'Til That Morning by Nemo
Summary: Summer after fifth year: Why did everything bad happen to Harry Potter? Why did it always have to be Severus who picked up the pieces? And why did the kid in Severus’ neighbourhood had to be such a Hufflepuff?

Interrupted in his well-earned summer holidays of tending to his vegetable garden and just reading a lot of sciene fiction, Severus Snape is sent to track down one runaway Harry Potter.
Categories: Parental Snape > Guardian Snape Main Characters: .Snape and Harry (required), Hermione, Original Character, Ron
Snape Flavour: Snape Comforts, Snape is Angry, Snape is Kind, Snape is Mean, Snape's a Bully
Genres: Angst, Drama, Family, Humor
Media Type: None
Tags: Adoption, Runaway
Takes Place: 6th summer
Warnings: Abusive Dursleys, Alcohol Use, Bullying, Drug use, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 26 Completed: No Word count: 60113 Read: 26562 Published: 26 Mar 2023 Updated: 05 Mar 2024
Story Notes:

After many years of reading, I finally decided to write as well. Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, merely borrowing some characters.
German Translation available on ao3, fanfiction.net and fanfiktion.de under the same title.

1. Prologue by Nemo

2. Loopy loop of Summer by Nemo

3. Survival Training by Nemo

4. Welcome Home Mr. Snape by Nemo

5. Day off by Nemo

6. Letters, books and weathermen by Nemo

7. The Garden of a Potion Master by Nemo

8. Summer Storm by Nemo

9. Lightning by Nemo

10. Different Decisions by Nemo

11. On the Road by Nemo

12. Unknown Ways - Part 1 by Nemo

13. Unknown Ways - Part 2 by Nemo

14. Several Encounters by Nemo

15. A Day in Summer by Nemo

16. Snape's Grudge by Nemo

17. A Cast, a Caustic Teacher and a Cat by Nemo

18. Schemes in the Garden by Nemo

19. Insidious Disease - Part 1 by Nemo

20. Insidious Disease - Part 2 by Nemo

21. Stormy Weather by Nemo

22. Dog Days by Nemo

23. Rescue Mission by Nemo

24. Hot soup and almost afternoon tea by Nemo

25. Nighttime Thoughts by Nemo

26. Raincoats, Tolkien and Presbyopia by Nemo

Prologue by Nemo

Summer.

What an awful word. Though, it had a nice ring to it. Harry had to admit that at least. If it hadn’t been for this hideous neighbourhood: rows upon rows of little houses, everyone just the same. Probably was the only one appealing to some middle-aged housewives and childless couples out of some terrible catalogue for middle-aged housewives and childless couples. Perfect square gardens, no tall trees that would provide a little bit of shade in the blazing sun. All completed with some very jumpable picket fences, preferred colour: White. Of course. How predictable, he thought. From above it must look like some grandpas miniature wonderland. Maybe if Harry could fly high enough on his Firebolt he would see the greater pattern, the intentions some retired person simply must have had by putting together all this identical rubbish. Little plastic homes with finely coloured persons sticking their heads out of curtained windows just to see if their lawn would need another trim.

But well yeah, it was summer. And that was awful. Horrible. Gruesome even. It meant no magic and no Firebolts even if Harry would have been inclined to fly it. As it were, he just didn’t care. Hell yes, had even sworn never to ride a broom again. Well maybe not a broom but this broom? How could he when… When. When his Aunt yelled at him from just outside his bedroom door Harry was already wide-awake. He stopped his staring into the dust laden air, every grain of it reflecting the early white sunlight. No curtains meant an early morning each and every day of summer. Awful, horrible, gruesome summer.

Even if Harry would have been a calmer sleeper, would not have stirred at the tiniest noise, would not have confusedly blinked at the most petite poke of sun fingers into his room, would not have tossed about in his sheets, would not have dreamed, would not have had trouble falling asleep altogether there would have been this one, this very crucial factor.

The factor of the sheer Awfulness of Summer.

“Boy! Up! Now!”

And there it was. Certain like rain in Scotland, like sunshine in Spain, like sand in the Sahara. Though he hadn’t been to any of this locations except for the first. Maybe Ron and Hermione would tell him a bit of the latter two when they would see each other again. At the end of this awful, beastly long, horrendous-

“What are you doing in there? Up now or I’ll wake Vernon!”

He was definitely out of it. Where were these thoughts coming from? A miniature wonderland? Spain? The Sahara? What the heck was wrong with him? Except he knew perfectly well what was wrong but – He sat up in bed. If not to evade his aunt’s and uncle’s wrath then to escape his ever spiralling thoughts dragging him deep under.

A few minutes later found Harry Potter, supposed Saviour of Wizard and Witchkind, known also as Mr. Potter (to his teachers), Boy Who Lived (in general to all the other wand-wielding people out there), punching bag (to his cousin), boy (to his dear relatives) and just Harry (to his closest friends) in faded red shorts and a holey T-shirt whisking together some sweet batter in the perfectly gleaming kitchen.

Merlin, how he missed his friends. He couldn’t wait to spy some red hair at the platform in Kings Cross come September. Couldn’t wait to sputter helplessly as bushy brown hair would inadvertently make its way into his mouth in one of those crushing embraces Hermione bestowed upon him if only to ensure herself that he, Harry, just Harry had made it once again out of his own private summer hell.

To himself however he would always stay this somewhat scared little orphan, who grew up in a cupboard. To himself (and maybe two or three of his friends) he would always remain just Harry. Not some hero figure, made to bear all the unpleasant burdens this world had to offer. To himself he would always continue to be eleven years old, looking with wonder induced vivid green eyes up to a castle over a lake, blinking invitingly above the black water. Oh, how he wished to be eleven again. How he wished the vividness back into his eyes. So, to himself he would always stay just like the boy who came out of the cupboard all these years ago.

And to himself that wasn’t necessarily something bad. Alright, he wasn’t the tallest soon to be sixteen-year-old, but being short had its advantages. You didn’t need to eat as much (which was admittedly a very big advantage living with the Dursleys). You could get out of tight situations (literally) and you didn’t stand out as much. Although that hadn’t really worked out for him. He would always stand out in this hobbyist grandpa’s version of wonderland. Would always attract attention from the picket-fence-people.

The picket-fence-people don’t like me. The picket-fence-people are out to get me, Harry thought in a rare flash of good humour. The picket-fence-people were a creation of his Star Wars infested mind born out of respect for the Sand People. Just recently, there had been a Star Wars marathon on Channel 4, which Dudley naturally had to get induced in apart from several bags of crisps and a pack of coke. Harry had watched through doing the dishes, mopping the kitchen and dusting the living room, all chores he was especially glad to do that evening. Lightsabers were awesome. He couldn’t help but ponder the advantages of this particular weapon. He could walk right up to moldy Voldie with just the handle in hand, then activate the saber and make a clean cut right through the psychopath. He shuddered. Or maybe not.

As Harry flipped a pancake with practised ease, he looked out onto the sidewalk through the crocheted curtain. There, Mrs. Number Five walked her picket-fence-people-dog. Or was it Ms. Number Nine? He couldn’t really tell squinting through his glasses. His eyesight was never well before, but it had worsened over the last school year. Now it was nearly bad enough for him to abandon his eternal last row VIP-place in potions just to see Snape’s neat handwriting on the board better. Maybe then, he’d get higher marks for the practicals, he thought.

Not worth the trouble, he reasoned and put the golden baked pancake onto the ever-growing pile, thinking about evil Potions teachers and their overgrown noses. At this moment, his aunt bustled into the kitchen, hectically grabbing some milk and juice out of the fridge and balancing the pancake plate in her other hand. Heavy steps on the stairs announced Uncle Vernon as he came down for breakfast. Shortly calculating his chances Harry put the remaining batter into the still sizzling pan, glancing through to the living room every now and then.

Finished with baking the last pancake to perfect consistency, Harry quickly put some leftover marmalade on to it, rolled it up and as fast as he could vanished the whole thing into his mouth never to be seen again.

“Hop to the dishes, boy!” came the somewhat muffled shout of his uncle. When Harry entered the living room, the daily newspaper already covered his uncle head to table. They all knew they preferred it just like that. Merely another routine morning, another day started in the perfect summer-loop. The loop that would repeat itself just another 62 times. Today was the 30th of June. Only a week ago, the school year at Hogwarts had ended. Harry hadn’t really cared at this time that he would be returning to Privet Drive and his charming relatives, too preoccupied with-

No, don’t think about that!

Now, however, he cared immensely. He cared about all those mornings of the two months left before the Hogwarts Express. Cared about all the wake-up shouts from his aunt, all the muffled commands of his uncle, all those bloody pancakes he would be making. At the same time, he couldn’t really bring himself to care more about summer-loop than damning it with all the creative adjectives he could find.

What an awful, horrendous, appalling, terrible, dreadful, grisly summer indeed.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Hope you enjoyed reading. Maybe drop a review? I'd be delighted! :) See you! Or rather read? Nemo

Loopy loop of Summer by Nemo

Two more months, Harry thought to himself. That’s just 62 more days and one of them had the potential to break the loop. His birthday. Mmh, still some 31 days away. He scratched his head and put the last of the dishes away. His hair could use another wash. It had been some days now since he was last granted a shower. But, if push comes to shove, he could always make do with the kitchen sink. Dudley wouldn’t come down for the next three or four hours so he had some time to get started with his chores in peace and maybe there would also be enough time for a brief wash.

“Don’t just stand around there! The laundry isn’t going to wash itself, boy!”

Relative peace, he amended mentally. And a very brief and secret wash. Outside it was already smouldering warm, perfect conditions for drying even without a towel. He quickly hung up the chequered one intended for dishes only on the hook specifically serving this purpose. Heaven forbid, if he would have ever thought about hanging it up on the oven rung. No, these movements were long drilled into muscle memory just as much as finding the right program on the washing machine was.

With the machine joyfully filling with water and beginning to rotate, Harry headed off to the garden, before the hypnotizing circles could draw him into another loop. Staring into the washing machine wasn’t going to help him anyway. But seriously, why built in a see-through door? Were there people in the world who had the time and longing to watch their dirty clothes take a ride on the Ferris wheel?  If there ever was a thing made to drive people bananas it was this.

Or the lawn mower, Harry pondered, pushing the thing out into the yard. At least at the frequency the Dursleys made him use it. Yet, it did calm him down somewhat from all the jumbled thoughts running through his head since, well, since he died.

Harry hadn’t known death to be this way. Sure, he had lost his parents. He was an orphan. This peculiar word hat clung to him since he could remember. It was his label since he got to Primary School. Hell, he was even popular due to the simple little fact that he had no parents to a whole world existing parallel to the Muggle one he grew up in. Except it wasn’t a simple fact or perhaps it was simple but that didn’t make it any less small.

Primary School… If he thought back on this time, it was curious how it could hold both some of his worst and some of his best memories. Some of the worst thanks to his cousin. Well, he wouldn’t go into depth here. Not now anyway. Dudley didn’t know better. That was the only solace Harry ever had that helped him endure the constant bullying. All the lunch breaks spend running, hiding, ducking glances of his hunters, ducking punches- No. All the lunch breaks spend hiding. Hiding was the safer bet.

Some of the best memories originated from hiding in the school library. It might be somewhat cliché. Bespectacled scrawny orphan-kid hiding between books. Not only between but in them as well. But that’s what his life had been. Before Hogwarts, before the promises magic made, before all the hopes rising warmly in a tiny chest. Only to be crushed, Harry thought rather cynically as he emptied the grass into one of the plastic bags that would be collected by the litter service tomorrow.

Well, hopes were made to be crushed in his opinion. It had been the same with the library. It had worked for some weeks. He would hide between the shelves, would sit down on the carpeted floor where he was surrounded by books. Books that weren’t thrown into corners by his cousin and that he wasn’t allowed to touch despite this.

Harry could remember that for the solid first week he was too intimidated, too scared of all the books to actually touch one of them. Full of wonder he just sat there and stared at them. They seemed to whisper. Then, one day these whispers became too loud to ignore and he pulled out the first of many more.

That is was a dictionary of all things was almost more cliché if not for the circumstance that he had used it to look up some of the big words adults around him seemed prone to use regarding him. "Orphan" was one of the first. Or maybe it had been the first, Harry couldn’t remember. Of course, he had figured what it meant a long time before. He wasn’t stupid as his relatives tried to make all the others and himself believe.

Try to tell Snape that. He had to laugh a little under his breath. Try telling him about all the library-adventures I had. He would have a stroke hearing that Harry was once a bookworm. Or would just laugh it off as a bad joke and dock Gryffindor some ten or twenty points.

Relentlessly, Harry pushed the mower forward, looking curiously at his naked feet that were visible though the handlebars and steadily turning an interesting shade of green. 

The word orphan generated from Latin. He knew that already, because, well, he wasn’t stupid. It meant a child who had lost one or both parents, generally the latter. Yes, he also knew this. It also meant “deprived of free status”. Even then, in the dusty library this little addition signified something for Harry. It struck something deep inside of him and he knew without a doubt that the label everyone around him wanted so badly to stick to him fitted perfectly. However, it wasn’t until this summer, that he really learned to appreciate it again. Not until Dumbledore told him about this bloody prophecy. Quite literally bloody, he might add. He didn’t want to think about this either.

So, his mind circled back to the death-theme or perhaps it wasn’t such a wide leap from the prophecy to there. Harry had never felt about death this way. Sure, people died. His parents had died. Were murdered actually. As if the first wouldn’t have been trauma enough. For the longest time he had believed it happened in a car accident. He should have been relieved that his parents weren’t some good for nothing drunks killing themselves without regard to their child. What Harry wouldn’t have given for it to be real now. At least this story came without a narcissistic psychotic mass murderer trying to kill him every few moons. At least it came without these feelings now.

People died. But never ones Harry knew well before. Cared about even. Sirius had been there for a good two years and then, just like that, he wasn’t.

Harry could still not grasp how this change could come in seconds. Seconds separating the death and the living, severing the threads of human life.

One glorious lunch break Harry had discovered Greek Mythology. All these tragic heroes seemed to speak to him. In the evenings, alone in his cupboard, he imagined himself in these stories, fighting bravely for the good, fighting epic battles that weren’t but a great game for the Olympic Gods. Harry always liked Hermes the best. Not only because he was younger than the other eleven great Gods. Hermes, ever moving in his nice winged shoes and turtle helmet was the patron of travellers and magic. Does he have to say more?

The Moirai however, better known as the Fates, Harry hated with a passion. How could three old hags decide so carelessly about life and death? As a nine year old, he had sworn to take fate into his own hands. Except it hadn’t really worked out well, had it?

His godfather was dead just like his parents. It felt like a cold black whole had been ripped into his chest right were his heart was. It might sound metaphorically, but that is exactly how it felt. Harry wondered how much more of his heart could be ripped away before it became so small that he wouldn’t be able to feel anything at all. Although, right now this sounded just great. Not to feel anything would have been nice for a change.

Not to be flooded with this kind of sadness and this kind of fear, which was almost worse than the grief. The fear of ever losing someone dear to him again… It was worse than the sadness. This pain- how could anybody bear this? How could anybody not scream with this much stinging ache inside? How could anybody walk away with a head held high after this? There were days Harry could hardly muster the strength to drag up his slumped shoulders let alone his head. Of course, this suited him just fine at the Dursleys.

Under these circumstances he was nearly glad to not have consciously known his parents. The void they left behind in his heart would have been even wider.

As it were, the gap Sirius left was too much. In a way, he was thankful for all the chores. They kept him from doing something immensely stupid, just to fill the dog-shaped hole in his heart.

Finished with mowing an already perfectly manicured lawn, Harry cleaned the blades and put the mower away in the garage. He quickly washed his hands and feet with the garden hose, treating himself to some lukewarm water in the process before entering the quiet kitchen. Still no Dudley. What a blessing. His cousin on his own wasn’t as bad but the combination with his parents promised trouble nine times out of ten.

He hastily made his way upstairs and arrived in the bathroom. Not a second too early as the washing machine was ready to go off into one of its beeping fits to announce to all the inhabitants of this house and maybe all the other inhabitants of picket-fence-city that the laundry was done. The door clicked open and before the beeping could wake Dudley, Harry squeezed the button.

Muscle memory and timing and circles, and impossible summer loops. Ingrained since early childhood.

He could already picture the rest of this day. Hell, he could already picture the rest of this summer. All 62 fucking days of it.

Except for little interruptions like being allowed clean clothes or to have a cold shower this would be the routine. And maybe, if he just stuck to it, maybe there´d be a chance to survive it again. The crazy loopy loop of summer at Number Four.

To be continued...
End Notes:

It's late so there might be some mistakes. If you find any just give me a shout and I'll correct them. Constructive criticism and reviews very welcome ;) Have a nice week! Nemo

Survival Training by Nemo

In hindsight, it almost felt like a bad omen thinking about survival. Well, survival yes. But on what conditions? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just give in? To finally quit? To just embrace the familiar darkness and to not see, not feel, not think anymore?

There was, however, just the tiniest spark somewhere inside of him. He didn’t even understand where it was coming from or why it hadn’t burnt out already, but it was there.

Thus, Harry blinked open his crusted eyes, rolled over and pressed his feet to the floor where the sunlight had already warmed it.

Litter service buzzed further down the street. He took a moment to ground himself. Just sat there quietly, breathing, letting out some of the ache permanently locked inside his chest. Maybe he should try meditation. Bet Snape wouldn’t have heard of that one. For Harry it sounded suspiciously like all those times in Occlumency lessons when Snape had yelled at him to clear his mind, to empty his dunderheaded brain.

How Harry had learned to hate these words last school year and then bitterly hate them some more after the Minist-

No, don't think about that. Not now. Just get on with the-

“Potter! Up! Breakfast is waiting!”

...routine.

He yawned. Encounters with his uncle though never exactly pleasant always meant some better sleep. The only problem was that after a decent night the effects of the many others were just more pronounced. He struggled to his feet and pulled on the same shirt and shorts as yesterday and the day before that and the day before…

On his way down the steps, he promised himself to be more careful today with both his chores and his uncle. It wouldn’t do to aggravate him or his own back any more than necessary. He didn’t know what to think of this whole ordeal. Again he let out a large breath.

Sure, it wasn’t fantastic being punished this way but it wasn’t exactly illegal, was it? And he grew up with it so who was he to complain about the belt? Except, it freaked him out every time he saw his uncle pull the leather through the loops. For Harry the practiced ritual was worse than the hits. Physical pain would fade eventually. But this was just another routine, just another thing drilled into his mind, ingrained into muscle memory. The opening of the buckle, sure as rain in Scotland, pulling it free of the loops, sure as sun in Spain, doubling it over, sure as sand in the Sahara. If some movements he just saw a lot of times were this deeply embedded, he didn’t even want to start thinking about the movements he himself had to go through.

This was just added humiliation. Having to bend over a desk, offering himself up for whatever his uncle deemed necessary. It threw his mind for another loop and the bad thing was that his uncle knew it.

Having to assist in his own punishment was just twisted. Well, Umbridge knew that as well the old toad.

He couldn’t deal with these mind games.

Therefore, Harry just did what was expected to spare him from more, at least. Quietly bending over, placing his cheek on the smooth wood, stiffly enduring the falls of the belt, withdrawing more and more into his own mind, his peaceful mind. Well, Snape should have thought about trying this for Occlumeny lessons, maybe then Sirius would still-

Tearing his mind away from those sinister thoughts, he finished setting the table. Through breakfast his uncle kept giving him satisfied glances. Harry ignored them as well as he could. A satisfied Uncle Vernon meant a small amount of peace at any rate.


Shopping was always the chore he hated most. Sure, it was good to be out and about and getting to stretch his legs wouldn’t hurt. But he absolutely hated the whole procedure of grocery shopping. What was the point in grabbing some random shit, placing it in a basket, unloading it at the checkout, grabbing the things again, shoving them in some bags only to unload them again at home and putting them away once again? In all these years of human civilisation no one had come up with a better idea? Not to mention one had to pay for the whole farce as well.

Snatching the note where she had left it for him he made his way outside and into the heartlessly burning sun.

Another thing he absolutely loathed was his new haircut. But when he came back from school on the last day, she had been adamant to get rid of the locks. Now he looked nothing like the daredevil cop from Speed, a movie his mother had insisted to drag him into the cinema for some two years ago. Probably only because of the auspicious title. At first, he liked to imagine himself as the brave and somewhat suicidal (if his stunts were anything to go by) Jack Traven, but every look into the mirror made it clearer that he looked more like a navy recruit from a terrible B-movie.

Another issue with his new short hair was that it did absolutely nothing to shield him from the sun.

His nose was burned anyway from the relentless training the school seemed hell-bent on putting them through. Maybe to make up for the whole summer. He listlessly kicked some stones until they skipped away at a badly aimed shot. Down the lane, some Mum hung up freshly washed baby rompers that would clothe a whole armada of them effortlessly. He greeted her and could see the confusion in her eyes before they lightened up somewhat and she smiled back.
When he came back half an hour later, she was doing socks and he really didn’t envy her.

“You back already?”
“Seems like it,” he pushed open the door with his shoulder and brought in the bags.
“Don’t get smart with me.”
He started putting the milk and cheese in the fridge.
“Brought me something?” she asked leaning in the doorframe.

Wordlessly he pulled some cans out of one of the bags and put them down on the table.
“Tsk!”
“What?” He looked up from storing away some toast.
She reached out her arm and crooked her fingers. He groaned, but handed her the six-pack.
“Well, well well.”
She hit him over the head. Then she was out of the kitchen and could be heard flopping down on the sofa.
The buzz of a freshly opened can made him sick.

“Put some pizza in the oven will you?” she shouted.
“Not your bloody housekeeper.”
But he said it to himself only.

“And Ben? If you’re done you can bring the bloody cat over there. It’s his anyways.”

To be continued...
End Notes:

How'd you like Ben? I have some (hopefully) nice ideas for the next chapter, so stay tuned :)

Welcome Home Mr. Snape by Nemo

Resigned to his fate, Ben made his way over to Number 7. Felix in his arms didn’t really look enthusiastic but when did cats ever? Besides, he could always just jump the garden wall and hop through Ben’s window in the evening.

Lunch had been a tense affair. Ben didn’t want to know how much of the six-pack had made its way into his mother’s stomach before the pizza was ready. He was glad to be out of the dingy little house. Even if it meant exposing his head to the sun again.

He quickly walked out of the little enclosure that was their front yard and closed the gate. Number 7 was just one house down. Leaning out their respective kitchen windows the neighbours could have just brushed their fingertips.

When he opened the gate to Number 7, he had to inevitably grin. Where their own front yard stood empty aside from the clothesline, some rusty flowerpot probably owned by his grandmother once and some other odds and ends, the front yard of Number 7 was overflowing with green. Even now, after half a year of absence the plants were shooting right up into the cloudless sky.

Every available ground space had been used efficiently. In some spots, the asphalt had even been broken up to make room for some herb patches. Flower bots, planting buckets and pails housed various specimens: some tall and with sweeping leaves, some small just curling their little yellow sprouts out of the earth, others sprawling out of their vessels like some walrus languishing at the sunny beach. A few of them had almost geometrical shapes where others didn’t even seem to follow the laws of gravity. And some plants, located purposefully in the remote corners, Ben was sure, appeared to be radiating curious lights.

Ben had always liked the garden since his younger self had strayed into it some eight years ago. The one in the back was bigger and even more impressive, of course. But he still liked the small one better. Maybe, bound by nondescript brick walls, it were exactly these stones that held so much more than the ones enclosing their own front yard that made the one at Number 7 magical to him.

“Well, you have grown.”

“Hello, sir,” smiled Ben as the door opened.

It was true. Where once Ben had to crane his neck impossibly to see the inhabitant of Number 7, they now stood almost eye-to-eye. And that was not counting the front steps. He watched Felix idly sniff some flowers that bizarrely changed from red to orange every few seconds. Must have been a trick of the light, Ben decided.

“Your plants have grown as well.”

Apparently, this didn’t deign a response, as the man only lifted his eyebrows.

“I’ve brought Felix.”

“That I can see,” he said with a slight smile.

“Are you gonna invite me in for tea, sir?”

Again with the eyebrows.

“Your mother didn’t make any?”

“Since when does my mother make tea?” Ben asked with mock confusedness.

“Exactly.”

He turned around and disappeared into the narrow hallway.

“Well, come on then, Benjamin.”

Ben skipped the few steps, toed off his shoes under the coat rack and followed Felix into the kitchen, who as if sensing that there would be a treat, had come in as well.

“Do you have to call me that?”

“What? Benjamin?”

“Ugh!”

“It is your name, is it not?”

“Well yeah, but only my teachers call me that.”

“It’s a perfectly acceptable name,” he said and put a steaming cup down in front of Ben.

“You had this ready!” Ben said grinning. “You have been waiting for me.”

“Maybe I just knew your mother would make you bring Felix here as soon as she saw me returning,” he said crouching on the tiles to fill a plate with some milk.

“Or perhaps I merely enjoy tea at this hour every day.”

“Keep your secrets then.”

Ben took a big slurp from the cup and sighed contentedly as the steaming mixture warmed him up from the inside and settled his pizza-clogged stomach. He didn’t even know he felt cold before the tea spread through him.

“How has your term been, Benjamin?”

“Ben,” he murmured.

“How has your term been, Ben?”

“Fine.”

“Fine?”

This time Ben could only imagine the eyebrows as the man was still kneeling on the kitchen floor ruffling the cat’s fur. Felix purred happily between licking up the milk.

Still, his expression was hearable enough.

“Just the usual,” Ben replied absentmindedly watching the two.

“Mmh. Have you not turned sixteen in February?”

“Yes, and you did send me a card, remember?”

“Indeed, I did.”

“Thanks sir.”

“Mmpf…”

There was some silence then as he straightened out his back and refilled Ben’s cup while sitting down at the table.

“Is not sixteen a somewhat significant age?”

“I suppose so.”

“You are allowed to enter apprenticeships now, are you not?” he asked conversationally

“Guess so.”

“And here I thought you would jump at the opportunity to shorten your days in school.”

“Why’d I jump at that, sir?”

“Well, I for one seem to remember you constantly complaining about all the academic work you had to undertake these last summers.”

Ben looked down and his eye strayed to Felix who, finished with the milk, was now weaving around the legs of the professor’s chair. The man reached down and scooped the feline up onto his lap. There the red cat rolled up and began licking his paws.

“My mum wants me to go into an apprenticeship after the summer,” he said blowing out some air.

“I can detect some underlying displeasure from your tone.”

Ben looked up. The professor was surveying him thoughtfully.

“Sorry sir, I’m not really up to talking. I didn’t want to be rude or something.”

“Or something,” he smirked, “you weren’t being rude.”

Silence settled on them again, but the professor was content to wait it out just as usual. They drank their tea, both watching the strange plants in the back garden rock slightly in the breeze, the tiniest precursor of an oncoming evening storm.

When there was no tea left, Ben pushed his stool back.

“Thanks for the tea, sir.”

“It was no trouble, Benjamin.”

They moved into the hall, Felix following on the professor’s heels. He wouldn’t come back this fast, thought Ben. The professor held open the door for him.

He was almost all the way down the steps and through the gate when he turned around again. Ben smiled.

“Welcome home, Mr. Snape.”

To be continued...
End Notes:
If you read this far, you may have noticed that this is going to be a slow-moving story. I have some plans for it though :D
Maybe you'd like to drop a review and tell me how realistic you thought the dialogues were. I'm not really experienced writing those and I'm not sure how well the dynamic was.
Leave a review if you like. Read you! Nemo
Day off by Nemo

He startled awake from some sound trickling in through his opened window. He sat up in bed and examined his surroundings. The curtain flapped lazily in the morning breeze and he could hear some sparrows ranting in the gutters. Nothing indicated intruders suddenly apparating on his property.

Ever since he took his leave from his former Master or should he say: ever since he dramatically fled the rage of the freaking psychopath and his entourage, Severus wasn’t able to truly shake the feeling of persecution. The trial at the Ministry hadn’t really helped this matter.

It had been a long and tough way back into the civilian population. Yet, as much as he didn’t like to think back to this time he was grateful every single day to have gotten his shit together and escaped some much darker fate.

Not being able to sense any immediate danger, he let out a steam of air. It was just the blasted cat. The feline probably found some mouse scurrying away between the flowerpots and had pounced on the rodent.

Why did he have to rescue it last winter? Right, he would have never forgiven himself for letting the scrawny thing freeze on the sidewalk. And Benjamin wouldn’t have either.

Ben. he amended. He would’ve done well in Hufflepuff.

To his surprise, it was with some regret that this thought registered in his mind. Severus would have enjoyed teaching the boy. Even if his Hogwarts persona wouldn’t have permitted to treat him any different from all the other students except his Slytherins.

He wasn’t even sure how the dungeon bat persona had started. Sure, he had been young and foolish before, craving some sort of control, thus joining the Death Eaters. He had committed some seriously wrong deeds. He had been dangerous in his own way. Maybe the dark aura had just carried across to his new profession.

Deeply depressed and disgusted with himself for venturing forward into this luring swamp he had arrived at Hogwarts. Had arrived at the only place he had been given a chance at redemption.

At first, in his trial, he didn’t know why Dumbledore took an interest in him. He was just one run-of-the-mill ex-Death Eater that had pled to renounce his former faith. It wasn’t until the Potter boy’s first year that the real reason for his easy pardoning had struck him.

And he hated himself for taking this long to catch on to that, to have once again trusted someone, put his hope into another person just as he had all those years ago in a red-headed girl.

Oh, how he had raged in the headmaster’s office. Dumbledore thought he would ever go back to this- to this monster? Exposing himself once again to the darkness that lured him in with cruel ease?

Never again, he had sworn to himself right at the first day of his trial. Never again would he go back. Not even for some half-baked plan of Dumbledore to introduce him as the Order’s spy.

No, he was a free man. And he intended to keep it that way.

Agitated from the roller-coaster of memories inside his head, Severus Snape pushed back the covers and prepared for his first day off. Summer meant more freedom than he usually had. For even after his outburst in Dumbledore’s office and the ensuing arguments that wouldn’t abate for many years, some of his Death Eater personality had clung to him.

Perhaps he wanted it to. It made teaching so much easier. Barely out of school himself, just about finished with his Mastery, 21-year-old Severus Snape had used every intimidation factor he might have possessed to his benefit.

Hell, he was just ten years older than the first of the many Weasley siblings, bunch of raucous runts that they were. For Severus that didn’t constitute a satisfactory age difference.

So. Teaching. What had he gotten himself into?

Sure, Dumbledore had been right in pointing out that no apothecary would hire him for the mandatory two years’ work-experience one had to go through pursuing the career of a Potion Master. Agreed. Just like Albus had been right mentioning that even if Severus would be hired by some dubious business in the back alleys of Diagon, no self-respecting witch or wizard would buy his potions ever. You didn’t want an ex-Death Eater to be responsible for mixing your cough-draughts after all. Even if he was officially exonerated by the Ministry itself.

Therefore, Severus had accepted the position Dumbledore offered him at the school. And had quickly learned to use some of the more mellow practices from his time as a servant to the most insane Dark Lord in centuries to his advantage.

The first days had been hell. Compared to a hoard of students running about, shouting constantly, not being able, it seemed, to communicate in appropriate volume, his former servitude almost felt like a trip to Bali. Almost being the key term here.

Still, as soon as he figured out that well-aimed glares and barbs as well as the occasional threat of detention drastically reduced his tinnitus, he started using them generously, nonetheless making sure he never had too much actual detentions to oversee. Evenings he had to himself were sacred after all.

Thus, Snape, the greasy git evolved, pushing Severus, the easy-going young men to the back in the process. Or not to the back but rather to the holidays. These few weeks around Christmas and in the summer were the only times he allowed himself to relax and breath normally, easing himself out of the Potions professor’s hide and just existing as plain old Severus, a man who enjoyed tea and biscuits in the afternoons.

A man who greeted his neighbours on the way to the supermarket. A man who lay down on his old sofa to watch TV in the evenings and looked forward to the rebroadcast of the Doctor Who movie with excitement. He naturally had to miss its premiere on BBC in May due to the absurd amount of magical radiation at Hogwarts. The series had accompanied him since he was three years old, through the troublesome years of his childhood and well into his twenties.

So this was him, Severus, a man who tenderly cared about his garden and fondly looked down on a red cat sleeping in his lap.

Said cat now, however, produced the largest ruckus to date and Severus feared for some of the smaller flowerpots. He again focussed his attention to the outside world.

Felix was, true to his name, a lucky charm. Since Ben had found him huddled together in some snowy corner and brought him to Severus in a desperate attempt to save the small chap, the cat had time and again showed its uncanny ability to ground the Potions Master to the here and now. Which was a good thing what with all the thoughts and memories constantly clawing to get out of the closet he had built in his mind.

Watching for the little cat through the kitchen window, he poured some canned meat inside the bowl Ben had gifted him this past Christmas. It read the name of the irritating cat as well, ridiculously enough. Though Severus had to smile every time he saw it imprinted upon the bowl.

Opening the back door, he beckoned Felix over. As he watched him swiftly devour the meat he rubbed his neck.

It was a well-guarded secret this life away from Hogwarts. A secret that, ironically, only the inhabitants of a small muggle town knew about. He was sure not even Dumbledore was aware of his holiday persona.

The persona, Severus considered truest to himself. How absurd and simultaneously oddly fitting that the person who knew him best was a sixteen-year-old muggle teenager, he thought wryly.

Severus knew Benjamin since the boy was eight years old. One day he had stumbled into Severus’ front yard seeking a hiding spot from one of his mother’s drug-induced stupors. That information however didn’t come to light until much later when Severus dragged it out of a reluctant and pond water dripping Ben.

Thinking back to this incident, Severus had to chuckle, although the reason for Ben to fall into his newly created pond was not one to chuckle about.

In the beginning, he didn’t want to get involved with the neighbour’s boy. He had only recently moved to this town on the east coast of Britain having finally been able to sell his abhorred childhood-home. There was next to nothing in it for him monetarily but psychologically it was like doing trauma therapy with some highly praised shrink.

Finding a new home was simple enough. He wanted to move to some area not generally associated with magic, as Godric’s Hollow or Ottery St Catchpole would have been. He wanted to see the ocean, because he never had been there before. In short, he wanted his peace and his teacher’s salary was sufficient to buy a small house in the area.

When he stepped out onto the street that gently sloped down with some telephone poles on the right and left, the cords going every which way like some giant spider’s web, he could just catch a glimpse at the deep blue sea in the distance. If Severus was in the mood for some fresh salty air, he could reach the cliffs in just shy under a mile.

All this had drawn him to this town. He could have his peace there.

Except, he hadn’t prepared to deal with the trouble of neighbours. The specific trouble of one specific little boy to be exact. He wasn’t supposed to care, but he did. In his own way.

At first, they were both shocked although for different reasons. The little boy was shocked to have tumbled into the front yard of Number 7. Only much later did Severus find out why Ben had been on the brick wall separating the two yards.

Severus had been shocked as well. The kid could have broken his neck with this stunt or at the very least an arm. But the boy had just bounced to his feet and was prepared to escape through the gate in seconds had Severus not been there, watering can in hand and shirt-sleeved, as he was tending the garden.

They had looked at each other, frozen to their spots, calculating and stunned.

“Are you alright?” Severus had asked and couldn’t quite keep the concern from showing in his voice.

In retrospect, Severus was sure that Ben must have picked up on this. Why else would he have allowed Severus to invite him into his kitchen for plasters and a cup of tea?

Definitely Hufflepuff, Severus thought, but without the usual derision.

Were they too trusting? Yes. Were they too sensitive? Certainly. Did Ben combine these two traits perfectly? Definitely.

And there you had it: Severus Snape cared about Ben Anderson. His resolve to not get involved didn’t even outlast their first encounter.


The satisfaction Uncle Vernon gained from Harry’s trashing didn’t hold very long. It didn’t even last to the weekend. He really should stop trying, thought Harry when he dragged himself up from the table, where he had hung limply for the last twenty minutes. Pulling on his shirt as the routine dictated he couldn’t suppress a small hiss when the cloth touched his back. At least he was allowed to keep his shorts on, small mercies and all, although the chafed fabric didn’t do much for softening the blows.

Uncle Vernon looked smug though, so Harry made sure to groan some more as he bent to pick up the belt where his uncle had thrown it after the last hit. Handing his uncle the belt, also a long established rule added to humiliate him some more, Harry could feel the bile rise inside his throat.

Just get on with it, just keep going, he chanted in his head.

He squeezed his way past his uncle and had his foot on the first step when-

“Boy! Didn’t you forget something?”

No, of course he hadn’t forgotten. Neither of them had.

Harry trudged back into the kitchen and stood there hanging his head.

“Thank you, Uncle Vernon,” he murmured.

“What was that? I didn’t hear you.”

“Thank you, Uncle Vernon,” he said a bit louder.

“Don’t let it happen again,” he said good-naturedly “or else.”

With that, he let the belt glide through his hands one last time before putting it back on. Harry fled to his room as quickly as the thought Vernon would allow.

