Chapter 2The usual disclaimers apply. xx

He only caught flashes, naturally, since he couldn't delve as deep into a child's mind as he could with an adult but those flashes were enough to convince him that Petunia Evans was not fit to raise this child. It was not so much physical abuse, but constant belittling, lying, keeping him small that he saw. And any question after his parents was apparently even stopped before it could be asked. This child needed a new family, needed people who could prepare him for what was to come. Not that he was fit to do it but he would, if the Headmaster couldn't or wouldn't, find someone who could.

The boy was scrawny, small, thin, his clothes much too big and with holes in them. The trousers hanging low on his frame, kept on his body by an old, worn belt only, the shirt had the length of some of the dresses he had seen women wear and the shoes scuffed and probably too large, too. He wore glasses, a rather quadrangular metal frames, held together by transparent tape, holding one broken lens, and they sat askew on his nose.

Now that he looked at the child, instead of only diving into his mind, he could see a certain resemblance to Potter. The same tousled hair and the same nose but his lower lip was sucked into his mouth and his eyes were uncannily Lily's. So vibrantly green. It might have, Severus thought, something to do with the fact that he had known Lily at the age that boy was now, and that he had not known Potter when he had been so little, but there was something uniquely Lily about him. He merely stood and waited until his aunt asked him to pack his things. Then, Snape could see what exactly it was that reminded him of her. Those eyes, yes, but the expression on his face, the emotions those eyes expressed. Joy. Hope.

Anticipation. Trust.

The boy wore trust on his face. Clearly expressed, through those shining, joyful, hopeful, anticipating eyes. He wanted to leave this place and Severus could not, under any circumstances, hold it against the child.

Anyone would want to leave this horribly average, terribly class consciously middle class neighbourhood with those identically trimmed lawns and accurately cut rose bushes and the freshly washed cars, and anyone would want to leave this woman with her horse's face on her long, long neck.

Severus Snape was tempted to hex her to make that neck shorter or the head bigger – even though Tuney'shead was probably already big enough – but Mrs Figg's hand on his arm kept him, at the very last moment, and the quiet squealing of the boy who had run inside the terribly average house.

"Well, Tuney," he said as pleasantly as he ever could, "the son of your own sister. Tsk tsk tsk. Lily will be turning her grave. You are so lucky she didn't come back as a ghost to haunt you and your family."

"Snape, get off my property!" she shrieked. "Nothing good ever came of you. If it hadn't been for you, Lily would have never discovered all that weird freakishness."

He chuckled evilly, a sound, he found, everyone was rather frightened off. "Of course not. She would have lived right next to you here with a boring husband and a boring child and you could share a bottle of sweet sherry between yourselves every Monday night. Oh if only I hadn't come along."

"You were never any good. You should rot in hell," she hissed, spit flying towards Snape who made rather a spectacle of wiping it away with a clean, white, neatly folded handkerchief.

"I have no doubt that I will," he sneered. "But I will outlive you." "Severus," Mrs Figg tugged on his sleeve. "Maybe you should get the boy."

"I should have known you were one of that lot, Mrs Figg!" Petunia squealed. "You were always so..."

"Yes, dear, quite. I am unsure what you mean about one of them," she interrupted her and Severus was, secretly, quite impressed with the middle aged woman, "but rest assured that now, that my job is done, I will move away from here as quickly as I can."

"Job?" Petunia asked, paling, "what job?"

"Keeping an eye on you, Tuney," Severus smirked. "You do know that ourlothave ways of watching you, don't you?" It was fun watching the tone of her skin grow greyer and greyer, and with that lovely green tinge on her cheeks, she almost matched her greyish-green carpet in the hall. She deserved it though. Every moment of agonising wondering how much they had seen, what they had seen.

"Wha...what did you see?" she whispered, her eyes wide and fearful.

"Enough to make sure you will never see poor Harry again," Mrs Figg replied angrily, her fists on her hips.

"Everything, Tuney.Ourlotsees everything."

"Harry Potter!" she shouted, loudly, into the house. "Come here right this moment."

