Hi! I know it had been a long time and I certainly understand your frustration but, I will repeat it again: I never give up a story! As I will always answer your reviews even if it may take a long time sometimes...
I hope you will like this chapter, the very last of the transition. I had rewritten it so many times that I stopped to count but I hope you'll like it. I read your suggestions and used them so you know your reviews are useful.
Disclaimer: Who needs to do a disclaimer after 12 chapters, really?
Have a nice reading.
Simple like a smile
Harry Potter was dead.
There were many things Albus Dumbledore had come to regret in his long life. His father's imprisonment, Ariana's death, Gellert, Tom… And so many others. Now he could add Harry Potter to his ever growing list. He hadn't meant for this to happen. He knew, of course, that they were "the worst sort of Muggles imaginable" as Minerva had wisely put it. But he had had good reasons to put the boy there. Firstly, he didn't want for him to be raised in the wizarding world where his fame would have gone to his head as it wouldn't have been useful for his plans. Growing up away from that and, even better, ignorant of the wizarding world had been the right solution. The boy would then have discovered his world in a mix of surprise and wonder while identifying himself as a muggleborn, being raised in the same background. His fame would have suddenly put him under the heavy expectations of his fellow wizards and witches and that would have been the key point where his childhood would have kicked in.
He still remembered Petunia's letter, begging for her to be accepted into Hogwarts. He had to nicely refuse her of course but he had heard from Lily that her sister had then grown bitter and resentful, rejecting everything that wasn't viewed as "normal" aka "magical", her own sister included. The blood wards had been an excuse, but a credible one. The rumor mill had fed on it, making the illusion far more perfect than the truth really was, as no one wanted to confront them. That was Dark Arts and he still didn't understand how people would really have believed that he would cast such an evil thing. He had done so, once, and it had been the worst mistake of his life. He still tried to redeem himself from this shameful past. Furthermore, as there would be no love coming from the Dursleys, the blood wards would never have worked anyway so he wouldn't even have tried to put them up. He warded the place, of course, but with traditional ones. They were good, strong and provided the security that was needed. In fact, as they were anonymous muggles – since he made sure no one would be able to tell their name or location (a useful oath of secrecy) – no Death Eaters would have been able to find them and that had been the best protection.
The second point of leaving the boy with the Dursleys was to have him growing up as a humble and modest boy. The sudden fame and acknowledgment would have overwhelmed the boy. It would have pushed him in trying to reach the public expectations from going to Griffindor to copying what would be described to him as the right behavior and, with the right hints here and there, he would have become the wizarding hero they needed to beat Voldemort. Himself would have been seen as the one who would have "saved" him from his muggle relatives and allow him to return to the wonderful wizarding world after each summer. He would have had to test the boy, to prepare him to his destiny, of course. Regretfully, if what he suspected was right, the boy had to die anyway. But not now! He needed a savior to accomplish the prophecy, to stop Voldemort. He knew that he couldn't be the one to do it. He was powerful enough but the prophecy clearly stated it was to be child born at the end of July and marked by Voldemort.
He should have checked on the boy to make sure they didn't go too far but…
He hadn't wanted to know. Suspected was fine but knowing for sure would have weighted too much on his conscience. As a war leader, he knew there were difficult choices, sacrifices that one had to make in order to save the most people possible. Harry Potter had been the one who could have been the key to limit the number of people who would have died in the new war, when Voldemort would have arisen again. The boy would have been Voldemort's focus as the one to previously defeat him so he would have made sure the boy understood his role in this war, to prepare him for a willing sacrifice when the time would have come. To save the world the boy would have come to love and to honor his parents' memory. One life to save how many more? It would have been a fair trade to Albus. The boy would have been the shining symbol of hope and selflessness. His memory and sacrifice would have been dutifully remembered then. It would have been a terrible decision but it would all have been for the Greater Good.
It didn't mean that he wouldn't have tried to ease the little time the boy would have. He would have spoiled him a bit during his stay in Hogwarts, just to provide him some much deserved joy and guidance. He wasn't happy with the fact that the boy had to be sacrificed but he didn't have a choice. Furthermore, he needed the Potter's money to help funding the war, to provide safe-houses, bribe contacts for information and, after the war, to rebuild their world. He would just have had to wait until the boy would be eleven, then the stupid audit would have been finished and as the boy would had been the last Potter heir, he would have been entitled Lord Potter (even if he wouldn't have known that) and with the key point of being the boy's guardian, Albus would have been able to get access to the main vault. He had gotten used to giving to charities. Now, thanks to the Goblins, he didn't even had use of the trust vault of the boy, refilled only once a year and he felt guilty about not being able to provide more anymore. There were so many people he wanted to help, that deserved to be helped. Now, he had to restrain himself. One could only take so much from Hogwarts' founds after all.
Now, it was all for naught.
He was not only sad but also panicked. Who would stop Voldemort now? He should have checked or put up limits to the boy's relatives. Now, all of his carefully laid plans had crumbled to nothing. There was no savior anymore. He felt tired. He felt drained. He felt…defeated. He had visited the Dursleys as soon as the alarms had rung off. The muggle aurors were already there with some men in white clothes who transported a corpse. A small corpse, under a black cloth. He checked the identity and left. He didn't stay. Couldn't stay. He felt tired, and old, and desperate. All he had ever wanted and worked so hard for the wizarding world: the peace, the equal status for all, muggles and wizards alike, were going to be destroyed by one mad wizard. A dark wizard that was the direct product of one of his worst mistakes. He should have disposed of Tom as soon as he had seen him the first time. He had wanted to give him a chance, just watching him from afar and trying to stir him in the right path. Tom was just a child after all.
He had been a fool. He had been weak.
Tom had been full of hate towards the muggles, not understanding that he were the one who should try to change his attitude. Muggles just reacted because of Tom unwillingness to try to fit in. He had wanted to spend his summers in Hogwarts but Albus had always vetoed that, offering advices and guidance to Tom so he would rethink of things. The child and later young man hadn't wanted to understand, blaming his issues on the muggles. The opening of the Chamber of Secrets had been a turning point where Albus had giving up in saving the boy. He did everything he could to control and limit the boy's moves and influence back then, going so far as to refuse him the Defense and Offence (ex-DADA) position twice. The first by influencing Dippet and the second on his tenure as Headmaster. He had held some hope that the boy would just settle down if he was being forced to. He had no money and no good name, after all. "What could he possibly do?", he had thought.
He had been wrong. And distracted.
By the rise of his former lover as a Dark Lord. Gellert. When he had defeated him, he had sworn to himself that he would make the right choices from now on. He refused all of the glory and fame, content with being back to his previous teaching position in order to conduct his very own project: the merging of the muggle and wizarding world. But people kept coming to him for advice, to ask for his opinion and then, one day, he had understood. This unexpected fame would be his tool to get his redemption. If the wizarding world were ever to merge with the muggle one, if he could make sure to use his newfound power to give people the tools to understand each other then, what happened to Ariana and Gellert and even to Tom, wouldn't happen ever again. He was convinced of that. He had decided to devote himself to this project. Politically wise as he already did in education at Hogwarts. He took his seat in the Wizenmagot and only two years later was he promoted as Chief Warlock and then, Supreme Mugwump in the ICW.
It had been a long term project. A life project. He had firstly begun to slowly introduce more and more about the muggle world in the wizarding one. He encouraged muggleborns' integration in their world. He set up special scholarships so all of the muggleborns would go to Hogwarts when, before, they were on Ministry special tutoring a few hours a week – non mandatory – if they didn't have the means to pay to go to Hogwarts or to have a tutor when orphans were provided by a special found. It was unfair he decided. More often than not, muggleborns didn't stay in the wizarding world and that had been a great loss so Albus fought teeth and nails to bring up this project. Now, it was widely accepted. Like the muggles traditions Albus pushed to be celebrated instead of the old wizarding ones because it was part of his plans for the merging. To create a common ground of culture. Also, he greatly encouraged the old pureblood families to breed with the new blood so the merging would progress further. All and all, it had all progressed quite nicely.
And it went, on and on. People began to accept more muggle views in their mist. Of course, some purebloods still tried to block these progresses but Dumbledore had influence almost everywhere and he knew that, each year, with all of the young minds he had contributed in modeling, his fight for the merging of the two worlds had been on the right path. Then Tom had come back, trying to destroy everything he had worked for. He had created the Order of the Phoenix in retaliation, to protect his life project. He wouldn't let anything or anyone ruin it. He would protect people, wizard and muggle alike. But now, Harry Potter was dead and there was no savior anymore. Of course, he felt guilty for what happened to an innocent child but there were not much time to think about it apart from how he would publicly explain it but he wasn't really worried about it. He had to deal with a bigger issue now.
Tom would be back again and Albus had to be ready.
He had to think. He must have been wrong somewhere. Misinterpreted the prophecy because, once engaged, a prophecy couldn't be stopped. So, did that mean that Harry Potter was never meant to be the Savior? But he had been marked. It didn't make sense. Maybe he should just think about it but differently. The prophecy stated: "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies". One child, unborn at the time of the prophecy, was to be able to defeat the Dark Lord. A child whose parents had defied him thrice and born at the end of July. The child was to be marked by the Dark lord – or his indirectly through his Death Eaters – and have a power which would allow him to defeat said Dark Lord. And they were to fight to death because they couldn't live at the same time.
