AN: Probably a bit OoC.
Minerva's Boys, by Alexannah
Hogwarts' staff room had always been a sanctuary. Until Dolores Umbridge had come to the school. Unfortunately, she could go in and out as she pleased, which was why most of the staff meetings now took place in one of the other teachers' quarters, out of working hours and behind Umbridge's back. This time, it was Minerva's turn to host.
He blinked, tearing his eyes away from her mantelpiece. "Oh—yes, please. Thank you."
Minerva smiled as she made it up exactly as he liked it—extra strong with the tiniest dash of milk and half a spoonful of sugar—and handed it to him. She seemed to be in a good mood. Casting his eye over her living-room, Severus could see why.
He hadn't realised it was Mother's Day. His mother had been gone for some years, and even when she was alive, he hadn't seen the need to observe the occasion. They hadn't exactly been close.
Every surface in Minerva's quarters was covered in Mother's Day cards. There had to be hundreds of them. The room smelled overwhelmingly of flowers, because at least fifty bouquets had been arranged in vases all around the room, mostly on the floor due to the cards taking up so much space.
Surely that's a bit overkill, Severus thought, but didn't voice his opinion. Obviously Minerva meant a lot to her children.
Funny, really … he hadn't known she had any. You would have thought it would come up in conversation at some point during sixteen years of working together.
He kept his thoughts to himself during the meeting, half of which was spent badmouthing Umbridge (an activity which he was happy to join in with) and the rest spent formulating ideas how to protect the students from her and the Ministry's bulldozer will.
Finally, they wrapped it up. Severus couldn't contain his curiosity any more, and volunteered to help Minerva clear up the tea things, causing his colleagues to go into shock.
"What's got into you?" Minerva asked as he followed her into the kitchen, the rest of the staff having left.
Even the bench was covered with cards. Merlin, this was ridiculous.
"I didn't know you had children, Minerva," Severus said pointedly, picking up one of the cards to examine the floral pattern.
"What? I don't." Minerva turned, and saw what he was doing. "Oh, I see."
"Well, if you don't, who on earth sends you all these?" Severus opened the card in his hands.
To Professor McGonagall,
Happy Mother's Day!
Thanks for everything,
"The students send you Mother's Day cards?" he said, stunned.
Minerva looked slightly awkward. "I take it you don't get Father's Day cards from your Slytherins, then."
"Of course not! I'm not their father." Merlin forbid he should ever have children. "Why do you get them?"
"Well, I've been told on more than one occasion, by more than one of my Gryffindors, that they consider me a second mother." Minerva turned back to the washing up. "I get floods of cards every year; from current and past students."
"And flowers, I see."
Minerva smiled, looking slightly sad. "Most students just send me a card. They save the flowers and gifts for their real mothers. The bouquets in there come from those without real mothers. They're always the most grateful." She wiped a tear from her eye.
Severus felt a lump in his throat and didn't know what to say. He knew Minerva was protective of her students, but he had obviously not known the half of it. He was protective of his students. He didn't just favour them—he mentored them, tutored them, guided them, occasionally even comforted a homesick first-year. And not one of them had ever considered him a parental figure. Or if they had, they had been too proud to show it.
He had always gone the extra mile, so he thought. He had prided himself on being a better Head of House than the one he had been lumbered with at school—one who took the time to attend to each student personally, and not consider being in the lead for House Points to be the only objective of the job.
It took Severus a moment to realise he was jealous. It took much longer to figure out who he was actually jealous of—Minerva … or her devoted students.
Maybe if he had had a Head of House like her, his life could have turned out very differently.
"Severus?" She was staring at him now, face full of concern. "Are you all right?"
"Your students are very lucky to have you," he tried to say nonchalantly, but it didn't quite come out like that. Her eyes widened slightly, and he knew she had realised what was going through his head.
"Severus," Minerva said in her softest voice. "You know, my door isn't just open to my Gryffindors. It's open to you, too, if you ever need me." She took his hand and squeezed it gently.
He had always prided himself on never showing emotion, but he knew if he stood there a moment longer he was going to start crying. Severus backed away, pulling his hand from her grip, turned tail and ran.
It had taken Harry longer than usual to get his Mother's Day gift together that year. He and Neville normally did theirs together, gathering the best non-biting flowers that grew wild in the grounds. This year, DA and studying and Occlumency had almost overwhelmed him, so they didn't manage to get out onto the grounds until lunchtime on Mother's Day.
"There." Neville tucked in the last stem of the little white ones that they knew Professor McGonagall loved, and stepped back to admire his work. "Perfect."
