Chapter 2 - A New Life
When Severus woke up, he was confused. Where am I? he thought. He could only remember that his father had beaten him for not paying attention to what he had said. Then his father had locked him in the big cupboard in the guest room. Severus hated the cupboard because it smelled like moth balls and was so dark. He often feared that his father would never let him out again, or would just forget him. Only his father had the key to the cupboard; his mother wasn’t allowed to let him out.
This time Severus had really feared his father had forgotten him. The blood on his face had already dried, and his whole body had ached from the beating. It had been the belt again. He had even taken one blow in his face and a bad kick in his ribs. Sometimes he wished he would just sleep and never wake up again, but that had never happened. His father would normally let him out of the cupboard, slap him around a bit more, and then throw him in his room, always with some nasty words to show Severus how much he detested him. “Good for nothing, you damn bastard!” or “Next time I will skin you alive, you damn brat!” were only two of the things his father had often said to him.
Then his father always locked him in his room for some more time, so that he could think about what a useless bastard or annoying burden he was. The room had been better than the cupboard, but Severus hated it nevertheless. It had always been cold because there wasn’t a fireplace, and it only had a small window and was therefore very dark.
There also hadn’t been much to distract a little child. No toys could be found, only a quill, ink and parchment, because his father had wanted him to learn to write as early as possible. Severus hated it. The words made no sense to him, so he only tried to copy the crazy letters as they appeared in his father’s handwriting. He could have done it perfectly, and his father would have found fault.
Severus had started to play with the spiders he found in his room. He had given them names and spoken to them, but one time his father had caught him and had forced him to kill the spiders. Severus had cried because it had felt so bad to kill the only friends he had, and with that he had broken one of the most important rules in the Snape household, ‘No crying’. That had earned him another bad beating.
Severus felt his face and could just feel a soft scar where only minutes before had been an open wound. Nothing hurt any longer. Maybe I’m really going crazy like father said, Severus thought fearfully. At home my wounds never heal that fast.
So how did I get from the cupboard into this strange room? Maybe father finally gave me to the bad people he told me about, who eat little boys like me. He timidly looked around the room, but it was empty.
Suddenly the fireplace opposite his bed flared green.
Meanwhile in the headmaster’s office, Minerva McGonagall was pacing. “Merlin, I knew his childhood was bad, but this is worse, Albus. He must have beaten the poor child straight in the face with his belt. And then all the other wounds.” Minerva shook her head in despair. “No wonder, he wanted to go to Azkaban instead of becoming a child again.”
“I know, Minerva. I, too, wasn’t aware of the amount of abuse Severus experienced, but we have to gain his trust and give him a better childhood. He is four, Minerva. That means we can give him many good years from now on. It won’t be easy, but I still think we made the right decision,” Albus said, but not really convincingly.
“It’s useless to agonize about whether our decision was right,” Alastor said, while looking from Minerva to Albus and back. “Stop pacing, Minerva, you’re making me feel dizzy.”
Minerva let herself fall in her chair with a heavy sigh. “I’m scared, and I already miss my friend Severus.”
“Minerva, stop this,” Poppy said in a no-nonsense tone. “You would have missed him, even if we let him go to Azkaban. You know how quickly he would have lost all his will to live there. Merlin, he hardly had one while living here. We did the right thing. He will have a chance for a long and happy life now. I, for one, don’t even acknowledge that it could have been the wrong decision.”
“You are right, Poppy,” Albus said, now more convinced. He laid a calming hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Minerva, all the papers are signed. Severus, the former Death Eater, doesn’t exist any longer. Just Severus, the four-year-old boy, is living now, and we will make sure that his life will be much better from now on.”
“What do you plan to tell him, Albus?” Alastor asked worriedly. “You can not tell a four-year-old who he was before he was de-aged.”
