Author's Note: The Italicized section is Harry's flashback.
Goodbye, Prince Manor
It was the last day Prince Manor would ever exist and the house-elves had outdone themselves.
Harry informed Severus that he wanted a full blown fête with his friends. Severus had not been keen on the idea; he wanted a private celebration with his son. But Severus had to admit, Petunia had never even thrown Harry the simplest birthday party. Given that Severus had not wanted any guests, he left the guest list and venue up to Harry.
Harry had chosen to have his party at Prince Manor. He reasoned that, since it was his ancestral home, no place else would be appropriate. Severus had acquiesced, conceding to himself that this was one of those precious memories he wanted to give his son.
It was Sunday. The party was being held outside by the gardens. It was a perfect late summer day and the garden was still in full bloom. The water lilies floated ethereally within the reflecting pond. The lavender heather, azure caryopteris, the woody nightshade and red hot pokers carpeted the grounds and fragranced the air.
Most of the guests would not arrive until later. Only the Weasleys, Ms Granger, Lupin and Black were there at present. They were still expecting the Longbottoms as well as the other Heads-of-House, the headmaster and a few Order members. Mzilikazi had been invited, but Dumbledore said he was involved with a crisis amongst his own people at present.
At the moment, Harry was inside with the Weasleys, knocking around billiard balls. They had not yet learned to play, but they were fascinated with Severus' game room nonetheless.
Severus and Remus were outside, standing under one of the white buffet tents.
"Don't you think he's learned his lesson, Severus," Remus said through a supressed chuckle.
The two wizards stood before an elaborate fruit and cheese table. Remus gawked at a particularly lovely bunch of plump pinot noir grapes. A square oak box sat on the table, oddly out of place.
"Don't spoil it for me, Lupin," said Severus with a sly grin. "Just as I've finally begun to enjoy myself. Think of what Minerva will have to say when she sees this."
"I must admit, she'll be highly impressed." Remus nodded knowingly as he continued to smile. "But the rest of your guests will be arriving soon. As much as he deserves to sweat out the party, there's still the potential for something ugly to happen."
Severus rolled his eyes and took out his wand. "You know how to ruin a man's fun—don't you, Lupin"
"Sirius has told me the same thing once or twice himself."
Severus snarled, "Don't compare me to Black."
Severus waved his wand at the fruit and the once indigo-coloured grapes were gone and Sirius Black was now crouched in their place. He fell backwards off of the table, taking the majority of the display with him. "Wh…wh…WHOA!"
Lupin bent over, clutching his sides in the midst of a full blown gut-buster. Severus' mouth and eyes twitched uncontrollably in a desperate effort to keep from rolling over in laughter himself.
Severus had found out about the wine the day before. Harry had told him what happened. To say that Severus had been livid with Black was like saying Voldemort was miffed with him and Harry.
"Snape… I'm really sorry." Sirius cautiously rose up from the other side of the table. He was covered in smashed fruit and had his hands in the air just like a Muggle criminal who just got caught in the act of committing the crime.
The only effect the apology had on Severus was to stoke his anger again. "I know your family is insane from inbreeding, Black… But surely even your certifiable mother must have told you that it is iniquitous to take that which is not yours."
Remus watched over the exchange as if it were a Muggle tennis match.
"I've replaced the wine… It's in the box… I promise."
Severus eyed the box. It was too large for a single bottle of wine. "I doubt that very seriously, Black." Severus' unintended pun made him angrier. "That was a very rare vintage. You don't have the intelligence to track it down. Even the best elf-made wine couldn't replace it."
"Luckily, Harry has smart friends," Black said. "Just open the box… please," he pleaded. Black pointed at the box, afraid to come out from behind the relative safety of the table.
Severus shoved his wand up his sleeve and went over to the table, curious as to what Black could possibly consider compensation. He carefully picked up the box as if it contained one of the Weasley twins' elaborate pranks, or worse yet—one of Black's.
Black slowly made his way from around the table as Severus opened the box, half expecting bubotuber pus to explode in his face. What greeted Severus when he opened the box had him stunned with disbelief.
