Lost and Found
Chapter 8: Home Sweet Home
"I object, Albus."
"No, absolutely not!"
"Do not 'now' me. Have you finally gone mad?" Severus objected, his voice raising several decibels.
"Calm down, young man!" McGonagall chided, frowning at Severus's lack of respect. She had to agree with him at some level though; was it really wise to appoint Severus as guardian of Harry? It was not that she did not trust her colleague, but he may not be the best among the available candidates.
Severus ignored her. "I am in no position to raise a child."
"I think you would do splendidly," Dumbledore said encouragingly, taking pleasurable sip from his hot tea.
"Splendid? Splendid! When have I ever been 'splendid' around miniature, half grown little boys?"
"Severus, it can't be helped."
"And why not? He is the Boy-Who-Lived. Surely you can find a suitable guardian somewhere?"
Dumbledore smiled "But I have."
Severus's face lit up with hope, but only for a moment. "Other than me!"
"Then I'm afraid not."
"What do you mean no? You have not even looked."
"Understand the complexity of the situation, dear boy. There are few in this world that would give Harry Potter a normal upraising. That much the child deserves."
Severus had to agree with the headmaster on that point. You'd be hard put to find anyone who wouldn't spoil the boy rotten. But him? What in the world was Albus thinking putting Potter into his care? His aversion to children stemmed an aversion to people in general; his aversion to Potter was much stronger than that.
"Albus, perhaps Severus is right. Now, we all know that he has experience with children…" to say that Severus had experience with children was an understatement and depending on how you look at it, both correct and incorrect. First of all, Severus had the best experience with unruly, naughty and ill-mannered children. His ability turn these kids into obedient and well behaved boys and girls in as little as a single detention, was legendary. Severus knew how to keep children in line…and that's pretty much about it. Everyone knew that raising a child required both discipline and care. McGonagal had no doubt that Severus would educate Harry accordingly; it was the caring part she worried about. "…however, he is more familiar with teaching and advising than parenting."
Madam Pomfrey nodded in agreement.
"Minerva, you are absolutely right," said Severus. "Albus, what makes you think that I can give Potter a normal upraising? I, unlike the rest of this world, will not love or dolt him or shower him with hugs and kisses. In case you have forgotten. He is the son of James Potter, who tormented and plagued my Hogwarts years as much as the Dark Lord had haunted my adulthood!"
"Excellent hyperbole, Severus," Dumbledore commended. "But there is no need to exaggerate to such an extent. The Marauders may have been a rowdy bunch, but there is not a dark streak in any of them."
"You failed to remember Black."
"Events surrounding Sirius Black were indeed unfortunate. His entire family supported Voldemort. I regret not being able to help the boy when I could."
Severus snorted. "You couldn't have helped him. No one could have helped that mad man."
Dumbledore sighed. "Let's not get off topic. As I was saying, James Potter might have been boisterous, but Harry and his father are not one."
"Like father like son," Severus quoted.
"And the apple never falls far from the tree, but why are we comparing ourselves to apples anyway?"
Severus was not amused by Dumbledore's humour.
"Potter will not be safe with me."
"You will not mistreat him, Severus."
McGonagall snapped to attention at the word 'mistreat'. "Severus Snape, if you lay one hand on the boy!"
"Minerva. As much as I dislike Potter, you know I would not raise my hand to any child! With that said, there are more than one ways to mistreat a child. He will be as happy with me as he is with his Muggle relatives."
"Oh, you don't know that."
"But I do know, Albus. In addition, I will not have Potter ruin my life like his father had!" Severus continued to plead his case. "Your good intentions will ruin the both of us forever!"
"Melodramatics does not suit you."
"I am not being melodramatic!"
Dumbledore gave Severus a look over his spectacles. "You are a serpent."
"What? What does that have to do with anything?" Severus looked strangely at Dumbledore.
"Snakes are sly and they always have something to hide."
"Away with your riddles, Albus. Speak plainly like you were born in this century," said Severus, momentarily forgetting that his mentor was not in fact born in the 20th century.
"Forgive me, my boy. I am old."
Severus snorted. "Prehistoric is more accurate."
"Severus!" McGonagall admonished but Dumbledore only chuckled.
A light bulb lit up in Severus's head as he was struck by a wave on insight. "You are right, you know. I am a snake," he replied with an air of smugness. "You should not trust me with Potter. Do you not understand the absolute loathing I have for that boy?""
Dumbledore shook his head. "I think you hide your kindness..."
Severus thinned his lips and spoke after a moment's pause. "I have no kindness."