Harry Potter fulfilled the main conditions. Born on July, 31. His parents defied Voldemort thrice. He had been marked by Voldemort himself. But now, he was dead so, as Tom was still somewhat alive – if you could count a spectral life as being alive – it was obvious that his mark had been a mere coincidence. Albus felt his age growing heavier on his burdened shoulders. An innocent had died because he had made a mistake. A mere child. And he couldn't even punish the Dursleys because it would expose his responsibility in Harry Potter's death. He needed an excuse, something people wouldn't contradict, something credible to explain why Harry Potter wouldn't come to Hogwarts at 11. And he needed to find the real child of the prophecy. He had to look over all the children born in 1989 at the end of July, children whose parents had defied Tom and who could be considered as "marked" by him.
There was Neville Longbottom of course. He was born on the 30th, so the criteria could fit and his parents had fought Tom, defying thrice and probably more. Losing his parents to Tom's followers could be interpreted as being marked by Tom even if indirectly. But the child was weak and meek. Not really "Savior material". He still would keep an eye on him. He had to check St Mungo's records for all of the births at the end of July and the Hogwarts' Book for all of the future enrolled students for the muggleborns. He had to find the child. He had to make new plans before the child turns 11 and come to Hogwarts. He had to be prepared. A thought randomly reminded him of one child who could fit too. Evan. Severus' son. He was born on the 31st and his former parents defied Tom. The father by betraying his master, and not only by turning his back on Him but in wedding a muggle and having a child with her. As for Severus, he had also defied his master more than once.
Severus would probably oppose this. He would have to be cautious. And subtle. Manipulating the child would be difficult too. The child was far too smart for his age. He reminded him of Tom. Maybe that was the point of being Tom's equal? He would have to gain the child's trust even if he would still be searching for other children that could fit the prophecy. Even if Evan wasn't meant to be the savior, Albus felt like he had to keep him under control. It wouldn't do to have a second Tom upon his hands after all. And if the child was the one concerned by the prophecy, keeping control of him would become essential. Now, he had to plan how to gain the child's trust, how to stir him on the right path and, eventually, make sure Severus' interference wouldn't be an issue if needed.
So much to do, so little time…
Evan should be here soon now. He promised him to return home as soon as his lessons were done. Severus knew that he would keep to his word. He didn't know why but Evan had taken very seriously his rule about "no lies". As such, the Potions Master was absolutely certain that, no matter what the boy would do, he would always come and confess to him. And he would accept any punishment. So far, he hadn't had to punish him. It both pleased and worried him. Children were always in some kind of trouble. Draco did try to hide the remaining pieces of the precious heirloom he was forbidden to even look at and was punished for that just last week. It had been months since he adopted Evan and… nothing. Not that he was complaining but…He doesn't protest when Severus sent him to bed nor when he put up the child's schedule, ask him to change clothes because he didn't see them as appropriate or just to stop reading in order to go to sleep. Those parenting books Severus had read explained that the boy probably wouldn't dare to push the boundaries as long as he wouldn't felt reassured about not being sent away if he were to be disobedient.
One more proof he wasn't good as that parenting thing.
Yule was coming soon now and Severus still felt inadequate in regards to Evan. He finally asked Narcissa for help. He felt like she does know Evan better than him. She had no problem in telling him what he could offer the boy as gifts. Evan was a good boy; he deserves to have the best. And he really wasn't sure he was the best for him though. He knew that Evan had kept all of his allowance (and with a little trip in Gringotts for a few more galleons) to buy gifts for the Malfoys, Strakowski and the Weasley twins but he also knew that he was working on giving him something too and it put him ill at ease. He didn't feel like he deserved any of this. He felt like Evan was giving him something that he couldn't return. The Potions Master just didn't know how to handle the weight of the boy's affection and needs. He didn't want to hurt him but he did. He knew he did. He couldn't speak of it either. Who would understand? He cared for Evan but when thinking of him, he just didn't use the word « son » in his mind, other than for technicalities that is.
He was ashamed of himself.
Outwardly, nothing seemed different. Severus tried to speak with the boy, to learn more about what he liked and didn't like. He'd listened to him when he would speak of the friends he'd made in his musical lessons, about his lessons about runes and his time with Narcissa or his friendship with Draco. He thought he'd made great progresses there. Still, he didn't feel any special link or parenthood like bond. He didn't even know how what it could be like. He was tempted to ask Lucius but his best friend was already busy with his own therapy and work…And, maybe was he a bit uncomfortable about breaching such personal matters. What was wrong with him? Evan was a lovely child; polite, smart, obedient. Why couldn't he love him like a father should? It was true that the circumstances of his adoption had been peculiars and that, at the time, he didn't think through it as a future father or in some kind of desire to have a child to call his own. But circumstances had changed and he now really wanted to be a good father.
He was just a total failure.
« Father? », he raised his head to look into Evan's concerned eyes.
« Yes? »
« I've been calling you but you didn't answer so…», the child shyly said.
« I was lost in my thoughts. Did you want something? », he asked.
He bit his lower lip. Severus unconsciously put his hand on the boy's shoulder. It seems that it was what he needed to bring himself to speak:
« I wondered if it would be possible… I meant… »
His voice was no more than a whisper now. He took a deep breath and the Potions Master patiently waited for him to go on. Evan was so shy when only with him. He posed as a polite and confident child if not a bit distant with everyone else but Draco and I. He trusted him to a level that he didn't deserve. No matter what he was going to ask, he'll probably give it to him. He rarely asked for anything anyway and it had always been little things. Lately, it had been about going out for his Yule shopping or helping with his gifts by brewing some potions. He didn't mind. It was better if it was him who gave him ideas for their together time because he certainly didn't have many on his own. He already didn't know how to fit Evan in his schedule most of the time. He felt quite guilty about that too. Did the boy know this? He watched him patiently until he was ready to ask his question.
« I don't know if you remember but…Yoshiro who's in my solfege lessons…», Evan whispers. « He's a mute and I would like to buy, or borrow, a book about sign language if possible because… He and Hanaki are trying to teach me but I can't train or learn when I'm at home. I mean… », he finishes quietly, his eyes glued to the floors.
He decided to put the child out of his misery.
« Well, we can go to a muggle library in London when we'll go to Diagon Alley next Saturday if you want? »
His small smile made his eyes bright and shining.
Severus liked his smile.
Dumbledore was a fool.
He'd summoned all of the Order's old members to announce the grim news about Harry Potter. Severus had been quite curious as to how Albus would present the facts. He couldn't help but be shocked and angry when Dumbledore announced, his voice grave and sad, that Harry Potter had become a squib. Albus said that he had hoped for a long time that the magical core of the Boy-Who-Lived would replenished itself from his traumatic experience but that he had to admit his defeat. He then explained that it would be unfair to ask anything more from a boy who had sacrificed so much for the wizarding world already and to let him live peacefully in the muggle world, with his family and far from a world where there wasn't any place for him anymore. He was outraged but his Occlumency saved him from showing his anger, keeping his face blank and impassive.
Molly Weasley cried (more like wailed) on her husband's shoulder about "the poor boy" while the others appeared devastated. What a bunch of hypocrites! They didn't care about what was happening to Harry before and now, they were only sobbing about the loss of their savior. He felt disgusted and couldn't stop a sneer which earned him dark glares. Dumbledore then announced that he would give an interview the next day to inform the rest of the Wizarding world. No one asked a question. No one enquired if the boy had been seen by a qualified healer nor why his lack of magic hadn't been diagnosed before. No one asked how the child was informed of this or how he felt about the "news"… No one.
They really were sheep.
He didn't say anything to Dumbledore during the meeting but he knew that Albus would want to speak with him after the others' departure. He waited until the last member left before calmly turning to Albus. The old man looked at him, obviously searching what he'd tell or hide from him. It was a bitter moment to really acknowledge that he still wasn't trusted enough, after all he'd sacrificed. It was like a tie to Albus that he hadn't wanted to cut until now. Something like some kind of bonding or relation he had thought he had with the man. But he wouldn't be angry or let himself be hurt anymore. He was over that. At least, he wanted to be and refused to examine further his feelings at the moment. He would deal with them later, in the loneliness of his quarters. Albus offered him one of his insufferable sweets and still had the gall to look pained as Severus refused them. The Potions Master appeared utterly calm, his face blank. The Headmaster sighed before spouting yet another attempt in lying and manipulating to him. Because Severus obviously didn't deserve the truth in the old man's mind.
« I'm sorry about Lily's child, Severus. If I had known…», he began, his face regretful.
« Was he diagnosed by a qualified healer? », Severus cut him, somewhat still hoping to push him out of his web of lies.
« Of course, he was. We had hoped that the damage caused by the killing curse would repair itself given enough time but we were wrong », he promptly assured him.
It took a great effort from Severus to not blow up but he was experienced enough to keep a strong hold on himself, still emotionless on the outside while fuming inside.
« Is he properly taken care of at least? I remember Petunia from childhood and she wasn't very keen on our world », he pointed out.
