Chapter 1 : Unspeakable Vision
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June 30th, 1991:
Severus Snape considered taking Dreamless Sleep before going to bed that night, but changed his mind. His dreams were odd and unpleasant, but not really of the nightmare variety. Unless one considered being trapped in the body of a ten-year-old boy a nightmare. Besides, if the dreams he'd been having for two nights straight were visions, then Dreamless Sleep would do nothing to eradicate them. Severus was a Seer, the gift inherited through the Prince line, and it was this talent that made him so invaluable to the Department of Mysteries. Severus' visions were specific in nature, meaning he only saw visions of the future that warned of terrible things happening, things which he was shown so events could be altered, if acted upon in a timely fashion. But his gift was sporadic, it only worked when it felt like it, and Severus had never been able to call upon his Sight at will.
His work as an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries often led him to see strange and wondrous things, as well as awful ones. But his dreams were usually brief and forgotten upon waking.
Severus leaned back upon his pillows, stuffed with griffin feathers, since he was allergic to goosedown, and closed his eyes. No sooner had he drifted off, then the dream returned.
It was dark and cramped in the cupboard, he had to sit with his knees pulled up to his chest now that he had started growing taller. He was nearly too big to fit inside any more, but that didn't matter to his aunt or uncle. Whenever they were displeased with him, into the cupboard he would go.
He began to shiver, he was so hungry, he hadn't had anything to eat in days, and was dizzy and felt sick and weak. He was also very thirsty and kept licking his lips, but there was no moisture to be found. It was stuffy in the enclosed space and he could smell the stench of sweat and urine from the bucket they had put in there with him to relieve himself, since Vernon didn't want him being let out to use the bathroom. That in turn made him feel nauseous.
He thought he had been in the cupboard about a week, ever since the incident at the zoo with the python. He coughed and tried to breathe shallowly, ignoring the pains in his stomach. Surely they would let him out soon . . . they had never kept him locked up for more than a week before . . .
Severus jerked awake as the vision abruptly threw him back into the here and now. He sat up, flicking on a lamp with a wave of a hand. As part of his training as an Unspeakable, he had mastered a great deal of wandless magic, the natural focusing of his mind and self-discipline required of that particular skill came easy to him.
Again with the dream! Why do I keep seeing this child, feeling what he feels? Who is he? Severus wondered.
Because of the darkness of the cupboard, he had been unable to make out the boy's facial features, but the sense of urgency the vision brought compelled him to try and discover who it might be. Wherever this boy was, he was being mistreated and Severus knew he had to stop it if he could. The child must not be left there, the boy's life was too important to be put at risk that way. That was one thing the vision imparted to him all too well.
Too uneasy to go back to sleep, Severus rose and decided to head into the kitchen to make himself some tea. He made his own herbal blend and right now drinking some made more sense than remaining in bed, tossing and turning.
The tea kettle had just begun to whistle when Severus heard soft footsteps behind him. Turning, he saw the tall dark blond figure of his father, Tobias, enter the kitchen.
"What's wrong, Sev? Can't sleep again?" Tobias asked, his gray eyes bright with concern.
"Sorry, did I wake you?" his son asked, removing the kettle from the stove and pouring it out into his mug.
"I'm a light sleeper, you know that," Tobias said gruffly, waving away his apology. His hair was sticking up and he was dressed in a comfortable gray T-shirt and green boxers. Then he grinned roguishly and said, "Thought the house was on fire, that teapot has a whistle like a siren."
"I should have Silenced it," said Severus, frowning. "Do you want a cuppa?"
"Why not?" Tobias accepted a cup from Severus and tossed five teaspoons of sugar in it.
His son's eyebrows rose. "Want some tea with the sugar bowl?" he joked.
"Be quiet, Sev. These herbal blends taste like hot dishwater sometimes."
"Are you saying I can't brew a proper pot of tea?" his son demanded, pretending to be insulted.
Tobias smirked. "You said it, not me."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Very funny, Dad. You should stick to building houses, comedy isn't your forte."
"Don't get smart with me, boy," Tobias mock-growled, waggling a finger at his dark-haired son. He snitched a peanut butter oatmeal bar from the plate in the middle of the table and munched it while sipping the tea. His wizard son soon joined him, though he decided to forgo the sweet, figuring it would make him have even more strange dreams.
