying now? Can’t stop digging, can he? What was he doing? Trying to persuade Dumbledore to send me back to Azkabahn, I bet. Evil vindictive little…"
"Sirius! Severus didn’t say anything. Harry, Ron and Hermione broke into Severus’ office to use his pensieve and they witnessed what happened that day."
"Harry saw that? Oh Merlin. How is he?"
"Upset, disappointed, disillusioned. Why Sirius? Why did you do it?"
Sirius looked uncomfortable. "Do you really want to know?"
"I’d like to be able to understand, yes."
Sirius sighed and was silent for such a long time that Remus had almost given up hope of getting a response, when Sirius said, "I knew him before we started Hogwarts, did you know that?"
"I had guessed that much," said Remus dryly.
"My mother made friends with his mother when we were both still babies. I’m older than him, did you know that? Almost six months older. Anyway, my dad didn’t like the Snapes, especially not the father. He said he was a drunk, a good for nothing. He looked down on Snape’s dad as he kept having to change jobs, always getting fired for being drunk or for getting into fights and duels, mostly fights though, like some pathetic muggle who didn’t know how to duel properly.
"Anyway, Snape and I played together as children but I was always aware that my family was better than his. He was dirty and greasy even back then; it just made your skin crawl to be
anywhere near him. I didn’t want to be friends with him, but mother insisted that we play together. He never even brought any decent toys round to play with, probably didn’t have any, so I’d tell him that he couldn’t play. It was funny really, I’d just make him sit and watch me play. He’d just sit there watching, never even moving from his assigned spot. Do you have any idea how powerful it makes you feel, to have someone do exactly as you say?
"Once, when he was getting ready to leave, he picked up my cloak instead of his own. I screamed at him to keep his greasy hands off things he couldn’t afford. I made as if to punch him, I probably
would have done, if he hadn’t reacted the way he did. He dropped the cloak at once and cowered. I mean, he actually yelped, then crouched down on the floor and cowered against the wall. For an instant, I was shocked, then I realised that I enjoyed seeing him like that. It gave me such an incredible feeling of power to see him cowed at my feet.
"I’m older than him; did I mention that? I was always bigger than him; I still am. It made it easier to put him back in that position, vulnerable and submissive. Then, as we grew older, he changed.
By the time we started Hogwarts, he would fight back. The curses he knew were vicious dark curses, not the things normal children should know. I hated the way he fought back. I just wanted him to go back to being that weak frightened child that I could tower over.
"Well, you know how it was in school. He was ashamed, I think, of the way I’d been able to dominate him as a child, so he poured all his power and effort into trying to get me back for that. Well, I wasn’t going to let him get away with anything like that, so the rivalry and hatred escalated, until the Shrieking Shack of course. He pretty much ignored me after that, but it was never finished between him and me. Do you understand? Everything just stopped, but there was no real victory, so no closure.
"After we left school, I heard from my father that Snape had been seen by Ministry officials in Knockturn Alley. He told me that the boy had turned out to be no good, just like his father before him. When I asked dad for more details, he said that Snape had chosen to prostitute himself to other wizards. I asked why he hadn’t been arrested for it. Dad was quite evasive and said something about the Ministry not being able to get involved because the people who knew what Snape was had found out this information in, shall we say, a private capacity."
Remus and Minerva were both horrified as they took in the full import of that revelation.
Sirius continued, unaware of the reaction of his audience. "Well, once I knew where he was, I just had to go and see for myself. James and I gave Lily the slip whilst we were in Diagon Alley buying Christmas presents. We ventured into Knockturn Alley. It was fun, just a game at first, you know, being somewhere we shouldn’t be.
"Then I saw him, dragging himself out of a rubbish-filled side alley. He looked bad, well I mean even for Snape, after all, he never looked good, did he? His robes were thin and torn. His skin was dirty and bruised. He looked like all the fight had been knocked out of him. Finally, my chance had come. In that moment, he was once again the little boy I had known. I just knew instinctively that I could dominate him again, that I could feel that rush, that thrill, that power and I wanted it so badly.
"He wasn’t hard to knock down and drag back into the dark dank place he’d come from. He was so thin, so boney. I still don’t really know what came over me, it just happened naturally, without me thinking about it. I started to hit him, punching and kicking, driving him down to the ground.
"Maybe it was because I knew what he did for a living, maybe it was just a case of instinct taking over, but I pulled his clothes away and tore into him. In and out, faster and harder. He’d stopped fighting by then. He just lay in the gutter, didn’t cry out, didn’t respond at all.
"Even as I physically emptied myself inside him, I felt completely empty, sort of hollow inside. I felt no satisfaction at all, nothing, I just became aware of the cold ground digging into my knees and the bustle of people in the main alley. I threw a few knuts at him and walked away, just like his other customers. So, you see, he won after all. I didn’t feel that rush of power, that thrill, somehow he took that from me. Slimy git."
It took Remus a few moments to fully take in all that Sirius had said.
"Sirius, Severus didn’t win, not by a long way. His joining Voldemort is directly linked to you raping him."
"Oh please," said Sirius dismissively, "It was hardly rape. He was a whore, he was selling his arse to anyone who cared to buy. Probably explains why he looked destitute, after all Severus Snape has never been much to look at. By the time I took him, he’d been had against the walls of Knockturn Alley by half the wizards in London. He was dirty, used goods. Don’t try to lay this one on me; Snape chose his own path."
Both wizards were stunned by what happened next. Minerva McGonagall appeared from behind Remus’ sofa, holding her wand and cursing Sirius Black with a very nasty case of boils and bleeding sores. Just as she was about to raise her wand again, Albus Dumbledore appeared from nowhere and took her wand.
"What?" gasped Remus.
"Now Minerva," rebuked Dumbledore sternly, "This doesn’t help anybody."
"Dumbledore, didn’t you just hear what he said? He doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong! What he did merits a term in Azkabahn." Minerva McGonagall was beside herself with rage, not least for failing to teach Sirius Black right from wrong during the seven years she had been his head of house.
Sirius had paled at the mention of Azkabahn. Even through his multitude of skin lesions, he managed to speak in a frankly derisive tone, "Azkabahn! You must be joking. It was only Snape!"
