Sequel to Mine
"Daddy, where are you? Help me!"
Sweat streamed down his face and into his eyes, stinging and blinding him. His hands were tangled, tied, feet struggling to break free, straining against his bonds. He tried to call for Harry but the boy's cries had turned to screams and were fading, growing fainter and now it was tears blinding him as he wept and screamed and fought to get to his son.
Severus Snape woke with a start, his heart beating like a hammer in his chest. In his dream he had twisted and turned, tangling the bedclothes around his sweaty limbs. Heart still pounding he collapsed back against his pillow, feeling the ache in his muscles burn as he panted like a runner.
Just a dream
Disentangling himself Snape swung his legs over the side of the bed and pressed his hands to his eyes, sweat dampened hair falling around his face. Then he pushed himself to his feet and stumbled down the hall.
Harry's curtains were still drawn closely as usual despite the warmth of the April night but a careful peek assured him the boy was sleeping peacefully, Merlin under his chin. The soft glow of his nightlight illuminated the tiny frown between his brows and this sight more than anything helped still Snape's panicked breathing. Harry always slept so earnestly.
A quick glance at Neville assured him all was well with his other charge and a few minutes later he was relaxing back in his armchair with a much needed cup of tea.
It wasn't difficult to understand where these nightmares were coming from. But knowing didn't make them any easier. Didn't take away the urge to gather Harry up in his arms and hold him close, assure himself his son was safe and well.
But he did resist the urge - it wouldn't be fair to disturb Harry's peaceful slumber just because his father was haunted by the dark shadows in his past.
Harry had already paid enough.
Snape stood by the window waiting for Dumbledore, idly watching the giant squid sunning itself in the shallows far below. His eyes felt heavy and gritty this morning and he rubbed at them wearily, glad it was a Saturday and he didn't have to face thirty pairs of curious eyes. Doubly glad he had until Monday before he had to worry about teaching his first solo class under the watchful eye of Madam Bright.
"Sorry to keep you waiting." Dumbledore swept into the room and seated himself comfortably behind his chair. Looking over he smiled and then frowned a little in concern. "Are you quite well, Severus? You look tired."
"I'm fine." Snape returned shortly. "You wanted to see me?"
The headmaster surveyed him shrewdly for a few moments over his half moon spectacles then looked down at some paper on his desk.
"I thought you might want to know the news reports about Harry's disappearance from the Muggle world have all but vanished."
Snape shrugged carelessly. "I'm surprised they held anyone's attention for this long. It's been months."
"Harry seems to have touched some kind of chord with the Muggle public," Dumbledore said with a sigh, settling back in his seat. "Sparked debate about their child welfare systems for example."
"Do they really have such things?" Snape wondered. "It didn't appear anyone was looking to the boy's welfare when I fetched him."
"That's a trifle unfair, Severus," Dumbledore reminded him.
Snape just shrugged again, irritably this time. This was old ground and he wasn't in the mood for it today.
"Perhaps it might cheer you up to hear the Dursleys have been hounded out of Surrey." The headmaster ruffled his newspaper. "Apparently they were recently voted Britain's Most Unpopular Family by..." he peered at the small print. "A popular newspaper's unanimous poll."
"Oh, yes, that cheers me up tremendously," Snape exclaimed sarcastically. "That certainly makes up for years of neglect and abuse. I'll tell Harry he can fall asleep in his own bed like a normal child now, shall I? He can stop hoarding food and worrying that he's going to be abandoned again?"
Appalled, Snape closed his mouth with a snap, shutting his eyes in humiliation, unable to look over and see the worry in Dumbledore's eyes. "I do apologise, headmaster," he whispered roughly. "I-"
"Severus." Dumbledore's hand was gentle on his shoulder. "Sit down, son."
Snape stepped back, carefully removing himself from the caring touch. "I'm fine," he insisted tightly. "I shouldn't have snapped like that. I, er, haven't been sleeping too well."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Dumbledore indicated a seat by the desk but Snape shook his head, backing away, the sting of embarrassment still on his cheeks.
"I must get back to Harry," he muttered before fleeing.
This time it wasn't a dream of Harry's voice that stirred him from his slumber, but a small hand on his arm and a tearful voice that had him awake in an instant. Harry was standing by the bed knuckling his eyes and sobbing - the sight of the boy in tears alarmed Snape and had him up and swinging around.
