A/N: "A Summer of Flotsam and Jetsam" is the fourth story in the "Moment of Impact," "Regards, Harry" and "One Man's Island" story arc. These stories are fairly canon compliant, with the exception that 1) Severus and Harry established a mentor relationship in the summer before Harry's sixth year and 2) Severus survived Nagini's bite at the end of DH. This relationship is developed and explored in the previous three works. "Moment of Impact" is the story of the summer before sixth year and how Harry and Severus started to become family. "Regards, Harry" is a year's worth of correspondence between Harry and Severus during Harry's sixth year. Severus maintains his outward animosity toward Harry during the year but the two continue to develop their relationship through a series of letters written on Harry's DADA homework assignments. "One Man's Island" is told from Severus' perspective and is the story of Hogwarts and Severus during the Horcrux Hunt, with each chapter representing a single month.
The title of this fourth story, "A Summer of Flotsam and Jetsam" is taken from the nautical terms. Flotsam is floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo. Jetsam refers to parts of a ship or its cargo tossed overboard to "lighten the load." This story takes place at Shell Cottage the summer after the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry and Severus are living together at the cottage. The story explores their relationship and healing, as well as the aftermath of the war and the battle on their friends and family, featuring Ron and Hermione, Minerva, Hagrid, Poppy, Luna, Neville, Andromeda Tonks, Teddy Lupin, Ginny, George and the rest of the Weasleys.
The story can be read without the prequels but you can link to them from my profile page if you're interested.
A Summer of Flotsam and Jetsam
Chapter 1: In which Harry wonders why he never gets a break, Ron grows up and baby Teddy gets an earful
"I'm fine, Severus." Harry was standing on the bottom step of the staircase, stopped in his tracks by Severus' voice from the parlor. "I'm just going upstairs to lie down for a while."
"Would you mind coming in here for a moment?" Severus' voice was steady but rough. It started out hoarse in the mornings after a night of disuse, became clearer and stronger during the morning and early afternoon but when he got up from his afternoon nap, was rough and weak again. Harry closed his eyes tightly for a moment and pressed his hands to his head, sweeping back the shaggy hair he hadn't yet had cut.
"Sure, Severus." He opened his eyes and reversed direction, taking the few steps necessary to put him within sight of Severus. He stopped in the doorway, right hand against the open archway. His eyes drifted down to Severus' feet. House slippers. He had learned to gauge—in that last week at Hogwarts and this first week here at Shell Cottage—how Severus was feeling from the footwear he chose each day. Boots for the best days, when Severus had the energy and the flexibility to bend down and lace them. He'd had boots on for the second time yesterday. Leather loafers when he was too tired to lace the boots but could still entertain the thought of going outside to sit in the sun, a book in his lap. House shoes for days like today, days when he barely made it downstairs and once he did, spent most of his time on the sofa, making a trek to the kitchen or the loo every hour or two.
Severus looked up from the sofa at Harry. The low table in front of him was littered with parchments—documents from the Ministry, paperwork from Hogwarts, pieces of parchment filled with Severus' scratchy handwriting. A tea tray, pot still steaming, shared space with the other clutter on the table. He smiled at Harry and nodded at the plush armchair across from the sofa.
"Sit down, Harry." He put down the owl feather quill he was holding and settled back against the cushions behind him and watched as Harry walked reluctantly into the room and sat down. He regarded Harry with dark, worried eyes but managed a careful smile and kept his voice steady.
"Poppy will be here soon for my check-up. I've asked her to take a look at you too."
Harry's protest was immediate. He got quickly to his feet.
"I said I was fine." He bit his bottom lip—one of his old nervous gestures with which Severus had become reacquainted the past few weeks. "We've only been here a week, Severus."
"And I've had a week to observe you," answered Severus. He gestured at the chair and waited patiently for Harry to sit again, watching him bristle then slowly relax. "You are unused to having anyone around to care for you…"
"That's not true! I had Ron and Hermione—we took care of each other." Harry stared at Severus with a look that was somewhere between defiant and panicked.