There he leaned against the closed door, gingerly as to not disturb the fresh wounds. Finally, inside the only half-sanctuary place in this damn house, hell in the whole damn freaking neighbourhood, he took some deep breaths to dispel the nausea that threatened to take up residence inside his stomach permanently. A flutter in his peripheral vision made him look up.

“Hedwig!”

Happily, he opened the window to let her hop inside. Gently removing the small package from her leg, he smoothed his hand over her feathers while she tried to nibble at his fingers.

“Hey, stop that,” he laughed.

When he had settled Hedwig in her cage with some owl treats, he picked up the attached letter. It was from Ron.

Hey Harry,

finally arrived in Egypt. Would you have thought Dad’d win the bonus again? You know at first I wasn’t keen on going to the desert again but it’s not bad you know. There’s so much more to see.

Yesterday Bill took us to some weird dune. It’s moving constantly and the muggles think that the wind’s responsible for it. Bullshit! It’s just some magical folk lives there since I don’t know when and they wanted to protect their village from being discovered.

Some friend of Bill’s took us on a tour and it was really cool. There was so much to eat and special things as well that you wouldn’t get back home. They even had this small primary for little kids so they’d be able to learn some magic before going to the big school in Cairo.

Anyway, how’s your summer? You holding up there at the Dursleys?

You just hang in there and I’ll try to convince my parents to get you as soon as we’re back.

And hey, I know it isn’t your birthday for another month or so but I thought you’d like this now. I don’t know how fast this’ll reach you anyway.

Fred and George and the others say Hi.

So bye!

Ron

P.S. Hedwig just turned up so I recon you’ll get this way before the 31th. But I know you’ll be bored at your relatives so open it already. And I’m not turning into Hermione, promise.

Harry’s heart jumped. He had to grin all through the letter. This was almost novel-length for Ron. He really must have put thought into this. Harry felt warm thinking about his friend sitting down to write him about his vacations trying to break him out of his summer routine.

Curiously, he pushed the brown wrapping paper a little more to the side.

Magic in the Dunes – The Secret Sorcery of the Sand People.

Harry laughed heartily. Well, these Sand People definitely had nothing to do with the Tusken Raiders from Star Wars.

When he opened the book to the first page, some grains trickled onto his feet.

Well, sure as sand in the Sahara, he thought and settled in to browse through the marvellous moving pictures.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Well, now you know a little bit about the background of the Severus Snape in this story. How'd you like all the descriptions/explanations? Funny enough I don't really like to read them but I like writing them a lot.

Letters, books and weathermen by Nemo

Dusk finally spread its sheets on Little Whinging. The kids playing on the street were long gone, called by their parents to have dinner. Cars had returned to their respective driveways, their owners settling down on myriads of sofas to watch the evening news. Nothing was happening in the world. All was quiet.

After eating, the Dursleys had mercifully retreated to the living room immediately, thus leaving their nephew to take care of the dishes in peace. He even succeeded in sneaking some leftover cold chicken for both Hedwig and himself.

 

Harry hadn’t really expected to catch anything related to his world on muggle TV. Last summer had been a good enough example. But to not even hear the weatherman mention some of the thick fogs that had swept all over Britain in spring when the dementors had abandoned Azkaban to go frolicking about the isles? That was strange.

It did nothing either to ease the tension that had accompanied Harry since the Third Task.

 

“So, Ted. Tell us a bit about tomorrow’s temperatures.”

“Well yes Todd! With pleasure. So tomorrow’s going to be even warmer.”

 

“As if we didn’t know that already, you moron!” he heard Uncle Vernon shout, “Tell us something we don’t know or quit! My money’s got better investment opportunities than this!”

Aunt Petunia laughed piercingly.

“How true. How true.”

 

“- but this is pretty normal for July.”

“Exactly. What’s slightly irregular is the great amount of icy showers.”

Harry perked up his ears. Could it be? Dementors again? A cold shiver ran down his back.

“Icy showers? You want to pull my leg Ted!”

“Ahahaha! Todd, I just meant the ice-cream sellers are going to have their hands quite full.”

Harry groaned inwardly. Stupid weathermen and their stupid jokes.

 

The Dursleys must have found it funny enough though, judging from the guffawing coming from the living room.

Quietly Harry put away the cleaning rag and tiptoed out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Only 54 more days to go, just seven full weeks more, and he would be safely on his way to Hogwarts.

 

Harry sat down at his rickety desk and watched the evening air pulsating with the heat of the day. Through the window thrown wide open, Harry could hear some lawn sprinklers drizzling water to maintain the illusion of healthy front yards. A few birds were still fluttering about, uttering short chirpings to each other.

He lived for these moments of peace when he could close his eyes without fear.

He drew in breaths consciously and tried detaching his mind from all the stress going on. From all the feelings having a rave inside his chest. The book Hermione had found for him just after Sirius die- the book had suggested to imagine each troubling thought or feeling as a little cloud that you could puff out with each breath.

 

In. Out. In. Out.

The sad little cloud hung there for a second. Stubborn it stayed between Harry’s eyes. The book further explained to just blow the clouds away once you had released them.

 

How could I blow these clouds away?

Grey clouds heavy with rain and lightning chased each other around his head.

They’re too heavy!

No, just relax.

I can’t.

Just try.

But what if I’ll lose him?

It’s okay. Just let go.

He was, without a doubt, officially and absolutely turning crazy. Honestly, speaking with himself? Next Harry would have to watch out not to be admitted to an asylum.

 

The truth was he had always talked to himself. All these hours spend in the cupboard under the stairs in absolute darkness. How else should he have stayed sane? The irony of the situation didn’t escape him.

With no one to speak to even outside the cupboard except for some teachers wanting to know why he hadn’t done his homework again, he took to reading himself from books.

In the beginning, it had been hard sounding out the words as he was barely able to read. They had begun learning the alphabet in school one month ago and hadn’t gotten as far as the letter “S” yet.

Nevertheless, Harry struggled on through the words, stringing them into sentences and finally a story. He finished Robin Hood after two weeks, which was astounding considering that he was only allowed to stay in the library during rain breaks. Then again, England had its fair share of rain, especially in the spring months.

When he started third grade he could visit the library freely but was always careful Dudley didn’t notice him when he turned into the corridor leading to the reading room. It wouldn’t do for his mean cousin to find out where Harry was hiding most of the time to escape the constant tormenting.

 

It wasn’t until the first weeks of Harry’s fourth year that Dudley finally caught on and Harry was forced to leave the library for good. Dudley had always been slow, an immense advantage for Harry, but he wasn’t as stupid as his marks would’ve suggested. Harry had seen him operating his brand new Game Boy enough times to know that Dudley was cleverer than most teachers gave him credit for.

Though, that also made him more dangerous. Setting a clever mind to think up new torture methods for his cousin never promised something good, Harry was sure.

He shuddered thinking about the consequences that particular incident had provoked. It was the first time Uncle Vernon had used the belt.


He was sitting on the comfortable carpeted floor, his back to one of the shelves completely absorbed in the story of a little fellow setting forth on a magnificent adventure with thirteen dwarves.

 

“Well, well well!”

He looked up abruptly, first noticing four pairs of expensive trainers. He had lain on the ground enough times with a perfect view of these shoes to know whom they belonged to.

“Who do we have here?”

“Hey Dudley, it’s your stupid cousin.”

“Finally!”

“You thought you could hide here forever, freak?”

As they drew nearer menacingly, Harry scrambled away. The boys loomed over him. Dudley put his hands on one of the shelves above so Harry was trapped.

“What are you reading?”

“Didn’t know you could read, Potter!”

Dudley looked at him oddly. Almost as if he was surprised at discovering something new about his cousin who lived with his family since they both could remember. As quickly as it had come, the look disappeared and all Harry could see was unfiltered glee.

 

“Give it here, freak!”

“No,” it was the first time he had spoken.

“What?”

“I said no!”

Dudley leaned back and crossed his arms. Instantly the other boys were on Harry pummelling him.

“Get the book,” Dudley ordered lazily.

 

Harry rolled up into a ball fending off the groping arms, the book clutched desperately to his stomach. Someone pulled at his legs and Piers eventually got hold of his arms and forced them away from his body. He snatched the book and handed it to Dudley.

The o? The obt?” he read slowly.

“The Hobbit,” Piers corrected.

Harry snorted. He could give him the benefit of a doubt for computer games, but reading would never be one of Dudley’s strong suits.

“Whatever,” Dudley said.

With feigned curiosity he turned the book in his hands.

“Let’s see what we can do with it, eh?”

And without further ado he began ripping off the front cover.

 

“NO!” Harry pushed the other boys away and tried tackling his cousin. Tried being the operating term here. Because of their considerate weight difference, Harry didn’t even accomplish to make Dudley stumble. He just continued tearing apart the pages scattering them everywhere on the library floor.

 

“What is going on here?”

 

The librarian finally alerted to the scuffle going on in her territory advanced on them with long strides. She wasn’t your typical librarian or maybe she was, depending on your point of view.

Mrs. Kitaab was not protecting her books with eagle eyes nor was she particularly interested in the students or their choice of reading material. Mostly she just sat at her desk in the front of the library reading away at some funny looking book only glancing up to check out something with a tranquil look.

Now however her placid expression was completely absent, as she looked shocked at the pages strewn around the five boys. Scraps of paper still floated through the air and slowly, horror dawned on her face.

“What have you done!”

 

Dudley quickly dropped the mangled front cover he had still clutched in his fist.

“It wasn’t us!” Dudley was quick to comment.

“Who else - pray tell - should it have been? I don’t see any other students here!”

“Well, you see, we were just reading here!”

“He appeared out of thin air, ma’am, I swear!”

“He just started ripping the book Dudley was reading!”

“He’s crazy, I swear!”

“We were so scared!” Dudley concluded.

 

Confusedly blinking between the boys due to their their tangled explanations, Mrs. Kitaab turned towards Harry, who was the only one who had said nothing and stood frozen in his corner.

“Is this true Harry?” she asked perplexed.

Harry’s eyes darted between the other boys finally settling on his cousin who looked on with grim satisfaction. He hung his head and stared at his feet. A page had landed at his toe and he could just make out the words “It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, cannot be heard, cannot be smelt”.

 

“Harry?”

“I-,“ he looked at Dudley again.

“- I don’t know.”

She gave him a sharp glance.

“Well, rest assured I’ll investigate this matter. This is not over!”

 

True to her word, Mrs. Kitaab had called a parent-teacher conference over the affair but just as Harry’s luck would have it, nothing had come of it. Well, to say nothing had come of it wouldn’t be right exactly. The school had to concede eventually that the odds stood four against one what with the elaborate statements the boys had made against Harry.

Oddly enough, Mrs. Kitaab had insisted various times that Harry should also make a statement. But in the room full of grim adults Harry had shrunken in on himself, trying to appear as small as possible to ride out the wrath turned on him. Ultimately, her voice had fallen on deaf ears.

 

The Dursleys were there of course what with Dudley’s involvement and all and had enjoyed front row seats in Harry’s conviction.

He was banned from entering the library unless accompanied by a teacher. That ruled out hiding there during lunch breaks.

And he had to pick up rubbish around the schoolyard for two weeks. Although that hadn’t really been a punishment for Harry. It had meant two weeks of absolute unbothered peace before the storm, otherwise known as Dudley Dursley, had descended upon him again.

 

What followed at home however definitely was punishment.


Harry shook his head to clear out the memories that seemed keen on creeping into his conscious mind. Unfortunately, he had already finished reading Ron’s book. It had been as fascinating and thrilling as the title had promised. At first, Harry had only allowed himself to read one chapter per day to stretch the pages over a few more lonely hours. But he had quickly given up on that.

 

Harry had to grin thinking about his secret. No one else would have believed him to be this bookish, literally devouring the pages. Ron would’ve been horrified and Hermione would’ve jumped up in the air at the chance to discuss her passion with him.

Only, Hermione preferred non-fiction, which he generally found somewhat lacking. It wasn’t the fact alone that it was often written unappealingly dry. Harry just couldn’t concentrate this long on all the facts he felt forced to commit to memory to understand the rest of the book.

Fiction was so much better. The language of a book well written could completely draw him in and a good story just seemed to flow by like a river he could set his boat into and simply float along.

Hermione would have never understood this. Or would she?

 

Both of his friends had gifted him books out of nowhere and his birthday wasn’t even for another three weeks. So maybe he should give them more credit. He knew Ron to be a good strategist and as that, he had to pick up on some clues whether it was consciously or not. And Hermione? Nothing seemed to escape her.

Hermione. As he thought of her, his hands absentmindedly smoothed out the letter that he kept as bookmark between the pages of the meditation guide.

 

Hermione had held him back in the compartment before stepping onto platform 9¾.

“I have something for you.”

Confused he had turned around from trying to wrestle his trunk down the luggage rack.

She held out a small package.

“What? Why?”

“I thought you could use it,” she told him easily.

“But my birthday isn’t-“

“It’s not for your birthday.”

 

He just blinked while looking first at the carefully wrapped package and then up into her eyes. Over her shoulder, he could see a group of redheads uniting and catching up to each other after long months of separation.

Mrs. Weasley was just embracing Ron who appeared to want to flee his mother’s caressing as soon as possible but Harry could tell by Ron’s relaxing shoulders that he was relieved to be home as well. Harry was good that way with reading people. Maybe it was because he had to watch out for these bodily cues since early childhood. Or maybe wishing for them to be bestowed upon him so badly simply made it easier to notice.

 

“Harry?”

“Sorry what?”

“I said; promise me you’ll take a look inside, yes?”

He ran his fingers over the smooth wrapping paper.

“Yeah. Yes, of course. Thank you!”

He was reminded uncomfortably of another package. One he had never opened when there still had been time.

Hermione smiled.

“You’re welcome.”

He put the package into the inner pocket of his jacket vowing to actually unwrap this one.

“You’re ready Harry?”

“Not really,” he muttered, “but when will I ever be.”

She gave him a troubled look but said nothing else as they climbed onto the platform together.

 

Upon opening the package in his room at Privet Drive, a note had fallen into his lap. Gingerly he had picked it up and read.

Harry,

I know you don’t want to talk about Sirius.

But listen to me here at least. You have to deal with your grief. I don’t think it’s good suppressing it like you did over the last week. I know it’s all still fresh and I can’t even begin to try to understand what it must feel like for you. I’m not going to pretend I know what you’re going through right now.

But know that we will be there for you, Ron and me both, whenever you need us.

I know it isn’t ideal for you at your relatives. A lot less than ideal actually.

Promise to write if something should come up with them. And write as well if nothing comes up!

Also, if you want to talk, I’m here.

In the meantime, I hope this book will help you. My parents sent it to me before exams in third year and some of the techniques in there really helped with my exam nerves. Obviously they’re not the same as what you’re dealing with. But maybe it can help you. I’ll stop my rambling now.

I know your summer isn’t going to be nice so I’ll not say: Have a nice summer!

But I sincerely hope that it’ll all work out for you in the end!

Love, Hermione

Reading it again now, Harry had to blink away some of the residue wetness in his eyes. He tucked the letter back in the meditation book. Lying down on his small bed, the sheets crumbled around his legs, his thoughts wandered back to Ron and Hermione.

He knew of course, that his two friends would always be there for him. They had been through too many adventures together. But to see it clearly written on the parchment had given his heart a funny little jolt. As though it hadn’t known whether to be happy or sad. He closed his eyes.

Maybe it was a mixture of both.

Who was to say that wasn’t possible?

To be continued...
End Notes:

I'll be honest with you: it deeply hurt me having to write about Dudley destroying the book. *Shudder*
The passage was taken from "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. Obviously, I don't own this either.
Does anybody know which scene it was from? I thought it fitting in Harry's situation.
Also, there's a meaning to the librarian's name that would explain why the books she reads are funny looking :D

The Garden of a Potion Master by Nemo

Deeply inhaling the fresh scent of morning air, Severus Snape stood on his porch. It overlooked his prospering back garden and thus was the perfect spot to enjoy a morning cup of tea.

His garden was organised right down to the last grain of earth. Some patches of low-growing potions ingredients such as valerian and sneezewort stretched right in front of the house while taller specimens like baneberry blossomed in bigger fields towards the back. The tail end of his garden mellowed out unto the beginnings of common-ground underbrush. Right at the border stood some wiggentrees for harvesting the bark and useful in protecting the property against dark creatures. It had been a though piece of work converting the once barren land into everything a Potion’s Master could wish for in a garden.

Now the sky was piling with some fleecy clouds and the cold breeze from the ocean nearby had picked up overnight. It already promised to become a beautiful day. Perfect for some gardening at least. He ventured out between the patches of monkshood sprinkled with yellow arnica in search of Felix. He liked the little fellow try as he might to conceal it from Ben. It wouldn’t do to appear too soft even for his holiday-self. Although he suspected Benjamin to be more observant than the boy himself pretended to be.

It wouldn’t do either to let Ben catch a glimpse of the more magical plants purposefully located in the ensconced recesses of the garden. Severus had to remember renewing the Muggle-repelling charms on them.

With his cup empty there was nothing to hold him back any longer and thus he started by applying some clever concealment charms, any magical folk could see right through in wink.

He worked the whole day enjoying being outside after six month of being cooped up in the castle. Clipping away at some ivy threatening to overgrow the wiggentrees, raking the ingredient beds and pulling up weeds, the hours flew by.

Someone else might have found these tasks tedious but for Severus they meant absolute peace as his thoughts settled slowly and he remained with a mind completely empty. He worked diligently only going inside to make himself a quick sandwich that he hastily scarfed down sitting on the garden bench.

The afternoon came and went and all of a sudden, Severus could hear the wind carrying church bells across the street. Groaning he straightened. With the last watering can empty and a ton of plant clippings piling up in one corner, he headed back towards the house. His back was killing him. Tomorrow he would have to start on the compost. His spine cracked. Well, maybe not tomorrow.

His ears picked up some shuffling behind the wall separating his yard from the neighbours.

“Felix. Felix!” he heard a voice calling at times still breaking with puberty, not being accustomed to its new deep quality.

A head appeared above the bricks. Slowly someone pulled over the wall to get a better view. The head swivelled to the left and right, finally coming around to see Severus standing there in all his sweaty glory complete with dark earth stains on the knees and his flannel shirt hanging crumbled out of his trousers.

“Oh, hello sir,” Ben said seeming puzzled.

“And a good evening to you as well, Mr. Anderson.”

Ben’s face darkened.

“Ugh, that’s seriously even worse than Benjamin.”

Severus smirked.

“Is it?”

Only rolling his eyes, Ben pulled himself up the last centimetres and deftly jumped into Severus’ garden.

“Careful there! You’re trampling my thyme,” Severus admonished.

Bewildered Ben looked around.

“I can’t see any thyme, sir.”

“Well, it’s hardly my fault if your eyesight leaves much to be desired.”

Ben only smiled. He knew it was just a diversion strategy in order to not acknowledge just how much Severus enjoyed his impromptu visits.

“I tried growing some tomatoes and cucumbers from seeds, but it’s not working out so well. I don’t know maybe too much shadow? Or the water…?”

“I’ll give you something for it,” Severus said bending over some weird shuddering plants in one of the many nooks and crannies of his back garden and thus blocking Ben’s view.

“Thanks.”

“The soil is not good here. It’s due to the nearby sea,” the professor continued absentmindedly, “During the glacial period the ice pushed rocks and sand ahead and when the glaciers melted these outwash plains emerged. You have to accumulate the earth with nutrients first. The seedlings don’t need special soil. In fact, it’s better if the soil isn’t too rich for them. But, once grown, tomatoes need potassium and phosphorus to guaranty their frutification.”

“English, please?” Ben smiled. He was accustomed to the professor’s thorough explanations.

“Cucumbers will roughly use the same nutrients, so it’s better to plant them separately from the tomatoes,” Severus said giving the appearance of not having heard Ben.

“Right.”

Ben knew Mr. Snape didn’t think highly of his teaching skills. He had complained about disinterested students at least once over each break. He accused them not to care about science at all and to fail for this reason alone.

But Ben could see that the professor blamed himself for that. He didn’t really understand it as the professor’s quiet and clear voice sounded through the garden like it had done many times before. Always patiently instructing Ben to try something different with his own aspiring garden project.

“Did you have dinner yet, sir?”

Severus pushed his sleeves back down and straightened them out.

“Not yet, no.”

“Well, maybe we- I mean, you, maybe…”

“Your mother isn’t at home?”

Grinning, Ben shook his head.

“How about you go find that cat of yours and come back here in half an hour?”

“Aye-aye sir,” he mock-saluted the professor.

When Ben did not leave after a few seconds, Severus narrowed his eyes.

“Well, what are you waiting for?”

“He’s still your cat.”

Having said that he turned around quickly and skipped away over the wall.

After a much-needed shower, Severus sat down at his kitchen table, tea in hand. The warm water had washed away the residue aches from the hard work and even seemed to have helped his back a little bit. Contently he took some refreshing swigs from his cup. Nothing could satisfy him as much as gardening; digging around in the warm earth, tending to the little seedlings, making sure they had everything they needed for their growth. Watching them thrive and flourish was certainly something most people wouldn’t even see. It was a very small and simple thing. But often these were the best in his opinion.

His thoughts were interrupted suddenly as Ben came back with an enormous head of lettuce under one arm and Felix in the other.

“I don’t know about your tomatoes. But you should stick to your salad.”

Ben grinned. That was as far as Mr. Snape would be willing to go regarding compliments.

“Where should I put it?”

“Put it in the sink. I will wash it first.”

“Can I give Felix some food?”

As if sensing that he was being talked about, the cat squirmed free of Ben’s arms, gracefully leapt to the floor and sat there mewling up at them with big yellow eyes.

“Yes, it’s still in the cupboard.”

While looking for the tins in one of the kitchen cabinets Ben discovered a package of his favourite ginger nuts and had to smile some more. He knew that the professors didn’t like their flavour but kept restocking them for some reason.

“Can I have them?”

“Mmh, what?” Severus looked up from cutting some carrots into precise little cubes. Ben had always wondered how he had learned to be this skilled with a knife. The household classes the school had forced upon them two years ago hadn’t done anything for him at least. Although he could still whisk together some respectable chocolate cake. Incidentally, he suspected that it was the professor’s favourite much as he tried to conceal the fact.

He waved the package in the air.

“Ah, them,” Severus squinted, “Let’s have dinner first.”

After some delicious salad seasoned perfectly with some herbs from Severus’ front yard and a generous helping of ginger nuts, the professor accompanied Ben to the door. On the front step, Ben shifted from foot to foot uneasily.

“Is there a reason for you to be loitering on my doorstep as if you wanted to avoid going home?” Severus asked and Yup! there were the infamous eyebrows again.

Ben shifted some more but eventually offered, “Greg’s visiting.”

“The notorious one?”

“Notorious?”

“Ben, I have no idea who this Greg is supposed to be.”

“Mum’s new friend.”

“As in boyfriend?”

“Mmh”, Ben made a noncommittal sound.

Severus sighed, “Well come on then. I think Star Trek is on tonight.”

“You still have some ginger nuts, sir?” Ben asked sheepishly.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

To be continued...
End Notes:
Just a little piece of comfort, before the story will gather up speed in the next chapter.
Did you notice Ben lie to Severus and not getting caught?
Also, the plants Severus has in his garden are known in the muggle world,too. Most of them are thought to be poisonous but obviously magical folks can use them for completely different purposes :D
Summer Storm by Nemo

The week had gone by at a snail’s pace. Sluggishly Harry dragged himself out of the mass that were his tangled bed sheets. Over the last few days, the weather had steadily grown worse with a heavy storm announcing itself through sweltering temperatures and crackling air.

On Friday, Harry had already endured three beatings from his uncle, each of them for reasons getting more preposterous each time. The first had been on Monday because Harry had forgotten to roll up the garden hose. Well, he hadn’t forgotten exactly, it just wasn’t neat enough for his Aunt who had no qualms tattling on him when her husband came home. The second rapidly followed Tuesday and this time Harry hadn’t even the slightest idea what he could’ve done wrong.

It didn’t matter anyway. He just bore the brunt of his uncle’s rage stoically, clenching his teeth to not give Vernon the satisfaction of making a sound. Although that seemed to anger the man even more. Wednesday had been good, in Harry’s books at least. Nothing had happened, he finished all his chores in time and was even allowed to have some dinner after his relatives had eaten and he had cleared up the kitchen. His luck was short lived however, for Thursday saw him getting the daylights beaten out of him again. Thus, he had quickly learned to not get into his cousin’s line of sight while he was watching TV, even if that made dusting the living room impossible.

So, Harry thought it wouldn’t have made a difference after all. If not for his cousin, he would have taken the brunt of Aunt Petunia’s outrage at discovering her china wasn’t wiped sufficiently enough.

He was so sick of it. He could own up to his mistakes like not making sure the hose was rolled up decently. But this was going too far. In all the other summers his relatives had never been this inventive when it came to creating false crimes he had to get punished for. In hindsight, it almost felt like the build-up for the day it would all hit the fan.

Friday morning dawned with grumbling thunder in the distance. Harry got down the stairs to make breakfast. His count announced just 50 more pancake batters to be made. That wasn’t so bad. 50 were just two times 25. He could make it through that. The calendar he always draw upon returning to Privet Drive showed a good third of this dreadful, abominable business that was his summer out of the way.

No more time for pointless calculations, he began making coffee. Just in time he managed to fill his uncle’s cup to the brim and slowly made his way over into the living room balancing the hot beverage in one and a plate with eggs and sausages in the other hand. Maybe on another morning everything would have gone smoothly. Maybe on another day there wouldn’t have been this stupid damn thing to interrupt the perfect routine.

In his concentration to get the coffee onto the living room table unspilled and in time, Harry stumbled and as luck would have it, Uncle Vernon chose this moment to make his appearance in the doorway and thus in perfect line for the coffee and food to get splashed all over his crisp shirt, freshly ironed by Harry just yesterday. He cursed at the hot liquid burning his front and quickly ripped open the shirt, a few buttons flying to the left and right in the process.

He turned to his nephew with a manic gleam in his eyes, his face rapidly turning an impressive shade of red.He couldn’t even get out words at first as he puffed out large breaths to process what just happened. Harry had stiffened where he stood in a mess of food and shards of crockery. The tiny hairs on his arms stood up as if electrified.

“BOY! You have gone too far this time!

“But- it was an accident!”

Stupid, Harry. Very stupid! Since early childhood, it had been hammered into him to not contradict his relatives. Why did he have to start now of all times?

“I’ll be late to work, but you will finally learn!”

Harry swallowed thickly.

“What are you waiting for, boy? Bent over!”

He just stood rooted to the spot. Please not again. Not this soon after the other ones.

“Do I have to repeat myself?”

“No, sir.”

Quickly he went over to the table. Apparently, it wasn’t fast enough for his uncle however, because he suddenly grabbed Harry’s collar and forced him down harshly on the kitchen table. Harry’s cheek connected painfully with the hard wood and his glasses, never the sturdiest ones, bent slightly. A moment later, he heard the telltale whoosh of the leather being pulled free of the loops.

“Argh!”

When the belt landed on his already mangled back, he couldn’t supress a scream.

“Quiet, boy! We wouldn’t want to wake up your aunt now, would we?”

“Gnnhhh,” he squeezed his eyes shut trying desperately to summon that peaceful state he could withdraw into during most of his punishments. This time though it didn’t seem possible at all.

When his back finally couldn’t take it anymore and the welts from the past week broke he let loose another pained scream that he was sure to be punished for threefold.

“Dad?” a soft voice called out behind them. The blows stopped.

“Dudley, back upstairs!”

Harry slowly rolled his head around to find his cousin shuffling into the kitchen still clad in his pyjamas.

“What are you doing?” he asked sleepily.

“Just teaching a lesson. Go back to bed, son.”

“But I’m hungry, dad.”

That seemed to take the wind out of Vernon’s rage filled sails. As if remembering he still had to get to work, he slumped somewhat and let the belt glide to the tiles.

“Boy! Clean up this mess and make your cousin some breakfast!”

Harry tried to muster up the strength to drag himself off the table but his knees gave way beneath him.

“Now!”

He scrambled frantically. Uncle Vernon was at his side in seconds.

“Do I have to do everything myself, you good for nothing brat!”

He heaved Harry up by his collar and the teen just stood there dazed and shaking for a few moments. His uncle grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him close. Harry could see every quaking hair of his moustache.

“If I hear one complaint about you today, boy – just one! Heaven help you, this will seem like a trip to the beach compared to what I’m gonna do with you!”

He shook Harry for good measure.

“Understood?”

“Y-yee-s.”

Slap.

“Yes, sir.”


The first sign that something wasn’t quite right was of course the front door.

The faint knocking sounded again. Not yet having retired to bed, Severus dragged himself up from the sofa. Who could it be, he wondered. Maybe some neighbour needed his help? No, unlikely. Very unlikely. He wasn’t a bad neighbour, had always been polite and had once or twice helped old Mrs. Marble carry home her groceries. Obviously, without reacting to her constant attempts at engaging him in conversations. One day one family hosted a neighbourhood barbecue and for a short moment, Severus had actually considered going there. Before remembering that he had absolutely nothing in common with any of them.

No, he had fended off any form of friendliness from his neighbours and now they knew better than to approach him. The only one who visited him was Ben who seldom came in through the front door. Mostly he just hopped the garden wall squashing some poor little plants in the process.

Although, Ben as good as never was so careless, Severus had to concede. He had never trampled on the thyme, whatever Severus claimed in his fake reprimands.

The knocking had subsided and there was a thudding noise at the door as if someone was at the same time leaning on it and sitting down. Severus quickened his stride. With a bad feeling, he opened the door and was at once greeted with a load full of lanky teenage boy crumbling at his feet. Immediately, Severus was on alert.

“Ben? What happened!”

He crouched down and shook Ben’s shoulder warily.

“Ben? Ben!”

“Urgh…”

“Ben, talk to me!” Severus’ voice was loud with panic even to his own ears.

You didn’t want to care and now look at what you have done, some inner voice remarked ruthlessly.

“Shhhh!” Severus made to silence it.

“Sss- sir? You there?”

“Ben?”

“Yeah”

“Yes, it’s me Professor Snape.”

“Pr-fff-ssr?”

“Yes, I’m here. What’s wrong? Come on, talk!”

Ben tried to sit up. Severus quickly reached out to stabilise him.

“Easy there. Let’s get you to the sofa.”

“Was - didn’t - it’s - all my fault,” Ben gasped breathlessly between taking step after small step only holding himself upright with the help of Severus’ arms. They made it into the living room where Ben collapsed on the threadbare sofa without further ado.

Severus rushed into the kitchen to get a wet cloth and an ice pack for the formidable shiner he could see forming on Ben’s nose already.

“Take this,” he instructed with more self-assurance than he felt in that moment.

“Th-nksh”

Severus watched Ben struggle with holding up the ice pack while simultaneously trying to clean up some of the blood still merrily gushing from his nose, before stepping in and wrestling the cloth out of his hand. The bleeding teen resisted him with strength Severus hadn’t thought him capable of under these circumstances.

“For Merli- for god’s sake. Give it here already.”

Severus grabbed the cloth impatiently and begun dabbing it around Ben’s chin and mouth.

“No, I c-n do it mys-lf,” Ben pressed out bubbling blood. Severus hissed slightly.

“Clearly you aren’t in any condition of doing so, let me assure you.”

Ben became ram-road straight on the couch but allowed Severus to clean him up.

When that was finished, they were left staring at each other. Severus was the first to blink to break himself out of the situation. He cleared his throat awkwardly.

At school he never had to deal with situations like these, not even with the much less dangerous cases of homesick first-years. Speaking of which, they were a league of their own. His Slytherins, knowing that he wasn’t their go-to guy for such things always searched comfort elsewhere and all the other students, well, he didn’t even have to worry about them coming anywhere near him outside of class or detentions.

Now however there was a boy sitting on his sofa, looking like he had lost a litre of blood and a fight with a world-class price boxer.

“I’ll make tea,” Severus decided to get back a notion of control.

On his way to the kitchen, he surreptitiously threw a diagnostic spell over his shoulder. When no concussion or broken bones appeared in the reading, he breathed a sigh of relief and continued on to the kitchen to brew some tea mixed with a tiny amount of a variation of pepper-up. Once, he had wanted to create a muggle-version of the all-rounder for the mother of one friend of his. It was never finished. After leaving the Death Eaters though and with much time on his hands to kill straying treacherous thoughts, he had come back to this project.

It hadn’t roused his interest a second time for nothing. Normally, potions drew on the person’s magic acting like a quick starter so the healing magic would kick in faster. For muggles that wasn’t possible of course. But Severus Snape wasn’t the youngest Potion Master in a century for nothing. After a good half year of research, he had found a formula that combined the properties of some common remedies also known to muggles. The kettle started whistling.

Upon returning to the living room, he carefully handed Ben the cup and sat down in an armchair facing the sofa. Ben slowly sipped the warm brew but didn’t really seem to perk up. The pallor didn’t leave his face and his hands clamped around the cup trembled slightly.

“What happened?” Severus asked again.

“Got hit by a baseball, see?” he pointed at his swollen eye.

“No really, Ben, what happened?”

“Greg’s what happened,” Ben muttered darkly.

“Greg? I thought your mother wasn’t at home?”

“She wasn’t. Not really anyway,” he trailed off.

Severus wasn’t stupid. He had some ideas as to what happened in that house and could piece together the rest.

“‘M tired. Can I sleep here?” Ben asked blinking heavily.

Under normal circumstances, Severus would have never allowed this kind of proximity. But this wasn’t normal, was it? He was reminded uncomfortably of all the times he himself had wished for a safe place to stay for the night. He could at least provide it now.

He got some sheets and bed linen and made swift work of arranging them around the quickly falling asleep teen. Had the diagnostic charm not confirmed the absence of a concussion he would have worried a great deal more. He helped Ben lie down. With the blanket tucked around him and the boy apparently drifting off to sleep, Severus turned to go upstairs. A soft voice coming from the sofa held him back.

“No, stay. Please stay here.”

He swallowed around the lump suddenly locked in his throat.

“You- you want me to stay?”

“Yes. Please sir, just until I’m asleep.”

Damn Hufflepuffs!

Severus slowly approached the sofa again. He couldn’t fathom why he would feel this insecure in his own living room.

There was a stretch of silence that weighted heavy on the two.

“Sir, thank you, it’s-“

“-really no problem, Benjamin,” he coughed slightly.

“Ben,” came the small voice.

“Ben.”

It was quiet for a moment.

“It’s Severus.”

“What?”

“My given name.”

“Severus?”

“Yes, that’s me - Severus.”

To be continued...
End Notes:
Hope you liked it :) Comments and reviews always welcome! What will Harry do and what happened to Ben? Find out next Friday and have a nice weekend!
Lightning by Nemo

Friday had been hell, Harry decided. Throughout his daily chores, he tried to ignore the constant wet trickles down his back to the best of his abilities. He tried applying some of the techniques Hermione’s meditation book had mentioned. Tried breathing away the worsening agony of his back and the painful twitches the welts made when he moved to fast.

It was too much. He had seen too much, felt too much. Finally, the physical pain had caught up to his emotional one and he found himself coming to a decision. It felt as if the spark in his chest had finally flared up so much, that his chest couldn’t contain it anymore. His stomach seemed to be inhabited by funny little bees whirring in circles not able to escape. This only heightening his restlessness. The buzzing seemed to go straight into his limps and they twitched with the need to do something.

The past weeks seemed to fall off him, the whole bloody routine, the awful loops, the frightful feeling of his self-forced apathy. Now all he was left with was the slightly breathless feeling that came of this thought, the one thought wedging itself deeply and firmly into his mind. He could bear it no longer. He had to get out.

When Uncle Vernon had come home from work this evening, he had only been waiting for Harry to slip up. Harry had been hell-bent on not offering his uncle an opportunity to thrash him again, of course. But all efforts were in vain. After dinner, Uncle Vernon had ordered him up to his room.

“Wait for me there, boy!”

“What? But I didn’t-“

“You need an invitation boy?”

What was up with him today? That was the second time in not nearly twelve hours he had dared to speak up to his uncle.

“No, sir. Sorry.”

“Sorry what?”

“Sorry, sir. I’ll go up now.”

“I should say so!”

Harry quickly fled into the hallway.

“And take off your shirt meanwhile!”

Waiting in the small bedroom, Harry stood shaking despite the humid summer air that promised a formidable thunderstorm. Suddenly, footsteps banged on the stairs. Slowly they approached. Harry’s bedroom door burst open and the handle put a hole into the wall from the sheer force of it.

“Put your hands on the wall!” Uncle Vernon ordered, belt already wrapped around his fist.

But Harry couldn’t obey him. He was quickly working himself up to a panic. Now Harry! You have to do something now!

“You want to make it difficult for yourself today, don’t you!” Uncle Vernon growled.

“Well then, let me help you.”

His uncle grabbed his shirt and in one clean pull ripped it from Harry’s body. Then he marched him to the clear wall opposite the bed with an ironhanded grip around his nephew’s neck.

