Severus observed the faces of people he'd considered his friends – ones he thought considered him a friend until this past May – as Voldemort announced that he was going to be the Headmaster of Hogwarts and that the Carrows were going to be joint Deputies.
Minerva looked horrified – oh she was doing a good job of hiding it, but he knew her too well. Filius and Pomona were right there. Hagrid’s bland face couldn’t hide the anger in his eyes. The others looked outraged, but their reaction wasn’t as hurtful.
Jerking his eyes from Filius’ accusing expression, he caught sight of Nilly, Mirk, Lilac, and Ebony near the stairwells. Fear lanced through him. Yes, the elves had been helping through the summer. Yes, they said they understood he had to obey his master – he had to obey Albus. But, this was the first time they’d seen him standing with beside Death Eaters, in the shadow of the Dark Lord himself.
Worry, the same one that had been smothered when he first became a professor here, ate at him. What if the elves hated him? Blamed him? They could make his life even less worth living.
Nilly tipped her head, her ears straight up and a welcoming smile on her lips. With a shooing motion, she sent the other three elves away and waited on him.
Once the Dark Lord’s production was over and everyone else had left the hall, she followed him to the Headmaster’s office.
“Nilly has moved your things to your new room, Severus,” she murmured.
‘That’s right! I can’t stay in my little room near the kitchen.’ A dull ache filled him joining the other pains in his heart. ‘She called me Severus.’ He glanced at the little elf walking by his side. ‘And her tone wasn’t cold. Maybe...’
“Will you be dining in the Kitchen or the Great Hall?" she asked. "Nilly hopes it's the Kitchen but will understand."
He stopped on the stairwell leading to the Headmaster’s office, “I have to be seen in the Great Hall.”
Nilly’s ears drooped, “But Severus won’t eat well there. It won’t be a good place for you.”
He knew it was true. Just the thought of eating dinner surrounded by hatred roiled his stomach.
Her ears perked up, “Severus will eat with us before the Great Hall meal, and then eat something small there.”
“Will it be any better eating in the kitchen?” he asked the words escaping before he could hold them back.
Nilly glared at him, “Severus, all the elves know why you did what you did. All the elves are ready to help you keep the students safe this year.”
Weight fell off his shoulders. He wasn't alone. "Thank you, I will be down for dinner."
With a satisfied expression, she walked away.
He was hiding, he knew he was, but Severus couldn't bring himself to care. The Carrows were horrible – worse than he had dared hope. It wasn't that they were horrible teachers – he'd expected that – it was their forms of punishments.
He knew that his punishments had been a bit on the extreme side when he was a professor. Scrubbing the cauldrons, the classroom, preparing ingredients – especially of creatures that the students liked – was typical of him. Hard work, meant to make them tired, meant to impress on them that their behaviour could bring bad things to them. They were nothing to what the Carrows did. Beatings shouldn't be on the go-to punishment list. The Torture Curse shouldn't even be thought of as a simple punishment. And yes, the Torture Curse seemed to be just as frequently used as the physical beatings.
Coriander and Fennel sat next to him as Roil gave him a cup of tea. Many other elves clustered nearby.
“I … I am supposed to be protecting them,” he didn’t expect the elves to know who the ‘them’ were, but it felt right to say it out loud.
Gritz's ears drooped, but his expression was serious, "You are doing what you can, Severus. They just don't know how to keep their heads down, especially the Gryffindors."
He looked at the Head Elf and then the others, seeing their agreement.
“It’s not their job to keep their heads down. They should be safe to be stupid here and learn with non-damaging punishments not to do it again.”
Rung shook his head, “They should have learnt it with Umbridge. They should have been able to see the way things are and done their best to survive and make it through.”
“They don’t want to knuckle under the Dark Lord’s rule. They want to prove that they aren’t accepting this,” Severus countered.
“Then they accept the punishment,” a familiar voice said from the back. Severus searched out the elf and recognise Kreacher. “It is what we all know. If you do wrong, you are punished. If you know you are going to do wrong, you know you are going to be punished.”
Severus stared into the teacup that Roil pushed closer, "But they are children, not adults."
Kreacher’s ears sagged as did the other elves. Severus wished his could too.
“Headmaster Black,” Severus stopped pacing in front of the man’s portrait.
“Headmaster Snape,” Phineas Blacks responded coldly.
“Are they at least alive?” Severus asked.
The portrait rolled his eyes, “Yes, they are. Cold, hungry, and can’t seem to figure out how to spend the money the Potter boy has access to, but they are alive.”
Severus refrained from mentioning that they couldn’t get to Gringotts, so they honestly didn’t have access to the money. He could hear the worry behind the portrait's sarcastic tone. “Thank you.”
He walked away, acutely aware of the other portraits watching him. He wondered if there was some way to have the elves deliver supplies to the three, but doubted it would be accepted. ‘I’ll ask Gritz at dinner tonight.’
Of course, he prevented Miss Weasley from getting the sword. He did minimize the punishment for her and her cohorts, sending them to be with Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest. He hoped that time with a friend away from the school would calm them down.
If they had had a solid plan of getting the sword to Potter, he might have let them get away with the theft. Even gotten the elves to help them. But, they hadn’t from everything he’d heard.
That was the past, and it left him now attempting to plan on how to get the sword to Potter. ‘They need it as soon as possible from what Albus is saying.’
He went through the paperwork on his desk and finally left the office. In the kitchen, he sat down with several of the elves and Gritz. “My Dead Master told me to take something to the boy and his friends. Can one of you help me do so?”
Nilly narrowed her eyes, “Nilly can find him and take you to him, but Nilly can’t take the sword, Severus.”
