This story was written as response to a challenge at Potions and Snitches.
Thanks again to my beta ObsidianEmbrace for not only helping me with my story, but for all her hard work in organizing the challenge over there. Everyone should go check it out. There are some amazing stories.
All characters, of course, belong to J.K. Rowling.
"Absolutely not!" Severus jumped up angrily from his seat. "I will not take part in what is obviously a pathetic attempt on your part, to force some sort of father and son bonding upon us."
"Severus," Albus began pleadingly, only to be ignored by the irate Potions Master.
"Well, I'll have no part of it." Severus turned towards the door, fully intending to storm out of the Headmaster's office.
Severus whirled around angrily when the door slammed shut in his face.
Albus' face was taut with anger, as he pocketed his wand. "You owe it to Harry...to your son, to make an effort to form a relationship with him," he said firmly.
"If and when I decide to form a relationship with my son, it will be on my terms, and in my own time. It is not your place to dictate to me, or to Potter how we are to conduct our relationship," Severus said through gritted teeth.
Severus was thoroughly sick of the man's interference. How dare Albus imply that he owed Potter anything? It was not his choice that such important information had been denied him. It was not his fault that Lily decided to keep him in the dark about his relationship to the Potter brat. She had made the decision to hide the boy's paternity and pretend that he was James Potter's son. Albus knew all along that Severus was the boy's father, and chose to foster the misconception that the boy belonged to James Potter, therefore as far as Severus was concerned it was Albus' fault that Potter and himself had come to hate each other. The boy was almost fifteen, for goodness sake. How was he supposed to be a father to a boy who would much rather be with his fun-loving Godfather? How could he ever compete with Black? He had already decided not to try. What was the point? Black was the sensitive, caring Godfather who lavished the boy with affection and attention, while Severus was the strict disciplinarian, who was cold, aloof and seemingly incapable of human emotion. The boy would never have chosen Severus Snape to be his father... never in a million years.
Albus studied the man before him with warm, sympathetic eyes. He knew what was going through the reserved man's mind. He thought that he didn't deserve to be a father. Despite his denial to the contrary, Albus knew that the man wanted to be a father to Harry, but didn't know how. Albus knew the depth of Severus' love for Lily and although it had surely been a shock for Severus to learn of Lily's deception, he also knew that it must have also warmed the man's heart to know that Lily had borne him a child; that a part of Lily lived on, in his own son. Albus wasn't fool enough to believe that it didn't make a difference that the child just happened to be Harry Potter, but he also knew that they both desperately needed each other. Sirius cared deeply for Harry, but he was a fugitive, and couldn't give Harry the stability that he needed.
After Albus had inadvertently found about Harry's abusive home life, this summer, Albus had reassessed his decision to hide their relationship. After the previous summer's incident with Harry's aunt, the Durselys had been incensed when he'd returned to their home once again. They thought that they'd been rid of him after he'd run away the previous summer. When they realised that they were expected to continue to house him again this summer, they had taken their ire out on Harry almost the minute he stepped in the door. For some strange reason, Albus had decided to make an impromptu visit to the Dursleys, and discovered much to his fury, that the Dursleys were using Harry as a punching bag, and were denying him food as punishment. He'd been appalled and ashamed to realise that he had not taken the time earlier to investigate Harry's living conditions. He'd removed Harry immediately from their home, and the boy had spent the rest of the summer at Hogwarts.
There were many times where he had come close to telling Severus and Harry of their relationship, but he had always hesitated to do so because of the extreme animosity between the two. As the school year passed, and the end of the year approached, however, Albus realised that he couldn't put off informing Severus of his paternity any longer.
Harry couldn't return to Privet Drive this summer, and after Cedric's death, the ordeal with the Tri Wizard Tournament, and Voldemort's untimely return, Harry needed protection and stability more than ever. It had only been a couple of weeks since he'd informed Harry and Severus of their relationship, and neither was handling it well. Severus seemed to feel that he was not father material, and Harry seemed to agree. If only he could convince the man before him that he could fill the role of protector and guardian to the Boy-Who-Lived, then perhaps he could make amends to both Harry and Severus for the grave errors in judgment that he'd made.
"It is one day Severus...one day," he repeated. "It will be a chance to show the world that you're dedicated to your son, and give you an opportunity to prove to your son that you're willing to work on your relationship."
Severus pressed his fingers into his aching temple. "And just how is taking part in some childish contest going to help us with our relationship Albus?"
Albus flashed Severus a look of annoyance. Honestly! The man could never just see the bigger picture.
"I have many activities planned Severus, including a dueling contest, possibly a Quidditch match, several games of skill and a father and son dinner," he explained patiently, as though to a child. "It will enable you to spend time together, in a pleasant atmosphere, with no external pressures."