"I'm here, Aunt Petunia," he said in a little voice, a blanket clutched to his chest, and a book bag slung over his shoulder. The boy could obviously not have a lot of possessions if he had returned quite so quickly. But in all honesty, it was not that, which bothered and bemused Severus. It was the same trust in the child's eyes that he had spotted before. And with that look on his face, he seemed utterly unlike James Potter.

"Say good bye to your aunt then, Harry," Mrs Figg said gently. "We will get you out of here now."

"Oh yes, take him there and turn him into a freak like yourselves," she hissed again. "But we don't ever want to see him again."

"Do you think, Petunia Evans," Severus said menacingly, taking a step towards her, drawing his wand as he went and pointing it at her chest, "that anyone will let that child come near you ever again?"

"Get that thing away from me," she shrieked in fear and tried to take a step back but was held in place by an invisible spell.

"Lily's child, Petunia. Just think that this is your sister's child," he hissed back at her. "And I know you loved your sister."

He released the spell and turned his eyes on the boy. "Come along now. Don't dawdle."

"Good bye, Aunt Petunia," he said and he seemed to have been taught some manners, Severus observed, as he saw him raising up his little hand towards his aunt, obviously wanting to shake hers. But the woman remained as cold as she had been before and merely looked past the hand, and, incidentally, past the boy.

"Good bye, Harry," she only said, her voice cold. She turned around, her back to them and when Arabella Figg smiled at him again and beckoned him to her once more, he darted out of the house, and Petunia, as she noticed, closed the door quickly and Severus heard the lock click twice.

"Bloody woman," Mrs Figg muttered angrily. "Can't even bring herself to...urgh."

"Quite," Severus agreed, "may we floo from your house?"

She nodded and Snape began to walk beside her, looking briefly over his shoulder to see what the boy was doing. And he just stared with eyes and mouth wide open.

"I said don't dawdle," Severus glared at the boy and he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him to his side. Probably scared now that he realised that he was truly taken away, he thought. But quite suddenly, there was a little something shoving at his hand and he wanted to wave it away, maybe

a sort of insect with a touch that light, but it was insistent and as he looked down to see what it was – he realised it was the boy, tentatively reaching out for him, trying, apparently, to take his hand.

xx

Aunt Petunia had explained about a billion times that Dudley was never to go with strangers. Never follow them, even if they offered lollies or a bunny, or a kitten. Never. She had always said that those strangers made little boys do ugly things and Harry wondered for a moment, if this 'fesser Snape was one of those strangers. But since Aunt Petunia seemed to know him, and since Mrs Figg knew him and since Mrs Figg, who was no stranger and who had never in her life given him a lolly, told him to come as well, he supposed he would be fine.

And that 'fesser Snape seemed really nice. He was just as he had expected him to be. He even scared Aunt Petunia! And nobody else could scare her. Apart from neighbours who talked about her and apart from one of those dogs from Aunt Marge. But she never said so and she always pretended not to be scared. But 'fesser Snape had scared her. A lot.

Harry wasn't exactly sure why, but he had sort of liked it when she had looked so scared. And green and grey in the face. It was usually always him that was scared by her. And now, it was different. He had packed all his things. All his books were in his book bag in any case and he had only grabbed his blanket, had put some of the clean clothes in the book bag and the drawing of a bird and a house and a garden he had pinned to the wall in the cupboard on top of them and had been ready to leave. The book bag also seemed a lot less heavy than it had been when he had carried all the books from school at the last day of school, even if there was more inside now.

Maybe this was one of the freakish things that sometimes happened around him. Like the time when Dudley's hair had been green for five seconds. Or when he had suddenly appeared on the roof instead of the garden where he had stood a moment longer.

He shrugged one shoulder. 'fessers were usually smart people, right? Maybe he could ask 'fesser Snape some time in the future. Or maybe...well, he wasn't sure where he would be going now. But he most certainly knew that he did not want to be left behind. And when Aunt Petunia did not want Dudley to get lost, or get left behind, she always still made him walk with his hand in hers. Dudley hated it and always whined and cried and complained but Aunt Petunia never let go. So, if he held 'fesser Snape's hand, he would not be left behind either.

