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Chapter 6 : Chapter 5- A Diagonal Sort of Day
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Chapter 5- A Diagonal Sort of Day
Severus stormed out of the Apothecary, furious. It had been bad enough that the shop, as did most of the other buildings, hadn’t opened until about ten minutes ago. He was forced to wander around like a lunatic as he waited for the long seconds to drift by. The cool that had greeted him as he left his residence was long gone, and Severus tugged uncomfortably at the collar of his cloak. To add insult to injury, the blasted owner didn’t even have lacewings. Honestly! Such a simple potions ingredient, and not a speck to be found.
Fortunately, there was another place he could look. Unfortunately, it was located smack dab in the middle of Kockturn Alley. He hated that place. Nothing good had ever come out of his trips there, and the way his day was going, he wasn’t particularly looking forward to the visit. One of his fears was that he would run into someone from the old days. True, most of Voldemort’s former followers had been locked up for life, but some of the less sinister were still out, and some were never caught. He had been trying his best just to put the ugly past behind him, but it was easier said than done.
“Severus!” a familiar voice called after him. Shit. He wasn’t sure why, but he just really didn’t want to talk to Minerva McGonagall today. He got the feeling that nothing good would come out of it. Still, as Headmistress, she was his superior, and he forced himself to stop and plaster if not a smile, then a bored expression on his face.
Accompanying the old woman was a child Severus had never seen before, although he looked almost school aged. He had dark brown hair that was trimmed tidily which framed a rather pale looking face. The boy wore what looked like patched up second hand clothing. Images from his own miserable childhood sprung to mind, but he repressed them as he met the gaze of the boy’s brown eyes. There was something in those eyes that looked so familiar to him...
Severus shook his head. He was just imagining things.
“Severus,” Minerva repeated, “This is Jacob Baxter. He’s going to be starting at Hogwarts this term.” Severus’s heart froze. That name. It couldn’t be. He shook himself out of his state of mental paralysis. There had to be plenty of people named Baxter, and from the look on the young boy’s face, he was in awe of his surroundings. He was obviously not from a magical family.
Minerva looked down to the boy, sending a gesturing hand in Snape’s direction. “This is Professor Snape, he will be your Potions instructor.”
The young boy stuck out his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, sir,” he uttered politely. Severus would have been content with solely a nod, but under Minerva’s watchful eyes, he took the lad’s hand in his and gave it shake.
“Mr. Baxter, would you just give me a moment? I need to have a word with Professor Snape.”
“Yes, ma’am,” was the soft reply.
Severus allowed Minerva to pull him aside. “Severus, I hate to impose,” He had to try very hard not to snort. A good too many of his conversations with Dumbledore had begun like this, and most didn’t have a very pleasant ending. “Would you mind showing Mr. Baxter around the place, and help him get his school things?”
Did he mind. Did he mind? Of course he minded. He need to go to a place where no child, no human, for that matter should enter, and he didn’t need this added responsibility tagging along. But what could he say?
“I don’t mind at all, Minerva,” he lied smoothly. Either she wasn’t that practiced at detecting liars, or she just didn’t care, as long as Severus agreed to what she was doing.
“Oh, that’s just wonderful!” she sighed, obviously relieved. “This was the only day he could come, and everyone else was otherwise occupied. I have a very important...er, meeting that I really need to attend,” Sure, sure, you just want to make me miserable, now don’t you. Having to baby sit that stupid little brat. “so if you could take my place here for a time, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
Severus nodded at the boy. “Muggleborn?” he inquired.
Surprisingly, Minerva shook her head. “No, his parents were killed during the War. He’s grown up in a Muggle orphanage.” It could very well have been the same Baxter...he hadn’t know that the couple had a child....Severus Occluded his mind. This was not the time to be dwelling on such things.
“It’s quite a miracle that he survived,” Minerva continued, oblivious to Severus’ turmoil. “Someone killed his father right away, but his mother managed to get the boy upstairs and Flooded him to her mother’s house before they got her.” He gaze wandered sadly to the boy, who had taken a seat on a bench across the street. He had his hands clasped on his lap and he was staring at them, obviously trying not to fidget. It was almost like the position was drilled into him. “He would have stayed with his grandmother, but the deaths of her daughter and son-in-law were just too much. She died a few months later, and as there was no one left to take care of him, he was sent to the Muggle world.” She paused, as if in thought. “Albus thought he would be safer there.”
An awkward silence ensued. The topic of the deceased Headmaster was one that seldom came up, and when it did, it seemed that no one knew how exactly to discuss the subject, especially with his killer. Clearing her throat, Minerva pulled a pocket watch out of robes. “Well, I really must be going,”
“Have a good...meeting.” Severus replied, knowing full well that she was headed for nothing of the sort.
