It was an ordinary house in an ordinary suburban neighborhood, scarcely discernible from the dwellings on either side of it save for the large number four on its front. The dwelling was bedecked with too many dangling lights and decorations, clashing holiday themes giving the place a cluttered appearance. Were it not already the case, Severus Snape would have been convinced he'd dislike the house's inhabitants just by looking at it.
Stalking up the front walk, he approached the door and knocked.
The corpulent, purple-faced hulk of Harry's memories answered the door, a leer forming on his flabby face as he took in Snape's attire. "What do you want?" Dursley demanded.
Snape simply stared back at him, seemingly unaffected by the man's open hostility. "I have come to speak with you regarding your nephew."
"You one of the teachers from that school of his?" Honestly, the man had no manners.
"Indeed," Snape uttered blandly. "I am Professor Snape. May I come in?"
Dursley let out a huff and stepped back a bit. "If you must," he grunted, then shouted over his shoulder, "Petunia! It's some teacher come to talk about the boy!" Stepping past the churlish muggle, Snape soon found that the decorations inside the house were even more nauseating that those clinging to its exterior, particularly since the overwhelming scent of potpourri drenched the air.
No sooner had Vernon Dursley shut the door than a rather waifish woman came down the hallway from the back of the house, a sour expression on her face, as though she was smelling something particularly foul.
"We're not responsible for any trouble the boy gets into while he's at that school," she declared without so much as a how-do-you-do. "And he's not to come back here until summer."
Ah. So, this would be Petunia, Severus thought sardonically. Lily always said her sister had a certain... charm about her. Sounds from a muggle television box accompanied by mindless guffaws drifted in from an adjoining room, the latter no doubt emitted by the obese blond.
"Whatever would make you assume that your nephew was in trouble?" Snape asked in a pleasant tone that never failed to make his students shiver. Apparently, the underlying threat was lost on the Dursleys, for neither of them did so much as blink.
"Why else would you people bother us?" Petunia snapped.
"I wanted discuss the treatment Harry has received while under your roof," he informed them, his patience rapidly waning.
"What has the boy said?" Dursley demanded. "You should know he's nothing but a filthy little liar. Always has been."
"He's said surprisingly little, considering what a prolific fabulist you imply that he is."
The man's face turned a deeper shade of violet. "You saying we're liars? That we're in the wrong?" he demanded, voice rising in volume. "That freak-"
Snape's wand was instantly in his hand, pointed right between Dursley's eyes. "That freak," he cut him off with a deadly snarl, "is my son."
"That's not possible!" Petunia contradicted shrilly. "The boy's parents got themselves killed. You can't be his father!"
"How very unfortunate for you that that information is only partially true," the wizard intoned. "Stupefy," he spat at man in front of him before swinging about to aim a spell at his wife.
"VERNON!" she shrieked in horror.
"Mum?" the foul couple's offspring questioned as he stepped through a doorway into the entryway. "What..?" he broke off abruptly as his gaze fell upon the scene, eyes widening. Turning, he made to scurry from the room.
"Not so quick!" Snape snapped, casting Petrificus Totalus after the boy before directing the wand back at his mother. As Petunia Dursley began to tremble, the angry wizard uttered one word: "Legilimens."
Severus sat next to the floo in his quarters, staring into the fire. How could the situation have been both better and worse than he had suspected?
On the one hand, with the exception of their son (who'd never hesitated to hit or bully Harry), the Dursleys had seldom laid a hand on the boy. Of course, nearly every smack or cuff he did receive had been undeserved and that brute Vernon had pulled his arm out of its socket on three different occasions, but it had been nothing like Snape had envisioned. Certainly nothing like his own childhood.
On the other hand, the neglect and verbal abuse heaped upon the boy was appalling. His son had been worked like a house elf practically from the time he could walk. He'd received no unnecessary kindnesses from his relatives; hardly enough food and never any aid or comfort when he'd been sick or injured.
While they may not have mangled his body, they have assuredly battered his spirit, Severus thought darkly.
Now it made sense, how a cupboard had become representative of the boy's greatest fear. For ten years they had kept him there, all the while filling his mind with lies. Naturally, Harry couldn't help but fear that they were true; that he was a freak, a burden, unfit to be around others, unwanted, unlovable, worthless.
Yet, somehow the boy could still function.
The punishment Severus had wrought upon them wasn't nearly as much as they deserved, in his mind, but as he could hardly do anything more dastardly to the muggles without a sentence in Azkaban, it would have to suffice. Besides, it was quite possibly longer lasting.
The Dursley boy he had hit with a rather simple empathy curse. It would cause no physical harm to the corpulent youth, but it was certain to make an impression. The boy would be unable to sleep without recalling the mistreatment his cousin had endured – as though it had happened to himself. The dreams would continue until the young bully felt true empathy for Harry. By then, he would no doubt see his parents in a whole new light, lending to their own punishment.
Snape had dosed the elder Dursleys with a creation of his own that he called Prosterno Fortuna or Anti-Liquid Luck. In much the same way that Felix Felicis caused its drinker to experience good fortune, Prosterno Fortuna caused them to suffer from ill fortune. The bronze-colored potion was longer lasting than it golden counterpart, generally taking two to three days to wear off in the wizards Snape had used it on. For muggles, however... well, it was hard to say how long it would take them to metabolize the brew without their own magic to speed the process.
