The great hall was noisy as Severus sat down for breakfast, alone, on the far end of the Slytherin table. He was getting used to this routine: get up early – earlier than his house-mates – ঝরনা and dress quietly, and sit on his বিছানা with the curtains closed around him, wand clutched in his hand. He’d listen as everyone else rose and got ready. Occasionally, someone from Avery’s group (a minority group, now that Slytherin was in the bottom of the running for the House Cup due to their behavior) would taunt him from the other side of the পান্না drapes, but rarely did anything ever come of it. Usually, the person would just grow bored of his silence, and head out. Once the dorm was empty, Severus would slowly, cautiously, leave for the Great Hall, where he would sit alone, eat quickly, and be the first one from his টেবিল to leave his seat. Then, he’d walk cautiously through the halls, keeping an eye out for Avery’s gang (they liked to attack when there was no one around to witness it) অথবা James and his band of thugs. আরো often than not, it would be the latter who would come at him; jinxes to make him trip, drop his books, shred his homework. He’d fight back – when he could. It always seemed that there was an enemy Slytherin around when he tried and, although they had finally stood up to Avery about physically attacking him, he was still not very favored and they tried any excuse to get him in trouble. Not very much, of course. Never enough to take any of the dwindling points away, but enough to let Severus know that he was alone. That he had no বন্ধু to help him.
He’d developed a habit of simply clenching his jaw and dealing. He bared the brunt of the Slytherin’s hate, bared the torment and shame of allowing them to have the upper-hand. There was nothing else he could really do: it was too late to make amends with his house-mates and, anyway, doing so would just make Lily think he was turning back to his old ways. So he clenched his jaw, kept silent, and hated himself.
It was one thing to have this behavior at home, away from prying eyes that could use his weakness against him, when he could wallow in shame and misery alone. But here, were everyone was watching, it was becoming harder and harder to stay the silent endur-er.
He was tired of it.
Charms class – which was always the worst class of the দিন – dragged on even আরো slowly than usual. They were learning Avis Charms, something Severus had taught himself fourth year, so he spent majority of the class thinking.
He just as many spells as Avery – and আরো than Potter – and he’d successfully invented three so far. If they would ever come at him in a one-on-one duel, he’d easily be able to defend himself. Perhaps, he mused, that’s why they always ganged up on him.
“All right, class,” a little voice piped up, dragging Severus away from his তিক্ত thoughts. “Time’s up. Now, প্রদর্শনী me what you’ve done!”
Most of the attempts were abysmal. David Howie – a Hufflepuff – somehow managed to stick Flitwick’s ডেস্ক to the ceiling. Annabella Sturr – a fellow Slytherin – whipped her wand in a যেভাবে খুশী pattern and turned the girl sitting পরবর্তি to her purple. দ্বারা the time Flitwick reached Severus at the back of the room, he looked almost fearful.
“Your turn, Mr. Snape,” he said, his voice squeakier than usual.
Severus allowed himself a small grin before twisting his wand in the appropriate pattern, and muttered the charm. A small flock of yellow birds burst from his wand and fluttered around the room.
“Oh!” Flitwick exclaimed happily. “Well done Mr. Snape, well done! Ten points to Slytherin!”
David, who hadn’t been able to perform the spell correctly, glared darkly at him. Severus made note. David wasn’t part of Avery’s gang, and he usually left him well alone, but Severus didn’t need any আরো enemies and Avery didn’t need any আরো reasons to attack him. He’d have to be আরো careful about প্রদর্শিত হচ্ছে up his class-mates.
Severus gathered his belongings slowly as the ঘণ্টা rang, stuck in the habit of being the last one out of the classroom. He was still debating with – or, rather, convincing – himself about standing up to Avery again. There were pros and cons to each, of course. The problem was trying to figure out which ones outweighed which. অথবা which one had consequences he could live through, at least.
“Severus!” a voice called out as soon as he left the classroom. “Sev!” Severus paused and allowed Lily to catch up to him. “Hey!” she greeted him, face flushed from the cold air.
“Hey,” he smiled at her, his worries momentarily gone now that she was দ্বারা his side. “How was Herbology?”
Lily shrugged. “Not bad, although Lupin wasn’t in class, so I had to do my Drubegga project দ্বারা myself.”
“Lupin wasn’t there, huh?” Severus asked slyly.
“Ugh, Severus, don’t even – “
But it was too late. “You don’t think it’s the least bit strange that he’s sick at every full moon? That he leaves the grounds then?”
Lily stopped walking. “He’s not a werewolf.”
Severus was very tempted to get pointing out these facts – and to bring up the story of Black tricking him to meet Lupin – but her murderous glare stopped him. He hastily changed the subject and the two continued their walk, heading for the লাইব্রেরি as they usually did.
The লাইব্রেরি was empty – as it usually was this time of দিন – what with everyone outside, enjoying the last vestiges of warm fall air. But that was the way Severus liked it. The লাইব্রেরি was a safe-haven for him. Here, under the watch-full eye of Madam Pince, blocked from sight দ্বারা the tall shelves of books, he was safe. The hard part was convincing Lily to spend her time indoors with him. His pride wouldn’t let her know about the goings-on in the Slytherin common room (or the incident with Black) and her naturally energetic personality wouldn’t let her stay inside for very long. She often times got irritated as his flimsy excuses but, for once, Severus didn’t care. This was as much for her safety as his – there was no doubt in his mind that his housemates would attack her to get to him.
