Author's Note: Just a few things I need to say right quick.
ONE- Thank you guys so much for sticking with this story! Like 'Malfoy' this started out as an idea my brain refused to let go, and like any good minion, I did its bidding. I'm so grateful for each and every review and favorite for this fic and the others. You have no idea how much it brightens my day to go into my email and see three new reviews sitting there all pretty; it makes an already rough day/week/month about ten times brighter!
TWO- You get some bonding in this chapter! I'm trying out a new type of character on Harry, I'm trying to flesh him out as more of a child than an angsty teen, so let me know if it's working? And Severus is also a new kind of character for me. I hope I portrayed his state of mind accurately for you guys. Also, have a teeny, tiny pinch of Bellatrix!
THREE – (last one, I swear) I figure this isn't something that's often done, but I'm in a scholarship contest in the running to receive a share of 3million in scholarships and I need votes like I need air. You can vote at goo. gl / 3v Kn K9 without the spaces, and if you guys could take a moment to vote I would so so SO appreciate it. When you click the link you can sign in through FB or Twitter under the video to vote. I need about 300 votes to be anywhere near the running, and VFS is my super-duper all-time dream school. I'm willing to sing covers, write little ficlets or stories and do graphics for anyone who wants them for their fic or business or anything, really. But please, please, please vote for me! I'd be eternally grateful!
And now, to your regularly scheduled fanfic.
He didn't feel the least bit guilty.
Severus paced the length of the small room, all his senses but one locked on the small form stretched out on the bed behind him. He steadily glared at one point on the wall, and when he turned, another, anything to not look at his son.
Two days. Caer had been passed out for two days. Severus forced his eyes closed. He'd never make it to retirement. The brat was going to kill him. He may as well acclimate himself to that reality now.
That was partially behind his reasoning for coming to Grimmauld Place. The brat was going to kill him unless he managed to foist him off onto someone else. Not completely, just in small enough stretches for him to regain his sanity. Grimmauld Place was full of people who loved children. They'd love the chance to sequester the boy away from the Death Eater. Caer would be safe, fed, engaged, surrounded by his friends and people who loved him, and Severus would be free to plot.
That had been his reasoning, as much as he'd been able to reason.
Any thoughts beyond that were half-conceived ramblings he didn't have the mindset to probe further.
He didn't need to look any closer at the pleasure he derived from annoying Black, but since that wasn't the only reason, he shied away room it. Truthfully, as much as he knew Black would die for Harry Potter, he wasn't sure the man could even be trusted around Caer Snape. The stupid, sentimental part of him that managed to survive life as a death eater hoped the man could at least agree to consider bonding with the child, but that was wishful thinking. He hoped so for the child's sake, but wouldn't be disappointed if he didn't.
It also upset Dumbledore, and by extension the remainder or the Order, and that was always fun. Except when it wasn't. He'd managed to hold them off by pointing out that he had an obviously damaged child to tend to, and had been satisfied when the Grangers as a whole offered themselves to be fussed over, but that was all taken care of now, and he was essentially hiding in a sickroom.
Dumbledore had of course passed around every so often, impatient for a debriefing of the Death Eater attack, though Severus knew he was more concerned about why Severus hadn't warned the Order about said attack. Not that Severus cared about what the Order thought, or Dumbledore, anymore, but he did like his own neck. His obvious exclusion from the Dark Lord's invitation list for that event brought up not a few questions; he had to wonder at the length of rope he'd been hanging from.
It didn't help that Lucius had disappeared shortly after crossing the threshold at Grimmauld Place. Of course, it would have been difficult to explain his presence had he stayed, except the man showed up not fifteen minutes later with his wife and son, every house elf they owned and the entirety of the tangible Malfoy fortune. It did not help that Lucius used Narcissa to ignite chaos, directing her to correct Kreacher's misbehavior since the elf seemed to like her, if his piteous sobbing in her presence was anything to go by, and persuading the portrait of the late Lady Black off the wall by insinuating that the purebloods were reclaiming the house, in front of an increasingly irate partial assembly of Order. It had been clear, to Severus at least, by the crinkle between Narcissa's eyebrows and the cool slate of Draco's face that Lucius had not explained their sudden shift in residence. Severus didn't know, and Lucius would never tell, no doubt, but the shouting match after that revelation had to have been extraordinary.
