Harry stood behind a curtain, holding his breath and pleading with the gods to not let him be discovered. He listened as they spoke to one another and wished he could also plug his ears and not hear another word.
Snape was ten feet away facing another person in the room. The three were in Snape's private study. The other person was not immediately visible until she stepped forward.
It was the eve of the first day of school back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Dumbledore had introduced the new teacher as Miss Georgia Mason. She was to teach Muggle Studies since the last teacher had gone missing.
Now she stood in front of Severus Snape and spoke to him. "I didn't know you were teaching here, Severus. It was a position that paid well and I needed the money."
Harry could see the expression on Snape's face. It was a mixture of worry, sorrow, and…. he couldn't quite believe it… one of longing.
She continued, "It was you who left me eleven years ago, Severus. You gave up the fight and you left. How long did I comfort you when you suffered, how long did I stay even when I felt alone and yet, I didn't leave you. My memories of you lingered for years and wouldn't leave me alone. I felt as if your presence was haunting me. I never gave up wanting to see you again, but gradually I began to accept it. Eventually, Daniel began to fill up my life."
"Daniel…." Snape said, softly. "He is eleven years old."
Harry knew what he was saying without putting it into words. The son of this woman had been sorted into Gryffindor House that very evening. There was no mistaking the resemblance to Snape. Although the boy had the same haunted look in his eyes he was able to smile, he already made friends with several of the first year boys and, to Harry, he looked 'normal' if there was such a thing that could be said of Snape's offspring.
Earlier in the evening, Harry watched in fascination as the first years were sorted. His eyes moved back and forth between Snape and the boy, making the comparison.
"Blimey, Harry," Ron leaned in to whisper in his ear. "That kid looks a lot like Snape. Think they are related?"
Harry knew they were related. But how? Still, there was more on his mind than the relationship between a first year and his teacher and he wasn't concerned so much about this coincidence as he was about getting into Snape's private chambers later that night.
Dumbledore had already summoned him and he knew it was likely they would be on the hunt once again for another of the Horcruxes. So he would have very little time. First, he had to prove to himself that Snape was trustworthy. This time it had to be beyond a shadow of a doubt and he had no guarantee he would find the proof in Snape's quarters.
Now he stood, trapped behind a curtain, in Snape's apartments and Dumbledore would most certainly be growing impatient. Harry didn't want to lose the opportunity to go with him on this quest. He knew it was important. Hadn't he struggled to learn of the Horcruxes, to learn of the existence of seven of them! To miss out on the opportunity would be terrible and yet, he couldn't expose himself now.
He was stuck, listening and watching, bearing witness to the pain in this coincidental reunion.
The woman stepped into his line of sight. She was not beautiful, that would not describe her, but she was not plain either. She had long brown hair cascading in curls around her face and over her shoulders. She had green eyes and fine features, a narrow nose, soft lips. Looking at her now, her face strained with concern and worry, her cheeks flushed with a rosy blush; she looked very attractive to Harry's eye.
He noted the mildly out-of-fashion, long dress of red velvet showing off a narrow waist and ample bosom. She stood looking at Snape, one hand twisted in her skirt and the other holding her arm across her torso as if to ward off a blow.
"Yes, Severus," she replied in answer to his remark. "Daniel is your son."
Snape caught his breath and leaned into a chair nearby, supporting himself as if in shock. A minute went by. "Does he know?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No. But after tonight there will be questions. Years ago I began to notice the resemblance to you. As he grew older it grew even clearer, but I haven't seen you for years and memories do fade over time. I couldn't be sure. I thought…" she hesitated and then said, "I thought it was wishful thinking on my part. As you can see for yourself, it is now obvious and there will be other's who have questions as well, Dumbledore for one."
Minutes passed in insufferable silence as they stared at one another. Say something Snape, Harry thought to himself. She is waiting for you to say something.
"Georgia…" Snape stood straight once again and took a step forward. "You must take Daniel and leave Hogwarts."
Harry was aware Snape was pleading more than a demanding and Harry knew why. Snape was in danger as much as he himself was. Having the woman and his son at Hogwarts where the news would travel very quickly to Voldemort's ears, was a disaster waiting to happen. If Snape was not already in the Dark Lord's service, he soon would be. What better than to have a hostage or two to urge his servant on.
However, even Harry knew Snape had made a mistake. He shouldn't have told her right off she needed to leave. It was obvious their relationship was in question; it was a shock to both of them to meet so unexpectedly after parting so painfully. Harry closed his eyes and sent his thoughts Snape's way: Tell her you cared, tell her you are astonished but pleased about Daniel. Do something!
"Severus," she stood and spoke firmly, "you left us with nothing. I struggled for years to provide for myself and your son. I never sought you out, I never inquired about you. I never asked you for anything. Now I have found a means to make our lives more comfortable and you want me to leave it behind."
She approached him, they were feet apart and she had to tilt her head to look up at him. "How can you ask this of me? Daniel will know who you are even if I don't tell him and he wants to be here more than you can ever know. He hasn't had much in his life and when he got his letter to Hogwarts he was happy for the first time in years. Would you take this away from him? Would you ask me to? I know you don't care about me but please try to have some feeling for our child."
Snape was shaking his head, as if not truly hearing her words. "That's not it, Georgia. It's not safe here. You would both be in grave danger. I would put you in danger."
"This is not about you, Severus!" she exclaimed, for the first time looking angry.
"Georgia," he stepped forward, raised his arms as if to embrace her and she shrugged back.
"Georgia you have heard of the Dark Lord," Snape murmured, remaining very close to her. "His focus is on the school, on a boy who is a student here- Harry Potter- you know of him."