One hand grasped a fragile shoulder, the other groping for his wand, eyes scanning the dark corners of his chamber and down the hall.
"What is it, Harry?"
Harry hiccoughed a sob and sniffed, swollen eyes peering up at him. "I wet my bed," he sobbed, dissolving into tears again.
Shoulders slumping in relief Snape drew the boy closer, sensitive nose already flaring at the acrid scent of urine. He cupped Harry's fragile neck to comfort the distressed child then frowned. Laying his wand on the bed he touched his free hand to Harry's cheek, cupping the soft roundness in concern.
"You have a fever, Harry," he said worriedly to the now shivering child, gathering him into his arms despite feeble protests.
"I'm wet," Harry's objected weakly.
"It's all right," his father reassured him. "It's not your fault. You're not well."
"I don't feel so good," Harry confirmed with a sigh, laying his head on his father's shoulder. "I'm sorry, daddy, I haven't peed my bed in ages and ages. I'm a big boy now," he finished miserably.
Snape barely heard him, closer like this he could feel the damp fever of the boy's skin and the shallow breaths he took. "Let's get you cleaned up," he said worriedly, carrying him across their quarters to the bathroom. "And wake Madam Pomfrey, all right?"
"You won't tell her I wet my bed!" Harry said in feeble alarm as the tub swiftly filled and his father stripped off the wet nightshirt.
Snape patted his back comfortingly, this kind of pride he could understand. "Of course not," he murmured. He considered the swaying child for a moment before pulling off his own nightshirt and lifting him easily again. Stepping down into the sunken bath he felt Harry sigh as they sank down into the tepid water.
"And you won't tell Neville either?" Harry sat docile under his fathers application of the flannel, an unhealthy flush on his cheeks. Snape wrung out the cloth and wiped the child down gently, frowning as Harry sighed to feel the coolness on his skin.
"I won't tell anyone. Ever," he vowed and Harry's eyes drooped.
"It's going around," Poppy confirmed, her work worn hand firm on Harry's brow. "I give the students a good dose of Pepper-Up potion and steam it right out of them but I think Harry's a little young for that."
Harry's eyes were closed and he leaned back against his father's chest, fretful tears running down his cheeks, lashes damp and spiky. Even through his fresh nightshirt and dressing gown Snape could feel the unnatural warmth of his skin.
"Do you have any willowfew?" Poppy continued and Snape nodded curtly. "Infuse some in boiling water and let it cool. Give him half a glass every few hours and make sure he has plenty of liquids in between. If that fever's not broken by morning you bring him back quick smart."
Snape looked around the crowded infirmary at the dozing children, his first instinct to suggest they both spend the night here to be closer to the mediwitch if she was needed. But it was clear the beds were all full and Madam Pomfrey had blue shadows under her own eyes.
She clapped a brisk hand on his shoulder. "He'll be fine, Severus," she said bracingly. "Childhood's full of sniffles and fevers. You caught this one early so it's bound to get a bit worse before it gets better. Well done though."
A child a few beds down moaned in her sleep and with another squeeze to his shoulder the witch bustled away, leaving Snape on the hard old chair with his arms full of sick child. But despite his worry his heart was full now too, because her words had sparked a sudden realisation.
Harry had come to him.
Wrapped in a blanket Harry dozed on the soft armchair while Snape brewed the infusion of willow bark and feverfew to bring down the boy's temperature. The wizard's mind was racing as his hands deftly performed the simple task.
For the first time when he needed him Harry had reached out for his father. The stoic little boy who had curled up in the bottom of the wardrobe rather than seek comfort, who had suffered injury without a tear rather than be a bother to his father had sought him out in his moment of need.
Blowing gently on the steaming brew Snape sat by Harry and stroked damp black hair from his brow.
"Harry," he whispered and the child sighed and curled closer to his hand. Snape cupped his warm cheek and stroked a calloused thumb over its baby soft smoothness. He never doubted that Harry loved him, the child's heart easily embraced everyone who reached out to him, gathering them close and cherishing them. But was Harry finally starting to trust him too?
When the tea had cooled sufficiently Snape gently woke the child and helped him sit straighter.