“Now hands to the wall!”

Harry tried to get his arms above his shoulders but they just dropped back to his sides. It cost him too much strength. He didn’t have the will-power to go on. He had given up. Nothing mattered anymore. No one cares, anyway.

“You’re asking for it, boy!”

Uncle Vernon was on him in seconds and threw him face down on the bed. Harry hit his head painfully on the post. A second later, the belt swished down on the bloody stripes on his back.

“Argh! Uncle Vernon, stop!”

“Ordering me around now?

“No, please, just stop! I’m sorry!”

“You’ll be sorry!”

The belt came down again and again but Harry had found a new resolve. With the last energy left in him, he turned around. He cried out in pain as his back connected with the mattress. Fending off the belt that threatened to descend on him once more, he grabbed the hated leather and with an almighty pull wrenched it free from his uncle’s grip.

“Give it back!”

“NO!”

“Give it here, boy!”

“I said no!”

“I warn you, one more time and I’ll-“

“You’ll do what? Beat me again? Give me more chores? Starve me?”

Through the few words he had spoken, his voice had steadily grown louder. It was more than he had said in over a month.

“You can’t scare me anymore. You have done everything! I’m done!”

Uncle Vernon quickly advanced on him.

“You’re done? I tell you when you’re done, boy! Bent back over!” With a quivering finger, he pointed to the matrass where little red dots had appeared.

“No.” Harry suddenly felt an eerie qualm settle over him.

“Just you wait, you’ll not walk, you’ll not even make a sound when I’m through with you!”

Uncle Vernon grabbed his ear and tried to get Harry back over the bed but Harry’s mind flashed. It was as if everything came together in this moment and he knew exactly what to do. Maybe it were all these years finally adding up to something he couldn’t accept anymore. All the beatings, all the missed meals, all the days locked in his cupboard or the small bedroom, all the lunch breaks spent hiding from Dudley’s tormenting.

When Uncle Vernon forced him to bend over with an iron-glad grip on his ear, Harry grabbed his uncle’s other arm and bit down hard on it, simultaneously stamping on his uncle’s foot with all his might.Confused by this sudden onslaught Uncle Vernon let go of Harry with a scream and hobbled around the room rubbing both appendages.

“What- t- hell, you little freak!”

Wasting no time, Harry backed up and prepared himself for the last big leap. Uncle Vernon was still winded from his previous attack. Perfect. He took up a run, getting to full speed as he reached his uncle and smacked right into his middle section, taking him down in a glorious tackle that would have scored points in rugby. They went down together but Harry who was by far lighter and shorter had the upper hand and extricated himself from the chaos of limbs on his bedroom floor with the agility of a cat. Panting he looked down on his uncle for the first time in his life. He could feel the urge to kick the fat man in the side bubbling up from his stomach. The man who had made sure that Harry knew he wasn’t welcome here, wasn’t wanted, wasn’t loved for fifteen years of his life. Harry just shook his head, all of a sudden overcome with sadness that had nothing to do with everything he had been through. Suddenly he had to think of his friends.

There at his feet lay his uncle blinking up at him in bewilderment, his big frame oddly out of place in Harry’s small bedroom.

“What? Lost your tongue?” Harry asked but his voice was free of mockery. He was just so tired.

“I- just wait ‘til- this will have consequences,” his uncle stuttered from between clenched teeth.

“Oh yeah?”

Uncle Vernon looked at him as if he was an alien, what, given that he had looked at Harry as if he was far worse since he was a child wasn’t saying much. Slowly Uncle Vernon got to his feet and Harry could feel a little bit of satisfaction that he swayed. Then he scrambled to the door and was gone in a blink, the locks clicking shut from the outside.

Utterly baffled Harry stared down at the belt in his hands. Then he dropped it as if the leather had burned him.


This night was officially cursed, Severus decided when he was disturbed in his peace for the second time that evening.

“What is it now?” tired he blinked open his eyes.

He could hear a faint chirping noise coming from his bedroom window. A magnificent red and golden bird was hovering on his windowsill. Fawkes the Phoenix chirped more loudly this time, making known his indignation at being ignored.

“Blast that ruddy bird!” Severus muttered but opened the window to let Fawkes fly inside nonetheless. He knew already that this could only mean one thing. And that was bad. Very bad. It promised to interrupt his peaceful and well-earned holiday. Fawkes stuck out a letter towards him. Sighing Severus plucked it out of the phoenix’ beak.

Severus, please come as fast as you can. The Order’s assembling at Wit’s End.

Something came up at Privet Drive that needs our urgent and undivided attention.

Hurry, A. Dumbledore

Hastily dressing in his black teaching robes again after not even a month of being rid of them, he stumbled down the stairs in the dark. At the coat rack, he threw on his old traveling cloak and looked back into the living room. All was quiet here. He could just make out a small ball of fur curled up on Ben’s chest, rising and falling with his breath. With a last glance at the teen’s calm sleeping form, he pulled the door shut behind him and apparated to the Order’s old hideout.


For all the hurry Dumbledore had urged Severus to in his letter, the other members of the Order were progressively slower to arrive. Wit’s End was an old safe-house from the first war that stood on the edges of a large swamp. Crossing the anti-apparition border, Severus swatted at the midges trying to attack his nose mercilessly.

“Blasted Order and blasted safe-houses!”

“Severus!” an altogether too cheerful voice greeted him. He swivelled around.

“Professor McGonagall. Good evening.”

“Enjoying your summer so far?” she asked.

He ignored her.

“What’s that about Potter?”

“I only just arrived here myself, dear colleague.”

They walked down the short path to the house. Behind them, they could hear the cracking sound of apparition again, as the sudden appearance of more Order members displaced the surrounding air.

The Order of the Phoenix or rather the few members who were already there gathered around a large oak table. Some of them had steaming cups sitting in front of them, others were slumped in their seats and Remus Lupin appeared to be out cold, sleeping with his chin sunk on his chest. When it didn’t seem like anyone else was coming, Dumbledore cleared his throat.

“My apologies for calling a meeting on short notice and this late in the night. Or should I say early?”

A few Order members grumbled humorously but Kingsley Shacklebolt obviously didn’t have time for pleasantries.

“Come to the point, Albus. What’s going on?”

“Ah yes, of course. Where to begin? Right. This evening I was alerted to the wards at Number Four Privet Drive unravelling.”

Further down the table, a few heads shot up.

“Unravelling? What do you mean by that?”

“They were shifting in place, so to speak. Some weakening energy levels.”

“Weakening energy levels!” Lupin cried out suddenly wide-awake.

“Calm down, all of you,” Albus clapped his hands, “I have already sent Filius to investigate this matter. He should be back shortly. Meanwhile I want you all to keep your eyes open for Harry. I’m sure, he only took a bigger walk around the neighbourhood or-“

“At two am?” McGonagall asked incredulously.

“Potter’s missing?” Severus interrupted from where he had leaned against the doorframe, until now just listening in on the conversation indifferently.

“Albus, are you telling us that Harry has disappeared?”

“Yes,” Dumbledore said pointedly, “Which is why I want you all to search for him. Now, I’m sure he hasn’t gone far but I still want Tonks and Kingsley to have a look around London.”

“Aye sir!” said Tonks who had donned some seriously eye cancer inducing hair colour today.

“Grimmauld Place is still not safe but I want Remus to wait there should Harry maybe make an appearance.”

Dumbledore quickly briefed the Order members on their respective watch posts, a few of them leaving already after being informed about their tasks. Finally, he turned to Severus.

“Severus, I wouldn’t ask this of you if it wasn’t really important-“

“No! With all due respect headmaster but-“

“Severus please. Just keep your ears open. Ask around a bit.”

“No, absolutely not. I thought we agreed-“

“Please, Severus. Do it for her.”

And there you had it. The one and only thing that would always get him. Always make sure he continued saving the annoying boy’s sorry arse.

“And how, pray tell, should I do this? Have you forgotten my last encounter with the Dark Lord’s minions?”

“Come now, I’m sure a Potion Master of your ability and talent has his methods,” Albus winked infuriatingly, turned around, and clearly deeming this conversation finished disappeared into the darkness. Severus groaned. In the distance he could just make out the first growling of thunder.


And thus, Severus found himself stalking dark corners for twelve hours straight before giving it up as a lost cause. He apparated home utterly soaked with the constant rain that day to get a bit of sleep. Later, he knew, he would have to continue searching for Potter. But at the moment he couldn’t care less. He couldn’t even hold himself upright on his feet anymore, let alone gather something useful from the psychopath’s sycophants.

Concealing himself had also taken its toll on him. The charms had depleted his magic and if it hadn’t been for the misty shadows in the last hovel of a bar he had visited, he was sure that Rowle would have seen the flickers of his true appearance shining through his transfiguration charms.

He had to sleep first and maybe the others would have found the Potter brat by then. That would have been just fine with him. Let the others search for the bothersome boy for a few hours. How far could a boy as dense as Potter could get anyway?

Upon returning home this afternoon, he found the couch in his living room empty, the blanket and sheets thrown haphazardly on top of it.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Okay, prepare for some time jumps in the next chapter. It's all for tension's sake, promise ;) How did you like this chapter? Formatting it was a nightmare :D Have a nice weekend! Nemo

Different Decisions by Nemo
At first, Ben wasn’t sure what had awaked him. Slowly he came to himself on a comfy old couch in a dusty living room. An empty cup of tea on the coffee table glowed golden in the early morning sun.

Bamm bamm!

“Open up Snape! I know you’re there!” someone shouted from the front door.

Ben tensed. There was no mistaking this voice. His mother banged on the door again.

“Open!”

If the situation wasn’t so dire, Ben would’ve laughed at the pure absurdity of it. His mother out and about this early to talk to one of her neighbours? Reluctantly he extricated himself from the blankets, making sure not to rouse Felix in the process, who was still sleeping calmly at the food of the sofa. Shuffling he made his way to the hall and opened the door just as his mother was about to bang on it some more. Her hand stilled in mid-air comically.

“Well, well. Not who I was expecting, but this is just fine.”

“Errr- good morning?”

“Save your breath, Ben. You’re coming with me.”

“Um, let me just-“

“No Ben! Now!”

Without further ado, she grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the house. On the front steps, he stumbled. Ben had just enough time to shut the door behind him.

His mother marched him over to their house. There, against the door, the old sea bag was sitting. Fully packed and ready to be shipped off to who knows where just like himself, it sat sagging against the chipping wood. It was his father’s only heirloom. He had never met him.

“Get in already!” Greg shouted out of the car parked on the sidewalk.

“Mum? I thought- I’m not going,” Ben said, slowly backing away. His mother sighed as if suffering a great deal.

“Stop this nonsense. We talked about it yesterday.”

Right. How could he forget that disaster? He shuddered just thinking about it.

“What now!” Greg roared out of the car-window, “you get in or do I have to make you.”

Something in Ben’s head must have stopped working because of the sheer hopelessness of the situation. He grabbed his sea bag and slung it over one shoulder. His mother touched his cheeks with her hands shortly.

“It’ll be fine, you’ll see. You’ll like it there.”

Ben could feel tears springing up in his eyes. He was too shocked to speak. As if operated by a gigantic puppeteer his limps moved him to the car and automatically plopped him down in the back seat.

As they speed away down the street, he could see his mother waving in the mirror.


For the last hour or two, Harry had paced in his bedroom. If he would walk some more he worried that he might wear down the already shabby flooring. Since his uncle had left on unsteady feet after their scuffle, Harry had felt the nervousness in his stomach simmering with increasing heat.

Darkness crept out of the corners of his tiny bedroom and Saturday was fast approaching.

It was only a matter of time before Uncle Vernon would’ve worked out another diabolic way to punish him, that he was sure of. For a short moment, Harry had even considered banging on his locked door and screaming until his uncle would come back in a rage just to get it over with. That hadn’t happened though. He wasn’t quite this suicidal.

With a bad feeling, he had freed Hedwig from her cage.

“You have to go to Hogwarts, Hedwig. It’s only for a short time, promise. It’s just-,” he broke of and swallowed hard. “It’s just, I don’t want you to- I don’t know what-“

As if sensing his distress, Hedwig nuzzled her head against Harry’s hand and hooted encouragingly. Then she took off into the stormy night.

With Hedwig gone, the nervousness he had felt throughout the whole day threatened to bubble up entirely and froth like some of his atrocious attempts at potion making in class. Not being able to contain it with pacing any longer, he dropped down on his knees and buried his head between his legs. Hands were pulling strands of his hair and try as he might he couldn’t get back to a steady breathing rhythm.

Rocking on his heals his gaze fell upon the backpack he once used for Primary School stuffed under his bed. Making up his mind, he grabbed it and shook it clear of all the dust clinging to it. He opened the zipper to find old notebooks, a few pencils and some crumbled paper in it. Quickly emptying it of its contents Harry went over to his flimsy wardrobe and threw some clothes inside the backpack.

Then he abruptly stopped. No, if he would do this, he had to give it some thought. Turning the backpack upside down once again, he began organizing the clothes lying around on his floor. He took a good look at them and decided for five T-Shirts, mainly hand-me-downs from the Weasleys that wouldn’t look like he had inherited them from a baby whale.

Although Dudley had lost some weight with boxing over the last year, he was still considerably taller than Harry. He quickly got rid of them. Harry didn’t exactly feel like attracting attention because of clothes that would point him out as a hobo to the first old lady who would cross his path. Instead, he packed the five Weasley-Shirts, the last two of his Christmas jumpers that still fit, and all the underwear and socks he could find. Furthermore, a faded red cap he had worn for garden work more times than he could count and that would now do a great job of hiding his scar and a jeans went into his backpack. Sadly there weren’t any other trousers that hadn’t grass stains on them or holes. Maybe he could get some of his school trousers out of his trunk?

But that was locked into the cupboard under the stairs. Fuck! He was locked in as well.

While he put everything into the backpack as neatly as he could, Harry pondered his chances at a quiet escape. He thought about Ron’s book about the Sand Wizards lying under his pillow and put that in as well.

Ok, what next? Water, food, shoes, a torch? A pocketknife perhaps?

A cold shiver ran down his back that wasn’t entirely to blame on the welts as he remembered Sirius’ gift which he had simply thrown away at the Ministry when the blade had melted.

Mentally listing all the things he would need, Harry listened for some sounds in the house that would tell him the time. With his panic he had completely spaced out and had no idea how late it was. Had the Dursleys already gone to bed? Had Uncle Vernon really forgotten about his punishment? Or was he just waiting for Harry to make a move and would strike as soon as he’d dare to leave his bedroom?

Pressing face-first to the floor to spy beneath the door to listen for footsteps he concluded that it had to be late enough for his relatives to be snoring away in their respective beds. Now, where had he put the picklock-set Fred and George had gotten him for his last birthday?

With baited breath, he inserted the iron things into the first lock, which clicked after just under a minute. One done, five more to go.

It wasn’t until lock number three that Harry really thought about this endeavour. It would be nearly impossible picking some of the locks, as they were located on the outside.

Stupid! Fucking stupid!

Agitated he turned around and had just decided to break down the door with his shoulder when his eyes fell on the window. He hit his forehead.

Getting stupider by the second Harry!

Luckily the Dursleys hadn’t reinstalled the bars on his window after his drastic escape with the flying Ford Anglia four years ago. Was it really that long ago? It felt like a lifetime.

Climbing out the window and down the drainpipes had been as easy as walking down the street. At least for someone as practiced in climbing trees as Harry was. What had been decidedly more difficult was getting into the house again. Harry was just about ready to abandon his trunk when he saw a half open window. Leave it to Dudley to not shut it out of laziness.

Harry was sure he would’ve been blamed if burglars had robbed Aunt Petunias expensive silverware but now he didn’t give a shit. He quickly thanked whatever deities where responsible for his luck and leaving his backpack in a bush, he wiggled through the small opening. It only took him a minute to pick the locket on his cupboard and wrench his suitcase out. Being mindful of every little noise, he opened it. Digging through it like a mole, he had his wand, the photo album, the invisible cloak and some of his black school trousers all piled up next to him on the floor.

He knew he had to leave the rest here. It pained him to abandon his schoolbooks and supplies at the Dursleys knowing they would dead certain get rid of everything the moment they realised he was gone for good. He couldn’t drag around his school trunk though. No, running away meant you had to go fast, and go fast Harry would.

Rolling the album inside the cloak and the cloak inside the trousers, he put his wand in his pocket and chanced a last look back into the cupboard. There in the cobwebbed corner stood his Firebolt, its twigs slightly bent but its handle still gleaming from the last time Harry had polished it. That afternoon in the common room with Hermione and Ron seemed a million years ago.

Breaking away from the sight and the memories, Harry quietly shut the cupboard. He left out the front door leaving it wide open. Then he retrieved his backpack from the greenery and shouldering it turned his back on Privet Drive Number Four walking out into the dark night.

To be continued...
End Notes:
I’m sorry for the long wait! :( Some things came up and as it was, I really wasn’t happy with this chapter. So, it just sat there on my laptop for two weeks. It isn't as good as I would like it to be. Anyway, there were some twisted timelines in this chapter. Hope that wasn’t too confusing and some puzzle pieces from earlier chapters fell into place for you.
On the Road by Nemo

The first stop Harry had made after several hours of walking was an apothecary and a super market. Both had just opened with the first morning light and luckily, the direction that it came from told him he had indeed walked northeast as he had wanted to. The night had been horrible. All the while thunder had sounded in the distance and sometimes lightning had turned the cookie-cutter neighbourhoods of Surrey into an earie scenery that Harry was sure could’ve come right out of a horror movie. Not that he’d ever seen one.

Nevertheless, the early sunshine made him feel great and it wasn’t just because it dried his soaking clothes. It had started to rain just as he had reached the outskirts of what he recognised as Richmond Park from a school trip.

At the time, Dudley had found it funny chasing him so deep into the park that he had missed the bus back to school. His teachers must have overlooked him when they took count, which had happened enough times before and so Harry had walked back to Surrey 15 miles. It hadn’t been too bad though. Most people he had asked for the way seemed nice enough and the punishment that awaited him at Number Four had seemed just a little bit more bearable with an afternoon spent free as a bird and on the road.

It must have been sometime around three o’clock as Harry reached the park. He could somewhat remember it from this afternoon and wasn’t afraid going into the thicket of the park to get some cover from the rain. The leaves hadn’t been sufficient protection from the water masses that this summer storm seemed keen on unloading upon the earth however. Therefore, Harry had continued on his way. He didn’t want to get slain by a branch anyway.

His glasses had fogged up so much with the rain that he had took them off. After six hours of walking, his stomach began to grumble and his feet started to hurt in his ratty trainers. He had made his way into a supermarket that had just opened its doors for the onslaught of early morning rush hour. A dozen people in ties and suits glided through the narrow aisles in search of sandwiches and fizzy drinks. Harry had tried to blend in as much as he could. He had shoved some bread and fruits under his jumper that was somewhat baggy to begin with and had dropped some cookies and gummi bears into the pockets of his jacket. He had even dared to open his backpack and stow some water bottles there. Then his courage had left him and he fled.

After years of being punished for even the tiniest crumb of food missing from their fridge, stealing from the Dursleys had never even crossed his mind. Now however, he felt incredibly foolish for that. Better to steal from his horrible relatives than from some hard working people. Then again, this was Tesco. They probably could afford some missing water.

The apothecary had been more difficult. Harry had gone in and quickly left again when the pharmacist wouldn’t take his eyes off him. He needed a plan. An idea forming in his mind he entered again looking for all the world like an embarrassed teenager. Stepping up to the counter, he locked eyes with the pharmacist.

“I need some-,” he trailed off for good measure. He cleared his throat.

“I need a morning-after pill.”

The pharmacist raised an eyebrow.

“You see, we- that is my girlfriend and me- we, well. We got a little drunk last night and we- You know.”

The pharmacist remained silent.

“And now we don’t know if we used- err- or not.”

“I see.”

“So…”

“Wait here.”

In that moment, Harry could have jumped with joy. He leaned over the counter and craned his head to get a look on where the pharmacist was looking through some shelves. Then he quickly rounded the counter, all the while keeping an eye out for the man. He took some bandages from a dispenser fixed on the wall and grabbed a package of painkillers from the shelf. As he stretched, his back twitched painfully. When the pharmacist returned with three little boxes, Harry was already back behind the counter and looked at him projecting all the normality he was capable of in this moment.

“Right,” the man said while putting the box down, “This one is-“

“-You know what?” Harry interrupted him, “I think I might have found the- the condom.”

“What?” the man just blinked confusedly through his thick glasses.

“Yeah, it’s just, err, you know…,” he looked down on himself for emphasis.

Understanding dawning on his face, the pharmacist wrinkled his nose.

“So, no need for the pill anymore.”

“Nope,” Harry said happily and skipped right out of the apothecary before he broke out in a laughing fit.


The car was rattling down the patched-up street, the potholes jolting Ben against the sea bag on the backseat. He stared out the window. In the distance, he could just make out the last blue towel of the sea as it vanished behind the hills as they drove steadily westward. He pressed his forehead against the cool window. It got jostled against the hard glass but this was fine with him. Only pain could block out what he was feeling inside. His thoughts jumbled along with the car and chased each other through his head.

Suddenly he felt eyes on him. He turned his head and got a flash of Greg’s beady little eyes before he faced the winding street once again.

So, Military School. He had never been this far away from the coast. Once, they had been to Newcastle on a school trip and his mother had taken him to visit his grandparents in Durham once in a while when he was little. But his nana had died two years earlier and his grandpa was long gone before that.

A wave of sadness crushed over him. The swell of water encircled him then as he thought about his relatives. While his mother wasn’t a perfect caregiver she was still his mother. He couldn’t imagine living without her. Well, he could imagine. He could dream sometimes. Whenever he was over at Mr. Snape’s, no- it was Severus now, he reminded himself with the tiniest ghost of a smile- Ben imagined what living with the nice professor who was there for him more reliably than his actual guardian was would be like.

But that was always with his mum next door. Always with her to go back to. Now it didn’t seem like he would see her for quite some time. Deep down in his heart he knew where his pain was coming from. His mother would always be his mother.

When he had come back from watching Star Trek with Mr. Snape on Friday night, she had already been waiting for him.

“So,” she said.

“So,” another voice added from behind Ben. Startled he spun around.

There he was, leaning inside the kitchen door in all his nasty glory. Ben had not liked him from the beginning. The beginning of these atrocious drug-buddy chill-outs they both had the gall to call “relationship”. And Greg was by far the foulest of all the “relationships” his mum had had over time.

Muscular, with the build of a small wardrobe and an unhealthy tan to his face, he sported an ugly tattoo winding around his neck like a snake. He just looked like every other gangster from TV. Although he worked for Security of some company in the next city. At least, that’s what he told them. His mum had apparently met him while working, yet Ben had strong doubts about that particular story.

For him, it was just another guy in a long row of guys his mum had the misfortune to get to know. And how they got to know each other. Ben had considered sticking a knife into his ears just to not be able to hear them getting to know specific parts of each other anymore. Not just once he had escaped their drug induced shouting hopping over the garden wall.

The Professor never asked him why he wasn’t eating at home and never commented on it either, for which Ben was immensely grateful. Also, if Mr. Snape had a notion of what was going on with Ben’s mum, he never made Ben talk about it. He just knew somehow that Ben wanted to escape there sometimes and let him.

“I- no- we have decided that it would be good for you transferring to another school,” the voice of his mother suddenly broke him out of his thoughts.

“What?” he asked and wasn’t sure if he was unsure about what his mum had said or that she had used a word like “transferring” in a sentence.

“You’ll go to the Army Foundation College as a Junior Soldier,” she said with a puffed up chest, as if that was something to be proud of.

“What? Military school? I’m- what? You just decided that?”

“Yes, we did. It’ll be good for you, you’ll see.”

“But why? I like my school. I don’t want to-“

“Ben, listen. Greg organised everything-“

Of course he did, the bastard.

“- he called an old friend of his who works there just for you.”

It seemed preposterous that someone like Greg would once have been in the military let alone able to call in favours from someone still working there. For a sweet and desperate short moment, Ben thought it was a joke. But how else would they have gotten him into this College? It must cost a fortune. Or maybe it didn’t cost anything at all given that Greg and his mother just offered fresh cannon fodder to the British Army.

“For me? For ME?” Ben shouted horrified and his voice rebounded from the walls of the small hallway.

“I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to be a soldier. Hell, I’ll not touch a single gun!”

“You’ll do what your mother says!” Greg interrupted suddenly.

“And who are you! You can’t order me around!”

“No? I can’t? Let´s hear what your mother has to say to that!”

“Greg-,” his mother tried placatingly.

“No tell him.”

“Ben, we- we decided. You’ll go there. End of discussion.”

“Mum? No!”

“Yes.”

“NO! You can’t do that. It’s my life!”

“Listen here you little brat-,” growled Greg, but Ben had enough.

“-Shut up!-“

Wamm!

The blow stroke him so fast and unexpected that Ben just went down to the floor without a sound. Incredulous and somewhat dazed from the fist connecting with his temple he just sat on the tiles blinking for a few short seconds. He could feel tears in his eyes. Then he looked up to the pair of them standing above him like two incorruptible judges. Shaking Ben got to his feet.

“You’ll not speak to me like that, boy!” Greg seethed.

“I- You-,” he trailed off, not sure what to say. He had always been an easy-going person. He had tolerated many of the things his mum had pulled of over the years. But this was going too far. Never had he felt the urge to defend himself. He could just accept his mums drinking, her drug stupors, her shouting, and her ordering him around. But this?

He took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry, if you inconvenienced yourself by organising this. But I’ll not go there!”

“That’s enough you little freak!” apparently Ben had underestimated the rage Greg was already in. The big man lunged for him again and grabbed him roughly by the front of his shirt.

“You think you can speak to us like that? Think we don’t understand that big words?” he shook Ben so hard that he could feel his teeth rattle.

“I- No! With all due respect, I’m just not going there,” he tried to stay calm but it wasn’t easy with a bloke as big as a fridge shaking you.

“Respect? Respect? You’ll learn respect!” Greg shouted.

Then several things happened quickly. Greg took another swing with his fist. Ben’s mother leaped forward to stop her boyfriend from doing further damage. She grabbed hold of his arm but it was no use. Greg just shook her off as a wet dog would shake off the rain.

This time his fist connected with the bridge of Ben’s nose. Blood immediately started oozing on his shirt. Ben cried out and flew back from the force of the blow falling into the heap of empty beer cans in the corner of the kitchen. The tinkling of them exploding in all directions made his head ring.

Greg advanced on him.

“You’ll go there, understand?”

“Mum?” Ben said wheezing from the floor.

For a short moment, it seemed to Ben as if he could see the tiniest bit of shock in her eyes. But it was gone just as fast as she said, “Greg’s taking you there tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” croaked Ben.

“There’s a two-week prep-course for new recruits.”

And with that she just turned around and left.

Not knowing what else to do he had stumbled over to Number 7.


He would kill the Potter boy. That is after he found him of course. And after he had recycled him into potion ingredients. Not even four hours after he had gotten home from his little excursion to the Death Eaters, Dumbledore had fire-called him, telling him to relinquish trying to get anything out of the Dark Lord’s servants.

As his current employer was sure that they would’ve already heard from the psychopath should he have captured Harry, Dumbledore had sent him on the trace that some Order member had picked up last night. Apparently, they had to leave for urgent family business and every other member was already occupied with searching for Potter elsewhere. In his sleep-addled state Severus hadn’t questioned why it had to be him though, to pick up Potter’s trail when they had already found it without his help. And thus, he had just pulled on his jacket and stalked out of the house, looking back at the sofa that still stood there with a chaos of sheets and blankets on it.

Apparating to the place the order member had picked up Potter’s trace with a location spell, he looked around in the decidedly muggle neighbourhood. Big two-storey buildings were located behind neatly manicured lawn and bushes that were cut into perfect orbs. Wide windows opened to even wider driveways with the newest model cars parked right outside.

Severus snorted. Quite obviously, that wasn’t his hood. He would have preferred the plain and modest row houses of Seaham in a thousand different universes. Something about this tidy neighbourhood with its impeccable gardens didn’t sit right with him. Maybe it was the knowledge that the same things could happen here just as everywhere else. Maybe you would rather imagine it happening in neighbourhoods like Spinner’s End. But the truth was that it happened everywhere and these whitewashed fronts were just the superior facades for it.

Sighing he started walking, casting a tracking spell of his own that revealed small golden footprints going down the street. A middle-aged woman watering her flowerbeds that didn’t look exactly like they needed it eyed him like a hawk, looking him up and down and suddenly Severus was glad that he had learned to dress the correct muggle way unlike so many others of his world.

Seriously, he couldn’t understand why it seemed to be so hard for many witches and wizards. Did they have no sense for their mismatched clothes? Actually, it was very easy: just throw on some trousers that fit you, jeans being the favoured choice here as that was what most muggles wore on a daily basis and for every occasion. Then a shirt or T-shirt, also no rocket science here. Shirts were in fashion since centuries. Lastly some trainers (Severus had to admit that they were a great deal more comfortable than the heavy boots he wore while teaching) and a jacket. And now, if you just stuck to dull colours like grey and black you were fine.

Crossing the entrances of not one but three Golf Clubs his mood only got worse. Leave it to Potter to take a stroll around his neighbourhood and end up at these ludicrous clubs that sold overprized drinks and inflated egos. It could have been such a nice evening. The storm in the night had left the air pleasantly cool, a light breeze rattled the many leaves of the knee-high hedges. It was such a change to the previous week with its stifled air and omnipresent promise of a heavy storm that Severus would have breathed a sigh of relief if it wouldn’t have been for the Potter brat causing trouble. Again!

When he rounded the corner, he recognised Kingston Gate, one of the entrances to Richmond Park. What in the name of Merlin’s underpants had the brat been thinking, entering it with last night’s storm going on? Stupid misplaced Gryffindor courage! For Potter it must have been just like the next great adventure. Had the horrible boy thought for one second about the consequences of this? Why couldn’t he have just stayed at his relatives, who, without doubt, doted on him like the rest of the world and were sick with worry over their missing nephew. Why couldn’t Potter have whined until they took him to the park in the morning? Surely, that would have been better for every-

All of a sudden, Severus stopped in his tracks. Something had crushed under his trainer-clad foot. Cautiously he raised his toes and there it was. Lying in the dirty underbrush at the side of the path, muddy and bent, the glass splintered were Potter’s glasses. There was no mistaking these horrible round frames. Something cold plummeted to his stomach then.

Why were the glasses here? Where was Potter? Had he simply lost them, stupid as he was or had there been a fight? Severus didn’t like the implications of that. Ducking beneath some thick bushes, he performed a magical scan of his surroundings. Nothing there suggested a fight. He turned on the spot. And there they were: footprints leading out of the thicket again. The same footprints as before. Under a tree, they had apparently stopped for a short amount of time. Severus shuddered at the thought at what would have happened had they stayed longer. There were some heavy branches lying around everywhere on the ground.

He followed the golden footprints and was on the street once more. The trace lead him northeast unfailingly and he wondered if Potter had, in his sheer idiocy, decided to walk all the way into London. Well, there was just one way to find out. And so he pushed on ruthlessly. He was bone-tired, his feet still hurt from straying around dim bars the night before and frankly, he couldn’t care less.

How he wished to be at home now, maybe sitting at his kitchen table with a nice cup of his special homemade herb tea. Perhaps Ben would be there as well? But no. This was all Potter’s fault. He constantly had to get himself into trouble and seemed to enjoy his little adventures as well. Oh, how he seemed to bathe in the golden glory that the whole school was heaping on him. And now, he couldn't even limit his delusions of grandeur to the school year. So that automatically made Potter Severus' problem again? Stupid, idiotic, arrogant, self-absorbed Pot-

All at once, Severus halted as if rooted to the spot. He blinked and turned his head back and forth in confusion. There was not a golden trace to be seen. Not a hint of a shiny footprint. On the street, a stream of cars slowly trickled by as the night once again set on the city. Little by little, the night swarmer came out of their flats in search of a pub where they could get drunk after a long day of work.

Severus still standing on the sidewalk like a icicle got jostled by an already drunk couple, their arms thrown over each other’s shoulders and stumbling in his path.

He could feel the increasing humming of magic in the air. He was near the Leaky Cauldron. Maybe it was worth a shot looking for the brat around Diagon Alley? Knowing the boy’s penchant for breaking rules, he had even taken a short detour into Knockturn. But it was no use. Severus couldn’t spot a hair of the infernal boy’s messy head. He tore his one ones and cursed the day he had first heard of the Potter’s having a child. Panic slowly set in. He couldn’t have lost the trace. It just couldn’t be!

He spun around, walked in that direction for some meters then whipped around again and cut back again. After an hour, Severus finally had to admit to himself that he had lost the track. He had to fire-call Albus. Oh, how he looked forward to that. Not.

Returning home, he threw his jacket and shoes on the floor right at the front door in a rare fit of anger. When the sofa still stood there unmade, for the entire world looking like the most innocent thing ever, he raged some more and grabbing the mug sitting on the coffee table shattered it against the wall by the fireplace.

Of course, Albus chose this moment to stick his head through.

“My, Severus! What has this cup done to you?”

Breathing hard Severus tried to get his emotions back under control.

“Nothing, headmaster, my apologies.”

He flicked his wand and the mug reassembled on the coffee table but not without some decidedly chipped look to it.

“Not to worry, dear boy. So, how is the search for young Harry going?”

Deciding that it was better to just deliver the bad news as one would rip off a plaster, he said,

“I lost his trace.”

“You lost his trace?” and already he could see the disappointment forming, flickering on the face in the coals as little orange flames.

“Yes.”

"Is there any point in asking how this could have happened?"

Severus was quiet for a moment before he hesitantly said,

“I’m not sure, I was… thinking. And then it just wasn’t there… anymore.”

“Well, that is without doubt very regrettable. Where did you leave it?”

“Diagon Alley” Severus replied quickly. “He seemed to be going into London.”

“He might still be there?”

“He might.”

“Well, thank you anyways, Severus. I’ll have Tonks and Kingsley keep an eye on the Alley.”

“What now?” Severus sighed.

“What? What now? You’re no longer obliged to waste your time search for him Severus. I recognize listlessness when I see it.”

“Listlessness? Listlessness! I’ve been on my feet for twenty-four hours straight not counting the little sleep I had! You can’t expect me to-“

“-to what, Severus?” interrupted Dumbledore, smoke curling out of his mouth, “To care at all about a boy, a student of yours, might I add, having disappeared? A boy whom Voldemort is intent on killing? But please, explain to me what I can’t expect from you.”

“It’s- I’m-“

“Oh I know what this is about, Severus. I see how you treat the boy.”

“You know very well why I have to treat him like this,” Severus seethed.

“Oh, do I? Is it because you have to keep up appearances for the Slytherins or the Death Eaters? No wait, you have not been a Death Eater for nearly two decades now!”

“Albus I-“

“Or is it because of that ridiculous schoolboy-enmity you had with Harry’s father?”

“Headmaster, that wasn’t ridiculous-“

But Dumbledore didn’t let him get a word in.

“Severus, when will you finally see that this is utterly pathetic?”

The Potion Master sucked in a breath.

“You’re calling me pathetic?”

“If that helps, maybe I will.”

And without further ado, Dumbledore pulled his head back, the fire hissing sharply, and going out in a small puff of grey smoke.

Blast that! He would not accept being spoken to like that. He would show that old codger. Listless? He? The youngest Potions Master in a century? The man who had escaped Voldemort? Pathetic? Just so you wait Dumbledore, he thought with grim determination setting in, I will find the Potter boy, even if it’s the last thing I do.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Here's an extra long update to make up for the missed one ;) I wanted to share this today with you, before leaving for the weekend so please overlook any mistakes you'll see.
What do you think? Did you like the new chapter? Has Dumbledore manipulated Severus to continue searching on purpose? What will Ben do? Find out in the next chapter!

Unknown Ways - Part 1 by Nemo

The cauldron-shaped sign swung lazily in the evening breeze. Even through the thick traffic the soft creak trickled over to where Harry leaned in a deserted house entrance and watched the occasional witch and wizard enter the pub. The cap pulled as far as possible down his forehead it did a great job shielding him from the sun and passers-by.

He had debated for all the time he had been here, more than four hours now, if he should go in. But he couldn’t bring himself to it. All the hours walking into London for nothing. He couldn’t set foot into the magical world. Harry couldn’t fully explain it himself but something held him back. Something that had nothing to do with the danger of the newly returned Dark Lord.

Around noon, his stomach made itself known again and he had scavenged through some rubbish bins. The cold leftovers from some restaurant had felt great in his empty stomach but a few hours later found Harry regretting the doubtful contents of the bins now sitting inside his belly. He had to admit that it was completely different to steal food from Aunt Petunia’s kitchen where everything down to the rubbish bin was in pristine condition. He wrapped his arms around his mid-section to alleviate the pain. But to no avail.