The দিন passed merrily. Lily and Severus spent their free-time together in the library, laughing and giggling and gossiping about the new news of their classmates. In between that, his tormentors left him alone. Only Avery seemed to notice his existence but, aside from some cat-calls, nothing came of it. Potter and his band of morons seemed focused on easier quarry and they, too, left him alone. It gave him hope that maybe – just maybe – his life was turning around.
He dropped Lily off at the Gryffindor portrait (the Fat Lady eyed him warily) just before curfew, unable to rid himself of the stupid grin plastered across his face. For the first time in months, he headed to his own common room with a spring in his step, head held high, and without looking around every corner.
The last of the stragglers were just reaching the common room at the same time Severus did. Some of them, like Regulus Black, putzed around outside, laughing and joking with friends. Others, like Mucliber, headed straight inside, trying to exhibit good behavior. Severus had planned on being one of the one who skulked around –although this was আরো to his time with his housemates than anything – but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. Severus turned around, surprised, and came face-to-face with James Potter.
Severus narrowed his eyes.
“Hi,” Potter ব্যক্ত uncomfortably. “I was wondering – can we talk? Just for a minute?” He didn’t wait for a response, instead just continued on. “Look, I never got a chance to apologize for that prank Sirius pulled on আপনি last year. The one with the Shrieking Shack,” he clarified. “It was good of আপনি not to ইঁদুর us out, mate. We weren’t supposed to tell anyone about Remus.”
“I didn’t do it for you,” Severus snapped. “Do আপনি have any idea how much trouble I would have gotten into? I’m not one of Dumbledore’s Golden Boys – I don’t get away with everything. I was still out of bounds – way out of bounds - passed curfew.”
Potter nodded, although Severus doubted he’d actually heard a word. “So আপনি didn’t tell Li – anybody?”
Severus stared. “I know আপনি mean Lily when আপনি say ‘anybody.’ You’re asking if I told Lily.” Severus took Potter’s silence as conformation. “No. No, I haven’t told Lily. Yet.”
Potter’s look when from uncomfortable to angry. “You can’t tell her!” he snapped.
“Why not? She has a right to know.”
“No. It’s up to Remus to decide who knows and who doesn’t.”
“Black doesn’t seem to think so.”
“Damn it!” Potter clenched his hands into fists. “This isn’t about Sirius! This isn’t even about me! It’s about Lily and Remus. What Sirius did was wrong – why the bloody hell do আপনি think I stopped him?” This time, Severus stayed silent. Potter sighed in frustration and ran his fingers through his already untidy black hair. “Look, I know আপনি hate me – and আপনি have pretty good reason to – and my friends. But this isn’t about that. This is about Lily’s safety. She can’t know about what happened. I swear – Remus isn’t dangerous as long as he’s kept away from humans after the change.”
“But আপনি sneak out with him.”
“What do I get out of this?” Severus asked abruptly. “If Lupin really isn’t dangerous, then it doesn’t matter. Lily isn’t going to go looking for him during a full-moon – she’s a little smarter than that – so there’s no danger of him hurting her.”
Severus knew Potter’s entire excuse was bull. For one, if Potter was really worried about Lily’s safety, he would have come to Severus sooner and found a way to silence him. For another, the incident happened আরো than a বছর ago, so there was no issue of them getting into trouble – how could they, when they hadn’t gotten caught? So why was Potter worried now?
Severus nodded. “This is big news – you’re friend tried to feed me to a dangerous werewolf who’s going to regular classes. I need to protect my fellow students, আপনি see.”
Potter narrowed his eyes and thought it over. “What do আপনি want?”
Severus simply cocked his head to the side, and kept silent.
A heavy silence settled between them while Potter wracked his brains trying to figure out what Severus could possibly want from him.
“Convincing Peter and Sirius to leave আপনি alone is going to take some work,” Potter ব্যক্ত slowly, “but I think I could get them to agree.”
“How very kind of you,” Severus ব্যক্ত dryly. “Really. But that’s not what I want. What I want,” he paused and looked Potter right in the eye, “is for আপনি to stay away from Lily. She doesn’t like you. Back off.”
Potter’s gaze widened, although whether it was from Severus’ request অথবা his tone Severus couldn’t tell. “So you’ll stay quiet if I back off of Lily?”
Severus nodded and Potter looked him up and down appraisingly. “How very Slytherin of you.” Potter’s tone was empty and Severus was having a hard time figuring out what was going on in the boy’s head. “All right,” Potter ব্যক্ত finally, still in that strange tone. “All right. I’ll back off in my pursuit of Lily and আপনি don’t tell anybody about what happened.”
“It’s a deal.” Severus replied, keeping his own tone as neutral as possible. There was no doubt in his mind that Potter would break his word first chance he got. But that didn’t matter – whether he realized it অথবা not, Potter had let something slip. Something Severus could use against him.
Potter nodded and headed back the way he had come and Severus turned toward the common room. Regulus Black was still outside, his gaze dark and unreadable as ever as he watched Severus approach.
“I hope আপনি have a back-up plan,” he said, “’cause Potter’s gonna screw আপনি first chance he gets.”
Severus scowled. “I’m well aware of that, not that it’s any of your business.”
Regulus just shook his head before muttering the গুপ্তশব্দ and heading into the common room. Severus followed suit, hoping that his theory was right but, আরো importantly, that he’d never have to put it to the test.