« Yes, she was a bit cold at first but as Harry never presented any kind of accidental magic, she opened up to the child and now, they all form a good family to Harry. Even out of this world, he will have a place and people who care for him », Albus said with a composure so firm that it made him want to strangle him. Slowly.
The silence fall on before the serious part of the conversation began.
« Severus, my boy, I know that your oath only bonded you to protect Harry as a condition for your redemption for your time as a Death Eater but…», he said, his eyes twinkling.
« How could you even suggest that I would return to the Dark Lord's service, Albus? », he asked, shocked and a bit hurt.
« Now, now, Severus », Albus tempered. « I know that your redemption is sincere but the Ministry may not be of the same opinion now that you're free from your oath. And you could freely choose to leave Hogwarts and give up on your spying activities. Something I would certainly understand if you wanted to protect Evan but... Well, you know how precious the intelligence you provided have been for the Order during the last war », he explained, his eyes inquiring.
« What do you want Albus? Another oath? »,Severus promptly asked, tired of Albus' beating around the bush.
« Yes », he simply acknowledged. « The Ministry will want to be sure of your allegiance when Voldemort – Severus grimaced – comes back and I won't be able to provide them my support of you if I'm not certain – which I could understand, my boy – that you won't just go away when the times come. An oath that you will fight for the Order of the Phoenix and provide your services as a spy for as long as they are needed. Nothing that we both know that you wouldn't do. Just a formality, really », he finished, his tone light but his eyes showing what he really thought.
He wanted me right under his thumb. Before, the Potions Master would have done it without hesitation. But there was Evan in his life now. He had to think of him. He was to come first. Always. This kind of oath could be dangerous; it could prevent Severus from protecting Evan if it contradicted the oath. He then knew what he had to do. He simply stated:
« No. »
Albus looked up, surprised. He obviously had not expected this from him.
« My boy, be reasonable. The Ministry…. », he tried.
« We both now that it would be a huge blow to your reputation if you were to suddenly withdraw your support. Furthermore, they would ask how you could let a former Death Eater teach children in the school you oversee if you didn't trust said teacher. Also, we both know that you wouldn't easily found another Potion Master willing to take my place and if you don't, there will be potentially lethal accidents in potion classes and the public certainly won't approve if anything were to happen to their precious children. Therefore, I know too much about your lies and plans and you don't want me to share them with the press, do you? And finally, yes, you're right », Severus went on, « I could decide to flee with Evan should the need arise but you know what Albus? »
The Headmaster simply looked at him, thoughtful. He returned said look so Albus would understand how serious he was:
«You will have to learn to trust me like you do the others Order members because I damn well earned it and I deserve it. If you don't, then I will simply really go away. »
He didn't wait for his answer and left.
Severus was a bit wary. Lucius had come back from his visit from the Ministry with Evan with a strange tale. It worried him a bit. Not about the skill Evan had displayed as it seemed quite useful – and he would look into it by himself – but by the coldness and even the bit of a sadistic side the child had shown. Lucius had this look in his eyes showing he had both been impressed and ...scared, which, for a man as Lucius, was worrying. It had reminded Severus that the traumas from Evan's time with the Dursleys were still there. And the boy hid it from him. It was unhealthy so he had decided to share some bit of his past with Evan during their stay in Russia. He hoped that doing so would make Evan understand that Severus wouldn't judge or blame him for the darkest side of his personality.
What decided him was Evan's confrontation with one of his slytherins. A girl named Appollonia Arfestshire. He hadn't seen it by himself, arriving only by the end of the altercation, but what he'd seen was the fear in the girl's eyes, how broken she had looked and how the whole common room had considered Evan. They were both impressed and apprehensive toward him, a mere nine years old boy, and wandless. The girl had fled the room, crying. The proud Slytherin Queen, reduced to tears by a boy. The Potions Master asked quietly what happened to her and… well, he had to admit having felt scared with the impassive answers Evan provided him.
« She was telling lies, father. So I gave her some truths »
And his smile…
Now, he had resolved to talk with Evan about it. He asked the child to wait for him back in their quarters while he extracted what happened from one of his Prefects. Apparently, it had been quite some time since Appollonia had showed some changes in her behavior. Before reserved and proud, she had begun acting openly flirty and rumors were saying that kissing wasn't all she would do which surprised Severus as purity was very important for old pureblood families in which the girl belonged. It seemed that the girl had been very tense and isolated herself from everyone, using tongue lashing to even her best friends. She had made the mistake to use Evan as a new target for her ire. She said that no woman would ever willingly let Severus touch her and that adoption had been his only way of having a child. She had gone on, arrogantly stating that said child should probably have been desperate to accept being adopted by the Potion Master.
Evan had listened quietly during all of her rant, until she was done. He enunciated just a few words but it was the way he said them that reached the girl so deeply:
« You shouldn't be so critical towards adoption Miss Appollonia, as it will probably the only mean to hide your bastard unless you want for everyone to know who, exactly, is… the Hogwarts' Whore? »
The voice had been cold but what was truly disturbing for the witnesses of the event was the pleasure he had shown in taking her a peg down. In hurting her with his words. Severus had then gone to see the girl, knowing what happened and what would have to be done. It was the same story each time and wouldn't be the last he would have to deal with it. The girl had given in to the pressure of her betrothed and had found herself to be pregnant. She asked the father to take his responsibilities as they were already betrothed but he just laughed to her, saying that he couldn't be forced to anything by a girl stupid enough to believe that he would bond with an impure girl. He gave her an abortion potion and swore that he wouldn't reveal her secret as long as she would give him the name of the father. He would make sure the stupid boy would think twice about making the same mistake.
Now, he still had to talk to Evan.
He was exhausted. He made sure his slytherins knew not to share anything outside of the common room and that Appollonia would be surrounded by her friends for the duration of her isolation until the abortion was complete. He would excuse her from classes for the next few days and would have to organize talks with her to help her overcome the whole ordeal. The poor girl had been desperate enough to find a father for her child and a husband for herself that her reputation was now as low as possible and that was without even the reaction of her parents. They would probably sentence her to go away for some time while arranging a new contract in a foreign country with more lax traditions, something less advantageous for the family. They wouldn't do anything toward the despicable coward that had gotten her daughter pregnant as the fault, in their narrow-minded opinionated minds, rested solely on their daughter's shoulders for her poor judgment skill.
That's why Severus would make sure the boy would pay for his betrayal.
He entered the sitting-room silently, appraising Evan's tense posture on the sofa. He sat himself on the armchair in order to face the boy. It was a delicate matter. Evan if he was flattered that Evan had defended him, he had to make sure that the issue of Evan's cruelty streak was addressed. He waited for Evan to speak first so he would know where to go from there.
« I'm not sorry », the boy defiantly said, looking right at him.
« Why? », he neutrally asked.
Something changed in the atmosphere and Severus stilled himself, quiet but listening intensely as the boy rose eyes full of a mixture of pain, self-hatred, pride and…darkness.
« I hate people like her who think that they can belittle me or the one I love without care or consequences. I hate them and I have no qualms in hurting them, should it be in words or physically as long as they wouldn't be able to prove anything. I don't feel guilty nor do I feel remorse for what I've done. I… You're my father and even if I know I can't stop people from saying things behind your back, I won't let them do so in my face. I will make them learn. I will make them pay. I don't forgive nor do I forget. I can wait if I must and bid my time until I get proper revenge like I'm for the Dursleys but, in the end, they will all know by whom and why everything they ever cared for is destroyed. And I won't feel any remorse because this is… Justice », the child hissed, a gleam of challenge present in his entire attitude.
Severus looked intensely at the boy who had finally begun to show him his true face and he knew he was being tested. Those bright eyes, still defiant, were hiding questions like: "Now that you know, are you going to give up on me?", "Are you scared of me?", "Do you think me a monster?" But Severus also knew this was as much part of the boy as his shyness, intelligence and kindness were. So many things were being revealed and he doubted the child was fully conscious of it. Severus knew it was some of those key points and that he needed to be both firm and understanding and really, who could understand better Evan than himself? He put a knee down to be able to properly look at the child in the eyes and took both of the small hands in his.
« I don't judge you, Evan. I understand where you come from and how… satisfying it must feel for you to be able to defend yourself and to hurt people when they try to arm you. I can even say I'm proud that you didn't use magic nor did you try to physically hurt your opponent. It was quite the display and you certainly impressed my slytherins. However, as your father, I need you to understand that you need to learn how to control yourself. This is not about learning good from evil or changing who you are. It's all about control. Your emotions mustn't guide your choices, Evan. This is why I will begin to teach you meditation, to guide you and help you sorting your feelings. You must keep your temper in check because… I've gone down this path, Evan, and I don't want for you to make the same mistakes I did. This way will only bring you regrets and sadness. Things that cannot be undone nor be forgiven. I want better for you. Do you understand? »
The child bit his lower lips before slightly nodding.
« I promise I will try, father », he said, subdued.
« That's all I ask », the Potion Master replied, inwardly relieved.
