A/N: "Normal Time." That's all Harry really ever wanted… and in this version of Emancipated Minor, SUCH a high price he had to pay to finally get it. But in the end, it's all worth it, isn't it? :-D
Chapter 43 - Emancipated Minor - End…-ish
Wednesday morning, Severus rose before Harry and found himself struggling with his emotions, as the reality that his life could actually be normal now set in, and along with it, a sense of fear that he didn't know how to live normally. Severus had little doubt that Harry would find himself realizing similar fears, and he wanted to be the stronger and wiser one in this scenario.
For his son.
Unable to eat, and wanting to wait for Harry anyhow, he sat in his leather armchair, staring at the burning embers in his fireplace. He actually began to panic as he thought about tomorrow's meeting that would end with him formally adopting Harry Potter. I, Severus Snape, am going to adopt Harry Potter. Breathing became a bit of a challenge for a few minutes until green flames flared before his eyes and Molly Weasley's head appeared.
"Oh, Severus, I'm glad to see you're awake," she said. "And so nice to have open-floo calling again, isn't it? Arthur saw to it this morning as one of his first actions as the new Ministry Secretary of Fair Magical Practices." She narrowed her eyes at him and obviously read that he was extremely tense. "I wanted to suggest, if you'd like, that Harry come and spend the day here with us. All of the boys are home for another few days, and they will be playing quidditch and rough-housing outside. Harry could probably do with a bit of that, don't you think?"
Severus swallowed, and nodded, forcing calm into his words and hoping that his relief didn't come through as strongly as he feared it might have. "That's an excellent suggestion, Molly, and I know he's missed spending time at The Burrow, so I have no doubt he'll be up for it. Thank you."
"And, why don't you come by at about six and join us for dinner, Severus?" she asked.
He clenched his jaw, contemplating. Part of being normal was being social. He'd enjoyed the gathering last evening in the ROR with the people he felt the closest to, including Remus Lupin, and he'd always been fond of the older Weasleys on a certain level. Their unruly children could be a challenge, but they were all smart and capable, and so in their own ways had each earned his respect. That should be enough for him to be able to maintain a decent humor for one evening. "I accept," he said, unable to smile at her, but at least managing to sound gracious.
Molly smiled with satisfaction. "Excellent. I'll ask Remus and Tonks to join us as well," she said. "Send Harry over when he's up and about. We'll look forward to seeing you this evening."
She was gone quickly, probably to ensure he couldn't have a change of heart.
Harry's door opened and he flashed a grin at Severus as he headed into the bathroom. Severus sat back in his chair, forcing himself to relax. He could use a day of silence, on his own, to really let everything hit his consciousness, and this was not something he wanted to reveal to Harry. He could hear the shower running and went ahead and requested breakfast from the kitchens. He was standing, staring absently at the newly stoked flames when Harry came out of the bathroom.
"Alright, Severus?" Harry asked softly.
"I am, to a degree," Severus admitted. He smiled a small smile at the messy haired teen, who seemed to be in the process of blaming himself for whatever was bothering his guardian. He gestured Harry over to sit on the sofa and retook his seat in his armchair. "Molly just flooed to ask that you go spend the day with them at The Burrow. Would that be acceptable to you?" he asked.
Harry was studying him, working his jaw over his unspoken thoughts. "Yeah, I'd like that a lot."
Severus nodded. "I told her you would," he said, and then smiled, adding, "I'll join you over there for dinner. It sounds like it will be an event." He deliberately did not allow his tone to clearly indicate where he stood on such an idea.
"Brilliant," Harry said, smiling too, but still wary. "What's wrong, Severus?"
"I've had one realization, and I want to discuss it with you, but also want to be certain I word it correctly," Severus replied. Harry leaned forward with elbows on his knees and waited. "I have already thought of you as mine for what seems like far longer than the few weeks it's been. I became protective of you the day we brought you here from your aunt's house." Harry was listening with a very vulnerable expression. "And I began to love you, probably right around the first time I put my arms around you. So, I don't want you to question where you stand with me on any level, alright?" Harry nodded, not looking any more at ease as Severus took his time to make his point. "As part of the adoption proceedings tomorrow, you will be asked if you want to take the Snape family name as your own."
Now Harry got it. He could feel his own expression changing to realization of where Severus was going with this, but remained silent.
