"It remarkable," Madam Pomfrey murmured to the Headmistress, Professor Slughorn, Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter as she readied a tray with a sleeping draught and bowl of soup. "I wouldn't believe it if Harry himself hadn't brought the lad to me himself."
"So he has no memories?" McGonagall demanded for a second time in as many minutes. "Nothing at all? Not even-"
Clanking the bottle down firmly on the tray as she finished pouring a dose, the other woman shook her head. "Not a wit. I thought at first the nightmare might be but-" she looked down. "It seems our Severus Snape has always had unsettled sleep."
Absently, Slughorn drummed his fingers along the desk they were beside and reminded the proficient healer; "Make sure he eats all of that soup before you give him any draught, otherwise-"
"I'm aware Horace, I've been taking care of sick and not sick children alike for much of my adult life!"
Sheepishly the portly man smiled. "Forgive me my dear Pomfrey, I'm just-thinking and-" he made a frustrated noise. "I just don't know what the man could have taken before hand or after to give such a result! The only regression potions that I know of should have worn off by now! Or at least left his mind intact."
"That's a very valid point," Pomfrey sighed. "I'd send you boys down to the dungeons if Severus hadn't so meticulously destroyed everything in his rooms.." she said looking to Neville and Harry.
"I know," Harry answered looking just as despondent. "I wish-he should get to see what all his hard work's done you know? Yet here we are nearly a week after the war and people are talking about the great deeds he and others have done but!"
Solemn and voice little more than a whisper, Neville supplied a finish to the other's unfinished exclamation. "But he is unaware and unconcerned."
"Has he asked for his mother again? Or maybe his father?" The Headmistress inquired as she began to pace the length of the school nurse's small office
The aging woman shook her head. "After I told him neither could come to him as of right now he was satisfied and has only asked for books and papers since." Her lips twitched. "He's beginning to complain about the picture books though, he says they are too easy."
Bewildered, Neville mumbled; "He's six! How can picture book be too easy?"
"Always such a quick lad, wasn't he?" Slughorn remarked fondly. "He unfailingly had to be better than everyone."
"We can't keep him cooped up in there much longer," the Scottish woman groused as she paused in her pacing, "A boy his age needs air and interactions with more than just a couple of old women, and a few men. He needs to be socialized with boys and girls his age. He needs a mother. Father. A family."
Harry truly felt for his old professors, this was a great dilemma and with no cure in sight...what were they to do with the tiny potions master. So many people were just trying to recover, to foist the boy off on to someone who was unwilling or incapable of handling him and his delicate situation right now would help no one. If he wasn't so busy himself...he'd like to repay the man. For all he did. Even if he went around like an arse as he did it.
Surprisingly, it was Neville who made the daring decision to voice a family. "What about he Malfoys?"
There was a gasp from almost everyone in the room. "He was Draco's godfather and his parents and him...they did turncoat at the end, didn't they? Something tells me they just got in way over their head over the years."
"While I agree to an extent," Slughorn concurred, "Are they really who we want to give an impressionable six year old to? Even if they turned away from Voldemort, something tells me they are still bigots."
Harry shook his head. "They can't be that prejudiced. To keep Severus so close all these years..."
"I wish we could give him to someone else, maybe the Weasleys..? Or the Lovegoods? Anyone else really."
The Headmistress shook her head. "The Weasleys are mourning, I would not ask them to take on such a task as a child like Severus and the Lovegoods are busy helping where they can as well and if you were to keep an eye open, you'd see the Malfoys want to be of use, but at this point, they are better holed up in their home sending bits of donations and things where they can." Coming back to the table, she nodded at them. "Yes, giving the Malfoys a task may do everyone some good."
Bitterly, Harry asked; "You aren't just going to leave him there until its time he returns to Hogwarts or a cure is found, are you?"
Sadly, McGonagall reached out and touched Harry's hand. "No Harry," she whispered; "We will have people checking up on him often. Bi-weekly for the first few months, then weekly if a cure has not been discovered by that point; by the end someone will only be checking up on him on a yearly basis if no cure has been discovered by the time he is eight."
