He took a deep breath as he slowly unraveled the bandages around his chest. He hissed as the last of the bandage rolled off and his scars stretched as he straightened himself, staring closely at the two slashes across his chest in the mirror. He traced over them with a finger, feeling the raised, jagged edges. The cuts on his arm were not nearly as large as the few that struck his chest during the attack, and those cuts were mostly healed at this point. But the two on his chest—they lingered like an everlasting reminder of where he stood now in the world—cowering on the sidelines, too stubborn and angry to pick a side, knowing that both had betrayed him.
What on earth was he supposed to do now?
He ran a hand through his hair, having to grind his teeth at the movement, then grabbed the scar reducing salve on the bathroom counter and smeared a generous amount over his chest, then his arms and legs. After adopting Harry yesterday, there was a lot on his mind, mostly about how he was going to proceed when the inevitable war started back up. He knew that those circumstances may not even happen for years, but regardless, he needed a plan now. What would happen if the Dark Lord managed to return tomorrow? How could he juggle keeping Harry safe and avoid being hunted down by the world's greatest sociopath?
He did not regret adopting Harry. He was relieved it was all over and that Harry was safe with him. He hadn't known it before for so long, but he truly had grown to love and care for Harry as his own. News spread fast of course, and it was all over the evening paper that mocked him from the dining table when he had returned to MacAuley Estate last night with everyone else. He did not look forward to reading this morning's paper on how wrong the system was to let someone like himself adopt the incredible Boy-Who-Lived. I could always not read it, he thought.
And then there was the matter of raising Harry and all that would entail: school, uniforms, healthcare, a house. He was supposed to be house hunting now. What was so wrong about Spinner's End? It sheltered perfectly fine.
A new house was also a big investment. He needed to find a new job, and the one at St Mungo's weighed on his mind. It sounded like a busy, full time job that would pull his attention away from Harry. He didn't want to become the parent that was never there or reliable. Maybe he could find a partner to work with and help lessen the load, so he was not working at all hours of day and night.
There was also the matter of the assault that kept coming back to the forefront of his brain. The aurors had stopped by last night and he gave a short statement about the attack. They had told him he was more than welcome to press charges if he knew who the men were, but Severus declined against Peadar's and Eileen's wishes. Simply put, he was not up for a battle against someone who could buy his way to victory. Besides, while Lucius would never be caught red-handed—Severus knew who the man would turn to for an underhanded task. He would handle that situation when he was healed and off the pain meds.
As Severus wrapped a fresh bandage around his chest to protect the sensitive scarred skin from rubbing against fabric, the movement of his arms caught his attention, and he froze at the sight of his left arm.
Slowly, he turned his arm just so and stared at his skin. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. He gingerly touched his forearm, rubbing the scar that remained where once his Dark Mark sat. But the mark itself was gone.
He turned his arm this was and that, compared it to his other arm, then looked back at his left again. He rubbed his fingers up and down along the scar before summoning his wand and flicking several counter spells to deflect any concealment charms. When nothing happened, he stared at the small scar once more, tracing it with a finger.
"Impossible," Severus muttered. "No, no, that's impossible."
Severus's head snapped toward the sound. Finn sat outside his bathroom door, his head tilted and his tail alert. The dog barked again and spun in a circle.
"You know something about this?" Severus asked, motioning to his arm.
Finn sneezed before the sound of dishes downstairs lured him out of the room and he took off.
"Okay, we'll talk later," Severus said as he waved Finn off.
Severus smiled as he returned to bandaging his chest. He drank down his pain reliever, did a quick shave, combed his hair, then dressed for the day, all while sparing glances at his arm. He couldn't take his eyes off the scar as he walked downstairs to join everyone else for breakfast, his index finger tracing the scar's edges.
"There you are, Severus," Eileen greeted. She was just setting down the dog bowls for Shandy and Finn. Shandy hobbled over to his dish as best as he could with his forelegs bandaged up and he struggled for a few seconds with the cone before he found the right position to eat his food. "I was wondering if you were coming down or not. How are the wounds?"
"Healing," Severus answered, pulling his eyes away from his arm. "How's Harry doing? Is he awake?"
"He is." Eileen motioned to the dining table with a wave of her hand. "But not having a good morning. He might be coming down with something. I've never seen him like this before."
