AN: this was an idea I've been harboring awhile while I was working on my story Stages. While I'm on the fence about whether or not Severus was a hero, I do believe he would have been a great father-figure to Harry if circumstances were different. I was actually planning on doing the story later on, but when I heard about Alan Rickman's passing, I wanted to do something in honor of his memory. Granted it took me awhile since my plan was to get the story done by January but better later than never. I'm proud of how it came out and I hope you all like it.
I dedicate this fanfic to 2 people: Alan Rickman, first and foremost. A brilliant actor who played a huge part in our childhood and will be greatly missed. And also to my great friend LittleNightDragon. Rickman played her head of house and I relied heavily on her help to make sure I got his character down just right. Ash, I thank you so much for that.
A pang shot through his chest.
A pang that flared with the intensity of a Crucio, dropping to the pit of his stomach. Heavily weighting down like a pound of steeled iron, setting off a chain of emotions-shock being the most prominent-that stirred inside him like a simmering cauldron as he walked into St. Mungo's and looked into a familiar pair of almond-shaped, emerald-green eyes.
Eyes that have haunted his dreams for years now. Eyes he stored away in the deepest corners of his mind, meant to be concealed and locked tight.
Attached to those hauntingly beautiful eyes was a fair-skinned face that was just as lovely as her unique eyes, ten times more beautiful than he remembered. Dark red hair tumbled down her shoulders in thick waves.
Those emerald-green eyes were wide in shock, mouth dropping as she turned her head over to the left, freezing in her tracks as she caught sight of him.
"Severus." Lily breathed.
A breath was meant to be let out was caught in his throat like a fly to a spider's web. He swallowed-or attempted to. The blasted, caught-breath clogged his throat, refusing to let air pass.
He opened his mouth, though he wasn't sure what to say. What could he say? That when he came to the hospital to report for his sixth-month internship, she was the last person he ever expected to see. That he thought he would never see her again, given how horrible things ended between them. His shock slowly morphed to curiosity. He wondered how she had been since they last saw each other.
The latter question was answered as a high-pitched shriek "Mommy!" rang in the air.
Both adults turned, a smile lightening Lily's face and a scowl darkening his, as a little boy rushed over to them, racing to Lily. His hair dark and wild, as if he just rolled out of bed and didn't bother to use a comb. His fair skin a few shades darker compared to Lily's. Large, round-framed glasses perched on the tip of his nose.
"Mommy!" he happily cried.
Lily's smile grew to a grin as she caught the boy before he knocked her down, lifting him up and holding him tight.
Severus watched the nauseating moment, anger and bitterness clashing inside him like dueling blades.
So it's true then, he thought. Disappointment stung like a slap. He swallowed it down and held onto his dark emotions, using them as a shield. He had no reason to be disappointed or even surprised. There were articles on the weddings, pictures of the blushing bride and her groom plastered on almost every magazine in London, comments from fashion critics on how breathtaking she looked in her wedding dress. All of which he fed to the fireplace, watching her smiling face slowly wither to ash. However he saw for himself that they had plenty to keep them busy.
From what he saw, given his short height, the boy looked about four or five. The strong resemblance to his father gave enough hints as to who her husband was.
Potter. Hatred spurge through his body, building in pressure, rattling like caged animals trying to escape from their prisons. Memories flashed through his mind. Potter hexing him, spelling his robes to vanish or change color, often a bright pink color that was shades lighter than his flushed face. Saving him from the prank his lunatic friends dragged him into and informing him he was owed a life-debt. Capturing the heart of his best friend, luring her away with his honey-dipped words and smiles because he was so determined to steal everything that was his.
Almost as if he could feel the heat of Severus' glare, the boy lifted his head off Lily's shoulder and met his eyes. Piercing him with big, doe eyes that were so similar to Lily's. Too similar.
He turned his head away sharply, unable to stand the sight of those emerald-greens being attached to his rival's face. Then walked away as Lily set the boy on his feet, kneeling down to his level.
"Mommy?" the miniature James Potter asked. "Who was that?"
"That…" He could picture Lily biting her lip, trying to find the right word to associate him with. "That was an old friend of mine."
Severus quickened his step, not wanting to hear what else she had to say.
The gods must have favored him or most likely pitied because that was the last surprise he came across in the hospital. Though his office was on the same floor as hers, they were opposite ends of the hall, with Lily being at the east wing and him the west. He kept himself busy with work and she with hers, which made bumping into each other a rarity. Even if so, exchanged with one quick glance, neither saying a word, before heels were swerved and walked the opposite direction.
Sometimes he would see Lily in the cafeteria with a colleague, few times with Potter (she always avoided eye-contact whenever he came for his food while her husband glared daggers at him), and sometimes with the brat.
One day as he was reaching for a jar of raven feathers on the top shelf he needed for his potion, he felt something boring into the back of his head.
Years of schooling helped him recognize when he was being gawked or glared at him. He turned around. He saw the brat creeping behind his door, peering at him.
