Title - Lamb to the Slaughter
By - T'Pau Silver
Contact – TpauSilver@gmail.com
Rating: NC-17 (abuse and some of the language used, no graphic sex)
Disclaimer: I in no way own Harry Potter or any related names and labels, I am making no profit from this piece.
Beta: Thank you very much to I Kiss Dementors, any mistakes found in here come from me choosing to ignore her rather then her missing them.
Archive: Part of the "Master and the Wolf" Fuh-Q-Fest http://chance.slashcity.net/masterandthewolf/
Summary - 246) When Snape is temporarily de-aged, no one but soft-hearted Lupin is willing to take care of him. While caring for the five-year-old, Lupin learns things about Snape's past that bring him to see the man in a different light.
The fire in the hearth cackled and spat in the most ominous manner, casting its flickering light all around the study and casting its occupants in a strange orange glow. If it had been anyone else in the room it could have been described as nice and cosy, but that could be said of no place where this man was. His very presence managed to draw all the heat out of the room and make Wormtail shiver within despite the heat of the fire.
Lord Voldemort sat in a chair facing the fire, a look of irritation on his face. Wormtail hated it when his lord looked irritated, it never bode well for the nearest person, and he was often the nearest person. In fact, he was the only person in a distance of the cottage they currently occupied. Up until a few hours ago a elderly muggle couple had inhabited it but Voldemort thought nothing of laying them out in the snow or, more accurately, ordering him to lay them out in the snow.
It wasn't that he was disobedient, he just hated killing. He didn't know how he had even got involved in the stupid war, it would have been better just to stay away.
That had stopped being an option a long time ago though, and now he had to deal with the consequences of his youthful actions, an angry master and another foiled plan.
The plan had been foolproof. He didn't know how it had managed to go so completely and terribly wrong. The building they were taking had, on last count, been as good as deserted, only a few weak guards left to watch over its precious content, some powerful magical artefact his Lord had craved. But on that night, there were complications, in the form of 6 wizards who were most probably order members who managed to defeat the Death Eaters then follow them back to headquarters, necessitating the quick re-location.
They were lucky any of them had come through it alive but his Lord didn't seem in the mood to look on the good side, in fact, he seemed to be in a particularly dour mood, sat with his chin cradled in his hand, looking at the fire.
Of course, it had been a problem evacuating, and they'd had to leave some artefacts behind, but they could always be recovered. They had contingency plans for these kinds of things, the most nimble minded war lords expected their plans to fail.
Though their plans seemed to fail with an alarming regularity.
Surely nobody could have such bad luck as to have all their plans fail consistently?
No, there must be a reason their plans kept failing, and he was sure his lord would know it. Hesitantly, he voiced his concerns to his Master, who looked up to meet his eye, contempt shining from the snakelike orbs.
"Of course, there is a reason," he spat. "Their Order can not just be foiling our plans by coincidence. They must have information. An insider, a spy in our ranks."
"A spy?" Wormtail asked, shocked. Of course, that would explain it, but to him the idea that anyone would ever-deft Lord Voldemort was preposterous! It would simply never happen!
Except for the fact that it apparently had…
"Who could it be, my Lord?" Wormtail asked, eager to know who would be getting the blame. He loved when other people were blamed for something that went wrong; blame seemed to land at his door so often that it was nice to see it happen to other people for once.
"I have my suspicious," Voldemort said slowly.
"Will you kill them?" Wormtail asked, eagerly. It had been a long time since he'd seem his Lord kill a traitor, it was always a spectacular display, all the Death Eaters gathered together to watch the long and drawn out death of one who would dare betray them. There were always fantastic parties afterwards. Booze, women. A reaffirmation of the us against them principle the Death Eaters worked on.
And the supreme power of their overlord.
Who would betray after witnessing one of those spectacles? Even thinking about it made Wormtail flinch. The parties were truly an epitome of what it was to be a Death Eater. Blood and misery and power and joy all in one.
Well, once the Death Eaters overthrew Dumbledore anyway. Then the world would be theirs.
"How will you deal with the traitor?" Wormtail asked, grinning manically.
"I have my ways," Voldemort replied coolly. "He will be disposed of, quietly and fully. First, though, we must know we have the right man, I also have my methods for this. Just wait, Wormtail, soon we shall have our victory.
As far as the students at Hogwarts school were concerned the weekend started at midday on Friday. By then, everyone had had enough of work and were ready for a bit of time to play so the last lesson was generally lost to discussion of the weekend ahead and general rowdiness. Of course, the teachers didn't agree with this, but there was little they could do to stop it.
Of course, Hermione reflected, giving the 6th year Gryffindors double potions with the Slytherin last thing on Friday was never going to be a roaring success. Potions was something that required a lot of concentration to do properly and concentration was something the class did not have at the end of a Friday. So they were left with a lot of explosions and such things, even though Snape would stress how much they needed to concentrate.
In fact, today he'd been extra aggressive in his cautions, telling them the camouflage potion they were making, capable of making the user blend in completely with their surrounding for exactly 12 hours or until the antidote was taken, was highly explosive in some states and should be watched carefully.
With a sigh she looked over to the bench in front of her where Harry and Ron were ignoring their respective cauldrons in favour of gossip.
Even she wasn't completely focused. She knew the potion was insanely difficult to brew and was trying but this week there was the added distraction of this weekend being a Hogsmeade weekend and she couldn't stop herself sneaking the occasional peek at her shopping list, hidden under her notes.
Oddly enough, Neville seemed to be entirely engrossed in his potion making, staring into his cauldron, chopping up his ingredients with more care then she'd ever seen him use before and actually looking like he knew what he was doing.
It was fascinating to watch. Who'd have thought that if Neville put his mind to it, he could do this after all. It was almost as if he were a different person.
Snape seemed to have notice also because he was giving Neville an odd stare over his nose. Hermione smiled to herself then turned back to her cauldron.
The sticky mess inside was entirely failing to become red and smooth like it was meant to when left. That probably mean a failing mark for her today, but somehow she couldn't bring herself to care. She knew she should be worried about failing but she wouldn't, failing one practical didn't equate to failing the entire course after all.
And it was Snape's fault for giving them such a hard potion on this of all Fridays!
Sighing, she started to pack anything she didn't need away and observed Snape starting his rounds out of the corner of her eye, handing out scathing comments to all the Gryffindors and complimenting the Slytherins, especially Malfoy, although his potion looked even worse then hers did.
