"What are little boys made of? Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails. That's what little boys are made of." -Nursery Rhyme
Harry didn't know what it was, but something had awoken him from the fantastic little dream he had been having. Perhaps it was the slight whistling of the wind outside their bedroom window, or the random creaking of the floorboards around the house. Whatever it was, it had been loud enough to pull him out of his head and now here he was, staring at the darkened ceiling and contemplating nothing of any real importance.
The teen sighed and basked in the cacophony of empty thoughts running through his mind. It was such a change of pace from what had been dominating his thoughts the last few months. There were no worries about potions recipes or how long he had before the curse broke out of his leg. No chemistry equations or long passages from wizarding law books invaded his consciousness. He didn't have to worry about updating his will anymore. He knew both Severus and Ginny were of sound mind and body, so he needn't worry about them. His classes were, and had always been, right on schedule, despite all the adjustments that had to be made throughout the year. Everything was as it should be.
He was a lucky man.
Turning to his side table, he glimpsed at his alarm clock and found it to be four o'clock in the morning. What in the world had woke him up? Turning to his other side, he had his answer.
Ginny was no longer there.
Severus was still sound asleep, his ever-present lion cub clutched firmly to his chest and half his thumb still in his mouth. Harry couldn't help the smile that pulled at his lips. His son was adorable.
Reaching over, he brushed some loose strands of hair out of his boy's eyes. Looked like it was time for another haircut. Sev's hair seemed to be growing thicker and thicker with each cut, a fact both Harry and Ginny found interesting, considering his hair wasn't so thick the first time around. They had always remembered it being long and greasy. Sirius pointed out that that was probably because nobody seemed to care about Sev's hair when he was growing up the first time. His parents most likely just let it grow, uncut and unwashed. Thus, when he came to Hogwarts and had to care for the hair himself, he merely continued with the same, familiar practice.
"Well, that's not going to be happening in this house." Harry whispered, brushing more strands of hair to the side. The teen recalled a period in his life when both he and Ron had hair at a length that rivaled Snape's! Yet Harry also remembered how annoying it was to keep, and how it had constantly been in his eyes, and how overall inconvenient it was. He didn't want that for his son.
After placing a kiss on his boy's forehead, Harry slowly got up, careful not to shake the bed too much and wake up his slumbering child. He packed both sides of the bed with pillows so that Severus wouldn't fall off, and tucked the comforter close so that he would stay nice and warm. Then, clad only in socks and boxers, he padded out of the room and down the stairs.
One of the first unusual things he noticed, even before he stepped off the landing, was a loud snoring noise coming from his living room. If he didn't know better, he would say that the snoring belonged to Ron. Having slept in the same room as the redhead for most of the last seven years, he was both familiar with and immune to the racket Ron could make when asleep. Turning the corner, he found that his suspicions were correct. For some odd reason, Ron was out cold on his sofa.
Harry ran his hands through his bed head and furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. He definitely didn't remember Ron being here when he went to bed last night. When did he get here? And how didn't he, Harry, know about it?
That's probably why I woke up a few minutes ago. The floo must've been the sound that tore him from his dreams.
"Hm." The teen grunted groggily, more curious about his best mate's arrival than concerned about his presence on his couch.
That's when he noticed the second unusual thing about this scene—the light coming from beneath the entrance to the dining room.
"Hermione, calm down!" Ginny's muffled voice could be heard through the doorway. "It's four in the morning on a Saturday, for Merlin's sake. The NEWTs aren't 'til next month!"
And suddenly the mystery of the morning was solved! Harry sighed and shook his head. Hermione, Hermione, Hermione…
The teen silently called a pair of pajama bottoms down to him and then slipped them on before schlepping through the swinging door and into the dining room.
"And there's also so much that I don't think we covered yet!" Hermione was on the verge of hyperventilating.
"I find that hard to believe." Ginny scoffed under her breath. Between her hands, she nursed a steaming hot mug of coffee, which she was currently leaning over, bleary-eyed.
"Good morning, ladies!" Harry croaked, sounding every bit as tired as Ginny. He had absolutely no idea where Hermione found all the energy to function this early in the morning, let alone pace the room in a panic whilst poring over a tome half her size. "You're up early." He remarked as he leaned over to plant a kiss on his fiancé's cheek.
"I blame her for that." Ginny droned.
Harry chuckled. "I'll just start breakfast then." He added, pointing towards the kitchen.
"Yes, yes, Harry, thank you." Hermione merely waved him away.
"You're out of luck, love." The teen told his fiancé through their mental link, as he pushed into the kitchen. "When we had our OWLs going on, Ron and I had the luxury of holing ourselves up in the boys' dormitory to get away from the study queen over there. No such luck with you, unfortunately."
"I need to leave the COUNTRY in order to escape her!" She replied, annoyed. "When she said she wanted to start early, I expected her at seven, not at FOUR in the morning!"
Harry snorted. "That's our Hermione for you."
Pulling out some flour and a flat pan, he decided that a nice breakfast feast, full of pancakes, croissants, and the works, was in order. Making it would take the upside of three hours, and by the time it was done, everyone else in the house would be up and ready to enjoy. "Hang in there, love. I've got a special treat for you." His fiancé's curious response made him smirk.
"Blimey, Harry! You went all out, didn't you?" Ron exclaimed, grabbing himself a croissant from the basket. "I didn't even know you could cook, mate!"
"Oh yeah!" Harry snorted. "I used to cook for my aunt, uncle, and cousin when they were still being tolerable. In between runs away from home."
"Out of the goodness of your heart?" The redhead raised an eyebrow.
"Come on, mate. Would I do anything for those people out of the goodness of my heart?" The teen scoffed. Ron snorted.
"Here you go, sweetheart." Ginny said, placing a sippy cup on Sev's high chair tray. "Que dites-vous?"
"Tank ooo." The toddler replied, blushing at how happy his mother became upon hearing his correct response.
"En français, s'il vous plaît." Harry added, scooping some cooked egg yolks onto his son's plate.
"Mew…see?" Sev peered at Harry questioningly.
"Merci. C'est exact!" The teen grinned and ruffled his boy's hair as he laid the plate on his baby tray. "Y en español?"
Severus looked up from his plate and made an adorable "thinking" face. His lips pursed together and his eyebrows furrowed deep in thought. "Uh…gah…see…ah?" He frowned at his father.
"Gracias?" Harry raised an eyebrow.
"Gah-see-ah!" Sev exclaimed with a smile, a lot more confident this time around.
"That's my boy!" His father whispered praises in his ear, before planting a kiss atop his head. The toddler bounced happily in his seat. He loved it when his parents were happy with his progress, most especially his dad.
Sirius shook his head behind the morning paper. "So is this what you'll be doing with all your kids?" He muttered, letting the newspaper droop as he raised an eyebrow at his godson. "Parlez-leur en anglais, espagnol et français en même temps?"
All the adults in the room silently turned to the animagus, their mouths slowly gaping in surprise. Severus, however, merely giggled and pointed at him. "Unca Padfoo kno Fwent!"
"Who'd have thought?" Sirius smirked smugly at all his shocked housemates before disappearing once again behind the morning paper.
Harry was the first to break out of his stupor. Clearing his throat, he shook his head. "Well…um…" he exchanged a look with his fiancé, "I suppose that's what we'll be doing with all our kids. Chances are, we'll all be fluent at those languages by the time they're born."
"So why not take up a fourth? I bet you lot of overachievers can handle it." The animagus muttered.
"Hey! Who are you calling an overachiever?" Ron retorted, snatching the sports section from between the folds of Sirius' paper.
"He should take a look in the mirror, that's what he should do." Ginny snorted.
The paper dropped immediately. "I am not an overachiever!" The animagus shot back, indignant. "It's impossible not to learn the language with you and Harry drilling it into the boys all throughout the day!"
