This chapter is dedicated to beautifulbee22
Chapter 11: In which our younger hero turns fifteen
"And people wonder why I hate magical means of travel."
At least, that's what Severus thought Dante had said. His son had decided to see what grass tasted like upon landing, and his words were a little muddled.
"You don't seem to have a problem flying on a broom."
"That's because I can control the damn broom. It's a nice broom and does exactly what I ask it to do. Now will you please help me up?"
Severus smirked as he hoisted his son up from the ground. He helped Dante brush the grass and dirt from his robes. Dante looked around in confusion at the dingy state of the street they were on.
"Where are we? I thought we were going to the Order meeting? Is this a muggle neighborhood?"
"You will see soon enough," Severus said.
"Sir?" Dante said to Dumbledore. The headmaster ignored him and began to rummage around in his pockets. Pulling out a small slip of paper, he handed it to Dante.
"Please read this and memorize the contents."
"What is this?"
"Please, Dante," Severus said impatiently. "Do as he says and I will explain inside. It's not safe out here."
Looking down at the paper, he saw the familiar loopy writing of the headmaster. The location for the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix can be found at Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Dante opened his mouth to repeat his question, but as soon as he looked up, he saw the two buildings in front of him shift, and a third building squeezed in between. His jaw dropped.
"What – " he sputtered.
"Come on, Dante, or we will be late. You can gawk later."
"But that building just appeared out of nowhere."
"Yes, it's called magic," Severus remarked snidely. "Now that we've established that difficult concept, let's get inside."
Dante's mind continued to reel as Dumbledore stepped up to the door and rapped sharply. The door opened a crack and Dante barely registered the ginger hair before Severus swept him inside.
"Was that the Fideleus Charm?" he asked Dumbledore quietly, figuring that Severus would come up with another creative way to insult him if Dante asked him.
"Yes, I'm surprised you didn't recognize it directly." Dumbledore said equally soft.
"I've only heard of it. It's not like I've ever seen it in action." Dante defended and looked up when he heard a familiar voice.
"Headmaster, the meeting is just about to begin. Everyone is here now that you and Severus have arrived. I've put the kettle on so you can have a spot of tea."
Dante tried very hard not stare at Molly Weasley. It was the first time he had been around her that she hadn't immediately tried to feed him something or squeeze the breath out of him. He could not pinpoint why he felt a sudden sense of loss. It wasn't as if he enjoyed being treated like a child.
"Who is this, headmaster?"
"This is Severus' son, Molly. His name is Dante. Can you show him where to go? I will get ready to begin the meeting."
If Mrs. Weasley was surprised by the sudden appearance of a strange boy of the snarky potions professor, she didn't show it.
"Of course, Headmaster. You and Severus hurry along. I'll get him settled upstairs with Ron and the others."
She bustled them along the long, thin corridor, past a large curtain and a stand of umbrellas. Dante saw the doorway at the end open briefly, but couldn't see what lay beyond it as the door shut as soon as Severus walked through. Mrs. Weasley turned back to him and motioned for him to follow her. Dante hesitated. Whatever the headmaster and Severus thought, he wasn't ready to face Ron and Hermione yet. He had a strong feeling he wasn't going to like the end result and wasn't mentally prepared to deal with their inevitable rejection.
"Well, come along dear," Mrs. Weasley had realized that Dante wasn't following her and came back down towards him. "You need to go upstairs with the other children during the meeting."
"I'm not a child. I'm sixteen," Dante snapped at her. Why did every adult insist on calling Dante a child?
"Of course, dear. I will show you where the other adolescents are." Mrs. Weasley pushed him down the corridor and up the stairs. "My, you are just as sensitive as Severus."
"I'm sorry, ma'am, I was rude to snap," Dante said. He didn't want to get off to a bad start with Mrs. Weasley. The woman, as smothering as she could be, had always welcomed him into her home. He looked at the steps as they climbed, his eyes carefully avoiding the heads of house elves that adorned the walls. "I just don't appreciate being called a child."
"Oh, I forget sometimes how people can be at your age. You would think that I would have figured it out after having raised seven children. And please, you needn't call me ma'am. Mrs. Weasley will do just fine. After all, I'm sure we will seeing each other quite a bit this summer." She stopped in front a door on the first landing. "Well, in you go. Severus will come collect you after the meeting. Try to make sure they keep the noise down in there. You don't want to wake up the portrait."
Before he could ask what she meant about waking up the portrait, she had already left. Dante let out a shaky breath and turned back to the door. Just as he had mustered up enough courage to grab the handle, the door opened.
"Oh, sorry, I thought I heard mum outside. Who are you?"
One of the twins had opened the door, although Dante couldn't figure out which one it was. Not sure what to say, he didn't say anything and stared at the other figure.
"Oy, George!" an all-too familiar voice called out. "What's taking so long? Is mum accusing us of trying to listen in again?" Dante nearly jumped out of his skin as a loud crack sounded.
"Nah, it's some new kid," Fred said, now standing next to his twin. "You look familiar…"
"Honestly, Fred, you could have just walked from the bed to the door. There was no need to apparate and make so much noise." Dante struggled to keep his calm façade. Not her too.
"You going come in, mate, or are you just going stand there all night?" George asked. "You won't be able to hear anything that's going on downstairs. They've got that door warded."
Unable to trust his voice, Dante simply nodded and followed the twins inside the room. Looking around, he saw Ron sitting on the bed, propped up against the headboard, a plate of sandwiches in hand. Hermione and Ginny were playing with Crookshanks on the ground. Ginny was dangling a ball of string in the front of the cat's face and yanking it out of the way before he could catch it with his paw. The cat was clearly frustrated, much to Ginny's delight. Hermione, for some reason, didn't seem to be as concerned with her cat as she normally was. Instead, she was staring at Dante, clearly analyzing his every move.
"So, oo the 'ell are 'ou?" Ron asked, his mouth full with a sandwich.
"Ron!" Hermione all but shrieked as she looked away from Dante. "Must you act like a barbarian? At least swallow before you ask another rude question."
"Sorry, 'Ermione," Ron said through another mouthful. "I just want to know who he is."
"Sorry about him," Ginny said wryly. "The brains weren't properly distributed to all the children. Apparently no one remembers how to introduce themselves to strangers. I'm Ginny. Those two idiots are Fred and George, and the moron on the bed is Ron. I would say that they aren't normally like this, but then I'd be lying."
"I'm Hermione," the bushy-haired girl muttered shyly. Dante had forgotten how she could be around people she didn't know.
