"Do you think you can talk to the wolves, Remus?" Elizabeth leaned over the fence the separated the moat around the wolves from the path.
Remus pulled her back. "Doubtful. Wolves and… I… are only barely related." He glanced warily at the enclosure. "Canis Lupus," he read the sign. "That's about right."
"Animal- wizard contact is almost unheard of," Severus said quietly, glad that they'd come on a weekday. His child was a walking Ministry nightmare. She seemed to be under the impression, as many were, that Muggles were deaf.
"Let's move on," Remus suggested. "Anyone want ice cream?"
Two ice cream cones later, one for Elizabeth and one for Remus, the little group made their way to the reptile house. "Not afraid of snakes?" Remus looked down at the girl who was holding his hand.
"No. Fish. Birds, except Hedwig."
Severus smirked. He'd seen her duck when the mail came in the morning. "So no 'African Bird Safari'?" He gestured across the path.
"Why the birds?" Remus opened the door of the Reptile House and stepped into the darkness.
"You never know what they're going to do," Elizabeth said, following. "Hedwig doesn't make sudden moves… but Seamus' owl flutters around all the time. Did you know that Professor Dumbledore's bird bursts into flames?"
"He's a phoenix," Severus said.
Severus chuckled. "No. Fawkes. The bird is a phoenix. He burns and then returns as a fledgling from the ashes." He put his arm over her shoulders.
Elizabeth wandered over to the boa constrictor tank, and Severus stayed back with Remus, watching.
"She's better this summer," Remus commented. "Not as clingy. She would never have walked away from you in a public place a year ago."
"I'm not sure that I'm glad that she wanders off," Severus grimaced. "But you're right."
"She still calls Albus 'Professor Dumbledore'." Remus raised an eyebrow.
"I think it's the… unpredictability. He's very much like a bird. Minerva does the same thing every day, over and over. Elizabeth likes that she knows what to expect."
"Too bad she doesn't help you know what to expect." Remus smirked, the sobered. "Has she been alright? Otherwise? After… the last week of school?"
"She seems relatively unaffected. A few nightmares, a little pain in her forehead, but that's all."
"We had an Order meeting, you know. That night." Remus looked nervous. "He's going to find a new body… are you sure you want Elizabeth at Hogwarts this year?"
Severus' face clouded. The sharpness of his tone that had been so obviously lacking for the last year came back full force. "While the rest of the world might be laboring under the delusion that my daughter will somehow save their lives, I assure you that I don't give a damn about that wretched ball of glass." He glared at Remus. "Anyone who endeavors to damage her childhood any more than it already has been should watch their step, lest I forget what side of the divide on which my loyalties lie."
"Severus, I didn't mean—
"A falsification of filth, that is all that is housed in the Department of Mysteries. I shall not give any credence to something created to give hope to the unwashed masses."
Severus' diatribe was cut short when the relative quiet of the Reptile House was shattered by the scream of a young boy who had found himself face to face with a boa constrictor. Sprinting across the room, Snape snatched Elizabeth from where she stood beside the now-vanished glass. "Dad, I swear! I didn't—
"Hush." He ushered her out into the sun.
Severus ignored her pleas for his attention, and instead pulled her with him behind the Reptile House and apparated away.
"What happened?" Severus asked softly when she finished vomiting.
"I'm sorry, Dad, I swear—
"Elizabeth." Severus sat her on the sofa and sat on the table across from her. "I'm not angry. We talked about accidental magic, remember? You're going to learn to control it, but with strong emotions… I need to know what you were feeling."
Elizabeth thought for a moment. "I was looking at the boa constrictor. There was this recording as if it were the snake, talking about how it had always been in captivity, and how sad it was. And I just thought about being locked up and how much I don't like it, and… the glass was gone." She grimaced. "Am I going to get in trouble? I mean because there were Muggles?"
Severus frowned. "We'll see. I may well get a 'control your child' letter from the Ministry, but you shouldn't worry. Just try not to free any other animals, alright?"
Elizabeth giggled. "Yes, sir."
"Since our day was cut a little short, why don't we see what Francy can make us for lunch?"
"Where's Remus?" Elizabeth glanced around, suddenly realizing the absence of her godfather.
Severus tried to school his expression into passivity, something that he had every ability to do in the face of the Dark Lord, but often failed at in front of Lily's eyes looking though dark fringe. He waved her toward the kitchen. "Go eat, I need to go out for a moment." He snapped his fingers, and Francy appeared.
"Yes, Master Snape?"