They drank their tea in companionable silence for a few moments before Tobias asked knowingly, "So, you have another of your crazy dreams about the kid in the cupboard?"
Severus nodded. "I just wish I knew why. Or who it was. But each time the dream never shows me his face."
"Or tells you his name." His father remarked. "Bloody obscure talent." He finished off his oatmeal bar and reached for another one.
"Thought you were trying to lose weight?"
"Changed my mind," the other snorted. "Who am I trying to impress at my age, huh?"
"You make it sound as though you're ancient. You're only fifty."
"Quit trying to change the subject. You've had these dreams for what—three nights now?"
"Maybe they're trying to tell you something."
"You think so?" drawled Severus sarcastically.
Tobias frowned, but allowed the remark to pass. He sensed that his son was more disturbed by the recurring dreams than he let on, and he didn't want to add to the stress by jumping down Severus' throat for his sharp tongue. Like Tobias, Severus tended to get snarky when he was upset. Tobias had learned from his own experience that the best way to settle his temper and his son's was to remain calm and unruffled. "Would it help if you . . .err . . .pulled that memory out of your head and put it in that sieve thing?"
"A Pensieve?" Severus clarified. Tobias knew a fair amount about the wizarding world from being around his son, but on some things he was still sketchy. "No, because the memory would only show the dark cupboard in the dream." He sighed and took another gulp of tea. "I suppose I'll just have to wait and see. Something will eventually link itself to the dream and then I can act. I just hate waiting."
Tobias nodded, he could understand that. Severus got his impatience from him. "I know. But sometimes there's no rushing things, Sev. You have to lay the foundation before you can start building."
Severus glared down at his teacup. Tobias was an architect, and so he liked to use a lot of comparisons that involved building. Tobias worked for a progressive construction company which had demolished the old row houses on Spinner's End and rebuilt better ones at half the cost, selling them at affordable prices to the working class. The Snapes' house was a prime example of Tobias' genius at using light, curves, and angles to create the illusion of a large roomy space. The kitchen would have looked cramped in any other house, but Tobias had put in a high ceiling and subtly rounded the walls so it appeared bigger than it actually was. The house had been built using shoddy materials when it had first been constructed, but Tobias had rebuilt it using sound timber and brick, so that it would last for years and cost less to maintain. His motto was, "Spend a little more on decent material and save hundreds of pounds later."
But such hadn't always been the case. He had married Eileen Prince when he was eighteen, back when he served as a Royal Marine sergeant. She had snared him with her mysterious allure and cleverness and her command over magic fascinated him. Once the two of them had dreamed about making a building company in the wizarding community using both Muggle and magical methods. But once Severus was born a year later, Eileen's priorities shifted to her son, and Tobias felt left out. There were arguments about whether or not Severus should be raised wizard or Muggle, Tobias wanted him to have nothing to do with his wizard relatives, who had cut off Eileen without a penny for marrying an "undesirable" Muggle. Eileen disagreed, there were bitter rows over that, and the end result was Severus met his grandparents when he was two, but they refused to allow Tobias to set foot in their manor.
When Severus was three, the Princes held their annual Christmas gala, and he and Eileen attended. It was there Eileen was introduced to the eligible bachelor, Gilbert Rothschild-Malfoy, wizard foster brother of Abraxus Malfoy. Gil was suave and witty, handsome and slick, he swept Eileen off her feet. He had everything Tobias lacked, and in the end she fell for him. A year later she served Tobias with divorce papers and moved out with Severus. Tobias had fought for custody, but the courts had ruled in favor of the mother.
Tobias detested Gil, was furious that Eileen would allow a perfect stranger to raise his son, and when he came for his first and only visit to Gil's manor, he showed up drunk and got into a fight with the other man, resulting in Eileen putting a restraining order against him. He didn't see Severus again until the boy was ten, and by that time Gil had almost succeeded in destroying his son. Eileen had passed away in the spring, dying unexpectedly in childbirth. Her tiny daughter followed her within the week. Gil, not minded to spend any more time or money upon his stepson, sent him back to Tobias, though not as he was before. It took the architect years to rebuild the trust and affection between himself and Severus, who had lived with a volatile stepfather who detested him for being a half-blood with more magic.