"They're great, Neville," Harry said gratefully. He wasn't much of a flower arranger. The first bouquet he had ever sent, back in his first year, had been well-intentioned but given poor Professor McGonagall a nasty rash.
He was just thankful she never knew it was his gift that had caused it. He had always sent his anonymously. Even to himself, he couldn't explain why, when everyone else (including Neville) signed their name. But he didn't.
Neville glanced at his watch. "Harry, could you take these up to her? Only I've still got an essay to do for Snape."
"Me?" Harry almost squeaked.
"You do realise that, after nearly five years, she'll be familiar enough with your handwriting to know it's from you anyway?" Neville pointed out. "Go on, please. I'll be up all night as it is."
"All right, I'll do it." Harry picked up both bouquets. "Good luck with the essay."
Neville pulled a face before hurrying off.
Harry entered the castle after him and headed up towards Professor McGonagall's office. She was probably in her quarters, since it was a Sunday, but they were off her office so he could just knock on the door, or leave them on her desk. He hadn't decided which to do when he reached the top of the stairs just short of his destination, only for someone to crash headlong into him.
Whoever it was sent them both flying. And not the enjoyable, on a broomstick kind. Harry and the other person tumbled in a tangled heap back down two flights of stairs. He landed heavily on his shoulder with the other party on top of him, and pain flared up, so bad he nearly passed out.
"What on earth—?"
Harry lifted his head slightly, sending pain jarring down his side, to see Professor McGonagall standing where he and the other person had collided, staring down at them both. "Are you both all right?"
"I think I broke something," Harry mumbled, trying to wriggle out from under whoever was on top of him and only causing more pain. "Ow. Could you get off me please?"
"Sorry," a low voice said, and the pressure eased as its owner crawled very slowly across the landing, breathing heavily.
"Let me see." Professor McGonagall had appeared right beside them. "Where does it hurt?"
Harry struggled into a sitting position, and saw who had run into him. Snape was half-lying, half-sitting next to what remained of Harry and Neville's bouquets, one hand grasping his ankle. He had his face turned away, but there was no mistaking that curtain of greasy hair.
"Um," Harry said, since Snape showed no sign of answering her, "my shoulder. And down my back."
Professor McGonagall turned her attention to him with a tut. "You shouldn't have sat up if your back hurts; you could have injured it badly." Deft fingers examined his shoulder and his back. "No permanent damage, thank goodness. I think your shoulder's only dislocated. I'll take a closer look in a moment; hold still for now." She turned to Snape. "Severus, let me see." She was using her most commanding, it's-for-your-own-good tone that every Gryffindor knew all too well.
Very slowly, he lifted his hand from his ankle. Even from where Harry sat, he could see it was swollen and at a strange angle. When Professor McGonagall touched it he flinched violently.
"Broken. We have to get you upstairs. Will you consent to a stretcher?"
Harry wasn't sure why she was asking him. Then again, he couldn't picture Snape voluntarily putting himself in such an undignified position, and expected him to demand a splint instead.
For some reason, though, Snape didn't reply. After a moment Harry realised he was trembling slightly. Surely it couldn't be shock—Snape had been a Death Eater; he must have encountered far worse than a broken ankle.
"Severus?" Professor McGonagall said in a gentler tone, putting a hand on his shoulder. Curious, Harry leaned to the side, ignoring the pain that it caused him, and his mouth fell open.
Snape was crying.
He wasn't sobbing or anything, but tears were flowing thick and fast down his sallow cheeks and he was holding his hand over his face, trying desperately to hide from both of them.
"Minerva," he said in a quiet, strangled tone. "Please—leave—Poppy—"
Professor McGonagall hesitated, then shook her head. "No. I can fix this myself." Snape made a noise of protest, but she ignored it, stood up and conjured a stretcher under him.
"Minerva!" Now he sounded more annoyed than upset. She ignored him, and conjured a stretcher for Harry as well.
Harry could tell, as they floated after Professor McGonagall in silence, that Snape was miffed. They reached Professor McGonagall's office, and she went in and through to her private quarters.
The sight of all the cards and flowers everywhere made Harry gape. It was an open secret that her unofficial title was Gryffindor's Mum, but Harry had to admit he had never pictured what it must look like on her end. The fact that, despite the sheer number, every single card was prominently and proudly displayed rather than shoved in a drawer, touched him.
Shame his flowers had been destroyed.
Professor McGonagall examined Harry first, practically ignoring Snape. Harry understood his huffy silence. It probably didn't help that tears were still leaking down Snape's face and the two of them were in full view of each other.
"Allergies," Snape muttered upon seeing Harry watching him. "All these damn flowers."
