She had appeared at the end of the street ploughing her way through the crowds, sweeping from side to side, so obviously looking for either someone or something that Harry had noticed her long before he came to realise with more than a little apprehension that it was them that she sought.
Having eventually spotted them she made a beeline for the ice cream parlour, knocking some poor doddery old witch into the gutter in her haste to reach them.
"Meet my wife" Severus uttered distastefully, urging Harry to sit back down after he had leapt up intending to go to the old woman's aid. Someone else was already helping her back to her feet.
"Is this the boy?" she snapped, motioning towards Harry as she reached the table.
"Yes, Harry I would like you to meet my wife Morgana, Morgana, my son Harry."
Harry stood and politely offered her his hand but she ignored it and instead reached up to brush his hair back off his face to get a proper look at the famed scar on his forehead.
Harry stepped back in surprise, voicing his objection to being approached in such a way by a total stranger even if she was technically his stepmother.
"So rude" she exclaimed haughtily as Severus rose from his chair, positioning himself between her and Harry.
They glared at each other for a moment or two until the potions master broke the silence by quipping that it was a surprise to meet her here.
Harry looked to his father in surprise, was this not who they had been waiting here to meet?
"I had a few errands to run" she replied breezily, just as Harry realised that both of them were blatantly lying.
"Would you like to join us?" Severus asked with raised eyebrows as he gestured once more for Harry to sit back down.
"I suppose I can spare a few minutes." She replied nodding condescendingly as Harry watched in surprise as his father chivalrously pulled out a chair for her.
She was a tall woman, with brilliant blue eyes and long dark hair and he could tell that she would be very beautiful if she made a little effort or took a little pride in her appearance but as it was she looked gaunt and tired, eyes rimmed with dark circles with hair a tangled mess.
"Are you sure he's yours?" she baited after the waiter had taken her order. "I can see a lot more of James Potter in him than you."
"I'm sure, but you will recall that James and I were cousins."
"Ah yes I remember you mentioning it alright, but remind me why your precious Lily, who you are so eternally infatuated with, chose to marry your cousin instead of you, and with her carrying your child no less?"
"The question on everybody's lips, but alas I do not know the answer." He replied stoically, refusing to rise to her bait. "I see a lot of similarities between him and Brendan." He added.
"Who James Potter?" she scoffed.
Harry froze mid scoop as she turned her attention back to him.
"I don't see it." She snapped, "How would you know anyways, when was the last time you actually saw Brendan?"
"It's not from want of trying Morgana." He growled starting to lose his temper, as Harry looked on in silent amazement, spoon half raised to his mouth, melted ice cream dripping down the handle onto his hand.
She shot him a disparaging look that prompted him to quickly shove the remaining ice cream into his mouth and wipe his sticky fingers on the napkin.
"Deplorable manners" she commented, shaking her head in disgust, "I should be extremely embarrassed if my son were to behave so, although I suppose what else could one expect from one raised bereft of parental care and guidance. Tell me Harry, what exactly was it you did to result in my eternally selfish husband here finally accepting the responsibility of fatherhood, my own little boy could use the advice, you do know of your brother Brendan, I hope "
"Yes Ma'am" he replied politely.
She nodded encouragingly before once more asking him to reveal his secret.
Severus held up his hand indicating to Harry that he did not wish for him to provide an answer, deciding instead to respond to her himself. "You really are unbelievable Morgana, how dare you come here and try to poison Harry against me as you have already done Brendan. You know full well that I have bent over backwards trying to be a father to him, but he will not let me, and don't think for even a minute that I don't know that's coming from you. Up until this point you have done your utmost to keep my son from me, but I am ecstatic to see that you seem to have changed your mind and can now see that Brendan needs me in his life and are now endeavouring to see it happen. It is quite fortuitous in fact that we ran into each other here like this today for you see I have been meaning to speak with you – we will be celebrating Harry's thirteenth birthday at the end of July and I would like very much for Brendan to be able to attend, you are welcome too of course, but also Prince family tradition would dictate I commission a new family portrait to be unveiled on the night meaning that I would also need Brendan to come over at least once before hand to pose for the artist."
Harry resisted the urge to laugh, somehow his father had managed to turn all her attempts at belittling him around and had now backed her into a corner leaving it pretty much impossible for her to say no to Brendan going to the party.
"I will speak to him and let you know how he feels about it" she conceded, positively seething.