"…and your ability to love."
Severus' eyes narrowed and darkened; black as oil in contrast to Dumbledore's soft expression. "Love?" he spat. "Love has brought me nothing but misery and suffering."
His colleagues looked at him sadly.
"Severus, I have faith that you will do wonderful things."
The scowl of Severus' face lingered. "Much like the 'wonderful' things I have done in the past?"
"No, much like the wonderful things you shall do in the future."
"A seer now, are you Albus?"
"No, not a seer. Only a teller of fortune."
Now this had Severus even more confused.
"A teller of fortune?"
"Yes. Good fortune lies ahead for you and young Harry. I know it."
"You are being deliberately cryptic, aren't you, Albus?"
Dumbledore took another sip of his tea and shrugged.
"Good fortune shall indeed lie ahead," Severus began but added quickly. "If Potter and I remain far, far away from one another."
"Don't be such a pessimist."
"I am not being pessimistic, I am being realistic. Albus, please, I do not have the patience nor the experience needed to care for a dog, let a long a child."
"Do not underestimate yourself, Severus," said Dumbledore confidently. "You are capable of much more than you think. Besides, you are a half-blood."
Severus asked Dumbledore what his point was; what did being a half-blood have anything to do with raising Potter?
"Well, Harry has been raised Muggle. And a guardian with knowledge about Muggle things will help him adjust. His whole world has just been flipped upside down, inside out and backwards; Harry will be much more relaxed if his guardian actually understand what he is talking about." Dumbledore explained.
Severus dismissed the headmaster's concern. "Children adapt quickly, it is one of few things good about them. I am sure Potter will do just as well with a pure-blood family who knows nothing about Muggles. After all, the Muggleborn first year adjust within a couple of weeks."
"A bit of Muggle knowledge would not hurt," the old wizard replied.
"You realize that I am not the only wizard in Britain with 'a bit of Muggle knowledge?"
"Enough, Severus, there has been too much talk and not enough action. Know that I cannot force you to do this, it is your decision to make." Dumbledore gazed intently at the potions master.
"I won't do it. It is best for both myself and the boy if I do not so much as talk with him."
"Remember your vow."
Severus lifted his head and locked eyes with his mentor. "I have never forgotten my vow. However, I must point out that I vowed to protect Lily's son and watch over him, not to have him living under my roof for the next decade!"
"You did. And now circumstances require you to take him under your wing, in order to protect him."
"You cannot make me to do this!" Severus yelled.
Dumbledore answered somberly with a simple, "No, I cannot."
The potions master pressed his lips together and furrowed his eyebrows. He kept his eyes on Dumbledore for awhile before shifting them away. He should have known from the beginning that there was no way out of this. Dumbledore's excellent methods of persuasion and talent for forcing people's hands won again.
"What will you have me do?"
"Raise the child; teach him, guide him and care for him. Make him into a man, but do not forget that he is still a boy."
"You won't have to do it alone of course. I will most likely be his Head of House in years to come and…"
"Minerva, please. If I am to raise Potter, I'll have him in Hufflepuff before he goes near Gryffindor. Alas, he will be in Slytherin if I have anything to do with it."
"A Potter in Slytherin? Why I never heard of such a thing."
"If Severus has his way, you will hear and see of it very soon, Minerva," said Dumbledore as he turned back to Severus. Even as the headmaster said those words, the somber mood lifted from the room.
"You will not regret your decision, Severus. You will see."
"I'm sure Arthur and Molly will be glad to give you advice and babysit when you are busy," said McGonagall.
"Indeed, my boy. You won't have to raise Harry alone. You have all the help you shall need."
"I will have to adopt him won't I?" Severus asked even though he knew the answer already; somehow they needed to secure a blood adoption without the ministry knowing. When that is done, not even the highest of officials could do anything about it. Blood magic is ancient, strong and indisputable.
"Yes, a blood adoption, the sooner the better." Dumbledore answered.
Severus huffed deeply and threw up his hands in defeat. "Fine, fine! Have it your way. But do not blame me if this turns into a train wreck and Potter ends up more damaged than he already is."
Dumbledore clapped his hands together and said. "It is settled then. We have found Harry his new home."
Minerva McGongall expressed her concern with Albus as soon as Severus left the room. She knew too well just how Severus felt about the Potter family. Her former student and current colleague held a grudge unrivaled by anyone she had ever known. Under such circumstances, was it wise to leave Harry with Severus? Furthermore, everyone who knew Severus Snape knew that he had a knack for making children cry as he stared them into submission. While it was true that Severus had never and likely will never hit a child, many in the student body would swear otherwise. Apparently, the potions professor also had a knack for looking so livid that the younger students feared for their very lives. The fact that he regularly threaten to turn them into potion ingredients does not help one bit. Snape was a name that garnered more fear than respect.