"I am not denying that, nor in any way trying to belittle what you were to each other—what you in fact still are to each other." Severus sighed and pushed himself forward on the sofa then rose slowly to his feet. He had been sitting for quite some time and wavered a bit, trying to get his balance.
But Harry was beside him in half a second, steadying him with a hand on his arm and an arm around his shoulders.
Severus sighed and gave that curious half-smile he'd taken to using at times like this, when Harry's behavior seemed to both surprise and exasperate him. He had to admit that he was as unused to someone caring for him as Harry was. He let the boy ease him back down onto the sofa. Harry sat down too, dropping his head back and closing his eyes.
"Allow me to speak without interruption. I will not rattle on too long," said Severus. He looked at Harry, who nodded, his eyes still closed.
"You are not fine. You have lost a significant amount of weight this past year while at the same time growing several inches taller. You seem to be eating well now, but you are not gaining weight. Nor are you sleeping well. Poppy had already scheduled a visit to check on me so we are not putting her out in any way. She can check you over—if for no other reason than to reassure me that there is nothing wrong with you that a summer of rest, fresh air and a shocking lack of stress cannot cure."
"It's just going to take more time," said Harry, turning his head on the cushions and opening his eyes to look at Severus. He looked weary, but somehow peaceful.
"It has been a month," said Severus. He raised a hand as Harry opened his mouth, anticipating his protest. "Yes, we've only been here at Shell Cottage for a week, but a full month has passed since the battle. While that is virtually no time in the grand scheme of things, I had hoped you would at least have gained back some weight…"
His voice trailed off. He was worried—extremely worried—certainly much more worried than he let on to Harry. Harry did eat. But he appeared to have no appetite; certainly no enjoyment of food. And while Severus had judged that Harry was eating enough calories to maintain his weight and put on at least a pound a week, he seemed to be lacking in energy. He spent a good deal of his time watching Severus, making him tea, sitting in the same room with him reading the seventh-year Transfiguration and Charms textbooks that Minerva had given him before they left Hogwarts. He slept fitfully at night and cat-napped during the day. At night Severus, who slept in the upstairs bedroom beside Harry now and generally turned in an hour or two after Harry, heard him toss and turn on his bed, use the loo, sometimes go up and down the creaky stairs. Twice he had found him in the porch hammock when he woke in the morning and made his way downstairs to put on the tea kettle.
"I'm trying, Severus," said Harry. "I feel like I'm eating a lot. More than you for sure." He sat up on the sofa and stared at Severus critically. "Have you been losing weight?"
Severus shook his head against Harry's sudden worry. "No, I haven't. Poppy's rather obsessive about tracking that. She can show you my chart when she gets here, mother."
Harry cuffed Severus on the shoulder and settled back into the couch.
When Poppy Pomfrey flooed into the parlor at Shell Cottage thirty minutes later, she found Harry napping upright on the sofa and Severus sitting beside him, reading a scroll with an official looking seal on the outside. She dusted herself off and held up a two thick folders
"I brought along his file," she said quietly as she sat down across from the sofa. She placed her very large flat-bottomed medical bag on the floor and eyed Harry critically. "The last time I got his weight and height was at the end of last year, when he and Draco…"
Her voice tapered off and Severus nodded. "Did you do blood work then?" he asked.
"The basics," she said. "But I didn't check specific organ functionality. She pulled her wand out of her robe pocket and used it to send the tea tray back to the kitchen and the scattered parchment, ink and quill to a neat pile on top of the bookshelf beside the fireplace. She put the files on the cleared table and slid one of them across to Severus. He placed the document he was reading to the side with a sigh and opened Harry's file.
"He was 5'7" and just over eleven stone." Severus scanned the top piece of parchment in Harry's file. "He's easily two or three inches taller now."
