Snape's Vocation - Sequel to Mine.
"Daddy! Owl post is here!" Harry called excitedly.
Snape laid his paper down while Harry ran to the kitchen for the bag of owl treats. Pushing open the window he stood aside as half a dozen birds flew in and deposited their letters on the breakfast table. Harry stood by the window and one by one they landed on the wide stone window seat so he could hand them their treats.
The five year old giggled as a tawny barn owl nibbled his fingers gently then rotated its head, hooting accompaniment.
"Clever bird!" Harry praised, handing him another treat. The mail owls didn't linger, after another chorus of hoots they flapped through the mullioned window, one by one. Snape reached over to pull the heavy old frame closed when another owl, considerably larger than the others landed on the sill, a large brown paper wrapped bundle tied to its leg.
Snape unfastened the soft leather tie, frowning curiously. His potions orders were finding him regularly, hence Harry's experience with owl post, but this was only the second parcel he had received for as long as he could remember and curiously he read the direction printed on it as Harry fed the large brown owl a handful of treats.
"You're the biggest owl I've ever seen," Harry said in admiration, boldly stroking down soft wing feathers. The owl hooted smugly then took to wing, soaring away from the tower and across the snowy landscape.
"Wash your hands after you put the treats away," Snape reminded automatically.
"I know," Harry said agreeably, slipping down off the window seat and trotting away.
Master Harry Potter, the letter read. Old Potion Master's Tower. Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And on the back; Mrs Molly Weasley, The Burrow.
"Is that a present for you, daddy?" Harry asked curiously as he climbed back up to the breakfast table and picked up his cold slice of toast.
For a moment Snape was tempted to lie and say it was for him, but he really couldn't find any good reason to do so other than some instinct telling him he didn't want Arthur Weasley's wife beginning a relationship with Harry. Not that there was anything wrong with the Weasleys, they were both former members of the Order and decent enough wizards.
But Molly Weasley had always been so... cheerful. Bustling and cosy and friendly and all the things that invariably rubbed Snape up the wrong way. And she had children too, he remembered. Dozens of them, all red headed and loud, with obnoxious manners and piercing voices.
He had delayed too long, Harry had craned his head curiously and was reading the neat lettering on the paper.
"Harry Potter," he read wonderingly. "That's me! That present is for me!"
"I'm just checking to make sure it's from who it says it is," Snape said hastily. A quick direction spell confirmed its sender and with no further excuse he reluctantly handed it over.
Harry studied the brown wrapped bundle in amazement. "Who is it from?"
"Molly Weasley," Snape told him, pulling a half full bowl of soggy cereal out of harms way.
Harry looked up at him curiously. "Is she a friend of ours?"
"She was a friend of your mother's," Snape revealed unenthusiastically. "Open it."
With trembling fingers Harry ripped at the paper and Snape was reminded uncomfortably of Christmas Eve, when Harry had hopefully opened the gift from his muggle aunt, only to be disappointed. The memory actually warmed him somewhat to the absent Molly Weasley. Harry hadn't had enough presents in his young life and this little surprise was welcome if only for the pleased flush that mantled the little boy's cheeks.
"It's a jumper," Harry said in surprise, pulling the ruby red knitted garment from the wrapping. An envelope fell onto the table as he spread the jumper out but Harry barely noticed. "Look, daddy!" he exclaimed excitedly. "A dragon! A gold dragon on the front!"
In Gryffindor colours, Snape noted sourly, plucking the envelope up and scanning the front of it.
"Ah, mystery solved," he told Harry. "Mrs Weasley is Charlie's mother. Your freckled friend from the infirmary."
"Charlie who liked dragons!" Harry realised, stroking reverent fingers over the golden embroidered dragon. "What does it say?"
"Dear Harry," Snape read. "My son Charlie told me you like dragons so I made you this jumper. I hope it fits, it's the same size as my son's, Ronnie, and he's the same age as you. I've included another surprise in the envelope, hope you like it. Molly Weasley."
"Another surprise?" Harry held out his hand for the parchment envelope but his father had already opened it and was slipping the small piece of card out. Only his skilled fingers stopped him from dropping it in shock as the picture smiled merrily up at him. Harry climbed off his chair impatiently and hurried to his father's side, peering over his arm.