Severus gave the boy such a fierce scowl that he ran.
I should see about having that locked, he thought. Possibly even having himself relocated altogether if more unwanted guests kept popping in.
Severus didn't have to worry about office-relocation or locking his door since there were no more surprises after that. He was left alone with his work, which was just as he preferred. No haunting emerald-greens, no Lily, and more importantly no annoying brats.
A month passed by and Severus fell into routine. He reported to the hospital by eight, made it to his office by eight-ten with a large mug of black coffee to start the day, and worked till six, flicking off his light and packing together the work he would be bringing home. Sometimes he went to the café, though his visits deceased as he noticed the frequent appearance of a familiar redhead with her family lounging by the window table, his heart crumbling at the sound of her laughter as the bastard kissed her or the brat showed her a picture he drew.
One day he skipped lunch after glimpsing at the black board posted by the door and seeing tuna casserole, planning to get grab something after work. He was deep into his research on a pox virus that was slowly seeping its way into London. He had several books laid out in front of him, comparing information from one book to another, when the sound of soft footsteps brought his attention to the door.
The brat was back, this time standing in the doorway instead of hiding.
He dropped his quill, leaned into his chair, and folded his arms, glaring at the child with hatred-lit eyes.
The child stared back at him. He flinched when Severus' glare grew into a biting sneer but still held his ground.
Must be that infamous Gryffindor courage. Severus was almost impressed. Almost. Until he remembered it was that same Gryffindor courage Potter loved boasting about.
"Maybe if you had some it, Snivellus," he said, smirking, "you'd be man enough to stop wetting your pants."
"Or stop losing them." Black added, vanishing his damp trousers with a flick of his wand, raising the volume of the crowd's laughter and Severus' deep hatred for them both.
His hands curled themselves into tight fists. He could feel his magic pulsing rapidly along with his blood pressure.
The child sensed the shift in the atmosphere, the tension that was thickening the air, given the way his Lily-eyes widened in what appeared to be fear. It was seeing those eyes, the only thing untainted by bastard of a father's genetic makeup, that kept Severus from letting the magic go free and have its way with the brat.
"May I help you?"
The brat took a glance over at the door as if he was thinking of running. Severus hoped he was considering it because he refused to take blame for however the brat's defiance (or stupidity if he was going to be blunt) might affect him. Alas, though, the child didn't leave. To his shock-as well as his annoyance-he came close to him, taking slow steps closer to his desk. To place a sandwich in front of his books.
A half sandwich of all things.
Severus….didn't know what to make of it. Brows arched, he glanced down at the sandwich, then looked up at the boy who offered him a soft smile, so soft that only the left corner of his mouth rose slightly before he walked away.
His gaze dropped down to the sandwich again. It was an ordinary thing. The standard white bread that was toaster golden-brown. Peanut-butter and jelly with something white dabbed in the middle. Cream cheese? Butter? Such a simple thing. Yet Severus found himself poking the center of the sandwich, sure to see lice or hair leak out from the corners, frowning at the excess jelly and white substance that oozed onto his desk.
Well the brat didn't put anything inside it. Severus doubted it was spiked or spelled. For a split moment, he was sure that his father must have put him up to it. After all how many times did Potter handed him an apply or a cup of ale that tasted normal, delicious even, only for Severus to discover bits of his hair falling out, some teeth rotting, or his skin being maimed by a sudden rash. As quick as the thought came to him, Severus pushed it away, scoffing. Potter may be an imbecile but even he must have realized they were too old for childish nonsense. Not to mention the fact he'd be the first suspect in mind if Severus suddenly fallen ill.
Even so, Severus picked up the sandwich with his thumb and forefinger, dropping it into the trashcan.
The brat may not have done anything to the sandwich but Severus refused to accept charity. Especially if it came from a Potter.
Another month passed by, and Severus found himself caught in another routine. This one consisting of sandwiches. After his visit from his unexpected (and unwelcomed) guest, the sandwiches kept coming. Not everyday thank Merlin or else the room would reek of peanut and jelly and smoke from the fire spell he aimed at it. They appeared on the days he didn't venture to the café, stomach churning as he read the daily special for the day. Always the same peanut-butter jelly and white substance whose identity he had yet to find out. Always on white bread, slightly toasted, and split in half. Always delivered by the same strange child who may not have been as obnoxious as he thought but was more…more unusual than he anticipated.
Sometimes he came whenever Severus was in the restroom. Sometimes he managed to come in when he had his back turned, slipping in and out of the room. Sometimes he would walk up to his desk while Severus was reading or writing and drop the sandwich, offering him the same soft smile before he left.
After receiving so many sandwiches and watching his trashcan filling up with the burnt remnants, Severus decided either out of curiosity (which was unlikely) or frustration (which was likely) to confront the issue. The café was serving grilled cheese and tomato, a tolerable food choice, but he purposefully skipped it. When noon stuck, Severus finished half of his work and leaned back into his chair.
