The next morning after completing the obligatory lessons in the schoolroom he accompanied his father to Hermione's house to collect her. Mr. and Mrs. Granger were very friendly and seemed genuinely happy to see them both again, particularly Severus, who they had plenty of questions for regarding their daughters progress the previous term and the merits of her subject choices for the coming year. Harry wondered whether or not anyone had told them about the time she had spent in the hospital wing after being petrified, but from the way they were talking he suspected not, which he felt was rather unfair. He looked to his friend thinking it strange that she hadn't told them herself but then he supposed she wouldn't have wanted them to worry. Foreign as it was to them, the magical world would seem daunting enough without the thought of their daughter being in actual physical danger while at school.
He was pulled out of this reverie as the Grangers suddenly turned their attentions to him. Congratulating him on his newfound family and wishing him well. Hermione had fed them the pre-agreed story explaining Harry's change in circumstance but it was clear that they suspected there was more to the tale than they had been told. Harry had feared for a moment that their obvious suspicion might result in them changing their minds about permitting Hermione to visit but they seemed content to let it go.
When they returned to the manor the twins were sitting on the stairs waiting for them. Severus winced; he found the children's high pitched greetings rather grating. There was a scathing comment on the tip of his tongue but he had sworn to himself that he would do whatever it took to become a better father to his children and scornfully deriding them for their childish exuberance certainly wasn't going to help. Instead he forced himself to smile and reminded himself how happy he used to feel when spending time with Lily.
Watching the children interact with one another he began to wonder whether Harry felt the same way about Hermione as he had about Lily. He had mocked little Miss Granger in class for being an insufferable know it all on countless occasions but she had never held it against him. In some ways she was a lot like Lily. Regardless he thought Harry deserved some time alone with his friend and requested the twin's assistance in his study with some matter of the party planning.
"Your brother and sister really are adorable!" Hermione gushed. Harry smiled and said "Come on I want to show you something!" There wasn't much point in starting the grand tour without Ron who wouldn't be coming until after lunch but he figured there wouldn't be any harm in giving Hermione a sneak peek of the library. He knew only too well how each of his best friends felt about libraries, once Hermione saw it would be nigh on impossible to get her to leave whereas Ron definitely wouldn't have any interest in spending all afternoon on such a beautiful summers day cooped up inside in a stuffy room full of old books.
"Close your eyes!" he said to her as they reached the doorway.
She looked at him sceptically but acquiesced.
Placing his hands on her shoulders he led her through the door and into the centre of the room.
"Open them!" he whispered. She gasped in amazement at the sight of all the books, "Oh wow Harry, it's wonderful, have you all your assignments done? I'm not quite satisfied with one of my charms essays I couldn't find any of the information I was looking for in the prescribed texts and I had nothing else, would you mind if I looked it up now? I wouldn't leave this room if I lived here."
"Go on ahead." Harry said laughing. "I knew you would like it. I found a good one for charms there on that stack to the right." He suggested pointing towards it. "Third shelf from the bottom, that big brown one on the left hand side, I'd say maybe try that first."
Hermione grinned at him as she plucked the book from the shelf and brought it over to one of the side tables excitedly running her finger down the index until with a squeak of excitement she found what she was looking for.
"Have you got any spare parchment Harry?"
Harry fetched her some parchment, a quill and some ink and then selecting a book for himself he made himself comfortable on the window seat leaving her to her studies.
A couple of chapters in a gong rang somewhere in the house bringing Hermione back to reality. "What was that?" she asked of Harry, sheepishly looking down at her yard of notes and then at the time.
"The Lunch Bell." Harry confided. "You have another fifteen minutes or so before we will be expected in the dining room if you want to finish up here first."
She made a couple more notes before resignedly returning it to its shelf while remarking on what a wonderful book it was and questioning Harry on how he came to discover it."
"Father recommended it" He confessed feeling somewhat embarrassed although he wasn't really sure why. "He will probably let you borrow it if you ask" before quickly adding "While you are here I mean…" suspecting that his father may not be overly enamoured with the idea of playing librarian.
Hermione smiled and nodded agreeing that perhaps she would as he showed her towards the dining room for lunch. She was happy to see that her friend had settled in so well. He had been very anti-Snape when they had first found out.
After lunch the five of them withdrew to the drawing room, chatting amiably as awaited Ron's arrival.
Good manners would have been if Harry had remained in the drawing room allowing Cobb to announce their arrival after they had had a moment to compose themselves following their journey by floo but the moment Harry had heard the scuffling at the grate he had leapt out of the chair and ran to meet his friend as he stepped out of the flames. Severus followed admonishing him for running in the house just in time to see Ron's jaw drop to the ground as he took in the size of the place.
"Bloody Hell, This place is absolutely enormous Harry." He said just as his mother stepped out of the fireplace behind him, nudging him crossly to remind him of his manners. Ron closed his mouth with a snap and turning to Snape thanked him profusely for the invitation to stay before excitedly handing over his things to the patiently waiting Cobb.
Harry hugged Mrs Weasley in welcome and then introduced them both to the twins, telling his friends that they had much planned for them to do over the next week.
"May we take them on the tour now father?" Lily asked?
"Once Ronald has said his goodbyes, yes"
"Bye Mum." Ron said giving her a half-hearted hug as she warned him once more to be good.