Severus rolled his eyes. "As much as it pains me, I'm going to have to refuse to partake in this delightful event, as I have other responsibilities."
"No other responsibility takes precedent over your son Severus," Albus bellowed, eyes flashing in anger. It wasn't often that the elderly Headmaster lost his temper, but it was a formidable sight when he did so.
"My private affairs are none of your concern," Severus said with equal ferocity. "I refuse to be coerced into par-"
"You misunderstand me Severus. This is not a request. You will participate in this activity, and you will make an effort to do so for your son," Albus said firmly. "That boy has been through a terrible ordeal; he is still grieving and ridden with guilt over Cedric's death, and as we have already discussed, his aunt and uncle were found to be extremely abusive and neglectful of the boy. As Black is not in a position to offer support or encouragement to him, he needs someone there for him, and it is your duty-"
Severus stared at him in furious disbelief. "My duty? How dare you preach to me Albus. Were it not for you and your interference, perhaps my son would have grown up with a father, and not have been sent to those abusive relatives to begin with. You've got a hell of a nerve to lay the blame on me."
Severus retrieved his wand from his pocket, whispered an Alohamora, and the door sprung open instantly. He turned to Albus, his nostrils flaring and lips curling with anger.
"This conversation is over Albus," he said firmly. "Good Day." He turned towards the door to leave.
"Lily would want you to do this Severus," Albus said softly.
Severus stopped abruptly. Even after all these years, her name evoked a wave of powerful emotion within him. He'd let Lily down time and time again and he was about to do so again. Blast Albus for knowing his one true weakness; for using that vulnerability to shame him to do what he should do without question. Albus was right. He had a son; yes, that son was Harry Potter, and it would not be easy to forget all they'd been through; all the animosity that had built up between them for the past several years, but he was also Lily's son. Severus had only to look deeply into those same pools of emerald green, lest he forget. Perhaps it wasn't so much to ask. Maybe he could do this; couldn't he? He'd accomplished many more difficult feats during his lifetime; why on earth did the prospect of fatherhood terrify him so?
"Very well Albus," Severus agreed reluctantly. "But don't expect me to wear matching father and son shirts or any such nonsense as that!"
Albus chuckled. "No worries on that score, Severus."
Severus shot a scathing look at the man, and bolted out the door, before the manipulative old coot could convince him into participating in any more of his brilliant schemes.
"Harry, Harry!" A shrill voice thrummed in his ear.
"Wh-a-at?" Harry asked grumpily, while both trying to grab the covers back over his shivering body, and attempting to do so, while keeping his heavy, sleep-filled eyes firmly shut. Couldn't a bloke get a bit of sleep without being disturbed?
"Time to wake up mate, or we'll be late," Ron's whining voice persisted.
Harry opened one eye, only to close it again when assaulted with the harsh morning sunlight filtering in through the narrow tower windows.
"Ugh, let me sleep. I don't want to get up," Harry complained.
"Hey mate, it's your funeral if you don't get up. First class is Potions. Unless you want me to explain to your dear old Dad that you'd rather stay in bed than attend his class," he taunted.
Harry shot up in bed and glared at his best friend.
"I thought not," Ron smirked.
Harry forced his aching limbs out of bed, and reluctantly went to the loo to wash up. Nightmares had once again riddled his sleep and his eyes were blood-shot and gritty from lack of sleep. Even though Madame Pomfrey had, for the most part, healed his injuries from the Tri-Wizard Tournament, he still felt exhausted and achy all over. Not to mention that as efficient as the Mediwitch was, she couldn't heal the hurt that was deep inside him. Night after night, Harry relived the horrors he'd endured in the graveyard. Visions of Cedric's death, Wormtail's screams when he had cut off his hand, and Voldemort's horrific, half-human form, taunting and torturing him, haunted his dreams night after night, forcing him to relive the horrors, over and over again.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, and smothering the grief deep inside him, Harry forced himself to move forward, although his mind felt numb. Harry tried to be strong, but he'd had to endure so much trauma in such a short period of time, that he felt as though dredging up the will to go on was an enormous effort. But Harry wasn't a Gryffindor for nothing, and he had never let self-pity overwhelm him before, and he wasn't about to start now. So, it was with the true courage of a noble Gryffindor, that he put on a brave face and made his way down to the Great Hall.
Before Harry could make it to the Great Hall, however, a sight greeted him in the main entrance, that would ruin his appetite.
"You have got to be kidding! This has to be a bloody joke."
"Father and Son Day at Hogwarts?" Ron said incredulously, as his eyes scanned the colourful moving banners and posters suspended in mid-air, in the usual Hogwarts flair.
"I think that I'm going to be sick," Harry groaned. "This has Dumbledore written all over it."
Ron looked confused.