Lucius went out of the floo with a practiced grace and poise. For the last few weeks, he had gone twice a week for his Mind Healing Process but… in fact, after the first session, he decided to never return. The mind Healer didn't understand. He wanted to be able to control his impulses, his anger, not talking about his childhood or his relationship with his father. No one had the right to know. It was private. So, he had used the time in more… pleasant company. Isabella, 24, and a very charming… personality. He went to her flat with flowers, some jewelry and the like and she would open her…door to him. Don't misunderstand him, he really wanted to be able to control himself but he just thought that counseling wasn't the right mean for him to do so. He just needed to find another way. Now though, he felt quite relaxed and would be able to go back to his office to do some work until diner. He was interrupted in his musing by the sight of Narcissa, rigidly sitting on one of the sofas of the floo room, her face closed.
« Narcissa? What happened? Where is Draco? », he promptly asked, worried.
« Draco is fine, Lucius. How was your session? », the blond woman coldly asked.
« It was fine », Lucius easily lied while beginning to wonder what had put Narcissa in this obviously foul mood… and how to escape it.
Narcissa narrowed her eyes on him and rise from the couch.
« How much longer will you take me for an idiot, Lucius? »
« I apologize but I don't understand, dear », Lucius tried.
He was sure he had covered his tracks, she couldn't know about his little affair or his sessions; he made sure to flaunt enough gold for that.
« I certainly deserve an apology, Lucius. For the breaking of your promise to go to counseling sessions, for betraying your duty to honor and protect your house and….for breaking your vows to me. Oh I know all about your little escapades, Lucius, don't think me naïve enough to believe you were faithful to me all these years but… I thought you had changed. Obviously, I was wrong. »
« I…. You don't understand, Cissa. These women don't matter to me, they never did and…»
She cut him.
« I don't care, Lucius. At least, I don't care anymore. »
« What…What are you saying? », Lucius asked, a cold shiver running his spine.
« I'm leaving, Lucius. And Draco comes with me », she informed him frostily.
« What! You can't do that! », Lucius exclaimed.
« I can and I will, Lucius. My things and Draco's had already been moved. I warned you that I wouldn't turn a blind eye anymore, Lucius. That you don't love me as I do, I've resigned myself to years ago even if I must admit having gotten some hope after what happened with Evan last summer. All for naught, of course but… that you would go so far as to neglect your sessions and be a risk for me or Draco… I don't and won't accept it. You'll receive my solicitor's notification in the next few days. Goodbye Lucius. »
She then went to leave but was stopped by Lucius.
« Narcissa, what… I'm sorry. I'm…don't leave. I didn't mean to give up the sessions but they weren't helpful! I wanted to find another way and then, I would have… »
She didn't reply, not even looking at him. Then, something she said hit him. She loved him? Suddenly, the whole world seemed to shift on its axe. He noticed small things like the redness in her eyes, the way her fists were clenched and her lips pursed tightly as she was trying hard not to lose control. Then, he remembered how beautiful she had looked on the day of their marriage, her smile so large and her eyes so bright. He remembered how shy she had been with him at first, how she had tried to organize romantic diners, together time which had irritated him to no end because he hadn't seen such attentions as useful. He couldn't pinpoint out when Narcissa had stopped doing such things before beginning to look after his interests, making sure to throw parties with the right people in the high circles of society, advising to whom he should give some donations and whom he should try to sway to him in order to gain more power so she would be at his side, as an equal, so he would consider her as an asset.
He remembered how he had resented her for not being able to give him an heir, how she lost weights after yet another miscarriage and her sadness that she had learnt to conceal from him as he focused on her being well enough to try again. He had taken care of her, of course, like you care about a precious object. He had been a gentleman and they were good partners but their couple had always been oriented around his needs and desires. She had been a trophy wife. He had never considered that their union could be more than just a pureblood proper arrangement. He knew she had never taken a lover but he supposed it was because she didn't love sex but recently he had noticed she was more passionate than he had given her credit for so maybe it was…his fault. He had always did mostly his duty and never really taken in account her pleasure or happiness. In his mind, it wasn't really necessary even if he had come to appreciate her as a partner and even as a friend. He realized how faithful and supportive Narcissa had been to him, how she had been there for him despite the way he had treated her, the danger he had put their family under by swearing allegiance to the Dark Lord. She had been with him through and through. He deserved what was happening. It had been long since coming in fact. He never gave her a chance. He sighed, defeated.
« I've ruined everything, haven't I? », he whispered.
She finally looked at him, sorrow clear on her face before softly replying.
« Yes. Yes, you have. »
She left and he didn't hold her back as she called her floo destination.
« … And now, we're living in Black Cottage near Exeter. It was part of my mother's dowry », Draco sullenly explained.
« How do you feel about it? », Evan softly asked.
« Well… I don't know what to feel », the blond said, frowning. « I mean, it's strange to not see my dad at meals or whenever I want but I still see him almost every day, like now, even if it is under a house elf and your father's supervision. Mother refuses to see or speak to dad. You know… I hear her sometimes at night. She cries a lot and she hardly smiles anymore. And father… he's not better. I've never seen him like that. It's…it's…», Draco stuttered, searching his words.
« Sad ? », Evan suggested, trying to comfort his friend.
« Yeah. I… I want my parents back together, Evan », Draco whispered, his eyes tearing.
« Maybe they will, maybe they may just need a bit of time apart to ponder some things, you know », the brunet tried to comfort his friend.
« I hope you're right but I don't know how they could if they don't even speak to each other. I don't even know what my father did for mother to leave him », the blond finished miserably.
« Maybe your father could send letters or apology gifts and the like to your mother so she would forgive him? Maybe he could prove her that he's going to change so she would know he's sincere », Evan offered, totally aware of Mr Malfoy listening on their conversation.
« That's a great idea! », the blond exclaimed, enthusiast. « Come on! I have to tell dad! »
« Don't worry, Draco. I'm sure he knows », Evan said, smiling slightly as he felt Mr Malfoy's presence moving away.
It had been two weeks since she had left Lucius and, even as she knew she had made the right decision, it was still hard for her. She still loved Lucius but she was tired to wait for something that, obviously, would never happen. It was hard to sever her last hope but she had to. For her son and for herself. She didn't want to live in fear of what could happen if Lucius was ever to lose control with them. She knew he wouldn't do it consciously but it still could happen and that was enough in her books. Also, even if it was difficult to admit, she had been hurt to learn that he had a new mistress. She really had thought that they were progressing. Lucius had been so gentle and passionate lately. She had thought they were finally making love. He had even stayed until morning with her.
Lies. It was all lies.
It hurt so much. She was tired to fight, tired to desire, tired to try to make live an illusion made of her hopes. They weren't a happy family. It had always been an arrangement for Lucius, he had never really considered her as a person to care for but only a pureblood heiress that could help him rise in society. She had done it of course but out of love, because she wanted to be close to him as her first attempts on the romantic side didn't bear fruits; she had to build herself a mask around Lucius so he would find her at least useful. So he would at least pay a bit of attention to her. Of course, he had been there for her when she suffered from her miscarriages but he had always asked when she would be ready to try again. Never did he really take into consideration the pain she had felt. She had to bear it in silence. She wanted more.
She was tired of not being loved.
She could have sought a lover but she couldn't betray her own feelings. Even now, she couldn't even think about replacing Lucius. She was still young and beautiful and she had never missed the looks or the more or less inconspicuous flirt she had been subjected to but… None were Lucius. When she was younger, she had dreamt of her promised courting her properly, with flowers, poems, jewelry, romantic diners and walks under moonlight. Lucius never courted her; they were married after only a month of engagement which had been resumed with only a few diners with their respective families and during which he had never really spoken to her. And she had been quite shy back then. She hadn't dared. She didn't believe that it would have changed anything though. She had claimed a place as a silent partner and he had learned to respect her. She had had to learn how to make him respect her, to not show him any weakness and she had put limits. She had claimed her place as a friend and confident and it had been probably wrong to hope for more.
She wouldn't ask Lucius for anything even if it would be her right to do so. She would just reclaim her dowry and a pension but that was it. She was thinking on resuming her studies. She had always wanted to work with children but Lucius' career had been her priority and she had given up to her dreams of a simpler life. Maybe it was time to do what she wanted to. Draco was grown up now, she could wait until he was off to Hogwarts to get herself to work but she still could learn until then. She had always wanted to be a teacher. She didn't know exactly how she wanted to teach or in which context. The only thing she was sure about is that she wanted to help children. Children whose families didn't have the money to provide an education for their children maybe? She wanted to help and not only with charity donations and parties. She was sick of all the political games and hypocrisy. She wanted to be Narcissa, not a lady or the wife of Lucius Malfoy. Just Narcissa.
Evan was the one to give her the idea. He had explained what he had seen in Knockturn Alley. Squibs, werefolves, illegitimate or whore's children abandoned in the middle of the night, having nowhere to go and no one to turn to. She wanted to help and she would. Evan had a tone of ideas and she wanted to be part of these projects. She had a feeling that it was important and would change bring changes for the betterment of their society. She had been a bit prejudiced at first but how could she resent children? They were innocents' victims after all as Evan had put it. No one would dictate her life anymore. She had less than two years before Draco would be off Hogwarts so she had little time to learn what she needed to and to organize her part in this project. She had called up some of her contacts for an apprenticeship and she had good hopes to be accepted. It would be hard but she was determined.
An owl tapped on the window, surprising her.
