Author's note. Sorry for the slight wait, I was hit with writer's block for this chapter. I should warn everyone, I'm entering a very busy period of University so it may be sometime until I can update again.
Suggestions are welcome.
Enjoy and please review.
"Poor dear," Madam Pomfrey said as Harry stared at his sleeping Godfather. "He was dying to see Harry so he didn't rest as much as he should have earlier."
"He'll be okay, won't he?" Harry asked in concern, still snuggled against Black.
"He will dear, he just needs to rest," the Matron said gently. "For the while, he'll be constantly tired, but you'll soon see, he'll make a good recover."
She sighed softly as she waved her wand, checking her patient's status.
"It's just as well he's a young, strong man, many don't recover from Azkaban, especially if they were weak going in. But as long as he doesn't do anything extraneous, everything should be fine."
Severus smiled slightly, he was sure that once Black regained a little of his old strength, he'd be howling with the boredom of sitting around in bed all day. Perhaps even literally at times.
"I hope he will be okay, I like him," Harry said softly before looking up and asking.
"Is the visit over?"
"Not quite," Severus said. "We're going to spend the day here Harry, I was thinking you could have lunch with your Godfather."
"He needs feeding just as much as Harry does," Severus thought with a heavy mental sigh. Black needed some serious carbohydrates and protein, otherwise it might take him even longer to recover.
"I'd like that," Harry now said with a smile. "Will he need help eating, Aunt Petunia used to watch this doctor show where they had to spoon feed people."
"If you're Godfather needs to be spoon feed, I'm sure he'd be happy for you to do so," Minerva said with a small, proud smile. It did this old cat good to see such a considerate young man, when you got older, you appreciated these kind of traits more.
Severus smirked at the image, even though he knew Black would probably indulge Harry is he asked. At least Harry could probably have some fun and start learning to interact with people in different ways. This reminded him of Arthur Weasley's offer of Harry coming over to play sometime. He would certainly consider it, Harry could do with meeting children.
Although he hoped that Harry could someday meet Draco, it would do his Godson good to meet a child who wasn't raised with Pureblood propaganda. How to arrange it would be the tricky thing but Draco was a cousin of Blacks, so it shouldn't be impossible. He'd need to ensure that Lucius was never left in charge of Harry, because he would almost certainly try something. So in the end, it would probably have to be Draco coming over to see Harry and not the other way around.
Which would be a shame but at the moment, he couldn't see any way around it. Lucius couldn't be allowed to influence Harry, the boy was far too young for politics and intrigue. Lucius Malfoy had many Ministry personnel in their pocket and if they heard their benefactor was in close contact with the Boy Who Lived, well, it wouldn't be a pretty sight.
It would be like trying to convince starving jackals not to partake of freshly killed meat right in front of them.
Severus shuddered, he highly disliked nearly all politicians, they were always fawning and backstabbing, trying to come out top dog. No wonder Dumbledore never accepted the position of Minister for Magic, imagine being surrounded by them all the time. Although sometimes he wondered if being surrounded by screaming children was really any better, at least it was more rewarding.
Most of the time.
"Would you like to explore the castle?" Severus now asked Harry who looked up eagerly.
"Ooh, yes," he said excitedly.
He carefully slipped out of Black's arm and slide off the bed. Black didn't stir at all, he was completely out of it. Minerva offered him her hand and he took it without hesitation and allowed her to led him away, Severus following. Madam Pomfrey was left to ensure her patient slept peacefully and without disturbance.
"It moved," Harry squealed as they walked along the corridor, he was pointing at an ugly painting of a man who was currently yawning.
"In the Wizarding world, most paintings can move, they can even travel between other portraits," Minerva said with a laugh as Harry stared in awe.
"This is so cool," Harry declared in awe, turning his head so he could watch the portraits interact with each other. They of course, played up to the curious little boy by talking louder and making more gestures than normal.
"I'm really going to go to school here?" he asked in pure awe.
"You certainly are," Severus said with a hint of pride in his voice. "Here you shall learn to be a wizard, and take your place in the Magical world."
Harry nodded eagerly, how he wished he was eleven so he could start straight away. Minerva caught Severus's eye and smiled, it did her old heart good to see such a happy young boy. He was slowly gaining in confidence and both teachers would do everything they could to encourage this.
Severus briefly thought of Lucius again, he would be furious when he found out Black was free. But when he'd accompanied Dumbledore to Azkaban, he'd kept his hood up the whole time, the only one who saw him was the Warden. And Dumbledore had used some strange spell to ensure that if anyone asked Michael, he would reply that he saw Arthur Weasley.
