His Darker Impressions
Albus felt his knees go weak when he stepped onto the platform, hundreds of eyes flashing to him. Everyone was interested in the second son of the Boy-Who-Lived. Oh yes, Albus knew his father's title, despite his faked naivety. Unlike Lily and many other children his age, Albus was well informed on his history and knew about the two wars against the Dark Lord Voldemort, of which Father was the star.
Though James also knew, he never mentioned it at home. Father had tried hard to impress humility on them all, but Albus knew better. James was most likely using his status to gain more attention from his peers in Gryffindor.
Albus felt his brother's gaze boring intensely into his head as he walked to the stool. Professor Longbottom smiled at him and placed the patched hat on his head. It slipped down over his eyes, obscuring his vision and unknowingly imitating another little boy of many years before.
'Ooh, a bright one you are, Mister Potter,' whispered a voice in his ear. Albus started a bit before he was able to school himself to calmness, though his heart skipped a bit in surprise. 'And so self-controlled! That's quite an accomplishment for a child your age.' He growled at being called a child. 'Now, no need to get feisty. Lets see here…What a thirst form knowledge, with all the books you've read! Courage, rescuing a cat for that poor squib. And cunning, heaps of cunning, blaming the broom crash on your brother. You would fit very well in almost any house, Mister Potter, but where to put you?'
Albus couldn't bring himself to believe it was actually considering Slytherin. Father's last words to him before boarding the train drifted through his mind.
"Albus Severus, you were named after two great Headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was in Slytherin and he was probably one of the bravest men I ever knew."
"But just say-"
Father's eyes grew sad behind his glasses frames.
"I'd be just as pleased if you went into Slytherin as any other House. Maybe more so," he winked at him, "Just be proud of who you are, son."
Then he'd ruffled Albus' hair and told him to get on the train, while Albus pretended not to notice how teary-eyed he was.
Albus pulled off the Sorting Hat to face a silent hall. He ignored the many surprised gazes, especially the betrayed one of James, and held his chin high.
He would be proud.
"Ah, a student out of bed, I see. And just what do you think you're doing?" a cold voice hissed from the darkness. Albus let loose a shriek of terror and dropped his lit wand, sending it clattering to the corridor floor. He cursed himself silently.
Never be parted from your wand, Father had once told him. It had been in those little Defense lessons he gave the children before Mum had prohibited them, claiming he was planting rebellious ideas in their heads. Albus cursed himself having always remembered that short lesson.
He stayed cautiously still for a moment, gauging the danger, but there was no further speech or movement that he could discern. Finally, he picked up his wand, adjusting the bag on his shoulder and straightened-
To be met with a pair of painted flinty eyes. Oily hair framed a dark and authoritative face, making the portrait appear menacing, even for a painting. By now, Albus was adjusted enough to his Slytherin mask not to let his fear show, but he still felt like trembling.
The man's eyes narrowed at him.
"Don't make me reiterate."
Albus felt the need to defend himself, lest the man report to one of the teachers, "Er, I left my bag in the library, sir…I had to go back and get it, then I got lost."
It was the truth, but not entirely. He'd left his bag behind and told his study group he was going back for it. It was his excuse to try getting into the Restricted Section with no one around. But he had gotten lost on his way back to the Slytherin common room. It only the third day, and the lighting was dim!
The man didn't believe him, he could tell. Albus raised his wand a bit higher, prepared to run if need be. What he saw made him freeze in place.
A tiny plate at the bottom of the gilded portrait frame read: Headmaster Severus Snape.
Albus nearly dropped his wand again. He gasped, staring in shock at Snape's hard eyes.
"I'm named after you!?"
The man suddenly looked just as taken aback as Albus felt. Snape's gaze flickered from his face to his House Crest and back, always with that calculating look Albus had grown so used to seeing in his father's eyes, and in his own when he looked in the mirror. Then, the flicker of recognition, a minute widening of the eyes.
"Who are you?"
"Albus Severus Potter," he had the absurd urge to stick his chin out defiantly, but refrained.
"A Potter spawn…in Slytherin," the man seemed to sneer, "I gather your parents were appalled."
Albus scowled and puffed up, not liking this acidic man at all.
"Actually, Father said he's proud I'm in Slytherin and that it's a good House."
That seemed to give Snape pause. He stilled, face twisting with some impenetrable emotion before he visibly dismissed it.
"I rather doubt that. Your father was always the upstanding Gryffindor, after all." Albus chose to ignore the jab at his father, instead looking at what the words actually meant.
"You knew him, then?" he regretted the words even before he said them. Of course they must've known each other, for Father to name him after Snape. Now that he thought of it, Snape must be the 'great Slytherin Headmaster and brave man' that he'd been talking about.
That strange look slid over Snape's face again, playing havoc with the lines on his painted skin. He seemed less harsh looking, somehow younger and older at the same time; lost in a memory.
