This is an AU, Dark story, set in a time after Voldemort won the war.
I do not own any of the characters, except Professor Windling. I want to thank Amberdiceless and Sulwen for their spectacular job in making this story everything it could be. All remaining errors are mine.
Professor Snape kept a pet. He took it with him everywhere he went.
At meals it would curl up at the Potions Master's feet under the table. Every so often students could see him slip treats off of his plate to the creature. In his classroom, he'd created a little nook for his pet to curl up in. In winter months, when the stone floors were beaded with cold, Professor Snape even brought a blanket for it.
Once, during a particularly long class (they were brewing Confusion Draughts, which needed three successive hour-long stirrings), he tucked the blanket around his pet.
Professor Snape heard a soft whimper. He crouched down, his robes puddling around him in inky swirls. Seeing that his pet had thrashed his way out of the blanket, he pulled it up over the long curve of its back. The drag of fabric caused the pet's skin to twitch slightly. Snape rested his hand gently against the irritated spot, and the whole class could hear the pet's happy groan.
Snape stood and resumed his usual classroom stalking. The students knew better than to show that they'd seen the chink in the Dungeon Bat's armour. All the same, when they thought he wasn't looking, they exchanged glances full of curiosity. This was the most attention they'd ever seen him pay his pet. It was also the most sound they'd ever heard from the creature. It was unusually silent, never even making a sound when Snape pulled hard enough on the leash for it to fall to its knees.
One of his students, a fourth-year on a dare in a detention, had gone into the nook and came out with the report that the space was quite comfortable and that it had a crescent shaped hook for the leash. None of the fourth-years could reconcile the teacher's consideration with the strict behaviour he seemed to expect from his pet.
No one knew how he enforced such unusually mild behaviour from a beast known for its uncontrollable actions. There were some in the Slytherin common room who believed the animal must be potioned or bespelled. Others in the school believed that the animal had been tortured before he was given to Snape, and that he was just taking advantage of previous training.
Some students in the school, among them the entire Hufflepuff seventh year, believed that Snape tortured the creature in his rooms at night.
Patricia Wilcolme pounded on the door to Professor Snape's private rooms. It was late on Saturday night, and she was out after curfew. She was very scared. One of her dorm mates had secretly brewed a potion and fed it to one of the underclassmen; apparently she'd felt slighted by the younger student's oldest brother and had waited to take revenge. The underclassman was foaming at the mouth and convulsing on the floor of his dorm. Patricia knew that there was an even chance that she'd be punished by her Head of House for disturbing him, no matter how urgently he was needed. The sounds she was hearing from the other side of the door, sounds of an animal in pain, weren't helping her fortitude.
The door was pulled sharply open to reveal Snape's glowering face.
"Yes?" he barked.
Not looking directly at him, she launched into a slightly garbled account of the crisis in the dorm rooms. As she spoke, her eyes moved over the room behind him. There were red spots and splashes on the floor, leading from someplace she couldn't see towards the chairs in front of the fireplace. A large silver bowl full of water sat next to one of the chairs; the water in it an odd shade of pink. Cloths were scattered around, some damp, others folded and stacked nearby, one crusted over with blood. As her eyes drifted she saw the professor's pet's leg dripping blood from several deep scratches. Some wounds closest to the animal's ankle were shiny with salve, but the others...
With a gasp, she realised that she'd been staring into her Head of House's rooms. She looked up at him, terrified, and winced as he snarled at her. "Well, what are you waiting for, you idiot girl? Take me to the dorms!"
The slamming door behind them sounded like a coffin closing.
Weeks later, she swore her friends to secrecy and told them what she'd seen. None of them could figure out what could have hurt the pet that much. The professor was usually quite protective of it. One of the older prefects overheard them talking about it some time after that and mentioned that it was well known among the older students that the creature seemed to get hurt on a regular basis but the students lost interest in the mystery as OWL's approached.
The only place Professor Snape wouldn't bring his pet was the Headmaster's Office. None of the students knew if this was an injunction from Headmaster Malfoy, who was known for hating animals, or if it was something that the professor simply chose not to do. Instead, he would walk with the pet to the Headmaster's Hall, then leave it in the hallway with its leash attached to another hook. Some of the softer-hearted students thought it was cruel to leave the animal there for hours at a time, but most shrugged it off. All the students were fascinated by the way the creature would sit, unnaturally still, until Snape came back for it. Its eyes didn't brighten when it saw the professor, and it remained perfectly still, but it was clear that it had been waiting.