"So who dragged you here tonight?" Fred asked. "I mean, I know it's a party and all up here, but I know that I'd rather be taking my girl out than holed up in here."
"You would think," George continued. "That since we're 17 we could go to Order meetings. But no, we're – "
"Children," Fred and George sneered together.
"Do they always do this?" Dante asked to no one in particular.
"All the bloody time," Ginny sighed. "And no, you don't get used to it, especially now since they can do magic outside of school. They're unbearable."
"Why, sister, dearest," George said, placing a hand over his heart.
"You wound us with your unkind words," Fred continued, swooning against the bedpost.
"Our favorite sister-"
"I'm your only sister," she said, cocking an eyebrow. They continued as though they hadn't heard her.
"Calling us unbearable?"
"I don't believe we will ever recover from these false allegations-"
A crack, louder than the one prior, sounded as both Fred and George apparated two feet to the right to stand right behind Ginny.
"We are wounded!" They both exclaimed.
"I think I see what you mean," Dante murmured, trying hard not to chuckle. He missed the twins' antics.
"Well, aren't you two a pair of walking thesauruses," Hermione remarked. "If you put half as much time into your studies as you did into annoying people, you would be top of your class."
"But, Hermione, dear," Dante had no idea which twin was speaking now.
"Where is the fun in that?"
Hermione rolled her eyes and Dante knew she was resigning herself to the fact that the twins were a lost cause.
"We should have guests more often," Ginny said, smirking. "Fred and George are prime tonight."
"Speaking of guests," Ron spoke up again. "You never told us who you were."
"He said his name was Dante, Ron," Hermione spoke before Dante could. "Weren't you paying attention?"
"Yeah, I heard that part," Ron said, grabbing another sandwich from the plate on the bedside table. "I meant who brought him."
All the occupants in the room turned their attention towards Dante. The young man in question opened and closed his mouth twice without saying anything. He had to keep reminding himself that he wasn't supposed to know about his father's reputation, so he should have no hesitation about answering.
"I think we broke him."
Dante released a sound that sounded like a strangled laugh mixed with a sigh. Trust the twins to lighten the mood.
"Sorry," he said. "I'm just not used to being around so many new people at once. It's a bit overwhelming." He took a deep breath in his mind. "I came with my father, Professor Snape."
Absolute silence dominated the bedroom. Well, that was better than being tarred and feathered.
"From what he's told me, he is your potions professor?" Dante supplied, trying to get the next few minutes over with as quickly as possible. The silence broke when Fred and George started laughing.
"Mate, that's brilliant!"
"You had us going for a bit."
"Snape, the greasy bat of the dungeons-"
"Having a son?"
"I'm crying, Fred! Look, I'm actually crying!"
They continued in this fashion until they noticed the blank look Dante was giving them. The laughter died.
"Why does everyone always laugh?" Dante muttered.
"Are you really Professor Snape's son?" There was Hermione.
"Yes," Dante said, exasperated. His response was met with looks of horror from the Weasleys and a look a calculation from Hermione.
"Well, what are you doing here?" Ron asked, a look of disgust on his face.
"My father and the headmaster decided it would be best if I came." Dante felt his heart pounding as he answered.
"Well, isn't this perfect," Ron sneered. "Your precious daddy isn't satisfied with torturing us during the school year, he has to send you along to ruin our summer. As if it isn't ruined enough as it is."
"I'm sorry if you don't get on with my father – "
"Well isn't that the understatement of the century."
"Ron!" Hermione said. "There's no reason to be so rude!"
"Oh, come on, Hermione! Snape hates us. He never even gave us a chance before deciding that he hated us, and it's ten times worse for Harry." Dante flinched at the name, but nobody noticed. Hermione opened her mouth to interrupt Ron, but Ron beat her to it. "No, Hermione! Harry should be the one here right now, it's his birthday for Merlin's sake! Instead, he's stuck in a coma. So sorry that I'm not going to let some miniature Snape waltz in here to spy for his Death Eater father just so he can have an excuse to throw us in detention before we even return to school!"
"My father is not a Death Eater," Dante said quietly, fighting to control his anger. First Sirius, and now Ron. How many times would he have to go through this? And it was his birthday?
"You heard me, Ron. My father is not a Death Eater."
"I never gave you permission to use my name, you filthy spy. Only my friends can call me that."
Dante flinched as though he had been slapped in the face.
"Oh please, Snape," Ron said. "Don't act as if you're hurt. We are not, nor ever will be friends, so you can just turn right around and leave us alone."
"Fine," Dante said, trying to keep his hands from shaking. "I'll leave as soon as you apologize."
"Apologize for what, Snape?"
"I want you to apologize for calling my father a Death Eater. He's not loyal to Voldemort." Everyone in the room flinched at the mention of Voldemort's name. Dante rolled his eyes. "Why is everyone so afraid of a stupid name? It's not like he's going to appear out of thin air every time someone says it." No one responded. "Fine, well, since I'm obviously not welcome here, I'll just leave and let the collective IQ drop back down to where it was before."
Dante spun on his heel, laughing to himself at the scandalized look on Hermione's face. He was opening the door when a hand grabbed his shoulder and forced him around. Ron loomed over him. Dante hadn't realized how much Ron had shot up over the summer since the other young man had been sitting down. Ron had three or four inches on him, even with Dante's growth spurt.
"Listen, Snape," Ron said, getting right in Dante's face. "Just stay the hell away from us. Got it?"
"Isn't that what I'm doing right now?" Dante sneered back. "Or are you blind as well as stupid? I was just leaving when you decided to stop me."
"Don't mock me!"
"Then stop making it so easy for me." He turned around a second time with the intention of leaving, but Ron grabbed his left arm. Dante tried not to wince as pain shot up through his shoulder. His body was still weak from the events of the past few days. He attempted to move his arm, but Ron merely tightened his grip. Dante felt pathetic as he gasped, "Let go of my arm, Weasley."
"I'm just making sure you are clear where you and your Death Eater father stand with us."
"My father is NOT A DEATH EATER!"
Dante tried to wrench his arm away again, but Ron immediately pulled his arm back and Dante's balled fist smacked straight into Ron's nose. Ron howled as blood streamed down his face. Dante immediately began apologizing.
"I'm so sorry. It was an accident. I didn't mean to –" Dante had a look of horror on his face as Ron roared with fury and tried to grab Dante once again. Deciding it was time for a quick disappearing act, Dante whipped out his wand.
