My Son/Part 13
Levitating the last of the cauldrons into the storage cabinet, Severus wiped the sweat off his forehead with a sigh. The term had ended a week ago and the house-elves were set to start their summer deep cleaning of the castle tomorrow. No one was allowed to occupy their rooms during the month of July, except the headmaster, and Severus was secretly relieved. Masly had moved all of their belongings back to the cottage this morning and Rys seemed very excited to go home. Severus would be glad for a break from having to watch every word he said and every movement he made.
Spelling the torches off in his lab, Severus picked the bag of special potion he'd brewed and moved through to his rooms, bothered by the unusual quiet. Rys was spending the day with Sirius and Kyler as Hannah was experiencing a rough pregnancy, even with the potion that Severus was brewing to help. Sirius had taken over the majority of the care of both boys, Lupin joining them most days, and Severus had to admit that both boys were actually learning. Since he'd moved in with Sirius, Lupin had converted the sitting room in Sirius' house into a classroom, devoting short periods to teaching Rys and Kyler their letters.
Severus walked through quickly, checking both bedrooms for any forgotten items. Masly had been thorough, as usual, and Severus soon returned to the sitting room with just a small satchel in his hand. As he glanced around the room, on impulse, Severus laid his hand on the edge of the tapestry that Rys was so enamored of, the figure of Merlin in his prime woven into the hanging.
A calming energy flowed through him as Severus spread his fingers over the rough threads; it was a reassuring feeling that seemed to calm the growing worry inside him. It was almost as if the hanging had been infused with a life force that was reaching out to Severus, something he knew he should be wary of. Severus could perceive great power and glanced over at the woven image of Merlin, wondering if it were possible to infuse an inanimate object with the magical essence of someone? Like the Slytherin locket Kreacher had retrieved…
Of course you can, young man! There are actually many ways to do this, to both animate and inanimate objects, although the one you seek is the darkest of them all.
The voice resounded in his head, both warm and reassuring, but charged with confidence. A voice that knew how to win the trust of a maltreated toddler, Severus knew. Setting his bag down, Severus brought his other hand up and leaned into the tapestry, closing his eyes and consciously opening his mind.
You are not a trusting man, Severus Snape, and you have been manipulated before, and I realize the difficulty of this. I am pleased, however, that you do this for your son, as the little one is very special. He will need all the help you have gathered for him and more, even the one that lives in areas of gray to accomplish his goals. For your son is the child of prophecy.
Severus winced. He was very familiar with that fact.
The baby is resilient, young Severus, and he possesses great power, of his own and another's.
That Rys was a powerful wizard, Severus knew, but he was trying to limit access to that information, to protect him from anyone who would attempt to use Rys.
A deep chuckle reverberated in his mind. Sound reasoning, however, your son's greatest power is his capacity to love. The sheer force of that power will nullify the deepest Darkness, but only if he is nurtured and taught love. Beware of those with false motivations, as I am not the only one who will realize his gift, but embrace the unexpected, within them you will find hidden allies.
Severus frowned, hating that cryptic type of message, a variety Dumbledore seemed to favor. "Please, can't you just tell—"
"Severus, my boy, are you still here?"
Dumbledore's voice boomed through the Floo, breaking Severus' concentration and he hastily stepped back from the tapestry. Severus willed away his frustration as he moved to kneel in front of the fireplace. Taking a deep breath, Severus stuck his head into the swirling green flame.
"I was just leaving, Headmaster. Was there something you needed?"
Dumbledore's face wore its usual benevolent expression. "Oh no, my boy, I was just checking on everyone's progress."
Severus inclined his head. "My classroom and laboratory are both available, and I shall be Flooing out of my rooms momentarily."
An indulgent smile curved Dumbledore's face. "I'm sure young Harry is excited about the summer holidays."
Severus kept his face neutral, but the continued refusal to use the name his son requested grated on him. "Yes, iRys/i is looking forward to going away on holiday. Was there anything else you needed, sir?"
It pleased Severus to see irritation flash through Dumbledore's eyes, even though Severus knew that he would need to work with the man in the not-too-distant future. Dumbledore looked at him over the top of his spectacles.
"I was just wondering if you were going to be around for the child's birthday, Severus."
His gut tightened, but Severus made sure he kept his face blank. "I've not yet decided on when we'll take our trip, but I do think that Rys would like to see the ocean at some point, possibly after his birthday."
"Splendid!" Dumbledore was back to the benevolent headmaster. "Perhaps the boy and I could work on getting to know one another before you go, then."
"As you wish, Headmaster," Severus said, keeping his voice deferential. "I'll Floo you when our plans firm up."
"Excellent, my boy, I look forward to it!"
The flames died as Dumbledore broke the Floo connection, and Severus stood, brushing off his robes. Turning, he paused to study the figure depicted on the tapestry and tried to dismiss the physical similarity to Albus Dumbledore. In two steps, Severus was back at the hanging.
"Please," he thought forcefully. "My son and I will fulfill the prophecy, but until he is old enough to understand what he needs to do, will you help me protect Rys?"
I will, young Severus. Realize that your son has the allegiance of many who will perceive his goodness, and they will support you, as well. In addition, remember that you are vital to the child, your presence, love, and encouragement will be his foundation.
