As Severus entered his fifth year in Hogwarts, not much had changed. That is, with the exception of his being accepted into the group of Slytherins with whom he had met up over the summer. Though they didn’t talk much, they said nothing when Severus sat with them at meals of joined them in the common room. It was odd for Severus to say he was friends with Slytherins for, on the whole, they used to not like him due to his friendship with Lily.
Severus reflected upon this as he sat under a tree near the Whomping Willow, looking out over the lake and watching the autumn leaves fall. He had finished his schoolwork for the day and decided to enjoy one last crisp evening outside before the cold rolled in. Severus closed his eyes and felt the wind on his face.
The sound of all too familiar laughter sent a twinge of annoyance through Severus. This was the perfect evening soon to be ruined by Prissy Potter and his gang.
“Hey Snivellus!” Potter called jeeringly. “What’cha doing out here alone? Don’t you know tonight’s the full moon?”
“Yeah, thought you were scared of werewolves,” Sirius said with a sneer. “Don’t you know that the Forbidden Forest is full of them?”
“Yeah, it is!” Pettigrew chirped.
“I am not scared of werewolves,” Severus said in a carefully controlled voice, letting none of his hatred and annoyance show through. He noticed for the first time that Lupin wasn’t with them and his eyes narrowed. What were the chances that he had disappeared again on the full moon?
“Oh, shut it. The Whomping Willow probably makes you wet your pants,” Black taunted. Potter snickered.
Gritting his teeth and drawing on the same discipline he had learned over the summer, Severus replied, “It is a tree. As long as you stay away from the branches it will not likely uproot itself and come after you.
“Listen to you,” Sirius scoffed. “You don’t know how to stop the branches, do you?”
Severus was silent but his interest was peaked. “Neither do you,” he challenged.
“Sure I do,” Sirius said haughtily. “You just press that big knot at the base and-”
Potter elbowed him in the rib. “Shut it!” he hissed.
Severus’s eyes narrowed. Assuming that was legitimate, which he had at first doubted that it was, why wouldn’t Potter want him to know? Spite? Something told Severus that it was more than that. Potter looked at Severus, seeming worried that he had picked up on whatever he had wanted to hide. Severus hadn’t yet but he meant to. Trying out a gentle, subtle form of legilimency, Severus looked into Potter’s eyes, seeing only the thoughts on the surface of his mind as if watching a view-screen so as not to give away his presence.
He saw a large, furry form and Severus considered his suspicions confirmed. He narrowed his eyes at Potter and couldn’t resist a nasty sneer. Potter’s eyes grew wide in recognition when he realized that Severus had figured it out. He tugged at Sirius’s elbow.
“Let’s go, Sirius,” he said quietly.
Sirius shrugged. “Alright.” He snapped his fingers and gestured as if calling a dog. “Come on, Peter.”
The three of them walked off but before they were out of sight, Severus saw Potter glance back at him. Severus smiled at him.
Snape waited with his younger self in the shadows of the forest as dusk fell and two figures approached from the castle. Both he and his teenage counterpart knew who they were. Only he, however, knew what would happen next. In retrospect, it seemed almost like Potter had been trying to warn him to leave being that it was the full moon. Almost. Perhaps his brain was addling his interpretation of things, being that he believed that he was close to death and still had grudges to reconcile. Pushing those disturbingly forgiving thoughts to the side, he watched what happened next.
Severus approached the Whomping Willow only after Madam Pomfrey had hurried back up to the castle. After observing her and Lupin, Severus knew that Black hadn’t been lying when he had mentioned the knot on the tree. Searching the ground near the forest for a sufficient stick, Severus thought he heard something in the brush behind him. He turned with a jolt but found nothing, or no one. Grabbing the first stick he saw, Severus hurried to the tree.
The willow’s branches swung at him as he hurried to the base, dodging the spiky limbs with expert ease. It was not for lack of agility that Severus didn’t play Quidditch. Reaching a spot close enough to reach the knot with the stick, Severus lunged for it and, with pressure applied, the branches stilled. In the relative calm, Severus found a hole at the base of the tree that he had not noticed in his concern about the swinging branches.
After a moment of thought, Severus slipped down the hole.
He landed in a shadowed corridor of sorts, or perhaps it was more of a tunnel. There was a definite earthy smell as Severus crept along, using his hands to guide him in the dark. He did not want to risk lighting his wand. Within a few moments, the mouth of the tunnel acquired a soft blue white glow of the moonlight. Severus stepped forward a half foot when something gripped his shoulder.
With a gasp, Severus spun. He could barely make out the face of James Potter, eyes intense making the sign for silence to his lips. Severus shook his hand off and advanced another step. The exit to the tunnel was now clear and a set of rickety stairs were revealed. At the top stood a large, furry form bathed in moonlight. It let out an unearthly howl as its head snapped their way. Severus couldn’t breathe.
“Come on!” Potter hissed, grasping his arm tightly and pulling him away from the sight.
Snapping out of his catatonic state, Severus rushed after him until they were running, almost tripping, but dashing down the tunnel, howls echoing off the walls and chasing them out. Potter scrambled out of the hole first, Severus right behind. They ran straight to the castle, sprinting still. Once inside, Potter collapsed in front of the door and Severus grabbed a railing to catch his breath.
“You bloody fool,” Potter snapped between breaths.
“What’s a werewolf doing at Hogwarts?” Severus hissed back. “He’s a menace!”
“Only if you’re stupid enough to go down there on a full moon!”
“It’s not stupid if you’re-”
“Gentlemen,” a calm but commanding voice came from the stairs. Professor Dumbledore surveyed them for a moment. “You best come with me.”
With a glare at Potter, and after recognizing and ignoring his glare in return, Severus followed the Headmaster to his office. They were directed to the two guest chairs sitting next to each other in front of the Headmaster’s desk. Severus sat on the edge of his seat, as far as he could be from Potter. James had done the same.
“I understand that you have glimpsed our dear Remus Lupin in his unfortunate state?” Dumbledore asked in a stern tone, though he didn’t seem mad, necessarily.
Unfortunate state? Severus thought to himself with incredulity. “Yes, sir.”
“I will have to ask you to swear a vow of secrecy, in that case.”
“Sir? Is it really safe to have a werewolf within reach of students?” Severus asked, masking his anger and hatred rather well.
“We have taken precautions,” Dumbledore replied. He peered at Severus over his half moon glasses. “Precautions that you seemed keen to flaunt.”
Severus looked away and said nothing.
“Mr. Snape, please make a vow of your silence on the matter,” Dumbledore urged. “A promise charm should be sufficient.”
“Mr. Snape,” Professor Dumbledore said in a tone not to be argued with.
Severus withdrew his wand and touched it to the tip of the Headmaster’s. “I promise not to reveal the nature of Remus Lupin’s condition to anyone while we are both students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
Dumbledore raised a brow at this stipulation but sealed the charm. “Thank you. I fear I will have to take twenty points from Slytherin and award them to Gryffindor. Now please, return to your common rooms and do not venture onto school grounds after hours again, especially not in pursuit of something that is quite obviously not meant for you to see.”
Severus’s face betrayed no expression at that admonishment but he winced internally. “Yes, sir.”
“Yes, sir,” Potter replied as well.
They left the room, parting in the corridor below after a silent trip down the winding staircase. Severus stalked to his common room without a backwards glance at Potter, much less a “thank you”. In his mind, it was Potter and his gang’s fault that he was down there. They had tried to kill him or worse: turn him into a werewolf. It was not something that Severus would readily forget.