He looked out to the street again to distract himself. Nothing except cars passing in the evening rush hour, their drivers intent on getting home to their loved ones. Home, what a funny little word. It was so small, not even five letters, yet meant so much, Harry pondered. Especially to him, even if he hadn’t had one for ten long years of his life. Even if he hadn’t really got one now. He felt nauseous.

When he spied a shock of absurdly coloured hair and a tall man walking purposefully down Charing Cross Road he threw on his Invisibility Cloak and disappeared down one of the many entrances to the London Tube. He hopped the banister and got on the first train pulling into the station.


Ben watched as the row houses turn into fields and low hedges. He watched as sidewalks gave way to green grass moving with the current of air from the passing cars. He watched when nature was replaced by stone buildings. He watched Greg as he threw him satisfied sneering looks through the rear mirror. Ben just glanced away and leaned back in his seat clutching the deep blue strap of his bag. It gave him something to anchor his fears to. He forced himself to take deep breaths through his nose and calmed down somewhat.

He scrubbed at his face with the sleeve of his jumper. His school jumper. He got it when he joined the soccer team last year and it had always filled him with pride wearing it even if his team mates where the biggest and most self-important bullies out there. But he had liked playing keeper. He had the right build for it too since last summer he shot up like the plants in the professor’s garden. His mum had complained on more than one occasion to have to buy him new school trousers again.

Tall enough to guard the goal perfectly and lean enough to still be agile to fish even the trickiest shots out of the air he was a good addition to the team. Well, “had been” would be right. He strongly doubted the Military School had a soccer team. More like a bombing commando or something like that. He shuddered.

Ben’s thoughts were far away. He did that sometimes when he wanted to forget the real world. When he wanted to forget himself for a while. Which actually wasn’t so much sometimes as very often. He would just stare at some point at a wall or this stupid pattern of the car seats and could dive completely into himself. He thought about everything and nothing.

And then, suddenly, his head cleared. Cleared like a lake reflecting the sun at noon. It was as if some haze fell away from his mind and he was seeing clearly for the first time. He didn’t have to go there. He was 16, not quite an adult but old enough to make his own decisions and look out for himself. He had done that anyway since well, since he could remember really.

Ben tensed and sneaked his hand along the door to the handle. The right moment, he had to wait for the right moment. Much in life came down to it, he thought. Ahead of them, the traffic light changed and yellow light sparkled through the hot summer air.

Ben pulled the handle and the door sprung open so suddenly, that he was momentarily frozen to the seat. But then the right moment was there. He gripped the bag firmly and rolled out of the car that had just now picked up pace when the lights had changed to green. The door shut nearly of its own accord but Ben could nevertheless hear Greg’s angry shouting.

He quickly stumbled to the sidewalk and once there shouldered the sea bag properly. He recognized the main traffic road of Durham from early childhood visits to his grandparents. He stretched and stood tall, his head held high and his shoulders down. His mind was made up.


Sleep eluded Severus ever since Dumbledore’s call. He tossed and turned, dreamed but these were restless dreams. When the first pale light of the morning trickled through the window he got up, groaning with the type of fuzzy feeling inside his head one got from too many hours spend awake. He got down the stairs one arm grasping the banister like a lifeline and stopped abruptly as his gaze settled on the couch sitting empty in his living room.

With Potter’s antics the last few days, he hadn’t had the time to ponder its meaning. Something touched his leg and he flinched so badly that Felix who was staring at him with big luminous cat eyes took a paw back.

“Sorry Felix,” murmured Severus and beckoned the cat to follow him into the kitchen. His thoughts far away Severus opened a can of cat food and poured some milk in the bowl. Why would Ben leave the couch in such a disarray? He was a considerate boy after all. All thoughts of confusion had left him however with the news of Potter and soon everything he knew had been anger. Anger, which had unfortunately taken over.

Now though, the thought of Ben gave him a cold sting. He suddenly realised he hadn’t seen the boy since that evening. Was he right to not stick his nose in his neighbour´s businesses? Yes. Was he right to not make sure Ben was all right before leaving again to search for the Potter brat? No. He would never forgive the offspring of his schoolyard enemy if something was to happen to Ben. Except he knew that blaming Potter was completely irrational. No, this was on him. Making up his mind over a cup of very strong tea, he left the house shutting his front door rather more forcefully than would’ve been necessary.

The door was already open and voices could be heard weaving through the house. A man appeared in the doorway dragging two suitcases which left streaks on the dirty floor. Unlike his hallway, this one seemed even smaller with all the empty beer cans lying around and free newspapers piling against the walls. Suddenly the man spied Severus standing on the front steps. He stiffened and sized Severus up through beady little eyes. Involuntarily, Severus took a step back.

“Snape!”

The voice was sharp despite its smell of alcohol. Over the shoulder of the wardrobe-man Severus could see Ben’s mother shuffling through the hallway and clutching some baggage.


“Good morning, Mrs. Anderson.”
“That remains to be seen,” grunted the man who could only be Greg, the infamous one.
Ignoring this answer with all his teacher-expertise, Severus continued.
“I was wondering about your son. He seemed… distressed the last time I saw him and he was-“
“-bullshit, he’s fine,” she interrupted and came to a halt beside her boyfriend.
“Are you quite sure, Mrs. Anderson? He was bleeding and-“
“-She said ‘e was fine, didn’t she?” Greg butted in.
“It didn’t seem like it!” Severus forced through clenched teeth. Merlin, this man could annoy him as fast as any of his students could.

“And what’s it to you?” Mrs. Anderson asked and suddenly her voice adopted a sly edge.
“Well… I’m just- concerned. Where is Ben?”
“You’re concerned? Think I don’t know about all of your secret meetings?”
“What?” Severus stared at her.
“All the evenings Ben spends with you? Didn’t think I would find out?”
“Find out what?” asked Severus with a bad feeling already spreading through his stomach.
“Listen, I don’t care what you do with him there, but if you come here again, I’ll call the police,” she waggled her finger and it looked so ludicrous that Severus would have laughed if the situation wasn’t what it was.
“What? Are you insinuating- we- I…”
“I’m not suggesting anything here, Snape. Just leave us the fuck alone and mind yer own business.”

Severus narrowed his eyes.
“Where is Ben, Mrs. Anderson?”
“None of yer fucking business!” slurred Greg. A grim smile settled on Mrs. Andersons’s haggard features, prematurely aged with many wrinkles streaking them. Few of them were from laughing. Even Severus could see that.
She pushed through the door and slammed it so fast behind her that the gust of air it caused ruffled Severus’ hair. They ignored Severus and passed him on their way to a car parked on the sidewalk. Severus stood frozen to the spot the thoughts in his head tumbling over each other. In his mind he turned over this particular conversation while the others had already loaded the last of their luggage in the boot and then got into the car. Severus slowly came out of his trance and ran out into the street.

“Where are you going? Where is Ben?”
But Mrs. Anderson just banged her door shut and Greg flipped him the bird in the side-mirror before he loudly started the motor.
“Wait! Stop!” he sprinted after the car that was quickly speeding away.

“A lost cause, if ye ask me,” came a voice from behind a clothesline, socks dangling off it in uneven intervals.
“What?” Severus looked around confusedly and with the feeling of having said that particular sentence way too often today.
The tousled head of a women appeared behind the colourful socks and she scrutinized him head to toe taking in his rumbled shirt and dirty shoes, which still had London’s grime on them.
“You’re the one from Number 7, aye?”
“Yes, why?”
“What was it that you do? Teaching?”
“Correct, at a boarding school.”
“Aye, that explains it. Only see you here in summers and at Christmas.”
He stared at her.

“What was the name again?”
“Snape,” he said tonelessly.
“Ah yeah, remember,” she bend down to extract some more socks from the pile of damp clothes.
“Excuse me Mrs.?”
“- call me Iris, dear.”
Severus nodded slightly and tried to get over the shock at being called “dear” and by a stranger as well.

“Excuse me asking, but you wouldn’t know where they are going?”
She stilled in pegging the pair of purple doughnut socks and to Severus’ surprise, her eyebrows knitted together.
“Left for Mallorca just now or was it the Canary Islands? Well, never mind. Said somethin’ about honeymoon. People today, honestly. Not even married the lot. Not that that‘d be a good idea,” she swung the socks around agitatedly. “Just yesterday got rid of Ben.”
Severus brows shot up. “Got rid of him?”
“Aye! Excuse my words, but it’s the only way you can put that. Quite the fight that was yesterday. Tha’ horrible boyfriend drove off with him. God knows where.”
“Greg?”
“Yeah, that´s his name. Rotten to the core if ye ask me.”
“Indeed,” mumbled Severus and louder he added, “Thank you, I must be on my way.”

“Quite fond of him are ye?”
“What?” he swallowed. How much did the neighbours knew? What did they think?
“Said, yer quite fond of Ben right?” she smiled already clutching the next pair of grotesquely patterned socks.
“He- he comes over sometimes,” Severus stammered “helps with my garden.”
“He’s a good lad, always offers help,” she smiled again.
“He is,” said Severus quietly.
“Hope that woman,” she spat the word as if she wanted to say something much worse “didn’t do anything stupid.”
“Mmh,” made Severus and scratched a patch of stubble on his chin while his thoughts shot around his head with the speed of light.
“Well, have ter be going. Have a nice day Mr. Snape!” stooping she picked up the empty basket. On her way inside, she turned around. “And give me a shout if yer hear anything, aye?”

Upon entering his home, Severus leaned heavily on the closed front door. He exhaled loudly. Now there were two missing boys and Severus hadn’t the slightest idea where to start searching for them. He should’ve checked up on Ben not just because of the mighty shiner the boy had sported. Had he known that he wouldn’t get another chance he would’ve probed more, would have insisted Ben tell him more about his home-life. Everything had blown up right into his face like a potion gone awry. And oh, what a botched effort this mess was.

Felix came over to him and rubbed his head against Severus’s leg. He crouched down and absentmindedly stroked his soft fur. He didn’t know if it was more to sooth the cat or himself.

As he scratched Felix behind the ears, he thought back to all the occasions Ben had come over to him. The boy had always had that look upon his face but it would lit up the second Severus spoke to him, cracked one of his dry-humour jokes or invited him in for dinner and to whatever sci-fi series would be on that evening. Thus, Severus had ignored his eyes, the gentle brown eyes that seemed too profound for someone so young.

Suddenly he felt deep remorse and shame at his actions. As a young boy, he had never liked adults who asked too many questions. That would only lead to disappointment and more severe punishments at home. Had he been afraid Ben would shy away from him again if he looked too much into his story? Or had Severus been afraid of his own courage? Courage that he clearly hadn’t possessed.

All these years he had justified his actions towards Ben or lack thereof with his absence most of the year. He was home too little to really make an impact, to really change Ben’s life. Wasn’t it better then to not change anything at all so as not to create false hopes? Ben had always looked fairly happy. He might not have been the most well-fed or cared-for child, but he had always met Severus with his distinctive and infectious joy.

For a few hours they had both been able to forget what was going on at Ben’s home and Severus had gladly overlooked it for Ben’s immediate happiness. But what a fickle thing that was.

To be continued...
End Notes:
I’m sorry for the long wait! I had a serious writing crisis because first I was unsatisfied with how I’ve written the story so far and second I had no idea how to go on. So, I guess I needed the time to figure something out.
I’m not really happy about this chapter (except for making Snape run :D) but now I really want to get to the part where Snape meets Harry so… Well let’s see. I can’t promise regular updates but I’m not abandoning this story either. I’ll update when I can and well, maybe some reviews may give me more motivation ;) Have a nice weekend!
Unknown Ways - Part 2 by Nemo
Author's Notes:

You'll find the added part right after the second horizontal line break ;)

 “…is it doc?”
There were voices around him.
“…no drugs…”
A blinding light was shining behind his closed eyelids and plunged his vision into red.
“…else could it be?”
“Seems like food poisoning. He’s awfully thin too.”
“Well, he can’t stay here,” a third voice interjected.

Where was he? He could fuzzily remember dragging himself from the empty train when the last stop was announced and getting onto another train. He could remember the jerking and stuttering of the carriage and waking up from banging his head on the window from time to time. He also remembered emptying his stomach in the small toilet stall and then seeking it out two times more only to dry heave something acid that stung in his throat.
He couldn’t however remember landing here, wherever here might be.

“Agreed, I’ll make a call,” brisk food steps could be heard echoing further and further away until they presumably rounded a corner.

“And there was no ID or passport whatsoever on him?” the voice which belonged to a man bend over him and prodding him in places asked.
“No, not even a wallet.”
“Mmh, seems like he’s waking up.”

Harry blinked his eyes open. He tried to sit up but a gentle hand pushed him down on what felt like a hospital cot.
“Easy there,” the deeper of the two voices said.
“What, where-” he swallowed with difficulty.
A uniformed man pressed a paper cup in his hand and he drank gratefully. Some of the pain in his throat disappeared.
“Where am I?” he tried again. 


 The whole day Severus had brooded over books he had wrenched out of his cramped shelves growing more and more frustrated when they didn’t provide the information he was looking for. He knew he had read about a nifty little location charm somewhere. The map of Great Britain lay unfolded on his kitchen table already although by now it was buried under half opened books and scraps of paper.

In the afternoon he made tea, as was his habit but once finished he had left the cup untouched on the counter, watching the leaves in his garden shuddering in the breeze. When it started to rain, they bobbed up and down with the fat drops. He stared out the window and thought about Potter. Absentmindedly he felt the now repaired glasses in his pocket.

 He sighed as he did so often in the last time and ran a hand through his hair. It was becoming too greasy again and the wild stubbles on his chin told him that it was time for a shower. The growth of his facial hair had never been very reliable, thank Merlin. Otherwise, the resemblance with his father would have been even more pronounced and unbearable. As it was however, the stubbles grew every which way which made it impossible to wear anything other than a clean shaven face.

Severus tapped his fingers against the now cold teacup then pushed off the counter and went upstairs for a much needed bath.

He was so tired that he gave in to the warm water running down his aching limbs and leaning against the wall Severus fell asleep for a little while.
Sputtering he startled and shook his dripping hair out of his face. Quickly he dressed and pulled his hair in a ponytail that always made him look like a Jedi Knight. Glancing at himself in the fogged up mirror he gave in to his childish urge and raised his hand. May the force be with you! he thought in a deep and solemn voice. He chuckled but then quickly sobered and rolled his eyes at his behaviour.

On the way down to the kitchen however, there was a spring in his step. He would find this spell and then he would find Potter. And even if he didn’t know where to start searching for Ben, he would find him as well.


In the two days and eighteen books it would take for Severus to finally get lucky and find the charm in a side note his mother had probably scribbled a long time ago in the book about mushrooms of the Scottish Highlands, Dumbledore fire-called him several more times.

The other members of the Order seemed to be getting nowhere with their search for Potter. Tonks and Kingsley had roamed all over London and Lupin reported that Grimmauld Place was still quiet. Dumbledore suspected that Potter must have resorted to non-magical transportation or they would have found him by now. Severus just rolled his eyes. For one thing, it couldn’t seriously be this hard to track down the insolent whelp by magic, especially if Potter was just walking on foot.And for another, Dumbledore was telling Severus all of this in his distinct nonchalant manner, which Severus understood exactly as it was meant to be understood. A blow at him.

The headmaster was still angry that Severus had lost Potter’s trace and hoped to make him feel guilty. And Severus studiously avoided telling the old puppet master that he was now using his own methods to find the Potter brat.

The location charm, if applied correctly would point him Potter’s location on the map. The only problem was that it showed not the present but the past. From the moment the spell was cast it traced the wanted person’s steps in real time, meaning you had to follow along in exactly the same time as the person had done, no shortcuts.

You only stood a real chance, if the person you searched for was stopping somewhere at which point most witches and wizard knew to apply the Fidelius or other means to veil their position. That was also the reason the Mostrare charm as good as never was used.
Besides, you had to activate the charm on the last known place the wanted person had stayed for a longer time. That was also a big disadvantage. Severus only knew that Potter had remained with his relatives for a longer period. Had he known the ruddy boy would be this hard to chase down he could have saved himself a lot of footwork to begin with.

The way things were he had to pay a visit to Potter’s relatives. For one thing, he had to activate the charm there, for another he needed to know about Potter. He had clearly walked to London but who was to say the blasted boy didn’t have his beloved broom on him and wasn’t already on his way to the Caribbean for a pleasant little vacation?

And that was how Severus Snape, feared potions professor, ex death eater and extremely bad-tempered self-appointed Jedi Knight was standing on the front steps of Number Four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, traveling cloak draped over one arm.

Internally stealing himself for the deeply worried and Potter-praising relatives he wrinkled his nose and rung the bell. It made a terrible grating sound in the hallway. There was a loud grunt coming from inside and a little while later heavy steps could be heard nearing the door. It opened and a man appeared that Severus had, at first, difficulties to take in wholly. His body had no problems filling in the doorframe and half the hallway. His moustache had something stuck to it that looked suspiciously like ice cream and it vibrated formidably as he asked in a voice clearly irritated to have been called away from its afternoon snack: “What?”

“Excuse me Mr.-” Severus quickly glanced at the nameplate on the bell “-Dursley. I am-”
“What do you want? We don’t buy anything!” the walrus-man nearly shouted. A little taken aback by this sudden outburst Severus continued.
“I am sorry to disturb you Mr. Dursley. I am one of Mr. Potter’s teachers at Hogwarts and-”
“Hogwarts!” the man cried out of breath. “Hogwarts! School! Magic! Potter!” At the last word, Severus could see the man’s hands going to his belt seemingly wanting to hold on to something. It looked absurd how the man stood there with his too short arms akimbo.
“Listen here you- you! We don’t want anything to do with your lot! If you’re here for Potter well, he’s gone! Finally decided to leave us in peace the rotten boy. Nothing but trouble let me tell y-”

“Vernon, what’s going on?” a muffled voice interrupted. A woman emerged from somewhere behind the walrus. There was no mistaking her horse-like features.
“Tuney,” sneered Severus in the same instance as Petunia Dursley nee Evans spotted him with her long and practiced neck and pointed her finger at him.
“You! You! What are you doing on my front lawn!”
The walrus man looked back and forth at them as if he was following a particularly interesting tennis match.
“You- you know him?”
“Know him? Oh yes, I know him! That awful boy, he-”
“Well, as you can see, I’m no longer a boy, Tuney,” Severus interrupted smoothly. “I am here to-” but he didn’t get any further.

With a war like cry, Petunia Dursley had pushed her husband aside and lunged for Severus Snape.
“You took her away from me! You took her away!” she pounded her fists on his chest.
He was so flabbergasted that he just stood there rooted to the spot and didn’t even draw his wand.

“It’s all your fault! Talking about that hocus-pocus, turning her head with all that stories about spells and magical creatures and potions.” She spat the last words. “What good did magic do her in the end?”
“I- I’m-” Severus stuttered.
“Leaving! You are leaving. Before the neighbours notice. If you ever show your face here again, I swear I-”
“Petunia!” The voice from behind them sounded utterly befuddled but it seemingly had a calming effect on the angry woman. She breathed harshly, let go of Severus and pushing her still confusedly blinking husband inside closed the door silently with barely restrained fury.

Left standing on the doorstep for the second time in as many days, Severus wondered what on earth he had done to deserve this. Except he knew exactly what he had done to deserve this. His face scrunched up. He could feel anger bubbling in his stomach and tears well up in his eyes. Anger at his own foolish actions both in the past and in the present. And tears at- well he didn’t even want to think about that. Pulling the map out of his inner pocket Severus pressed his wand to the paper and murmured the charm.


The car ride was not a very long one. Nevertheless, the woman steering the minivan tried to get him involved in several conversations. Where he came from, she wanted to know. South, he answered. Where his parents were? Dead. She gave him a pitying side-eye. Oh, how he hated that.
Where he was living before. He said nothing.

“Well, Harry-” he couldn’t believe he had been stupid enough to tell them his real name. He blamed it on the medicine they had given him for his stomach. “- we’ll try our best to find your relatives quickly. And in the meantime I hope that you’ll enjoy it at Winterton’s. Cookie?” she held out a somewhat squashed package of ginger nuts.

Hesitantly he took one and inevitably had to think about Professor McGonagall. Then he turned away to watch the road fly past. At least not even Voldemort himself would search for him in a juvenile shelter.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Just a small chapter but with a big Severus-part. Don't fear, Ben will reappear in the next chapter. At this point, I want to thank you all for the great feedback and for sticking with me and keeping on reading and reviewing although 13 chapters into the story there was no encounter between our main protagonists. And a special thank you to all of you who have reviewed every chapter since the beginning. You make me very happy! :)

Several Encounters by Nemo

Upon arriving at the juvenile shelter, a small building with white windows and some wildly vegetating bushes on the front lawn, the driver, Mrs. Robins as it turned out, took him to a room full of washing machines that rattled and clattered in a calming rhythm. Shelves full of clothes and bedlinens lined the walls. Mrs. Robins scrutinized him critically and then pulled out two sets of short clothes, two sweatpants, a grey jumper, towels and some blue chequered bedclothes. She piled all of it in the arms of a perplexed Harry and then showed him to a room with two bunk beds. Just one of the bunk beds was occupied, the other stood empty in the corner facing the door.

“Free choice!” Mrs. Robins beamed. “You decide if you want the top one or not. Usually they prefer the top ones, don’t understand it myself really. You have to climb up, right? Besides, it’s much more comfortable on the lower one.”

Harry who had never slept in a bunk bed except for when Uncle Vernon had made them come on his insanely mad dash to escape the Hogwarts letters before Harry’s first year still had to agree with Mrs. Robins. And thus, he had unloaded the bedclothes on the lower bed and turned questioningly to Mrs. Robins.

 “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Right, you can put the clothes and your other stuff over there.”
She pointed towards the window where a big wardrobe was standing. Harry nodded.
“Thank you, Mrs. Robins.”
“Oh, no probs! If you want, I’ll help you make the bed and then give you the tour. There’s a
nice courtyard with a soccer field and some ping-pong tables.”
“Um- no, thank you, I can do it myself,” Harry answered politely.
“Alright kiddo, if you need anything, just ask anyone of the staff or the other boys. I have to be on my way. Bye Harry!”

She disappeared before Harry could stutter that he had meant to make his bed alone but that he would’ve very much liked a tour. Well, nothing for it, he thought and began shaking out the blanket. After making the bed, he grabbed a towel and headed for the shower, which he luckily found without help. He hadn’t showered since, heck he couldn’t even remember. Was it barely a week ago that he had escaped the Dursleys? When he thought about the whole thing he had to admit that he again got extremely and really dumb lucky.

If the police had not picked him up for being on the train without a valid ticket and driven him to the hospital...he didn’t know how it would have ended. In all the hectic about his food poisoning, the constant visits from nurses and doctors and his more than chaotic stay on a hospital ward clearly undergoing some construction work the officers hadn’t even pursued his fare-dodging.

Stepping out of the shower, he dressed in the new clothes Mrs. Robins had given him. As it turned out, she had judged his height very well and only now did Harry notice that his old clothes were a bit too short. Idly he wondered if Dumbledore would find him here or if the old man had even noticed that he had left his relatives.

He felt well, not good about being here, but better. Everywhere would be better than the Dursleys so that didn’t really count. Harry had instantly liked the brick building and the brightly coloured hallways. In his imagination, which really only stemmed from all the books about orphans he had read during his time in primary school, children’s homes were always bleak and gloomy. This was so different.

Harry draped his wet towel over his shoulder and made his way back to the room. Maybe he could check out the courtyard Mrs. Robins had told him about?

He rounded a corner and run into something solid.
“Sorry,” he hastily said while trying to extract his arms from whomever he had collided with.
“No probl-“ the other boy started. Then he looked up.
“Hey you’re new. Hey Tom, Lewy! Fresh meat!”

“A newbie?” two other boys approached. All of them were bigger than Harry was and they reminded him of Dudley and his gang right away. He couldn’t exactly pinpoint what made him think of his cousin. Maybe the eyes. There was always something in the eyes. And these ones he knew. He wondered why these boys were at the shelter.

“Which hole did you crawl out of then?” the boy with long brown hair, presumably Lewy asked.
Harry opened his mouth but no sounds were coming out. He could feel his body go into panic-mode as it had done since, well since Dudley had happened.
“I- I’m- I’m from-“ he stuttered and had to swallow. His shoulders went up, his hair clung to his forehead and his hands shook. Great! Just great!

The other boys looked at him then at themselves and laughed. They had this unpleasant rough laughter, clipped as only boys in puberty were capable of. One of them, Tom Harry assumed, was even clutching Lew’s shoulder as he was slightly doubled over. Harry could feel the familiar tingle go over his body paralysing him. His eyes felt round and too big, he had to open his mouth to breath properly.

“Well, I don’t know what you think.” Lewy said and suddenly got Harry in a headlock. “But I’m gonna have some fun with this one!” The other two guffawed even louder when Lewy rubbed his fist painfully in Harry’s hair.
“Looks like he’s not gotten wet enough from the shower yet.”
“Certainly didn’t make the acquaintance of our old time friend the loo,” the first boy pressed out breathlessly and immediately burst out laughing again.

“Excellent idea Jad!” exclaimed Lewy and whirled them both around, Harry still hopelessly trapped between his arms.
“Let- let go of me,” Harry wheezed. His airways were somewhat cut off by the strong hold Lewy had on him.
“Let go!” he struggled against the arms and tried pushing them away.
“Please! I can’t breath!“
“Much words for someone who can’t breathe!” Tom said.
“It’s called ‘many’,” slipped out of Harry’s mouth.
“Well Sherlock, try and deduce that!” Tom drilled his fist into Harry’s stomach. Completely winded he half hung from Lewy’s grip, half kneeled on the floor.
“What?” jeered Tom, “Nothing to say to that?”

“I have something to say about this,” piped up a voice breaking with puberty.
The boys turned around. Tom and Jad took one look at the newcomer and burst out laughing again. Lewy grinned.

“Well, if it isn’t beanpole himself!”
“Let him go,” the boy said calmly.
“Hey beanpole! Don’t spoil the fun!”
“You had your fun,” the newcomer said and crossed his arms.

The others were laughing again but Lewy loosened his grip on Harry who pushed him off and scrambled to get his feet under him again.
Threateningly Lewy took a step towards the lanky new boy and shoved him.
“What you gonna do eh?”
The other boy just stared back at Lewy with a steady gaze. When neither the shoves nor his words had any effect on the tall boy, Lewy grew bored.

 “Come on guys,” he said and with a sweeping gesture ordered them to follow him.
“Another time then,” Jad said passing Harry and elbowed him.
“Losers!” Tom called over his shoulder.
The boys could still hear him laughing when the three had long since disappeared around the corner.

Harry bend down to pick up his towel.
“You can probably get a new one in the laundry room. Want me to show you?”
“No I-I-“ Harry stammered.
But the other boy just watched him with big and curious eyes.
“Thanks for helping.”
“It was nothing,” said the boy looking down, “They’re just stupid,” he murmured and sheepishly shuffled his feet.

“Sooo…” the boy began, “I can show you the laundry room if you want,” he looked at Harry.
“I know where it is.”
“Oh,” the boy looked at his feet once more.
“But, would you- I mean- could you maybe show me around a bit?”
A smile spread across the boy’s face.
“Yeah, definitely. Only just arrived?” he asked interested.
“Um yeah.”
“No worries. Only got here myself a few days ago. But you quickly find your way around here.”

They walked next to each other in silence for a while
“What’s your name by the way?”
“Harry.”
“Hi Harry,” he smiled again and waved somewhat awkwardly.
Then he pointed to a door and said:
“Um, here’s the kitchen and there we eat.”
“And that’s the staff room. There’s usually someone there all the time, so if you got questions…“

They arrived at a double door leading outside to a green courtyard. The boy held it open for Harry.
“Err, and here’s the yard, I guess,” the boy scratched his neck.
Harry looked around. There was a concrete pitch with soccer goals and basketball hoops, some trees and small bushes and pushed in the corners there were also the ping-pong tables Mrs. Robins had talked about.
The other boy noticed him looking around.

“Fancy a match?” he asked and nodded his head towards the table tennis corner.
“Uh, I don’t really know how to play.”
The other boy laughed and Harry’s heart sank to his feet. There was someone who didn’t treat him like dirt stuck under his shoe or as if he was an alien and he had to go and botch it up.
“I don’t know how to play either,” said the other boy and only then did Harry realize the good-natured intention behind the other boy’s laughter.
“Come on, we’ll make a great team,” the boy called over his shoulder jogging over the yard.

“Ready?” he asked passing the small ball to Harry.
“Err, yeah, I guess, but-“ sheepishly he trailed off.
The boy looked at him with those inquiring brown eyes.
“I didn’t really get your name before.”
“Oh,” the boy pulled up his shoulders.
“I’m Ben.”

To be continued...
End Notes:
Finally! Finally, at least two of our protagonists have met! Who of you guessed that Harry and Ben would meet first?

Yesterday I reread the story and thought about continuity for quite a while. I had to add a small part in the last chapter (13) so that the timeline would make sense again. It would be smart to read this chapter again ;)
Attentive readers can now calculate when Severus will find Harry (if nothing unexpected happens;))

Have a nice weekend and please review if you liked this chapter! It always makes my day to read from you guys :)
A Day in Summer by Nemo

Over the next few days, Harry fell into an easy routine. After the (quite chaotic) ping-pong match, Ben and he had gone to get dinner and retreating to their rooms later, it had turned out that they actually shared the bedroom. Besides them there was only one other boy who had claimed the top bunk and always came in late in the evening and mostly kept to himself and his friends otherwise.

At night, Harry would fall into his bed but not without changing into an actual pyjama in absolute delight. He couldn’t remember the last time he had owned one. Probably in first year. He snuggled into the blanket, drew in its fresh scent and wished that he could simply stay in Winterton forever. Life was so easy here.

No curious wizards and witches staring at him and his scar, no crazy mass-murderers out to get him, no overgrown snakes hunting him down and no lunatic teachers out for his blood.
He just felt kind of normal. If it was going to eat with the tall and slender boy, being outside watching Ben playing soccer with some other boys and occasionally joining in as well or just waking up in their shared bedroom, Harry for the first time in many years felt something near to enjoyment in the summer.

He couldn’t ignore the questions of what was to happen on September First, however. If nobody had found him until then. Would they miss him at school? Would they sent someone to retrieve him as Hagrid had done before his first year at Hogwarts?
Involuntarily Harry sniggered thinking about his dour potions master dressed like a muggle and pretending to be some kind of uncle just to get him out of here. A moment later, he sobered thinking about all the cauldrons he would have to scrub if Snape had to fetch him.
Harry turned over in his bed, slipping his hand under the pillow to reassure himself that his wand and Ron’s book were safely hidden. He glanced over to Ben whose shoulders were already moving in a slow and steady rhythm. Harry was curious why the other boy had landed here but hadn’t had the courage to ask.

It was easy liking Ben. It wasn’t only his infectious laughter after he had shot a ping pong ball into the shrubs or his explosive energy that had him bouncing after the small white thing reappearing holding it in one hand and half of the bush clinging to him. It wasn’t only his calm way that instantaneously had Harry relaxing around him or his easy manner of speaking. First and foremost it was the lanky boy’s gentleness.

Yes, he was outgoing, open to everyone approaching him, and always greeted other boys and the staff amicably. But for Harry it was the subtle gentleness and kindness Ben tried to show him even if, as Harry suspected, it was sometimes difficult for him. Ben tried cracking jokes whenever the three boys that Harry got unfortunately acquainted with on his first day were around. He subconsciously tried walking in a way that would shield the smaller boy. He attentively watched over Harry’s shoulder at meals.
Harry liked Ben’s complete unbookishness that was so unlike Hermione. He liked his down-to-earth attitude and clear talent not to react to provocation as Ron would. Harry had seen this while Ben was playing soccer and had talked the other boys out of a fight by making sure a disputed penalty shot was given even if it was not to his team’s advantage.

Watching Ben play soccer Harry wondered how the boy would do on a broom. He’d make an exceptional keeper. And Quidditch was really nearly the same except for the flying part.
Ben just seemed to attract the ball magnetically. Sometimes the ball was nearly into the goal but Ben would stretch to his full length and with the tips of his fingers nudge it back outside the net.
On one of these occasions, Ben had spotted him looking and excusing himself from the game jogged over to where Harry was sitting reading in the shade. When Ben had mentioned the small library, Harry was beside himself with joy.

"You okay there, Harry?” Ben asked breathlessly. Harry simply nodded.
“Want to join in?”
“No, I’m fine here.”
Instead of running off to re-join the match, Ben took off his goalkeepers gloves and sat down beside him.

“What’re you reading? Sorry, stupid question, I know.”
But Harry merely stuck his finger inside the book, shut it and held the cover up for Ben to see.
“The Hobbit? Is it good?”
Harry shrugged his shoulders.
“I guess. Never finished it in primary school. Saw it on the shelves here and thought it would be great reading it now.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess.” Ben scratched his short hair. His face and neck were red from the sun. Slowly he continued:
“Why didn’t you finish it before?”
Harry flushed and his knee jerked. Ben looked at it sharply.
“I- you see, the school library-” Harry took a gulp of air. And then it simply slipped out.
“My cousin Dudley ripped it.”
“All of it?” asked Ben with raised eyebrows.
“Yup, right down to the last page.”
“Oh. I’m sorry,” said Ben and fell silent.

They watched the game in silence for a bit. After a moment, Ben turned to Harry again.
“You sure you don’t want to join the match? I bet you’d make a fine striker.”
Harry just smiled and shook his head.
“We can do something different if you like. Ping Pong or a card game? I saw that they had some board games inside as well.”
Harry gently shook his head again.
“I’m fine here.”
The second time in the last few minutes Harry was surprised when Ben didn’t stand up then. It was quiet for a while. Only the rustling of the leaves in the wind could be heard, their shadow on the concrete moving alongside with them. It really was a beautiful day.
Harry saw Ben twist his hands together and rubbing his gloves on his thigh.
“Um, I’ll leave you to the Hobbit then, Harry.”

He made to stand up. Harry didn’t know what made him say the next words. Maybe it was this tiny spark of warmth in his chest.
“Actually, um, could you, I mean, it’s nice just sitting…”
“Yeah, it is”, Ben easily agreed.
“I like talking to you.”
“Oh,” the boy looked surprised but happy.
“Me too.”

Harry smiled. He glanced sideways at Ben.
“Um, may I ask you something?”
“Sure,” Ben said leaning back and closing his eyes.
“Why’re you here?”
Ben’s eyes snapped open but otherwise he remained calm. He was quiet for a few minutes. His gaze wandered around as if thinking about what to tell Harry. Then he took a big breath.

“My mum and her boyfriend wanted to send me to a Military School but I didn’t want to go. I ran away.”
Harry’s eyes became round.
“Me too,” he whispered.
“Your mum wanted to get you blown up too?”
“No!” Harry amended hastily. “No, I meant-” he looked at Ben who was grinning at him.
“Sorry, bad joke. I- I always make bad jokes when I’m-” he broke off.

“You ran away as well?”
“I- so, I well- my relatives they were-” Harry couldn’t finish his sentence.
Ben just nodded.
“Was it them that poisoned you?”
“Oh. Nah, that was after I esca- I mean, after I ran away. I was very hungry and I- I ate something out a rubbish bin.” His ears became red and he expected Ben to laugh. But the boy just looked at him somewhat sadly, Harry thought.

“Police picked me up though and drove me to hospital.”
“Oh man, that had to be really bad though, if they brought you there.”
“I didn’t really- well I was pretty out of it I guess.”
Ben laughed but it wasn’t a happy laugh just somewhat of an resigned snort. Harry knew the feeling.
“How did you end up here?” he wondered.
“Me?” Ben asked and it seemed as if he tried to school his expression.
“Police picked me up, same as you.”
“You’re from around here?”
“Not exactly. I’m from the coast. It’s about a two hour drive away.”
“And you don’t want to go back?”
Ben furrowed his eyebrows and looked at Harry askance.
“No, why would I?”

Harry thought about that for a while. Then he just stuck to his first impulse and said:
“Cause of your mum. Don’t you miss her? I guess she misses you too.”
“Well, you don’t know my mother very well then.”
If someone else had said that, it would have sounded accusingly but out of Ben, it just sounded disappointed. Harry thought their conversation would end there because its topic had turned south very fast and he didn’t really know what else to ask the other boy. He didn’t want to pressure Ben into talking about things Harry himself wasn’t comfortable with speaking about. But Ben kept going on his own.

“I guess, maybe, the only one who will really miss me maybe a bit is my neighbour.”
“Your neighbour?” Harry asked nonplussed.
In his experience, neighbours were just nosy people that had to be kept quiet at all costs. Heaven forbid if they would spot a blade of grass out of place on the Dursley’s manicured front lawn.
“Um yeah, he’s this really quiet dude. Only lives there in the summers really. But he- he helped with my mother. I- we have dinner sometimes. I like his cat.” He paused and scratched his head again.
“Sorry. That sounds stupid. I like his cat? He’s not this sort, I mean he’s not, you know…”
Harry just shrugged.
“You know him well then?”
Ben let out a gush of air.
“As well as one could know such a private guy I guess. Kind of a nerd, I’d say.”
Harry had to laugh.
“What classifies one as a nerd?”
“Well, you know”, Ben threw up his arms.
“Watching Dr. Who or Star Trek, reading a lot…”
Harry laughed even louder and waved his book in the air.

