The Ward

Chapter Two:

The Guardian

Running to get out of the rain, Detective Lupin and Harry darted for the main hall while the coachman took the horses and carriage around to the stables. The two men had barely closed the door on the rainstorm when Mr. Snape descended the main stair, his black greatcoat flaring out behind him like wings as he descended quickly. Harry was struck by his flashing black eyes and his intimidating presence. He felt very much like a worm being swooped down upon by a great, black bird.

Less phased, Detective Lupin sheepishly moved off the expensive rug and rummaged around for his wand. He dried them both hastily and banished the puddles they'd left on the stone floor.

"You've brought him?" Mr. Snape demanded, his tone a strange mix of dread and relief.

"See for yourself," Lupin replied with a proud smile, tucking away his wand once more. Harry met Mr. Snape's obsidian eyes nervously, unsure of what to do or say. Finally, he settled on bowing, as he did to the rich men who came to the stables. He bowed low and waited.

"If you are truly the heir of Lord Dumbledore, it is I who should be bowing to you, young master," Mr. Snape said silkily. After a tentative glance through dark, thick lashes, Harry straightened and flushed red with color.

"I'm just Harry...Sir," the stable boy said nervously.

"Look at me, in the eyes, if you please," Mr. Snape commanded. Unable to refuse the order, Harry found his courage and met the man's dark look square on. For a long moment, Snape stared down his rather impressive nose at the skinny boy who had Lily's eyes, as clear as day.

"What do you remember of your mother, boy?" Snape asked. Detective Lupin watched the pair of them curiously. There was the obvious physical similarities, but in truth, plenty of young men had black hair and green eyes. Lupin had done his own research, but he wondered by what means Mr. Snape would determine if Harry was the missing heir. If he did not know how difficult the skill was to perform, he'd almost suspect Mr. Snape was using legilimancy.

"I don't remember her, Sir," Harry replied. Of course he didn't—he'd been an infant.

"Then how, exactly, do you intend to convince me that you are her son? You do realize, Harry, that if I determine you are not the heir, then I will be the one to inherit Lord Dumbledore's estate. Naturally, I wish to be highly convinced," Mr. Snape said in a slow, measured tone that almost sounded threatening.

"Mr. Snape, allow me to present my findings," Lupin offered, but Mr. Snape held up his hand to silence the detective.

"I did not ask for your proof, Detective. I asked for his."

"I don't know what to tell you," Harry said, some frustration creeping into his voice. "I didn't know anything about this. Detective Lupin just comes out of nowhere, whisks me away, and says I can learn to do magic and that I'm to live in a big castle...that my grandfather is dying. I reckon he's probably wrong about who I am. I'm just a stable boy. But Lord Dumbledore is dying soon, right? What would it hurt to let him see me? Even if I'm not his grandson, wouldn't it make him feel a little better to think his grandson has been found? Otherwise, you dragged me a long way from home for nothing."

"There is sense enough in that. Come along then," Snape agreed, after a long moment. Detective Lupin wasn't sure, but he thought when Mr. Snape turned away that he saw a small smile on the stern man's lips. He knew Harry was Lord Dumbledore's heir, and he'd prove it if he had to, but whatever Harry said seemed to be proof enough for the moment.

"I'll just wait in the drawing room, then," Detective Lupin said. "I know the weather is terrible, but if I could borrow an owl?" Mr. Snape waved dismissively over his shoulder, and so Remus headed to the drawing room in order to owl the authorities in London about the body he'd found.

Meanwhile, Harry was having to run to keep with Mr. Snape's long strides.

"You do not appear to be a day over fifteen," Mr. Snape criticized. Harry bristled. He knew he was small and a little scrawny, but he was not that young.

"I've just turned seventeen, Sir," Harry replied, a bit sullenly. Mr. Snape led him through what felt like a maze of lushly decorated hallways before they finally stopped in front of two, massive doors. Mr. Snape opened them quietly and swept inside. Harry lingered a bit at the doorway, hesitant to enter the cavernous master suite with its towering fireplace, eerily moving painting, and the dying man in the middle.

