Authors Note: This is my first attempt at Harry Potter fan fiction, so please be gentle with me! I wrote it in response to reading all the wonderful Severitus challenge stories that I've read --- where Professor Snape (*swoons*) is Harry's father. It's a concept that I was thinking about for a while, and reading the other stories made me put pen to paper. It turned out a lot longer than I had originally intended, so I've cut it down into three or four parts to make reading it easier. Hope y'all enjoy!

(I know that the summary and the title might not make much sense when looking at this chapter, but all will be explained later on.)

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Natta. Zilch. Zero. Zip. Get it?

Authors note 2: Gargh!!! This is a repost! I actually posted it yesterday but I bloody erased the dam thing by accident. Sorry about that ---

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Dumbledore let out a satisfied sigh. Smiling contentedly, he leaned back in his armchair and closed his eyes, allowing his hat to droop drunkenly over his forehead.

"Severus," he called out to the darkness beyond his closed eyelids, "That was wonderful. Truly the best tea and crumpets I had ever had the privilege of sampling."

His companion stood a couple of paces away by the desk, carefully clearing away a tarnished silver tea service. Not turning around, he raised a dark eyebrow cynically. "Are you surprised? Potions Making is one step away from Home Economics. It is only natural, therefore, that I am a talented cook."

His voice, lowered to its customary purr, was heavy with ill-disguised bitterness. Albus merely shook his head with a soft chuckle. Snape made no secret of his desire to teach Defense Against the Black Arts ---- and of his dissatisfaction in his post as Potions Master. He would eventually get the job of course - it was inevitable - his knowledge in the field was extensive and he had a real talent for the spells required. But, as Dumbledore had told him repeatedly, the time was not yet right. Patience was a virtue, and one which the black haired teacher was well versed in ---- but that did not stop him from having the occasional grumble. Dumbledore knew better than to take him seriously.

"Yes, I can see the logic in that. Indeed, perhaps you might enjoy spending some time with Madam Griselda in the school kitchens?" He his glittering eyes slid open, face lining in a friendly smirk. "While her cooking is excellent, no doubt, I fear her scones are nothing in comparison to yours, old friend."

Snape, wisely, chose not to answer. Snorting quietly to himself, he glanced over his shoulder as he headed towards the wooden cupboard in the corner of the room. "Care for a drink?"

"Hm? Ah yes, don't mind if I do."

The sallow skinned Head of Slytherin House took a moment to remove the locking charm he had placed on his liquor cabinet. The memory of the time that the Wesley twins had managed to get inside had been more than enough to persuade him to protect it with magic. Two drunk Wesley's was not an experience that he was prepared to risk repeating.

Taking two glass goblets from the lower shelf, he carefully selected a bottle, pouring the amber colored liquid evenly between them. Then, black cape whispering across the stone walk floor, he seated himself in the chair opposite Dumbledore.

Albus eyed the wine he was passed, taking in the aromatic scent with one long breath. "Ch√Ęteau Bavorix?"

A nod. "1684."

"A very good year." The silver-bearded man took a long sip, whiskers curling in delight as the liquid warmed the back of his throat. "Exquisite!"

A fire was burning in the grate. It was the only light-source in the darkened room - casting a dancing orange glow across the wall. Snape stared mutely into the blaze, dark eyes glittering dully. Half his face was bathed in gold light, half last in shadows. He seemed momentarily lost. The glass of wine in his hand remained untouched.

Dumbledore watched him closely for a moment.

The tall windows, heavily draped in swathes of black, stared out onto a milky moon. The silence was heavy - though not uncomfortable - and broken only by the crackling of burning wood and the beat of a clock hidden somewhere in the inky gloom.

They had known each other a long time, Severus and he. Though Professor Snape was something of a loner by nature, Albus knew that the Potions Master considered him with a kind of respectful esteem. In their own quiet way, the pair had become close friends. He knew better than anyone the strange moods that sometimes took hold of the younger man. But there were times --- when he got that distant, meditative look in his eyes --- when not even Albus Dumbledore would hazard a guess where his thoughts took him.

"You have not yet tasted your wine, Severus?"

