"Severus, please," Dumbledore petitioned.
"Why should I, Albus?" Snape fixed the older man with an unyielding glare. "Send somebody else to fetch the Potter brat."
Dumbledore sighed, "You know as well as I that the teachers have not yet returned to Hogwarts after their summer holidays. I would send Hagrid but he is… indisposed. I sent him to return his new pet the to where it belongs. Which is most certainly not here."
Snape's expression did not change.
"Severus, my boy, would Lily have wanted her son to remain ignorant of his heritage? Do you?"
Something flickered in Snape's eyes before his face returned to a carefully composed mask of anger.
Dumbledore tried one more time. Quietly, he implored, "It is his birthday, Severus."
At this Snape relented. "Fine. I'll go. But remember, that's two you owe me now. I am at Hogwarts at your bidding as well to restore the Hospital Wing's potion stock."
A pleased smile spread across Dumbledore's face. "Of course. Thank you."
Snape turned sharply on his heel and strode across to the exit of the study. He opened the core, but before leaving, he whipped around.
"Oh, and Albus?" He said sharply, "I am not doing this because it is his birthday."
And with that he was gone, his black robes sweeping silently out of the door. The ancient wizard leaned back in his chair and chuckled softly.
"Of course not," he said to no one.
"Is this what I have been reduced to?" Snape muttered darkly to himself. "A human owl?"
According to the head master, several letters had been sent to the boy's muggle family, yet none had reached Potter himself. Apparently, the muggles were not receptive to owl post. Presently, Snape stood on the shore facing a small island in the distance. The wind was howling and the waves looked dangerously high. Unfortunately, Snape was forced to take a boat, as the young boy was not to be witness to magic before Hogwarts. With a scowl, he stepped into the boat that the ferryman had readied for him. Cost a fortune too, seeing as it was five minutes to midnight. Halfway to the isolated island, a large wave (about four feet by Snape's estimation) crashed violently over the bow of the small rowboat drenching everything and chilling Snape to the core.
"Stupid brat," he he growled, as if this were directly the boy's fault. With a great effort of will, he resisted pulling out his wand to warm and dry himself, as there was a muggle present. He shivered and his foul mood deepened, if that were possible.
After what seemed like an eternity, he stepped foot on dry land. He instructed the ferryman to wait with the boat, well aware that this meant he still could not use magic. Snape turned and surveyed the dilapidated shack in front of him. If he was being honest with himself (which he most always was) he could not understand how it was still standing without magic. Steeling himself, and arranging his face into a mask of indifference, he knocked sharply on the door. Nothing. Again, louder this time, he knocked. Still nothing. With a resigned sigh, he pulled out his wand with the darkness as his cover and whispered, "Alohomora."
The door clicked. With a push, Snape opened it. Quite unintentionally, he must have put more force behind that than necessary, and with a resounding crash it fell fro its hinges. Snape did not acknowledge the noise, but rather, peered around the one room cabin at the four blurry figures that had just awoken with a jolt. One moved quicker than the rest, jumping up from the floor and staring straight at the potions master with piercing green eyes.
On the night before his birthday, Harry Potter lay on the cold dirt floor staring at the ceiling. Drip. With a cold splash, a raindrop hit his face. He squinted at the hole in the roof as another came down. Drip. And another. With a groan, he rolled over to stare at the electric face of his cousin Dudley's brand new watch. 11:59. In one more minute, he would be eleven. Though birthdays ceased to mean much for Harry once he realized that he would never be showered with attention like Dudley, he still celebrated each one quietly; privately.
He watched the seconds tick down. Three, two, one. A sharp knock resounded through the cabin, with a feverish glance, he looked at the sleeping forms of his aunt and uncle. He would be in for it if they woke up. Everything out of the ordinary was somehow his fault. Harry supposed someone knocking on their door at midnight would qualify. Just when he was beginning to think had imagined the noise, there was another knock. Before he had made up his mind on what to do, he heard a click, followed moments later by a crash that topped the thunder outside.