"Lord Dumbledore...Albus...the boy is here. Your heir has been found," Mr. Snape said with surprising conviction. Harry gathered his courage and entered the room, looking nervously at Snape who seemed to say 'This was your idea, wasn't it?'

Swallowing thickly, Harry approached the man's bedside. He was surprised to see such a long beard on the old man, and to see blue eyes instead of green behind half-moon spectacles.

"Err...hello, Sir. I'm sorry to hear you're not well," Harry said quietly. The old man peered up at him, and Harry had the distinct feeling that Lord Dumbledore was looking straight through him.

"My have last," Lord Dumbledore rasped. He reached weakly for Harry, and Harry tenderly took the old man's hand. Could it really be that this man was his grandfather? If he was, Harry thought it horribly cruel that he'd only found him as he was dying. Deciding not to care for propriety, Harry sat at the man's side, staring deeply into those twinkling blue eyes.

"I'm glad I came. I'm glad I got to meet you," Harry said. "Are you in much pain? Is there anything I can do?"

"No, my boy, not much pain now," Albus replied. A harsh, wet cough followed his words, and Harry met Snape's eyes nervously. Lord Dumbledore truly was on the very brink of death.

"Then...tell me about her, please. Tell me about my mother," Harry begged. Mr. Snape's eyes widened in surprise, and then he scowled and turned away, clearly pained by the subject. Dumbledore, however, smiled widely and gestured towards the portrait.

"She was lovely. My partner and I took her in. She was an orphan, you see. We told no one all these years," Albus confessed.

"Albus!" Severus hissed in surprise. Clearly, when Dumbledore said he'd told no one, he meant literally no one. Harry blinked a few times in confusion.

"'re not my grandfather by blood? Then why search for me?" Harry asked. It was as he thought—there was no way he was truly related to someone like Lord Dumbledore.

"You are my grandson here," he lightly tapped his heart, struggling to beat, "and you are the son of my daughter. That is enough for me. Is it enough for you, Severus? Will you be his Guardian, as you once promised me?"

"I...yes. I will tell no one of this secret," Severus said gravely, as if making a vow. Albus merely smiled.

"I grow tired. Harry, speak to Severus. It would please me for him to tell you of your mother. He knew her best—he was her dearest friend." Harry didn't miss the bitter look that flashed in his new Guardian's eyes.

"She was an impatient girl, full of silly ideas. She...she was pure of heart, though, like no one I have met since," Mr. Snape said quietly. Harry's eyes turned to the portrait above the hearth. The red-head peeked at him from behind her book and grinned impishly. Harry smiled, and felt his eyes grow a little moist.

"I am glad you are home, my boy. I must rest now. Come visit me again tomorrow," Lord Dumbledore said quietly before his eyes closed peacefully and he fell into a gentle nap. Mr. Snape softened upon seeing him resting so peacefully. When his eyes met Harry's curious ones, he gave Harry a look of gratitude.

"You have given him peace, young master."

"I am glad to have met him," Harry replied. He did not know what sort of man Albus Dumbledore had once been, but Harry was a kind boy, and he wished to put the old man at ease.

"Come, we'll see to paying the Detective for his services and unloading your things," Mr. Snape said. Harry shrugged.

"Haven't got any things, Sir."

"What do you mean, you haven't any things?" Mr. Snape demanded, as they left the old man's bed chambers.

"I just owned the clothes on my back, and Detective Lupin got rid of those. I'm from Cheapside, Sir. I'm just a poor stable boy and street sweep."

Mr. Snape spun in towards him, so that he was staring intensely at his young ward.

"Have you ever been to school, boy?" Mr. Snape demanded. Harry shook his head. "Can you read?" Again, Harry shook his head in denial. Mr. Snape pinched the bridge of his large nose in irritation and swept off down the hall again, leaving Harry to scurry to catch up.

