Severus was sitting at her desk, sorting through the work he and Aurora had been able to accomplish yesterday. They had worked till late into the night and even though Aurora only started to get more vivacious with the lateness of the hour, he grew tired. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning he started dropping off occasionally and was resolutely sent to bed – or in this case, the couch. He had refused and said that he would go home or at least down to his dungeon quarters, but Aurora had heard none of it – "With the state you're in, you will fall down the stairs head first."
He had been too tired to reject the tempting offer and practically fell onto the sofa. Aurora had been nowhere near when he woke up and he assumed she was sleeping now. He had then started going over their results in quiet, trying to catch up to the work she had done while he slept. That's where she found him now.
"You're still here?", she asked surprised and he looked up to her, barefooted and clad in a faded pink dressing gown. He raised the parchment slightly and said
"You worked yesterday and I slept. Its only fair I at least see what you did."
She smiled "I have no idea how you can function at this hour without coffee."
He smiled back and said "I would be agreeable to a cup of course."
Nodding at the request Aurora made to call a house elf and have him bring breakfast for them both. She then helped Severus sort the papers, so they could spread the breakfast on the table.
"I hope there was no one waiting for you at home?", Aurora asked and Severus groaned, remembering Harry.
"I will never hear the end of it!"
Aurora chuckled guiltily and said "Take some flowers or chocolate and she may listen to you before hexing you right away."
She? Oh! Aurora thought he had a girlfriend or a wife or...
"No!", he assured, laughing at the thought "Its my son. My son is home alone."
"Oh!", Aurora said, a smile spreading over her features "I thought... well, how old is he?"
"Turned fourteen a while ago.", Severus said, relaxing and smoothly lied "Home schooled."
"Ah. I hope I don't take his father from him...", she said
"Oh, no he is quite happy spending the time with his godfathers and friends.", Severus said, eating breakfast as Aurora relaxed further.
"And his mother...?", Aurora asked tentatively.
"He is adopted.", Severus explained, "His parents died in the first war, he was an infant."
Aurora's features softened "I never knew... I would have never expected you would..."
"I knew his parents.", Snape explained "And I did not take him until later. He lived with relatives in the meantime and they did not treat him right."
"Oh, the poor child", she said with emotion "Where was he at your father's funeral?"
"I keep him away from public appearances.", Severus lied again "Nobody knows I have adopted him and I'd rather it stay that way. He is more happy away from the Wizarding World until he has to face them."
Aurora didn't quite understand that but as she did not know a lot about the situation, she decided to keep quiet.
"And you? Do have a spouse I should be worried about?", Snape joked "Or children?"
Aurora gave a short laugh, that sounded quite bitter "I... well, no spouse."
He raised an eyebrow at that.
"I have a daughter.", she explained, sipping her coffee and avoiding his eyes "She's in hospital."
"She is in the Janus Thickey Ward."
Severus immediately recognized the name, it was the ward where Alice and Frank Longbottom stayed – the long time resident ward. He stared at her. There could be a number of reasons, but he suspected...
"She was cursed during the first war. Her father, my late husband, was an Auror. He was captured when he was out with her and killed when he refused to give out information.", she was talking without looking at him as if she had repeated that story many times over "To this day I don't know all they did to her and I mostly don't want to know either." Severus felt faintly sick at that pronouncement "But one thing was clear, they had done something permanent. Its a curse that can only be lifted by the caster himself or in the case of his death. She is catatonic."
Severus leaned back, breakfast forgotten "Do you know who...?"
"Rabastan Lestrange.", she said bitterly "And incapacitated in Azkaban there is no way for him to lift the curse. My lawyer has been in negotiation since then."
"There has been no agreement after all this time?", he asked, surprised, she shook her head with a sigh
"No, he will only lift the curse for freedom and I will never grant him that.", she said bitterly "He killed my husband, he practically killed my daughter. Azkaban is too good for him."
"But surely if it meant your daughter could be normal...", he said slowly, thinking of Harry and putting himself in that same position. She looked up with tears in her eyes.
"But what about all those other victims? The Longbottoms? I see Neville almost every day. How could I look him into the eyes if I was responsible for his parents' torturers' freedom?"
Snape nodded, understanding her dilemma. Being the wife of an Auror surely meant she had high moral standards and a strong notion of justice.
Silence stretched between them and Snape felt the overwhelming need to comfort her and show her a way out. He felt faint at the idea of something similar happening to his child.
"But if he died...?", Snape said slowly, she smiled bitterly.
"Murder him in his sleep? Surely there would be no one to miss him, yes? How could I do that? How could I become as bad as them? That no one would miss him, everyone would agree with me and no one blame me – does it make it alright? I can hear Romolus' voice in my head, telling me no. He would never stand for this."