"Oh, and Severus doesn’t deserve justice I suppose." Dumbledore lashed out at Sirius, in his shame at having denied the young Slytherin justice so many times himself.
"Justice! If there were any justice in the world, Snape would have been sentenced to Azkabahn himself for being a Death Eater and a whore. People like him give wizards a bad name, leading good respectable members of our community astray with his depravity!"
"How dare you blame Severus for your infatuation with him!"
Whatever Sirius and Remus had expected to hear from Dumbledore, it was not that. Remus felt a sudden stab of jealousy run through him, a strong protective streak that came straight from the wolf within him.
Sirius, on the other hand, had already started to dismiss the idea as ridiculous. "Merlin’s beard! You can’t possibly think…Me and Snape? Rubbish! It’s not like it was about the sex. I could
have had anyone I wanted. Snape! Ridiculous. Snape! Greasy, dirty, slimy Snape. Ughh! It sounds to me like you all have the infatuation with Snape. Digging up something that happened nearly twenty years ago. Pathetic."
Dumbledore waved his wand and Sirius’ voice disappeared. He kept ranting away for some time before he realised that his voice was gone. Then he took to gaping like a goldfish, before just closing his mouth as he realised that everyone was ignoring him.
"I can’t believe that a former member of my house should have so little idea of right and wrong. I’m so ashamed."
"There, there Minerva. You can’t hold yourself responsible for everything your students do wrong once they leave Hogwarts. We can only do so much."
"I know you’re right Dumbledore but I thought that he would be sorry for what he’s done to Severus but he doesn’t seem to think that he has done anything wrong."
"Perhaps we should…" the words died on Dumbledore’s lips as he caught sight of an owl flying towards him. He read the parchment the owl carried and said worriedly, "Severus has been called to Voldemort."
"Oh dear," Minerva exclaimed. "Dumbledore, what can we do?"
"We can only wait. Come, Minerva." Dumbledore turned to Sirius and said, "You will keep for now. Severus has to know that his welfare comes first."
So saying, Dumbledore guided Professor McGonagall out of the room, leaving Remus and Sirius alone.
Sirius looked pleadingly at his old friend and gestured to his throat and peeling face.
Remus ignored his pleas and said, "You disgust me, do you know that? I feel tainted just being here with you. Your behaviour towards Severus had better improve dramatically or you won’t
know what’s hit you. In fact, you will never touch him again, do you hear me?" Sirius nodded weakly. "Good! I’m going to bed."
Remus cast a locking charm on the door to prevent Sirius from leaving, before retiring to his bedchamber.
Sirius tried to get his wand out of his pocket but his fingers hurt too much for him to manage it. He just gave a series of silent yelps and gave up. He settled down on the sofa, trying desperately to
find a position to lay down in which did not hurt too much. Then he noticed that parts of his skin were starting to fall off from the hex Professor McGonagall had cast on him. He sobbed silently as he wondered why people were doing this to him. Remus was supposed to be his friend. Dumbledore and McGonagall were fellow Gryffindors. Why, oh why, were they taking Snape’s side over his? It was almost dawn before Sirius fell into a fitful sleep, feeling hopelessly sorry for himself.
Severus appeared in a small dank room with faded wallpaper on the walls and a rotting green velvet chaise-longue pushed against one damp wall. Hearing movement behind him, he turned to see Lucius Malfoy striding towards him. Yet he knew that they couldn’t be in Malfoy Manor; not even Malfoy’s house-elves lived in such squalor.
"Severus, glad you could ‘pop’ by," Lucius said smugly, laughing at his own joke.
"Lucius." Severus remained non-committal as he was still trying to gauge the reason for his summoning. He knew that Lord Voldemort must be nearby as he was the only wizard able to use
his dark mark to summon him. Sure enough, before he could even finish the thought, the sound of a cloak slithering across the dust-covered floor reached his ears. He turned and fought to stand his ground as the red eyes of Lord Voldemort bore down on him.
The Dark Lord was still a commanding figure, even in his altered body. He was tall but thin, a physical trait that would have bespelled weakness in anyone else. Yet, Voldemort carried himself
with an air of superiority; he had been tested by death and had emerged victorious. He exuded power. He was dominant. He was strong. He was the sort of man Severus had learned to fear in his infancy. He tried not to cower as Lord Voldemort spoke.
"Severus, I have heard that something…unusual has been going on at Hogwarts," Voldemort hissed.
"Unusual?" Severus was puzzled. Had he been so wrapped up in his own miseries that he had failed to notice something happening at Hogwarts?
"Yes, apparently you have not been seen at meals lately, you have been shirking your duties to Slytherin House. I think that something is going on. Perhaps you are plotting against me with
Dumbledore, spying on me, trying to ruin my plans. Voldemort’s eyes flashed crimson with fury. "Have you betrayed me to that Gryffindor, Severus?"
"N…no my Lord," stammered Severus, recognising the look in his master’s eyes. He knew that whatever answer he gave now would not be the right one; that there was no correct answer that
would save him from what was to come.
The first magical blow knocked him from his feet. The second struck his windpipe, leaving him struggling for breath. He could feel the blood dripping from his mouth, yet he made no move to
wipe it away. He just lay there, unresisting, as Voldemort cast curse after curse on him. He knew better than to fight back; he could not hope to win against Voldemort. Even if he did, Lucius
would pound him into oblivion; the Malfoys’ fortunes were closely tied to those of the Dark Lord. Severus just retreated to that place in his mind where nobody could touch him, where he was beyond pain, the one place he could be sure he was safe. The cruciatus, when it came, finally pushed his body into merciful blackness.
Severus started awake and flinched as he saw Voldemort standing in front of him, wand arm outstretched.
"Explain," Voldemort demanded.
Severus looked up at the Dark Lord in puzzlement.
Voldemort leaned closer until his breath ghosted over Severus’ injured face, "Explain why you have been with Dumbledore and Potter instead of watching over the children of Slytherin house."
Severus made to deny the accusation but Voldemort silenced him with a glare. Unable to think of a lie that wouldn’t get him killed, Severus decided to tell the truth (although he didn’t hold out much hope that the truth would keep him alive either).
Severus swallowed, refusing to directly meet Voldemort’s eye, and said, "Potter broke into my office and went into my pensieve. Now he and Dumbledore know about…" he broke off at the fury in Voldemort’s face.