"Are you sure you know what you are doing, Albus?"
"Leaving Harry with his Muggle relatives was a mistake, the kind I will not make again. However, I did not know Mr. and Mrs. Dursley as well as I know Severus. He will not let harm come to the child. I think that in time, he will come to care for Harry very much," said Dumbledore confidently and he leaned back into his chair.
"How can you be sure that this is the best thing to do?" asked Madam Pomfrey, being a bit skeptical herself.
"Life has been hard on both of them. Severus will soon realize that he needs Harry as much as the child needs him."
Today is Wednesday, August the 23, 1986 and today is turning out to be the worst day in Severus' life. Bar none. It was more terrible than all his days in Hogwarts, all his days in service of the Dark Lord and all his days forced to teach bunches of brainless dunderheads – put together! Severus was one grumpy man.
"Potter, are you finished with your food?" he grumbled as he stalked back into the hospital room.
"Yes, sir. It was the best ever, thank you very much," Harry thanked politely, looking up at Severus as the man approached.
The potions master nodded. Well, at least he has some manners. I wonder how long that will last.
"Get dressed, Potter," Severus commanded and handed Harry the clean clothes he retrieved from a house-elf just a moment ago.
"Thank you," Harry said again, and took his clothes and placed them on the bed. The boy quickly started on the buttons of the robes, getting them out of their holes one by one. But the small hands struggled with that. Normally, he didn't use the buttons but the magic had made the buttons do up by themselves and now he couldn't get them undone. The more time he took, the more frustrated he got and the more frustrated he got, the more he fumbled. Harry sneaked a glance up at Severus, who had his arms folded and was tapping his fingers on his arm.
Severus glared impatiently as Harry struggled. "Hurry up, I do not have all day."
After another minute, Severus had enough of waiting. He pushed Harry's hands away and undid the rest of the buttons himself. Harry bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut, but neither the insult nor the slap he expected came.
"Sorry," Harry murmured again.
"Stand up," Severus ordered and without waiting for Harry to do so, pulled the boy onto his feet.
"Arms up," he ordered again and lifted Harry's arms into the air. With one swift tug, the robe came off leaving Harry in his undies. Harry kept his arms in the air and wiggled his toes while Severus grabbed the oversized shirt and looped Harry's head through the top, then proceeded to pull Harry's arm through the sleeves. It was a good thing the shirt was so large, because Severus had a hard time getting Harry into it, having never dressed anyone but himself.
Harry just stood there and let himself be maneuvered into the shirt. He had been dressing himself for ages; Aunt Petunia had stopped helping him when he was four. After that, Harry could only watch his aunt fuss over Dudley. It was nice having someone dress him and even though Severus wasn't exactly gentle, Harry didn't complain.
"Put on your shoes."
Harry obeyed and slipped his feet into Dudley's old sneakers. After putting on his shoes, Harry looked up expecting more instructions. Severus's mouth twitched as he stared at the oversized shirt with distaste. The bloody thing looked like a potato sack over the scrawny boy. In an instant he pulled out his wand and cast the same spell Madam Pomfrey used, and the shirt shrank to fit Harry.
Harry wasn't expecting that at all and couldn't help but let out a whimper and cringe as the fabric moved around him.
"Follow, Potter," and with that, the potions master headed towards the door with great, long strides. The pair made their way up the hall, going back to the headmaster's office to use the floo. Harry stared at the gargoyle statue once more as it lifted them up to the office.
"Where are we going, sir?" the boy finally gathered up enough courage to ask.
"Prince Manor," Severus replied grumpily.
"Your home? I…I'm really not going back to my relatives?"
"Because," Severus answered briskly.
Harry frowned. "Because why?"
"Because I said so, now be quiet," Severus said on the very edge of raising his voice, but by some miracle he held it in.
"Sorry," Harry muttered faintly.
Severus signed as he grabbed a handful of floo powder.
"You are being removed from the Dursley's custody because they have been deemed unfit to raise you."
"They are inadequate guardians. The inappropriate treatment of a child in their care will have severe consequences. They will pay dearly if I have anything to do with it."
"Oh…okay," Harry muttered, not really understanding.