So she did have high moral standards... Severus could not agree, but it was not his decision to make. He would do anything to protect Harry, to heal him. But at the same time he remembered his little failure with the Dursleys and how Harry had reacted to that. Would he risk that again? He didn't know. But he could feel a surge of sympathy for the depressed mother sitting in front of him. For how many years was she living with this now? Harry was fourteen now, that made it thirteen years since the Dark Lord had vanished. He reached forward and grasped her hand.
"Don't ask how I know. But there is a possibility he will die soon."
Aurora looked up, the question of how he could possibly know on her lips, but she closed them and nodded. It didn't matter. She squeezed his hand and held on tightly to the small comfort, the only one she had allowed herself for thirteen years.
When Severus returned home, he was in a strange mood. A mixture of sad and relieved. He opened the door and called "Harry? I'm back."
"Kitchen!", Harry called, sounding quite pleased about something. Snape entered the kitchen to Harry licking a spoon, that seemed to have dough on it and a bowl in his lap.
"Are you making cookies?", Snape asked, bending down to look into his oven, that was baking a batch of chocolate chip cupcakes.
"Did you have fun?", Harry asked, ignoring his question and grinning wide, Snape turned to him and raised an eyebrow.
"Well you spent the night, so I thought...", the cheeky brat grinned again and Snape rolled his eyes.
"We worked till late and I slept on her couch, don't get any ideas."
"You are so boring!", Harry complained and brandished his spoon at him like a wan.
"Forgive me.", Snape said, not quite serious, taking a bit of the dough on his finger and tasting, he hummed appreciatively "Not bad, Mr. Potter."
Harry ignored him again "You spend so much time with her, you even spent the night. How can nothing happen between the two of you?"
"Because none of us wants it to.", Snape said casually and glanced at his oven "When will they be finished?"
"15 Minutes and I'll turn the oven off, they'll bake through with the rest heat – do not touch them!", Harry warned and then continued as if his father had never asked about the cupcakes "She's pretty, smart and nice. How can you not want her?"
Snape rolled his eyes at him and leaned back in the chair, stretching out his legs "I told you why already."
"And what about her?", Harry asked, inexplicably affronted by their whole non-romance "You are a nice person, you're smart, you're funny and if you try you can be handsome."
Snape wasn't sure if he should be warmed by the praise or angry at the offhand insult at the end. He knew he wasn't good looking but he didn't need reminding. "Thanks for your assessment, but I would advise you not to bring that up to her."
"I won't.", Harry pouted "would be weird anyway, she doesn't know about us."
"Not strictly. She knows I have a son but not that its you."
"You told her you have a son!", Harry said "Why?"
"Because its true.", he said slowly, not understanding where the problem was. Harry rolled his eyes at him.
"You're not supposed to tell her! You're destroying your chances."
"Harry...", Snape said, thoroughly annoyed with him now "Stop this right now! I will not start a romantic relationship with her – or anybody else for that matter – and I will tell her whatever I... deem appropriate."
Harry pouted but Severus wasn't finished.
"And I am honestly insulted at your suggestion that I should – or would have any need to – lie to a woman about having a child just to... what? Sleep with her, make her fall in love with me?" Harry opened his mouth in horror to deny that but Severus didn't let him "Honesty is the only way forward if you want to achieve anything with anybody. And I am perfectly capable of seducing a woman without lying to her."
By this point Harry had turned a lovely shade of brick red and quietly said "Sorry, I didn't mean that.", before avoiding his eyes.
Snape seethed a moment in silence and then let the subject drop "What are your plans for today?"
"Ugh... Thought we could do something together?", he asked tentatively, not sure if his father was still angry at him.
"Any concrete plans?"
Harry shrugged "I don't suppose you want to fly with me?"
"I want to throw things at you.", Snape corrected and smirked at him, Harry smirked back.
"Pause! Stop!", Harry screamed and got hit by another ball, which made him whine "Dad!"
"What? You give up?", Snape said teasingly and throwing the next ball up and catching it again.
"No, I can see uncle Sirius and Remus coming up.", Harry was up far enough in the sky to spot them both coming closer, he followed their progress with his eyes and got hit by a ball again "Papa!"
"What? I don't see why I should be stopping."
Harry landed close to him and playfully shoved him, which made Severus grin. He ruffled his hair while they walked up to the house. Harry ran through the corridor and opened the front door to wave at his godfathers. Severus went into the kitchen, preparing tea.
Remus and Sirius hugged their godson as soon as he closed the door behind them and Sirius had transformed back.
"You OK kid? Didn't see you since your birthday."
"I was busy.", Harry said "We had a few things brewing, but its only analysing the results now."
"And he will gladly give that job up to me.", Severus added, levitating the tea in front of him to the couch, Harry grinned at him and cheekily said "You'll manage."
Remus laughed and threw an arm around Harry's shoulders.
"The kid sure has you wrapped around his finger.", Sirius teased "Good job, Harry."
Snape rolled his eyes at the mutt and offered them seats. When they had all sat down, Harry squeezed between his godfathers, he innocently said "But he won't listen to me when it comes to Professor Sinistra."
"Aurora?", Remus asked surprised.