At half past noon, the miniature Potter made his appearance. He slid quietly into his office, the spilt sandwich wrapped in plastic held in one hand, but stopped short when he saw Severus wasn't only at his desk but was waiting for him. He swallowed, fear or something that resembled it flashing through his eyes. Severus suppressed a smirk, satisfied that he caught the brat off guard.
"Care to explain to me why you are leaving a sandwich trail in my office?" he demanded.
The brat trembled. "Well-I-" he stammered. "You don't always come to the café-"
"What of it?" The question came out harsher than he expected, but it did give him the reaction he craved. The boy flinched, taking a step back. If he pressed further, the brat would be out his hair in no time.
"Well you have to be hungry. I know I am when-"
Severus had zero interest in hearing about the boy's eating habits. "So you decided to make me your charity case, is that it?"
The brat swallowed. Instead of backing away, instead of disappearing, he lifted his head and glared at him with those big, bright-green eyes that made Severus' chest ache for a moment. It's been far too long since he had been the victim to that fiery-green glare.
"It's not being a charity case!" the boy said. He was still nervous but his voice held firm. "It's being nice. You know what else is? Letting someone do something for you and thanking them."
Severus was at a loss for a moment. He didn't expect Lily's other traits to be passed over to the boy. He wasn't sure how to respond to it.
"Is that so?" The boy nodded, his fear slowly melting away. Severus cursed himself for not coming up with a better remark. "With half a sandwich?" He nodded again.
"I ate the other half," the boy confessed. "I save second part just in case."
Severus was once again stumped for a reply. He leaned his head against his forefinger, glancing down at the sandwich, then back at the boy.
"How do I know you haven't tampered with it?" He was his father's son after all.
Green eyes widened, shocked by the accusation, before they narrowed into slits. Miniature Potter tore off one end of the sandwich and shoved it into his mouth, chewing it thoroughly before swallowing. He folded his arms against his chest and stared at him. See, his green Lily eyes challenged. I told you.
Ten seconds passed by. The brat was still in one piece. His hair didn't fall out. His skin wasn't pricked with marks. No rotten tooth fell out. He didn't drop dead.
Severus was never one to back down from a challenge, a Gryffindor-like tendency that was the least severe of his dark secrets but one he would take to the grave. Glancing down at the sandwich again, he grabbed his quill and changed it into a knife. He cut a small fraction of it and brought the piece into his mouth. He tasted the jelly (strawberry), the smooth texture of the peanut butter, and the white substance that was sweeter than he imagined.
He finally swallowed and leaned back into his chair. The brat wisely kept his mouth shut but the gleam that touched those bright-greens said enough.
"The white stuff?" Severus asked. "What is it?"
The left corner of his mouth rose slightly. "It's fluff."
Fluff? "And what exactly is that?"
"Melted marshmallow." The lifted lip-corner grew into a full one, a few notches away from an excited grin. "It's really good. It's my favorite."
A child with a sweet tooth. Unsurprising. He knew for a fact his godson had the worse one yet. Hand him a box of sweets and in less than a minute there'd be nothing left but scraps.
"I'm glad you like it." Thoughts of his godson were pushed aside by the boy's words.
Severus only stared, neither confirming nor denying. He kept his eyes on the Potter boy as he gave him a departing smile and left.
Strange boy, he declared.
The sandwiches kept coming in. The boy continued dropping by. The difference between then and now was the fact the trash intake was decreasing. Peanut butter and jelly, along with the white fluff, were hardly his choice of an ideal meal but compared to diluted tomato soup or cold casserole it was adequate.
Along with the change in tune for his taste in sandwiches, there was also a change in tune regarding the boy. He had Potter's face, his hair, his profile though he was a bit bonier compared to his father. Beyond the physical, there were few similarities between father and son. Potter, as he remembered from school, was loud and energetic. Never one to stay in one place for long. His booming voice and stomping feet the introductions to his entrance. His son, on the other hand, was quiet. The only times Severus was aware of his presence was when he heard mouse-like steps approaching and a familiar gaze focusing on him. Over time shy hesitation chipped to small smiles, expanding to fuller ones, then quiet giggles and questions.
Severus was surprised. Not by the fact questions came about, even if they came sooner than expected. After all, Potter or not, he was still a child. Six years of educating (and resisting the great urge not to kill) brats taught him that they were filled with questions. Too many for his liking. What surprised him was the quality of the boy's questions.
"Is that Wild Quinine?" he asked.
An eyebrow arched suspiciously, his eyes flickered over from the boy to the white bundle of flowers on his desk. Any other person would have mistaken them for daisies.
Severus failed to mask his surprise just as he failed to suppress his curiosity. "You know of the flower?"
The boy nodded. "Mommy has a garden in the backyard. She plants loads of flowers. She makes Wild Quinine for her potions. Says it heals and does more."
A garden? That bit of information didn't surprise him but it cause a sharp pang to shoot through his chest.
"A garden." Lily answered.