Michael would not know he said this and Lucius would be furious enough at Arthur's involvement and would not probe further. Severus would have otherwise been leery of going but Dumbledore was a powerful wizard and he trusted him enough to know his secret wouldn't be revealed. He'd just need to feed Lucius enough information to keep him satisfied and assure him he was just as furious at Black's release.
He would soon be treading a thin line but he didn't care. He would protect that innocent little boy, no matter what.
Later that day
"Is he awake?" Severus asked as he entered the Med Bay, there were curtains around Black's bed now, so he couldn't tell if the man was awake or not. He had left Harry and Minerva who were now exploring the Hogwarts grounds, he wanted to have word with Black before lunchtime.
"He is, he wanted those curtains," Poppy said softly. "I think after spending all those years in a cell, it feels strange not to be boxed in. At least he can easily move those curtains if he needs to."
Severus nodded, that was understandable. It wouldn't matter how much Black had hated his cell, he had become adapted to it and would need to be boxed to cope with being free. It would probably be a shock to the systems if he even went outside which would be hard as he was likely longing for the sunlit outdoors.
He shook his head of these thoughts, he and Black needed to have a serious conversation about Harry. He briefly grimaced, remembering that ridiculous joke Black had been so fond of using, so much so that even Potter got tired of it. And James Potter was never one for getting tired of jokes.
Deciding it would be better to announce his presence, he called out softly.
"Come in," Black replied in an over the top imitation of an elderly old grandmother.
Severus rolled his eyes before stepping around the curtain. Black was reclined against plumped up pillows, a blanket neatly pulled up to his waist where his hands lay clasped together. Of course, he didn't look delighted to see Severus but oddly enough he didn't look disappointed.
"Where's Harry?" was his first question.
"Outside with Minerva, he's enjoying the Hogwart's grounds," Severus said smoothly.
Black grinned rather goofily and said.
"I bet he is, has he met Hagrid yet?"
"No but I imagine it's only a matter of time," Severus replied mildly, it was strange to have such a civil conversation with Black.
Black nodded with a smile before turning serious.
"Sna...ahem, Severus, we need to talk."
Severus raised an eyebrow at the use of his first name. Black hastened to explain.
"For starters I think...I think we should call each other by our first name. I've given it some thought and since we're going to be working closely together to raise Harry, we need to build a cordial relationship between us."
"Indeed," Severus said softly.
Black smiled weakly and said.
"Harry looks like a smart boy, he's bound to pick up on the fact we don't like each other. I mean considering the history between us..."
He broke off, apparently lost in memories before shaking his head.
"Look, when you think of me as Black, you probably think of our school days. I know I do when I call you Snape, we're starting something new together so...we need to get off to a good...a new start."
Severus fingered his chin as he considered this.
"Your idea has merit...Sirius," he tried, the name sounding very foreign without the normal Black.
Black chuckled slightly.
"Odd isn't it?"
Severus couldn't deny that but decided to move on.
"It will likely take you a long time to recover from...your ordeal," Severus began delicately. "Obviously, no one will expect you to take in your Godson in this condition but eventually you will. At least, this is what people will expect."
Black nodded, he might have been something of a rebel in Pureblood circles but he was still a Pureblood. But not just any Pureblood, he was the head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and as such, many things were expected of him. As he wasn't married and had no children, it was considered important that he raise the boy he'd been made guardian of.
Especially since that boy was the Boy-Who-Lived, it would be a miracle if the last male heir to the Black name and young Harry were ever out of the spotlight. It wasn't going to be easy to raise Harry as a normal little boy, Severus didn't want him overwhelmed by attention. Either he'd become withdrawn or he'd start to seek it. James Potter had been something of an attention junkie in school, doing increasingly dangerous and mad things to get people's attention and applause.
He would not allow that to happen to Harry.
"So," Black now said softly. "What do we do about that? I can insist that I be left alone, to get to know Harry but...it'll be seen as strange if I hide him away completely."
"It would," Severus agreed with a slight nod. "Perhaps if we release photos every now and then to the press, they can mostly be focusing on you. Harry will understand that you're a rather famous person and that he is known for surviving the Dark Lord's attack."
"We're not going to tell Harry why he's famous?" Black asked quietly.
"Not yet," Severus said quietly. "He's too young to be burdened with such knowledge. He has done something no one has ever done before but that's too much for a seven year old. However, it's not unknown for children to survive attacks, it won't be easy but I think Harry will be able to cope."