"Who's that?", Sirius threw in while Severus groaned in annoyance.
"She's the Astronomy teacher, Aurora Sinistra.", Remus supplied "What about her?"
"The little pest wants to play matchmaker."
Sirius grinned wide at them and said "Ah, I remember sweet little Aurora."
"You do?", Harry and Remus asked simultaneously while Severus scowled.
"She was in Hogwarts, when we were.", he said to Remus "Name was Hanson then. Remember? She married that Auror, was pregnant already with their kid by then."
"She has a child?", Harry asked.
"How do you remember?"
"Regulus told me about her.", Sirius explained "Had a crush on her all through their Hogwarts career. They were in the same year."
"Regulus, who's that?", Harry asked looking between the adults.
"He was Sirius' brother.", Remus said and then looked at Sirius again "Did they ever...?"
Sirius shrugged "She was with the Auror, when she was still in Hogwarts. Completely unexpected, that. Regulus kept complaining about other competition."
"Like who?", Remus asked and Sirius grinned wide, before nodding at Severus who choked on his tea.
"Dad? She was in love with him?", Harry asked excitedly "Cool!"
"No!", Severus interrupted him "Not 'cool'. What are you babbling about, Black?"
"Well, it was quite obvious to the rest of us.", Sirius said smirking "Pretty funny to watch really, Regulus pining after her, Aurora pining after you and you pining after..."
"Black!", Severus stopped him, glancing at Harry, who did not yet know that Severus had been in love with his mother back then.
"Ah, so that's where the animosity between you and James came from, should have said something, love.", Black joked and it took Severus a moment to understand the joke, before he glared at him and said
"That's ancient history anyway."
"No, that's great! She will be glad if you just try.", Harry urged, Severus sent him a glare.
"What about her child?", Remus asked, genuinely interested in her fate "I never saw her with one at Hogwarts and none of the children have either surname."
"Her daughter and husband were attacked by Death Eaters. Mr. Sinistra died, their daughter has been in Mungos ever since."
"Oh.", Remus said sympathetically "Poor Aurora..."
"So she's single then?", Sirius asked eagerly, ignoring the tragedy and Severus looked irritated at that.
"Yes and I don't intend to change that for her.", Snape cut in, trying to smother the growing partnership between him and Harry to make his life miserable "Any reason why you came today?"
"Yes, we'd like to take Harry to Fisher's Lodge.", Remus said smoothly, before either one of the other two could interrupt "We didn't get around much swimming or fishing last time."
Severus nodded "I'm sure he'll enjoy himself."
Harry grinned widely, Aurora completely forgotten "I can go? Thanks Dad!"
He jumped up and hugged his father, who gladly embraced him back. It was a short hug and a moment later Harry was outside, playing with Black in dog form.
Remus smiled softly after them and then turned back to Severus "Harry is still quite... cuddly?"
Snape snorted at that "Don't let him hear you say that."
"Yes, he still wants to be held more often than a normal teenager his age."
"Well, I don't hear you complaining.", Remus said, still smiling "But I will try to outdo you during his visit now."
Snape gave a lazy wave with his arm "Give up, Lupin. I have even stopped counting how often we have hugged. You have no chance."
Lupin grinned and gave half a shrug, before his expression sobered "What does Marty say about it?"
"That he's compensating for the lack of affection from the Dursleys.", Severus answered, trying to quench his anger at them "You are right, I do not mind at all. Whenever will I have the chance to do that again? Another reason to resent the whole Aurora issue."
"I quite agree.", Lupin said, surprising him "Not the right timing for romance, I'd say. Let him at least grow out of his cuddly phase."
Severus nodded, surprised to find an ally in Lupin "I don't understand why he is so set on a relationship between us."
Lupin shrugged "I'd ask Marty about it. Maybe he wants a mother?"
Severus frowned and then slowly shook his head "Granted, he has more male figures in his life than female... but a mother? I don't think so."
"He relishes Molly's affections."
"He does.", Severus said, thinking hard before he admitted "You may be right... but I don't feel like that's it."
"What do you think it is then?"
"Guilt. He feels like he's the reason stopping me from being happy.", Severus said, still frowning and comparing it to the way he had felt about his parents "He doesn't understand I'm quite content with life as it is."
Lupin nodded, glancing outside to see Sirius licking Harry's face thoroughly.
"Anything new about Him?", Remus whispered
"Rumours.", Severus whispered back "Harry's scar hurts occasionally. I believe Pettigrew has reached him. You've heard of Berta Jorkins?"
Lupin nodded gravely "Arthur mentioned her disappearance to me. People starting to disappear, rumours about his movements... It does not bode well, Severus."
Snape but a hand on his mark and nodded "At least there was no change in this."
Lupin glanced down at his left arm and then they both suddenly looked up to a screaming Harry, who ran into the house laughing. Both men had sprung up in alarm and Harry hid behind his father.
"Come here!", Sirius said, dripping wet, growling but not able to stop the grin forming on his face.