She went to relieve the poor creature, sighing. It was probably another of her "friends", asking for news as she refused to see anyone but her son, her godson and Severus at the moment. The gossip had spread like fire that she had filed for a divorce and they were all lurking around like vultures. Skeeter had even the gall to ask for an interview! It was her marriage not some kind of public tale, for Merlin's sake! The missive seemed quite thick, which puzzled her until she recognized Lucius' writing. She hesitated before going on the couch to open it. It was probably news from his own solicitor. She was surprised to find two letters and even more after reading the first. It was a poem.
She's all grace and elegance
Such beauty that I fall in a trance
Flower of delicacy and shyness
Shouldn't ever endure carelessness
Of life and words and hands
She should be worshipped to the end
And I shall prove her my worth
So she would give me back her trust
It was… bad. The verses didn't really follow the rules of poetry and the rhymes were awkward at best but still…He had written her a poem. She turned to read the other letter.
I have been the worst husband one can have. I know that. I didn't realize what I had until I lost it. I understand I can't make up for the past but I don't want to give up without a fight. It's not about the public scandal, or over money or pride or anything else but us. Just us. I never did give us a chance and I would understand if you don't want to have anything to do with me. I'm not the most romantic man. I can even say I'm really bad with this. The few lines I gave you as a poem took me hours to come up with and still I didn't manage to express what I wanted to. But I want to try; I don't want to let you go without trying at least. I want to court you like I should have done. I want to care for you as you deserve. I want to learn about you and learn all about how to love you as I should have. I know I don't deserve to ask you anything but could you at least think about it? I've returned to the counseling sessions and I asked Healer Hansworth to let you come should you desire to do so. There are things about me and my past that you deserve to know and maybe it could help me to understand why I acted like I did. However, if you think there is no more hope for us, I will respect your wish and I won't fight you in anything. Until your decision is made, please let me begin to prove you that I can and want to change by sending you everyday a token that made a proper courtship.
She didn't know what to think. Or what to feel about this. Did she….Could she put her heart in danger once more? Her trust had been broken so many times, her heart even more. It was all she had ever wished for but now…she wasn't sure. Lucius was right: she needed to think about it. And, it would take time. She would go to his counseling sessions. At least to make sure he really went but she wouldn't make her presence known. She wasn't ready to be in Lucius' presence for now. She wouldn't refuse outright his request but she needed time alone. Time for herself.
Lucius would really need more than a little poem to prove himself to her.
During the next two months, Lucius had gone out of his way to court her. Flowers, jewelry, really badly worded but still touching poems, letters, dresses, singing spelled balloons…. She could admit he had quite the imagination,. She had never replied until now. It was now almost Yule and she had decided to grant him a diner. She was nervous. They hadn't seen each other for two months even if she had gone to every Lucius' sessions without him knowing. He had respected her wish and she would use the occasion to decide whether or not she wanted to try again with him. She wanted to see by herself and talk with Lucius before taking her decision but even if she'd decide to give a chance, she would still stay at Black Cottage for now. She wouldn't move back until she was sure of Lucius feelings toward her and of their future together.
« You're beautiful tonight Narcissa. »
She turned around to face Lucius. He wore one of the last robes she had offered him as a gift. They were a very light grey with black embroideries. He had never worn it before, saying that it was too mush flashy for his taste. He looked good in it even if it was obvious he was uncomfortable. She almost wanted to laugh at his discomfort but didn't want to upset his careful – even if quite obvious – efforts to please her. He didn't lie when he said he wasn't good at being romantic. His gifts had all been proof of it. They were expensive and it was nice – though pretty much obvious – to see that he hadn't asked for advice and had made or chosen them all by himself but… the poor dear had no idea about how to please her. It was so clumsy that it was adorable.
« Thank you », she simply replied, her face blank. « Should we? »
« Of course. »
He led her to the restaurant's entrance, gallantly keeping the door opened for her, asking her where she wanted to sit and pulling her chair for her graciously. It was a muggle restaurant as she had wanted their meeting to be discrete. Lucius had agreed and didn't even try to convince her otherwise even if it was obvious he felt out of place but it was part of her test. It was an upscale restaurant so she was certain they would have high quality food and company. Deciding that she wouldn't be the one to engage the conversation first, she took upon herself to look at the menu and to choose what she wanted for diner. Lucius waited a bit before imitating her. Their waitress came soon to take their command and soon, the silence took place. Finally, the man couldn't take it any longer.
« I'm sorry », he sincerely said.
« What for? », Narcissa neutrally replied.
« Well… I owe you an apology for so many things… » the man sighed heavily. « I don't know where to begin. I've thought about this meeting for months and now that you're here before me, I just can't seem to find the rights words. It's pretty pathetic, isn't it? », he laughed bitterly.
« I'm not here to hear an apology, Lucius », Narcissa stated firmly. « I'm not here because of the past because no apology will be able to change it. I'm here tonight to decide if there will be a possibility for a future for us. »
They looked at each other and Lucius couldn't help but admire her courage and strength.
« Since you don't want an apology, may I be allowed to say that I missed you? », he boldly said.
A little smile appeared on her lips.
« You may », she granted, amused and touched. « What exactly did you… miss ? », she asked mischievously in return.
Lucius thought about it for a moment before responding:
« I missed… your perfume anywhere I go in the Manor. I missed the music when you played the piano. I missed your soothing presence when we were in the library, reading in the evenings. The intelligent conversations, your smile… I missed the person I've come to trust. I blame myself for missing all the wonderful things you did for me. Things I was too selfish to notice. I missed many things but what I missed the most were your eyes on me. You know… They held so much warmth and…love. And I didn't see it », he finished sadly.
She didn't know what to reply so she chose to change the topic for a safer one.
« How are your sessions? », she quietly inquired.
Lucius didn't seem to mind the change.
« They are – he searched for the right words – hard to be truthful. The Healer says that I will need time before I can truly overcome… some things of my past », he said awkwardly. « I… I didn't want to think of my childhood as bad but I feel like my eyes had been opened and it's unsettling to say the least. Lucius' smile was now strained.
« I know. I was there », she admitted quietly.
« You were? », Lucius wondered, shocked.
« I asked Healer Hansworth to let me come under a disillusionment charm and I asked him not to say I was there. As you did allow me to come, I thought…», she trailed nervously.
Even if a bit upset, Lucius still managed to whisper:
« I'm glad you were there. I'm not sure how I could have told you… »
« I wouldn't have pried, you know », she softly said.
« I know but… I wanted you to know those things about me. Because if someone deserves the most to know, it certainly is you », the blond tried to convey his sincerity, locking his eyes in hers.
« Thank you », Narcissa simply stated.
The silence was intense as they both didn't know what to say. Finally, their dishes came and the conversation went up naturally lighter and pleasant. As they reached the desserts, Lucius risked a question:
« Did you like my gifts? », he prompted, curious.
« They…ah, they were…interesting », she tried to put it delicately.
« That bad? », the blond asked, wincing.
« It wasn't… »She stopped at the look on Lucius' face. She opted for a full openness. « Well, maybe you should avoid poetry, and the singing balloons, hearts, bubbles…All that sings, really », she laughed lightly as she saw the shadow of a smile on his lips. « You just need to learn », she pointed out.
« You're right, as you always are », Lucius smiled. « Well, I suppose I should begin now. So…errrr… What's your favorite color? », he lamely offered.
Narcissa stared dumfounded for a second before laughing in the face of a very miserable and very embarrassed Lucius. Then, as she just couldn't seem to stop, he joined her, dissipating efficiently the remains of the previous tension. It was fortunate that Lucius thought to pull up some silencing charm at the beginning of the diner or they would probably have been asked to calm down. In their private booth and with the charms up, they could make as much noise as they wanted without fearing to disturb their neighbors. Finally, they both calmed even if Narcissa couldn't help but giggling once in a while. She then took him in pity and answered his quite ridiculous question.
« White, Lucius. My favorite color is white », she said, smiling. « And yours is dark green. »
« You know me well, Lucius acknowledged, a bit put out. « I have so much to learn. »
« Surely you know some things? », she encouraged him.
« I know you play the piano but you have a secret inclination for the harp, which you play quite well. You like doing romantic things like going out for diner or walking under the moon. I remember when we were young married how often you tried to convince me to wake up earlier to see the sun rise together… I would like to do that, you know? » He distractedly said before going on: « I know you love Draco and how you would have wanted to have more children and that's why you would like to work with them. »
« How do you know that? », she inquired, surprised. She never had talked about her dreams with Lucius.
He seemed a bit embarrassed before admitting:
« I saw you read all those books about teaching, taking of abused children and the like and… I've seen how you enjoy teaching to Draco and Evan. You have so much to offer and... I learnt from Lord Danvers that you were searching for information about it. I thought that maybe you wanted to do it. Teach, I mean », he awkwardly finished.
« Yes, I'm thinking about it. Do you mind? », Narcissa said, wanting to know.
« No », he firmly stated. « You've been with me; supporting me in everything I did and helped me rise where I am now. Even if – he swallowed hard – you don't want me as your husband anymore, I still hope that you will have me as your friend and that you will let me give you my help and support. I... I want you to be happy, Cissa », he simply admitted.
Those few words were all she needed to make up her mind. She put her hand on his.
« Thank you, Lucius. »
They have been married for many years, yet, she felt that they had just beginning their journey together. She smiled and he soon mirrored her, lost in each other, promise of a new future.