"Who will check up on him?" Neville inquired.
The Scottish woman smiled. "Us, of course."
"So am I to assume this will continue to stay just between us?" Slughorn questioned.
The Headmistress nodded. "For the foreseeable future, yes."
Rubbing a thumb under each of his eyes, Harry said "Shall we tell him?"
Little Severus's face turned to one of suspicion as he saw them all cross the threshold to his makeshift room. It was long and narrow quarters and over the his stay they'd attempted to spruce it up by putting in colorful carpeting, childish pictures and several bookcases crammed with picture books and other odds and ends; unfortunately, it still looked very much like the poor boy had been locked away in a castle as so many princesses had been before him.
Putting his muggle picture book adorned with a dinosaur on the cover aside, his young eyes turned squinted and he greeted them in a high, brittle tone "Hello, why have you all chosen to visit me at the same time?"
Over the week he'd shown no preference for any of them, though, he was always more relaxed when a woman was present. Smiling, Pomfrey brought the tray forward and put it down in front of him. "Eat up like a good lad, won't you?"
Stubbornly, his eyes never wavered from the group at the door. "Have you found mummy and da?"
Harry could feel his face twist into a frown. He hated that they had to tell him that his mother and father were dead. Shaking her head, Pomfrey lay a hand on his leg (which he jerked away from instantly) "Actually, we've found someone for you to stay with."
"Are mummy and da dead then?" He inquired, tone oddly flat.
McGonagall cleared her throat as the healer did her best to hold back tears. "Yes young man, they are."
"Okay," he whispered with a quick blink of his eyes. "Are these new people wizards and witches like mummy or are they muggles who don't like little boys who do weird freak-things?"
"They are wizards lad," Slughorn supplied in a soft voice. "And they will be very happy to have you and your company."
He looked doubtful (Harry thinks he probably would have as well at his age) "We'll be checking up on you all the time, so if you don't like them or want to come back here, we will bring you." He explained hoping this would alleviate some of his fears.
At first, Severus did not seem to react at all, but then he looked to the book beside him and then to the rest in his bookcases and strewn about the room; "Do I get to take all my books?"
It brought a hearty chuckle from everyone. "Yes Severus, you can take all of them." Pomfrey agreed patting his head fondly.
The dark-eyed child still pulled away, but a small smile tugged at his thin lips. Harry liked to think they were witnessing progress in the making.
"Hello, thanks for agreeing to meet with me." Harry told the family as he took a seat in their parlor.
Pouring them each a cup of tea, Draco shrugged. "I guess we were all too curious to know why you had to visit us in person over just sending a letter to pass up the offer."
It felt snide and Harry wanted to be irked, but he knew he couldn't at this moment. So accepting his tea, he took a sip and smiled at them. "We weren't sure the letter would get here safely and to be truthful, this is a very sensitive situation."
"What exactly is the situation?" Draco's mother inquired as she crossed her legs.
Putting down his cup, the mad said; "It's about Snape."
All of them came to attention. "What about Severus?" Draco's father demanded, face a dark cloud of brooding danger.
"He's not as dead as we've lead the populous to believe," He told them, curious and just a tad wary of what they would next do.
Up on his feet, Lucius had his wand at Harry's neck. "If this is some cruel bid for power or information I'll kill you!"
"It's not!" Harry snapped back. "He's in Hogwarts right now!"
Tears were dripping from Narcissa's face as she clutched at her son's hand. "Severus? Our Severus?"
"A little different, but yeah," The teenager replied feeling a slightly more sympathetic at the woman's clear show of emotions.
Taking his mother up on her feet, Draco, face stern demanded; "Take us to him."
"Okay," and Harry did.
Poking his head into the room, Neville couldn't stop his smile. Severus was belly-down on the rug, a jig-saw half way done in front of him and a book propped beneath his elbow. He was kind of cute. Quiet and much too self-sufficient, but very adorable with the way his hair curled around his chin and big, dark eyes that took in everything with breathless interest.
"Severus?" He called.