"And by the looks of him lost at least a stone in the process," said Poppy. She stood and knelt to Severus' side, reaching up to feel the lymph nodes on his neck. "Relax Severus," she implored softly. "Let's get you out of the way and then we can focus on Harry." She glanced over at the sleeping young man again and continued in her low voice. "If it is what you suspect, he's going to need to spend a couple of days in St. Mungo's. How will he take that?"
"Not well," answered Severus, wincing as Poppy removed the bandage that still covered the deepest part of the snake bite. "I expect he'll refuse to go. He could be treated here, Poppy."
"He could," she agreed. "A stay in St. Mungo's is purely precautionary, in case there are side effects from the potion regimen." She sighed. "I agree that keeping him out of the spotlight he'd be under at St. Mungo's would be preferable."
She took a blood sample from Severus, ran the standard tests on it using a kit she set up on the table and pulled out the Muggle scale from under the sofa to weigh him.
"You're up half a pound," she said. "And your white count is down significantly. I'd say being here with Harry has definitely moved you further down the road of recovery. Have you felt more energetic this week?"
Severus shrugged. "I have good days and bad."
"Bad days following the good, I'd guess," said Poppy as she sat back on her heels and looked up at Severus critically. "You likely feel good, do too much then pay for it the next day."
Severus smiled slightly. "We've already had visitors. I expect we'll have more in the coming weeks. Andromeda Tonks and the Lupin baby are scheduled to come next week—if Harry is feeling up to it, of course."
"I'm feeling up to it," said Harry. His voice had an unused, sleepy quality to it. He had not been awake long. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Hello, Madam Pomfrey. How's Severus doing?"
"Surprisingly well," she answered. "I think being here with you agrees with him." She pushed the scale to the left so that it rested on the floor just in front of Harry's feet and checked the calibration. "Why don't we start with your weight, Harry."
Harry frowned but stood up and stepped on the scale.
"Ten stone four pounds," she read. Severus mirrored Harry's frown as Poppy cross-referenced Harry's chart. "That's down nearly a stone, Harry, from just a little over a year ago." He stepped off the scale and shrugged. "Stay still a moment—let me get your height."
A magical tape measure appeared in her hands. She held it in front of Harry and it stiffened at the floor beside his feet and unrolled itself until it was level with the top of his head.
"5'9 ½ ," she read as she stood up to get a better look at the top. She held out her hand and the tape measure rolled itself up and dropped neatly into her fingers. "You might grow another inch or so but my guess is you've nearly topped out."
She proceeded to ask him a variety of screening questions, most of them routine, some of them excruciatingly embarrassing. Finally, she reached into her bag for a syringe. Harry eyed it suspiciously but held out his arm when instructed and after she procured a blood sample with very little fuss from him, sat back on the couch with his arm bent against the cotton ball she'd placed against it to stop the bleeding. He and Severus together watched her set up seven glass vials in a neat row on the table.
"One for each major system in the body," she explained. Harry glanced over at Severus. While biology was taught at Muggle schools, it was unfortunately not on the scholarly regimen for students like Harry who were not planning on entering the medical profession.
"Circulatory, digestive, reproductive, nervous," explained Severus. "Some further break some of these down, but for our purposes, seven will do."
Harry shrugged, not asking about the systems Severus hadn't mentioned, and watched as Poppy poured a bit of blood into each flask. Harry seemed curious, Severus nervous, as she studied the results, comparing the color of each vial to a chart. She picked up one of the vials and held it above her head, looking at it from the bottom and swishing it around in a slow circle, then checking the color against the chart once more.
"Definitely the digestive system," she said. She glanced up at Severus. "Everything else reads normal." She used her wand to banish the six normal vials.
"Do you have the testing set for organ-specific problems?" asked Severus, adjusting his position on the sofa so that he was turned slightly toward Harry.
Poppy was already setting up another set of flasks. "Other arm, Harry. We'll need another blood sample." Harry rolled his eyes but complied and watched as she appeared to repeat the test exactly as she had before, but with fewer vials this time.
"Pancreas," she said at last, nodding at Severus.