Minerva led Severus back to Jacob. “Mr. Baxter, Professor Snape will be showing you around Diagon Alley today. I’ll be back at three to bring you home.”
“Now, now, Minerva,” Severus interjected silkily. “You don’t think I’m capable of bringing to boy back where he came from? It would save you so much hassle returning from you meeting.”
She sighed. “No, it’s just that since I was the one to pick him up, I should be the one to return him. Otherwise, people might start to get suspicious, and I’m really not in the mood for modifying any memories today.” She shook the boy’s hand. “Mr. Baxter,” she turned to Severus, and merely nodded before she strode away.
Severus sighed. He was not looking forward to the long hours that were ahead of him. Five long hours, to be exact.
“Come,” he ordered, and began to hurry down the street, not even pausing to look to see if the brat was following.
Jacob Baxter sighed as he dashed after the man from his new school. The woman, the Headmistress of the school had said he was a Potions instructor. Jacob was puzzled yet intrigued by that. When he thought of a potions class, all he could picture were the witches from Macbeth, stirring and chanting their evil spells.
He had few friends at the Children's Home. Most of the other children had always thought he was a bit strange, and the handful he befriended didn’t stay for long. They had found good families. Try as the system might, it could never find "the right home" for Jake. Whenever he was placed with a new family, something strange would happen that no one, least of all Jake could explain. Of course, he always ended up with families that saw these occurrences as boding ill, none were ever the least bit curious. He had been bounced around so many times, he had given up on the hope for a family to call his own. Jake had made himself content with the friendship of books, devouring them every since he could remember.
As Jake tailed the billowing black cloak of the professor, he wanted to ask the man a billion questions, first of all if they could slow down to a more reasonable pace. It wasn’t as if completing the shopping sooner would rid the professor of the burden that was placed on him.
Jake got the distinct impression that the professor didn’t care for him very much. He wouldn’t be surprised if this Snape bloke was one of those people who hates children, no matter what they have or haven’t done. It was puzzling why such a person would even become a teacher in the first place.
Still, the feeling of being unwanted didn’t impact him that much. By now, Jake was used to it.
Suddenly, he noticed that they were approaching a less crowded section of the street. He almost rammed right into the professor’s back as the older man stopped suddenly, as if he hesitated to go further. This surprised Jake a bit; Professor Snape didn’t seem like the type to be afraid of anything.
Jake peered around Snape’s towering figure, wanting to see what had caused the man to stop. Ahead of them was a dark alleyway, similar to the one that they were in, what with the storefronts and all, but Jake got the distinct feeling that he shouldn’t go in there. It just didn’t seem like the kind of place where students went to buy school supplies, even those as strange as a cauldron and a wand. He swallowed. “Sir?” he inquired bravely. “Are we going in there?”
“No,” the Professor answered curtly, and Jake felt a wave of relief wash over him. “I am going in there. You shall wait for me here until I return.”
Jake didn’t care much for the prospect of waiting alone, but he nodded nonetheless. He didn’t want the man to dislike him even more than he already did. It was good, he knew, to be on the good side of the adults in power. Sometimes, they were your only friends.
"Stay within sight of the entrance to Kockturn Alley." the man commanded. “I should be back shortly.”
Without another word, the professor turned, his cloak billowing behind him as he strode away from Jake, leaving him utterly alone.
The boy considered tailing the professor, but quickly ruled against it. There was something unnatural about that place, even in this strange new world, and the professor must have had a good reason for not wanting Jake to accompany him.
Sighing, Jake strode over to a lone bench, prepared to wait there until his escort returned. He pondered the turn his life had taken.
All in the past week, he had learned why he was different. He was a wizard, just like something he'd read out of one of his books. Not only that, but his mother and father, both long dead, had been magical too! Jake still tried to grasp his brain around it all. The Headmistress seemed hesitant to explain how his parents had died, only revealing that it had been a tragic and unfortunate death. She also told of his grandmother, who had raised him after his parent's deaths, but had sadly passed soon after. He had wondered how this elderly woman, elderly solely in the body, as her mind was sharp as any youngster, knew so much about his life, when he knew so little. He wanted to ask if she had know his Mum and Dad, but for some reason he couldn't put a finger on, he decided against it.
For the first time in his short life, he felt like he belonged, like he was where he was meant to be. As soon as McGonagall has brought him through that slightly eerie bar and through that barrier, he couldn't help but to stare at everything, drinking it in. For him this was heaven! There were things in the shops that surrounded him that he previously only could have dreamed of. There was this whole other world, lying beneath the rest of the world's fingertips. It was absolutely amazing.