"I'm good with horses, Sir. I could work in your stables," Harry offered. Mr. Snape turned again, this time with an impatient sigh.

"You do not seem to understand, boy. This—all of this—is yours. On your eighteenth birthday, my guardianship of you will end and you will be the lord of this estate. The house, the stables, the land, and all of Lord Dumbledore's assets will belong to you. You will be one of the richest men in England, and one of the most eligible bachelors."

Harry shifted awkwardly and looked horribly overwhelmed by such an idea.

"I can't do that, Sir. You'd best take it. If you'd let me work in the stables, though, that would be a nice way to be getting on. My old job has probably been taken by now."

"This is going to be a long year," Mr. Snape said with a sigh, though inwardly he was incredibly pleased with Harry's innocence. There was a spark in his eyes that was missing from Lily's painting, and while it pained Severus to be reminded of it, it warmed his cold heart at the same time. "Come along. Your lessons will have to commence immediately."

When Mr. Snape had learned of the murder, he was highly intrigued. The three men sat in the parlor with firewhiskey, which Harry was discreetly pouring into a nearby potted plant until Mr. Snape caught him at it.

"That is very expensive firewhiskey, boy! Do not pour it out on the plants!" Severus chided.

"Might I have some water, then? This stuff burns," Harry said distastefully. Mr. Snape snapped his fingers and a strange creature appeared. Harry was startled, but tried not to make any sudden movements. He'd never seen anything like it.

"Dobby, fetch Lord Potter a butterbeer," he instructed. The house elf nodded and disappeared with a loud crack. Neither Lupin nor Snape seemed at all disturbed by this fact.

"What was that thing?" Harry asked.

"Dobby is the head house elf. Albeywick Estate employs nearly fifty of them," Mr. Snape said. Detective Lupin looked very impressed, and Harry could only assume that house elves were not common to own, nor cheap.

"Oh," Harry said. He hunched over, feeling very tired, when another cracking noise startled him upright again. The house elf was back, this time with a tumbler full of a bubbling, fizzing amber colored liquid. Harry took a tentative sip (wary now, since the firewhiskey had nearly burned his throat away) and delighted at the taste of the new drink. Detective Lupin smiled at Harry's surprised grin and even Mr. Snape seemed a little less stern than usual.

"This is fantastic. Thanks!" Harry chirruped, and proceeded to gulp thirstily at the drink. Mr. Snape and Detective Lupin winced at his manners, and winced again when Harry finished the beverage and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. Finally catching their stares, Harry lowered his arm confusedly.


Mr. Snape merely sighed.

"You can remain here, at Albeywick, during the duration of your investigation. Crime is unheard of in Somersetshire. With the safety of my ward to consider, I must do all I can to ensure the murderer is quickly apprehended," Mr. Snape offered. Detective Lupin graciously accepted.

"That is most kind of you, Mr. Snape," Lupin replied.

"Maybe I can help you find the murderer. I've got good eyes. I'll be on the look out for anyone with long, dark hair," Harry offered. Remus winced at the casual way Harry discussed his clue and Mr. Snape smirked. He was more interested in the murder case than he had let on.

"Long, dark hair you say? Most intriguing," Mr. Snape said. It was then that Harry noticed Mr. Snape's hair could fit that description, though due to his wealth, he had no motive to rob the mysterious P.P.

"Ah, yes, well I appreciate your offer, Lord Potter, but please be more careful about discussing my evidence. It will make it harder to catch my man if he suspects I'm onto him," Lupin explained. Harry nodded and felt a bit sheepish.

"Sorry," he offered, slouching over once more and yawning hugely. Mr. Snape raised a strong, black brow.

"Firstly, young master, do not slouch so. You have poor breeding from your father and that can't be helped, but you must not let it show. Secondly, do not yawn in polite company."

"I can't rightly help that, now can I?" Harry protested. As if to prove his point, another yawn fought its way out.

