I am so sorry for a long wait on this story. I am doing the best to write as often as I can and update when I can. Thanks to all the wonderful reviews and the new favorites and followers. Enjoy!
Warning: some language in this chapter.
Severus stared at the Hogwarts express in awe, excited to begin his Hogwarts career. He was eleven years old now, and this would be his first experience in the magical world. And it would be nice to escape his father's presence for a while. His mother rested a hand on his shoulder, stopping him from running to the train without so much as a goodbye.
"Now hold up, young man," Eileen smirked down at her son. "Good gentlemen kiss their mothers goodbye before leaving for months."
Severus groaned, his pale cheeks reddening. "Mum, do I have to?"
"It is tradition," Eileen insisted. In truth, it was a tradition among purebloods to formally kiss parents' goodbye, a tradition Eileen didn't enjoy with her own pureblood parents. But she saw no harm in enforcing it with her son, a son she truly loved for who he was and not his blood status as her own parents had reminded her time and time again.
"Fine," Severus turned and, after Eileen kneeled slightly for him, kissed her cheek quickly.
"That's the best you can do for your mother?" Eileen narrowed her eyes. "After everything I've done for you – carried you for nine months, brought you into this world, clothed you, fed you – "
"Okay, okay," Severus rolled his eyes and gave his mother a longer kiss on the cheek. He was glad he had spotted a couple other families with children giving parents the same attention or his cheeks would be burning off.
"Much better," Eileen grinned. Her smile softened, and her eyes saddened. "You know I love you, right?"
"I know," Severus said.
"I'm really going to miss you."
"Mum, it's just until Christmas break. Then I'll be home."
"Hmm," Eileen stared off in the distance for a moment. Severus glanced back in the direction she was staring but didn't see anything. He looked back at his mother, who refocused on him. "Why don't you stay at Hogwarts for Christmas? It'll be fun, and you'll experience some new wizarding traditions we could never do at home."
"Yeah, but it won't be Christmas without family," Severus said. "I want to spend it with you. Besides, you'll be alone with . . . you know, Father."
Eileen smiled sadly at him. "I'll be fine," she assured him. "I promise you. One day, I'll get us out of this situation. As soon as I find a job that will support us both, you and I will leave Spinner's End and your father for good."
"How do you plan on doing that?" Severus asked. "You have no muggle education and Father won't like it if you step foot in the Wizarding world to search for work. He'll find out and he'll . . ."
It was bad enough that Severus was leaving for Hogwarts. His father had thrown a fit about his son going off to a freak school where he would learn freaky magic nonsense. He ended up arguing with Eileen about Severus's acceptance and she and Severus both ended up with more bruises and developing scars. Severus's shaggy clothes covered up that incident, and he couldn't wait to change into his new Hogwarts uniform.
"I'll stay safe. It'll be worth it to set us free, won't it?"
Severus said nothing, just stared sadly at his mother. Nothing was ever worth seeing his mother hurt. Because of Eileen's lack of muggle education, no one ever hired her in the muggle world. And to even mention finding a job in the wizarding world was simply suicidal. Eileen sighed, deciding to change the subject.
"Hey, aren't you excited to be sorted?"
"Well, let me know what house you end up in. What are we rooting for?"
"Slytherin!" Severus smiled, knowing that that had been the house his mother had been in.
"Slytherin all the way," Eileen smiled, lifting her wand, the tip glowing green. Severus pulled out his own wand and lit it a silver color. The two touched the tips of the wands together, and two thin trails of the colored lights wrapped around the two wands, snake-like in their movements. The glow faded, and Eileen kissed Severus head, ruffling his long hair. "Remember, I will always love you and I will miss you greatly."
"I'll miss you, too, Mum," Severus said.
"I would really like to see you stay at Hogwarts this Christmas. Just this once. I promise that we will spend every Christmas after that together. Deal?"
Severus sighed but nodded his head. "Deal."
The Hogwarts whistle blew, and Eileen hugged her son, rather tightly in Severus's opinion, before Severus ran to the train and climbed aboard. He waved out a window one to his mother.