"You need to drink this, Harry," he murmured and Harry focused blurry eyes on him, obviously still more asleep than awake. Like a baby bird he obediently opened his mouth, grimacing as he swallowed the bitter brew. He managed half the mug before fretfully pushing it away, but his father was satisfied and lifted a glass from the table. Harry protested but Snape smoothed his hair back again and rubbed his cheek soothingly.
"It's pumpkin juice, Harry. To take the taste of the medicine away."
Harry took a mouthful and turned his head away but Snape insistently held the glass to his lips. "A little more," he coaxed and Harry took another sip.
"Good boy. Let's get you back to bed."
"It's wet," Harry protested, pulling back from his father's hands.
"I can dry it," Snape reassured him but Harry was shaking his head.
"Can't I stay with you?" he pleaded, green eyes glazed with his illness, red spots still burning on his cheeks.
"I'll sit by your bed, I'm not going to leave you," Snape promised. Harry's lip quivered but he allowed himself to be gathered up, blanket and all. He curved against his father's chest, drawing his knees up and shivering a little.
"I'm cold, daddy," he muttered. "My bones are sore and achy."
With a sigh Snape sat back in the chair and let the boy cuddle closer, cradling him like a baby against his chest. "I know, Harry," he said sympathetically. "But the medicine will help, I promise. When your fever's gone you'll stop shivering and your bones will stop aching."
"Promise?" Harry beseeched.
Throat tight Snape nodded, laying his cheek on soft tousled hair.
A little hand clenched at the front of his shirt and held on tightly, despite the feverish chills that wracked the slight form. The boy's blue lidded eyes were already closing, lashes fluttering as he breathed roughly, slight childish snores rattling from a chest filling with congestion.
Not wanting to disturb the child's fitful rest Snape made himself comfortable in the chair, summoning another blanket to cover them both with a quiet word and a wave of his wand. He settled in for a long night.
And a long night it seemed as the pale light of the moon crossed the floor in front of him, the diamond shapes of the thick old glass casting ghostly blue patterns on the worn carpet. Snape could only hold his son helplessly as the fever burned under his skin, cuddling him close but trying not to hurt him as Harry stirred feebly and moaned that his bones hurt. Of all the terrible nights he had lived through in his life this was the worst, as his child suffered and there was nothing he could do about it. He would gladly have taken all Harry's pain onto himself if he could, to spare this fragile little body its suffering.
In a life marked by loneliness Snape reflected that it was the loneliest he could ever recall feeling.
There had been a few times since Harry entered his life that he'd wished for someone he could turn to for advice and guidance. Someone who would reassure him that he wasn't making terrible mistakes in raising this damaged child. But now for the first time he truly longed for a partner or a mate. Someone who understood this dreadful worry that gripped him, someone to share this tender burden with.
By dawn there was no sign of a change and he decided it was time to take Harry back to the infirmary. He was climbing stiffly to his feet, Harry a light weight in his arms when all of a sudden the boy sighed and murmured and Snape felt the coolness from his skin almost instantly. The fever was breaking and acrid sweat was pouring off him, soaking through his nightshirt and dampening his brow.
Relief was like a breaking fever in Snape as he cradled Harry close and felt the new lassitude in his tense little limbs, his brow cool under his father's lips.
Outside the window a bird started singing as the sun began to rise.
The second nightgown of the night whizzed towards the hamper and Snape summoned a washcloth and quickly wiped the worst of the sweat from the sleeping boy before drawing another gown over his oblivious head and tucking him into his father's bed. With a sigh of pure exhaustion Snape lay down next to him, stretching out cramped legs and relaxing weary arms.
Harry was sleeping deeply but Snape didn't allow himself that luxury yet, the worry was still too close to the surface and for an hour or so he simply watched the child sleep, noting the easier exhalation of breath despite the traces of congestion still producing childish raspy snores. He laid his hand on Harry's cooling cheek, pleased to see the red flags gone and a more natural paleness to his skin.
Finally, when the lone bird had become a chorus at the window, Snape allowed himself to sleep.
Harry was shaking him awake and he came to groggily.
"I need to pee," Harry was mumbling. "But my legs are too tired."
Snape came awake long enough to grope under his bed for the old gazunder that resided there. He helped Harry to a sitting position on the side of the bed and it was a mark of how tired and ill the boy must still be feeling that he allowed his father to help him to pee without protest before turning back over and descending into snores again.
