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The Dark Guardian

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Some children are afraid of the dark. They hide under the covers at night, relaying on their favorite cuddly to protect them. They have nightlights to cut through the darkness. They shake and shiver when things go bump in the night. They run for the protection of their parent's bed after nightmares.

But other children welcome the dark. For them, it means safety and protection. It means they can stay hidden just that much longer. It means crawling into small dark places only they can fit into. It means they can hide from the monsters that haunt their daylight, not the nighttime. The nightmares hurt them when they are awake, not asleep.

These children have a reason to love the night, not fear it. For the night brings their protector. The shadow that haunts other children's nightmares embraces them. It wraps them in strong arms and gives them the affection they are otherwise never given. It soothes those wounds it can. It feeds the hungry. It gives gifts to the neglected. It protects the helpless.

It loves them when no one else will.

For these children the shadow, the dark man with the golden eyes, is not someone to fear. No. He is someone to look forward to. He is someone to trust and to rely on. He is someone who will always be there for them. He may not always be able to save them, but he will never abandon them. If they do leave this world, they will leave it knowing one person cared for them.

For he hears the cries of the helpless. He feels the fears of those small souls that should be cherished instead. He knows how cruel the world can be. He wields his powers for the good of the young, though few see it that way. Fear is a necessary part of life. Not the most pleasant part of course, but a required on. Just like yin and yang, light cannot exist without dark. Not everyone remembers this.

But these children do. They live their lives in darkness. For some, he is the only thing standing in between them and a painful death. For others he is a reminder that love does exist. That someone does care.

Pitch Black, to those small abused and unloved children, is someone to believe in. For he protects all of his children with the fierceness of a mother dragon.

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There is a house in Surrey, Little Whinging, on 4 Privet Drive. It is a normal looking house, just like the rest on the street. There is nothing about this house to make it stand out. A perfectly ordinary house with a perfectly ordinary household.

Or at least that's what the inhabitants want you to think.

There is nothing in this house that would point out that one of Pitch's children live here. But, in a small dark cupboard under the stairs, one does. A small child with a big destiny, if only he can come out on the other side alright.

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The small boy jerks his eyes open with a gasp. He had that nightmare again. The one with the screaming and cackling and the green light. He can never understand what is happening, but he knows it is bad. He pulls the thin sheet around his skinny shoulders. He really hates that nightmare.

As he sits up, keeping the sheet tightly wrapped around him, he notices something in the corner of his cupboard. Someone. A pair of golden eyes stare at him intently. He covers his mouth to muffle a surprised gasp that escapes him. He must be quiet. Aunty and Uncle don't like it when he's loud.

Once the shock wears off he stares at the eyes staring at him. He thinks he should be afraid of them. Dudley certainly would. But they aren't doing anything scary. And they don't look mean. He knows what mean eyes look like. He is well versed at reading them. But these ones aren't.

Looking closer, squinting really hard, he gets a vague impression of a face. A hooked nose on a dark face and black spiky hair. Slowly he waves a hand at it – him – her? The eyes blink at him and move. A man seems to melt right into existence right before his eyes. He sits cross legged in front of the small boy, still looking intently at him. The man looks like he is made of shadows, with his dark features and dark robe.

“Hello little one,” he greets in a deep soothing voice.

The boy offers another small wave.

“Having a nightmare, were you?”

He nods.

“Yes, I could see that. Such a brave little boy, handling his nightmares so well. Not all children are able to do that.”

He knows what the shadow man means. His cousin never kept quiet about a nightmare. But why was he being praised for it? It was one of the rules – don't make noise. He had never been praised for following the rules by his Aunty and Uncle. And they are the ones who made them. But brave? The man isn't right about that. He isn't brave.

“Might I have the name of such a brave child?” he asks in the same tone of voice.

He shakes his head. “N' bwave,” he whispers very, very quietly.

The shadow man has to lean into hear him. “Let me be the judge of that. For now, what is your name?”

“Fweak,” he whispers, as quietly as before.

A look passes over the man's face, too quick for the boy to understand. But then he shakes his head. “No child, you're name is not Freak. No child's name is Freak. That is a cruel lie told to you by cruel people. No, if they will not give you a name, I shall give you one instead. Would you like that?”

He thinks about it. His name isn't Freak? But that's what his Uncle always calls him. Or boy. But he knows boy can't be a name. That means he is nameless. But this strange man will name him instead. So the boy nods eagerly. A name of his very own? He's never had something of his very own before.

The man gives a soft chuckle at the boy's enthusiasm. “Alright then.” He stares at the boy some more, clearly thinking “Leonardo,” he then declares after a few moments, “What do you think?”

The boy – Leonardo – nods happily. He has a name now! An actual name. And it's all because of the shadow man. He feels tears gather in his eyes, but he wipes them away. That's another rule – no crying.

But when the man notices, he doesn't scold or yell at him. He opens his arms instead. Leonardo is in them in an instant. This is the first hug he can ever remember having. His arms are strong and tight and he feels so safe in them. “My brave little lion,” the man mutters.

Leonardo buries his head under the man's neck and holds on tight, never wanting this to end. “Well Leonardo, it is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance. My name is Pitch Black.”

He nods, bumping into Pitch's jaw as he does.

“Do you know why I am here?”

He shakes his head.

“I am the Boogeyman. Does that bother you?”

The Boogeyman? The monster Dudley says will eat him one day? It can't be. This man isn't even scary. “Nice,” he declares firmly into a clothed shoulder.

Pitch chuckles. “I am glad you think so. Not many do. But I am not here to scare you. I am here to help. You're relatives do not treat you well, am I correct?”

Leonardo freezes. That's two rules – no one can know – and – he is a Freak and Freaks deserve what they get. He shakes, afraid now.

“Shh, little one. It is alright. I am here to help you. I know they do not love you. I can feel your fear. I will protect you for you are one of mine.”

He makes a small questioning noise.

“I protect all my children – the ones who need me. And you need someone to care for you, yes?”

Leonardo nods hesitantly.

“Very well. I will provide for you. Understand I cannot stop everything. But I will do everything in my power to protect you. Yes?”

Yes. Every bit of help is welcome, anything to help.

“The next time I come, I will have warmer blankets and food. Those are things you need correct?”

Food and blankets. And a name. Leonardo is afraid this is a dream. This is too good to be true.

“No my little lion, this is very much real. Before I leave, there is one more thing I will leave you with.” He takes one of his hands away from Leonardo's back and urges the boy back. “Here,” he slips a black bracelet around a too thin wrist.

It is a simple black woven band, but Leonardo can't tell what material it is made of. He touches it cautiously. It is soft to the touch. His first gift.

“It is a bracelet all my children wear. It is made of my sand and serves two purposes. It lets me know if you are ever in dire danger and it identifies you to my other children. They are the only ones who will be able to see it. Do not worry about damaging it, it is nigh indestructible.” He gently pushes the boy off his lap. “I must go now. Other children need me as well.”

Leonardo nods, sad, but understanding. He wants him to stay, but he can't be like Dudley. He has to share. He goes back to his thin mattress and lays down. Pitch tucks the sheet around his shoulders. “Sleep well, my brave little lion.”

And then he is gone, leaving only a bracelet behind as proof he was ever there.

“Pwease come back soon,” the small boy begs before sleep takes him again.

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And that is how the small boy at 4 Privet Drive became one of Pitch's children.

Life changed for him after that. It was a little bit brighter. He now had warm blankets to wrap up in. He had food in his stomach, even when his Aunt and Uncle didn't feed him. Harry Hunting decreased and then stopped after a series of vicious nightmares. He has someone to hug him at night and tell him bedtime stories.

It may not be perfect. His clothes are still too big on him. He still has no friends. He still has too many chores and no praise to go with them. He is still an unwanted burden. Everyone still thinks he is a stupid troublemaker. Pitch may not be able to spend as much time with him as Leonardo may want.

But despite all of that, he has someone who loves him. And that is more then he has ever known.

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Years passed and the boy grew. Not as much as other children his age, but he no longer looked like a starving kitten. He learned. Not that it was obvious. He knew better than to bring back better grades then his cousin. But Pitch taught him so many different things.

The most important lesson, though, wasn't something he could learn in a book. Strange things tended to happen around Leonardo. Odd things that no one could explain. Things that, when his Aunt and Uncle heard about, made them extra angry that day. Like the one time his teacher's hair turned blue. Or the time he ended up on the school roof when he was running from the bullies.