At least Draco seemed to be taking it well. In the completely unnecessary and annoying daily updates delivered by the young Granger, Severus learned that Draco mostly stayed out of everyone's way, reading or completing school assignments in one of the rooms uncovered by Narcissa's claim on the house. Apparently he ate when asked, spoke when spoken to and generally annoyed the Weasley twins by avoiding or diffusing their pranks. It was unclear if the twins were still in it for humiliation or if just to prove they could prank the boy, but Severus was glad that the rivalry stayed tame.
Things weren't nearly as pleasant with the adults.
The Weasleys, mainly Molly, were doing their best to be as passively aggressive as possible, which was difficult when a Malfoy was determined to be nice to you. Other than the outright suspicion the Malfoys had to deal with were the threats and name-calling; Miss Granger wondered if the Order members had forgotten the power the Malfoys, Narcissa at least, held. She wondered ad nauseum if they'd conveniently forgotten that if the woman became annoyed enough she could expel them all from the house and they'd not have a foot to stand on because she was a blood holder, or did they think Dumbledore would protect them. Severus didn't care. They could blow themselves up if they chose; if the Order were too stupid to avoid annoying the Malfoys. As long as his son was safe, Severus cared about little else.
Severus spun, taking in the confused, pale face of one Caer Anthriel. The boy looked fine, if a bit young and trembling, but late bloomers were common in Snapes. "How do you feel?"
The child's lips moved silently a moment as he thought that over. Severus appreciated the effort, especially since he didn't have time to perform an in depth analysis of the child's emotional state. "Kind of shaky, I guess? Like my legs will give out if I stood up."
"Hardly. You would lose consciousness long before that point." Which was normal for a six year old recovering from Cruciatus damage. Clearly the brat was more delicate than he'd thought, and special potions would have to be brewed to combat not only this damage, but the muggles' as well. Which means he had to leave the room, brave the masses to get to the potions lab, if Dumbledore even let him get that far. Inconvenience. "What do you remember?"
The child shivered, and Severus made a note to simple purchase a nerve restorative. It was expensive, but he'd rather spend extra than have the child suffer permanent damage, and since the brew needed to simmer for fourteen hours and time was of the essence, he would deal with it.
Those eyes were not allowed to look at him that way, or appear so large. Severus found himself moving closer, fingers trailing along the child's hairline, checking for fever, he told himself, digits gently slipping into the mess of curls. "Yes, and?"
"Voldemort." The child's voice had dipped into whisper, another shiver wracking his small form that had nothing to do with aftershocks, Severus knew. "Voldemort and… her."
Severus would be a fool if he had not hoped the child would not remember his mother. Perhaps he was a fool either way; Bellatrix was hardly forgettable. "Good. I would question you further, but it is enough to know, for now, that you are mentally unimpaired. Are you hungry?"
Caer gazed up at him solemnly around Severus' own black-clad wrist; he hadn't yet stopped petting the child's hair. "I'm not. Not hungry. Is Hermione alright?"
He resisted the urge to snarl, and forced himself to crush a handful of the child's hair gently in his fist, running his fingertips across the brat's scalp twice before withdrawing his hand and straightening. "It infuriates me when you put your health, or lack thereof, beneath your concern for other people." It would make him feel better, temporarily at least, to yell at the stupidity of children who ran off into deathtraps and had to be rescued and didn't give a threstral's hairy arse if they were fine or not as long as they still had friends, but that would lead to another shouting match, and the child's blood pressure was not up to it. "I would much rather you learn a modicum of self-preservation and devote yourself to cultivating it than behave about death and personal injury the way you do."
Caer, head swimming with pain or his father's potions, he wasn't entirely sure which, simply gazed at the man a moment before he kicked his brain into gear, working to figure out what those words meant. At least that's what it looked like to Severus, who was faced with glassy violet eyes far too large for the child's face. After a moment of waiting for the words to make sense he sighed, and simplified. "Hermione is fine, as are her parents."
"Oh, good. And Malfoy?"
That was a surprise, but Severus considered, as his fingers once again sought out the boy's skin, that it should not be. Of course the child would be concerned about someone who fought to keep him safe, even if that someone was a death eater. He'd need to teach the boy to be suspicious as well. Heavens, but he had a raise a child.