Nodding, Severus pushed away from the wall, gathered his satchel and Flooed through to the cottage.
Severus wasn't expecting the small body that slammed into his legs, but he'd learned in the past year to be prepared. The satchel dropped from his hand, but he'd thought to protect the vials of potion by a Cushioning Charm. His welcoming smile turned to a frown, however, when he discerned that Rhys was crying not laughing. Looking around, Severus found Sirius on the couch, trying to comfort a sobbing Kyler. He caught Sirius' eye and gave him a questioning look.
"Hannah went into labor."
Severus frowned at him. Hannah wasn't due for another month and Severus could see the worry on Sirius' face as he rocked Kyler side to side. Rys held onto him tightly and Severus rubbed circles on his back as he moved to sit down across from the pair.
"Phillip fire-called about fifteen minutes ago to make sure it was all right for Kyler to stay with you, so I sent Masly over to gather some of his things."
Severus nodded, he and Phillip having already finalized those arrangements. "Did Phillip say anything else?"
Sirius shook his head and shot him a helpless look. Looking at the two boys it seemed to Severus that they were reacting more to what he and Sirius were feeling. He kissed Rys' tearstained cheeks and then settled his son into his lap, Summoning a flannel to wipe off his face.
"All right, boys, enough of the long faces. Your mum will be just fine, Kyler, and you boys get to have a sleepover," Severus said, Banishing the flannel as he saw Sirius cleaning off Kyler's face. "Shall we see what Masly has made for dinner?"
Sirius had stayed through dinner, before fleeing, pleading an appointment with Lupin. Severus had just crooked his eyebrow as he ushered the boys towards the stairs. Shaking his head, Severus made sure the door was secure and re-warded before he followed the boys up to the bath. Rys was still on the thin side Severus noted as he washed the two squirming children in the tub, Kyler's frame much sturdier. The boys splashed back and forth, squealing in delight as Severus conjured floating bubbles for them to pop.
While his head throbbed from the unaccustomed noise, Severus was delighted to see Rys enjoying himself and Kyler smiling instead of crying. He'd congratulated himself on keeping both boys busy until he tried to tuck them into bed. Masly had come up with a camp bed next to Rys' bed in his room, but neither boy would settle and Severus ended up with both boys in his lap as he sat in the rocking chair. Kyler snuffled a bit, reminding him that it had been a long day for both of them and Severus indulged them as he recited Rys' favorite story from memory.
After tucking Rys and Kyler into their beds, dutifully kissing each forehead, Severus made his way back down to the sitting room. Masly had left a tray sitting on the table in front of the fireplace, and Severus gratefully helped himself to a cuppa. He hoped that all was going well with Hannah, Phillip, and their baby and couldn't help but be pleased that his friends had trusted him enough to leave their son in his care. Lily had been the only other person ever who had trusted Severus to that degree.
"Severus?" Phillip May stepped from the Floo, looking exhausted.
"Phillip!" Severus sprang to his feet, grabbing Phillip's arm as he stumbled and guided him to the couch. "How are Hannah and the baby?"
"She's tired and weaker than I'd like, but she should be fine," Phillip said, taking the cup of tea Severus handed him. "We have a new daughter, Maya, and she's pretty small, but the specialist seems to think she will be all right." Phillip stared at his cup for a long moment. "It was a bit touch and go for a while, but she's holding her own…"
"Good," Severus said, taking in the exhaustion etched into Phillip's face. "Kyler's asleep, so why don't you go do the same while you have the chance?"
Phillip rubbed a hand over his face. "Yes, that would probably be the best, Severus." He stood, draining the cup before setting it down. "Thank you."
Severus walked to the door with him, awkwardly patting Phillip on the back in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. "We'll see you for breakfast, my friend."
Phillip nodded before disappearing into the night. Severus closed the door and reset the protective spells. He felt weary, but accomplished at the same time on having made it through his first year of teaching. There was a true sense of relief that he'd been able to survive living in the castle and protecting his son, through whatever adversity they had faced. He had gained several friends in the year he and Rys had been on their own, ones that he could have never imagined trusting before.
Checking that the boys were all right and the cottage secure, Severus stretched out on his bed with a sigh. He was very much looking forward to the next six weeks of relative normality, celebrating Rys' third birthday, a holiday at the sea, and just spending time relaxing. Severus knew there were a number of things they still needed to do, but Severus knew that his son needed a bit of time to just be a little boy, and he was going to make sure they both had that for the next six weeks. For once, his thoughts were pleasant as Severus slid into sleep.
Severus started awake, instantly aware of his surroundings and the sound of crying.
Levering himself up to his elbows, he waved up the light. Rys stood at the side of his bed, holding Kyler's hand as the older boy sobbed.
"Kyler's 'tared, Daddy."
Severus patted the bed and both boys scrambled to climb up. Shifting to the middle, Severus settled a child on either side of him.
"Your mum and baby sister are fine, Kyler, and your father will be here for breakfast."
Kyler nodded, rubbing his pajama sleeve across his face and Severus winced. He Summoned a damp, heated flannel and wiped the mess off, before Banishing it.
"Pantakes, Daddy?" Rys asked sleepily, burrowing into Severus' side.
