Disclaimer - I do not own Harry Potter. I am also not a professional writer, it is highly likely that I made mistakes despite read throughs and spell checks.
Sometimes, he just needed to get away from it all. Life had not been kind to him, at least not for many years, and the life he was currently living stressed him out. He should have been more relaxed, seeing as there was no one threatening to kill him on a daily basis, but he would take a little danger now and again if it meant he didn't have to be around any blasted teenagers.
Severus Snape was a miserable bastard and he knew it. When he was little, he had grand dreams and none of them involved teaching snot nosed dunderheads. The study of Potions was an art that few understood or appreciated. It killed him a little every day to watch idiot children blunder about their cauldrons with no idea what they were doing. No, the potions they were studying did not require precise movements, perfect timing, and exact measurements down to the last granule, but the students should take some pride in their work. It's not like it was hard to READ the DIRECTIONS!
It had been a particularly horrible week. Early in the school year was always hardest for him. For some reason, he held our hope every year that at least one student would sit in class and share the wonder of the art and science of his class. Every year he was disappointed. He would look out at those young faces and see boredom, disgust, and disinterest; it was heart breaking. Eventually, after a few years, a student or two would begin to show a true interest but none were like him, obsessed from the first day they dropped crushed knot grass into a pewter cauldron.
Additionally, the end of October was the anniversary of the worst day of his life.
For someone with a particularly dark past, knowing the exact worst day of your life would be hard, but Severus could rate them all. His mother's death had been hard, his father's death at the end of a bottle had not. The day Pettigrew turned his hair pink was annoying and embarrassing. The day by the lake when the bloody Marauders had hung him upside down had turned truly horrific when he verbally attacked his best friend out of embarrassment and misplaced pride. Taking the mark was a regrettable day. The day Regulus disappeared still haunted him. Hearing the prophesy caused nightmares even now.
All of those paled in comparison to the day his best friend was murdered. And it was partially his fault. He had accepted that he was not solely to blame for Lily's death but had he not heard part of that thrice damned prophecy and gleefully shared it with the megalomaniac he had decided to follow, then she would still be here. He could have apologized. He would have tried (try being the operative word) to make peace with Potter. He would have gotten to know her son, even if he was a Potter. Instead, he worked at a school, teaching children. Lily was gone and he had to live the rest of his life regretting the things he couldn't do.
It was for this reason that he tended to be a surly bastard during the month of October. The anniversary was still just over a week away, but he was restless and agitated none the less. When he got like this, he fled the castle at every opportunity to prevent himself from hexing the first person to do something remotely irritating in his presence. It didn't take him long to discover that he couldn't stand the company of anyone who knew him. Wizards were an irritating bunch when it came right down to it. They lacked logic, something he ruled his life with, so he was prone to headaches when listening to them prattle on about nonsense.
It was around the third anniversary that he discovered the balm to his agitated state. Though he would deny it until his dying breath, his hometown calmed him. It wasn't magical. People didn't know him anymore. The neighborhood was still fairly rundown, and people were rather suspicious of new faces but despite all of that, he liked it. Now, every year around this time, he would go back to Spinner's End and walk around. He would go to the park, at any time of day, and sit on the swings he once watched Lily fly out of. Spending time where his few good memories happened soothed him. He felt close to the child he met and eventually loved just by retracing his steps.
Five years. It had been nearly five years since her death, and it had felt like an eternity and yet not time at all.
Severus stood with a sigh from the surprisingly new seat of the swing on the right, the one Lily often favored, his hand absently sliding the picture he had been studying into his pocket. When he had sat down, there had only been one small boy playing by himself on the slide and attached play structure, now there were several families approaching and he didn't want to deal with their noise.
"Mister," a quiet voice said behind him as he felt a small tug on the back of his jacket. The lone boy stood behind him, biting his lip. The child's impossibly green eyes, just like Lily's, were both nervous and determined. He lifted his arm, holding something out to him, "You dropped this."
Severus forced himself to look away from the boy's beautiful eyes and found his picture held carefully in the boy's small hand. The man's hand flew to his pocket only to find the beloved picture missing. Reaching out he accepted the picture, his eyes falling to it automatically searching for any damage. It would kill him if the picture were destroyed. "Thank you," he managed to choke out after finding no new smudges or wrinkles on the old picture of him and Lily in that very park.