Déjà vu hit Dante as Ron's arms and legs snapped together and he fell backwards with crash. The girls were looking on in alarm while the twins were cackling in the corner. George was crying again.
"Er – nice to meet you, and sorry. Again," Dante said before quickly leaving the room. He shut the door behind him and ran up two flights of stairs. There was no way he would stick around long enough for someone (probably Hermione) to release Ron from the body-bind and heal his nose.
He leaned against the wall and slid down, cradling his arm. Any hope he had held of a friendship with Ron had shattered with the redhead's nose. No, it had been a lost cause all along. Dante knew how prejudiced Ron was towards Snape and any Slytherin. Of course Ron would distrust him as soon as he learned who Dante's father was. Dante hoped that he was safe from any retribution at the moment.
Dante took deep breaths to control his shaking body, ignoring the pain that pulsed in his arm. He wasn't angry; he was mentally and physically drained from that meeting. He hadn't expected Hermione or the twins to be there. In fact, the only Weasley missing was Percy, but Dante assumed that he was downstairs in the meeting with all the other "adults." Being bombarded by that many familiar faces had been terrifying. Out of all his friends, he figured that Hermione would figure out his secret first. As much as it pained him to think about, he knew he would have to avoid her for the time being, especially since Ron obviously had a problem with him. She would never choose someone she hardly knew over one of her best friends.
"What would poor mistress think if she could see the filth in this house? Why can't they leave Kreacher in peace?"
Dante's head snapped up to find the oldest and ugliest house elf he had ever seen walking down the corridor. Not that he had seen that many house elves, but still. The gnarled creature kept muttering to himself.
"Excuse me?" Dante said, hoping the elf could give him some information.
"The boy speaks. What does he want with Kreacher? He is probably a filthy mudblood or blood traitor. Kreacher will not answer."
"I'm sorry to disturb you – Kreacher, is it?" Dante was confused as to why the house elf was talking to himself, but not bothering to keep his voice down. The creature was probably a bit off of his rocker. Well, it never hurt to be polite to a house elf. "My name is Dante Snape, and I'm wondering if you can tell me where I can go that's quiet?"
"He says he is a Snape. Snape hates the blood traitor master. Perhaps this is his son?"
"That's right, Professor Snape is my father," Dante said, unable to tell if the house elf was addressing him at all. Who the hell owned this place? Severus disliked a number of people, so that clue did nothing to limit the field.
"The boy is Snape's son. Helping him would displease the master. Kreacher shall answer his question. Kreacher will show him to the library. Only the mudblood girl and filthy half breed go there."
"The library would be great, thanks."
Bewildered, Dante followed the small creature down a flight of stairs and down a corridor. At the end, Kreacher opened a door on the left hand side and let Dante pass through into a large room.
Magic had clearly aided the designers of this room, as Dante was sure the building was not wide enough to accommodate such an expansive space. Scanning the book titles on the nearest shelf, Dante frowned. The titles didn't seem like ones you could find at the Hogwarts library, unless you happened to have access to the restricted section. What secrets did Number 12 Grimmauld Place hold? Who owned this house and why would the Order pick such an evil feeling place for headquarters? There was a house elf, implying that whoever lived here was from an old, pureblood family. The only family Dante could think of was the Malfoy family, but he sincerely doubted that's who owned the house.
Dante could sense Kreacher's eyes on him and tried to dismiss the unnerving feeling it gave him. The strange house elf's eyes scrutinized Dante as he looked through the library, and the young man tried to ignore the creature's ceaseless mutterings.
"Er – Kreacher?"
"The Snape boy speaks. What does he want with Kreacher?"
"Um, I don't mean to be rude. I mean. Thanks for showing me to the library, but do you mind if spend some time here alone?" Kreacher didn't make any indication that he had heard Dante's question except to disappear with a loud crack.
Shaking his head at the antics of the deranged house elf, Dante released a sigh. To say that tonight had not gone very well was a bigger understatement than saying that Voldemort disliked Harry Potter. He was not sure how long these meetings lasted, but he would hide in the library until it was over. Dante refused to go back to that room and face humiliation again.
"Well, I'm in a library," he said out loud. "Might as well read a book."
He wondered if the library had any decent books on defense and glanced over some shelves until he found a title on shields that looked promising. He opened the book at random to the fourth chapter and began reading about shields that could block physical objects in addition to spells. Dante raised his eyebrows as he read. The author discussed the shield's use against muggle firearms in addition to spells, making clear that muggle weapons could pose as much of a threat as spells. Holding his spot with a finger, Dante flipped to the front cover and stared in surprise. The name Sirius Black had been scrawled over the top left corner.
Sirius had been best friends with James Potter, a pureblood who had married "beneath" him, but he had also been friends with Remus Lupin, a werewolf. It didn't make sense that Sirius could have come from an old pureblood family and been friends with those two. The room suddenly felt too warm, so he shrugged out of his robe, wincing as his arm protested the movement.
Dante read the entirety of the fourth and fifth chapters, fascinated by the different types of shields. He was halfway through the sixth chapter (shields that could be cast over a different person than the caster) when the door to the library slowly opened. Dante, engrossed in the book, didn't look up until he heard yet another familiar voice.
"Excuse me, but are you Dante?"
Dante looked up and jumped out of his chair, dropping his book. Remus Lupin stood in the doorway, a curious expression on his face. Dante flushed and he hurried to pick up the dropped book. He had not expected to see his former professor so soon. He smacked his injured arm on the chair as he straightened up and held in the gasp of pain that built up in his throat.
"You do look like your father."
"I'm sorry, sir, but who are you?" Dante asked, hoping to draw attention away from his embarrassing reaction.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you," Lupin said, now looking concerned. Dante mentally breathed a sigh of relief that Lupin had mistaken his response for fright. He didn't want to try and explain why Lupin's presence had been so off-putting. "My name is Remus Lupin. I'm in the Order with your father."
"Oh," Dante said, not knowing what else to say.
"The meeting is over and your father was worried when you weren't where Molly had left you."
"Oh," Dante repeated, hating how stupid he sounded. "Sorry, I just wanted to read in peace. The others were, er, a bit too exuberant for me."
"Yes, I can see how you would think so," Lupin chuckled. "I taught five of them a few years ago. The twins never allowed for a dull moment." A few moments of silence passed.
"Well," Dante started, feeling awkward standing there with his former professor. "I shouldn't keep Severus waiting." He grabbed his robe with his good arm and followed Lupin out of the room.
