Author's Note: Welcome back! Enjoy the feels.
The late night had grown stormy. Rain pounded on the rooftop, and flashes of light were often punctuated by distant rolls of thunder.
If Harry had been home, he would have surely been curled up in Snape's arms, wide eyes staring out from behind his glasses. Harry was not a fan of storms, and lightning in particular gave him a terrible fright. Snape wondered if he should go on to the Malfoys, where Harry was staying for the night, to bring the child home.
However, it was already past eleven in the evening, and the boys were likely in bed. Snape waited near the fireplace just in case a house-elf showed up to let him know Harry needed him.
In the meantime, Snape occupied himself with a leather-bound journal, which he used for cataloging notes on his work, and a box of cinnamon candies, which he always saved for the rare nights when Harry wasn't home. This was typically necessary because Harry insisted on eating it all, but the boy was still on his "protest fasting" kick, and he probably wouldn't have eaten the candy anyway.
He was eating enough to stay alive, of course, and he wasn't ill or anything, but Snape feared he was going to start losing weight soon, and Harry was thin enough as it was. When Harry returned from the Malfoys, Snape decided, he was going to force him to sit and eat a whole meal. He'd glue him to the dinner chair if necessary. Protests be damned.
As Snape was thinking on this, the fire in the hearth flared green. Snape turned, prepared for a house-elf with news of Harry's hysterics.
Instead, what he saw was Albus Dumbledore.
"Severus," greeted the old man amiably, as if he had not just shown up unannounced in Snape's own home, like he always bloody did.
Thanks to years of practice maintaining a set of placid and unimpressed facial expressions, Snape did not give away his intense internal reaction to Dumbledore's presence.
Snape stood and immediately began making tea. Dumbledore smiled, aged face crinkling, and when Snape gestured, he took a seat in an armchair next to a table. Snape joined him on the other side.
"How are you, Severus?"
"Well, thank you."
"Spending the night with Draco Malfoy and his family," Snape said calmly. "Although, I expect you knew that already, considering you are here now."
Dumbledore never visited while Harry was around. In fact, Snape had not seen him in nearly two years.
"Yes, I thought it best if we were able to talk without interruption."
"Well," said Snape dryly, "you were right to avoid Harry, then."
Dumbledore's smile grew. "He is sociable?"
"Good." Dumbledore sipped at the tea. "Remus Lupin contacted me recently."
Snape narrowed his eyes over his teacup. "And what did that treacherous beast say?"
"This is no occasion for cruel words, Severus. Nor is it fitting for you to carry around old school grudges at this age."
Snape scowled. "Did he tell you what he did? How he frightened Harry? I thought he was going to try and snatch him from the street." He set down his teacup. "He has no business interfering with the boy at all."
"Remus was merely concerned, Severus."
"And did you tell him he had no right to be?" asked Snape tightly, and Dumbledore inclined his head.
"I informed him that Harry was very well taken care of."
"Good." Snape picked up his cup rather irritably and continued to drink. "Harry is doing just fine. Far better than he would have if you'd left him in that bloody horrid place from before."
Dumbledore frowned. "An error in judgement on my part, I'm afraid. I had hoped that Harry's Muggle aunt and uncle would be more inclined to care for him."
"I told you they bloody weren't," muttered Snape, casting his dark eyes around the room. "I told you from the very beginning, that woman is a vile, wretched creature, and that putrid Muggle husband of hers is no different."
"I had not considered," admitted Dumbledore, "how well you knew Petunia, having grown up near her. However, I think that – perhaps, if she'd had more time to bond with Harry, things might have been different."
Snape's eyes narrowed deeply. "Three months, Albus. Three months, you left Harry there. And not once did those degenerate Muggles hold him in their arms. They fed and changed him in a crib, and then they left the room and locked the door."
"Yes, I remember. That is why I allowed you to take him."
"Likely would've raised him in a bloody broom closet if he'd remained - "
"But," cut in Dumbledore smoothly, "we did not, and here he is, a happy, healthy young boy with a wonderful spirit." He paused, before going on quietly, "Have you spoken with him yet? About what we discussed last time?"
Snape frowned deeply. "Not yet. There hasn't been a good time."
Dumbledore gave him a sympathetic look. "Severus, it was part of our agreement. You must tell Harry the truth about his mother and father."
Snape looked away, hands tense on the arm of his chair.
"You agreed. Harry has a right to know."
"He's too young," muttered Snape. "If I tell him about his parents, then I have to tell him about the Dark Lord, and the scar, and the bloody reputation he has all over the world. He's six, Albus. It can wait."
"It can't." Dumbledore's voice was deceptively soft. Snape felt his spine straighten some, as if on some protective instinct.
There was a long, heavy pause.
"Severus," said Dumbledore. "Why do you fear Harry knowing the truth? What do you think will happen?"
Snape's eyes snapped back to Dumbledore. Fury prickled under his skin.