Something small and shiny caught Jake's eye, rolling to a stop in front of him. Curious, he picked up the golden object. It looked like a coin of some sort, a lot like one of the ones in his wallet from his visit at Gringotts. He thought it was called a Galleon, and, from what he grasped about this new currency, that it was the largest denomination.
Jake removed his wallet from his pocket to remove one of his own coins to the one he had just discovered, so he could compare the two. Just as he opened the pouch, however, a boy's voice cried out.
"What do you think you're doing?" it demanded, the owner of the voice striding towards Jake swiftly, with another boy about the same age following. They didn't seem to be much older than he was; in fact, he would reckon that they were almost the same age. Both youths sprouted black hair, and they had eerily similar features. It was obvious that they were twins.
"Pardon?" Jake asked, slightly confused. He hadn't been doing anything wrong...
"You were pocketing my money!"
"Oh," Jake responded. he held out the coin to it's owner. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was yours," he apologized. He expected the other boy's face to relax at his words. Maybe we can be friends.
Instead, the two boys continued to scowl at him. One of them strode swiftly over to Jake and snatched the coin from his hand, and retreated to his brother. The other twin muttered darkly, "Sure you didn't," just loud enough for Jake to hear.
Shaking off his initial dislike for the pair, he offered out his hand. "I don't think we got off on the right foot." He stood, feeling more confident being at eyelevel. "I'm Jake Baxter. Nice to meet you."
The twins exchanged a glance. The one who had retrieved the coin stepped forward, although less harshly. In fact, a smooth, practiced look came to his face. "I'm Alex Grisham." he stated, taking the offered hand. "And this," he gestured towards his sibling with his head, "is my brother Geoff."
The one named Geoff merely nodded in Jake's direction, arms still locked firmly across his chest.
Alex release Jake's hand. "Baxter, you say?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow.
Jake shifted his weight uneasily on his feet. "Yeah, why do you ask?"
Alex smiled, a strange glint coming to his eyes. "Well, I've heard that name before. Seems like there was a nice pair of Mudbloods that the Dark Lord had disposed of with the same surname. You wouldn't happen to be related, would you?"
Jake was utterly confused. He didn't know half of what the boy in front of him was talking about. But there was something about the way that Alex's tongue wrapped around that word, Mudblood, made Jake shudder. And the whole disposed of thing... He knew that his parents had been murdered, but were they the same people this boy was talking about? Jake sure hoped not. It didn't sound like a very good thing to be, a Mudblood, and he hoped that his parents hadn't been like that, whatever it was. "I-I..." was all Jake was able to answer.
Suddenly, he saw a quick movement out of the corner of his eye. Belatedly, Jake realized that he hadn't placed his wallet back in his pocket after beginning his conversation with the Grisham twins, and Geoff had snatched it off of the bench where it had been resting.
"Hey!" he exclaimed, stomach sinking. All of his money was in there, not that there was much of it. He hadn't bought a single thing for school yet, and the thought of asking that professor for a loan was unbearable. "Give that back!"
Geoff merely grinned wickedly. Pulling his arm back, he lobbed the wallet to his twin.
"Tsk, tsk," Alex taunted, holding the moneybag just out of reach, "You should be more careful with your money, Mr. Baxter." He tossed it back to Geoff.
Jake had never liked monkey in the middle.
He was furious, not to mention completely and utterly embarrassed as he ran back and forth in a futile attempt to regain his property. I guess I don't fit in here either.
The Grisham twins kept up their game of keep away for several minutes, looking utterly pleased with themselves. Jake kept hoping that a pedestrian would stop and help, but this section of the marketplace saw very few people.
Suddenly, a hand easily caught Jake's wallet that belonged to neither Jake nor the twins. Jake smiled slightly. He hadn't thought that he'd ever be so glad to see the Potions Professor.
Snape stood, towering above all three of them, and, in Jake's opinion, looking quite intimidating. His eyes were formed into slits, and they were burning with barely restrained rage. Jake made a mental note to himself: never make Snape angry at him. Still, the Grishams didn't seem to be affected at all by the professor's presence. Rather, they cast him haughty looked that bled with disrespect.
"What," the professor began, his voice dripping with venom, "may I ask is going on here?"
Severus patted the bag in his pocket in relief. Finally, the first thing to go right all day. He had obtained the potion ingredients he required, and was hurrying off to collect young Mr. Baxter. He speed wasn't because he was concerned for the boy, but rather that Minerva would wring his neck for leaving him alone, and the faster he returned, the better. Although, he tried to reassure himself, she would have been a lot more displeased if I had brought him with me. It was definitely a lose, lose situation.
