A/N: Five years! I've been working on this story for five years! And updated only a few chapters in the past two. Awful. So it's about time I updated again.
Severus sat on his bed, swinging his legs back and forth. Rick had, after he recovered from his sickness, gone to spend some time with his parents. The Headmaster had freely given his permission for Rick to stay home another week after the holidays in order for the small family to get to know each other. They had assured him they would be looking for some therapy to help them cope.
Rick had seemed nervous and wary, but happy at the same time, Severus mused. Would he have forgiven his grandfather so easily if the Headmaster had ignored him like that his whole life? He did not know; Rick however seemed willing to try again.
"Sev?" Dumbledore checked in on the boy, wondering what was keeping Severus quietly in his room, "What are you doing?"
"Hmmm?" Severus replied, only half aware of being asked a question.
The old wizard raised an eyebrow and sat on the bed next to the child. "What's wrong?"
"I don't really understand," Severus shrugged.
"What is it you don't understand?" the Headmaster gently pressed.
"I thought Rick didn't like his parents. They weren't very nice to him. And then he gets sick and the first thing he wants is his mother. He's not even sure they've really changed, he told me that, but he still goes home with them."
His grandfather nodded. "It does seem confusing. I'm sure Cedric is confused as well, but, Severus, despite what they did, they are still his parents. Even though his mother only ever thought of his older brother, she is still his mum. Deep down he very much wanted her to care about him."
"I guess…" the boy stared at his feet, "I mean, I hope they really did change. I think he wanted them to change more than he wanted to be away from them. You don't really need a mum, though. I mean, I don't have a mother…"
Dumbledore subconsciously held his breath.
"Do you wish you had?" he carefully asked, after a few moments.
"Sometimes…" Severus hesitated, "but I have you. I wouldn't want to, you know, not live with you. But I wonder sometimes what my mum was like, and if she wanted me. Did you know her?"
The aging wizard gave a small sigh and decided on a not-entirely-true answer. "She died before you came to live with me, my boy."
"Then who brought me to you?" Severus asked, "was my father ill? I was only three weeks old when he died, and my mother can't have died before I was born of course…how come they both died at the same time?"
Long had the Headmaster been dreading the day when Severus would start asking such questions. It amazed him, and pleased him, that it had taken this long. He took it as a sign that Severus was happy with his life with them that he hadn't worried too much about his parents up until this point.
"I do not know what happened to your mother," he said truthfully – despite many suspicions, no one knew what exactly had happened to Eileen.
"Your father's departure from this life was unexpected, at least to me…" he recalled that difficult conversation in his office, when Severus had asked him to perform the spells.
He smiled sadly. "I had only three days to prepare myself for the inevitable," he pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to remain truthful and at the same time, not tell the boy too much.
"I don't think I could have been adequately prepared if I'd had three hundred days," he muttered, his voice tight.
"Do you think they loved me?" Severus asked hesitatingly, "they didn't really have much of a chance to get to know me, did they?"
Dumbledore wrapped an arm around the boy's shoulders. Tobias and Eileen had not been proper parents to their son and had neglected him just as much as Cedric had been neglected, but he couldn't very well tell the boy that. So he settled for an answer that was not really an answer.
"If they had known you, they would have loved you very much, indeed," he said, "I don't see how they could not. I've loved you since the moment I first held you and you peed on me."
That made Severus grimace and giggle at the same time – he had been forced to hear this story several times already, preferably when others were around so that he could be properly embarrassed.
"Don't blame me!" he protested, "blame my folks for not putting a nappy on me."
His eyes narrowed. "Why didn't I have a nappy?"
"Because your father left you in my arms stark naked," his grandfather retorted, thinking his grandson was getting far too observant for his liking, "He left dressing you to me and I have a sneaky suspicion he knew exactly what was going to happen!"
Severus giggled at the thought of someone setting up the Headmaster to be the victim of a prank, before getting serious again. "I would have liked a mum," he said solemnly, "but I like living with you, and I have a lot of sort-of grandmas and mums."
Dumbledore smiled and pressed a quick kiss to the dark hair before the boy could protest. "Yes, you do," he confirmed.
"Speaking of which," he changed the subject to something more comfortable to him, "Grandma Minerva asked if you would like to go to Hogsmeade with her this afternoon. She indicated hot chocolate and a stop at Honeydukes might be involved."
"Grandma Minerva taking me to Honeydukes?" Severus gaped, "what did I do? Discover one of the three biggest secrets of Transfiguration?"
"Brat!" The Headmaster smiled, "go on, before she changes her mind."