Harry jumped to his feet and stared in horror at the tall man dressed all in black who was framed by the doorway. His medium-length dark hair hung in clumps and dripped onto the already soaked floor. Harry could not see his face for the cabin had no electric light and the fire in the hearth had long gone out.
Just as Harry opened his mouth to speak, another voice made him scramble to the corner in fear. More fear, in fact, than had been incited by the creepy intruder.
"THIS HAD BETTER NOT BE ANOTHER RUDDY OWL, BOY!" Uncle Vernon said furiously, tying to pull his large form up off the bed.
Vaguely, Harry was aware of thinking that his face managed to reach an impressive shade of red very quickly for the fact that he had just woken up.
By the time that Uncle Vernon had managed to stand, the stranger had entered the cabin. Without preamble, he strode to the fireplace and with a few strange words and some shuffling, lit a fire. Light flooded the room and all of its inhabitants, with the exception of the newcomer, froze. Harry now had a clear view of his face. He had a sallow complexion, a long nose and dark eyes. His expression was horribly menacing. Harry now wondered which man he should fear more, this one, or his livid uncle.
"Who are you and what gives you the right to barge in here?" Vernon demanded.
His expression giving nothing away, the man answered, "My name is Professor Severus Snape, I am the Potions Master at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I am here for the boy."
His piercing gaze turned on Harry, who gulped and stared resolutely at his feet.
"You can forget about that rubbish! He is not going anywhere. And he certainly will not be taught by some old coot about magi-" Snape rounded on Vernon.
"Never insult Albus Dumbledore in my presence," Snape said in a deadly quiet voice. Vernon visibly paled and Snape had to strongly resist smiling. It would ruin his image at this point. He turned back to the cowering child, drawing a thick envelope from beneath his cloak. He handed it to him in silence. Trembling hands reached out, and as he stared at the Hogwarts seal, and expression of disbelief stole over his face. With wide eyes, he tore it open. He read as quickly as humanly possible, and then the green eyes were raised bearing a confused but curious expression.
"Sir, I don't understand what this means."
Snape had to give him credit; his voice never once wavered, even under Snape's most vicious glare.
"What don't you understand?" he asked in an impatient tone.
"There must be a mistake. I am not a wizard."
Snape sighed audibly. "Does it not say 'Mr. Potter' on the top of that letter?" Harry nodded. "Then you are a wizard. Of course, we have known that since the day you were born. Your parents were wizards as well."
Harry's eyes widened. "They were?" he asked. "They mustn't have been very good if they died in a car crash," he mused.
Snape's cold eyes flashed with anger and Harry flinched.
"Sorry, sir. I didn't mean it, sir," he stammered quickly.
"Not you, boy," the dark man snapped as he whirled around to face Vernon and Petunia. "A car crash? How could Lily Potter be killed in a car crash?" he demanded of them. Without waiting for an answer, he turned back to the still frightened child. In a slightly softer voice, he said, "Lily-" he hesitated, "and James," he added with great difficulty, "were great wizards. They sacrificed themselves to save you from the most evil wizard there has ever been. Did you not know that was where you got this scar?" Snape asked, brushing away the hair obscuring the lighting mark.
"No, sir, thought it came from the crash," he responded in a quiet murmur.
The dark man straightened and turned the the boy's guardians. "I am to take him to buy his things in the morning, however I will impose upon you no longer. Potter, come with me." And with that, he swept his long black cape over the fallen door and out into the night.
Harry glanced at the blank shock on his relatives' faces.
"Don't you dare follow him boy," Uncle Vernon warned threateningly.