"You have a pensieve! Of all the stupid things! What did your thoughts betray? Our rituals? Our targets? Our members?"
"No!" Desperation made Severus brave. As Voldemort stopped, Severus shrank back as he said, "There was nothing about you, my Lord. It was all about me. About…what happened after I left Hogwarts." Severus hung his head in shame and submission.
Voldemort loomed over Severus, an evil grimace of a smile crossed his thin lips as he bent to lift the other wizard’s bloody face. Severus’ blood was on Voldemort’s hand when he moved it away. Voldemort stared at Severus as he licked the other wizard’s blood from his fingers.
"Ah yes, how well I remember your past, Severus. Your parents weren’t there for you. Dumbledore left you to fend for yourself or die. He didn’t care either. Do you think he laughed when he heard of your fate, Severus?"
Severus closed his eyes in an effort to block out the shock and pain he felt at Voldemort’s words. Dumbledore had said that he hadn’t known about Severus living on the streets. Dumbledore was good. Dumbledore didn’t lie. Voldemort was devious. Still, despite this knowledge, the liquid poison of Voldemort’s words flowed over Severus.
"Those Gryffindors probably thought you deserved that life, just for being a Slytherin. They have never thought of us; we have always had to take care of our own. That is why you are at Hogwarts. Knockturn Alley may have the reputation of being full of Dark Wizards, but ‘they’ only say that to keep their children out of there so that they don’t see what their fathers are doing. Don’t you remember Severus? Don’t you remember being spat on by those so called righteous men, ministry wizards and respectable businessmen who were happy to spill your blood on the ground and spill their seed in you, yet couldn’t look you in the eye once their passion was spent? Do you really think they didn’t talk amongst themselves, comparing the arse for sale, glorying in their dirty secrets? Do you really think that word wouldn’t have reached Dumbledore? He mixes with the highest in the Ministry. Do you really think he never heard them discussing how they
beat and fucked that dark wizard boy and how much they liked it? Perhaps he even came to you under the disguise of polyjuice and sampled your wares for himself."
Voldemort broke off satisfied as Severus leaned over to one side, the bile rising in his throat at that image. He dry heaved but could not vomit. Pained, panting, he pushed himself up onto one arm.
"We were the only people to ever care for you, Severus. We took you out of the gutter, we gave you food and shelter, we helped you study Potions: we made you what you are. Don’t forget the debt you owe us. Don’t even think of siding against us with one who has never done a thing for you. We are all you have, don’t forget that, Severus."
With that, Voldemort turned on his heel and stalked out of the room. Severus lay on the floor, panting. His mind had been torn open again, fresh wounds covered his body and his psyche.
Severus tried to pull himself together as he became aware of the fact that Lucius was still in the room. Lucius moved toward him slowly, circling him like a predator with his prey.
"The Dark Lord still doubts you Severus. We got you out of Knockturn Alley, we can send you back there just as easily. And you know yourself that old cock sells about as well as a hag with pus-filled boils." With that, there was a pop and Lucius had disapperated.
Finally alone, Severus gave in to the pain of his battered shattered body. He just lay back, still panting, waiting for the pain to stop clouding his mind.
As the pain slowly receded, one image filled his mind: Dumbledore. The idea that Voldemort had planted spread like poison through his mind. What if Dumbledore had somehow been one of the wizards he had serviced during his time as a prostitute? The images flashed through his mind, Dumbledore’s likeness taking over from the faceless nameless men that had used and abused him during that period.
He saw in his mind’s eye, Albus Dumbledore closing the door of a small dirty room in one of the inn’s in Knockturn Alley where he had regularly entertained clients. He saw Albus Dumbledore stripping him, tearing the already ragged dirty robes he wore in his impatience. He felt the tight cords of the binding spell wind around his wrists and ankles as he tensed waiting for the man, no, Albus Dumbledore, to beat him. He could imagine that the pain he now felt was really the fire-like pain of the whipping he would have received before Dumbledore forced young Severus’ mouth open and rammed his cock inside. Tears streamed down Severus’ eyes as he could practically feel his younger self’s panic as the cock was forced deeper and deeper down his throat until he was unable to breathe. Many times, he had almost blacked out and given in to oblivion when suddenly he would find himself able to breathe again. The respite was only ever temporary as the cock (in his mind now, it was Dumbledore’s cock) entered him from behind, pounding him into the hard thin stinking mattress on the bed, tearing him apart, never giving him a second’s peace until the hot seed had gushed inside him, leaving him dirty inside and out.
Back in the present, Severus wept silent tears. He knew, he knew, that Albus Dumbledore had never done that to him, yet the seed of doubt had been sown. Perhaps, somehow. In his mind, Albus Dumbledore had become all the wizards who had looked at him with scorn as they gave him a few small coins, paying him a pittance for the privilege of hurting and degrading him. Those
who had felt guilty about their dark desires had only ever beaten him harder, punishing him for their own shame.
Perhaps Voldemort was right. Maybe he was betraying himself when he sided with those on the Light. Kill or be killed. Hurt or be hurt. Maybe those were the only choices available to people like him. Where did right or wrong come into it when the name of the game was just to survive. Voldemort killed muggles, the Ministry killed those it deemed to be Dark or dangerous or even just plain abnormal. Was there a right side to this war? Severus just didn’t know anymore.
Knowing that he had to get back to Hogwarts, that he had students to teach in the morning, that he must fulfill his duties, Severus pulled himself shakily to his feet. It took him a while to gain his balance. He knew that he needed medical treatment but first, he had to apperate back to Hogwarts. He concentrated with all his might as the world still had a habit of shifting in and out of focus and, with a pop, he disappeared from the room.
He appeared on the edge of the Forbidden Forest and started the long walk back to his dungeons. He was warm by the time he arrived outside his dungeon door. He knew he must have some
kind of fever. He just wanted to collapse onto his bed and forget everything but as he staggered into the room, he saw two fuzzy figures moving to meet him. He stared hard and made them out
to be Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore. He flinched from the older wizard’s grasp as his touch reminded him of the things Voldemort had said. He panicked as Dumbledore tried to guide him to the bed. In his fevered state, Severus imagined that Dumbledore was about to force him down onto the bed and take his enjoyment. Each step closer to the bed, took Severus further from his physical reality and back into the jumbled memories of his past. Dumbledore was both physically and magically stronger than Severus. Severus knew that strength and power were used
to hurt. His body, already sore from its treatment at Voldemort’s hands, revolted at the thought of more rough treatment. He started to shake uncontrollably and collapsed to the floor, putting his arms around himself, trying to shield his body from the abuse it expected.