"You gave the mutt a shower?", Severus asked, twisting his neck to see Harry, who had grabbed both his sleeves from behind and was laughing hard. Harry nodded breathlessly.
"He wouldn't stop licking my face!"
"Well, it was obviously provoked.", Severus said jokingly serious to Lupin who nodded, his mouth twitching upwards.
"What do you have to say in your defence, Sirius?"
"Dry me!", Sirius ordered and received laughter from his old friend, before getting dried off, shaking himself like a dog, until he was back to normal "And now to you."
"Save me, Dad!", Harry laughed, gripping his arms tighter.
"I fear you will have to fight me first if you want to reach my son.", Severus said smugly, quiet content with having Harry hiding behind him. Harry peered out from behind him and grinned at Sirius.
"You wait! You just wait! We'll have you for a week now.", Sirius threatened.
Harry had gladly packed, dutifully remembering his food box, when Severus entered the room.
"Have you left anything?", he asked Harry, reminding him of a similar occurrence last summer.
"Yeah.", Harry said, pointing to his wardrobe, where most of his things still hung. Severus nodded and said "Shall I look through your things, see if you have everything?"
Harry bristled at that, wanting to snap back that he was perfectly capable of packing himself. But he just shrugged, annoyed with his own helplessness. He had only ever packed everything he owned. He never had to choose what he needed to take and what he could leave behind. Severus looked through his things, folding them neatly while doing so and added a few socks before nodding in appreciation.
"Good job.", he praised and Harry frowned.
"I just packed a bag, its no big deal."
"I meant that you left things here.", Severus said quietly "It must have been hard."
Harry avoided his eyes and closed his bag. They went down to rejoin his uncles. Harry looked uncertain for a moment, not wanting them to witness his departure and the affectionate goodbye his father was sure to give him.
"Go on, you can take his things.", Severus ordered "He has his snake and everything it needs."
Remus nodded, understanding why Snape had said that and nudged Sirius into the floo. They disappeared, shouting their destination. Severus turned to Harry and pulled him into a hug.
"I'll only be gone a week.", Harry murmured, readily hugging his father back.
"I know.", Severus said, not letting go. He knew he would miss his little pest, but he expected the boy to experience his first occurrence of home sickness. He was going through his "cuddly phase" as Lupin had dubbed it and wouldn't see his father for a week. He should get a good squeeze before going. Even though the boy was embarrassed, he didn't pull back. Severus resolved to hold him until he would let go on his own. After a while Harry gave a short laugh.
"That's enough now!", he let go, grinning at his father.
"You can floo in whenever you want.", Harry said, sounding entirely too hopeful. Severus ruffled up his hair without commenting and turned him to the fire. Harry took a few steps and then turned around, smiling uncertainly. "You'll be alright?"
"I'll manage.", Snape responded with Harry's earlier words and when Harry still didn't move, he carded his fingers through the messy hair again "Don't worry."
Harry nodded at that and left, leaving the living room too quiet and empty for Severus' taste.
The day ended too quickly after Harry entered Fisher's Lodge. He unpacked and then helped prepare dinner, laughing and bickering with Sirius. Remus much behaved as if he was their father, keeping them in check. He smiled indulgently and seemed rather comfortable and happy with them both there. Too soon it was time to go to bed and Harry just wanted to turn off the lights, when Sirius popped his head in to say goodbye, followed closely by Lupin doing the same. But other than Sirius, Remus entered the room and sat down on his bed.
"Are you comfortable? You don't need anything?"
Harry shook his head and Remus hesitantly smoothed his blanket over him "You don't miss him?"
"Already?", Harry laughed "No."
Remus smiled a little and said "That's good then. Whenever you want to see him or speak to him, just give the word. It doesn't matter what we're doing, alright?"
Harry nodded and Remus stroked back his hair from his face, before tapping the side of his head affectionately and turning off the lights.
Harry felt so tired and happy, he slept deeply and dreamed of nothing in particular.
The next day they decided to help Harry learn swimming. As Fisher's Lodge was located at a lake and hidden by trees they just went out and started. Harry explained that he could swim just a little and showed them how he didn't drown. Remus showed him how to float and then started with a breast stroke. Harry soon became impatient with it as it didn't move him fast enough. The seeker rather appreciated fast transport – air or water. Remus quickly changed the lesson up, so that he taught him the front crawl. Harry was more pleased with this and learned fast, soon racing Sirius as Schnuffles. He lost, of course, but vowed to beat him by the end of the week. As they climbed out of the water Remus tossed them towels, hitting both in their faces and laughing at their gob smacked expressions.
"I always forget he was a marauder too.", Sirius grinned "He's so calm and collected most of the time."
Harry grinned "Did Uncle Remus prank people too?"
Sirius' grin widened and he threw an arm around Harry, guiding him to the house "Let me tell you all about it!"
