Severus knocked on the door of Harry's room. He heard no answer, so he let himself in.
The shower was running – Harry was always cleanly, for a boy, Severus had noticed it long time ago; long before he became his father. It had created an interesting contrast to Harry's far from immaculate clothes. Only later had Severus learned that Harry's love for long, hot showers was founded in his childhood when his guardians forbade him to use anything warmer than ice-cold water.
Severus noticed a letter lying on the table; surely the very letter Nephele had delivered that morning? He quickly skimmed through the text, not bothering to feel guilty over the indiscretion.
I'm so excited that your father invited us for the weekend! Mum and Dad are thrilled too, they are very keen to see a Potions lab and also a brewing process. (Don't worry, I've already explained them it was unlikely Professor Snape would let them into his lab when he was working. If ever.)
I can't wait to see you, Harry! I've read through a couple of books that may help improve your defences and I took notes from them, which I'll bring on Saturday. It's so great to be allowed to practise magic during holidays! I'm sure you can't wait for your birthday.
When I was in Diagon Alley for the books, I met Ron. He pretended he didn't see me! He was with Ginny and she was waving at me, but Ron still kept pretending he couldn't see me, and dragged her away. What a nerd! The more I think about it, the more I believe it better than Ron stopped being your friend in winter (I know it hurt!) – but it was better then than in a battle, though. Or imagine if he turned into a second Wormtail!
I was sorry to hear (read) that Professor Snape hasn't been able to determine what means were used to change your appearance yet. I bought a few Charms books as well and I will see what I can find. Why didn't you ask Professor Flitwick for help, anyway?
Nephele seems eager to fly home, so I'll stop here.
Kisses and love,
The youngest Weasley boy was indeed a nerd. Severus himself couldn't say he mourned over the loss of Harry's 'first real' friend. As much as he detested Granger's pushy attitude, Severus felt she was a much better match to Harry's intellect than the Weasley boy ever could be. Not as if they had stayed only friends. Their relationship – or, more exactly, Harry's behaviour in this area – had been a steady source of amusement for Severus in the last few months.
The shower stopped running and Severus carefully moved further from the table. He went to the darker corner of the room and petted Harry's sleeping owl. Nephele cracked one eye half open for a second, before she closed it again. When petted again, she clacked her beak sharply, displeased that she was disturbed, and covered her head with her wing. Severus smirked. Far from being unintentionally maltreated any more, Nephele had grown quite spoiled. Harry's fault of course, not Severus'.
Severus looked around the room - nicely clean - and his eyes fell on a strange round metal bottle. He moved to the shelf to have a closer look at it. It felt cool in his hand. 'Men's Anti-perspirant and Deodorant' it read.
The door opened and Harry stepped in, hair still wet from the shower, clad in his new shirt and pants. Severus looked his son over with approval. Once he had found out what horrible rags Harry had been forced to wear, he had taken him shopping. Severus had promised Harry a free choice and he had been prepared to hold his tongue unless the boy chose something really unacceptable. To his pleasure, Harry's choices were quite conservative and Severus had no problems with any of the items bought.
"It's a... eh... deodorant," Harry said, seeing the tin in his dad's hand, blushing slightly. "It's a Muggle thing."
"Refreshing clean scent," Severus read aloud and Harry nodded. "Wizards have these kind of products too," he informed his son, who shrugged, unconcerned.
Severus knew that both magical and Muggle items were of the same value to Harry. He simply chose what he liked the most, regardless of the world it originated from. Harry's liberal views had caused Severus to marvel again and again. Severus himself always chose items from the magical world, as he had only bad memories linked to Muggles. In his opinion, Albus had risked a lot when he had knowingly left Harry with Muggles who despised him. It was a small miracle that Harry hadn't fallen for the Dark Lords' anti-Muggles doctrine.
"Only for real men?" Severus quoted the tin once again and Harry coloured.
"It's just a catchphrase, all right?" the teenager said defensively and to Severus' further amusement he hurriedly changed topics. "Hermione wrote to me, saying that they would come!"
Severus put on a suitably surprised expression. "All three of them? Very well. Let's start preparing rooms for them."
They lived without house-elves. Severus had refused, as he always had, Albus' offer to lend them a House-elf or two for the summer. He found their hysterical behaviour disconcerting. After all, it was easy to keep a household running with only a couple of clever spells, and Severus quite liked cooking.
Severus watched his refreshingly clean scented son bouncing happily towards the guest rooms and once again he felt amazement over the change Harry had gone through. During six and half months, Harry recovered from a nervous wreck to his old happy, optimistic self. Of course, he was a tad more serious and careful than before, because no one can go through hell and remain unscathed.