He was too focused on the way the sun shone down on her, creating a halo around her head, making the golden specks of her eyes more prominent, to realize what she was saying. It took awhile to remember the question he asked her. What was the first feature she'd want for her dream-house.
"A garden?" he repeated. Lily nodded, giving him her small yet dazzling smile that made warmth slither inside his stomach like a snake. His best friend was only thirteen years old and already a great beauty, one he knew would grow more beautiful as time went along. "Not a library? Or even a small book-shelf for your favorites?"Which was around two or three dozen.
"Don't be a prat." She giggled, whacking him in the arm. "Of course I'll have a library. I can never live in a place that doesn't have books." He let out a small chuckle, which she responded to with another whack to the arm. "But before I get a library, I want to have a garden." Her eyes brightened. "A large one. With so many bright flowers bursting with color. Like my own rainbow."
"I think it would be lovely, Lily." Just like you, he longed to say but bite his tongue, holding the words in.
It wasn't until pain was flaring down his tongue did he realize he was biting down on it. Hard. Releasing it and feeling a bruise forming, he looked at the boy. He was once again stunned by his eyes. Up close Severus saw there was bigger than Lily's, slightly more wide-set, but they were still colored a brilliant shade of green. Still specked with gold that was embedded in the green sea. Still held the same tender look in them that reminded him of a doe.
Severus swallowed and tapped his fingers against his desk. It was a habit students did whenever they were called on, tapping away as if the answer would come to them. It was a habit he loathed but the only one he could think to do at the moment to distract himself from thoughts that were reopening old wounds, cutting through the seams with salt-coated claws.
"You have a vast knowledge in flowers?"
"Only a little," the boy confessed. "I help Mommy garden and she tells me all sorts of things about flowers. She says each one has a purpose."
Strange, quiet, and apparently humble. Or at least not arrogant. The more the boy visited, the more Severus saw how little alike father and son were.
More questions came in after that, more about the flowers and herbs he brought in for his potions, about Hogwarts and his temporary time off teaching, about what he was researching in his books and the potion he was working on that day.
His bright green eyes never wavered, his attention always sharp. It wasn't long before Severus began to indulge the boy by answering the questions and asking some of his own.
"How old are you?"
"Five." the boy answered.
The same age as his godson. Severus stored that piece of information for later. "And your mother lets you wander around the hospital?" Even as he asked, he was doubtful. Potter seemed more like the type of person who'd let their child run wild, sure that they'd find their way back.
"She doesn't mind as long as I stay on this floor and don't disturb anyone." He paused, thinking over an issue, and then asked "I'm not disturbing you, am I, Sir?"
Severus didn't answer, causing the light in the boy's eyes to dim. Downcast, he nodded and then left.
Severus couldn't explain why but he felt a sense of, lack of a better word, deflation as he watched the boy walk away.
It was three whole days before he saw him again. It was mushroom ravioli at the café and after getting one whiff of the food, he decided to forgo lunch. At thirty pass twelve, the boy slowly crept into his office, the usual split sandwich in hand. His eyes widened in shock as he spotted the small table that was next to his desk with a box of crayons and a stack of coloring books.
"Since you seem to be fond of this room, you might as well be comfortable in it." Severus said, his tone indifferent.
For a moment the boy stood in the doorway, eyes shifting from the desk back to Severus, as if he was unsure whether it was a trick. He looked intently into Severus' eyes and saw something. What exactly, the man had no clue, but whatever it was managed to convince the boy that he wasn't being deceived.
He dropped the sandwich onto his desk and walked over to the small table. He pulled out the chair and opened one of the books, hand digging into crayon box. One of the crayons escaped, rolling off the table, onto the floor, over to Severus. It knocked against his shoe.
"Oops," Severus heard as he bent down to retrieve the crayon. A thick, dark blue one. Thankfully it didn't scrap his shoe. He looked over at the boy who bit his lip, preparing himself for a verbal lashing.
Severus tossed the crayon back to him. It left his hand as a simple crayon but morphed into a blue butterfly as it crossed over to the boy.
"Wow." he breathed, his wide eyes filled with wonder. The butterfly fluttered around him until the boy held out his finger, where it chose to rest on. The awe-struck expression on his face took Severus back to the time he performed the trick for Lily shortly after they met. She was just as spellbound as her son was.
"Can you show me how to do that?" he asked.
"Perhaps." Severus said.
A grin broke across the child's face, lighting his eyes and turning his lips. The sight caused a slight tug to shift in Severus' chest, one he couldn't contain nor explain.
When Severus decided to add a small space for the child, he worried that the rash decision would come back to bite him. It was one thing to tolerate another's presence for a few minutes. It was another thing to watch over them for most of the afternoon, until their mother and occasional father, much to his annoyance, came to collect them. He was sure he would get no peace, trying to think over the sounds of crashing toys and high-pitched shrieks, his office being littered with figures and crayons, and having a wild child run around the room as if he were in some sort of race. It was the sort of behavior he had to tolerate with his godson. He came to find that the boy was the expectation to the annoying-brats syndrome.
