17th July 1996
Severus was standing in the shadows so as to remain hidden despite being desillusionned. He was on guard duty in Privet Drive for the first time ever. Mrs Figg had moved next door following the events of October 1981, and was supposed to alert the Headmaster at the first sign of strange activity in the neighbourhood. Her presence had been considered more than enough to ensure the boy's security seeing as the wards around the house were the strongest kind in existence.
Since the Dark Lord's return, however, the situation had been reevaluated. At first, the order members who had been on guard duty had had to stay at their home and, should an emergency have arose, would've been firecalled. But since the events in the Department of Mysteries, the headmaster decided to instate guarding shifts around the house. The guard included Tonks, Moody, Remus, Minerva, Kingsley, Arthur, Mundungus and a few other order members that Harry didn't even know about. Until now, Severus had escaped the duty and he had hoped it would remain that way for the remainder of the summer. No such luck, however. Most of the order members had been given tasks and were otherwise busy. And this is the reason why Severus was now hiding in the shadows, wearing his usual jet black robes with his very own scowl set in place.
Severus had been there since six that morning and it was now two in the afternoon. No need to say that he was bored and annoyed at having to watch the muggle neighbourhood. Nothing had happened all day, be it around number four or elsewhere. The only movements had been around eight when people had left to work. A man the size of a walrus had come out of Potter's house - so Severus had assumed this had had to be the boy's uncle - and gotten in a shining expensive car, before driving off. Since then, nothing. No sign of Potter, or of anyone else for that matter. At least that was until a baby walrus came out of number four and was joined by a group of four other boys, all similar in size. They were wearing large sports clothes, talking loud and swearing every other sentence. 'Disgusting.' After what seemed to be an eternity, they finally rounded the corner down the street and disappeared from Severus' sight.
An hour later or so, the front door opened again to reveal a dishevelled Harry Potter. He was wearing large and stained clothes, and his raven hair was messy... well, no more than it usually was. 'Typical Potter.' Snape thought. 'Too lazy to make an effort with his appearance. What would all his little fans say if they saw their Golden Boy in such a state?'
Severus followed Harry, careful not to be too close so as not to be spotted. The Headmaster had thought it best not to inform the boy he was being watched, else he would probably have thrown a fit, complaining about not being a baby and lack of privacy. 'Lack of privacy. Snape scoffed inwardly. More like he doesn't want people to know how spoiled and pampered he is at home.'
Harry was headed to the playground, Snape realised. He scoffed for real this time. 'So much for not being a baby.'
As they got closer, Severus noticed that the group of boys from earlier was there as well, standing in circle. 'Why on earth would Potter associate with muggles? Being the big-headed Wizarding Savior he is...' But then everything made sense as Snape understood that the boys were not standing in circle but rather surrounding something. No, surrounding someone.
"Listen to you, sniffling like a baby." One of the older boys said.
"Yeah you're pathetic." Another one added making the gang laugh.
Snape looked at the boy on the floor closely. He was supporting a black eye and a split lip, and from the looks of it, he probably had some bruised - if not broken - ribs. The cause of these injuries? Well, the boys from the gang were taking turns at kicking him repeatedly in the stomach, in the face, everywhere.
Snape saw Potter approaching the group and felt his blood boil. 'I knew it. Like father like son. Miserable excuse for humans, the both of them. Wait until I get a hold on you Potter jr. I'll make you regret it.'
But Harry didn't join the gang, instead he stopped a few meters away from them.
"Hey!" Harry called.
The large blond muggle who Snape assumed was Harry's cousin turned around.
"What are you doing here freak? Wanna take his place?" He asked motioning toward the beaten boy lying on the ground.
"What has he done to you? Oh right he probably just happened to be on your way and you needed a new punching bag since you got kicked out of that boxing club of yours after stealing from the coach."
"Shut up, freak. I didn't steal anything."
"Oh so his phone just happened to be in your pocket?" Harry asked sarcastically.
Dudley opened his mouth to reply but was cut by a brown-haired boy.
"Why, Potter, they finally taught you that stealing is bad in that school of yours. What is it again Dudley?"
"St Brutus'" Dudley smirked. "For incurable criminal boys."
Snape was puzzled. Yes, Potter was an arrogant spoiled brat. But a criminal? Why would he pretend to attend a school for delinquents?
Harry clenched his fists. "The only criminal here is you. No, all five of you." He said, pointing at each boy - who had all stop the beating to watch the altercation between the two cousins - one by one. Harry looked down and his eyes met pleading ocean-blue ones. He knew he had to do something, and the only way was to create a diversion by drawing the attention to himself. So he turned to the tall blond again. "One against five, really Dudley? You think you're all brave and strong, only you're just a fat pathetic coward."
"What did you say?" Dudley thundered, throwing himself at Harry and pushing him roughly against the fence. He was soon joined by the other four, leaving a bruised and whimpering little boy behind them.
Nearby, Snape drew his wand ready to defend the boy he had sworn to protect.
"I said you're a fat pathetic coward. Oh yeah and you're pretty stupid too, but then again, is that really news to anyone?"