Smiling, Severus marveled at the simple treats that seemed to delight Rys and brushed a hand through his son's hair. Waving down the light, Severus smiled as he gathered both the children close.
"Yes, we can have pancakes."
"An' bacon?" Kyler asked hopefully.
"Yes, bacon as well," Severus told them. "Now go back to sleep."
Both boys did, snuggled against Severus. The trust both children had in him warmed Severus to the core and Severus was surprised to find that he followed them quickly into sleep. Breakfast indeed turned out to be a lively meal, filled with happy, giggling little boys munching on rashers as Severus cut up their pancakes. Phillip joined them just after they had started, looking rested, and Kyler flung himself into his father's arms.
"Phillip! Perfect timing!" Severus told him as Masly appeared beside the table with another plate.
"Thank you, Masly," Phillip said, embracing his son and leaning over to ruffle Rys' hair before he sat down. Kyler was allowed to sit on his father's lap while he finished eating, Phillip eating his own breakfast under the house-elf's watchful eye.
Sirius arrived just as Phillip and Kyler were leaving and had breakfast in front of him by the time Severus closed the door behind the Mays.
"Make yourself at home," Severus muttered dryly, handing Rys another rasher of bacon.
Sirius just grinned at him around a forkful of eggs. Rys reached over to pat Severus' hand and he captured it with his own. Eyes sparkling with mischief, Rys tugged it out, only to put it back on top of Severus' hand. Snatching it away as Severus made to repeat the maneuver had Rys giggling with delight over the silly little game. Severus smiled, thrilled that it took so little to make his son happy. This bright, happy child with the enchanted laugh bore little resemblance to the thin, pale child in the ugly yellow rompers who he'd carried out of the house on Privet Drive.
Looking up, Severus found Sirius studying him with a solemn expression. "I never thought I'd ever say anything like this to you, but you've done a wonderful job, Snape."
A sharp retort popped into his mind, but Severus pushed it aside and smiled. "I'm very thankful for the improvement and the support I've, iwe've/i, been fortunate to have received."
"Daddy?" Rys reached to wrap his hand around Severus' forefinger. "No work today?"
Severus shook his head. "No, sweet boy, term is over and we get to go on holiday, remember?" He glanced at Sirius. "I was thinking that we would go shopping today, as we need to buy a present for Kyler's little sister. Would you like that?"
Rys studied him for a moment before nodding and smiling.
"Perhaps Remus would like to go with us," Sirius said and left the table when Severus nodded in agreement.
Tugging his finger out of Rys' grip, Severus stood and lifted the little boy. Sirius was making a Floo call as Severus carried Rys upstairs and it only took him a few minutes to wash faces and change their clothes. Rys beamed at him, one hand smoothing down the front of his dark blue robes.
"Just like Daddy's!"
Severus stroked the smooth hair. "Yes, my handsome boy, just like mine."
Rys' gave him a brilliant smile, his eyes glowing just like Lily's had whenever she'd been happy. Sirius was waiting in front of the fireplace in the sitting room when they came back downstairs.
"Remus will meet us at the Leaky Cauldron."
Severus carried Rys through the Floo, carefully shielding his face, and found Lupin waiting from them as they stepped out. Waving at Tom, Severus led the way through the vacant courtyard to the entrance to Diagon Alley. Blinking in the sunlight, Rys looked around with wide eyes, his head swiveling back as forth as he tried to take it all in, his finger slipping into his mouth.
Shortening his stride, Severus hugged Rys before shifting him to his hip. He gently tugged the finger out of Rys' mouth and tilted his chin up. "Did the Floo upset your stomach, Rys?"
Rys shook his head, tucking his head shyly into the crook of Severus' throat. Sirius and Lupin flanked him as Severus kissed his son's head, before heading down the street. Lifting his head as they approached Eeylops Owl Emporium, Rys' cocked it as if listening to the hooting, and Severus paused in front of the window. A small Scops owl preened as they watched, bringing a smile to Rys' face.
"She's pretty, isn't she?" Sirius patted Rys' arm as they turned to move on. "I'm sure we can talk your daddy into getting you one when you start at Hogwarts."
"I'm sure your godfather will remind me," Severus retorted dryly as he continued up the cobbled street.
Rys seemed to lose his apprehension, though, as Sirius continued to point out things that might be interesting to an almost three-year-old. Severus wondered if some memory of his son's time with the Dursleys had surfaced, remembering that Rys hadn't seemed afraid of the shop in Hogsmeade. Sirius and Lupin exchanged glances over Rys' head and Severus could tell they were thinking the same thing, as with a little encouragement, Rys became more and more interested in the things around them
The children's shop was situated midway down, across the street from a small café, and next to Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour. Setting Rys down as soon as they were inside, Severus held his hand as they walked through, and he watched closely as his son looked around. Anywhere Rys' lingered or showed interest, Severus made note of, as he knew that Rys would never ask for anything.
Leading him to the area devoted to babies, Severus gave Rys a nudge forward. "Pick something out for Kyler's new sister, Rys."
Stepping forward, Rys' headed right for the soft toys where he spent a few minutes looking before picking out a white kitten with a pink bow. Severus nodded at the questioning look his son gave him.