"What is it?" he demanded. "Oh, it's a picture. Is it Mrs Weasley? She's very pretty."
"No," Snape said numbly. "It's Lily. It's your mother."
Harry's eyes widened behind his glasses and he gasped. "My mother?"
Snape handed it over, watching as the photograph smiled and shook its head for the camera. Lily was wearing her school uniform and she was just as he remembered. Her dark red hair was held back by curved wooden combs, her startling green eyes were creased and smiling. The subject of the picture seemed to be posing reluctantly but was being a sport about it, smiling self consciously and only breaking out into a genuine grin after a moment.
"My mum." Harry held the picture carefully and gazed down at it. "Hello, mum."
Snape swallowed hard. "Harry," he said huskily. "Photographs aren't like portraits. They can't speak."
Harry frowned up at him in disappointment. "They can't?"
"No." Snape laid a consoling hand on his shoulder. "It's just an image, son. A memory from a long time ago captured in film and put on a piece of paper."
"Oh." Still gazing at the picture Harry crossed the tower room and sat down on his small armchair. With one long little finger he traced the photograph's glossy surface while his father looked on helplessly.
Why had it never occurred to him to get Harry a photograph of his mother? The boy had obviously never seen one before. It was hard to believe though that the bluff Molly Weasley he remembered had been thoughtful enough to send a photograph of Lily alone, rather than one with James. Snape silently thanked her for it.
He wasn't sure he was ready for questions about James.
This was going to be hard enough.
Taking a last sip of cold tea for fortification, Snape crossed the room and sat opposite Harry in his own armchair, leaning forward and linking his hands between his knees.
"All right, Harry?"
"She's pretty, isn't she?"
"Yes," Snape agreed. She had been pretty, even back in school.
"Was she nice?"
Snape considered for a moment. "She was nice to me," he said cautiously. Not that they had had much contact, but she had never gone out of her way to cause him trouble, as some had.
"Did you love her?"
"Your mother was married to James Potter, Harry," he began carefully. "Remember?"
"Oh, yeah." Harry turned the picture over and then back again. "Do you have a photo of him, daddy?"
"I, er, I can get you one. If you want."
"Daddy?" Harry was frowning and his father braced himself for the inevitable questions.
"Can I put this by my bed?"
"Uh." Snape opened and closed his mouth. "If you like," he finally managed.
"In a frame?"
Harry smiled in satisfaction. "Good. Daddy?"
Here it comes. "Yes?"
"Can we play in the snow today?"
"The snow?" Snape repeated stupidly.
"Madam Pomfy said I needed exercise," Harry reminded him slyly. "And I have my gloves and scarf now."
"Madam Pomfrey," Snape corrected automatically. "I, er, suppose so." He watched dumbfounded as Harry jumped up and raced to his room, pausing in his doorway only long enough to turn and order. "Get dressed, daddy!"
"Yes," Snape agreed, feeling as if he had just received a reprieve. As he dressed warmly he reminded himself it was a temporary one only, Harry was not done with this subject yet. Snape was beginning to learn how his son's mind worked. The boy tended to chew things over slowly, coming out with his questions when he had formed them to his own satisfaction and usually without warning.
Still, Snape couldn't help feeling lighter as they made their way out into the fresh late February air. Harry was still only five years old. He would accept simple answers to his complicated questions for now, and now was all Snape was worried about. Tomorrow would come soon enough, he would worry about it then.
Harry loved the snow and as usual on their walks he ran circles around his father as they crossed the grounds down towards the lake. Snape realised it was a weekend when he saw the crowds of warmly dressed students racing through the snow, pelting each other with snowballs, some magically zooming around corners and finding their targets even as they cowered and chuckled.
Gazing raptly at the fun and games Harry giggled as a snowball zoomed right up to him and stopped at his face before falling down into the snow at his feet.
"Sorry, sir!" A second former ran panting up and skidded to a stop in front of them. "It almost got away from me."
"Did you throw it?" Harry asked in delight. "I thought it was gonna hit me right in the face!"
"Going to," Snape corrected automatically. Two more boys ran up.
"Hello, young Harry," a cheerful redhead said with a grin.
"Charlie!" Harry greeted in delight, rushing to the boy's side. Charlie patted him on the head with a mittened hand. "Your skin growed back!"