"How did you…"
"I have to thank Hermione for this little miracle," Black admitted. "Apparently the Muggles have some kind of oracle named Inner Net. Hell of a lot more all-knowing than that 'Inner Eye' that wacked-out Divinations teacher is always getting on about."
Severus looked at the bottles in the box. The first was a 1942 La Tâche. As extraordinary as that bottle was, it was not what had rendered Severus speechless at the moment. Replacing the bottle of wine was the least Black could do, though it would not have forgiven the initial insult. The second bottle was another matter altogether.
The second bottle was not just any wine. It was a bottle of Clos de la Roche… 1980. The year Harry was born.
"I hope it is as good as it they claim it is… I requested the best wine for that year."
"Sirius… this is extraordinary," Remus said, obviously as impressed with his friend's gesture as Severus was.
Severus shook his head as he took the bottle out of the case to have a closer look at it. "I don't understand why…"
"This…" said Black, indicating the bottle, "is my apology to you—and not just for invading your liquor cabinet. It's for everything… It's my peace offering."
For once in his life Severus Snape did not know what to say, but it seemed as though Black did. "Harry was right, you know…It was me and James that initiated this whole mess. We never gave you a chance."
"Don't play martyr, Black… I'm not entirely innocent in all of this." After all, Severus had thrown his share of unsolicited hexes at the Marauders in his day. And just now he'd transfigured the man into a bunch of grapes, although that was justified, in Severus' opinion.
"It's not just for the past… I'm ashamed of myself." Severus and Remus looked at each other and then again at Black. Severus wasn't sure what the man was trying to say.
Black explained, "I've been incredibly jealous of late. When I first heard that you were Harry's father, you could understand my disbelief. Then when I finally came to accept it, I thought for sure you would try to turn Harry against me and James."
"As tempting as it was to do so, Harry would have been unhappy if I denied him your company. In the end Harry, would have resented me for it," Severus said.
"That's just it! If situations had been reversed, I would have stooped that low," Black admitted. "Hell, I did. The worst part about it was, I was hoping that you would make Harry miserable. How sick is that?" Severus could hear the honest self-disgust in Black's voice.
"But I'm not apologizing for Harry's sake. I'm apologizing because I owe it to you… and it's long overdue."
Although Severus was overcome—after all, he had been waiting over twenty years for an apology—he managed to keep himself impassive… barely. "Black… I don't know what to say."
As if he were feeding him lines in a play, Remus leaned in and whispered to Severus. "The appropriate thing to say here would be 'apology accepted'."
Severus leaned back and whispered, "And what if I don't accept his apology?"
Severus was aghast when Remus actually shoved him towards Black and said, "Oh, do get on with it, already!"
Severus regained his footing as he gave one last contemptuous glare towards Remus before grudgingly turning to Black. He swallowed and said, "Apology accepted."
Black grinned widely like a Cheshire cat and exclaimed, "Great!" He threw out his hand to Severus. "The name's Sirius, by the way, and this is my friend Remus."
Severus was hesitant at first, but reluctantly accepted the handshake and said, "Severus… It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance… Sirius."
Harry stood, staring out the window of the billiard room. It faced the front of the manor and Harry could see the gardens and the greenhouses that were only about fifty meters away from the main house. Unfortunately, the tents were obscured by a wall of ivy.
Harry was a bit worried. He had been so angry with Sirius, he was hesitant to invite his godfather to the celebration. What was so concerning was his father had insisted on inviting Sirius after he had found out about the wine. Yesterday, Harry didn't want anything to do with his godfather. Now Harry couldn't help but be worried for him.
"What do you think they're doing down there?" Harry asked of no one in particular.
Harry looked to find Ron standing next to him. "How angry was your dad?"
"Honestly, I can't remember when I last saw him so angry," said Harry.
"Poor Sirius," the twins lamented in unison, though Harry thought they looked more amused than sorry. They seemed to be having a great time at the dartboard. They could throw sharp objects in the house and Mrs Weasley didn't yell about it.
"Now, now. I'm sure Severus will keep his temper in check," said Mr. Weasley. He was bent over examining the custom-made snooker table. "Harry… why is one table longer than the other?" he asked concerning the two billiard tables in the room.