Taking a moment to settle his own nagging need Snape shoved the po back under the bed and let himself drift back into blissful slumber.
Guiltily aware that he should have been feeding Harry more liquids and brew Snape splashed water on his face and peered at the clock. The morning was gone and with a start he realised it was Sunday and Neville was due back this evening. He had better owl Mrs Longbottom and warn her to keep the boy home for a few days. Harry might still be contagious and wouldn't be up for any company for a while anyway.
He brewed some more willowfew and a pot of tea for himself, lifting the covers on their breakfast plates, house elf magic still keeping them warm despite the later hour. Even after only a few hours sleep Snape reflected that he felt surprisingly well rested and he sat and drank a cup of tea before tucking into bacon and eggs with a greater appetite than usual.
His eyes fell on the empty chair opposite and he realised that this was the first breakfast he'd eaten alone in months. Every morning in all that time he had eaten his modest breakfast, opened his mail and perused the newspaper to the constant chorus of Harry's chatter and cheerful conversation. And lately Neville's voice had begun chiming in more and more often, as the lad's confidence grew.
Snape chewed slowly, studying the neatly tucked in chairs and the spotless table cloth and the marmalade jar without a spot of butter in it. How many times had he rubbed his brow at breakfast and silently wished for a trifle more peace and quiet? Now he had his wish and instead of peace it felt as the silence of the room was ringing in his ears.
His paper arrived but he couldn't settle to reading it, Harry's medicine was cool anyway so he gently woke the boy and helped him to sit up against the pillows.
"Why am I in your bed, daddy?" he said groggily, wrapping shaking fingers around the warm mug.
"Drink up," Snape urged and the boy swallowed a mouthful, making a sour face.
"Yuck," he exclaimed, waking up a little and looking more alert. His eyes were clearer and his skin was only slightly flushed. His breathing was still a trifle laboured and Snape handed him a handkerchief.
"Blow," he ordered and Harry meekly complied.
"Am I sick?" he wondered.
"Don't you remember last night?"
Harry looked down into the cloudy contents of the mug and frowned. "Was Madam Pomfrey here?"
"We were in the infirmary," Snape began but Harry's mouth had turned down.
"I wet my bed," he recalled ashamedly.
His father patted the bony knee under the warm covers. "It wasn't your fault," he comforted. "You were poorly."
"Okay," Harry said, eyes drooping. He grimaced at the mug and held it out. "I don't want this."
"Drink a little more," his father urged. "It will make you feel better."
Harry looked doubtful but dutifully sipped, making horrific faces and shuddering as it was swallowed down.
"It's not that bad!" Snape exclaimed but Harry was sticking out his tongue, face still screwed up. "Drink some water to wash it down then."
The boy managed a few sips before a wide yawn split his face and Snape helped him snuggle back into the pillows, smoothing the covers over him gently.
"My head aches," Harry complained, eyes drifting shut.
"I know." Now Snape caressed Harry's long fingers where they clutched the covers to his chest. "You'll feel better soon." But the fingers were already relaxing under his touch and moments later the child was asleep.
Dumbledore peeked into the chamber and smiled. "He doesn't look too bad," he murmured, turning back into the room. "And you look a little better yourself," he said shrewdly. "Despite your disturbed night."
Snape felt his cheeks colour. "I want to apologise again for yesterday," he said stiffly. "I overreacted."
Dumbledore waved his hand as if sweeping the issue aside. "I'm the one who should apologise," he said firmly. "Bringing up the Dursleys was insensitive of me."
"They are in the past," Snape dismissed. "And can no longer harm us, Harry and I."
"You think not?" Dumbledore asked thoughtfully. "In my experience the pain of the past can sometimes be worse than anything we suffer now, helpless as we are to change or cure it."
"Perhaps," Snape allowed. "But it is now we are living in."
"I only sought to ease your mind yesterday," the headmaster said carefully. "I understand how angry you are about what they did to Harry. I've felt no small measure of that myself," he confessed. "I suppose I hoped you'd realise that people like that, well, they often bring about their own destruction. Worrying that Harry would focus negative attention on them they brought about the very end they most feared."
Snape listened, frowning as he recalled that hateful house and the despised Muggles foolishly entrusted with such a precious burden.
Dumbledore sighed. "The irony of course is if they had shown the least decency and kindness to the boy none of it need have happened."