"You are a Potter, Harry. And an Evans, but the Potter family line has a long, long heritage that you very strongly embody with your abilities and your character," Severus told him. "If you want to become a Snape, I will be more than happy to see that come to be, but if you have any resistance, please know that I would fully support your decision to keep your surname as Potter. It was Harry Potter who rid the world of Lord Voldemort, not Harry Snape, and that is how history will remember you. Understand?"
"Yeah," Harry said, smiling softly and looking down. "I'd completely overlooked that possibility. I was more concerned about what I'd call you after tomorrow."
Severus sighed, recognizing the humor in Harry's admission, and knowing on instinct what was coming.
"I've always called James 'Dad,' in my mind, and also when I've, er, seen his spirit in some way or another," Harry said, he raised his eyes to meet Severus' now. "It would feel weird to call you Dad, I think."
"I forbid Daddy," Severus said firmly.
"I was thinking, maybe 'Pappy,'" Harry said with a straight face.
"I will not answer to Pappy." Severus declared after he lost his inner battle and barked out a hearty guffaw of laughter. Impressed at how well the boy had managed to hold his innocently earnest expression, he couldn't help but continue to smile as Harry cackled hysterically, all the while knowing that his enunciation of the word Pappy had added to Harry's amusement. When the boy had finally sobered, he added, "You don't have to stop calling me Severus, you know. I'm quite comfortable with it. And, as I said, you've been my son in most ways for a while now. Addressing me differently isn't going to change this."
With all seven of the Weasley offspring, plus Harry and Lee Jordan willing to play, and Hermione succumbing to the twins' badgering to join in, they had enough players for a five-on-five match of quidditch, which got quite competitive early on. Hermione hated playing the game as much as she hated flying, so she was literally no help. Fred and George acted as co-captains and had put Hermione in front of the goal. Between the twins, Harry, and Ron, their team had held its own for a good long stretch. Harry had caught the snitch before Ginny, but her older brothers and Lee had scored so many points on Hermione that Harry's team had lost anyway.
"That's all for me," Hermione said as they all returned to the ground, heading inside for the lunch Molly had held for them while they finished their game. "I'm going to be a spectator from now on."
"Thanks for indulging us," Harry said grinning at her, and a part of him wanted to do the same, so that they could talk about yesterday. A wave of powerful emotion washed over him suddenly as he realized again that she'd saved his life.
Hermione caught the shift in his expression and stopped walking, waiting while the others passed before asking him quietly, "What is it, Harry?"
Harry gulped, but managed to keep his voice steady as he said aloud the sentiments that he really needed her to hear, "Nothing bad, just that I know how lucky I am to have your friendship, Hermione. If you hadn't suggested that I could shield myself while my horcrux was being dealt with, I would have died yesterday. You know that, right?"
Hermione blinked and burst into tears, and Harry hugged her, hooking his chin over her shoulder and saying, "You are really, really brilliant. I owe you my life."
"You don't owe me anything, Harry," she said after a bit of a struggle to pull herself together. "I was so afraid for you. I have been for ages, now. Ron, too." She squeezed him hard. "You don't owe anyone anything. The wizarding world owes you."
They pulled apart. Harry swiped at his eyes while Hermione found a handkerchief in her pocket. Ron was slowly approaching them.
"What's up?" he asked carefully.
"I was just telling Harry that he gets to relax now," Hermione told Ron before continuing to address Harry. "The only thing you have to worry about right now, Harry, are OWLs. Well, and your adoption." The last she said with a smile.
"Yeah, mate," Ron said under his breath, looking around as if he might be overheard, "what's that going to be like?"
They heard a crack of apparation and turned to see who had shown up, just outside of the property wards. It was Remus. He strolled over to them, looking better than Harry'd ever seen him in new blue jeans that fit him well, a red thermal shirt beneath a tan cardigan, a black leather bomber-style jacket, and soft black leather boots. Remus narrowed his eyes as he drew nearer, asking, "What am I interrupting?" when he'd reached them.
Harry grinned at him, refraining from the now instantaneous hero-worship he felt for the older wizard whenever he saw him. "Well, Hermione and Ron were asking about Severus adopting me. As in, what will it be like?"
Remus smiled his wan, easy-going smile. "Hmmm. Yes, what will that be like, Harry?"
Harry thought about his conversation with Severus that morning, and a snarky smile found its way to his face. "It's going to be great," he said with full conviction. "And probably a lot more fun than most would imagine."