When he finally admitted to Pitch what he could do, he did not get the answer he expected. He feared that although Pitch told him he would never abandon him, that he would. He would realize that he really was a Freak and not worth the effort. Instead he learned he was a wizard. He found out that magic was real.

He wasn't a Freak at all. He was magic.

Pitch told him about the Magical Community. He told him about the school he would attend when he was eleven. He told him of the strange and the wonderful and the dangerous things he would see. Leonardo loved learning about it. Bedtime stories were now all about the world he belonged to and would one day enter.

He was so happy. Pitch told him magic didn't make him a Freak. It made him special. Too bad neither of them realized just how special he was.

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Leonardo's eleventh birthday came and went and it took much more effort than it should have for him to read his letter. It took a week and a lot of traveling and a friendly Giant, but he finally had it. The Giant – Hagrid – took him to get his supplies. Diagon Alley was amazing to the boy. This was his first taste of true magic and he loved it.

What he didn't love was the way people stared at him. When Hagrid told Leonardo he was the Boy-Who-Lived, he was shocked. Of course he knew the story. Pitch had told him about Lord Voldemort and the Wizarding War. Pitch wasn't one to tip toe around dark subjects. It was hard enough remembering to respond to the name Harry. No one called him that. Not his relatives. Not the teachers at school. No one. Now he has to put up with this too?

He didn't love the clear bias Hagrid had against Slytherin, claiming they were all dark wizards. Dark does not mean evil. Look at Pitch after all. And just because this Lord Voldy came from Slytherin, doesn't mean every Slytherin followed him surely. That just isn't logical.

He wasn't too thrilled with the blonde boy he met in the robe shop either. He reminded Leonardo of his cousin in some ways. He thought he was a bit too prattish. He was clearly a Pure Blood and Pitch said they tended to be snobbish in some way or another. Not all, of course. Pitch hated generalizations. But there was a common theme. So he decided to give the boy the benefit of the doubt. Not that he told him who he was of course.

So overall, magic seemed wonderful to Leonardo. The World where it came from... that was yet to be decided.

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Getting Sorted into Slytherin was as much of a relief as it was unnerving. He knew this is where he belonged. He had assumed this was the House he would end up in after Pitch explained the four Houses to him. Too bad the rest of the school disagrees with him. All of the Gryffindors seem to have taken it as a personal offense against them. Which is stupid. The red haired boy he met on the train – Ron – won't even look at him any more. Although his twin brothers still seem to like him.

The Hufflepuffs – and he still doesn't know what in the world a Hufflepuff is suppose to be, although the same could said for Gryffindor and Slytherin. Ravenclaw is the only one that makes any sort of sense to Leonardo – and the Ravenclaws alternate between shock and indifference.

And as for his new House.. well, it is a mixed pile cards indeed. The blonde boy from the shop – Draco Malfoy – is highly offended that he didn't mention he was Harry Potter. Other students followed him, while others were offended they had a Half Blood in their House. Others still ignored the other two groups and welcomed him in.

It could have developed into a problem, no matter what the Prefects said about House being family if it wasn't, ironically enough, for the Gryffindors. When they decided the should teach the Boy-Who-Lived a lesson in supposed 'House loyalties', they did, but not in the way they were aiming for. Suddenly Leonardo could barely pry Malfoy away from him. He had decided to show the Gryffindors just how Slytherin looked out for its own.

And Leonardo was right. He was a bit of a prat. But he wasn't completely hopeless either. And with him came the others who followed Malfoy's lead. Eventually he went from tolerating the boy to actually enjoying his company, along with Blaise and Theodore. They even accepted that he wanted to be called Leonardo, even if they didn't understand it.

And Pitch still visited him when he could. Not as much as before because there were always others who needed him more. But he never abandoned Leonardo, just like he promised. He even told him that he had other children in the school, if only he would look for them. Pitch refused to give names, but Leonardo didn't mind. They had a right to privacy after all. He was certainly relieved when he knew Pitch would never tell anyone he was abused.

Leonardo had no plans on telling anyone. Ever. He could endure it with Pitch's help. And now he would only be there a few months out of the year. He would be fine. Because no one could ever know. Just look at their reaction to his being Sorted. If the Boy-Who-Lived shouldn't be in Slytherin, then he most certainly shouldn't be abused either. He would never get any peace.

The most interesting part of his new school, though, was his Head of House – Professor Snape.

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The first time Leonardo saw Professor Snape, he couldn't help but stare. He looked like a pale version of Pitch. The only difference was the hair and the eye color. They both seem to have the same mannerisms and the same way of talking. They certainly had the same way of staring at you. And that eyebrow quirk. They could be twins, almost.

Professor Snape confused Leonardo. He acted like he had a problem with Leonardo. When he looked at him, it was like he had swallowed a lemon. He treated him just like any other Slytherin, but sometimes it looked like he didn't want to. It looked like he wanted to treat him like a Gryffindor instead. Which would have been bad. Professor Snape did not like Gryffindors. At. All.

Other times he would just stare at Leonardo like he was looking for something. The boy didn't know what, but he wished the man would find it so he would stop staring at him. It is unnerving. He is use to Pitch's stares, but not Professor Snape's. He can be rather scary when he wants to be.

Still, Leonardo finds him fair, if a bit too strict at times. He tells them his door was always open to them if they have a problem. He tells them he has a zero tolerance policy for bullying. He tells them to be proud and to stick together. He doesn't lie to them or cuddle them, but he cares for them.

It reminds Leonardo so much of Pitch it hurts.

Pitch laughs and laughs when Leonardo tells him this. “Oh my little lion, I have a twin in the school, do I?” He still calls Leonardo a lion, even though he is a snake now. Both of them find it ironic. And funny. Or at least Leonardo likes to giggle over it sometimes.

“Yes! He acts so much like you. But he doesn't seem to like me very much. I think... I think he might hate me,” he blurts out quickly

Pitch pulls him into a hug. “Do not fret little one. I am sure he doesn't hate you. Maybe you remind him of someone he disliked long ago.”

“What do you mean? Do you know him? Is he one of yours too?”

“Now what have I told you about asking questions like that?” Pitch raises an eyebrow, even if Leonardo can't see it with his head buried in Pitch's shoulder.

“Don't,” the boy mutters, “Sorry.”

“You are curious, I know. But you have to respect other people's privacy as well.”

He nods.

“Now, I do know this Professor of yours. I have been around Hogwarts a long time. I will not say whether he is one of mine or not. But I will say he does not hate you. I know you bring up painful memories for him, for I did have a few encounters with him. There is more going on here than you know. But he does not hate you. Understand?”

He nods again, hesitantly. He wants to believe Pitch, because Pitch never lies to him. But sometimes it's hard.

“Good. Now tell me about this new Charm before I have to depart.”

“It's really cool! It changes...”

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Professor Severus Snape, Potion Master and Head of the House of Slytherin, is many things. Most would describe him as spiteful and vicious and an overall unpleasant person. He wouldn't disagree. But there are other parts to the man that others miss, including his fierce protectiveness and fiercer loyalty to the very few he decides he can trust. To this day, they number three, with two of them being dead.

The first is his Mother, who tried to protect her son from her husband, even if she never succeeded. His Mother loved him, but she was not strong enough to stand up to Tobias. Not strong enough to do the one thing that would ultimately keep him safe from him – leave. She dies when he was fifteen.

The next was Lily. She was his first, and only if the truth be known, friend. As children he told her all he knew about the Magical World. When they went to Hogwarts, their friendship stayed intact even when they were sorted into rival Houses. She stood up with him against the bullies, until that last faithful time. She died to protect her son.

The last... even to the Wizarding World he doesn't exist. He is a figment of children's imagination. A foolish thought indeed. After all, if werewolves and vampires and dragons exist along side magic, why can't he? One would think that the Wizarding World would be more open minded to those sort of things. But no, even they have their fairy tales.

Severus is simply in a unique position to know not all of them are mere tales – Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and – the most infamous of the lot and the one the man is loyal to – Pitch Black. The Boogeyman.

Most people would either scoff at the idea or back away quietly. But to Severus, Pitch represents safety and security and love. He is the reason Severus survived to his majority. He is the reason many children have reached their majority reasonably intact.