Harry of course did not know if the 'fesser would like that and so he reached up slowly, his fingertips brushing very, very lightly against his hand. 'fesser Snape didn't react and Harry brushed a little more and that, at least, made him wave his hand a little and, when Harry touched it again, he looked down and saw his hand.

Harry smiled. He wanted to explain to the man, without words, that he did not want to get lost, that he wanted to leave this place, that his dream had come true but it seemed the man did not understand him at all.

"You're not a baby, Potter. Keep up now," the man said surprisingly gently and Harry knew he was right. He was seven years old already and way less daft than Dudley. He would keep his eyes on the 'fesser and on Mrs Figg and would just stay very, very close. Did not, under any circumstances, have to go back to Aunt Petunia. Anything would be better than living there.

But he didn't even know where they were going. They had not explained anything at all and he was always so very nosy, Aunt Petunia had said, so he had not really dared to ask. Maybe he had to live with Mrs Figg and he wasn't sure he liked that. It was better than Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, yes, but there were always sooo many cats around. And Harry supposed one or two wouldn't be so bad but an entire army of cats was just too much even for him.

He looked up questioningly at the tall man and he seemed to understand. Or maybe he had meant to tell him the entire time and with his bumbling

along and that babyish trying to taking his hand, he just hadn't found the right moment.

"We're going to Hogwarts," 'fesser Snape explained and spoke very slowly. That great voice said every single one as if it was the most important in the world and even though Harry had no idea what Hogwarts meant, it sounded cool. Almost, he thought, like a magic castle.

"Severus," Mrs Figg interrupted, "I'm not sure they told him about magic. And about you-know-what." They had reached her house and before the 'fesser said anything, he had stepped inside and Harry followed him closely – not getting lost now. Not getting to be left behind. But before he could get used to the darkness inside the house and the meowing of the cats, the man had sort of swooped down. Well, it looked like that but he had only bent forwards.

"Potter, do you know about magic?" he asked blatantly and Harry was confused. Uncle Vernon said magic was just tricks, it just meant that the eye was slower than the hand of the so-called magician. That none of it was real.

"It doesn't exist, sir," he said very quietly. "Uncle Vernon says some people just do it to squeeze money out of the hard-working, honest people." He looked up at 'fesser Snape and judging by the man's thunderous expression on his face, he had said the wrong thing.

"Do you know what happened to your parents?" he asked and his voice, other than his face, sounded incredibly calm. Deadly calm.

"In a car crash, sir," he whispered. "I survived but I have this scar now, see?" he pushed his fringe back and pointed with a finger on the scar on his forehead. "It's funny-shaped and Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon hate it."

He focused on 'fesser Snape and he seemed to be really angry now. But he had only said the truth. He shrugged with one shoulder and bent down to pet Tufty who had wound herself around his legs. She was one of the

prettier cats, orangey fur white white stripes and a white nose and she looked almost like a mini-tiger, Harry always thought. "Hey there," he whispered softly but kept his eyes and ears on Mrs Figg and 'fesser Snape, even as he put his book bag on the ground and it went there with a heavy thump. It sounded, he wondered quickly, heavier than it really was.

But then, the 'fesser, who seemed to be getting more angry every moment, turned to Mrs Figg and Mrs Figg said: "See? See why I had to act?"

xx

The boy knew absolutely nothing. Nothing. Lily and Potter died in a car crash? A car crash? He felt rage surging through him. To lie to the boy like this. And despite the rage, he knew he had been right in his assessment.

Petunia in her inexplicable hatred towards anything that did not fit into her established pattern of living. Her absolute loathing of anything magical.

But that she did not even shake the boy's hand when he so politely tried to say good bye, it had stirred something in him.

Had stirred something that was now completely pushed away by anger. "See? See why I had to act?" Arabella Figg asked, radiating anger herself. "Yes," he bristled. "Dumbledore has to hear this.

"Don't you think you should explain first?" she asked, nodding her head towards the child.