After making sure that my slytherins were properly taken care of while he would be away, Severus found himself with Evan in the large flat he decided to rent in Saint Petersburg for the Holidays. It faced the Neva and they would stay here until the New Year celebrations as they were invited to Malfoy's Manor where Narcissa and Lucius had agreed to make the celebrations. Strakowski would be their guide for the first few days before leaving for his own projects. Severus wanted to have a private celebration for Yule, something to share privately with Evan. He had to ask about how to proceed to Narcissa though, having never celebrated Yule before. Strakowski had guided them through Sadovaïa Prospekt, the magical alley of the town. There, Severus had the surprise to see that Evan was perfectly fluent in Russian. The spell for learning new languages had worked perfectly for the boy. As such, Severus decided to let Evan explain and translate everything for them during their stay instead of hiring another guide after Strakowski's departure. Something the child happily did, proud to serve his father.
It was nice to see the child so open. Severus let him buy many books on the alley, in the shops Strakowski had indicated to them as interesting. With each new discovery, the child almost "bounced" to show him what he had found, babbling about one thing or another, how interesting this or that was. It was…relieving to see the boy finally acting as a child. Everything was fine until he asked the child to stay in the library shop while he would go to the apothecary. The child obstinately refused. Even if it was for a few minutes, he didn't want to be parted from Severus. The Potion Master would have been irritated or annoyed with such behavior but there had been fear in Evan's eyes so he just couldn't dismiss this.
After, Evan seemed to subtly stay next to him, never going far and making sure that he would stay in view. He tried to reassure the child that he wouldn't abandon him but his logic only brought veiled eyes with tears so he preferred to let it be at the moment. Evan would take his hand and not let it go from the moment they left the flat until they returned. He could see how the boy was conflicted by his own behavior but couldn't help it. After Strakowski's departure, he decided to associate Evan to the future celebration by decorating the flat. It was quite simple as Narcissa had previously explained to him. The main purpose was to thank the Great Mother for her gifts, to celebrate the balance between dark and light. As it was Winter Solstice, it was also mean to reflect on the mysteries of Darkness, to revere the shadows forces and to respect Death, Silence and Knowledge. It was a time for thinking, to be humble and grateful.
The Potion Master admitted being fascinated with all of these traditions he had never know about before. He decided to make sure now and then that Evan would at least know about them even if he so chose not to uphold them later. He let the boy chose which tree they would use. They wouldn't cut it, of course but they would transfer it in a large pot so they could decorate it in their flat. White candles had been charmed in order to not burn the tree or damage it. They were to symbolize the Light while golden dust, garlands of red holly berries were placed to show they were appreciative from all the gifts of the Great Mother. Finally, onyx and red goldstone pendants were meant to help them through the ritual, given them acceptance through negative emotions like grief and sorrow but also guiding them in confidence, sharpening their senses towards the next step: rebirth. Rebirth of nature, of energy, growth and abundance. It was a time for reflection, introspection and to be humble and grateful.
It was both general and personal. The final result was far from the bright and colorful decorations of Hogwarts or the miserable ones of his childhood but he preferred it to them. It had a real meaning. Even the gifts. They were meant for family or friends to tighten their bonds. For parents, they would offer gifts to prove that they would provide for their children for as long as necessary and for children, it was to show how grateful they were to be part of the family and that they would, later, take their part in the responsibilities and duties of said families. It was significant. Severus had never been part of something like that and it made him feel like… belonging. In his youth, he had longed for this and now, he had Evan and he could share this with him.
It felt both nice and complicated. They did celebrate Yule during the Three Nights where they would pray and present their offerings to the burning fire and each time, Severus would just let himself go in the sofa next the fire with Evan. It felt both natural and still uncomfortable how the child would always cuddle with him. They wouldn't speak, not wanting to spoil the atmosphere. They almost could feel the Magic around them, confronting them to their fears while comforting them. Severus felt like some kind of burden had been removed from him and he felt hope. Hope towards his relationship with Evan, hope toward the future and for someone like him, it was something. He felt almost…good.
They had exchanged gifts. Narcissa had drowned him under "suggestions" until he was fed up and let her do what she wanted. He just required she wouldn't buy more than four gifts, the fifth being his own. So Evan was now the new owner of his own broomstick (the latest on the market) with a full security set, a book on wizarding traditions, a new violin for his studies and a figurine set of animated battle dragons. Severus felt ill at ease with the gift he'd chosen even if it had taken him a while to choose. He landed the small box with a bit of hesitation, noticing the child immediately giving him all of his attention. Evan seemed puzzled as he opened the box. There were wands inside so Severus hurriedly explained that it was all of the wands the Prince's had transmitted through the ages so the heirs could train until they could buy they own wand at the age of eleven.
As Evan began biting his lower lips, Severus felt like he had failed, once again. He informed the boy that he had thought that he would like learning some bit of defense with him but that it wasn't mandatory, of course and… He hadn't had time to finish his sentence that he had his arms full of a crying child saying repeatedly "Thank you". A knot in his stomach loosened quite a bit after that and he awkwardly patted the child's back until Evan let go of him. Severus didn't pay much attention to his own gifts, totally forgetting that Evan had prepared one for him. So, as he disregarded the precious midnight blue robe that he was sure was Narcissa's new attempt at making him wear something else that his usual black robes, he didn't notice the hurt face the child wore.
He didn't notice either his despair at being rejected once more.
Severus couldn't put a finger on what was wrong with Evan but he knew that something was going on. He tried to talk with the child but the latter would obstinately repeat that he was fine so he didn't push it. Still, there was a sadness in Evan that Severus couldn't understand. He thought they had become close during the holidays so he couldn't think about what could have happened to Evan. He didn't have much time to think about it anyway, what with the next term beginning and the return of the dunderheads. Evan's friends, the W.I.T. standing for Weasley Identical Terrors, were prompt to make Evan going out of his sorrow their private mission. As for the Potion Master, he neatly refused to answer any questions about his holidays from Albus, establishing quite clearly that the old man was far from being in his good graces.
So, as he went with Evan for their early walk, he didn't really paid attention when the child insistently asked if he would have some private time for him this night. He distractedly replied by the affirmative while thinking about his new potion project. He had almost finished it and it was waiting to be tested before being sold. The day went on and he noticed how Evan seemed impatient, reminding him of their time tonight. Severus thought he was just impatient about the new book they were to begin. It still found it strange when even Strakowski hinted about being at home early this evening. After diner, he decided to mark the new bunch of the mostly inept work of the second years before going for his round. Unfortunately, Peeves decided to flood all the third floor and Severus had to deal with a raving Finch until Minerva went to "save" him to inform him that one of his slytherin had been caught dueling with a griffindor so he had to meet up with them in the Headmaster office.
All in all, it was really late when he finally could go back to his quarters and found the boy asleep on the sofa. It seemed curious to him that the child didn't go to bed once it was obvious that Severus had been held back but he finally understood as he saw the small cake with candles upon it on the coffee table. It was his birthday. Severus had never celebrated, at least not willingly, the date of his birth. It was a waste of time in his mind. Looking at the cake, it was pretty obvious that the boy had made it himself, probably with the help of the House elves. He hesitated. Should he wake up Evan or let him sleep? Considering that Evan had waited for his return, Severus decided to wake him up gently. It took only a few seconds for Evan to be aware and to whisper:
« Happy birthday, father. »
« Thank you », he simply replied.
Once fully awakened, Evan went to lighten the candles and Severus did blow them. He didn't even ask how Evan did know of his birth date; he was just too out of it to think about it plainly. The cake was surprisingly quite tasty. Vanilla and nuts, his favorites. That's when really Severus acknowledged the efforts the child had put in knowing him. He had watched him, paying attention to what he liked or disliked. And he had to admit that it was quite touching so he made sure to voice his opinion about the cake, congratulating the boy who was positively beaming. Then, as the Potion Master believed that he could finally go to bed, he was surprised to be dragged toward the fireplace. He threw an inquiring look at Evan:
« Your gift is at the Cottage, father. Master Strakowski and the elves of the Cottage helped me to move it there. »
He suppressed a tired sigh and flooed to the Cottage, Evan with him. He could humor the child but he was curious about what kind of gift couldn't be brought to Hogwarts. The boy led him toward the garden in which a large alley of candles illuminated and surrounded a young tree, an oak1….that wasn't there before. He gasped by the unnamed emotion. Only then, he began to pay attention to what the child was saying.
« …and I know that it should have been planted at your birth but you said that yours didn't survive and then, mine was planted only last year so I thought that you wouldn't mind. I asked for a tree the same age as you and I've prepared everything for the ritual. The moon isn't very bright but the candles will be enough, won't they? »
Evan was visibly nervous as indicated by his babbling. Severus just put a knee down to take him in his arms. It was the most wonderful gift he'd ever received. Evan had put much thought into it and he just…Merlin! The only thing that would come to his mind was how he didn't deserve Evan. They completed the ritual before going back to their quarters in Hogwarts. While putting Evan to bed, something the boy said tipped his alarm bells.