"He is six years old Morgana and he needs to be in that picture for him to ever inherit anything of the Prince estate, I'm not asking you to leave him alone with me, I can understand his shyness around me but I have done nothing to upset him or harm him in any way. You should not have to ask him whether or not he would mind seeing me or my other children."
"Very well" she relented, unwilling to risk her son losing out on his rightful inheritance due to some silly antiquated rule and unable to come up with any further deferrals, "send me on all the details and we will be there."
Severus thanked her smugly, and then satisfied in the knowledge that he had most definitely won this round, began engaging her in polite small talk until she finally made her excuses and left.
Harry was relieved to see the back of her but there was something in the way she grinned as she stalked off that unsettled his father,
"Morgana" he called out.
"Yes, Severus?" she questioned impatiently as she returned to see what he wanted.
"You will ensure that Brendan comes to both the portrait sitting and the party or I will be petitioning the Wizengamot for custody."
"Yes Severus" she replied caustically before disappearing off into the crowd.
"Well she seems nice." Harry said somewhat sarcastically after she was gone.
"Judge not lest ye be judged," he murmured in response with a raise of his eyebrows.
Harry laughed. "So is she married to that guy we met in Knockturn Alley earlier now or how did you know she was coming?"
"The one who threatened to tell his wife about meeting us if you didn't give him hush money!"
"Oh him, no, but his wife and Morgana are very close friends. Are you finished that? we should be heading back soon."
Harry nodded and they gathered up their stuff and left leaving a rather generous tip behind them.
On returning to the manor Severus sent Harry down to his potions lab with all their newly purchased supplies and requested he begin unpacking them while he checked in on the twins.
He stood watching them from the doorway for a few moments, smiling to himself, before they noticed him. He was glad to see that his plan had worked and that they seemed to have made up although he was still a little concerned that they may have viewed his taking Harry with him to Diagon Alley as favouritism.
He greeted them warmly and then enquired as to the status of the project. It was going well but they were not quite finished yet so he advised them that he would return in about half an hour and set off down to his lab.
Harry was humming gently to himself – he clearly hadn't expected his father to join him so quickly and nearly jumped clean out of his skin when he realised he was standing behind him. Severus laughed and then began directing Harry on the best way to preserve some of their more perishable purchases.
"You know I would helped you anyways, if you had just asked." Harry said, " You didn't have to pass it of as a detention."
"You wouldn't rather be off playing with the twins?"
"There's plenty time for both, I rather enjoyed helping you today and it is usual for a kid to have chores you know."
"Those chores usually contribute to the running of the house and or a family business, I expect you and the twins to conduct yourselves at a certain standard and to clean up after yourselves but there's nothing you can really do to help me out with the house – the house elves already do everything, so I think it's better that you have that time to focus on better educating yourselves than having you wish dishes or mow lawns just for the sake of it."
"Yes but the elves wouldn't have helped you with this?"
"They would, but I like to do it myself."
Harry looked down guiltily at the mess he had made on the bench and offered the jar back to his father.
Severus smiled and shook his head, "I'm teaching you."
Harry smiled back and continued with the herb. He thought back to how horrified he had been after they had first brewed the consanguineis potion and he had discovered that he was somehow related to the potions professor. He couldn't believe how stupid he had been back then, he absolutely loved having Snape as a father now.
They talked a little more while they worked about what potions the ingredients would be used for and then about Morgana and Brendan until everything had been put away. Severus then left him to clean up, requesting he come up to the school room when he was finished.
The twins had by now finished their project and were eagerly awaiting his return for him to assess it. He did so and was very pleased with the work they had done and was now satisfied that they would make the transition to Hogwarts very nicely. He had always been a little unsure of his decision not to send them to a muggle primary school, Muggleborn students often seemed to get off to a better start than some of their home schooled counterparts some of which seemed to struggle even with basic reading and writing but it almost always evened out after a month or two after they all settled into the routine though and since his own experience of muggle school had been somewhat difficult he had ultimately decided against it. With the right curriculum he could give them the best of both worlds at home without the need for them to worry about having to hide their powers.
He looked at his watch, there was about fifteen minutes of detention time left so mindful of the damage they had done at the Dursleys, he decide to use that time to begin a quick lesson on how emotion could affect magic and how to control it just as Harry walked in.
"Have you decided what you want us to do tomorrow yet?" Lily asked when they were finished.
Snape nodded. "Yes I have a few more things I need to do down in my lab which I would like Evan to help me with while you will teach Harry to waltz in preparation for his upcoming birthday party."
