A.N.: Look! It's a new chapter! Thank you all for reading and reviewing my story, you amazing people! I hope you'll enjoy this chapter just as much as the last one and don't forget to review!
Disclaimer; I don't own Harry Potter. Is there even a point in writing this disclaimer any more?
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
Harry nodded as he stared at the familiar star now etched on his wand. Here we go, thought Severus simply, sharing a knowing look with Harry and a smile. So many things to do and, for once, all the time in the world to do achieve them. Severus started planning.
It had been close to a week since Harry had first acquired his wand and ever since the days at Spinner's End had fallen into a steady rhythm; wake up, eat breakfast, practice, have lunch, practice, stop for dinner, sleep. A program that would have, perhaps, seemed exceedingly dull to an observer, but Harry was having the time of his life; with every new spell he tried, he could fell his magic stirring inside him, finally getting the training it had been begging for. And while the green eyed wizard was focusing on his studies, a matter of some importance was bothering Severus's thoughts.
He was once again seated on his favorite armchair, watching over Harry as the boy brewed a simple shrinking potion on his own; it was the third time he had tried to brew something alone and Severus was proud to report all previous work they had done while Harry was growing up was showing. All his attempts so far had been successful -not quite perfect yet but better than what many first year students had managed in his class- and Severus felt more proud for his progress than he had for any of his students. Then again, he figured, he didn't love any of his students like they were his own children. And that led him back to his present debate.
Harry would need a place to train his magic in full scale; at the moment, the problem wasn't so obvious because he was still teaching him simple spells such as Lumos -to which he had already shown some aptitude- and Alohamora, so that he could get an idea of how his magic felt before they moved to more advanced spells. But later on, even with the simplest defense spells, they would need space that was simply not offered by his house at Spinner's End. There was always the alternative…
"And once to the left…" Harry was murmuring as he stirred the potion, smiling when it took the soft pink colour it was supposed to. Severus held back his chuckle so he wouldn't cut the boy's concentration short. The green eyed wizard was doing a great job and he had the means to help him evolve further; how could he be selfish enough not to do so?
Because there was a place where he could train Harry in every luxury but… He closed his eyes and sighed. He hadn't visited his mother's family estate since his uncle had died. And back then he had skimmed through the objects now in his possession, had taken only what had seemed to be an empty canvas -and see how that one turned out- before he left a few quick orders to the house elves and fled the estate as fast as possible. He was in a dark place back then and being in his mother's home had stung.
Truth be told, Severus thought as he opened his eyes to peer at Harry and his now green potion, it still stung. The Princes where supposed to be his family and his only connection to the magical world after his mother had died. But instead of caring for him they had acted on their pureblood prejudices and completely shunned him during his childhood. It was the first time in over a decade that he had stepped foot in the Prince estate when his uncle had died ad he had spent the next five years pretending it didn't exist. But now…
"Sev look!" Harry exclaimed as he pointed at the soft green and bubbling potion. "I think it's ready!" He smiled with joy, his black hair even messier because of the fumes and his green eyes sparkling. No point in dwelling in the past, Severus thought as his spirits lifted at Harry's expression of happiness.
"It is ready." Severus confirmed as he stirred the potion gently before gathering it in a vial and labeling it, storing it in the cabinet where he had decided to keep all of Harry's potions. "Well done Harry! You do seem to have gotten the knack of it." The potions master commended making Harry's face shine with the praise.
"You think so?" He asked with wide eyes. His hand absentmindedly rubbed the spot next to his navel, were the top of his emblem was located.
"Yes, I do. All you need is practice, but the talent is already there." He added observing Harry's movements. "Does your emblem hurt Harry?" The potions' master asked worriedly.
"No." Harry answered noticing what he was doing. "It felt warm a few seconds ago, but other than that…"
"Let's take a look at it." Severus offered, trying not to sound as worried as he felt. He would have to find a book on emblems and fast. He hated the idea of walking into this blindly. Harry acquiesced and lifted his shirt slowly.
