"I – well, yes – but – It's not my fault!" Corbin's voice had an oily quality Hermione had learned to hate. "This is much more difficult than you led me to believe. Snape is hardly any sort of death eater, he reads to his snakes before bed, of all bloody things. And the brat is always tucked away in Snape's quarters, except when he surfaces to destroy something. You have to give me more time, Luci – "

The voice that came through next was one Hermione had learned to hate years ago. "Corbin, need I remind you that this is a secret endeavor? And you've had three entire months. The Dark Lord wants the boy out of the castle. Now, I put in a favorable recommendation for you; if you fall through not only will you spend an indeterminable amount of time with his most loyal followers as their guest, but I will lose standing and favor from him. Think very carefully. Do you want to run the risk of me plotting revenge on your useless soul?"

"N-no, cousin, I don't."

"Then don't mess up. You stick to the plan. Draw him out. Find his weaknesses. Get the boy out of the castle. Do you understand?"

"Yes, yes I – "

"Good. Bother me when you're ready."

The Floo disconnected, the green glow dissipating from the depths of Madame Pomfrey's office. There was a shuffling from within, which Hermione thought meant Corbin was flipping through something on the matron's desk, and then footsteps, his shadow moving along the wall and Hermione slammed her eyes shut, slowed down her breathing, pretended to be asleep as the footsteps carried across the room and to the doors, which creaked slightly when opened, and then slammed shut.

She gave it another three minutes just in case, her mind rocketing through all the possible questions the short conversation had brought to life within her. Why was Corbin working with Malfoy? What did the death eater have on him? Why did they want Harry out of the castle? Did Snape know about their plan? How did she stop it?

That question brought her up cold, as the last time she answered that one, it led to her being here, in the hospital wing, barely able to cast a lumos.

Honestly, books were stupidly inaccurate. Whoever wrote A Cursory Introduction to The Dark Arts clearly did not understand the definition of the phrase 'moderate temporary fatigue', and needed to remember to add magical exhaustion to their list of consequences for using that spell. Honestly, the whole book needed a thorough revision. No one reads Olde English anymore.

That was why she'd messed up the spell. It wasn't, but it was nicer to think of it as the reason than to admit, again, to herself that she'd forgotten that the incantation could not be interrupted. Even if she wasn't powerful enough to properly control the spell, if she hadn't stopped to answer Draco, Hermione was certain she could have handled it. Magical fortitude was all well and good, but there was something to be said for determination and perseverance, both of which she had in spades.

But oh, she'd made a huge mess of things. She should be expelled, at the very least. Snape was headmaster, and she was sure he'd do that at least. She wondered if she'd have a chance to pack her own things and say goodbye to the castle properly, or if a house-elf had already done it all for her. At the very least he'd let her say goodbye to Ron and Harry. And Ron, her Ron. He was brilliant, and knew it now, had come into his own over the summer and with his new found confidence there was a swing in his step that had girls third year and over stalking him in the corridors. The fool was oblivious, thankfully, too wrapped up in discussions with Harry or Draco or herself or in a book to pay much attention to anyone else. Without her here someone, like Lavender who just did not know when to quit, would grab his attention and then he'd be back to the old Ron, only glued to the lips of some simpering twit. It broke her heart just thinking about it.

No doubt Snape would take great pleasure in pointing this possibility out to her, among others, as he escorted her from the grounds. He was an absolute prize with Harry, but otherwise he was an all-around arse, a sniveling ignoramus whose only claim to fame was that he didn't get caught with his trousers down. It was weak, she knew, but her heart simply wasn't in it tonight. She had messed up, had lost all semblance of hope, and had no chance ever again of becoming anything other than an ordinary Muggle professional while she could have been great. Sure, Snape might have protected her from Azkaban, but there was no way he, or Dumbledore, would let her stay on at Hogwarts.


