Understanding and Reconciliation

When Tobias arrived at Aspen Avenue, he was surprised to find his son's home looking so very . . .ordinary. He glanced around at the spotless kitchen, done in cream and a deep hunter green, with black appliances, all save for a dishwasher. The den was done in southwestern earth tones, beige, sienna , burnt orange, and some turquoise accents. It contained a large TV and a VCR, and looked amazingly modern. One would never know that a wizard lived here, until you took a closer look at the books in the bookcase and some of the curiosities scattered about the room, or had a look in the closet, where Sev hung his cloak and their brooms.

Tobias remarked upon it, and Severus looked amused. "You were expecting bats hanging from the ceiling, perhaps? Or a cauldron on the hearth, simmering away with eye of newt and leg of frog? Sorry to disappoint you, but we wizards have moved into the twentieth century."

"If you say so, but I was expecting some of those gnomes that clean houses or whatever." Tobias admitted.

"House elves, Dad. And we don't have one here. I got so used to doing chores around our house growing up, that I felt it was wrong to hire servants to cook and clean for me, magical or ordinary. I know some wizards claim they couldn't get along without theirs, but I think having a servant makes one lazy, and I don't want Harry to grow up being waited on hand and foot, he'll become a spoiled brat in no time."

"That's for sure. Besides, chores teach a kid responsibility," Tobias added. He only had a small overnight bag in his hand, for he wasn't planning on staying more than a few days. "Where shall I put my bag, Sev?"

Severus thought quickly, his house only had two bedrooms. "If you want, you can sleep in Harry's room, and he can sleep with me."

"Now I don't want to kick the kid out of his bedroom. The couch looks pretty good to me," Tobias said quickly.

"I can transfigure it into a bed if you'd like."

"Nah, don't waste the magic, Sev. The couch is fine, I don't mind sleeping on it. I slept in a lot worse places, believe me." He set his bag down beside the sofa, eyeing the room consideringly. "You've got a nice place here, Sev. But there's only one thing missing."

"What's that?"

"A woman's touch," his father answered softly. "You're still young yet, Sev. You could find someone else, because good as you are, I think Harry would like a mum. And you wouldn't be so alone either."

Severus's eyebrow climbed up into his hair. "Dad? Are you trying to-to play matchmaker for me? Because I assure you, I have no trouble getting dates if I want them."

"That intern of yours at the hospital is sweet, Sev. I'm sure she wouldn't mind going out to dinner with you after work." Tobias hinted.

"Dad, please! I don't date my interns, it's bad policy. Then the whole staff gets involved and before you know it, they're accusing you of favoritism. Amy Turner is a friend, nothing more. Besides, right now I don't have time to find the right woman. Lily was very special and I still miss her, even after two years. Any woman I'm involved with would have a damn tough act to follow, considering she has to put up with me, love my son, and tolerate my pain-in-the-arse father into the bargain. I don't think she exists."

"You'll never know until you look, Sev."

Severus huffed and rolled his eyes. "Dad, enough. When I'm ready, I'll date. But I've enough to deal with right now without adding a new relationship to the mixture."

Tobias smirked and held up his hands. "Okay, okay, no need to get so tetchy, Sev. It was just a suggestion."

"You and Matthew should get together and write a book. You could call it No More Single Doctors or something, since he's another one who's always bugging me to go out with this or that nurse or Healer. I think he feels it's unnatural for me to be without a woman for so long. He's been dating one of the young Potions Mistresses for six months now, but before that he went out with one of the botanists. He claims that Lily wouldn't want me to spend the rest of my life alone, and he's probably right, but a girlfriend is the last thing on my mind at the moment."

"All right. I won't push you, son," Tobias conceded and then changed the subject. "You know, I never really thanked you for saving my life, Severus. I would've been dead if not for you, or so Albus told me."

"You don't need to thank me, Dad." Severus said, feeling awkward. "That's what sons do for fathers. If they can."

"But I haven't been the kind of father to you that you deserved, Sev. So regardless of your Healer's Oath or whatever, I'm doubly grateful for your excellent care. Harry was right, you really are the best Healer in St. Mungos."

Severus felt a slow flush creep up his cheekbones at Tobias's words, which he sensed were not just an empty platitude, but honestly meant. They struck a deep chord within him that resonated in a warm golden glow through his entire being. He had waited all of his life to win his father's approval, and now at last he had done it.

"Thanks, Dad. But you saved me too, back there when the Death Eaters attacked, and I'm extremely grateful for that."

"You're welcome, son. That's what fathers do for sons. The good ones, anyhow." Then Tobias did something totally unexpected.

He turned around and hugged his son.

It was a brief hug, nothing long or drawn out, but it was a hug, nevertheless.