"And you would never have sent me to him," Snape said, feeling hollow inside at the thought. He remembered all too well the brittle loneliness of those days before he had scooped Harry up and carried him away. The frightening loneliness of the night before was nothing in comparison. "If they had been kind to him," he wondered wretchedly. "Would it have been better for him to have never known me?"
"Do you mean better for you or for him?" Dumbledore murmured.
Snape winced. It was true the question had occurred to him before now. Lonely his life had been, but it had also been calm and unruffled, like the smooth surface of the nearby lake in summer. None of this turmoil, this worry or pain.
No feelings at all really.
"For Harry," he finally admitted. He didn't say aloud the honest answer he'd known in his heart for some time now. That of course he was better off for having his son in his life.
"Then my answer is no," Dumbledore said firmly. "Anyway," he said. "It's a moot point. They weren't kind to him and he had to be fetched. All we can do now is keep him as safe as we can and love him." He shrugged. "Much as we would for any child."
Snape stood restlessly and paced the room. "It's keeping him safe that worries me," he confessed roughly. "It's this that preys on my mind. They're out there, headmaster. Servants of their master no more, some perhaps as glad to see him gone as us but still so full of fear. Fear of his return, fear of discovery, fear of the foe that slew him when no one else could. Their eyes are on Harry now, their poisonous glances reach out to him." Rubbing his arms that seemed cold despite the warmth of the morning Snape looked towards the chamber where Harry lay sleeping. "I can feel them," he whispered.
The old wizard looked at him sympathetically. "No wonder you're not sleeping."
Snape snorted. "No wonder indeed," he agreed, scoffing at his own foolishness. "Who better than I know what they're capable of? It's only fair I suppose that I who walked side by side with them and was as guilty as they of so many crimes should feel this anxiety now. How many parents felt this dread and worry because of us? When I think back to those days and what I might have cost others, when I think on Harry now and how much he has come to mean to me, in my very blood and bone-" he broke off and turned, breathing hard, realising that once again he had revealed too much of himself to this man he still wasn't sure he entirely trusted.
Old lessons hadn't all sunk in it seemed. Give any part of yourself away and it can be used against you.
But Dumbledore was only gazing at him with rueful understanding in his eyes. "Yes," he agreed gently. "I suppose it is."
Now Snape was confused. He'd been expecting some maudlin speech from the sentimental old wizard, some sap filled homily on fatherhood and love and all that guff. Instead Dumbledore was looking more interested in Harry's untouched breakfast, lifting the lid and sniffing appreciatively.
"I say," he said hopefully. "This isn't going spare, is it? I haven't had time for breakfast yet."
So while Harry slept his father sat and drank tea with the headmaster and they talked about inconsequential things like lesson plans and the boggart in the staff room.
And Snape relaxed and found himself trusting Dumbledore a little more.
If Snape was left with any lingering sentimentality after Dumbledore's visit it was soon melted away by the reality of a cranky five year old who resented being confined to his bed. Harry insisted on visiting the lavatory himself and ended up being carried back to bed much to his disgust. He was hungry but whined about having soup for lunch, he was thirsty but didn't want pumpkin juice or water.
The crowning moment was when he realised Neville wasn't coming back that night as usual.
"Be sensible, Harry," Snape said, sitting on the edge of the bed and looking into a mutinous little face. "You don't want Neville getting sick, do you?"
"But I'm nearly better," Harry insisted, lifting his sleeve to his face and narrowly being intercepted by his father with a hanky. "I wasn't gonna wipe my nose on it," Harry said belligerently, snatching the hanky and rubbing at his face with it.
"Of course not," Snape sighed.
"And what about school tomorrow? Mr Lupin is reading us Tales of the Dragon Boy. I'm waiting and waiting for the end of the story!"
"You can wait another day or two. Now, it's time for another dose of medicine."
"No," Harry said mutinously, closing his mouth and turning his face away.
Biting back his impatience Snape held the mug out. "It will make you feel better," he coaxed through his teeth.
"It's yucky!" Harry burst out, pushing the mug away, slopping the warmed brew onto the covers.
"Harry Potter!" Snape bellowed, making the boy jump. "Stop acting like a baby and take your medicine right now!"
Harry's lips trembled and his slanted green eyes filled with tears. "You're mean and I hate you!" he yelled, turning over and burying his face in his pillow.