When Severus turned spy – he was never loyal to the Dark Lord, no matter what anyone assumes – and was forced to teach brats Potions, he decided to continue the tradition. He had a Healers license as well as a Mastery in Potions, as the two often went hand and hand. So when he began teaching, he looked for the signs – a child who flinched at everything, one who was too thin, too skittish, too bitter and distrusting, too rebellious and – the most obvious – wore Pitch's band on their wrist.

The same band he wore on his own wrist. Of course he could have taken it off now. He no longer needed the protection Pitch provided. He was now lethal enough that no one was stupid enough to mess with him. But it calmed the students greatly to see that he understood. He was someone who could be trusted because he was like them. Besides that, as much as he was unlikely ever to admit it, it still offers some form of comfort to know he will never be truly alone.

So even after the war has ended, when he is still stuck teaching the little dunderheads, he continues. It is soon an open secret among certain circles that Professor Snape is the one to go to for help. He will do everything in his power to keep them safe. That he and Pitch are the best allies they will ever have. He cares like Pitch cares. He is scary like Pitch, too, so no one is dumb enough to try and hurt him. They become Severus' children as well as Pitch's.

So by time a too small Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts, Severus has years of experience protecting the children that the shadows embrace.

That doesn't mean that he is perfect though. He never claims to be. Even spies can have blind spots. And anything associated with the names Potter or Black are, unfortunately, two of the man's biggest spots. Even more unfortunately, Harry Potter just happens to be associated with both.

So when the too small boy is Sorted into his House, he does not bully the boy. But neither does he pay close attention to him. He might even neglect the boy, however slightly he can. Not to be spiteful – even if he is a spiteful man – but because it is painful to look at the boy for long.

Thus, it takes him much longer than it should to realize the truth.

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It is after winter break that Severus notices it.

He is having his First Years brew as simple Boil Relief Potion as review after being away from school for those weeks before he introduces a new recipe. It is not for their benefit, but his, that he does this. Giving the little dunderheads a chance to get back into the rhythm of things mean they are less likely to blow up his classroom.

The Potter boy is working on his own potion beside his godson, who has obviously claimed the boy as his own. It makes Severus inwardly roll his eyes when he thinks on it. Bloody Malfoy's and their bloody possessiveness. It is certainly a trait Draco picked up from his Father. Bloody Lucius.

Although frankly, he is glad the seemingly rivalry his godson was working towards has been averted. Friendly competitiveness was one things, but the wounded pride of a Malfoy quite another. Something else Draco surely picked up at home. Severus has never been more thankful for Gryffindors in his life – read 'never'. If he had to deal with the fights those two started – or rather, Draco started and dragged Potter into, clearly against the boy's will – for seven years, something would have snapped. Most likely his patience. So he supposes possessiveness is the better option in this scenario.

Potter brushes his hair out of his eyes – James Potter's head of unruly hair – when he sees it. He physically stops breathing for a moment. It feels like it has been knocked out of him. He blinks and looks again before the boy lowers his arm, not noticing the reaction of his Head of House.

Severus continues to make his rounds around the room, on the lookout for any lethal mistakes. But his mind is going in the opposite direction that it should. All because of an innocent black bracelet Potter is wearing on his wrist. Severus subtly touches his own. It can't be the same one. It's impossible, he is the Boy-Who-Lived.

But Severus is well versed in the impossibilities of that situation. It does not matter who it is – not wealth, not blood status, not House. It can happen to anyone. He has helped enough children to know this. It never matters. No group is ever completely safe. Nothing is scared.

When Longbottom almost melts his cauldron, Severus turns his mind away from that train of thought to ponder at a more convenient time. For now he has a classroom to save.

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That night he stares into the fire and thinks. For the first time, he truly pays attention to the Boy-Who-Lived, even if it is in his memories. For the bracelet is certainly the same one Severus himself wears. There is no mistaking it. Pitch made sure they could not be mistaken for any other. So he thinks.

He thinks about how very skinny and small the boy is. He ponders his skittishness around crowds and habit of hanging back. He wonders about the way he jumps when addressed. The way he prefers the name 'Leonardo' to 'Harry' or 'Potter'. How he watches his classmates do simple things such as eat and speak before copying them himself. As if he does not know how, so he has to check to make sure he is doing it right. The way he overly apologizes for everything.

Severus thinks of all of this and more and knows what has to be done.

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“Mr. Potter,” Professor Snape calls out at the end of Potions, “stay after,” he commands. Leonardo nods and sets his bag back down on the ground nervously. What could his Head of House want? He has never taken the time to talk to him before. He has barely even looked at him before. And when he does, they are never very friendly looks. Leonardo knows what Pitch says, but he still can't help but wonder if maybe he is wrong. He doesn't want to think so, because Pitch is never wrong, but the thought has crossed the boy's mind.

Draco gives him a friendly smile before leaving and Blaise waves. He nods back and fidgets as he waits for his Professor to speak.

“Come Potter, this is not a conversation for the classroom.” Professor Snape turns and walks out the door.

Leonardo has to practically run to keep up with the man and his long strides. They walk through the hallways to a Portrait of a snake. The Professors whispers something to it and enters. Leonardo cautiously follows after he thanked the snake. Both the Portrait and his Professor seem surprised, but neither say anything about it.

As Leonardo looks around, he realizes he must be in the Professor's private quarters. The color scheme is earthy greens and browns and it helps put the boy at ease. The next prominent feature is all the books that line the wall and the large fireplace surrounded by a couch and two chairs.

“Sit,” Professor Snape orders and Leonardo obeys, curling up in one of the chair.

The Potion Master takes the other one. For a long moment he simply looks at the boy before letting out a sigh. “This is going to be far from a pleasant conversation, but you are not in trouble. Do you understand Potter? This is not a punishment, no matter what it may seem like at first.”

Leonardo nods, but feels his stomach roll. Whatever he is talking about, it isn't going to be good.

“Tell me Potter, what is your home life like?”

Leonardo's blood turns cold. No. No, he couldn't be asking about that now could he? Surely not.

Professor Snape continues to stare at him. “I take it the rumors have not yet reached your ears,” he says more than asks. He then reaches down and pulls his sleeve up, revealing a familiar black bracelet. “May I see yours now?”

Leonardo's breath stops. His eyes widen. He starts to shake. No, no, he can't know. No one can know. He is the Boy-Who-Lived. No one can know. No one. His breath starts back up again, but now it is too fast. Much too fast. He starts to feel light headed. His head is filled with white noise.

He doesn't notice when the Potion Master stands up and walks over to him. “Drink,” he hears and feels something press against his lips. Automatically he drinks. It makes him feel much better.

He comes back to himself, huddled in a ball with his Head of House crouched down in front of him.

“Potter,” he starts.

Leonardo flinches.

“Leonardo,” he begins again and Leonardo is surprised, even if he shouldn't be. Of course the Professor knows his name, official or not. “You know what this means. I am here to help you. You, Leonardo, not the Boy-Who-Lived, not Harry Potter, but you, just as I have helped others in your situation. Just as I was in your situation.”

“You...”

“Yes, I was abused as a child until I reached seventeen. Now I help others reach safety much sooner when I can. Pitch may be the Boogeyman no one can see, but they know I am very much real. Not many are foolish enough to cross me.”

“You'd help me? You don't...”

“Don't what child?”

“Don't hate me?” he whispers.
“No I do not. I admit I have not been attentive to you, but that is my failing, not yours.”

“Pitch said I 'bring up painful memories for you'. Sorry.”

“Again, it is not your fault. You are not your parents, no matter how you may look like them. You are your own person. That I had problems with your Father and Godfather should not be a factor in how you are treated, even if it generally is. A situation I am now determined to fix. It is the failing of the adults in your life. Not yours. Understand?”

Leonardo nods and then asks tentatively “...Godfather?”

“That is a question for another day. For now the focus is on finding a safe place for you to live. But to take you out, I need your word on what has happened. Will you tell me?”

“You'll really help me?”

“Do you think I am a man who goes back on his word?”

Leonardo shakes his head. No he doesn't. The Professor is like Pitch. He may not sugar coat things, but he doesn't lie either. He will help Leonardo. So slowly, softly, Leonardo tells his story.

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Severus keeps his promise. He listens to the boy and collects the evidence and goes straight to the Headmaster in an unholy fury. Dumbledore was in for a long night by time the enraged Potion Master was through with him. His ears rungs for days afterward.