Distracted, Harry didn't register Mr. Weasley's question at first. "Huh… Oh." He turned away from the window and walked over to the gaming tables. "Dad says that one is for playing snooker and the other, shorter one is for American billiards. Don't ask me the difference. Dad hasn't taught me how to play yet."
"The craftsmanship on these tables is amazing," gawked Mr. Weasley. "I can't believe Muggles can accomplish this kind if artistry without magic." The feet of the tables were like huge black horse hooves that curved into horse heads that held up the base of the tables. The tables were made of mahogany with teak inlay. The felt was smoke black. The woven pockets were black leather.
"Dad said he had them made after his grandfather died."
It was only yesterday when Harry had that conversation with his father, but the topic went far deeper than billiard tables.
It was Saturday and Harry was finally out of his pyjamas and actually wearing a comfortable tee shirt and jeans. For the first time since being poisoned, Harry was feeling his old self again.
Harry was certain that the earth must have flipped over on its axis. Harry was in his father's lab catching up on his potions practicals. He was actually enjoying himself as he always hoped he would. As he worked on his Draught of Peace and he found out that when he wasn't being hounded by his father, he really did have a talent for brewing.
That's not to say his father wasn't watching him. His dad was at a separate table; he, too, was dressed for comfort in a simple white linen shirt and grey slacks. He even had his hair tied back. He was working on Remus' Wolfsbane Potion and he could not risk his hair getting into the brew. Every now and again Severus would look up to make sure Harry was proceeding accordingly and kept a close eye out for how much hellebore syrup and powdered moonstone Harry added to his potion.
Harry and Severus worked on their projects in companionable silence for nearly an hour. Ironically, it was Severus who was getting fidgety. He almost slammed his knife on the table when he said, "Harry…" Harry started at the sudden break in silence. "Do you mind if I play some music? I find it helps me to concentrate better."
Harry was a bit surprised at his father's strange request. It explained the music he was listening to in the cottage a few weeks back. He wondered if his father would start singing again, but he only said "Sure—play whatever you like, Dad." Harry was a bit disappointed when he heard classical music begin to play. It wasn't bad, though. It reminded him of flitting butterflies or a babbling brook. His disappointment faded when he admitted to himself he really liked what he was listening to. It was actually very relaxing.
"What is this, Dad?" Harry asked as he casually stirred his potion to the rhythm. "I feel like I'm floating down a river."
"Very good, Harry," his father said with a hint of surprise. "It is called Vltava, by Bedrich Smetana. It was inspired by a river. This was one of my mother's favourite pieces."
"I like it," Harry said.
"What other music do you enjoy?" his father asked.
Harry shrugged as he began to bottle his potion. "I don't suppose I really know. The only music I ever heard regularly was some noisy screeching rubbish that Dudley used to listen to. The only feelings that inspired were headaches and nausea."
Harry missed the incensed look in his father's eyes at the mention of his relatives; he was still talking about music. "Sometimes, I would hear music when I went to the park… but I never… well, it doesn't matter now, does it?" He removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, trying to pretend he was tired rather than having just shed a tear. He listened to what surrounded him, allowing the flowing melody to wash away the bad memories.
"What doesn't matter, Harry?" his father pressed.
Harry put his glasses back on. He exhaled a deep breath and said, "It's nothing, really… I just didn't care about the latest trends and music as much as other kids, I guess… I mean… I never really fit in with anybody."
"I find that hard to believe, Harry," his dad said. "You made friends here at Hogwarts easily enough."
"Yeah…but I belong here, don't I," Harry tried to reason. "Out there… In the Muggle world… I was too different."
"Harry… Muggles and wizards are not all that different. I grew up almost completely in the Muggle world myself until I was nearly ready for Hogwarts. Your mother felt quite comfortable in both worlds. Why do you feel you were too different to belong?"
Harry shrugged, really wishing he could be floating down the river with that music rather than having this conversation with his father. "I suppose because my aunt and uncle always told me so," he said quietly.
