"Severus! That's too high!" Lily scolded her husband as he lay on the floor, tossing their year-old child in the air.
Severus smirked, catching his daughter as she screeched in delight. He brought her close to him, and stage whispered conspiratorially in her ear. "Sorry, Rosie, your mummy says we can't play anymore. Apparently being a world class Potions Master does not mean I'm capable of catching a baby."
"Use your world class skills to put her down for a nap, Potions Master, now that you have her all riled up." Lily shook her head, unable to hide her smile at the transformation the baby had on her normally stoic husband. She could hardly remember a time, even as a child, when Severus would have been on the floor, let alone lying on his back, robes askew, hair spilling across the carpet. His usual obsession with order and propriety had considerably lapsed with the birth of the dark haired baby.
Severus rolled to his feet, cradling his daughter against his chest. "Okay, baby girl, let's go upstairs." He walked gracefully up the stairs to the nursery, and sat in the rocking chair near the window, letting the child snuggle into his robes.
Severus Snape woke from his dream with a feeling of peace. Even though he knew it was a ridiculous dream, he much preferred the after effects to that of his nightmares. Severus had stood amazing amounts of pain in the years he'd served as a spy, infiltrating Voldemort's inner circle. He'd been both a caster and receiver of the Cruciatus curse, and although he'd tried to numb himself to the torture, he'd been more successful in that regard when being on the receiving end. There were many parts of his life that were beyond his control, not least the fact that he could be called at any time.
However, today his main concern was finding robes in any shop in Diagon Alley that did not have some kind of garish lining. He wouldn't need new robes at all, he thought, irritated, if the old crackpot that called himself his father hadn't burned all but the ones he had on. Probably on his mother's orders, he scowled to himself.
When he'd accepted Albus and Minerva's adoption during his third year, he'd been thankful to not be returning to his childhood home at Spinner's End, at least for awhile. He'd supposed, at 13, that the adoption had meant that he would have parents until he was of age. What he hadn't realized was that he would be 31 years old and still being told what to wear.
"Severus, you have potion stains everywhere!" Minerva scowled into his closet. "You should go this weekend and be refitted. Some of these you've had since you started teaching!" She turned to her husband, who was sitting in an armchair next to the fireplace, popping gummi bears into his mouth. "Albus, give your son money for robes."
"Consider it an early birthday gift." Minerva pulled old robes from the closet, throwing them on a pile in the middle of the floor.
"Mother, my birthday is more than six months away." Severus crossed his arms over his chest, knowing better than to physically interfere with his Minerva's mission.
"A very early birthday gift, then."
Albus raised his eyebrows. "Just go shopping, my boy. Your mother wants you to have nice things."
"It's a ridiculous waste of money."
Albus sighed, just on the edge of irritation. "Young man, your mother has asked you to do this. If you can't consider it a gift from your parents, then you may consider it an order from your employer." He held up a hand when Severus glared and started to retort. "If you feel you need to argue with me, your mother and I could always plan to go with you to make sure it gets done."
Severus closed his mouth quickly. It was infuriating that the man had the ability to make his son, the fearsome Potions Master, feel like a 13-year-old who'd been cheeky.
Saturday at Diagon Alley was everything Severus hated. People, children, couples who looked dangerously close to procreation. It was irritating. He checked his watch. He wanted to get to Madam Malkins and back to Hogwarts before noon. No need to be in the city when everyone started crowding Fortescue's Ice Cream, rendering children's hands sticky. He had argued briefly that morning that he could just as easily Owl-order new robes, but Minerva was insistent that he be refitted.
"It will do you good to get out, Severus." Minerva said decidedly. "It wouldn't kill you to see people more often. I was in Madam Malkin's last week, and there is a delightful new shop girl working. She's just a little younger than you, and single."
Severus rolled his eyes. "Mother, tell me that you didn't ask the woman her age and marital status."
"I most certainly did. You're a young man, Mr. Snape, but you won't be forever." She pointed her finger at him, the way she had when he was 16 and had tried to drop Transfiguration from his schedule, jabbing as she told him that he was going to listen to her or else.
He managed to be fitted and sold robes at Madam Malkins without running into the "delightful new shop girl". It was half past eleven when he finally was able to extract himself from fabric choices and sleeve width measurements. Still intent on being back in his lab by noon, he decided that a brief stop at the Apothecary wouldn't hurt. Nor would a glance into Obscurus Books to see what was new.
Twenty minutes later, the owner of a new box of Master Marrion's "Unsmashable" vials, Severus stepped out onto the street, ready to apparate home. Unfortunately, he found Lucius Malfoy directly in his path.