Instead of the rough arms he expected to feel dragging him to the bed, he was lifted gently. He tensed, waiting for the pain to start anew, but it didn’t come. Then he saw Dumbledore leaning
over him, trying to remove his robe.
"No!" he screamed, surprising even himself as he dared to resist. He struggled, but he knew it was in vain as Dumbledore held his arms and pulled his robe off his shoulders. He could just make out Dumbledore raising his wand. Severus didn’t even see his rooms or the two professors anymore, he just saw the wand pointed at him. Wands were instruments of torture, used to inflict pain. Severus couldn’t move, he just stared in abject terror at the wand.
Dumbledore frowned. His efforts to help Severus just seemed to be terrifying the younger wizard. He glanced at Professor McGonagall who was over by the fire calling Poppy Pomfrey to his aid. He looked again at the poor wretch on the bed. Nobody would recognise this sniveling mass of pain and fear as the Hogwarts Potions Master. He cursed himself for sending Severus to Voldemort, he cursed Severus for going, but most of all, he cursed Voldemort for whatever he had done to this young man. It wasn’t just the physical pain, although that appeared to be bad enough, it was the fact that Severus was looking at him as though he himself had done something to hurt Severus.
As Poppy arrived and took in the situation, she pushed past Dumbledore, efficiently manoeuvring herself between him and Severus. Now feeling like a spare part, he watched as Poppy and Minerva worked to calm and heal Severus. Poppy was keen to move Severus to the Hospital Wing as soon as possible, so they only healed the worst of the damage before conjuring a stretcher and taking Severus off to the Hospital Wing. Although Severus was calmer now, an unmistakable look of intermingled pain, shame and terror crossed his pale features as he was taken past Dumbledore.
Once alone in the room, Albus Dumbledore sank against the doorframe. He was confused. Lord Voldemort had beaten and cursed Severus, yet Severus appeared to be afraid of him. Dumbledore knew that pain could temporarily warp people’s minds, but Severus had only reacted that way to him, he had let the women treat him without making a fuss. Knowing what he now knew about Severus’ past, Dumbledore was curious: why had Severus reacted that way? He had tried to escape when Dumbledore had been removing his robe. What had he thought would happen? Dumbledore sank to his knees as a possible solution came to him: maybe Severus had expected him to rape him. The very idea sickened him, although not half as much as the thought that accompanied it. Maybe Voldemort had raped Severus. Maybe Severus always returned from his
summonsing in this state and nobody knew because nobody ever cared to come down and wait for the Potions Master to return.
Dreading the reaction he would get and what he would find, Dumbledore set off for the Hospital Wing, where he found Severus had been healed as much as was currently possible and given a potion to send him to sleep. He ascertained from Poppy that Severus had not been raped. Slightly calmer, he settled down near Minerva but out of Severus’ direct line of vision and waited for his troubled Potions Master to wake up.
Sirius noted that he couldn’t have got more than an hour’s sleep as he awoke to find the room lit by the graying light that precedes the dawn. He stood slowly, mindful of his red raw skin. He looked towards Remus’ bedroom door but he didn’t quite dare open it. Sirius didn’t understand why everyone had turned against him and he didn’t know how to react to this new and unwelcome situation. He had been a popular child and, before Azkabahn, he had been one of those bright young things who everyone knows will succeed at whatever they put their mind to. Life had been harsh in the intervening years, but Sirius had always been able to console himself with the fact that he was innocent of the crimes for which he had been imprisoned. He believed that once he was cleared, life would return to normal.
As he moved to turn towards the window, Sirius stopped. He saw a foot lying on the floor. The foot was attached to an ankle but the ankle disappeared into nothingness. Sirius bent down and pulled the invisibility cloak from his godson Harry Potter.
Harry awoke suddenly to find his cloak being pulled from his body. He looked up blearily to see Sirius looking down at him. Harry hadn’t known how to react to the sudden appearance of his godfather given that he now knew him to be unrepentant rapist. He had hidden in Remus’ rooms the previous night and had listened in shocked horror to Sirius’ attempts to justify his actions and to blame Snape for encouraging his own rape. Once Harry had seen the pathetic hexed mess his godfather had become, he had wanted to get as far away from him as possible. Unfortunately, Remus had locked the door with a spell Harry didn’t know and Harry had had no choice but to hide under his invisibility cloak for the entire night. Now, he looked up into Sirius Black’s red pitiful cursed face and flinched. He did not want to have this discussion now.
Sirius gestured mutely towards his throat and Harry performed the counter-curse enabling Sirius to speak again.
"Harry, thank Merlin you’re here. Everyone seems to be going mad. You wouldn’t believe what McGonagall did," he said, gesturing to his raw skin.
Harry stood silent, not wanting to meet his godfather’s gaze. He didn’t know how to remove that particular curse, so he didn’t have anything to say.
Harry noticed that Sirius was still chattering away, complaining about his unfair treatment; he hadn’t even realised that Harry wasn’t listening. Harry slumped down to sit on the floor.
"…I’d bet anything that Snape’s behind this somehow. He always wanted to be popular like me and James. Of course, it’s not like he could ever have rivalled us…Harry, aren’t you even listening to me?"
"Why Sirius? I’ve heard it all before. Every time I speak to you or read your letters, all I hear is ‘don’t trust Snape’, ‘he’s greasy’, ‘he’s ugly’. I’ve heard enough."
"Has he got to you too?"
"I guess you could say that. I was here last night, you know. I heard what you said about bullying him, about raping him,"
"Rape! Well I didn’t hear Snape crying ‘rape’ at the time. He didn’t call the aurors, did he? And do you know why? Because they would have laughed at him. A gutter whore crying rape! Could you even imagine such a thing?"
"I don’t need to imagine what happened. Every time I close my eyes I can see you and dad. Worse, I can see Snape sitting in that alley in the snow after you and dad had left. I can see the snow starting to turn red, tinged with the blood you spilt that day."