"Now?" Evan asked impatiently.
Severus sighed, "Very well you may run along."
Grinning, the children took him at his word and began chasing off down the hall.
"Not literally!" he called after them in frustration causing the five young children to immediately slow their pace before almost collapsing into a fit of giggles.
Mrs. Weasley smiled as Severus turned back to her unsure of what he was supposed to do now. He had expected her to leave once she had deposited her son. "Err could I get you some tea or something?" he asked awkwardly.
"No thank you but I would like to speak with you for a moment in private if that would alright."
He frowned expecting her to admonish him over something or other pertaining to Harry's upbringing and directed her towards his study but it wasn't Harry she wanted to talk about it was her own daughter Ginny.
Little Miss Weasley had been corrupted and somewhat possessed by Lord Voldemort's memory last year through means of a diary and had inadvertently opened the Chamber of Secrets. A number of students were petrified by a basilisk that dwelt in this chamber and she herself would likely have died down there if his son hadn't rescued her. It was undoubtedly a lot for a young witch to cope with and Mrs. Weasley would have liked to have been able to think all's well that ends well, Ginny was fine after all, as were the other students and she had been absolved of all blame surrounding the incident but still her daughter seemed to suffer and having exhausted every other option she could think of she now turned to former death eater Severus Snape for advice on how to help her readjust and get over her guilt.
Severus looked at her blinking. "You want me to discuss what I did as a death eater with a twelve year old girl?" he clarified, shocked.
Technically Ginny wouldn't actually be twelve for another two weeks but pointing this out to Severus wouldn't help her case so she overlooked it, "Well not exactly, I want you to discuss how you overcame it."
"The love of my life died, I never overcame it."
"But you moved on?"
"I pledged my oath that I would do everything in my power to protect her son. I did not want her death to be in vain."
"Your Son." Molly replied smiling,
"Well I didn't know that at the time but yes my son, our son."
"Tell me Severus do you think you would you have rescued Ginny from the chamber last year if Harry hadn't been with her."
"Truthfully Molly, I wouldn't have known where to look if Harry and Ron had not discovered where it was."
"But Gilderoy Lockhart did?"
"He claimed to but I believe he would have deserted his post had the boys not pressed him into assistance."
Molly frowned, she had once thought very highly of Lockhart but from all accounts he had been a horrifically inadequate Professor. Would Ginny and the boys be alive at all if Severus hadn't intervened? "What if Harry and Ron had been trapped on the opposite sides of the rock fall," she asked cautiously, "If Ron had been left to find Ginny and fight off the basilisk while Harry went to fetch you, would you have gone after them or would you have left Lockhart to it?"
Severus sighed in frustration, despite the stern public persona he deliberately portrayed it still hurt that she could consider him that heartless, "Of course I would have rescued her, heavens Molly, what kind of man do you take me for that I could conscionably leave a child to that fate, I am a father and an educator, how could I possibly live with myself?
"Thus proves my point exactly, you found your way out of the shadows."
Severus looked at her in confusion. "I don't follow?"
"Once upon a time Severus Snape would have had no qualms in leaving an innocent child to suffer."
Severus Snape closed his eyes and silently counted to ten before coolly asking her how she thought dredging up the past like this was going to help her daughter.
"Because you are the only person I know and trust who knows what it feels like to be misguided and manipulated, brainwashed even, by Tom Marvolo Riddle."
"Do you trust me? I seem to recall you threatening me at Kings Cross only a few weeks ago."
"Dumbledore trusts you."
"Yes, but if he had a daughter I doubt he would be asking me to tell her about my time as a Death Eater."
"Harry trusts you"
"Harry's choice was me or the Dursleys, who is to say I am not just the lesser of two evils."
"That isn't true and you know it, I don't care what kind of a show you were putting on in Kings Cross that day, baring Percy who has never before spoken ill of a teacher in his life, none of my children seemed the slightest bit concerned about Harry going home with you. Not one question or comment, nothing! Not even from Fred and George who I am sure you are aware have not always been your biggest fans. Did you know that Ron and the Twins once stole out of the house in the middle of the night and flew all the way to Surrey in that wretched car of Arthur's after deciding that Harry way in need of liberating. I understand the predicament your being Harry's father puts you both in so I haven't asked any questions. I don't know what really happened between you last year or what was said but whatever it was the children seem to trust you, Harry trusts you Severus, and now we are trusting you; do you really think we would leave our Son here in your charge for a week if we didn't?, Please there must be something you can think of that would help Ginny."
Severus sat in silent contemplation for a moment as Molly looked on, a twinkle of hope in her eyes. He couldn't particularly see himself playing child psychologist and yet the Weasleys had been so very kind to Harry when he had had no one else, he owed it to them to do whatever he could to help.
"Ginevra spent most of last year confiding in a cursed diary. I certainly would not call her a loner, she seems quite popular among her peers, but I don't think she made particularly strong connections with any of them. This is likely her greatest detriment as a friend could convince her to cop on to herself in a way that a parent or a teacher never could. Permit Ronald a night without his sister and I will contrive some reason to send for her tomorrow. It may do her good to simply get away for the week, take her mind of it. She can spend time with some children who aren't her brothers and if the opportunity arises I will try to talk to her about how she is feeling."
"Thank you Severus, I guess I will see you tomorrow then."