When Severus entered the hospital wing half an hour later, he met the Granger sobbing heartbrokenly into her pillow. He stood in the doorway a moment, once again debating if he wanted to do this now, if he needed to, if it would make any difference whatsoever. She hated him, he thought she was annoying, but brilliant. She was determined to do things her way; he was determined to show her that that way lay madness. She was a sixteen year old dark lady in the making, he was a former follower of the dark, a man who had left two sons asleep back in his quarters, the only place he really wanted to be.

But he couldn't leave her. It would be worse than giving her another Dark Arts book.

Dumbledore had been completely incapacitated, Harry only slightly better. His small form had crumpled into his arms as Severus had lifted him off the ground, paying the slightest bit of attention to Dumbledore, who seemed to be muttering under his breath. Severus had shot off a Patronus to Minerva before tending to his son, making sure the little idiot was still alive, still breathing properly, still not dead and able to give him heart attacks well into the future. There was a thin stream of dribble moving down the boy's chin but that was quickly dealt with, and as soon as Severs' medical scans came back positive for normal levels he lifted the boy into the air and spun.

Dumbledore was most definitely the worst off of the pair. Where Harry was simply exhausted, the aging headmaster seemed to have been reduced to a state of mental health one saw in the permanent care ward of St. Mungos. For a moment, Severus felt his stomach leaden over with ice; Harry had done that. Would he be charged? Amelia knew the particulars of the case, surely she would ensure that the child wasn't handled too harshly, right? But one could not come above the law, and in this Severus did not even know what the law was.

The old man seemed frail and weak as he spoke to an invisible person softly, his lips moving but barely making a sound. His movements seemed unfocused and whimsy, like an infant with only the barest notion of what it meant to move. Other than his insistence that the man not seek an audience with the ten in his arms, Severus had not seen Dumbledore outside of mealtimes; to see him in this state now was shocking to the extreme.

A nervous cough had drawn his attention then, Ronin standing where he'd left him, long fingers anxiously tormenting the hem of his jumper and eyes far too wide, too young, for his true age. Severus had forced himself to move, only sparing a moment to heat the space beneath the old bones, before hurrying to his son's side, eager to get his boys far, far away and to bed.

Severus raced down the corridor, trying his best not to jostle the bundle in his arms. The red haired teen managed to keep pace, and he couldn't think to send him away. Harry's pale face pressed against his shoulder, his breathing even but shallow. The boy had no fever that he could detect, but Severus would know for sure in a moment.

The hallway sped past, portraits blending into a blur of landscapes and borders till he reached the dungeons. The cool air wrapped around him like a welcome blanket, tugging and pushing him along to his rooms. The magic therein recognized him instantly and the door swung open, all Snapes soon safely inside.

He'd reached his rooms in record time. Ron, anxiously shaking Harry's unconscious form and on the verge of tears, had been sentenced to the shower. Harry had been settled into bed after the quickest magical bath and the most thorough medical check Severus could perform without breaking any laws, and even those he considered a moment too long for his conscious. It was interesting to note that even beneath the influence of Dark magic a part of him still recognized the boundaries he had set for himself, and was unwilling to cross them. Such was human nature, he supposed.

But looking on all that now, on the peace that had settled over his rooms after Ron had fed him all the tea he could before slipping into sleep (clearly the child had forgotten that his father was a potions master; if he wanted someone to sleep, they would sleep), at how he had allowed himself to shamelessly hold the lanky boy against his heart, to fill his lungs with the unique, almost spicy scent he'd given up on smelling again, before tucking the boy into his own bed, since there was no other and his son was not sleeping on a couch. Severus looked back on that, on the events of the night and felt immensely tired, if at peace. Things could have gone spectacularly awful, but they hadn't and so he was determined to be thankful for it.

Save Ms. Granger. She was a thorn in his side and he would not forget it.

She ceased her tears a moment before he made himself known, and he was only slightly gratified by the frightened squeal and jump she gave at the sound of his voice. "Hello, Ms. Granger."