Severus grinned brightly and grabbed his cloak on the way out.
Rick returned to school mid-january. He immediately sought out Severus, under the guise of asking him to help him catch up with his schoolwork, which of course he also did.
"I've been talking to grown-ups forever," he complained, "and they're all a bit stupid."
"Adults tend to be," Severus agreed, "at least, they're stupid enough to believe that *we* are stupid enough to believe anything. But, it did go ok? With your folks, I mean?"
Rick shrugged. "I guess. I'm not sure. I mean, they are a lot nicer…trying to get to know me and all. It's just that they realize I'm a stranger to them, and they are strangers to me. It feels like I've just been adopted by my own parents, if you know what I mean."
"They haven't given you any grief over running away, have they?"
"No…not that they've had the chance! Mr and Mrs Weasley came over a lot, and we went to talk to this therapist…so if they are planning to punish me for it, they'll probably have to wait until the Easter holidays, or summer…"
"You think they'll do that?" Severus asked, aghast. That sounded awfully calculating to him.
"I don't think so," his friend frowned, "they seem to mean it when they say they've changed. It is nice, but also really awkward. I was hoping for this all my life, and now that it's happened…"
"Yeah," Severus said, "I can imagine it'd be weird."
"They're going to come visit me on Hogsmeade weekends a few times this term," Cedric said, "I'd like it if you came with me to meet them sometime. They asked me about you and what you were like and all. They didn't even compare you to one of Cedric's friends!"
Severus nodded. He wasn't happy with the way his friend's parents had treated their son, but he could be polite. Besides, if they admitted they had been wrong and wanted to change that, well, he could respect that.
Then he noticed that his friend seemed bothered by something.
"Did they say anything else?" he asked.
"They did ask if I wanted to change my name," Rick sighed, "I don't know about that. I mean, I thought I hated Cedric and I hated having his name, but I've talked to some of his old classmates and all, and he really was ok. If he'd been alive he would have been an awesome older brother. It's not his fault anyway, everything that happened. He was dead, I mean…"
"Yeah…he probably wouldn't have agreed with your parents, either," Severus agreed.
"Do you think I should change my name?" Rick asked.
Severus shrugged. "Whatever you want, I suppose, it's your name. You could change it to something you like, or if you don't hate Cedric anymore, you could keep it. It'd be like…what do you call it? A tribute."
"They are already calling me Rick," Rick mused, "that's different from Ced. And you're right, if I decide to keep it, it could be my own tribute to him. To show him I don't hate him anymore."
"Yeah. And it's not that bad. I'm named after my father, too."
"But your father named you after himself, didn't he? I mean…he must have, while he was still alive."
Severus stared. "You know…I don't know. Yes…Yeah he must have, right? It's just I always got the impression grandpa named me that."
"You were three weeks old when he died," Rick pointed out.
"I know! Maybe it's a family name or something. I don't know, because no one will tell me anything. And no one even knows my mother's name."
Rick shrugged. "Your father would have known, and he would have had to report your birth to the Ministry…your mother's name would be on the birth certificate they keep in the records there."
Severus' eyes shone. "Brilliant, Rick! All I have to do is write them and ask for my birth certificate."
"No," Rick shook his head, "those records are closed. Purebloods were afraid that people could find the evidence of their Squib offspring there, so the law says only the person involved or a parent or guardian can request to see it or have a copy made, and you have to be of age."
"Oh." Severus slumped back in his seat. "Oh! But then it must not be there, either," he concluded, "because grandpa is my guardian. He could have found out my mother's name that way, and he doesn't know."
"Or says he doesn't know," Rick shrugged.
"Are you saying my grandpa is a liar?" Severus's eyes narrowed.
"Not necessarily, but we just agreed adults are a bit stupid. Ok, my parents were more than a bit stupid. But all parents think their kids are too young to know some stuff. Did he really say he does not know?"
Severus thought back to his conversations with his grandfather. "N..no…" he stared intently at a spot just beyond Rick's ear, trying to draw answers, "No, he said he she died before I came to live with him…and he didn't know what happened to her."
"Of course she died before you came to live with him, otherwise you'd never have gone to live with him in the first place," Rick pointed out the obvious, "that's not an answer to whether or not he knew her. I think," he added, "I think we might have to go see your birth certificate ourselves."
"How?" Severus asked, "you just said the records are sealed, and I'm nowhere near seventeen yet."
"Well," Rick leaned closer to his friend and lowered his voice, "I can't promise it'll work, but my father sometimes took me to work with him…and I think what we should do is…"