She knew she was in for it when she saw the glint in his eyes as he looked down into her cauldron.
"Well, what do you call this, Miss Granger?" He asked, an almost singsong quality to his voice that made her flinch.
"I'm sorry, Sir," she said, looking down. "I must not have been paying attention."
"That much, Miss Granger, is clear," he said coldly, turning and walking away from her.
She breathed a sigh of relief. That hadn't been as awful as it might have been. He could have gloated a whole lot more, especially after she'd felt so smug about it at the start of the lesson; she was convinced she'd love making this one, such a challenge. Maybe on any other day she would, but not today.
"And Mr. Longbottom, what do we have here?"
She turned in her seat, looking over to where Snape was looming over Neville who, oddly enough, didn't look at all scared.
Sighing, she waited for fireworks, as Snape lent over the cauldron, carefully picking up the spoon and stirring the mixture, an oddly satisfied smile on her face.
"Care you remind me what the consistency and colour of the potion you were suppose to be preparing are, Mr Longbottom?" Snape asked. Hermione stood up to get a good look at the creamy green potion Neville had produced and winced. There was obviously something wrong there.
"Smooth and clear sir," he said, calmly. Hermione wrinkled her brow. This wasn't right. Neville should be cowering in the corner right about now, not answering back to Snape.
"And would you care to describe your potion to the class?"
"My potion is green and has a creamy consistency," Neville replied, again, completely calm. Snape smirked and turned back to the class, opening his mouth to say something.
Then everything seemed to happen in a flash. She didn't even see Neville move but he was suddenly on the deck, tipping the contents of his cauldron over Snape's head, using his spoon to flick out as much as he could. The Gryffindor started cheering and clapping and the Slytherin booed and hissed. Snape swallowed, obviously furious, and spun around to face Neville.
And then it happened. For a moment, Hermione thought Snape was shrinking, then she realised he wasn't shrinking, he'd frozen and he was slowly getting younger, the lines around his eyes and mouth disappeared and his skin tightened, his back straightened and his features took on a youthful softness. She watched him become a teen then, carrying on, shrinking, putting puppy fat back on, then shrinking again, limbs changing proportion until he vanished below bench level.
Then Neville passed out and fell backwards of the bench.
She followed her first instinct and ran to Neville letting out a cry of alarm, and all hell seemed to break loose, all the students ran about, either to form a semi-circle and gawk around the now child Snape, to Neville's side, or to form small friendship groups and chatter.
Once she saw someone else was with Neville and he was waking up, she climbed up on the bench where Neville had been, sat and looked down.
Nobody dared to come close to the bench, all preferring to maintain their distance from the pool of robes and green potion and a very small potions professor who was looking around the gathered crowd, his lip quivering in a way Hermione recognised as a danger sign from taking care of her young cousin over the summer.
He must have been about 5, definitely no more then 6. He was podgy and pale and had the biggest eyes possible on such a tiny person.
Then he began to cry and even she let out a small giggle to join the rounds of laughter coming from the circle.
After all, it was funny. Only minutes before, he'd been swooping around, trying to make them upset, now he was a baby.
For gods sake, look at them! They were making a 5-year-old cry and finding it funny. No matter who that 5-year-old was normally, he was obviously just very much a scared child right now and didn't deserve this.
"Harry, go get Dumbledore," she called, climbing over the desk to the side of the crying child, who now had a distinct odour, seemingly from the potion which had taken on a odd blue colour where it touched his skin.
She wanted to pick him up. She might not show it much but she was a mothering figure. She cared. But he was still covered with the green stuff.
A cleaning spell, stupid.
She cast one quickly, removing the mess from the professor, if he could still be thought of as such, and the floor, the scooping up the scared little boy who they all seemed to hate with such passion and hugging him tightly, reassuring him that everything would be ok.
Everyone laughed at her but she didn't mind. She was doing the right thing and that was what counted.
The office was oddly quiet, all things considered. As a bunch, the Order of the Phoenix tended to be quite rowdy, always chatting away to each other about one thing or another. Now, they sat there quietly, staring at a young child who stared at them, scared.
Remus simply couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe the man who'd caused him so much trouble over the least few years, was here now, a helpless child. He knew Snape would be mortified at the thought that the staff had seen him like this, knew the giggled about it would follow the other man for years to come. It was more then a little mean even it is was all 'in fun'.
Fun wasn't a good reason to hurt someone.
He'd been one of the first here, still being unemployed and having been sitting in his kitchen drinking tea when the summons came. He'd rushed straight to the castle to find a distraught Miss Grander still holding the child, practically begging the adults running by to take him from her.
Of course, Remus was the one stupid enough to take him.
He'd seen pictures of Snape this young. Well, picture. But it was completely different from having the child in front of him, even worse, clinging to him as if scared for it's life.
Eventually he'd managed to locate some robes for the child, and keep him out of trouble while everyone else dealt with everything else.
Which brought them to now.
"Someone will have to take care of him," Dumbledore said, suddenly looking much older. He looked up, casting his eyes around them, then coming to rest on Nymphadora Tonks, the only woman beside McGonagall in the room.
"Don't look at me," she exclaimed. "I can't even look after a house plant!"
"Desperate time, my dear, you are the logical choice…"
"Just because I'm a woman?"
"I'd make a awful mother," she exclaimed. "I'd drop the kid on its head, or something. Please, I know I'll mess up. Besides, I can't get time off work right now, and I can hardly take him to work with me can I, especially since this is all hush hush…"
"She right," McGonagall said, nodding. The rest of them looked down. It was so painfully obvious nobody wanted to take this poor child in. Just because they didn't like the adult he would one day became, they were going to persecute the child.
"I'll take him," he said, softly. He regretted it almost as soon as the words left his mouth but it was too late to do anything about it by then. He simply smiled and waited for the verdict from the others.
"If you would, Remus, you seem to be the only choice…"
"I'm sure I'll manage," he replied with a grin. He would. Taking care of a child couldn't be that hard, right? It had seemed easy so far, and it wasn't as if he had anything else to do. Or as if being a child around him would harm Snape's esteem all that much.
Well, he'd said it now and it was too late to take it back anyway.
Snape was unceremoniously dumped into his lap and he reached out instinctively, stopping the child from falling and receiving a hug for his effort.