"He shouldn't have to," Black muttered and Severus sighed. "No, he shouldn't."
"But he'll have to," Black muttered again but it was more to himself than Severus.
"I will prepare him for this," Severus said. "Once everything is sorted and settled, I will explain a few things to him."
Black nodded before taking a deep breath and asking.
"How much will I be involved in Harry's life?"
It was certainly strange talking to this new and responsible Black, almost disconcerting.
"While you're ill, it will just be visits but as you recover we can think about weekends," he began before fixing Black with a hard look.
"I know you will want to share your memories of Po...of James with Harry but I won't tolerate you teaching him to be an attention seeking prankster. I admit that there were a few prank you lot played that I found funny but you all walked an extremely thin line between pranking and bullying. One that you often crossed and I will not have Lily's son to grow up into that kind of boy."
Black's eyes were filled with sadness but he actually nodded.
"I know we went too far," he said miserably. "I...I'm sorry for what we did to you, I really am."
Since Severus had a rather unconvinced look on his face, Black sighed and said.
"The Dementors don't just force you to relive bad memories, they also taint your good ones. You might not believe this but there were times when we felt guilty over what we did, even if it was just a twinge. But the Dementors...they take even the smallest twinge and turn it into a mountain of guilt. I was forced to review every damn awful thing I'd ever done, see just who I'd hurt and taunted."
Severus narrowed his eyes and cast a silencing charm, in case they started yelling. Leaning forward, he said with a slight hiss.
"Just why did you seek to torment me so? You bullied plenty of Slytherins, why was I such a special case?"
Black swallowed, he appeared to be collecting his thoughts.
"For James it was...it was because you represented everything he'd been brought up to hate. His dad was an Auror and...a lot of the criminals he caught seemed to be Slytherins so it wasn't difficult for James to conclude that Slytherins were all evil. It didn't help that you lot are sneaky and cunning as hell."
"We have to be," Severus snapped curtly. "With the whole school against us, we have no choice."
"I know," Black said softly. "I knew that not all Slytherins were evil, I just have to look at my cousin Andromeda, my uncle...my brother..."
He broke off, swallowing his grief back before saying.
"But I was so overwhelmed by everything that made Slytherin bad, my parents, my mad relatives, Death Eaters...I hated them all."
His grey eyes filled with a bitter hatred that Severus knew well.
"They made my life hell, sometimes I wonder why I rebelled against it all, the Pureblood mania, all of it. My earliest memories are stories of how inferior Muggles, Muggleborns, Halfbreeds, etc all were. It was like I was constantly drowning in a cauldron of putrid blackness, and I couldn't escape from it."
Now a rather dreamy expression appeared on his face.
"Coming to Hogwarts changed all that, not only was I away from my parents poisonous influence, but I had friends, real friends. Not ones that only played with me because their parents ordered them to, because I was the Black heir. But for whom I truly was."
He sighed happily before continuing.
"But there were still Slytherins...the kind I despised and it didn't help that this was the period Voldemort was starting to show his true colour. I knew I wanted nothing to do with him and as I learned more about how Muggle and Muggleborns actually were, I wanted to do all I could to fight them. I don't...I'm not sure just what it was about you...Severus that set me off but you did. I suppose we just rubbed each other up the wrong way."
He bit his lip slightly, trying to explain himself.
"I doubt we could have ever really gotten on in school but maybe if things hadn't been so serious, we could have been simple rivals. I...we were so sure that all Slytherins would become Death Eaters so it was our job to teach you all a lesson."
He grimaced at this.
"We never really said this but it was all in our thoughts. James was most sure of this and in a ridiculous way thought we could prank you all out of becoming Death Eaters. I know that's beyond stupid but that's how it is. But...it was your friendship with Lily that really made you James enemy."
Severus snorted even though he was listening closely to all Black was saying.
"Potter wasn't even interested in her until Third year," he said silkily.
"No," Black agreed. "But he couldn't understand why she was friends with you, not when you were...to us...so odd, so apparently in love with the Dark Arts. It offended James on some deep level and he was determined to get her away from you. But as she stubbornly stuck by you, shrugging off all his attempts, he steadily began to notice her in a different way."
He gave Severus a slightly helpless smile.
"It didn't help that it was rather obvious you had similar feelings for Lily, James grew intensely jealous of this and...redoubled his efforts to separate you. He was sure, not only that she was the one for him but that you would only hurt her in the end."
Severus was having trouble preventing himself from trembling with rage, Black's words confirmed what he'd always suspected.
