Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world are the inestimable creation of J.K. Rowling. I am a trespasser, playing for my amusement (and hopefully yours).
Chapter 5 - A Surprised Visitor
By Gateway Girl
Severus looked disdainfully at the beefy man who opened the door. The man looked equally disdainfully at him, or at least attempted to. His face was more adapted to crude hate than any haughtier mien.
"I have come to speak to Harry Potter," Severus said clearly, in the voice that indicated he suspected his listener was an idiot.
The man's piggy eyes widened as much as they could. "Wrong house," he snarled, and he attempted to slam the door shut. Severus, with well-honed reflexes, caught the door and forced it back open.
"I do not make mistakes," Severus sneered. "I kill far too many people for that."
The man fell back. "Look here," he blustered. "He's a worthless freak, but he's my wife's blood. I won't have you killing him in my house!"
Severus smiled slightly at the phrasing. And if I took him outside first? he wanted to ask, but he restrained himself.
"I am not here to kill Potter," he said. "Show me to him."
"He's not here," the man said stubbornly, "and freaks like you are not welcome here. Get off my property, or I'll call the police!"
Severus drew out his wand and held it loosely between thumb and forefinger. "Indicare," he commanded.
"No! That! I won't --! That -- perversion!"
Severus looked from the wand, now pointing to the second floor, slightly to the left of the staircase, to the raving man, who was becoming a very unhealthy shade of crimson and brandishing massive fists in a threatening manner. He took a firm hold of the wand and pointed it at the man.
"Stupefy," he said. The man fell with a house-jarring crash. A bony woman and an enormously fat adolescent boy came running from the kitchen. To his distaste, Severus recognized the woman as Lily's horrible Muggle sister.
"Ah, Petunia," he said, with malicious politeness. "I am looking for Harry. Please escort me." He leveled the wand at her. He was not sure if Lily had ever told Petunia the circumstances of their break up, or what he had taken to doing to Muggles thereafter, but she certainly looked as terrified as if she had.
"Who are you?!" she demanded. So much for that sweet thought. Of course, Severus realized, the years had changed him considerably.
"Why Petunia," he said silkily. "Don't you remember? Lily's first fiancé. The one who detests Muggles."
She remembered. Lily had told her. Severus took a perverse satisfaction in seeing the horror cross her face.
"Upstairs," she babbled. "It's not my fault. He's lazy, impudent. We can't be wasting --"
"I am aware of Mr. Potter's failings, Petunia. Do not remind me of your own. Escort me."
From Petunia's words, Severus expected Harry to be lolling about, surrounded by luxury. That was, after all, what he always had expected. He was surprised to find himself led to a door with five separate padlocks sealing it shut.
"Oh!" Petunia brought her hand to her mouth. "Vernon has the keys! I'll go get --"
"Alohamora!" Severus commanded repeatedly, and each lock, in turn, fell open. He pulled them out and dropped them on the floor, then threw open the door.
He wasn't sure what he had expected, by then. Something as nice as the rest of the house, still, and perhaps a little better. Instead, he found himself looking at a nearly bare, underlit room, which smelled badly of confined owl and inadequately washed teenaged boy. On the bed, shirtless, and in trousers so enormous that they were almost indecent, sat Potter. Severus had never realized how skinny the boy was. Both he and James had been thin, but neither had looked like a starved refugee, as this boy did. His startling green eyes, more prominent in his thin, bespectacled face then in Lily's well-formed one, were underscored with dark bags. He had been reading a book that Severus recognized at a glance as Foreign Influences on Modern European Potions, but he had let it fall to his knees at Severus's entrance.
Severus bit back an impulse to order the boy to Madam Pomfrey -- hell, to scoop him up and take him. The boy doesn't need rescue, he told himself angrily -- no one does -- he needs to learn to take care of himself.
"Potter," he said sarcastically.
Potter looked back at him with those unreal green eyes, without blame, or hurt, or hope, or any emotion at all. For one relieved moment, Severus hated him without reservation.
"Well?" Potter asked.
"Stand up, boy!"
Potter had to catch his trousers when he stood. He pulled in the belt he was wearing as tight as it went, and the trousers blossomed out beneath them like a cavalier's breeches. He swayed slightly, then steadied.
The hatred had swung to other targets, and a black anger was growing in the back of Severus's mind. My son -- Lily's son! How dare they treat him this way! He kept his voice cold. There was nothing to be gained from encouraging weakness in the boy. He did not have the leeway for weakness.
"You mentioned the Paternity Charm to Mr. Weasley," he snarled.
"I wanted to know --"
"You fool! Is it worth your life to know? Mine? Anyone's? Keep your questions to yourself. If anyone dies because the Dark Lord discovered our -- because of that, it will be on your head!"
Potter shrunk. He didn't pull back or noticeably slouch down, he just became smaller, or appeared to.
"Yes, sir," he said.
A roaring at the back of Snape's mind threatened to engulf him. He held his wand tightly, afraid he would turn and start firing Cruciatus curses at Lily's worthless sister and her waste of a family.
"I won't rescue you, Potter," he sneered.
Potter shrugged slightly. His entire bearing conveyed that he had not expected it. Snape wondered that he could ever have taken that diffident fatalism for impertinence.
"But I will offer you this," Snape heard himself say. "Get out of here -- on your own, mind -- and make it to Hogwarts, and I'll see to it that Dumbledore allows you to stay."
A flash of hope brought painfully familiar life to those emerald eyes. "You will? But how can I ... the locks ...."
"I'm afraid, Mr. Potter, that 'how' is your problem." Snape sent him a tight-lipped smirk. "You have never shown an inability to evade your guardians before."
He closed the door. The harsh click over his own words left him feeling sick, and the woman peering from a room at the end of the hall did nothing to improve his mood. He threw open the door across the hallway, just because it was there. A large room crowded with thing upon thing, mostly in garish Muggle "plastic," assaulted his eyes.
"That's Dudley's!" the woman shrilled. "You have no right to be in there! My Dudley is a good, normal boy!"
Severus stared at the huge, quivering lump she clutched to her side, and found himself without words. The woman scuttled close and began replacing padlocks on Potter's door. Severus listened to them clacking shut -- one, two, three.... Unable to stand any more, he turned on his heel and swooped down the stairs, the hem of his cape billowing out to rustle against the walls. At the front door he turned.
"Ennervate," he said grudgingly at the woman's husband, and he was gone.
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