At first it seemed that he did not hear him. He continued to gaze darkly into space, one cheek leaning against a curled fist. Then, after a moment, the dark haired man looked up, frowning mildly. "Hmm? Did you say something?"

"Oh, nothing of consequence. I was simply commenting on the fact that you have not yet tasted your wine."

Snape blinked in confusion, then glanced down at the untouched drink he held in his hand. He dutifully rose the glass to his lips and took a long draught - though it was clear to both Albus and himself that he was doing so through mere politeness.

The aged Headmaster of Hogwarts continued to watch him intently. Resting his chin against his thumb and forefinger, his snowy white eyebrows drawn together, he spoke suddenly.

"I understand that you gave Mr Potter another detention today ---- and also deducted ten house points from Gryffindor."

Snape didn't look up. "The boy had obviously not studied at all last night;" he murmured quietly, "The penalty was justified."

"Don't you think you're a little hard on him?"

The answer came without hesitation. "No."

Albus sighed and shook his head, tall hat now balancing precariously over his forehead. The darkness seemed to gather around them like a subtle curtain, vague and void-like.

When he spoke again, his voice was lowered to a considerate murmur. "When are you going to stop punishing him, Severus?"

"When he learns to study when he is told."

There was a slight pause. "That wasn't to what I was referring, old friend."

A branch of wood collapsed in the grate with a sharp crackle, glowing embers of ash drifting out into the air. The fire flamed high - orange burning reflecting in Snape's fathomless black eyes. His mouth was pressed into a grim line, jaw suddenly clenched firm. He continued to stare bleakly into space.

"I know."

Albus tilted his head slightly as he considered his younger companion. "You cannot blame Harry for what happened --- it wasn't his fault. It wasn't anybody's fault. I can understand your bitterness, but to direct it at the boy is unproductive."

The ghost of a sneer curved on the Slytherin's lips. "Well, I don't know about that," he purred silkily. "It certainly makes me feel better."

"And that is why you spend your evenings brooding alone in your office, is it? Because you feel better?" Dumbledore arched his eyebrows challengingly. "I am old, Serverus, but I am not a fool. Do not try to lie to me. I know you too well for that."

Snape looked sulky for a moment. Leaning his head back against the arm chair, chin buried into the neck of his robes, he allowed his eyelids to slide halfway down his eyes. "This is not a subject which I wish to discuss right now," he murmured wearily.

The other man gave a short laugh. "Well now, there's a surprise. My dear friend, when do you *ever* wish to discuss your past with *anyone*?"

"Then I would have thought that you had got the hint by now," he commented dryly.

Albus steepled his fingers underneath his chin, the action hidden by the lengths of silvery beard cascading down his front. "Let us just say that I was always a slow learner."

"Evidently."

For the most part, Professor Snape retained a polite reverence towards Dumbledore - partly through respect of his wisdom and magical ability, partly gratitude due to the fact that anybody else would have refused a former Death Eater employment. But on these evenings where they gathered for idle socialization, all barriers came down. It was not the meeting of a teacher and headmaster so much as a meeting of old friends. These were the times when Snape was at his frankest --- talking to Albus with an informality that would have shocked an onlooker.

Albus took no offense. Indeed, it was rather nice to be talked to as an equal every now and again. Being the most powerful wizard in the world meant that, while he had many admirers and devotees, he had few true friends. Over the years, Snape had become very dear to him. It hurt him to see someone so close to him in such obvious pain.

"Have you ever considered actually talking to Harry? Telling him the truth? It might help."

The Potions Master gave a hard snort, heavy strands of black hair falling over his pale forehead. "And what good would that do?" he murmured softly, voice as rich as cream. "He despises me, Albus, and its best that it stays that way. The truth would do neither of us any good. Not now."

Dumbldoor leaned forward in his armchair. "He needs a father, Serverus."

"Nonsense. He's fine the way he is. And why disrupt an arrangement that has kept us both happy for the past fifteen years?"

A silver eyebrow was lifted at this comment. "Happy? Harry is not happy, old friend. His longing for a family has not diminished in the least. He hides his pain well --- he is an exceptionally brave boy --- but that does not make him content with his situation. And as for you-" he paused to shake his head, "You are the very personification of melancholy!"

"I would not quite go that far." Snape mumbled in protest.