But Dumbledore is stubborn. And in denial. He sometimes forgets that life is not a chess game. He does not condone abuse, but at times he is blind to the signs. He was a General, practically, in two wars and he forgets that they are now at peace. There is no need to sacrifice anyone for the 'Greater Good'. No need to look at the big picture rather than the small one.

Dumbledore can be as fiercely protective as Severus, but sometimes he forgets what he needs to protect.

It takes longer than it should. Even after Severus pulls Minerva into the argument. The old fool is stubborn like that. So very obstinate. He should have been in Slytherin, not Gryffindor, with the way he is acting.

But finally, finally, a solution is reached. It is not one that Severus thought possible. Not after all of this. Not taking into account who he is, what he is like and what he once was. But it is the solution the old coot pushes for and Minerva agrees for Merlin knows what reason. So does Leonardo, when he is told.

And so, that is how Harry Potter – the Boy-Who-Lived – becomes Leonardo Snape – son of the most feared Professor at Hogwarts.

 

Chapter Text

In which there is another first meeting:

A small dark haired boy curls up tightly under his bed. There is a loud crash and he wraps his arms more tightly around himself. He is safe under here, he knows. Father cannot reach him here – he is too big and too clumsy right now. He would never make it past his doorway. Why bother when there are other, easier, targets, for him to get to?

Severus isn't sure which is worse – when Father is clumsy or when he isn't. When he is clumsy, he is loud and angry and violent. But he doesn't have very good aim. And he can't continue for long by time he reaches them. That means much of his anger and violence is taken out in form of yelling – spitting out mean, ugly, hurtful words – and attempting to throw random items.

When Father is angry when he isn't clumsy, he doesn't get loud. No. He gets quiet instead. Deadly quiet. The kind that makes him run for cover. The kind that makes Mother push him behind her. He can hold onto his anger much longer. Father doesn't yell very much then. Instead, he can hit much harder and much more accurately.

But this always leads to Father leaving and coming back clumsy, so it really doesn't matter.

More yelling and another crash. Severus covers his ears to block out the sound. He hates it. It scares him, even if he knows better than to show it. Never show any weakness. That means they know where to hurt you better.

“It is rather loud out there, is it not?” a voice beside the boy asks.

The boy flinches in alarm. Who is there? How did he get there? He thought he was safe under here.

“Fear not child, I am not here to hurt you.”

The boy turns toward the voice. Shadows cover the stranger, but he makes out a nose not unlike his own and two piercing gold eyes. He eyes him distrustfully. How can he be sure? Only his Mother is safe, even if she isn't always protection. Everyone else is to be watched.

The voice nods. “Wary, very good child. Not everyone who promises no harm means it. Adults like to lie.”

Severus knows all about lies. He hears them all the time. But this is a new person. How does he know if this person is lying to him when they only met. How trustworthy is a person who pops out of nowhere?

“Time child.”

He stares. Can he read minds?

“I read fears. You fear trusting me, just as you fear trusting anyone who is not your Mother. In this, I can only hope that I prove trustworthy. Will you allow me to prove so to you?”

“What's in it for you?” he asks carefully, making sure to pronounce everything correctly. He isn't a baby, but a big boy. Big boys should talk correctly.

“The knowledge that you will live to see adulthood.”

“How?”

“Child, don't you know who I am?” he doesn't wait for an answer before continuing, “I am the Boogeyman.”

Severus' eyes widen. The Boogeyman? Father has told him stories about how the Boogeyman would come and take away 'whiny little useless spoiled brats' and 'Freaks who take after his bloody Mother'. Mother always tells him the Boogeyman isn't real. But here he is, offering to help him instead. Should he give him a chance?

On the one hand, he has to be more trustworthy than Father. Father lies all the time. On the other, Mother says he isn't real. Then again, Mother isn't always right either. The real question here, then, is what does he have to lose? And is it worth the possible gain? Well, when he puts it that way...

Slowly Severus nods.

The Boogeyman grins. “Excellent. Now I believe proper introductions are in order. My name is Pitch Black,” a hand emerges from the shadows.

“Severus Snape,” the boy replies, shaking it.

“Pleasure to meet you Severus Snape. Now, as my first act, that yelling has gone on long enough, don't you think?”

Yes.

“Shall I take care of it for you?”

The boy considers and then nods. Pitch vanishes.

It takes only a few minutes for the yelling to finally stop. The house is silent. He isn't sure if this is a good sign or not, but then he hears his Mother move slowly into the bedroom next door and Father's loud snores downstairs. “There we are,” Pitch declares as he reappears. “That is taken care of for the night.”

Severus nods his thanks cautiously.

“Your welcome. Now I must go soon, for I protect other children as well. But before I do, have this,” he hands him a thin black bracelet. “This marks you as mine. It is only visible to me and others who bare one. If you are ever in dire need, clutch it and think of me. Understand?”

Yes.

“Good. I will be seeing you soon,” with that, he vanishes for the final time.

The silence in the house continues. Slowly Severus crawls out from under his bed and burrows under the covers. Now, only daytime will tell if this was a dream or not. And, if it was not, if Pitch would keep his promise or not.

.

.

.

In which a gift is given:

“Pitch!” a young voice yells when he appears in the bedroom.

Pitch's lips twitch into what might have been a small smile if one was looking closely enough. It does appear that someone is excited. A small body impacts with his own, wrapping arms tightly around his waist. He chuckles. “Someone has had sugar today,” he comments, looking down at the bright happy face of the child hugging him.

Bright green eyes stare happily up at him. Pitch feels the satisfaction he always does when one of his children is safe and happy. “You came,” Leonardo exclaims, delighted.

“Of course I came, you ridiculous boy. Would I miss your birthday?”

“No, but we never knew when mine was. But now we do and Sev threw me a party and it was great, Draco was there and Blaise and Theo and the twins, even if Sev doesn't really like them and there was cake! And I know you said you would, but I know you're busy, but you're here now! And-”

“Leonardo, breathe,” Pitch tells him, “Now, just how much sugar did you have? And, more importantly, why did Severus allow you to eat so much?”

“I didn't mean to. But there was cake and ice cream and chocolate frogs and-”

“My point exactly. Now, how?”

“The twins might have helped. And Draco,” he whispers softly.

Pitch snorts. He isn't surprised. “Now my little lion, I have something for you.”

“Really?”

“Of course I do, don't be ridiculous. Now, as you recently told me about your conversations with the various snake Portraits around Hogwarts, this should be rather appropriate. ” He reaches into his sleeve and pulls out a black snake.

Leonardo gasps. “Wow!” he gasps and carefully takes the snake from Pitch, “Hello,” he hisses, “I'm Leonardo, what's your name?”

My name is Sssshadow,” the snake answers.

Leonardo giggles at the predictable name.

“He is made of my dream sand,” Pitch informs him. “He is connected to my Nightmares, if you ever need to pass on a message.”

Leonardo carefully places Shadow around his neck and then throws himself at Pitch again. “Thank you!”

“You are welcome Leonardo. Happy Twelfth Birthday.”

.

.

.

In which Quidditch is watched:

It is the biggest game of the year – Gryffindor vs Slytherin. The stands are packed and everyone is hyped up, cheering and yelling and booing, respectively. For the last few years Slytherin has dominated the game. They had been doing well before, but then Leonardo became the Seeker his second year and sealed things for the team. But this year the Gryffindors have managed to find an above average Seeker in Ginny Weasley. Needless to say, both sides are out for blood.

“Terrifying, is it not?” a voice beside Severus asks, as he watches Leonardo dodge another Bludger. That boy is going to give him a heart attack yet, one of these days. The grin he is wearing isn't reassuring either. The opposite in fact.

“Gray hair inducing,” Severus mummers, “Running out of beds to haunt?” he adds snidely.

“Now Severus, did you think I would miss the big game? Especially with the way your heart is lodged in your throat?”

“The little brat does it on purpose,” he grumbles.

Pitch chuckles. “He'll be fine. He always is. Daring enough to be a Gryffindor, that one.”

“Hardly reassuring.”

“Come now, not all Gryffindors are evil incarnate or complete dunderheads.”

“Just the majority of them.” His breath catches as Leonardo makes a completely unnecessary dramatic dive to avoid an opponent. It would appear that Gryffindor is due to lose some points very soon. Maybe even a detention or two.

“I can hear you plotting. Isn't that an abuse of power?”

“Dunderheads will do something to deserve it soon enough. I am simply planning ahead.”