"I know it was stupid," Black said softly. "In retrospect it is easy to see that but he was my friend and I didn't hold you in high opinion so I went along with his schemes, I even concocted my own. James was such an intense person, if you had his loyalty, you truly had it, he would defend you to the last. But if you made an enemy of him..."
"...he would make your life living hell," Severus said shortly. "What of Lupin, what did he have against me, I assume Pettigrew just enjoyed tormenting me."
Black nodded, a scowl on his face at the mention of the rat.
"Remus had nothing against you but...he was constantly afraid we would abandon him, even expose him. I never gave it much thought in school but...Azkaban gave me plenty of time. He didn't like what we did but I think he justified it in his own mind, he was always happier when we played our harmless pranks, ones that were meant to make everyone laugh."
Black now shot Severus a hard look.
"You may call him a coward but he was the one that often stopped us going further in our pranks. Apart from that one incident, he never openly stood against us but he did subtly kept at us until we were swayed. He had to live with the curse for so long, he was catatonic with fear that he would lose us. We tried to convince him otherwise but we didn't do enough. Any time we had an argument, it redoubled his fear and we should have made it clear that no matter how many arguments we had, we'd never turn against him."
"Merlin forgive me," he suddenly said, taking Severus a little by surprise. "I started to realise we could have made more of an effort after school, when we fighting against Voldemort. I...I actually thought he might be the spy because we hadn't treated him right. Or maybe...some of mother's teachings had seeped through and I really thought that as a Werewolf, he'd go over to the Darkside."
"It is hard to get over prejudice," Severus pointed out softly. "I'm sure Lupin was kicking himself for trusting you, a Black."
"Probably," Black said with a very sad smile before something seemed to occur to him. "Will...will you allow Remus to see Harry, I know he would love to have such an opportunity."
Severus fixed him with a hard look.
"If Lupin can present himself as someone I can trust I will allow it. But only during the weeks he is not under the moon influence."
"Fair enough," Black said before mumbling. "I hope he will come, I have to say sorry..."
"He'll come," Severus said instantly. "I always observed Lupin to be a rather sentimental fool, he won't be able to resist."
Black shot him a look on annoyance but it seemed he was too weak to summon up anger. Especially as Black was currently wallowing in self recrimination, something Severus never thought would happen. He was at pleased but still couldn't forgive Black for all that had happened. But he could entertain the possibility in the future, if Black could prove himself.
"Anyway, back to your question," Black said, taking a deep breath as though steeling himself. "I don't like to think of it this way but I think the main reason we picked on you, when we could have gone for much worse Slytherins...was because we saw you as an easy target."
Severus's black eyes flashed at this, he despised being called weak. But he had enough self control to hear Black out.
"You weren't a wealthy Pureblood and you'd grown up in the Muggle world so this isolated you," Black said unhappily. "Apart from Lily, you didn't really have true friends or so it seemed to us. But you also appeared to know so many Dark spells, you were the perfect target."
Black now looked Severus square in the eye and said.
"I know you won't believe this but I despise the boy I became, I was no better than those I hated. Like them, I called my cause noble and my actions necessary. You could have left me to rot in Azkaban but you didn't, you saved me, cleared my name. You are...the better man, Severus."
It was hard not to swell with pride at this statement, this was a man who had tormented him and yet he was honestly saying that he, Severus, was the better man. Once again, Severus thought that Azkaban had actually done the job it was supposed to do. He wondered if Black really had felt guilty before going there.
"You are not...completely to blame," he said finally. "Mostly but not utterly. I admit I did all I could to get you expelled, you were the kind of people I despised. You represented what I didn't have, it felt like things came so easily for you when they either didn't come to me or I had to fight tooth and nail for them. Even if you'd left me alone, I would have still disliked you."
"We're a right pair," Black said with a cheeky grin. "So as the better man Severus, what say you, shall we prove to Harry that he if he doesn't get on with someone, this doesn't mean they will be eternal enemies?"
"For Harry's sake," Severus said silkily but his eyes weren't cold. He hesitated for a moment before swinging his arm upwards and offering Black his hand. Black's face lit up and he took it with a firm but not crushing grip and they shook hands. They still let go rather quickly and the moment became awkward, they had no idea what to say now.
Eventually, Severus cleared his throat and said.
"Harry will likely be along in a short while to help you with lunch. We will probably stay with dinner as well, if you're feeling up for it, you can talk to Harry for a bit. With him, we can plan more visits...Sirius."
"Sounds good," Black said with a grin as he relaxed back. "Severus."
Author's note. Hope you all enjoyed that, until next time.