As they approached the landing on the second floor, Dante glanced down and saw Severus speaking with a tall, darker man. Dante eyed the bald head and gold hoop earring with curiosity as he walked down the steps. Whether he had some sixth sense, super-sonic hearing, or eyes in the back of his head, Dante didn't know, but Severus turned just as Dante's foot touched the bottom step.
"There you are," he spoke in a low voice, clearly trying not to attract the attention of everyone standing in the corridor. "Where have you been? The meeting has been over for 20 minutes, but Miss Granger said that you ran out barely five minutes after you had come in."
"Can we talk about this later sir- er," Dante tried to ignore the curious look that the dark man with the earring was giving him. "I mean, father. I would rather just go home."
"Is this your son, Severus?"
The man spoke with a low, smooth voice that happened to stop all conversation around him. People who had not yet noticed Dante's presence suddenly looked at him. With all the stares, the young man felt like he was an exhibit in the zoo. Well, it wasn't as if he hadn't dealt with that before on multiple occasions.
"Yes, Kingsley, this is my son, Dante," Severus said crisply, as if daring someone to contradict him. The other adults seemed to sense his annoyance and quickly moved towards the front door. Soon it was only Dante, Severus, Lupin, and –
"Dear," There was Mrs. Weasley. "Where have you been? I left you right outside the door where everyone was. How did you get separated from them?"
"I'm a little uncomfortable in crowded places, Mrs. Weasley," Dante made up, surprising himself.
"Dante suffers from a mild form of claustrophobia," Severus inserted smoothly. Dante mentally breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'm sorry about that dear, but you really should not have wandered off," Mrs. Weasley tutted. "This house is full of wretched things. We haven't finished clearing it all out. You could have run into trouble. Oh, there you are. Why did you let Dante leave?"
Dante forced himself not to turn around, knowing all too well that Ron, Hermione, Ginny and the twins were coming down the stairs. The sound reminiscent of thundering elephants gave that away even without Mrs. Weasley's statement.
"Can we please leave?" Dante turned his back on the Weasleys and whispered fervently to his father.
"If you would like," Severus said with a blank face. Suddenly he frowned, looking at Dante's left arm. "What is that?"
"What's what?" Dante asked looking down. An ugly bruise in the shape of a handprint was already forming where Ron had grabbed him. Dante cursed himself for not putting his robe back on before heading downstairs.
"It's nothing, Severus," he said, trying to feign ignorance. "I probably bumped my arm into something. I bruise easily."
"Mum, I don't see what the big deal is!" Dante could hear Ron's voice clearly. "So what, he left? Good riddance. We didn't want him around and let him know it." Severus' eyes flickered behind Dante, telling him that Severus heard too.
"Did Weasley do that to you?"
"I can handle myself. I'm not a child."
"Did Weasley do that to you?" Severus raised his voice, catching the attention of Mrs. Weasley. She turned to screech at her youngest son.
"What did you do, Ronald?"
"What are you looking at me for? I didn't do anything to that crybaby!"
Dante turned around to face his old friends.
"He didn't do anything to me, Mrs. Weasley," he said evenly, hoping to end the discussion so he could go home. Unfortunately, Lady Fortune's wheel kept spinning out of his favor.
"Perhaps, Mr. Weasley," Severus sounded lethal. "You can enlighten us all as to how my son received this?" Severus motioned to Dante's arm, careful not to touch it.
With all the attention on him, Ron knew he had been backed into a corner.
"Yeah, I grabbed his arm," he admitted with a shrug, feigning bravado. Hermione looked like she wanted to stomp on his foot, but Ginny stood in between her and Ron. "He wouldn't leave us be and he broke my nose!"
Dante stood frozen as several pairs of eyes swiveled back to him. He didn't know what to do anymore. His plan to try and ignore it had failed utterly, and he would not allow Severus to think that he had just attacked Ron like that.
"I – I – " he could not make himself form words in defense. Ron looked at him with so much hatred that Dante could not think of anything to say. He could only imagine what Severus thought of him now.
"Hey, here's a concept, Ronniekins. Why don't you tell everyone what really happened?"
One of the twins stepped forward in Dante's defense.
"Do tell us, Mr. Weasley," Severus said, turning his gaze towards Ron.
"Why are you defending him, Fred?" Ron asked. "He attacked me for no reason!"
"We all saw what happened, Ron," George said, standing next to his twin. "Dante clearly came in with no ill will and you immediately assumed the worst about him."
"Yeah, and just when he about to leave, you grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go." Fred added.
"Dante did break his nose, mum," George admitted. "But it was clearly an accident. Ron wouldn't let go of his arm and wrenched it right into his own nose."
"He looked horrified at what had happened. You should have seen his face."
"Is this true, Ronald?" Mrs. Weasley said, looking at her son in disbelief.
"It wasn't an accident! He broke my nose on purpose and then ran away!"
"It was an accident Ron," Fred hissed. "And maybe Dante would have stuck around if you hadn't kept calling his father a filthy Death Eater."
Silence filled the corridor. Ron turned furiously to Hermione and Ginny.
"Well! Aren't you two going to defend me?"
Hermione looked helplessly between Ron and Ginny, who glared at her brother. Clearly, familial bonds only went so far, and Hermione was torn between defending her best friend and telling the truth. Silence seemed the best solution for both young women.
"Whatever. Just don't show your face around here again, Snape," Ron said before storming off. His dramatic exit failed when he tripped going up the stairs. Mrs. Weasley sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry for Ronald's behavior. That was absolutely despicable."
"It's alright, Mrs. Weasley," Dante said quietly as he pulled on his robe. "I'm sure he's not the only person who will react that way."
"Why don't you all go back upstairs," Mrs. Weasley said, turning to Hermione and the others. "I'll call you down for a spot of tea later."
"Sorry about Ron, mate," George said, nodding towards Dante.
"Yeah, he's just being a git cause he's been cooped up all summer. He'll come around." Fred added.
Hermione and Ginny said nothing. They went back upstairs, followed by the twins (who, surprisingly, had not apparated), and Mrs. Weasley headed back towards the kitchen. As she walked through the door at the end of the corridor, Sirius and Lupin walked back through.
Not wanting another confrontation with Sirius, Dante turned and began walking towards the front door, hoping his father would take the hint and get him out of there. He was through playing nice today.
"Oh, so it's Dante now, is it?" Dante spat, not turning around to look at Sirius. Sirius' voice stirred up his anger again. "I thought I was Snape's bastard child, son of a whore."