Seeing his cousin's face turn as purple as Dursley Sr', Harry knew the punch wouldn't be that far off. And he was right. Though he was pressed against the fence, Harry managed to duck. He wasn't the youngest seeker of the century for nothing. Besides, his cousin had always lacked aim precision. The fist was raised again but this time he didn't manage to dodge it in time and he caught it in the nose. Well, at least he had avoided the black eye which would've reignited the rumours about him being the little terror of the neighbourhood, frightening the kids and beating them up. Oh yes, Harry made a great scapegoat and it was not like his aunt and uncle were going to deny Harry's supposed misdeeds around the neighbourhood.
Snape was about to open his mouth to curse Dudley when Harry smirked and spoke.
"Are you sure you want to do that, Duds? Surely you know we have pretty rough self-defence trainings at school." Harry eyed his pocket where Dudley knew he kept his wand at all times. The blond boy paled instantly and lowered his fist. "I could ask my godfather to teach you some...holds, if you want. He's pretty good at it since he's my kind, know what I mean big D? It runs in the family... criminality I mean. You couldn't have forgotten that, right? Want a reminder? His name's Siriu-"
Snape was surprised to hear the boy talk about his godfather seeing as the dog's death had greatly affected him. But he was also surprised to see that the muggle seemed afraid of the man. Hadn't Potter told them Black was innocent? Surely he had visited in the summer before...
"No need Potter." Dudley said, letting go of Harry's collar and backing away quickly. "I can handle myself. I don't need your help." He turned to his friends - if you can call them that - and beckoned them. Once the lot of them were out of sight, Harry got away from the fence and walked toward the young boy. He kneeled beside him.
"Are you ok?" He asked with the softest voice he could manage.
The little boy nodded and smiled weakly. "Th-thanks."
"It's alright. They shouldn't bother you anymore, but try to steer clear of them, okay?"
Harry extended his hand for the boy to take. He hauled him to his feet and dusted his clothes.
When he saw blood trickling down the boy's face, Harry crouched in front of him and cupped his chin to examine the extent of his injuries. Seeing as it was only a shallow wound, he took a tissue from his pocket and softly pressed it on the boy's temple to stop the blood flow.
Had Snape been a bystander, he would never have imagined that the two didn't know each other. Harry was being really gentle and reassuring with the younger boy, as though it was his little brother.
"Wait here a second." Harry said, before making his way to the water fountain and damping the tissue. He wiped as much dried blood as he could before throwing the dirty tissue in the dustbin.
"There. Now, do you want me to walk you back home?"
The boy reddened and shook his head.
"It's no bother, really. I can walk with you. That way you don't have to worry about bumping into one of Dudley's cronies."
This time the boy nodded and they started walking away from the playground. Snape followed them closely enough to remain within earshot.
"So what's your name?"
"Is it short for Oliver?" Harry asked.
"I like it. How old are you Ollie?"
"Ten. My birthday's in two weeks though."
"Really? Me too, when is it? Mine is July 31st."
"Same." Ollie smiled, seemingly a bit more relaxed.
"Nice! Oh and I'm Harry by the way."
"Um yeah I know." Ollie replied hesitantly.
Harry laughed bitterly. "Right. Let me guess. So basically I'm the troubled kid whose aunt and uncle were nice enough to take him in when his parents tragically died and you should stay away from me, else I'll steal from you or beat the shite out of you. Did I get it about right?"
Severus was puzzled by Harry's light tone. How could the boy joke about that? Those rumours were not true, much less fair to him and to his parents. After all, James and Lily had died for their son. How could their sacrifice be dishonoured in such a way? And by the deceased's sister no less.
"Something along those lines..." Ollie winced. "though you forgot the gang part."
"Oh really," Harry laughed. "am I supposed to have one?" He asked with genuine interest.
"Well yeah because you're supposed to deal and stuff. Actually, from what I heard, you're the Head of the drug dealing network in Surrey or something like that." Ollie said teasingly making Harry burst out in laughter. "So yeah you and your gang basically traumatise kids and assault them."
"Hey! Don't blow my cover! I'm thinking of a way to take you hostage, now..."
"Mmh that would silence me and you could ask for a ransom."
"Perfect! How much do you reckon your parents would pay?"
"Ah now that I think about it, I did break by mum's favorite vase this morning so I don't think I'm the best 'money-making' person."
"Oh no!" Harry groaned in mock despair. "And here I thought I had just found financing for my holiday in the Caribbean's."
They kept joking around until Ollie stopped in front of a small nice-looking house.
"Here it is." He said.
"Come on, off you go. Don't keep your parents waiting." Harry smiled, shooing the young boy away.
"Thanks, Harry." Ollie said softly, returning the smile.
"Oh and you should definitely put some ice on your eye. It looks pretty bad." Harry winced sympathetically.
"Yeah I will." He nodded.
"Bye, Ollie. Take care."
"You too." And with that, he closed the door behind him.
Harry turned around and almost had a heart attack when he was faced by a dark hooded figure. The robed man took off his hood to reveal the scowling face of the Hogwarts Potions Master.