"Why are you so offended?" Ginny frowned. "'Overachiever' is not a dirty word, Sirius."
"Says you! Right, Ron?"
Both Ginny and Hermione rolled their eyes. Harry chuckled.
"Me big bwo-bew!" Sev exclaimed, just as he always did whenever someone brought up the topic of more kids being added to their growing brood.
"That's right, cub, you'll be their big brother." His father nodded.
The toddler grinned. He relished the idea of more brothers and sisters in his life. In his last life, his parents didn't want him, so they certainly didn't want more children. None of the neighbors on either side or across the street had any children, so he had no one close by to play with. And when he was finally old enough to go out and look for some friends farther down the street, he found them to be cruel and shallow, constantly making fun of his ill-fitting clothes and greasy hair. It wasn't until Lily Evans moved in down the street that Severus was finally able to make his first (and only) true friend.
Yet this life was turning out to be the polar opposite of his last one. In this life, he had parents who wanted him so much, they adopted him. He had a best friend, whom he thought of as a brother, who lived next door and visited daily. He had godparents, grandparents, a multitude of aunts and uncles and "aunts" and "uncles". On the Sundays they were able, his parents took him to Services in town and the park barbeque that followed, where he was able to play with all the other infants and toddlers in the community. And now his parents were telling him that he would someday have several brothers and sisters. Sev wanted to jump for joy! This life was by no means going to be a dull one. He wasn't going to be lonely anymore.
"Good morning!" A familiar voice, accompanied by its familiar head, popped in through the dining room door.
A chorus of "Good Morning" and an "Unca Moony" met him in reply. The werewolf zeroed in on his adorable godson as soon as he stepped into the room. "Hello there, cub!" The toddler grinned at him from behind his sippy cup. "Are you eating by yourself now?"
The sippy cup immediately came back down and Sev began bouncing excitedly in his seat. "Me do it!" He exclaimed, his eyes shining with pride and his mouth encircled by bits of scrambled eggs. "Me do it mesewf!"
"He can feed himself relatively well." Ginny clarified, using Sev's bib to wipe his mouth for what felt like the thousandth time.
"Mo!" The infant made a face and squirmed in an effort to shrug her off. "Mummy!"
"Leave him alone, Gin." Harry sighed, nabbing the sports section from Ron before Sirius could get to it. "It's just egg."
"Fine, but you'll be the one to clean up after him when he's done getting egg all over the place."
"Is he still nursing, Ginny?" Hermione asked. Ron made a face and disappeared behind the news section he just stole from Padfoot. "Or is he on all solid foods now?"
"No, he is still nursing. But we've got him down to just nursing in between meals. He's almost fifteen months now, so it shouldn't be long until he's off it entirely."
"What's with the box, Moony?" Sirius asked, tipping his chair back and nodding towards the small container in Remus' hands.
"Oh! Uh…" The werewolf smirked as he peered down and examined some of its contents. "Dora and I decided we'd move in today."
"Fantastic!" Harry grinned. He stood up and offered the werewolf his hand. "Let me be the first, then, to officially welcome you to Haven Place and Godric's Hollow!"
"Whoo!" An applause immediately broke out in the dining room and Remus shook Harry's hand with a slight blush.
"Thank you, Harry." He replied shyly.
"Here, let me take that off your hands." The teen continued, taking the box from Remus before the werewolf had a chance to reply. "Have you eaten yet?" He asked, searching for a spot on the floor to place the container.
"Uh…yes, we have actually."
"Have a croissant anyway, Moony." Sirius interjected, blindly tossing a croissant over his shoulder to where he thought Remus was standing. The werewolf had to dive to reach the breakfast food, and it bounced between his hands several times before he was finally able to catch it completely.
The wizard sighed and rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Padfoot." He pocketed the piece for later and then turned back to Harry. "By the way, Harry, Dora's wondering if the house is connected to the Floo Network already."
The teen shook his head. "Not yet. I haven't named it yet." The smiled at his friend. "I figured I'd leave that up to you. I'll apply to have it added to the Floo Network after you and Dora have picked a name."
"Is Andromeda still living with you, Remus?" Ginny asked.
"Yes, she is. In fact, I think she's opted to stay here permanently rather than going back and forth between here and our quarters at Hogwarts." The werewolf explained. "She's grown quite fond of looking after the boys, and has asked me to tell you that she's willing to look after Severus every now and then, if you like."
"Teddy?" Sev all of a sudden looked interested in the conversation.
"He's talking about Aunt Andromeda, love."
"You know, I think mum could use the occasional break, Gin." Ron pointed out. "Don't get me wrong, she loves the boys, but a little 'her time' is warranted every so often."
"That's very thoughtful of you, Ron." Hermione remarked, surprise evident in her voice. The redhead blushed.
"Right. Give her our thanks, Moony, and tell her we fully expect to take her up on that offer." Ginny replied.
"Tell her yourself. She'll be by later." Remus informed her.
"You know what? Why don't I take you over right now." Harry said, shifting the box in his arms so that he could push in his chair. "I'll transfer security over to you, add you to the wards, put all the extra charms on, all that rubbish."
"Daddy!" Sev called out, bouncing in his high chair and reaching to be picked up. "Me come too! Me come too!"
"Later, cub. You finish your breakfast for now." His father replied from the threshold of the dining room. "Besides, Teddy's not here yet. He'll be by later."
"Then the both of you boys can help us move in. Right?" Remus winked at his godson. Severus grinned and nodded, appeased for the moment.
"Just drop everything over here for now." Harry continued as they made their way through the living room and across the street. "And the lot of us can help you carry them over to your place."
"Right." Remus nodded.
"By the way, just to let you know, I had my estate agent put an ad out for renters to that house." The teen gestured to the empty house next the Den. "Ron and Hermione decided they preferred a flat in London—"
"Ron and Hermione did?" Remus interrupted, taken aback by the fact. He couldn't quite believe the redhead had rejected a free house.
"Well…" Harry snorted, "Hermione did, at least. Ron was a bit put-out that he lost that particular argument."
"But I think he felt just a little better after I told them they could probably stay at Grimmauld Place until they have enough money to afford their own house."
"And what did Sirius say about that?" The werewolf asked.
"He didn't mind." Harry shrugged. With the wave of a hand, both the front gate and the front door opened for them. "He says he prefers to stay with us for the time being."
"That's all going to change the moment he finds a girlfriend, you know?" The werewolf chuckled.
"Oh, I know." The teen chuckled. "Looks like that's not long off, considering he spends a lot of time on the telephone nowadays speaking to 'Jules'." He drew quotation marks in the air.
"That's Juliet, right?"
"His pet name for her." Harry chuckled. He kicked the door closed with his foot and gently laid the box down on the bare living room floor. "It's got Sev's feathers all roughed up, it has."
"Severus?" Remus' eyebrows shot up in surprise.
"Yeah, it looks like his jealousy issue's acting up again." Harry replied, his hands on his hips as he gazed around the empty room. "This time, it's with how much attention his Uncle Padfoot seems to be paying to this Juliet character, whom he's never met."
"Oh, that can't be good." The werewolf smirked and shook his head.
"Yeah, well…we'll see." The younger wizard shrugged. He touched the nearest wall with his hand and the walls of the entire living room immediately turned a lighter color, allowing light from the window to bounce off and flood the room. "It's not so bad now—all talk and such. But if it gets any worse, though, I'll have to tell Padfoot."
"You're going to let him sort it out with Severus?"
"Well it has to be him. He's the crux of the matter." The teen explained. "Sev's afraid of losing his 'special friend', as he calls him, to some girl who, he's convinced himself, is a tramp."
"My god…" Remus chuckled.