"Look, I – "
"No!" Dante said, turning around. "I don't want to hear your stupid, ill-thought out excuses made only to appease your own guilt. I've already had to put up with enough dunderheads today and I don't want to put up with another one."
"But – "
"You heard him, Black," Severus hissed. "He doesn't want to speak with you. We are leaving."
"Leave it, Sirius," Lupin said, resting his hand on Sirius' shoulder. "I'm glad that I was able to meet you, Dante. I hope that you will come around some time to explore the library. Sirius' family has built up quite the collection."
"Perhaps," Dante said with the barest of smiles. Not bloody likely. He wasn't going to come here unless Severus dragged him again. Hopefully the little display by Ron was enough to prove to his father that this was a bad idea. Pity. Lupin had treated him like a normal person, like an adult. And did he just say that Sirius' family had built up the collection? He would ask Severus later, as in, later when they finally got out of this wretched place and returned to the sanity of the castle.
"Happy Birthday to me," he muttered as they left the building, not noticing Severus' look of shock at his words.
"Albus, how could you have forgotten to mention that today was his birthday?"
Dante had already gone to bed, exhausted from his encounter at Grimmauld Place. Severus was currently pacing the headmaster's office, ranting.
"Severus, with all that has been happening, I'm afraid I forgot what day it was. I'm sorry I forgot to tell you, but you can make it up to him. He can't have expected you to know."
"And if he did?" Severus snapped, throwing Dumbledore a glare that could curdle milk. "What kind of father doesn't know his own son's birthday? What do I even get him?"
"He is not the kind of young man who desires material possessions," Dumbledore said thoughtfully. "Perhaps something of a different nature would be more appropriate."
"What of your inheritance? How long has it been since you stepped foot in Prince Manor?"
"I – I don't know." Severus frowned in concentration. It was one of those gaps that were slowly filling up with memories. "Years. Maybe not since I began my post at Hogwarts. I have the small cottage that Lily and I lived in after our marriage, but I have not been there either. I had forgotten it until now. I don't even know if it is still there."
"I have kept that residence safe," Dumbledore said with a small smile. "Might I suggest that you take Dante with you to visit them? I think he would appreciate the gesture. I also have another idea that might interest you."
Severus finally sat down in a chair as Dumbledore explained his plan.
"Can you actually accomplish this by tomorrow afternoon? I thought these sorts of things take time? And if anyone were to find out – "
"Just leave everything to me, Severus. Bring Dante with you to my office around 3 tomorrow afternoon and it will be ready."
The next morning, Dante woke up feeling more tired than when he went to bed. He had tossed and turned all night reliving the previous evening, his mind creating different scenarios for how things could have (but did not) turned out. He felt particularly guilty over his reaction to Sirius' obvious attempt to apologize. It was not like Sirius to admit his own faults, but his apology should have been directed towards Severus. Their stupid rivalry grated on Dante's nerves, but he did not know the whole story and therefore could not judge who held the blame.
And what a way to spend his birthday. He had not even realized what day it was until last night. His sense of time had turned upside down since his escape from the Dursleys. And it's not as if anyone had remembered. Well, Severus and Dumbledore had forgotten, but at this point in time he was used to spending his birthday alone.
Knowing that his pity party would do nothing to change yesterday's events, he crawled out of bed and pulled on a pair of jeans and a jumper. Despite the heat of summer, it was cold in the dungeons. His hands automatically went to try and flatten out his hair, but he only felt smooth locks. Chuckling to himself at his old habits, he went out into the living space and saw Severus glancing through the Daily Prophet.
"Good morning," Severus said without looking up. That man must have bat ears.
"Hello," Dante returned.
"Albus has requested our presence this afternoon around 3. I have several items that I must sort through before then, so I trust that you will able to entertain yourself appropriately until then?"
"Of course," Dante said. "And, Severus. I – I'm sorry about my behavior last night, er, before we left for Grimmauld Place. I don't know what is wrong with me. I completely overreacted."
"Well, I admit that it is not entirely surprising," Severus said, putting down the paper. "Both of us are going to experience extreme waves of emotions for the next several weeks. Myself because of these blasted memories that are slowly reappearing in my mind, and you because you have an adult dedicated to your personal well being for the first time in your life."
"Yeah, I mean, I know that you are only trying to help," Dante said. "But it's so hard. No one has ever cared before, and I've managed to do well enough on my own."
"I know that you will think that I am being unreasonable and overbearing, but I assure you that I am only looking out for your best interests." Severus paused. "I know that you can handle yourself, but remember that you don't have to take care of everything anymore."
"I guess." Dante stopped, a thought coming to him. "Sir – Severus, I know that Dumbledore said that he is taking care of my sudden appearance after Harry Potter's sudden disappearance, but I still think it's too obvious. I know it will be fine for people outside of Hogwarts, but Hermione's too smart for her own good. She's going to figure it out. And Voldemort is clearly not an idiot."
"Yes, Albus and I discussed that last night after you went to bed." Dante tried not to bristle at that statement. Why couldn't he have been there too? "We will have Albus polyjuice himself as you and allow Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, and the others to come and visit the hospital wing. Since Harry Potter is supposedly in a magically induced coma, Albus will not have to act like you. You will be in the hospital wing at the same time, so everyone will see the both of you at the same time. This will also give me a perfect memory to supply to the Dark Lord concerning your whereabouts."
"Oh," Dante said, surprised. The plan was clever. Ron and Hermione could convince the rest of the school that Harry was exactly where Dumbledore said he was. They weren't exactly the best actors, and this would give them proper feelings to go off of.
"Well, off you go then," Severus said, rising from his seat. "You may stay here or spend your time in the library. I would prefer if you did not use the pitch today."
"OK, I think I'll go to the library," Dante said, stifling a grumble. Although, if truth be told, he did not feel much like flying today. There was enough time to complete his transfiguration essay if he didn't distract himself. He went back to his room and gathered his books, spare parchment, and partially completed essay.
When he arrived at the library, he was shocked to find Madam Pince waving her wand around the shelves, dusting off books. He was about to turn around and head back to the dungeons when she spotted him.
"What are you doing in my library?" she asked suspiciously, narrowing her eyes at the intruder.
"I'm sorry ma'am," Dante said, doing his best to be polite. "My father, Professor Snape, told me that I might use some texts in the library to complete my transfiguration essay. If that bothers you, I can return to his quarters. I don't want to be in your way."