Jolted by the tears and the hoarse yell Snape drew back, feeling a flush of shame climbing up his cheeks. Harry's narrow back was shaking with sobs and his father carefully placed the mug of brew on the bedside table and climbed stiffly to his feet.
"Brilliant, Severus," he said to himself, collapsing back into his armchair in the sitting room and rubbing his face with his hands. "Absolutely brilliant. Yell at the sick little child why don't you? Prove once and for all beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything all those people are saying about you is true. You are a bad father."
He took a deep breath and then another, wondering how to apologise to a five year old for making him cry. What kind of words did you use anyway?
He started at the touch of a small hand on his knee and looked up to see Harry was standing next to him, mouth turned down, face wet.
"I don't hate you," he whispered and it turned out the words came pretty easily in the end.
"Sorry," he whispered into Harry's ear as he held him close.
"My head still hurts," Harry confessed into his neck, wiggling to get comfortable on his lap. "And my froat's sore."
"Throat," Snape corrected huskily. "I know you still feel poorly, Harry. That's why daddy wants you to take your medicine."
Harry nodded. "It tastes yucky," he grumbled. "But I'll drink it. Why can't you make cherry flavoured medicine like the chemist does?"
"I'll. er, look into it," Snape promised. "And you should be back in bed, young man."
"Can't I stay up with you?" Harry pleaded. "I'll drink all my medicine and the soup and everything."
Inclined to spoil the boy and mentally kicking himself for it Snape agreed. "But you're to sit right here under your blanket and not move," he warned and Harry nodded.
Snape fetched him his dressing gown and slippers and by the time he had him tucked in the big soft chair and dosed with more brew Harry's eyes were once again at half mast.
"Don't put me back to bed if I fall asleep, 'kay?" he murmured, snuggling back against the pillow.
That night Harry slept in his father's bed again, smiling in delight as he lay back against the pillows. "It's a big bed," he observed as his father wearily climbed in next to him. "I expect you get lonely in here on your own."
"How could I be lonely with you and Neville so close by?" his father murmured.
"I suppose." Harry yawned and knuckled his eyes. He shifted a little and leaned closer and whispered into his father's ear, despite the fact that they were all alone in their quarters. "Daddy?" he said softly. "Wake me up in the night, kay? I don't want to wet your bed."
"All right," Snape agreed, turning down the lights to a gentle glow. He felt Harry lay his hand on his arm and press his face to his shoulder. "Good night, Harry. Be sure and tell me if you feel bad again."
"I will," Harry promised sleepily. "Night."
And although he'd never been particularly lonely in the big bed Snape had to admit it was much cosier with the warm little weight cuddled up against him all night.
The next morning Harry was a little better and his father let him sit back in the chair for lunch. The boy obediently drank his soup and sat back against his pillow with a sigh as Snape tugged away the tea towel serving as a body bib that was tucked around his neck.
"Being sick is boring," the boy commented. "I'm sleepy and I haven't done anything!"
"It does seem rather a waste of a day off," his father agreed, sitting back and finishing his own soup and toast. He'd pulled his chair up beside Harry and they were using the coffee table for their plates and cups. That morning he'd cancelled his first days solo teaching and received a acerbic little note from Madam Bright saying she quite understood.
"Will I be better tomorrow?"
Snape cupped Harry's cheek and nodded. "You're much cooler," he reported. "But I'm afraid those sniffles aren't going anywhere any time soon."
"Can I read a book?"
Harry had a few books by his bed, mostly borrowed from Mrs Weasley who regularly sent her owl with parcels of Ronnie's books for Harry to read. Most were old and had obviously been well used by the Weasley tribe, especially two bold scribblers named Fred and George who had apparently felt the need to sign their name to almost every tome.
"For a little while," Snape allowed, fetching the pile of books and one of his own from his room. They read for a while in silence, Harry yawning occasionally and rubbing weary eyes.
There was a knock on the door and Snape raised a brow at the sight of Harry's tutor smiling cheerfully at him.
"I thought since I'd been given a day off anyway I might come and see how Harry is."
"Mr Lupin!" Harry called from the chair. He pushed his blanket down but quickly pulled it back up again when he caught his father's eye. "Did you bring Tales of the Dragon Boy?"