"I'm telling you, mate, you better prepare Teddy to steel himself against some of the stories my boy's bound to tell. He's got a wild imagination on him!" Harry laughed along with his friend. "Now don't get me wrong, I'm proud and all that, but…sometimes some of the conclusions Sev gets to are a laugh."
"He's a boy through and through, Harry." The werewolf nodded. "Quickly becoming his father's son." He laid a hand on his friend's shoulder and gave it a supportive squeeze. "But let me tell you, if that woman survives what our boys are bound to put her through someday, she deserves to be in this family."
Harry snorted. "You got that right, mate."
"So…" The older wizard clapped his hands together, deciding to change the subject. He waved around the room. "How do I come across the 'keys' to this place, so to speak?"
"Right." The teen nodded. "Come along then."
Over the next half hour, Harry magically passed all ownership of the house and its surrounding property over to Remus. He took his friend on a quick tour of the place, making sure to point out the panic room and all the additional safety features he built into it while remodeling. The teen taught the werewolf how to manipulate his special wards, so that he may let guests in or out; how to add special protection charms onto the house itself, just in case he was just as paranoid as Harry was; and how to baby-proof the place so that the boys could run around to their hearts' content without hurting themselves.
"The place is an impenetrable fortress, Harry." Remus remarked as they made their way up from the basement. "You needn't worry."
"Yes, well, it's when one lets their guard down that the worst seems to happen." The teen grimaced at his own negative attitude.
"So what of the muggles that are going to move in next door?" The werewolf asked. "Are you going to keep from them that they're living next door to a bunch of wizards and witches?" Stopping by the window, he laid his hands on his hips and studied the house next to Harry's. "Don't you think that'll be a difficult secret to keep, mate? Considering Aberforth and the boys, that is."
"Yeah, Professor Dumbledore said the same thing when I told him about the ad in the paper." Harry sighed, stopping next to him. "I don't know yet what I'm going to do about it."
"Perhaps it would be a tad bit easier if the muggle couple had a magical child." The older wizard mused. Then he smirked. "But what are the odds of that, do you suppose?"
The teen shrugged and then scowled at him. "I suppose about the same as the odds of you getting a bloody straight flush now, isn't it?"
Remus cackled and caught the younger wizard in a head lock. "It's all business, Harry, remember?" He ruffled the teen's hair playfully. "All business."
"Let's see if it's 'all business' when you're the one played out of a thousand galleons!" The younger wizard grumbled, trying to get himself out of the headlock.
"And just what have I told you about high-stakes gambling, cub? Huh?" The werewolf smirked. Peering out the window, he saw Dora, Ginny, and Hermione coming over with a couple of boxes, and so made his way to the front door, dragging Harry along with him.
"It's stupid." The teen huffed, momentarily giving up in his struggle to get free.
"Exactly." Remus planted a kiss atop the boy's head before letting him go and opening the front door. "Good morning, ladies!"
"Oh! Good morning, boys." Dora replied with a smile as she stepped in from the porch. "Wotcher, Harry."
"Wotcher." The teen merely grunted his reply, preferring to scowl at Remus whilst smoothing down his hair.
"Oh, I think I'm going to have a grand old time, decorating this place." Tonks casually dropped the box where she stood and took a good look around the empty living room, a grin lighting her face.
"You'll have to make do for the rest of the day, though, without Ginny or I, Dora."
"Oh?" The metamorphamagus frowned at Hermione.
"Ugh!" Ginny rolled her eyes, shook her head, and proceeded to put some distance between her and the annoying study queen.
"The NEWTs are next month, and—"
"Oh! Right, right, right!" Tonks nodded and waved her off. "Yeah, definitely! Go on and study. Don't mind me."
"Don't encourage her, Dora." Ginny grumbled in a low voice, making the metamorphamagus snicker.
"Coming through! Coming through! Watch out!" Sirius cried, barreling into the room and startling almost everyone inside. Sev was perched on his right arm and Teddy on his left. Each of the boys had a toy in his hands. The animagus stopped by the open box of toys Dora dropped earlier and ordered, "Okay, boys, let them go!"
Sev and Teddy both giggled before dropping the toys into the box. Or attempting to, at least, as both toys immediately overshot their mark and ended up on the floor.
Yet that didn't seem to slow the animagus down. "Good job! Okay, next!" He swiftly began power-walking out of the house.
"Padfoot, what are you doing?" Harry yelled at his quickly-retreating back.
"Helping them move in!" Sirius hollered in reply.
"One toy at a time?"
"No…TWO toys at a time!"
"Yeah, that'll be quick." Dora snorted.
"And I don't see him carrying any boxes himself." Hermione added.
"Just let them be." Remus sighed. "The boys seem to be enjoying it." As if to prove his point, squeals of delight reverberated from across the street, followed closely by long strings of giggles. "See?"
And that's how it carried on for the better part of an hour. Apparently, Padfoot had set an open box full of toys atop the dining room table. When he and the boys were in the Den, he would wait patiently until each of them had a toy firmly in his grasp, before power-walking (not running) across the street and into the living room of the Lupins' new house. There, he would have them carelessly throw the toys in the general direction of an open box before power-walking back to the Den and repeating the whole process all over again. As expected, the whole game got on Dora's nerves after she came down from the master bedroom to find toys strewn all over the living room floor.
"Sirius!" She yelled out the door and across the street. "If I have to pick up the mess you and the boys made one more time, I'm putting a stop to this game of yours!" And with a single sweep of her wand, the living room floor was bare once again, all the children's playthings swept to one side.
True to form, when she walked in from the dining room ten minutes later, she managed to trip over a toy broom, land on a bobo doll, and roll into a sea of toy blocks.
"Goodness, Nymphadora!" Dumbledore exclaimed, rushing immediately to her side. "Are you alright?" He shifted the box he was carrying to one arm and used his other hand to help her up.
"Yes, yes, yes…" She giggled at herself, quickly jumping to her feet. "Oh, I'm used to it by now, Professor."
"I should have seen it coming, anyway." She blew raspberries at herself with a roll of her eyes. "He is my cousin, after all." With another sweep of her wand, the living room floor was clear of toys once more. "Welcome to our new house, by the way! May I offer you a cup of tea?"
Tonks was better at remembering to watch her step when she returned to the living room a third time to find her son's belongings strewn about in all directions. She debated with herself on whether or not she wanted to yell at Sirius now or wait until later, when her annoyance had reached its maximum and she could successfully scare him into submission.
She decided to wait. Thus, her wand cleaned up after her cousin, son, and godson for a third time.
Then a fourth.
Then a fifth.
And finally, after the sixth clean up, she snapped.
Taking her cue from Molly, she bellowed out the door in her most threatening voice, "Sirius Orion Black!"
It was his death knell and he knew it. Sirius cringed before handing Teddy and Sev over to Hermione and Ginny, respectively. "Pardon me, ladies. I have to go, uh…handle something."
Handle something, my arse! Big Sev retorted in disgust. He's going to turn tail and run. He scoffed. That mutt's not man enough to face his cousin after he's riled her up like he has. Mark my words!
Little Sev considered them marked. Yet he also knew that his Uncle Sirius was more manly than his older counterpart ever gave him credit for.
The toddler giggled and looked up at his mother's face. "Unca Pafoo in twaboo!"
"And that is exactly why you should listen to your Aunt Dora and Uncle Remus, right?" Ginny raised an expectant eyebrow at him.
"Uh-huh." Sev nodded, turning back to the toy in his hands. He already knew from experience not to try his Uncle Remus' patience. One night, when his mum and dad were on their date night, he had been staying over at Teddy's quarters and a student had come over asking for Remus' help with some spellwork. Sev and Teddy were playing on the floor of the living room and the fourteen-month-old toddler had felt inspired to practice some spellwork of his own—the kind his Uncle Padfoot had been teaching him.