"You are Professor Snape's son?" she asked, shock flickering across her face. Instead of accusing him of lying as everyone else had done, she merely studied him. "Yes, you do look enormously like him, and just as polite as he was as a student. I suppose you may study in here, but I better not catch you vandalizing my books or I will throw you out of here."
"Of course not, ma'am," Dante said hurriedly, before she could change her mind. "Could you possibly direct me to the section on transfiguration? My essay is on the differences between inanimate and animate transfiguration. This place is so big, I'm afraid I'll completely miss it."
"Follow me," she said and guided him toward the right side of the library, about two sections back. "You will find relevant texts on the bottom four shelves. If you cannot remember where you found the book, leave them on the table and I will re-shelve them. I don't want them ending up in the wrong place."
"Yes, ma'am," Dante said. "Thank you very much."
She nodded curtly and headed back to where she had left off the dusting. Dante couldn't see her, but he could hear the books shuffling around. The sound would not distract him.
He set his bag down on the nearest table and went over to the shelves Madam Pince had indicated. He scanned the titles and pulled out First Steps in Animate Transfiguration. Skimming through the first chapter, he could already see that this book went into much greater detail than his text for McGonagall's class. He pulled out his notes on animate transfiguration from the other day and readied a quill to take notes.
Dante sighed heavily as he stretched his arms and flexed his cramped hand. The book proved extremely useful and he had made significant progress on his essay. Some of the theory confused him, but he resolved to ask Severus when he was available. He had no idea what time it was, but his stomach growled rebelliously. Unable to ignore it, he packed up his items, re-shelved the book, and made his way out of the library.
"Thank you, Ma'am!" he called out, unsure if Madam Pince was even around to hear him. He saw he emerge from the left side of the stacks.
"I trust that I will see you again before the start of term?" she asked, halting her dusting.
"Er, yes, probably. And I'm sure that I will be in here plenty once term begins. I have a lot of catching up to do in some subjects."
"Hrm, well if you need me to direct you to any texts, I will do so. You have your father's reputation to uphold."
Dante merely nodded and waved goodbye. Wonderful, another person who expected ridiculous academic success from him.
He walked back down to Severus' quarters and gave Salazar a quick hello before entering. Severus was nowhere to be seen, but Dante assumed that he was working in the lab. Sitting down at the table, Dante called for Dobby.
The elf appeared and Dante gave a request for lunch, trying not to laugh as the bobbles on Dobby's hat bounced up and down with the house elf's movements. Dobby returned a few seconds later with a tray of food.
"Thanks, Dobby," Dante muttered as he bit into a sandwich. Dobby disappeared with a crack. "I love house elves."
Just as Dante finished up his lunch, the fireplace roared to life and Severus tumbled out to land smoothly on his feet.
"Where have you been?" Dante asked, curious.
"In due time," Severus said, glancing at the clock on the mantle. "Are you ready to see the headmaster?"
"Sure, let me just put my stuff in my room."
They headed up to Dumbledore's office, walking side by side in comfortable silence until they reached the stone gargoyle.
"Ton tongue toffees," Dante said, when Severus didn't. Apparently, Severus would not say the password unless absolutely necessary. They climbed the staircase and Dante swore he could hear Severus muttering under his breath about "those infernal Weasleys." It made Dante smile.
"Come in," was the reply heard after Severus knocked on the door.
"Ah, yes, please sit down," Dumbledore said, motioning for the two chairs in front of his desk. He was sporting royal purple robes with gold stars today. Severus resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the man's antics, but Dante found them entertaining.
"What did you need to see us for, Professor?" Dante asked, curious.
"Severus and I would like to present you with a belated birthday present."
"Oh," Dante blushed and looked at his hands folded in his lap. They hadn't forgotten! "You really didn't need to do anything for me Professor. I mean – I wasn't expecting anything."
"Nonsense. You haven't even seen what we are giving you."
"I – um, OK," Dante mumbled.
Dumbledore smiled and handed him what looked like a folder. Dante took it and looked at Severus. The older man's face was impossible to read. Dante took a steadying breath and opened the file, eyes widening.
His original birth certificate rested on top, the name DANTE ALEXANDER SNAPE hand written in. His eyes drank in the name that had been carefully written in under the word "Mother." The name Lily Snape sounded foreign on it's own, but next to Severus Snape, "Father," it looked right. His hands trembled slightly as he set it aside.
He flipped through the next several sheets of paper, skimming over a very legal looking document. Confused, Dante looked back up at the two men.
"Those are documents for Severus gaining guardianship of you, Dante," Dumbledore said gently. "As you have been living with your aunt and uncle, they had to sign over their rights to Severus."
"They signed this?" Dante said, flipping to the final page. There they were, Petunia Dursley and Vernon Dursley's signatures. "I mean, I knew they never wanted me, but – " he couldn't form any more words.
"Your uncle needed a small push in the right direction. Your aunt, however, is very happy for you, as is your cousin."
"How could you possibly know that?"
"Ah," Dumbledore looked as though he had been caught with his hand in the lemon drop jar. "Do you know what Legilimency is, Dante?"
"Yeah, Severus said it's like mind reading," Dante replied, then quickly added "but it's not mind reading really, but I'm not sure I understand the difference."
"Well, your cousin was quite vocal in his regard for you. Your aunt, while I do not believe she would ever admit it out loud, was clearly thinking that you deserved to know your father. I admit that what I did was not very appropriate – Legilimency should not be used lightly – but sometimes a person's thoughts are too loud to ignore."
"I see," Dante noticed three empty lines. "What else needs to be done?"
"All that's needed is for you and Severus to sign, and I will witness."
"Great, can I have a quill?" he asked, reaching his hand out.
"Are you sure that this is what you want?" Severus asked quietly. "This guardianship will be permanent until you reach your majority, even if the war ends before then."
"Huh?" Dante asked. "Of course this is what I want! I wouldn't have agreed to drop the Harry Potter charade in the first place if I didn't want this. Don't you?"
"Yes, but this is a huge decision, so I understand if you need more time to consider it."
"I don't need more time, Severus," Harry said firmly. "You are my father and I am not ashamed of that. Now, if that's all settled, hand me a quill, Professor."
"Of course, Dante," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling madly. "Now, you will need to return to the third page and sign here…"
Together, the three moved through the document, signing each section. Severus marveled at the happiness in Dante's eyes and felt a flurry of activity in his chest. His son wanted him! He hadn't realized how much he had feared Dante's rejection until that moment. That infernal old coot had been right about Dante's capacity for love and forgiveness. Dante clearly inherited those traits from Lily.