"Francy, please make Elizabeth something to eat, and keep an eye on her. I'll be back shortly."
"Yes, Master Snape." Francy beckoned to the girl. "Come along, Miss Elizabeth."
"So, I thought we were going to study for Potions after dinner last night," Remus looked questioningly at Severus in the corridor after breakfast. "I waited in the library…"
"I thought you'd want to study with Potter," Severus spat out the name like something particularly foul was on his tongue.
"Sev, I'm sorry about yesterday. James was stupid. I told him so."
"I don't need your protection, Lupin." He turned to stalk away, but Remus grabbed his robes.
"You can't afford to lose another friend right now, Snape."
"I can live without 'friends' like you."
Severus still cringed at the memory, even though now he knew that Lily had forgiven him for calling her… he couldn't even think the word. And Remus had forgiven him, even though it took some groveling. Albus had taken that memory away, leaving him with just the fight in the corridor, but even with his memories fully in returned, he was mortified. It's a bad habit, Snape. Lashing out at those closest to you. Lily was always scolding about that. He grimaced. If he could take back the times that his target had been his green-eyed love… but he couldn't. Now he could only hope that Remus would accept yet another apology.
He poked his head through the fire. "Remus? Can I come in?"
Remus was sitting in an armchair in his living room. He glanced at the fire. "I suppose."
Severus stepped through, fighting with himself to avoid the defensive posture he usually took in situations like these. He stood in his friend's living room for a long while, trying to swallow the lump of crow in his throat. "So…" He stared at a point on the wall beside Remus' head. "If we were kids, I suppose I'd be a prat."
"You still qualify." Remus was staring at a point of his own.
"I… Look…" Severus sighed. "I'm just worried about her."
"Well, I'm not trying to hurt her. You need to remember who is on your side."
"I know that you wouldn't hurt her. I didn't mean you. I just hate that prophecy. I don't want anything to do with it."
"There's probably a prophecy out there about you," Remus mumbled. "Man who loses the few friends he has due to arse-like characteristics."
"See, you could have spared me the rambling if you'd led with that." Remus gave his friend a look that he'd almost certainly learned from his mother.
"I am sorry," Severus said again.
Remus nodded. "I suppose that I could forgive you. Again. Proving that I'm the bigger man. Again."
Severus smirked. "I can't imagine that there is anyone who would challenge that fact." He breathed easy again. As much as he'd like to believe that Potions Master Severus Snape did not need friends… he at least needed Remus. "Did you stay after we left?"
Remus nodded again. "I cast a slow-down charm on the snake so they could catch it, and put the glass back. I'm not sure what story they will make up to justify how the snake got out, but I'm sure they'll come up with something. Did she explain what happened?"
"She said that there was a recorded message, explaining how the snake had been raised in captivity, and that those snakes are originally from Brazil. She felt bad for it… apparently my child's accidental magic is linked to pity as well as fear."
"Is it really accidental magic now? I didn't have accidental magic once I'd been to Hogwarts," Remus questioned. "Isn't it wandless magic at this point?"
"I think wandless magic is intentional," Severus said. "I'm not sure… I suppose we'd have to ask Albus."
Remus thought for a moment. "I wonder if she turned off the recorded message as well. I didn't hear it before, so I didn't worry about it when I was 'fixing' things."
Severus shrugged. "Maybe. I suppose they'll turn it back on." He massaged his neck with one hand. "I'll have to work with her control. She's dangerous even without a wand, it seems."
"Well you knew she would be talented. Lily and you rolled into one package?" Remus smirked.
"I should have married Cindy Clawson," Severus muttered.
"That little Slytherin mouse? She couldn't find her way out of a paper bag. How did she even get into Slytherin?"
"Her mother was a Malfoy or descended from Malfoys… or something. Anyway, she was a pureblood. She was dumb and prejudiced at the same time."
"It would never have worked. You were never happier than when Lily was yelling at you."
"Oh, I think I had happier moments," Severus smirked.
"I'd rather not think about that, thanks very much." Remus rolled his eyes.
"I should get back. Elizabeth is home with Francy, and I'm liable to return to find someone in a body bind."
"Francy is the only elf I've ever met who has no qualms about just ignoring a wizard."
"She obeyed my mother, but I never had much interest in garnering her obedience… now I pay." Severus smirked. "Do you want to come over for dinner?"
"No thank you, I'm fine." Remus raised an eyebrow at his friend. "I'm capable of taking care of myself, Sev."
"I'm aware," Severus said, his voice making it clear that he disagreed with Remus' statement. "But just remember… my offer still stands, even after all these years."