Laughing and trading stories, they prepared lunch and ate together. Sirius choked at least three times, laughing about them both. Harry marvelled how young and careless his godfather suddenly looked. The haunted shadows from Azkaban seemed to have cleared completely. Maybe it was the fresh air by the lake and all the sunshine, he mused. Maybe it was because he was laughing.
When they sat down together in the evening, Sirius dropped off near the fire and Remus wrapped a blanket around him carefully.
"He's asleep already?", Harry whispered and Remus nodded
"He gets tired easily these days. He has the mind of 20 year old but the body of a grown man."
Harry rather thought 20 counted as "grown" but didn't say anything to that.
"He looks a lot better than when we saw him in the Shack."
"He does.", Remus said affectionately, still looking down on Sirius "In fact he looks better than just last week."
"What was last week?", Harry asked, coming up to stand beside him, Remus glanced at him.
"You weren't here.", Harry looked up surprised "It makes him happy to have you around, its good for him. I think that is the main reason he tries to get along with Severus. Its either that or loosing you."
Harry looked at Sirius again. The animagus was looking far from young and not at all like the handsome best man of the picture at the Potter's wedding. He did not have that energy, the easy, careless nature about him any more. Even though he was more relaxed with Harry around and laughed more, Sirius had still spent 12 years rotting in Azkaban in complete isolation. Harry thought Fisher's Lodge was a good place for him to stay and Remus the right person to take care of him. He hoped his godfather would recover from his prison time and return to the cheery self completely that he only showed Harry.
"What is this place anyway? Is it yours?"
Remus stepped away from Sirius and sat down in one of the squishy armchairs "No. As a werewolf I am not a legal person and have no right to possession. I am not able to own a house. It was my father's but now it belongs to Dumbledore. He lends it to me."
Harry stared "But how could you teach us if you are not considered human?"
Remus sighed "I am a half-human. Under the legislation of half-human rights I can be employed and paid but am not able to possess valuables. This was built in to prevent werewolves from inheriting. Even though a werewolf could inherit a Gringott's account, the way you did, he could not inherit a house or jewellery or art... And most of the pureblood's wealth is tied up in these things. They do have large Gringott's accounts but mostly only pride themselves on objects, that have been passed down from generations. As a werewolf is prevented from... breeding, he or she will give their inheritance on to normal children in their family at their death. If he does have children, which is against the law, they will not be accepted as proper heirs and thus treated as if they were illegitimate."
Harry felt lost and alone at this pronouncement. His godfather was one of the kindest and smartest people Harry knew, it seemed incredibly unfair that he was restricted like that. "But how are you prevented from... having kids?"
Remus smiled sadly "Its a component in the Wolfsbane Potion. Any werewolf that lives in our society is required to take the potion and the Wolfsbane was only allowed, when Professor Belby introduced this component from another potion."
Harry looked at Remus forlorn "But that is so unfair. You'd be a great dad! And I never knew about that part in the potion. I'd tell Dad to leave it out."
Remus smiled sadly at him "Well, I doubt your father will have taught you contraception potions just yet." He smiled wider at Harry's embarrassment "So you wouldn't recognize it. And your father could loose his licence if he misbrewed a potion, he could go to prison for doing so intentionally."
A few days hence they were sitting at the lake, Harry and Sirius fidgeting, while Remus sat completely relaxed.
"This is boring!", Sirius muttered and Harry silently agreed
"Have patience.", Remus said, leaning back into the grass and pushing his ridiculous straw hat over his eyes. Sirius rolled his eyes at Harry, who smirked.
"It would be so much easier to do this with magic. A little summoning..."
"Sirius!", Remus admonished under his hat "We are going to teach Harry how to fish, properly."
Sirius made a face but complied, after a while he lay back as well, staring into the sky "Hey Harry, have you learned all the constellations?"
Harry glanced up at the cloudless, sunny sky and leaned back on his elbows "Yeah, Professor Sinistra taught us. We also learned about the dog star."
They shared a grin and Sirius patted the grass beside him, Harry lay down, using Sirius arm as a pillow. Sirius snaked it around Harry, pulling him closer.
"When I was still a kid my father took me and my brother out camping one night.", Sirius said, staring into the blue sky with a gentle expression "He laid us down beside him like that, both laying against our fathers side and we stared into the sky. He told us about all the stars and their names. We drew them with our fingers and searched for the constellations we and our other family members were named after. It is one of the most beautiful and peaceful memories I have."
Harry looked at him from the side, Sirius was smiling sadly.
"What happened to your dad?"
Sirius sighed "He supported the Dark Lord but was no Death Eater. He was already old then. After I came to Hogwarts and entered Gryffindor House he seemed to loose all interest in me. He did not protect me or even glance at me. I left the House when I was sixteen, I could not stand their pure blood mania any more. He died some time after that."
Harry looked sadly at him and asked quietly "Where did you go?"
The smile returned to Sirius' face "Your father's place. The Potters took me in with so much warmth and love, I thought I had fallen into a dream."