Concerned, Severus turned his attention to Harry. The child was slouching in his seat and rubbing his eyes, his legs swinging slowly. He frowned and stood behind Harry's chair, leaning down so he could talk quietly.
"Are you feeling okay, Harry?" he asked, reaching down, and putting a hand over Harry's forehead. Harry did feel slightly warm. "What's wrong?"
"I'm tired," Harry said, pushing slightly into Severus's cold hand. "And my head hurts."
"He doesn't have a fever," Eileen said when Severus pulled out his wand to check. "I already checked. Just a headache, I believe."
"Maybe some food will help," Severus said, slipping his wand back up his sleeve. "Look, Nana made boxty, don't you want to try it?"
Harry slowly sat up and picked up his fork, taking a small bite of the potato pancake. Less concerned now, Severus moved into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee, his eyes trailing back down to his arm, rubbing the bare skin around the arm. As he poured the hot drink into a mug, he wondered if he should grab a headache reliever and a pepper up potion for Harry, who had taken two more bites of his boxty before slouching in his seat again and rubbing his eyes with a big yawn. He figured he'd wait until Harry had finished eating what he would of his breakfast. Maybe he would perk up after.
Severus sat down across from Harry and stared at his arm once again. Distracted, he hardly noticed Harry watching him until the child spoke.
"What are you looking at?"
Severus glanced over at Harry. He rubbed his arm and forced himself to look away and put his arms down.
"Nothing," Severus said. "You know, you and I have some errands to run today."
"Like what?" Harry whined, not sounding at all excited about these errands.
"Well, we have to sign you up for school, make sure you have enough school appropriate clothes, and I know someone who's willing to show us a few houses today."
"I don't want to see houses. We live here, don't we?"
"It's my parents' house, not mine."
"They have room for us."
"I know. But I'd like a nice quiet place of my own. You will, too, trust me on that. I was thinking about staying in the area, so we'll be close to Nana and Papa whenever you want to visit. Besides, even if we moved far away, you could still floo over. You obviously know how to use the floo on your own."
"Sorry about that," Harry said softly. He picked at his food.
"It's okay. I shouldn't have left you alone without a word."
"Can I just stay here today? My head really hurts."
"When did your head start hurting?"
"I don't know. This morning?"
"How is your hand? Are you sure there's no lingering aftershock after the bull incident yesterday? Or from touching the electric fence?"
"My hand is fine," Harry said "There's not even a scar."
"I'm going to get you a headache reliever. We'll see if that helps."
"I don't want a potion."
"Would you rather muggle medicine?"
Harry shook his head.
"A potion it is," Severus decided, standing from the table. "Eat more of your breakfast and drink your milk."
Harry pouted at his food while Severus walked around him and toward the potions supply closet. He glanced through before spotting the headache reliever. He was hoping Harry felt better after the potion and brightened up. He really had some surprises for him. Severus walked back to the dining room and pulled out a chair next to Harry. He held the potion out to the child, who begrudgingly accepted it with a face. As Harry drank it, Severus caught sight of red, and he leaned forward, brushing Harry's hair back.
"Honey, your scar is bleeding," Severus said, summoning a warm washcloth and dabbing at it. Harry hissed at the touch.
Eileen stepped out of the kitchen and looked down at Harry, brushing back his hair while Severus cleaned the bleeding wound. Severus pulled the washcloth back and frowned. The bleeding stopped easily, but he couldn't help but run his finger along the straight smooth scar that graced Harry's forehead.
"What happened to your scar?" Severus asked.
"What do you mean?" Eileen asked, leaning close to see the scar more clearly.
"It's supposed to be shaped like a lightning bolt," Severus said. "It's . . . it's straight up and down."
"Really?" Harry asked, reaching up to rub it.
"Careful," Severus said, catching Harry's hand. "It seems sensitive right now. No wonder you have a headache."
"Hmm," Eileen frowned in thought. "I wonder if it may have been morphed by the electric fence."
"You'd need a pretty high voltage to cause that kind of damage to already existent scars."
"Maybe his scar had some magical residue that got shocked."
Severus blinked at his mother's words, then looked down at his arm curiously. Could the two be related somehow.
"Your mark," Eileen gasped, her eyes falling on Severus's arm.