"If you must yawn, cover it with your hand or turn your head," Mr. Snape instructed coolly. Detective Lupin barely checked his grin. It would certainly be a lively household with the two of them bickering and squabbling all summer. He didn't know if it would be the best environment for conducting a murder investigation, but a huge part of him wanted to stay and see Harry develop into his status. Detective Lupin couldn't help but root for the poor boy with the odds stacked so highly against him.

Harry soon learned life for the rich was stuffy and full of rules, and he'd barely made it past breakfast the next morning (which consisted of the sweetest chocolate drink Harry had ever had the pleasure of sipping). Mr. Snape, who said he did not care for sweets, drank a strong tea with his morning bread. Detective Lupin, like Harry, happily accepted the hot chocolate.

"We shall begin with table manners, or your complete lack thereof," Mr. Snape began, as Harry reached for a handful of rolls without care for who else had begun to eat. Detective Lupin had not even been seated yet. Harry, however, had skipped a few meals prior to his arrival, due to being a bit hard up for farthings that month, and so the sight of the warm bread made his stomach ache in desire.

"When you are hosting a guest, there are seating arrangements that are to be observed," Mr. Snape lectured. Harry ripped into his bread, only half-listening. Detective Lupin graciously accepted his hot chocolate from a house elf and inhaled the aroma of the luxurious drink as if he were about to drink the nectar of the gods.

"You should not be sitting by me. As the head of the household, you should sit at the high end of the table," Mr. Snape said, suggesting Harry needed to get up and move. The wild-haired boy just swallowed his cheek-fulls of bread and flashed Mr. Snape a puzzled look.

"Why? I want to sit by you. I can't talk to you if I'm twelve chairs down, now can I?" Harry reasoned. Detective Lupin, who was of humble origins, nodded in bemused agreement. Mr. Snape sighed.

"While some rules of etiquette may not make sense, it is of the utmost importance such customs be observed, otherwise you will find yourself the laughing stock of Somersetshire," Mr. Snape said. Harry winked roguishly at Detective Lupin.

"So? Who cares if they laugh at me? Don't I have more money than them now?" Harry asked. He was fast learning that riling up Mr. Snape was a quite enjoyable past time.

"I was mistaken in my initial impression. You are as impertinent as you are unmannerly," Mr. Snape declared. Harry just smiled at him.

"Can I have more chocolate?"

Mr. Snape pinched the bridge of his nose and Detective Lupin chuckled despite himself.

Teaching Harry manners was not nearly as difficult as teaching the boy his lessons.

"When can I get a wand and learn magic?" he asked eagerly, his green eyes large and imploring. Mr. Snape sighed and tapped the simple text open in front of Harry with a long finger.

"Before foolish wand-waving, you must know how to read, and before introducing you to society, you must be well-read. I will not stand for anything less," Mr. Snape demanded imperiously. Harry sighed, much like a pouting child, and wondered what use was the ability to read if he'd gotten along his whole life without it before.

"Can't you just use a spell to make me smart like you?" Harry asked. Mr. Snape paused a moment, as if caught off guard by the compliment, and then shook his head. His tone was not quite as exasperated sounding as it had been before when he replied.

"You can not use magic to cheat your way through life. A young man of wealth and status must work diligently on his lessons and the betterment of his mind. Now, start at the beginning."

After another hour of painful struggling, Harry was able to identify his alphabet, and was sounding out short words. Despite his reluctance to learn, Mr. Snape could tell the boy was proud when he wrote his own name in a messy scrawl.

"That is enough of reading for this morning. Now we shall work on dancing."

"Dancing? I'm afraid I'll be rubbish at that," Harry warned. Mr. Snape was not known to be a creative or inspiring dancer either. He had no interest in learning all the latest steps, almost never attended the local balls, and when he danced, it was overly formal and slightly painful looking for his poor partner. Still, Mr. Snape knew that dancing was an important past time of the young folk, and so Harry must learn at least the basic steps if he were to fit in.