"It's a simple swish and flick, Toby—swish up, flick forward. Alright?" Remus demonstrated briefly before turning a kind smile onto the jittery Slytherin next to him. "That's all. Now you try."
"I—I—I don't know, Professor. I don't think I can do it—"
"Nonsense! You haven't even tried, Toby."
Meanwhile, in the living room, bored after several minutes of playing with his toy puzzle, Sev pushed himself onto his hands and knees and crawled towards the side table next to the couch.
"Where are you off to, love?" Dora asked, peeking at him from behind whatever gossip magazine she was currently indulging in.
Sev ignored her. Settling against the lower shelf of the side table, he watched his godfather and his student practice in the den for a few minutes before his attention wandered to the belongings scattered about the room. Spotting Simba on the kitchen counter, Sev decided he wanted to practice some magic of his own. His Uncle Sirius had recently been teaching him the art of summoning things from far away; particularly, the delicious treats and sweets that his mummy and daddy kept in the tall shelves out of his reach. Summoning was different from levitation, as the toddler quickly found out. Pushing something forward and side-to-side was different from pulling it towards you. Pulling something took a lot more effort, concentration, and coordination, apparently.
Biting his lip, Sev focused his attention solely on the toy and pictured the aura around it, just as his father taught him. With little effort, and in no time at all, he had the toy off the counter and hovering in midair.
Now came the hard part.
Come to me, come to me, come to me…! The toddler demanded the toy in his mind.
Simba floated left and Simba floated right.
Come here, come here, come here!
Simba floated up and Simba floated down.
PLEASE come here!
Simba spun around, this way and that, but moved not an inch towards him.
Simba flew across the room and collided with the back of Toby's head!
"Hey!" Rubbing impacted area, Toby spun around in surprise and instinctively looked around the room with a scowl, as if searching for whatever hooligan had thrown that at his head.
Sev, meanwhile, dove under the shelf he had been leaning on, to hide completely under the table.
"What's the matter?" Remus asked, spotting Sev's stuffed lion cub on the floor and bending to pick it up.
"Something hit me in the back of the head." The young wizard explained, a look of confusion crossing his face.
"Oh, I'm sorry about that." Spotting his godson peeking out from under the side table, he frowned at him, but said nothing. It was most likely an accident after all. "You're going to have to bear with things flying around every so often." He explained to his student, all the while making his way over to the side table and laying Simba down on the floor beside it. "With two magical infants in the house, you never know what will happen." He chuckled.
As the professor ambled back into the den, Toby watched as a tiny arm crept out from under the side table, wrapped itself around the lion cub's neck, and pulled it into the dark abyss underneath. With a shudder, the teen turned back to the makeshift target he had been working with. That was just a little bit creepy!
Under the table, Sev hugged his lion to his chest and instinctively bit down on it, never once taking his eyes off Uncle Remus and Toby. He recognized the look his uncle just gave him. It meant that, while what he did was naughty, his uncle knew it was just an accident, and that he should be more careful in the future.
Got away with that one, didn't I? Little Sev snorted at how disgusted Big Sev sounded right now, if the grumblings at the back of his mind were anything to go by.
As the two of them began throwing spells at the dummy once again, Sev watched with growing interest as his Auntie Tonks placed a bowl of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans on the counter next to them. Interesting sweets, those flavored beans. Sev never had any growing up. His father had forbidden it. During his first year at Hogwarts, however, excited by the prospect that he could eat whatever sweets he wanted, he tried a few at the Halloween feast. The first one he tried was mildly tasty. However, one of the subsequent ones caused him to swear off the beans entirely for the rest of his life. Severus swore the taste of dung never entirely washed out of his mouth after that!
I wonder if I can make them jump like Uncle Sirius can?
While his father was confined in the hospital, Uncle Sirius helped Sev take his mind off his worry by entertaining him with the magical candy from their Halloween trick-or-treat bags. He would turn the snapping licorice into villains and the Bertie Bott's Beans into jumping heroes. Sev didn't know how he did it, but Uncle Sirius was able to control their million-and-a-half pieces of candy well enough to act out an epic candy battle on Harry's breakfast tray! The scenes were memorable for everyone in the room.
Jumpy, jump, jump, jump…Jumpy, jump, jump, jump…
The toddler had a funny little tune playing in the back of his mind as he pictured the candy beans jumping around in Auntie Tonks' bowl, trying to get out and explore the world! He wondered where they would go, once they escaped their bowl-ish confines. Would they jump their bowl only to crawl around the rug, wandering aimlessly until Padfoot sniffs them out and eats them? Or would they continue jumping? From the carpet, to the furniture, maybe onto other peoples' heads!
Sev gasped and crouched even lower to the ground, trying his best to disappear under the table and behind his lion.
"What's wrong?" Remus asked, turning a concerned frown onto his student.
"I'm not quite sure, Professor." Toby replied, rubbing the back of his head and studying the area around him. "I felt something hit me again…"
Unable to help himself, Sev let out a tiny little giggle at the perplexed look that dominated Toby's face.
Which, as it turns out, was enough to make his sharp-eared godfather suspicious. Sev knew the precise moment Uncle Remus spotted the red candy bean hidden slightly under Toby's right shoe, for at that precise moment, Severus received the glare to end all laughter thereafter. The smile disappeared entirely off his face, and the toddler resumed his previous crouched position behind his lion. Sev didn't know how long his godfather stared at him, or what kind of look he was receiving from said godfather, but at some point Remus must've figured out it was yet another case of accidental magic, because the next thing Sev heard was a soft apology and the tell-tale sound of a curse hitting the practice dummy on the other side of the room.
"Sev? Why don't you come out from under there, love, and come play with Teddy?" Dora suggested.
Yet again, the toddler ignored her. Instead, he peeked over his lion to see if his uncle was still giving him the stink eye. Fortunately, Remus and Toby were both turned away, once again engaging the defenseless dummy in a one-sided battle. The bowl of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans was still right where he left it, and it was now beckoning him to come and play.
I would not attempt it, if I were you. Your godfather seems to be approaching the end of his rope.
The voice at the back wheedled at him, trying to turn him away from the temptation of the candy beans. Yet, like his aunt, the toddler merely ignored the annoying big voice. The funny little look Toby had on his face a few minutes ago was totally worth whatever glare his uncle would send his way after he made the jumping beans do a dance atop the Slytherin's head.
It is a bad idea. I promise you, you will regret it!
With the carelessness of youth, Sev heard the old man's warnings and then casually flung them out his other ear. He bit down on his lion to suppress his giggles and then waited for the opportune moment. And the moment Toby's attention focused solely on his wand, and his Uncle Remus became preoccupied with the dummy across the room, the toddler's imagination took over. Within seconds, a handful of beans were jumping in their bowl, ready to fly out into the world and tango atop Toby's head.
"Go, go!" Sev told them, under his breath and behind his lion, the impish grin dancing across his face.
Like tiny candy bunnies, up the red and blue beans jumped! They flew from their bowl and soared so high, they nearly touched the ceiling! And down, down, down they fell…
The toddler's toes curled in excitement.
Here it comes! Here it comes! Here it comes!
"That's quite enough of that, thank you!" Remus' fist closed around the two brave candy beans before they could make an impact with Toby's unsuspecting head; and they found themselves back in the candy bowl in no time.
The smile on Sev's face immediately melted off. His shoulders sagged in disappointment. With a huff, he crouched back behind his lion cub.
