The leaves of the Forbidden Forest were just starting to fall and the air was crisp with the scent of frost. A mist lay over the lake that the sun would likely burn off by when it rose, but in the predawn grey light, it gave an otherworldly character to the shoreline, the matched black and white tombs and the small monument.
Harry drew his cloak more tightly around himself against the early morning chill. He watched a snowy white owl fly from one tree to another, wondered who it belonged to.
"Hello, Mr. Potter."
Harry started, looking around. The voice was one that he felt he should have known. However, he couldn't think who it belonged to.
It was the voice of a teenage boy. Not an unpleasant voice, but, like all teenage boy's voices, it had an unfinished, unpolished sound. Harry couldn't place it, it sounded so familiar; perhaps a friend of James or Al?
"Up here." The voice came from somewhere above him.
Harry looked up to the top of the black tomb. A boy of about thirteen or fourteen lounged up there. He sat up and grinned at Harry. If it hadn't been for the black eyes and distinctive nose, Harry might not have recognized him. However, those were unmistakable.
There sat Severus Snape. But, this was not Snape the Headmaster, nor was he Snape, the Hogwart's Professor, former Death Eater and Spy for the Order of the Phoenix. This was the Severus that Harry had glimpsed in the Pensieve, walking around this very lake with Lily Evans, so many years ago. No older than Harry's own sons.
The teenager hopped off the tomb carelessly. He moved like a boy who had not yet grown into his body, all lanky awkwardness. No hint yet, of the graceful Potions Master, so deadly in a duel. He was, perhaps, tall for a fourteen year old, but much shorter than he had been (would become?). He was still able to look Harry in the eye, though.
Those eyes were not the ones Harry remembered at all.
"Snape?" Harry asked in atonishment. The boy wore Hogwart's school robes, with a Slytherin tie and badge. The robes weren't second hand, like the ones Harry had seen in his memory and, once again, he looked better groomed and better rested than in life.
The boy smiled, hesitantly, "Yeah." His black eyes were not flat or guarded. They contained merely the shyness of a boy who was rather sensitive and was unsure of his welcome.
Harry stared at him for a long moment. This was the boy his mother had befriended. This was the boy one could imagine calling "Sev" without fearing a hex.
"Why do you keep getting younger?" asked Harry, when he couldn't think of anything else to say, and the boy had started to bite his lip anxiously.
"Why do you keep getting older?" the boy countered.
The older wizard smirked a little, "Because it's better than the alternative."
"Well, there you are, then." replied the boy. He smiled impishly as if that answered everything.
Harry shook his head mentally, at the notion that Snape could ever have been 'impish'.
They stared at each other, for a long awkward moment.
Not sure what else to do, Harry began to walk along the lake. He didn't like standing in the shadow of Snape's tomb, having a conversation with the younger version of the man, "Coming?" he asked Snape, not sure if he'd follow otherwise.
The boy grinned at the invitation.
Snape trotted along beside him the same way one of his children would. Snape was much quieter than any of Harry's children, except for Tim. Like the youngest, this Snape seemed perfectly easy with silences. They must have gotten halfway around the lake before Snape spoke again.
"I understand Lily got sorted into Hufflepuff." He didn't say it disdainfully, he just said it. An observation.
Harry nodded, "She's got ambitions to be a healer. Ernie McMillan was at great pains to tell me that all the best healers come from Hufflepuff. And Eleanor got sorted into Ravenclaw."
"Does it bother you?" Snape sounded a little anxious. It was strange to hear that voice sound so young and unsure.
"No. Why should it?" Harry had said the same thing to anyone who asked since last week, when the children had gone off to school, "Lily's always so concerned with things being fair and just. It makes sense when you think about it."
"What if..." the younger wizard hesitated, "What if the little one got sorted into Slythrin?"
"Then Professor Bulstrode will have her hands full." chuckled Harry, "Although she might be glad of a new Seeker. And Roz'll be over the moon. She'll drown him in silver and green, like Luna drowns Al in blue and bronze."
"It really wouldn't upset you?" Snape asked quietly, "I've heard of students who've had real trouble at home if they were sorted into the 'wrong' house. My own mother told me not to bother to come home if I went anywhere but Slytherin. And Regulus told me that his father beat the hell out of his brother for getting into Gryffindor."
Harry made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat, "Some parents need to grow up, before they have kids." he said, "It never fails to amaze me, you need a license to apparate, you need a Mastery to teach, but any idiot can go and have a child..." he trailed off, "It's not right." he fell silent for a moment.
"Anyway, I had this conversation with Al when he was sorted into Ravenclaw and with Lily when she got sorted into Hufflepuff. I think it's fine."
"Yes, but Al and Lily are really your children. I'm n-I-I mean-the boy isn't." Snape said.
Harry caught the stumble. Hair rose on the back of his neck. He shook his head, dismissing the impression. Dreams were funny things.
"Tim is as much my son as the rest of them. I keep going over this with him, and I'll just keep going over this. I know it's going to take time." Harry shrugged, "Anyway, it'd be nice to have the set, you know?" he finished with a little smile.