"This picture means a great deal to me," he found himself saying while looking into those eyes once more. Severus crouched down so he could look the boy in the eye properly and was surprised to see that it was not his imagination; the boy really did have Lily's eyes. On his little forehead was the tell-tale scar marking the child for all wizards as Harry Potter. "My name is Sev," he decided to not use his full name, it was not a common name and would probably be difficult for a child so young."
"I'm Harry. The girl in the picture is pretty." The boy looked panicked after finishing his sentence, "I didn't mean to snoop," he stammered out. "I just wanted to see if it was something important. If it was just scribbles or a candy wrapper like Dudley always drops I would have just put it in the rubbish but when I saw the pretty girl and her friend and I thought you might miss it. Sorry for snooping."
Severus was surprised the boy managed to say all that in one breath but also a little concerned by the stark fear in his voice and expression. It was a terrifying reminder of himself at that age. "She is pretty, isn't she," he decided to pretend to ignore the panic. "I really would have been quite upset to lose this, so I think we can forgive you for looking. And really, there is no harm in looking as long as you don't cause any damage." He managed a half smile, "Her name was Lily and she and I used to play in this park a long time ago. She had green eyes just like you."
"Aunt 'Tunia says I have ugly eyes because they remind her of her sister."
He fought back a curse, "Petunia is a very jealous person. She has always liked to say mean things about people who were nicer, prettier and smarter than she was."
Harry's little eyes widened, "You know Aunt 'Tunia?"
Severus nodded sagely, "I do indeed. She grew up not far from here, just like I did. She was very mean to me too." He looked around, realizing for the first time that there did not appear to be an adult in the park for Harry. "Who are you here with, Harry?"
Harry looked around like he had and shrugged. "Aunt 'Tunia is visiting with an old friend. Dudley is staying with Aunt Marge, but she didn't want to watch me too and Miss Figg couldn't watch me 'cause she is out of town. Aunt 'Tunia didn't want to take me with her so she told me to wait here for her."
He blinked and looked down at his watch. He had been in the park for a good two hours and the boy had been here when he arrived. What sort of adult, parent, left a six-year-old child alone in a park for hours? "Do you know how long you have been here, Harry?"
The boy shook his head. "I cooked breakfast and then we dropped Dudley off with Marge and came here."
It was nearly two in the afternoon. Severus knew Petunia well enough to know that she would live in a posh area and still be relatively close to London. Even if their journey had taken two to three hours, that would mean the boy had been alone in a park, in Cokeworth, for a minimum of three hours. And, he had missed lunch. "Do you know when she will be back?"
Again, the small boy shrugged, "I know we need to be home before Uncle Vernon. He needs his dinner at six or I will go without dinner again. If I do a really good job, then he might let me have more than just a peanut butter sandwich." The boy grinned as though this was the best treat in the world.
Severus Snape felt a small part of him die. It seemed Lily's child was living his childhood. Unloved and forced to be cheerful about things no child should have to endure. Subtly, Severus allowed the tip of his wand to slide out of his sleeve and made a copy of the picture. "Harry, I think you should have this." He presented the boy the copied picture.
Harry shook his head, but Severus could see a glimmer of hope in the boy's eyes. "I couldn't; it's your special picture."
"It is a special picture, but I have others of her. You see, Lily is special to both of us. Do you know why?" The little boy shrugged but did not answer. "She is special to both of us because not only was she my dearest friend, she is also your mother."
Those precious green eyes gleamed with delight. "I've never seen a picture of my mum before," he whispered reverently while studying the picture. "Do you have one of my daddy?"
He shook his head, "Your father and I were not close, all I can offer you is a picture of your mum. Make sure you hide it away. I am sure Petunia would not like to see a picture of me and your mother in her house."
"I will. I'm going to hide it in my extra secret, special hiding place in my cupboard. It is behind my bed and under a loose board that my clothes box sits on. Aunt 'Tunia never goes in my cupboard and I do my own laundry so she will never find it."
There was so much wrong with that statement. Severus was about to respond when he was interrupted.
"BOY," a shrill, angry voice yelled. "It's time to go."
Harry jumped, "Coming." He looked back at Severus one last time. "Sorry, I have to go now. Bye, Sev."