"What is that? Look!" The green eyed boy exclaimed with excitement. There, on the right side of his mark, stood a small runic symbol inside a circle.
"I see." Severus said with a smirk as he translated the rune.
"What? What is it Sev?"
"Your magic seems to have acknowledged your efforts as much as I did; this symbol marks you as an apprentice in potions." The black eyed man offered with a smirk. "Your godfather would have a coronary if he ever found out your first apprenticeship turned out to be in potions."
"Apprenticeship?" Harry asked with wide eyes, staring at the small mark that had added itself on his emblem. "I'm a potions' apprentice now?" He was bouncing on his toes with giddiness as he spoke.
"Yes, and as I said, you have to practice to improve further; it's quite official now after all." Severus confirmed with a smile, ruffling Harry's hair, ignoring the disgruntled "Not my hair!" from the boy. "And speaking of practicing," Severus said determinedly, this latest development having solidified his decision "I will need to be away for a couple of days to arrange for a… let's say better setting for your future training. I trust you will keep up with your studies while I'm away. I'll check on your progress every night." He added mock seriously.
"A better setting?" Harry asked curiously. "Where?"
"That's a surprise Harry." Severus offered assuming an equally mock superior air. "You shall soon see."
"Will I like it?" The boy asked mischievously.
"You will love it, you cheeky brat!" The potions' master exclaimed affectionately, ruffling Harry's hair further, eliciting another half-hearted complain from the boy. And true to his word, Severus left early in the morning to visit his solicitors and further survey his estate, making sure it would be ready to welcome Harry. He even did a bit of remodeling upon glancing at the -admittedly extended, due to the collective efforts of his ancestors over the years- library to model a room quite close to a familiar setting of a few days ago. Harry would get a kick out of it, he was certain.
The house elves were delighted with the forthcoming arrival and Severus himself felt the closure taking leave of Spinner's End brought. Spinner's End was the house where he grew up in and most of the memories made there where painful. The Prince estate however, even if it carried the sting of his mother's family rejection, offered a fresh start, a chance to make new memories for himself and the boy he had come to care for as a son. Maybe this would turn out for the best. For Harry and for himself. All that was left, the potions master thought as he returned to Spinner's End at the evening of the second day, was to tell the boy.
"Harry?" Severus asked on the third morning after the declaration of him finding some place to practice.
"Yes, Sev?" The boy spoke over his pancakes.
"Remember the place I told you about, the one I would find for your training?" He asked with a smile.
"Yes?" The boy asked back expectantly, his pancakes close to forgotten.
"I found it."
"I did. And I'm considering, I'm planning actually, to move there permanently." Severus offered with a smile. "If you approve of course."
"If I approve?" Harry asked confused. "Sev it's your house." The boy said solemnly.
"It's your house too; you'll be spending more time there than the Potter manor Harry. And besides, your opinion matters to me." Severus stated truthfully. He was enveloped in a hug so forceful, he almost flew off his chair.
"I love you, Dad." Harry whispered in a tight voice, causing Severus' heart to race. His honorary title felt better every time.
"I love you too, son; that's why I'm asking." How right the title suited the boy, Severus marveled.
"So, where is this place?" Harry asked after a short pause.
"It's some good miles further to the north from Hogwarts, in the closer to the Highlands. I have told you about it; it's my mother's ancestral house." Severus said.
"You want to go back there?" Harry asked softly, showing an understanding older than his years. Severus met his concern with a soft smile.
"It will do me good, I think. And it will help with your training." The potions master reassured the boy.
"So, when can I see it?"
"Eager, aren't we?" Severus chuckled at the sparkle in Harry's green eyes. "I thought we could apparate there after breakfast."
"What are we waiting for then?" Harry asked and moved to get his travel cloak. Severus chuckled again and caught the boy from the collar of his shirt.
"I said after breakfast, Harry." He said pointing to his still untouched pancakes. Harry dug into his breakfast with renewed fervor, wolfing the pancakes down in a few short minutes.