“Of course. Oh my, that is certainly a foul, the violent little thing,” Pitch comments as a Gryffindor retaliates against a Slytherin.

“They all are. Why this is such a popular sport...” Severus trails off as Leonardo sees the Snitch and takes off after it, Ginny hot on his tail. They zip in between, around, over and under the other players, both grimly determined.

The Snitch makes a sudden dive and the two Seekers follow. Severus curses under his breath. His brat is going to give him a heart attack before he graduates, he guarantees it. Slytherins are suppose to have sense, but that is abandoned when it comes to Quidditch. Leonardo seems to delight in performing the most daring maneuvers he can. It must be the Potter genes showing.

Both Seekers are reaching out now, hands centimeters from the Snitch. It could be either one of them. But then Leonardo lunges, almost losing grip of his broom, but closing his hand around the Snitch. A cheer erupts from the Slytherin stands. They won.

“Oh the joys of youth,” Pitch comments before melting back into the shadows.

Severus rolls his eyes at the comment, watching as Leonardo is surrounded by his team, Draco glued to his side as always. A grin is on both of their lips before Draco pulls Leonardo into a enthusiastic snog. He sighs. Dunderheads.

.

.

.

In which Dementors are present and so is Pitch:

“Rather dreary around here lately, is it not?”

“Pitch!” Leonardo exclaims, “What are you doing here?”

Pitch raises an eyebrow. “You are joking, yes? The school grounds are being inhabited by creatures that suck the happiness out of people and replace it with their worse memory and you are asking me why I am here? I may protect my children, but I am still the Boogeyman. I don't even need to make the nightmares, I simply have to soak in the fear.”

Leonardo scowls. “Really Pitch?”

“Come on, you know it is my nature. It is not as if I take pleasure in scaring children. It is simply a part of life.”

“Oh really?” Leonardo raises a skeptical eyebrow, clearing having picked the habit up from Severus in the last few years he has been adopted. “You don't, do you?”

Pitch chuckles. “Not much,” he amends.

Leonardo nods. “Better. And I know fear is natural. Just right now, I'm not it's biggest fan. I really, really hate Dementors.”

“Yes, Severus mentioned you are affected by them more than most. You are eating enough chocolate?”

“I never thought I would have to be forced to eat chocolate, but yes. I am eating chocolate, I am taking Potions if it gets too bad, both Severus and Professor Lupin are helping me cast a Patronus Charm. But don't tell Sev that. He really doesn't like Professor Lupin. He won't tell me why, but I've heard the stories about him, my Father, Godfather and Peter. I can understand it, I know I'll never like Dudley and the rest of his gang, but it's getting bloody annoying. Everyone is so protective, it's getting suffocating. Someone is always by my side now. I'm not a baby, I can take care of myself.”

“Of course you can. But they are worried about you. You are able to feel them even now, yes?”

Leonardo sighs. “Yes. I feel them constantly, even in my dreams. I keep seeing my Mum killed, hearing Dad die. It's...” he trails off.

Pitch lays a comforting hand on his shoulder. “As soon as Black is caught, they will be gone.”

“I know. I wish they would bloody hurry up already. Having my parents murderer supposedly after me is not the most restful either.”

“Supposedly?”

Leonardo shrugs. “It's not like I don't believe Sev, but what if he isn't here for me? What if he's here for something else? I mean, why break out now? I'm in my third year, he's known where to find me before now. I just... wonder.”

“This is the first I am hearing this.”

“Because no one else wants to hear it. And what proof do I have? None. Not even a hint of a clue. Why would I bother bringing it up if no one will listen?”

Pitch nods. “I see, while if I happen to see him, I will keep that in mind.”

Leonardo smiles. “Ta,” he says gratefully, “I've been worried that I would sound crazy if I told anyone.”

“Oh my brave little lion, you are certainly crazy, but that doesn't mean you should ignore your instincts.”

“Gee, that's reassuring,” Leonardo replies drily, “Ta ever so much. You're a real comfort some days.”

He shrugs. “My job is to protect you, not shield you from reality.”

Leonardo snorts. “You and Sev are way too similar.”

Pitch smirks. “I know. Now come, I will escort you to your next class before anyone's head explodes from worry. I can already feel your Blonde companions concern from here.”

Leonardo rolls his eyes. “Draco,” he mutters.

.

.

.

In which major decisions are made:

Severus curls up on his bed, hugging his legs to his chest. He is currently alone right, which is the only reason he allows himself to be in this position. He refuses to show weakness to anyone. It could be fatal, especially right now.

The young man sighs and curls farther into himself. This is suppose to be something to celebrate. He has finally achieved his dream. But instead he feels only pressure and dread. This supposed 'honor' is the last thing he wants. He had thought he escaped it when he graduated Hogwarts, but he should have known better. He did know better, but he still hoped to avoid it. This is the last thing he wants.

“Oh my child.”

Severus jerks, wand automatically pointed at the intruder before he realizes who it is. “Pitch,” he greets coolly.

Pitch clicks his tongue. “Do not take that tone of voice with me young man. You know very well it will not work. Now tell me what you need.”

“Nothing,” he insists, “I did not call you.”

“You did not have to,” is his answer, “Now tell me.”

“I just received word, I passed my Mastery. I am now the youngest Potion Master in Britain.”

“And this is cause for worry why?”

“I also received an... invitation... to join the Dark Lord.”

“Ah,” is all Pitch says. But it's enough.

“I don't want to!” he shouts. “Why would I? I'm not blind. For all his talk of acceptance and reform and glory, I know it's not true. I don't need you to tell me the fear stalks his hall's. I trust no one but myself and you. Lily may have broken our friendship off years ago because she thought I was going Dark, but I'm not. I've been walking the knife's edge for so long and she can't understand that. And, alright, maybe my morals aren't the best. But I'm not Dark!” he rants. It feels good to let it out. There is no one else he trusts to hear him talk like this. No one else he knows who will never betray him. Never abandon him.

Pitch lays a hand on his shoulder. “I know you are not.”

Severus growls. “He uses us,” he continues, “the bracelets. He is using us, manipulating us. He thinks we will follow him because he also has one as well. As if that justifies his means. He says he supports us, but he is breaking us more.” He uncurls abruptly and glares at the shadow man, “How can you let this continue? He is hurting us. Whose side are you on? His ? Are you going to tell him what I have said? Will you stand by as He kills me for refusing Him?” Severus asks viciously. He knows his fears are fueling him and he knows Pitch has to realize this as well. But he can't seem to stop. “Are you-” A hand covers his mouth forcibly.

“That is enough,” Pitch says dangerously. “You will not talk to me like that young man, do you understand? Or so help me I will take you over my knee.”

Severus shivers at the tone and nods. He tries not to shrink back from Pitch, but he can't help it. He has always been the one person he has never felt the need to control his emotions around. He basically raised Severus. He has always been safe. Why would he hide from him? As a result, he is never able to mask his thoughts around him.

Pitch sighs. “Oh my child,” he pulls Severus into a hug and Severus goes willingly. He grips Pitch's robe tightly as he starts to shake. He can't help himself. Despite what everyone thinks, he is not heartless or emotionless. He just doesn't show it. The years have shown him it is safer to build up his walls to protect himself.

“I have not talked to Tom in many years. He may still bear my bracelet, but he is no longer one of my children. Not because I abandoned him. I make a promise to each of you, never to abandon you. That includes Tom as well. But he has chosen his path and I have no place with him anymore. He once clung to me as well. He sought my protection. But his fear is now too strong. He fears Death and weakness and sees me as one. I have not abandoned him, but he has abandoned me.”

He runs a hand through Severus' hair gently. “Not all of my children turn out the same. Some talk to me all their lives, some take off their bracelets as soon as they are safe. Some grow into the Light while others follow the Dark. Some do not live long enough to make that choice. Everyone is different and must be given the opportunity to make their own choices. I do not give advice that will fall on deaf ears.”

Severus nods. “I don't want to join him. I want to stop him,” he says seriously, despite the death grip he still has on Pitch's robe. “Will you help?”

Pitch's grin is terrifying. “To protect my other children? Yes.”

“Right. Do you think Dumbledore will believe me if I tell him I am joining as a spy?”

.

.

.

In which introductions are made:

“Who do you want to introduce me to?” Draco asks sceptically.

“Ummm, the Boogeyman?” Leonardo repeats, more of a question than an answer this time. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

“Right. The Boogeyman.”