He came by around noon or so to deliver Severus his lunch, then sat down at his desk where he entertained himself with coloring, reading, and playing quietly with the toys he brought that day. He began to visit Severus even on the days when he decided to try the café, coming into his office an hour after lunch, heading off to his area after Severus gave his consent with a nod.
Other than the occasional conversation that sprung up whenever Severus decided to take a break from work, silence filled the room. However it wasn't stained with discomfort or tension. The child amused himself, Severus worked on his potions, and Lily didn't seem to mind although it took awhile for suspicion to clear from her eyes whenever she came for her son.
"You and Mommy were friends, right?"
Severus was in the middle of writing down a formula for one of his potions when the question was asked. He nearly slashed the paper in half, his quill digging deep into his notes and leaking a puddle of black ink into his hands.
Memories plagued his mind. Lily's face glowing in awe as she watched the strand of grass change into a butterfly. The two of them lying in the grass, hands entwined with each other, laughing about the latest prank they pulled on Petunia and talking about their plans for the upcoming school year. Lily glaring at Potter and his pack for harassing him, then turning that sharp glare over to him when he used the racial slur against her.
"We were." Severus confessed after a long length of silence.
"I don't need any help from you, you filthy little mudblood!" His younger self shouted. Anger was brewing inside his body like a deadly storm, fueled by the rounds of laughter and smirks going around him. He needed an outlet for that anger. Sadly for him and Lily, she was that outlet.
"We fell apart." That was a gentle way of putting it.
The boy nodded and turned back to his drawings, studying them instead of coloring.
The rational side of him, barely alive from the lashings of the cruel past, wanted to let the matter drop. Severus agreed with that side, inwardly flinching at the venom-spat words echoing throughout his head. Even so, somehow another side ignored rationality, causing the following words to slip out from his mouth.
"Why do you ask?"
The boy stared at him with those bright, Lily-green eyes, making pangs slit across his chest like razors. "I saw the way you looked at Mommy when you came to the hospital. I asked her about you and she said you were an old friend. But she looked really sad. Kinda like how you did then and how you look now."
Emotions spun inside him like a set of spinning tops, colliding into each other, disorienting his system. Severus swallowed to stop the spinning. To gain back control, but the emotions refused to fade away.
Severus glanced, glancing over at the boy. "What is?"
"That you and Mommy stopped being friends. It's sad."
Anger built inside him. He gripped his quill so tightly, he heard it snapping. "Oh?"
"Well, friends are always supposed to be there for each other, no matter what. Daddy says they're like your family but you get to choose them, which makes it more special."
Your insufferable nuisance bastard of a father is the reason why I lost Lily, Severus wanted to yell. He bit his tongue and said, maintaining an even tone, "And I suppose you're expert on friendship."
Severus braced himself for an overzealous response describing this boy and that boy with their shiny toy and new pet. What he got instead was a shake of the head, slumped shoulders, and downcast eyes.
"I don't…" the boy bit his lip, starting over. "I don't have a lot of friends. Or any actually."
Severus certainly didn't expect to hear that.
"But," he continued on, his voice no louder than a whisper but firm as steel. "If I had a friend, a best friend, I wouldn't let them walk away. I would try to make things right."
Severus stared at the boy for a long time until he finally blinked. "You're…" Not at all what he expected. "A very strange child."
The boy shrugged, as if he was used to the comment. Severus wondered how many times the word had been used against him.
Another month passed by and Severus found himself in another routine, welcoming his new companion into his office with a nod, watching over him till it was time to leave. He became so used to his companion that it was odd when the time change to 12:45 one afternoon and the boy had yet to appear.
Probably with his mother, Severus thought.
The next day, the boy didn't appear even though the lunch for the day was atrocious.
He didn't come the day after that or the day after that and the day after that.
His intestines tied into knots, the bounds tightening, with each day. Severus couldn't push down the sense of anxiety that was slowly but surely building inside him.
Was he hurt? As soon as the thought came to his head, Severus was shocked but couldn't stop the multiple scenarios that flashed through his mind, each one more troubling than the last.
He came to the café to refill his coffee mug. His heart trembled underneath his ribcage as he saw Lily by the tea station.
She caught sight of him before he walked away. "Severus."
"Lily." He was proud of himself for maintaining his composure despite the warmth stirring in his stomach caused by those intense emeralds. Or the way the sunlight leaking through the wide windows were drawn to her, creating a golden crown around her head.
She nodded and stared down into her cup, as if it held all the answers to her questions. The silence between them grew more tense with each passing second. It pained Severus that this was how they were now.
Seeing those green eyes brought to mind another person whose lack of appearance has been duly noted by him. "Is your boy alright?"
"Harry?" Her attention was brought back to him.
So that was the boy's name? It wasn't until he heard it that Severus realized he never bothered to ask him for it. "Is he…unwell? I've noticed he hasn't been around."