Christmas time came, and although Severus had agreed to stay at Hogwarts, he changed his mind and wrote home to his parents that he would be returning, despite his mother's wishes. As much as he enjoyed his time at Hogwarts, he missed his mother and the holiday just didn't feel right without her. He climbed off the train and exited the barrier to wait for his mother to pick him up. Time passed, and it was late evening when the familiar car pulled up to the station. Severus smiled and stood, only to lose the smile when his father stepped out of the car. Where was Mum?
"Let's go, boy," Tobias's gruff voice said.
Quick to obey, Severus grabbed his belonging and jumped in the car.
"Why didn't Mum pick me up?" Severus asked as they drove away.
"That bitch is gone," Tobias growled.
Severus frowned at his father's choice of words. Gone – how? Hesitantly, he asked, "Where?"
"Who the hell knows!? I haven't seen her in months. Not since she took you to the train station to go to that freak show you call a school." Tobias picked up a brown bag and took a large swig from the hidden bottle.
Severus sucked in a sharp breath, his eyes watering. His mother was gone? For months? Where did she go? Why did she leave? Surely, she was coming back for Christmas – for him!
"Is she coming back?"
"If she knows what's good for her, she'll never come back. Now shut up and let me drive."
Tears fell from Severus's eyes and he turned to look out the window. Eileen had left him. She left him alone with his father. She had abandoned him.
Severus opened his eyes. It had been a long while since he dreamed of his mother's abandonment, and he was sure the events of tonight had been the cause of his dream tonight. Minerva had given him a lot to think about. And as much as he wanted to forget the silly conversation he had had with her, her words weighed heavy on his mind. Sitting up in his bed, Severus dragged a weary hand down his face.
Seven years. For seven, long, torturous years his mother had been missing without a word. Young Severus, at just eleven years old, had even tried to report her missing, afraid that his father was lying about her never returning home and that he may have killed her or ran her out. Perhaps, out of fear for her life, she had taken on a new identity and was plotting to kidnap her son from Tobias. But the police questioned Tobias, who explained that Eileen left on her own terms, and once they were gone, he directed his anger at Severus.
Seven years. For seven years he had to endure his father's abuse alone, wondering if his mother would ever return, would ever save him from his father's clutches. She had told him that they would leave Tobias together, but she had left without him. He went through his Hogwarts years alone, having no parent to ask questions or even talk to about school bullies. He was alone.
Seven years until he heard from her once more. It had been four months after he had graduated from Hogwarts and two months since Tobias Snape had killed himself and four passengers in a fatal car crash caused by his own drunkenness. Severus had inherited Spinner's End and had been living alone when a strange bird – a hen harrier – delivered a letter from his mother. The letter was full of apologies and regret as well as a wish to meet with Severus at a local café. Severus had nearly refused, after her abandonment, there was no way he was just going to let her walk back in his life.
However, he decided to meet with her, if only to get answers about why she had left him. Eileen had been ecstatic to see him. Severus noted that she looked healthy. Older, but healthy, and wearing fine clothes. She explained to him that she had left Tobias the day she had dropped Severus off at Hogwarts. Her hope was to find a job and earn enough to buy a suitable home, then take Severus with her as soon as she could. Only a job did not come easy, and she struggled to earn enough to feed herself for years. It wasn't until a year ago that she met Peadar MacAuley, a pureblood Irish wizard vacationing in London. The man was a manager at a wizarding summer camp for young kids and offered Eileen an opportunity to work at his camp. Eileen took the opportunity, learning that the man worked as a professor at Durmstrang Institute during the school year.
After eight months of dating and getting to know one another, the two wed and settled into Peadar's estate, and Eileen waited until Severus had graduated to contact him, as she knew he was very close to finished with his seventh year of school. She had been a bit hesitant to contact him after all these years, fearing he might hate her for leaving him, but was glad he came to meet with her.
After, Severus did move in with his mother and his new stepfather temporarily, but after a month, he left once more, choosing the solitude of Spinner's End. He'd visit every so often, but his encounters with his mother tended to end in heated disputes over the silliest things, somehow spinning back to her abandoning him all those years back. When Severus joined the Death Eaters a year later, both Eileen and Peadar had shared their disapproval, and Severus ignored them for two years, only returning in distress after endangering Lily and James Potter, as well as their new born son. Severus had spent time in Azkaban for his trial, where Albus Dumbledore had vouched for him, then he returned to Peadar's estate.