"That leaves one more issue," Dumbledore said, sighing. "Who did this, and how?"
"I though you said it was that Longbottom boy," Diggle asked, giving Dumbledore a dirty look.
"It was, supposedly, his actions and potion, but he seemingly sincerely shows no recollection of the class and this potion seems beyond him…"
"He is very accident prone, Albus," Minerva said, sighing. "And the potions aren't entirely dissimilar. Well, the potion we presume was used…"
"You don't even know what potion was used?" Lupin asked, a look of horror passing over his face suddenly. These kind of potions tended to work on time release, they'd de-age the person for a few hours, a few days, a few months, there was even one that worked for a few years. He didn't know what terrified him most, the thought that Snape could suddenly become a adult again as they sat there, or the thought that he could be stuck looking after child Snape for year.
He didn't want either of them to happen.
"In an attempt to help, Miss Granger removed all the potion residue. From the description, we think it's a two-week potion. We can't be sure though and if it was brewed as a mess up by Neville Longbottom then the time scale isn't likely to be uniform."
Two weeks, he could handle two weeks. That was nothing.
"Of course," Dumbledore continued, his voice taking on a tone as though he were concluding the meeting. "We will thoroughly investigate the potion and if anything suspicious is afoot we will contact you. Until then, I think it's best if we disperse.
It had been, Remus Lupin reflected, a very tiring day. Who would have thought it would be possible to be so tired. The meeting then the arrangements, receiving money in order to care for Snape, positions that he may have had back then, some robes for when he did re-age, all the robes they could find that might fit him, finally getting it all home and his small cottage back into some semblance of order only to be sprung upon be a seemingly overly-maternal Mrs. Weasley who was full of 'helpful' advice but refused to simply take the child herself.
Add to that a screaming child and you about had his day. Not that Snape, no, Severus, had been bad. He'd just been bored, any kid would. When they were still in the castle he'd had to be on best behaviour and he seemed to understand this, it was only when they got back to his cottage that things got difficult.
Severus was a demanding child. He needed someone to be watching him all the time or he did something to get his or her attention. He'd crawl into Remus' lap as soon as he sat down and play with things around him and make a nuisance of himself when he wasn't being given attention.
Completely opposed to the older version, who preferred swooping around dungeons cloaked in mystery to seemingly any other activity.
Right now, though, the day didn't seem too bad. He'd finally gotten everything sorted out. They'd eaten, bathed, taken care of everything else.
Then Remus had collapsed into his favourite chair, intent on enjoying a few moments to himself.
But, apparently, it wasn't to be. Severus clambered up onto his lap. Remus had taken a deep breath, expecting pestering, but instead Severus had curled up in his arms and was soon snoring softly.
It was adorable.
He'd never considered himself to be the kind of person who'd have or want to have children but this was nice, and the kid was nice, if he was honest. He'd expected a bit of hostility, at least for the boy to has asked for his parents by now. The question and hostility were not forthcoming though. Instead he'd just been friendly and cuddly and nice.
It was nice.
He just hoped Snape forgot this when he grew back up. With some potions you did and with some you didn't, there was a lot of variation and since they didn't know what potion he'd taken it was hard to tell.
But if it really had been Neville's doing, it would certainly be disastrous.
Well, it was things like that which kept life interesting. If he knew what was going to happen all the time life would be dull. And we all hate dull lives.
It wouldn't really affect him if Snape hated him anyway, he never spoke to the man. Still, it would be nice if they could maintain the small level of friendship they'd managed to achieve, despite everything that had happened.
It would be such a shame if they lost that.
The child in his arms suddenly gave out a little sob and turned as far over as Remus' arms would let him. Remus looked down at the small boy and frowned, reaching over and wiping away the thin layer of sweat on his forehead. But the boy sobbed again at the touch, thrashing over.
It was quite clear that he was having a nightmare, but Remus didn't know what to do about it. He'd never been in this position before. His first instinct was to shake the child awake and comfort him but he was sure he'd heard somewhere that the best thing you could do for someone who was having a nightmare was hold them until it went away.
He didn't want to do either, but in the end his desire to help won out and he gently took hold of he child's shoulder, shaking it.
Apparently Severus had always been a light sleeper. Remus knew he was as an adult from the nights he'd spent at Grimmauld Place after missions. The child woke with a start and immediately climbed out of Remus's lap and moved away.
"It's ok," Remus said, smiling softly. He didn't want to scare the kid off, he needed him to clam down.
The young Severus stood there for a moment, just looking very scared, then suddenly and without a word flung himself forward into Remus' arms, sobbing hysterically. Remus sighed and picked the boy up, whispering reassuring words in his ears and then carrying him up to the small guest bedroom and tucking him into bed.
Severus was very shaken though. Remus didn't know what on earth could have happened to him at this stage in his life to make him so emotional, unless of course he was dreaming of things that had happened to him as an adult.
But that couldn't be right.
Something was very wrong with this child.
It took him two hours to calm Severus down and get him back to sleep in the end, two hours until he could collapse into his won bed, safe in the knowledge that in only a few hours, in all probability, Severus would probably wake up again and wake him up too.
As it turned out, Severus waited in his room for Remus to wake up the next day so nothing got done before midday. Remus was very surprised he'd been left to sleep. It was obvious by the way Severus wolfed down his lunch he'd been very hungry but he'd just sat quietly in his room.
Once they had finished eating Remus immediately came upon a problem he hadn't anticipated.
How was he going to amuse a child for two weeks?
He'd never imagined he'd have children, or even have to care for them for any length of time, so he'd never given a second thought to the kind of things that child probably did. He knew he should have considered it before now, but he hadn't.
Sighing, he sat down at the table and put his head in his hands. What on earth was he going to do?
"Uncle Remus?" Remus looked down beside the table where Severus was stood. He'd told the boy to call him Remus and Severus had tagged the uncle bit on entirely of his own free will.
"Yes," Remus asked, forcing a smile. Despite the fact he'd slept in, he hadn't had much sleep last night, all things considered. He was very, very tired, even if the same thing couldn't be said of his young charge.
"Can we go to the park?" Severus asked, his eyes shining.
That was unexpected, and a nice solution to his problems. A trip to the park would be good. He wouldn't have to do anything and the kid would enjoy himself. Sighing, he nodded to be greeted by a cheer from Severus who rushed of without waiting for further instruction to find his shoes.