"Yes, I knew him." Albus had seen the look before… he remembered it on Father's face many a time.
Suddenly Snape seemed to snap out of it, "It's half-past curfew now. Head to your dorm, Potter," he said bitingly. Albus backed away, going the way he'd come. Obviously it was the wrong way if he'd never run across such an hostile portrait before.
"Oh, and Potter, it's a right turn at the chimera statue. This way leads to the Potions classroom," Snape growled after him.
Perhaps he did have a bit of kindness.
"Where is sheeeeee!?"
All morning, the Slytherins had been trying to tune the whining out. Saturdays were days for relaxation, homework, and scheming in the common room. Noise was kept to a minimum, but it was one place where the Slytherin students could feel free to express themselves, away from all the school prejudices.
Unfortunately, that peace was broken by young Scorpius Malfoy.
"Father's going to kill me for losing her during the first week!"
All morning he'd been whining and searching everywhere for his new snake, a going-away gift from his father. The older occupants of the room were hard-pressed not to kill him, only restraining themselves because of his father's dangerous status as a former Death Eater - even an emancipated one. Still, that restraint was tremulously close to snapping.
At the exact moment a fifth year raised her wand to give Scorpius a good hexing, a yawning, bleary-eyed Albus Potter trudged up to him and dangled a hissing brown reptile in his face.
"She crawled into my bed 'cause it was cold," he paused for a second, listening, "She also says that she wants more white mice than you've been giving her, 'cause she's hungry a lot," he yawned.
Assured that Scorpius had a firm grip on her, Albus waved sleepily to the surrounding Slytherins and headed back to bed, but not before hissing a, "You're welcome," to the snake who'd asked for a favor.
He either didn't notice or care about the many pairs of eyes staring incredulously after him, one silver set in particular.
"Why aren't you up in the Headmaster's office?"
The question took Severus by surprise. He looked down, raising an eyebrow at the boy. Somehow over time, he'd stopped being such a nuisance in Snape's incredibly long non-life.
"What brings you to ask?" Severus raised an eyebrow as the second year blushed.
"Er, I got caught trying to blow one of the Gryffindor's cauldron's up and got sent there." It was understandable that he was embarrassed. Severus couldn't count the number of times he'd chided Albus - not for cheating or pranking - but for being caught. Somehow, the boy had wheedled his way into Snape's days, bursting with exuberance for all the learning to be done, dealing with and countering Severus' snarking in a way that was so familiar…
He shook the thought away, forcing himself to answer the question.
"It's true that it is tradition for all former Headmasters' portraits to be placed in the Headmaster's office and under his or her service, but I refused to be put there," he scowled at the memory. "I'd have to deal with their dreadfully droll conversation and cheery attitudes…" His unrestrained shudder made the boy laugh.
"Do you think the same of me?" the hopeful look in his eyes almost made Severus smile. Almost.
"I…find you marginally less bothersome."
Albus grinned, knowing it was the closest thing to a compliment that he could ever hope to get from a man of such sour personality.
"Beside the point, if the Headmaster ever needs me that terribly, he can come get me himself."
"Why do you call him 'Father?'" Albus slowly looked up at him from his book and Scorpius shifted, "It just seems, from all that you talk about him, you'd call him by something more…familiar, I guess."
Green eyes stared for a moment before returning to the pages. For a long minute Scorpius thought he wasn't going to answer.
"Because…James calls him Dad…"
James, who tormented him every day because of his house, who'd besieged Albus daily from the moment he was born, even just with simple pranks and taunts.
Scorpius didn't know how it felt to have siblings, as an only child. He still put his hand on Albus' shoulder in hope that he could offer some comfort.
Albus' hand squeezed it back.
The word startled Harry, making his head shoot off the desk and him draw his wand before Harry knew what he was doing. The thirteen year old simply stared impassively, completely ignoring the weapon pointed at his nose. This was a far too common occurrence for him to be surprised at his father's paranoia. Seeing who it was, Harry sighed and put the wand away. Checking his old watch, he made a quick reading of its lunar face and determined the time to be somewhere past one.
"Albus, what are you doing up so late?"
The boy raised his eyebrows and put his hands on his hips, assuming the nagging position he'd inherited from his mother.
"What are you doing up so late? You should be in bed, not in the study. I only came down for a glass of water," he admonished. Harry nearly laughed at how motherly Albus sounded when haranguing his own father. Harry shuffled his papers back in order, surreptitiously hiding another scrap of glossy paper between their sheets.
"Oh, all right! I just stayed up a bit too late reading. Help your old man out of his chair, will you?" he held out his hand. Albus grinned a bit too widely, yanking him up with a yelp from the elder.