For two years he walked on eggshells with his mother and stepfather as he began his teaching career at Hogwarts. And then his temper exploded once more, over his mother's constant pestering over his poor health and how he needed to take better care of himself. It shouldn't have, but it did push him over the edge. She had abandoned him – what right did she have to concern herself over his health? And after bringing up that abandonment once more, he left the estate for the last time.
And here he was five and a half years later.
Severus looked over at Harry's bed. The boy was sound asleep. Standing, Severus went to the kitchen and poured himself some water, downing it before returning to bed. It was still early dawn. He'd sleep for a few more hours.
Minerva waited patiently at her desk for Severus to arrive with little Harry. She had so much planned for the boy to do with her. She still couldn't stop thinking about Eileen's letter to her son and the boy's innocent questions.
Minerva knew Eileen quite well. She had first met Eileen in her first year at Hogwarts, when Minerva was a first year and Eileen was a seventh year and captain of the school Gobstones team and President of the Hogwarts Gobstone Club. Eileen had graduated, and Minerva didn't hear from her again for a long time. When Severus began Hogwarts, Minerva was the transfiguration professor. Severus had been an awful sight – pale, clothes mismatched and hardly fit, and bruises she would occasionally get glimpses of. She wondered what went on at home.
When Severus was in his sixth year, Minerva had a run in with Eileen in the town of Ottery St. Catchpole, where she assisted in a bookstore for low pay. Minerva had been searching for particular transfiguration books when she recognized the older, pale, worn women who immediately assisted her in finding what she needed. Minerva mentioned Severus and the two spoke about how the boy was doing in his classes. Halfway through their talk, Eileen burst into tears. Minerva felt for her, especially after hearing why Eileen had left Severus with Tobias.
Eileen knew that Tobias's job was stable and paid enough to care for Severus. Eileen had hoped she would have found something similar years sooner, but she struggled to find a place to work and did a lot of job hopping just to keep herself fed. She regretted leaving Severus alone, but she couldn't admit defeat. She had to find something better, so she could reunite with her son.
Minerva offered her assistance then and pointed her in the direction of London where Minerva knew several new jobs were posted, both muggle, that required little education, and wizarding jobs that would pay her so much more than what she received now. Eileen had thanks her and Minerva left with the books she needed.
A year later, Minerva had received a letter from Eileen asking to meet her at a café for tea. She gladly accepted and was glad to hear that she had found a friend in Peadar MacAuley who assisted her in finding a job. Minerva also learned that Eileen's relationship with Peadar was blossoming into something more romantic.
Then Eileen asked about Severus, and Minerva regretted being so honest but explained how the boy found friends in the wrong places and was tailing a group of dark wizards. Eileen was saddened to hear that and had wanted to bring Severus to Peadar's estate then and there, but she chose to make sure her relationship with Peadar stayed true first before getting her son involved. And she didn't want to become a distraction to her son in his last year of Hogwarts.
Ever since that meeting, Minerva and Eileen would meet for tea every so often and just catch up with each other. They had become good friends and it hurt Minerva's heart to see Eileen and Severus at odds. Everything Eileen did was for her son.
And now Severus was doing so much for Harry Potter. The poor boy needed all the help he could get. Minerva still thought Eileen could help Severus with raising Harry, if only Severus saw how much he needed to keep the boy. Sometimes the thought of informing Albus crossed her mind. If she and Severus approached him together and remained calm and reasonable, surely they could make Albus see how wrong it was to leave Harry with those sort of people.
A knock on her door pulled her from her thoughts and she smiled as she flicked her wand to unlock the door. Severus stepped through and shut the door behind him before flicking his wand and Harry appeared at his side, smiling happily at the display of magic. The boy was looking himself over as if to make sure there was nothing left invisible.
"There he is! Right on time," Minerva smiled at Harry, who shyly smiled back. "Good morning, Harry."
Harry remained silent, though his smile grew. Severus rolled his eyes, then leaned down to Harry's height, whispering in the boy's ears. Minerva used her gift of being an animagus to sharpen her hearing.