"Now can we go?" He asked after washing the pancakes down with his milk.
"Since you managed to not choke on your breakfast, I believe we can." And Harry bolted out of the room in haste, returning faster than Severus had ever thought possible. In a few seconds Harry had grabbed hold of Severus' hand and they had apparated in what appeared to be a forest of some sorts. The first thing Harry noticed was the chill in the air; it was definitely colder than what he had been used to in the summer, even at the Potter manor that was up in the north too. The boy looked around, but all he could see was trees on the left and right of what appeared to be a private road.
"Sev, I don't see…"
"Turn around Harry." Severus offered with mirth. Harry did as advised and froze in place, as he tried to comprehend what he saw. He blinked owlishly a couple of times.
"Ehm, Sev?" His green eyes were wide in wonder and, even though he was addressing the potions master, stuck at the building in the distance. "Is this where we'll be staying from now on?" The boy's voice came out squeaky, making Severus laugh and feel for the first time the warmth of having his house considered their home openly from the boy.
"Yes." He answered laconically, withholding his laughter.
"What about it?"
"It's a castle." Harry said, finally turning to look at the amused black eyed man.
"It might not have occurred to you Harry, but I had already noticed. And it's actually called Silbreith." Severus admitted, using all his training in Occlumency to keep the smile off his face.
"Oh." Harry quipped, turning back to stare the building in the distance that was apparently Silbreith. There, peaking over the trees of the thick pine forest, nestled on what appeared to be a hill, stood the castle Severus claimed to be his ancestral home. It wasn't as grand as Hogwarts for sure -Harry had trouble believing any castle could hold a candle against Hogwarts' splendor- but it was breathtaking in its own accord. Harry could see the turrets from where he stood and counted two, no three towers rising from the main body of the castle.
"Shall we?" Severus asked with a smile and took a shell-shocked Harry by the hand to lead him towards the castle.
"Are you sure we can stay here?" The boy whispered as if he feared they would be overheard. This time Severus couldn't help himself; he laughed, a rare unguarded laughter that was becoming more of an occurrence as he spent more and more time with the green eyed boy.
"Considering I own the place, yes, I'm sure." Severus stated lightly.
"Wow!" Harry stated in lack of better words to express himself, eliciting yet another laugh from the potions master.
"Would you like to hear a bit about the story of this place?" Severus asked, knowing that harry was going to ask soon anyway.
"Sure!" Harry readily agreed.
"Well, it was built, in its original form, as a keep during the third goblin rebellion when the battles spread nation-wide." Severus explained. "Over the years the estate expanded to include the forests around, was surrounded with an outer wall and made unplottable. I, being the owner of the estate and the last Prince heir, have the ability to apparate inside said wall. Anyway, during the past centuries, rooms, galleries and floors were added, until the castle came to be what it is today." Severus concluded.
"Are there many families that have castle as their ancestral houses?" Harry asked peering towards the castle yet again.
"In Europe quite a few to begin with." Severus explained. "But many were abandoned due to lack of heirs or the demise of the whole families; having the ownership of a magical keep in the Middle Ages meant fighting in wars, leading armies to battles." The potions' master elaborated. "The families whose ancestral homes are mansions are younger, as pureblood families go."
"So the Prince family is older than the Potter line?" Harry asked smiling.
"Why yes." Severus affirmed with a smile of his own. "We didn't always bear the name Prince -the line is called Snape now after all- but the actual bloodline has risen to power before the Potters."
"That's brilliant!" Harry exclaimed.
"I will have to agree." Severus offered chuckling. They continued to walk in silence as Harry appeared to be considering what had been said. "Out with it Harry."
"I was just wondering…" The boy trailed off. "What happens to those castles that are left without an heir?"
"Good question Harry." Severus conceded. "You see, the magical signature of the family is still present on the castle so it cannot just be bought. In result, they remain vacant up to the moment when a wizard or witch appears to break the preexisting wards. It's a very strong form of blood magic, so it's easier said than done."