Leonardo huffs. “Why is it so hard to believe? Magic is real and a hundred other seemingly impossible things, but not the Boogeyman? That doesn't make any sense.”

Draco shrugs. “They don't seem impossible to me.”

“And Pitch has always been real to me. You know... you know why Severus adopted me. Well, Pitch protected me until I came to Hogwarts. That's what he does. He doesn't just give kids nightmares. He protects... abused kids,” he says the last part quickly, still not comfortable talking about the Drusely's to other people, “He helps us when no one else can or will. He's, well he acts like Sev. Or Sev acts like him technically.” He won't tell Draco why, he doesn't need to know that.

But he wants to introduce Draco to his... other parent. Not that he has ever said this out loud. He is still afraid to call Severus anything like 'Dad' or 'Father'. He certainly isn't going to bring it up to Pitch. None the less, in his head, both Severus and Pitch are his parents, along with his biological ones – Lily and James.

“Fine. Where is this so called Boogeyman?” Draco crosses his arms.

“Right behind you.”

Draco let's out a yelp and turns around quickly. There, standing right behind him, is Pitch, grinning viciously. “Young Wizarding children are so amusing. They believe in so much, yet I am still a myth. Although, thankfully, it is the same for the other Four as well. How poetic.”

Leonardo rolls his eyes at the two of them. Pitch can be such a drama queen sometimes. “Draco, this is Pitch Black. Pitch, this is my best friend Draco.”

“My, my, best friend is it? You've certainly come a long way from the start of First Year. I seem to recall a number of complaints then, about a spoiled prattish blonde.”

“Hey,” Draco protests.

“Yes,” Leonardo agrees, “and then the prat decided that instead of fighting with me, he would glue himself to my side. Possessive prat.”

“Oh be quiet Leo.”

Leonardo grins. “Whatever you say Dray.”

Draco pouts before he asks Pitch, “What did you mean, about 'the other Four'?”

Leonardo sighs, cutting Pitch off. “Don't get him started. It's the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Sandman and Santa. Apparently they call themselves 'the Protectors of Childishness' or some such rot and they see Pitch as the ultimate enemy who wants to take over the world.”

Pitch's mouth twitches. “It's Guardians of Childhood, but I rather like your version better.”

“Why?” Draco asks, brows drawn, “You protect kids too. What makes them so special that they do that you don't?”

“They do good,” he sneers, “They claim to be the originators of Hope, Wonder, Good Dreams and Happy Memories. I doubt, if they even knew what I did, that they would approve. They can be blind at times. For example, Leonardo has always been on North's naughty list when he was with his relatives,” Pitch spits the word.

Draco's eyes turn icy. “How dare he,” he hisses, “Doesn't he know what they did?” He may not know much, but what little Leo has let slip infuriates the young boy to no end. How dare they treat his Leo like that. Who do they think they are?

Pitch grins. “I like this one,” he declares smugly.

“Of course you do. Draco is even more protective than you,” Leonardo accuses.

“Someone has to watch you while I am not here.”

“Oh yes, whatever was I thinking. Naturally you do,” is his dry reply.

“Naturally,” Pitch echoes, “now come, I do believe you have news for me. What are the results of your Quidditch tryouts?”

.

.

.

In which Sirius makes an appearance:

“Sir?”

“Leo, my boy, come in, come in. Lemon drop?”

“Hello Headmaster. No thank you,” Leonardo answers as he takes a seat across from Dumbledore's desk. “You wanted to see me sir?” he confirms.

“I did. How are you holding up Leo? It must be a relief to finally have the Dementors gone.”

“It is sir. I never thought I'd be sick of chocolate, but if I never have to eat another chocolate frog for the next five years, it will be too soon.”

Dumbledore chuckles. “I am sure it will be much sooner than that, but I understand the sentiment. And how is living with Severus? No troubles there?”

Leonardo draws himself up, offended. “Of course there isn't. Sev takes good care of me. Much better than my relatives ever did.”

Dumbledore has the decency to look vaguely regretful. “Yes, well. I am sure you want to know why you are here,” he changes the subject, “As I am sure you assumed, Sirius Black has be caught. But there was some new information brought to light right before this. You were told that Sirius killed twelve Muggles and another friend, Peter, before he was captured? Well, it appears that is not the case. Recently Peter has been found, very much alive. After some questioning, it was discovered that he betrayed your parents. Not Sirius.” He pauses, letting Leonardo absorb that.

Leonardo's breath catches. It wasn't his Godfather that betrayed his parents after all? It was Peter instead? It seems almost too good to be true. Leonardo hadn't really thought of this possibility seriously, not even after his talk with Pitch... Pitch. He has to be the reason behind this. How else would Peter have been found after all this time?

Wait... Sirius is his Godfather. He was suppose to take care of him if his parents couldn't. Does that mean he can take him away from Severus? He hopes not. If he tried, Leonardo won't go. He refuses to be parted from his... Father. “Sir? How was Peter found? And does this mean Black is now free?”

“It was rather interesting actually, Peter was found petrified – not literally of course, but scared mindless – by Professor McGonagall last week. Naturally this raised some interesting questions. Sirius appeared not long after the truth was found out and pardoned. Everything is being kept under wraps for now, but it will be in the papers soon. But the main reason I have called you here was because someone wants to meet you.”

As if that was some sort of signal, the door opens and in steps a thin man with dark curly hair, haunted eyes and a bright smile. “Harry,” his Godfather says.

Dumbledore stands up. “I am sure you two have much to talk about. I'll give you some privacy, shall I?” He leaves his office, eyes twinkling as he goes.

Leonardo turns and looks at this man. The one who should have raised him if things had gone better. He isn't sure what to think. “It's Leonardo actually,” he finally says.

Sirius comes over and sits in the chair next to him. “Is it? Why's that kiddo?”

“It's the name I grew up with,” he answers, not elaborating.

“Ironic, isn't it? Brave lion.”

Leonardo shrugs. “Yes, but that doesn't mean it still isn't my name.”

“Fair enough. So, my godson is a snake? That isn't something I bet anyone saw coming, what with both your parents being in Gryffindor and all.”

“Yes, it was. But the Slytherins were much more welcoming then the Gryffindors were,” he says, thinking back onto the first year and the trouble he had with that House.

Sirius must sense some of this because he doesn't comment. He just stares at him instead. “You look so like James, you know. Only you have-”

“-my Mother's eyes, I know. I get that a lot.”

Sirius chuckles. “I'm sure you do. Now tell me a little about yourself. You're Seeker right? A good one as well. James was a great flier – he was a Chaser. What's your favorite subject? Mine and James was Transfiguration, but Lily always liked Charms.”

Leonardo shifts, feeling uncomfortable with being compared to his biological Father so much. “I like DADA and Potions,” he admits.

“Potions huh?” Sirius raises an eyebrow. “You must have gotten that from Lily because James was pants at Potions. Your Mother was the reason he passed his N.E.W.T. Aurors are required to have one you know.”

Leonardo nods, even though he didn't know that. “Severus lets me help him in the lab,” he offers cautiously, not sure how well this comment will be taken.

Sirius sneers. “Snivellius still teaching huh? And he's your Head of House. I don't know how you can stand it. When we were in school, he was nothing but a nasty little pest. But he made the best target for some of our best pranks. Did you know that he-”

“Stop it!” Leonardo shouts. “Don't talk about him like that. You don't know the first thing about him.”

“He was a bastard and a Death Eater.”

“He is protective and he was a spy! He never wanted to join them, but he didn't have a choice. They would have killed him if he didn't. I know, he told me when I asked. Don't you dare talk about him like you know him. You were just a bully!”

“Snivellius-”

“Don't call my Father that!” Leonardo yells, even louder than before. He is just so angry, he doesn't even realize what he called Severus for the first time.
Sirius chokes on air. “Father?!”

“Severus adopted me at the end of First Year.”

“Why?” Sirius just sounds so disbelieving.

Leonardo fiddles with his bracelet, trying to decide how much he wants to tell him.

Sirius follows his movement and grows even paler than before. “No,” he breathes, “not you, Not you too.”

Leonardo looks up in surprise. “You are one of Pitch's?”

“I was.”

“Was? There is no was. He doesn't abandon people.”

“He took care of me before I came to Hogwarts. But then I made friends with James and found better, lighter, protection.”