"Where would I go now? An orphanage? Please don't send me there. Uncle Vernon says only bad boys get sent there. I'm not bad, I'm good I swear! I'll be the best boy in the world. I won't cause any trouble, I can do lots of chores, I won't eat very much and I don't take up much space. I won't get lost again, either!" Harry babbled, swearing how he'd stay out of sight and out of the way.
Severus shook his head. "What did I just say? We are returning to my home. It was not your fault you got lost. Don't you understand anything? You relatives abandoned you. They left you alone at that park and had no intentions of returning."
"They do not want you any longer. They have no wish for you to live with them," he finished bluntly.
Harry dropped his eyes to the ground and blinked back tears. "Oh…" He knew his relatives did not want him or liked him; they did not even want the neighbours to like him. From time to time, he would pretend that they did love him, if only he could be a good boy and not a freak. Hearing this reality made it hit hard for Harry; he wanted so much to be wanted.
"No more questions," said Severus and he guided Harry to stand in front of him inside the fireplace. Harry clung to Severus's arm, still frightened of the green flames that did not burn. In a flash, they were gone.
A floo, an apparition and far away from Hogwarts, the odd pair appeared in the middle of a moor. In the distance was a great mansion. It lay atop a hill, ancient and esteemed.
Severus led Harry into the direction of the house; the estate, passed down through generations of Princes stood on its foundations as proud as Severus remembered. It has been a long time since he'd visited the home of his late mother.
Severus had spent five years in this house before his father made them move away to Spinners End. The few memories of this place made it more of a home to him than the depressing atmosphere at Spinners End ever did. The potions master sighed; he had not planned on visiting the manor any time soon. It brought back certain memories he was not ready to confront.
However, the dark and dingy place at Spinners End was no place to raise a boy.
Muttering a string on incantations, Severus disabled the wards and began the trek home.
Beside him, Harry patted along, looking straight down at his feet as they took one step after another. "Why don't they want me? Is it because I'm bad?" he asked in a voice so small, only the alert ears of a spy and professor could have heard. A displeased expression spread across the potion master's face. He was not accustomed to saying anything nice and began uncertainly.
"No. You are not bad," the austere wizard answered as he led Harry across the moor. The more he thought of the Muggles and how they treated the child, the more he wanted to tar and feather them. Severus suddenly stopped and turned Harry to face him. "Listen to me and listen good. They do not want you because they are a group of blind bigots so vile and depraved they would lock a child in a cupboard and starve him. They are the despicable creatures who were cruel enough to abandon a six year old boy at the park and let him fend for himself. What they did was inexcusable, not to mention illegal. You have done nothing wrong or bad, a child is never responsible for any harm done to them by an adult. Do you understand?"
Harry chewed on his lip. "Um…yes?"
"Even if you disobeyed or broke the rules, your relatives certainly had no right to do what they did."
Harry simply nodded.
Severus shook his head as he started walking again. There would be time for talk and healing later.
"At any rate, you are not going back. They cannot hurt you anymore."
"Am I really going home with you?"
"Yes," Severus confirmed again.
"I'd like that," said Harry quietly.
Severus gave no hint that he had heard.
The pair was almost at half way to the front gates when Harry stopped dead in his tracks and looked up uncertainly.
"So...that means you want me right?"
Caught off guard by the unexpected question, Severus almost answered without thinking; no. The word was on the tip of his tongue and the cold man nearly spilled everything that he wanted to say, out of pure frustration with the entire situation. No. I do not want you. I never want you. I hated your father and I hate you. I would be better off without you. I do not want to see you. I do not even want to teach you, let alone raise you. You were your relative's burden, and now you are mine. If I had my way, you would not be here at all…but Severus said none of those things. Instead, he said the only thing he could;
Harry smiled brightly all the way to his eyes. He could hardly believe it; finally, someone who wanted him.
Severus looked away. Lashed with awkward emotions he hardly recognized, he wanted to lock himself in his bedroom and do some serious thinking, perhaps over a bottle of whiskey. Alas, he had to get the brat settled first and probably won't have any time to himself until nightfall.
"So…you are my new uncle?" Harry asked.
"No, don't be ridiculous," Severus answered automatically.
Severus groaned. He really had no idea why he felt a need to reassure Harry. "I am not your uncle, silly boy. I…"
What was he exactly, Severus wondered; a guardian? Caretaker? Custodian? Parent? Father? NO! Definitely not that last one blood magic or no.
Truly, it wasn't that Severus found the particular position of being Harry's father repugnant or anything. It was the very thought of him being a 'father' made him shiver. The idea scared him more than anything else. Becoming a father would be a daunting thing for any individual but Severus disliked children all together. Besides, how could he be a decent father when his own had been indifferent and neglectful?