So, now he sat, studying the flames, wondering just how long it would take to reverse the damage the Dursleys had done to his son. He wondered if it were even entirely possible. After all, some wounds never healed.
Harry stood outside the door to Snape's quarters. Or rather, he stood in the corner of two adjoining corridors, staring at the wall where he thought the door had been.
It was late morning the day after the rest of the students had left. Harry had a bag filled with some of his things slung over one shoulder (he didn't think it necessary to bring his entire trunk, since he'd be in the castle, anyway). The professor had told him he could come to stay with him over the holiday break and Harry had looked forward to it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
What if Snape decided he just didn't want Harry? Or what if he decided he hated him, after all? He was head of Slytherin house, but Harry was in Gryffindor. Did the professor find it disappointing that his son wasn't sorted into his house? Harry was almost sorted into Slytherin. Would the professor like him better if he told him that? Would he even believe him?
"The password is 'Cliodna'."
Harry jumped in surprise as the silky voice cut across his thoughts. Whirling about, he saw Professor Snape standing a short distance behind him, watching him in apparent amusement.
"You have to stand closer, though," the man continued, striding forward. "It won't work from that distance." As he drew close to the wall, a door suddenly appeared and Snape opened it, motioning Harry to step inside.
"You didn't say the password," Harry pointed out, wincing to himself for making such an obvious statement.
"The wards on my quarters are keyed to my magical signature," the man smirked, "I don't have to say the password."
"Oh," said Harry, moving past him only to halt in surprise. He blinked, but the sight before him remained unchanged. The last time he'd been in Snape's quarters, he knew there had been only one bookshelf in the living room. Now, however, the walls to the left and right were filled with floor to ceiling bookcases, save for three spaces along the left-hand wall where doors led into one of the other rooms and a short gap between the last shelf and the kitchenette on the right. The original bookshelf was nowhere in sight.
"I moved some furniture," Snape explained wryly.
"Oh," Harry said again, wishing he'd thought of something more profound to say.
The professor moved to the second door between the bookcases, pausing with his hand on the doorknob. "You'll sleep in here," he said quietly.
Harry followed slowly, frowning uncertainly. "In the library?" To his immense surprise, Snape chuckled.
"I see you were paying attention."
The Potions Master opened the door, lightly placing a hand on the teen's shoulder (ignoring the flinch it evoked) and steering him into the room. Harry moved compliantly, eyes widening a moment later. He hadn't been in the room before, but he was certain it couldn't have looked as it did now when Snape told him it was the library.
A bed stood in the corner directly across from him, a second door set in the wall immediately to the right. There was what could only be a wardrobe in the near left-hand corner and the bookshelf that had been in the living room rested against the adjacent wall. Between the far corner and the night table standing at the head of the bed was a desk and chair.
"I didn't decorate it," Snape spoke when Harry didn't say anything. "I assume you'd like it in Gryffindor colors, but I felt it was only proper that you had some input. It is your room, now – as long as it's tidy, you may keep it how you like."
Harry turned to look up at him, his eyes still wide. "Blue and gray," he said suddenly.
"I always thought that if I ever got a room that was truly mine, I'd like it to be in blue and gray," Harry elaborated. "They're very... calming."
"Well, let's see what we can do, then," Snape suggested and Harry gave a tentative smile.
By the time they were finished, with Severus performing the necessary spells and Harry hesitantly offering directions, the once-library was a very different room, indeed. Two of the walls were a dark cobalt blue, the others a rich medium gray. A thick rug of variegated blues and grays lay on the floor. The comforter on the bed now had squares of varying sizes and shades of Harry's chosen colors, with a blue blanket underneath and sheets an ash gray.
Harry slowly took in every inch of the finished room – his room – with its soothing colors. He had two lamps in addition to the overhead light, one on the bedside table and the other beside the desk. There was even a cork board he could pin things on affixed to the wall over the workspace. A few books rested in the bookcase, but most of the shelves were empty for him to fill as he liked. And there was a door straight into the bathroom, also.
But it wasn't just what the room held that made the boy feel happy. It was the thought that the professor had given him a room, at all. If the man didn't want him, he wouldn't have worked so hard to make it Harry's room, would he?
"Anything else?" Snape asked from the doorway.
Harry looked back at him, a smile on his face. "No, sir," he answered. "It's perfect. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Harry." The man watched as the boy moved to put his things in the wardrobe without being told. "What are your plans for the day?" he asked when he was finished.
"I don't really have any," Harry shrugged.
Snape placed a finger against his lip thoughtfully, wondering how the boy would respond to what he was about to say. "I need to go to Diagon Alley, today," he stated casually. "You may accompany me. If you'd like."
"Really?" Harry exclaimed a bit loudly, then flushed slightly.
"If you'd like," the man repeated, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards.
"I would," the boy said, "I would like it very much."
"We'll be off, then," said Snape. "Get your cloak." Harry hastened to obey.