Merlin help him.
"Lucius is fine. He has retrieved his family and they have moved into the master suite. Shall I tell him you asked after him?"
Caer hesitated. "Yes."
Caer fidgeted, and Severus shifted, weighing the options in his mind. Finally, when he could take it no longer, he asked, "Do you want to see your godfather?" It felt like acid to say the words, but that's what adults did for their sick children, right, grant them boons?
Large purple eyes met his before shifting away. "Is he still my godfather?" one errant foot shifted beneath the covers, and Severus stared at it oddly.
Of course, Black wasn't the child's godfather, never had been, but he'd been important to Harry and, as the night's events had made plain to him, Caer was still Harry, on some level, and that would not change.
"Truthfully, he is not." He watched as the child seemed to droop in on himself, and resisted the urge to place a hand on top of the boy's mountain of curls. "Sirius Black has no connection to Caer Snape. He was, however, Harry Potter's godfather, and as much as I would like to think otherwise, you are still, in some ways, very much him."
There was a flame of hope bright in those eyes when next they met his, and Severus felt both guilty and not for wanting to snuff it out. He did not want his son to be hopeful of Black. It was obscene. There had to be a way to make the child much less optimistic.
"You also realize that with the re-admittance of Black into your life also comes the responsibility of having to explain to your friends your new appearance and its implied consequences, do you not?"
The light most certainly dimmed behind those violet orbs and Severus wanted to hex himself. Yes, he'd wanted the child less enthused about his nemesis, but not to have all the life sucked out of him. Caer lay limply against the pillows, staring at the foot of the bed, his eyes quite dull, with no shine. "Yes. I realize."
Severus simply stared at the child a moment, lost for words on how to make those eyes dance again. He stifled a snort of disgust. He was a father, not some dewy eyed sycophant! He would make the child miserable if he pleased!
"Very well. I will attempt to locate him at my convenience. In the meantime, please remove yourself from the lackadaisical position you've taken to; you are far too young to be a louse. "
"But, I only just woke up!" Caer snapped, heat flushing his cheeks.
Severus eyed the child, slightly pleased with the spark he saw there. From the depths of his robes he produced a strengthening potion, and threw it at the child's chest. "Get up." The other potions he could mix into the boy's food, or spell it into his body as he slept. Mind made up, the potions master left the room in a flurry of robes.
He did not expect to meet Dumbledore in the hallway.
Or to hear Caer swear at him from behind the thick door. Dumbledore raised one bushy eyebrow and attempted to stare him into confession. Severus raised his own eyebrow and refused.
At long last Dumbledore tired of their game, or remember what he'd tracked Severus down for, Severus didn't know which, and folded his hands behind his back.
"I wonder, Severus, if you would accompany me to the lower levels? I'm reluctant to use the word 'dungeon' no matter how apt the use may be."
Severus felt his blood clot in his veins, creakily managing to nod an affirmative. He would write a note to Lucius. Make him Caer's Godfather. Narcissa wouldn't let anyone near her sister's son, no matter that the last time she'd seen the woman they'd nearly clawed each other's eyes out. He would make sure Caer's fees are paid, and that he'd inherit everything laid up in Severus'' personal vault as well as the Prince family holdings. He'd beg Dumbledore, before he began the torture, to secure his memories. And lock them with a blood rune. And use another blood rune to send them to Caer. His death would not be in vain, Severus swore to himself. He swore to himself all the way to the dungeons beneath the kitchen.
And when Dumbledore opened the first door, he swore aloud.
"Well, Severus, will you say nothing?" Dumbledore peered at him calmly over his half-moon spectacles. Severus spared him no mind.
Bellatrix Lestrange lay shivering in her potions inducing sleep, a sure sign that the restoratives he'd dosed her with were taking effect, and that she'd need another dose in less than an hour. The strain of restorative drafts he'd created replaced damaged and injured cells; her reaction showed there was more damaged than just her mind. Of course, years of Azkaban would cause decay, but the type of torture required to reduce a body to this level of destruction made his skin crawl.