"Severus?" Lupin was at his elbow. "Did you want me to have the shopkeeper put the items Rys looked at aside for you?"
Surprised, Severus looked at Lupin. "Yes, please, I'd be grateful."
Lupin gave him a slight bow and moved away as Sirius leaned against the door, effectively blocking it. Severus reflected on what the tapestry of Merlin had told him the day before, knowing he had worked hard to trust these two men and believed they would help him protect his son.
Rys put a hand on his leg and Severus looked down to find him clutching a soft toy in the shape of a corgi.
"For Kyler, Daddy?" Rys asked hesitantly and Severus felt inexplicably pleased that he did.
"Yes, sweet boy, I think Kyler and Farsh both would like that."
The brilliant smile Rys gave him lit Severus' heart and he stroked a hand through the fine hair. It took only a few more minutes to choose a newborn romper with the same white kitten frolicking on the front. The shopkeeper was happy to help them out and Severus Summoned Masly to take the packages for him, rather than have them delivered by owl post.
Rys clung tightly to his hand as they stepped outside and Sirius led the way to the busy café. Picking a bright blue umbrella to sit under, Severus sat facing the road and Lupin, Remus, sat with a view behind them. Sirius leaned back in his chair as if he hadn't a care in the world, but Severus knew better. Rys looked between them, but Severus reached over and laid a reassuring hand on his arm. Severus realized that Rys was sensitive enough to feel the tension in them, but hoped that he could relax the little boy. His son's security was Severus' responsibility and the incident in Hogsmeade was still fresh in his mind.
The crack of Apparation near them had both Sirius and Remus on their feet and Severus reaching for Rys before he recognized Bernard McBride standing there.
Bernard looked between them as they all sank back into their seats. "A little edgy, are we?"
"Just being cautious, you prat," Severus muttered as he scooted closer to Rys. "How did you find us?"
"I asked Masly," Bernard said, summoning a waiter with a lazy wave of his hand. "I had an interesting visitor this morning and thought I'd let you buy me lunch while I told you about it."
Everyone remained silent as the waiter took their orders, Rys' preoccupied with brushing the corgi toy they'd gotten Kyler. Severus surreptitiously cast a Muffliato Spell as the men all leaned towards Bernard with expectant looks.
"Narcissa Black, or rather, Malfoy, showed up at the office this morning and decided to wait on the off chance I might have a free moment in my exceedingly busy schedule to speak with her."
Severus frowned as Bernard spoke. "Narcissa was willing to wait?"
"Yes," Bernard said, eyes alight with amusement. "It wasn't hard to work out that she wanted something pretty badly."
"What was it my dear cousin desired?" Sirius asked suspiciously.
"Funny you should ask, Sirius, seeing as it was the Black family rites of succession that she was inquiring about." Bernard dropped the jovial act. "It's well known in certain circles that I represent Severus, Rys, and you, so I do get the occasional legitimate inquiry about the status of the trust documents or the terms of, say, James Potter's behest to Rys as the acknowledged Potter heir."
"Yes, and you compensate yourself well for it," Severus muttered, despite a feeling of dread.
"Wizard's got to make a living, old chap." Bernard grinned. "Anyway, Narcissa wanted to know if there had been any terms in her late uncle's will for her or her son, but Orion didn't give any annuities to family members, leaving enough in a trust to maintain the house at Grimmauld Place and everything else went to Regulus and you."
"What's she looking for?" Severus wondered, remembering how Narcissa had treated him the last time he'd seen her, graceful and aloof, attending a Death Eaters' meeting with Lucius.
"Money, I think," Bernard told them. "Some type of provision for her son in the event something should happen to her, or at least, that was the impression I received from her."
"Narcissa never did share her sister's enthusiasm for the Dark Lord, as I recall." Severus brushed a hand over Rys' hair, his son looking up with a smile. "Draco should be about the same age as Rys now and if Lucius is actively working to resurrect the imovement/i, it could have alarmed her enough to look for options."
"Well, her specific request is for me to set up a meeting with Sirius, clandestine, of course."
Sirius shook his head. "Cissa was nice when we were little, but as soon as she started at Hogwarts, she turned into a real bi…bint."
Despite the Muffliato Spell, Rys giggled as Sirius changed his word midway into it and Severus arched an eyebrow. Sirius had the grace to flush despite the cheeky grin he gave Rys. Lupin hid a smile as Rys continued to laugh, apparently thinking Sirius was funny, and Severus had to squelch a tendril of jealousy.
"How do you feel about the veracity of her inquiry, Bernard?" Severus' question came out a little sharper than he'd intended and Rys reached over to wrap his hand around Severus' little finger.
Bernard smiled slyly. "Well, I might have cast a Compulsion Charm on my office while she was waiting."
Smirking his approval, Severus nodded. "That ensures that Narcissa is truthful in her desire to see Sirius, but doesn't lend any information as to her motivation."
The waiter interrupted them as he served them with the help of a house-elf. Severus prepared a small plate for Rys from his own, tearing off a small piece of fish and making sure there were enough peas and chips. Rys reached for his plate, pausing to look at Severus for approval, before popping a pea into his mouth. Brushing a hand over Rys' hair, Severus picked up his knife and fork and began to eat absently, his mind swirling as he tried to figure out Narcissa's motivation in approaching Bernard.