Harry smiled gladly and looked back up into the sky. It struck him suddenly that these three men – Remus, Sirius and Severus – had the chance to build their own family stolen from them. And they were all connected with him, they all took him as their son and thus became an odd family. He smiled at that thought, four lost boys making their own family. When he next looked up, Remus had sat up and Sirius had fallen asleep again. No one but Remus caught anything that day.
Remus startled awake and jumped out of bed, when he heard a scream from next door. As he bolted out, Sirius flung open his door as well. He entered Harry's room behind the werewolf to a panting, whimpering Harry, eyes wide open, staring unseeingly at the ceiling.
"Harry! What happened?", Remus asked immediately and sank down onto the bed, taking the boy by the shoulders. Harry set his scared eyes on Remus and gave a little sob. As all young and inexperienced uncles do, when faced with a difficult situation while babysitting, Sirius ran for the parent.
"Spinners End!", he screamed, tossing the powder and sticking his head in "Snape!"
He heard chairs scraping and in the next moment, Snape was kneeling in front of him "What happened? Is Harry alright?"
"Come through!", Sirius demanded and retreated, immediately stepping back from the floo. And not a minute too soon as Severus stepped through, clad in black trousers and a white shirt.
"In his room.", Sirius said, leading him there and pointing at Harry still lying in his bed. His breathing had relaxed but his lip was trembling and he wasn't looking at Lupin who tried to whisper something to him.
"Get away!", Snape growled and took his place, Harry looked up at the familiar voice and gave another little distressed sound. He sat up immediately and wrapped his arms around his father.
"Shush, Harry, my little pumpkin.", Severus whispered soothingly to him, wrapping his arms around the child and rubbing his back and stroking his hair "Its alright."
Sirius stared disbelievingly at them both and mouthed "Pumpkin?" to Remus, who slapped him on the arm hard and whispered "shut up".
Snape turned his head at them and mouthed "Get out!", Remus nodded and dragged Sirius out with him, closing the door. Harry was leaning comfortably against his father, relishing the warmth and care he was receiving.
"Alright now?", Snape asked quietly and Harry shook his head. His heart was still pounding in fear and he gulped "What happened?"
"Nothing.", Harry whispered shakily
"Doesn't look like nothing to me.", Severus whispered back, Harry gulped again.
"Had a dream."
"More like a... a vision, I think."
Severus felt fear lunging up from the pit of his stomach. That did not sound good "A vision of... the Dark Lord?"
"What did he do?"
Harry shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut.
"OK, start at the beginning, where were you?"
"I was an owl.", Harry mumbled, his cheek pressed against Severus chest "I was flying. I flew to a room with an armchair. Pettigrew was there too, he was... begging."
"What state was he in?"
"Think he was alright, he had lost more weight I think. Voldemort" Harry felt Severus flinch "was in the armchair, he was talking to him, telling him to milk 'Nagini'."
"His pet snake.", Severus whispered "And then?"
"The snake came in, it was huge.", Harry whispered "And then there was this man, a Muggle I think, he was listening in. Nagini told Voldemort he was there and he said to Pettigrew... he told him to turn the armchair so he could face their visitor..."
"He killed him, just like that.", Harry whispered, his voice hollow. Severus pressed Harry close to him once more, laying his head against his "But I couldn't see him, I couldn't see Voldemort. He is only a spirit, so how can he have a body?"
"Don't worry about that now.", Severus whispered near his ear "Was there anything else?"
He knew his old master, he wouldn't just kill someone, he cherished the act. He would be cruel, because that was the only way for him to derive any pleasure from anything. Harry fidgeted in his arms.
"He told Nagini to... to eat him.", Harry said, sounding nauseated
"You saw?", Severus asked and felt Harry nod and tightened his grip "I'm sorry, pumpkin."
"Don't call me that.", Harry said, though it lacked the usual vigour. He didn't mind it so much, especially when Severus was saying it in an obvious effort to be gentle and not to tease him.
"What would you prefer?", Severus asked, trying to change the subject from recently deceased people being devoured by giant snakes.
"Harry.", the child said simply.
"Well, Harry, but what if I want to call you something else?", he inquired gently, combing Harry's hair affectionately.
"Don't know. Not 'pumpkin', its embarrassing.", Harry said
"Hm.", Severus said, feigning thoughtfulness "How about 'love' or 'sweety' or 'darling'?"
Harry laughed at that, leaning back to look into Severus' eyes "You would call me that? Seriously?"
Snape smirked at him, his arms still lightly wrapped around his son "If you want me to."
"Definitely not.", Harry shuddered, leaning back to his headboard "Be more creative."
"How about 'menace' or 'horror'?"
"Better.", Harry grinned, relaxing even more "But I doubt you'll want to say that when you're in that mood."
Severus smiled and shook his head at the last words "No, probably not."
They looked at each other for a moment before Severus said "Are you coming home?"
Harry sent an unsure look to the door and then back to his father.
"Can I? I don't want to hurt their feelings.", Harry mumbled, glancing at the door again"And it was only a dream."