Severus cleared his throat, bringing Tobias back from memory lane.
Severus looked up, meeting his father's eyes. "I'll see if I can find anything in the files on this child tomorrow." The information network used by the Department of Mysteries was second to none. Severus, as a seventh level Unspeakable, had access to all the records the department kept on every witch and wizard in Britain. Somewhere, the identity of the mysterious boy was hidden. And Severus was determined to find him.
"Sounds like a plan," Tobias agreed. He finished off his tea. "Well, I'm for bed, Sev. If I'm not up when you leave tomorrow, have a good day."
"You too, Dad," Severus replied, yawning. "See you for supper."
Now at last he could sleep, and tomorrow begin the search for the elusive child of dreams.
The next day, Severus Flooed to work at the Ministry. As an Unspeakable he performed and studied top secret magical experiments and theories, researching how magic came to be and how humans had inherited it. They studied the forces of the universe and different paths of magic, such as wandless and shamanic ritual magic, inherited talents, such as Severus' Sight, even the forbidden dark magics. Severus was in charge of the Experimental Potions and Drafts Department, and second in command to Marcus Ravenwood in the War Department, where they developed counter spells and shields for dark curses as well as magical items that both defended and destroyed. Everything done in the department was top secret, kept under triple wards and no one, not even the Minister, knew everything that went on down there. Those who worked there did so under vows of utmost secrecy, and only the brightest and best minds were ever recruited into their ranks.
As he was walking over to the lift that would take him to the ninth level of the Ministry, a winged envelope fluttered right into his face. He reached up to pluck it off, reading the address quickly, it had been stamped Undeliverable, and returned to the Ministry archives. It should have gone to the Mail Department and a memo sent to whoever had posted the letter, but a fortunate coincidence had caused it to be intercepted by Severus.
Severus read the address rapidly, his jaw slowly dropping open.
The letter was addressed to:
Mr. Harry Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
"The cupboard under the stairs!" he hissed to himself. "It can't be!"
He stared at the envelope again. Once more he recalled the vivid image of being shut in a dank smelly cupboard, the same images that haunted his dreams. He recognized the letter, stamped on the obverse with the Hogwarts crest, as being an invitation to attend school there. He had received one, as had every child of magical ability in the British Isles. The letters were written by magical post beings, half made of wind, whose job it was to address and send out the letters to all the children.
Undeliverable? Snape thought. But why would that be the case? Nothing short of death usually prevented a post owl from delivering the mail. This was very odd and also alarming. Severus knew that Potter lived in a Muggle neighborhood, with his Muggle aunt and uncle and cousin. Potter's name had been down in Dumbledore's book of potential students since he was born, his tuition paid in full all seven years by funds his parents had set aside.
Surely his relatives were not foolish enough to deny him an education? Then he recalled Petunia Dursley nee Evans', intolerance for anything magical or anything from that world. Would she perhaps think she could thwart the plans her sister had made and keep the boy from the magical community? Severus wouldn't have put it past her. She had always been terribly jealous of Lily and him. He doubted if the years had mellowed her any.
He clutched the letter in his fist, scowling ferociously. He had to investigate this. He hurried into the lift to inform the others in the Department that he needed to follow up on a lead on a rare subject. That was not a lie, Harry was a rare child, who had somehow managed to survive the Killing Curse as a baby. Augustus Rookwood, the titular Head of the Department of Mysteries, had always wanted to examine the boy, but had been forbidden to disturb him by both the Minister and Dumbledore. But Dumbledore was gone now, having blown himself to bits trying to break a curse upon an ancient ring, but even so, the Ministry still had final say as to who was allowed access to Harry Potter.
Severus felt his blood turn to ice. Unknown to any, the Boy Who Lived had, from his visions, been abused. How that detail had been overlooked was beyond him, but it had. After speaking to his colleagues, Severus Transfigured his dark cloak and robes to ordinary Muggle clothing, and Apparated to number four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, resolved to get to the bottom of this mystery immediately.
A/N: This was a gift for a friend of mine and is the reason why I was so late in updating my other fics. I decided to post it here for all the rest of you to read, she requested that I write a story featuring Harry and Sev where Harry was abused by the Dursleys and needed time to trust Snape.