"Let Dumbledore do it," he continued and had to clench his jaw, had to clench his hands into fist for fear that he might hex the woman's living room into splinters.

The boy just sat there, petting the half-kneazle and Severus was surprised by how well he had taken all this. Well, he was probably used to keep his head down. Nothing he did not understand. And he would have probably acted the same way if there had been someone, back then, a long time ago, how would have taken him away. Probably. No, honestly, he just sat there

and petted the ugly animal and looked at him. Again with that trust in his eyes. And a bit of fear, it seemed as well. That, however, was not surprising. He knew the air crackled with his anger. And rightly so.

He would find a good family for him. If Dumbledore couldn't do it. And well, if he was healthy (which Severus doubted) and did not have to stay in the Infirmary (which he doubted) and if there was nobody else in the castle who would swoon over the child (which he doubted), he could sleep on his couch. He was rather small after all.

And he had tried to take his hand. His hand. Snape snorted almost. "Come along," he said sternly, his eyes on the boy. "We're going to Hogwarts now."

The boy nodded, rubbed behind the half-kneazle's ear one last time and picked up his book bag with ease. It should have been very heavy by the way it looked, the way books and clothes poked out of the broken seams and he just lifted it. The boy did not look overly strong but he couldn't have put a charm on it, or could he?

"Give me that," he said harshly and the boy, after a moment of not understanding what he meant, gave him the bag. Featherlight. A charm on it. A charm that was cancelled after a moment of being in his hand and since he was not truly prepared for it to grow so heavy suddenly, his arm was weighed down by the truly heavy bag. Severus arched his eyebrows. The boy wanted to get away as quick as possible. And he had unconsciously made his bag lighter. Astonishing, he thought.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" he snarled and the boy hurried to his side, looking at him questioningly.

"Good bye, Harry," Mrs Figg said friendly.

"Good bye, Mrs Figg," he piped and obviously waited. Well, if he had never heard of magic, how should he have known what a floo was. Snape groaned and, despite the fact that he was still carrying the boy's bag, he extended his hand.

We'll use the floo, Mr Potter," he explained slowly.

"You might want to pick him up. Flooing can be scary and..."

"Take my hand and don't keep me waiting," he said sharply and the boy immediately reached for his hand and pushed his little one in his. It was not as soft as he had expected a small boy's hand to be. There was a clear scar on the back of his hand, just where Severus's thumb rested.

"Good bye, Mrs Figg and thank you," he said, "on behalf of the Wizarding World."

"It's Arabella. And you're welcome. We owe him a lot," she replied but by that time, he had already stepped into the flames, noticing how the boy shivered a little in fear and pressed himself closer to his leg.

xx

It had been horrible. He had held on as tightly as he could to 'fesser Snape's hand but that had not really been enough. His leg was solid and long and he pressed himself against it because he spun around and was whipped around and he tasted something truly terrible in his mouth. It was really, really icky. As if he was eating ash. And maybe he was because they had stepped into a fireplace. But they had not been burned, the had been spun around. And it felt as if it lasted for an eternity but some time later, ages and ages of terrible taste in his mouth and dizziness, they landed somewhere and he couldn't hold on to the hand of the man any more and fell on his knees on the ground, trying to swallow the ashy taste.

"Here," said the 'fesser and gave him a little funny shaped bottle but Harry could only shake his head. He would not take anything from the man. Not from strange men. Even though he still wasn't sure whether he was a stranger if Mrs Figg and Aunt Petunia knew him.

"It will help," he added and his voice sounded very different. It was kinder and gentler and silkier.

"But...," he whispered. "Drink and I will explain."

Harry nodded slowly and knew he had no choice. He put the little bottle on his lips and drank.

"Ergh," he said when he had swallowed it. It tasted like bogies and cat spit and the 'fesser smirked.

"Not to your liking?"

Harry shook his head and but felt better already. He wasn't sure which taste in his mouth had been better, bogies and cat spit or ash but his stomach felt a lot less dizzy and he could open his eyes.

The room he sat in on the floor was absolutely magnificent!

xx