"I don't believe it was merely a dream.", Severus said seriously "I want you to come back."
Harry grinned at him, trying to hide his relief at those words and then teased "You missed me, that's the real reason."
Severus leaned forward and connected their foreheads, before he quietly revealed "I did, actually."
Harry turned scarlet while Severus stood up to talk to his godfathers. When he came back and started to pack Harry's thing with a wave of his wand, Harry realized something.
"You're wearing your things! Were you awake?", Harry glanced at his clock, it was three in the morning.
"I was working.", Severus said simply, Harry suddenly felt anger and jealousy come up in him.
"At this time?", he asked incredulously and started, surprised at his own tone. Severus stopped and turned to look at him with the same surprise. He had sounded genuinely hurt and jealous.
"I was with Minerva.", he explained slowly "She needed assistance with the schedules and felt overwhelmed with... everything she has to organize, so she requested my help."
"Oh...err", Harry said, feeling embarrassed and slid out of the bed "Sorry... I..."
"Its alright, Harry.", Severus said, zipping up his bag "Do you have Ophion?"
Harry took up the box and his food and nodded. Severus lead him outside and Harry hugged his godfathers goodbye, reassuring them that he was alright. As they flooed back they almost walked into Minerva, who scrutinized Harry from head to toe "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine.", Harry said, his embarrassment growing "Going to bed, bye Professor."
"Goodbye.", she said, looking after him as he fled the room and then turned her gaze to Severus "Is he alright?"
"He had a vision from the Dark Lord. But he is alright now. Might you stay here while I inform Albus?"
Minerva nodded as she watched Severus ascend the stairs to say goodnight.
"Harry?", he asked as he entered the room and then went straight to sit at the bed, where he lay. "Can you go to sleep or do you need a potion?"
"I'm going to the headmaster for a short visit, Minerva is here if you need anything."
Harry nodded, expecting Severus to leave directly but he stayed there. Severus suddenly started stroking his hair and cheek, seeming lost in thought.
"If anything happens, anything unusual at all Harry, you scream for Minerva. Got it?"
Harry looked confused but nodded. Severus leaned down, connecting their foreheads. Harry could see the worry in his eyes.
"I promise Dad, anything unusual and I'll call for her."
"You scream for her.", Severus corrected.
"OK, alright.", Harry said, a little annoyed "I will scream for her."
Satisfied with the promise, Severus took his leave. All the way up to the headmaster's office, Severus worried about his son. Seeing a vivid vision like this couldn't mean anything good. Harry's cryptic 'I couldn't see him', worried him most. It could very well mean that he was looking out of the Dark Lord's eyes, which could mean a sort of possession or mind connection. It left a cold feeling in his stomach to think that. He remembered the way the Dark Lord used to torture his victims through mind control. He could make them do things... Severus' mind was all the way in the child's bedroom with him, while he walked the castle steps. What if the Dark Lord possessed him? What if he simple took a razor blade and cut his own wrists while being controlled? Unsettled by the image he entered the headmaster's office and found him wide awake in it.
After relating everything to the headmaster he asked the question:
"Albus, is he connected to him?"
The headmaster inclined his head "It is too soon to tell, but I suspect something of the sort."
Severus closed his eyes in agony "What can we do?"
"Might you train him in Occlumency?"
Severus looked up sharply "He is too young."
"He is quite a sharp boy.", the headmaster said "He will adjust and learn."
"He's fourteen, headmaster.", Snape answered, frowning.
"Yes and fourteen is hardly the youngest age to learn this art. Broderick Bane I believe..."
"Yes, spare me!", Snape snapped "The boy still needs regular cuddling sessions to get over his abuse from the Dursleys. I am not going to rape his mind."
"Severus, you're over dramatising something quite simple. I know you believe your nature to be vicious and cruel and thus your invading his mind would be... hurtful. But believe me, you have grown to care for him so much, your own self has developed with it. You will not hurt him intentionally or otherwise. As for his age, he is a mature young man, who picks up fast and easy to new material. He will apply himself to make you proud and I believe this could even bring you closer. And parents do always believe their children to be too young, too vulnerable and in need of assistance. He will do beautifully, I'm sure."
Severus huffed and ground out angrily "He is still my son and I decide what he will and will not be taught."
"But of course.", the headmaster agreed easily and Severus could not get rid of the feeling that he was being manoeuvred. He left the office in a daze and returned to Minerva scowling over one of his potions journals.
"How is this even possible?", she asked him, pointing to an article about the draught of peace.
"I do not believe you care one bit.", Severus said easily, relaxing in her company "How's he?"
"I suppose he's sleeping, there was no sound from his room."
"Thanks for staying.", he said, handing her the floo powder while she prepared to leave.
"Don't mention it." and she was gone.
Severus turned to the stairs at once and climbed up. He looked in on Harry, who was laying on his stomach, face buried in his pillow, and quietly asked "Are you awake?"