"You will not continue these lessons if you do not address Professor McGonagall respectfully," Severus was saying. Minerva nearly rolled her own eyes. "And verbally. Now, respond to Professor McGonagall."
Severus stood to his full height, Harry glancing up hesitantly at the man before looking at Minerva, who smiled and raised her eyebrows as if she had no idea what Severus had asked of him.
"Good morning, Professor Mc-McGon-agall," Harry struggled a bit with her surname.
"Come take a seat, Harry," Minerva pointed to the chair in front of her desk. Harry glanced up at Severus before moving obediently.
"I will pick him up at ten sharp," Severus informed.
"He will be ready, Severus," Minerva smiled, waving the man away and keeping all of her attention on the sweet boy in front of him. As soon as the man was gone, she asked, "How are you, Harry? Getting along with Severus?"
"I'm good, Professor McGonagall," Harry took his time to say her name correctly, "I really like Mr. Snape. He's nice."
"He's not being a mean grump all the time, is he?"
"No, he's okay. Sometimes he's a bit grumpy, but I think he just needs to smile more."
"I couldn't agree more, Harry." Minerva smiled at how smart Harry was and how well the boy could read Severus.
"So what are we learning, Professor McGonagall?"
"Please," Minerva waved her hand at him, "call me Minny, you are not a student at Hogwarts yet. Oh, will I feel so old when you do become one. You know, I taught your parents when they attended Hogwarts."
"Really?" Harry's eyes brightened.
"Yes, they were bright pupils. Your father was a bit of a troublemaker, always getting into mischief. And your mother, such a kindhearted lass, she was. Brilliant, too."
Harry's smiled widened.
"Did they look like me?"
"Your father looked just like you – it's uncanny really! Except he had hazel eyes. You have your mother's eyes, Harry."
Harry's smile widened impossibly more. The boy was adorable in Minerva's opinion.
"What about Mr. Snape?" Harry asked. "Did you teach him, too?"
"I did," Minerva nodded. "But Severus's specialty was potions. Just like his mother."
"Did you know his mum?"
"I did, and I still do. She's a very kind and hardworking woman and I think she would love you."
"I'd like to meet her."
"I know, dear."
"So, what are we learning, Pro – I mean, Minny."
"You know," Minerva pulled out some paper and crayons, "I thought we could do some arts and crafts instead." Minerva set the supplies in front of Harry. "We have a whole week for learning. For today, we'll just get to know one another. Why don't you draw me something that means a lot to you? Something really important."
Harry frowned at the paper, before picking up a red crayon and starting to draw a rectangle in the center.
Minerva watched curiously, asking questions and answering any Harry had.
Severus sighed as he looked over the same student's assignment for the third time. There were no more corrections he could possibly do on it, yet he added more criticism to every page each time he looked it over. Then he'd look back at the clock. Two minutes before nine fifty-five. Then, he'd leave at nine fifty-five and take his time to make his way to Minerva's office and arrive right at ten o'clock sharp.
Severus sighed and looked at the assignment once more. He didn't want to start another one and stop half way through to pick up Harry. That would be pointless. Severus tapped the corner of his desk and tea appeared for him. He took a long sip, then glanced at the clock.
One minute to go.
Standing slowly, Severus lifted his outer robe off the coat hanger and slipped it on. He walked back to his desk and took another long sip. The looked at the clock.
Severus turned and left his quarters making his way up the stairs and to Minerva's office. When he arrived, he knew it had to be ten, but he hesitated, trying to listen through the hard wood to make sure he wasn't about to interrupt any last-minute information. It was quiet, so he knocked and entered at the sound of the unlocking click.
Severus walked through, seeing Minerva smiling down at a parchment in her hands. He couldn't see what it said, and Minerva carefully rolled it up and smiled at Severus. Harry wasn't in the room.
"Where is Harry?" Severus asked.
"He's using the loo," Minerva gestured to an attached door to her office.
"What did you go over with him today?"
"Nothing. We just talked, and he colored."
"That is hardly productive."
"We have a week to learn. Today was just to get to know each other."
"This is not what these lessons are for. He comes here to learn, not fool around."
"He wasn't fooling around, as you put it. He'll learn things during our next lesson. It's his first day with me alone, after all that time he spent with you, I'd like some bonding moments as well. You can't hog all those moments."