"If I know Petunia, she did not phrase it so delicately." Something in his father's voice suggested to Harry that he was holding something back, but Harry didn't know exactly what.
As the music began to race faster, so did Harry's heart. Harry wondered if it was reacting to his emotions. "Dad… the Dursleys are behind me. I'd rather not talk about them right now."
Harry's racing heart came to a screeching halt when he saw his father cast a Stasis Charm over his cauldron.
"Harry, I think it's time we talked about your aunt and uncle."
"I don't want to."
"Harry… How did you get your black eye this summer?"
Harry froze. Where the hell did that come from? "I already told you…" Harry said, trying to cover his nervousness, "I stepped on the garden rake."
Harry had avoided looking at his father. That is, until someone removed the phial he was holding from his hand and a gentle hand turned his face upward to meet obsidian eyes. "Harry… do not lie to me."
"What makes you think I'm lying?" Harry practically whispered. He turned his gaze downward and began studying the lines in his empty hand. Anything to keep from looking at his dad.
"How often did Vernon Dursley hit you, Harry?" His tone indicated that he would accept nothing but the truth. Something told Harry he wouldn't get away with a lie if he tried. The best he could do was to try and downplay what happened.
"It didn't happen very often… I usually had to do something really bad to provoke him… Usually, my punishment meant skipped meals or extra chores. Mostly I just made a point to try to avoid them."
"There's nothing a child can do that could ever warrant black eyes, broken bones, or starvation, Harry. I would wager their precious child never received such punishment," his father spat.
"No." Harry shook his head and sniffed, blaming his runny nose on sneezwort. Surely his father kept some somewhere. Did sneezwort actually make one sneeze? "Dudley never got punished for anything. All he had to do was blame it on me, even if Uncle Vernon saw everything with his own eyes. It was if it somehow magically became the truth if Dudley said it was… more often than not, Uncle Vernon or Aunt Marge would encourage Dudley to bully me anyway."
"Vernon's sister. Not calling her 'Aunt' was one of the 'cheeky offences' that would get me the back of the hand."
Harry watched as his father shut his eyes and his face tensed with anger. He could tell his dad was holding everything back. Harry felt guilty for being the cause of his father's pain. "Did Petunia ever have a hand in this?" his dad asked.
"No… she just set my chores and generally reminded me that I was a freak and a burden on her family," Harry said truthfully. "Other than that, she tended to ignore me and let Uncle Vernon do as he saw fit. What it boiled down to is that they hate magic and wanted me to forget that magic even existed."
"I find it amazing that words can sometimes sting more than the hand," his father said sadly. "I admit to my own guilt in this, but Petunia's actions, or lack of thereof, was abuse—as surely as if she struck you with her own hand. She was entrusted with your care and she betrayed that trust… How could she take out her animosity towards her sister on a mere child!"
A strange look came across Harry's father's face, as if he had been stuck by an invisible hand.
"Dad? What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry, Harry…Here I am, raving on about Petunia's crimes… crimes I'm just as guilty of committing myself… I'm so sorry, Harry."
"Dad, we've already been through this. I told you already that I forgive you. Aunt Petunia was supposed to love me… you had no idea who I was… for you, I was just some snotty student who…"
"Harry… enough," Severus sighed. "Do not attempt to defend my past actions. I was wrong and all of the apologies in the world will never be penitence enough… I hate to admit it, but there are times I feel I am channelling my grandfather," he said as he rubbed his temples.
"Was your grandfather really bad?"
Severus lifted his eyebrow as if he said, 'Oh, yes'.
"Harry… sit down, son." His dad gestured to a work stool by the table and conjured another for himself. "What I am about to tell you, only two other people have ever known. I'm sure you can surmise who they are."
"Mum and Professor Dumbledore," Harry said without hesitation.
"Yes," Severus said. He sat opposite Harry. Harry knew what his father was about to say was important as the older wizard leaned towards him. "I want you to listen to me, Harry and let me finish. I rarely speak of my past… I'm sure you understand it is something I do not enjoy dwelling upon."
"Then why do you want to make me talk about mine?" Harry asked, not meaning to sound as bitter as he had.