"And, sign here."
Dante signed his name one last time with a flourish and let out a loud sigh. Severus leaned over the desk and added his signature in his spiky cursive. Dumbledore pulled the document in front of him and added his loopy signature. He snapped his fingers and the papers rolled up and vanished.
"Healer Alexander has full access to the Hall of Records due to her position as one of the head healers at St. Mungo's. She will see to it that they are discreetly filed away in proper order. No one will know the difference until we reveal your identity, Dante. And may I be the first to congratulate you two."
"Thank you, professor," Dante said, beaming. Severus inclined his head and rose.
"Dante, there are a few more items I had planned for today, if you would accompany me back to our quarters."
"OK," Dante said, getting up. "Thanks again, Professor Dumbledore."
"Thank you, Albus," Severus said quietly and quickly left the office. Dante gave Dumbledore a shrug at his father's quick departure, but Dumbledore understood.
"Oh, and Dante," Dumbledore sounded hesitant. "I also wish to inform you that Miss Granger and the Weasleys have gifts for you as well, but due to the circumstances…"
"I understand, Professor," Dante's heart clenched painfully. "I'm happy enough that they are thinking about me."
Oh yes, Dumbledore understood his two young men perfectly.
"Where are we?"
Dante stood next to Severus, looking at (in his opinion) a mansion. It was one of the largest buildings he had ever seen, aside from Hogwarts. They were just inside a set of decoratively wrought gates that rose at least twice Dante's height. The front of the manor boasted a large expanse of land, although no one seemed to care for it. The grass had grown too tall, the gardens full of weeds, and the vegetation looked dead. Two large fountains, one half collapsed, stood mirror distance from the central path. As for the building itself, ivy had climbed up the walls and Dante could hardly tell what color or material the manor was. Why had Severus brought him here?
"This is Prince manor, my childhood home."
"You grew up here?" Dante asked, reexamining the grounds in a new light. He supposed that if you trimmed the grass, looked after the gardens, and fixed up the fountains, the grounds could be quite beautiful. The ivy could easily be cut down with magic. He could only imagine the state of the interior.
"I admit that it has fallen into a slight disorder…" Severus said slowly.
"This is what you call a slight disorder?" Dante quipped, cocking an eyebrow. "I would hate to see your definition of chaos."
"Brat," Severus said, turning his face away so Dante would not see his slight smile.
"Do I need to brace myself for the inside? The walls aren't going to collapse around us, are they?"
"You see, Dante, there is this wonderful thing called magic that can be used in all manner of ways."
"I get it, I get it. Magic will keep us from dying of asphyxiation due to the inhalation of dust particles dispersed from the collapse of the infrastructure." Severus stared at him. "What? Is something wrong with my face? May I remind you that I inherited your genes – "
"You are lucky that school is not in session at the moment or I would take 20 points for your cheek." Severus remarked with a straight face. "And did you decide to channel Miss Granger today?"
"Nope, I decided to channel Professor Snape. He's always using large words that I have to look up later in a dictionary. I'm preparing myself for the school year."
"By swallowing a thesaurus?"
"Look, can we just go inside? I'm a little cold actually. It's rather windy here."
Severus bit back the obvious remark about it being the middle of summer and led Dante up the central path. They climbed the stone steps and Severus pushed open the heavy door.
"Wow," was Dante's only remark as he stepped inside. Despite the thick layer of dust covering every surface, and the musty smell of age, Dante could easily imagine this place in all of its former glory. "Why don't you live here?"
Severus stood in silence for a long while as memories swarmed around him. Dante thought Severus had not heard his question, so he continued his perusal of the entryway.
"I do not have many fond memories of this place," Severus admitted, to Dante's surprise. "In truth, I cannot stand to be here for an extended period of time. The only reason I have it in my possession is to keep it from falling into the hands of certain people who would have used the wealth and land for the Dark Lord's purposes. You might call my complete disregard for the state of this place my final act of rebellion against my father. He prided his status, and this place, above almost everything in life, including his own family."
"You are from an older pureblood family, right?" Dante asked.
"Yes, as are you," Severus said with the tiniest of smirks.
"Right, so we are from an older pureblood family, so does that mean there are house elves here?"
"Ah. Yes, it is true that I inherited a small staff of house elves. I decided that their services would be better rendered at Hogwarts."
"Clever," Dante remarked and the two fell into silence, still staring around the entryway.
A grand staircase rose up several steps before parting into two staircases that led up to the second floor. From where he stood, Dante could see a third level, but not how to get up there. He tried to imagine a miniature Severus running around this place, but remembered that Severus would have been punished for doing something so childish as running. Glancing up at his father, Dante saw a pained expression on his face. He felt the sudden urge to do something that would rid Severus of whatever pain he was experiencing.
"Severus," he said quietly, and Severus looked at him, trying to stow away his emotions, but failing. "Look, I really appreciate you bringing me here. It means quite a bit to me that you would share your past with me." He stopped, trying to figure out how to say what he wanted to say with making Severus think that he was being pitied. "But if this is too painful for you, we can leave. I don't mind at all. This place actually gives me the creeps."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have –" Severus began but Dante cut him off.
"Don't be sorry, that's ridiculous! I can't even imagine showing my kids where I grew up with the Dursleys. I won't be sorry if I never see that place again. I know what it feels like to have certain memories you just want to forget. And – and thank you. It couldn't have been easy to bring me here."
"You shouldn't be thanking me."
"Oh, Merlin's balls!" Dante half-shouted, then blushed profusely. "Oh, shut up, whatever you were going to say. Just accept my thanks and let's get out of here. We can come back when we figure out what we're going to do with this place. You know, do something that will put it to good use and make your father roll over in his grave. I'm sure we will think of something."
"Quite so," Severus said. "Well, in that case, are you up for another trip? I promise I won't succumb to my teen-worthy angst for the rest of the afternoon."
"Sure, it's not like I have anything else planned."
"Very well, please grab my hand."
Dante grimaced, but held on to his father's arm. His earlier experience of apparition had left him feeling like he would vomit. He didn't expect this time to be any different, and he was correct. However, the sight that greeted him expelled any feelings of nausea he had.
"You seem to be saying that often today."
"Seriously, stop ruining the moment. I've never seen the sea before."
They were standing on a weathered beach looking out onto the largest body of water Dante had seen. The sea was completely different from the lake on Hogwarts' grounds. The push and pull of the waves lulled Dante into a sense of peace. He felt as if he could stand here all day and not grow tired of listening to that sound. The sun beat down pleasantly and Dante fought the urge to take off his shoes and socks, and bury his toes in the warm sand.