"If I were in Narcissa's shoes, and my husband was working to resurrect old conflicts, I think I'd be seeking an alliance with the strongest faction," Remus stated softly.
"Why not just go to Dumbledore?" Sirius asked, looking up from his stew. "He's the omnipotent Light wizard, it seems to me that would be the first place to start."
Severus snorted; he'd gone that route himself with dubious, and painful, results.
"You're thinking like a Gryffindor, Sirius," Bernard told him, and Severus met his friend's eyes as he spoke. "A Slytherin would weigh their options carefully, before choosing which one would be most advantageous to them." Bernard gestured at Sirius with his fork. "If you were still in Azkaban and Dumbledore was Narcissa's only choice, I strongly suspect she would just have tried to minimize Lucius' influence and do whatever she could to protect her son."
Slowly nodding, Severus swallowed hard, glancing at Rys. He could understand how Narcissa felt, if that was truly her motivation, but her devotion to Lucius had always been total, and Severus needed proof.
"I think it would be worthwhile to meet with her, Sirius," he said softly, his eyes still on Rys as the little boy carefully ate his fish and chips. "If nothing else than to make sure she's not doing this for her husband."
Bernard nodded his agreement and only Lupin refrained from commenting. "I can contact her and give her the coordinates of the house in Hogsmeade, if you'd like."
Sirius exchanged a look with Lup…Remus, who inclined his head, before turning back to Bernard. "Go ahead, between the protective spells, the two of us living there, and Severus being close, we'd be able to manage most anything, I think."
"I'll send Menky to her this afternoon." Bernard pushed his plate away. "What's on the menu for afters?"
Rys reached for his cup and Bernard nudged it towards him as Severus moved his empty plate out of the way. "I thought Rys might like a bit of ice cream."
"Brilliant!" Bernard and Sirius said in unison.
Severus rolled his eyes as he wiped Rys' fingers with the serviette. His son smiled at him, most of the shadows gone in those brilliant eyes, baby teeth flashing as Rys gave him a smile.
Severus leaned forward and kissed Rys' nose. "Yes, brilliant, indeed, especially as Uncle Bernard and Uncle Sirius can play with you until the sugar wears off!"
The next several weeks flew by as Severus helped Sirius set up his house as a school for the village children. There were only about a dozen, most between the ages of three and six, and they wanted to make sure every precaution was taken to protect Rys and his fellow students. It had been immensely fulfilling to watch Rys blossom as various children came with their parents to look at the classroom, and stay to play in the large yard to the rear. Things were coming together well, and all with the backing of Albus Dumbledore, who continued to think the entire school project was his.
Severus strolled through Hogsmeade the morning of July thirtieth, picking up the last of the supplies for Rys' birthday party that afternoon. Tonight, they would Apparate to the Highlands house to spend the majority of August enjoying the sun and the sea. To be honest, Severus wanted to be alone with his son when they woke up on his birthday morning, so Severus could enjoy the wonder Rys showed when he found presents waiting for him. It was a petty, jealous thing, but one Severus wanted badly.
Both Sirius and Remus would visit the house regularly, especially as the house was larger than the cottage and had several extra bedrooms. Bernard had made noise about visiting one weekend, and Phillip was going to bring Kyler to play. Even with all the planned company, which Severus knew was vital to keep them safe, he looked forward to those moments when it was just the two of them in the house. It was nice just to be with his son.
A flash of silver caught his eye and Severus stepped between buildings as Sirius' mangy Patronus circled him.
Narcissa is at the house with her son. Boys are safe.
Swearing under his breath, Severus gripped his wand tightly and Apparated directly to the sitting room of Sirius' house. Pushing down a surge of panic when no one was there, Severus followed the sounds of voices to find Sirius in the kitchen, where Narcissa sat stiffly in a ladder-back chair. A slender boy impeccably dressed in light blue robes, not a single white-blond hair out of place, stood silently beside her.
Severus hadn't seen Lucius and Narcissa's son since he was a squalling infant, presented to the Dark Lord at a Death Eaters' gathering during the Summer Solstice less than a month before Rys was born. He hadn't seen Narcissa since the Death Eater trials, where Dumbledore's testimony cleared him with the information that Severus had been a spy. Even if they have been able to look beyond his betrayal to their cause, Severus simply didn't run in the same social circle as the Malfoys. Sirius stood with his back to Severus and by the rigid posture, Severus knew that Narcissa had already said something boorish.
Stepping into the room, Severus put a hand on Sirius' shoulder for an instant before letting it fall as he moved to stand beside him. Draco took a step back and Narcissa's eyes widened, her hand fluttering up to press against the base of her neck.
"Hello, Narcissa," Severus said, allowing his arms to hang at his side so that the sleeve of his robes covered the wand in his hand.
She looked between the two of them, clearly assessing this new development with shrewd eyes. "I didn't know you'd become so friendly with cousin Sirius."
Severus didn't feel like playing whatever game Narcissa had in mind. "Sirius is my son's godfather."
"As am I," Bernard said as he stepped into the kitchen and moved to stand beside Severus in the large open-beamed room. "I didn't realize you planned to come directly over, Narcissa."