That wasn't at whole bad, when the young boy had looked up at him like that, he'd almost expected to be asked the key question, 'where is my mummy?'. Really, it was odd that Severus hadn't asked. Most children in his situation, the first thing that would have done was ask for their mother. Why hadn't Severus?
Suddenly something occurred to him. James had always used to tease Severus about his family and how poor they were for pure bloods. In fact, he'd been doing just that. It had been Severus' birthday and at the time it was tradition for the celebrating student to open their presents at the breakfast table and James had gone over, nosing around, and discovered that none of the labels on the presents said mother.
He'd goaded Severus about it, asking if his mother's side of the family were too poor to contribute anything to the presents so they were only from his father. He'd gone on like that for a few minutes, getting laughs from a good part of the crowd, until Severus had said, slowly and deliberately, 'my mother died a long time ago', then turned and walked from the room.
But she couldn't be dead already, could she?
Severus was so young. He'd occasionally found himself pondering that when he was thinking about the other man but it had never struck him as significant until now. Maybe that was the source of his nightmares.
Well, that would explain why he hadn't asked for his mother, but what about his father? Surely he should want to know where his father was? Severus had always seemed very fond of his father.
But this child obviously wasn't. If anything, he seemed a little glad to be away from it.
Severus emerged into the kitchen, carrying Remus' shoes and grinning.
"Come on, Uncle Remus," he said, the grin not leaving his face. "Let's hurry."
"I'm coming," Remus sighed, slipping the shoes on and walking to the door. He was glad Dumbledore had the foresight to supply him with muggle clothes for Severus, after all, he'd hated to keep the child cooped up for two weeks because he didn't have any robes for him to wear.
Not that he'd be able to go out soon after all. He might turn back at any point.
Really, they shouldn't be out at all.
But it was a nice day and the potion wasn't likely to wear of that quickly, he hoped.
He couldn't do much about it but hope.
He lived a decent way out of the village so they had to walk in. It was a nice walk, down some picturesque country lanes, but it took a while. Severus didn't seem to tire out though, running around happily all the way down and Remus couldn't help but marvel at the eternal energy of children.
There really was no wearing him out.
They reached the village quiet later then he had anticipated. He was walking alone since Severus seemed intent on derailing the walk at every possible opportunity, darting in and out of the foliage and running to Remus every few minutes with one question or another. 'Uncle Remus, what is this?' 'Why are frog's green?' 'Can I eat this leaf?'.
All in all, Remus was happy to finally reach the playground and sit down while Severus ran around some more, hopefully tiring himself out on the park.
Remus had just managed to relax into a state where he was sleeping lightly when a terrified looking Severus jumped into his lap.
"What's wrong?" he asked, groggily. Severus just shook his head and clutched Remus' jacked, his eyes gazing across the playground.
Remus followed his line of sight and looked up to see a tall man with long black hair, almost down to his waist. There was nothing else remarkable about the man, he certainly didn't look threatening, which begged the question, why was Severus scared of him?
Was he afraid of him, or was he just generally afraid of men with long black hair?
Severus' father had long black hair, if Remus remembered correctly.
"Why don't you go and play," Remus suggested softly, but Severus still refused to move, or ever speak. Slowly, Remus stood, scooping the child into his arms, and left the park through the exit furthest from the black haired man.
Once they were out of sight of the playground Remus deposited the child on the floor, looking down on him. It was clear he was still jumpy. He'd been given a bad fright.
Obviously, this child had problems beyond his mother dying, problems involving his father.
But Severus had always seemed to get on so wall with his father in school. He'd brag about the things his father taught him and how much ahead of everyone else he was because of it, and his is father spent a good proportion of the family wealth on his education because he believed in him that much.
But, now he thought about it, he'd only ever seen pictures of Mr. Snape. He'd never been to the school. It was something they'd stopped during the first war with Voldemort, but during his first few years at school there had been a traditional family day in which the family could come and visit their child at school, go to lessons with them, that kind of thing. His mother and father had always come to see him, but he couldn't seem to remember Mr. Snape being there.
Was it possible that Severus didn't have as good a relationship with his father as he wanted everyone to believe? Why would he lie about that?
Four days passed calmly before the next big event. He'd decided after the park incident it would be a good idea to stay near the cottage and Severus had seemed to agree, being content to run around the garden and 'help' with the gardening.
He wasn't a bad kid really. He was friendly and open. There was an old lady who came up to help him with housekeeping once a week out of the good of her heart, she'd done it for his parents and she'd promised them she'd keep an eye on him as long as she could and this was her way of doing it. She'd been very suspicious of Severus at first, fearing he was an illegitimate child, but Remus had explained that he was taking care of him for a friend and she'd seemed fine with that idea.
The point was, Severus had helped her all afternoon. Talking to her and cuddling her and sitting in her lap.
He was friendly. Almost indiscriminately so. From what Remus had seen of his behaviour in the park before he'd let himself nod off, the child had been very friendly, oddly enough, mainly towards the adults.
There had been a few incidents of course, but there were bound to be a few with a child this young. One of the main things was Remus kept finding Severus touching himself.
It had given him a heart attack the first time he saw it, causing him to scold the boy who'd looked ashamed. He'd checked one of the books of his mother's still sitting in the packed shelves from when he was young and the book had claimed some masturbation was normal, so he'd tried to loosen up a bit, but it was the frequency with which these things happened that worried Remus. Sure, a little was ok, Severus was an inquisitive child, but there was a point where you had to say enough is enough.
Either way, on the fourth day after the park incident he received a letter from Hogwarts. This caused quite a bit of excitement, he'd been waiting for word about Severus for all the time the child had been here but nothing.
He'd torn it open in excitement and had to read it twice before he took it all, despite it's brevity.
First, it explained that a small sample of the potion had been recovered and sent for analysis. The first result was that this particular potion had a time release of 8 days, 19 hours and 52 minutes so he should only have to wait 3-4 more days until Severus became an adult again. They could even given him an exact time, apparently the potion was very well made.
Second, it said this type of potion would interfere with Severus' memory, so when he returned to adulthood he would loose all his memories of the brief return to childhood he'd experienced.
The last thing was the fact that the potion was not an accident.
And that was what caused Remus the most concern. There was no way Neville Longbottom could make a potion by that intentionally, and the odds of him making it by chance were very slim. But every child in the class had seen him make it. There was only one option; someone must have been controlling Neville.