« I'm glad you liked my gift this time. »
This time? To which other gift was he speaking of? He went to bed, frowning until, suddenly, he burst out of his bed toward his wardrobe. During the New Year's celebrations at Malfoy Manor, Narcissa never hinted about a new robe she would have offered him as a gift and if it wasn't her then… He finally found the robe he had so negligently dismissed, noticing the quality of the silk, obviously heavily spelled, and also the embroidered runes that were delicately adorning the fabric. Protection runes, it seemed. How could it be that Severus had the feeling of finally moving on with Evan and just after, to erase any progress he had thought he had made?
He swore to himself that he would wear the robe, just because he didn't want to admit he had failed once again.
Merlin, this child deserved so much better…
It had been two weeks since his birthday and Severus still didn't know how to act with Evan. Nothing seemed to have changed but there was a tension they both could feel. Evan had turned silent and reserved but watchful. Of Severus. The Potion Master knew he was at fault. He just didn't know how to handle the situation anymore. He was confused and felt unworthy of the trust and obvious affection the boy felt toward his person. He knew he had to talk about it with the child before things deteriorate too much. And he still remembered the blood on the bathroom floor… The truth was that he wanted to give as much as the child did but he didn't know how. He made sure to be extra attentive to the boy and to spend as much time with him as possible but…
Something was lacking.
This morning, Evan was still sleeping at the time of their walk so Severus decided to let him rest and to go alone for once. He needed to clear his head and to think. During last holidays, he had tried to explain to Evan what he was: an ex-Death Eater, a spy… a pariah. The compassion the child had shown him had thrown him off balance. Then, he remembered how excited Evan had been in the local libraries, showing him everything he had found interesting, his eyes bright and his smile large. How his face had become fearful at the mere idea of being left alone, even for a few minutes. Evan…loved him. As his father, his protector and guardian. It was obvious. Everything was simple in the child's mind. They were a family and its member must care and love each other.
What was love?
Severus was more familiar with hate. He had hated Tobias and his mother. He had hated the Marauders and Voldemort and so many others in his life. Who had he loved? Lily. But Lily never returned his feelings. At best, she had seen him as a friend. Lucius? Maybe it was what was the closest from a family bond but no one had ever loved him as fiercely as Evan did. He didn't know what to do with the weight of such a love. Having never received something so precious, he felt like he would taint it if he were to hope… if he were to indulge himself in being what he wasn't. And that was a good man. He was snarky, willingly mean, sarcastic, bitter and resentful. How could this precious child love him?
He still hadn't found the right answer as he went back to his quarters. It was the silence that put him off his musings. It was late for Evan. Usually, he was the first up on the morning. Severus hadn't noticed him to be more tired than usual yesterday. Cautiously, he approached the boy's room and knocked softly. Hearing no answer, he went in. The child was still on his bed, unmoving. One could have thought he was just peacefully sleeping but Severus had been a spy and a good one at that. There was some stiffness in the posture that put him immediately in movement. He put his arm on the small form so he could see the child's face.
He didn't like what he saw.
Evan was flushed and his breathing was coming but too erratically to be healthy. He decided to cast a diagnosis spell while thinking about how much Pepper up potions he still had in his cupboards thinking it was the flu. The letters forming the diagnosis froze him. An icy shiver ran his spine and for about five second, he didn't move nor breathe. Then, he just propped Evan against his chest and… ran. He ran through the corridors, never stopping. He passed Minerva but didn't stop as she called him out. He didn't have time. He had to reach the infirmary wing. He didn't listen as Poppy yelled against him barging in her territory as he frankly didn't care. He walked directly toward the floo who had a direct access to St Mungo's for emergencies, his precious burden tightly secured in his arms and one lone but terrifying thought in his head:
Healer Carter had worked in St Mungo's for most of his career and was perfectly fine with that. He had gradually gained more responsibilities and was now both Head of the Artemius Dulceus' Ward, or Ward 24 for the unknown and rare diseases and of the Annabelia Carpua's Ward for the contagious and dangerous diseases or Ward 25. He had spent his life searching for new treatments and a better understanding of magical diseases. His preference run toward ward 24 as it was there that he thought he was really useful. He had just begun to read an article on "Potions Today" about the new potion soon to be edited by Praestes & Potions when a trainee barged in his room with only two words: Febris Timoris.
He wasn't expecting what he saw. Severus Snape, a child tightly wrapped in his arms and an expression of intense fear in his eyes facing a less than welcoming staff. He wasted no time in leading them to his ward but it took some arguments to convince the man to let go of the child. Carter had always respected Severus Snape. He had seen the young man as he was working himself to the bone between his internship in St Mungo's and his Mastery. Of course, he knew of the man's past but he remembered how quick the counter of new poisons spread by Death Eaters were available back then and he had been observant enough to see the remorse in those dark eyes. Most of his colleagues had turned their back to the young man after the war. Not him even if he hadn't been in contact with him since then. He just didn't think that, as a Healer, he was the one allowed to judge another one. And right now, he silently defied his staff to even attempt to say anything. They all looked away, ashamed of having to be reminded of their oath.
He cast a diagnosis spell which unfortunately only confirmed the first one. He gave his first set of instructions in spells and potions before turning toward the still shaken but more composed Severus Snape. He asked a few basic questions in regards of his new patient like his first name, age or since when he was in this state. If he was surprised to learn that the boy was Snape's own child, he didn't show it as it was obvious how upset the man was. Finally, he conjured himself another chair and began his explanations:
« You probably know about Febris Timoris but I still prefer to review your knowledge with you as I do with every parent here so you know exactly what to expect in the next few hours and days, alright? », he gently asked.
A small nod from the man who hadn't looked away from the child since he had been placed on the bed, confirmed to the Healer that he was listened in.
« There are three stages. The first one has already started in which the fever is going to rise fast. Evan won't wake up and be irresponsive to stimuli. We have cast spell to control the fever but we can't give him much potions right now because they could badly interact with the ones we will need for the second stage. This is where the crisis will begin. He will wake up suddenly but won't be really conscious. He will live through a waking nightmare where all of his fears, insecurities and bad memories will be reunited through a delirium which will all seem very real to him. He will be yelling, calling for help, crying, probably try to hurt himself or people around him. It will be straining for his body too and the more crisis he goes through, the more dangerous it will become. »
The man, already pale, seemed to lose the last remains of color he still held but Carter wasn't done:
« His body will be slowly drained of his strength but the biggest fear we held is toward his heart. Heart failure is a risk we will probably have to deal with and this is why we have to hold back in regards to potions for now. However, stage 3 is more dangerous if not more than stage 2. As it is, between each crisis, Evan will plunge back into coma which will become deeper and last longer. We estimate that after the five first days, the chances the patient will ever wake up are… slim. »
The potion Master looked up, his worry shining in those dark eyes. The Healer knew what the question the man wanted to ask was. Every parent asked the very same.
« You will be able to help. Some of my colleagues believe that, during the crisis, casting an incarcerous spell and a silencing charm is the way to deal with them but I'm not of this opinion. I'm more into a gentler handling of them but I must warn you, this treatment will be emotionally and physically draining for you if you so choose to do it. It will also be exhausting as you won't be able to leave his bedside for more than a few minutes as the crisis will occur at random times. You will have to constrain him and hear him suffering and it will be awful. You will probably feel powerless but if I advise this approach it's because of the bond you share with Evan in your mind and magic. Even if he doesn't acknowledge it, your presence will somewhat comfort him. My studies had proven that fact. However, I could understand if you don't feel up to…»
« I'll do it », the man cut firmly. « I'll do it. »
« Alright », he simply agreed.
Wanting to give some hope to the man, the parent before him, he went on explaining what they would do once Evan would wake up. As if there was no doubt that he would. He explained that Evan would be very weak for some time, not being able to stand by himself and probably not even to hold a spoon. It would be all very frustrating for the child and the Potion Master would need a lot of patience to deal with it. The boy would need to relearn to do many things including how to walk and his progress would be slow. At first, he wouldn't even be able to stay awake for long, his body needing paradoxically more rest than he would have had during his coma. Furthermore, Evan would need to be constantly supervised. At least at first as his heart could suddenly failed him should it be by too by much efforts or a strong emotion. Speaking of it, Evan's emotions would be "all over the place". He wouldn't be just sad but despaired, not content but overexcited with happiness and he would need to be handled carefully. So, he would always need to have a heart potion with him for a year if not longer. Regular visits for check-ups would need to be organized. Every week at first and then, once a month until he was deemed healed enough to space them out. Carter then suggested to the man to organize himself for the next few days, presenting him one of St Mungo's elf so he could send messages or require for fresh clothes among others things. It was fortunate that it didn't take too long as the first crisis began.
He just hoped that Severus Snape was prepared for what was about to come.
An alarm echoed in Ward 24 but no one from the staff made a move. They knew they couldn't do anything. Healer Carter was the only one to be privy about what was happening in room 21 where a small child was fighting for his life. The Healer would instill carefully dosed spells and potions while Severus Snape was trying to comfort and restrain the child at the same time, hearing the worst of the things while speaking soft words that no one who knew the Potion Master would ever have believed he was able to speak.
I hate you! I hate you! Let me go! No! NO! Let me go! Liar! You liar! I hate you!
Hush, little one. Everything is fine. I'm here, Dad's here. Hush, it's fine, my little one…
Help! Please! Please! HELP! Please! Daddy!