"Draco and I were on our way out to shop anyway, so I thought I'd stop by."
"Shopping in Hogsmeade?" Severus interjected an incredulous tone to his voice and Narcissa flushed guiltily.
"You might want to check the child for a tracking spell," Bernard said quietly. "I wouldn't be surprised if Lucius were determined to know where his heir was at all times."
Severus' wand was up before Bernard had finished his sentence as he non-verbally cast the detection spell. Narcissa pushed to her feet, her hand reaching to grasp Draco's shoulder and pull him protectively against her. As she did, Severus caught the iridescent glow of a tacking spell on a chain around the boy's neck, as well as on the wedding ring Narcissa wore. It seemed that Severus wasn't the only wizard who wanted the protection of a Heritage amulet. Bernard laid a restraining hand on Severus' arm.
"What is it you wanted to speak to me about, Narcissa?" Sirius asked, an edge to his voice.
Narcissa looked between them and Severus could see the thoughts swirling in her eyes without resorting to any spell. "I am seeking ways to keep my son safe and provided for in the event the…there is adversity that might affect him." Her look turned fierce. "I will do anything to protect my son."
The Heritage bracelet flashed out before cooling almost instantly, but Severus whirled around, hearing Rys cry shrilly before he heard running footsteps. Instinctively crouching down, Severus was ready when Rys flung himself into Severus' arms, his body wracked by silent sobs. Ignoring the others in the room, Severus lifted his son, Rys burying his face in Severus' throat.
Remus appeared from the classroom, holding Kyler by the hand. "You might want to check his knees, Severus," Remus said, stopping in the doorway. "He fell rather hard."
Severus shifted Rys to his hip, one arm holding Rys securely as he reached down to exam the toddler's knee. Several angry abrasions discolored the kneecap of one leg and the other had a small scratch.
"This is your son, Severus?" Narcissa was watching him closely.
"Yes." Severus frowned as Rys lifted his head and looked around, sniffling.
She took a step closer, looking at Rys intently. "Lucius was exceptionally interested in this child last summer, but then seemed to forget all about him."
"Oh?" Severus replied in what he hoped was a disinterested tone, brushing back Rys' hair as his son rubbed at his forehead. "Why was that?"
"I've no idea," Narcissa said, her eyes widening as she saw the scar on Rys' forehead. "Draco and I spent most of the fall visiting my mother on the continent."
Sirius stepped forward. "Why don't we let Remus take the boys back to the classroom for a bit of lunch while we talk?"
Narcissa hesitated, looking between Rys and her son, before nodding. Severus carried Rys into the loo to clean him up before giving him a hug and sending him back to play. Masly had everything ready for Rys' party, planned for teatime, and Severus wasn't worried as he watched Rys warily glance at Draco. The boys moved carefully around each other as Remus coaxed them over to the row of little desks, where he had drawing supplies laid out.
"You were always infatuated with Evans at school, Severus." Narcissa was waiting for him as he moved back down the hallway towards the kitchen.
"And you were always a steadfast supporter of the Dark Lord, Cissa," Severus retorted, rejoining Bernard and Sirius.
"I was more a supporter of my older sister and my husband," Narcissa answered stiffly.
"And the pureblood mania was what you were raised with," Sirius supplied with a nod, pulling out a chair. "I remember the family gatherings where it was the main topic of conversation."
Narcissa looked at him, surprised, but sitting when Sirius did. "Yes, and it was easier to simply conform to what was expected of me, to make a good marriage with a moneyed pureblood wizard and produce an heir."
"It helps if you fall in love with said moneyed wizard." Bernard seated himself at the table as a tea tray appeared.
"That doesn't matter now…"
Severus cut her off. "Your husband has influenced you in the past, Narcissa, so it does matter!"
"Why are you here, Narcissa?" Sirius asked as Bernard handed tea around.
"To protect my son and secure a future for him, by whatever means I can," she told him fiercely before taking a sip from the cup of tea Bernard handed her. A smile ghosted across her face as Severus watched. "Veritaserum?"
Bernard inclined his head. "As you have recognized the boy, you understand that we have much to protect."
Severus crossed his arms, acknowledging the tea Bernard nudged towards him, but continued to stand. "What changed, Narcissa? What has you scared?"
Narcissa searched his face, then Sirius' and Bernard's in turn, before returning her gaze to meet Severus' eyes, seeming to have made a decision. "Lucius has been different since that iincident/i last summer, almost obsessed with the Dark Lord's possessions. Lucius had some left in his possession when…well, after the Dark Lord disappeared, but he has recently focused his attention on acquiring all the rest of artifacts and property." She took another sip of tea. "There is an old diary that Lucius has taken to carrying around with him everywhere. He's also chatting up the new Minister of Magic, trying to buy a place on the Hogwarts Board of Governors. "
"I would imagine that Lucius wants only the best for his son," Sirius said, rolling his eyes.
"Draco is a trophy, just as I am!" Narcissa spat out. "And I have no intention of losing everything if Lucius gets himself killed or worse! I'll not end up like Andr…" Narcissa clamped her lips shut, clearly under the effects of the Veritaserum.
"Andromeda," Sirius finished for her quietly. "You have no idea how happy your sister really is, Narcissa."