"I may not speak often of my childhood, but I have come to terms with it. I do not deny the past. You, too, must come to terms with your past, Harry."
Harry straightened himself in his chair and folded his arms protectively across his chest but remained silent as his father began his story. "Harry… I'm sure you recall that I came to live with my grandfather when I was ten."
Harry nodded. "That, and that you lived close to Mum before then."
"Yes. I met your mother at the time I needed a friend the most." His dad took a deep breath before continuing his story. "Harry… when I was a little boy, I was very close to my father. I never learned the circumstances of how my parents met and fell in love, but I do know that they had loved each other. I have fond memories of family outings in the car. I remember my dad carrying me on his shoulders and taking me to the pub on occasion after he returned from work at the mill."
"He would take you to the pub?" Harry asked. Not sure if he heard correctly.
"Oh yes—my mother would fuss about it, but all I had to do was give a convincing cry and she would give in. I was quite the little manipulator. Slytherin from birth, I suppose. My father would have a drink or two over a game of snooker or Nine Men's Morris… exchange a few off colour jokes with his friends and we were home by nine."
Harry knew the story was about to turn sad as the bittersweet smile on his father's face turned to something darker. "Then one day, things changed. I was too young to understand at the time. All that I knew was that my father suddenly became a very harsh and bitter man."
"Did your dad know your mum was a witch?" Harry thought maybe that revelation would explain the sudden change in his grandfather.
"Surprisingly enough—he did. My mother never denied her magical heritage, but she chose to live the Muggle life. After I came to live with my grandfather, I understood why… But I digress… The reason things had changed was because the mill had shut down, my father could not find work and he took his sorrows to the bottle."
Harry scrutinized the pattern on the parquet floor as he listened to his father's story. "How bad did it get?"
"Bad enough for the neighbours to call out the constables from time to time. My parents' fights became the stuff of legend in Spinners End."
''Did he ever hit you and your mum?"
"He hit me once. The only time I ever saw him hit my mother was the last… after I blasted him through the kitchen wall with a burst of accidental magic. After that, things were better again for a brief time," Severus told Harry. "I did not find out until years later that, after my fit of accidental magic, my father had started to seek counselling for his alcoholism and anger management."
"Why couldn't I protect myself when…"
Severus reached out and touched Harry's hand and Harry felt comforted by the gesture. "Harry, I never stood up to my father when he raised his hand to me. Nor did I stand up to my grandfather. I felt that I somehow deserved it. It was in defence of my mother that I lashed out."
"I had no one to protect."
Severus looked as he had been hit in the gut, but he nodded in agreement, "Yes."
"Is that how you got this?" Harry was pointed at his own nose, but referred to his father's distinctly crooked one.
Severus touched his nose. "No… this was courtesy of my grandfather." He dropped his hand and continued his story. "I was very confused over my father's behaviour. I thought that perhaps I had done something to make my father hate me. I took me years and countless talks with your mother to make me realize that I had nothing to do with my father's anger. I did nothing wrong, and neither did my mother."
"At least something good came out of it."
"It was too little too late. Soon after that, my mother died when she was hit by a car on her way home from the market," Severus said, taking another deep breath as he listened to his mother's favourite symphonic poem. Harry didn't know it, but his grandmother, Eileen, would sit Severus on her lap and tell him the music's story as it unfolded. It was getting to the part about the mermaid's midnight moon dance.
"You can surmise that my father took back to his bottle. When my grandfather came around to claim his only living blood relative, it did not take much to declare my father as unfit… It was true… my father was in no shape to care for me."
"Did you want to go with your grandfather?"
"No, I did not," his father answered emphatically. "I had just lost my mother and I wanted to take care of my father. Neither did I want to leave behind my only friend."
Harry could definitely understand about not wanting to leave a friend behind. True friends were far too precious indeed. "I bet Mum was really sad to see you go."
Severus nodded. "It was the first time I ever saw her cry."
"If your grandfather disowned your mum, why did he suddenly want you?"
"Basically, he realized that he would have no more children himself and he desperately wanted an heir. Prince Manor has magical stipulations. It can only be passed to those with blood ties. Augustus could not name another heir if he wanted to. Apparently, he had been trying to steal me from my parents for years. It wasn't until my mother's death that he was able to win custody."