"How? Oh yes, this pensieve of Snape’s. Are you really going to take his side over mine?"
"Is that what it comes to, Sirius?"
"I don’t know. It sounds like you’ve already chosen."
"It’s not like that. I just never thought you could do something like that. I was so proud of you."
"But you’re not anymore, is that it?"
"I don’t know; it’s not that simple. Don’t you even feel a little bit sorry for what you did?"
"Harry, what I did to Snape had been done to him by plenty of wizards before me. It was his job. I am sorry that you had to see what happened."
"Snape didn’t choose to prostitute himself, nobody would give him a job, nobody would help him."
"Harry, at some stage you have to realise that people have to take responsibility for the decisions they make in their lives. Blaming other people for your bad decisions is a sign of weakness."
"I realise that Sirius, I wonder if you do," said Harry pointedly.
Sirius looked dumbfounded but the moment was broken as Remus Lupin opened his bedroom door and looked between them.
"Harry, why am I not surprised to see you? Haven’t you learned yet that eavesdropping can have very bad repercussions?"
Harry at least had the decency to look ashamed.
"Sirius, I wanted to say that I may have been a little hasty last night." Sirius looked smug until Remus continued, "I am still disgusted with your actions and reactions but everything got rather heated last night. Perhaps we should take some time to think things through and to let the dust settle."
Sirius asked, "Remus, before we forget about all this, how about removing that mad old bat’s hex?"
"I wasn’t proposing to forget about anything Sirius; I just don’t want to lose your friendship if it can be avoided. Oh, and I don’t have the faintest idea how to remove that hex. I think we’ll have to go to the Hospital Wing."
"Poppy Pomfrey isn’t still there is she?" Sirius said apprehensively.
"Madam Pomfrey’s very nice," defended Harry.
"Not when you’ve kept her as busy as Sirius used to," said Remus wryly. "Come on Padfoot."
They opened the door of the Hospital Wing to find that it was already occupied by Poppy Pomfrey, Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape. All bar Snape, who was still unconscious, looked up at their entrance. Minerva McGonagall looked very pleased as she surveyed her handiwork. Dumbledore rose to meet the trio and Poppy Pomfrey started to scold them straight away.
"Sirius Black, I never thought I’d see you in my infirmary again. I’ll treat you because Dumbledore assures me that you are innocent of those murders you were imprisoned for, but how you get into such trouble is beyond me. How did you end up like this?"
Sirius threw a sour look over at McGonagall. Poppy caught the look and decided to get all the details later. Dumbledore guided Sirius to a bed at the far end of the Hospital Wing and ensured that a secure screen surrounded that bed. This was partly for Sirius’ protection (better that none of the pupils find him here) and partly to ensure that Severus didn’t realise who was in the same room as him.
Unfortunately, it was too late for the latter. Severus had awoken in time to see Dumbledore put his arm around Sirius’ shoulders and guide him to a bed in the Hospital Wing.
So, he thought bitterly, that was how it was. Support Severus, tell him that he is important, but as soon as his back’s turned, revert to the status quo.
His eyes met Dumbledore’s as the old wizard came back to the side of his bed.
"Severus!" greeted Dumbledore, returning Minerva’s focus back to the bed of her colleague.
Dumbledore was disturbed as he saw the all too familiar shuttered look in Severus’ eyes. What had Voldemort done to him? Was everything they were trying so hard to build with Severus lost already?
"Severus," he repeated.
"Um, my report yes. The Dark Lord has heard that I have been neglecting my duties as Head of Slytherin. He requested that I reprise my role and stop spending time with Gryffindors. It is hardly a matter of importance for the Order." Snape’s voice was cold, quiet, monotonous.
"Thank-you for the report Severus, but I really wanted to know how you are. You came back in quite a state last night. We were worried."
"Don’t be," Snape said shortly. The Dark Lord likes for his servants to know their places and to fulfil their roles. He is not however completely crazy; he will not kill me whilst he believes that I can and will bring him useful information. Anyway, I should be getting back to my rooms and my duties now, Headmaster, Deputy Headmistress."
Severus rose to leave but stumbled even before he was clear of the bed. He damned himself for his weakness but made to continue.
Minerva stopped him, "Severus, you need medical treatment before you can leave."
"Ah but there isn’t any medical treatment for me as Pomfrey is currently busy seeing to that…that flea-bitten reprobate."
"Severus Snape, you will listen to me!"
"No, Professor McGonagall. I wish to return to my rooms. I do not wish to be here with Black."
Remus Lupin came out from behind the privacy screen at the sound of raised voices. It didn’t take him long to realise what had caused this rumpus.
"Severus, please calm down. This is my fault. I suggested Sirius come here for treatment because I didn’t know how to remove the hex Minerva placed on him," he said placatingly.
Severus looked at Minerva McGonagall with renewed interest, amusement and respect. Minerva herself went slightly pink with embarrassment, although she did have the presence of mind to force the now unresisting Potions Master back to his bed.
"What did you do to him?" Severus asked curiously.
"Oh it was only a boils and sores hex. It shouldn’t have lasted this long."
Dumbledore smiled gently and said, "Curses tend to have more power when the caster is in the throes of great emotion."
Severus looked up in surprise. "What did Black do?"
Minerva, Albus and Remus shared a look. They weren’t sure how much it would be wise to tell Severus. After all, it wouldn’t help his situation to know that Sirius was unrepentant about raping him, especially when they were in the same room.
With the insolent logic of nightmare, Sirius chose that moment to come out from behind the screen with Harry. Sirius clapped Harry on the shoulder. Harry didn’t look particularly comfortable with this but all Severus saw was that the two of them were all pally again, had probably spent the evening laughing at him and his past degradations whilst he was being tortured by Voldemort.
Sirius saw everyone grouped around Snape and sneered. Remus tried to head off the show-down and guide Sirius outside but Sirius wasn’t having any of it. He stalked menacingly towards Snape until he found Albus Dumbledore’s wand pressed against his chest. He gave a dismissive sneer and said, "Later," to Severus before smirking and calmly walking out of the Hospital Wing, changing into a black dog as he reached the door.