She shook, peering up at him with red-rimmed eyes. Severus was supremely unmoved, and raised an eyebrow imperiously. Eventually she took the hint. "Hello, Professor."

"Have you rid yourself of the inclination to soil Madame Pomfrey's bedclothes with your bodily excretions?"

If he annoyed her, she did not show it, choosing instead to wipe her leaking eyes on the sleeves of her pajamas. "Yes, sir."

"Good." He stepped around the bed, turning to look out the nearest window. "Do you require that I inform you of the insensible, stupidity of your actions, or do you grasp the gravity of the matter?"

"I know what I did, sir. You don't need to tell me."

"Don't I? Don't I? Child, you have singlehandedly undone nearly two decades of my work. To suggest that I don't need to explain to you the gravity of your transgressions serves no purpose than to demonstrate to me that I do need to expound upon your unwitting imbecilic attempts at grandeur! You have no idea the trouble you've caused today!"

The girl seemed to deflate, and Severus reeled himself back in. There was no need to traumatize the child, imbecilic though she was, any more than she had already been that day. He drew himself up to his highest height and forced himself to take a deep breath. "Miss Granger, despite your atrocious lack of common sense and life-threatening lapse of judgment, you have not been expelled. It is in your best interest that you not make me regret this decision."

"I won't be arrested?"

"Evidently not, child, as Aurors need permission from the Headmaster in order to remove a student from the premises and since I've quite recently stated that you are not to leave the castle –"

"Oh thank you sir!"

"Don't thank me, girl. Think! The Hat did not remove your ability to reason and come to accurate conclusions when it Sorted you into Gryffindor. Your House's namesake was a master strategist! I swear to Merlin if I have to have every single one of you in detention until you leave Hogwarts then I will return common sense to that House!"

Hermione shrunk away from him, her eyes flicking back and forth even in her fear, a sure sign that she'd found something to puzzle over and was analyzing to death.

"Child, I pray that you have learned something from this day. Is there anything you would like to tell me, before I rip it from your consciousness?"

The girl jumped, a minute shake of her head. "No sir, I mean, yes sir. I saw Professor Corbin –"

"That man is not a professor, child. Kindly refrain from insulting my profession for the remainder of this conversation."

"Sorry. Whatever he is, I heard him in Madame Pomfrey's office on the Floo talking to Lucius Malfoy."

Severus felt his plans for a peaceful evening crumble above his tired head. Of course, he had anticipated the Death Eater retaliating, especially after being beaten by Sirius Black, but he could admit to letting his guard down in the silence since the Clearing Ceremony. Whatever the man was planning, it certainly was different from his normal style. Usually you could see the man coming a mile away, subtle as he thought he was.

He sighed, conjuring and sinking into an armchair next to her bed. "What exactly did you hear?"

An hour later, Severus slipped into his quiet rooms, grateful for the reprieve. He loved Harry, and he loved Ron, he'd even admit it if he had to, but right then, after all the surprises of the day, he sorely needed a moment, just a single moment to himself.

He sank into the armchair nearest the fireplace, legs stretched out towards the glowing embers, arms thrown over the arms of the chair, chin pressed to his chest and closed eyes hidden beneath his curtain of hair. Severus forcefully threw all the problems of the day behind his Occlumency shields and allowed himself to drift in the sensation of being able to sit in one spot without the world imploding.

He should call Nerissa. The image of her sparkling blue eyes flitted across his mindscape, and Severus allowed the tiniest of smiles to bend his lips. He remembered her complete confusion over the multitude of buttons on his waistcoat; she'd called them 'buttonous' and had giggled herself silly into his chest while he'd grumbled softly above her head. Severus wasn't sure he was 'courting' right; he felt they spent too much time, when they could spend time together, much to close to each other doing not enough or sometimes too much talking, and the easy companionship he often felt with her made him uneasy. As far as he knew, there was supposed to be a certain level of awkwardness to the situation, and the lack of it made him feel a little wrong-footed.