The boy turned, a look of annoyance on his face. He did so hate to be interrupted in the middle of work-no matter that to most it would just be leisure. Sitting up, he primly tugged at his pajama sleeves like he expected them to be too long and inquired; "Yes?"
"Harry has brought the people that you will stay with."
Getting up, he looked down. "Should I change?"
The teenager chuckled. "Don't worry, they'll like you no matter what."
He looked leery, but didn't fight it and went and took the older's offered hand. It was a first, but maybe he was nervous enough to want the support of the few constant people who have been with him the past week. "How many people am I to stay with?" Severus questioned as they walked out of the room and down a newly made hall.
"A mother, a father and their son."
The child appeared to contemplate this. "Oh," he finally said. "That's a good number I guess." He looked up, "Do they like their son?"
Now Neville couldn't be for certain...but, he figured they must, after all they did. "More than like, they love him even more than all the stars in the sky," he told Severus.
"That's a funny thing to say," the boy commented.
The teen quirked his lips. "It's called an expression," he lifted his gaze to the ceiling then, "Though, it's likely true."
"I see," Severus replied tugging at the hand. "Let go," he demanded. "I don't want them to think I'm a baby who needs to hold hands for everything!"
Neville frowned. Who would put such a thought in a little boy's head? "No they won't," he countered. "They will understand. Anyone would, you are-nervous." He wouldn't say scared. Undoubtedly Severus would only balk at the word.
"Cousin Ralph thought so when I saw him at aunt Katherine's wedding last spring."
"He was wrong," he told the child. "It was unkind of him to tell you that."
Severus frowned. "Are they in there?" He inquired pointing at the room they'd stopped in front of.
Sighing at the avoidance, Neville just nodded. "Are you ready to meet them? We could always schedule this for latter."
"No, now please." He told the teenager as he bounced anxiously on his feet.
Twisting the door handle, the teenager sighed. "Okay, but just be prepared-they might have an odd reaction to you at first."
"Why?" But it was too late the door had opened and the family spied the child.
Falling into the chair behind her, Narcissa whispered; "Oh my."
Coming forward, his face pallid, Lucius knelt in front of the child; "Severus?"
"Yes?" He asked, confusion evident.
"He doesn't." McGonagall broke in from where she was not far away. "Not anything."
Nodding rapidly, the man looked to the Headmistress. "Why...?"
"We felt you would take good care of him," Slughorn answered.
Up on her feet and next to her husband, Narcissa laughed. "We will! Oh we will!" Smiling, she asked Severus; "May I hug you?" After a moment, he nodded. Taking the small boy in her arms, he seemed to fit perfectly. "Thank you."
Lucius hesitated and looked to them all, however he gestured to his son who went to his side instantly and the family fell into a hug in which Severus was center.
Watching the trio embrace the child, Neville couldn't help the nagging suspicion that they'd judged the Malfoys wrong. They were human just like the rest of them-the love they felt for this child, their friend, no matter that he was a boy or that he didn't remember them only proved how wrong they were to ever think of Malfoys as something "other".
Stepping into the home, Madam Pomfrey took note of some children's things dotting the hall; boots, a cloak, an action figure or two left carelessly by a doorway for someone to trip on...
"How are things?" She asked Narcissa as she passed the manor's threshold
The woman smiled. "He's adjusting," she explained. "But he's rather thrilled that there is always someone who will read to him."
The healer chuckled. "And what about you all? Are you thrilled to read to him?"
"It's easy enough, he asks for so little..." she sighed. "Sometimes Severus's nightmares worry us, but it's not too bad."
Looking around, Pomfrey inquired; "Where is the little one now?"
"Out in the gardens with Draco," She replied leading her through the house. "If I remember right, Severus was quite keen on playing hide-and-seek this morning after breakfast."
Smiling the healer was pleased. He seemed to be adjusting much better than they expected, the Malfoys appeared to be the perfect choice for young Severus. Stepping in to the family's gardens, she saw a frustrated Draco crouching to look under some flowering bushes. The woman beside the nurse snickered, "Dear me, are you having difficulties Dragon?"