"What do I think will happen?" he repeated lowly. "I'll tell you what will happen, Albus. Harry will learn that I lied to him. He will learn that I am not his father, and that I was never – " Snape paused, clearing his throat roughly, " – and that I was never married to his mother. He will find out that he is of no more blood to me than he is to a stranger on the street. And instead, he will hear the name James Potter, and that – that, Albus, will be the name he carries with him in his heart."
Snape stood and paced.
"And he will go to Hogwarts, and he will hear that name again, everywhere he goes! James Potter, brave Gryffindor, James Potter, Prefect, James Potter, Quidditch captain, James Potter, bloody Head Boy! Perfection in human form! And he will never know of his father's cruelty, he will never hear about Potter's malicious pranks, his insults, his mockery! He will only hear the bloated praises! The admiration! The hero-worship!"
Snape rounded to face Dumbledore, his voice rising to a crescendo.
"And just like that – James Potter will have taken away everything I love – AGAIN!"
He swallowed hard.
Dumbledore looked up at him thoughtfully, even as he panted against the sudden heat in his face. "Severus, the only person who can destroy Harry's love for you, is you." He frowned. "A lesson, I thought you'd have already learned by now."
A stinging pain pierced Snape's heart, and he looked away again. The brutal implication – the reminder, really – that it was he who had driven Lily away, not James and his tricks, stuck in Snape's chest like a dagger.
Dumbledore stood. "It is unfair to Harry to lie to him any longer. Tell him now, Severus, while his young, gracious heart is still open enough to forgive you."
Snape closed his eyes. Dumbledore rose, thanked him for the tea, and headed to the fireplace. Before he left, he turned back to Snape. "You know, my offer from before still stands. Horace is determined to retire soon, and you would make an excellent Potions master."
Snape's distress faded into annoyance. "I can think of nothing I'd like less than to teach a bunch of brainless little brats at Hogwarts." He shifted. "Besides, Harry wouldn't want me following him to school. He's an independent boy."
Dumbledore hummed in a vague show of agreement. "Even so, the offer remains. Good night, Severus."
With that, he vanished into a puff of green smoke and flame.
The next morning, Snape retrieved Harry from the Malfoys house.
"Severus," said Narcissa worriedly. "Harry hardly ate a bite while he was here – "
"Yes, I bloody know," snapped Snape, taking Harry, who was quite sleepy, into his arms and carrying him off. They left the Malfoy Manor and headed straight for the village, where they picked up a pretty little potted plant filled with blue flowers.
"What's this for?" asked Harry with a wide yawn, and Snape wondered if he wasn't weak from a lack of food.
"It's a gift," said Snape, and then, without another word, he Apparated with Harry onto a quiet little street. There, Snape put Harry down on his feet, took his hand, and walked straight to a tiny little cottage with a 'P' on the door. He knocked as Harry looked on curiously.
Rosemary Prewitt appeared a moment later, and she looked very surprised.
"Oh! Mister Snape!" She smiled. "And Harry!"
"Hi Mrs. Prewitt!" Harry exclaimed cheerfully, perking up immediately. Rosemary looked up at Snape, looking no less curious than Harry.
"How can I help you, Mister Snape?"
Snape hesitated, and then he awkwardly gestured to the potted plant. "We wanted to bring you a gift. As thanks, for teaching Harry this year."
He practically shoved it into her hands.
"Oh!" Rosemary quickly gained a grip on the pot, and for a moment, she simply stared. Then her face lit up in another brilliant smile, this one larger than the last. "My, how beautiful!" She leaned a little closer to admire the flowers.
"That would be unwise," Snape said baldly. "It's a Fanged Geranium."
The flower snapped at her and gnashed its teeth.
"Oh!" Rosemary jerked the sharp-toothed flower away from her face. "Well, I'm sure – you know, I'll just put it in a box in the garden." She set the plant aside carefully.
"It's good for cooking," Snape told her uncertainly. "The fangs – they help make for an excellent stew."
"I'm sure it's lovely."
"If it bites you, you should see a healer."
"Yes, well, thank you ever so much."
"We hope you like it!" piped up Harry, as if he had personally orchestrated the whole thing. Then he gave Snape an adoring look, and the elder wizard smiled just a little.
"Truly. I am grateful." She ruffled Harry's hair affectionately. "You and your father are both very good people, Harry." Harry grinned widely. Rosemary looked up at Snape and inclined her head politely. "Would you like to come in for some tea and biscuits?"
Snape balked. He hadn't expected to be invited inside. He prepared his usual answer, which of course was firmly rooted in the negative, but then Harry tugged on his hand.
"Can we, Daddy?" Then he added cheekily, "I am starving!"
Snape sighed, and when he looked up at Rosemary, she giggled. "I'll need help re-potting your plant," she pointed out lightly, her eyes twinkling.
Snape made a face. "Very well."
So, they went inside, and – much to Snape's dismay – they had a wonderful time.