The professor also didn't brighten when he saw that his pet had been waiting patiently. However, he always had a treat of some sort for it after meetings with the Headmaster. Once, a passing Ravenclaw heard Headmaster Malfoy laugh at the professor and ask why he gave the animal anything. The professor's quiet voice replied that he enjoyed knowing that he held the power of happiness or misery over the dumb beast. As the student passed the two adults, he noticed that the professor's hand was buried in the soft strands of the hair on his pet's head, absently rubbing and stroking.
Patricia was late for class. She'd been working on a year-long project for Professor Windling in Arithmancy and had stayed after class to discuss one of the equations she was manipulating. She knew that Professor Dolohov wouldn't take points from her House, it was his House as well, but she didn't like to look bad in front of any of her professors.
As she turned the corner into the Headmaster's Hall, she was stunned by the noise. There were two seventh-year boys ahead of her, standing in front of something; doing something to make the thing they were blocking howl in the most amazingly hair-raising way. With a sudden suspicion, she rushed forward and pushed them apart.
They were torturing Professor Snape's pet.
She whirled around, her wand already out.
"How dare you? Don't you know who it belongs to?" Her voice shook slightly. She'd never yelled at upperclassmen before. Behind her, the poor creature whimpered; she could feel it shivering as it huddled close to her legs.
The two boys began yelling about how they'd just wanted to 'see if it would play' and how she wasn't 'any kind of sport' and didn't she know 'what that horrible beast IS?'
She just stood there, unsure of what to do next.
The decision was taken out of her hands by a dark voice behind her shouting, "Petrificus Totalus!" She turned to see Professor Snape, having cursed the older boys, crouched over his pet, stroking it with shaking hands. He shot her a tight look, then stood. She'd never seen his face that white and angry. He strode over to the boys.
"You used crucio on him." His voice dripped wormwood and gall. "You deliberately harmed another person's property, using an Unforgivable curse. You will learn that one should never harm the property of someone who is stronger, faster and holds more power than you." He slowly drew his wand and, in a calm voice, spoke, "Crucio."
Patricia sobbed in a breath as she watched the older students' faces. They were still Petrified, but they clearly still felt the nerve-shattering agony of the curse. Tears streamed from their eyes and drool began to run down their cheeks. She couldn't watch any more and turned her face away. Her eyes caught the Headmaster's expression of glee and she shivered. The only safe place to look was at the poor, mangled pet.
She crouched down over its shaking form and gently stroked down its back, remembering that one of her older brother's dogs had liked that when it got old and arthritic. It whimpered under her hands and she pulled back, horrified that she'd hurt it more.
The sound pulled Snape away from the students he was educating. He flicked his wand to end the curse, then swooped back to where Patricia bent over his pet. His dark eyes, burning and wild, passed over her.
"Miss Wilcolme." She cringed, worried that he would punish her for hurting his pet, however inadvertently done. "Go to class."
He scooped the creature into his arms, carefully arranging the still trembling limbs so they were as comfortable as possible. With one last glance at Patricia and a nod to the Headmaster, he strode off toward his dungeons.
At the end of the week, when two classes had passed without Patricia seeing the pet, she screwed her courage to the wall. After dinner, she knocked on the Potions Master's private door.
"I ... I was worried about your pet," she told his blank face after he yanked open his door. "It's not permanently hurt, is it?" She didn't know why she was so concerned.
He looked at her inscrutably for a long moment, then turned and invited her in. Smirking at her timid gait, he replied, "He is recovering. He will be ... coming out again soon."
The beast in question was curled up on a soft rug in front of a large, crackling fire. It raised his head as she entered the room, and she imagined that it looked pleased to see her. With a smile, she fell to her knees and reached out a hand.
Her Head of House sat in an old, clearly well-loved armchair. Patricia looked up at him.
"What's its name?" she asked.
When he didn't answer, she opened her mouth to apologise for the impertinent question, but before she could begin to formulate the statement, his soft voice interrupted her. She watched, and saw a surprisingly gentle expression on his face as he replied.
"His name is Remus. Remus Lupin."