Leonardo gasps. “You abandoned him? How could you? Pitch is the best thing that has ever happened to me, besides Severus and Draco. How could you do that to him?”

“He was Dark, just like my family.”

“No! You cannot compare your family, who hurt you, to Pitch, who protected you. That isn't right.”

“He is Dark kid.”

“Dark does not mean evil. He still protects you, no matter what.”

“Yeah? And how do you know that?”

“Who do you think found Peter?”

Sirius is silent.

“He was petrified when they found him. Who else has that control over fear? He is the reason I survived as well as I did. He is the reason so many kids have been taken care of. How is that bad? Fear is a necessary part of life. The world needs balance.”

Sirius sighs. “Told off by a thirteen year old. Obviously I lost more of my touch than I thought. You're happy, with Sni- Snape, I mean?”

“Yes I am,” he answers firmly.

“Ever since the first time I held you in my arms, I only wanted the best for you. I'm sorry it didn't turn out that way kiddo.”

Leonardo shrugs. “Turned out alright eventually.”

“I suppose. Now come on, tell me more about yourself. Draco, huh? Friend of yours?”

Maybe this won't be so bad after all. He has just spent twelve years in Azkaban. There is bound to be an adjustment period. But oh boy is Severus going to be mad when he hears about this. Dumbledore is in for it, for sure.

.

.

.

In which the Marauders are still trouble:

Severus sits in the shadows of an abandoned classroom, head against the wall. He clinches his fists, feeling both hurt and angry.

“And just what do we have here?” Pitch asks as he appears beside the boy.

Severus turns his head, refusing to look at him.

“Well?”

Severus stays silent, eyes closed.

“Are we going to inhabit this dark corner of this unused classroom all day?”

“Go away,” Severus finally mutter.

“You know I will not do that, not with you in such a state.”

“Why do you care? I'm away from Father after all,” the boy asks harshly.

“Simply because you are away from that man, does not mean I will stop caring for you. I told you, I will not abandon you. So, what troubles you, my child?”

“It's stupid.”

“It? Or they?” Pitch guesses.

“...they,” Severus admits.

“Ah, I see. Bully trouble.”

“They won't stop. They tease me and prank me and call me 'Snivellius'. I'm already an outcast enough. Why do they have to make it worse?”

“Children, just like adults, can be cruel. How long has this been going on?”

“They started on the train ride here.”

“That was months ago. I told you I am here to help. Why did you never mention it?” Pitch inquires.

“I'm not a baby.”

“Indeed you are not. But that does not mean you are not still a child and in need of assistance occasionally.”

“And will you help? How?”

“Surely you do not need to ask. Nightmares are always such a wonderful deterrent against negative behavior.”

“And if that doesn't work?”

“Well then, I will just help you pay them back, won't I?”

.

.

.

In which Leonardo is given the push he needs (aka Pitch ships it):

“It is tough being fifteen, is it not?” Pitch asks, appearing beside Leonardo as he leans against the wall of the Astronomy Tower, looking out.

Leonardo doesn't reply, just continues staring. If one would follow his gaze and look hard enough, one would be able to make out a familiar head of blonde hair among the others.

“Oh yes, the teenage years are a difficult time, filled with puberty and hormone imbalances and constant change. It is some of the best time for fear, besides young childhood.”

Leonardo still doesn't respond. It is like he doesn't even realize Pitch is there.

“Teenage anguish. Everything is always worse than it really is. It is funny, sometimes, how similar those fears can be, to one another. Right now, for instance, you are brooding over Draco and worrying if he likes the Zabini boy. You want to ask him out, but are afraid of ruining your friendship.”

Leonardo finally turns his head slightly so he can look at Pitch from the corner of his eye.

“As I said, teenage fears can be so similar.”

“What do you mean?” he asks quietly.

“Why, only young Draco is afraid of ruining your friendship by asking you out on a date with him. Both of you pinning from afar. How typically dramatic of you.”

“He is?”

“Am I ever wrong when it comes to a fear?”

Leonardo grins. “No,” he turns away from the view, “I'll talk to you later Pitch. There is something I have to do first,” he takes off running, “Ta!” he calls over his shoulder.

Pitch turns toward the direction Leonardo had been staring, watching and waiting. Soon a dark haired boy runs over to the blonde haired one and pulls him away from the rest of the group. He can make out hand gestures and some nervous fidgeting before the blonde reacts, pulling the dark haired boy closer to him. If one looks close enough, they would be able to tell the blonde has pulled the other into a kiss that is being very enthusiastically returned.

He chuckles and melts back into the shadows. His work here is done.

.

.

.

In which the Guardians are in for a surprise and a Battle is not actually fought:

It is the final show down. The final Battle between good and evil. Three weakened Guardians, one winter spirit and one small child against the wave of darkness about to wipe out the light. Pitch, the Boogeyman and hater of the light and all things good, stood before them, his army of Nightmares behind him.

Or, at least according to the Guardians, that was what was happening.

Jack stands in front of the Guardians, Jamie at his side. Pitch is looking rather satisfied, having the Big Four – or three now – before him in such a state. But it's not a 'I'm about to kill you all now' look, but a 'Ha, I won. Admit I'm better than you' look. There's also something else, something Jack can't quite name.

“You won't get away with this Pitch!” Toothiana says, glaring at the Boogeyman with venom. Glaring is about all she can do. All they can do. Well, not Bunny. His glares don't count. He couldn't intimidate a fly right now.

Pitch raises an eyebrow. “Is that so? Who is going to stop me? You?”

“Light always wins,” North says wisely.

Jack... isn't so sure North should be saying things like that right now. It isn't looking too good for them right now. But why isn't Pitch attacking?

“Yeah,” Jamie agrees, “the good guys always win!”

“Ah, I suppose then that you do not prescribe to the saying 'Good guys wear black'? That is a saying over here, is it not?”

Jamie snorts. “You're not Batman.”

Pitch raises his eyebrow again. Wow, he does that a lot. “Are you sure? After all, you've never seen Batman and myself in the same room together, have you?”

Jack snorts in surprise. Who knew the Boogeyman had a sense of humor. And was surprisingly patient with Jamie too. Isn't he suppose to be bad with kids?

Pitch grins, a shark smile, at him. “How refreshing, a sense of humor. Tell me Jack, are you sure you don't want to join me? I can assure you, the job includes much more than whatever these idiots have told you?”

Jack doesn't answer, but he is sure his eyes widen in surprise. Another offer? Surely Pitch doesn't think he is this stupid to say 'yes' after what he pulled in Antarctica? He has to be planning on tricking him again. Or betraying him. But there is still one thing bothering Jack and it is getting worse the longer this conversation goes on. Why hasn't Pitch attacked yet? “I protect children,” he answers firmly.

“And who told you I didn't?”

What?!

“Blah! You? All you want is fear mate! If you had your way, we'd all be living in the Dark Ages,” Bunny yells. Or tries to. It is so hard to take him seriously when he is this small.

“It would certainly make my job easier now, wouldn't it, without you imbeciles around to get in the way,” Pitch growls irritably, “But oh no, you have to go around doing good and bringing hope and IGNORING THE CHILDREN THAT NEED YOU THE MOST!”

Jack is shocked by Pitch's tone. He sounds truly furious. This, whatever it is, right here, is Pitch's true reason for doing what he is doing. This... is his center.

“Ignore children, never,” North protests, “We-”

“Do it all the time actually,” a voice interrupts.

Jacks looks at the voice – the man – in surprise. He had come out of nowhere and is sitting on one of Pitch's Nightmares. Around his neck is a snake made of the same sand as the other Nightmares. He is thin, but obviously fit, with glasses, messy black hair and bright green eyes. Said eyes are currently glaring at the Guardians.

“We help children!” Toothiana protests.

“Some of them,” the stranger corrects.

“Leonardo, what are you doing here?” Pitch asks.

“I haven't seen you in a week, nor have any of the children, Shadow had no clue what you were doing and suddenly Alex appears to drag me across the ocean because you needed me. So, how has your week been?” He raises an eyebrow – looking eerily like Pitch – and stares down the Boogeyman.

“I have been-”

“Trying to take over the world!” Bunny shouts.

Leonardo turns, looks over the three with a skeptical glance and turns back to Pitch. “Interesting. Having any luck? Also, didn't you tell me the Easter Bunny was seven feet tall? Because I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he's barely two. Right? I hate having to convert meters into feet. Why can't you Americans be on the metric system like everyone else?”