"Lucius," Severus inclined his head briefly.
"Severus," Lucius did not return the small bow, instead raised his head higher. "Come with me."
Severus hated that fact that he followed this man without protest. At Hogwarts, Lucius had been five years ahead, wealthy, pureblooded, and powerful. Lucius had preyed immediately on the fact that Severus was a terrified first year, with hardly any self-esteem after years of his father's verbal abuse. Years later, Severus was still the victim of Lucius' pull.
After the older boy graduated, he became the person who encouraged Severus' rebellion. Carefully twisting his mind, guiding him into taking the Mark, waiting to go in for the kill until Lily had married. James Potter no less. Severus fought back the wave of nausea that accompanied that thought. Anyone who said that Voldemort was the poster boy for Slytherin was wrong. Lucius Malfoy was the epitome of Slytherin manipulation.
Severus followed Lucius as he turned down Knockturn Alley and entered Borgin & Burkes. Without even glancing at the proprietor, the blond man swept to the back of the store, opening the door to the storage room and halting. It was the first time since he'd ordered Snape after him that he'd bothered to look at the younger man.
Severus had always wondered how Lucius could be so terrifying while smiling. He could see the wand in the other man's hand, a sign that his constant Death Eater vigilance had never faded.
"I saw Dumbledore at the Ministry last week," Lucius began. "Do you have any idea why he would have been there?"
Severus knew very well why Albus had been at the Ministry, but some instinct told him to lie. "Checking the records to make sure Hogwarts letters are accurate, I would imagine," Snape drawled. "Can't have letters being sent to squibs, can we?"
Lucius smirked. "I have it on authority that he was offered the Minister of Magic job. Is he going to take it?"
Not a chance, Severus thought. "I wouldn't know. I think he likes being at the school."
"He never was ambitious," Lucius sneered. "He was indeed in the records room, and from what I can tell from my little… stroll… through his mind, he was after one particular record. Do you have any idea what that was?"
Severus shook his head, sure that the other man was about to tell him. He fought back irritation at Lucius' invasion of Albus' thoughts. Legilimency was powerful magic. When Albus had taught Severus, he'd made it clear that the young man was never to use it for curiosity's sake.
"He seemed particularly interested in the file of Elizabeth Rose Evans. Any idea why?"
Severus scowled. "If my knowledge of recent history is correct, the girl is about to turn 11, meaning that she will be coming to Hogwarts in the fall. Our little celebrity returning to the Wizarding World."
Lucius' smile became more pronounced. "Did you ever wonder, my friend, why the child carries Lily's name and not Potter's?"
Severus told himself that he didn't care. He'd been devastated when Lily had married Potter, and crushed when Lily died. He hadn't felt so bad that Potter had been dead. For years he'd told himself that he'd been rejected because he wasn't Pureblood enough for Lily Evans, even though the back of his mind told him that it was ridiculous that a Muggleborn would have those prejudices. And he knew perfectly well the moment he'd lost Lily's love.
Dragging his attention back to Lucius, he shook his head. "I always assumed that she was ashamed for marrying such a man."
"It appears, from the child's records, that her birth certificate was altered. I went into the records room later and I could sense the fraudulent magic. After reversing the charm, do you know what I found?" This time, Lucius didn't give Snape a chance to answer. "It appears that Potter was not the child's father. In fact, it appears that Dumbledore was not there to check on the Savior of the Wizarding World as much as he was there to check on his granddaughter."
Severus' heart stopped for a moment. "Albus has no children, Lucius."
"He has you, no matter that he's not your birth father."
"Lucius, are you insinuating—
"I'm insinuating nothing, my friend." He pulled a piece of parchment from his robes. "I'm stating without reservation that you are the father of Elizabeth Rose Evans."
Severus raked his eyes over the certificate, his eyes falling on the section that asserted the child's birth parents. "Mother Lily (Evans) Snape Father Severus Tobias Snape".
With a deafening pop, Severus apparated to the gates of Hogwarts.
"Gummi Bears!" Severus felt stupid even saying the word, but he didn't have time to go through his usual argument with the lock on his father's office door about appropriate passwords. Once, when the password was "Sour Patch Kids" he'd refused to enter until Albus, sensing his son outside the door, had opened it, sparing him the need to play "guess that Muggle sweet" with the staircase.
He charged into the office, where Albus was sitting serenely behind the desk. Severus took a split second to decide if anger or manipulation was the way to go, and decided to throw his Slytherin blood to the wind and get right to the point. It wasn't as if he needed confirmation, after all, the birth certificate had survived every spell he'd used to check that it was legitimate, even if he had done them while storming across the Hogwarts lawn.