"Why didn't he just take his daughter back?" Harry asked curiously.
"He made the offer but she would not go back. Part of the stipulation was she had to give up her husband. Mum refused to give up on Tobias."
"What was it like living with your grandfather?"
Harry could see a chill run up his father's spine. "I'm sure you can relate when I tell you he did everything he could to try to make me forget my Muggle heritage. I was not permitted to even mention my father. This…" Severus tapped his crooked nose, "…was the result of me writing to your mother soon after I arrived at Prince Manor. A full-fisted blow to a ten-year-old child."
The tone of the music playing was becoming as turbulent as the subject.
"Your godfather was correct in his assessment that I knew a great deal of Dark Arts by the time I entered Hogwarts. It was at my grandfather's insistence that I learn them; his punishment for failure was… severe. He would call me a worthless Squib, threaten to break my fingers in my wand hand… called me a disgrace to the House of Prince."
Harry didn't know why he had to know, he just did. "What did he try to make you do?"
"He tried to force me to cast a Cruciatus Curse on Cassie. I refused."
Harry felt stricken with horror. What fiend would teach a ten-year-old to cast a Cruciatus? Especially on a poor, unsuspecting house-elf.
Severus shook his head. "Fortunately, I started Hogwarts the following year and met up again with your mother at Kings Cross."
"I bet she was happy to see you." Harry managed a little smile. This story desperately needed a happy ending.
"Yes… yes, she was. Your grandmother Evans made quite the fuss over me, as well. It felt good to be loved again," Severus said with a smile.
"Did you ever get to see your dad again?" Harry felt a little sad for his grandfather. Tobias was finally seeking help when his wife was killed in a mindless accident, and then had his only child taken away from him.
"Yes," Severus nodded. "In the summer of my third year, I asked my grandfather if I could stay the summer with the Averys. He agreed. I stayed with Avery one week then I took my leave and sneaked over to my father's home. He was so happy to see me, but he was ill. I could tell by his pallor that he was in the grips of cirrhosis of the liver. He refused treatment, saying that he was ready to be with Mother. I stayed there that summer. Lily helped me to take care of him. We even managed to talk him into seeking treatment for my sake. Mr Evans would take him to see the doctor. We did manage to go to the pub and play some of the old games a couple of times."
"Did he get better?"
Severus shook his head. "He died later that year. Mr Evans sent me word at Hogwarts. The school gave me leave to attend his funeral and I did. When my grandfather found out, I received my first Cruciatus when I came home that summer."
Harry was stunned. "Your own grandfather?"
"That was a particularly bad summer. I never filed a complaint over the uses of an Unforgivable because I thought I deserved it. I felt like I abandoned my father. He needed help, and I let my grandfather take me away. I felt like I drove my father back to his bottle…To make matters worse, Voldemort was beginning to make his move that summer and my grandfather was keen to have me represent his family amongst Voldemort's Death Eaters. I fought ferociously on that point. I received more hexes and curses from Augustus that summer than I have ever received at the hands of the Dark Lord."
The music was once again becoming placid.
"By the time I returned to school for my fifth year, the headmaster noticed something was wrong. He mentored me and treated me as his own. As infuriating as that old coot can be, I will be forever grateful for that. The following summer, Dumbledore offered me a Potions Internship. It managed to keep me from my grandfather's clutches for one more summer… In fact, I never saw him again."
"When did he die?" Harry already knew that his great-grandfather had died before his dad left Hogwarts.
"Spring of my sixth year. He died in the same Dragon Pox outbreak that killed Abraxas Malfoy. I was of age and everything had passed to me. The first thing I did was commission a Muggle snooker table and had it installed at the manor in memory of my father." Severus smiled as the music faded away. "I believe I've told you the rest."
Harry walked over and put his arms around his father. "You never deserved what he did to you."
Severus returned the embrace and patted Harry on the back. "And neither did you."
Harry pulled out of his father's arms. He almost wiped his running nose on his upper sleeve, but remembered his father's handkerchief. "I know."