Confusion danced across her eyes for a moment before they were cleared with understanding. "He's fine. A nasty stomach bug has been going around his school. Harry caught it last Friday so we had to keep him home."
A stomach bug. The anxious knots in his stomach loosened, untying themselves. It wasn't as severe as he imagined. "That's good."
"That it isn't too serious," he elaborated. "I hope he feels better."
"He will be," A soft smile touched her face. Severus was amazed to find another trait mother and son shared. "Once he manages to stop fighting and take his medicine."
Severus couldn't explain to her why it was amusing to know that while the boy was different in other ways, he was the same in others. His own godson was no expectation to the "yucky medicine!" crusade. He lost count of the number of times he, Lucius, and Narcissa had to resort to threats and bribery to get the brat to swallow down the potion and keep it down.
"Children." he said with a shake of his head.
Pulling a small smile, Lily shrugged as if to say what can you do? Before she left, Severus stopped her, surprising the both of the them as he said "I hope your boy recovers soon."
Lily was at loss for what to say, blinking. She stared at him almost intently, and Severus saw how many of her inward traits have been passed over to her son. The unreadable mask on her face chipped a bit by the tentative smile lifting the right corner of her mouth.
Severus nodded. Lily wasn't done yet. She glanced down at her mug, fingers tapping along the handle, as if she was pondering on a thought.
"You're good with him. Harry I mean."
This time Severus was loss at words. Lily's smile grew a bit more.
"I wasn't sure in the beginning about him visiting you. People do like their privacy and I know you were no expectation to the rule."
An image popped into his mind. Him in his favorite spot at the Hogwarts library, deeply engrossed by the book in his hand, and then being pulled away from the story as he felt slender fingers tapping against his neck. He'd roll his eyes half-heartedly, recognizing that touch, as he put down his book and look into a pair of laughing eyes.
"Wipe that scowl off your face, Severus," she teased. "You look serious."
The light in her eyes dimmed as she continued. "Also it didn't seem like the best idea given, well, how we ended things."
Abruptly. Horribly. Severus released his hand that had been clenched into a tight fist and wound it back into a ball.
"Harry was determined though. He gets it from James." She let out a small breath of laughter. "He wanted to meet you."
"Why?" That was a question that had been circling around his head on a continuous loop. It popped it whenever he heard soft footsteps entering his room. Whenever the boy handed him the half sandwich with that soft smile of his. Whenever he asked him to teach him a spell or how to conduct a potion and stared at him like…Awe was too far-fetched. The look in his eyes though held an emotion that was close to it.
Lily shrugged with one shoulder. "I'm not sure. What I do know is that he's taken quite a liking to you." There must have been confusion or surprise, perhaps even both, written on his face. It was the explanation as to why her smile broadened. "And I see that you've taken a liking to him as well."
He could have lied. Dismiss the words, coating them with a logical explanation. But he didn't. He couldn't.
Severus took in a deep, letting it out slowly. "It would seem that your boy shares more than just your eye-color."
Lily nodded, gave him a considering smile, and left.
It took over a week for the stomach bug to clear. As he was coming into his office, he heard a string of soft giggles fluttering in Lily's office. Thanks to the "wonderful" tuna melt the café was serving, Severus made lunch for himself and his guest.
At fifteen past noon, the boy walked in. Severus was rearranging his bookshelf when he heard the footsteps. He peered over his shoulder.
The boy's steps were slower, each one done with care. His complexion was paler than usual and his cheeks were slightly flushed, but he appeared to be fine.
"Right on time," Severus said. "I'm happy to see you understand the importance of punctuality. I provided some food for us."
Severus pointed to the boy's desk. He followed that finger, his eyes widening at the small stack of peanut-butter jelly and fluff sandwiches topped on a silver tray along with glass of ginger-ale. When the boy turned back to him, Severus shrugged.
"I suspect after having to swallow down countless medicine, you'd be in the mood for something more…edible. I also provided ginger-ale for your stomach."
A bright, full smile lit the child's face as if he received a new broom. He picked up one of the sandwiches and took a big bite.
"It's good." The boy said, amazed.
Severus should have been insulted by the surprise but then again it would be hypocritical considering the fact he suspected the boy was trying to poison him months ago.
"It should be," he said. "The amount of fluff I put into it is enough to rot every tooth in your mouth."
"You didn't take a take a few bites of it while you were making them?" A knowing, teasing glint sparked in his eyes that reminded Severus too much of his mother.
"Eat your sandwich, brat." Severus ordered, neither confirming nor denying.
The brat quickly caught on; the glint in his eyes said it all. He wisely heed his warnings and focused on eating. Though Severus did hear stifled giggles in between bites.
Later in the afternoon, Severus was in a position he thought he'd never find himself in. Reading to a child that wasn't his godson. Most of his work was done and he had a little free-time, so when the child approached him with a book, asking in a shy voice if Severus would mind reading to him, he didn't turn him away. The boy was perched on his left knee, leaning against his chest, listening intently as Severus read The Hunchback of Norte Dame.