He remembered her hair had been cotton soft, wispy in its curls, seeming to float around her head with a mind of its own. Bella hadn't been a prissy woman or teenager, two years ahead of him at Hogwarts. She had been clean enough to satisfy pureblood standards but had never obsessed over her appearance the way Narcissa had. He'd often seen her at Death Eater meetings looking disheveled and unkempt, her concern for personal hygiene diminishing as her magical prowess increased.
But that was before he knew about the torture, the way Voldemort had torn the infant from her body and tortured her into insanity. She'd known what she'd done to every one of her victims, every mother she came across. She'd been conscious, but not sane, detached from the reality of the situation in a way even his legilimancy probe could not figure out. Her words, dropped from trembling lips, haunted him even now. "I hated them all, Severus, every one of them. I would have tortured them for hours if I had the chance. I couldn't have my baby. Voldemort killed him. My baby. My sweet, sweet baby. If I couldn't have my baby, none of them could."
"You've been transfixed appearance for nearly an hour, Severus."
And he would be for an hour more, Severus answered in his head. Because Bellatrix made things complicated by her very presence. Chaos. Even when she did something good she caused it. Unconscious and surrendering to the opposite side of her war, and still caused chaos.
Molly bustled back into the room. Levitating a tray of food and a large wooden tub ahead of her. Of course, Severus knew Bellatrix would need to take a second set of potions soon, but he doubted she'd be able to consume the large serving Molly had brought. He made to verbalize this opinion but caught the steel glint in the matron's eye; he did not know what it meant, but Molly with a patient would give Poppy a run for her money and Severus had been many things in his lifetime, but foolish enough to come between one Molly Weasley and her charge was not one of them.
The woman's acceptance of Bellatrix's story had been rather...sappy, in his opinion. He'd expected more vitriol, more hatred, a good round of attempted cursing on Mrs. Weasley's part, considering Bellatrix's reputation. Looking back, however, he supposed he should have known. Bellatrix explained her pregnancy, Caer's subsequent birth and Voldemort's involvement and Molly had all but engulfed her in tears. Heaven help the maniacal dark lord if Molly ever got wind of his whereabouts. Severus found himself relieved that this was one area he did not have to micromanage within an inch of its life, because everything else had become infinitely more complicated.
What was he to do now? What would he tell Caer? What did this mean for him as an agent of Dumbledore's war? Would he stay? Not if it put Caer in danger. Dumbledore no doubt stood weaving plots within plots opposite him, even as he scrutinized Severus' face for any sort of tell. No doubt he'd figured out that Caer was actually Harry Potter. No doubt he burned inside to know the how of it, the logistics, and the characters who played a part in it all. He'd never let it go, Severus knew with a certainty that made his stomach clench. And as long as Dumbledore had a bone to unearth, Caer would never be safe.
For the thirtieth time in two days, Severus cursed fatherhood.
How did he explain to Bellatrix that her son used to be Harry Potter and had every reason to hate her? He'd barely escaped promising to bring him to her as she'd fought against the effects of three restorative potions, and Severus despaired, because A headstrong Bellatrix Black was a disaster on legs, and no matter that she had been granted sanctuary on the basis that she maintain a prison-like sentence; Bellatrix had been born a Black and the house would listen to her, and the last thing he needed was for the woman to seek the boy out herself.
Severus wasted three minutes imagining the elaborate ways in which that scenario could go wrong, and then he heard his son's name.
Dumbledore twinkled at him, turning toward the door. "Ah, the young Snape. I would so like to meet him." His aged hands linked over his beard, thumbs circling each other in anticipation.
Severus snapped into action, loathe as he was to leave the defenseless Lestrange woman alone with the Headmaster. "Forgive me for delaying you, but I must insist that you not." He slipped out of the room in a flurry of robes, jaw clenched tight against the madness.
Caer spun, eyes wide. He'd only been out of bed for maybe ten minutes, not counting the twenty it took for him to maneuver out of the plushy bed (and the other ten it took to get Snape's blasted potion open). At the top of the stairs was a red-eyed, worried and sorry-looking Hermione pressed up against the wall, clutching a disbelieving Ron's arm.
Caer shifted, acutely aware of his heart hammering in his ears. "Hey, Ron."
"Blimey mate, what happened to you?"