"He's wearing an invisibility cloak I swear."
With one last chortle, Narcissa called out; "Sev darling, Madam Pomfrey has come for her visit! Won't you come out and greet her?"
They turned, behind them was Severus, an impish smile on his face. "Where did you come from?" The blond woman inquired.
"It's a secret," he whispered as the boy accepted the hug Madam Pomfrey was offering.
The women laughed and the older questioned the child. "Are you doing well?"
She grinned. "What did you do the last few days?"
Happily accepting the cookie Narcissa handed him as she began to conjure together a place to have tea outside, Severus began to babble; "On Tuesday uncle Lucius and I read one of his books-it was very long and not always interesting, but he's a good reader and yesterday-"
She let his voice wash over him. Never had the dark-haired boy ever sounded so animated about anything. Here, he was being well cared for and loved and appreciated. It seemed that was all Severus had ever needed to be happy.
Straightening out the bow of the present, Slughorn nodded as he thought of what lay inside. A child's potion kit. Severus would be more than pleased with it when he opened it at his eighth birthday party. Picking up the parcel, he went to his floo and shouted "Malfoy Manor!" and a moment later he was stepping out of someone else's hearth into a room in another's home.
A small body dashed out and snatched the present. The portly man attempted to grab it back, but the little figured hopped back and gave the box a shake. Straightening his glasses, Slughorn realized the tiny one was Severus. Smiling, he said; "Hello Severus."
"Good afternoon Mr. Slughorn," He echoed with proper manners, little fingers still clutching at the package.
Kindly crouching even as it hurt his knees, the professor questioned the child. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in the hall participating in your party?"
A pout began to pull at the soon to be eight year old's lips. "I wanted to greet my guests."
"More like take your presents," Slughorn chuckled.
Looking down at the wrapped box, the boy shrugged. "Draco told me he used to do the same..." looking sideways and backwards, the child leaned in close and whispered; "Don't tell uncle Lucius, but aunt Narcissa told me he did too!"
The portly man smiled. "I see," there really was nothing else he could think to say to the explanation. Offering a hand for the child to latch on to, he thought to inquire "Who all did you decide to invite to your party?
"You, Headmistress McGonagall, Madam Pomfrey, Neville, Harry-who asked if I'd like to meet my godson, which I guess means aunt Narcissa's sister Andromeda is coming too..."
"So a nice-size party, eh?" He remarked for affirmation.
The boy bobbed his head as he lead him down one of the hallways to the party hall. "Yeah!"
Seeing that they were just a short distance from the room where everyone else resided, Slughorn thought to ask one last question. "Are you very happy here lad? Or is there somewhere else you'd like to be?"
Severus stopped. "I like it here. I can't think of anywhere better," he answered; then with a very stern frown he declared "I don't ever want to leave."
Slughorn blinked at the change in demeanor, but after a pause, the man smiled and patted the boy's head. "I'm very pleased to hear so," he murmured. "That's all I need to know, because as long as you feel that way...I think I, and everyone else, can rest easy."
Confusion colored his dark gaze. "Rest easy about what?"
"When we first gave you to the Malfoys, we feared it would turn out to be a bad decision...but it seems we were wrong to hold such fears."
Looking to his present and then the portly man's face, Severus commented; "I mean a lot to you all, don't I?"
His countenance turned unsettled. "Why?"
The man took a breath. "You are a mite young to know everything, but...you did a lot for us-for the whole world and we just want to repay you by ensuring you are well cared for and happy."
Severus frowned. "What did I do exactly?"
"It's a bit early to be telling you, but I know you'll be informed by the time you are eleven, is that sufficient enough for you?" He pleaded.
His face pulled in a scowl, but he gave a resolute nod. "Eleven isn't that far away, I suppose."
"It's really not," Slughorn agreed. Nudging the child then, he insisted "Go on now, show your aunt and uncle your latest present."
A tiny smile replaced the frown. "Alright!" He agreed.
Sitting across from the child behind her desk, the Headmistress was sent into a whirlwind of memories. This time, though, she feels hope at the sight of his solemn face and not despair.