"He's trying to push Snape and I together," Harry elaborated. "He thinks that if he has this stupid contest, that we'll be forced to spend time together, and we'll-" He made a motion as if he were writing quotation marks, "bond as father and son." He made a face as he imitated Dumbledore's cheery voice. "Not bloody likely," Harry said firmly.
Ron nodded in agreement. "Yeah, Dumbledore's got to be bloody barmey if he imagines that Snape's ever going to agree to this."
Harry sighed in relief. "Yeah, you're right. Snape'll never go for it. Good thinking, Ron."
"Never go for what?" Neville, who spotted Ron and Harry talking animatedly, asked.
"That," Harry pointed to the signs for the contest, with a disgusted look on his face.
Neville's face fell. "Oh," he said in a small voice.
Harry and Ron exchanged knowing glances.
Harry put a hand on Neville's shoulder. "Don't feel so bad Neville. Having a father is grossly overrated. Look who I've got for mine!"
Neville shoved Harry's hand off of his shoulder, and rammed his finger angrily at Harry's chest. "You're lucky you have a father."
Harry looked at him incredulously. "Neville...It's Snape!"
"I don't care if it's He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named! You've got a father, and you should stop your griping and belly-aching about it." With one last angry glance at Harry, he stormed off to the Great Hall.
Harry and Ron gawked at Neville's departing figure.
Harry scratched his head. "What the hell was that all about?"
Ron shrugged his shoulders.
They exchanged befuddled expressions.
Suddenly a shocking notion struck Harry. "You don't think that Neville could be jealous of my relationship with Snape, do you?"
Ron raised an eyebrow. "No offence mate, but he'd have to be bloody insane to be jealous of Snape being your father."
"No offence taken." Harry shook his head. "I don't understand though. I think that I'd rather go back to being an orphan, than having Snape as my father," Harry pouted.
Ron nodded. "Yeah, who the hell would want the Greasy Git of the Dungeons as their father!" He tugged on Harry's robes. "C'mon mate, let's go before we miss breakfast."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Yeah that would be the end of the world, wouldn't it?" He chuckled.
"I'm a growing boy," Ron said seriously. "I need my nourishment."
Harry looked up at the tall, lanky red-head and snickered. "If you grow any more Ron, they'll have to cut a hole in Hogwart's ceiling," he teased.
Ron was only a couple of months older than Harry, but he towered over Harry by several inches. Of course, Harry was one of the smallest boys in his year, and his lack of height had always been a bone of contention with him. He wondered if perhaps in the Wizarding World there were a potion that he could take to grow taller. Ironically, it was something that perhaps Snape would know about, but hell would freeze over, before Harry would ever ask him.
Most of the others at the Gryffindor Table were halfway finished eating and gave Ron and Harry a perfunctory look, and returned to their breakfasts. Hermione was alternately eating forkfuls of scrambled eggs, and perusing her Artithmency book.
Ron and Harry rolled their eyes. It would seem that even eating took a back seat to studying for their best friend.
Neville avoided Harry's eyes and hurriedly finished his breakfast, mumbling a few excuses about needing to get something from the Common Room, before classes started.
Harry sighed. He really didn't want to lose Neville as a friend, over something so silly as Snape being his father. It just seemed that these recent revelations were affecting every facet of his life. Now his friendship with Neville was in jeopardy simply because Harry wasn't thrilled to have Snape as his father. It was incomprehensible to Harry that Neville would be jealous over his relationship with Snape, when the boy had always seemed to be terrified of the man.
Ron and Harry continued to contemplate Neville's strange behaviour. Hermione looked up from her book to give them both a disapproving look. She'd been listening to them both gripe about Snape, and speculating over Neville's surprisng behaviour, so of course she had to add her opinion to the mix.
She surveyed Harry from beneath her long lashes. "You know Harry, maybe Neville is not reacting well, because he sees something that you don't."
Harry blinked in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Hermione pursed her lips. "I mean," she said impatiently, "that you're not giving Snape the benefit of the doubt. You're not giving him a chance. You've written him off before you've even taken the time to find out if he's willing be a father to you. I don't know what Neville's situation is, but he lives with his grandmother for a reason, and we've never seen him with his parents, so perhaps he's an orphan as well. Or at least he still is, because you've got a father now, Harry. It must be very frustrating for Neville to see you throw away a chance at having a father, when he would probably kill for the same chance.
Harry gawked at her. He exchanged a disbelieving look with Ron. "You cannot be serious Hermione. The man's been a bloody berk to me, and you want me to welcome him with open arms?" He shook his head sadly. "I just can't do that. It's just not that easy," he whispered.
"You know Harry, maybe this contest is just the thing-" she began.
Harry groaned. "Not you too."
"Harry, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face. Maybe if you give Snape a chance, you might just find something that you've been missing your whole life," she said pleadingly.