Harry looked down as well.
"What in Merlin's name happened to your mark?" Eileen asked.
"It just . . . vanished," Severus answered. "Just like the shape of Harry's scar."
Everyone looked over at Finn, who was wagging his tail. He barked again and spun in a circle. Shandy barked as well from the living room. Curious, Severus and Eileen followed the sound of the two dogs toward the fireplace. They kept barking at the mantle, and Severus looked on top of it and felt along it, carefully moving around the pictures and few figurines. Finding nothing, he turned and looked at the dogs.
"There's nothing here," he said.
The dogs huffed. They barked again. Finn jumped up on his hind legs while barking before losing his balance and falling over, catching himself as he spun in a circle and kept barking in time with Shandy.
Severus looked back up at the fireplace, then followed the dogs' eyes up until his eyes landed on a stone fairy figurine. As his fingers graced it, the dogs stopped barking and watched him curiously. They took a couple steps back and tilted their heads expectantly. Severus ran his fingers along the figurine, studying the winged creature's details in the flowery dress and large wings. He turned the figurine in his hands, his eyes spotting the carving on the bottom of it.
The Little Guardian Fairy, the script read.
"Mother," Severus asked. "What is this?"
"An old Prince relic," Eileen answered. She took the fairy from Severus, stroking the petite face. "My grandmother used to tell me the story all the time growing up."
Eileen sat in the armchair with the fairy, Harry leaning on the arm of the chair to see the fairy.
"There was once a fairy village in little Littondale, where humans and fairies lived in harmony among each other. With peace, the fairies shared their magic with the humans of the dale, and in times of drought, there was no famine. In times of poverty, there was no poor. In times of sick, there was no death. For the fairies comforted and provided the humans in times of desperate needs, and in exchange, the humans gave the fairies protection from those who sought to use the fairies' magic for rage, vengeance, and evil. The humans built tiny homes for the fairies, brought them offerings of sweet nectar, and planted trees where there was no need for agriculture. For a hundred years, the fairies and humans lived alongside each other in perfect content.
All that is good cannot last forever, for one fateful night, a child was born stiff to a young king and queen. Distraught, they sought the fairies of Littondale and begged them for a miracle. But they told the king that their child could not be brought back to life, for the child had moved on to a happier place, and there was no magic in the world that could steal the child back. With sympathy, the fairies gave the king and queen an immortal white rose in memory of their child; a rose that would stand the tests of time. A rose that could never die."
But the king was not satisfied with a flower. Angered and betrayed, he spread word of the fairies' refusal to save their child. He told lies of how they rejected him in his greatest time of need. One by one, he turned the humans against the fairies, and riots ravaged the homes of the fairies. Blood was shed, and the fairies were forced to retreat to secluded woods. They were hunted, however, and in one last desperate attempt to save themselves, they united their soles with the trees, the stones, and the plants of the forests, vanishing forever."
When no more fairies could be found, the king tried to destroy the immortal rose, but it did not burn, it did not break, and it did not drown. Looking at the rose only brought anger to the king's heart, so he locked it away in the darkest room in his castle. It would never see the light of day again, but it would continue to live on despite the torture it is subjected to."
"What happened to the fairies?" Harry asked, his eyes wide and engaged.
"It is said," Eileen continued, "that their spirits still live in the forest of Littondale. If one makes a figurine in a fairy's likeness from the wood or stone from that forest, or care for a specific plant, you will capture a fairy who will serve you in your greatest times of need. And if you give her a home, she will continue to serve your family for generations to come."
"Wow," Harry said, an awed smile on his face.
"That's a children's tale," Severus scoffed.
"The dogs disagree," Eileen said, gesturing to the two terriers lying down in front of her, eyes zeroed in on the figurine.
"They don't know what they saw," Severus argued.
"How do you think memories work in a dog?" Eileen asked with a smirk.
"You're not serious," Severus glared, looking back and forth between the dogs and Eileen.
Eileen was definitely serious however, and Severus was helping to hold the dogs while using Legilimency to search for last night's memory and bring it to the front of the dog's mind, signaling his mother when he found it. She used her wand to extract the memory and set it in a pensieve. Harry watched with an odd tilt of his head as the two performed the strange magic and set a weird, silvery strand into a bowl with clouds trapped inside.