"Now, Harry," Lupin said with a grin, slipping past Snape at the door and loping over. "It wouldn't be fair to Neville to continue the story without him."
Harry looked as if he wouldn't find it a problem but he agreed half heartedly.
"I did bring some cards." Lupin pulled a pack from his pocket. He cast Snape a teasing glance to where he was still standing by the open door. "I thought you might want a break for an hour or so, Severus."
Snape reluctantly closed the door. "I'm fine," he said curtly.
"A walk might do you good," Lupin coaxed. He pulled a chair closer and began shuffling cards. "Shall I teach you a game, Harry?"
"Okay," Harry said with interest.
Not wanting to stay any closer to Lupin than necessary but still feeling disinclined to abandon Harry while he was unwell, Snape hesitated for a moment.
"I do need to mix some more of the willowfew tea," he said reluctantly.
Harry made a gruesome face and Lupin chuckled.
"Go then," he advised. "Harry and I will be just fine."
Harry watched with fascination as Lupin shuffled the cards and Snape made up his mind. The willow bark and feverfew combination was a simple one to assemble, he could be back in half an hour and by then Harry would probably be ready for another nap anyway.
As he ground the dried leaves to a fine powder down in his lab Snape considered the relatively safe ingredients of the medicine thoughtfully. He hadn't forgotten Harry's fascination with the art of potion making, and he'd been thinking a small gift for the boy would cheer him up over the next few days while he made what looked to be a frustrating recovery.
He glanced at the clock on the wall and made his decision, then scanned the bountiful contents of his store cupboard with a knowledgeable eye. He nodded. Yes, it could be done.
An hour later he quietly entered his quarters to find Lupin sitting in Snape's own armchair thumbing through his book. Harry was fast asleep in his chair, snoring gently with the remains of something chocolate around his mouth.
"It was just pudding," Lupin said hastily. "Your house elf brought it for him as a treat."
Snape tucked the wooden box he was carrying behind the door and held it open wide.
"Nice of you to drop by," he said politely.
Lupin closed the book and laid it on the coffee table.
"It doesn't have to be this way you know," he murmured, heaving himself to his feet. "We don't have to be enemies any more."
"We never did," Snape couldn't resist reminding him as he passed by.
Lupin paused and slanted him a wry look. "Are you ever going to put the past behind you?"
"Are you ever going to put my door behind you?" Snape glanced pointedly to the open doorway and with a sigh Lupin took the hint and left.
Snape laid the polished wooden box on the table and stepped back to admire it. Then he moved it to the coffee table so it would be the first thing Harry saw when he awoke. Then he changed his mind and put it on the mantelpiece to keep it safe. He glanced at the sleeping boy impatiently. Was Harry going to sleep the rest of the day away?
It was close to tea time by the time the little boy stirred awake and let his father help him into the bathroom. Snape then helped him wash his hands and face to freshen him up and Harry rubbed his face with a soft towel and emerged with a smile.
"I feel a bit better," he declared happily and Snape laid a hand on his head.
"You look better too. Come sit back down, Harry. I, er, I have a present for you."
Harry gazed at him in surprise. "A present? Is it my birthday then?"
Snape ruffled his hair and pushed him gently back in the direction of the sitting room. "No, it's not your birthday, I'll tell you in plenty of time for that. And remember you and Neville have the same birthday, so even if we forgot he wouldn't."
Snape waited until Harry was ensconced back in his chair before he pulled the polished box off the mantel and laid it on his lap.
"Harry Potter," Harry read, tracing a long finger over the gold lettering etched on the top. "My name."
Snape undid the silver clasps and lifted the lid, revealing little wooden compartments with cork stoppered bottles in each. Harry lifted one out and stared in wonder at the green liquid that swirled thickly inside.
"Potions?" Harry asked curiously.
"Potion ingredients," Snape said a little nervously, wondering if this had been a good idea after all. "And here, a little mortar and pestle." He pulled out the small stone instruments. "And scales and a cauldron. Although you won't heat anything without me there, understand?"
Harry nodded slowly. "Is this for me then? To be a potion maker like you?"
"If you want," Snape said carelessly but Harry was already nodding vigorously.
"I do," he said eagerly. He lifted out another bottle, this one contained little dried seeds shaped like stars. "Will you show me how to make a potion, daddy?"