Harry just couldn't understand it. First Neville, now Hermione. Was he missing something here? Why was everyone trying to push him and Snape together? Had they not witnessed the ill treatment that the man had dished out for the past few years? Was it not Neville who was turned to a shivering puddle of goo every time Snape berated and insulted him? Harry shook his head. At least he could count on Ron to hate Snape as much as he did. Why couldn't it have been Sirius who was his father? Harry wished with all his heart that Sirius could be here right now, and participate in the father and son contest with him. It wasn't fair, he thought with a pang of regret, that he had never had the time to get to know the man.
Harry trudged up to Dumbledore's office with trepidation. At the end of dinner, Harry had been summoned to visit with the elderly wizard, and Harry had a feeling he knew what the headmaster wanted.
When Harry entered, Dumbledore peered at him over his half-moon spectacles and pointed to a comfortable looking chair before his desk.
"Ah...Harry--have a seat." he said graciously. He folded his long fingers before him. "How have you been my boy?"
Harry always felt as though Dumbledore could see right through him with his piercing blue eyes.
He shrugged. "I'm fine sir," he replied politely.
Dumbledore looked relieved. "Good, I'm glad to hear that." He looked regretful. "I know that it has not been easy for you, in light of recent events."
Harry lowered his eyes. He really didn't want to talk about Cediric, or Voldemort, and especially not about his relationship with Snape.
"Just know Harry that when you're ready, and if you feel the need, the door is always open," Dumbledore said gently.
Harry lifted his eyes in surprise. He was grateful that Dumbledore was not going to push him to talk about his feelings. He really despised when adults thought you should spill your guts at the drop of a hat. Just because he was a kid, didn't mean that he shouldn't be allowed his privacy, did it?
"Now, down to the reason I've requested your presence," Dumbledore started hesitatingly. He knew that Harry would be resistant to his plans, just as Severus had been, but as in Severus' case, he knew that Harry needed a push in the right direction. They both might resent his interference now, but he was certain that they would both come to appreciate his efforts down the road.
Harry looked at him suspiciously.
"I'm sure that you're aware by now that Hogwarts is hosting its first Father and Son Day," he began cautiously.
Pretty hard to miss the colourful posters, banners and not to mention the school was abuzz with the news, Harry thought acerbically.
"Yes sir," he said out loud.
Dumbledore studied Harry's pale face. The boy looked like he hadn't slept properly in weeks. Dark shadows smudged his pale features;the boy' s face was gaunt and his clothes were hanging off of his thin frame, suggesting that Harry hadn't been eating properly either. Something drastic had to be done immediately, Albus thought to himself, before the boy faded away to nothing. It wouldn't do to let Harry continue on as he had been. No, Harry needed someone there for him; someone to pick up the peices. Someone to offer him support and guidance. Harry needed a family. And so did Severus. Yes...it would be like fighting tooth and nail to get these two boys to see each other as father and son, but the outcome would certainly be worth the fight.
Dumbledore pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. "I'd like for you and Professor Snape to participate."
"No offence sir, but I'd really rather not." Harry noticed Dumbledore's crumpled expression, and felt guilty. He knew the man was only trying to do what he thought best for him.
"I'm sure that Snape doesn't want to pariticipate any more than I do sir," Harry said more bitterly than he had intended.
"That's where you're wrong Harry."
Harry's eyes crinkled in confusion. "Sir?"
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled mischeviously. "You see Harry--Professor Snape has already agreed."
Harry's jaw dropped. He must have misunderstood. Surely Dumbledore was not saying that Snape had actually gone along with this preposterous idea?
"Uh sir...I appreciate the thought, but-"
"Oh anytime, Harry," the Headmaster said in a jovial tone. He stood up, came around and gently put his arms around Harry's shoulders, lifting him up at the same time and steering him towards the exit.
"But sir, I-"
"Oh, no need to thank me Harry," Dumbledore said as he gently pushed the boy out the door.
Harry huffed in frustration. "Sir, I really don't-"
"Well, best be getting back to class. I'm sure that your father will be in touch to discuss the details." Dumbledore said as he closed the door on Harry.
Harry stared at the door, scratching his head.
What had just happened in there? Harry couldn't help the small smile that lifted the corners of his mouth. Yes, Dumbledore had completely bent him to his will. Yes, Harry thought, he'd been thoroughly manipulated by the master manipulator, himself. Surprisingly enough though, this realisation elicited a warm feeling. Harry knew that Dumbledore just wanted him to be happy. Remembering Dumbledore's reaction when dealing with his aunt and uncle, Harry shivered again at how his uncle had been reduced to a blubbering fool when confronted with Dumbledore's wrath. Harry was certain that this whole Father and Son idea was born out of tremendous guilt for the way that Harry had been treated at the Dursleys. Dumbledore wanted him and Snape to grow closer so that Harry would have someone; someone he could call family.