Severus was startled at first, but he made no move to draw away, and then he tentatively put his own arms around Tobias and hugged him back.

"I love you, Sev," Tobias whispered gruffly.

Severus froze. Had he heard correctly? For one endless instant, he could not find his voice, it had been stolen away by astonishment. Sudden tears blurred his vision. He swallowed hard, then managed, in a voice hoarse with emotion, to say, "I . . .I love you too, Dad."

And with those heartfelt words, the rift between them was bridged.

Two days had passed since Tobias had been released from St. Mungos, and he was quite recovered from his ordeal, though reluctant to return home to Spinner's End just yet. He was enjoying the time with his son and grandson, despite Severus's busy schedule, and though he would never be fully at ease with the magical world, he was gradually coming to accept that magic was both good and bad, a force for darkness and light, and he no longer feared it the way he once had.

He had also come to realize that the wizards were people very like himself, except for the fact that they had the gift of magic, which had been something Eileen had told him long ago, when she first revealed that she was a witch to her sergeant fiancee. Tobias had thought he'd understood what that meant then, only to discover he never really comprehended it at all until now.

But he had Severus to talk to now and explain things that were unclear, such as this business of accidental magic, which Harry had displayed several times already. "So, kids his age shouldn't be displaying that much magic until they're what, around nine or ten?" Tobias clarified, Severus and he were sitting on the couch in the den, it was just after supper, having one of their nightly discussions about magic and the wizarding world in general.

For years, Tobias had closed his eyes and his heart to the presence of magic, but now he realized that if he were ever to have a true relationship with Severus and Harry, he was going to have to accept the fact that magic was a part of their life, and his as well. So he was trying to learn as much as he could about the force that had shaped his son and grandson, and the world that existed invisibly beside his own, seen yet unseen.

Harry had grown bored with listening and gone into his room to play before bedtime, leaving the older Snapes free to discuss him and his unusual abilities.

"No, normally a child will have incidences of accidental magic beginning around seven or eight, and generally they're mild occurrences, making an object float through the air, having a pear change into a bird for fifteen seconds, making your skin change color or your hair grow longer. Nothing earth-shattering, just minor spell-like incidents."

"But Harry was different."

"Yes, his magic manifested as a survival instinct, when he was attacked by the Doberman and again with the Death Eater. Even so, to display that level of power at so young an age suggests to me that someday Harry will have power to rival the greatest wizards in the world, like Albus or Merlin."

"Or you, Sev. You're no mouse in the magic department yourself."

Severus looked pleased, even now a compliment from Tobias meant a great deal to him, and Tobias made a point of giving him one whenever he saw his son, to make up for the dearth of them during his childhood. It was a subtle way for the former alcoholic to make amends for his past actions, without becoming all mushy and melodramatic.

"Thanks, Dad. But even so, I don't know what he's going to be like when his magic fully awakens, if it's this strong now. All I can do is to teach him responsibility and control over his emotions as best I can now, because I have a feeling his magic is going to be wild and not inclined to be reined in easily."

"Could he become dangerous to people around him?"

"Intentionally, no, Harry isn't the sort to go around hexing people for the fun of it. But unintentionally, if he loses his temper, then yes." Severus conceded. "Which is why I'm so strict with him, and don't let him get away with those little temper tantrums most kids are allowed to indulge in. I can't afford that, and he needs to start controlling his temper now, while his magic is still sleeping, otherwise it'll be ten times as hard when he's eleven. Magic reacts proportionately to strong emotions, the will of the wizard is often the driving force behind a successfully cast spell."

"In other words, if you're mad at your friend and you feel like punching him out, don't pull a wand, otherwise you might end up with your friend in pieces all over," Tobias surmised.

"Exactly. Which is why dueling is forbidden at Hogwarts and magic is restricted to underage wizards outside of school. There's too much temptation to use magic unwisely and so we have to put some kind of safeguards in place, for us as well as them."

"Looks like you've got your work cut out for you, Sev," remarked Tobias.

The Master Healer sighed. "Yes, God help us all. But I still have a few years before I really have to watch him, his magic should go back to sleep now that he isn't in any danger of being killed by mad dogs and dark wizards, and he can be a normal six-year-old."

However, Severus had forgotten that around his son, nothing was ever ordinary.

Five minutes later, they heard Harry shouting, "Daddy! Daddy! Grandpa! Come quick, you gotta see this! I made Inky come alive!"

Father and son traded horrified glances.

"Bloody hell, Sev!"

"Merlin's flaming staff!" Severus groaned, rising to his feet. He could hear the soft purring of a large cat coming from the direction of Harry's room. "Why did I ever let him read The Velveteen Rabbit?"

A/N: Thanks so much for reading! And guess what? There's more to this series! The next story is called Growing Pains.