Severus watched Narcissa intently, trying to assess her sincerity. It was obvious that whatever Lucius was up to, it was scaring Narcissa enough that she was willing to go to drastic lengths. Making an appeal to Sirius Black of all people was an act of desperation and Severus wondered how far she would go to protect her son. The tapestry's words about hidden allies came to Severus' mind, but so did the warning about people who would want to use Rys and his magic.
"What do you want, Narcissa?" Severus asked this time, his voice carefully neutral.
"I'd like to negotiate an Unbreakable Oath. One that assures my son and I will be protected in the event that Lucius is successful in resurrecting the Dark Lord, which is what I believe he is attempting to do," Narcissa said in a strong voice, lifting her chin.
"Why come to me?" Bernard asked. "It's pretty well known that I was neutral in the last war and that I was solicitor to both Severus and Sirius."
"I hadn't had a need until Lucius began to behave strangely after having several meetings with what was left of the Dark Lord's most trusted advisors. I had thought that we'd be able to live a fairly normal life, even though Lucius was certain the Dark Lord hadn't been vanquished as was widely believed. Then, Harry Potter disappeared, Sirius was released from Azkaban and Lucius became obsessed with that diary." Narcissa set her teacup down. "I would abhor turning to the likes of Albus Dumbledore, but I will if I have to. I will secure the protection I need for Draco."
Severus looked down to find Rys standing next to him, holding Draco's hand. "What's the matter, sweet boy?"
Rys patted Draco's hand. "His head hurts, Daddy."
"That's his mummy over there," Severus told him, curious about Rys' reaction to Narcissa.
Rys led Draco to Narcissa, who reached out a hand to brush the blond hair, but seemed at a loss as to what to do. Severus wondered if the child was always this quiet as he watched Rys pat Draco's arm, standing in front Narcissa expectantly. Severus stepped over when Rys glanced over his shoulder at him, placing the back of his hand against Draco's cheek.
"He feels a bit warm, Narcissa," Severus said, kneeling. "Do you have anything with you for him?"
"No, I…the house-elves and nanny take care of everything in the nursery, I haven't anything." Narcissa frowned, pressing her hand against Draco's forehead. "I wasn't informed that he might be unwell."
Looking at her, Severus knew that Narcissa had never soiled her hands on a dirty nappy or cleaned up the vomit when Draco had been sick. That type of thing was left to others in a household like the Malfoys', but there was no denying the love in Narcissa's touch or the concern in her eyes. His son reached out tentatively to pat the woman on the knee, drawing a smile from Severus.
"Sorry, I was helping Kyler in the loo." Remus appeared in the doorway, taking in the situation at a glance.
The house-elf appeared immediately, green and silver ribbon clutched in his hand and a decidedly cranky expression. "Master Severus called?"
Rys giggled as Severus requested a vial of the child's fever reduction potion he'd created for Phillip. With a snap of his fingers, Masly Summoned the vial and passed it to Severus with a bow, before disappearing with a icrack/i. Over-bright gray eyes watched the activities, Draco standing stiffly beside his mother as Severus extended the vial towards them.
"This is a potion specifically designed for children, in collaboration with a healer from St. Mungo's." Severus inclined his head towards Rys. "I developed it for my son."
"Tastes yucky," Rys told them shyly, apparently believing that would help.
Everyone laughed and Rys smiled as Narcissa helped Draco swallow the vial, grimacing at the taste. Narcissa stroked Draco's hair, leaning forward to press her cheek against his.
"Rys," Severus said softly, beckoning his son to him. Severus lifted Rys and kissed his cheek, smiling when Rys kissed him back. "Go back with Remus and Kyler, we'll be done in just a few minutes."
Rys nodded, moving towards the door as Severus set him down, Kyler running out ahead of him. He paused to wave at Draco before following his friend back to the classroom. Remus exchanged glances with Sirius before leaving. Severus turned back towards the Malfoys, but Sirius spoke first.
"I don't have a problem asking Bernard to draw up a will that would include a behest to you and your son, Narcissa, but it is up to Severus to decide on any Unbreakable Vow or Oath, as he already has my sworn loyalty."
"I, too, share Lucius' belief that the Dark Lord isn't truly dead, and neither does Dumbledore." Severus watched as Narcissa lifted a sleepy Draco into her lap. "My son is a central figure in drama that will unfold when he is resurrected, and as such, he will always be my first concern. I can't enter any Vow that would put my son at risk."
"We don't need to be in conflict, Severus," Narcissa said earnestly. "I can help you in your efforts if you agree to protect Draco!"
"You would spy on your own husband?" Bernard interjected.
Narcissa turned towards him, her expression fierce. "I would do anything to ensure my son's safety!"
"How are your Occlumency skills, Narcissa?" Severus pushed, even though he knew most pureblood families taught their children to shield their thoughts. "Would they stand up to inquisition?"
Narcissa snorted. "Lucius maybe a strong Occlumens, but he's a lousy Legilimens!"
"And Veritaserum? There would have to be absolute secrecy!" Severus told her. "There are other lives at stake here as well."
Narcissa narrowed her eyes and Severus could see that she was intrigued by the thought of them all protecting Draco, as she assumed they were all protecting Rys. "I would not be opposed to a reciprocity oath, Severus."