Severus took the chart from her hand and lifted the vial in question, staring at it and referencing the color on the card. "Poison," he sighed.
"Most likely. Disease is a possibility, but isn't likely given his age."
"Poison? What are you talking about?" asked Harry, looking from Severus to Poppy then back at Severus again.
Poppy turned to face Harry. "Your pancreas isn't providing the digestive enzymes you need. Food is passing through you largely without being digested." She glanced back at Severus. "Severus put the pieces together yesterday and diagnosed pancreatic damage as a result of poison…"
Severus put a steadying hand on Harry's shoulder. "This winter—at Christmastime—you were bitten by Nagini? I only recalled yesterday, when I was mulling over the possibilities for your weight loss and failure to regain the weight now that you are eating properly again."
Harry rubbed his arm, turned it over and looked at the scar from Nagini's attack at Godric's Hollow. His eyes widened.
"But Hermione healed it. It didn't bother me after the first day—she said it wasn't very deep."
Severus nearly yanked the arm toward him to examine it. Poppy leaned in as well to see the small scar left by a single puncture wound.
Harry was staring at Poppy, suddenly understanding the embarrassing questions he'd been asked.
"Is there a cure?" he asked, tensing up significantly.
"There is a treatment, yes. We can add the enzymes you need via potions each time you have a meal. As for a cure, we need to understand the extent of the damage. We'll test for the poison and then begin to reverse the damage to your pancreas with the appropriate potions."
"I will brew the digestive potion," said Severus. "I will need some supplies from Hogwarts of course…"
"No." Poppy's voice was firm. "I'll order what he needs from St. Mungo's. They will have the enzymes in stock. And the organ regenerative potion is time-consuming and tedious as you well know. We should put Harry in St. Mungo's for the treatment." She glanced up and smiled as Harry began to protest exactly as she thought he would.
"No. I'm not going to St. Mungo's. I'm staying here. They can send whatever potion I need but I'm not leaving Shell Cottage." Severus eyed him speculatively. Instead of sounding like a petulant child, Harry very much sounded like a determined adult, his mind made up.
"I will brew the organ restorative potion," said Severus firmly, nodding at Harry to show his acceptance of Harry's decision. "And administer it here."
Poppy shook her head. "St. Mungo's will have the base that needs to be adapted for the organ in question. I'm sorry, Severus, but you don't yet have the stamina. I will ask Horace to do it."
"A very competent Potions Master," stated Poppy firmly. "I believe it was he who taught you?" She looked at him challengingly.
Severus raised an eyebrow. He settled back into the sofa. "You would make a very good Headmistress, Poppy," he said, suppressing a smile.
As Poppy cast a preservation charm on the remaining blood from the second sample and on the two test vials that had shown positive results, Harry once again closed his eyes.
"I never get a break, do I?" he asked, sighing resignedly.
Severus shook his head, understanding Harry's feelings on the matter, but Poppy scoffed as she healed the two small wounds on his arms from where she had taken the blood samples.
"You're both here, and against all odds, you're both alive. I'd consider that a break, Mr. Potter."
"As would I," agreed Severus, slipping his arm around Harry's shoulders and drawing him up against his side in an awkward one-armed hug. Harry gave in and relaxed against him.
"I'll put the order in with St. Mungo's right away," said Poppy, standing up and starting to gather her supplies together.
"Poppy, use my name on the order," said Severus. He glanced over at Harry. "I'd prefer that Harry's medical issues remain within these walls."
"You want people to think you were poisoned?" protested Harry.
Severus leveled an even stare at him. "I was poisoned, Harry. I've already been treated to prevent organ damage such as you sustained. It could easily be a recurrence."
Harry balked. How could he have forgotten that?
Hermione and Ron sat comfortably on the plush chairs in the cottage parlor, facing Harry as he lay stretched out on his side on the sofa.
"You never get a break, mate," said Ron as he eyed the chessboard on the table between them.
"I'm really sorry, Harry," said Hermione—again. She put a finger in the 7th year Arithmancy text she was reading and closed the book around her finger to mark her page.