"Your birthday is in twelve days, you should start sending invitations," Severus reminded him. Harry's eyes lit up; as they had the first time he had found out that he could have a proper birthday party.
"I've been thinking about it. I'm sure I'll invite Hermione and Neville. And Scilla. And Remus." Here he paused and glanced at his father to see if the older man had any reservations. Getting only a nod of consent, Harry continued, "Then, I would like to invite Weasleys, but Ron won't probably want to come, so it'll be strange," he finished sadly.
"You definitely should invite the Weasley family." Severus would always stay grateful to Molly and Arthur for supporting their relationship and decisions. And then, of course, there were also the five years that Harry practically had been a Weasley. "If Ronald decides to ignore your coming to adulthood, it's his decision."
Harry briefly pondered it and nodded. "All right. Apart from that, I'll invite Hagrid and McGonagall. Do you think I should invite Dumbledore?" The hope that he wouldn't have to was more than clear in his son's voice.
"You should," Severus said, dashing the hope. "It wouldn't be tactical to omit him."
"Maybe he will be too busy to come," Harry said optimistically.
"I wouldn't count on it," Severus said dryly. "Will you help with the cleaning or are you just going stand there watching me working?"
"But, Dad," Harry answered with a whinging quality entering his voice, "without magic I'll end up cleaning something for ages which you could have charmed in a second. I'll cook dinner tonight instead of you," he offered.
"Deal." Severus nodded. "Dinner and all meals tomorrow, including washing the dishes." He raised an eyebrow to hush any protest. "Let me remind you that the Grangers are your guests."
"Okay. But I choose what I cook!" Harry grinned at him. Severus just rolled his eyes. Another round of sausages and mashed potatoes. He would never understand why Harry liked the dish so much.
"No repetition of a dish!" he conditioned. "I hope Miss Granger can appreciate distinguished colours," he told his son and smirked. The whole room was decorated in a dark green pattern, completed with elegant, silver details.
Harry didn't take the bait. "I still feel weird being around Dumbledore," he muttered. "I hate being tactical. He accepted us only 'cause it was tactical and it sucks."
"Gryffindors," Severus complained fondly. He knew Harry had hard time relating to the old wizard – which was completely understandable as Dumbledore had knowingly cost him a decent childhood and would have denied him a newly found father as well. Gryffindors weren't made to take betrayals easily. "I promise you to keep the Headmaster off your back."
"Slytherins!" Harry exclaimed theatrically and grinned at him. "I'll go and write the invitations, then. Do you want anyone else to come?" Severus answered negatively and watched his son caper off.
Severus gave the room the last look over. Everything was dusted and prepared to play host to the little Know-it-all. Well, not so little anymore. He moved next door and repeated the cleaning process in the bigger room, which was suitable for a married couple.
He briefly wondered what it would be like to host two Muggles, and then shrugged it off. They would have a daughter to help with small difficulties, big problems – hopefully - wouldn't occur.
Severus thoughts turned – for about a thousandth time – to betrayals. More specifically, Dumbledore's betrayal of Scilla. She resolutely refused to talk about it, saying that some dirt was better left lying at the bottom of the pond. Grudgingly, Severus realised that he would have to accept that this mystery would remain unresolved to him. He frowned at the idea.
Severus was still frowning when he descended the stairs and stepped into the living room. He lit the fire and allowed himself a shot of whiskey. He then relaxed in his armchair for a while, and when he heard Harry moving about in the kitchen, he got up and went to tell his son to at least add a decent salad to the bland meal.
He stopped in the doorway. Whatever was the boy preparing, it wasn't potatoes. Harry spotted him and grinned.
"Guess what we're having?" he asked, his hand deftly stirring a runny kind of dough. Before Severus could have a guess, Harry exclaimed happily, "Pancakes!"
Severus rolled his eyes. Harry's ridiculous liking of sausages and mashed potatoes was beaten only by sweet foods. "Are you trying to make me reconsider tomorrow's meals?" He asked dryly.
"Of course not, Dad. Despite the fact that-" Harry grinned devilishly, "maybe you should enjoy yourself before the guests come. What if Mrs. Granger decides to reorganise the cupboards?" He grinned wider upon seeing Severus' horrified expression. "Well, Hermione had to inherit it from someone, right?"
Severus groaned and Harry burst out laughing. Severus' breath hitched. The boisterous laugh was the dearest sound he had ever heard. Merlin, Harry had never looked more like Lily than he did now, glamours or not. If only she could have been there to see it.