Severus watched the boy run off as fast as his little legs would carry him. This could not be allowed. Lily's son deserved to be cared for. He did not need to cook for his relatives when only six years old. He should have an actual bedroom with a dresser instead of a cupboard with a box. Harry should look like a six-year-old, not a child no older than four.
Albus had some explaining to do.
A part of Severus Snape enjoyed watching students and professors alike cower before him as he stormed through the castle headed toward the headmaster's office. At the moment, he lacked the ability to calm himself or hide the insurmountable rage from his face. His robes billowed behind him, reminiscent of the bat his students accused him of being.
It was better that they did not attempt to delay him.
He probably should have waited until he had calmed down before seeking out Albus, but it was nearly the end of October and his control had already been tenuous. The man had promised that Harry was happy and well cared for, not that he had asked, but Minerva did, regularly. Minerva McGonagall badgered the man about Harry Potter on a weekly basis and the report was always positive and usually insinuated that Harry was more than a little spoiled.
What a crock of shit.
The gargoyle all but leaped out of his way when he stood in front of it. He did not say the password, which was Licorice Floss, but he did growl at the unsuspecting stone guardian.
Albus jumped visibly when Severus slammed the door open, allowing it to slam against the wall with a resounding thud.
"Severus, my boy," he said with that damnable twinkle. "What seems to be the problem? Did one of the lions blow up their cauldron again?"
"Need I remind you that it is Saturday? If that was what had annoyed me, I would have been here yesterday."
"Then might I ask why you feel the need to abuse my door?"
The old man's eyebrow raised in question, "What about the boy?"
"I happened to see him this afternoon." Severus was surprised at how calm he sounded. "He was alone in a park for several hours with no adult there to watch him."
"How can you know that? Perhaps his aunt was watching, and you just didn't see her."
He shook his head, the man's calm irritated him, but he thought he might have seen a flicker of unease in his eyes. "No, she drove up as I was speaking with him, rolled down the window and told him it was time to go. She did not get out of the car and was only parked there for about a minute. I plan to report her to child services."
"Now Severus you can't know that one of the other adults in the park was not watching him."
"When I arrived, he was the only individual in the park. There were no other children and no adults around. I kept a cursory eye on him just to ensure he didn't kill himself; I did not know who he was at that time or I would have been much more enraged and vigilant." He glared at the old man, "Anything could have happened to him had I not been there."
"I am sure you simply missed something, Severus," he waved a hand to dismiss the argument.
"I missed something?" he asked incredulously. "I was a spy, Albus. When near the Dark Lord I was constantly on watch for someone to curse me when my back was turned. That is not something that goes away, especially after spending seven years here looking over my shoulder for 'pranks.' To make matters worse, the boy is six years old but looks to be a year or two younger based on his size." This did not cause a reaction in the old man and it stoked his anger even more. "They are obviously starving the boy, and I came to that conclusion before he mentioned that he goes without meals if he doesn't cook dinner properly."
"It is within the purview of the parental figure to dole out punishments, my boy. I also wonder how you would know how big or small a child of six usually is."
"I doubt I need to remind you that Lucius Malfoy considers me a close friend and I am often around Draco and his little minions." He took a settling breath, "It is never acceptable to starve a child. Nor is it alright for a six-year-old to cook a meal." Severus was all but growling now. "He mentioned he might get a peanut butter sandwich if he cooked the meal well; why would he just get peanut butter when he cooked a full meal?"
"I quite like peanut butter sandwiches. Muggles really do understand food."
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose as his jaw clenched. Had Albus always been this cruel? Did he not see the obvious abuse? Had he ever looked in on the boy like he said he had? "He sleeps in a cupboard."
"I am sure you are mistaken."
"He specifically said his bed was in the cupboard."
"Perhaps that is just his secret hiding space."
"And I suppose you think it is alright for a six-year-old to do his own laundry?"
"It is good to learn responsibility early."
The young man took a deep breath to calm his rage. "It seems we do not see eye to eye in what is acceptable for a child." He turned to leave the room, "To warn you, I will be speaking with Minerva and then the two of us will be going to remove him from his aunt's home. I am more than sure that Minerva will agree with my assessment on this matter over yours as I am willing to take an oath if she deems it necessary. You should be prepared for her anger."
"I can't let you do that," Albus stood from behind his desk, all signs of his grandfatherly persona gone.