Professor McGonagall's mouth twitched. Harry had to agree, it wasn't very convincing. Snape scowled and looked away.
"Are you going to fix my ankle?" he asked eventually.
"Of course," Professor McGonagall said without looking away from Harry. "But I know you, and I know that if I fix you first, you will walk right out that door while I'm seeing to Mr Potter, and avoid me for the rest of the day."
"So you're keeping me prisoner."
"Don't be so over-dramatic." Professor McGonagall popped Harry's shoulder back in, and he yelped. "Sorry, Mr Potter. How does that feel now?"
Harry moved his arm a bit. "Much better, thanks Professor."
"Your back is only bruised, there's nothing wrong; it'll just be sore for a while."
He waited, but she was hesitating. "If you don't have anywhere to be, Mr Potter, I would rather you remained here for a while."
"What?" Snape yelped.
"Er … yeah, okay," Harry said slowly. "Why?"
She didn't answer, but turned to Snape. "Now, Mr Impatient, it's your turn."
Snape folded his arms with a scowl. The tears had stopped. "I don't know what game you're playing, Minerva, but I don't like it."
"Don't you want me to treat you like one of my Gryffindors?"
Snape looked like someone had Stunned him. He opened his mouth, apparently could think of no response, and closed it again. His eyes had become suspiciously bright again.
Harry hadn't a clue what was going on between them, but it was very entertaining. He settled back on the sofa and watched as Professor McGonagall fixed Snape's ankle. He looked like he couldn't make up his mind whether he was annoyed or not.
"What in the world do you want Potter here for?" Snape muttered. "Ouch."
"Because," Professor McGonagall said slowly, "I think you could both learn something from each other."
"I'll have none of that attitude, young man."
Harry stifled a giggle at Snape's expression. Professor McGonagall was treating him like he was a student again.
"There, all done."
"Thank Merlin," Snape said, getting to his feet and testing his ankle gingerly. It obviously didn't hurt, for he shifted his weight onto it and took two steps for the door. "I'm out of here."
"Oh, no you don't." Professor McGonagall threw out an arm to stop him. "Sit. And stay. I'm giving Harry permission to Stun you if you try and leave."
Snape looked horrified. "You can't do that!"
"Really, Professor?" Harry asked in delight.
"Yes. Make sure he stays there. I will be back momentarily." Professor McGonagall pushed Snape gently back onto the other sofa and left the living-room. Harry heard her opening cupboards.
Snape muttered under his breath, then turned his gaze on Harry, who was half-hoping he would try and leave so he could Stun the man and get away with it. "I don't suppose you have any idea what's got into your Head of House, Potter?"
"No," Harry said honestly. "But it's probably best to go with it, sir."
Silence fell. Snape was glaring at the floor as if it was the reason he had been sentenced to remain in the same room as Harry. They heard Professor McGonagall doing something in the kitchen. It seemed to drag on forever.
"So," Snape finally said, apparently sick of the silence. "Those flowers on the stairs. Were they for Professor McGonagall?"
"Yes," Harry muttered.
"Me and Neville, yeah."
"I see." Snape paused. "You don't send flowers to your aunt?"
"It's called Mother's Day," Harry said, unexpectedly harshly. "Not Aunt's Day."
"And yet you give bouquets to a woman who is no relative at all. Yes, Potter, that makes perfect sense. How silly of me to question it."
Harry gave a low growl in his throat. "What's it to you if I think Professor McGonagall's been way more of a mother figure than my aunt ever was?"
"Really? How so?"
Harry had no idea why Snape suddenly seemed so interested, but he didn't stop to wonder, just plunged right on. "Because for one thing, she actually cares that I'm alive. She cares that I eat properly and get my homework done and that I get enough sleep. She asks me how I am. She worries about my wellbeing. She's there for me when I'm sick. She's always fair. She's always there for me, no matter what."
He stopped abruptly, realising too late he had revealed a whole lot about what his aunt didn't do. Snape didn't seem to be thinking that, though. He looked pensive, his eyes misty again.
"Must be nice," he said in a faraway tone. He didn't sound his usual self at all; he sounded … wistful.
The observation made Harry pause. He had never stopped to wonder … about Snape's family. If he actually had any. Or if he did, what they were like.
Maybe the two of them weren't so different after all.
Minerva was listening from the kitchen, the teapot rapidly cooling. She was touched by Harry's outburst, but it also pained her. It pained her further to hear Severus' reaction.
If only he had been in her House. She would have loved him like all her lion cubs. She would have made sure he knew he was cared for. She would have looked out for him, disciplined and rewarded him as appropriate, nursed him when he needed it, given him the care he so obviously missed out on.