As he returned to Diagon Alley, he scanned the area for the boy. He caught sight of Mr. Baxter’s dark hair as he raced back and forth between two boys of the same age. From the look of his young charge’s face, they were not playing some friendly childhood game. Severus grimaced. He hasn’t even begun school, and he’s gotten himself in trouble.
He strode over to the small group with every intention of reprimanding Mr. Baxter for his troublemaking when the taunts of the other boys reached his ears. Most of the entire comment was lost to his ears, but one word he heard perfectly clear. Mudblood.
Severus felt his blood boil. He hated hearing that word. It unwillingly caused him to live over the worse parts of his life all over again.
With practiced silence, he approached the three boys. It appeared Jacob’s pests were tossing something that looked suspiciously like his wallet between them. Once he was directly behind them, he plucked it as it flew through the air.
"What may I ask is going on here?" he leered at the two children, who looked eerily alike.
The one on his right sneered at him. "Get lost!"
Severus noticed Jacob’s eyes widening ever so slightly at this insult, as if shocked that anyone would even be capable to talk like that to a teacher. The action made him smirk inwardly, although he kept his icy mask firmly in place.
“Now, Now, Geoff,” the other boy chided. “I'm sure the nice man will give me my wallet back if we just ask for it.” Severus snorted. In your dreams. The still nameless boy held out his hand. “I’m Alexander Grisham, a pleasure to meet you,” he proclaimed, every word dripping with insincerity. Severus refused to take his hand.
Alexander’s smile faltered slightly, much to Severus’ glee. Still, he ventured, “May I have my wallet back, sir?”
“I would be glad to reunite you with your possessions,” Severus began theatrically, opening the wallet as he spoke. “If, this actually belonged to you.” He glanced down at the card that had Jacob’s name and address printed neatly on it. He raised his eyebrows at the boy. “Grisham, you said you name was?” The one named Alexander nodded.
Severus merely tucked the wallet into the folds of his cloak. “Sorry, it doesn’t belong to you.” he stated simply, watching the fury rise in the eyes of the two boys. He hoped that they wouldn’t just let this slide. He wanted them to pay for using that accursed word.
The one named Geoff glared up at him with indignation. "Just who do you think you are?" he exclaimed angrily.
Severus felt a deceitfully silky smile slide across his features. "I," he began, standing up strait, trying to look as intimidating as possible, "am Severus Snape, Potions Master." Satisfaction rose in his chest at the uneasy look in the face of the boy name Alexander. But he had only just begun his little game.
"How old are you?" he inquired, pretending to study the boys appraisingly. "Nine, ten...?"
"Eleven!" Geoff snarled. "We start at Hogwarts in the fall!" he bragged.
Severus raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. "Really? Then we'll be seeing quite a bit of each other."
This seemed to take both boys aback. Not the sharpest knives in the box, now are they. Alexander cleared his throat an inquired in a much more subdued voice. "Care to explain, sir?"
"Well," Severus began, studying his hand self-importantly, "I mentioned I was a Potions Master, did I not?" The boys nodded in response, and although their manner was subdued, annoyance burned in their eyes. "Oh, silly me!" he exclaimed. If Weasley had been good for one thing, he had been an excellent model for mocking people. Not that he really needed one, but one did need to expand their repertoire every once in a while. "Did I forget to introduce my self correctly? Pardon my little mistake." He gave them an uncaring smile as he savored the words dripping out of his mouth. "I am Professor Severus Snape." Goodness, how he enjoyed watching them squirm. "Although, if I'm to be your teacher, it would be wise not to refer to me by my first name.
"But that's neither here nor there." he continued, all mocking leaving his voice leaving a dreadful iciness that it had taken Severus years to perfect. "As a Professor of the school, I am required to enforce the rules. And unfortunately for you," He patted the pocket holding Jacob's wallet. "stealing, amongst other things, is against the rules. Therefore, I find that a punishment is in order."
Placing his hand under his chin and crossing his arms, he pretended to think. "I think that fifty points from whichever house you get sorted into should do nicely."
Both boys faces paled. The obviously knew what that meant. "Fifty points?" Alexander asked, bewildered.
Severus felt his lip curl up in a sneer. "Each." The boys seemed ready to retort, but he cut them off. "If you're not careful, I'll make it one-hundred."