Severus resisted the urge to look at his friends; this prospect would require some private discussions. "I believe we all have a great deal to consider, Narcissa. Tomorrow is Rys' birthday and we'll be going on holiday, but Bernard and Sirius are always able to reach me if you make a decision."
Narcissa met his eyes and nodded. Severus lifted Draco off her lap to allow her to stand, comparing this child's solid weigh against that of his son's, his forehead creasing in a frown. Bernard cleared his throat and Severus looked up, taking a deep breath. He knew he had to let go of the deep-seated hatred he felt for the Dursleys, as it would just fester within him. Perhaps an alliance with Lucius Malfoy's wife would help assuage that. He settled Draco into Narcissa's arms and murmured a goodbye, allowing Bernard and Sirius to deal with her.
Severus had a party to throw.
Waking up with an armful of giggling three-year-old was the best thing in the world, Severus decided as he cracked his eyes open in the pre-dawn darkness. The sunrise was tinted with streaks of fog, turning the sky crimson and orange as Severus diverted momentarily to the bathroom before throwing on his dressing gown and following Rys down to the kitchen.
"Pantakes, Daddy?" Rys asked hopefully, a smile lighting his eyes.
It was such a change from the scene a year ago, with Rys withdrawn and afraid of everything. The difference in his child was staggering and Severus reached out to brush the hair out of his eyes, pleased that there was only the tiniest hesitation before Rys leaned into his touch.
"If you will help me," Severus told him, reaching down to lift Rys up.
Rys nodded enthusiastically and Severus began to gather the ingredients. By the time the pancakes were finished and on the table, the kitchen was a mess, but Masly didn't seem upset, even accepting the rasher that Rys handed him. Severus had cut up Rys' pancake, dribbling a touch of syrup on it as he chewed on his own piece of bacon.
"T'ank you, Daddy," Rys said, wrapping his fingers around the impossibly large fork.
Severus started to reach for it, to shrink it down, but stopped as he watched Rys carefully manipulate a piece of pancake into his mouth, grinning in triumph when he did. Severus tried not to cringe as he watched droplets of syrup falling with abandon with each successful bite, but Rys' delight in his accomplishment made Severus smile. It did make cleaning up a little harder, but Severus took it in stride, allowing Rys to take a morning bath.
While the Mays were coming to spend a weekend with them, and Sirius had arranged to visit as well, today was for Severus to enjoy with his son. The past year had had more than its share of tense moments and unpleasant discoveries, but it had also been the most blessed and rewarding year of his life. Despite the difficulties of the future, the uncertainties like Dumbledore and Narcissa Malfoy, and Severus' increasing belief that the Dark substance in Rys' scar had to be destroyed, they had made some lasting bonds with friends who would give their lives for his son – and Severus wouldn't change a thing. Watching Rys' splash in the tub, Severus knew all his efforts had been more than worth the risks he'd taken.
It was mid-morning before they were both clean and dressed, Rys bouncing on the couch as Severus brought out the presents he'd gotten. The gifts from Sirius and their friends Rys had opened the night before, containing mostly games and toys. Severus had been very proud of his son, having Kyler help him open his gifts while they'd all watched. Today's gifts were clothing and some books, including a child's book about Merlin, as well as the special magical pouch Severus had found for the crest feathers Fawkes had given Rys.
"Thank you, Daddy!" Rys threw his arms around Severus' neck, scattering shirts and socks on the floor.
Severus hugged him back, closing his eyes tightly over a wave of emotion as the image of Lily's smiling face flashed in his mind. Kissing Rys' temple, Severus gave him a smile and managed to clear the lump out of his throat.
"Where are your feathers, sweet boy, so we can put them in your magical pouch?"
Rys twisted in his arms and Severus set him down as he dug into the pocket of his shorts. As if Summoned, Fawkes appeared in a burst of flame and phoenix song. Rys laughed aloud, reaching up toward the hovering bird. Fawkes settled on the low table and released the small red-wrapped present Severus hadn't noticed before, as he wrapped a wing around Rys.
Severus inclined his head. "Good morning, Fawkes."
The phoenix continued to trill softy as he turned his head slowly away from Severus and reached back towards his tail. Turning back, Fawkes pushed a long tail feather into Severus' hand. Speechless, Severus closed his hand around the still warm feather. He watched as Fawkes rubbed his face against Rys' scar before lifting off the table and disappearing in another burst of flame.
"Fawkes gave you a feather, too, Daddy!" Rys bounced, reaching for the gift.
Severus recognized Albus Dumbledore's handwriting on the note "iHappy Birthday, Rys!"/i, but he nodded, knowing Fawkes wouldn't give Rys anything that was spelled or hexed. Turning the feather over in his hand, Severus marveled at the gift he'd been given – a phoenix feather, freely given, was priceless. The potions Severus could create with this feather would be incredible…
"Daddy! A book! Read to me, please?"
Looking up, Severus could see Rys had a slim volume in his hand: iThe Tales of Beedle the Bard/i. Severus frowned. He remembered his mum reading them to him, but he was much older than Rys. The book seemed an unusual choice for a small child.
What was Dumbledore up to now?