"Yep, but so did my freckles," Charlie said, making a mournful face.
Harry chuckled. "I like them," he confided. "Guess what, Charlie? Your mummy sent me a jumper!"
The second former glanced at Snape uneasily and the future potions master tried to school his face into a pleasant expression. It was not easy to break the habits of a lifetime.
"Sorry, sir," Weasley muttered, face reddening. "My mum, you know, when I told her about young Harry... She's a bit soft, sir."
"It was a pleasant thought," Snape managed and the boy relaxed.
"I say, sir. Can Harry come and play with us?"
Harry clasped his hands together and widened his eyes pleadingly. "Oh! Can I?"
Snape studied the roughhousing in the snow with suspicion.
"We'll be careful, won't we, chaps?" Charlie said and the other two boys nodded. A dark boy tweaked the tassel on Harry's warm little hat.
"He's about the same age as my wee brother," he said carelessly. "We'll look after him, sir."
"Can I, daddy?" Harry pleaded.
"May I," Snape sighed. "You may. But I'll be right here watching!" he added hastily as Harry grabbed Charlie's hand.
"Don't worry, sir!" Charlie called back over his shoulder as they raced away. "He'll be fine."
Snape warmed himself a spot on a stone and sat down, drawing his cloak around him. Harry did seem to be enjoying himself, gathering bundles of snow and being lectured by Weasley on how to throw them. His first effort splatted to the ground only a few feet in front of him but he gamely bent and gathered another handful.
Under the boy's tutelage he soon became an expert and Snape watched with something almost like pride as the hurled snowballs began to take on a life of their own, zooming straight ahead and then curving at the last minute to slap an unsuspecting victim in the side of the head.
Harry laughed triumphantly and punched the air as he succeeded in the small magic. A moment later he was panting up to his father, little legs pumping.
"Did you see that, daddy?" he crowed. "I magicked it and it went where I wanted! Charlie learned me!"
"He taught you," Snape corrected, pulling Harry's scarf more tightly about his neck. "You must pay attention to the correct way to speak, Harry, even when you are excited." Pulling out his wand he quickly dried the damp clothes and warmed Harry up.
"Ooh, that feels nice," Harry said happily. "Thank you."
He rushed back to the play and Snape muttered another warming spell for himself, drawing in a lungful of the chill air. Madam Pomfrey had insisted on these outings and Snape had gamely complied, seeing every day how Harry's colour and demeanor improved with the exercise. The downside was the muscles he had not previously suspected he had, each and every one of them aching after a trek trying to keep up with his son. It was a nice change to sit today and watch instead of being worn out.
The quicker young Longbottom got here the better, Snape thought to himself as Harry ran from a snowball and nimbly dodged it. It was a lonely life for a small child and he didn't fool himself into thinking these older children would want to spend more than the occasional playtime with a five year old. Not that it would be appropriate anyway. Harry needed a friend his own age and he idly wondered if Dumbledore was any closer to finding a tutor for the boys.
Harry's legs were dragging by the time they reached the castle and Snape stooped and lifted him to his shoulder, feeling the little body collapse into slumber almost instantly. Despite his voracious appetite the boy was still light as a feather and Snape carried him easily up the stairs, ignoring the stares and comments from the students as they wandered towards the hall for lunch.
"Next years potion master, the one taking over from old Dolly."
Snape's lips thinned at the disrespect. He might dislike Dolly Bright himself but there was no reason for these snotty little brats to make fun of the old bat.
"Who's the sprog?"
"Charlie Weasley says it's Harry Potter, but I ask you. What would Harry Potter be doing here?"
"With that greasy git?"
It was a relief to reach the sanctuary of their tower and Snape carried Harry to his bed and laid him down gently, tugging off his gloves and boots before laying a cover over him. He sat by his son on the edge of his bed as he did every night before sleep, smoothing the covers and studying the little boy carefully for the changes wrought by each day.
And each night he found something, thin face a little plumper, soft hair a little longer, one less line of worry between small brows. Today, in the bright winter sunlight pouring in the barred windows Snape looked deeper, seeing Lily Evans as she had appeared in the old photograph, green eyes twinkling. Would Harry look like her when he was older? Harry appeared to have Potter's hair, but it was a little known fact that Snape unfortunately shared the same inherited trait for unruly locks with his cousin, which was why he tried so hard to plaster it down.