"Dante, please memorize this."
Severus handed him a slip of paper and Dante had a feeling of déjà vu as he examined the looping handwriting of Albus Dumbledore: The residence of Severus Snape is located at Shell Cottage. No sooner had he thought those words, a cottage melted out the air a small distance from the shore. Severus began walking up to the structure and Dante followed him.
"What is this place? Why is it under Fideleus?"
"This is where your mother and I lived after we married. The cottage was a wedding gift from the headmaster, and he has been the secret keeper for the past 18 years. Unlike the manor, this place has been looked after by select house elves, according to the headmaster."
The stepped up onto the porch that overlooked the water and Dante marveled at the view from here. The sea seemed to stretch on into eternity. A swinging chair, designed for two people to sit on, occupied the spot underneath a large window. It swayed lightly in the wind and Dante imagined that Severus and his mother had spent many evenings sitting there, looking at the sea. The idea sent a blast of warmth through his chest.
He heard Severus open the door and followed him inside.
Smells assaulted Dante's nose as the door swung shut behind him. He recognized the earthy musk with a hit of spice as Severus, but there was something else that hung in the air, something more feminine. Jasmine, he realized. It wasn't overpowering; it was subtle. How had that survived for over 15 years? Dante wondered if magic had been involved. He finally looked around the room.
Eclectic furniture adorned the living space. A large fireplace, the focal point of the room, housed a mantelpiece with pictures and a clock. Dante longed to look at those pictures, but followed Severus into the kitchen.
He barely registered the layout of the kitchen. His eyes were drawn to the open box on the maple table. Photographs, wizarding and muggle, filled it.
Severus gestured for Dante to join him at the table. Dante could not keep the eager look of anticipation from his face as Severus slid the box towards him.
"I know that you have very few photographs of your mother and James. I spent this morning searching the cottage for these. I thought that you should have the opportunity to see them."
"I – I don't know what to say," Dante murmured. "Thank you."
He pulled out a photograph sitting on the top. It was a wizarding picture taken by the lake at Hogwarts. Severus and Lily stood there, waving to the photographer. Lily smiled brightly, while Severus held a more reserved, closed mouth smile. They had to have been at least fifteen as Dante spotted the prefect's badge on his mother's robes.
"That was taken in the spring of our fifth year. Your mother and I had just turned sixteen that January."
"You were both born in January?"
"Yes, mine is the 9th and your mother's was the 30th."
There were several photos of Severus and Lily on the grounds of Hogwarts. Dante also found pictures of his grandparents: the stoic and formal wizarding photo of Severus' parents, and the relaxed and familial muggle photo of Lily's parents. There was even a photograph of the entire Evans family. Lily didn't look old enough to attend Hogwarts and Petunia's face held a genuine smile. They looked much more like sisters in this photograph. Petunia's age and bitterness had transformed her.
"Is that Malfoy's mum?"
"Yes, although at the time she was called Narcissa Black."
Dante's hand trembled slightly as he pored over the photograph. Lily and Severus were older than they had been in the first photograph. They were standing close together, Severus' arm clutching Lily to his side. Occasionally she would look away from the camera and give Severus a kiss on the cheek. However, it was the two other people in the picture that drew Dante's gaze. A young man Dante immediately recognized as James Potter stood about a foot from Lily. His arm swooped around a young woman with long, white blonde hair. She rested her head on James' shoulder and fiddled with the necklace she wore. At one point, she gave a gasp of surprise (Dante assumed, as he couldn't hear anything) as James twirled her around once and kissed her soundly when her feet were planted on the ground again.
"Did she – were here and my fa – James dating?" He looked up and saw a shadow cross his father's face.
"What happened? If you don't mind my asking."
"James proposed to her in the spring of our seventh year, not long before this picture was taken. That's the engagement ring she is fiddling with. However…" Severus paused. "When Narcissa went home for Easter holidays to break the news to her parents, she found out that they had determined something quite different for her."
"Indeed. I will spare you the details, but she was forced into a betrothal she could not back out of. In the end, she left James to protect him and married Lucius. She never spoke to James again."
"That's horrible," Dante whispered. "At least you and mum had each other. I can't even imagine – " he stopped, unable to say out loud what he thought. "May I keep this?"
Severus thought about it for a few moments, then nodded his head.
"Yes, but it must never leave our quarters. Actually, it would be better if it never left your room. We cannot risk anyone stumbling upon it by accident."
"I understand. Thank you."
"There is something else you should know," Severus said. "Draco is my godson. There is a very good chance that you will see him before the start of the year. I trust that you will act appropriately?"
"I'll try," Dante scowled. "I guess it won't be that hard. He won't know it's me, so maybe he won't act like such a git."
"I would not pass judgment without knowledge. You two have more in common than you know."
"I will let him divulge that information to you, should the opportunity arise. All you need to know is that not all hope is lost for him. He is not only Lucius Malfoy's son."
Dante looked back at the smiling Narcissa Black in the photo and nodded. He thought that Severus was asking him, in his own way, not to make the same mistake with Draco Malfoy as Severus had made with Harry Potter. Perhaps Narcissa Malfoy had paved a different path for her son.
"I'll do my best, Severus."
"That's all I ask."
As Dante lay in bed, he thought about what Severus had shown him that day. It was strange, seeing those two places side by side: one – large, cold, and dead – and the other – small and unassuming. It didn't take a genius to see which one Severus preferred, and found himself agreeing with his father.
Despite Dante's fear of what the future held, he felt hope for the first time since that night in the graveyard. He knew his chances of surviving this war were slim. It was highly unlikely that Voldemort would be defeated before he realized Dante's true identity, and that would fuel Voldemort's hatred for him a hundred fold. Pushing all of his fears aside, Dante pictured himself sitting on that porch swing with Severus. No war, no crazed dark lords after them. No terror for what the next day would hold. A chance for him to get to know his father without having to hide whose son he was.
It was the first time Dante had allowed himself to really picture a life with no Voldemort. He didn't just want to survive this war; he wanted to live, to have a family, maybe even children. The thought of tiny children with black hair running around on the beach made him laugh. He could not imagine Severus making sand castles or wading knee-deep into the water.
When Severus peered into the room half an hour later, he saw Dante asleep with a peaceful smile gracing his face. He quietly closed the door and made his way to his own room to turn in for the night.
Three hours later, Dante's screams ripped through the peaceful silence.