"Severus, I'm a grown man. Too old to be crashing on my best friend's couch."
"I was thinking the other room upstairs, but whatever you say."
"I appreciate the offer, I really do. But I'm a dangerous creature, Sev. I can't put you or Elizabeth in that kind of danger." He looked at his hands. "I never want her to have to be rescued from me again."
Severus crossed the room and laid his hand on Remus' shoulder. "Honestly, Lupin. Do you think I'd ask you into my home if I believed that you posed some great threat? Do you think I would have entrusted my daughter to you?"
"Sev, we need to talk about that, you know."
"Talk about what?" Severus narrowed his eyes.
"You know that there was a reason you and Lily chose two godfathers—
"We absolutely do not need to have this conversation."
"Severus." Remus raised his eyebrows. "Sirius—
"Do. Not. Say. His. Name." Severus said tightly.
"He was supposed to be there because during the full moon—
"Doesn't matter. There's always Minerva or Molly to cover for a few days." Severus' body language made it clear that the conversation was over. He turned on his heel and headed back toward the floo. "Just think about it, Remus."
Lupin looked at the empty fireplace and shook his head.
"Dad?" Elizabeth knocked on the lab door, and, hearing nothing, opened it to stick her head down the stairs. "Dad? Are you down there?"
"Just a minute, hatchling. I have things boiling down here." Severus' voice floated up the stairs. Elizabeth was never sure how his voice managed to carry without shouting.
"I just wondered if we can go with the Weasley's to Diagon Alley for school supplies? Ron just wrote and said his Mum says they're going the third week in August sometime. She says they can go anytime it's good for us." She listened, but heard nothing. "Dad?"
"Elizabeth, I need three minutes."
"Fine." Elizabeth scowled at the empty stairwell before shutting the door and going upstairs to throw herself on the bed.
Five minutes later, she heard the lab door close and Severus' footsteps on the stairs. "Elizabeth?" The footsteps got closer until he door opened. "Alright. What did Mr. Weasley want?"
"How did you know I was up here?"
"You're not particularly light footed when annoyed, my girl." Severus sat on the bed and used his long fingers to tickle her ribs.
"Dad!" She giggled, trying to get out of his reach, but he didn't let up until she'd dissolved into a puddle of laughter.
"Is the annoyance gone?" Severus asked, pausing to let her catch her breath.
"Good." He smoothed her hair out of her face. "Now. What was the question?"
"Ron's mum says that they are going to Diagon Alley the third week in August for school stuff, and wants to know if we can go with them."
"I suppose." Severus straightened the pillow she'd wrinkled with her earlier flopping. "When am I going to get you to stop throwing yourself on the furniture?"
"Maybe when I'm 12," she grinned.
"Speaking of that," Severus stood and motioned for her to get off the bed and follow him. "I want to talk about your birthday."
She stood up and trotted after him, down the stairs. "We don't have to do anything," she said hopefully.
Severus smiled to himself. She really was his daughter. "Actually, I was thinking of going on a little trip."
"My mother's family has a cottage in Laxey Valley. I haven't been there for years, but I own it as part of my inheritance when my grandfather died." He paused to ask Francy to make lunch before turning back to his daughter. "There is a beach nearby. We can go for this week and next, and still be back in plenty of time for my pre-term work."
"If you haven't been there lately, how do you know it's still there?"
Severus snorted. "I'm sure it's still there. Since when do houses disappear?"
Elizabeth shrugged. "Seamus says that his uncle once came home and his whole house was gone. Turns out his aunt had put an invisibility charm on it."
"I think we're alright," Severus chuckled. "I'd imagine your grandparents will want to come for your birthday, but the rest should be an adequate vacation." He gestured to her seat as Francy floated food to the table. "You can go swimming."
"Oh." Elizabeth looked uncomfortable.
"What is it?"
"I can't swim. I mean, Aunt Petunia took Dudley for lessons, but she didn't take me."
Severus gritted his teeth, but had long ago schooled his self-control to not allow his anger to be read on his face. No amount of convincing would keep his child from thinking he was angry with her. He had to be careful. "Then I'll have to teach you, won't I?" He said lightly, filling her glass with milk.
"You have a bathing suit?" Elizabeth giggled at the thought of her always head-to-toe clad father in swim trunks.
"Somewhere, although it may have to be altered." Severus pointed to her sandwich. "Eat, and then we'll go to Diagon Alley. You've gotten too tall for your summer clothes, and I can only stretch them for so long until they give out. We'll get you some new things for vacation and we might as well get your school clothes shopping out of the way."