“Oh! No, I didn’t mean it like that Harry!” Ben hastily amended. “Anyways, it’s not bad to be a nerd, right? It’s only what people make of it.”
Harry sobered but kept smiling.
“I guess you’re right. So Star Trek. Is it anything like Star Wars?”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never seen Star Wars.”
“Oh. Well, me neither, not really anyways.”
Ben glanced at him funnily but didn’t press Harry.

Three boys were walking across the yard. They could hear them from far away and saw them making rude gestures.
“Hey losers!”
“Faggots!”
“Look at them two poofs Lewy!”
Ben looked at Harry and rolled his eyes. Then he put on a smile and to Harrys great consternation, he waved at them.
“Don’t!” hissed Harry and tried to grab Ben’s arm. The boys hushed immediately and stared at them. Just as Jad wanted to come at them with clenched fists, Lewy grabbed his arm and held him back. A social worker was crossing the yard at this very moment and looked critically at the group of them.

“Time for dinner boys!” he called out and continued on his way.
“Just you wait!” spewed Jad when they met at the door to go inside.
“We’ll get you!”
“Oh man, so afraid right now!” Ben said and gently pushed Harry through the door and past the boys.

“What’d you do that for?” whispered Harry bewildered when they had sat down with their dinner plates.
“What? It worked, didn’t it?” Ben shrugged his shoulders and began eating as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
When Harry hadn’t so much as taken one bite out of his sandwich, Ben looked up sharply.
“You have to eat Harry! Especially after your food poisoning you need the food to regain you strength.”
“Okay mum!” grumbled Harry but smiled and popped a piece of apple in his mouth.

“Actually,” Harry continued, “You should do something about your health as well.”
“What?” Ben swallowed a mouthful of tea. “What do you mean?”
“Your sunburn. It looks bad.”
“Oh, well...” Ben seemed to hesitate.
“My mum cut my hair. It’s been bad since then with the sun and all.”
“Oh,” Harry said quietly, “I really don’t like your mum.”
“What? You don’t even know her.”
“Don’t have to,” replied Harry and speared a cucumber with his fork just to make his point.
“She cut your hair specifically for the Military School?”
Ben blanched.
“I- she didn’t- I didn’t even know about that then.”
“See!” Harry exclaimed and waved the fork in the air.
Ben continued eating stoically not looking up at Harry. Nevertheless, he followed Lewy and his gang with his eyes when they came in and his shoulders only seemed to relax again when they sat down a few tables down from where Harry and he sat.

Suddenly Harry jumped up from his seat.
“Wait here!” he addressed Ben and disappeared like a whirlwind in the corridor. He would really make a good striker, Ben thought.

A few minutes later, Harry sprinted back into the room. He held something red in his hand.
Harry sat down in his chair again and slowly opened his hand and placed the faded red fabric on the table.
“For you.”
“What is it?” asked Ben curiously.
“Have a look.”
Gingerly Ben lifted the cotton thing from the table and held it up. Then his eyes lit up.
“Awesome Harry!”
Quick as lightning he put on the cap.
“Awesome!” he repeated and grinned widely at Harry.
“Thanks so much!”
Harry smiled. He really liked Ben.

To be continued...
End Notes:
I in no way condone what the gang called Ben and Harry!
So here’s just a quiet little chapter. I think these two deserved it after everything they have been through. Soon we’ll hear from Severus again.
Can I enthuse you to write some reviews? Seriously, some days I just live for them :)
Have a nice weekend and wherever you are, I hope it’s not too hot!
Nemo
Snape's Grudge by Nemo
Author's Notes:

Finally! The big moment has arrived. Some interaction between our two favourite characters at last. I only now realize how hard it is to write Harry-Severus-squabbles ;) Hope you like it!
Please let me know if you liked the chapter from the different POVs.

The boy walking beside him looked like he had just been released from jail. He wore hideous grey sweatpants and a matching jumper giving him the appearance of a common criminal. He sported a bruise on his temple and his lip was puffy as if he had come straight out of a prison fight. The scowl on his face didn’t help. Neither did his dragging his feet.

“Potter!”

The boy glanced up through his fringe and bestowed a green-eyed glare upon his professor. Severus couldn’t help noticing how much clearer they were without these horrible glasses. That reminded him. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the round frames. Without a word, he held them out to the slowly approaching boy. When Potter came into arm’s distance he reached out a hand as if he wanted to  keep contact with his greasy potion’s master to a minimum. Severus sneered. The feeling was quite mutual.

When the brat made no move to put his glasses on, Severus grew impatient.
“What? Can’t even find your own nose without these things on?”
The boy didn’t speak. After a moment, he put on the frames squinting through them.
“Well, finally. May we proceed then, Prince Potter?”
The glare again. Although it lost much of its heat fixed on him through the thick glasses myopically. Severus shook it of easily. Then he continued to stride off across the parking lot.

He couldn’t help himself. Having finally found the foolish boy after more than a week he simply had to let off some steam. And who better to direct it at than the object of his wild goose chase around Great Britain. This foolish, conceited, selfish brat! That blasted, infuriating ruddy little urchin! That- Severus’ thoughts came to an abrupt halt when he noticed that Potter wasn’t following him. In three quick strides, Severus was back at his side. Grabbing the idiotic child’s arm, he started to drag him along. The boy stumbled. Severus just hissed and tightened his hold.

Damn Potter! This was all his fault! If it weren’t for the witless brat Severus could have been at home now. He could have enjoyed a nice cuppa in his garden that seemed to thrive with new life after the storm. He had to remember clearing it up where the storm had torn down a few branches of the wiggentrees. Maybe he could have already had them prepared for potions if it wasn’t for that infernal boy.

He could have installed that cat flap for Felix or watched Star Trek. He could have finally had a look at The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a late birthday present from Dumbledore. He had been curious ever since January, as he had found Albus’ taste in muggle literature to be quite good in the past, but hadn’t had the time to read it yet. And most importantly, he could have thought about how to find Ben. Blasted Potter!

Severus jerked him to a halt on the corner of a deserted alley. He looked around. It had to suffice.
“Potter!” he addressed the boy who didn’t even possess the courtesy to look at him.
“You’re staying here. No running off. You won’t like the consequences if I have to chase you down again!”
He shook the boy for good measure before leaving him standing beside a trashcan and going deeper into the alley himself.

“Headmaster,” he started when he had conjured his Patronus making sure his back covered its entire form.
“I have found Potter. Where shall I take him?”

Short and to the point. That had always been his preferred mode of communication. While he waited, he turned back to Potter slightly, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye. The boy leaned, no slumped on the wall as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Oh, how Severus hated his arrogant demeanour. If school were in session, the brat wouldn’t have stepped so much as a toe out of the dungeons after Severus was finished with him. A month detention, alas two months at least, for this imbecilic, irresponsible, asinine stunt the daft, moronic little br-

“Severus, that’s wonderful news” Dumbledore’s voice coming out of the beak of a silvery phoenix interrupted. “Please take Harry with you for the moment. The Weasleys and Grangers are out of the country and the same goes for me.” Severus hated the calm with which the headmaster spoke.
“Remus can’t take him, the full moon is but a week away. Besides Grimmauld Place still isn’t safe and I’m sure your home can provide some safety when in all these years I couldn’t get you to talk about it more. Bye bye bye!”

“What?!” Severus exclaimed so loud that Potter turned around looking at him through narrowed eyes. Instantly Severus’ temper flared. Quick as lightening, he crossed the distance between him and the boy grabbed him and started to drag him inside the alley as well. He didn’t even warn the brat of the imminent change of location they would undergo.

The boy stumbled on the small street. His small street. In the distance, Severus could see the ocean, its deep summer blue mocking him. Merlin, if he hadn’t known him better, Severus would have thought the brat would heave up his breakfast. Of course, it was all just show.

“Potter! Snap out of it! I don’t have the patience for your attention-seeking.”

Severus walked away and opened the gate to his front garden. He glanced at the other gate down the street and the empty windows briefly before turning back to the nuisance still staggering about the street. Under the influence of his famous teacher-glare, the boy finally came to his senses and quickly made his way over to Severus.

He looked around bewildered. Merlin’s beard, the boy had less brain cells than the common amoeba.
“Where- where are we? – Sir.” was hastily tacked on upon looking at his teacher. Severus cocked one eyebrow and unlocked his front door.

Directing his best sneer down at the boy, he threw his arm in a wide circle and smiled a mean little smile.

“Well Potter. Welcome! Home sweet home.”


If this was a bad dream, he wanted to wake up now. Not two days ago, he had joked about Snape finding him at the Youth Centre. Well, this was more than a bad joke. This was cruel. Guess the weird sisters struck again. Did they have to spin their threat just now of all times? Harry had known that this was just too good to be true. Just my luck!

He should’ve known. The whole day had started out badly.

First Lewy and his stupid friends had come into their room at night. Still angry about Ben interrupting their little fun time with Harry, they had met out their quick but nevertheless harsh revenge. Being held by Tom in deadlock, Harry couldn’t do anything but look on as the two boys pinned the tall boy down and threw their fists at him.
There was much blood. Ben hadn’t even fought back.

Alerted by the commotion some social workers had finally caught up and separated the fighting boys. Having turned on the lights, they took one good look at Ben and decided to cart him off to the infirmary. Harry had been left sitting shaken on his mattress. Why hadn’t he helped Ben? He should have struggled more against Tom and helped Ben as he had helped Harry. He didn’t get a wink of sleep that night.

The next morning dawned with a pale grey light. In Harry’s opinion, bad weather in summer was even more depressing than in winter.
Dejectedly he had gulped down his breakfast, the hot porridge doing nothing to lift his mood. He looked down at the empty place beside him. After eating, he had retreated to the small common room. In one corner, the TV was on and already a bunch of boys was sitting watching it out of unseeing eyes.
The steady stream of noise calmed Harry’s nerves somewhat and sitting down near the window, he pulled out his book.

He didn’t get very far. Even if he had taken in more of the words, he would’ve only gotten through a few pages.

“Harry?”

A social worker was standing just inside the door. It was the same one, who had stopped the fight that night. He still wore a worried frown as he looked over at Harry.

“There’s someone here to see you.”

Puzzled Harry stood up. Who could it be? Had Dumbledore found him? The social worker led him down one of the bright hallways Harry had liked so much in the beginning. Now there were just as depressing as the weather outside. They just deluded one into thinking these hallways were safe and happy. What a lie!

They arrived at a small room with carpeted floor. Harry could see a potted plant in the corner. The social worker put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. He flinched. The man quickly withdrew his arm and just motioned for Harry to go inside.

“Your uncle is here. Isn’t that great Harry? He was very worried,” the man spoke very quietly as if he feared Harry would snarl at him like a cornered animal.

Harry who was about to take a step into the room stopped dead in his tracks. There was the all too familiar tingling again. His uncle? He turned his head to the social worker silently pleading him out of round eyes to not send him inside this room.
The man just smiled.

“Come on Harry. I’m sure everything will be ok now.”
But Harry couldn’t hear him through the buzzing filling his ears. He only came to himself again when the social worker gently pushed him through the door.

Harry took on step into the room and just froze again.

There, wearing a grey shirt and muggle jeans was none other than his hated potion’s teacher Severus Snape.

The man was standing arms crossed beside the potted plant that had clearly seen better days. Upon seeing Harry, he let his arms fall to his sides as if in a relieved gesture and said,

“There you are! My, you don’t know how worried we were. Your aunt’s beside herself with fear for you!”

Harry had to give it to his greasy professor. The man really was an excellent actor. The concern etched in his voice, his posture, his face relaxing slightly when he saw Harry, all of it was done masterfully. He gulped.

“Hello sir.”


After apparently clearing the paperwork, Snape left the juvenile shelter in a near dead run leaving Harry trying to catch up to him breathlessly. Harry had barely been given enough time to pack his meagre belongings and snatch his wand from under his pillow. It was with apprehension and a lonely tear in his eye that he looked back at his bed. He couldn’t so much as glance at Ben’s.

They crossed the dreary parking lot Harry had arrived at not even five days ago.

“Potter!” Snape shouted and Harry hurried to follow him. Suddenly the teacher stopped and reached inside his pocket. Harry couldn’t supress a flinch when Snape jerkily held something out to Harry. It were his glasses, fully repaired and clean. Wary of his potion’s teacher, Harry reached out for them. Where had Snape found them? Harry turned the frames in his hands. He really hadn’t missed them. His vision was nearly as bad with them as without them.

“What? Can’t even find your own nose without these things on?”
Hastily Harry put the glasses on. Ugh! He had forgotten how bad these things were.
“Well, finally. May we proceed then, Prince Potter?”

Angrily Harry looked at Snape. Did he have to be this mean all the time? Unfortunately, he knew the answer to this question far too well. Lost in thought he only noticed that Snape hat stridden off again when the man made his way back to him fury written across his face.
Involuntarily Harry took a step back. But the potion’s master just grabbed his arm dragging Harry along.

He stumbled. Snape had longer legs. The man just tightened his hold painfully. Harry winced. Some of the bruises Uncle Vernon had bestowed upon him had not fully faded yet.

They came to a stop at the entrance to a back alley. A few trashcans stood around the place and debris littered the ground.

“Potter! You’re staying here,” Snape ordered gruffly. “No running off. You won’t like the consequences if I have to chase you down again!”
Harry’s teeth rattled when the man shook him. Then his least favourite teacher retreated into the alley.

He couldn’t see what Snape was doing but guessed he must have his ways to contact Dumbledore. He would surely send him back to his relatives. Harry tried breathing calmly and leaned heavily on the nearby wall. His hands were tingling again and his vision was more blurry than normal. Fighting to get himself back under control, he must have missed whatever Snape and Dumbledore had decided about his fate. Suddenly Snape was back at his side.

The following sensation of being pressed into a straw and shooting out at the other end as if someone had forced clumpy spoilt milk through it undid Harry. Struggling to get his feet under him was all he could do at this moment. His stomach protested this new absurd mode of magical transportation fiercely.

“Potter! Snap out of it! I don’t have the patience for your attention-seeking.”

Of course the man was also here. Harry groaned. Looking around the small street curiously, he followed the professor through a wooden gate. Had he seen something blue shining in the distance? Must have been a trick of the light. His nasty professor wouldn’t live by the sea. Gosh, he wouldn’t even know its joys, that Harry was absolutely certain of. Just to make sure he scraped together all of his remaining courage and asked,

“Where- where are we?” Remembering that politeness was always a safe bet he added, “Sir.”

But Snape didn’t so much as spare him a glance as he unlocked the front door to a nice two storey row house. Turning around and baring his crooked teeth in a truly frightening grin, he said,

 “Well Potter. Welcome! Home sweet home.”

To be continued...
End Notes:

I apologize for not updating sooner! The last month was tough. Someone very close to me died and I just didn't feel like writing.
But I'll definitely finish this fic. I hate it when stories get abandoned half-way through.

Points to anyone who can figure out why Dumbledore's birthday present was late ;)
Also, you may have noticed I lend the chapter title from JKR herself. So it doesn't belong to me sadly.
About Ben: well, if life were always easy you wouldn't have to write fanfiction, right? But don't fear, we'll hear from him yet.

 

A big thank you to all of you who continue to provide me with wonderful motivation through your reviews! It makes my day reading them after updating, hearing your thoughts on the story and just knowing that you like it. It means the world to me!

 

A Cast, a Caustic Teacher and a Cat by Nemo

 

A week went by before Ben was allowed to leave the infirmary. Lewy and his friends got him good this time. But he would put up with few scrapes and bruises any day if it meant standing up for his new friend. He hoped Harry was ok. Ben hadn’t seen him since that night. He thought that maybe the other boy would visit him sometime but Harry didn’t turn up.

Ben shrugged it off. He wasn’t the type to hold a grudge. Happily, he walked down the nicely coloured hallway. It was a sunny day, a welcome reprieve from all the rain and stifling grey summer smog in the last week. Warm rays of gold filtered in through the windows and Ben gingerly tried to skip from one bright streak of floor to another before he realized that he was still too sore to do so. Lost in thought he looked at the cast on this left hand. It didn’t hurt now that the plaster held it securely locked in place. So he wouldn’t play goalie for a few weeks. What did it matter? Maybe he could improve his legwork.

And maybe, just maybe Harry would sign the cast. Ben had fended off all attempts from the social workers to sign it. He wanted Harry to be the first.

The social workers had come in regularly during his stay in the infirmary allegedly to check up on him, actually to find out who had put him in such a state. He remained silent. He didn’t know why exactly. Only that it wasn’t out of fear for Lewy and his gang. Ben just didn’t think that it would achieve anything ratting them out. He had seen the glances Tom and Jad exchanged right before Lewy had stomped on his hand. Was it uneasiness he read there? As with every gang Ben thought that as individuals, they all weren’t as bad as they were in the trio. They just wanted to prove themselves worthy of being a part of the gang. Stupid group dynamics.

Enough psychologizing. His thoughts had brought him to their room. Grinning and with a thrill of excitement Ben opened the door.

“Hey Harry-“ he faltered. The grin died on his face.

Puzzled he looked around the tidy room. It was too tidy. There were no signs of the nightly scuffle. The curtains were opened, his bed was made and fresh clothes lay neatly folded on the desk. The other bed however was not made; it was completely empty. No pillow, no blanket or sheets, no backpack stuffed awkwardly under it.

Ben quickly crossed the room and got down on his knees before the bedframe. He looked under it in the hopes of finding something - anything to explain Harry’s obvious absence. But all he came up with was the dusty floor. With a pang in his heart, he sat back against his own bed.

Wad had happened to Harry? Ben didn’t remember everything from that night but before passing out he had been sure he saw that Harry was all right save a mighty shiner already blooming on his face. Where was Harry?

As if summoned from his unspoken question the social worker that had found them that night knocked on the still half-opened door.

“Hey Ben, glad you’re back with us,” he smiled down on the boy. “Everything all right kiddo?”

Ben scrambled to his feet.

“Where’s Harry?” he asked without stopping to take a breath. His rips were still smarting.
“Hey, no worries. His uncle came and brought him home. Isn’t it fantastic?”

Ben stared at the men. Standing Ben was nearly taller by a head. That growth spurt had really kicked in.

“Bloody fantastic…” he mumbled and averted his eyes.
“What did you say?” the social worker asked.
“Nothing.”

If Harry was back with his family, well, Ben wasn’t stupid. The other boy might have not talked about his home situation. In fact, he had avoided the topic as Felix would the rain. All Ben could gather from the small crumbles Harry had been willing to share had been that he lived with his aunt, uncle and cousin somewhere south of London and that he had run away same as Ben himself.

Well, no one just ran away from home. And no one just ended up at a juvenile shelter. Sometimes when Harry had come from the shower, Ben had seen red spots on his lower back. He had seen the other boy flinch away if someone near him would make sudden movements. He had noticed how Harry preferred to sit with his back to the wall at meals so that he could view the whole room. Reconsidering all this now, Ben was nearly sure the red spots had been marks. What this revelation would mean for Harry if he were back with his relatives now Ben didn’t want to think about in detail.

“But- but he, his relatives- they-“

“Now now,” the social worker clapped him on the shoulder in a way that clearly meant to be reassuring. “I’m sure, Harry is happy to be home. Aren’t you happy for him?”

Ben looked at the social worker with horror and strong doubt mixed on his face. The men must have misunderstood his expression.

“Oh Ben, I’m sure, your relatives will come for you too. Until now, we haven’t been able to contact them unfortunately.”

Yeah, unfortunately, Ben thought sarcastically. Was the social work training any good?

Though now he really wasn’t sure anymore if he preferred to be here. Back home there would be Mr. Snape at least. He would let Ben kip on his sofa and make him tea and dinner. They would watch Star Trek or Ben would help the professor in the garden. Absentmindedly Ben asked himself if Mr. Snape would have cleaned up his garden after the big storm already.

­­­­­­­


 

“No dawdling Potter!” Snape called over his shoulder as he disappeared in the narrow hallway.

No dawdling my ass! Harry thought. If I walked in in my shoes, he would make me clean the whole house top to bottom with my toothbrush.

Sighing softly as to not alert his caustic potions master to his thoughts he quickly put down his shoes next to a pair of - strangely enough - bright yellow wellies. Then he hastily followed Snape into what Harry could only describe as a comfy looking living room. There were - maybe not so surprisingly - some bookshelves overflowing with tomes. Perhaps it was more surprising that Snape hadn’t wallpapered his room with book shelves.

There was a fluffy rug, Harry had to supress a snigger upon setting sight of it, and there was a couch facing the middle-sized windows that were looking out towards a fascinating kaleidoscope of a garden made out of all shapes and sizes of different shades of green. Harry had done enough gardening for his picky aunt to not only appreciate all the work that must have been put into this orderly chaos but also be deeply impressed with this jungle-like backyard that didn’t compare to all the dull uninspired backyards of Privet Drive in the slightest.

“If you’re quite finished with gawking at my living room Potter!”

Harry quickly lowered his eyes to his sock clad feet. At least the socks he got at the shelter didn’t have holes in them.

“Sit down!” Snape ordered and pointed to the couch.

Harry carefully sat at the end of the sofa farthest away from his moody teacher. Nervously perching right at the edge, he put his hands under his thighs to hide their shaking.

Snape had disappeared into what Harry presumed to be the kitchen judging from the sounds coming from the other room. He could hear some clanking and – was that the click of an electric kettle? The soft sound was so heavily ingrained in Harry’s morning routines that he would recognize it even if it came from Voldemort’s kitchen itself. Somehow, the image of Snape brewing tea was even more unsettling than that of the Dark Lord operating a muggle device. Could one picture Snape brewing with something other than a cold menacing looking cauldron and a stirring rod looking as if the man could easily deliver the trashing of the century with it? Well, Harry couldn’t.

Nervously he gulped down the shudder at his last thought and followed Snape with his eyes as the foreboding men re-entered the living room with two steaming cups. He plunked one of them down harshly on the coffee table in front of Harry. Then he took a step back and leaned on the wall taping his cup with one finger and eying Harry as though he were an interesting specie he would like to dissect for one of his nasty brews.

“Drink!” Snape growled after a few minutes of appraising Harry who hadn’t made a move to grab the cup.

“I’m- I’m not thirsty,” Harry forced out anxiously.
“Merlin boy! If I wanted to poison you, you wouldn’t realize until you hit the floor unconsssciousssly.”

Harry flinched. Did Snape have to hiss his S’s this much? It was scary.

Not wanting to aggravate the man in his own home further Harry warily reached out a hand. Apparently, it wasn’t fast enough for Snape because he snatched the cup before Harry could. Two long strides brought him to the window, which he opened and unceremoniously dumped the whole tea outside. Harry watched partly fascinated by this new display of Snape’s apparent madness partly stressed out by what the unpredictable man would do next.

“Listen here and listen good Potter! You’re in my house and it would suit you well to act accordingly. I will not tolerate your prevailing tendencies of trouble making. Do I make myself clear?”

Harry hunched in on himself.

“Yes, sir,” he mumbled.
“Speak up boy!” thundered Snape impatiently. “And look at me when I’m talking to you!”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Snape meant the same thing by “talking” as Harry’s uncle. Reluctantly Harry raised his eyes and met Snape’s burning black glare.

“Yes, sir,” he repeated a bit louder.

But Snape just ploughed on, his voice growing louder and louder the longer he spoke.

“Do you have any inkling at what you have done? At the trouble, you caused the Order? Every member neglecting their duties just to search for your sorry hide?” Snape was coming closer and put his hands on either side of Harry looming over the boy who pressed back into the couch.

“But no, not you Potter! The world revolves around you! Why would Prince Potter halt for a moment to think about the consequences of his actions?” Snape spat the last words and tiny drops of spit landed on Harry’s glasses. Even without them, Harry’s vision was swimming. He blinked hard as to not let the tears threatening in his eyes fall. His ears pounded with that far too familiar noise of water pressing on his eardrums. Harry could feel his hands jerking and he pressed down harder on them.

“You are one sorry excuse for a human being boy! You’re just a spoiled brat who had it too good in life! Well you know what Potter? I will personally see to it that it changes. I will-“

But before Snape could finish his sentence and could announce exactly what awaited Harry a loud crush could be heard through the still open window.

“What?” Snape abruptly turned around. Then he looked back at Harry his arms still trapping him as if his student had anything to do with the sudden noise. Well I sat here the whole time, Snape, Harry thought with a challenging raise of one eyebrow. Snape didn’t see luckily. He had stood up making his way across the room to look out the window.

“Meow.”
“Felix?” Snape asked in a low voice as if he didn’t want Harry to become privy of the conversation.
“Meow!”
“Blasted cat!” Snape spat and opened the window wider. Something red jumped on the windowsill and Harry craned his neck to see what it was.

Snape bend down and started speaking softly at the something named Felix, which Harry was more and more sure was a cat. He strained his ears.

“Do you have to destroy all my flowerpots? Where were you anyway?”

The only answer the potions professor got was another “meow” which strangely enough sounded a bit reproachful to Harry.
“I know, I know,” said the man still in that soft voice and Harry would’ve lied if he said that it didn’t sound apologetically.
Suddenly the man whirled around a red ball of furry in his arms.

“Potter!” he spat as if only now realizing the boy was still sitting on his sofa. The cat butted his head against the arm holding it. The man sighed.

“Potter, I-“ he rubbed his forehead with his free hand. Harry worried his lip between his front teeth. What was the matter? What was going to be the next insult? Didn’t it come to Snape’s mind fast enough?

“Potter, I’m no more enthusiastic about this situation than you are.” Bewildered Harry raised his eyebrows. In Snape-language that was as good as an apology.

“I have to talk to the headmaster.” Snape let down the cat and made to leave the room.

“Stay here,” he added over his shoulder and Harry wondered why it didn’t sound so much like an order and more like a request. With that the man was gone leaving behind a red cat and a very confused Harry.

The cat gracefully approached the sofa. Then it started to rub his head against Harry’s leg. Checking that Snape was really gone, Harry carefully reached down to let the cat sniff his hand. His experience with animals was limited to a rabid bulldog, a club-wielding troll and a giant snake that could kill you with her eyes, neither of whom was a good example in Harry’s book.

Yet, the cat didn’t seem as if it would turn Harry into stone although with what was obviously Snape’s pet one couldn’t exactly know for sure. When the furry red ball begun purring however, it was over. Harry had to smile. It was a small one but it was there. Gingerly he stroked the cat’s shiny fur.

“So, you’re Felix?” he asked quietly. The cat meowed and jumped into Harry’s lap. He startled but let the cat roll itself up on his thighs.

“I take that as a yes then,” Harry grinned. Felix purred again and the purring tickled Harry’s stomach relaxing him somewhat. He laughed.

“Well, hello Felix.”

 

To be continued...
End Notes:

Well, I’m still alive :D I’m very sorry for letting you wait so long. I hope this chapter can somewhat make up for me neglecting this story for- well the last half year. By the way: Happy New Year to you all!

I just didn’t feel like writing and I had no idea how to continue. Writing Harry and Snape interaction is really hard and it just stressed me out. I still don’t know how to continue the story but I will finish it. Eventually. Though I will update very irregularly.

I hope I haven’t lost you completely. Thoughts, ideas, error sightings and critique is always welcome.

Have a nice day everyone!

Nemo

Schemes in the Garden by Nemo

Severus left through the kitchen door and for a moment, he just stood on the porch and looked at his garden. He took some deep calming breaths. Why did the Potter brat always had to irritate him this much? He wasn’t even there for half an hour and Severus had already resorted to yelling at him.

He took another big gulp of fresh air contemplating his garden that was still in disarray from the storm ten days ago.

Severus thought back to arriving with Potter and his blood started to boil again. Honestly, what did the brat hope to gain by lingering on his doorstep? Severus certainly wouldn’t cater to this whim of his to carry his sorry excuse of a backpack inside. Although he had to give the bothersome boy some credit: at least he had had the decorum to remove his shoes.

And then when the boy had perched on the very edge of the sofa Severus almost got the feeling that he was afraid. Codswallop! A Potter afraid? Well, he should be afraid. Severus definitely wasn’t about to coddle him like his muggle relatives. And no, the tea wasn’t coddling. Severus just didn’t want the little snot to spew vomit all over his good rug as green as he was looking after apparating.

Maybe he had been a bit irrational with the teacup. A little bit. It absolutely wasn’t an overreaction due to the fact that it was the same mug Ben had used the last time he was here. The last time Severus had seen him. The same mug he had thrown at his fireplace and repaired a second later with a pang in his chest. No, it was an absolutely rational response to the Potter boy parading his pamperedness. Well, Severus wouldn’t put up with it!

Although he might have gotten a bit carried away with his following speech. At any rate, it had made an impression on Potter. That’s what counted.
Yet, Severus couldn’t get rid of the feeling that if Felix hadn’t interrupted he would still be there shouting at Potter. And what good would that do? Severus’ throat already felt a bit sore from trudging through the constant rain in his search for Potter. Stupid boy!

He cast a glance through one of the living room windows and sniffed. The blasted cat had already made itself at home in Potter’s lap. Traitor!

Severus wished Ben were here. The boy was such a Hufflepuff he would befriend even Potter immediately. Instantly Severus backtracked. He hadn’t really thought about his young neighbour since setting forth to find Potter. His feverish search for the right tracking charm and the subsequent chase across half of Britain hadn’t left room for something other than the constant stream of new insults his brain had come up with for the son of his old school rival. Never mind that it had been his mind’s steady provision of new derisions that had made Severus loose the track in the first place.
Well, whose fault was that? Potter’s of course!

Maybe Ben had come home long ago? Severus strode towards the wall separating their backyards and looked up to what he assumed was the window of Ben’s room before he remembered his last meeting with Mrs. Anderson.
What had happened to Ben? The neighbour woman, Iris as she insisted, said that they had “gotten rid” of Ben. That wasn’t just a slip of tongue. She had meant it.

Severus had been so preoccupied that he hadn’t paused to think about that alarming piece of conversation. At that moment, he maybe didn’t take it too seriously and assumed the situation would resolve itself on its one as it had always done before with Ben. In hindsight, it had been very stupid to presume that with a cup of tea and an episode of Star Trek the situation would just go away. With a wince, Severus reflected on all the missed opportunities to talk to Ben and really change something. He swallowed around the lump in his throat.

Well, there was nothing he could do about it now, was there? And there was a much more pressing problem currently sitting on his couch.

Severus fumbled for his wand that he had stowed away in the pocket of the neat muggle trousers he had put on to get Potter out of the juvenile shelter. It hadn’t really taken much of convincing. They seemed happy to see the bothersome boy go.

“Expecto Patronum,” he incanted under his breath and send his patronus to Dumbledore with the urgent message to collect Potter as soon as possible. After the doe had leapt away over his baneberry field, he nudged a fallen branch with his foot. He really ought to clear up his garden.
He didn’t have to wait long for the headmaster’s answer. Severus’ thoughts of harvesting ingredients were disrupted by the shimmering phoenix perching on the branch before him and starting to talk in Dumbledore’s voice.

“Severus, I’m really glad you found Harry as I said before. Thank you my friend.”
Thank you my ass! thought Severus. The best thank you would be if you’d remove Potter from my couch!
“Unfortunately, as I have also mentioned before, no one from the Order currently has the capacities to take Harry.”
The capacities?
“I’m sorry.”
Sorry?
“But I’m sure it wouldn’t inconvenience you terribly to house Harry for one or two days.”

“One or two days!” Severus called aloud. A few birds startled in the wiggentrees.
“Or a week-“
“A WEEK?” Severus couldn’t contain his shout. The birds flew away chirping in dismay.

“A week and a half maximum,” Dumbledore continued merrily and Severus could practically see him before his inner eye stroking his long white beard pleased with himself and his shenanigans.
Severus really didn’t know which one was the worst: Albus and his constant machinations or Potter and his annoying tendency to create trouble wherever he went.

Would it be too much to ask for a little bit of well-earned peace after putting up with the hordes of abominable students all year long? Would it be too much to ask for some alone time so that he could tend to his vegetable garden and maybe finally finish the first chapter of the Hitchhiker? Couldn’t some other Order member look after Potter?
No, he had to be the one to find Potter, he had to be the one getting dragged into the sneaky schemes of the headmaster and HE had to always fucking be the one to smooth things over.
Frustrated, Severus kicked the branch, which snapped with a loud crack. The silvery phoenix clapped its wings and with a last rebuking glare at the potions master, it disappeared into thin air.


Harry stroked the cat lying in his lap. It was somewhat comforting to know that he had someone here that didn’t hate him right away. Even if that someone was a cat that was probably Snape’s pet. Harry couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that his evil potions master would care for a pet.

Felix purred quietly and stretched his legs. He began sharpening his claws on the new sweatpants Harry had gotten at the shelter but Harry let him. 

His thoughts were racing. He didn’t know what had happened in the last minutes never mind the last hour. How had Snape found him anyway? Harry had thought himself clever by not using magical means of traffic and keeping a low profile in the muggle world but apparently, that plan had failed. He could only be glad that it hadn’t been one of Voldemorts lackeys that tracked him down although he wasn’t sure if Snape was any better if it came down to it.

The man had never made his allegiances clear. Dumbledore could claim everything he wanted and even if Harry had to admit Snape had saved him a few times, that didn’t mean he had to like the sinister professor who had made it known from day one that he didn’t like Harry. X that. That he hated Harry.

Currently the potions master was prowling around the backyard. In Harry’s humble opinion, it made the garden look eerie no matter how fascinated he had been upon seeing it for the first time. Snape’s shadow fell upon the window and Harry quickly looked down when Snape’s glare landed on him.

Harry’s heart was hammering. He took a few breaths to calm down and continued petting Felix. With great effort he made himself relax somewhat only to startle fiercely when he heard Snape shout from outside.

“One or two days?”

Harry craned his neck to see whom Snape was so mad at. A familiar phoenix sat in front of Snape, his voice too soft for Harry to hear.

“A WEEK?” Snape yelled incredulously and Harry had to suppress a new shudder as to not startle Felix.

He heard a loud crash and anxiously knit his eyebrows together. Yes, Snape was definitely completely crazy, that was for sure.
A few minutes later, Harry heard a door open and close. He tensed up.


Severus made an effort to calm himself somewhat before going back inside. It wouldn’t do to just start screaming again even if it was the thing Severus would like to do the best right now.

In the silence left behind by Dumledore’s damn loyal bird, Severus had formulated a plan in his mind. He had discarded his first idea to just dump Potter right back on his relatives quickly after picturing himself chasing the brat across the country a second time. No, if Severus send the boy back now, he would only run again.

So, Severus had to make sure Potter knew what awaited him should he leave the safety of his loving relative’s home again. With a sardonic grin, Severus went inside.
At the end of the week, the little nuisance would beg Severus to bring him back to Privet Drive.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Here’s a short chapter just to get things going again. We see a bit of Severus’ perspective here. Hope you liked it :) What do you think of the new summary I’ve written for the story?

If you have ideas or something you would like to see in this fic, please let me know :)
I’m really open to all suggestions or wishes.
Have a nice week!
Nemo                         

 

Insidious Disease - Part 1 by Nemo

The remaining evening had been uneventful. If it weren’t for the ominous presence of his potions teacher one might even say it had been peaceful compared to Harry’s summer evenings thus far.

Snape had shoved some sheets and a sandwich in Harry’s stunned hands and with the threat that they would “Have a nice chat tomorrow, Potter” he had disappeared upstairs.
Felix the cat had also vanished Harry noted with a little stab of sadness. Probably out to hunt for some birds in the overgrown garden that must have been a cat’s paradise come true.

Quietly, Harry nibbled on the sandwich, which was surprisingly enjoyable given that he half expected Snape to throw in some yukky ingredients like frog lungs and force Harry to eat it. Instead, the plain cheese sandwich was downright boring compared to Snape’s usual nastiness.
Well, if there was one thing Harry had learned at the Dursley’s it was to never look a gift horse in the mouth.

After finishing the food, he carefully spread the sheets on the couch, took off his jumper and curled up on his side. He was bone-tired. Had it been only twenty-four hours since the gang had attacked them? In Harry’s mind, these two threads wouldn’t come together. One moment he and Ben sat peacefully chatting in the shadow no immediate worries on their minds. The next Harry was carted away to who knows where by his evil teacher.

Come to think of it: where was Harry? Upon arriving, Harry thought he glanced something blue in the distance. The sea? No, it couldn’t be.
He just couldn’t picture his dour potions master sunbathing on the beach and bringing back sand into the house in his shoes.

Harry tossed and turned. He couldn’t find a position that allowed him to go to sleep. He wasn’t picky. After ten years in a tiny cupboard, his only company some woodlice and spiders and then another four and a half summers making the saggy and coil spring ridden mattress in Dudley’s second bedroom work he really didn’t have high standards. And the couch was nearly as comfy as his bed in Gryffindor tower.
Who would have thought Snape cared for such things?