Harry shook his head at her. "Not your fault. We've been through this three times already today, Hermione."
"But I should have known! I suppose I was just so glad we got out of that place alive that I didn't consider that her bite might be venomous…"
Ron shuddered. He'd been shuddering a lot lately. As guilty as they knew he felt for leaving them before Christmas, they knew that he didn't regret in the least not being in Bathilda Bagshot's house in Godric's Hollow on Christmas Eve.
"Hermione, I'm fine."
"You don't look fine. You look pale and weak, Harry."
"This is my last day of potions," responded Harry. "Severus said I'd feel a lot worse before I began to feel better. Teddy and Andromeda are coming next week and he thinks I'll be fine by then."
"That's rather soon," said Hermione. "Are you sure you're strong enough to hold a baby?"
Both Harry and Ron, whose limited experience with babies easily surpassed Hermione's, both shook their heads. Harry even managed a tired grin.
"Have you decided about Hogwarts yet?" he asked Hermione, deliberately changing the subject. He continued to study the chessboard, trying to decipher what Ron's strategy was this time. He's already lost one game to his friend that afternoon.
Hermione exchanged a look with Ron. He frowned.
"I'm going to go back part-time," she said. Ron looked back at the board and resolutely did not look at Hermione. "I'll sit N.E.W.T.s with you, but I'm just going to attend the classes I'll need to pass them. Kingsley has work for me at the Ministry on Saturdays."
"She's not going to board at Hogwarts," said Ron. Harry glanced at him, understanding Ron's frustration. They'd all lived together for so long. Even being apart these last few weeks had felt oddly disconcerting, no matter how good it was to be back with their respective families. Plus, Ron and Hermione had the added closeness now of officially—finally—being a couple.
"My parents need me at home," said Hermione. It was obvious that she and Ron had had this argument before. She directed her attention to Harry instead. "They've got to rebuild their practice from the ground up," she said with a deep sigh. "Helping them is the least I can do. I'm not sure that they're quite ready to forgive me…"
"Don't second guess yourself, Hermione," said Harry. He tried to sit up on the couch but clutched his stomach at the movement and settled back down.
"Professor Snape said to stay on your side," admonished Hermione gently. She reached over and arranged the pillows under his head to give him more support.
"I suppose I could stay home to help my family too," mused Ron. He didn't sound like he was challenging Hermione anymore. Instead, he sounded almost thoughtful.
Harry looked up at Ron. His best friend had his hand on a knight and his eyes were contemplative as he studied the board. "Mate, your mum and dad both want you back at Hogwarts. They've got Percy at home now, and Charlie's on leave from the preserve until October. And Bill and Fleur have moved so much closer. And what with the baby coming…"
"I know all that!" snapped Ron. He moved his knight rather aggressively. "And me and Ginny will be there until the end of August. I know!" He covered his face with his hands in such a helpless gesture that Harry instinctively sat up, wincing as he did so at the pain in his abdomen. As Hermione slid out of her chair to kneel down next to him, Ron heard Harry's grimace of pain and looked up. "Would you lie back down, Harry? You're going to undo all the good those potions are doing!"
Harry fell back down onto his side as Hermione began to laugh. Ron joined in a moment later and even Harry had to grin.
"You sounded just like Hermione," said Harry after Hermione had stopped laughing and the pain in his gut had settled to a dull throb.
Ron gave him a small grin in return, the amused look contrasting oddly with his pained and frustrated expression from moments before.
"I know. Sorry." He looked truly apologetic as he pulled Hermione up to sit crammed in next to him in the wide chair. She arranged her legs to drape over his. Ron positioned his arm behind her and Harry observed them quietly from the sofa. After seeing them dance around their attraction for each other since fourth year, seeing them draped over each other like this was both refreshing and oddly disconcerting.
"I invited George to come visit," said Harry after a moment. He looked through the chess set on the table before him, roughly at eye level, meeting Ron's eyes.