“If I am carrying the sword, can you take me?” he asked, not surprised they knew about the sword.
“I can try,” she said.
The other elves looked between themselves and then back at Severus. Gritz spoke for them all, “We will keep everyone from knowing you are not here.”
“Then, we shall try tomorrow,” Severus said.
To both of their surprise, it worked. Nilly called Byro to help get the sword into the bottom of the lake. Once Severus was sure that both boys would survive, Bryo took him back while Nilly checked to make sure the three were at least able to keep warm.
Severus paced the kitchen as he worried. "The Dark Lord is bringing his fight here. Potter should be arriving sometime – hopefully, he's completed his task. If he hasn't, help him and the other two."
“How can we help you, Severus?” Gritz asked.
Severus stopped and sighed, tension leaving his shoulders. “Keep the students safe. Watch after my professors. Protect Hogwarts.”
“But what about you, Severus?” Bell asked.
Stiffening his shoulders, he pushed his emotions behind the wall they’d resided behind most of the school year, “Nothing, Bell. I don’t expect to live through this. The Dark Lord thinks I have magical ownership of something he wants and he will kill me to get it.”
Stifled gasps resounded through the kitchen as ears drooped. Little hands tightened on his robe before slowly releasing it.
Coriander stepped in front of him, drawing his attention as she asked, “What does Severus want for dinner?”
Her tone showed that his was the only request she was taking.
Severus was shocked when he woke up. He hadn’t expected to ever wake up again after Nagini’s bite.
Dits stood near his bed, giving instructions to an elf he didn’t recognise. “Severus will be confused. He won’t know where he is or how he got here. Assure him that Gritz is behind this.”
“Why?” he tried to ask, but he wasn’t sure if she heard the whisper that came out.
Dits turned about, her ears lifting, “Severus! Dits has to leave – Madam Pomfrey needs me. Fennel and Bell will be here later. You need to be quiet and rest. Mist,” she gestured to the other elf, “is a healer elf, and will take care of you. Take your potions!”
She headed for the door and turned around, “Bell and Fennel will tell you what happened.”
With that, she left.
Severus looked at Mist, waiting to see what he needed to do.
“Severus, you are in Abhainn in the Cairngorms. You are our newest citizen and Mist is here to make sure you stay alive so you can meet the rest of us,” Mist picked up a phial off the bedside table, “It’s time for Severus to take his potions.”
Severus put his trust in Dits and took the three potions Mists offered him. Drifting back off to sleep, he hoped he’d wake up in time to see Fennel and Bell.
A wet flannel was the first thing he was conscious of as he woke up. Opening his eyes, he saw Bell’s eyes widen as she leant over him.
“Severus!” she squeaked.
There was a rustle, and Fennel came into view, "Severus is awake!"
He started to answer, but Bell laid a finger across his lips, “Dits said you are not to talk until she can check your throat.”
He subsided and raised an eyebrow, letting it ask his question.
Fennel sat on the side of his bed and Bell settled on the other side. It was Fennel who started.
“Severus knows how Hogwarts looked before you confronted your other Master,” he waited until Severus nodded before continuing, “Not too much of the structure was damaged after that.”
Bell rested a hand on his arm, her fingers tightening, “We tried to keep Hogwarts defenders safe, but we lost some.”
Severus’ eyes closed, an ache settling in his chest, which was only slightly lightened when he didn’t hear any of his professors in the list that Bell recited.
“During the confrontation between Potter and the Dark Lord, everyone heard you were dead and that you were a spy for Professor Dumbledore. As it was Potter who said the latter, it’s being accepted as if it was true,” Bell finished.
Severus sagged deeper into the bed as the tension left him. Yes, he was presumed dead, but it was what he'd expected so it was okay. Opening his eyes, he looked around and gestured to the room.
Fennel tucked his arm back under the blanket, patting it lightly. "You are in Abhainn. It’s a small wizard and elf community. Here, elves live as free as possible. It is hidden from most of the Wizarding World and the Muggle one. Severus will be safe here.”
Bell offered him a glass of water and then his potions. "Rest well, Severus."
Severus stirred his potion carefully as he watched the children across the lane play in the yard. It was a month after the Battle of Hogwarts, and he'd met his fellow citizens in Abhainn. He'd been on guard during his initial meeting with the Wizards but soon discovered that several of the Hogwarts elves had been clearing his name and explaining things while he was recovering.
A small smile curled his lips as he looked around his lab. It was all his labs combined – everything from Spinner’s End, his private lab and his Potions Master lab from Hogwarts. Sometime after he’d told the elves he hadn’t expected to make it out of the war alive, they had taken it upon themselves to get him this house – they weren’t explaining how it was in his name – and moved everything he owned here. During the final battle, Nilly, Bell, Rung, and all the elven children finished the move and set up.
The first day he went to do his laundry at the laundrette, he’d been shocked to see Tift. Bell had taken her place as the head of the Hogwarts laundry before he’d returned to teach. The old elf requested his laundry soaps in payment for doing his. ‘She’d even starched them right. They still billow, even if she’s lightened the blacks to blue-blacks, greys, and even a reddish dark-brown.’
He turned to the flasks waiting on his side table, he checked the labels. ‘I don’t know how they did it, but someone had my name changed on my Masters to Severus of Abhainn. I don’t miss the Snape name. I don’t mind just being Severus.’
That had been another shock, just being called his first name. Mist had started it while she took care of him, but Tift continued it and then everyone else followed suit.
Filling the flasks, he put them into their separate delivery boxes. Some were for local businesses, some for Hogwarts, and the newest place several were going was Slug and Jiggers in Diagon Alley. He sealed the boxes shut and gave a deep sigh – one he did every time he realised that things were going to be okay.