Yet his uncle was having none of it. Remus walked over to the side table and got down on his belly, ensuring he was eye level with his mischievous godson. "Listen to me, Severus." He started, moving the stuffed lion out of the way so that the toddler had no choice but to meet his eyes. "This behavior is going to stop right now." The werewolf said, keeping his tone even yet firm. It was the 'serious business' tone that he knew the toddler recognized. After all, he had taught it to Sirius and they had both used it on Harry over the years, with complete success. Harry, in turn, taught it to Ginny, and they both used it on Severus with complete success, according to them. Remus had no reason to doubt that the tone-of-voice would get him the results he wanted. "This is your one, and ONLY, warning. If you throw ANYTHING at Toby's head one more time, you will be going into a ten-minute time out in the corner." He pointed to the corner next to the fireplace. "Away from everybody else."
Sev bit his lip and peered behind him at what he could see of the corner.
"Do you understand?" Remus raised a stern eyebrow at him.
The toddler turned back to his godfather, torn between narrowing his eyes at him in challenge, or widening his eyes in surprise. Uncle Remus had very rarely used that particular tone-of-voice with him. Sev heard it from Uncle Sirius more than he heard it from Uncle Remus, in fact! Having never quite been punished by Uncle Remus before, the toddler didn't know if the werewolf was being serious, or he was merely bluffing about all that corner rubbish. Sev settled for a slow nod with a dubious narrowing of his eyes. That should be enough to let his uncle know that he'd go along with behaving…for as long as it suited him.
Remus met him with a brief dubious look of his own before he blinked and nodded with a sigh. The werewolf had the feeling the toddler was up to something sneaky, but having no reason to doubt that his firm tone and stern warning hadn't worked, Remus had no choice but to trust his godson was telling the truth when he agreed to behave. He shook his head as he climbed back to his feet. Harry and Ginny were sure to have a handful the moment this cub got adventurous enough to move from mischievous tricks to full-blown pranks. He made a mental note to have a word with the young parents and Sirius later tonight. Now was the perfect time for Sev to learn that 'no' meant NO and that 'stop' meant STOP.
I would heed his words, if I were you.
You're so sure…
Uncle Remus has never put me in the corner before. He's not going to start now!
Sev felt so assured that that was indeed the case, that as soon as both teacher and student turned away to resume their lesson, the toddler immediately began planning how he was going to land a bean on Toby's head without Remus noticing.
"Come on, Sev! Come out from under there, love. Leave Uncle Remus and Toby alone. Teddy wants to play a game with you, sweetheart." The toddler felt a soft hand tugging at his ankle and he shook it off in annoyance.
"Mo! Mo! Mo!" Sev shook his head stubbornly. "Uh, uh, uh!" Grabbing Simba, he once again bit down on it as he silently studied his unsuspecting prey.
Dora sighed. "Fine. Whatever…"
Uncle Remus would never put me in the corner. Maybe daddy would, or mummy, but NOT Uncle Remus!
If you're so sure, try your luck.
Fine! I will!
So he waited. And waited. And waited. After about five minutes of uneventful watching (which took an insurmountable amount of patience on the toddler's part), Sev finally found his opportunity. Once again, his uncle was focused solely on the dummy as he explained and demonstrated a trick to perfect technique. Toby's attention, as expected, completely on every move made by the professor, every word of his explanation. Nobody was paying him any heed. Uncle Remus wasn't likely to turn any time soon. Now was the perfect time to do it!
Jump, bean, jump!
It was one bean. A single Bertie Bott's Every Flavor bean. The epitome of a stealth attack, it was small, silent, and impossible to see. He was certain he wasn't going to get caught. Victory was in his reach!
Go hit Toby! Go hit Toby! Go hit Toby!
Then the worst happened. Just when it was about to impact the student's head, Toby, in the midst of pointing out a feature on the dummy, took a step forward, and BAM!
Remus' head jerked violently to the side and the toddler gasped.
"Severus Henry Potter!"
The werewolf rubbed his ear, where the candy bean had impacted, to alleviate the slight sting before promptly turning on his heel and waving his wand at the side table Severus was hiding under. It floated seamlessly off the ground, exposing him.
Sev's eyes widened. "Mo!"
"Let's go." In the blink of an eye, Remus had the toddler secure in his arms and began heading towards the corner.
"Mo, mo, MO!" Severus twisted his body along with the shaking of his head. He wiggled and kicked and whined with every fiber of his being. "MO! MO! MO! Unca Moomy, MO!"
The werewolf remained deaf to it all.
Planting Severus on a couch cushion that seemed to appear out of nowhere, Remus held the squirming toddler long enough to say, "You are in this corner because I told you to stop throwing things at people—"
"—and you didn't listen to me."
"Ten minutes, Severus." And with those final words, Remus stood up and walked away.
Well, Severus was definitely not going to take his punishment without a fight! "Mo, Unca Moomy!" He cried, crawling out of the corner and towards his retreating godfather. "Pay me! Pay me now!"
There was a tiny giggle across the room, to which Remus responded with a grumbled, "Dora, you're not helping." To Severus, however, he said nothing. Remus simply turned around, picked the toddler back up, and silently settled him back in the cushion in the corner. Then, just as silently, he stood back up and walked away.
"MOOOOOOOO!" Sev screamed at the top of his lungs, tears beginning to spill from his eyes. This couldn't be happening! Uncle Remus wasn't supposed to be punishing him! Uncle Remus NEVER punished him! He made threats, he glared, he raised his voice slightly sometimes, but he never, NEVER punished him! Severus was beginning to rely on that dynamic between them! Uncle Remus was supposed to be the cool uncle. Which, if you threw Sirius into the equation, sounded completely ridiculous, but it was true! Remus was the one he thought he could manipulate the most. Of course, it was often subtle manipulation, but it still worked! So what the heck was going on here? First Uncle Sirius wasn't playing his game and now Uncle Remus isn't either? Sev didn't like that one bit! "MO! MO! MO! MO! MO!"
"Pay him no attention, Toby. Don't even look at him." He heard Remus murmur as he pulled Toby farther away from the spot where they had been practicing.
"Unca Moomy, want pay!" Sev screamed. "Want pay, NOW!" He demanded, his voice reaching new heights.
Yet the screeching still received no response and he swiped a hand across his eyes in order to see through the tears. Why wasn't Uncle Remus looking at him? Why wasn't he SAYING anything to him? Why was he being ignored? Uncle Remus never ignored him like this. Was what he did THAT bad?
"UNCA MOOMY!" Sev cried in despair. Pushing off the cushion, he began crawling towards his godfather once again. He didn't want this anymore! "Unca Moomy!"
Although the toddler could barely see through his wall of tears, he recognized his uncle's approaching figure and it gave him a modicum of hope. Perhaps this charade was finally over. Perhaps Uncle Remus had caved! Finally, he was going to get the comfort he deserved! Sitting back on his butt, he raised his arms in anticipation of being picked up.
And get picked up he did...
…only to be placed back in the corner.
"Mo! Mo! Mo! Mo! Mo!" The toddler whined in protest, kicking and screaming and crying his eyes out. And again, Remus silently walked away. Well, Sev wasn't about to give up this fight! Over and over again he screamed, over and over he strained his voice in an effort to get their attention, over and over he crawled out of the corner, trying to get his uncle to see reason. And yet over and over his uncle said nothing. Again and again he was silently picked up, silently put back in the corner, and silently left there to ponder some stupid candy beans, and some stupid games that he decided to play, and some stupid things that ended up hitting Toby's head.
Why did it all matter anyway? Sev wondered angrily as he lay down on the cushion, exhausted, and stuck his thumb in his mouth. He kicked the corner in frustration. Stupid corners! If they just didn't exist, his mummy and daddy and, now, his Uncle Remus wouldn't have anywhere to put him when he was being naughty. Good riddance to them! Sev thought. Time-outs sucked! And the more annoying thought was that no matter how much he tried to get out, the more he got put back in. And for what? Uncle Remus only gave him ten minutes in the corner, and Sev figured he spent AT LEAST thirty minutes trying to get out.