I'm here. You're protected, child. No one can hurt you now. I protect you, have no fear, child.
I'll be good, I promise! I swear! Please, Please, PLEASE! Don't leave…
You're not alone, little one. I'm not leaving. I'm here, little one. Dad's here for you. Always.
I'm bad! Bad, bad, BAD! I'm alone. No one wants me! Why? WHY? I'm so bad...
You're a good boy, Evan. I'm here for you and I won't let you go. Everything will be fine, child.
Daddy? Daddy ! Don't leave ! Don't let him hurt me! Daddy! DADDYYYY!
I'm here, child. I won't let anyone hurt you, I promise. Daddy's here.
Liar ! You promised me! You promised we would be family! You promised! Liar! I hate you! ... I love you.
We are family, child. I'm so proud to be your daddy. I'm so sorry son I never told you. Child… I love you too.
Lucius Malfoy stopped at the entrance of room 21, looking at the man sitting on the chair near his son's bedside. If there had ever been doubt that Severus loved this child, they would have vanished before the sight the man presented. Apart from a quick wash and natural needs, Severus Snape hadn't left his son at any moment and only if the Healer was there, not wanting for Evan to be alone even for a moment. His hair was greasy from lack of proper washing, his clothes wrinkled and there were large black bags under his eyes. Lucius was saddened as his brother in everything but blood was rocking his child in his arms gently as if he couldn't resolve to separate himself from him. Lucius couldn't imagine being at the same place, Draco in Evan's place. It was the fifth day. Severus was a mess. As soon as he had known, Lucius had come and had to practically force the man to eat. He had come at least twice a day to visit, sometime accompanied by Narcissa who forced Severus to accept one of the Malfoy's elves to provide some care to the Potion Master so he would remember to eat and sleep a bit.
Dumbledore had come too with Minerva McGonagall. Severus refused to see them or talk to them. Or anyone else for that matter since that first day. He only looked and talked to Evan. Lucius had then been let to deal with them and their questions. He had snarled when the Headmaster had the gall to ask when Severus would be returning to teach. Even McGonagall had been shocked and demanded an apology which the old man easily granted, dismissing it as a slight misunderstanding. He mentally snorted. He had pushed the Board of Governors to accept the unexpected leave of the resident Potion Master due to the dire circumstances and fortunately, he didn't have to push much. Now, the students were to study on their own the theory while any practice was strictly forbidden for now. He had also taken upon himself to talk with the Slytherins to reassure Severus' precious snakes on the whereabouts of their Head of House. The Potions Master had been deeply touched by all the Get well cards he received then, wishing Evan to heal soon. Some even stated how much they missed him and hoped to have both him and Evan get back soon. And they said slytherins were selfish and uncaring.
He went to silently sit down near his friend. He didn't expect him to talk and was surprised when he did.
« He never sleeps like that, you know », Severus suddenly stated.
« Really? », Lucius calmly asked.
« He likes to curl up on his side, one hand on his plushy toy and the other near his face. He likes his plush, you know. I gave it to him soon after I adopted him. »
It made Lucius smiles a bit as he remembered that Draco was still sleeping with his own plushy dragon even if he vehemently denied it.
« Did you know that "Evan" means "young warrior"? », Severus went on, unusually chatty. « I was the one who named him, you know. »
« That's a good name. A strong name », Lucius softly replied.
« I know that Evan isn't like the other children. He's highly intelligent, even manipulative and cruel sometimes but…he has lived through so much, Lucius. He's also so kind and caring, you know. He doesn't trust easily to show it though. I know some people would be afraid of him, of his darkness but I don't care. I don't care. He's…he's my son, Lucius », the Potion Master painfully whispered as if admitting a secret. For the highly private man, it certainly was.
The aristocrat placed his hand on his brother's shoulder as a silent support. He couldn't tell him that everything would be fine because he didn't know if it would but he could acknowledge the obvious love and devotion Severus felt toward a child that wasn't even his at first. He understood and he really hoped that Evan would wake up soon. He was certain that Severus wouldn't be able to bear it if his son was to die. He knew that he, himself, probably wouldn't survive if things were to be reversed. He looked at the little altar that he had put up for Magic to bless the child and to pray Her to let him heal. At the Manor or the Cottage, Draco had spent most of his time before the altar, praying for his friend to get better. Lucius didn't allow him to visit at the hospital; it would have been too hard on the child to see his best friend like that. He stayed a bit longer before saying his farewell, sincerely hoping for Evan to wake up.
After all, he was a father too.
He watched him. He looked peaceful but Severus would greatly prefer to see him move, groan, throw off his blankets or even drool on his pillow than to see his unmoving form on this bed. His small and frail body…If it wasn't for a soft breath which made his chest rose slightly, he could have been dead. The Potion Master didn't care about appearances, not even his own, or his mask, anymore. He was just utterly scared and he couldn't bring himself to care about his reputation. His hand rose toward the child's forehead to stroke it gently. He rearranged the blankets once more before stroking his cheek. He couldn't help but touch him, reassuring himself with the warmth of the small body. He didn't want to think about those lips turning blue, the color leaving those cheeks and the skin going cold.
Evan's heart had stopped to beat twice during the last few days.
That's when, precisely, Severus knew that he would follow Evan if he were to die. What reason would be left for him to live anyway? Evan had become his everything. His wonderful, witty and shy son. How could he live without his smile? Without the way his eyes would brighten when he would take time to read with him on the evenings? He never said to Lily that he loved her for fear of being rejected. He had done the same with Evan though he just hadn't felt like he deserved the child's love. He didn't even understand why Evan loved him. He felt both blessed and damned because he felt like he had let his chance go once again. There were so many things he wanted to share with Evan, so many words that never went through his lips. He didn't even understand why it had been so difficult for him to accept the truth.
Evan was his son.
And he loved him dearly.
More than anything.
Now, if only his son would wake up. He wanted to take him in his arms, to hold him tightly against his chest but he didn't want to miss any sign of him waking up. Since the last crisis, he had taken to read to Evan. They were about to begin some of Severus favorites poems. Evan was more of a pragmatic reader. He was used to read what would be useful for his studies but he never protested Severus' choices. He just craved to share something with his father and it was so nice… Severus hadn't realized how much he enjoyed these times with all the doubts that had poisoned his mind. He had come to regret them now as there was a risk that they could never happen again. He knew he wouldn't outlive Evan. His heart wouldn't sustain such a wound. He took a deep breath and began to read, a hand on Evan's as if to encourage him to wake up.
Silence had been my muse
But it was all an excuse
I feared you would judge
But your mind wouldn't budge
Come back to me little one
I'll hunt your nightmares away
And keep the devil at bay
Come back to me little one
Your light is still needed
Your smile so much wanted
It is just the very beginning
I just know where I'm standing
Come back to me little one
Open your eyes, show me your smile
For I just can't say goodbye
Severus had known this poem for years but he had never really understood how deep it was. He would give up everything, his Mastery, all of his properties and moneys and even his magic to see Evan smile at him and be healthy. The fifth day had come and left and the sun didn't seem to want to rise again. He hadn't slept. How could he? He didn't want Evan to be alone, even for a moment and he didn't care if he had taken too much potions to stay awake. He didn't care if he was exhausted. He just felt that if he was to leave, even just a second, Evan would think that he had abandoned him and let go. That was unthinkable. Totally irrational too but he had passed the stage of rationality a long time ago.
The little hand was still irresponsive.
The sun began to rise.
The sixth day.
He couldn't bear it anymore and he did what he hadn't done in years, since his early childhood in fact: he cried. He had been far too shocked to cry for Lily and back then, he had felt like he didn't deserve the relief. But now, this sun meant that he was about to lose the only person who had known the real him and still had loved and accepted him unconditionally. The most precious child. His child. He was just perfect in his mind and his flaws didn't matter. There were no flaws as long as his son survived. He openly sobbed now, not caring if he was heard, he just wanted to follow Evan in death.
« Don't cry, daddy. »
For half a second, he believed that he had become insane and was hallucinating. He almost didn't dare to look up but couldn't resist, even if he risked having his last hope ruthlessly crushed. His gaze crossed two emerald eyes.
« Evan? », he said, not believing his eyes.
The boy only smiled tiredly to him. Not caring anymore, he pulled his son in a tight hug, so relieved that he couldn't stop crying but trying very hard at the same time to say what he had wanted to these past days:
« My son, my little one… Don't you ever scare me like that! My little one…»
The boy just smiled against his father's chest, whispering:
« I'm fine daddy. I love you too. »
They didn't see the little smile one Healer was wearing as he cast discretely a diagnostic spell before leaving, his presence remaining unnoticed.
1The oak is a sacred tree in many traditions; the Oak is vested of privileges granted by the supreme deity because it attracts lightning and symbolizes majesty. At any time and in any place, Oak stands for strength and durability. It's perfect for our Severus, isn't it?
2I'm not a Latinist but google translation says that it should mean: The fever of the fear.
Well, I won't make any promise for the next chapter. I just hope that now that the transition is done it will be easier. At least, I can say it was time as it had been really hard and discouraging sometimes to work alone. Still no beta.
Thank you for your reading and continued support.
Have a nice day and good week-end to you all.