But who would go to all that trouble? Taking control of Neville, brewing a difficult potion, disposing of it so well to hide their tracks, just to de-age Severus for 8 days, 9 hours and 52 minutes?
The simple answer to that, it would seem, was they didn't know. They'd looking into it but had not yet been able to reach any firm conclusions. Dumbledore had suggested that it may be a prank.
But it was an overly elaborate prank if that were true, and not many children in the school would have had the skill to brew this particular potion. It must have been someone very intent on the prank; there must be a reason to it.
He'd sat and brooded over the letter for a good half hour until Severus had come over to him, informed him he was boring and that he should play outside.
Remus had laughed and agreed, following the child out into the small garden. It was far from an ideal place for children to play. It had changed a lot since he was a child, his mother had gone very fanatical about gardening in her later years and the garden was definitely lovely, even if Remus didn't keep it in the pristine condition she always had.
It was no place to play though, as he soon discovered.
If the letter was right there was no chance the Severus would turn back for a decent amount of him yet, so they may as well go out.
Severus seemed delighted at the suggestion, running around yelling, and causing Remus to laugh at his youthful joy. Looking at this child now, nobody would believe he would grow up into the cold Severus Snape that entire generations of wizards and witches were growing up in fear of.
He took Severus back to the park. It had seemed to be a success the first time. He sat back on a bench and watched the goings on.
Severus was a good child. He talked to all the other people he could find, but Remus noted again he seemed more intent on talking to adults. Once he'd assured himself nothing awful was going to happen, he sat back to contemplate the situation.
He knew something was going on. But he didn't want to just out and ask the child. He was sure Severus would rather he just forget it but he couldn't. He couldn't just let this child suffer, even if the child was an adult now. He felt the need to help.
He needed to help.
He didn't have much to go of though. He knew Severus' mother was probably dead at this point, certainly a traumatising event in anyone's life. He had some kind of fear of his father, he was very friendly and touched himself a lot, and he had nightmares that he never wanted to talk about.
There must be something. As traumatising as the death of a mother was, it wasn't enough to explain away all this behaviour.
Well, not really. He supposed it could be, but it would be quite odd if it was.
There must be something he was overlooking.
He looked up and scanned the playground for the child, as if seeing him would trigger some other lost memory that would allow him to make more sense of it. He'd even taken to reading his mother's child rearing books to try and find an answer.
The child was missing.
It took a few seconds for this to sink in and suddenly Remus was on his feet. Where could he have gone?
Where would a small child with no knowledge of the area disappear to and, more importantly, why would he go?
What if this was all part of some elaborate plot? That would suit Voldemort's style. Never do things the straight forward way. What if this was a way to weaken Snape and get him away from the castle so he could be captured. Sure, there must be a million easier ways to do it but this was Voldemort and he never did things the simple way.
He suddenly ground to a halt. He'd been pushing into the bushes, looking for then when he ran into something he'd rather not see.
Severus, child Severus, touching another child, who looked rather bewildered by the whole thing.
Remus strode up to them and picked Severus up, moving him away a little and ordering him to fasten up his trousers, his face burning. He couldn't believe this, it was disgusting. What kind of child would do something like that?
He turned around but the other child was already gone. He shepherded Severus out of the place was quickly as he could, not wanting to touch the boy's hand after what he'd just seen.
A little masturbation was one thing; this was something entirely different.
Severus only tried to talk a few times on the way home, but as he was met with stony silence every time he eventually gave up and settled for walking at Remus' side, looking suitably upset.
Remus just didn't know what to do, what could cause a child to do that?
Maybe it was another part of his puzzle. He knew he'd been hoping for another clue but that was too much. How could that ever be socially acceptable. Something terrible must have happened to Severus for him to think there was any way that could possibly be ok.
He didn't want to punish the child for something like that, well, he did, but he understood if there were some causal factor the Severus may truly not know that what he had done was wrong. Could that be right.
But he couldn't stand to be in the same room as the child at this point. It was disgusting. He sent Severus to his room and rolled a cigarette. He only smoked in time of extreme stress and this sure as hell counted as a time of extreme stress.
What could possibly cause anyone to do something like that?
He didn't realise how long he'd been sitting there staring into space, trying not to think of it but at the same time trying to think up a solution to it. He couldn't seem to get past how repulsive the image in his minds eye was on so many levels.
He was snapped out of it by the door at the bottom of the stairs creeping open. His head shot up, fast enough to catch sight of the small boy before he ducked out of sight.
Remus sighed and shook his head. He needed to do something. Needed to talk to the child, make him understand why what he did was wrong.
He had to be the responsible adult here. There was no way an adult should ever be having this discussion with a child.
But he was and he had to!
And he was bloody well going to.
"Come here," he said softly, trying not to flinch as the boy came back into the room. His eyes were red from crying and his hair was a mess. He kept sniffing as he crept around the sofa, obviously expecting to be yelled at.
Remus found himself wondering if this was just a symptom of Severus having picked up on his anger earlier or it something like this had happened before.
He certainly hoped it hadn't happened before.
"I'm sorry," the boy mumbled, crawling around the couch and up to Remus' lap, resting a hand on each knee.
Remus sighed again, he seemed to be doing that a lot today. He would simply have to explain to this child why what had happened in the park was so wrong.
Only the child's hands were sneaking up his legs. He was looking down and the tears were close again and he was reaching for the fastening of Remus' pants.
Fighting the urge to jump out of the chair and run away, Remus reached down and settled for pulling Severus' hands out of the way before they could reach their obvious destination. Whatever had gone wrong in this child's life, he didn't think he wanted to know. He'd forget it all in a few days anyway, it would be as if it never happened, he could just forgive him and get it out of the way.
Only he couldn't. Something drove him on; he had to know.
"Why did you do that?"
"It makes it better at home?" Severus whispered, the tears starting to flow again. "When I do something bad. My father yells at me. Then I do this and he's happy again."
For a second Remus felt as thought he couldn't breath. He couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe what this child was telling him. That he was being sexually abused. Severus Snape have been sexually abused as a child. Heavens, how long had it been going on, how long did it go on? Was it still happening through the summer while they were at school? He'd once heard a rumour that Snape had begged to be able to stay at school in the holidays, they'd all presumed he wanted to study more and laughed at him but what if that wasn't it.