The ironic thing was, she knew he was more than brave enough to be a Gryffindor. If only the Sorting Hat could have seen it. If only she had seen it, years ago, and been his mother too no matter what the Hat said.
Still, it wasn't too late to correct that mistake. Minerva tapped the teapot, which steamed again, and carried the tray into the living-room, rattling it loudly to announce her impending entry.
"Finally!" Severus burst out upon seeing her, apparently having snapped out of his melancholy. "You were making tea? What on earth took so long?"
"I had to grow it myself," Minerva said drily, making his mouth twitch despite himself. Harry giggled. "Now drink up, both of you. We have some things to discuss."
"What things?" Harry asked, obediently taking a cup.
"I was thinking of making Professor Snape an honorary Gryffindor."
Severus, who had just taken a sip of tea, choked and spluttered. Harry dropped his own cup, and Minerva quickly Vanished the spilled drink.
"Kept strictly between us," she added. "Naturally, we don't want to give You-Know-Who any reason to doubt Severus' loyalty."
"Naturally," Severus said between chokes. "Minerva, have you completely lost your mind?"
"Why are you—"
"Severus, you know why I'm suggesting this."
Their eyes met, and his lower lip trembled again. Oh, Merlin. Severus was normally so strong. Minerva had never seen him vulnerable before today. Oh, they'd been friends, she'd seen his good side—but this was a whole part of Severus she had never been witness to.
"Um, Professor," Harry spoke up hesitantly. "Isn't that a conflict of interest? How can he be Head of one House and honorary member of another?"
"This isn't an official honorary position," Minerva explained. "That's been done in the past but there's a whole lot of hoops that need to be jumped through for it. What I had in mind was more of an informal arrangement which doesn't affect things like House points, but does mean certain … benefits."
They both stared at her. "Benefits?" Harry looked oblivious, but Severus understood.
"Does Potter have to be here for this?" he muttered, looking touched but going red at the same time.
"Yes," Minerva said firmly.
"Because Gryffindor House is a family. I trust we can count on your discretion, Harry."
"Um, yeah," Harry said, sounding stunned and still confused.
Severus had ducked his head, trying to hide the fresh tears. Minerva smiled and, taking him by complete surprise, pulled him into a hug.
To her pleasant surprise, he accepted it, and after a moment clung on tightly. She wondered how long it had been since someone had just held him. Judging by the returning tremble, it had been a long time.
"You're one of my boys now, Severus," Minerva murmured, rocking him gently. "You'll never be alone again, I promise."
He clung closer, and she felt his tears flowing thick and fast.
She glanced over at Harry, who was watching with the strangest expression on his face. Although there was a myriad of emotions showing, the one she picked out was the longing. She opened her arm, wordlessly inviting him to join them.
Minerva and Severus were almost bowled over as Harry leaped into her arms as well, as if he had been waiting for the invitation his whole life. She shifted position so she could hold both of her boys tightly. They both clung to her. Even Harry was crying now. Harry, who never cried.
Hours later, when it had got dark and Minerva was forced to let them go so Harry wouldn't be out after curfew, she turned her attention to the next day's lesson plans, but her mind was elsewhere. Both in Gryffindor Tower with Harry, and in the dungeons with Severus.
There were some things she couldn't change. She couldn't change the past. Nor could she change the fact that Severus had a job to do, or that secrecy and facades were a crucial part of keeping him alive. She couldn't mend years of bitterness and resentment in one night, in one hug. Not even in many hugs.
But, she thought optimistically, one thing it seemed she might be able to change, was Severus and Harry's attitudes to each other. They had both glimpsed the other's vulnerability today (although admittedly it was mostly one-sided)—which was really her main reason for asking Harry to stay.
Wouldn't it be something, she thought with a wry smile, if she managed to accomplish what Albus had been trying to for years?
So much of Severus' bitterness was tied up with Harry. The only way he would ever be able to truly heal was to learn to let it go. And Minerva wouldn't be his mother if she didn't do all she could to help him heal.
As she was putting away her things, about to get ready for bed, one last bouquet of flowers popped into existence on her desk. It was huge, almost taking up the entire desk.
She picked up the card, and smiled.
Thank you for making me one of your lions. If anyone asks, I shall deny fervently that I ever cried on your shoulder, but today you made me feel like I really had a mother. You deserve this more than anyone I've ever known, and so much more.
PS: This bouquet also contains the flowers I managed to recover which were meant for you from Potter and Longbottom.
PPS: If Potter breathes a word of what happened between us, I reserve the right to keep him in detention until he's finished school.
Minerva chuckled. Early days.