Caer stuttered, and Severus chose that exact moment to swoop out of a nearby room and tower over him. Perfect. He'd only just missed his one chance of explaining it all to Ron without the boy maybe blowing up about it. Caer groaned as the floor swayed, coming up to greet him before retreating to its former place in a dizzying display of color. He swayed, only to come up against a firm, warm surface.
"Have you taken ill, child?"
And just like that, Caer's temper went through the roof. He snatched his arm away from Snape, crashing into the opposite wall and clenching his eyes shut against the spinning corridor. "Of course I'm ill, Father! I've only just woken up after being hit with the Cruciatus and you made me get out of bed!"
It was suddenly so quiet that one could hear dust hit the carpet from the ceiling above. And then Severus spoke.
"Of course, I should have accounted for your still healing liver. The potion I gave you should have been sufficient to restore your body to its former working condition. Had I realized it had not I would have given you something stronger." Caer heard a rustling of robes and a tinkling of glass on glass and then, "Here," and suddenly a cool sensation filled his stomach, his limbs gaining a strength he hadn't known he'd missed.
Caer peeled his eyes open and found his father looking at him. He stared. Severus did not look away, though his frown did twitch slightly. But Caer didn't care. How did he begin to wrap his mind around Snape, bastard of the dungeons, essentially admitting himself wrong?
"For Merlin's sake, child, blink! Your immune system is not such that it can withstand such strenuous activities so soon after your collapse!"
Caer blinked, stifling a stupid grin and apologized. "Only, did you just apologize?"
"Use your brain," the man snapped, shoving him up the stairs by his head. "And stay off this floor for the next few hours."
Caer spun, latching onto the man's sleeve before abruptly letting go. "What's happening? Mrs. Weasley's bound to call for lunch; can I go?"
"Mrs. Weasley has been set a task by Professor Dumbledore, so everyone must fend for themselves today. I will bring you lunch."
That sucked the next question right out of him. Caer stared, then blinked, shaking his head. "That's alright. I'll just, I'll be alright. Not really hungry anyway." He stumbled, backing up the stairs, not meeting his father's eyes. "You don't have to, I swear."
"Caer, speak to your friends. I will find you when lunch is ready."
The teen stuttered and blabbered some more, but by then he'd bumped into Ron, who jumped away from him as if he'd been burnt. Caer swallowed, grabbed Hermione's hand and ran down the corridor.
Ron found them minutes later in a tiny library hidden behind a sharp corner. Hermione still shook behind him, for reasons Caer couldn't begin to understand. Ron stared at him a moment, clenching and unclenching his fists with eyes wide before he spoke.
"What the bloody hell happened to you, Harry? Did you just call Snape 'father"?"
Caer could have laughed. Two whole days of being Caer Anthriel and 'Harry' already sounded wrong. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Not sure I believe it myself, only it's written across my face in bloody neon paint so it's not as if I can ignore it, can I? And honestly I don't really mind it, can't seem to get upset about it. Don't know if I ever really felt like a 'Harry', you know? Se-da- he's named me Caer and honestly it's the b -"
"Shut up!" Ron stared at him as if he'd grown another head. "It's like you bloody well can't hear yourself. What's up with you and that git Snape? The short version, don't just babble at me."
Caer felt a spasm in his jaw, but tamped it down. "That git is my father."
Ron seemed to pale, then rapidly fill with color, red then green then a mottled shade of purple that would have done the man he grew up with proud. "You -"
"RONALD, STOP IT!"
Caer jumped spinning only to find a trembling, soggy faced Hermione crouched on the floor, hands clamped over her ears and eyes shut tight. "Hermione! What's wrong with her?"
"It's nothing, she just saw a ghoul." If there was such a thing as a compassionate snap, Ron would have achieved it. Caer shot his most confused look over his shoulder, only to see Ron advancing with his wand.
"What are you doing?" he squawked.
"A cheering charm! Ghouls make you terrified of everything I should have cast one right after I grabbed her but then I saw you and -" here Ron faltered, meeting Caer's eyes then looking away with a huff. "Cheerio."
Hermione looked between them both with wide, frightened eyes. "I don't feel any different. I don't feel any different!" Her frantic whispers soon turned to screams. "I don't feel any different! What if I'm cursed, what if it's coming to get me? It's going to kill me, Harry! Save me! Save me, I don't want to die!"