"We think changing your name to Severus Malfoy would help you in your coming school and professional career."
Twisting his fingers in his robe, the boy looked at her. "What's wrong with Snape?"
McGonagall sighed, feeling far wearier than she had just moments before. "I believe you've gathered over the years that how you came into our, and the Malfoy's care, is not a clear-cut story haven't you?"
Severus nodded. "I remember once, Mr. Slughorn told me that I helped the whole wizarding world."
The woman pressed her thumb to the spot between her brows. "He shouldn't have," she grumbled.
"You were too young to know such things."
Severus stood up, disgusted. "I've never been too young! I deserve to know how I came to be here, what happened to my mum and da and why I've always felt everyone knows more about me than I do!"
The Headmistress felt her heart go out to him, what turmoil they had put him in to try and give him a happy childhood. She regretted that they had kept his life from him, but she did not regret attempting to give him a bit of happiness and peace in exchange. Bringing her hands together, she felt her resolve give way. "Alright," she exhaled, "I will tell you the truth-and give you your eleventh birthday gift early."
He cocked his head to the side and sat back down, waiting for her story.
"I now you know the year is not what it should be given your birthdate," McGonagall started.
He gave a wry smirk. "Nineteen sixty and two thousand three is forty-three years apart-yes, I've wondered."
"Five years ago our world was at war, against a dark wizard by the name of Voldemort and-"
"Harry saved you, I've heard the story." He cut in.
She gave him a stern look. "Alright then, while he was saving the world-you were dying."
"What?" He gasped, looking quite frightened.
McGonagall nodded. "Or at least we think you were, you had been bitten by a very large and poisonous snake..."
"How-How don't I remember this?"
She shook her head and leaned in. "The thing is Severus, when you were bit by that snake, you were an adult."
"You're lying!" he cried.
The woman reached out and took his hand. "I wish I could say I was...it would be infinitely better having to tell you all of this. But, somehow, between being bitten by Voldemort's snake and Harry and Neville coming to retrieve you, you regressed into a six year old and over the years...well, we are no closer to figuring out how this happened."
Severus drummed his fingers against the arm of his chair then, looking quite unhappy. "No. It shouldn't have been that hard, you can make an antidote to everything or it can wear off. Stuff like potions, they aren't-it cant-" there were tears in his eyes as he looked at her then. "What would the adult version of me thought of this? Being turned into a kid and then being raised by the Malfoys as there-well, son."
The Headmistress put her face in her hands. This was becoming much too difficult much too quickly, she decided. Eventually taking her head out of her hands, she pushed the book she'd picked out toward the child. "I can't say I know exactly how he'd feel-upset in part, maybe, given how private he was; but I do know he'd look at the life you've lived so far and feel grateful that we gave him such a chance."
Looking at the book that was his biography, Severus seemed to wilt a little. "Mum and da never got better, did they? They always fought and fought and hurt and hurt, didn't they?"
"I'm sorry Severus, truly."
He lifted his gaze and smiled weakly. "Thanks for the gift Headmistress, at least I'll get to know who I was."
"Harry wrote that one, you know," McGonagall imparted.
Dark eyes glittered. "I hope someone helped him-he can't write a coherent sentence for his life!"
Leaning back in her chair, the woman chuckled as she felt calm resettle over her. "His friend Hermione Granger helped. She was the smartest witch of her year."
"Good," he warbled. "Good," the child repeated sounding a little less like crying.
Watching him, she truly hoped the book gave Severus some deserved peace.
He looked on with a smile as the young slyterhin stared at his plant entrapped. Trust that Severus would be a excellent herbology student on top of potions. Approaching, Neville smiled at the boy. "How are you fairing Severus?"
The child looked up from watering his plant. "Very well sir," he answered a mirror smile tugging at his lips.
"Is Hogwarts agreeing with you?" Neville inquired as he took a stool beside his student.
The boy's head bobbed easily. "I like Slytherin, all the kids enjoy telling me stories about how my namesake helped their parents out;" musingly, he looked at Neville. "D'you think they suspect I'm him? Or maybe they believe I'm his son? I mean, if I were them I would. Especially 'cause I look so much like the grownup me even now..." and his hand went to nose briefly.