If you only stayed in to begin with, you'd be out by now.
Sev told the Big Voice at the back to shove it. He SO didn't want to hear an 'I-told-you-so', most especially from HIMSELF! That had to be wrong on at least SOME levels!
The candy beans were to blame. As was his wild imagination. If his wild imagination wasn't so wild, the candy beans wouldn't have jumped, they would have never hit Toby, and Sev wouldn't be in this mess! Likewise, Toby was also to blame, because he was a big cry-baby. If he didn't make such a big deal of being accidentally knocked in the head a few times, Sev wouldn't be in this mess either!
So you're going to blame everyone but yourself. It's everyone else's fault that your godfather put you in the corner. It's everyone else's fault that you continued to throw candy beans around, which your uncle specifically WARNED you NOT to do. That's EVERYONE ELSE'S fault, is it?
I thought I told you to shove it.
If you truly wanted me to, you wouldn't be hearing me right now. So YOU 'shove it', as you say!
Fine, MAYBE he should have stopped when his uncle warned him against throwing anything else at people's heads. He was just having a bit of fun! Where was the harm in that? Surely his uncle saw the fun in that.
Without a doubt. However, perhaps the werewolf was trying to prove a different point. Or perhaps you were trying to prove it to yourself. Either way.
What point? All Uncle Remus said was that he was in the corner because he wouldn't stop throwing Bertie Bott's beans at Toby. He didn't give Sev any other reason than that. And SEV certainly didn't have anything to prove by throwing things at Toby's head.
You're so sure…
And then the toddler remembered—he did. After Uncle Remus' warning, Sev tried to prove to himself that his godfather didn't mean what he said when it came to his time-out threats.
Well…as it turned out, he did!
Ladies and Gentlemen, lesson learned.
NOW will you shove it?
"Severus?" The toddler rolled over to find his godfather crouching next to him, a small comforting smile on his face. "Do you have anything to say to me, cub?"
Sev was so happy that his uncle was finally talking to him again, that before Remus could even finish asking, the toddler reached up and stammered a 's-s-s-so-so-wwy-wwy' in between sniffles. His breath was still shaky from all the crying he had been doing, but the sputtered apology was good enough for his godfather. A big smile immediately erupted onto the werewolf's face and he was quick to wrap his sobbing godson in his arms.
"There, there now."
"Sowwy!" Sev moaned into his sleeve, a fresh wave of tears flowing from his eyes. Counterintuitively, now that he'd apologized, the guilt he should have felt during his punishment finally assaulted him, resulting in an onslaught of new tears.
"Come now, cub. Shhh now…" The werewolf sat down on his favorite easy chair and began rocking the toddler in his arms, whispering calming noises in his ear. "All's forgiven now, Sev. So why don't you tell me what started all this, hmm?"
Well, Severus knew exactly where the blame lay for that one! Pushing up against Remus' chest, he twisted just enough to spot his stuffed lion cub, still stuck underneath the side table. He held his hand out towards it and opened and closed his fingers in a silent plea. "W—W—Wamp! W—Wamp!"
"Alright, alright, shhh…" Remus took out a handkerchief and wiped the baby's face, cleaning him up a bit before planting a kiss on his cheek. "Come on up then, Simba!" He called, waving his wand at the stuffed creature and managing to get it to jump onto the couch. "Maybe you can help this other cub get his breathing under control, eh?" As gently as he could manage, the werewolf tucked his sniffling godson into the crook of his arm and then laid the comfort toy onto his chest. The toddler immediately enveloped it in a fierce hug.
It had taken several minutes of calming noises, reassurances, and gentle commands to take deep breaths, but Remus had eventually succeeded in getting Severus to calm down. The toddler's breathing returned to normal, and he soon made himself comfortable in his godfather's arms, his lion under one arm and his thumb stuck in his mouth.
"So…are you going to tell me what that was all about, my boy?" The werewolf asked softly.
"Pabphooph," The toddler replied. Sitting up on Remus' lap, he popped his thumb out of his mouth and quickly launched into his story. "Padfoo twy tees me caw tuff!" He explained, pointing to the spot on the counter where his lion previously lay. "He tees me caw cookie…amp…amp…foo!" The toddler pointed to the cabinets above the counter. "Caw, cus…camp weet!"
"Uh-huh." Remus nodded. Surprisingly, he was able to understand most of what his godson was trying to tell him. Apparently, Sirius had been teaching Severus how to summon things out of his reach, such as cookies and snacks from the upper cabinets—the foods his parents specifically kept there for good reason. That was typical! "So how did it lead to this mess, cub?"
"Me caw Simba! Amp…amp…mo cam!" He frowned at his godfather, as if asking him to fix this unfortunate shortcoming. "Simba mo com hewe. Go Toby, go dewe, bu mo hewe!"
"And Simba was what started it, I see."
"Mm-hmm!" The toddler nodded, happy that his uncle had understood all that. "Me camp do it!"
"Now wait a second here, cub. I wouldn't go so far as to say you CAN'T do it." Remus interjected, adjusting the toddler on his knee so that they could see each other better. "'Can't' is not a word in my dictionary. Trust me—you start using that word at this age, and pretty soon you'll end up like Toby."
"Mo!" Sev blew raspberries at the world in general. There was no way he was going to end up like that obsessive compulsive cry-baby perfectionist!
"No, we don't want to end up like him." The werewolf shook his head with a smile. "So…let's try to look at this problem a different way, shall we? What if we try Uncle Sirius' technique, but we do it with auras? Huh? You're father's always going on and on about them, isn't he?"
"Mm-hmm!" That sounded like a good idea to Sev.
"So why don't we try…matching the aura you're projecting with…the aura projecting from the object you want to summon? Does that sound reasonable?"
"Yeah!" Sev exclaimed excitedly. He hadn't tried that before!
"Right then! Let's try it!"
Hmm…Those soft cakes in the bowl across the table looked to be radiating a kind of yellow-gold aura. Perhaps if he tried radiating one himself he would be able to successfully summon them over to him.
Sev glanced up to see if his mother was still paying any attention to him. Thankfully, not so. She and Aunt Hermione seemed to be engaged in an intense conversation about the signs and symptoms of some kind of wizarding disease he'd never heard of. The toddler concluded then that they probably wouldn't notice if he just stole a cake from the end of the table.
They would surely see it while it is floating over to you! Big Sev argued.
Not if it's floating above their heads! Little Sev retorted with a laugh.
Stage One—levitate the cake halfway to the ceiling so that Mummy and Aunt Hermione won't be able to see it. Easy enough! He had no trouble with that part.
Stage Two—make the cake float towards you. That's where everything got a little complicated. Uncle Sirius told him that you had to demand it to come over to you, which made sense, but never really worked. He had demanded Simba to come over to him that night at Uncle Remus' and nothing happened. However, when he added Uncle Remus' slight modification, picturing the cake's aura and matching the color of his hand's aura with that of the cake, magic happened! The cake immediately began floating his direction. Sev began bouncing in his seat excitedly.
"Shhh…don't bounce too much, cub. You wouldn't want your mother to find out you're sneaking sweets behind her back now, would you?" His father's voice reverberated in his head.
The toddler gasped, nearly losing his concentration and causing the cake to waver precariously in midair. Where? Where in the world…? His head swiveled back and forth.
"Relax! Relax, cub, we're outside." Harry told him. "Look out the window, son."
With furrowed brow, Sev leaned forward in his mother's lap to peer out the dining room window. There they were—his father, Uncle Sirius, and Uncle Remus—standing just beyond the stone wall bordering the front yard. His dad was waving at him with a crooked smile, and Uncle Sirius and Uncle Remus both had their hands in their pockets with matching grins on their faces. They all seemed to be sharing some kind of joke.