"You're not going to die, Hermione. Let's go downstairs maybe we can find Tonks or Mad-Eye to set you right."
"No! Not Mad-Eye! He's a killer, Harry he'll kill me -"
"He won't kill you, Hermione." Ron sounded annoyed. "Calm down."
Caer shot the red head a glare. "Ok, not Mad-Eye. We'll find -"
"AH! What is that? It's a spider! I'm poisoned!"
"Hermione, no! That's just your hair!"
But Hermione continued to scream flailing, pulling and swiping at her hair, the strands of hair catching on her tear-stained face only making her more desperate. Caer backed up helplessly, nursing a throbbing lip for his efforts. Ron simply looked lost, as if he couldn't understand any of it.
"What on earth is going on in here?"
Caer had never been more relieved to hear anyone's voice. He practically floated the few feet to the Snape's side, and it wasn't until Snape set down the tray he'd been holding did he realize that the man had actually levitated him away from his hysterical friend.
"What has happened?"
"Ron said she saw a ghoul." He didn't realize he'd been leaking tears till he felt one drop onto his collarbone, and then he roughly dried his face on the neck of his shirt. "Is she going to be alright?"
"She had better be. Mr. Weasley," Snape snapped. "Explain."
"Uh, we were supposed to go over Transfiguration essay but I got to the library and she wasn't there, at least I thought she wasn't there, but after a while I heard crying and someone saying 'ridikulus' so I followed the voice and she was way back behind some shelves with books all around her and this ghoul standing a ways off all creepy-like and she was crying, and she wouldn't move, so I threw a book at it and grabbed her and ran. She kept saying it wasn't true, Harry saved them, over and over, but I didn't understand it. Then she pointed at him on the stairs."
Snape nodded once, then with a flick of his wrist pushed both boys to the doorway. He fell to his knees, capturing both Hermione's slim wrists in one wand movement and somehow bound them to the floor. The teenager screamed in earnest, and Caer shuddered at the sound. And then Snape started chanting, the low, melodic rhythm of it making Caer's ears hum. Snape chanted and swayed, his wand dipping every so often. It was a full five minutes before the chanting stopped, a Hermione mumbled something at the Professor. He answered her, a short conversation taking place before Snape stood, helping the girl to her feet. The slight pressure that had been pressing against his middle vanished and Caer rocketed forward, crushing the slightly taller girl to his chest despite the dip in his vision.
Snape must have seen it though, for far sooner than he would have liked Caer found himself pulled away by his ear, only to be sat down on a conjured chair and have the tray settle on his lap. "Eat," Snape commanded. Caer frowned.
"Blimey, Hermione," Caer heard Ron say, "you must have been really terrified. You shat yourself and everything!"
Caer yelled at him and Snape hit him with a langlock curse but it was too late, Hermione was out the door and pounding up the stairs, her loud sobbing setting off an angry portrait on that floor.
"You barbaric, unfeeling imbecile! Have you no thought to anyone other than yourself?"
Ron's face took on an ugly shade of puce as he sneered, throwing the man an obscene sign before shoving past him and out the door.
Snape stood in the center of the room, practically vibrating, and Caer feared for his friend's life. He peeked under the silver tray cover and found a stack of sandwiches and soup. "Uhm, sir? Ron, Ron's an idiot. He didn't mean it, but uhm, do you want a slice of this turkey sandwich? I figure you've already eaten, but I don't think I can finish it myself." Not to mention any of the other sandwiches placed there. Maybe Snape had made lunch for both of them. It would certainly explain the bowl of pink stuff.
He looked up to find Snape studying him, and Caer retreated, fidgeting with his sleeves. "Was I not supposed to touch that? Did you want to divvy it up? I'm sorry."
"There is no need to apologize." Snape moved with a silent grace Caer secretly envied. "I had thought that you would have liked to eat with your friends, but, considering, it seems we shall eat together." He conjured another chair and a table, and set the plates out. Caer felt his stomach clench, and nervously watched the man's face. Severus was tall, and Caer knew he wasn't thin; he could probably eat this whole meal by himself. He thought about it, and decided that he wouldn't mind if Snape only have him a little bit. He wasn't that hungry, and it wouldn't be the first time he'd only gotten a little to eat. He shifted, watching the way the shadows danced along the floor. It was easier to ignore his hunger if he didn't look at the food; he'd learned that at the Dursleys'.