"Would you like to watch his memory, Harry?" Severus asked.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked.
"I mean would you like to see what Finn and Shandy saw last night?"
"All you do, is stick your head in this bowl. Relax and breath normally and keep your eyes open." Severus used a charm to make the bowl larger so all three could stick their heads in. "Ready?"
With that, the three stuck their heads in.
The memory started with Shandy and Finn pacing around downstairs before settling down in the living room in front of the fireplace. As the clock struck three am, the fairy figurine on the mantel started glowing a strange silvery color. Shandy lifted his head and huffed. Finn followed his lead.
Suddenly, a small dragon face poked its head out of the fairy. It was a blueish silver in color, with darker blue fin-like ears and a ridge riding up it is nose and down its back.
The little dragon pulled itself out of the stone and fluttered its small wings. It had four short, stubby legs and a short spade-tipped tail. The dragon flew over the dogs and toward the stairs.
Shandy and Finn barked and gave chase, but Shandy slid to a stop at the stairs, his bandaged arms refusing to allow him to climb up the stairs. Finn paused as well, looking at Shandy for direction. Shandy barked, and with a huff, Finn ran up the stairs after the dragon.
Cautiously, Finn poked his head in the doorway of Severus's room.
The dragon thing was hovering over the man's bed. It bared its teeth at the dark mark on Severus's arm, a small growl escaping.
Suddenly, the dark mark began to glow in a similar manner as the dragon.
The tattoo on Severus's arm came to life as the snake slithered its way back into the skull's mouth. The skull chomped down before peeling itself off Severus's skin, leaving behind a scar where the dark magic was once branded on the man's skin.
The skull flew toward the dragon. Its mouth opened and the snake snapped its jaws at the dragon. The dragon flew out of reach and growled at the dark magic. It puffed out a glittery substance over the flying dark mark and then flew off, the mark following.
Finn whimpered and jumped back as the dragon and mark flew over his head, leading the way to Harry's room. Finn's ears flattened on his head, and he held his tail low as he stalked after the strange magic fluttering around the house. He carefully nudged his head against Harry's door to open it further. He watched as the dragon and the mark hovered over Harry's sleeping form.
The dragon tilted its head at Harry, then it spun very quickly, its body morphing and changing in a strange way. The dragon was now a silvery fairy in a blue, flower dress. She moved closer to Harry's head, gently touching the lightning bolt scar. The mark flew closer, the snake slithering around he skull and intertwining itself through the empty eye sockets. The fairy waved the mark closer, then used her hands to control the snake's actions. She directed the snake's jaws just above the scar.
"Let this evil magic destroy its own evil," the fairy said in a soft voice.
The snake's jaws opened wide and lunged itself into Harry's scar, chomping through it and reaching into Harry's head.
Harry stirred and his face scrunched up. The fairy gave Harry a kiss on his temple and he settled. The snake writhed and squirmed, seemingly struggling with something in Harry's head.
Finally, the snake withdrew with a dark, thrashing substance in its mouth. Opening wide, the snake swallowed the darkness, and then the skull swallowed the snake.
The little fairy smiled at Harry. The lightning bolt scar had been physically altered during the process. It had straightened out and shriveled up slightly, a small drop of blood trickling from the opened wound. The fairy whispered, "You are free of the evil that tries to destroy what it can touch. You and your new family. May your bond never die."
The little fairy shapeshifted back into a dragon and it growled at the dark mark, then flew off out of the room.
Finn scampered from the door as the flew above him, but he found his courage and barked at them as they flew back down the stairs. He chased them, alerting Shandy, who growled and barked at them as they passed him at the bottom of the stairs. Both dogs chased the dragon back to the fireplace, and they barked at the figurine as the dragon bit the skull and dragged it into the stone with it. The figurine stopped glowing and there was only the sound of the two dogs barking.
Peadar entered the scene, and he glanced around the living room, then saw the two dogs staring up at the mantle above the fireplace. He glared at the dogs, shushed them, then walked back to his bedroom.
Shandy and Finn stared at each other. Shandy let out a throaty groan before he hobbled back to his warm spot in front of the fireplace. Finn stared up at the figurine. With a sigh, he curled up in front of the fireplace as well.