Severus was unpleasantly surprised to find himself shaking, his heart pounding in his throat as he struggled to control himself. Pain, threats, enemies wherever he turned. Why could he never find solace anywhere? Everywhere he tried to make his home, such as it was, Sirius Black appeared and tried to destroy him. If it wasn’t Black, it was Voldemort or Dumbledore or those brats he was forced to teach. He was trapped, as much by the fear of his past as by the group of people who surrounded him now.
"Everybody out!" ordered Madam Pomfrey. "Not you Severus, you need treatment."
Once everyone had been persuaded to leave, Severus found himself trapped by Poppy Pomfrey’s charmed sheets that were bewitched to form the tightest, most efficient hospital corners he had ever seen. Admitting defeat, for the moment, he gave in with bad grace and allowed the medi-witch to treat him.
Throughout the examination, he thought through recent events. He needed some time and space to rebuild his barriers. He wished there were some other way but, even without Voldemort’s threats, Severus knew that he could not bear to be so vulnerable before people. They felt for him at the moment because they needed to deal with their guilt. This would soon pass, he was certain. Then he would be abandoned again. He had to rebuff them before they rejected him: it was the only solution. Used to rejection, Severus never even considered that people’s concern might be genuine. He felt that he was not worth that sort of concern and just hardened his heart for the inevitable return to his lonely isolation.
After all, Voldemort had been right. Even if Albus Dumbledore himself hadn’t taken advantage of him, respectable wizards like Dumbledore had. Severus remembered some of them clearly from his Death Eater trial several years later. He had been shocked and terrified as he had recognised the eyes of one of his most vicious clients in the face of the auror who had guarded him whilst he was being tried. This most respectable man had been the client who had beaten him unconscious and practically torn his insides out before leaving him for dead. The bastard hadn’t even paid him. People like that took what they wanted from people like him and somehow always managed to have right on their side. Dumbledore took what he wanted too: he got a gifted potions maker for a pittance of a salary and got a spy whom he could send into hell on a whim any time he so chose. As always, Severus felt powerless to avoid being the pawn in everyone else’s game. He wanted to weep at the sheer hopelessness of his situation, yet he forced himself to grit his teeth and show no outward emotion. He couldn’t afford to give them any further ammunition to use against him.
As soon as he was able, Severus slinked away from the Hospital Wing and returned to his chambers to lick his wounds in private. He was so pre-occupied with his thoughts, that he failed to notice a large black dog hidden in the shadows of the dungeons.
Days passed and left Albus Dumbledore feeling more impotent than that time on his 85th birthday when…well, no matter, lets just say that Albus Dumbledore rarely felt powerless and did not enjoy feeling that way. The source of his discomfort? Severus Snape: his potions master. The man resisted all Dumbledore’s attempts to talk to him, to try to mend those bridges that had been torn asunder all those years ago. Dumbledore had spoken to Minerva McGonagall and discovered that Severus was also having little to do with her. He stroked his beard thoughtfully as he tried to work out how to make Severus listen to him.
Ever since he had returned from Voldemort’s side, Severus had distanced himself from the other professors again. Dumbledore knew that there had to be more to this than Severus’ fear of disobeying Voldemort’s edict to look after the Slytherins, yet for all his power and advanced years, he couldn’t imagine what else there could be. Had Voldemort said something more to Severus than he had let on? It was possible, but what could it be? Deciding to try to talk to Severus again, Dumbledore started off on the long trek through the castle to the dungeons.
Sirius Black hid in the dark shadows, waiting for his chance. His relationships with Harry and Remus were still difficult, tentative almost and he knew whose fault that was. So, here he was, waiting to finish this once and for all. If Snape weren’t around, Harry and Remus would like him again. Or at least that’s what he thought most of the time. Occasionally, he would wonder if they would be angry with him, but Sirius truly believed that he could charm his way out of trouble; he always had done before, at least until James and Lily were killed. That day, Sirius Black had learned the meaning and the pain of betrayal. It was a lesson he had taken to heart during those long lonely years in Azkabahn. Those who threatened what remained of what he considered to be his family had to be stopped, whatever the cost.
The door across the hallway opened, startling Sirius from his reverie.
Snape. Sirius glanced up and down the dingy corridor and, seeing no-one but him and his nemesis, he crept forward quickly and stealthily, reaching one hand out to grasp Snape by the throat, the other moving automatically for his wand.
Severus gasped as a hand came from the shadows and crushed his windpipe, making it difficult for him to breathe. The grasp barely loosened as a wand pressed tightly against his exposed throat.
Black. Severus panicked. He was frozen, he couldn’t move to save himself. He just stood there, drowning in memories. Cold, white, dirty, pain, humiliation, desperation; all those sensations and memories crowded in on him, threatening to rob him of the small part of his brain that could still react, that wasn’t overwhelmed by fear of what was to come. Suddenly, his head was flung back against the wall, the sound echoing along the dungeon passage as it rang through Snape’s body. The world span and Severus would have fallen to the hard cold stone floor were it not for Black’s hold on his throat.
"You always hide yourself away in dark crevices Snape. Do you honestly think that people won’t see you? That nose is a dead give away every time. You know, this feels familiar. You, at my mercy. What should I do with you? Oh no, not that," he said as he saw Snape’s eyes widen in fear, "after all, that’s what got us here in the first place." Black crowed as he started to feel the intoxicating sensation of power running through his veins once more; for one who had been restrained and powerless for so long, it felt exhilarating.
Severus flinched despite himself. Black was right, this situation was eerily familiar to him and experience had taught him that it never ended well. He could fight back, but what was the point? He couldn’t possibly win. Perhaps if he didn’t fight, it wouldn’t hurt so much. He looked into Sirius’ eyes and saw a terrifying whirl of lust, excitement and anticipation. Sirius was breathing heavily, barely able to restrain himself. Severus closed his eyes but being unable to see the threat only made it worse. He could hear his own heart pounding in terror.
He thought about calling for help, yet rejected this idea almost immediately. Who would come to help him? Nobody. Severus had lived through many scenes like this during his life: his father, his customers, Voldemort; they had all taken a piece of him, often in this very way. Oh, he could cry in pain and terror, after all they enjoyed his helplessness and despair, but to attempt to resist, that was wrong, that resulted in further punishment, often on a body that could take no more pain.