"But we can go with the Weasleys in August, right?"
"We will wait to buy your books and supplies. We won't have your letter and list until then anyway."
"You don't know what books I need?"
"I know what you need for most things. Potions, of course. Transfiguration has never changed and probably never will. But you have a new Defense teacher, and I've no idea who your grandfather has hired, nor what texts he or she will require."
"Are you going to let me actually go to Defense class this year?" Elizabeth munched on her sandwich.
"Provided that your teacher doesn't try to kill you, I suppose it could be arranged." Severus pushed his chair away from the table. "I would like to continue our lessons in addition. I'll make a final decision once I meet this new professor." He ruffled her hair as he went by. "I want to start something downstairs that needs to simmer for awhile. I'll be ready to leave in half an hour."
"What do you think?" Severus opened looked around the living room of the cottage. "A quick cleaning charm, I think." With a quick flick of his wand, the dust of years past was gone.
"I think it's brilliant," Elizabeth picked up her suitcase.
Severus smiled. "Let's get you unpacked and then a bit of lunch."
"Dad?" Elizabeth followed him down the hall.
"Yes?" He opened the door on the left.
"Are you going to wear your robes while we're here? It's hot."
"It's hot at home too," Severus reminded her. He took her suitcase and put it on the bed. With one quick movement, he popped open the locks and opened the top.
"You wear Muggle clothes when we go to London."
"And I feel ridiculous the whole time." A wave of his wand sent the folded clothing into the bureau across from the bed.
Elizabeth shrugged, and Severus sighed. Another wand flick and he was robeless, standing in black trousers and the black potions jacket he wore buttoned all the way up his neck. "Better?"
She rolled her eyes. "Sure, Dad."
"After breakfast, I think it would be a proper time to start your swimming lessons," Severus announced the next morning over waffles. Elizabeth shifted in her chair and busied herself with cutting her waffle into small pieces. Severus had been finished 20 minutes before she finally ate the last bite.
"I'm going to get changed," Severus said after he banished the dishes. "You do the same, and I'll meet you in the back here in a few minutes."
When he returned, he found his daughter in pink shorts and a white t-shirt. She'd braided her hair into one long braid down her back.
"Where is you suit?"
She pulled up the corner of her shirt to show the dark blue nylon. "Dudley's friend Mark's sister always wore shorts and a t-shirt over her suit to the pool." She looked at him and grinned.
"What?" Severus cast a sunscreen charm over both of them.
She giggled. "You look like a Muggle." She took in his swim trunks and black t-shirt.
"You've seen me dressed as a Muggle before," Severus held out his hand and took hers before leading her out of the house and down to the beach.
"Yeah, but you are really Muggle right now," she skipped to keep up with his longer legs until the reached the water's edge.
"Now, if you're quite finished critiquing my wardrobe, let's get situated here." He transfigured two rocks into beach chairs, one green, one red. "That's about it, I would think. Francy sent this bag," he enlarged a duffle he pulled from his pocket. "I believe it has sand toys in it, which I imagine you could use to create a castle of some kind." He dropped the bag beside her chair. "But first things first. Let's get you into the water."
Elizabeth shifted. "Maybe we could just build sand castles today."
"Nonsense. There will be plenty of time for that." He methodically removed the sandals he wore. When she made no move, he ruffled her hair. "Come, hatchling. The summer may be lazy, but the tide won't wait." He waded out to his waist, the water lapping at the bottom edge of his t-shirt. "Just wade out."
Elizabeth eyed the rippling water. "I don't know."
"Elizabeth, I'm right here. You'll be fine." He opened his arms in invitation for her to join him, but still, she hesitated. He waded closer to shore, hoping to coax her to him in shallower water. But when he got close to her, he saw tears in her green eyes. "Elizabeth?" He came all the way out of the water. Reaching out to her, he was startled when she backed away.
"Hatchling," there was a bit of bite in his voice that rendered her still, even as she recognized it as concern instead of anger. "Come here."
"I don't want to go in," she whispered, the tears threatening to spill over.
"Alright. It's alright." Severus moved to sit in his chair. "Come here, Rosie."
Seeing that he was safely on land, she ventured toward her father, allowing him to pull her onto his lap. "You are almost too tall for me to hold you like this." He wiped the offending tears from her eyes. "I'll have to invent a potion that stops children from growing." She offered a weak smile.
"So," he tightened both arms around her. "What is this all about?"