"Well go on then, cub! Your uncle Sirius told me he had been teaching you this trick. Uncle Remus said he helped you with it just the other week. Show me then, my boy!"
Severus turned back to the task at hand with a giant grin on his face. He had thought, when he heard his father's voice, that he was going to get in trouble for sneaking dessert before they had even had lunch. But, as it turns out, his dad and his uncles were cheering him on more than they were yelling at him! That gave him a well-needed boost of confidence. That cake was going to end up in his hands if it was the last thing he did!
"You know, we probably shouldn't be doing this." Remus remarked.
"What? Cheering him on?" Sirius snorted. "Lighten up, Moony. It's just a cake."
"Sure, that's how it starts out."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous." The animagus rolled his eyes. "He's just practicing a useful skill. You know toddlers. They're always exercising some kind of new muscle at this stage—hand-eye coordination, walking, talking, navigating, etc, etc, etc. For Severus, this is just another new muscle."
"You taught it to him so that he can sneak snacks behind our backs!" Harry scoffed, rolling his own eyes at his godfather's defense. "Admit it!"
"Well, of course, I did! But it has other uses as well!" The animagus retorted.
"Not very good ones."
"Stop being such a pessimist, Moony."
"I'm a realist, Padfoot."
"Oh, hush up, the pair of you. He's nearly got the cake in his grasp!" Harry pointed out, waving for them to be quiet so that he could concentrate on his son's achievement.
"Look at that!"
"We should cheer."
"I meant visually!" And with that, Padfoot threw both his hands in the air, made an exaggerated happy face, and started jumping up and down like a clown.
Both Remus and Harry immediately cracked up and had to turn away to cover their hysterical laughter. Even Severus was pointing at him from the other side of the window and laughing heartily. In fact, he laughed so hard that Hermione and Ginny both turned to see what all the fuss was all about. Sirius was quick to return to normal before they could catch him in the act. That didn't stop the girls from opening the window and questioning him about it, though.
"What's going on out there?" Hermione demanded.
"Nothing!" The animagus waved them off coolly. "Nothing at all. Don't worry about it."
Remus snorted and waited until the window was once again closed before he commented. "Good job, Padfoot. You nearly got him caught."
"I was only trying to help!"
"Load of good that did, huh?"
"He's got it!" Harry exclaimed. The two older wizards turned back to find Severus waving the cake at them excitedly, a triumphant smile upon his face.
"Hey!" "Hey!" "Yeah!" All three of them gave him a lively round of applause.
"The look on Ginny's face is priceless." Sirius remarked.
"Ha, ha, ha!" Harry burst into hysterical laughter. "I know, isn't it?"
On the other side of the window, Ginny and Hermione were recovering from a mild case of shock. In their view, the cake dropping from the ceiling had been tantamount to the roof caving in unexpectedly. They both nearly jumped from their seats and ran out of the house with the children. It was completely unexpected! One minute, the pair of them was deep in conversation about the signs and symptoms of ailuranthropy, and the next, a cake fell into their laps and everybody shrieked. Although, in hindsight, Sev's shriek was probably one of delight.
"Merlin's beard!" Ginny took a deep breath and laid a hand atop her heart, as if that would help it to slow down.
"How in the world…?" Hermione frowned, confused.
"Cay, mummy!" Sev exclaimed, waving the cake in her face and peering up at her with a charming, drool-soaked grin. "Hab cay, peas?"
As much as she wanted to, Ginny didn't have the heart to get mad at him for startling them. "Oh, sweetheart." Taking the cake from his outstretched hand, she wiped his dripping mouth and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. "Sev, do mummy a favor next time, will you please?" Grabbing a used but empty dish from the middle of the table, she began piecing the soft cake into small, bite-sized portions so that the boys could safely enjoy it. "The next time you want something like this, all you need to do is ask. Okay?"
"Okay." Sev agreed softly.
"How was he able to reach that when the bowl's all the way over there?" Hermione frowned, her eyes moving between Sev and the bowl of cakes at the other end of the table.
Ginny sighed. "He summoned it, I suppose."
"Harry's been teaching him how to summon things?" Hermione asked, surprised. She was under the impression that Harry was going to wait until Sev was older before he taught him the spell.
"No, Sirius has."
"Yes, our friendly neighborhood animagus seems to think I have no idea what's going on inside my own house." Ginny rolled her eyes. "He's been teaching it to Sev for this very purpose. Isn't that right, love?"
"Cay!" The toddler exclaimed, impatiently pinching one of the pieces of cake and popping it into his mouth. "Hab cay, Teddy!"
"Uh?" The little metamorphamagus replied, studying the cake pieces with wide, curious eyes.
"Oh…" Hermione frowned. "That means you're going to have to baby-proof the top cabinets as well, if that's the case. Not only the bottom ones, but the top ones too!"
"Only in our house." Ginny laughed, wiping her son's crumb-encircled mouth. "Everywhere else in the world, parents baby-proof everything within reach of baby's little fingers. But not for you, right, my love?" The teen wrapped her arms around her boy and gave him a kiss on the temple. "Everything's within your reach, isn't it?"
"Mm-hmm…" Sev replied distractedly, too concerned with licking his fingers to care about what his mummy was saying.
"The sky's the limit." She whispered in his ear. "For you, the sky's the limit."
Whether he noticed it or not, those words traveled past his toddler brain and lodged themselves in his very soul.
For me, the sky's the limit.
The summer sun was bright and warm.
Sunny days were a rarity around here and Sev was going to soak up as much of this welcome heat as he could. Closing his eyes, he spread out his arms and extended his fingers. The soft, sweet-smelling grass on which he lay reminded him of the big comforter in mummy and daddy's room. It made him feel safe…and sleepy. Beneath his bare feet, the five-year-old could feel some errant blades of grass tickling his toes and the sensation brought a smile to his face.
Ohhhhh…yeah! He sighed in contentment.
"Hello, Mr. Sunny Sun Sunshine!" Sev murmured under his breath, giggling softly at the absurd make-believe name he just gave the sun. "Sunny Sun Sun Sun…" Ever so slowly, the child began to drift to sleep.
"Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye…"
Then, just as quickly, his eyes shot open in surprise.
"…Four and Twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie…"
He pushed himself up to a sitting position and peered in the direction of the angelic singing voice. It was coming from the house next door!
"When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing…"
Sev crawled over to the low stone wall that separated the two backwards, completely ignoring his mother's flimsy barrier that she supposedly set up to protect her garden, climbing over it with relative ease and trampling on half of her orchids to get to his destination. The child had no doubt that he was going to get an earful later on for his careless actions, but all he could think about at the moment was finding the source of that beautiful melody.
"Wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the King?"
Sev knew exactly where the hole in the wall was located. He had stumbled upon it by accident while he was helping his mother plant flowers. There was a loose rock that he could pull out, which would allow him to secretly peek into the neighbor's yard. That is, IF said neighbor hasn't yet spotted him sneaking towards the wall!
"The king was in his counting house,
counting out his money…"
Sev wasn't delusional. He knew he was getting older and thus his natural stealthiness was diminishing, along with his age. "With age comes height." His Uncle Sirius once told him, "It's a double-edged sword, kid. On the one hand, you can see a lot more stuff now, but on the other hand, it's more difficult for you to sneak around!" Considering Sev could just about peer over the stone wall if he stood at full height, the child conceded his uncle's point—it was definitely easier to see, but altogether harder to spy. Such a tragedy, that.
"The queen was in the parlour,
eating bread and honey…"
Lying on his belly on the bed of trampled orchids, Sev pulled the small, loose rock out of the wall, and, after carelessly throwing it to the side, peeked into the yard next door.