Severus had had enough. He inclined his head towards Jacob. "Come." he ordered. Turning quickly so that his cloak made a slightly impressive snap, he hurried off, not looking back, but hearing the footsteps that told him that Jacob Baxter was following. He didn't slow his pace until they were quite a distance away from Kockturn Alley.
"Sir?" Jacob asked timidly, as if he were afraid of a rebuke.
Severus pushed back the residual resentment left over from the previous encounter. "Yes?"
"Can you really do that?"
"Punish them like that, even though we're not in the school."
Severus smirked. "I just did, didn't I?"
The boy gave him a look that he rarely saw on a student’s face, or on anyone else's for that matter. It wasn’t fear or anger, but admiration. It was slightly unnerving.
"Come." he ordered gruffly. He could let the boy think that he would get all soft and cuddly with him. The mere thought of that made him feel sick.
"Where are we going?" Jacob asked, a slight catch in his voice, yet still respectful. Odd.
"To get your things."
Florean Fortescue sighed contentedly as he gave another cone of ice-cream to yet another young child. This is where he belonged. The glee that spread all over a child’s face made him feel as if he had grown another year younger. It was a good thing too, since he felt like he had aged terribly during his captivity.
Many had thought him dead after he had been snatched from his shop. Instead, he had been dragged to some place, a headquarters of sorts for the Death Eaters. He couldn’t remember much from when they brought him there. It turned out that Voldemort had a secret ice-cream fetish. He ordered Florean to concoct different blends for his enjoyment. At first he had refused, but the pain, the pain...He shuddered just thinking about it.
Voldemort would send some of his goons down to fetch their master’s dessert. If he didn’t have the order ready in time, they would hit him so hard that Florean had to be careful not to drip blood into the ice, for fear of having to start from the beginning and suffering from the resulting torment. Most of the time they hit him just for laughs.
He lost track of how long he was there. They told him it was almost two years, but it seemed like a life time. There had been a few glorious months, somewhere in the middle of his Hell, where there was one kind soul who didn’t hit him, who didn’t let the others play their games. He was Florean’s Savior. His Savior also was the one who led his rescuers to his dismal quarters. If it hadn’t been for him...Florean didn’t want to think about it.
A tall figure approached his Ice-Cream Parlor tailed by a young boy. Florean smiled. He could remember the first time he had seen that blessed face emerge from that dark fog.
His body ached. Pain raced through his frame at every motion. He wanted nothing more than to crawl up on his miserable excuse for a bed, but he had to finish. The pain would get worse otherwise. Still, bending over as he had to do made the pains worse; they were constant reminders of the past year.
Just as he was placing the lid on the carton, the door to his cell opened. His usual guards were there, Rowle, Selwynn, Jugson. But there was another face among them: Severus Snape.
Florean knew very well what he had done. His guards had bragged about his feat, like killing a man was something to be proud of. Hell, even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had gloated, ordering a special treat for the occasion.
“Hey Floor!” Jugson jeered, slamming his right fist into his left hand as he walked towards him. He swung his arm around, colliding with Florean’s face with a sickening crack. “Oops, I slipped!” he mock apologized as Florean brought a hand to his nose to asses the damage.
“Stop.” Florean was surprised at the source of the voice. Why Severus Snape, murderer of Albus Dumbledore, was helping him, he didn’t have a clue. Although it seemed to puzzle the others in the room, they fell back.
“What’s this, Snape?” Rowle glowered, shaking his main of blond hair.
Florean looked at the man. He seemed out of place in this hovel. Whereas the evilness and hatred of the others seemed to seep out of every pore, Snape did not seem to posses this quality. He shook himself as roughly as his body could handle. It was just because everyone thought that he was good for so long, that’s all.
Snape sighed, as if the answer was obvious. “Everyone knows that misery does not make good desserts.”
Selwynn scoffed. “You think that our Master wants anything made from happiness?”
Snape stood straighter. “No.” His voice was as frosty as the bin where Florean kept his ice. “But I highly doubt that he would approve of you killing his treasured Ice-Cream maker. Imagine, having to search for such a trivial thing at such a crucial turning point.” Florean bristled at being called trivial, but he reasoned that it was better than being beaten.
The man strode over to Florean. He wasn’t sure if he should look up at him or bow his head in mock submission. Before he could decide, Snape grabbed the carton and turned, his cloak billowing. “Come.” he ordered. The others followed him grumbling, casting wistful glances at Florean’s unharmed figure.
It was a little bit easier the next day for Florean to make his preparations, his day without a beating a wonderful medicine. No matter what Snape had done, he was grateful to him for his actions. At this point, he didn’t care if Snape had ulterior motives; he had to take what he could get.