"He's reopening the store you know," said Ron after a long pause in which he seemed to study the board for his next move.
"I know," said Harry. "Your Dad told us when he came by a couple days ago with our meds from St. Mungo's." Harry didn't need to tell Ron that Arthur had offered to pick them up since he was going by to get Molly's sleeping potion. "But he doesn't plan to have it open until August. I thought he might like a few days here…"
"This place is so different in the summertime," said Ron approvingly, undoubtedly remembering the biting winter winds and chilly spring evenings. He paused, considering his next statement, and finally shrugged his shoulders and forged ahead. "I'm thinking of partnering with George, after I leave Hogwarts."
"It might help you to go to Uni then, to study business management or marketing," suggested Hermione casually while Harry stared in surprise at his best friend.
"Wow. That's…that's great, Ron," said Harry. He gave him the best smile he could muster considering the pain in his gut and the realization that this meant they wouldn't be going through the Auror's program together.
"Lee's agreed to help him out this year," said Ron by way of further explanation. "But he wants to be a professional commentator—for Quidditch, or on the WWN. He's going to wait to start his voice training classes until I'm done at Hogwarts."
"I think you'd be great as part of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes," said Harry, mustering up encouraging words for his friend from some deep, hidden reserve he didn't know he had. Hermione's grateful smile let him know that he'd said exactly the right thing.
They sat there quietly for a few more moments. Harry closed his eyes, breathing through the dull ache where the potion was apparently working to repair his pancreas so that he could digest his food without the help of the disgusting potion. The quiet tick tock of the new clock on the mantle, a gift from Minerva, was like a metronome, keeping their thoughts on the same pace. This clock had two hands—the Harry hand from Severus' old clock and a new one for Severus.
"It's been a month since he died," said Ron sadly. "I'd only just seen him again that day, you know, after nearly a whole year."
Harry looked at his friend through the chessmen again, soulful eyes showing his understanding, his regret, his own pain. Hermione snuggled closer. Neither of them said anything. There were no adequate words, no platitudes, no benign assurances worth voicing. Fred was simply…gone.
"I'm glad I had that day, anyway," said Ron, a smile, both sad and wistful, on his face. "At least I got to see him that one last time." Harry returned his sad smile, swallowing that lump in his throat that rose up whenever he thought of Fred, or Remus, or Tonks, while Hermione rested her head against Ron's shoulder and laced her fingers through his.
Severus, standing at the bottom of the stairs, leather shoes on his feet, thought that Ron Weasley had done a lot of growing up this past year.
Severus considered purchasing a Guest Book so that the visitors to Shell Cottage could sign in and out. He didn't for one moment begrudge Harry the visitors, and by and large they were pleasant to him as well and respectful of his recovery, never overstaying their welcome. Harry and his friends hadn't done much more these first two weeks than talk quietly and walk on the beach. It was still too cool to swim but Severus expected that would turn around in a week or so and they'd be in the ocean, swimming and splashing and laughing. He realized he was actually looking forward to that. Harry had spent nearly three days on the sofa suffering through the organ restorative potion three times a day. He was barely able to keep any food down during that time and only now, with Andromeda and the baby set to arrive at any moment, was he looking and feeling more like himself again.
Harry was almost pacing. Kreacher, who split his time between Hogwarts and Shell Cottage now, had put together a very nice tea tray, and Harry had wrapped two baby gifts for Teddy. He'd had Hermione purchase one for him in London, and she'd seen something else she knew Harry would like and had bought that as well.
Andromeda had arrived right on time, squalling baby in tow.
"He doesn't seem to like apparition much," she'd explained. Severus took the accessory bag from her and peered down at the baby. He didn't look like he quite knew what to say about him so he said "Quite the little man, isn't he?" But Andromeda, looking just as tired as she had the last time Harry had seen her, smiled at Harry. He no longer was reminded of her late sister Bellatrix when he saw her heavily lidded eyes. "Would you mind changing him, Harry?" She placed the crying baby in Harry's arms and Severus draped the stuffed necessities bag over his shoulder. Harry stood in the parlor staring at the crying baby held awkwardly in his arms, mouth slightly agape, looking nothing if not shell-shocked, until Severus spoke.
