"But Snape tried to kill me!"
"No, no, no. I tried to kill you. Your friend Miss Granger accidentally knocked me over as she rushed to set fire to Snape at that Quidditch match. She broke my eye contact with you. Another few seconds and I'd have got you off that broom. I'd have managed it before then if Snape hadn't been muttering a counter-curse, trying to save you."
-- Harry and Quirrell, Chp. 17, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Snape scowled as he watched the Quidditch match. Bad enough that the announcer was that blasted Jordan boy - typical Gryffindor, and far too biased against Slytherin to be doing the job for a Gryffindor/Slytherin match - but to see the Potter boy out there...
Oh, he had no doubt Potter had the skill and ability to be an excellent Seeker, much as he hated to admit it. Minerva was too much in favour of the rules to be willing to break one just to make the Potter brat happy; she wouldn't have insisted that he be allowed to become a Seeker in his first year if she didn't think he was capable. She couldn't favour Gryffindor in the same ways that he did Slytherin - and, knowing Minerva, wouldn't even if she could - but in small ways...
He sighed to himself, his mouth tightening as he watched Potter and Terence Higgs dive after the Snitch, and then was unable to keep a small smile off his face as Marcus Flint blocked Potter. He'd trained his Slytherins well, although he'd have to speak to Marcus about being too obvious. As long as Potter didn't get himself killed out there, perhaps this game would be better than he'd feared. It would certainly be pleasant if Higgs and the team managed to defeat the Gryffindors - even more pleasant than last year. Perhaps there was a bright spot in the fact that Potter had been allowed on the Gryffindor team. The brat had too much go his own way...
The game continued after the penalty shot, and Snape found himself relaxing a bit. He did enjoy Quidditch, though that fact would be likely to give the students a heart attack if they ever heard it. And even though Slytherin was still down ten points, it was obvious that Gryffindor had a fight on their hands...
He was watching the Chasers battle over the Quaffle when a jerky movement above the pitch caught his eye. Looking up, Snape saw Potter holding desperately onto his broom as it started zig-zagging over the pitch, the movement bearing no resemblance to the smooth flying the boy had been doing earlier. No one else had noticed yet, but it was obvious that Potter was in trouble.
None of the students would have been able to do this, not even the Slytherins - on the team or not - Snape knew. It took a powerful jinx to overwhelm the enchantment on brooms, especially ones as new and powerful as the one Minerva had given Potter. Which meant that it had to be one of the staff... But there wasn't time to consider who it might be just at the moment, not when the broom was starting to roll over, obviously trying to unseat the boy - which would kill him, as high up as he was.
Fixing his eyes on Potter and the broom, Snape immediately started to mutter the most powerful counter-curse he could think of under his breath. Much as he disliked Potter, the last thing he or the rest of the wizarding world needed was to have the Boy-Who-Lived die.
He was concentrating so much on the counter-curse - even if he couldn't dispel whatever jinx was being used, at least he should be able to ensure that one of the other members of Potter's team could catch him if he did fall - that it took a moment or two to realize that Potter had managed to regain control of his broom, and that his robes were on fire.
With a yelp, he stood up, ready to put the flames out, only to find that they had apparently gone out by themselves. Suspicious, to say the least...
The roar of the crowd made him look up in time to see Potter standing on the pitch, waving the Snitch, and Snape gritted his teeth as a crowd descended on the boy. So typical - so like his blasted father - to be able to come out of trouble smelling like a rose...
He had more to worry about than results of the Quidditch match, however. No matter how much he had wanted Slytherin to win, it was unimportant next to the fact that what had just happened had undeniably been an attempt to kill the Potter boy.
Glancing around the staff box, his eyes fell on Quirrell, who was standing up and rubbing his forehead. His eyes narrowed as the other teacher immediately headed out of the box.
Snape had never liked Quirrell - not that he liked many people - though it wasn't for the reasons the students believed. Yes, the Defence Against the Dark Arts job was one that he wanted, but he understood Dumbledore's reasons for not giving it to him - though he had to admit he didn't like them. No, he simply found Quirrell too ineffectual to be a good teacher to a group of unruly and often troublemaking teenagers. This year, however, there was something different about him, something more than just that ridiculous turban. Something more... dangerous.
That was part of the reason he'd gone up to check on that miserable beast of Hagrid's on Hallowe'en; a troll should never have been able to get into the castle by itself, and even if it had, Quirrell's one real skill was dealing with trolls. He should have been able to take care of it without needing to alert the entire school. If only that blasted beast hadn't bitten him...
Was it a coincidence that they'd found the troll with Potter? Snape hadn't believed Granger's story for a moment; the girl might be confident of her abilities, as well as a bookworm who might have done better in Ravenclaw than Gryffindor, but she wasn't an idiot. Had the troll been, in fact, not only a distraction but also after Potter?