He was almost finished with his concoctions when the door opened. Instinctively, his heart started racing. He glanced up to see the lone figure of Severus Snape before him. He stood there, silently, as if inviting Florean to initiate any conversation.
“You’re early,” he simply stated. From any of the other guards, this would have earned a blow, but not from Snape.
“I know,” was his only response. He continued to stand there with his hands behind his back.
Emboldened by his previous inquiry, Florean asked, “Where are the others?”
Snape looked around, as if surprised that they were alone. “What, can’t you see them all here?” he replied, his voice taking on a mocking tone. He finally moved and walked towards Florean. “They won’t be coming by today; I’ve taken care of that.”
Florean felt his mouth drop. “Th-thank you, but...why?”
Snape stiffened. “No human deserves to be treated this way.”
Florean frowned. Who was this man? He certainly wasn’t a Death Eater.
Snape’s eyes bore into Florean’s. "I trust that anything that happens in this room remains between us?”
Florean nodded. A question had been nagging him since he had heard the news, and it had intensified by the man’s visit the prior day.
“Why did you kill Dumbledore?” he blurted out, unable to stop himself.
A blank look came over Snape’s eyes, and a hard look came to his face. “I had my reasons.”
Many weeks passed like this. Occasionally, Snape couldn’t keep the other guards away, and he had to face the old torments. But they were not quite so bad. He had hope again.
Thanks to Snape's efforts, he didn't have to spend as much time lying in agony from his injuries. To pass the time, he would use some of the ingredients he had to experiment. That had always been one of his favorite things to do. It kept his mind off things, and that made it even more sweet.
Sometimes, if he had some made when Snape came to collect the treat for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, he would let him taste it. It was always good to be able to share his creations with others.
As Snape was sampling, Florean would asking him questions, and Snape would answer as best he could. Sure, there were plenty of unsatisfactory answers and some questions he refused to reply to. Still, it was better to hear of at least a little of the outside world, no matter how filtered, than to have no link at all.
One day, what Florean figured about two months after Snape began to "guard" him, the former professor entered his quarters solemnly. "I'm afraid I have some bad news," he announced.
Florean frowned. "What is it?"
"I have just been appointed as Headmaster of Hogwarts."
Florean couldn't really see how this was bad news. After what he had seen of the man before him in the last few months, there was no Death Eater he would rather be at the school. He had a feeling that Snape would try to protect the students to some degree. "Congratulations."
Snape continued to look at him seriously. "That also means that I won't be here, and your old guards will return indefinitely."
Florean nodded in acceptance. "I knew it couldn't last long." He shrugged it off. "Well, I made it through the first year having to deal with them, why can't I deal longer?"
Snape smiled slightly. It wasn't more than a slight turning up of his lips, but it was definitely a smile.
Waving a hand at the table, Florean offered, “Sit, I have something for you.”
Snape’s eyebrows shot up, mock surprise on his face, as he followed. Florean bent to lift the treat he had been working on for his benevolent keeper, when a sharp pain attacked his back, causing him to let out a small groan. Within seconds, the other man was by his side, getting the dessert for himself, as well as a bowl and spoon.
“Thank you.” he muttered
Snape nodded wordlessly. They both walked over to the low table in the middle of the room and took a seat. Florean plucked the scoop from the table, and served his guest. "You're the first to try this one."
"Is it one of your trials for the Dark Lord?"
Florean shook his head. "Nah, I doubt he'd like this one. Besides, sometimes I need to just do things for myself." He shoved the bowl in front of Snape. "Eat." he commanded.
Snape's lips twisted wryly as he jabbed at the creamy confection, blending the vanilla with the strawberry sauce and gathering some of the small green mint flecks. "What's it called?" he asked.
Florean shrugged his shoulders. "I haven't been struck with inspiration yet."
Snape took a bite. His eyes shut, and an unfamiliar look of elation was etched on his face. Florean smiled. He had thought that he would enjoy it.
"What did it remind you of?" Florean asked, curious.
Snape opened his eyes, and he looked much younger. His normally guarded features were lax, his eyes clouded with reminiscence. "Lily," he whispered. As suddenly as it had happened, it was over. Snape seemed to have realized his defenses were down, and forced them up right away. Florean sighed. He might never know what Snape meant.
Almost another year passed. True to his word, Snape has soon left after the ice-cream incident, and the old torment had resumed. For a few months he retained some of the rejuvenation that he had gained while Snape had been there, but eventually that too disappeared.
One night, they beat him more than they ever had. They even Crucioed him a few times. Suddenly, in the middle of this scene, the fled, clutching their left forearms. Florean lay there in a heap for hours; he lost track of exactly how long. Suddenly, he heard voices.