Chuckling, the Herbology professor reached out a tapped the boy's nose. "That's an astute work their detective Malfoy!"
"Hey!" The kid grinned.
Getting up, Neville brushed a hand down his slacks. "Why don't you come by my rooms for lunch on Sunday? Hannah's making baked chicken."
"Alright," Severus agreed happily enough. "See you then!" And with that deal in mind, Neville left him to his work. It was a pleasure to see that he was doing as well as he was, from talking with the other professors; it seemed Severus was having a good start to the school year. He already had several friends, showed off enough in class to prove he was smart and made himself out to be a bit of a rebel by offering to partner with Hufflepuff in potions when the poor boy had proved he was pants at it.
This second chance was treating his old potions professor well and Neville was pleased to see less and less of the grouch and ill-tempered professor he'd had as a student with each passing year.
Studying for charms with a couple of his friends, Severus shook his head as Brandy Lee waved her wand in the wrong direction. "No!" He scowled taking her wand. "You're doing it wrong!"
The girl for her part, glared back at him and crossed her arms. "Aren't you grabby!"
"You'll light it on fire like that!" He told Brandy.
She sighed and made a motion for the return of her wand. "Alright oh smart one, show me how to do it!" Reluctantly, Severus put the wand back in the mousy girl's hand.
"Like this," he said to her; waving his wand at a closed book, it opened and flipped to the page he had in mind. "See?" He demanded.
Squinting, Brandy nodded. "Like this," she murmured repeating his actions. Her book opened too, she made a joyous sound then. "It's on the page I wanted too!"
"That's what happens when you know how to do it right!" Severus declared pridefully as he tried to go back to his magical history paper; unfortunately, Brandy's twin Sherry interrupted that course.
"How come you're so good at everything?" She asked with head in her hand. "Is it 'cause your a genius? I've heard your dad was a potions one, which you are too, but...you're also good at everything else."
Severus wasn't sure, but everything he was learning just felt familiar. Maybe he still had all the knowledge his adult-self had and all that he needed was for it to be reawakened. Shrugging, the boy decided all he could do in the wake of his friend's question was agree. "I guess," he replied. "Everything just feels so...easy."
Despondent, Brandy's head flopped to the table they were seated at. "I wish everything was like that for me."
"You're great at Transfiguration and flying," Severus consoled. "You know, next year you'll be great on the Quidditch team."
She smirked then. "With Sherry right beside me! We'll be the best beaters Slytherin has ever seen!"
"You bet!" Her sister grinned back, "Better than any of those stupid boys." Her glassy blue eyes flicked to Severus; "No offense to you Sev."
Smirking, the boy waved her off. "None taken."
"So like, Severus Snape, the headmaster and spy was your dad? Not your uncle or something?" Brandy inquired. "You've never really said and none of the books about him say he had a kid..."
Realizing that a lie is necessary, the boy nodded along. "I am his son. Things were...turbulent in those last few years. I guess he just wanted to keep me hidden. I don't know who my mum is though, I suspect she's dead or she would have come for me after the war..."
"Oh definitely Severus!" Sherry cooed. "You're too sweet a boy for a mother not to want!" She batted her eyes then at him as older years enjoyed doing to the boys they liked. For his part, the slytherin found it more funny than flirtatious.
"Thanks Sherry," he chuckled. "I bet she would have too." Putting up his hands, Severus said; "Don't get me wrong though, I love the Malfoys. They've been good to me and they're all the family I need."
Brandy smiled and so did Sherry then. "You are so mature! It's why you're our best friend-"
"And why every girl in Slytherin wants you to be their boyfriend!" Brandy added on with a giggle.
Rolling his eyes, Severus made a boyish gagging noise. "Please, don't make me sick! Girls are gross!" The two burst into hysterical laughter then and Severus was happy to see it, but he wondered then if they did not have crushes on him too.
And what if one day he liked one of the twins as well? How could he possibly do that and not crush the other's heart? They were both his best friends and he loved them too much to want to hurt either.