Severus was familiar with the tale, having stumbled across the book years back in an old bookshop, but he saw the version the boy had, the Disney-one, downplayed the story. Immensely.
"You remind me of him." The boy pointed to the hunchback as Severus flipped over to the next page, close to the ending.
Severus glanced at him, then studied the character, taking in the bad eye, his thick arms that were more gorilla-like than human, and the deformed frame. The only thing Severus saw they had in common was their lanky hair.
A flare of irritation shot through his body. Being compared to the hunchback? It was only a degree softer to the number of names Potter and his band of imbeciles labeled him, but Severus recognized a remark when he heard one.
"Why would that be?"
"Well, Quasimodo isn't like other people. He's different, and because of that people think he's a monster. But he's not." the boy insisted. "He may look scary but he's good inside." The boy looked up at him, piercing Severus with those big, bright eyes. "Kinda like you."
That…was not at all what he expected. Of all the things the boy could say, all the words that have been associated with Severus, good wasn't one of them.
Luckily for him, he didn't have to worry about responding. The boy continued talking.
"I guess that would make Mommy Esmeralda. Esmeralda saw the good inside him besides the gargoyles. And Mommy was the first one who saw good inside you."
Stunned, Severus looked down at the page. The hunchback was off by the side, a soft and sad smile on his face as he watched the green-eyed gypsy accept the hand of the golden solider. Severus tried not to think about their lives, at least in terms of the heart, parallel each other.
"I suppose you're right about that."
The boy grinned proudly, bringing his godson to mind. How a bright grin glowed on his face whenever he managed to outsmart Severus or wrangle a compliment from his father.
"You're a strange boy indeed, Harry." As the words came out, it occurred to him he was addressing the boy by his actual name.
The boy-Harry-noticed the change as well, his eyes shining extra bright. The sight made a pang, a different sort pass through his chest. "You are too, sir." he said. "Or can I call you Quasi?"
Severus stared down at him. "Try and that will be the last word you utter before I sew your mouth shut."
If the threat had been said months ago, fear would vibrate in the boy's body from head to toe, his knees buckling. He would have stammered an apology and race to the door. And now? The boy giggled, detecting the hidden light-heartedness underneath his words.
"Harry is such a sweet boy," Lily told him over lunch days later, poking her fork into the dry lasagna. "But I worry about him."
Severus didn't bother trying the lasagna. He helped himself to another bite of his roll, thinking about his time here at the hospital.
Five months. That was how long he had been working at St. Mungo's and within those months much change had alter his life with Harry being the most prominent. If someone had told him in the beginning he would grow attached to Potter's whelp, their mangled corpse would be boiling away in a cauldron. Somewhere down the line, despite his sneers and glares, despite the barriers and walls he built around himself, despite the uncanny resemblance the boy shared with his father, Harry paved his way in. With sandwiches, his questions, his comments that held childlike innocence and bright intelligence, his shy smiles, and those priceless emerald-greens that were too much like his mother.
Harry was the reason why he and Lily were here now, having lunch and talking like they used to. Severus decided to come down to the café and he felt a light tug to his robes as he was waiting in line. He stared down; blinking at the smile the boy gave him.
"You should sit with us." Harry said.
Severus glanced over at the table the family usually reserved. Potter was there, watching the scene intently. His eyes narrowed suspiciously as he caught Severus' eyes.
Imbecile, he thought. He turned his attention back to his son.
"I'm not sure that's-"
"I think it's a fine idea."
Severus blinked, recognizing the voice easily. He blinked again, sure that his hearing went off for a moment. He turned over from one pair of green eyes to another.
Lily smiled at him. "I insist."
A refusal was hanging off the tip of his tongue, but what came out of his mouth was a soft "Alright."
It was awkward of course, tension hanging in the air. Potter glared at him like he expected Severus to hex him. Lily struggled to find a topic that was safe to talk about. Severus focused on his plate. Harry played with his food, his feet lightly kicking against his chair, and sent him a smile every now and then.
The next family lunch went smoother, thanks in part to Potter's absence. Tension still hung between the adults but Harry eased it, showing them his drawings and talking about what happened in school. The ones after that weren't quite as tense, the discomfort slowly diminishing. However it was one thing to eat with both son and mother. It was another when it was just the mother.
Harry was spending the day with his father, according to Lily as she beckoned him over to their table.
"I'm sure your husband's head will explode if he walked in right now." Severus said, taking a seat across from her.
Lily simply smiled. "Well thank Merlin we're in a hospital."
A faint smile tugged his lips. Severus was relieved to see being married to Potter hadn't tarnished her quick wit.
For a few minutes silence hung over the former friends as they focused on eating. Well, more so Lilly was eating, Severus drinking his tea. Harry's name was slipped in and that slowly eased the tension.
"He's such a sweet boy. Very kind, polite. An avid reader. If you saw the number of books he has in his room, you'd think it was a library."