Her eyes drifted past him momentarily, unfocused as she tried to recall the name and then there was recognition. "Potter. You knew a Lilly Potter didn't you, Severus?" She turned away suddenly her long skirt swishing in her path. "I remember, Severus. How could I forget. I was there for you physically, emotionally, loving you, caring for you, but your heart and mind were with her. Always with her."
Harry's heart sped up and he gripped the wand that was in his hand. Why? Why does my mother's name always come up? he thought as he watched. What is this woman saying about her? About her and Snape?
She turned back to him. "Where is she now, Severus? Are you with her?"
Snape shook his head, looking ever more wounded. "No! No, Georgia. The Dark Lord killed her and marked her son. He is the Chosen One. Do you know what that means?"
She frowned. "Severus we have lived as muggles for many years and left the wizarding world. I put aside the intrigue and mysteries you've involved yourself in when we were together. However, I do know who Harry Potter is. It's all over the Daily Prophet. What I'm asking is what is he to you? How are you involved in this?"
Snape stared at her and Harry knew he was trying to decide just how much he was willing to tell her. Harry held his breath in anticipation.
"I promised his mother I would protect him," he finally said. "We were friends Georgia. Lily was married, but we had been friends since we were children and I was partly responsible for her death. I could do no less than make sure her son was not harmed."
The woman once again crossed the room. This time she studied him. "What does it mean, the Chosen One?"
"He is marked to kill the Dark Lord," Snape answered simply. "This wizard, who stalks him, the one who wants to take over the world, is the most dangerous man you will ever meet. He has many followers, an army of wizards almost as dangerous as he. And I am counted among them, although I play two roles. I am a faithful and loyal friend only to Albus Dumbledore."
"You….," she began. "You are one of Voldemort's followers?"
"Georgia!" he grasped her arms. "Don't say his name! He… feels it when someone uses it." He stopped to take a deep breath. "I can't tell you what has transpired in eleven years in a matter of minutes. Suffice it to say that I work for Dumbledore and him alone although I put on a different face for the rest of the world. The Potter boy must be protected, he is the salvation of us all, though I don't know how it is to be done. But don't you see? The Dark Lord will ensure my loyalty through you and Daniel. Now is the most dangerous time of all."
She pulled away. "It sounds like you have the Potter boy to look after. I will make the decisions I think best for Daniel, Severus."
Harry shook his head slightly. The woman didn't seem to grasp what Snape was saying and Snape was slow in comprehending what she wanted; which was some reaction on his part that he was a father to their son.
Snape shook his head in the same frustration Harry was feeling. "I have money enough, a vault full of money at Gringott's. I will give it all to you. You and Daniel will not have to struggle anymore. Just let me take you someplace safe."
"Are you saying you would go with us; to be together?" She studied him, some slight hope written on her face.
He was shaking his head before she finished speaking. "It can't be, I can't go with you. I must stay here and finish this work."
She glared at him. "I don't want your money, Severus."
"Georgia! I don't have a future! Don't you understand?" Snape was growling. "I will never have the chance to know my son, or for him to know me. And perhaps it's best because I probably will not survive this coming war. Would you have him know me and then watch me die? Would you put him in danger?"
She stood motionless. She appeared shocked, alarmed and searched his face as if seeking the truth to his words.
"My greatest fear is the Dark Lord will learn of you and Daniel." Snape's face twisted in agony. "Now that I have found you again and learned of my son, I would give my life to save you." He approached her once again, slowly. "I have always loved you. You have all of me, and there has been no other."
She dropped her head to look at the floor. "I don't know if that's true and perhaps it's not important now. Would you tell me,…" she looked up into his face, "why you left me?"
"Georgie," Snape's voice was soft and full of emotion. "I left you to protect you from Him… and from me. How could I stay? I had no idea what I was doing. If I had known you carried Daniel I would have stayed and taken you away." His voice was soft. "Yes, I would have wanted a son. Perhaps at the time it would have made all the difference in the world."
"I didn't know I was pregnant, Severus," she said so softly Harry barely caught the words. "The night you left, I returned home with the news. I waited for a very long time hoping you would contact me."
He touched her arms with his fingertips and leaned in over her head as if to inhale the essence of her. It was more intimate then if he had embraced her.
"I have made a mess of things as always. But I know one thing and that is you cannot stay here."
She nodded and leaned into him resting her head against him. They stayed together for a long time before parting. It was obvious they cared about one another.
"Daniel. What is he like?" Snape asked.
"He is like you when you were young; sweet and kind, but not sad. He is intelligent, thoughtful and curious. He has a strong heart, courageous and brave, but he is also very gentle and loving. Once upon a time you were like that." She held a hand against his chest. "You don't have to tell me a lie, Severus. I know you loved Lily Potter. A woman knows." She stepped back away from him and walked to the door. "Time doesn't heal those kinds of wounds, Severus. I knew back then that I shared your affections with someone else. I just didn't know who it was."
"Will you leave, Georgia?" he asked, looking defeated.
She held the door knob and leaned into the door, waiting.
"Georgia, I did return. I never stopped searching for you." Snape remained where he was. "I went back to find you and you were gone. What can I say to prove to you that I am sincere?"
She opened the door and turned to him before leaving, "There is nothing, Severus. As always this business of yours must come first. However, I will consider leaving but I'd like you to talk to Daniel first. Will you do that?"
He nodded, dropping his hands in defeat.
She left, closing the door quietly.
Snape had barely held himself together throughout the conversation and as she shut the door he collapsed into a chair holding his head in his hands. Harry could hear a moan but could no longer see him. His desire to get out of the room and away from this pain was almost unbearable. Letting Snape know he was in the room now would be unbearable. He tried as hard as he could to look away and think of something else out of fear the man would sense his presence.