Snape cleared his throat and Caer turned to find a sandwich inches away from his face.
"I said eat, not daydream."
Gingerly, Caer took the sandwich, only to find the bowl of soup and pink stuff in front of his as well. He looked up, confused and slightly fearful. Severus only had two sandwiches on his plate.
"You gave me, you're not eating?"
Severus found himself lost for words. The child before him couldn't be more than five, not with his hair flopping into his eyes, small hands barely clutching at the sandwich he'd given him. Severus blinked, and forced himself to answer. "I am. I've two sandwiches in front of me. Eat your food."
Harry protested, just like Severus knew he would. "But, don't you want more?"
Severus clicked his sandwich into triangles, and tried to remind himself the Durselys were all dead, and very, very much obliterated; there wasn't enough left of them to reanimate their bodies, even if he only wanted to kill them over again. "As you so astutely pointed out, Caer, I have already eaten." It was a lie, but a small one. He hadn't touched an ounce of food since before their fight, and liquor did not count. Between standing guard over the child's bedside and listening to Bellatrix's account of life at the hands of the dark lord, Severus did not have an appetite.
Two sandwiches were all he estimated that he'd be able to force down. "Do you want your sandwiches cut?"
Caer had the grace to sneer at him, even as he flushed pink. "I'm not a baby."
Severus conceded, raising both eyebrows. "My apologies Mr. Snape."
Oddly enough, the boy seemed pleased, and Severus gave up with trying to figure out the mind of a teenager for the next few minutes. He picked up a quarter of his turkey sandwich and tried to remember to breathe. He'd find Ms. Granger a little later, or send her parents after her, which might make the child feel better. He'd not cared one whit if she'd soiled herself or not; terror regularly broke adults and he'd expected no less from a child. He'd had no qualms about vanishing the mess before she'd even had a chance to ask, and cared not for her gratitude, simply assuring her that yes, her parents were still fine and yes, ghouls did terrify everyone. He had not expected Ronald Weasley to be so...tactless. He'd have a talk with Arthur.
"What was that singy thing you did you Hermione?"
Severus found himself faced with half of Caer's cucumber sandwich as it adorned his face, and watched as the greens in his ham sandwich slid out and down his forearm. The child nonchalantly picked it up and stuffed it in his mouth, chewing and turning those eyes back to him. Severus found himself lost. Was this what parents felt? A twisted sort of pride and exasperation covered in a rosy tint of possessiveness and the urge to protect? Severus shifted, conjuring a soft, wet cloth he placed inconspicuously at his elbow.
"That was a Mongolian chant, Mr. Snape. A type of spell-casting practiced by magicians in Asia from the early days of humanity. It is not just a 'singy thing'."
Caer gazed at him bemusedly before starting in on the yogurt. "Alright. Why'd you do that instead of casting a spell?" his eyes stuttered closed then blinked at him wide. "Its strawberry flavored! What is it?"
"It's it yogurt, child. And I did cast a spell; weren't you paying attention?"
Caer blinked at the bowl in wonder. "I've never had yogurt before," he murmured softly before serving himself another spoonful in an almost reverent fashion. "Why did you have to cast it different then?"
Severus considered the child. "I didn't have to cast it different. I chose to, considering the situation and its needs."
"What does that mean?"
Caer had Bellatrix's eyebrows, Severus realized, slim but thick and full of expression. "It means that I analyzed the situation, decided the best course of action for remedying it, and used it. That is how an adult handles a trying situation verses your run-in-blind method."
Caer's face was sour. "Mine, or Harry Potter's?"
"Must you harp this?"
"You harped this!"
"Yes, but you simply must learn to let things go when someone admits they were wrong."
"So you admit it's wrong that you treat me like I'm your kid when last week you would have ignored my existence?"
"Yes. I also acknowledge that it is what it is, and I will not change."
Silence descended over them both and Severus finished off his first sandwich while his son simply gazed at him. It wasn't an angry gaze, or a resentful one, but simply one of a child trying to wrap his head around a new concept. Severus let him be, content to know that if he needed to shut the brat up in the middle of a fight, he could just give him something to think about.