What if they were hurting a boy who'd just been turned away from his only source of help.
"When Mummy died, father started getting mad," Severus continued, frowning. "He yelled lots. I didn't like it."
"When did he start making you do this?" Lupin asked, he didn't know what else to do. He wanted to know, even if it was knowledge he would have to carry by himself forever. He would never admit to Snape he'd asked his child self this.
"A while after mummy died. My father was very angry, and he hurt me." Remus paled. He could just imagine it had. What kind of monster would do something like that to a child like this. It was all starting to fall into place now. The fear of the father, the touching himself and others must be his way of controlling things. He understood how a child in these circumstances would feel some need to control it, and the indiscriminate affection, being affectionate as the way to make people happy.
It was no wonder he was always so withdrawn.
"Are you mad at me?" Severus asked. Remus ran a hand through his hair. Was he mad? How could he be mad? How could you be angry at a child for being used against their will in the worst way possible?
"No, I'm not mad." Remus said, softly. "But you need to know, what you father does, it's not good. And you shouldn't touch other people like that. Nobody likes other people touching them, if they don't ask first. When people grow up, sometimes if you love someone, it's nice to do that, but not when you're young."
"Have I been bad?" Severus asked, looking up with pleading eyes. All Remus could do was shake his head, drawing the boy onto his knee and into a tight hug.
Of course, intellectually, he'd known this happened to people, but the thought of it happening to someone he knew. The thought of someone who he'd hurt, having this happening on top of all the torment at school. It was a wonder Severus was as mentally healthy as he was, and he couldn't really be said to be very mentally healthy at all.
They'd been monsters as children. Of course, they couldn't have known, but that was a weak excuse. They shouldn't have picked on someone anyway.
He felt so dirty.
He would have to do his best for the next few days to see to it that Severus got the best experiences of childhood he could, even if they were brief and he wouldn't remember them, at least Lupin would feel better for it.
Dumbledore had always hated gatherings of the Order of the Phoenix. They very rarely contained any kind of good news and were far more likely to detail another attack or another problem.
It didn't help that this one did just that. Without Snape intelligence they hadn't known about the planned attack until it was too late. Three wizards taken out and an artefact stolen.
The most curious thing about it was the artefact would be of little value. It had only very weak powers and could be used to send others a very weak mental message, something Voldemort could do a million timed better without the artefact.
So why steal it?
Dumbledore couldn't help but feel it was something to do with Snape's transformation. But what on earth could Severus being a child have to do with a robbery. He knew it made no logical sense, but he could feel those things were connected.
The last of the order finally came into the room, nodding to Dumbledore, and he solemnly began the meeting.
"I'm sure by now all of you have heard of the attack at West Close?"
There was a round of nods and a murmur of ascension from the gathered order members.
"It appears the death total has come to 3, one Auror and two privately hired security guards. All good men. The artefact taken was the Mirror of Shichirouji. The ministry, as it will, is denying the incident has anything to do with Voldemort, so it is again left to us to ascertain how and why this happened."
"I happened because we let it," Podmore growled. "We had no intelligence. And goodness knows why he wanted it, there's only one may who could tell us that…"
"Severus is in no position to tell anyone anything," Dumbledore said, calmly. "I agree, he may be the only one who can find out what is really going on. I shall send him a letter detailing what we know so once he is recovered he can investigate. Until then, we will have to manage without him."
"Have you found out what happened to him yet?" Moody put in, his eye rolling in a way that was quite disquieting, even to Dumbledore.
"We have made progress," Dumbledore replied, evasively. He didn't want to discuss this here.
"What progress?" Moody asked, leaning forward in his chair eagerly. He seemed very excited to know how Severus had been bested and Dumbledore didn't like it. He knew he'd done the boy an injustice in the past and wanted to protect him from those who would hurt him now. He knew it was a silly notion, but still.
"If you must know, Alastor, we're relatively certain we know who is responsible. A seventh year Ravenclaw who's name I'd rather not divulge. Neville had a very brief, well, liaison with her, which she apparently used to mark him with the Eryth sign."
There was a gasp from all those assembled and Dumbledore nodded at their shock. The mark Voldemort used to brand his followers was a form of the Eryth sign and, when fully activated, if the bearer had not been taught to withstand it, the caster could take complete control of the bearer. Once it was on him, Neville didn't stand a chance.
Which left a rather uncomfortable question, where had a girl like her managed to find the spell and the proper way to cast it, and why. The easiest thing to assume was that she had found the spell by accident and then used it to gain revenge on Snape, after all, he was disliked along the student body. And she didn't carry a mark.
But that just didn't seem to fit. The girl did quite well in her classes and had no specific reason to dislike Snape that anyone could think of. In fact, according to her friends she was more likely to attack professor Flitwick since he consistently marked her down in a manner she considered unfair for things such as poise. And he was also aware that there was only one copy of the spell in the castle, and it was in a sealed volume that could only be released by the current headmaster in his own quarters. And she was muggle born, she wouldn't have access to any books outside school.
It just didn't make sense.
The meeting had dissolved into chatter by this point and Dumbledore rose and left, he had a letter to write. And he'd include a portkey in it. He knew it was a risk sending a portkey to Lord Voldemort but he didn't rust all this, he knew Voldemort must be involved somehow and he didn't want to risk Severus' life to find out he was right.
An hour before the transformation was due to take place, Lupin took Severus' clothes and left him in a bedroom with robes for him to change into after he'd transformed, the letter Dumbledore had sent specifically for Severus and the letters that had been addressed specifically to him.
When he'd seen the scared look on the child's face at being stripped he'd wished he could put the adult robes on him but Dumbledore had specifically asked him not to, pointing out that he'd probably grow into them oddly and it would be very uncomfortable for him.
He left some drawing things, and went to leave the room, but was stopped by a hand on his arm before he could.
"Uncle Remus?" A scared voice asked. Remus smiled down at the child.
"Are you leaving me?"
"Just for a while," Remus replied, trying to appear cheerful. If he were honest, he'd rather enjoyed having Severus here for a while, it had made him happy. If the ministry had allowed werewolves to adopt, having Severus here had made him think he would try. There would certainly be enough orphans who needed people to care for them after the war. But, the world being as it was, he was blocked from adopting. That left him with a biological child as his only option and, even factoring out the risk of passing on his lycanthropy, he didn't like women so he certainly wasn't going to marry one.