Harry groaned audibly.
"Hey, this is detention remember, it's not meant to be fun" Severus remarked with a wink, while trying to pretend not to notice how incredibly excited his daughter was at the prospect. Again he had his reasons for such an unorthodox punishment, it ensured Harry would not embarrass himself at his birthday ball and in the event that the twins were feeling a little slighted by his having brought Harry with him to Diagon Alley, it would prevent them from taking their frustration out on Harry by shutting him out. A win-win situation he thought to himself as he returned to his potions lab, leaving the children to their own devices.
He was expecting to have to clean up after Harry but was surprised to find that he had left both work bench and floor absolutely spotless and all the bottles and jars he had been filling lined up neatly and in alphabetical order on one of the formerly empty shelves. If anything the lab was actually cleaner than it had been before, so smiling, he turned on his heel and went off to his study instead. Taking up the book he had been reading on the findings of a study a Chinese Apothecary had been conducting on the use of Re'em blood in strengthening potions he sat down intending to read for a while but he had trouble concentrating, the meeting with Morgana was playing on his mind. He was annoyed with her for having the audacity to paint him as such a selfish immature man who refused to live up to the responsibilities of fatherhood. But if he were being honest with himself he was also frustrated with having to secretly agree with her. Sure he had fought long and hard for the right to be a father to Brendan, but what would he have done with it if it had been granted to him? Send him an occasional letter? Invite him round for dinner once or twice a week in the summer holidays? Since discovering Harry was his son he had come to realise that try as he had, he wasn't exactly father of the year material. He had provided for the Twins physical needs, fed them, clothed them, saw to it that they had the very best education even showered them with expensive gifts but he had rarely been there for them on an emotional level. How could he have been, leaving them home alone with a nursery maid most of the year while he had sequestered himself away at Hogwarts? Did people see this as selfish and irresponsible or did they understand his reasons for keeping the twins at home? There were many who would say the children were far better off away from his influence, the majority of his students included!
He sighed, and tugged at his stock, it was sweltering in here today. Then with a flick of his wand he opened the windows to let in some fresh air and with it the sound of the children laughing outside. This led to somewhat of an epiphany, why waste time keep brooding over past failings when he could instead put it to better use actually building the relationship he wanted with his children and so tearing off the stock altogether he hurried out to the garden to join them.
Meanwhile Morgana had gone home in a fit of rage to where her friend, Gruoch, was playing cards with Brendan while patiently awaiting her return. Upon hearing her Gruoch had leapt up and poured each of them a drink
"Bit early isn't it?" Morgana remarked, accepting it nonetheless.
"Thought you might need it" she replied, "Did you see him?" she added excitedly, eager to be filled in on any gossip.
She nodded, "Yes and the boy."
"My new brother? "Brendan piped up curiously.
"Yes my pet."
"What's he like?"
"You can see for yourself soon, your father has invited you to his birthday party at the end of the month."
"Do I have to go?" he whined.
"Yes I am afraid so, now why don't you go off outside and play, leave Auntie Gruoch and I to have a little talk."
"Okay Mama." Brendan said, slipping obediently from the room.
"You want him to go?" Gruoch asked in surprise when they were alone.
"No but Severus has threatened to petition the Wizegamot for custody if he doesn't attend!"
Gruoch stared at her incredulous. The slimy potions master had seemed happy enough to leave them to get on with their own lives without him for so long that she was really surprised to learn that he was suddenly demanding more involvement in his son's life. "Gosh he has some nerve," She exclaimed, "Do you think he would? I thought he had agreed that there was no point forcing the relationship."
"I don't know. Obviously he has changed his mind and wants to play happy families now that he has discovered he fathered a child with his precious Lily. It's hardly something I can afford to risk, plus he mentioned something else about his being unable to ever inherit anything from the family if he didn't sit for some silly family portrait."
"I suppose, so what's the boy like?"
"A spoiled brat if ever there was one, manners were atrocious. The pair of them sitting outside Fortescues stuffing themselves with ice cream, everyone staring at them, and no sign of the other two mind, he clearly has no problem with letting the world know who his favourite is."
Gruoch shook her head, before commending her friend on how well behaved her son had been while she had been out. They continued talking for another hour or so, deriding Snapes appalling behaviour, and later his general appearance before debating possible ways to punish him or to at least manipulate the situation back to her advantage until it was time for a now rather intoxicated Gruoch to return home to her own husband and family and prepare dinner for them.