He stalked to the desk and threw the certificate on the blotter, glaring at the man he'd trusted. "Explain." He demanded simply, in the voice he used when he caught students out of bed after curfew.
Albus looked at the certificate. "What is that, my boy?"
"Don't you 'my boy' me, Albus! What did you do?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Severus, you haven't called me 'Albus' in private since you were 15."
"Your given name hardly has anything to do with this, Albus."
"You started calling me 'father' and sometimes 'dad' during your fifth year. After you called Lily Evans that foul name and then cried on my shoulder about how she'd never forgive you."
"My memory says that she never did forgive me, you meddling old man, but I have a feeling that you had something to do with that impression!"
Albus went on as if his son hadn't spoken. "My first instinct had been to scold you for using such language, especially against another student, but you were so broken that I didn't get a word in before you were in my lap, sobbing into my robes. Your mother and I had worked so hard to get you to accept physical comfort, with not too much success, but there you were, nearly 16 and sitting on my knee." He shook his head. "You were such an angry child." He paused again. "She was the only one who ever made you happy."
Severus' expression softened at 'she'. He sank down in the chair before his father's desk. "What happened?" He looked pleadingly at Albus.
Dumbledore rose and went to his Pensieve, gesturing for the younger wizard to come to him. "It might be easier, my child, if I could show you." He used his wand to draw a long silvery line from his temple, and dropped it into the basin. Then he stood behind his son, hands gripping his upper arms. "Whenever you're ready." Severus took a deep breath, and leaned forward.
Lily and Severus sat on the sofa in their living room at Spinner's End, baby Elizabeth in Lily's arms, chewing on Severus' finger with her gums. Albus sat in the armchair near the fireplace.
"It isn't safe anymore," the bearded wizard said softly, as if he didn't want the baby to hear. "Voldemort is more powerful everyday," he ignored the visible wince of the other two adults at the name. "He will come to force Severus into service. The man is not all that different from the Hitler of decades ago. He sees someone that would be useful, and he will force their allegiance, no matter the consequences." He paused. "James is willing to take Lily and Elizabeth into hiding in Godric's Hollow."
"Never!" Lily said sharply, causing the baby on her lap to look up, her lip trembling in a threatened cry.
Severus took Elizabeth from his wife's lap and cuddled her to his chest. "It's okay, baby. Don't cry. Mummy isn't angry with you." He put a hand on Lily's shoulder. "This will be over soon, love. You and Elizabeth can go and be safe, and I'll come for you the moment he's defeated."
"Not a chance!" Lily glared at her husband. "You listen to me, Severus Snape—
"No, you listen to me, Lily." His voice was even. The temper flare-ups were his wife's talent, not his. "You are going to take our child and go to safety. The Order will continue its work. When we are successful, I will retrieve you."
"Of all the chauvinistic—
"This is not the time for you to become a women's liberation advocate, Lily. You've served the Order well for years, but now you have to protect our child. The only reason you are going and not me is that I have a larger target on my back." He returned her glare until he sensed her starting to break. "Father, take Elizabeth for a moment." He handed the child off to Albus just before Lily dissolved. He caught her as she leaned into his chest.
Dumbledore watched, turning Elizabeth towards him when she became agitated at her mother's sobs. "It's okay, my little one." The baby struggled against him, kicking her legs as hard as she could, trying to escape.
"I'm never going to see you again," Lily whispered, once her sobs had eased enough to speak.
Severus shook his head. "Don't you dare say it. We've always known that this day would come. It's the reason Elizabeth has no name ties to me. It's the reason why we have a plan in place. It's time to follow that plan." He tilted her head up. "Lily, I love you and our daughter more than anything. I can't explain to you how much I want to be with you. But I want your safety more. We will be together again." He kissed her gently.
Severus staggered out of the pensieve and found that Albus was still gripping his arms. "We sent them off," Albus whispered to his son's back. "Then I modified your memory so that you wouldn't remember, so that Voldemort couldn't know where they were taken." He paused. "That's the part I'll regret as long as I live." He turned Severus to face him, looking into his eyes. "I made it so that Lily never spoke to you again after the day you called her a 'mudblood'. I made you think that she had married James Potter and had a child. I never thought…" His voice almost broke. "I never thought that you would react to their marriage the way you did. I never thought you'd willfully go to him, join him, turn from the Light, no matter how briefly. I didn't know how deeply you'd loved her, even as a child. I thought if I took you back to before your romantic relationship started, that you wouldn't hurt so much over her loss."