Which meant no children for him, and he was now saying goodbye to the only child who'd ever been in his life.
Sighing, he hugged Severus then shut the door, walking away and down into the kitchen.
For the next hour he tried to distract himself, with books and anything else that came to hand. He'd already cleaned thoroughly to make sure there was no evidence that a child had been living here that might disturb Severus. The last thing he wanted to do after the revelations he'd had was to upset the man.
And he would certainly be upset by the thought that Remus had been taking care of him.
Though there wasn't anything Remus could do about that, especially not now.
Almost exactly on the time it had been predicted, Remus heard the awful scream Dumbledore's letters had assured him would accompany the transformation back.
Once it was over, he made himself sit down and try to concentrate again. The book in his hand just couldn't hold his attention though. It was odd, he'd though his nerves were just about the transformation but he realised there was more to it.
He'd spent the last 8 or so days thinking about nothing other then Severus Snape, and doing nothing but learning about him. He knew so much more about the man, and understood him so much better. And it was odd, but he'd somehow grown to care for Severus. Even in this short time. In an odd way.
Well, maybe it was an emotion more born of pity then anything else, though heavens only knew what Severus would say if he knew someone he despised as much as Lupin pitied him.
He would just never have to know.
The door opened and Remus fought not to look up. He knew he'd do something stupid if he did, something to make the other man feel uncomfortable in his presence.
Only this seemed to cause more tension then looking up would have. Severus was stood there in silence, well, Remus didn't dare look up to see if he was moving, and Remus was sat here, eyes fixed on a book, not even knowing what book it was. How pathetic he was.
"Can I use your floo?" the other man asked. All Remus could do was nod. He didn't know what was happening or particularly want to. To think, he'd been worried that Severus would feel awkward with this when really it was he who was feeling awkward.
He heard the other man leave the room, the door banging shut behind him, then the floo activate. He waited a second, then dropped the book and let his head fall to the table. Why did this have to be so complicated?
Severus trod through the mud, head down. He'd normally apparate when he needed to get about but he was still feeling what he presumed to be the after-effects of the transformation and had thought it best to floo under those circumstances, even if it had meant asking Lupin to use his floo.
Damn Albus, why couldn't he have sent him to anyone else in the world. The letters he'd been left didn't explain anything he wanted to know. They told him the facts, the potion, who had made it, the attack, the fact that information was needed, they didn't tell him why Lupin had taken him, or, even worse, what's he'd said and done as a child.
He remembered that part of his life vividly and it was not good. There was little to no chance he'd been with Lupin that amount of time and not revealed something.
Which would explain why the other man had refused to meet his eye once he was adult again. He must, in his childish innocence, have told the wolf everything.
He wished he could take it back. He didn't want anyone else to know, it was bad enough he and Dumbledore did. He didn't want any more pity damnit.
Why Lupin. He knew he wasn't loved in the order, but why Lupin? Surely someone else must have been willing to take him in. Dumbledore knew of Severus' feelings, both the true ones and the ones he showed others. Surely he knew that the last thing he wanted was Remus Lupin to see him like that. Let alone care for him in the state.
Or maybe he had known and had still condoned it for some reason. Severus didn't particularly want to consider that prospect though.
Another bolt of pain shot up his arm from the mark branded there and he mumbled something to the effect of 'yes, I'm coming'. The calls had started nearly as soon as he'd finished transforming; the unmistakable signal that Voldemort wanted him.
That it was time to risk his life for people who didn't even care enough to look after him when he was an innocent little child.
Well, of course, this time he wasn't risking his life as much as the last time, he had Dumbledore's gift.
He knew it was downright stupid, taking a portkey into Voldemorts presence. He had done though. If it was found, he'd be killed, but he'd hidden it as well as he could and still get at it. He'd seriously considered leaving it at the cottage but Dumbledore would never do something like this unless there was a serious chance it may be needed.
Severus liked to think there wasn't any need for it. Need would mean his cover was blown and he didn't think he could handle that. The thought that he'd failed the people who needed him once again. No, he would not be uncovered.
He finally emerged into a clearing. The intensity of the pain was the general device used to inform Death Eaters where to meet, and this was the most intense of all pains, signalling he was to go to the Dark Lord's favourite playground, the graveyard where he had tried to kill Harry Potter in his 4th year.
It was not a place that held many good memories and Severus did not want to be here.
But he went where he was called and did what he could. He made himself do so, simply because he could. He was the only one who could.
The graveyard was full, lined all around with death eaters, dressed in various robes. Having been called as he was, only a few of them bothered with hoods etc, though most of them did something to obscure their faces. Having your face on view could mean you would be betrayed.
He slipped into the circle and concentrated his eyes on the ground. Standard procedure. Don't look up until called or until the festivities start.
He could feel the eyes of the Dark Lord on him. It wasn't a pleasant feeling, more like the feeling of a hundred spiders crawling across his skin. It never bode well for the Dark Lord to be looking at you either. For a moment he considered reaching for the portkey then and there, removing himself from the situation.
But he couldn't. People, stupid people who didn't care for him or appreciate him were, never the less, relying on him, and how on earth could he claim that he deserved their respect if he let them down?
He focused on the ground. Made himself relax. He would survive this intact and he would help people. He had been doing this for most of his life now, he would continue to do so.
"Severus…" a familiar voice rang across the clearing, he'd never quite been able to understand how that man's voice could be so cold, could make the strongest of his followers stop in their tracks and shiver…
He stepped forward, his eyes focusing on the floor. He could feel the eyes of the others in the circle on him now, burning him. This was not good, but maybe not dire yet. It was easy to tell the Dark Lord was displeased with him, but he was still breathing so it was possible he'd simply been summoned while he was a child and not been able to respond, thus incurring the wrath of Voldemort.
"Well…" Voldemort said, Snape didn't have to be looking to know that a thin smile had spread over the Dark Lord's lips, he knew that tone all too well. "It seems, we have a traitor in our midst."
His hand twitched towards the portkey but he didn't dare touch it just yet. They might not know it was him. It wasn't likely but he had to stick it out, to the last minute.
"Certain facts have come to light in the last few days, a rather astonishing raid was carried of well, better then it has been in months…and who do you presume was not here to leak information when this occurred?"