"Bonding moments?" Severus scoffed. "We do not bond. He is simply in my care until I can find a more suitable guardian for him."
"Why are you so insistent on finding someone else for him?" Minerva asked, tilting her head. "The boy adores you, and you are obviously growing attached to him. I would think it splendid should you pursue guardianship yourself over the boy. He's turning you into a softie, you know." Minerva gave Severus a teasing smile.
"No," Severus snapped, growing irritated with the conversation he was having with Minerva. She was prying into his life again and just humiliating him. He was definitely not turning into a "softie" as she wonderfully put it. "I am in no position to care for a child and the boy needs a proper family and more attention then I could ever provide. And for your information, the sooner I can be rid of the brat, the sooner I can get back to my life."
"Severus," Minerva warned.
"I am not finished. Despite what relationship you think the boy and I have, it does not exist. I am not doting on him and I will not have him spending more time than is absolutely necessary in this school. He's already put a lot of stress on me, hindered several of my daily plans, and has been nothing more but a parasite in my life. I certainly do not want to make this arrangement permanent."
"Severus!" Minerva pointed off to the side. Severus followed her finger and his eyes widened at Harry, who was standing in the doorway of the bathroom, tears in his eyes. He sniffed loudly as his eyes met Severus's.
"Harry," Severus said softly.
A loud sob escaped the boy as he ran past the professors and out into the hall, running away.
"Shit," Severus ran out into the hall, stopping outside Minerva's door as he watched Harry's shoes disappear behind a corner. "Harry!" he shouted before slapping a hand over his mouth. He looked around, glad to note the hall was empty. "Eve!"
Eve popped into view.
"Find Harry now! Make sure he returns to my quarters."
"Yes, Master Snape," Eve bowed before popping away.
"Nice," Minerva muttered, walking up to Severus, the rolled parchment still in her hands. "When you get talking, you do know how to talk the talk don't you? You just aren't very good at walking the walk. Honestly, Severus, would it kill you to let others know that you have a heart? Does it really offend you to say that you care for a child? Your temper will be the end of you, I swear it." Minerva shook her head, then handed the parchment to Severus. "Here, this is what Harry worked on today. I asked him to draw something important to him. I'm sure he'll want to keep it."
Severus accepted the parchment, and then Minerva shut the door to her office. A pop caught his attention. It was Eve.
"Eve made sure young Master Harry made it safely to your quarters," the elf informed him, "he is in his bed crying."
Severus sighed, a headache forming. He felt guilt tighten his chest, making inhaling hard. Severus nodded to Eve, who popped away. Looking down at the parchment in his hand, Severus unrolled it and looked down at the drawing, frowning.
It was a drawing of him – Severus – in a superman outfit, a large red cape flowing behind him. It was rather well done for a child using crayons. Next to Severus, was a drawing of what he assumed to be Harry, holding his hand and smiling. Severus himself wasn't smiling, but the drawing of him did look content, if that was even possible.
Severus felt something break inside of him as he stared down at the drawing. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing.
Back in his quarters, Severus slowly made his way to his bedroom. Harry's sobs filled the rooms, and Severus hated the sound of it. He found Harry lying on his bed, hugging his stuffed dog, crying into its fur. Severus stood beside the bed, unsure of how to go about dealing with a sad child.
"I thought you liked me," Harry cried out.
"Harry, it's complicated – "
"But you hate me!" Harry continued.
"No, I do not."
"I'm a – " Harry's breath hitched as he wiped his face on the toy. "I'm a parasite."
"No, absolutely not," Severus insisted. "You are not a parasite, and nor will you ever be."
"Then why did you say that?"
"Oh, Harry, I was . . . I was being . . ."
"A meanie?" Harry offered, still not looking at him.
"Untruthful," Severus tried not to glare at the boy. "And quite rude, I admit. I didn't mean what I said, though. I guess Minerva embarrassed me with her teasing and I sought to keep my reputation, but I see that I was wrong."
After some quiet crying, Harry suddenly said, "You don't want me."
"As I said, it's complicated."
"Why does it have to be complicated?"