Not that it mattered. Nerissa had taken stock of his 'expectations' early on, though he couldn't fathom when or how, since they'd never spoken of them, and had promptly decided to thrown them all out of the proverbial window at her discretion. Severus let her with minimal fussing, but when she attempted to plant herself in his lap late one night he drew the line.

The memory made him pink behind his hair. Insufferable woman.

A soft thump sounded from the direction of the bedrooms, and Severus straightened in the chair, preparing himself to check on the children – his stomach did an odd jig at the thought – before a nightcap. It had been one of those days. He'd made it to his feet before Ron walked, in, sleepily rubbing his eyes with a fist, the sleep pants Severus had stuffed him into the night before covering all but his toes in a way that made Sev's heart clench. His son. Home.

The child spotted him halfway into the room, and stared at him a moment, hair tousled and sticking up every which way, cheek wrinkled from where it had been pressed to the pillow. There was a lost sort of relief to his eyes, and Severus found himself crossing the room before he'd even identified the feeling.

"I wokeupnyouwerntherenithot – "

"Hush." Severus wrapped his arms around the slightly shorter frame, only to find the child climbing into his arms. A soft rush of magic tingled his skin, bumping into and then wrapping around him like a small child. Severus hefted the teen onto his hips, then made the short trot to his room. Any other night he'd think it inappropriate, but tonight, Severus found he didn't care. He put the child to bed, changed, then slipped in next to him. He was asleep in moments.


The next morning, Severus rose early and sequestered himself in the kitchen. It was an hour before Ronin stirred from the nest he'd built himself in the middle of Severus' bed. He stood in the middle of the kitchen and blinked out at the lights.

"What happened?" The child had horrible manners, talking around a yawn, but that was fine. He was his.

Severus set the teapot on the table and magicked the spatula into the cooking eggs. "You cried. And then fell asleep." A quick peek over his shoulder showed Ronin giving him a commiserating look.

"I do remember me not being the only one sobbing my heart out."


The child snorted, and Severus found himself smiling, setting the plate of toast on the table before coming around the side, his hands finding the lad's broad shoulders without his consent. They stared at each other a moment before Ron stepped in, head-butting Sev's collarbone as he clumsily gripped his father's robes. Severus huffed a laugh, pressing his cheek to the top of the lad's head. "I see you've recommitted yourself to bruising my person. Good to know that Snape single-mindedness hasn't been diminished over the years."

"Oy, shove off. It's not my fault all my limbs are longer than they were three months ago. I had to relearn how to walk because of you." His head came up, eyes narrowed. "And take a piss, to be honest."

Severus grimaced. "Don't be puerile. And I don't think that's a complaint, is it?"

Ronin flushed. "No."

"Hmm." The red head shuffled against his shoulder a moment before settling, and then thin, long arms tentatively wrapped around his torso. Severus felt his heart clench, holding the boy closer to him, aware on some level that he was potentially hurting the child, but since Ronin didn't complain Severus kept on, subconsciously trying to fuse the boy into his body.

"What do I even call you?" Ron's voice was soft, shaking, like a frightened child and Severus sighed, burying his nose in the messy copper strands and breathing in his son's scent.

"I don't care. I am much more concerned with finally having you here to worry about it." He pulled back, looking into unsure deep blue eyes. "Truthfully, Ronin. It does not matter."

Ron gave him a shaky smile. "Alright." He blushed, fiddling with Severus' buttons. "Can we eat now?"

Still asleep in his room, Harry heard Severus' deep, joyful laughter echoing through the halls, and smiled.

A fork clinked against a plate, and Ronin eyed him imploringly. "Alright, I'm done. Can I talk now?"

Severus snorted, finding everything more amusing than was strictly necessary. "I'm hardly going to deny you again; you may explode this time."

Ron grinned, snagging the last slice of toast off of Severus' plate. "I had an idea, about us."