No, Harry was anxious. Was Snape asleep yet? Would he come in in the middle of the night just to frighten Harry?
Harry tried to keep his eyes closed with his arm so they wouldn’t wander to the big windows searching the twisting shadows outside.
It was a clear summer night. Harry knew from experience that it wouldn’t be dark properly until 2 am.
He really had to sleep. Who knew what new harassments Snape had up his sleeve in the morning?
But why did the couch have to face away from the door?

Harry felt chilly. He put on his grey jumper again and when that didn’t help he silently got up and tiptoed through the gloomy hallway to retrieve his jacket that he had hung up on Snape’s coatrack.

When he lied down again, something sharp jabbed him. Puzzled, Harry reached inside his jacket. Jammed between the half-empty packet of gummi bears he still had from his foray into Tesco’s there was the meditation guide from Hermione. Harry beamed down on it. He flicked on the small light Snape had beside his sofa and started to flip through the pages. Maybe the cloud technique could help him fall asleep.


Having slept a full eight hours, Severus nearly regretted how he had treated Potter the previous evening. Nearly.

Merlin, his head was killing him. Not to mention his nose that had apparently decided to not let any air pass through it. That would explain the bad taste left in his mouth. Severus groaned. He knew he had caught something in the rain.

Slowly sitting up and ignoring the room spinning lightly before his crusted eyes, he felt his forehead. Warm. 

Crash!

Severus twitched. The brat was only here for a mere sixteen hours and already he was destroying his house? Just you wait!

With a soft grown, Severus stood up and threw his dressing gown over his pyjamas. He made his way down the stairs as fast as possible in his current state. What he had expected when entering his living room he didn’t know. But it certainly wasn’t Potter lying on the floor beside the upturned coffee table thoroughly twisted in a blanket.
Two quick strides brought Severus starring down at the troublesome boy.

“What in Merlin’s name do you think you’re doing, Potter?” he asked wincing. His throat ached as if he had eaten a kilo of jalapeños and washed it down with chili oil.
“I- it- s-sorry, sir,” the boy stuttered blinking up at Severus like an owl struck by lightning.
“Are you too inept to even sleep boy?”
Severus saw Potter swallow nervously. Good, he hadn’t lost his touch then even if his voice sounded awfully husky at the moment.
The boy mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like “It was an accident”, but Severus ignored it.

“Pick yourself up Potter! And make your bed!”

The boy struggled to extract himself from the sheets and slowly came to his feet. Then he just stood there. Merlin, how Severus hated this brainless staring into nothingness so many teenagers seemed to have perfected.

“What are you waiting for? Hop to it boy!”

Potter jumped into action and satisfied Severus left for the kitchen to brew himself a very strong cup of tea and maybe take a few aspirins.


It was quiet without Harry here.
Not that the other boy had been a chatterbox, in the contrary. But Harry’s absence stood out to Ben like a red horse in a blue pasture.

The remaining Sunday, Ben didn’t do much except wandering the halls, watching the other boys play soccer from his place in the shade and trying not to stare at the empty bed across from his own.

A social worker had helped Ben get his cast in a plastic wrap so that he could take a shower. The warm water would’ve felt nice after the long days trapped in the hospital bed, especially as his locks slowly started to grow back now. If just Ben hadn’t had to think about Harry the whole time. The red marks wouldn’t leave him alone.

Upon entering their room- no, only his room now, he caught sight of the faded red cap Harry had given him to protect his head from the sun. In a defeated gesture, he ran his hand over his head. It was met with some resistance. Well, his hair was really growing back. Although he would have liked to tear it, strand by strand just because he was so powerless about this whole situation.

Ben went over to the bed, which in his mind still belonged to Harry and sat down. He bounced a little bit up and down a habit he had had since he was a child. Then he flopped down sighing hard.

Thud!

Puzzled Ben sat up. What was that?
It sounded like something heavy had hit the floor. He looked around the room. There was nothing lying on the cheerful blue of the linoleum floor. Curious he turned over onto his stomach and let his head hang down the side of the bed.

A book was lying half-opened on the ground, the pages bent from the impact. Ben reached under the bed and pulled out the book. It must have been wedged between the mattress and the frame, Ben’s flopping and bouncing having dislodged it.

The book felt funny, buzzing somehow. Well, what nonsense! Books didn’t buzz. Ben flipped the book over in his hands.

Magic in the Dunes – The Secret Sorcery of the Sand People

Ben’s eyebrows knitted together. Was that a science fiction novel? Or a fantasy book?
Normally he wasn’t especially interested in either genre except for his evenings at Mr. Snape’s watching Star Trek of course. But that was more of an allegory wasn’t it? For Ben, Star Trek was more about the moral dilemmas the captain and his crew got themselves into each episode and how they resolved them.

Carefully he opened the book to the first page.
A few grains of sand trickled down onto the light blue floor.

To be continued...
End Notes:

As always: please let me know what you think :) Thoughts, comments, hopes, wishes, critique, everything and everyone welcome here!

 

Insidious Disease - Part 2 by Nemo

Exhausted, Harry pulled another branch over to the steadily growing heap he had piled up in one corner of Snape’s garden.

His teacher had set him to work straight after breakfast. Harry hadn’t been able to get anything down except some saggy toast with a fried egg that had magically made itself when Snape had pointed his wand at a pan.

Now, Harry regretted not eating more. His stomach was grumbling with renewed appetite after his food poisoning and the regular meals at the shelter. His muscles were screaming at him to stop. Relentlessly, Harry pushed through his back pain and the aches starting to pop up in his whole body.

He squelched through the muddy earth courtesy of the rainy weather the last few days. Harry nearly wished for the dark clouds to come back. The sun shone mercilessly down on him, the big trees in the back of the garden only doing so much to provide fleeting shadows.

With a loud crack, Harry heaved the branch onto the pile. He put his hands on his knees and leaned forward as the primary school teacher had shown the asthmatic boy in his P.E. class. It didn’t really help. His vision was spinning. He recognized the signs from the Dursleys.
But he was too afraid to go inside and ask for some water. Snape would just laugh and tell him he wouldn’t get any until he had finished clearing up the backyard.

Come on, Snape’s not that evil, a quiet voice that sounded suspiciously like Hermione piped up inside his head.

You haven’t seen him this morning, Harry thought back stubbornly.

Like the evening before, his cranky potions professor had plunked the plate with Harry’s breakfast down loudly in front of the boy and ordered him to eat. Harry not wanting a repeat of last night didn’t dare to hesitate a second too long and began wolfing down the meal.

“Manners!” Snape snapped.
Harry glanced at him through his fringe. Snape inhaled sharply and bared his teeth.
“Honestly Potter, haven’t your relatives taught you to eat like a civilized human being?”

Actually, they haven’t, thought Harry with grim satisfaction.

“I’m waiting for an answer boy!”
“Sorry, sir,” he forced through clenched teeth.

Scornfully Snape wrinkled his nose. The professor made to speak but suddenly drew in a gulp of air. He tried again but had to breathe deeply again. Then an almighty sneeze shook him and his long black hair fell into his face.

Harry flinched at the sudden noise while simultaneously stifling a laugh. That hadn’t sounded healthy in the least.
“Bless you, sir,” he said trying hard not to let his amusement seep into his voice.
Snape glared at him through narrowed eyes.
“Save your breath, Potter.”

Then Snape pulled out a slip of paper from his black dressing gown. He slapped it down on the table.
“This is a list of chores, Potter,” the man looked at the boy challengingly.
“Do you know what chores are, boy?” he added with a sardonic rise of one eyebrow.
Harry admonished himself not to react. He only wants to rile you up, the Hermione-like voice whispered and Harry had to agree.
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have any problem finishing this list before dinner then, Potter,” Snape said triumphantly, stood up and swept away, leaving behind a boy who had already surrendered to his fate.


Befuddled, Severus blinked into the afternoon light filtering into his room. He hadn’t wanted to sleep for this long. Glancing at the alarm clock ticking softly on his nightstand he saw that it was nearly time for dinner.
Severus had told himself he would just lay down for a bit until his Pepper-up potion kicked in. He must have dropped off completely. At least he felt a bit better now.

With the funny feeling of being lost in time that always accompanied sleeping so much in the middle of the day, he got up, dressed in the plain muggle clothes he wore yesterday and made his way down to the kitchen. From outside a loud cracking sound could be heard.

With an angry little stab to his mind, Severus remembered just who had taken up residence on his comfortable couch. This sofa was reserved for him and his Star Trek evenings alone!
A little surprised he opened the back door sticking his head out into the stifling summer heat. Severus hadn’t expected the brat to actually follow his orders. The list of chores had just been a pretence for him to punish the boy later. Severus was certain that Potter would refuse to be lowered to house-elf status and herald the start of a strike as soon as the spoilt child saw his garden.

Instead, there was… this. He looked around searching for the boy. It didn’t take him long to spot Potter. The boy was currently struggling with a big chunk of tree, which had broken in the storm, balancing it awkwardly on his shoulder.

“Potter!” yelled Severus loudly to make sure the boy would hear.

Confused, the boy whirled around and swiftly lost the precarious balance. In a manoeuvre Severus could only write off as true showing off, Potter fell backwards at the same time as ducking away from the falling branch so as to not get hit in the face. Well, he wouldn’t earn Severus’ pity with that stupid little stunt.

Severus strode over to the boy sitting on his rump possessing the insolence of expecting sympathy from his potions professor.
Severus reached down and pulled the boy up by the collar of his jumper. Potter breathed harshly.

“What’s the matter Prince Potter? Not used to some simple yard work?”

The infuriating boy just remained silent. Oh, how that annoyed Severus. It was a bad habit and one he hoped to break the brat out of. He released the awful grey sweater and wiped his hand down the side of his trousers. Potter was sweating out of all pores and seemed to have taken a bath in the morass. Severus wrinkled his nose. Luckily, he couldn’t smell much at the moment. He eyed the boy critically.

“Did you have lunch, Potter?”
The boy blinked at him.
“Lunch?”
“Yes, lunch, Potter!” Severus snapped impatiently. How dense could the boy be?
 “Surely you have heard of the concept of eating at noon?”
“Yes, sir, but I thought…” he trailed off.
“Thought what, Potter?”
The boy worried his lip between his teeth for a moment and Severus scoffed. What did the little punk think to gain from this ploy for attention?
“Speak up boy!”
Potter took a gulp of air and quickly said: “Yousaidtofinishthelistbeforedinner”
It was only thanks to Severus trained teacher’s ears that he could make out what the boy had said.

“Well, have you finished then, Potter?”
Eagerly the boy nodded.
“Yes, sir. I have cleared up all the branches like you wanted and weeded the patches.”
Severus let his gaze sweep around the garden. He had to admit that the boy had done a good- an acceptable job. Where there were bits of tree lying all around his backyard this morning they were now piled up neatly in one corner of the garden. The grass starting to overgrow the porch had been trimmed and the patches of sneezewort had been weed- what? The patches of sneezwort hadn’t been weeded. They had been demolished!

“POTTER! What did you do?”
“What? I haven’t-“
Severus didn’t let the boy finish his stutter. He grabbed him by the neck and steered him towards the sneezewort patches. With a shove, he released the boy who stumbled and landed on his knees.

“Tell me what you see boy!” he thundered. He couldn’t believe Potter had destroyed his potion’s ingredients.
“I- I haven’t- I didn’t-“
“What you did not do was think Potter! Do you know how valuable this was?”
“I’m sorry. Sir, I-“
But Severus had already seized Potter by the arm and started dragging him back inside. The boy stumbled a few times, which only contributed to Severus’ anger.

In the kitchen, he not too gently shoved Potter into a chair and continued into the living room to retrieve a big tome. Grabbing the extensive guide to all kinds of potion’s ingredients, he made his way back into the kitchen where Potter was sitting completely frozen into place. If only the boy would be that still in potions classes. Potter looked at Severus’ middle-section where he held the book.

With more strength than was necessary, Severus tossed the book at Potter. Apparently, he had miscalculated the distance and fuelled by his anger the book sailed right into Potter’s face. With a soft wince that he instantly quashed down, Severus watched the book making contact with Potter’s nose. Honestly where were the boy’s seeker reflexes he was so keen on showing off on the Quidditch pitch?
Severus had to look away at the sound of the book smacking into Potter’s face. It wasn’t his fault if the boy didn’t know how to catch.

“Page 394, Potter. Read it!”
The boy fumbled with the pages, a painful expression on his face. He found the page and squinted down on it.
“The popu- properties of kneazle- sneezewort imbued- include-“
“Tell me Potter,” Severus asked in his dangerously soft voice. “Do you know how to read?”
Green eyes blinked up at him dazedly.

“Where are your glasses boy?”
Potter quickly reached a hand inside his pocket and put on the horrid round frames. He looked at Severus questioningly. The professor only raised one eyebrow. Potter lowered his head and began reading again.

“The pro- properties of sneezewort incl-“
“Silently Potter!” Severus barked and not being in the mood to chaperone the stupid boy, he swept out of the kitchen and up the stairs.


His nose hurt.

Harry cringed thinking back to his confrontation with Snape. His potions teacher’s reaction hadn’t really come as a surprise to him. Harry knew that Snape was mean and absolutely deranged in his anger especially when it was directed at Harry. The yelling, the insults, none of this shocked him anymore. Even the book hadn’t been so unexpected thinking back to the cockroach incident last year.

He took off his glasses, careful to touch his nose as little as possible. He had stowed them in his pocket again after he realized that the things had become completely useless. His stomach grumbled. Harry just remained bent over the book trying to decipher the applicability of sneezewort in potions. He couldn’t remember reading about it before. Aunt Petunia had always made him rip out the invasive plant, as it was an eyesore in her perfectly orderly garden.

For a moment, Harry had been sure Snape would take off his belt. Instead, the man had thrown 2448 Common Plants and Fungi and their Uses in Potions at him and had left the kitchen in true bat-fashion. Not knowing what else to do, Harry had started reading the chapter on sneezewort, too scared to defy his teacher again. The snigger upon hearing his teacher sneeze loudly from somewhere upstairs quickly died on his parched lips.

This day had been cursed from the beginning. His stomach rumbled again reminding him that the last time he had eaten was more than eight hours ago. Nervously he glanced over to the sink. Should he risk it? But what if Snape came in the exact moment Harry gulped down some much-needed water from the tap? The scary man had always had the most terrible timing. Would he get angry with Harry if he drank something?

He honestly couldn’t figure out his professor anymore. What was he on about back in the garden when he had asked Harry if he had eaten? At first, Harry thought Snape wanted to test him but then the man got really angry, asking if Harry understood the concept of lunch.
Later in the kitchen, right before the book had smacked Harry in the nose, he caught a glimpse of Snape. If he didn’t know better, he would’ve said he saw the man wince.
That notion was gone in an instant, however, and Snape began yelling at him again.

He was so sick of it. He hadn’t really done anything wrong. He had worked the whole day without daring to take a break out of fear what Snape would do to him if he found Harry lounging in the shade. He made an effort to stick to Snape’s stupid list even if his arms were screaming at him to stop lifting the heavy branches and even if his back, still not fully healed from his last encounter with his uncle, protested to all the kneeling and bending over to weed the sneezewort.

Why did everything had to happen to him?
It was a question he had asked himself countless times over the years. Now he could only smile at it tiredly.
It did no good wallowing in self-pity. He had learned that from an early age.
So what if your parents had been murdered by some mad maniac, the same lunatic who killed a classmate before your very eyes, the same one followed by a deranged mental case better off at Saint Mungos that had killed the only remaining adult in your life you considered somewhat parental?

Get over it Potter! he admonished himself even if unshed tears blurred his vision. Crushing another cramp of his stomach and sighing softly he lowered his head to squint down at the words. He didn’t notice his breath deepening and his eyelids becoming heavier and heavier nor them finally shutting. Gently, his head hit the open book.

 

When Severus came down to the kitchen the next morning he was greeted by the sight of Harry Potter slumbering peacefully on his kitchen table.

 

To be continued...
End Notes:

Double update for you guys!

To all the convinced singles out there: Keep going! You’re fine. Valentine’s day is just a shitty excuse of capitalism to generate sales ;)
To all of you happily in a relationship: congrats!
And to all of you just wishing to celebrate their birthday peacefully without running into lovesick people: Happy birthday!

 

Stormy Weather by Nemo
Author's Notes:

Warning: graphic depiction of an injury in this chapter.

 

At first, Ben had been sure the book must have been some sort of ironic joke.

He could watch Star Trek and all the other science fiction stuff Mr. Snape liked so much, as much as he wanted. The days Ben had believed in some kind of secret force or power had long gone.
They belonged to a forgotten past, pushed to a little cranny in the back of his mind. One couldn’t afford to believe in such things with an alcoholic mother.
For Ben it had been magic if they had had money to get food at the end of the month sometimes or if his mother’s newest addition to the boyfriend league wasn’t as bad-tempered as the last.

But then there had been the piece of paper he had discovered while riffling through the pages. After reading the letter addressed to Harry from a fellow named Ron, Ben had been confused. More than confused.
Technically, he knew that reading other people’s mail wasn’t exactly considered honourable. Usually he was good with these kind of things. He wasn’t nosy in the slightest. Just a little bit curious. Ok, more than a little bit.

At that moment, he had tried to justify his actions by reasoning that maybe the letter held some kind of hint towards Harry’s home situation that Ben could show the social workers so that they would get Harry out of there. Except, maybe Ben had known from the beginning that there was going to be something else.
There had always been these little nagging suspicions gnawing at him from behind his ears, tapping him on his shoulder, winking at him from the nooks of Mr. Snape’s garden.

And after reading about “muggles”, who or whatever they were, “magical folk” and a magical primary school they were back full force. A lot of things would make so much more sense. All the peculiar plants that didn’t seem to mind his neighbour’s absence for most of the year for example.

If Ben could just start believing again.
As it was, he firmly closed the book and lay back in his bed. He wasn’t going to pry into Harry’s private life. All that counted was that he considered the smaller boy his friend so here’s what Ben was going to do.

Ron had mentioned the Dursleys, Harry’s relatives. He seemed to know what was going on with them and wanted Harry to come stay with him instead. Just hang in there and I’ll convince my parents… These weren’t the words of someone just wanting to invite his friend over during the summer break.
Just hang in there.
No, Ben had been convinced that something was going on with Harry’s relatives and this just confirmed his doubts.

The longer he thought about it the more determined he became that he had to help Harry.
The only problem was that Ben hadn’t the tiniest idea how to do this. Not to mention his own worry about his mum finding him and sending him to military school for real this time. The social workers wouldn’t fall for the false phone number forever either. Ben nearly felt bad for them ringing a deserted phone booth at the corner of his street every other day in hopes of contacting his mother.

Over the last few days, Ben had enquired surreptitiously if his mother was allowed to send him to military school against his will. Of course, he hadn’t asked like that. He made it out as if his mother wanted him to start an apprenticeship now that he was 16 and as if he wanted to continue school instead. Fair enough.
The social workers had been excited to tell him all about emancipation of minors probably because they thought that this would make Ben open up about his situation so that they could send him either back to his mother or passing him on to another institution in Child Services. They had enough boys at the shelter after all.

Well, Ben had sworn he wasn’t going to become a number in the system. The social workers were already suspicious. Besides, Harry was more important.
The only real idea Ben had come up with starring across the room at the empty bed for several hours was asking for Mr. Snape’s help. The man had always been good to Ben. He had nursed the scrawny frozen cat back to health that now destroyed his flowerpots. At the thought of Felix, Ben felt a burning stab in his stomach. He missed the little fellow.

His neighbour with the peculiar garden had also tried to help after the Greg incident. Moreover, Mr. Snape was a teacher and that meant caring for children right? No matter how often the professor would complain about his students, Ben was positive that Mr. Snape would help a child in need.

Coming to this conclusion, the only way forward could be running away again.
Was it running away though if Ben went back home?
Nervously, he worried his lip between his teeth.
There was just one thing that made him hesitate. His mother.
Ben had to make sure it was Mr. Snape who he first run into, not his mum and her abominable boyfriend. After that, well… If it meant Harry being safe, Ben would gladly put up with whatever his mother came up with next.

Decided, Ben quietly flung back the covers, pulled on his jumper and tied his shoes.


The following week went by much the same for Harry.
He nearly fell back into the familiar trot he was used to from summers at the Dursley’s.

The only thing that was different was the food. After the first day, Snape curiously enough insisted upon three square meals a day, making sure to call Harry in for them from the garden. And even though this callings were accompanied with lengthy lectures from Snape peppered with insults about washing his hands and proper hygiene, Harry had to admit that is was nice taking a short break and getting to eat again.
Just the other day the man had gotten angry with Harry for not eating his whole sandwich yelling something about throwing away good food. Well, that was new. The Dursleys had always made sure Harry knew he wasn’t even good enough for the food they threw away.

Yes, it had become quieter at Snape’s. The mean professor had even left Harry in peace for the evenings although Harry was convinced that this was rather born out of Snape’s own unwillingness to deal with Harry more than necessary and not so much out of consideration for his student.

Snape’s insults steadily grew worse though. They had long left the territory of Harry’s alleged incompetence and turned to expand to his father and godfather’s deplorable characters. Harry tried holding his tongue as good as he could resorting to actually biting it so much it bled.
Snape hadn’t done anything worse than slandering him and Harry’s family after all. He hadn’t done anything worse to punish Harry other than making him do yard work for the past week. Yet.
Who was to know if that wouldn’t change if Harry started fighting back.

Still, Harry didn’t know how much longer he could put up with it.
As soon as they surfaced he tried pushing these thoughts back into the cupboard he had created in his mind and that had once been his childhood room.
He knew that he was a burden. He knew that he wasn’t likeable. He had known from the beginning. He must have been used to it by now.
Except you never got used to it.
Even if it came from a person, you didn’t expect anything better off.
Hope was a complicated thing.

On Wednesday, Snape made Harry dig the former patch of sneezewort now only containing a few sad little stems of the ingredient. Snape had told him to bury the remains of the plant Harry had plucked accidentally.
Harry who actually had read ahead in the plant guide was fascinated to learn that this would enrich the soil with nutrients and felt a bit proud when Snape told him to plant some sort of nightshade plant the next day.
Apparently, sneezewort could be used to stem bleeding and nightshades were a main ingredient in blood-replenishing draughts. Slowly he understood Neville’s enthusiasm about herbology.
Of course, as Harry had assured himself, he only read Snape’s book out of pure boredom when he was left alone trying to fall asleep on the exposed sofa. Ron’s book was curiously missing.

“Isn’t sneezewort the same plant Achilles used to heal Telephus with?” Harry asked Snape before he could stop himself. Questions were always a precarious bet in potion classes.

Snape who had come outside to check on Harry’s progress eyed the boy distrustfully. It seemed as if he couldn’t figure out what Harry was up to now but was completely sure that the boy was planning something. Seeing the suspicious glint in his teacher’s eye, Harry nearly had to laugh. Yes, it was a well-guarded secret his clandestine reading affinity. He barely stopped himself from smiling opting instead for a carefully neutral expression.

Snape shifted clearing his throat awkwardly. The professor had still not completely gotten rid of his cold. Harry had heard him muttering about the preposterous failing of medicine muggle and magical alike when it came to common colds.
He almost felt bad hearing him cough at night but then he remembered his bruised nose. It wasn’t as swollen as it had been on Tuesday but still. Serves him right the git for throwing the book at me!

“Indeed Potter,” Snape quirked an eyebrow.
“Its botanic name is Achillea after the Greek hero as you could have known if you payed attention in my class.”

“Oh,” Harry said.
He looked up at Snape. “Interesting.”
“Is that so?”
Harry shrugged.
Snape smirked.
“Back to work, Potter!”

Well, that had almost been a civilized conversation, Harry thought as he continued to plant the delicate nightshades.

Thursday had seen a return of the rain. Snape made Harry work outside nonetheless. It didn’t bother Harry that much. It was a welcome reprieve from the heat at least.
Come Sunday however and Harry felt as if there wasn’t a dry bone inside his whole body.
The last days he had to turn Snape’s compost, an enormous heap in the back of his garden. Harry, having had much experience gardening at his relative’s had actually never done this before as the Dursleys hadn’t bothered with generating their own humus. They just bought whatever mulch was cheapest and had Harry spreading it on their flowerbeds.

It was hard work. The roots from the big trees that enclosed Snape’s property had grown inside the huge pile of earth and Harry had to use all his weight on the spade to break them.
Big chunks of half-rotten earth clung to each other breaking apart with loud squelching sounds. After less than a day, his lower back had started to tingle unpleasantly and Harry’s neck had become stiff from all the heavy earth he had shovelled. His hands normally used to this sort of drudgeries had capitulated, his horny skin cracking and his blisters bursting with some nasty yellow pus.

Harry welcomed the pain. It was something that distracted him from the thoughts running around his head. Thoughts about the last month. About his relatives. About his uncle. About running away. Thoughts about Ron and Hermione. About Ben. About Siri- the ministry.
Sometimes he would spy a red streak chasing something in one corner of the garden and it made Harry swallow around the lump in his throat. A Hedwig-shaped lump.
The pain from his hands and the aches in the rest of his body helped to ground him. There wasn’t anything other than digging in the dirt, eating and sleeping. There wasn’t anything he had to think about other than finishing his work for Snape on time lest the cruel man come up with some different method of punishment.

With the grey clouds above, the night seemed to arrive earlier.
Harry was just finishing his work for the day. Tired he trudged through the muddy earth towards the small shed to put away the tools. Suddenly his foot exploded with pain.

“Fffffuck!” hissed Harry.

Dropping the spade and dung fork he carried he toppled over into the sodden soil. Apprehensively he felt for his left foot in the mud clutching it harshly in an attempt to quell the pain.

The brown mud dripping off it mixed with something red at an alarming speed. Harry leaned over. Something had pierced through the sole of his ratty trainer and now stuck in his foot. He retched and had to force himself to keep looking at it.

It was a little piece of wood, a broken branch with a sharp peak currently imbedded in Harry’s foot.

Harry released his foot and closed his eyes. Wearily he rubbed a calloused hand over his face sucking in a harsh breath.
Then he pulled his foot closer again, took a firm hold on the wood and pulled.

With a gruesome squelch and a silent cry from Harry courtesy of years of training from the Dursleys, the wooden thing came loose and left a hole in the sole of Harry’s trainer.
He looked at the horrid thing, his blood dripping from it and pooling on the earth beside him.

With all his remaining strength, Harry flung the thing away into the bushes.
At the same moment, he heard the back door open with an unpleasant squeak.

“What is taking you so long out there, Potter? Dinner is ready!”
Gritting his teeth Harry slowly stood up, shifting his weight to his right foot and leaning onto the spade. He heard a loud sigh coming from the house.

“Is this your latest ploy for attention boy? Do I have to come down there myself?”
Harry panted.
“Coming, sir,” he wheezed but Snape was already striding over to where Harry was still standing shakily in the mud.

If he wouldn’t have been so afraid of what Snape was going to do to him Harry would’ve spared the yellow wellies his teacher was wearing more attention. At that moment though, everything was just too overwhelming.
The pain in his left foot seemed to have increased tenfold in the last minute. Harry who had had his fair share of injuries over the years always was fascinated at how fast the body seemed to forget old pain. He couldn’t remember ever feeling something that painful.
It hurt anew each and every time.

Someone grabbed his arm and started dragging him back to the house. He let go of the spade that dropped unceremoniously in the mud. Snape stopped abruptly.  

“Pick that up Potter!”
Harry bent down to gather up the spade.
“What are you waiting for boy! Into the shed!”
“Yes, sir,” answered Harry faintly and began his long and painful trek towards the shed.

His teacher never once looked back at the stumbling boy.


He had waited in the shed for a long time, convinced that Snape had meant for him to wait there while he gleefully decided on the best punishment for Harry.

Harry had picked up the fork as well breathing harshly as his foot made contact with the earth in the process. He cleaned both tools in the water barrel just outside the wooden hut, hung them up inside and sat down to wait for his angry teacher.
What was taking him so long? Did he try to decide which implement to trash Harry first with?

Darkness had long since crept from the cobwebbed corners and Harry could hear the faint bubbling of the falling rain on the roof.
He was just glad Snape allowed him to stay here where it was dry instead of shutting him out in the rain, as Uncle Vernon had liked to do when Harry misbehaved.

His foot was throbbing. He could feel his heart pulsating in unison with the pain.

It couldn’t go on like this. He couldn’t go on like this.
Apparently, Snape had mercifully decided to spare him this evening. Harry refused to think about the morning.

There was only one thing he could do. He had done it before. He would be more careful this time. This time it would work.

Slowly getting up from the wooden crate, he left the shed and made his way towards the shadowy house. Everything was quiet inside when he pushed open the back door. Miraculously, Snape hadn’t locked it.
Harry crawled over into the living room. He didn’t want to think about the consequences of getting dirt on Snape’s floor. And he couldn’t even bear to think about getting off his left shoe. So, crawling.

Next to the sofa, his backpack was lying in a sad little heap. Harry carefully slung the straps over his shoulders and crawled to the front door.

His left trainer felt wet. He looked down to see it thoroughly soaked. Harry had read somewhere to put pressure on open wounds. The only thing he could think off currently was untying his shoelaces and pulling them more tightly.

His foot hurt awfully as he tied his shoes. Then he quietly slipped out of the silent house.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Phew, what a ride. What do you think? A bit too introspective maybe?

I decided that Ben wouldn’t find the moving pictures in the book. That would’ve been too much. So I just imagine he found Ron’s letter before he came to the part with pictures in it :D Ah, artistic freedom is such a nice thing for lazy authors.

I know a lot of you wanted to see Severus going back for Ben because of something Harry said. I felt that this wasn’t going to happen in this story. Snape and Harry aren’t really at the point in their relationship where they would talk about something like this. Or anything at all really ;)

About the sneezewort: in Greek mythology, sneezewort is used to heal wounds. Therefore, I thought that blood-replenishing potions work similarly and that ingredients of it would benefit from the sneezewort’s properties. Just a theory my muggle brain came up with ;)

I roughly planned the rest of the story yesterday and was surprised (and a bit sad) that there wasn’t really much left.
Next chapter we will plunge into Severus’ thoughts again.

Thanks for reading! Sorry for my rambling! Have a nice weekend!
Nemo

Dog Days by Nemo

The air in his bedroom was stifling. He rolled over trying in vain to find a position that allowed some fresh air from outside to reach him. Feeling exposed, he pulled the sheets up over his shoulders.

Severus couldn’t sleep.
It had been a week since Potter came to stay with him and the only thing Severus could say for sure was that the boy had not been what he had expected. It annoyed Severus to no end that he couldn’t figure Potter out.

There had been the usual defiance of course.
Severus could have killed the brat for destroying his potion’s ingredients. Not even for one moment had he believed Potter’s pathetic excuses about thinking the sneezewort to be weeds.
No, the little urchin had wanted to test him. To see how far Severus was willing to go. Maybe Potter counted on Severus to mistreat him in some way so that he could go whining to Dumbledore about it.
Well, Severus had controlled his temper even if that had cost him a great effort. He had even explained to Potter the significance of integrating the dead sneezewort plants into the earth.
Not that Potter had listened. Instead, he asked that nonsense about Greek mythology of all things. Severus wasn’t going to be impressed.

Although he had to admit that the boy had done good work apart from the sneezewort.
Severus had expected him to downright refuse working after the first day or Potter’s tendency to turn in shoddy work flaring up. Neither had happened.
What did the boy hope to gain from it?

He didn’t trust Potter inside the house. Therefore, it was only practical that he would work in the garden gaining insight into a hard day’s work. Severus had been sure the spoiled brat had never before been made to pick up after himself.
It had worked, at first. The boy had been more obedient than the professor had ever witnessed him being at school. If Severus hadn’t known him better he would’ve even described Potter as docile.
It was all a ruse of course. Potter was up to something.

In any case, Severus had to revisit his former plan on getting rid of Potter through continual yard work.
He had gambled on Potter begging to return to his relatives after the week of gardening Severus had put him through. If Potter, tired of Severus’ harsh regime, wanted go back to his relatives, Severus could tell Dumbledore exactly that. It would have been the perfect excuse to remove Potter from his couch and return to his peaceful summer of reading, tending to his vegetable garden and having dinner with Ben.

He worried about the boy. There was no sign of life from either him or his mother.
One afternoon, he had gone up the street to see if there was light in the house. He only encountered Felix lounging on the sun-baked wall in front of Number 6.
Severus had the feeling the cat was angry with him. Which was, of course, total nonsense. Cats didn’t have feelings.
Nonetheless, Felix avoided Severus. Sometimes he saw him outside with Potter but every time Severus approached, the red feline disappeared quickly into the undergrowth. Also, the cat never once showed up to be fed even though Severus refilled his bowl every day and set it out on the porch.

Eating was a topic with Potter too.
Severus had been mildly puzzled that Potter hadn’t helped himself to something from the fridge that first day. Without doubt, he waited to be served by Severus. Or he wanted to accuse his oh so mean teacher of starving him.
Well, it wasn’t going to happen. After that first day, Severus made sure the boy ate.

He had slept through the better part of the week, his illness obviously not keen on easing off soon. Severus burned through his entire supply of pepper-up, headache reducers magical and muggle alike and had used two bottles of nasal spray but he was still coughing his lungs out.
As a result, Severus had just stayed in bed trusting Potter to be too afraid of him to pull anything like the destruction of his sneezewort again. He was halfway through the Hitchhiker but currently felt too grouchy with Albus to thank him for the intriguing book.

Severus had tried to contact Dumbledore a few times. If the headmaster had had an answerphone, he would have found several messages from his Potions Master steadily growing more colourful in their enunciation of just how cumbersome it was to accommodate the Potter boy.

As it were, Severus’ Patronus doe seemed to be nothing more to Dumbledore than a little sliver of fog clouding the sun on the tropical beach Severus was sure the headmaster was presently basking at.

Albus would have a lot to answer for when he came back, that much was certain. Severus really looked forward to expound to him exactly how much trouble Potter had been and every misconduct however small that the boy had performed.

The morning Severus had found the boy sleeping with his head on the kitchentable, the big tome his pillow, for example. He had been about to chew the boy up for drooling on and crinkling the pages of his valuable book. Except the troublesome child miraculously had neither dog-eared nor salivated on Severus’ priced book.
Not wanting to let the brat get away scot-free from the incident that was surely just another ploy for attention, Severus had taken him to task rather harshly because of his dirty jumper.

Apart from the eating, the clothes were another matter that just annoyed Severus to no end. Why the boy insisted on wearing these hideous rags only Merlin would know. He hadn’t even changed from the ugly grey sweater he had arrived in, a fact Severus berated him harshly for. Teenagers especially needed a good body hygiene.

When the boy had startled from the book and looked at Severus through sleep-filled eyes, the Potion Master had to suppress a wince. Something undefined but heavy settled in his stomach when he caught sight of Potter’s face. His nose looked… not well. Severus struggled with a bout of guilt eventually banishing it to the same mental abyss usually reserved for his darker memories of his time as Death Eater.

The feeling had surfaced again a few times over the following days. Each time he had dismissed it.
He didn’t want to think about it.
Didn’t want to think about why Potter was at the juvenile shelter to begin with.
Didn’t want to consider the implications.

It was difficult to look at the boys eyes. He wasn’t wearing his glasses again. It made Severus angry. To the boy he said that he had burdened himself finding them where Potter had lost them carelessly and had repaired them so that the idiotic child could at least see what he was doing in Severus’ garden. To himself Severus would have never admitted that it troubled him seeing the green eyes so unveiled and clearly.

Surreptitiously, he had mixed an anti-swelling potion into Potter’s morning cup of tea. Over the edge of his paper, Severus had watched the bruise go down not only on Potter’s nose but on his temple as well. His lip looked less swollen too.
Not that the brat would have noticed or even thanked Severus for it. He tried to ignore the little black pebble settling into his stomach joining the growing pile of stones. Severus hadn’t even bothered with the boy’s injuries when he collected him, certain that the boy had deserved them picking stupid fights at the juvenile shelter. Regrets, regrets.

Sighing, Severus tried to shoo his racing thoughts away and shut up his mind. For a master Occlumens he had a difficult time doing so this evening.
The phone booth at the corner of the street kept ringing.
Severus turned over once more to find a cold spot on his mattress.


Finding his way back hadn’t been difficult. He had hitchhiked before the previous summer when he took a time out from his mother in Durham.
Once he had made his way from the tiny suburb the juvenile shelter was located at and hit upon the next highway north, it had been smooth sailing.
Ben knew all kind of things could happen when hitchhiking but refused to think about it. It might have sounded naïve to other people, but he believed in the goodness of humans. If you were nice, they were nice too.

He hadn’t had to wait long. Fortune smiled upon him as it was rush hour and a kind middle-aged lady stopped her car for him. Talking with her, Ben found out that she had cats and after that they were so engrossed with exchanging funny stories about their respective felines that the woman nearly missed her exit.
After the cat-lady, two lorry drivers had taken Ben along. The first was an easy-going Georgian singing songs in three or more different languages and the second a silent wizened man. Ben felt at ease with both and enjoyed the ride.