"Now that, I do not doubt," Remus agreed. He looked at each of their faces and the wind blown, chill roughened redness of their cheeks. "Been playing quidditch?"
"Yeah!" Ron said, all at once realizing they'd found their replacement for Hermione. "You'll play, won't you?" he asked hopefully. Very hopefully.
At lunch, Remus sat at the opposite end of the long table, near Bill and Charlie, so he was out of earshot when Hermione and Ginny speculated about who was guiding their DADA professor's wardrobe additions. They couldn't seem to agree on whose taste Remus was catering to: his own, or Tonks'. Harry chuckled at the giggles that concluded their little commentary as everyone broke away from the table and headed back outside for their second match. Hermione stayed on the ground, safely ensconced in a dome-like warming charm that Charlie cast around her. This round, Fred and George acted as chasers, leaving Remus to play beater and Ron as keeper. Harry was the seeker, of course. Their team fared far, far better than they'd done previously, and the match lasted for nearly two hours. By the time Harry had caught the snitch, everyone was nearly spent with exhaustion, and actually happy to see the game end.
"Freshening charm?" Fred asked Harry as they landed.
Harry accepted without hesitation and found himself being blown halfway across the yard from the force of it. "Hey!" he yelled, "A little warning would have been nice!" But he collapsed into hysterical laughter as the rest of the players all received the same treatment.
"Mum won't be able to complain about grubbiness at the dinner table now, will she?" George called out as he sent Ginny tumbling through the air.
Severus and Tonks arrived within minutes of each other through the floo. After greeting Molly and Arthur, who were levitating trays with pitchers of iced party punch and glasses, they headed into the parlor. Percy and Charlie began to pour out glasses of the chilled beverage for everyone, while Tonks looked around at the lot of them, all collapsed around the room on chairs and sofas and pillows on the floor, and instantly grew wistful.
"Ahh, what have I missed then?" she asked with very apparent disappointment, as she made her way over to squeeze in next to Remus on the sofa.
Severus regarded the group with a raised eyebrow, and after a calculated survey of the available seating, made his way over to sit in an armchair near the spot Harry had taken on the floor. "You've had a game of quidditch, or three, I take it?" he asked the room at large.
"Two, actually," Bill informed him lazily. "You missed out, Severus."
"I think not," Severus said mildly. He was aware that he was being assessed for the way he interacted with Harry, who had just now scooted closer along the floor to sit near Severus' feet, leaning back against the broad base of the upholstered chair. He reached out to thread gentle fingers through the boy's hair, which was surprisingly clean. "Did you not play, Harry?"
"Oh, I played," Harry said, grinning across the room at Fred.
"Freshening charm," Charlie supplied. "Mum reluctantly approves."
Severus could tell from all of the amused snickers that he'd missed a show, and allowed his expression to reveal a knowing amusement. "I can only imagine."
"How was your day, Severus?" Remus asked as he casually draped his arm along the back of the sofa behind Tonks. His expression suggested he understood and shared the inner struggle Severus was likely going to battle for some time now that it was over.
"It was quiet," Severus said carefully, "which was beneficial."
"Feeling a bit of fatigue, then?" George asked. "From all the flying, and whatnot?"
"More so from the whatnot," Severus said, smirking at the reflexive chuckles that sounded around the room.
"Has Albus decided when to reopen the school?" Arthur asked.
"He will be sending out announcements that we will reconvene on Monday," Severus replied.
"And OWLs will be delayed by two weeks, to give you fifth years a chance to recover the lost time," Remus added.
Hermione let out an audible sigh of relief which made Harry and Ron laugh.
The adoption went without a hitch, and actually only took about forty minutes to complete. Severus hugged Harry hard when they stood up to leave the goblin's office, saying a heartfelt thank you to Ragnuk, who clearly was unmoved and simply completing a task among a long list of tasks in his workday.
Severus kept his arm around his son as they left the bank. "I'd like to show you something I've been thinking about," he told Harry.
"Alright," Harry said, unable to keep the giddy shakiness from his voice as they walked along.
"It's to do with where we'll live when away from Hogwarts," Severus said, realizing that he was openly assuming that Harry would not decide to venture out to live on his own any time soon. "I've got Spinner's End, which as you know, is dreary and full of dark memories, and you've got Grimmauld Place, neither of which hold any appeal for either of us."
"Right," Harry said, smiling at the realization that Severus had taken this upon himself. I really do have a real father now.