Harry straightened his glasses, following as his son left the room. It was amazing how fast children could grow, becoming adults before you know it, thinking for themselves and making decisions about their lives…
Harry stopped that train of thought, not wanting to explore it once again. One of these days he would have to learn to let go, even when the rest of the world thought he'd done so long ago.
Albus' head turned to check on him before going on; Harry smiled tiredly. One of these days he would have to let go, so he could see with an unclouded mind what miracles life had bestowed him.
Miracles like his precious son.
Albus bit his lip as the bruises on his arm throbbed again.
James could never get over the fact that he'd been Sorted into Slytherin, for all his teasing. In spite of Mum and Father talking to him countless times, Gryffindor had poisoned his mind into believing Slytherin was the House of Evil. Its history of students-turned-Dark-Lords hadn't helped matters.
Albus knew that James' resentment toward him was overflowing now. Not only was Albus in Slytherin, but he was Father's favorite, privy to secrets Harry never told others, except perhaps Mum. He was jealous of his easy way of making friends, his smarts, his grades… At least he didn't know of Albus' Parseltongue, which Albus was sure only he'd inherited. Father never really explained where the trait came from, but Albus knew enough about its reputation not to mention it.
Albus winced as the bruises pulsed another time.
He thanked Merlin for every day in the past three years that Lily had been Sorted into Hufflepuff.
"I've asked my friends to call me Sev."
The statement came out of the blue, taking Severus by such surprise he nearly choked on his nonexistent spit.
"Why would you do that?" To think of such a thing; even the boy's second name being after him…let alone his first!
Albus scrunched his nose in remembered disgust. "I pulled another prank on the Gryffindors-"
"Obviously." Severus rolled his eyes.
"-and got sent up to the Headmaster's office again," he continued as though he'd not been interrupted. "But he wasn't there, so I sat around for a bit. Then one of the portraits woke up and started talking to me, saying he was Albus Dumbledore, who I was named after…" Albus shuddered, "That coot was barmy, offering me this bowl of sherbert lemons, of all things! And I couldn't take one in the first place because he was a bloody painting! It was almost…creepy."
That actually managed to get a laugh out of Snape, surprising the boy with the break from his usual dour manner.
"After such an undoubtedly traumatizing experience, I wouldn't fault you in the least."
Severus had no idea what was going on. Albus had simply collapsed there, sobbing in a way that no fifteen year old boy should have a right to. He was sitting at the very base of the portrait, so no matter which way Severus turned he could only see the top of the boy's head and his shaking shoulders.
He sighed, running a hand through oiled hair. Severus really didn't have much practice with comforting others, not since…No! He needed to deal with what was before him, not ghosts of his past.
Albus was usually so cheerful after Christmas holidays, Snape couldn't imagine what might be wrong. In the end, he simply asked. It took Albus several minutes to compose himself, but he eventually managed to speak coherently.
"I…finally told my parents…that I'm dating Scorpius."
Ah yes, the new Malfoy spawn. He remembered Albus chatting excitedly of their new relationship, their first date in Hogsmeade, etc., which he'd patiently endured.
"Er, Father was fine with it. He said he was happy for me, and to bring Scorpius over sometime…"
"And?" Severus prodded reluctantly. There was no way he'd be crying about acceptance from Harry.
"Mum…wasn't so good," Albus let out a slow shaky sigh, "She…she blew up…told Father she wanted a divorce… Said that…she couldn't stand all the reminders anymore, that Father…" he half-choked, "that Father didn't love her. Sh-she said she'd ignored his unnatural tendencies because she loved him."
Snape stiffened, feeling himself go cold, despite the fact he shouldn't feel.
"She said I'd turned out just like him…that I'm not her son, that I was never-" Albus finally lifted his head from his knees. His eyes were red and puffed from crying, his cheeks ruddy from tearstains. "Later, I asked Father what she meant."
Severus felt his knees go weak. He supported himself against the frame, bitter memories threatening to wash him away, make his paint dribble on the floor…lost to nonexistence forever. Albus licked his lips, verdant eyes bloodshot and staring.
"And Merlin, he was so torn up, more than I was…am," a laugh, "Said he couldn't help it. He told me everything…even showed me a picture…"
Even if Severus ran, he knew Albus would pursue him. He was akin to his father that way.
"Father told me you and he…were together, a long time ago, before the war even started."
It was almost phrased as a question; one of desperate need for confirmation. There was no accusing look that someone in Severus' position would expect in Albus' eyes.
He couldn't bring himself to lie to this boy, whom had been nearly his only intelligent companion for five dreary years. Snape felt his heart-that-wasn't beat wildly at the thought of finally saying something - one more burgeoning secret to be lifted…
But still he hesitated, unsure how Albus would react. "Yes…your father and I had a short…tryst between his fifth and sixth years. I'm not proud of it-"
"Did you love him?" the question ripped away any sense of composure Severus might have kept. Here was a child, asking after his father's past lovers…
"What?" Naturally, he was left gaping.