Crying out for help had only ever brought Severus more misery as it angered his aggressors. Not a single soul had ever answered his pleas, so Severus had long ago stopped begging for help that would never come. He tried to just stand there and wait for the inevitable barrage to begin, but the injustice of his situation struck him. He was the one who had been grievously wronged by Black; why was it that Black was acting as though he, Severus, had harmed him?
"Why are you doing this?" Severus asked in desperation.
"Why? Do I need a reason? Very well, Snape, I’ll tell you. I lost pretty much everything when I was sent to Azkabahn. I won’t let you take what little I have left. I want Harry and Remus back."
"This is ridiculous. You’re mad."
Sirius Black pulled his hand away from Severus’ throat and tangled it in Snape’s hair, pulling his head back painfully as he did so. Severus saw the anger in the other wizard’s face and braced himself for the pain he knew was coming.
The first blow from Sirius’ wand landed hard on the side of his head. Then, they began to rain down on him so fast that he could barely stand under the onslaught, let alone tell where each blow landed. His body was afire with pain. He fell to the floor as soon as Sirius released him and tried to curl into a protective ball.
Suddenly, the blows stopped. Severus looked up through the haze of blood that clouded his vision to see Sirius Black standing above him panting hard. Sirius’ attention was centred upon the empty corridor.
"Someone’s coming," he said, turning back to Snape to see that he had disappeared. He heard a dungeon door clang shut and let out a sigh of relief. Snape had chosen to hide instead of shouting for help and having Sirius taken to task for his actions. Thank Merlin for that. Getting caught now would destroy everything he was trying to salvage.
Making himself look presentable with a wave of his wand, Sirius turned to see Albus Dumbledore descending the staircase into the dungeons. He was surprised; after all, rumour was that Dumbledore didn’t even know the way down to the dungeons where the Slytherins lived. He stopped himself smirking, remembering just in time that Dumbledore wasn’t yet the senile old man that he often appeared to be.
"Sirius, what are you doing here?"
Sirius shrugged and said, "I came to see Snape but…" he broke off, not daring to tell an outright lie to the wizard before him.
Dumbledore’s expression lifted. "Ah, you came to apologise. Didn’t it go down very well?"
Sirius covered his surprise at this turn of events and thanked Merlin that Dumbledore was a sentimental old fool as he said slowly, "Our conversation didn’t end the way I’d envisaged." That was good; he hadn’t lied but Dumbledore would never pick up on the true meaning of his words.
"Well, well my boy, Severus just needs more time," said Dumbledore reassuringly. "He’s finding it very difficult to cope with all the attention and the changes in our attitudes towards him. Still, I’m sure he’ll come round and it’s very encouraging that you are trying to make the first move to resolve the problems of the past. I’m proud of you. Perhaps we should take tea in my office and discuss ways of getting Severus to take your apologies on board."
Sirius allowed himself to be led away from the dungeons and away from the danger of having Snape burst out and tell Dumbledore what really happened.
Outside, away from Black and whoever else was coming to hurt him, Severus leaned weakly against the wall of the castle and wiped the blood from his mouth. Shaking, Severus realised that he no longer felt safe at Hogwarts. Once more, he had been attacked in the place he had unobtrusively made his home. He had tried so hard for so many years to hide from his past and from other people, knowing that other people’s attention only resulted in more pain for him. He had been right. He couldn’t stay here where his tormentors were given free reign to abuse him.
Voldemort had been right when he said that Dumbledore and people like him didn’t care for Severus’ fate. Severus had seen the way that Dumbledore forgave Black and welcomed him back like a long-lost son. He had put his arm around the ignorant mutt! That had cut Severus to the quick, hurting more than the beating he had just received from Black. Why was there never a place for him in the world? All he wanted was somewhere he could exist without pain and fear. Was that really so much to ask for? Why did he always have to be judged and punished for being what he was?
Once again, Severus looked back over the events of his life and tried to see some way in which he could have changed them, could have made things turn out differently. There was nothing he could have done except be born someone else or have given in and died years ago. Why did he continue the unequal struggle? He didn’t really believe that one day things would get better. He didn’t even think that he deserved anything better. This was it. This was how it had always been. He would find a place and do what he must to survive until it became impossible and then he would find some way to move on and keep surviving.
He had dared to believe that he had a home at Hogwarts, in the dungeons where few would ever venture voluntarily, where he wouldn’t be turned out. For years, he had been left alone to get on with his life. For one who had had so little in his time, it had seemed like paradise, even considering the fact that he had to teach class after class of dunderheads. Still, he had made them fear him, yet their fear had only rarely given him satisfaction. However, the illusion that he was no longer powerless had kept him warm on many a lonely night.
Yet, once more, even the security of his illusions had been destroyed by Sirius Black. The man had a talent for it, even Severus had to admit that. Yet where did that leave him? Alone, homeless, afraid to stay, yet fearful of leaving. He could not stay to see them all fawn over Sirius Black. Perhaps they were all together somewhere now, laughing at him, cheering Sirius on as he repeated his tale of how he vanquished Snape yet one more time.
Slowly, mindful of his aching body, he dejectedly pushed himself away from the support of the wall and, swaying slightly, he made his way to the edge of the Forbidden Forest and around the perimeter, leaving Hogwarts behind him. Severus didn’t dare look back in case he lost heart. He knew now that living at Hogwarts where Black was deified would be impossible, but he had nowhere to go and nothing other than his wand and the clothes he stood up in. It was only his stubborn refusal to give in that kept him going, putting one tired foot in front of another until Hogwarts was not even a dot on the horizon.
Albus Dumbledore had been talking for ages now, going on about how they had to convince Severus that he was important to them and how Sirius’ apology could only help. Sirius stifled a yawn and tried to fight the feeling of guilt that was welling up inside him. He shouldn’t have led the old man up the garden path like this, yet he couldn’t have told him the truth. Still, if things carried on at this rate, he would actually have to apologise to Snape. Sirius was just wondering if the shock of an apology could indeed kill Snape and thereby solve all their problems, when the door to Dumbledore’s study opened and Remus and Professor McGonagall entered.
"Albus, Severus has gone," said Minerva shakily.
"What do you mean gone?" asked Dumbledore in surprise.