When they passed the nameplate of his town, he asked the old trucker to stop. The old man pulled the heavy vehicle over and with a hand raised in silent greeting, he bade Ben farewell.
Ben shouldered his seabag. He loosely planned to spend the night on the beach. His last night in freedom if his mother had any say about it.
The idea had come to him while listening to the Georgian explaining the meaning of one of his songs enthusiastically. Ben had camped on the beach before and it was one of his most treasured memories.

The sky was grey. At least it had stopped raining. Even so, Ben wasn’t going to let a little water stop him from prolonging going back to his mum for a little bit.
He felt a bit guilty about delaying the Harry-problem but he never knew where he stood with his mother. She was a force to be reckoned with drunk and sober. And Mr. Snape, or Severus as the man had revealed on their last encounter, didn’t like to be bothered in the evenings anyway.
Ben could just picture him sitting in his cosy living room, Felix rolled up snuggly in his lap. Was Star Trek on tonight?

Smiling, Ben drew in a breath of fantastically fresh air. The rain had washed away every grain of dust and left the world pure and new.
Ben watched out for the blinking lantern of the lighthouse not too far away. It soothed him to see it flare up in the distance stamping out the darkness in the same rhythm it had always done.
It might not be a perfect one but Ben was glad to be home.

For a moment, he remained standing on the edge of the street winding itself over the cliffs. Behind the road, meadows spread themselves to the horizon, their spikes catching the last rays of the sun. Ben could see gorse bushes dotting the white rocks like yellow stubble.

Then he cautiously began his slithering descent towards the beach.


Harry stumbled in the dark.

Somewhere in the distance, he could hear church bells ringing faintly and a soft whooshing noise steadily came nearer. Harry saw a light flickering up beyond the dark hills.
His foot was killing him. Every one of his steps was accompanied with a squishing noise; his sock was soaked with warm red liquid. He ignored the pain and stumbled on.

Just get away from here! Just get away! he told himself tripping on the crumbly asphalt.
He leaned against a telephone pole to catch his breath.
Where was he going? It was madness.
Never mind! Doesn’t matter! As long as I get away from there- from him.

In the dark, Harry never saw the slanting hill. When his good foot hit nothing but thin air, he fell over tumbling down the round edge towards the stony beach.


Ben carefully made his way down the slope. He had been there enough times to know where to put his feet even in the dusk. The wind gently stroked his face and he rounded a cliff that stuck out towards the sea. The blinking lighthouse disappeared. Under his shoes, the washed out pebbles scrunched in a soothing way.

Nobody was there. Not even stargazing locals could be seen in this summer night.
Ben let his gaze rove over the jagged cliffs in search of an overhang or even a small cave he could kip in. His eyes came to a halt on a peculiar stone formation. It seemed to move albite slowly and stumbling. Curious he quickened his step.
From up close he could identify the thing he had thought to be a stone as a human. A small human, a boy maybe.

“Hello?” Ben called out.
The boy froze. Ben caught up with him.
“Uh, hello? Are you alright?”
The other boy turned around and in the small sliver of light, Ben recognized his face.

“Harry?”
“Ben?”
“What are you doing here?” the two boys chorused.
Ben had to laugh.
“Actually, I live here,” he told Harry who looked at him bewildered.
“Well, not here-here,” Ben pointed to the beach.
He was so relieved to see Harry that he didn’t even question how the other boy had ended up on the rocky beach of Ben’s hometown.

“Are you alright?” Ben repeated his question.
Harry nodded.
“What are you doing here?” he asked Ben. His voice sounded a bit hoarse.
“Wanted to enjoy my last night of freedom,” Ben smiled.
“Last night of freedom?”
“Yup! Want to join me?”

Harry cleared his throat. In a somewhat stronger voice he answered: “That would be nice.”
“Well, come on then.”
Ben lead the way further down the beach where he knew there was a small cove that would protect them from possible rain in the night. Harry followed him with difficulty.
Ben stopped.
What was wrong with his friend? Knowing how tight-lipped the other boy was, he tried a different tactic.

“Actually, here is a good place to rest for a moment,” he flopped down on a patch of soft grass. “You can see the stars better from here.”
Harry sat beside him. He pulled his legs towards himself and wrapped his arms around his knees.

“Are you cold Harry?”
“A bit, it’s okay.”
Ben rummaged in his duffle bag.
“Here, have my jacket.”
When Harry didn’t make a move to take it, Ben carefully wrapped it around the small shoulders of his friend.

Together they looked at the steel-grey sea mirroring the night sky above. The water was timid but some undercurrent was lapping against the small rocks further out, chopping up the smooth sea.

“Look Harry!” Ben pointed towards the sky. The blankets of clouds had torn open revealing merrily blinking stars.
“You know Orion?”
Ben could feel Harry shift beside him and counted it as a nod.
“People from the desert believed Orion the great hunter had a dog. See the three stars in a row there? That’s his belt.”
Harry shuddered. Ben attributed it to the cold air drifting in from the sea and gently rubbed Harry’s back to warm him up.

“So that’s South-East roughly. Follow Orion’s belt to the left. You see the bright star there? That’s Sirius.”

“Sir- Sirius?”
“Yes. The Dog Star. Brightest star in the night sky. If you look close enough, you can see the constellation. It’s called Big Dog.”
Harry looked at him questioningly.
“What?” Ben grinned. “Always have been interested in astronomy.”
“I thought you didn’t like reading,” Harry asked through chattering teeth.
“My grandfather showed me,” Ben swallowed. “When he was still alive.”
“He died?”
“Yes,” Ben answered quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Harry whispered back.
Ben smiled. “Don’t be. That was a long time ago.”

It was silent for a while. The ocean was licking at the pebbles of the beach silently.

“Do you ever get used to it?” a small voice asked. Ben looked at Harry.
“No,” he answered truthfully. “But it gets better.”
Under his hand still cycling Harry’s back for warmth the small body of the other boy shook.
Ben glanced at Harry worriedly. Slowly he wrapped his arm around Harry’s shoulder.

“My- my godfather,” Harry began in a stumbling voice. “He died last month.”
Ben remained silent and just skidded closer to Harry.
“His- his name was- Sirius.”
Ben felt something clenching at his heart and wrapped Harry into a full embrace. Slowly the smaller boy returned the gesture, his hands coming up step by step before resting on Ben’s back.

“A nice name”, Ben said after a while.
“It is- I mean- was. He- he was nice.”
“Did you live with him, before- I mean, before this summer?”
“No. Always wanted to though.”
“But you couldn’t?”
“No.”

“What’s wrong with your foot?” Ben changed the topic to his original field of interest.
“No- nothing!”
“Really?”
“Really.”
Ben looked at Harry sceptically.
“Come on, let me see it.”
“No!” Harry insisted vehemently.

But Ben ignored him. He bent forward and gently took Harry’s foot in his hands before the stubborn boy could object.
“Harry!” exclaimed Ben. “You’re injured.”


“’s not that bad,” Harry mumbled even as he flinched upon the soft contact Ben made with his foot.
“Not that bad? It’s bleeding!”
Harry wrenched his foot out of Ben’s hand sucking in a harsh breath.
“It’s none of your business,” he cried angrily.
He could feel Ben staring at him through the dark.
“Leave me alone.”
“No.”
“What do you care?” Harry continued, his voice growing louder. Ben could only hear panic in it.
Again he remained silent.
“GO AWAY!” yelled Harry, his voice echoing from the cliffs.

Ben stood up and shouldered his seabag. He looked out toward the ocean. He could see a tiny sliver of light colouring the faraway waterline. He turned around and crossed his arms.

“No!”
“Ben! I said go away!”
“NO!”
“You’re- Go away! I hate you!”

“You don’t,” Ben said matter-of-factly.
Angrily, Harry stood up. He swayed. Ben rushed to stabilize him.
“No!” Harry cried and pushed Ben with all his might.
Ben only stumbled back a few paces and was back at Harry’s side in seconds.

“Don’t…” Harry whispered.
Ben listened but wrapped Harry’s arm around his shoulder nonetheless.
“Harry,” he begun with that earnest tone Harry had heard him use when speaking to Lewy and his gang the first day at the shelter.
“Harry, listen. I only want to help.”
Harry swallowed against the lump quickly rising in his throat.
“You can’t help me.”

He could feel hot tears in the corner of his eyes. His foot was hurting as if burning hot acid had been poured on it. His leg was slowly going numb. It was over. Everything was over.

“You can’t go on like this,” he heard Ben’s voice.
It sounded strangely far away as if someone had stuffed cotton inside his ears.
Then his vision went black and he knew no more.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Did you like it? Hope the changing POV’s in Harry and Ben’s dialogue weren’t too confusing.

In summer, you can see the star Sirius in the constellation Canis Major rising on the eastern horizon in the Northern hemisphere shortly after dawn when it would be light already in the UK.
I researched this after I had the idea for this chapter. As it is winter now you can actually see Orion and Sirius for half of the night in the southern sky (just if you wanted to do a bit of stargazing yourself :)). To all of you hobby astronomers: please don’t flame. The story is set in a magical world after all ;)

Sirius is the brightest star on the night sky, just as Ben told Harry. Usually the dog days, named after the Dog Star, occur between the beginning of July and the middle of August and are also the hottest days in summer with sudden thunderstorms occurring.

Guys, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the summer :)

Rescue Mission by Nemo

He managed to haul Harry away from the beach and up the cliffs. Ben could hear the weather flags flapping in the distance. The wind had picked up.

Although the other boy was very light and much too small for his age, Ben was glad he remembered the short cut across the soccer field. Warily he glanced at the threatening rain clouds above.
As they made their way through the streets, Harry drifted in and out of consciousness. Ben was panting. Holding up the dead weight of his friend wasn’t easy. Ben kept an awkward grip on Harry, his arm slung uncomfortably across Ben’s shoulders. He pushed on.

He had to get them to Severus. He was going to help. The professor could heal Harry and maybe he would allow Ben to stay with him for the day. He really didn’t feel like facing his mother at the moment.
Everything was too much. His mind was pushing against his head from the inside with all the thoughts tumbling over each other. Everything had happened too fast.

Harry kept mumbling under his breath.
Ben couldn’t make out the words but they spurred him to greater hurry.
When they entered the street Ben lived in after what seemed like a lifetime to the boy, a faint rumble could be heard and little raindrops begun falling down on them.
Harry started squirming in his grip.

He had woken long enough to take in their surroundings and for the first time, Ben could understand what he said.
“No, please, don’t…”
Puzzled Ben bend his head so it was level with Harry’s careful not to jostle the other boy in the process.

“Harry? What’s up?”
“Please… don’t take me back there.”
“Back where?”
“Please- I can’t.”
“Back where?” Ben asked growing more and more fearful.
“To him.”
“Him?”
Harry sucked in a breath. His eyes were closing.
“Harry? Harry!”
“Not. Him. He’ll- pun’sh-“
Harry’s words were all chopped up.
“So angry-”
“Harry, I can’t, what?”
“Please. Not – belt – please.”

Ben felt his blood running cold. His throat closed off.
“Calm down Harry. We’re nearly there.”
“No… he’ll…” his voice broke down.
The rain grew heavier. Ben had to get them to safety. And preferably somewhere dry. He braced himself and started dragging Harry down the street once more. He couldn’t think straight. Was Harry having some sort of episode? The boy was clearly delirious. Ben had to hurry.

They finally arrived at Number 7. Ben didn’t even spare a glance at the neighbouring house. He didn’t want to see, didn’t want to know. He kicked the gate open with his foot. It hit the wall with a loud crash that had Ben wincing.
Startled from the loud noise, Harry looked around bewildered.
“Where are w- nooo...”
Ben dragged him towards the front steps navigating between various flowerpots.
“Nonono,” Harry whimpered.
“Harry, it’s okay. It’s going to be fine,” Ben reassured him breathlessly.
“No,” the other boy groaned.

Ben brushed the strange behaviour of his friend aside. He had to get help. Fast.
He knocked on the door. Nothing happened. He rapped on the wood more firmly.
“Mr. Snape?”
Harry started struggling again.
“Harry, please. Hold still. I can’t hold you,” Ben begged. In a louder voice he repeated: “Mr. Snape? We need help!” Nothing stirred inside the house.
Something touched Ben’s ankle. He jumped and nearly dropped Harry who was still struggling against Ben’s arms.
“Felix!” Ben cried. The cat considered them for a moment. Then he gracefully leapt on the wall and started chucking down flowerpots.
“Felix no! What are you doing?”

Crash! Crash! Boom!

Ben cringed. That last one had been a big one.
Felix meowed agitatedly. Another pot went flying.

Suddenly, the door was flung open.
“What is that infernal racket going on out here? Do you want to wake up the whole neighbourhood?”
There he stood. Arms crossed over chequered pyjamas Mr. Snape glowered down on them. Then his expression shrunk.

“Ben? What are- Potter!”
“Sir, please, you have to help!” Ben cried desperately. He couldn’t hold Harry up much longer. The small boy fought against his hold as if Ben was leading him to his execution.
“Ben! What happened? Why-“
He never finished his question.

Harry having taken a good look at Snape promptly threw up in own of the professor’s vegetable patches. Ben clutched Harry’s chest so that the smaller boy wouldn’t keel over into his own vomit. In his arms, Harry went slack.
“Mr. Snape, sir- please help!”
Severus stood frozen in the doorway.
“Professor- Severus! Help!”

That seemed to do the trick. Severus started to move, quickly taking Harry’s other arm and guiding him and Ben inside. It was difficult navigating the narrow hallway and Ben stumbled on a pair of yellow wellies that stood by the front door. Severus caught them both. He tightened his hold on Harry and reached out a questioning hand towards Ben.

“Alright there Ben?”
Ben nodded before he realised the professor couldn’t see it in the dark.
“Yes,” he said. “Don’t mind me. Help Harry.”
Together they made their way into the living room. Severus carefully placed Harry on the couch. Ben lifted Harry’s legs onto the soft cushions.
“Merli- Jesus Ben! What happened?”

“He- I- he’s- I don’t…”
Severus starred back at him. Ben was overwhelmed. Rescue was so near. They had made it. He was so tired.
“Sir please,” he tried to string together a sentence. “Harry’s foot.”
Severus abruptly turned to Harry again.
“Merlin! Shit!”
He immediately begun to peel open the blood-crusted shoelaces.

Ben sat down on the rug. His legs felt wobbly. When Severus gently removed Harry’s shoe the smell of blood hit Ben’s nose. He retched.
“Ben? Benjamin?” Severus asked worry seeping into his voice. Ben stopped him with a wave of his hand.
“Not important. Harry- he-”
“I know. I know,” Severus sounded wary somehow.
“Ben,” he continued. “You’re shivering. You can take a shower if you want to.”
“But-“
Severus took Ben’s hand into his own.
“You’re freezing cold Ben.”
Ben blinked at him uncomprehendingly.
“Do you have clean clothes?” asked Severus the trembling boy.
Ben glanced at his seabag that lay in a puddle on Severus’ rug.
“I will lend you some of my clothes. They should fit you well enough,” Severus said.
“But- Harry?”
“I’ll handle this.”

Reluctantly Ben made his way towards the stairs. He saw Severus rummaging around in one of the kitchen drawers. The professor came back with several strange looking vials and a first aid kit, which he promptly opened. Critically he glanced at the professor and Harry. When the professor started pouring a brown liquid on some cotton swap, Ben turned toward the stairs once more. Reassured he trekked up to use the bathroom.


Severus diligently cleaned Potter’s wound. It was a nasty injury. He wondered how the inept boy had acquired it. At that moment though, he was just glad that Potter seemed to be out cold or this whole procedure would have been a lot more complicated. And painful.
When Ben had disappeared upstairs, Severus pulled his wand out from the holster that he always wore beneath his clothing. It had the nice side effect of concealing his Dark Mark.
He shot a numbing spell at Potter’s foot. No need to wake him.
Then Severus spelled some blood-replenishing potion as well as an anti-infection draught inside Potter’s stomach glad that these weren’t remedies for the common cold.

The boy was still unconscious. Having disinfected the wound and bandaged Potter’s foot, Severus carefully eased the other shoe off the boy’s foot. His trousers were caked with mud and his jumper had earthy stains on it. It were the same clothes the boy had worn the whole week when gardening for Severus.

He felt guilty.
Slowly as to not startle the boy, he turned him over onto his side and began pulling off the dirty garments. His t-shirt might have not looked any better but that was as far as Severus was willing to go. It had to suffice. The boy could put on some clean clothes himself when he woke.
Severus threw the dirty trousers and jumper into a corner and fetched some woollen blankets, which he spread over the boy.

He looked… unwell. Exhausted. Too young.
Severus could make out dark circles beneath the boy’s eyes and absentmindedly wondered if they had been there when he picked Potter up at the shelter.
The pad of sock clad feet could be heard on the stairs.

A moment later Ben’s head swivelled around the living room door. His locks were dripping water on Severus’ floor. Sighing, Severus stood up from where he knelt next to Harry and went over to Ben. The boy was wearing some of Severus’ striped pyjama bottoms and the sleeves of the jumper Severus had lend to him only were a little bit too long.
Gently Severus closed the door behind himself.

“How is he?” Ben asked quietly.
Severus pushed him aside with a gentle hand to his shoulder and pulled open the chest of drawers in the hallway.
“He was badly injured,” he said handing Ben a small towel.
Ben nodded his thanks and started rubbing his wet locks. When Severus saw how rigorously Ben was scrubbing at his scalp, he clutched the boy’s hands and taking the towel slowly began rubbing Ben’s head himself.
When he felt that Ben’s hair was sufficiently dry he draped the towel over Ben’s shoulders and let his hands rest there for a second.

“Potter-“ Severus had to swallow against the lump in his throat. “He will be fine.”
“Promise?” asked Ben in a small voice.
Severus had to gulp again.
“Promise,” he told Ben quietly.
They stood in the dusky hallway. The first dim rays of the day trickled in through the front door.

“I think we could both use a cup of tea,” Severus said.
Ben sniffed.
“Come to the kitchen.”

Ben sat down in his usual seat at the kitchen table. He put his head in his hands and watched Severus fiddling with the knobs of his stove. He was just so tired. He hoped Harry was going to be fine. He trusted the professor though.
With thoughts of Harry soothed by Severus’ promise, his mind wandered to his own fate.

“Sir?” he asked Severus who had his back turned towards him pouring hot water into two cups.
“Mmmh…”
“Can I- I mean- may I- maybe- stay here for a day or two?”
Severus turned around the teacups clutched in his hands.
“Just until Harry wakes up!” Ben hastened to say.

“Ben.”
Severus put one of the cups down in front of Ben. The boy nervously wrapped his hands around it.
“Of course. You can stay.”
Ben smiled. He looked tired but his eyes shone brightly over the rim of his cup.

“What about Harry?” he asked.
Severus froze teacup halfway to is mouth.
“What about Pot- him?” he replied carefully.
“Will you help him?”
Severus hated the hope he heard in Ben’s voice.
“I have already helped him.” He sat down opposite from Ben.
Ben looked at him from askew.

“Do you know each other?”
“What?” Severus nearly choked on his hot tea.
Ben raised an eyebrow.
“You called him Potter.”
“I- it-“ Severus stuttered. “We- Yes, we have met.”
Ben furrowed his brows.

“You- he- what?”
Severus had to supress a smile.
“Do elaborate Benjamin.”
Ben starred into nothingness. Severus could see the wheels turning inside his head and the smile died on his lips. He didn’t like the gleam settling in Ben’s eyes.

“He- Harry- he begged me not to take him back.”
Severus remained silent.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” Ben’s voice sounded scared as if he feared Severus’ answer.
“I was what?” Severus spat impatiently.
“He- Harry stayed with you?”
He couldn’t look at Ben.
“Say something!”
“I- yes, he did,” Severus admitted.
Ben’s eyes hardened.

“Did you injure him?”
“What?”
“Did you hit him?”
“Ben! What-”
“DID YOU HIT HIM?” Ben shouted.
Severus swallowed nervously.
“Ben, please, calm down. I didn’t-
But Ben was done listening. He sprung from his chair, which fell clattering to the kitchen tiles.

“Calm down? He pleaded with me not to take him back to you!”
Severus could do nothing but stare at the boy. For the first time he noticed just how much Ben had grown over the summer. He was nearly as tall as Severus was. Gone was the small boy blinking up at him with big trusting eyes. Too trusting.
Severus missed them.

“He- he said that you’d punish him. That you would hit him!”
“Ben no, I-“
“What did you do to him?”
“Ben please- listen!”
“No, you listen! He’s afraid! He’s so afraid that he threw up when he saw you! He thinks you’ll use a belt to trash him,” Ben’s voice broke.
Severus paled.
“What?”
“What did you do to him?”

“Ben listen,” Severus stood up as well. He held a hand up trying to appease the raging boy.
“I only made him work in the garden. I n-never h-hit him.”
Ben looked at him. Severus hated how his eyes were shuttered close where they were always open to him before.

“He run away from you,” Ben whispered. “His foot was injured, he could barely walk, but he run away from you!”
Something broke inside Severus. He hadn’t even noticed that Potter had run away.
He looked at Ben. The boy was watching through narrowed eyes. He looked different. Rougher. His eyes deeper than the last time Severus had seen them. A fire burned inside them. Burning Severus.

“Ben, you have to understand-”
“Understand what?”
“His father bullied me at school,” Severus blurted out. Even to his own ears, it sounded pathetic.

“What?” Ben said in a low but dangerous voice. Severus forced himself not to look away at the anger he saw in Ben’s eyes. Who would have thought a Hufflepuff, even a muggle one like Ben, was capable of this? Then again, they were loyal right up until the bitter end. Which made him wonder: did the two boys know each other?

“Do you know Potter?” he asked Ben to steer the conversation away from dangerous waters.
“What happened to your hand? Why is it in a cast?” Severus groped around for safer topics.

Ben’s eyes were mere slits by now.
“Do you think I’m stupid? Answer the question!”
Severus swallowed hard. He contemplated how best to answer. He had to calm the boy down somehow.
“Pot- his father and me- we have a history.”
“History?” Ben asked incredulously.
“We- we were classmates. He- he bullied me,” Severus finished lamely.

“I got that,” Ben said in a hard voice.
“Ben, you have to understand. Potter, he is- he is one of my students.”
Ben raised an eyebrow but made no move to interrupt Severus.
“He’s an arrogant brat! Just like his father, he struts around expecting the whole world to cater to his whims. He disregards the school rules, he’s a mediocre student, he-“
One look at Ben made Severus shut up.

Ben looked him straight in the eye.
“He’s a child.”
“Ben, I-“
“Harry is a child, Severus.”
Severus had to look away.
“I don’t know what happened between you and Harry or between you and his father,” Ben whispered and he sounded broken. “And I don’t care what Harry did or didn’t do at school. I know him. He’s my friend.” Ben said simply.

“Harry ran away from you. He’s afraid of you.”
Severus hunched his shoulders. He didn’t know what to say to that. Had he let it get out of hand this past week?
He tried to remember, tried to pick signs of Potter’s fear of him out from his memory. The evidence he came up with was so overwhelming he had to sit down again.

“Harry is just a child. I wish you could see him for who he truly is.”

With that, Ben left the kitchen.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Finally! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing this chapter :D Ben chewing out Snape was on my list from the very beginning.

What do you think? Was the dialogue okay? I really poured my heart into this.
Anyway. Severus has some serious thinking to do in the next chapter ;)
Looking forward to writing it and to reading from you guys!
Nemo

 

Hot soup and almost afternoon tea by Nemo

Ben closed the door behind himself carefully.

Quietly, he made his way over to where his seabag was still lying on Severus’ – no, Mr. Snape’s carpet.  At the moment, Ben didn’t want to think about the implications of this name change.
Maybe he had been a bit rash in his anger towards Mr. Sna- him. He felt guilty about shouting at his neighbour. After all, the man had always been good to him.
He had invited Ben over for tea and dinner more times, than Ben could count seemingly having the best timing with the drunken mood swings of Ben’s mother.
He had adopted a small shaggy cat that had been on the verge of death and nursed it back to health. He had taught Ben a good deal about vegetable gardening, about cooking, about moral dilemmas in obscure science fiction series.

And this was the same man that mistreated Harry in a way that the boy would run away from him?
It wouldn’t come together in Ben’s mind. How could he have been so wrong about his neighbour? Ben felt- he didn’t know how to feel.
Something swirled inside the pit of his stomach like a maelstrom sucking up everything good about Mr. Snape.
It took Ben a while to realize it was betrayal.
He didn’t want to but he felt betrayed by Mr. Snape. Fooled somehow.

Ben didn’t doubt Harry’s reactions though.
His friend had been pretty out of it, his foot must have been killing him but he had recognized where they were heading. He had fought Ben about going back and had thrown up when he saw Mr. Snape.
Ben recognized the signs when he saw them. He understood.
It had been the right thing to confront the professor.

He tiptoed around the back of the sofa.
“Ben?” asked a scratchy voice.
Ben turned around startled. Harry was watching him through bleary eyes.
“Harry,” he greeted the other boy relieved. “Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you.”
“I heard yelling,” Harry mumbled.
Ben’s ears started to turn red.
“That would’ve been me,” he said scratching his head.
“You shouted at Snape?” asked Harry awed.
“Yeah…”
“And you’re still alive?”
“Seems so,” Ben muttered sheepishly.

“Remind me to check for your solidness when I can stand up again,” winked Harry.
Ben laughed. It felt good to be with Harry again.
“You can check now if you want to,” he told the boy and went over to kneel beside the sofa.
Tentatively, Harry reached out an arm and Ben who understood wordlessly pulled him into an embrace.
“No, definitely not a ghost,” Harry said smiling.
Ben let out a bark of laughter.

“Thank you,” Harry whispered.
“No Harry.”
“Yes Ben. Thanks for bringing me back.”
Ben pulled back somewhat and eyed his friend critically. He had been so sure that Mr. Snape would help only to discover he had probably mistreated Harry.
“I didn’t know, Harry. I just- I didn’t know.”

“Know what?” Harry asked bewildered.
“That you- that you two know each other. That you stayed with- with him. That he- he hit you.”
Confused, Harry furrowed his brow at Ben.
“He didn’t- didn’t do- you know. Didn’t do that.”
“He didn’t?” Ben asked and he couldn’t prevent the hope from stealing itself into his voice.
“He’s a git, no doubt about that but he never hit- I mean, he never did that sort of thing.”
“What sort of thing?” Ben asked shrewdly.
Harry sat up a bit and gesticulated.
“You know. That thing.”
Ben let it drop for now. After all, he hadn’t liked it either when the social workers at the shelter had tried to question him about certain things.

“He said, he’s your teacher.”
“Yup,” Harry said quickly, obviously relieved about the topic change.
“He teaches pot- err chemistry at my boarding school. He’s had it in for me for botching up experiments since day one. He likes to make sarcastic comments a lot, I think. I have detention with him a lot, too.”
Ben cocked his head as if contemplating what Harry had said. Harry hoped that the other boy hadn’t noticed his near slip of tongue.

Wanting to steer the conversation away from Snape Harry asked, “How’d you get here anyway? And how do you know Snape? Do you really live here?”
“Wow, Harry, slow down,” Ben said smiling.
“I- yes I live here,” he started with the easiest question.  “I run away from the shelter and hitchhiked here,” he offered next. Now for the hard part.
“You remember the neighbour I told you about at the shelter?”
Harry wrinkled his brow.
“Yes…,” he said slowly.
“Well… it’s Mr. Snape.”
“What?”
Ben shrugged.
“No way. No way!”
Ben shrugged again helplessly.
“Snape doesn’t watch muggl- he doesn’t watch TV!” Harry said with conviction.
But apart from that it all fit, Harry thought trying to remember Ben’s words from that afternoon so long ago.
Snape was a quiet and pretty private dude. He was kind of a nerd with his fanatic fervour for all things potions. He had a cat and he lived at the castle for most of the year only returning home in the summer…

They heard a knock coming from the door.
After a moment, Snape entered carrying a tray with food. He put it down on the coffee table and quickly retreated towards the door once more as if afraid Harry or Ben would scatter like scared animals.
Then he just stood there, hands wringing each other, seemingly wavering between staying and going. Snape cleared his throat.

“I err- heard that you were awake,” he nodded at Harry.
“I made some soup. You should eat it while it is still warm.”
Without uttering another word, he disappeared.

“That was strange,” Harry said into the sudden silence.
Ben just shrugged again and reached for a steaming bowl of soup, which he held out towards Harry.


Severus sat down in the kitchen and buried his head in his hands. Long black strands swung forward from where they came loose from his ponytail.
He desperately longed for a cup of tea or preferably something stronger. Severus however had never indulged in alcohol before, the picture of his father painting itself all too clearly in his head. He wouldn’t start now.
Severus stood up and put the kettle on.
In it’s bubbling monotone, he could hear Ben screaming at him once more.

He’s a child Severus!

Unbidden, the words came back to him.

Ever since the boy had expressed his anger with Severus, there was something that just wouldn’t leave him alone. Something was nagging at the potions master.

Astounded, Severus found that it wasn’t Ben’s disappointment in him alone that left him wounded.
Severus had always felt that his young neighbour gave him more credit than he deserved. He didn’t do more than inviting the boy over for dinner or an episode of Star Trek after all.
He could- he should have done more for Ben. Severus had suspected for a long time now that the boy wasn’t as happy at home as he pretended to be.
Severus’ encounter with Mrs. Anderson only confirmed his doubts.

Yet, it wasn’t Ben’s disappointment at realizing that Severus wasn’t who he thought him to be that was nagging the man now. It was Severus’ disappointment in himself that wouldn’t allow him a moment of peace.

Severus had always prided himself on being a fine person.
Not a good person, mind you. His Death Eater days weighted too heavy for that, short as they may have been.
But the fact that Severus had ultimately realized his error and had fought to free himself from his dark past had to count for something. Severus prided himself on that.

He also prided himself on becoming a teacher at Hogwarts, as little as he had wanted to at first.
He prided himself on being a Head of House, on being available to his students if they decided to seek his help out, which admittedly didn’t happen too often.

Severus prided himself on being a good professor.
Potions wasn’t a subject one should meddle with. He had always made this clear to his students and there had never been any casualties in his class. The same couldn’t be said about other potion teacher’s tenures.
Severus all too vividly remembered a classmate of his nearly losing an arm all because Slughorn had been too busy talking to one of his favourites.
So yes, Severus was proud that under his tutelage there hadn’t been any accidents, small or big.

He considered himself a fair teacher.
What if the other houses, and especially the Gryffindors, earned more detention, lost more points or incurred his anger and sarcastic comments more often than his Slytherins?
After all, it was Severus who had to protect his snakes from the other houses.
Slytherin had a bad reputation and even if some of it might have been well-earned, Severus felt it was his duty to create a little more balance in the school.

With a small pang, he thought back to all the occasions he had found Draco Malfoy insulting Potter and his friends. Where was the balance in that?
Angrily, Severus pushed the thought away.
So what if he had deducted points from the Gryffindors instead of his own pupil for that?
He tried to shove all the hours Potter had spent scrubbing cauldrons, cleaning floors or preparing nasty – especially nasty, Severus had made sure of it – ingredients in unfairly earned detentions to the back of his mind.
Severus found that this was much harder to do now than before.

He gazed outside at his garden. The past week with Pot- the boy kept replaying itself in his mind.

The boy’s stuttering, the flinches, the bruises.
Severus shaking him until his teeth rattled, dragging him, shoving him so hard the boy fell.
Severus closed his eyes against these scenes burying his fingers in them so that he wouldn’t have to see anymore.

Severus had paid none of it any mind. Not the dirty clothes, not the boy’s mumbling, nor his cowering. All he had seen had been James Potter.
James, uncaring about his appearance, James having no respect speaking to his elders, Potter plotting something to get Severus into trouble.

Severus hadn’t thought anything of the boy’s strange behaviour regarding the food. Hadn’t stopped to admit that sneezewort was on the sixth year curriculum and concede that the boy couldn’t have known about the ingredient.
Severus had made him work in the garden and the boy hadn’t complained once.
Severus had seen his hands earlier clutching at the woollen blankets when his teacher had entered the room and it was just another thing Severus felt guilty about.
Both the clutching and the state of the hands.
He had to remember to give the boy something for it the next time he saw him.

He didn’t like what now became apparent.
Severus realized that Potter had felt reluctant about disobeying him this past week. Severus had approved of this change writing it down to his threats finally having an effect on the headstrong boy. In school, Potter had never been at a loss for a cheeky comment or two. Here however…
All the times Severus had towered over the small boy and sneered down his nose at him came to his mind.
Where he always felt justified in the past, Severus now only saw a teacher abusing his power over one of his students.

You can’t expect me to-
-to what, Severus? To care at all about a boy, a student of yours, might I add?

The conversation with Dumbledore suddenly echoed in his ears.

More scenes flashed before Severus’ eyes: Potter lying on Severus’ carpet all twisted up in his sheets, disoriented as if having just woken up from a bad dream. Severus scolding him for it. Potter losing his balance upon hearing Severus scream at him and nearly being hit by the heavy branch he had been carrying.

Ben’s accusations hit a little bit too close to home at this memory.
Sure, Severus had never hit a child much less Potter, Dumbledore’s golden boy, but he had manhandled the boy on more than one occasion. And sure, he had surreptitiously given him a healing draught for his nose. A healing draught the boy wouldn’t have needed if it wasn’t for Severus throwing that book at him.

Potter had never said a word about the incident just as he hadn’t even flinched when the book hit him squarely on the nose. No, he had gulped down the pain Severus had seen clearly in his eyes and tried making out the words about a plant he couldn’t have known before through that hideous glasses of his.

What was the matter with the glasses?
Severus nearly pounced on the question, finally a somewhat safe one.
It wasn’t until this moment, that he realized that the boy hadn’t worn his round contraptions at all unless forced to this past week. Why?
Maybe the prescription had expired? Wouldn’t the boy’s relatives have taken him to see a doctor the second Potter started whining about his hurting eyes?
Severus thought back to his encounter with Potter’s aunt and uncle. For the first time, he felt doubts rising up inside his stomach when thinking about Potter’s relatives.
Besides, Potter hadn’t whined at all this past week even when faced with hard garden work and Severus’ unrelentingly harsh standards.

That brought him to another important question. A dangerous one this time.
When exactly had the boy injured himself?
He tried to think back to any strange behaviour and came up with the evening before when he called Potter inside for dinner.
The boy had struggled getting his feet under him. Severus had thought it was a ploy for attention, just the Potter brat’s latest display of poor work boy being exploited by his mean teacher.

Severus had hauled Potter towards the house and the boy stumbled.
At this point, Severus had been so furious with him that he hadn’t stopped to think, hadn’t noticed anything amiss.
Had the boy never gotten inside that evening? Had he misunderstood Severus’ admittedly overly strict command to clear away the garden tools and had waited in the shed?
Severus didn’t want to think about what must have gone through the boy’s mind.

He thinks you’ll use a belt to trash him.

Severus felt sick.
Unblinkingly he stared out of the dusty kitchen window.
The kettle startled whistling but Severus didn’t hear it.
He stood there for a long time, the ghosts of all his realizations about Potter haunting him.

His foot was injured, he could barely walk, but he run away from you!

Severus hadn’t even put up wards to alert him should Potter run away, so certain had he been that the boy wouldn’t try anything like that with him, wouldn’t have cause to do anything like that with Severus.
How wrong he had been. How wrong he had been about Pot- Harry. How many times had he wronged that boy- that child?

Harry is just a child.

His tea water had long since grown cold.

Severus had to apologise to the boy- Harry.
Puzzled, Severus found that he wanted to.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Hurray! I hit the 50,000 word count :)

Thank you for all of your kind words! Thank you for every comment big and small that said you liked the story! I don’t know if I had kept on writing without them, without you.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter!
I struggled getting into Severus’ mind-set and I deleted and rewrote a good part of this chapter because of it. On a lighter note, I already finished writing the next chapter. I have to revise it first, but watch out for it in the coming days ;)

Have a nice week! Maybe you’ll have as early a spring this February as I.
Nemo

Nighttime Thoughts by Nemo

Ben and Harry spent most of the day together in the living room.
Harry was still too weak to get up so Ben opened the window at some point to let the warm summer breeze and the jolly chirping of the birds inside. They both felt better for it.

Ben had found an old dusty board game called ludo jammed under Severus’ sofa and he and Harry played a few rounds in silence.
They both felt reluctant about the rule of kicking the other’s token out of the game and had to remind each other a few times about it.

Snape hadn’t shown his face again besides telling them that he had prepared a few sandwiches he left in the kitchen for the boys and offering them the second bedroom to sleep in.
Surprisingly, it had been Harry who insisted on relocating even if he only made it up the stairs with Ben’s help.
Ben still didn’t know how to feel about this. On the one hand, the churning feeling in his stomach about Mr. Snape hadn’t left him. On the other, he didn’t want to leave Harry any more than he wanted to return to his mother. It was funny how these two things went hand in hand.