They were different from the leering ones that he had reached his ears so many times before. The door burst open, and Florean was able to raise his head just slightly. He didn't recognize any of the people who were there, but that was probably due to the fact that he was wavering in and out of consciousness.
"It's alright," a gentle voice soothed. "You're safe now."
"How did you find me?" Florean managed to whisper. "Hardly anyone knew I was here. Who told you?"
He half expected it, but he still felt the shock when he heard the name.
Severus smiled at the man at the counter. He wasn't sure why he had taken such a liking to the man. He still didn't understand why he had helped Florean Fortescue when he had been in captivity, even though it could have blown his cover. Because it was the right thing to do, a voice in his head reminded him. He shrugged it off.
Florean practically beamed at him. "Good morning!" he exclaimed. Severus chanced a glance at Jacob. He was curious as to the boy's reaction to Florean, but he was too absorbed in all the splendor of the ice cram parlor to notice.
Severus nodded in Florean's direction. "And to you as well," he replied politely.
"Come," the jolly old man ordered as he led the two to Severus' favorite table. It was away from the busy street so as to give one privacy, yet still offered a pleasant view. Severus sat down and motioned for Jacob to do the same. "So what will it be Severus, the usual?"
He nodded. "The usual."
Florean turned boisterously towards Jacob. "And for you, young man?"
The boy still seemed to be in a bit of a trance. "I-I don't know, sir."
Florean brushed aside the title. "Don't worry, take your time," he added with a sparkle in his eye. "I'll be right back," he added as he bustled away to the back room.
Severus examined the boy, amused. He didn't spend much time around children of that age out of school, and he had forgotten what it was like to be that young. But there was something different about this boy. Most children were just that-children. But Jacob seemed so much more...mature. In many ways, Severus was reminded of himself at that age.
No, he ordered himself, I cannot and will not go there.
As much as to take his mind off things as to bring Mr. Baxter down to earth, he inquired, "Enjoying yourself?" There was a slight mocking tone to his voice, but it wasn't as pronounced as it normally would have been towards a student.
Jacob nodded, not realizing that Severus had been poking fun at him. "It's amazing," he whispered in an awed voice, looking around the room. "I thought we were going to get my school supplies."
"We are," Severus replied simply.
Jacob just nodded his head. Before he could say anything else, Florean rushed back to their table. "Are you ready to order?" he inquired breathlessly. Severus couldn't help but shake his head. That man just about went mental whenever he was around children.
"Now, now, give the boy a chance to look at the menu," he drawled as he plucked up the brightly colored parchment in the center of the table and thrust it before Jacob. "Get anything you want." he instructed.
Jacob looked up at him, eyes wide. "Anything?" he asked, excitement building in his voice and features.
Severus couldn't help it. He smirked. "Anything." His hand reached inside his robes and folded around the small form of Jacob Baxter's wallet. He grinned wickedly at him. "I'm paying, of course." With that, he slipped Jacob's wallet out of its hiding place, and waved it in the air before him. He felt a twinge of guilt at leading the boy on, but didn't want him to get the impression that he was a softy like Slughorn. He shuddered at the very thought.
Jacob's face fell sharply. "Oh," he muttered as he saw the moneybag. He scanned the menu quickly, and turned to Florean. "I'll take the small hot fudge sundae." Florean frowned at the exchange, raising his eyebrows disapprovingly at Severus, who ignored him.
Several minutes passed in silence as they waited for their orders. Severus was contented to just sit there, but he noticed the boy's growing unease. "Sir," he blurted out suddenly. "What's a Mudblood?" Severus froze at the word. Unfortunately, his usually hidden distress must have been apparent, as Jacob hastily began apologizing. "I'm sorry, sir, I didn't mean to-"
"Enough," Severus said sharply, which effectively shut Jacob up. He took the time to calm himself and Occlude his mind before he asked. "Why do you ask?" He knew that he had heard it from those foul Grisham boys, but he was curious as to the context they had used it.
"Those kids, they said it. They said that a pair of them were 'disposed of' by some 'Dark Lord'. It sounded like they thought it was my parents." Severus felt as if his insides were on fire and yet as cold as ice both at the same time. This was the very topic that he wished to avoid. "It didn't sound like a good thing to be. What is it?"
Severus cleared his throat. "A...Mudblood is merely a witch or wizard who is born to a pair of Muggle parents." It was so hard to say it, he hated that word so much that it felt like his mouth had been filled with the stuff of rubbish heaps. But what was he going to do, show the boy all that? He barely knew him! "You have been told what Muggles are, I trust?" Jacob nodded. "There is nothing wrong with them, but there is a segment of the magical community that considers them tainted, hence the name." he continued, not able to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "It is considered an insult. The term 'Muggleborn' is more commonly used, and is much more accurate and appropriate."