"The maid was in the garden,
hanging out the clothes…"
A white sundress and big straw hat. Those were the first things his spying eye noticed as it roamed around the neighbor's yard. Those, and the sheets of white linen hanging from the drying lines scattered about the yard.
Curious. Had the neighbors moved in? Sev knew they were to expect some new neighbors soon. His daddy told him that he put an advertisement out in the muggle newspapers for renters to the house next door. Perhaps this was the family they found to rent the place?
But why hadn't anyone told him the new people had moved in? The child huffed. He was left out again! That was typical!
"…when down came a blackbird
and nipped off her—"
Sev wiped his nose on his sleeve and shook his head. He should've known better than that! Huffing disturbed dirt. Dirt flew up people's noses. Dirt flying up people's noses makes them sneeze. Sneezing was counterproductive for someone in the spying business!
Now it was Sev's turn to gasp, and he instinctively rolled to the side so that whoever that was couldn't see him through his spy hole. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard Big Sev groan as he trampled over the other half of his mother's orchids in his efforts to hide himself.
Sev's breaths came in short, quick puffs and sounded more like noisy dog pants to his sensitive ears. The boy cringed. He REALLY had to work on his breathing! Spies knew better than to breathe noisily. It was easy for the enemy to zero in on their location if they breathed that loud!
"What are you doing down there?" Sev gasped as a little girl, wearing a big straw hat, suddenly appeared in his line of vision.
"AH!" He cried out in surprise. Out of pure instinct, he tried to push himself off the ground, but fell onto his mother's garden fence instead, knocking it over. "Ooof!" In an effort to redeem himself, he rolled onto the grass and tried jumping up again. He succeeded this time, managing to make a clean landing on his feet. His landing being the only thing clean about him, however.
Sev's clothes were covered in soil. He had leaves, twigs, and orchid petals stuck in his hair. His shins, feet, and hands were caked in mud, and a bit of dirt was smeared across his left cheek.
The little girl peered at him curiously, her emerald green eyes being the only things visible between the top of the stone wall and the bottom of her straw hat. "What was that all about?" She asked.
"Nothing!" Sev replied, a little too quickly for his own taste. He also sounded a bit nervous, for some reason. He berated himself silently. This wasn't how spies were supposed to act!
"What were you doing down there?" The little girl continued.
"Nothing!" Gosh darn it! That reply was even quicker than the last one! "I wasn't doing anything!" He had no reason to sound defensive. Why on earth did he sound so defensive?
The little girl narrowed her eyes dubiously. "It doesn't seem like you weren't doing anything." She retorted, her voice equally as suspicious.
"Well, I wasn't!" The five-year-old wiped his hands on his already-dirty trousers and crossed his arms over his chest stubbornly.
The little girl rolled her eyes. "Okay." She shrugged, apparently deciding to drop the issue for now. After taking a quick second to adjust her straw hat, the mysterious young lady dusted her hands off and then surprised Severus by boosting herself onto the top of the low stone wall! The little boy backed away a step or two, suddenly uncertain.
"Wh—what are you doing?" He frowned.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" The girl replied. Settling herself atop the wall, she crossed her legs and then adjusted her white sundress so that it covered her knees. Like Severus, her feet were bare and her soles sprinkled with soil. When she turned back to him, her gaze was more curious than suspicious.
It was then that Sev got to have his first good look at the little girl, from top to bottom. She may have been perched atop his wall, but the little boy hadn't failed to notice how she was speaking to him a moment ago, when she was studying him over the top of the barrier. Her eyes barely made it over the wall, which meant that she was around his height, perhaps a bit shorter. That would most likely put her around his age range, discounting the possibility that she was a midget, of course.
"How old are you?" Sev blurted out, unable to suppress his curiosity.
"I beg your pardon?" The girl frowned in confusion.
"How old are you?" The child repeated, unabashed.
"That's a weird question." The little girl replied. "People usually ask me what my name is before they ask me how old I am."
"Well…" Sev bit his lip and looked from side to side. The girl had a point. He clasped his hands behind his back and began nervously bouncing from foot to foot. He was just so darn CURIOUS, though! "…how old are you?"
"I'm five." The girl finally answered.
Whew! The revelation brought a smile to his face. "Wicked! I'm five, too!" Sev exclaimed, suddenly excited.
"Well, I'm very happy for you." The girl remarked as she pulled the big straw hat off her head and shook her hair out.
Red hair. Bright, fiery, wild, red hair. Long, bright, fiery, wild, red hair atop curious, intelligent, slightly mischievous, enchanting emerald green eyes.
Severus froze. He had seen this picture before. In fact, he had heard that song before! This scene was so familiar to him, the déjà vu coursed through him in waves!
That hair! Those eyes! That ever so slight crease in her brow. The almost unnoticeable twitching of the corners of her mouth. It all added into an expression of mild amusement—a look that, he was told, another lifetime ago, belonged ONLY to him—and no other person in the entire UNIVERSE could pull it off, except his one, his only…
Those emerald green gems widened in surprise. The little girl gasped. "How do you know my name?"
Sev himself was surprised by his own bold assumptions. "Well…I—I—I don't, I…Uh…I just…" He scratched the back of his neck and shrugged. "You just…remind me of someone…" He looked everywhere but at her then. Two seconds ago, he couldn't take his eyes off her. Now he felt too embarrassed to look her in the eye. Why did he do that? Why did he feel so compelled to say the name out loud?
"What's YOUR name?"
The little boy looked up in astonishment. Her curious green gems immediately locked onto his chocolate browns and entranced him so that he was once again unable to tear his gaze away. "Uh…" he swallowed in an effort to slow his rapidly beating heart, "…Severus." The little boy replied. "My name is Severus."
"Severus Henry Potter!" His mum's voice shrilled from the kitchen window. "What have you done to my garden? Merlin me…my orchids!"
"Lily! Dinner's almost ready. Come on in and wash up, sweetheart!"
"Coming, mum!" Lily leapt off the wall and back into her own backward, but before she took off towards her house, she made sure to turn and wave at Severus. "It was nice to finally meet you, Sev! I'll see you soon!" And just like that, she disappeared.
Sev's eyes fluttered open and he found himself in a darkened bedroom. His mummy was fast asleep on his left, and his daddy on his right. Just below him, he could hear the low snores and occasional growl from their resident animagus, who apparently chose to sleep at the foot of their bed that night. The midnight melody, as his father tended to call it, filtered in through the closed window—a section of bleating goats, accompanied by a quartet of hooting owls, including a solo by the neighborhood wolf, howling at the full moon, complemented a company of crickets to form the Twilight Orchestra.
Tonight, the Twilight Orchestra was performing a rather special piece just for him. It was a calming piece. A peaceful piece. A piece that helped Severus close his eyes and clear his mind.
And that's when he realized…
Lily had called him 'Sev'!
Now how did Lily know Severus usually went by the nickname 'Sev'? Could it just have been coincidence? Or was it...something else? o.0 Hmmm...Guess we'll see! :-)
Next up, you're two chapters away from the big wedding! Ginny has some news for Harry regarding the house next door that they're putting up for rent, Severus accompanies his dad to his old homeless shelter in the east end of London, and the family celebrates the Lupins' housewarming and Teddy's naming ceremony/first birthday party!
NOTE: Hey all! :-) I'd just like to take a minute to thank all of you who read and/or reviewed the last chapter. I know it had been a while since I updated and I was as grateful for your patience then as I am now. I apologize that this chapter took a little longer than two weeks to get out. I found myself busy with a myriad of other things that I wanted to finish and this just kept getting pushed back. But it should please you to know that I already started on the next chapter and am about a third of the way through. Perhaps when I say I may post again within one or two weeks, I may actually keep that deadline this time. Anyway, thank you all so much for reading this chapter. I hope it was to your liking, and please don't hesitate to leave me note to tell me what you think! :-)