Obviously the question hadn't been planned. Albus shifted, answering with great reluctance, "Father told me that he felt for you…more than he should. But he didn't think you loved him back, didn't want to burden you, and then - then you died," his voice seemed laden with sadness, though for whom Severus couldn't tell.
Snape sighed, letting his back slide down the wall and seeming to sink in on himself. There was a great pause as the weight of silenced pressed upon them before the portrait spoke.
"Yes, as much as I hated it…I loved Harry back."
Things had died down remarkably well, Harry thought. For all that the media had pounced on his and Ginny's divorce with the ferocity of rabid dogs, his fame and a little money-waving had silenced them quickly.
He lived in a nice house on the south-east Scottish coast now, along with Albus. Ginny had taken the other two children into her custody, but nothing anyone said could convince her to take Albus too, despite his arguments that Albus shouldn't live without his siblings. Harry supposed that was just as well. Albus had already shown that he would never be happy under her roof. The day of Ginny's verbal rejection of Harry, Albus had grown cold toward her. Harry could blame neither of them, as Albus was too protective of him for the boy's own good. He knew that every time Ginny looked at Albus she saw the shadow of a man whom had tried to love her but never could.
James and Lily still came over to visit occasionally, but James had shown his open hostility to the both of them at every moment, and he always tried to keep Lily from interacting with Albus. Needless to say, those visits were always stressful times.
Harry turned a page in the Daily Prophet, sighing over the rubbish it contained.
"All these years and still not one decent editor."
But it was far from surprising. It seemed that that particular newspaper would always be a mouthpiece for the Ministry's corrupt ways.
A few minutes later Harry realized he hadn't heard from Albus or Scorpius for quite a while. They had gone upstairs to Albus' room shortly after lunch.
Another moments debate had Harry deciding against poking his nose in. The last time he had…it induced shudders. It was simply wrong for a man to see his sixteen year old son in that sort of position with his boyfriend, especially when it was his own son doing the pinning down.
"Hope they're using protection," he muttered.
The end of his seventh year at Hogwarts was the same as any other. There was no grand graduation ceremony, just the usual End-of-Year Feast and a speech from Headmaster Macmillan.
He boarded the train home, the same as everyone else. This was his last journey before he was gone forever, leaving to join the adult world away from all the pain and exhilaration of the school where he'd grown up.
Albus stepped off the train onto Platform 9 ¾ one last time, turning to give Scorpius a chaste kiss goodbye. The other boy left without a backward glance, but that was his character, so it didn't faze Albus. They'd be seeing each other in a few days anyway, after the announcement of their engagement to their separate sets of parents.
Albus grinned at his mental picture of Mr. Malfoy having a heart attack. Despite his son's obvious homosexuality, Draco had never quite gotten over hoping Scorpius would fall for a girl.
Things were finally all coming together.
'There's only one last thing to do,' Albus thought as he spotted his father. He walked forward into Harry's open arms.
"Congratulations," his father said, hugging him tightly. Graduating from Hogwarts was something his father had never done. Albus closed his eyes and hugged back.
'His scar has faded near to nothing,' Severus mused as he stared at the man in front of him. Albus had obviously kept his promise, and hadn't told Harry the location of Severus' portrait until he graduated.
Harry cocked his head, moving toward him and placing his hand directly on the painting. Snape refrained from making some acerbic comment about smearing his paint to break the tension. Instead, ever so slowly, he mirrored Harry's actions, placing a hand on the same spot.
Oh, how he wished to be free of this painting! He wanted to break the thin canvas barrier, escape this two-dimensional world. He wanted to be next to the man in front of him, to touch him, taste him-
But he never would. His true self was dead, lost amongst the sands of time. The human Severus Snape would never walk in the real world again. He, as a painting, was simply a copy.
Harry smiled wanly, as if knowing his thoughts. Perhaps the did; he could always read Severus so well.
"I know you are bound in service to the current Headmaster," he spoke for the first time, "but…would you mind if I made you an empty portrait…and placed it back at our home?"
Severus couldn't speak. He tried to swallow through the tightness in his throat to speak, but no words came. It was all he could do to nod.
Then the man was tiptoeing, coming closer, and pressed a short kiss to his lips.
For a single, diminutive moment, Severus could feel Harry's warmth on his skin.
Then the lips and hand slipped away and Harry was gone, with assurances that he would be back when the second portrait was ready.
A tiny fleck of saliva had been left behind. Severus knew it would take days to dry on the oil paint, but would never complain.
All was not well, but things were getting there.
A/N: Because, frankly, the epilogue of Deathly Hallows was cheesy-sweet and it sucked niffler arse. Yay for second generation!Potter/Malfoy and the fact that I see slash where there is only het. :D