Severus had been quiet through the whole story, and after Albus finished, he sank down the wall to the floor, leaning his head in his hands. "Dad…" he whispered through his hands. Albus sat beside him, wrapping his arms around his son. They sat like that for a long time, until Albus felt the younger wizard relax against his shoulder. Severus was quiet again, Dumbledore whispering soothing words to him, rubbing his back.
Finally the dark haired wizard mumbled something into his father's chest. Dumbledore pushed him away gently. "What?"
"Is she really with Lily's sister?"
Albus nodded. "Yes. We needed a family member to support the blood wards, and we weren't sure the Voldemort had gone. It was too dangerous to return her to you, especially since you were… what you were." He brushed Severus' hair from his face.
"She's supposed to be at Hogwarts in the Fall." Severus said quietly, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet and deposited on the sofa in the office.
Albus sighed and sat beside his son. "She is. However, we've encountered a bit of a problem."
Severus' heart leapt to his throat. He didn't have all his memories back, but his love for his daughter was as strong as it had been a decade before. "What?"
"Her letters keep coming back. I went to the hall of records to check that we had a correct address when Minerva told me, but it seems that it is correct." He summoned a roll of parchment and unrolled it to the "E" section. Severus ran his eyes over the list.
Miss E. Evans
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
Miss E. Evans
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
Miss E. Evans
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
The list kept going, as if Elizabeth's home had been pelted with letters that were somehow not given to her. "What do they mean, 'The Cupboard under the Stairs'?" Severus asked, his voice dangerously low. "Does that mean they are making my child sleep in a cupboard?"
"Maybe it is a space that was converted to a bedroom," Albus offered.
"If that was the case, don't you think the letters would read 'The BEDROOM under the Stairs'?" Severus ground out. "The letters are going to her, that means she's there, and that she's alive. Why isn't she getting them?"
"I don't know, son. But I was going to go send Hagrid soon if she didn't get the letter. It's only June. I didn't want to start worrying until next month."
Severus rerolled the parchment. "I want my memories back." He looked at his father.
Albus sighed. "It would be painful. I took them away because I didn't want you to be in pain."
Severus gritted his teeth. "I want to have the memories of what I'm sure was the best time in my life back. Please."
Albus looked hard at the younger wizard. "It will work better if you can go directly to sleep," he said quietly. He summoned a house elf and ordered dinner. When it appeared, he pointed to the plate. "Eat, then get ready for bed. You'll sleep in your room here tonight."
Severus started to protest, Albus' directions grating on him. "Father—
"Don't argue with me, young man." Albus said, the events of the day had clearly tired him. "Do as you're told. Returning memories is as physically painful as it will be emotionally painful for you. You will stay here tonight so that I can monitor you, or we won't do this at all."
Severus nodded, wondering why he still disliked being scolded this late in life. When he was a teenager, and Albus had scolded him and sent him to his room, he had dreamed of a day when he would be able to tell the old man off. It appeared that the day would never come.
Albus watched his son eat, glaring at him when he tried to get up after only a few bites. When he'd eaten enough, the older wizard finally waved him towards the door that connected the office to the quarters he shared with his wife and, several years ago, Severus. He leaned back in his chair and waited. Severus had spent many nights in his room in his parents' quarters. Between the number of times he'd been grounded to his room, the Friday nights that Minerva insisted that he stay each week, and the times when he'd locked himself there after an altercation with James and his friends, he'd spent almost more time there than in the dorm.
Severus wished that Dumbledore had taken away other memories of his childhood. Perhaps any interaction he'd ever had with James Potter. But the world-class wizard could only meddle with the flimsy fabric of the human mind so much.
Albus heard the door to the quarters open, and saw his son in black pajamas. "Ready?" He asked gently, crossing the floor and ushering Severus back inside before closing the door firmly. Just inside the door was the small living room, with doors off that room leading to bedrooms, a private study for both Albus and Minerva, and some rooms that Severus had never entered. Albus lead Severus into his childhood bedroom, still decorated exactly as it had been. Severus lay on the bed, not looking at Albus until he heard the man snort with laughter.
"I beg your pardon?"
Albus smirked. "Sleep on top of the bedspread now, do you? What would your mother say?" Severus rolled his eyes and stood again, yanking the covers back before lying down and pulling the blankets back over himself. Dumbledore sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the covers straight, tucking them around his shoulders.
"Dad," Severus groaned.
"I'm going to do this, and then give you a sleeping draught. You should be able to sleep through the pain. Tomorrow we'll deal with everything else." Dumbledore raised his wand. "Are you ready?"
"I'm going to Surrey."
Albus paused. "Alright, Severus. Now close your eyes and relax." Severus obeyed, trying to calm himself as he heard Albus murmur the spell.