"Because it is. Your whole situation is complicated. You are not even supposed to be here, but I am doing my best to accommodate for you despite the fact that I could get in serious trouble for hiding you."
"But why don't you want me?"
"I believe you need a better home than what I could provide. You need a proper family and . . ."
"I don't care!" Harry interrupted, his sobs growing. Severus frowned. Obviously, his words were not what the boy wanted to hear, but that was simply too bad. His words were the truth. "Leave me alone," Harry buried his face in the toy once more.
"You will not speak to me in such a manner," Severus scolded.
"I hate you!" Harry suddenly shouted, sitting up and glaring at Severus.
Severus felt as though he had been slapped. The three words caught him off guard and he stared down at the distraught child whose eyes were growing wide.
"I'm sorry," Harry said, scrambling back against the wall away from Severus . "Please don't hurt me, I won't do it again. I'm sorry. I'll be good!"
Severus knew the boy was falling back into old habits. He couldn't take much more of Harry's crying. A memory of something his mother would do when Severus had been in similar emotional times came to mind, and as much as he didn't want to do it, he knew it would help the hurting boy. Slowly, Severus sat on the edge of the bed, making sure to leave space between Harry and himself. Then, he opened his arms invitingly.
Harry stared for a second before he flew into Severus's arms, nearly knocking the man over as he wrapped his arms around Severus's neck, clinging tightly to the man. Severus froze when Harry jumped so eagerly into his embrace, then slowly brought his arms around the boy. He held Harry tightly, resting his head against the boy's. The hold felt so natural and at the same time, awkward. But he kept his hold, knowing it was what Harry needed. After a few moments, Harry's crying long over, Harry spoke.
"I don't hate you."
"I know," Severus said.
"I like you."
"Hmm," Severus wasn't sure how to respond, unsure of where his own feelings for Harry were at. He just maintained his hug, waiting for Harry to loosen up on his neck.
"Do you not like me because I'm a freak?"
Severus sucked in a breath and immediately said, "What have I said about that word?"
"I'm sorry. But is that why you don't like me?"
"I never said I didn't like you. And you are not a freak. We've been over this. There is nothing freaky about you, Harry. Nothing. You are like me, and if you are a freak than I would be, too. Do you think I'm a freak?"
Severus felt Harry shake his head against his neck. Severus wasn't sure how many more times he'd have this conversation with the boy, but he hoped the lesson sunk in soon.
"Then you are not a freak. If you say that word again, you'll be getting a mouth full of suds."
There was silence for a moment.
"I want you to like me," Harry admitted.
Severus sighed, holding Harry for a moment longer before pulling the boy away slightly.
"I do . . . enjoy your presence," Severus managed to say. Harry stared at Severus, his expression blanking, becoming unreadable even for Severus. How the boy did that, Severus was sure he'd never know. He almost wanted to hear the boy's thoughts.
"What I mean, Harry," Severus tried again, "is that I do like you."
Blank expression. Then, Harry smiled and leaned forward, initiating his own hug. Severus blinked but quickly brought his hands up to rest on Harry's back. He was happy Harry was no longer crying, but he wasn't sure where the boy's head was at currently.
When they released once more, Harry sat next to Severus. Severus dragged a hand down his face, then looked at Harry.
"Lunch will be ready, soon," Severus said, "why don't you go wash up?"
Harry nodded and stood.
"Wait," Severus said, pulling out the parchment Minerva had handed him from an inner pocket. He unrolled it and held the drawing up. "What does this mean?"
Harry gave Severus a look that said, "Isn't it obvious?"
"You're Superman," Harry explained.
"Why am I Superman?"
"Because you saved me."
Severus blinked then nodded and handed the parchment out to Harry.
"It's for you," Harry said.
"Is that so?" Severus muttered, lowering his hand and looking down at the drawing. He glanced up at Harry, who was waiting nervously for Severus to say something. "Thank you. Go wash up."
Harry smiled and ran to the bathroom. Severus stared down at the drawing. It touched him. And it scared him. He was becoming attached to the boy. And he was not ready to be anyone's guardian. He couldn't be. After his past, he shouldn't be. Harry deserved better.
He deserved a real Superman.
Oh, Severus. Anyway, thanks for reading!