"Gone. He’s not in his rooms and Remus and I have looked all over the castle for him, but he isn’t here. He has gone," Minerva repeated firmly.
"But he can’t have. I was going down to talk to him when I came across Siruis, who had just been to apologise to Severus. Why would he go?" Dumbledore was firmly in denial; he couldn’t cope with another problem, not now when he had so little idea of how to go about solving the problems he already had.
Remus had picked up on something Dumbledore had said and a nasty suspicion entered his mind. He though he might know why Severus had fled from Hogwarts.
"You went to apologise, did you Padfoot?" asked Remus sternly, accusingly.
Sirius looked away, unable to come up with a good explanation. It had always been difficult to lie to Remus, even when they were children. Sirius suspected that it was something to do with Remus’ goody-two-shoes holier than thou approach to these kind of conversations that made him unable to compound his wrongdoings by lying about them.
"What have you done Sirius?" asked Remus exasperatedly.
"I went down to the dungeons … to tell Snape to leave you, me and Harry alone, to stop trying to come between us," Sirius said quietly, determinedly not catching anyone’s eye as he spoke.
"How exactly was this message communicated?" asked Minerva McGonagall. Knowing Sirius as she did, she had a fair idea of what had taken place; still she wanted to hear him say it.
"Alright," Sirius said as he saw the accusing looks of the trio in front of him and realised that this time there was no escape. "I threatened him and roughed him up a little bit. That’s all." He spread his arms open to emphasise this point and looked up to meet the gazes of three angry people who seemed to want his blood.
Shocked and chastened, Sirius looked down as he saw the look of pained despair on Remus’ face, the disdain which rolled off Professor McGonagall and the disappointment in Professor Dumbledore’s eyes. He felt absolutely wretched.
"I’ll deal with you later," said Professor McGonagall and Sirius went cold as he remembered the hex the old witch had cast on him little more than days before.
"For now," she continued, "I think this will prevent you from causing any more trouble: Petrificus Totalus."
They ignored Sirius as he fell to the floor in the full body bind, as they made plans to search the castle and hoped that Severus was licking his wounds somewhere nearby and would quickly be found.
A couple of hours later, a discrete but thorough search had confirmed that Severus was not in the castle or the grounds. They were now discussing what to do but the conversation kept drifting round to horror and shock at Sirius’ behaviour.
Once again, Dumbledore was forced to bring the conversation back on track by saying, "Yes true, but right now my main concern is Severus. He’s out there somewhere, hurt, alone, destitute."
Remus looked up in surprise. Severus had been in gainful employment for years, undoubtedly Dumbledore was being melodramatic.
"Surely he has some money at Gringotts. He’ll be alright for a few days until we can find him and bring him home," said Remus, trying to rouse Dumbledore from his stupor.
"Severus has little, if any money to call his own," said Dumbledore bitterly. "The Ministry insisted that, as condition for his freedom from prosecution as a self-confessed Death Eater, he pay a large bribe, dressed up as a fine of course. As you know, Severus had no money back then so he had to borrow it from the goblins."
"But that was fifteen years ago; surely he’d have paid back the debt by now."
One look at Dumbledore’s face told him that that was unlikely to be the case.
Dumbledore sighed, "Merlin, why did he run away? Why didn’t he just stay and tell us what Sirius had done to him?"
Remus thought about it and the answer came to him. "He was afraid."
"What?" asked Dumbledore, obviously not expecting an answer to what he had considered a rhetorical question.
"He was afraid," repeated Remus, adding, "and he doesn’t trust us. He’s been distant again, ever since he came back from Voldemort and saw us treating Sirius in the Hospital Wing. Maybe he thought that we were taking Sirius’ side over his. Merlin, you actually put your arm around Sirius."
Dumbledore turned almost purple in anger at being accused in this way. "Was it so wrong, Remus, to want to save them both? I turned Severus away unknowingly all those years ago. How could you expect me not to try to save Sirius too?"
"What if you can’t save them both?" asked Minerva tartly.
Dumbledore was silent for a long time before saying quietly, "What if I can’t save either of them?"
Remus and Minerva looked askance at him and Dumbledore snapped, "Well one of them has spent most of his adult life in Azkabahn and doesn’t appear to have developed beyond a teenager in terms of emotional maturity or responsibility, the other has been hurt, trapped and ignored for his whole life. He doesn’t believe in us any more than he believes in Voldemort. Now, he is out there somewhere, on his own. God only knows how badly he’s hurt. No, it looks like I’ve lost them both."
Shocked at the defeat in the Headmaster’s voice, Remus tried to spur him into action, "Shouldn’t we look for Severus?"
Dumbledore looked at Remus, his usually vibrant blue eyes looked like hollow empty tunnels. "We can’t force him to come back."
"We could talk to him, make him see reason."
"We have talked to him; he doesn’t listen, worse, he listens but he doesn’t believe us."
"We shouldn’t stop trying just because it’s not as simple as we’d like. Severus has had a very hard life," Remus said, ignoring Dumbldore’s flinch. "There’s a lot of damage to undo. You can’t expect to cure a lifetime’s suffering and neglect with two weeks of attention."
Dumbledore hated been taken to task by a wizard who was young enough to be his grandson, but deep down inside, he knew that Remus was right. Why should Severus make it easy for him to right his past mistakes? Why should Severus trust them when they had let Sirius Black torment him under their very noses? Why couldn’t life be easy?
Dumbledore turned to Remus and asked, "Do you have any idea where we should start looking?"
It had been a long night and Severus was tired. He didn’t have a broomstick with him and he was too tired, pained and shocked to apparate, so he had been forced to walk all night. Dawn found him in the middle of the Scottish countryside, trying hard not to fall with every movement.
He looked around at the green hills and exhaled a slow calming breath as he realised that there was no other person within sight, possibly within miles of him at that moment. He looked for a safe place to sleep for a while and finally found a rock that overhung the path.
He curled up tightly, knowing that this would make his abused body even stiffer and more painful when he awoke, but needing to make himself as small and invisible as possible. He wouldn’t admit to himself that he desperately needed the comfort and reassurance that this position provided. Exhausted, physically and emotionally, he fell asleep almost immediately, although it was far from a peaceful regenerative sleep as his fears and nightmares had free rein in his subconscious mind.
END PART 14