"Use the spare bedroom upstairs, Harry. Just lay him on the bed. He'll probably stop crying once he's settled and has a clean nappy."
"But I don't know how to change a nappy," admitted Harry, looking at Andromeda guiltily, as if, perhaps, Remus and Tonks should have chosen someone as godfather who had more experience with nappy changing.
"Nonsense. You'll figure it out. Everyone has to do it for the first time sometime."
Harry glanced over at Severus, who looked vaguely alarmed, and grinned.
Andromeda reached out and brushed Harry's arm, as if to give him confidence. "Look at the one you take off to see how it's positioned and fastened. The clean nappies and wipes are in the bag. The closures are on the front of the nappy, toward the sides."
"Wipes?" Harry wrinkled his nose.
"Go, Harry," said Severus with a smirk. He invited Andromeda to sit and she did so gratefully. The two adults may have seemed to pay no attention to Harry as he carefully carried his crying godson upstairs, but they exchanged a significant look as he disappeared from their sight.
The baby kept squalling, even when Harry laid him in the middle of the bed and unwrapped him from his soft white blanket. As Harry regarded him, the tiniest of beings, miniscule on the big four-poster bed, Teddy sniffed a few times, taking in his new surroundings, then wrinkled up his face again as Harry hovered above him.
"You look just like your daddy," said Harry as he studied the baby's face, then tilted his head and frowned at the footed blue thing the baby wore. It snapped up the middle then down one leg and covered the baby's feet, legs, torso and arms. A dragon's body wrapped around the entire piece, with its head on Teddy's little belly. It was a very friendly-looking dragon indeed, with a happy gleam in its eyes and a bowtie around its neck. It looked nothing at all like the dragons Harry had encountered in his life. Harry shrugged and unsnapped the buttons from top to bottom and freed the baby's legs, exposing the nappy. He located the closures on the nappy, pulled them apart then carefully turned the nappy down. A quick glance inside left him unaccountably relieved that the thing was only wet, not dirty. He pulled it out from under the baby, dropped it unceremoniously on the floor then rummaged in the bag for a clean nappy and the wipes. He wiped the baby, cringing a bit and hoping that baby bits didn't hurt as much as adult bits when they were pushed around, then opened the new nappy and examined it, eventually figuring out which way it went. He began talking to the now quiet baby as he worked.
"I bet your daddy used to do this for you, when you were tiny." He looked at Teddy's big brown eyes to find the infant staring at him, quiet now, one tiny finger hooked into his mouth. "Not that you're not tiny now—because you are. I only meant that he didn't get to have you for very long, did he? I bet you're doing all kinds of things now that he never got to see you do." The baby responded to that by kicking his legs up and flailing his arms a bit. "Listen, I don't really know anything about babies. I've only ever held you, and that was just a couple times—like during your mummy and dad's funeral—and you were sleeping those other times so you didn't even know it was me holding you. But I'm glad I got to hold you then. It reminded me that they'd never be gone, not really, not while you're here." Harry swallowed. "We're a special club you know. The Sons of the Marauders. Just you and me, kid."