"But then the castle can be bought?" Harry questioned further.
"It wouldn't come cheap, but yes." Severus confirmed considering the boy's question. Something was going on in that brain of his, he could tell. "As a matter of fact, there is a castle like that not far from here, vacant for over a century." The boy regarded him with bright eyes before nodding once. "Is there anything that bothers you Harry?" The potions master asked as the main gate of the castle appeared around the corner.
"It's just a thought." Harry admitted, sending Severus a look that seemed to belong to a face much older, allowing a glimpse of the man he would one day be shine through. "It's just a thought still but when I have something certain you'll be the first to know Sev, I promise." The boy offered and then proceeded to tug on Severus' hand, urging him on. "Come on Sev! I'll race you to the entrance!" And he took off running before the young professor managed to agree -or disagree for that matter. They both ended up entering the hall still running, Harry laughing all the way there and Severus smiling at the boy's antics.
"Where do you find all that energy?" Severus asked feigning astonishment.
"I won, I won, I won, I…" Harry's sing song voice fainted as he took in his surroundings. The hall was larger than he had imagined it to be, the style much similar to Hogwarts, the stained glass windows showering summer light in a room that appeared frozen in the Middle Ages.
"I take you approve?" Severus asked smirking.
"You think?" Was all the answer he got.
"Minnie, Alfie!" The potions' master called, causing two house elves to appear with a loud crackling sound; one was male and one female, both donning what looked like a pillowcase with a coat of arms embodied on the white, clean fabric.
"Master Severus is here! We are happy to receive you sir!" A squeaky voice exclaimed, her owner the female elf called Minnie. Both house elves approached and bowed deeply.
"Harry, these are Minnie and Alfie." Severus introduced them. "Minnie is the head house elf of the castle and Alfie is her husband."
"How many house elves live here?" Harry asked confused as to why a head elf was needed.
"Twelve." Severus offered. "This is a big estate Harry." The potions master reminded the boy who nodded in awed agreement.
"Hello Minnie, Alfie; I'm Harry. Nice to meet you." The boy greeted them politely, causing the two elves to smile and then look confused between him and Severus.
"It's an honor to meet you too, Master Harry." Minnie spoke for both of them once more. "Forgive us for staring Master Harry, but we didn't know Master Severus had a son." Severus's eyes widened in surprise as Harry blushed.
"Harry is not my son, not biologically at least." Severus stated, stressing the biologically part. "Why would you say he's my son though?" Severus wondered, thinking the assumption a long shot and knowing house elves generally tried to assume as less as possible.
"Forgive us, Master Severus." Minnie said hurriedly bowing her head. "But Master Harry looks like you sir; something in his eyes, something in his magic." The elf looked disgruntled. "But if Minnie was wrong, Minnie will…"
"None of that now that I'm the master of this estate Minnie. You are forbidden to punish yourself, understand?" Severus interrupted her, guessing -correctly- what she was about to say.
"Thank you sir; the Master is most kind sir." The female elf said bowing, tears of gratitude in her eyes.
"Besides Minnie, in a way, you were right; Harry is to be treated exactly as my son while he resides inside these halls. Pass the word on to the other elves too." The two house elves nodded.
"Thank you!" Harry exclaimed and threw his arms around Severus. "Dad." He added in a whisper. Severus smiled and ordered the house elves to show Harry the available bedrooms so he could pick the one he liked the most, while he withdrew to the quarters appointed to the head of the Prince, now Snape, line to think.
The words of his house elf rang still in his ears. Something in Harry's magic she had said, and it hadn't been the first time he had heard words like that being uttered. Hadn't Merlin said something similar? Now, Severus knew there was no way a magical adoption could have taken place as the Potters would have had to disown Harry first, something that was highly unlikely to happen. But there was always a different possibility altogether to be considered and Harry had indeed shown a tendency to attract old magic… It was something he would have to look at and what time would be better to start but now?