"You can't stop me. I can not and will not allow this to happen," Severus glared at the man. "I will protect Lily's son, just like I vowed. She would not be pleased, and she would not allow this to continue. It is my responsibility to protect him in her stead. I made a vow to her and doing nothing would be breaking it."
"As I said," he sighed, his wand falling into her hand, "I can't allow you to do anything to change Harry Potter's situation. He is where he needs to be and anything that happens to him there is necessary to train him to become what he must."
"You knew." Severus's wand fell into his hand with a flick of his wrist, "This cannot be allowed to continue." He raised his wand, prepared to fight a man he had once thought he could trust.
"Obliviate," Albus said with some sorrow in his voice as the younger man collapsed to the ground. "It pains me to do this my boy, but I can't allow you to interfere. You will not remember this or that you have seen the boy." He leaned against his desk. "Tibbey," he called.
"Tibbey is being of service to master head wizard," the little elf bowed.
"I need you to pop Severus back to his room. He seems to have had too much to drink in his sorrow."
"Tibbey be doing," the elf nodded before popping back out with Severus in tow.
Albus Dumbledore popped a lemon sherbet in his mouth and frowned. It seemed he would have to pay more attention to Severus in the future. It would not do for him to see the boy again and become sympathetic. Everyone had their part to play and he would not allow them the opportunity to alter his plans.
Severus Snape woke in his bed, fully clothed, and knew something was wrong. He was a creature of habit, of precise scheduling, and even when deliriously ill, he followed the same routines. Not once in his entire life had he slept in his outer robes, not to mentions his boots, and yet he found himself wearing both now.
As a potions master, he knew exactly what was on his robes and did not want to sleep in the residues that undoubtedly clunk to the fabric. You could clean something a million times but eventually, it just felt tainted. Worse still were shoes. Severus often walked out into the forbidden forest to collect fresh ingredients and while he spelled the soil and muck from his boots, he still didn't want them on his sheets.
The biggest clue that something was wrong was the piercing headache he was experiencing. As a master of Occlumency, Severus had placed a number of defenses and fail safes in his mind scape to protect against intrusions of any kind. Being a spy, he had to constantly guard his true intentions from those around him, especially when he was spying on one of the most ruthless and powerful men in existence. While not a master of the mind arts, the Dark Lord was powerful enough to do a lot of damage through force alone so having those defenses gave him the comfort of knowing he could restore his mind if he survived the attack.
"Tempus," he said quietly, examining the time and date. It seemed he had lost an entire day. By his current calculation, it should be Saturday, but it was in fact Sunday. Someone had obliviated him.
There were very few people who could manage to alter his memories successfully. While not on the level of the Dark Lord, Severus was both powerful and talented when compared to many of his fellow witches and wizards. His skill with the mind arts meant that only someone like the Dark Lord could make him forget so completely. To his knowledge, there was only one individual with the skill alive, and that was not a Dark Lord, it was the leader of the light, Albus Dumbledore.
What Dumbledore didn't know was that Severus had planned for the eventual possibility of someone erasing his memories. He had placed a warning system in his mindscape that would activate when a memory was altered or removed, and it would present itself as a persistent, piercing headache.
Forgoing cleaning up in favor of fixing his mind, he fell into his mindscape with a practiced ease.
What few knew was that obliviation did not in fact remove memories from the mind, it hid them. In some cases, the memory was damaged or distorted, but it was not actually gone. It did not take him long to find his missing day due to his failsafe.
Reliving the memory was the only way to bring it back. Seeing Harry and learning of Petunia's abuse brought the sadness, disgust, and anger back full force. Watching Albus bloody Dumbledore try to explain away his lack of action fed the rage.
This could not stand.
He would have to plan. Severus knew there were others who would side with him no matter who the child was. An army of wizards would side with him because that child was Harry Potter. He would save the boy and destroy anyone who tried to stop him even if that someone was the leader of the light.
Albus Dumbledore had made an enemy he would one day regret crossing.
Hello all, this is a little something that my brain needed to get out and because I liked how it turned out, I am sharing it with you. It could lead to a full story some day but that will not be until after I finish A Different Professor, which I am happy to say is flowing nicely right now. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this alternate look into Severus Snape's life before Harry Potter comes to Hogwarts.