She shrugged. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Nothing is as bad as it seems when it's locked in your head." Severus brushed back the strands of unruly hair that had sprung from her braid. "Tell me what is in that head of yours."
She shrugged. "It's hard… can't you just… you know. Look?"
Severus sighed. "Elizabeth, I'd rather not get into the habit of invading your thoughts. You need to build up defenses, not give up your mind so easily."
"Please, Dad?" She turned her eyes on him, Lily's eyes, and he sighed again.
"Just this once," He looked into the windows of her soul, not without noticing that the shape of them was very much like his own, and eased himself gently into her mind. "Legilimens."
Severus quickly found the memory that she wanted him to see. He found himself standing in a park that he didn't recognize.
"Anyone up for a game of cousin catching?" Dudley shouted over his shoulder when he saw Elizabeth walking by the park after school.
Severus sensed Elizabeth's heart quicken in the part of his mind that was still on the beach. The Elizabeth in her memory quickened her footsteps.
"If that freak even is your cousin." Severus didn't recognize the other boys. He only knew Dudley as Dudley from the pictures he'd seen in the Dursley house nearly a year before. He watched his daughter continue to speed up, until the boys were chasing her at a run deeper into the park.
She rounded the lake and Severus found himself holding his breath, willing her to run toward home, not further into the park. As he watched, he marveled for a minute at how much younger she looked. 7? 8? Why was she alone at that age?
What happened next made Severus pledge to never enter his child's mind again. At least not to search for memories of her earlier childhood.
Elizabeth slipped on the muddy edge of the lake, and the boys took advantage of her unbalance. Shoving her hard, Dudley sent her into the water.
It must have been deep, because Severus saw the waves caused by her struggles by no part of her flailing form. He felt his stomach clench, the breath forced out of his lungs by panic, and he couldn't watch anymore.
He said nothing for whole minutes after he returned, in whole mind, to the beach. He sat, her head trapped under his chin. He focused on trying not to vomit. That memory, he decided, was going straight into his hidden penseive. Of all the torture he'd endured… there were things he didn't need in his head. He'd tuck that memory away with the one of finding Lily's body.
But those memories would never be gone. For that, he'd need to be Obliviated. No, the penseive would only dim the memory. The memory itself was trapped in the basin, but the owner still had the memory of tucking away the memory. It was like remembering through a tunnel.
"Dad?" Elizabeth's voice brought him back from his musings. His eyes drifted to her face and then refocused. "I'm sorry. I should have told you instead of—
"Don't apologize, hatchling." He kissed the top of her head and stood with her arms still clamped around his neck. "Let's try again, alright?"
"Do we have to?" She squirmed a bit in his arms.
Severus raised his eyebrow. "Yes, we do." He rocked her a little. "I don't want you near the water without knowing how to swim. I'm right here. I won't let anything happen, I promise."
"I don't want to."
Severus hid a smile. Elizabeth's past had almost beaten the brat potential out of her, but when faced with fear, she had a stubborn streak that he despaired of ever breaking. When they'd first been reunited, he'd thought she didn't feel fear, but he'd learned over the last year that she did. She just reacted more often with the headstrong nature of a true Snape.
"You have an aversion to milk as well, but I still make you drink it." He carried her down to the water and waded in to his knees.
She pulled her legs up and away from the water as she sensed it lapping at her toes. Pressing his lips together, he considered the predicament for a few seconds before deciding that he was unwilling to go deeper with a terrified child and instead chose to sit in the shallow water.
As the salt water made contact with Elizabeth, she latched herself even more securely to his neck until he felt that he'd never breathe again. "Relax, Rosie." He eased her off his neck. "I've got you, I promise."
It took nearly 20 minutes of sitting in the shallow waves before Elizabeth would relax enough to sit on his lap without choking him. By then, it was time to return to the cottage for lunch. Severus stood, and Elizabeth tightened her hold again. "Don't worry, hatchling." He said gently, carrying her back to the chairs before he put her down. "It's time for lunch. We'll work more tomorrow."
"We don't have to…" She mumbled at her feet.
"Humor me." Severus knelt beside her and forced her eyes to his. "I never want to see what I saw today again. I'll sleep better at night if you can swim." He cast a drying charm over her shorts and t-shirt, realizing that he'd failed to have her take them off before carrying her to the water. He waved his wand again to pack all their belongings and the chairs, and held out his hand for her to take.
"Dad! I'm not a baby."
Severus smiled. "No you are not." He grasped her hand anyway, leading her toward the little cottage.