"I thought that perhaps we should look at a cottage that is up for sale in a small town just outside of Ottery St. Catchpole," Severus revealed.
"Yes," Harry said excitedly, "I'd love to see it!"
Severus pulled him close and disapparated to the front of Tipton Cottage on Knowle Lane in the village of Ottery Adjacent. Harry wanted to live there on sight. The small home sat close to the road, with a waist-high plastered wall surrounding its entirety, all painted a buff tan with black detailing, which matched the trim on the shutter windows in a strong contrast to the calming creamy white paint on the exterior walls. The plants in the front garden were dormant in the current weather, but the gray and buff flagstone pavers that led from the short front gate to the black lacquered front door literally called to them to come inside.
"I love it already!" Harry said. "When did you find this?"
"I'd been watching the listings since the holidays, when I realized I'd want to keep you nearby at the next school break, and had no intention of living at Headquarters with you, nor would I ever condemn you to the lifeless misery of Spinner's End," Severus admitted. He opened the gate and ushered Harry through. "We could always reside at Hogwarts over the Easter holiday, but I'd rather have a chance to find our own space and create the perfect retreat."
The interior had proven to be far more expansive than the view from the street would have suggested. There were four bedrooms and baths, and a full basement that was large enough that it could serve as a potions lab for Severus and a magical recreation space for them both, for practicing magic.
"Uh, I guess there is some interior expansion magic built into this place?" Harry asked.
"There is," Severus agreed, smirking as he surmised the reason behind Harry's inquiry. "And it would take more than a finem to dismantle it."
"Good thing, that," Harry said, smiling as he looked around the spacious parlor they'd currently entered to conclude their tour of the home. He furrowed his brow. "Severus, do you think maybe we should buy this together?"
"I do not," Severus said. He turned to have a look at his son, wondering where this was coming from. "I've planned to sell my house for some time, but had no aspirations to seek a new place before now. Between the sale of Spinner's End and a portion of my inheritance from my Prince family vault, I could easily purchase this," Severus told Harry.
"I wasn't worrying about how you'd afford it," Harry said quickly, although that was not entirely true. He had no idea what Severus' financial standings entailed. "I was thinking about it in terms of investment," he went on to explain, seeing the arch in his adoptive father's eyebrow and smiling crookedly. "I found a free muggle real estate magazine in my solicitor's waiting room back in December, and took it to have something to read. There were a few articles on investment properties. I thought it might be something I could consider getting into in the future. You know, build equity in property ownership. We could do it together."
Severus' eyebrow rose significantly higher at this. He inhaled a deep breath as he pondered Harry's comment. "I'd like to have a look at the magazine."
Harry grinned. "If we split the purchase of this home, you'd have more money to invest in another property with me later, wouldn't you?"
Now a smile pulled at the corner of Severus' mouth. "You're fifteen, Harry, you don't have to worry about things like this right now."
"I know, but I'm actually really interested in it," Harry told him. "Maybe somewhere in that plan is a way to help people, too, like offering to rent the homes we own at a decent rate, but to make sure they're really nice. Like this one is?"
"Come, let's go have lunch in the village. I'll ponder your suggestion," Severus said.
Severus and Harry signed the papers and received the shared title of ownership to Tipton Cottage that Friday afternoon. "It's unfortunate that it will remain unused until Easter, but we have planned to decorate and refinish it during that holiday break," Severus told Remus, Albus and Lucius over the glasses of elf-made wine they were enjoying in the conservatory at Malfoy Manor. Harry and Draco were on their brooms just outside the large glass walls that enclosed the vast room, chasing a practice snitch and taunting each other over the coming school matches where their rival teams would once again take to the pitch.
Lucius studied his friend, his fondness for Severus revealing itself in his voice when he raised his glass and said, "Well done, old friend. It's difficult to quantify, but I believe the prices that you and Harry have paid to get to this point in your lives are well rewarded, as of now. I couldn't be more pleased."
"Cheers," Remus and Albus said in unison.
Severus had a calm serenity about him as he raised his glass to clink among the others. He looked out the window and caught Harry watching with a happy grin, which he returned with open affection.
~ END ~
A/N: I've posted my explanation for EM-E in my bio, so if it's just not time for you to let this story go, have a glance at EM-E. The angsty ride will essentially be starting over, but you now know that it will end well.
Thank you for reading this unexpected lovechild of mine! I've had a blast writing it! ~cre8tvdeb