“I will not lie to him, Alastor. In three weeks the new school year will begin, and we can not prevent the students telling him something about his past. Tomorrow the Daily Prophet will make the whole story public. Everyone in the wizarding world will know that Severus, the former Death Eater, spy for the light and Potions master had been de-aged by order of the Ministry. We will try to avoid his being alone with the students as much as possible, but we can not avoid it totally. During school time he will spend class time at the Weasleys’, so that we can concentrate on our work. Molly will care for Bill’s and Fleur’s twins during the day as well, so Severus will have some playmates of his own age. I won’t tell him in detail why he had been de-aged, but he shall know that he has been an adult wizard. He also must know that he doesn’t have to fear his parents any longer because they are dead.”
“And what about the fact that we forced him to drink the potion?” Alastor asked.
“I will not tell him before he reaches fourteen, or even later. But, yes, I will tell him. If you want, I will take all the blame and say that I did it alone,” Albus offered.
“I stand behind my decision. I was there, and I want to be there when you tell him about it,” Alastor said soulfully.
“Of course you can be part of that conversation. To be honest I’ll be glad to have you at my side.”
A buzzing sound made them all jump and look in Poppy’s direction.
“What? That can’t be,” she said, surprised, while she pulled out her vibrating wand. She studied it quickly and then looked with a slightly shocked expression to the others. “He has already woken up. That’s odd; he should have been asleep for at least one more hour.”
In one fluid motion she jumped up and went over to the fireplace. The others followed her shortly after.
The fireplace flared green, and the three professors and the nurse came out of it.
Poppy’s glance fell on Severus’ bed; it was empty. “Where is he?” she said, looking around frantically. “Severus, where are you?” When she couldn’t see him, she began to panic. “He shouldn’t be out of bed! We must find him!”
“Calm down, Poppy,” Albus said and put his wand on his palm. He spoke a locating spell and the wand moved in the direction of one of the corners.
Severus, meanwhile, was pressing himself so far into the little gap between the big cupboard and the wall that it was almost painful. Please don’t let them find me. They are already mad at me for getting out of bed. Now they will beat me and then eat me alive. Big tears were running down his cheeks, and he couldn’t stop himself from starting to sob in fear.
Poppy was already heading into the direction Albus’ wand pointed in. The other three followed her.
When she was only a few steps away from the cupboard in which she stored the bed clothes, she could hear soft sobs from the small gap between the cupboard and the wall. He can’t be there, Poppy thought, shocked. It’s too small. But when she reached the wall she saw that he could be there. “Merlin, I hope he isn’t stuck.”
“Severus, what are you doing there?” Poppy asked gently, to not frighten the child more than he already was.
Big fearful eyes stared at her, but he didn’t say anything.
“Severus, you don’t have to be scared. Please come out; you will catch a cold.”
Severus looked at his bare feet. He really was cold, and the wall was icy, but he was so scared that the people would eat him like his father had said.
“Severus, please tell me what’s wrong. Why don’t you want to come out?” Poppy tried again.
The woman seems to be kind, but maybe that is just a trick, he thought suspiciously, but it was so very cold now that it hurt. “Mad at me?” he asked fearfully.
“Why should I be mad at you, Severus? I’m only worried that you will freeze there. Please come out so that we can talk.”
“Won’t eat me?” Severus whispered so quietly that Poppy had problems hearing it.
“Eat you? Severus, please! Of course we won’t eat you. We’ll just bring you back to bed and speak with you, okay?”
She is really kind, but she always says we, Severus thought. So there are more people here? And what if they are the bad people? He tried to see the others, but the cupboard blocked his view. His teeth were chattering, and his back and the side that touched the wall were cold as ice now. The idea of lying in a warm bed now was really tempting. He scooted a little bit forward and again tried to look around the cupboard to see the others. At that moment another head appeared over the nice woman’s. It also was a woman, and she looked the same age as the first one.
“Severus, please, come out of there! We are very worried. You must be freezing down there,” Minerva said as calmly and gently as possible.
She also sounds kind, he thought. But why do they all know my name? Has father said it to them? Is he here, too? He started to panic and tried to look around the corner of the cupboard. “Father?”
When Severus was trying to look around the cupboard, Poppy used her chance to grab him. Many years’ experience with reluctant patients allowed her to catch Severus in her arms in one fluid motion. He didn’t even have much time to realize what happened. “He is not here, child. You don’t have to worry.”