There was no doubt though that Harry had inherited Lily's green slanted eyes. Startlingly so. No doubt he would hear it from Lily's friends and acquaintances his life long.
Snape sighed and pushed himself wearily up from the bed. Lunch waited for them on covered trays and he sat and opened his morning mail while he absently tucked into his stew. A warming spell would ensure Harry's would be ready for him when he awoke.
Enjoying the peace and quiet in which to work, Snape made a list of his potions for the week, adding a list of ingredients he needed to purchase. Being so far from the apothecary's of Diagon Alley was a bit of a nuisance, but having experienced house elves at his beck and call made up for a lot, no sooner had he finished his list than Pickle was appearing by his side, supervising a half a dozen elves as they unobtrusively gathered plates and dishes together.
"The young master will be eating later?" Pickle asked anxiously.
"Yes. Will you see this order is delivered to Albion's Apothecary in Diagon Alley?"
Pickle bowed deeply. "An honour, sir. Would sir like Pickle to pick up the rest of Harry Potter's clothes from the tailor while he is there?"
Wishing his pockets were a bit deeper Snape nodded, handing over his purse to the house elf's keeping.
"Pickle found an old brush set for Harry Potter as sir requested," Pickle said happily. "And may Pickle say on behalf of the entire house elf staff how pleased and honoured we are to serve Harry Potter? And his esteemed father, sir."
Snape let his attention stay on the grizzled old elf as a thought occurred to him. "I wonder, Pickle, if you could perform another task, for Harry Potter?"
Pickle grinned in delight and bowed low. "Anything, sir!"
Harry stirred and yawned, fighting his arms out from the folds of his cloak, wondering why he was wearing his clothes to bed instead of his nightshirt. And why sunlight was pouring in the window. Outraged as he realised what had happened he leapt out of bed and stalked into the round tower room where his father was sitting in his armchair with a thick notepad on his lap.
"You put me to bed!" he accused.
"You were asleep," his father returned calmly, still scratching at the page.
Harry planted his fists on his hips and glared reproachfully. "I'm too old for naps!"
"Don't fall asleep in the daytime then," his father said reasonably, finally looking up from his writing. "And what have I told you about wandering about in bare feet? You have slippers, boy, I know because I've just paid the bill for them. Use them."
Harry felt his lower lip begin to protrude. "But I've been napping!" he said, gesturing widely. "I've missed the whole day!"
"You've been asleep an hour," his father informed him. "And you haven't missed one thing. Now, if you get your slippers on you can sit down for lunch. Chicken stew with dumplings."
Harry felt his tummy grumble and his outrage faded a little. "Okay," he conceded. "Just remember, I'm not a pre-schooler. I don't have naps any more."
Harry gave up his sulk and trotted back into his bedroom for his warm green slippers. His dad sure liked green, he mused as he sat on his bottom and pulled them on. Harry frowned when he looked up at his bed, only just then noticing that something was different. Still wiggling his toes into the soft slippers he stood up, reaching out and stroking the thick emerald curtain hanging around his bed.
Harry spun, seeing his daddy leaning against the doorjamb. He nodded dumbly.
"The older children in the dormitories have them," his father continued, walking over and easily pulling the thick dark material around the bed. "I thought they might make you more comfortable in this big room."
Harry climbed back on the bed and pulled on the other curtains until he was surrounded by their warm comforting thickness. "It's like a cubby house," he whispered.
"If you say so," his father said, his voice fading as he walked away. "Your lunch is waiting."
Harry sat for a moment in the cosy dimness, feeling his love for his dad rise up inside him. Another present to add to his list, he thought and he picked up his doll and hugged him happily. That made four now with the one from Charlie's mum. Next to Merlin this was the best of all because it came from his very own father. Scrambling off the bed Harry raced into the round tower room and caught his dad around the waist in an impulsive hug.
His dad stood stiffly while he was hugged, then Harry felt a gentle hand touch the top of his head.
His dad's hand was always gentle.
"Eat your lunch, Harry," his father said and Harry nodded.
His dad also liked to make sure he ate all his food.
That was kind of like a present too.