Harry was glad for the change in subject when his father asked, "You haven't been out in several days. How do you feel about a walk by the Black Lake with your old man?"
"Sounds great! Let me go put on a jumper." Harry scrambled out to go change.
"And change that bloody tee shirt, too!" Severus yelled after him.
"Harry, your library here is absolutely brilliant!" Harry turned abruptly to see Hermione panting with excitement in the doorway. Ginny stood next her, looking absolutely put out for being dragged into something as boring as a library. Mrs Weasley was behind them. The manor was massive and Harry was sure Mrs Weasley thought the girls would get easily lost.
"Do you think Professor Snape will let me borrow this copy of Arabian Nights?" Her eyes were practically pleading as she grasped a green leather-bound tome to her chest.
Harry was about to tell her to ask his dad when everyone jumped at the sound of a *POP*. It was Cassie. No one was used to the comings and goings of house-elves yet. "Master Harry, your father says to remind you that the rest of your guests will be coming soon."
"Thank you, Cassie. We'll head up to the library now to greet them," Harry said as Ron put up his snooker cue and the twins put the darts back in their case.
"No, sir. Not the library, sir," Cassie said. "The guests will be arriving in the Grand Dining Hall. It has the only Floo that will fit the professor called Hagrid.
It was a fine gathering. Harry had been allowed to make the guest list. Along with Hermione and the Weasleys, the rest of Hogwarts' Heads of House and Hagrid, there was Neville Longbottom and his esteemed grandmother and his Great Uncle Algie, and Kingsley Shacklebolt and Tonks. Originally, Harry had wanted to exclude his godfather from the celebration, but after Harry explained to Severus what had happened to the wine, Severus had insisted that Black be invited. The headmaster was conspicuously missing.
The children, with the exception of Neville and Hermione, who were sitting on a bench in the flower garden reading Arabian Nights, were playing a game of Swivenhodge over the ivy wall. The adults sat at a long table in the shade of one of the white tents having tea, enjoying tea.
"…He said that he had found something of terrible importance and it was imperative that he speak with Lucius Malfoy right away," explained Minerva.
"The headmaster said nothing else on the matter?" inquired Severus.
"Nothing," Minerva replied curtly.
"I wonder what could have been so important to warrant Albus missing an occasion such as this," Remus wondered.
Severus wondered the same thing. "Whatever it is, if he is meeting with Malfoy it does not bode well. His business undoubtedly has something to do with Voldemort." Everybody at the table squirmed at Severus' bold use of the name.
"What do you suppose…?" before Arthur could finish his sentence, a horde of teenagers descended upon the adults with broomsticks in hand. Harry led the way.
"Dad—all of us have talked it over and we're ready to eat now," Harry announced.
Severus' eyebrow cocked up at his son's bold proclamation as he surveyed the pack of ravenous teens. "Indeed! Who am I to deny food to a mob of half-starved teenagers armed with brooms?"
"Great! Come on guys," Harry proclaimed as he waved over the adolescent horde. The children ran over and propped their brooms against the ivy wall and made a beeline for the buffet tent.
Severus ushered the adults over to the buffet tent. "If we are to have any hope of eating, I suggest we make for the buffet now."
"With that lot, we'll be lucky if there's a grape left to divide amongst us," Molly chimed.
Sirius, Severus, and Remus cleared their throats at the same time. Sirius looked especially pale.
When they reached the tent, something unexpected happened. Sirius Black seemed to take over the proceedings. "Will everybody please gather 'round!" he called out.
When everyone had gathered under the tent, Sirius directed, "Harry, come here and stand next to Severus."
There was an audible gasp as Sirius called Severus by his given name. Harry stood next to Severus, dumbfounded. A lot had changed while Harry was in the house with his friends. It was Severus' and Sirius' gift to Harry.
On the table behind them was a large chocolate cake filled with orange cream. There was no writing on it. In front of the cake were three unopened bottles of wine.
"Sirius—Remus—as Harry's godfathers, will you join me in the honour?" Severus indicated to the wine.