"I am your guardian," finally Severus answered.
"Guardian? Is that like…you know, like a dad, maybe?" Harry asked hoping against hope that the answer was yes.
"No!" Severus replied in objection.
Harry flinched, his face fell and he looked away dejectedly.
Severus felt guilty to have raised his voice. It was a bad sign, he realized- for he never before felt guilty for raising his voice to nosy little boys. They walked again for awhile. Harry fidgeted his fingers while Severus stared determinedly ahead at the front gates. The potions master knew he could not stay in denial forever. Especially after the adoption, he would be in law, in magic and in blood, Harry's…dad.
Severus struggled to come to grips with his feelings as he began to come to his senses. Anyone could become a father, but not everyone would make a good one. Certainly, he was not 'dad' material. He would try though, because now Harry was his responsibility and he would not go back on his word. No matter how much he wanted to vent his anger, Severus refused to make a child pay for his dead father's sins.
He would take care of Harry, for Lily's sake if no one else's.
"I am…something…of the sort," the wizard said.
"Like a parent, maybe?"
Harry looked up to stare at Severus and nearly tripped over his own feet.
Harry ducked his head and continued to grin ear to ear.
The two walked across the threshold of the bronze gates and headed down the cobbler road, which was banked on both sides by overgrowth of grass, weeds and unkempt bushes. The flowerbeds that Severus's mother loved to tend to could no longer be called flowerbeds – they were more like weed heaven. At the end of the narrow road was a manor as great as any owned by wizard or Muggle.
Severus groaned silently.
The reputed potions master, being quite the introvert, paled at the prospect of purchasing children's things. Too bad he couldn't just put the boy in a crate like a puppy when he went out – no, that was a heinous thought. But to be seen with a six year old alongside him would be a catastrophic blow to his reputation. His regular shops were out of the question; the shopkeepers would ask him no end of questions.
Less of a crisis; he has to purchase new clothes, books, supplies, food and…other bloody things children need. What did little boys need anyway? The potions master had a decent salary as Hogwarts professor and private brewer, but Potter would no doubt make a decent dent in his vault in Gringotts. To make things worse, thought Severus, the boy would want train sets, toy brooms, trinkets, treats, chocolate ice cream and the newest gadgets from Zonkos. Well, he be damned if he let Potter have anything more than a couple of educational games and desert once a month.
"What should I call you?" Harry asked, looking up at the emotionless face of Severus.
The professor snapped out of his thoughts. He had to admit that he didn't quite know the answer to that question. The brat can't call him sir or professor everyday for the rest of his life, Severus said silently to himself. Can't have him calling me Snape; it would alarmingly disrespectful coming out of a Potter's mouth. Severus? No, nono, also disrespectful. Father? What? No, no, no! Do away with that thought right this minute! The child will not be calling me father, dad, daddy, papa or any variations of that word. Merlin forbid it!
Then, what should he call you?
"Mr. Snape for now."
"Ok," Harry agreed. "What's your first name again Mr. Snape?"
Sevus?" Harry copied.
"Sev-ER-rus!" Severus repeated, a tad put off.
Harry scrounged his nose up just a little. He didn't really notice before, but it was a really strange name. "That's a weird name," he said.
Severus staggered. How dare Potter say or even think his name was 'weird'!
"It is not a weird name, Potter! It is a perfectly normal name," Severus announced with dignity, looking down at the short little person beside him.
"But I like it," Harry smiled.
The potions master rolled his eyes. Did it look like he cared?
"Do you like my name?"
"Do you like my name, sir?"
"I…" No, I do not like your name. What on earth was Lily thinking when she gave her child a name that translated to 'an excess amount of hair'? This was most likely James Potter's doing. "It is fine," the potions master grunted.
Severus pretended that he didn't feel anything and scoffed instead.
Harry smiled; someone had finally came and taken him away from his awful relatives. He finally have the new family he'd always wanted; even though it's only one person if was enough. He was nervous and anxious and uncertain, but so far, the man had been nicer than Uncle Vernon. He even said that he was something like a parent, Harry had always wanted one of those. The little boy slinked his tiny fingers into Severus' rough hands. This gesture that Severus found uncomfortable with now would be a familiar and welcomed one in a future soon to be.
When the pair arrived before the front doors, Harry inclined his head to look at the strange designs decorating the doors. He watched as Severus pressed his hand against the wood and the doors swung open by themselves – like … magic.
Severus, for the first time in decades, stepped inside his mother's home. The place was grimy and dusty, having not received maintenance for so long.
Well, home sweet home.