Albus peered over his half-moon glasses, studying the hook-nosed man intently. "Do not tell me that you have not wondered how it might have been. Had things turned out differently---"

"Had she not gone running to that little snot James at the first sign of trouble you mean?"

"They were in love. You cannot hold that against them," Dumbledore reasoned gently.

Severus turned to look at him now. His eyes glittered dangerously in the firelight, face outlined in a mask of shadow. "Can't I?" he purred darkly.

The headmaster met his gaze with steady determination. "No. You can't. Do not blame them for loving each other, old friend --- she never meant to hurt you."

----But she did though, didn't she?----

Snape gritted his teeth and turned his attention back to the grate. The words burned through his brain, remaining unsaid. He didn't have to say them. Dumbledore already knew.

"But that's why you continue to punish Harry, isn't it?" Albus stared at his friend, gaze strangely sad. He sighed softly. "Because, in some way, you wish to punish her for causing you so much heart ache in the past."

Snape was breathing deeply now. His chest, clothed in his customary black robe, rose and fell with every breath he took. His jaw was clenched, his long pale fingers gripping tightly onto the arms of his chair. He blinked quickly.

"Preposterous," he hissed, hoping that he spoke with more conviction than he felt --- and failing miserably.

There was a heavy silence. The ticking of the clock had somehow become an unbearable series of bangs, clattering in the corner of the room like an artificial heartbeat. Snape's own heart was pounding against his ribs so loudly, it half occurred to him to wonder whether Albus could hear it.

After a long moment, Dumbledore spoke. His voice was low --- barely above a whisper --- soft and gentle, almost fatherly. His eyes shone over his glasses, staring benevolently to the dark-haired man.

"He's your son, Severus."

Snape stiffened at his words. His knuckles were white; he was gripping his chair so tightly. He didn't move --- didn't speak --- simply sat and stared, eyebrows drawn together in a whisper of a frown.

"Do not punish him for being her child."

Severus turned his head and looked sorrowfully to Dumbledore. "You think I punish Harry for being Lily's son?" he whispered, voice breaking unnaturally. He swallowed and shook his head. "Of course I don't. I loved Lily." Taking a deep breath, he looked back to the fire, loosing himself in the dancing flames. "If anything ---- I punish him for being *my* son."

Albus didn't reply. He watched as Professor Snape rose wearily from his seat, shoulders sagging as though carrying a heavy weight. The dark-haired man suddenly seemed so much older than his thirty-seven years. It was not, he supposed, surprising. He had seen more than most men would in a lifetime, and now it looked like it was beginning to take its toll.

Snape looked down tiredly at the headmaster. "It is late. If you'll excuse me, I think it's about time I turned in for the night."

Dumbledore gave a nod, smiling with false cheerfulness. "Of course, of course." He gave a wide, theatrical yawn. "I was just about to suggest the same thing myself."

The Head of Slytherin hesitated slightly and then gave a short bow. Without another word he strode from the room, the skirts of his robe trailing noiselessly after him. The door opened and he stepped through it, disappearing into the darkness beyond. The door closed with a muffled thud.

Severus Snape was gone.

Albus, contrary to what he had told his friend, stayed in the room a while longer, sipping thoughtfully at his barely touched wine. Oh, he had always known the truth about Severus and Harry --- Lily had told him back when she had first discovered that she was pregnant, all those years ago. He remembered that meeting well. In pained him to think of her pretty young face, blotched and tearstained with the terrible secret that she carried. She was carrying the child of a Death Eater. The knowledge had been almost too much for her to bear.

James had been a tower of strength at this time. His love for Lily went beyond any hurt he might have felt at knowing that she slept with Severus -- - he cared for her regardless, and was more than willing to raise the child as his own. They had married soon afterwards.

What happened later, Albus didn't like to think about. Those were dark times for magic folk everywhere and the death of James and Lily Potter had been a devastating blow for them all. Come to think of it, that was about the time that Severus defected from the Evil Lord ----

Sighing deeply, the silver-haired man drowned the last of his drink.

He hadn't lied earlier. It was good wine.

Gathering his purple robes about him, he rose and began to make his way to his bedchambers. He had a parent-teacher committee meeting first thing in the morning, and he had a feeling that it was going to be a long day.