When he had pleaded with Mr. Snape to let him stay, Ben had used Harry’s health as an excuse, a fact he felt guilty about. It was just that his neighbour had seemed so hesitant to let him stay that Ben had used the only card he thought would play out in his favour.
After all, it had been Ben who brought Harry back. Mr. Snape had to concede that Ben had a right to know about the other boy’s reconvalescene.

Now, Ben found that in reality it was and always had been Harry who made him stay and not the threat of his mother or her brutish boyfriend. Ben felt ill at ease thinking about leaving Harry with Mr. Snape even if Ben’s suspicions didn’t prove to be true.
There was something going on between these two and he would be dammed if he didn’t investigate his instinct.

For now, he decided to give Mr. Snape- Severus the benefit of the doubt.
Harry hadn’t told the whole truth about thinking his teacher would hit him but Ben believed Harry when he said Severus hadn’t done so. Someone, and Ben would bet his healthy arm that it were Harry’s relatives, was abusing Harry. But it wasn’t Severus.

Ben noticed that the man had made an effort appearing as unobtrusively as possible the last day. He had left them to their own devices as if sensing they both needed time to face him again. Ben had seen the thoughts whirling behind those dark eyes. The man might have rather jumped through hoops before admitting to it, but Ben could see that his little speech had send Severus in a contemplative mood.

Harry hadn’t really said anything more on his relationship with Severus besides admitting that he was his teacher and not the best one at that, yelled at him in class and had given Harry countless detentions.
But Ben could put two and two together.
There seemed to be no love lost between these two and he could literally feel their mutual dislike.

Still, people could change. It was another one of Ben’s quiet convictions about the world.
If Severus could put up with a cheeky cat and an annoying neighbourhood kid then he certainly could make an effort to change his behaviour towards one of his students. Ben was sure of that.


Harry felt exhausted.

After his night-time escape and adventurous trip back to Snape’s with Ben’s help, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to him.

It wasn’t the only reason for his exhaustion however.
His thoughts, previously numbed by the endless hours of work Snape put him through were back full force.
He nearly missed the hard yard work, the pain in his body that would dull the other one. He almost missed the mean comments, the snide remarks.
Harry didn’t understand this Snape. The one who healed his foot, the one bringing him soup and making sandwiches and offering a bed in a real bedroom.

Harry hadn’t hesitated one second to get away from the exposed sofa on which nightmares seemed to haunt him even more than usual. Ben had seemed reluctant but hadn’t said anything as he helped Harry up the stairs. Harry’s foot had improved lots over the course of the afternoon. Apparently, playing board games really helped.
Of course, magical healing was just so much faster than the muggle way. He just hoped Ben wouldn’t notice anything off.
Well, if Snape didn’t see a problem with that Harry wouldn’t burden himself with it. He had enough things running amok in his head already.

As Harry lay in bed that evening, he couldn’t help but wonder where he would go from here.
He didn’t delude himself into thinking that this had been all. This was only the calm before the storm. Snape would wait with the ultimate fallout until the next morning. Until Ben had gone.

Harry didn’t want to fool himself. He hadn’t been able to make sense out of much of the yelling in the next room but one thing he had picked up with clarity.
He had heard Ben when the boy said that he only wanted to stay until Harry recovered. It was an excuse. He didn’t care about Harry, he just didn’t want to go back to his mother.

Come on, you know that’s not true.
The Hermione-voice was back and Harry willed it to shut up. It didn’t.
Why would Ben run away from the shelter if he were afraid of his mum? Why would he come here?
-Shut up!
Why would he bring you here?
-I said shut up.
Harry, you’re just-
-Go away!

Surprisingly the voice died down.
It left the other ones though. The ones that accompanied Harry since his early childhood.
Why would anybody like you for yourself? You’re so selfish. Always feeling sorry for yourself. Get over it Potter. You’re always going to be alone, accept it.
Harry scrunched up his eyes against the darkness in the room.
Worthless freak! You ruin everything.
That sounded like Uncle Vernon.
We would have dumped you at an orphanage years ago if it weren’t for that Dumbly-fool, Aunt Petunia piped up.
Idiotic brat! Imbecilic boy! Just like your father, spoilt, pampered, your fame must have really gone to your head!
Harry didn’t have to puzzle over who that was.

Something wet trickled down his cheek and he rubbed at it furiously.
He couldn’t prevent the other ones from pooling on his neck however.


Severus lay in bed unable to find any rest.

The quiet voices of the boys coming from the next room had long since faded away.

Severus had surreptitiously increased the floor space of the second bedroom upstairs with a nifty little spell and transfigured a second bed from an old wooden chair once it had become clear that Ben wouldn’t leave Potter’s side.
Severus told the two boys to relocate from his living room in as little words as possible. He felt- unstable around them.

A tawny owl screeched in the distance and something was rustling down in the garden. Probably a hedgehog.
Inside his mind, all Severus could hear was Ben.

Harry is just a child. I wish you could see him for who he truly is.

Had his hatred for a dead man really blinded Severus to this simple fact?

James Potter had always been what he saw in the man’s son. It had been everything he saw in him from the first time Severus had laid eyes on the unruly mop of Potter junior’s hair, the first time the boy had entered his classroom, the first time the boy had talked back to him in potion class.
So vast had Severus’ anger been, so deep had his hurt run, that he hadn’t considered that Potter had never actually gotten to know his father. Had never gotten to know both of his parents.

Lily had always been the noble one, had always been a good person. Severus had hated her for it at some point. The point their friendship had been shattered by Severus’ own stupidity.
Why did the Potter boy have to have her eyes? It was torture. And just another thing to hate the boy for.

Then there had been James and his little entourage of the so-called marauders.
Pathetic Pettigrew always sucking up to the others to gain a little bit of popularity himself. Lupin, the wolf in sheep’s clothing covering for his friends and abusing his power as a prefect. Black who all too often brought a malicious and brutal streak to the pranks the four friends pulled on Severus.
And Potter. Senior.
James had always been the one to be there when Severus was at his lowest. He had always been the one to remind Severus of his own unworthiness, his freakishness even in the wizarding world, constantly been the one to kick him when Severus was already down, unfailingly been the own to serve the final punch in all of their mutual pranking that had more often than not gotten quickly out of hand.

Through all his years as a student at Hogwarts, Severus had never experienced support in any of this. His own Head of House had been too busy with impressing the children of the right people, the other Slytherins had been too disgusted by Severus’ poverty and half-blood background and the other teachers had always been on Potter’s side never listening to the explanations of a scrawny, greasy, neglected Slytherin.

No, Severus corrected himself mentally; there had been one person to support him.

Lily had stood by him.
They once had had each other’s back. Thick as thieves they had been, secretly brewing potions in the abandoned shed of Severus’ parents during the summer break, talking about the magical world, imagining their future, conspiring against Petunia, thinking up the best ways to escape Lily’s awful sister.
Apparently, Petunia hadn’t changed a bit over the years, Severus thought, as he reflected upon their meeting two weeks ago.

A detail suddenly resurfaced. At the time, Severus hadn’t thought anything of it. So keen had he been on just activating the location spell and finally finding Potter that he hadn’t questioned Vernon Dursley’s behaviour that now seemed more than strange to Severus.
In addition, Petunia had suddenly started to breathe fire down Severus’ neck accusing him of killing her sister by extension.
He had been so taken aback by that furious attack that he completely dismissed his interaction with Potter’s uncle.

Severus didn’t want to go there, didn’t want to go down that route.
Wasn’t it enough already that he realized his own erring with Potter? His own abus- no. He wouldn’t go there. He wasn’t turning into his father. No.

But his mind had always been ruthless.
If there was anything nagging Severus, his mind made sure it chased the thing until it revealed itself, until all curtains were raised.

Now, his mind, his brilliant mind, which Severus had always prided himself on the most, provided him with the crystal clear memory of that day at the Dursley’s.
Severus remembered how Potter’s uncle had grabbed his belt when Severus had brought up the man’s nephew. What if there was more to that gesture? A kind of reflex maybe?
He remembered how Ben told him Potter was afraid Severus would beat him with a belt.
He felt dizzy at the implications.

There was another thing that bothered Severus in retrospect.
It was the manner in which Dursley had spoken of Potter.
What had the man said? Something about being happy, the nuisance was gone. Severus thought “rotten boy” were his exact words.
He scoffed at the wording. No one should call a child that way.
Except… he had done so. Many times, for many years. And not in his head alone.
The lead weight sitting inside his stomach, ever growing since yesterday, gained a few kilos.

Blinking into the dark in his bedroom, Severus thought back to his disastrous Occlumency lessons with Potter. He remembered seeing flashes of a big purple-faced man, spitting insults at Potter in anger.
In the past, Severus had always excused these memories by pretending that these were standalone incidents rather than some regular pattern. Severus had felt satisfaction upon seeing Potter being taken down a peg or two by his muggle relatives.
Now, he only felt reproach for himself. All the times Potter had flinched at being called boy came to mind.
He rubbed his forehead.
It was too much. All the thoughts, all the regrets… he felt overwhelmed.

Had it always been there? In plain sight? Had Severus always just ignored the signs? Always justified them by his hatred for a man that had harassed him a long time ago? A man long dead?
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose harshly.
No, he hadn’t asked for this.

In reality, Severus wasn’t any better than the boy’s uncle or James Potter himself. He could see that now.

He’s a child, Severus.

Actually, he was worse.

Potter was a child. Severus was an adult.
He should have seen it, he should have treated the boy better, he should have – oh please, who was he kidding?
He was no more to the boy than his evil potions teacher. He had brought that one upon himself.

Perhaps it would be a good first step to try to call the boy Harry.
The name Potter was connected to too many bad memories, too many insults. Too many humiliations, too many insecurities that haunted him in the small hours of the night were brought back by it.

Severus would pay the Dursleys a visit, he decided.
Pot- Harry needed his schoolbooks and some fresh clothes to begin with.
And if Severus, by pure accident of course, stumbled upon one or two of the answers to his questions…
It was just a bit of research. Severus had to get more information on what went on in that household.
He had to give Albus a full report on why Harry had run away after all, so that the headmaster could make sure to have words with the boy’s relatives before the boy returned there. And since when did Severus Snape have to explain himself for snooping around- err doing research anyway?

Pleased with his plan, Severus pulled the blanket over his shoulders and finally felt sleep lulling him into its warm embrace.


On his way down the stairs the next morning, Severus encountered Ben who was coming from the bathroom, a towel thrown haphazardly over his shoulder.

“Good, you’re awake,” was everything that came to Severus’ mind.
Ben smiled somewhat, “Do you need help with breakfast?”

Severus didn’t know why he would have deserved the boy’s smile let alone his clemency. The boy was too forgiving, damn it!

“No, I- I’ll manage. Could you- could you wake Pot- Harry?”
Ben’s smile widened.
“Sure,” he said and turned around towards the second bedroom.
“Ben.”
The boy halted in his step and looked at Severus.
Severus took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry Ben.”
Severus forced himself to look the child in the eye. Why had something he found so easy in the past suddenly become so difficult?
“I- I never wanted you- us- to be like this. To be apart,” he said awkwardly.
Ben observed him his head cocked to the side.
“You know, it’s not me you have to apologise to,” he said neutrally.
Severus let out a gust of air.
“I know,” he murmured.
“Good.”
There was a moment of silence. Ben could see the professor was gathering up courage to say something.

“So, is everything fine between us, Ben?”
Severus feared Ben’s answer. He wished the boy would accept his apology while simultaneously he didn’t want Ben to forgive him this easily.
“We’re alright, Severus.”
Severus had to smile. He would have never admitted how much Ben’s words meant to him.
“You know,” the boy added suddenly, “you should do it more often.”
“Do what?” Severus asked him puzzled.
“Smile. Makes you look younger.”

With that, Ben skipped away to wake Harry.
The smile wouldn’t leave Severus the whole way down to the kitchen.

To be continued...
End Notes:

Originally, I had written another scene for this chapter but I felt this was a good point to end it. What do you think?

On the weekend, I typed out all of the jumbled notes I took on this story since I began writing it. I have a few ideas and some scenes planned. Also, there’s still a month of summer left. Enough time for the three of them to get into some trouble together ;)

So apparently, I cursed the good weather with my note last time; it has gotten really cold again :)

In the next chapter, there will be a library, a strange calendar and crossword puzzles :D
Until then!
Nemo

Raincoats, Tolkien and Presbyopia by Nemo

Harry could feel critical eyes on him.

Snape was watching him over the rim of his morning cup of tea. Quickly Harry focused on his porridge again, which was currently slowly making its descent from his spoon back into his bowl.

“You need clothes,” the man said decisively.
Harry ducked his head and scooped another spoon of porridge into his mouth. Around the hot bite, he mumbled, “It’s my Christmas jumper. Mrs. Weasley made it for me.”

Severus sighed. From the boy’s voice and his hunched shoulders, he could easily discern how much the simple garment meant to him. A sign Severus would have overlooked only yesterday. Regrets, regrets.
He cleared his throat.

“Be that as it may. It’s much too small.”
Self-consciously, Harry tugged down on the too short sleeves of his woollen jumper.
“He can borrow some of my clothes. I wanted to go over anyways,” Ben said helpfully.
Severus kept silent and observed the two boys eating their breakfast with a finger to his mouth.
After a moment, he said, “Alright Ben, but I think I should retrieve Mr. Potter’s things from his relatives as well.”
The boy in question stared at him as if he had grown a second nose. No thank you, he was quite content with the one he had.

“Cool, when are we going?” Ben asked cheerfully.
Severus cocked an eyebrow.
We are not going anywhere. We will head to the local library where you two-“ he nodded at Harry and Ben from across the table, “- can entertain yourselves until my return.”
Harry opened his mouth as if to protest but Ben beat him to it.
“Great!” Smiling he turned to his friend, “Hey Harry, they might have some Tolkien books.”
Harry closed his mouth at Ben’s words and could feel those dark eyes on him again.
Severus was watching him closely as if he couldn’t believe Harry would read for fun if hell froze over but he decided not to comment on it.
He had vowed last night to desist in spewing forth his usual incriminating affronts at Pot- Harry and had just remembered in time. Old habits really died hard.

Pushing away from the table Severus said, “Bring me your dishes when you’re finished and be ready to leave in twenty minutes.”
With that, he turned around towards the sink and began running warm water for the washing-up.


Severus who had seen the drizzling mist through the window was already in the hallway lacing his waterproof shoes when he heard the hushed voices of the two boys drifting down to him.

“Come on, just ask him.”
“No!”
“Why not? Should I ask him for you?”
“No Ben, forget it. It’s not far anyway is it?”
“A mile I think.”
“See?”

The boys came down the stairs. Ben was the first, happily skipping the last steps, as he would do in his own home and landing at the bottom of the staircase with a dull thud.
Severus only raised a tired eyebrow too used to Ben’s sudden bursts of energy. Besides, all the houses here had the same layout, one of the few traces the former coalmine had left in the area.

Unlike Severus’ own hometown, the small community living by the sea had managed to transform the old pit area completely. The sooty smokestacks of Cokeworth were still looming darkly over Severus’ childhood neighbourhood.
It would be foolish to advise the boy from desisting as Severus was sure Ben had perfected the jump years ago in his own home, which was separated from Severus’ hallway by only a thin wall.
In this moment, Severus truly noticed the similarities between himself and Ben for the first time and it came as somewhat of a shock to him that he had never thought about it before.

They had both grown up in a former pit community. They both navigated the narrow chequered back alleys of the erstwhile worker’s terraces with ease. They both had experience with an alcoholic parent.
Severus had to close his eyes for a moment. Why hadn’t he drawn the connections before?
It was another problem, another regret he had to address. He would have to speak to Ben and soon.

Currently there was a more pressing issue standing on the bottom step of Severus’ staircase however, wringing his hands and shaking slightly.
Had Severus really not seen before?
The boy drew in a shaky breath as if to say something but didn’t, simply stepping on the ground floor and rounding Ben who was throwing on his rain-jacket.

Ben looked back and forth between Severus and Harry observing them through unhappy eyes.

“Is something the matter Ben?”
Severus decided to address him instead of Harry. It was easier for both of them. Harry seemed especially skittish around him and Severus simply didn’t know how to speak to the boy save to criticize him.
Coward Severus’ mind chanted at him and it sounded suspiciously like Lily.

Ben groaned.
“Fine then. Harry hasn’t got a rain coat and he doesn’t want to ask you for one.”
Severus turned to the boy standing at his front door who was glaring at Ben.
“Indeed.”
Severus went over to his coatrack and aligning the wand hidden in his sleeve slightly shot a nonverbal shrinking spell at one of his spare raincoats that he sometimes wore in the garden.
He took the shrunken coat from its peck and held it out towards Harry.
“Take it,” he added when the boy just continued to stare at him.

Carefully as if Snape would draw back the coat any second and mock him for believing that he would lend it to someone like Harry, Harry reached out a hand.
What was Snape playing at? Last week the man hadn’t cared one bit that Harry had gotten wet while working in his stupid garden. Probably Snape just didn’t want to look bad in front of Ben. They had bonded over Star Trek after all.
It was with surprise that Harry noticed a small strange twist in his stomach at this thought. Bizarrely, it felt like envy.

Shaking his head to clear away the treacherous thoughts he shrugged on the coat.
The fleece lining instantly warmed Harry and he smelled earth and wet plants on it. He nearly didn’t mind stepping out into the cold rain today.
Who would have thought a jacket from Snape would make him feel so… protected?
His eyes wandered to the yellow wellies sitting innocently in the corner by the door. He shuddered.

“Well, if you are quite ready we can set off,” Snape said impatiently.
And yet, Harry couldn’t discern any of the man’s usual sarcasm in the comment.


Over the course of the night, the skin on Harry’s foot had knitted itself back together with the help of the healing potion Snape had surreptitiously slipped him after dinner when Ben had his back turned on them filling Felix’ bowl with wet food.
The cat had ventured inside Severus’ house again after Ben and Harry’s arrival.
Severus was glad that Felix was back. He liked having the feline around even if he complained regularly to Ben about the cuddly cat.

He watched the two boys walking before him side by side, Ben leading the way to the local library.
How had they met?
Ben hadn’t answered Severus’ question but looking at them now Severus was sure they knew each other. From the first moment he had seen them together standing on his front step Ben holding a violently retching Harry with difficulty Severus had pondered their obvious intimacy.
They seemed to share a secret or at least there was some sort of story linking them.
It wasn’t just by a happy chance Ben had met Harry that evening and brought him back to Severus.

Severus considered this. Did that mean Ben had been at the juvenile shelter too?
He must have been. It was the only logical explanation of how the boys should have met before.
Why hadn’t he seen Ben when he picked up Harry that day? Was it merely bad timing?
His eyes travelled to the slightly dirty cast on Ben’s arm. How had that happened?
The boy hadn’t answered that question either.

When they arrived at the bulky building that was the local library Severus was abruptly torn from his thoughts.

“Alright,” he addressed the two boys, “I will return as soon as possible.”
He rummaged inside his coat and drew out a tattered little booklet. He held it out towards Harry.
“My membership card.“
Harry’s eyes went round. Slowly he reached out a hand to take the offered piece of paper. As soon as the boy had it, Severus took a step back.
“Tell Mr. Wilkinson that I am your uncle and allowed you to use it to borrow any books you might find interesting.”
If anything the boy’s big green eyes seemed to bulge out even more.
“The same goes for you Ben.”

“Should I tell him I’m your nephew too? ‘Cause we look nothing alike, you know?” Ben asked with a mischievous smile.
Severus sighed and just waved him off.
“I’m sure, you will come up with something, Benjamin.”
“Ben,” the boy immediately corrected him grinning.
Severus ignored him.
„Expect me back in two hours.”

With these parting words, he turned around and stalked off towards the next corner to apparate in the small back alley he knew was there.


The local library had a warm feeling about it. As if the warmth from bygone summer days had somehow charged the atmosphere of the place.
Upon entering, they were immediately greeted by the distinct smell of carpeted floor that had seen too many sunny days.

Harry looked at the rows upon rows of shelves stuffed full of tattered old children’s books and manuals for DIY projects such as gardening and automobile repair. In other bookcases stood folders, which by the looks of it contained the town’s complete issues of morning papers. And there, in the far away corner to the left stood a big shelf labelled “Fantasy & Science Fiction”.
Looking at Ben who only smiled at him, Harry motioned to the shelf and upon Ben’s nod, he made a beeline for it.

Arriving there, he started to run his fingers along the books in search of the author’s last names starting with “T” right away. Smiling at finding multiple books fitting his search category, Harry started pulling out a few of them.

A tap on his shoulder made him flinch. He turned and found Ben looking at him apologetically.
“Sorry, didn’t want to startle you Harry.”
Harry shrugged it off.
“Err- I’m going over there for a sec okay?”
Harry’s eyes followed Ben’s outstretched hand to the shelf titled “Sciences” and nodded slightly.
“Okay, just so you know where I am,” the other boy smiled at him and quietly left Harry who opened The Hobbit once more.
Maybe this time, he could finally finish the story.


With a small pop, just as loud as opening a fizzy drink, Severus Snape arrived in the back alley of Magnolia Crescent in Surrey.
Unfortunately, he remembered the dull single-family houses with the identically uninspiring front lawns and gleaming cars in the driveways all too well.
Oh, how he already looked forward to returning to the little coastal town he now called his home.

But first, he had to settle this matter. His mind wouldn’t stop badgering him otherwise.
Cautiously he approached Number 4 Privet Drive making sure his Disillusionment Charm was still firmly in place from where he had cast it earlier.

Severus had chosen this day with intent. It was Wednesday, an ordinary workday and he counted on Vernon Dursley to be at work. One bothersome person less to evade.
He was lucky, Tuney and the boy that was Harry’s cousin as Severus remembered from the Occlumency lessons, seemed to be out was well.
Severus took out his wand and rapped it wordlessly against the door. It sprung open.
With a glance over his shoulder to make sure no nosy neighbours were watching a door open and close of its own accord, Severus quickly slipped into the quiet house.


From his place over at the science section, Ben watched Harry browse the Tolkien collection of the library.
Since that evening, Ben had noticed Harry being more reserved towards him and it made Ben feel bad.
He didn’t know what motivated the change in their friendship. Looking at the other boy who carefully run his fingertips over the aged books Ben couldn’t help but worry about him. 

At least Harry’s foot appeared to have healed quite nicely.
Another curious thing that Ben added to the list that seemed to grow more rapidly in the last few days. Just how had not only Harry’s foot but his shoe as well repaired itself over night for example?
Now was not the time to confront the other boy because of that however.
There was another thing weighting on Ben’s mind as he made his way over to Harry his shoes barely making a sound on the soft, carpeted floor.

“Harry?” he asked, this time announcing his presence clearly. With a troubled glance, he noticed his friend flinching nonetheless. Another topic. For another day.

“I err- I wanted to ask you something,” Ben whispered.
“Uh okay?” Harry murmured back.
“Err should we borrow these books and wait outside for Severus?” Ben stalled.
Harry nodded and together they went over to the check out.
The middle-aged man didn’t so much as glance at them over the rim of his thick glasses as he wordlessly accepted Snape’s membership card.
Silently, Ben led them outside where he leaned against a wall near the entrance door that was protected from the still pouring rain by a roof overgrown with moss.

Harry came to stand beside him.
“You didn’t just want to ask me about lending these books did you?” he asked Ben looking askance at him.
Ben let out a breath of air he didn’t know he had been holding.
“No.”
There was a moment of silence enveloping both of them. Ben knew that Harry wouldn’t be more forthcoming than this. He had to dare the first step.

“Harry, I- please don’t misunderstand but is everything alright between us?”
Ben was inevitably reminded of this morning’s conversation with Severus. This would prove to be a lot more difficult than forgiving the professor however, Ben feared.

“Err- yes, why wouldn’t it be?” Harry asked evasively.
“It’s only that, I don’t know, you don’t talk to me anymore,” Ben said worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.
“What? I talk to you,” Harry said dourly.
“You don’t.”
Harry opened his mouth to disagree but Ben was faster.
“You know, since that evening you haven’t really said anything. We haven’t really talked. I mean, you know, in the shelter we talked. Not “talked” like now.”
Ben tried expressing the differences by stressing the two words and making quotation marks with his fingers.
Harry had to supress a smile. He really liked Ben.

“You know, I just I wanted to get help for you,” Ben continued, “I just wanted to help. I didn’t know- didn’t know about you and Severus. I didn’t- I just-”
“Ben!” Harry halted the other boy’s stuttering. “Ben it’s okay.”
Ben looked at him swallowing audibly.
“Ben I- look- I’m sorry. It isn’t your fault,” Harry said but it sounded insincere and hollow.
Ben furrowed his brow.
“But you can go back to your mother now,” Harry finished callously. He could feel the anger and fear from the night before wash over him like the waves that could be heard in the distance.
Ben stared at him incredulously.

“What? I don’t-“ he stammered.
“Don’t. Just don’t. I know you just want to stay with Snape because you don’t want to go home.”
“You’re right, I don’t.”
“So? What are you doing here? Asking me about if we’re fine? You don’t care anyway. Go away already!” shouted Harry just as he had done two days ago at the beach.

He couldn’t help himself. The crushing feeling that had him wanting to curl into the darkest corner of the world was back again. He was sick of staying with Snape and he was tired of being thrown from one shitty guardian to the next like a beach ball. He missed his friends. He missed Hedwig. He missed Hogwarts. He was stressed about what Snape would discover at the Dursleys and how the cruel man would use it against Harry.
Since the Potions master had declared he was going to get Harry’s things this morning, Harry’s mind had been working in overdrive. He had still tried to come up with possible excuses when Ben had readily agreed to visit the library.
Everything seemed to be decided already. Without Harry’s input of course, just as usual.
And now, everything just came back to Harry. He did the only thing that he could. He lashed out.
“What are you still doing hanging around your creepy neighbour? You have a home! Go away!”

Ben had gone pale at his words. His breath had quickened and he scrubbed at his cheeks.
“You know I won’t.”
“Won’t do what?” Harry spat.
“Go away,” Ben said quietly.
A tear rolled down Ben’s cheek and Harry looked away with shame.
He hadn’t wanted to sound that harsh but it was true. Ben could stuff his fake caring.
Seeing him now however, all happiness seemingly sucked out of the normally cheerful boy by a few simple words, Harry ducked his head and hunched his shoulders. This was his fault.

A sense of overwhelming helplessness washed over him.
His mind shut down. He couldn’t think, there was nothing in his mind anymore just a gaping void. He shivered but it had nothing to do with the rain still splashing down roughly on the pavement.

“Why not? Everyone else does.”
“Does what?” Ben asked quietly.
“Leave me.”
Cautiously Ben touched Harry’s hand.
He felt that the other boy was trembling and so he took his hand into his own.
“I won’t,” he repeated solemnly. “No matter how many times you say it, I’m not going away. Ever.”
Harry searched Ben’s eyes. There was something in them he didn’t see often. Maybe he had only ever seen it with Hermione and Ron. Or Sirius.
The brown eyes of the lean boy shone with something firm, something like a promise.

Harry looked away and stared down at his feet.
“I’m sorry. I thought-“
“-No, it’s okay.”
“No Ben, I’m sorry. I thought you just cared about escaping your mother for a little while longer and not for- for me.”
“There aren’t many people who care about you, are there Harry?” Ben asked astutely pointing out a suspicion that became more and more clear the longer he knew Harry.
The other boy kept silent. It was answer enough.

“I thought your uncle picked you up and that you were back with your relatives. I- I was worried. So I thought, that maybe Mr. Snape- Severus could help. Because he always helped before. So I came back here and well, it worked somehow right?” Ben recounted his thoughts simply.
Harry stared at him.
How could he have been so wrong about the boy’s motives?
Of course, Ben, kind Ben, wouldn’t betray a friend for his own needs. Needs that the boy should take more seriously, Harry thought now.
And here, Harry had thought that Ben just liked hanging around Snape’s. Instead, the boy had gone back, fearing to run into his mother who would send him straight to Military School, just to help Harry.
He cursed all of the deceitful nighttime thoughts that just had the nasty habit of distorting everything, of making everything seem so much harder, so much worse.

Harry didn’t know what to say.
“Snape really told the social workers he was my uncle,” was what Harry eventually settled on in an attempt to lighten the mood.
It worked. Ben laughed.
“Figures. You two do look alike you know.”
Seeing Harry’s scrunched up face he hastily added, “Must be the black hair.”
Harry snorted.


Severus had looked everywhere but had found nothing.

Down from the pristine living room with the little dog figurines on the shelf and the expensive looking television system, a far cry from Severus’ own outdated goggle-box, up to the two generous bedrooms he had searched everywhere. Not only hadn’t he discovered the boy’s school trunk but also he hadn’t found one single indication the Gryffindor lived here at all.

Currently, Severus was standing in front of a door he had previously ignored.
He inspected the different locks that had been screwed expertly on the wood. He counted no less than six separate locking systems: latches, padlocks, bolts.
You’ve got to be kidding me, he thought.
Someone had obviously gone on a DIY rampage here.
Either this was a very secure firearm locker or…
But no, surely not. This couldn’t be pampered Prince Potter’s bedroom.

Severus winced at his thought. Hadn’t he vowed to do better by the boy?
He sighed. There was nothing for it. He pulled out his wand again and had the locks undone in a wink.

The door squeaked when he opened it.
Upon entering, Severus immediately noticed the musty smell of the room as if there hadn’t been anybody in there for quite some time. He slowly turned his head letting his eyes rove over the bare walls.

There wasn’t much to see.
A slanting chest of drawers, a broken shelve that held even more broken toys, old, jiggered match box cars, books with obvious signs of wanton destruction, electronics in various states of damage, wires and cords hanging from them loosely.
His eyes came to rest on a lopsided desk.
An empty owl’s cage was pushed to one corner of it the remaining surface strangely void of anything except some broken paperclips.

Severus kneeled to look under the small single bed squeezing itself into one corner of the room.
Nothing.
Not even some sweet wrappings or old parchment as he would have expected. He sat back on his haunches and glanced at the scrap of paper pinned to the wall over the bed.

He squinted and leaned forward to make out the tiny letters printed on the crinkled sheet.
It was a kind of chart showing the months of July and August. Every single day was crossed out with a strong “X” right up until the 12th July.
Severus had to gulp down a certain sense of foreboding. It was the evening Dumbledore had alerted the Order that Potter had been missing.
The calendar ended on August 31st, the eve of the Hogwarts Express. The eve of returning to school. He frowned. What ordinary student counted the days until school resumed after the summer?

Severus was too well acquainted with all the preposterous excuses the students came up with for missing summer homework to know that the majority of the student body didn’t bother with their return to school until the day actually dawned on them.

This calendar didn’t quite fit with Potter. Or at least, it didn’t fit with the boy Severus had thought he knew. Just like so much else that had to do with the boy didn’t seem to fit together recently.

Carefully Severus peeled the calendar from the wall and slipped it inside his pocket.


Upon apparating back to the library, he found the two boys leaning on the wall under the entrance roof chatting amiably. They both held a stack of books Severus noted with satisfaction. Ben glanced up and discovered Severus who hastily made his way over to them through the downpour.

“I see you were successful,” Severus said nodding to the books that were stuck under each boy’s armpits.
“Yes,” smiled Ben. “Harry can finally finish The Hobbit and he found the Silmarillion too.”
Surprised, Severus regarded the boy.

Severus was intrigued. Tolkien had always been his favourite muggle fantasy author. Even if the story was quite spectacular and Douglas Adams certainly had a few good puns up his sleeve, he couldn’t even begin to compare to the great J.R.R.
Harry twitched under Severus’ scrutiny. 
“Excellent choice Mr. Potter.”
He ignored the thoroughly confounded look on the boy’s face.

“We have one more errand to run before we return home,” Severus continued.
Both boys looked at him curiously. Severus felt a small tug in his chest noticing the subtle differences.
Ben was watching him through the chestnut-brown eyes of his, his open gaze finding and holding Severus’ own gaze without difficult. Harry only glimpsed at him through his thick fringe from time to time, eluding Severus’ dark stare and avoiding direct eye contact.
Once, Severus would have criticized him for that habit but now he found that his heart wasn’t into it anymore.
His visit at the Dursley’s unearthed some disconcerting puzzle pieces and Severus wasn’t sure if he was the right person to put them together.

But there was one thing he could amend now without admitting to his own wrong doings.
The idea had occurred to him yesterday when he had been out to get some groceries.
After Severus had assured himself that the two boys where too absorbed in their board game to notice his absence, Severus had quietly left the house a shopping bag thrown awkwardly over his shoulder.

On his way back from the supermarket, he had encountered old Mrs. Marble.
She struggled with her own purchases and thus, Severus once again lend her a hand but kindly declined her offer of tea.
He had just turned to leave again when something crossed his mind.
And so it happened that he consulted Mrs. Marble about some good optometrists in the town.
As Severus had suspected, the old sturdy lady knew all about the two different local opticians and strongly advised Severus to go with someone the woman called “Jeff” instead of the store of a larger branch that had just opened in the city centre.

“We will visit Jeff,” Severus resumed putting as much emphasis on the absurd name as possible.
“Who’s Jeff?” Ben asked immediately.
“He’s an optometrist,” answered Severus and looking at the blank faces of the two boys he added, “He crafts glasses.”
“Are you already getting presbyopia?” Ben asked hiding a small grin.
“Why Ben, I wasn’t aware you knew such elaborate vocabulary. With your apparent aversion to reading you exhibited in the past, one would have thought you did not even know what a dictionary was.”

Harry watched them with increasing unease. If it were he Snape would have directed his words at, they surely wold have been meant as an insult. With big eyes, he watched Ben shrug them off easily.

“Haha, very funny Severus,” Ben said rolling his eyes.
“Indeed,” the man replied cocking an eyebrow.
“What about it?” Ben shrugged, “I like doing crossword puzzles.”
“Will wonders never cease,” Severus said pensively.

With a growing sense of surrealness, Harry observed the two of them.
Here was his mean potions teacher, standing in the drizzling rain of some picturesque seaside town bantering with a boy whom Harry now called his friend.
And as if the sight of his prime tormenter from school clad in jeans and a muggle raincoat wasn’t enough to send Harry’s poor heart into cardiac arrest Ben went and boxed the Potion master lightly on the arm.
Already picturing Ben’s funeral in his mind, Harry prepared for instant murder.
It never happened.

Snape just snorted and shoved Ben away with a friendly push.
“Let us proceed. Mr. Potter here needs new glasses if his constant squinting is any indication.”
That was more like it, Harry thought.
Yet, he couldn’t help but notice the odd absence of Snape’s characteristic sarcastic undertone. It had always been there, always. Since he first set foot in Snape’s classroom Harry had always been able to rely on the man in that regard.
The lack of vitriol only made him wary now.

“Gee Harry, I didn’t know you had glasses.”
“Lost them,” Harry mumbled in answer to his friend.
Severus sighed, a thing that he seemed to be doing a lot these past few days and refrained from pointing out that he had found the atrocious contraptions and had in fact returned them to the boy.
He started walking leading the two boys down the street. As it happened, the optometrist was just a few houses away from the library.

They passed the brick-built church and dodged some pensioners who were chattering animatedly with each other despite the rain. Soon the three of them were standing in front of a small shop. The sign hanging above its front window cheerfully proclaimed Jeff’s Optometry. Your friendly service for fine glasses since 1947.

Glancing at the writing, Ben sniggered.
“Try saying that three times in a row,” he whispered to Harry.
Harry looked at him expectantly.
Ben decided his friend could use a little cheering up. Since meeting up with Severus again, Harry seemed to withdraw into himself once more.
“Friendly service for fine glasses, friendly service for fine flasses, fenny service for fine flosses,” Ben stumbled over the words.
Harry smiled a tiny little smile but sobered instantly when he heard Snape snort derisively.

“Not to interrupt your ingenious conversation but I would like to return home somewhere in the near future.”
“Sure Severus,” nodded Ben.
Severus cocked his head at the two boys.
“Shall we then?”

To be continued...
End Notes:

Here’s an extra-long chapter for you guys :)
I thinks it’s the longest I’ve written for this fic so far.

I don’t know why but I found this chapter somewhat hard to write and had to delete a good part of it because it just didn’t fit in.
Maybe it caused me difficulties because there isn’t much action in it and just sets the scene for the second part of this story? Who knows?

Though I have to confess that I enjoyed writing Ben and Severus banter immensely. And poor Harry, he’s so confused :D

What do you think? Was it too slow or boring or did you enjoy the quiet chapter?
The calendar Severus found in Harry’s room was actually in the HP books. Harry made a chart for himself in POA marking the days until his return to Hogwarts. I thought it was a nice little Easter egg for the hard-core fans ;)

I’m looking forward to your comments! Thank you as always for your kind words! They warm my heart and make me smile :)
Until next time!
Nemo



This story archived at http://www.potionsandsnitches.org/fanfiction/viewstory.php?sid=3843