The memory ended, and Severus yanked his head out of the bowl and stumbled over to the figurine, a bit disoriented from the viewing experience. He grabbed the fairy sculpture and stared at it closer, turning it this way and that until he found what he was looking for. On the back of the sculpture was the Dark Mark, carved into the back of the fairy's head. And the thing the Dark Mark swallowed: Severus could only think of one thing that could have been living inside Harry's scar, and the thought frightened him. His eyes met Eileen's, and with the way her face was distorted in a horrified expression, he knew she had the same thought he had. And now, that very thing was inside the fairy figurine.
"So that means we have a fairy guardian?" Harry asked excitedly, holding his hands up to Severus to hold the stone sculpture.
Severus hesitated, then let Harry hold the sculpture.
"Be careful," he warned. "Don't drop it."
"I won't," Harry promised.
Anxiety ripped at Severus's chest as he watched Harry with the sculpture. Eileen was frowning at it in thought, while Severus wondered of all the ways he could destroy it. He felt very grateful that the fairy inside had done what it did to save Harry, but now he needed to do something horrific to the fairy in return in order to destroy what it had captured. But he had a feeling the fairy inside knew this.
It also meant Severus had solved the mystery of the Bond of the Guardian Angel. All those who experienced a similar situation before him had had a fairy come to their aid. It was the fairy that had created the bond, not himself or Harry. A fairy that had been watching over the Prince family for generations. It was the fairy that gave himself and Harry the gift to communicate in the way they do.
And the rejection of the fairy's magic meant death to the fairy, which meant the fairy's shared magic died as well, and such magic could also drain the magic and energy of those it had shared it with. It all made sense now. But how was he supposed to destroy what the fairy had caught without killing the fairy?
"She's very pretty," Harry said, smiling at the carved face.
"Let's put it back on the mantle, okay?" Severus said, taking the figurine and setting it back above the fireplace. He would discuss the figurine later with Eileen and Peadar when Harry wasn't around to hear the horrors of what they just discovered.
"Thanks for the story, Nana," Harry said.
"Of course, Harry," Eileen said, snapping out of her own dark thoughts. She clapped her hands together. "I know—why doesn't Mr. Snape show you your surprise first?"
Severus rolled his eyes at the mocking tone he heard when Eileen addressed him as "Mr. Snape." However, after what he had just witnessed, he could use something to change the atmosphere around.
"It's Daddy now," Harry smiled.
"I think you've been calling me that all along, haven't you?" Severus smirked, raising a brow.
Harry shrugged with a not so guilty smile.
Severus ruffled Harry's hair before snapping his fingers. A large decorative box appeared on the floor at Harry's feet. Severus gestured for Harry to open it since he knew Harry wouldn't without his say so first. One day, he hoped the child would dig into his future presents to come.
Harry tore the lid of the box off and tossed it aside.
"Miss Trifle!" Harry exclaimed, picking up his checkered rabbit and hugging her close. He noticed the large pink bow on her and small tag on the front of the bow. Harry looked at the tag. "It has her name on it!"
"And a magical locator charm so that we can always fine her should she ever go missing," Severus said.
"I thought I'd never see you again," Harry told his rabbit. "I'm sorry I left you. I'll never do it again, I promise."
Severus kneeled in front of Harry.
"And I promise you the same," Severus said.
Harry reached forward to give Severus a one-armed hug, Miss Trifle still in his other arm.
"Thank you, Daddy," Harry said.
"Of course. Our family wouldn't be complete without her."
Harry let Severus go and hugged Miss Trifle again, then gently stroked the rabbit. Severus felt Harry's head and was glad it was cooler now. He allowed his finger to gently trace the new scar on Harry's forehead before he gently kissed Harry's temple.
"Are you up for our tasks now? A little house hunting? Signing you up for school?"
"Go get dressed, brush your teeth, and grab a jacket. We'll head out and get all that taken care of."
Harry took off to his bedroom with Miss Trifle in his arms. Eileen walked closer to Severus. She waited until Harry was in his bedroom before leaning closer to Severus and whispering: "What do we do about the horcrux?"
Severus sighed and glanced at the fairy figurine.
"I have no idea."
Obviously, I want nothing to do with the Death Eaters or Horcuxes at this point. Thanks for all the great reviews and support for this story!