The nappy was on now, a bit lopsided perhaps, but serviceable, and Harry struggled to get Teddy's legs back inside the outfit. He held one tiny foot, intent on forcing it somehow back inside the leg of the outfit, but paused mid-step, staring at the small foot with its miniature toes. He ran his finger along the bottom from heel to toes and the baby's foot arched. "Ticklish, are you? I bet your mum tickled you like that, didn't she?" He sighed. "I know about as much about mums as you do. You're not going to remember yours and I don't remember mine. But don't worry. I'll be here to tell you stories about your mum and dad. No one told me stories about mine until I was eleven years old. But you won't have to wait until you go to Hogwarts. I'll tell you stories every time I see you—about how your da taught me the Patronus charm, and gave me chocolate on the Hogwarts Express, and how your mum saved me once on that same train, and how she used to entertain us at Grimmauld Place changing her nose. How she was always tripping over things, too, and how much she loved your daddy, how she loved him even when he thought he wasn't right for her, wasn't good enough." He paused, took a deep breath. "How your da saved my life, how he held me back when I wanted to go through the veil after Sir…"
He faltered, then sat down on the bed and resumed dressing the baby, finally succeeding in snapping him up from toes to neck again. The baby seemed to be watching him still, and he held out one of his fingers toward him until Teddy grasped it in a small fist and squealed, pulling the finger immediately up to his mouth.
Harry smiled. He reached down and picked up the baby, holding him awkwardly under his arms at first but then resting him against his shoulder, hand across his back, patting him softly.
"I'm going to have a couple kids someday, Teddy," he said as he stood and walked softly around the room, stopping in front of a high mirror hung over the chest of drawers. "Maybe a little boy like you, and maybe a little girl too." He turned so that he could see the baby's face in the mirror and Teddy exclaimed, an excited syllable that sounded like "Ga!" His little hand flailed again, reaching toward the baby in the mirror.
"But I'm going to make sure it's safe, first, Teddy. I'm going to be an Auror, just like your mum was. She didn't want to leave you here without her and without your dad but you've got your gran, don't you? And you've got me." He swayed a bit, bounced the baby on his shoulder, growing accustomed to the solid, warm weight of the small body. He knew he was babbling, working through his inner dilemma as he voiced his feelings to no one but this little baby boy. "But sometimes, sometimes I guess you just have to go on with your life and hope for the best. That's what my mum and dad did, didn't they? They gave me a chance, even though the world wasn't safe. And they may not be here, but I am. And if they hadn't given me that chance, if they'd been afraid to have a baby back then, I wouldn't be here for you now."
Teddy was staring at Harry's reflection in the mirror, his brown eyes wide and bright. His hair, which Harry suspected was really the same sandy brown as his father's, and which had been a pale turquoise when he'd arrived at Shell Cottage with his grandmother, started changing color, from roots to tips, as though the baby was thinking out the color. As Harry stared into the mirror, Teddy's little mop of hair became emerald green, perfectly matching the color of Harry's eyes.
"Ga!" he exclaimed, turning his face away from the mirror then and grabbing for his godfather's glasses behind which, inexplicably, two tears glistened at the corners of Harry Potter's eyes.
Two hours later, Andromeda Tonks stood up. She looked more relaxed, more at ease, than she had when she arrived at Shell Cottage with her grandson. Severus had the baby now, holding him on his lap facing outward, and Harry was kneeling on the floor in front of the baby, playing peek-a-boo with his new toys—a turquoise-haired plushie doll and a small, soft plushie wolf.
The baby's hair was still green.
"I'm sorry about that," said Harry as he took the baby from Severus, confidently t his time, and brushed the green locks down on the small head. He gave Teddy a parting kiss on the forehead then handed him back to his grandmother. He tucked the new toys in the baby bag and handed that over too.
When they were gone, with promises from Harry to visit them in London and promises from Andromeda to come back to Shell Cottage soon, Harry sank down on the couch beside Severus.
"I'm going to have a whole bunch of kids one day," he said. "So you'd better get used to changing nappies."
"That reminds me—when is Miss Weasley coming for a visit?"
Harry cuffed Severus and turned an intriguing shade of pink at the same time. Severus smiled. He'd consent any day to changing nappies if it put that kind of smile on Harry's face—that looking forward to the future kind of smile that came from restored health, loyal friends, green-haired godsons and a certain red-headed girl.
"I'm naming one of them after you, Dad," said Harry, laying his own hand on top of Severus' as they sat together on the couch.
Severus squeezed Harry's hand. He knew he didn't deserve this—this peace, this happiness, this taste of a normal life.
But Harry did.