"Us." Severus eyed the redhead carefully, choosing to ignore the slice of toast being mangled by suddenly nervous fingers. A small pile of crumbs settled on the table and Severus raised one delicate brow. "Explain."

"You, I mean, you don't know what happened that night she took me away, do you?" The boy's eyebrows rose and fell with a dizzying speed. "You don't know, and she's dead so the only person who knows is me, right?"

"You were an infant, child." Severus said softly. He forced himself to focus on the child in front of him and not the gnawing pain of the loss more than ten years ago. "It would be ludicrous to ask you to recall that night."

"But what If I don't have to?" Blue eyes peeked out at him from under a heavy fringe, and then Ronin sat up straight, leaning forward with all the intensity Severus himself reserved for potions. "I've been reading about Legilimancy lately, because I've been hearing people's thoughts and figured I was some sort of mind reader, but I came across this theory that all memories, every single thing a person has ever experienced, is recorded in the brain. It hasn't been tried, because the writer hypothesized that there needed to be a very deep connection between the subject and the caster, since one can't cast legilimancy spells on yourself." He stared across the table intently for a moment, and Severus felt his heart, fragile, fledgling thing that it was, swell with pride. A natural Legilimens! The second in as many generations; oh, if his ancestors were alive today they'd be thrilled! Severus himself had been a natural, but had had his mother to guide and teach him; Ronin had started the journey on his own and thrived! Severus preened, letting some of his pride bleed out into his face, and found himself inordinately pleased when the teen flushed.

"My, but you've been a busy little elf, haven't you, Mr. Snape. Uncovering family traits, studying wizarding genealogy; it's like you're preparing for your presentation this summer. Our ancestors would be proud."

Ronin paled. "I'm not really having one of them, am I?"

Severus feigned loftiness. "It hasn't been decided."

Ronin grimaced, then brought the matter at hand back to the fold. "It could work, sir."

"You think we have a strong enough bond for that sort of guesswork? We've spent the last four years despising the other's general existence, you realize."

His child's eyes caught him. "I trust you."

Severus felt his breath catch. "Ronin – "

"No, sir, look –"

"Understand, child, that I'm not averse to attempting this." The boy froze, then slowly deflated, looking much more like a lost, hopeful child than the frustrated teen he'd been a second earlier. "But I need you understand that just like all forms of legilimancy, there is an element of transparency, of full disclosure, between the subject and the caster. There is nothing that you can hide, Ronin. Think about that before you make any further decisions about this."

But Ronin's chin had been set in that stubborn line native to all teenagers the world over, and Severus sighed, creaking to his feet and cracking his spine as he stretched. "We will revisit the matter in two weeks, child. I want to know what happened that night as badly as you do, but to attempt something this intensive without a solid foundation could ruin us both." Ron frowned deeper but nodded, and Severus held a sigh. "I'm going to check on Harry. Put a kettle on, would you?"

He'd made it halfway down the hall before he heard the child puttering around the kitchen. He sighed, taking a moment to close his eyes and rub the bridge of his nose. He had never before been so filled with such conflicting emotions. Mostly his conflicting feelings were on one side of the spectrum, either positive or negative, but he'd never felt so all over the board in his life. Severus found himself equal parts worried and nervous yet relieved beyond measure that Ronin and Harry were both his and fine and under one roof, after a fashion, angry at Lily and Dumbledore for their roles in the matter, frustrated with Ronin's stubbornness and Harry's inability to go a week without breaking the world. Proud and apprehensive and a whole host of other emotions he couldn't begin to put a finger on.

IN the dimly lit bedroom, decked out in soothing blues and grey's, a small pile of clothing near the foot of the teen's bed, Harry lay sprawled across the mattress, one errant foot poking out from beneath the blanket Severus knew he'd taken extra care to tuck around the unexplainable teen.