"Professor Snape!" Harry gasped. "What are you doing here?"
"What do you think?" Snape snapped. Then, realising that the boy probably truly had no idea, he said "The headmaster has instated a guard around your house."
"What?" Harry asked, confused.
"Did you really expect him to leave his Golden Boy unguarded after what happened last June?"
At the mention of the Department of Mysteries, Harry felt his throat constrict. When he had evoked Sirius earlier in the playground, he hadn't even realised what he was doing. Well, alive or not, it had been an empty threat of course. Harry would never have gotten Sirius involved in all this, but Dudley didn't know that and it seemed like the perfect argument at the time.
"So the Headmaster has people watching me. But why you?"
"You will show me the proper respect by addressing me as 'sir' or 'Professor', Potter." Snape said menacingly. "To answer your question, not that I feel compelled to do so, I am here as I am a member of the Order in the same way as any other, and because I am more than capable of defending myself as well as you should we be under attack."
"That doesn't answer my question, though. I didn't ask the reason why Dumbledore-"
"Professor Dumbledore!" Snape cut sharply but Harry ignored him.
"-sent you. I asked why you actually agreed."
"That is none of your business, Potter." Snape snapped.
"Whatever." Harry muttered turning away from the man and fully intending on heading back to the Dursley's.
"And just where do you think you're going, Potter?"
Harry stopped in his tracks and turned around to face the man again.
"The Dursl- um home, sir"
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Are you that eager to see your oaf of a cousin?"
Harry laughed. "I know we don't usually agree on anything, sir, but I'm with you on this one. Dudley is an oaf. And a big one."
Snape's lips twitched slightly.
"If that's all I guess I'll just go now, Professor." Harry said, waiting for dismissal.
"One more thing, Potter."
"The boy" Snape pointed toward the house.
"Ollie" Snape repeated. "You helped him."
"I guess I did." Harry shrugged.
"Because he was getting bloody beaten up, that's why!" Harry snapped at Snape angrily.
"Language, Potter." Snape reprimanded.
Harry ignored him and continued his rant. "Your opinion means really little to me - no offense - but really I'm offended. Do you think so little of me, Professor? Did you think I would just walk by and watch them bloody beat the crap out of him?"
"I-" Snape started but Harry cut him. A decision he would soon live to regret.
"Of course you did! You think I'm as much of a bully as my father was? Well let me tell you this once and for all, sir: I. Am. Not. My. Father. Nor will I ever be. In case you didn't notice, he's dead and he'll stay that way. It's too late to get back at him now."
Snape grew livid. He opened his mouth to reply but Harry cut him again. He must have a death wish.
"What did I ever do to you? You can't just take it all out on me just because my dad was a prat to you when you were at school. You know what it's like to be singled out and belittled so why are you always doing that to me? Why don't you just leave me alone for Merlin's sake? If you can't do that then you're no better than he was." Harry finished, slightly panting. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked at his teacher defiantly.
"You just earned yourself two nights of detention for interrupting me. Twice." Snape drawled.
Harry protested. "We're not at school, you can't-"
"Oh believe me, Potter, I can."
"So what, you're going to take points now?"
"Do not tempt me."
"Greasy git" Harry said under his breath.
"You just made it a full week of detention, Potter."
"Alright!" Harry raised his arms in surrender and Snape smirked.
"Let us get back to the matter at hand. Although I will admit I would have expected you to be a bully, I was pleasantly surprised to see that you were in fact more of a fervent defender against them... like your mother."
Harry saw the teacher's features soften at the mention of his mother. Snape was silent for a long minute, seemingly lost in his thoughts.
"Sir?" Harry called, bringing the man back from his reverie.
"Yes. What I mean to say is that I might have wrongly judged you and for that I...ah..."
"Apologise?" Harry offered.
"Yes. Yes, I apologise."
"Apology accepted, sir." Harry smiled at the man who looked utterly confused. "What?"
"I did not expect you to accept my apology, Potter." Severus sighed and rubbed his face. "You really are much like your mother. I should've seen it. She too was exceedingly forgiving."
"Yes well then again, I don't really know her, do I?"
"No, indeed not." Snape seemed to struggle saying the next words. "I have photos of her that I could show you."
"Really?" Harry asked hopefully and Severus nodded. "I would love to see them, sir. Thank you."
Snape patted his shoulder awkwardly.
"Will you...tell me about her? Sometime?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"I... yes. I will."
"Thank you, sir. I... it means a lot."
"You're welcome, Potter. Now come along, you must get back to your house."
Harry glanced at Ollie's house and reluctantly followed the man. He had enjoyed talking to the little boy. He was funny and besides it's not like Harry had a lot of people to talk to. Seeing his regretful expression, Snape said "Oh do not look so sad, Potter. The boy lives two blocks away from you, it is not as if you are never going to see him again."
And little did they know how true those words were as up in the Hogwarts Deputy Headmistress office, a letter was being addressed to:
Mr Oliver Young
The third bedroom in the hallway
21 Park Road