"Oh," Jacob answered as he nodded his head. "So it's alright if my parents were Muggleborn?" Severus nodded. The boy looked relieved. "Good."
The conversation was blessedly interrupted by Florean personally carrying a tray with two huge dishes filled to the brim with ice-cream. "One Lilies and Cream," he announced, placing the familiar dish before Severus, "and one extra large Merlin's Surprise," as he served Jake. The bowl before him was practically overflowing with at least seven types of ice-cream, three types of sauce, and almost any topping one could imagine.
Jacob's eyes widened as he saw the size of his treat. "Sir, I ordered a small hot fudge." he said worriedly, obviously calculating the cost in his head. Poor thing, he actually thought that Severus was going to make him pay for that!
Florean just set it in front of the boy. "I've already said, there's really no need for such titles. Don't worry," he added, as if reading the boy's mind. "it's on the house."
Jacob looked shocked. "Th-thank you." he stuttered.
Florean smiled kindly at the boy. "You're very welcome. Any friend of Severus's is a friend of mine.” Jacob blushed at the comment. Florean scowled at Severus before leaving them to their desserts.
Jacob picked up his spoon and began stabbing at his ice-cream. He kept his eyes averted, remnants of his flush still evident on his face. “Is something wrong?” Severus asked in an even tone.
The boy shook his head. “No,” he muttered. He stopped fiddling with his spoon. “What he said, it just sounded strange.”
Severus kept his amusement to himself, only showing the boy the result of many year’s practice at keeping his emotions hidden. “Strange? How?”
Jacob looked up at him tentatively. “Sir, forgive me, but you don’t seem the type to befriend easily.”
Severus nodded. “You would be correct in that assumption.”
Jacob smiled wryly. “Then I highly doubt that I’m one of your friends, seeing as we’ve practically just met.”
“Very good.” he replied simply. “You are a future student of mine, that is all.” Although you’re not quite like just any other student, he added to himself.
“Right,” Jacob muttered distractedly. “So,” he continued, changing the subject. “What about that other stuff that we were talking about? Do you know who that ‘Dark Lord’ character was?”
Sighing, Severus gave the boy an abbreviated version of the war. He hesitantly told him about his part in it; he still wasn’t very comfortable talking about it. Talking about things that impacted him emotionally was never one of his strong suits. It’s not as if he won’t find out from someone else. Jacob seemed a little taken aback about the fact that he had killed a man, but Severus had to give the boy credit for how he handled the information. If he only knew the whole story...
“Sir,” Jacob asked softly after Severus had finished. He sounded slightly afraid. Hope he doesn’t think I’m about to kill him as well. “Did you ever call anyone a Mu-, I mean, the other word for Muggleborn?”
Severus froze again. He had not been expecting this. “Why do you ask?” he replied, forcing his tone to remain even.
Jacob fidgeted in his seat. “I dunno, it just seemed to me that what you said before sounded personal.”
Severus cursed inwardly. This had to be the most intuitive child to ever walk this godforsaken earth. Should he tell the boy? This wasn’t something that he would hear in whispered conversations between students. In fact, it wasn’t any of his damn business. But somewhere deep down, he felt this urge to tell the boy. You owe him, he chided himself.
“I had a friend,” Severus began slowly, forcing all emotion out of his voice. It wouldn’t do for him to have a melt down in front of the boy. “a very good friend, who I called that name. She never forgave me, rightly so.” It hurt to say these words. He knew that Lily had a right to hate him after what he had done to her, but it didn’t make it any less painful.
Jacob seemed emboldened by his success. “What made you do it?”
Severus smiled grimly. “Idiocy.” He stood suddenly. He had told the boy, but he did need to know anything else. “Come,” he ordered. “We need to get you your supplies before Professor McGonagall returns to collect you.” His voice made it clear that their conversation was over.
After quickly bidding Florean goodbye, the two emerged onto the bustling street. Severus held out his hand. “School list,” he demanded.
Jacob hastily searched for the parchment, patting down his pockets. A look of dismay crossed his face. “It’s in my wallet,” he whispered, mortified.
Perfect, Severus thought as he pulled out the wallet once more. He opened it and grabbed the folded sheet out of the pocket, dumping the money holder into Jacob’s hands. He examined the list. “First stop, the Apothecary,” he declared, starting off down the street with Jacob trailing in his wake.
What a day, he thought to himself, what a day.
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