Snape's eyes narrowed further as he considered that thought. Quirrell hadn't been a Death Eater - he knew that much - but it wasn't beyond the bounds of possibility that he had been recruited since Voldemort's downfall. Certainly that would explain the attack on Potter...
He was going to have to think about this. If Quirrell was, indeed, the one responsible, then Potter wasn't out of danger. Most of the students - including the first year Gryffindors - appeared to like Quirrell.
Snape started down out of the box, heading for the castle and the dungeons, ignoring Marcus's calls - he didn't want to get involved in an argument with Minerva and Madam Hooch just at the moment.
Something was going to have to be done. He doubted that Dumbledore would listen to his suspicions of Quirrell just yet; despite the fact that the headmaster trusted him, that was all he had, suspicions - not proof.
There was only one route he could go. He was going to have to work on keeping an eye on both Quirrell and the Potter boy, and try to make sure nothing happened.
How ironic. I spent seven years trying to get James Potter and those... friends of his expelled - and now I have to protect his son. I'm sure he'd find the entire situation hilarious, Snape thought sourly, as he reached the door to his quarters. Muttering the password, he stalked in and sat down in the chair facing his fireplace. Although he'd probably consider it only a fair recompense for the wizard's debt I owe...
His expression twisted into a grimace at the thought of how James Potter had 'saved' him from Lupin. Of course, it could easily be argued that what he'd just done at the Quidditch match had evened the debt - but that didn't take into account what he owed the boy.
Pulling his left sleeve up to reveal his forearm, Snape glared at the reddish blotch just above his wrist. It had been like that - faded and indistinct - for the past ten years, thanks to the then-infant Harry Potter; and it had indebted him to the boy far more than the wizard's debt he owed the father.
Shaking his head, he pulled his sleeve back down. Now was not the time to think about that; instead, he needed to concentrate on what he was going to do to protect Potter now.
"Snape was trying to save me?"
"Of course," said Quirrell coolly. "Why do you think he wanted to referee your next match? He was trying to make sure I didn't do it again. Funny, really... he needn't have bothered. I couldn't do anything with Dumbledore watching."
-- Harry and Quirrell, Chp. 17, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Snape glared furiously out over the pitch as the teams came out. He was not in a good mood.
It was bad enough he'd had to spend half his time since Christmas keeping an eye on the Potter brat - especially when he had a feeling that it had been Potter who had broken into the Restricted Section of the library Christmas Day - but at least he'd been able to take that irritation out on the boy in class. What was bothering him today was that Dumbledore had unexpectedly decided to attend the match - which meant that there had been no need for him to go to so much trouble to become the referee. As ineffectual as Quirrell was, he wasn't stupid enough to try anything right under Dumbledore's nose.
So now, he was stuck refereeing a Quidditch match that he would have much preferred not to attend at all. While the Hufflepuff team was reasonably good, the simple fact was that Cedric Diggory, their Seeker, was no match for Potter. And the last thing Snape wanted to watch at the moment was Potter winning another Quidditch match for Gryffindor.
It certainly didn't help that Minerva had been watching him suspiciously ever since he'd volunteered to referee the match. If she had been doing her job as Head of Gryffindor and worked on protecting the Potter brat properly, he wouldn't have needed to do anything.
Ducking as a Bludger went flying right past him, Snape scowled at the Weasley twin who had hit it, and then awarded Hufflepuff a penalty. It would irritate Minerva even more, but perhaps he could at least indulge his bad mood for a while. She could hardly object officially that he was unfair to Gryffindor when she knew full well that he had to be...
The next few minutes of the game went reasonably well. He managed to award another penalty to Hufflepuff, and Potter was staying out of his way...
Abruptly, some instinct told him to move, and Snape turned his broomstick just in time to see a scarlet blur fly right past him - a blur that resolved itself a moment later into Harry Potter, holding the Snitch.
Snape's mouth tightened in anger. Typical, he thought furiously - Potter had done it again. What was that Muggle saying - something about leading a charmed life? He was beginning to think that was exactly what Potter had - a Charmed life. Certainly he seemed to have more luck than was normal...
Landing, Snape saw Dumbledore walk over to Potter and put a hand on his shoulder, and almost snarled out loud. He really hadn't wanted to do this, and if only Dumbledore had told him that he intended to be at the game... Snape spat on the ground, trying to rid himself of the bitter taste of having to watch his rival's son win again, and then stalked away.
It was time to confront Quirrell. He'd let this go long enough; he couldn't keep wandering around the school, keeping one eye on Potter and the other on the DADA professor. And while Quirrell had changed, Snape might still be able to intimidate him. If nothing else, at least he might manage to get some sort of proof he could take to Dumbledore...