Severus stood over the child, watching the slow rise and fall of the thin chest. He knew the boy would sleep another twelve hours at least, his magic tensed and restless within his core sufficient to cause extreme exhaustion. He knew the child had no physical or magical ailments, knew that Harry would wake on the morrow and feel perfectly fine. He knew it, but Severus could not shake the need to watch the slow, steady breathing, the slight twitch in the child's fingers, because knowing didn't mean a thing.

It wasn't until Severus could have sworn that Harry had shrunk in his bed, taking up as much space as a first year, did Severus convince himself that for himself, rest was in order. He silently made his way out of the bedroom, preparing himself to meet the eyes he still could not believe were with him again.

He'd barely made it out of the hallway before being nearly run over by a very excited teenager.

"Harry's still asleep; is he alright?"

Severus blinked at the boy, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Exhausted, but he will recover."

"Did – is he alright?"

"You just asked this," Severus said, raising an eyebrow. When a similar eyebrow was raised in return he sighed. "I do not know what exactly happened between he and the Headmaster, but Harry has insisted that all he wanted was bed. Dumbledore had to be assisted to his chambers last evening, if you recall, so I can only assume that they simply managed to wear each other out."

"But you have to know that's bollocks, right? I mean, they were in there for hours! They could be falling apart at the seams for all we know! What about – "

"Ronin Ignacius Chimera Snape."

The child froze, and blinked. Severus felt his eyebrows rise slightly before his heart restarted itself. He hadn't expected that to work. He hadn't expected that to come out. He'd been wanting to, had thought it over and over to himself as he'd sat with his son's head against his chest after they'd been emotionally exhausted the night before, but he'd never, never –

"That's my name? That's my, that's my name?"

Severus swore, striding forward, catching the trembling teen by the shoulders. Ronin crumpled against him, head finding its spot in the hollow beneath his collarbone, heart hammering straight through their chests, slim fingers hooking into the fabric of his shirt and Severus held him, through the shaking and the slight swell of magic that rippled around them. "I apologize for upsetting you."

"I'm not upset. Not upset." Deep blue eyes peered at him, the boy's neck and shoulders unfolding from where he'd twisted himself to fit. "It's just, I'd never heard my name, ever, not that I remember, and it, it hit me, that's my name, mine, Ronin Igipacius – "

"Ronin Ignacius Chimera Snape." Severus watched, entranced, as Ronin's pupils dilated, a silent wind rustling the strands of hair flopping into his eyes. This, this usually happened with babies. His heart swelled, making it hard to breathe, and that was the reason he maneuvered his son onto the couch, still gripping those wide, broad shoulders, gazing into the cobalt eyes he'd given up on seeing ever again, whispering his son's name over and over and watching the wonder wash over his face.

He'd done this, once, with Draco, when Lucius had extracted himself from the child's nursery long enough to show him off, said his godson's entire name, watched the magic play through the air, latching onto the syllables and attaching itself to the being attached to the name, but had never, never done it with Ronin. Severus had lived the entire first year of his son's life pretending the child didn't exist; he was a death eater and a spy and even thinking about the small blue eyed being that lit his heart at the wrong time was a death sentence for all of them. His lives were two separate things; in one he was cold, unfeeling, a ruthless killer, fearsome potions master, the dark lord's favorite next to Lucius and Bellatrix, the other where he was a devoted father and husband, he worshipped the ground Lily and Ronin walked on, the air they breathed, he lived and died daily to protect them, he could not have done this, had never let himself say, even think Ronin's full name because if he had it would have been etched in his mind, carved so deeply into his very being the dark lord would have seen it for sure, seen it and then they would have been dead, destroyed in the most vile methods possible and there was nothing, nothing he would not make himself do to protect them, nothing and

"Sev, Prof – Father? Po – Papa? Paps? Shit I don't know what to call you but you've got to calm down, alright, you've got to breathe."