Snape indicated a thin book strapped to the inside lid. "I thought we might sit and write one out together," he suggested. "You can practice your writing while you're recovering and by the time your book's filled you'll know a dozen different potions."
"And will you show me the magic too?"
Snape nodded. "Simple magic," he told him. "Natural magic, which is the best type for making potions." He didn't have to ask if Harry liked it, little fingers were exploring the bottles and stroking the shiny brass weights of the tiny scales with obvious pleasure.
Finally the boy looked up and smiled, green eyes shining. "Thank you, daddy."
Snape sat back down with his book, watching from the corner of his eye as Harry investigated the box, pulling the thin book free and flicking through the thick parchment pages. Then he closed the lid and once again traced wondering fingers over the fancy letters spelling his name on the lid.
"Daddy?" he said curiously.
"Why have we got different names?"
Snape frowned at him. "You mean last names?"
Harry nodded. "I'm Harry Potter," he expanded, indicating the box. "But the children call you Professor Snape. How come I'm not Harry Snape?"
Snape carefully laid his book on his lap. "I thought we'd talked abut this? Your mother was married to James Potter. Her name was Lily Potter. So you are Harry Potter."
Harry frowned, obviously thinking it through. "But why?"
Snape hesitated. "It's complicated, Harry," he prevaricated. "When you're older -"
"I'm older now," Harry objected. He looked down at the name in front of him, long finger idly tracing the curly letter P. "Why were they my mum and dad if you're my real dad?"
With a sigh Snape resigned himself to the inevitable and tried to frame some answers in his head. "James Potter was my cousin," he began. "Do you know what that means?"
Harry shook his head.
"It just means we were related. Lots of wizard families are. And James Potter and Lily wanted to have a child, a boy of their own." Snape hesitated but Harry's gaze was fixed on him intently. "And Potter couldn't give Lily one."
"Why?" Harry asked inevitably.
"He just couldn't. Er, some wizards can't. Anyway, they asked me if I'd help them. So I did," he finished lamely, hoping this would be enough to satisfy the boy's curiousity.
A vain hope as it happened.
"Babies grow in their mummy's tummy's," Harry said knowledgably. "But I never did know how they got there. Did you put me in my mum's tummy then?"
"No," Snape said firmly. "Potter did. Because I gave you to him. Do you understand?"
"But didn't you want me for yourself?" Harry asked earnestly.
"You weren't you then, Harry," Snape desperately tried to explain. "You were just the part of me that would help Lily make you. It's like magic!" he said suddenly.
"Oh," Harry exclaimed, lifting the lid of his box again and gazing down at the ingredients. "Magic!"
"Yes," Snape nodded quickly. And it was true after all, magic had delivered his seed to Potter, the donation his only part of the conception.
Harry was still frowning a little as he digested it. "Is he my dad too then?" he asked in a small voice. "Cos I heard a lady in the infirmary tell Madam Pomfrey that I was the spit and image of James Potter. But how can I be if I'm your boy?"
Snape leaned over and took the restlessly tracing hand, stilling the long fingers gently. "Magic helped make you, Harry," he said gently. "And there's no doubt some part of him went into you as well. He loved you," Snape was able to admit. "So that's only fair. But you are my boy, and I can show you some more proof if you need it. Look." And he opened his long fingered hand wide and laid Harry's little hand against it.
And with dawning delight Harry turned their joined hands this way and that, looking at the long slender fingers and the oval nails and the shape of their knuckles and thumbs.
"We have the same hands," Snape murmured.
Harry's eyes were full of wonder as they turned to his. "I have bits of all of you in me, don't I, daddy?"
"Yes," Snape said firmly. And after all, he could afford to be generous. Some parts of the past couldn't hurt, and they were gone and no threat to him now.
Harry was his.
"And every bit of you was made with love," he finished firmly, and maybe that hadn't always been true but it was now, and now was where they were living.
"Will I always be Harry Potter then?" Harry wondered.
"I think it's fair." Snape laid the small hand back on his box and touched a button nose, not yet resembling anyone's in particular. "So you never forget that they loved you even before I did. And after all, what do names matter?"
"They don't matter at all," Harry declared. "But make sure everyone knows you're my dad, okay? I don't think they all know it yet."
"We'd better make sure they do then," Snape agreed.
End of Part Six