Teenage-Dream-Snape contemplated that for a few minutes.
As they walked the sun rose, the mist over the lake turning gold as the sun warmed it.
"You always come back here." remarked Snape, "More often than you go anywhere else, in your dreams."
Harry nodded, "I know. It was my first home."
"That's sort of sad, you know." the teenager, observed, in a teasing tone.
"Pathetic, really," agreed Harry, with a snort. "Of course, I wouldn't react well to finding myself a teenager again, I must say."
"Oh, you have no idea." Snape returned, "Of course, it's certainly better than being middle aged."
"I like being middle aged." Harry replied, with mock seriousness.
"Hm, I can see that." the boy gave him a little half smile.
By the time they got halfway around the lake, most of the mist had disappeared and left the sky a brilliant blue. Just in front of them, though, was a stubborn patch of golden fog, glittering as though magically charged.
"You always dream nice weather, too." Snape said, "Are you planning on taking Roz up on her offer? It's warm there, all year."
Harry nodded, absently, "Ginny and I have been talking about it. My chest's just gotten so I feel normal again. Bloody annoying to be laid up all summer. The healers reckon giving the winter in England a miss would be a good idea."
"And the three of u-er-you would go?" Snape asked anxiously.
"Oh, yes. Ginny's quite looking forward to it. They're restarting their Quidditch team and they haven't had a proper coach, so they'v asked Ginny, just a temporary thing, but we'll only be there a year or two. They've got a wizard school for Tim, so no trouble there. And we can have the three at school portkey, out for the holidays."
Harry glanced at the boy walking beside him, who seemed to relax as Harry spoke. His shoulder's dropped from where he'd been holding them tensely
Inexplicably, the boy also seemed shorter than he was when they started their walk.
He stopped, turned to face Harry, "This is as far as we're allowed to go together. Like this." he said. His young face was solemn, "There are rules, after all. Even a Master of Death cannot circumvent them."
"I thought that was the point." said Harry.
The boy smiled, "I suppose it is."
"Listen," Harry knew, with the absolute certainty of the dreamer, that this would be his last dream of this type, "Before you go, thank you. For what you did for the students. I never was able to thank you for that. And for what you did for Ginny. And well...everyone. Especially my son."
The boy grinned brightly at him, an expression that Harry had never seen on that face, "Don't worry about it, Mr. Potter." he said, pleased, "And...and the boy will be fine. That potion was my life's work, after all."
Harry nodded, leaned against a tree, "I think, I might miss these weird little meetings." he said.
"You don't need to worry about that." Snape said, enigmatically.
He started to walk away.
"Sev?" called Harry, not sure what prompted him to use the name, just realizing he was unwilling to let the boy go.
Snape turned around, clearly startled, "Yeah?"
"Are you...are you all right? Where you are?" for some reason, this seemed very important to Harry.
"Yes." the boy smiled, "Yes, I am. I'm very much 'all right'." he turned and walked off into toward the bank of mist.
Harry watched him go, feeling oddly bereft.
The light reflected strangely off boy's hair as he disappeared into the bank of golden fog. It seemed to Harry, for a moment as though the boy's hair was yellow rather than its customary black.
Harry woke up rather suddenly. He was tempted to roll over and try to return to the dream he'd been having. Some deep contentment followed him from slumber and he had no desire to lose the feeling. He closed his eyes for a moment, but it was no good. It was morning and the sun was bright in his room. And the dream was lost like a morning mist.
Harry smiled at himself, that was almost lyrical. People like him shouldn't write poetry, he decided.
Ginny was already up, but laying sound asleep at his side, was Tim. His blonde hair was mussed and in need of a cut.
Since the beginning of summer he'd grown. Not catching up to his peers, yet, but enough so that the healers had stopped being so concerned about it. He would probably never be a tall man, but his growth was not permanently stunted.
Even better, his coordination had increased to the point where the healers had recommended he get his own broom, to motivate him to continue to work on his agility. Harry was quick to point out that Tim's slight build was a real advantage if he wanted to play Seeker on a Quidditch team. Catching snitches was much more fun than physical therapy exercises
He still slept badly, but the mindhealers had said that his new habit of crawling into Harry and Ginny's bed when he had nightmares, was a sign of increased security and trust. It was hard on him that Lily wasn't home anymore, but he was able to talk about it, rather than have it come out in fits of accidental magic. Dudley had suggested Harry and Ginny use the phrase "Use your words." to encourage Tim to do just that, rather than send teacups flying.
For a while, Harry watched the boy sleeping peacefully. It was Saturday, and they had no reason to rush. Harry liked to look at his children as they slept, a habit he'd had since they were infants and he used to get up to make sure they were still breathing.
Tim felt the scrutiny and opened his eyes, "Hey, Dad." he mumbled.
"Hey, lovey. All right?" asked Harry.
The boy nodded sleepily and smiled, "Yeah, I'm really all right."
That reminded Harry of something, but he couldn't think what.
A/N I hope you've all enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. While it is true that Harry's head doesn't realize who Tim is (there are rules after all), he does know somewhere in his heart and soul.
I am writing a sequel called Severus' Dreams