Shortly after the sorting feast, a tall dark-haired Slytherin approached Teddy in the Hogwart's corridor; both curious and nervous, the boy didn't move.
"Hi," He said smiling at him. "You're Harry's godson right?"
The first year felt like rolling his eyes then. His grandma had told him about students who would want to be friends with him because he was uncle Harry's godson; however Teddy hadn't expected someone not from his house and so much older than him to take an interest. And so obviously too! He kind of felt insulted, actually. The first year was eleven not stupid!
Frowning, he nodded. "Yeah, what about it?"
"I just thought I'd introduce myself, the last time I saw you you were quite little. I think two or three; Harry brought you to my eighth birthday party." The answer was curious, because Teddy didn't recognize him and he didn't know why his godfather would have been at this kid's party or why he would have brought Teddy.
So with questions buzzing in mind, he asked; "Who're you?"
"Severus Malfoy," He replied with a smirk. "Does that name ring any bells for you?"
Suspicious, but not nearly as much as before, he answered the upper year's question. "Like the Apothecary. Plus my grandma's sister is married to Lucius Malfoy."
Severus nodded. "That's right," he smiled. "I know this might seem forward...but if you need a tutor in anything, I can help. You're godfather has been very good to me all these years and the least I can do I figure is help out his godson with his trouble spots in school."
"Uh thanks," Teddy blinked. "But, um, why does my uncle Harry know you?"
Ruffling his hair, the seventh year told the boy; "He found me." And before the first year could demand elaboration, someone called for Severus.
"Sev! What are you doing!? You promised to come send a letter with me!" Another upper year called.
The teenager sighed. "See you around Teddy," Severus muttered and with a hand to his mouth, he shouted back; "I'm coming Sherry!"
Watching his back, the first year vowed to write his uncle. If only to demand an explanation for what had just transpired.
Catching Severus alone at his graduation party, Harry went to him with a glass of fire whiskey in hand. "So how do you feel now that you're officially done with school?"
The dark-haired boy smiled. "Pretty good, actually," he replied. "I'm excited to start training to become a healer."
"I bet," Harry agreed. "It's a good profession!"
Severus laughed. "That's what I'm hoping at least." Sipping at his own drink, dark eyes studied Harry. "What about you? I heard your daughter made the little quidditch league? That must be exciting."
The man patted his heart. "Sort of," he agreed. "But it also makes me feel really old." Putting a hand on his shoulder, the man joked; "Don't have kids if aren't interested in gray hairs, alright? She's barely been on the team a week and she's caused my heart to stop at least a dozen times with her stunts."
Chuckling along, the boy nodded. "Of course."
"Hey can I ask you a question?" Harry inquired with sudden soberness; "Like a big one?"
Something like doubt clouded the boy's eyes for a moment, but then Severus accepted; "Yes, sure."
"Are you happy?"
The teenager blinked and leaned back on his heals. "Happy? I think so," he said; "I have my family, friends, girlfriend and it looks like in a couple years I'll be a certified healer and by the time I'm thirty I'm hoping I can be the director of St. Mungos."
Soaking in the boy's reasons, the man felt that there was one more question he had to ask. "Are you happier than you were the first time you were seventeen? I know you can't know personally... but maybe from what you've read and heard? Or felt even?"
This time, it was Severus who reached out and squeeze Harry's shoulder. "I know it must have felt wrong to have to leave me a child all those years ago, but I'm grateful for it. I'm definitely better off than that Severus was and I know who I can thank for that-" he waved his hand at the people at the party and then squeezed Harry's shoulder again. "You guys all gave me something I doubt I had the first time, people who cared. Without you, I bet I would have been in the same place I was the first time I was seventeen. Dissatisfied. Angry. Bitter. And already much too far on the the wrong path for total redemption."
The conviction behind his tone is what made Harry reach out and hug him. "Thank you Severus," he whispered. "Thank you."
Accepting the hug, the teenager allowed it for a while before he pulled away. Black eyes meeting green, Severus breathed; "No, thank you."