He reached into his pocked and brushed his fingers against the portkey hidden there. They knew, it was too late, and he wouldn't risk staying there a second longer now that he knew they knew. The familiar tugging at his navel told him the thing was active and he closed his eyes tightly as he felt it pull him then stop abruptly. He shuffled his feet to keep his balance and opened his eyes to find himself in the headmaster's office, the old man looking at him over a book.
"I trust my suspicions were correct," he said, sounding very tired. Snape sighed and sat down at the other side of the desk.
"He had uncovered my identity, if that was your suspicion."
"It was," Dumbledore sighed. "I didn't know how else the young lady who was responsible for your de-aging could have come across the power to perform those spells without the help of someone like Voldemort, and when the raid occurred it seemed my suspicions were confirmed. He was able to execute the raid successfully because we did not have your intelligence, the first successful raid in this war."
"He said as much," Snape replied, sighing. "I believe my use is at an end…"
"Nonsense my boy, you'll just have to redefine you're roll," Dumbledore replied, smiling paternally. Snape snorted, then stood and excused himself quickly. His role was over. He was not a great man in battle; he was a potions master. He may know the curses and counter curses but that didn't mean he knew when to use them effectively and how to use them.
No, his part of the war was over, he could be no more use.
The tumbler was heavy, even though only dregs remained in it. Not that there had been much to start with, as much as he'd love to drown himself in a bottle of port he didn't want the massive hangover tomorrow would bring with it if he did.
He did wish he could drown his sorrows though. He was no longer a double agent.
He knew he should have been excited, but for so long that had been the only thing that had given his life purpose. He didn't know what he'd do without it.
It had given him purpose, given him direction, given him a reason to get up every morning. He was a bastard, he knew that, he'd never really been able to get close to people but he'd been able to tell himself while he was helping them, while they needed him, he'd have a place in their lives, and he didn't need actual physical contact so long as he had a place in their lives.
Now that was gone. He was nothing again. No use to anyone. The dried up sarcastic potions master that a good proportion of the wizarding world hated.
Some days, he even hated himself.
Sighing, he pulled himself to his feet, dropping the glass onto the table beside his chair where he was sure some house elf would pick it up.
He was a mess.
But he couldn't change now. He'd been this person, Severus Snape, scary potions master, for far to long for that. Nobody would believe he had changed, (;) nobody would care. He'd just have to adapt to being alone.
Like he had done already.
He didn't want to be alone though. He'd sometimes imagined that if he tried hard enough he could make it so that people didn't hate him. So that some people might actually like him. He knew it wasn't likely but now…it was even less so. At least if he was a war hero, and Voldemort was really gone so he could say so, he would have some basis for them to respect him. He couldn't even be a double agent though.
He was a failure.
He simply stood there, his arms clenched at his side. He just didn't know what he was going to do with his life now. What could he do with his life?
Nothing. It was too late.
A knock at the door startled him out of his pit of self-loathing. He sighed, looking around desperately, as though an excuse not to answer the door would present itself. Opening the door would only bring disappointment. Sometimes he wished people would come and knock on his door just to see how he was.
Sighing, he strode across the room and opened the door, instantly wishing he hadn't bothered when he was met with the anxious face of Remus Lupin.
He wished he could just shut the door. He honestly couldn't think of anyone he wanted to see less. He knew what he would get, there was no way he couldn't have revealed his past as a child so now came the pity. He would have to stand there and bear all the things Albus said, knowing that this person was only here because he had a bad past.
He didn't want to think about his past, and he certainly didn't want pity for it!
"I heard what happened when you left the cottage…" Lupin said, a frown crossing his face. It was all Snape could do to keep the frown on his face. He didn't want pity for that to; he already pitied himself enough. "May I come in."
For a second, Snape almost considered saying no, shutting the door in Lupin's face but then where would he be? He would play nicely. For now at least.
It he wanted people in his life, he was going to have to stop shutting them all out, anyway.
He stepped back grudgingly, allowing the other man to enter then shutting the door behind him. Apparently, Lupin wasn't the kind to wait before making himself feel at home as he sat down immediately. Snape followed, dropping into his favourite chair and openly glaring at Lupin for invading his personal space.
"I guess…" Lupin started, trailing of then looking around. "I suppose I just wanted to see if you were ok. I mean, it must have been a shock to you, to have been discovered.
"I'm fine," Snape said curtly. "Now if that's all."
"Actually, it isn't, I want to talk to you about…well…you know."
"Well I'd rather not, now if you'd just leave…"
"Please, I have something to say, I won't take long…"
"I don't need your pity," Snape growled. He wouldn't have it. He didn't want to be pitied.
"I don't pity you for your childhood, Severus," Lupin sighed. "In a way, I suppose, I admire you for it, that you managed to be as good a person as you are, but that's not what I wanted to say. I just wanted to tell you that, well, I suppose I wanted you to know I think I understand you a little better now…"
"Understand me Lupin?" Snape scoffed, Lupin didn't understand him. He couldn't. Nobody had ever understood him. Ever.
"Yes, I mean, you've made so many decisions in your life that are so different from the ones I've made, but I think I understand them a little more now. And, I suppose, well I haven't hated you for a long time, not since I understood what you've been doing for the order, but I, I think I want to know you now."
"Yes, get to know. You, spend time with you…"
Lupin had lent forward as he was speaking, a kind of intensity appearing in his eyes that made Snape want to back away. But it was just pity. It had to be. Nobody wanted to spend time with him.
Then a look of decision seemed to flash across Lupin's face and he leant forward, pressing his lips to Snape's.
Snape froze, of all the things he'd been expecting, this was the last. It wasn't entirely unwelcome of course, he'd just never imagined anyone could, especially if they knew. He didn't know what to do, he couldn't move, he didn't know if he should lean into the kiss or pull away.
All too soon, Lupin had made the decision for him, pulling back and standing up, a look of disappointment on his face.
"I'm sorry, Severus," he mumbled, stepping away. Snape wanted to call out, to pull him back but he still couldn't seem to move. "I…I'll go…"
Lupin was almost at the door when Snape finally found his voice.
"Wait," he said, trying to command as much authority in his voice as he could. Lupin stopped and turned around and Snape realised he didn't know what he wanted to say. What did you say when someone kissed you then tried to run out?
It didn't seem to matter, Lupin seemed to understand. He moved back into the room, moved to Snape's side and kissed him again. This time, Snape managed to return the kiss, leaning into the lips against his and wondering whom exactly he'd pleased to be awarded this.