"I saw you and Snape in the forest--" [Harry] blurted out.
"Yes," said Quirrell idly, walking around the mirror to look at the back. "He was on to me by that time, trying to find out how far I'd got. He suspected me all along. Tried to frighten me - as though he could, when I had Lord Voldemort on my side..."
-- Harry and Quirrell, Chp. 17, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Snape glided smoothly out of the castle and headed for the Forbidden Forest. He'd had one of the house-elves take Quirrell a note, asking to meet him out there. It was better by far that they didn't have this confrontation in the school itself, if only to avoid being overheard by any students. The fact that everyone else was at dinner at the moment was an added precaution.
It didn't take him long to arrive at the clearing he'd specified in the note. Quirrell was standing over by the far end, looking more nervous than ever.
Snape sneered, not fooled in the slightest. Oh, at first he'd thought Quirrell had just gotten worse over the summer, but ever since the Slytherin/Gryffindor Quidditch match, he'd known better.
"Quirrell," he said coolly, stepping out into the clearing.
"S-Severus," the DADA professor replied. That stutter could get extremely irritating. "What d-did you want t-to t-talk about?"
"A number of things," Snape answered. "The third floor corridor, and three-headed dogs, for instance."
Quirrell's expression flickered. It was just for a moment, but it was enough to let Snape know that he'd hit a nerve. It was also enough to confirm that either Quirrell had changed a great deal, or he'd found an excellent acting coach over the summer, because a moment was all it lasted.
"And Mr. Potter," he added, letting his tone get colder.
Quirrell blinked. "Interesting t-topics. B-but I d-don't know why you wanted t-t-to meet here of all p-places, Severus..."
Snape's voice was icy as he replied, "Oh, I thought we'd keep this private. Students aren't supposed to know about the Philosopher's Stone, after all."
"S-surely you c-c-can't think that I--" Quirrell mumbled.
Snape sneered at him, making it clear that he knew perfectly well that Quirrell was after it. Then he interrupted, hoping to catch the other man at least a bit off-guard, "Have you found out how to get past that beast of Hagrid's yet?"
He hadn't, Snape noticed, with a certain amount of relief. Whatever had happened over the summer might have taught Quirrell how to mask his expressions, but he wasn't quite good enough at it yet to fool Snape.
"B-b-but Severus, I--"
Time to see if intimidation would still work. Taking a step toward Quirrell, letting his height help with looming over the other man, Snape said, "You don't want me as your enemy, Quirrell."
"I-I don't know what you--"
"You know perfectly well what I mean," Snape replied coldly. Perhaps if he gave a little added incentive... "Remember the first Quidditch match, Quirrell? I'm sure that you'd prefer that Dumbledore never heard about your little bit of hocus pocus." He gave Quirrell a pointed look. "I'm waiting."
Quirrell tried to look puzzled, but didn't quite succeed. There was something in his eyes... "B-but I d-d-don't--"
"Very well," Snape cut in abruptly. He wasn't in the mood to listen to Quirrell deny everything and make excuses. He'd give the other man a bit of time to think about the possible consequences, and then reel him in. After all, as long as Quirrell didn't know how to get past that miserable beast, the Stone was safe enough. "We'll have another little chat soon, when you've had time to think things over and decided where your loyalties lie." And if you do make the mistake of deciding they lie with Voldemort, I will take great pleasure in turning you over to the Aurors. Especially with what you've put me through trying to protect Potter.
Pulling his cloak over his head, he turned away - which Quirrell would no doubt recognize as a sign of utter contempt, since Snape was a Slytherin, after all - and strode out of the clearing, heading back toward Hogwarts.
As he walked, Snape reviewed the conversation in his mind. Unfortunately, nothing Quirrell had said would serve as proof for Dumbledore, and he could hardly show the headmaster the subtleties of Quirrell's expressions that had spoken volumes to his eyes. Even a Pensieve wouldn't help get things across properly.
Emerging from the Forest, Snape glanced around to make sure that no one was watching, and then headed for the main entrance. He'd only gone a few steps, however, when he abruptly realized that he was rubbing his left forearm.
It had been over ten years now since the last time it had burned, but Snape still remembered the pain of the summons; and the less physical, but still very real, pain of what he'd done when he'd still believed that Voldemort was right. Even as Dumbledore's spy, he'd had to do things he had come to consider exceedingly distasteful, and he had no desire whatsoever to return to that life.
There was only one being that Quirrell could possibly be trying to get the Stone for, and that was Voldemort. And if Voldemort got hold of the Philosopher's Stone, nothing - not even whatever it was that had enabled Harry Potter to survive the Killing Curse - would be able to stop him.
Snape would do everything in his power to prevent that from happening.