Looking from the roaring fire to the storm raging outside, he considered the stranger he had just met and the large red faced man who had made his life a living hell. Harry made his decision. He sat down in front of the fireplace and stared into the flames, memories flashing in his eyes. He remembered the times when his Aunt and Uncle had locked him in the cupboard and starved him and when they had made him work until his fingers bled. He stared at the burns that he had received on his hands for burning Dudley's bacon only a few days before. Harry knew what they were capable of, and he found more fear of them in himself than of this new man. He could not go, as much as he wanted to. As much as he wanted to believe. He could scarcely imagine the hurt he would bring upon himself for disobeying, for after all, it was his fault for being a freak. The crackling of the fire filled Harry's ears as he came to grips with the monumentous decision he had just made. He wrapped his arms around his legs and began to shiver, despite the heat radiating from the fireplace. Eyes tightly shut, he rocked back and forth gently for several long moments. At last a deadly quiet voice made him snap his head up and face the doorway.
"What have you done to him?" Snape demanded. "I said, what have you done to him?"
"Listen here, cree-" Vernon started, stepping forward in a challenge. Whatever he was going to say was cut off by Snape's dark arm raising casually to point his wand at Petunia. A quick flash of light resulted in her carefully groomed brown hair being rearranged into something that resembled a mane and bangs. She gave a shriek and felt her head.
"Answer my question."
Frightened now, the obese man replied, "I didn't lay a finger on him, I swear!"
"That is not what I asked. What have you done to reduce him to this state?" Snape said slowly, as if talking to a child, and pointed in anger at the small boy who now seemed catatonic.
Without waiting for a reply, he drug the boy up by his elbow and headed for the doorway.
"Where can I collect his things?" he demanded.
At the hesitation from Mr. Dursley, Snape's eyes filled with recognition. "Ah, he has none. Naturally."
Without further ado, he led the, now moving, child out into the night.
Harry woke up in a full size bed covered in fluffy blankets and knew at once that something was not right. He closed his eyes and tried to remember why he was not in his cupboard under the stairs. The moment he remembered, he bolted upright and glanced around the room. It was five in the morning, the time he normally got up to do his morning chores and get breakfast ready for when his relatives got up. He wondered if he wold need to do work here, this morning. Glancing around the room, he noted the green carpeted floors and cream colored walls. It seemed pleasant enough. There was another bed across the room from his and a chair next to the wall bathed in darkness. Harry reached for his glasses, and putting them on, saw a man in the aforementioned chair. He yelped in surprise, and the man stepped out of the shadows.
"You are up, I see. A bit early for one of your age, but preferable nonetheless. Get up and dressed and we shall begone of this place," he said dryly.
Harry did as he was told without a word and followed at the gesture to leave the room. As they began downstairs, Harry realized they were in some sort of motel. Snape carried a satchel (which Harry had not seen him with the night before). Presently, he opened it, taking out a few bills handing them to a lady behind a tall desk. When they stepped onto the street, Harry decided that this had gone far enough.
"Sir?" he asked. The man ignored him. "Sir?" he tried again.
"What is it?" he snapped irritably.
Harry flinched lightly, "I really need to be getting back, sir."
"Back to where, might I ask?"
"To my aunt and uncle's. If I am not there in time to make breakfast, they will be furious," he said in a worried tone. At this, Snape's dark eyes lowered to Harry.
"Do not worry about them," he stated dismissively. "Let us get some breakfast and do your school shopping," he said with a disgusted sneer.
"Breakfast?" Harry asked in surprise. Usually he only got one meal a day, if that.
Snape bought them bagels and himself a coffee from a stand, but did not stop to eat. Instead they continued to walk until they reached a decrepit building with a sign that identified it as The Leaky Cauldron. Odd name, Harry thought. They entered the dingy place and by the time Harry's eyes adjusted to the dim lighting he realized people were staring at him. A few tentatively came up for a better look, it seemed, making Snape very irritable.
"Out of my way," he growled, and the patrons seemed to notice for the first time that he was accompanying Harry. This garnered some very confused looks, none of which Harry noticed. As Snape fought through the crowd, dragging Harry along, Harry felt a prickling sensation on the back of his neck. Rubbing it with his free hand, he had the strong feeling that someone was watching him. He turned curiously and found a man with a purple turban staring straight at him amongst the bustling people. Unsure of what to do, Harry gave him a small smile before being pulled away by the Professor.