The gathering had fallen silent. Harry could hardly breathe. Since when was his father on a first-name basis with Sirius and Remus? And when did he make Remus his godfather?
The three wizards each opened a bottle of wine, poured out small amounts of wine into the glasses and passed them out to all of the adults and Harry. Harry's friends had been given a special punch the house-elves had made for the occasion.
Harry thought that there must be something special about the bottle his father opened. Although there was still wine in the bottle, only he, his father, Sirius and Remus had received a glass of it. Harry would ask about its significance later.
Sirius stepped forward and made an announcement. "Severus: as godfathers, Remus and I claim the first toast."
Harry nearly fell over when his father nodded his acknowledgment. He wanted to ask Ron and Hermione if all of this was real, but he was afraid to wake up from a wonderful dream. But he had to admit, even his friends looked like they had stepped into some strange alternate reality.
Remus spoke first.
"Harry—standing before you are two men who have loved you since the day you were born. The night Lily and James died was the saddest day in our lives. Not only did we lose our best friends, we lost you as well. It would be another twelve years before we would see you again. I know I personally was astonished over how you were so much like your parents. Blessed with Lily's beautiful nature and cursed with James' bad hair." A wave of giggles passed through the congregation. Harry blushed with embarrassment. "There was always something haunting about you, Harry—as if something was missing, Something that, no matter how much any of the rest of us tried, we could never fill that void for you." There was a soft murmur of acknowledgement, especially from the adults.
Sirius cleared his throat and continued with the speech. "Severus, needless to say, when I found out you were Harry's father, I could shite a brick."
The entire crowd erupted with laughter. Now Harry was really embarrassed.
"Sorry, Molly—I mean, I was astonished. I refused to believe that my childhood nemesis could ever do right by James' boy. But perhaps that was the problem… that's why nobody else could fulfill Harry's needs, because we treated Harry like James' boy. But Harry was never James' boy. He's your boy. It's obvious to all of us now and not just because Harry is beginning to look like you. Now that I think about it, there has always been a little bit of you in Harry. Despite what popular opinion has to say, you are good for Harry. I don't think there is a single person amongst us who can honestly say that they've seen Harry happier. It's clear that he's been good for you too… Hell… I don't ever recall ever seeing you happy before you discovered your son. So everyone—raise your glass to the Snapes and their continued happiness."
Remus shouted "To Happiness!"
Harry had a hard time keeping the tears back. It was hard to believe these people were here to support Harry and his dad.
Harry's dad was the next to speak. Harry had never seen Severus Snape look so nervous. He looked like a niffler in a room full of kneazles.
"Harry and I wish to thank all of you for coming today and expressing your support. To be honest with you, this little get-together was Harry's idea and I have no idea how those two…" his father pointed to Sirius and Remus, "…bamboozled me into making a bloody speech. So make a bloody speech I will. As you all know, I am not a demonstrative man and keep my privacy guarded. After certain events, I had convinced myself that I neither wanted nor needed a family. Harry has happily proven me wrong. Without hesitation or repentance I proclaim to anyone who can hear my voice, I am proud to acknowledge my new friendships, I am proud to call you son, I am proud to be your dad… I am proud to call us all family."
Harry could scarcely breathe when his father ended his speech. He hardly noticed his father flick his wand towards the cake. The collective awe of his friends brought Harry back into reality.
Words had appeared on the cake. Words he never thought would come from his father. Welcome Friends and Family to Snape Manor.
Harry couldn't believe it. If he'd known this was going to happen, he would have had Sirius steal something from his father much sooner.
Suddenly Sirius and Remus raised their glasses and both proclaimed loudly, "TO FAMILY!"
Harry drank to his family. Before he knew what happened, he was wrapped in a large embrace from his father with the people he loved most in the world cheering them on. Harry could honestly say it was the happiest day of his life.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~To Be Continued~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Didn't I tell you. you wouldn't have to wait long? I'd like to thank badgerlady for getting both chapters back to me so quickly. Please, leave a review or comment. It's nice to know what you all think.
I'm working on, Severus Snape and the Potion Master's Daughter right now and hope to hear from my co-author of The Unexpected Snape, soon.