In the impressive music room, Mr. Snape waved his wand casually at the pianoforte, and a beautiful melody began to play. For a moment, the older man seemed lost in thought as he stared at the empty room and heard the music, as if he were seeing memories replay in his mind's eye. In fact, that was just what was happening. As Lily's favorite song washed over him, Severus remembered being an awkward lad of fourteen, nervous and terrified of embarrassing himself, as the beautiful Lily brought him to the music room and insisted he learn to dance so she would not be forced to dance with Sirius Black all the time at the balls. Lily had been a natural dancer, elegant and graceful, and all who saw her dance were entranced by her beauty and loveliness.

"Mr. Snape?" Harry said, drawing his guardian's attention back to the present. Annoyed with himself for his moment of weakness, Mr. Snape swept into the room and extended his hand. Harry looked at it skeptically.

"Is it normal for two blokes to dance with each other?" Harry asked.

"It is not uncommon. I understand that in the muggle world unions are only between man and woman, but it is not so in magical society. Of course, there are still very strict rules about who should marry who."

"Wait, you mean two blokes can get married?"

"Naturally. Your grandfather was married to another man. I had always assumed his partner birthed Lily, but I suppose they took her in from somewhere."

" can have babies?" Harry asked, looking even more confused. Mr. Snape dropped his extended hand.

"Bloodlines are very important in the wizarding world, and many marriages are arranged long before the parents know what the sex of their children will be. There are potions to change gender and enable an heir to be produced."

"Do other men?" Harry asked, curious as a little cat. Mr. Snape blushed (two dark stains on his normally pale cheekbones) and extended his hand once more.

"That is of no concern to you. Come along, Lord Potter. The sooner I teach you to dance, the sooner we can be done with it."

Looking quite nervous, and yet also seeming seconds away from bursting out in uncomfortable laughter, Harry moved into the circle of Mr. Snape's arms. Harry's mind boggled. He'd never really thought about men or women before, too absorbed in trying to survive. He'd thought it would be nice to have a little family of his own someday, where everyone was kind and there was lots of laughter, but that dream had been a far off one.

'Do I enjoy standing in his arms?' Harry asked himself. He bit his lip as Mr. Snape's long fingers curled around the small of his back, and his larger hand enclosed around Harry's own. Mr. Snape guided him along awkwardly, both of them stumbling and tripping up far more than once.

'No,' Harry decided, as his foot began to throb from where Mr. Snape had just stepped on it, 'I do not care for dancing, especially with Mr. Snape.'

Still, Harry felt strange after the dance, and he could not necessarily say it was a bad sort of strange.

Detective Lupin was out most of the evening, presumably doing detective work. Mr. Snape had sent Dobby to conveniently run into a Miss Weasley at the tailors to inform her that yes, the heir had been found, but that his health was recovering and he would make no social appearances until Christmas, at the very earliest. This sent the town into an uproar, but social pariah and hermit that he was (largely by choice), Mr. Snape was unperturbed by it.

What did way heavily on his mind was the appallingly bad state of his ward's education and manners. After the boy had finished his nightly visit with his grandfather, Severus sat by the man's bedside and complained of the boy's deplorable state.

"His manners are atrocious, Albus, and he can barely read the alphabet. He is a terrible dancer, has no ear for music, and no appreciation for art or history. We attempted a potions lesson this eve and that was a complete disaster."

"Ah, have patience, my boy. Young Harry has come from hard circumstances...and that is my fault. Please do what you can for him. Tell me, is he much like his mother?"

At that, Severus could finally muster a smile.

"He has her spirit...and her disdain for propriety and personal boundaries," Severus said fondly.

"Good then. If he is bright like my dear Lily, he will be caught up in no time."

"Either that, or he will drive me mad," Severus complained. Albus only smiled, and returned to his peaceful napping.

A/N: I apologize for getting confused on some terms last chapter. Thank you a ton to the reviewer who pointed that out for me! That was an embarrassing mistake, but it should be all fixed now. Hope you enjoyed this chapter.