"Hmm.", Harry responded sleepily and opened his eyes, Severus smiled.
"No!", Harry said and propped up on his elbows "What did Dumbledore say?"
Severus entered the room and sat down on his bed, back leaning against the headboard. Harry lay his head on Severus leg, enjoying the warm hand that settled on his hair and the other on his back.
"He wants you to learn a magical art called Occlumency, it allows you to shield your mind from intrusion."
Harry hummed sleepily for him to continue, while Severus stroked his hair back. His breath was deepening slowly and Severus smiled down on him. He continued massaging his skull,thinking it might be hurting from the vision. Maybe that's why he didn't go to sleep yet...
"He wants me to teach you.", he said quietly.
"Good.", Harry murmured half asleep, trust lacing this one word and Severus warmed at that. Really, had he thought he would let anyone else invade his son's mind? No, there was no way. He would be the one to teach him and no one else. He relished the warm weight on his leg and the deep breaths coming from his child. It took him embarrassingly long to put Harry back onto his pillow and leave the room again.
It was early morning, when Harry suddenly woke and looked around his room startled. The cool morning light was filtering into his room and he shivered. Suddenly shadows seemed to spring up at him at every turn. The image of the old man's terror filled eyes and the accompanying exhilaration he had felt, made him feel sick to his stomach. He kicked away his sheets, wanting to run to the bathroom but as sudden as it had come it vanished. He was standing bare footed in the middle of the room and wrapped his arms around himself. The shadows still seemed alive. He left the room, padding silently to his father's room. The door was ajar and his father was sleeping on his side. The sight of the strong wizard alone made Harry calm down. He walked the few steps to his bed and sat down.
He knew his Dad's face well, knew all the lines and all its expressions. He knew how his eyes sparked with life, when he was emerged in potions or how his lips quirked at a joke. He felt safe in the same room with him and lay down on top of the covers close to him. Sleep claimed him again as safety and warmth seemed to surround him like a blanket.
When Snape awoke he felt a peculiar weight on him. He blinked and saw that he had a snoring teenager draped all over his stomach.
"Uff, Harry!", he complained and tried to push him off, Harry only grumbled but didn't shift. Annoyed with his son he lifted a hand and gave him a playful swat on his bum. Harry's eyes snapped open and he sat up, yawning widely, rubbing his behind "Did you just hit me?"
"You were sleeping on my stomach.", Snape answered and sat up, leaning back against his headboard "Why are you here anyway?"
Harry looked around the room, taking in that he wasn't in his own nor at Fisher's Lodge, where he last remembered to have fallen asleep. It took him a bit of time until his cheeks reddened in memory.
"Another vision?", Snape asked worriedly and Harry shook his head "Nightmare?"
"No, I just... I didn't feel safe.", he admitted and Snape gave him a soft look he missed, because he was staring at the covers.
"That's alright then.", Snape said easily "I sleep better with you here anyway. If you want to change the arrangements you can just sleep in my bed all year around. I'm sure your dorm mates..."
"Dad!", Harry whined with cherry ripe cheeks, attacking his father with one of the cushions. Severus laughed and caught his son by the arms pushing him on his back and starting to tickle him. The welcome sound of his son's laughter ran through the bedroom and he finally relaxed. Harry was perfectly alright. No cut wrists. No possession. Not even a nightmare. He stopped tickling Harry and smiled down on him.
"Seriously, don't ever hesitate to call me, when you feel insecure about anything, alright?", Snape said, staring into his eyes earnestly "Our instincts are the best indicator of danger and I want you to wear your pendant at all times."
"I do.", Harry said
"Where is it now?"
"In my jeans pocket?", Harry grinned guiltily
"You neglect it too much!", Snape said scowling down on him "If you don't take care with it I'll stick it to your neck."
Harry pouted at that.
"I think its time for waffles now.", Severus said, smiling, when Harry gave an enthusiastic "Yay!" "But guess who will make them."
"My Daddy, who loves me very much?", Harry guessed, smirking up at him and got a glare.
"Only because you had a vision of a raging mad man after your blood.", Snape said pushing Harry out of bed and sending him off to the bathroom.
"You'd think this'd get old...", Harry murmured yawning widely again.
Snape's face looked white at closer inspection, his eyes strangely widened in shock. Snape suddenly took Harry's face in between his hands and stared at him intensely. Harry flinched at that and then looked confused.
"What do I call you to annoy you?", he asked neutrally, Harry blinked and then glanced at his friends, who were in ear shot, and blushed.
"Why are you asking?"
Harry gulped and then whispered "Pumpkin head."
Yes guys! Its going on! Big thanks to JAWorley for the banner. I have also made a floor plan of Severus' quarters for anybody who'll like to see. You can find them on my account over at potionsandsnitchesDOTnet. Its posted in the author's notes for every story in the "Love is..." series.
potionsandsnitchesDOTnet / fanfiction / ?uid=6375
I am so excited for this to go on, hope you'll give this story as much love (and comments) as you gave its prequels!