"Like mother, like son." Severus commented.
Lily's smile grew and then fell, changing into a frown. "He has such a hard time though. Fitting in. Children can be cruel. And it doesn't help that Dudley is in the same class as him."
Dudley. Petunia's son. Severus' mind was still baffled by the fact the woman found a man willing to pro-create with her. What he didn't find surprising was the fact Petunia passed on her anti-magic ideas over to the brat, based on what Harry told him of the daily harassment he received from his "cousin"
"What about friends outside of school?" Severus asked.
"You mean besides Sirius?" Lily teased. Severus rolled his eyes. She let out a soft giggle before sobering up. "We've tried playgroups with kids from the neighborhood. Even here in the children's playroom. But Harry's just so shy. He just sits at a corner and plays by himself."
A child popped into his mind, one who faced a similar problem. Multiple playgroups with the children of his parents' friends and zero success. His godson gave the usual reasons: the children were too boring, too slow, too annoying. But Severus would find him later in his room or the playroom surrounded by his toys, absent-mindedly pushing his figures back and forth, looking sad and lonely.
Despite his protests, Severus knew the boy craved friendship. The problem was finding the right candidate who'd be able to keep up with him.
An idea began to form in his head.
"I think I may know someone who'd be of great use to Harry and vice versa."
Interest sparked in her eyes. "Oh?"
Severus nodded. "You are familiar with the Malfoys, correct?"
On the last day of his internship, Severus was in the middle of packing his last set of books when he heard footsteps entering his office.
He looked over his shoulder just in time to see lunch being brought to him. A slice of chocolate cake drowning in chocolate frosting. Next to the cake was a drawing done of him. The form was crooked, his arms looked more like branches, but the hair was right and the dark robes.
"I made you going away presents." Harry grinned, and after a moment of thinking added, "Well Mommy baked the cake but I helped with the frosting. I did the drawing myself."
"I can tell." Severus said, taking another glance. The crayon-drawn figure barely resembled him but at least he looked human.
"I'm gonna miss you." At the last word, the boy's smile fell and sadness hit his eyes.
Severus finished his packing and, with a wave of his wand, had the packages and boxes stacked upon each other before they stunk and whirled into his pocket. Task done, he walked over to the boy, kneeling before him. He grabbed hold of his chin and lifted his slumped head up, meeting his eyes.
"Wipe that look off your face, brat." Severus instructed. "This is not a final farewell. We will see each other after this. You're always welcomed to my house and I'll stop by yours from time to time." Preferably on days Potter was called away.
Severus may have grown attached to the boy. Even grew to care for him like he did his godson. He managed to rebuild his relationship with Lily. Though they weren't as close as they once were, amends were made. The one thing that did not change in his six months at St. Mungo's was his hatred of Potter. He knew from the sharp glares his rival aimed at him and his snarky comments that the feeling was mutual. Still, the two tolerated each other's presence for the sake of the mother and child.
"Are you coming over this weekend?" Harry asked.
"Saturday yes," Severus answered. "Not Sunday. I believe you and your family are expected somewhere else for tea."
Lily was excited for the date as much as Narcissa was. It was shocking to Severus how well the two women got along. Although Narcissa was more open-minded of blood status than Lucius, she was still a pureblood. None of that seemed to matter when the two met and launched into conversation almost immediately, making Severus feel like an intruder which was strange since it was his house where they were having tea.
Narcissa's fondness transferred over to Harry when he was brought in the next tea session. She fell in love with him almost instantly.
"Oh, aren't you just the cutest little thing." she cooed, brushing his hair away from his eyes. Severus could hear her heart melting as Harry's lips curved into a small, shy smile.
It was later on that same afternoon the adults decided it was time for the boys to meet. Only Severus could see that Harry wasn't quite as enthusiastic as his mother was if his bitten lip had anything to say about it.
"What's wrong, Harry?"
A suspicious brow arched high. "Of what?"
"Of Sunday tea. Of going to Mrs. Malfoy's house. Of meeting Draco. What if he doesn't like me?"
Severus felt his brows slitting. "Why do you think that?"
The boy gave him a one-shoulder shrug. "I'm not that good at making friends."
"I disagree. I think you manage that skill just fine."
The worry slowly faded as a soft smile curved his lips.
"In fact you gained a new one."
The smile widened to a grin, a sight which made a small smile spread across his own face.
"Thank you, Sir."
"Uncle Severus," he repeated slowly. "And I will not be addressed as anything less. Nor will I respond to any ridiculous nickname-"
His sentence was cut off short as a small body hurled into him, nearly throwing him back. His air circulation was nearly cut off as a set of arms curled themselves around his neck.
It dawned to Severus that he was being hugged. By a Potter of all people. By Harry.
For a minute, he stood still as a statue, unsure of what he should do. What he should say. His left hand slowly rose from the ground and placed itself against his back, patting it once, twice, three times before laying it there.
"You're a strange boy, Harry Potter," he murmured. "A strange one indeed."