Severus blinked, and the world went out of focus, the odd breeze cooling trails of moisture on his face, heavenly, heavenly air flooding his chest once, twice, in and out and the world evened out, stopped spinning, the rest of Ron's face came into view, as did the rest of the room, his son's eyes wide and relieved, the fear receding from them slowly. Severus forced another few breaths out before loosening his grip on Ron's shoulders, which the teen appreciated, by the odd wiggle he performed with this arms. "I apologize. I'm fine now."

"Yeah, I know. Of course you're not." At Severus' incredulous look, Ronin raised both eyebrows and gave him the 'don't-make-me-call-you-an-idiot' look Severus had worn for most of his school days. "You've just reconnected with the son you'd given up on ever finding, spent an entire night with no sleep after restraining and banishing a legion spirit, been interrogated and had to take care of aforementioned son as well as your younger son who happens to be a mage and had taken on the headmaster, your boss, who you've had to cover for so the students at the school aren't bombarded with all sorts of evilness and don't think I don't know you're still holding the wards, which means you're still pseudo-headmaster, which means you've got a whole steaming pile of – "

"Ronin – "

" – dragon dung on your plate and don't you dare say it's no big deal."

Was he being threatened? That finger pointed at his chest certainly made him feel so. Severus fought a smile, then decided that it was pointless. Aware of his true identity for less than twelve hours and the brat was already Snape-ing him. Severus didn't know whether to ground him or hug him. "Are you done, child?"

Ron blinked at him, confusion written across his eyebrows as they crowded above his narrowed eyes. "Yes, I'm done," he said suspiciously. Severus did managed to stifle his laugh, because though for some reason this was generally amusing, it would not do to have the child think he was laughing at him…even if he was. "So let me tell you what's going to happen. I'm going to finish getting lunch ready. You are going to sit here and pretend that you're really old and can't do anything for yourself because if you so much as summon something to you, I'm calling, uh, erm, McGonagall!" The triumph on the boy's face was priceless, even if Severus was too peeved to think so. Why did people think bringing Minerva in would improve anything? She would probably dose them all with more tea and biscuits than they could manage and sentence them all to a month in bed. And that was before she called in Poppy. But Ronin seemed to think he'd struck gold, so Severus growled.

"I do hope you do not intend to continue to address me in that fashion, Ronin. Long lost son or not, I refuse to endure your disrespect."

Ronin, Snape that he was, or perhaps it was the Weasley upbringing showing through, had the temerity to straighten himself and fold his arms, peering down at him from over his not-at-all-broken nose. "I'll have you know that I will speak to you any such way I please if you continue to take such horrible care of yourself. I'm practically all grown up – "

"Hardly – "

" – getting my majority in a few months, but Harry's a kid, and I won't let you give him the wrong ideas about what's good and healthy, because you can preach all you want, but he's sharp enough to see what's really going on and the last thing you want to do is give Harry an inch, believe me." He said it with a sincerity that made Severus remember just who had tramped after his dark-haired child in their dangerous extracurricular activities. "And we both need you in top form, if for no other reason than because you're scarier when you're you, and you're not you when you're stretched out too thin," Those eyebrows again, and Severus forced himself to NOT stick the child's nose in the nearest corner. Ronin seemed to sense his struggle, for he seemingly deflated, mumbling, "I'm gonna run now, into the kitchen, and hope you don't skin me for that," and then he was gone, and Severus was left to his thoughts.

Of course he was right. It didn't make it any less disrespectful, or galling, to be taken to task by a child, even his child, but it was true. He was running on fumes, but he was used to that. Hardly an excuse, he knew. Dumbledore was unfit to hold the wards, seemed unfit to hold his own head judging by the state he was in hours ago, which meant Severus was still headmaster, sort of.

And then from the doorway leading to the bedrooms came a high pitched, indignant screech. Severus spun in his seat and something clattered in the kitchen, but he could hardly spare a thought for that.

For there, standing at all of two feet high, pink and flushed and very, very small, stood a very angry, very naked Harry Potter, the scar on his forehead identifying him to the whole world.