“What would the fun in that be?” Jack asks, grinning.

Leonardo tilts his head. “I'm missing something, aren't I?”

Pitch chuckles.

He looks around. “Who are you standing beside?” he asks Jamie.

“Jack Frost. How can you tell if you can't see him?”

“By the way you are standing. Also, I can sense something, I just don't know what. Jack Frost?” He turns to Pitch, “Why haven't you ever told me Jack Frost was real?”

“It has only recently come to my attention,” Pitch tells him. “Jack is standing directly beside the young one,” he adds.

Leonardo turns and blinks. “Handy. Anyone else here you need to tell me about?”

“You can see me now?” Jack asks excitedly.

“Yeah kid, I can.”

“How is so?” North demands, “And who are you? Are you with Pitch? What happening?”

Leonardo raises an eyebrow at him. “Pitch told me he was there, of course. How else? He doesn't lie and he isn't going to start now. Besides, how else do you think I could see you? Certainly not because I believe in you.”

“But you're a grown up. Grown ups don't believe in them,” Jamie says.

“True, but I never did.”

How?”

“Hard to believe in someone who never cared about you.”

“But the Guardians care about everyone!” he defends.

Leonardo smiles sadly. “I'm glad you think so, but that's not true. I have never received a present from Santa, never found an egg that wasn't smashed by my cousin, rarely had a good dream and never had a chance to put my teeth under a pillow.”

“Impossible,” North declares.

“My name was Harry Potter. Try and tell me I was on the 'nice list',” he challenges.

“Harry Potter... Harry Potter... oh! No, very naughty you were.”

Leonardo nods. “That's what I thought. Funny how a two year old can be so bad he doesn't receive one present. Well, not from Santa,” he corrects.

“Was? Your name was Harry Potter?” Toothiana asks.

“Yes. I am Leonardo Snape-Malfoy now.”

“Ah ha! Leonardo Snape was on the 'nice list'!” North says excitedly.

“Yes. Funny how I was suddenly good when I was no longer living with my relatives,” Leonardo answers, sounding bitter.

Pitch lays a hand on his shoulder in support.

“What do you mean?” Jamie asks tentatively.

“After I was no longer abused,” he says in a matter of fact tone of voice. “Before then, Pitch was the only one who cared.”

“Pitch? Care?”

“Abused? Oh you poor thing.”

“No, is not possible!”

All three of the Guardians say at once.

Leonardo crosses his arms. “Pitch was the only one who helped me until I went to boarding school at age eleven. He was the one who made sure I didn't starve because I was never fed. He was the only who made sure I had warm blankets at night. He was the one who told me stories before I went to sleep in my cupboard. My only gifts until I was eleven were from Pitch. He helped me with school work and made my cousin stop his favorite game – Harry Hunting. He gave me my name because I thought it was Freak. Tell me, does he care?” Leonardo's voice is ice by the end.

No one says anything, too shocked.

“And it isn't just me. He protects all of us abused children the best he can. He saved my adopted Father's life. He helped my Godfather when he was younger. There were my other classmates he watched out for. Unlike some people,” he eyes the Guardians, “he offers us protection. He never abandons us, no matter what. He loves us. So don't talk about my Father like that!” he glares.

More silence.

“Father?” Jamie asks, voice soft.

“Yes. Pitch is the best protector you will ever have. I wouldn't give him up for anything. But his protection comes at a cost. Be glad you don't have to pay it,” he tells the boy solemnly.

Jamie nods.

The Guardians are so silent, it is as if they have a silencing spell on them.

“Now that that is out of the way,” Leonardo declares, “What exactly are you doing?”

“Tipping the balance back again. It has been becoming harder, lately, to protect my children. The light had too much control. Now, with things so off, it will be easier again.”

Leonardo nods as if that made perfect sense.

“And you had to make it seem like you were trying to take over the world?” Bunny asks, sceptically.

Pitch grins. “No, but that was the fun part.”

“What of Sandy?” North inquires, arms crossed.

“Sandy?” Leonardo look at Pitch, unimpressed. “Please don't tell me you did something to the Sandman.”

“Alright, I will not tell you.”

“Pitch,” Leonardo groans, “undo it.”

Pitch pouts, but waves a hand. A cloud of Nightmare sand forms, swirls and then spits out Sandy, disoriented, but otherwise unharmed. He brushes himself off and glares at Pitch, making rapid signs at him irritably. Pitch gives him one of his shark grins, but doesn't say anything. Sandy turns and dramatically floats over to the other Guardians, who are ecstatic to see him.

Jack watches, a small smile on his face, happy to have Sandy back. Out of the Four, he likes Sandy best. Not that he plans on telling them that. He looks over at Pitch and Leonardo. The man is smiling, whispering something to Pitch, who is rolling his eyes, looking exasperated.

Leonardo catches Jack's eye and winks. “Well, now that that's settled, I have a husband to get back to. Feel free to stop by if you are ever in England. I know the kids would love someone new to play with.”

“Kids?”

“I'm in charge of a foster care home, along with my husband and Father, for Pitch's other children,” Leonardo answers, jumping back up onto the Nightmare's back before disappearing from view. Pitch raises another inquiring eyebrow at Jack and then follows.

The winter spirit is the only one who notices, the others too preoccupied at the moment. Jack stares at the space where both men had been standing. Maybe he should think about Pitch's offer more seriously after all.

“Wow,” Jamie breathes, “who knew the Boogeyman could be so cool!”

Jack grins down at the boy – his first believer. “Yeah, who knew,” he echoes back.

 

 

Chapter Text

In which a visit is finally paid:

Jack lands on the snowy ground, looking around. It had taken some time – to decide to come and to find it – but he is finally here. The children's home Leonardo and family runs.

He wasn't so sure about this at first. After all, Pitch was suppose to be the bad guy. He gave children nightmares and wanted to rule the world. He wanted eternal fear and darkness. He was creepy and cruel. He didn't care about the kids.

Except that's not quite true.

Jack would have never expected Pitch to care about children. He threatened to stomp out the lights. He almost did. How can someone like that care? The Guardians were so against him and shouldn't they know? They are the good guys after all. Right? But Jack has since learned that the Guardians have a major blind spot when it comes to Pitch. They are still angry about what happened.

Not that they don't have a right to be, but... well. North can talk about centers all he wants, there is more to it than that. Fun is his center. But fun can be dangerous. Fun can kill you, if you aren't careful. Caution is needed to survive. Besides that, he is a winter spirit. And winter isn't all fun and games. Winter can kill.

He doesn't like it, but it does. There are blizzards, cold temperatures, ice, avalanches, power outages. Winter is a dangerous season if people aren't careful. If they aren't able to protect themselves. Both winter and fun can be a double edged sword. The two things that make him who he is. Funny how no one talks about that.

Sandy was the most understanding of them, ironically enough. He was the one to pull Jack aside and let him talk. He was patient and understanding. And, apparently, he knew Pitch before he was Pitch Black. He knew him when he was Kozmotis Pitchiner, the Golden General and victor over the Fearlings, before they tricked him and consumed him. Wasn't that an eye opener? To here that Pitch once had a life, a family, a past. He didn't become who he was suddenly.

Sandy was the one who encouraged him to come here. Although, at that point, it was more of a gentle nudge than a push. He would have come here, with or without any of the other Guardians' approval. Not that he was in any hurry to tell them about this.

So here he is. The house, if you can call it that, is huge. It's more of a Manor or a Mansion than anything else. It looks old, but well cared for. There is a garden and plenty of room for the kids to run.

There are a handful of children playing out in the yard already. They age from small child to preteen.

Jack grins and throws a snowball at the closest one.

“Hey!” the little boy shouts, “who threw that?”

Jack throws another, this time at an older girl.

“Charles is that you?” she demands, hands on hips.

Jack laughs but before he can throw another, he is hit himself. “Ah!” he shouts, startled. He looks up to see a familiar face.

“Leo,” he greets happily, “nice aim.”

“Thanks. I see you've decided to stop by.”

“Who are you talking to?” a little girl asks.

Leo grins. “Jack Frost,” he answers.

The kids eyes widen. “He's real?”

“Sure is. Pitch introduced us personally,” and he is still grinning when he winks at Jack. “He's right there,” he points.

As one the kids turn towards him.

“I see him!”

“He has white hair!”

“Wow, he doesn't look any older than Richie.”

“He's not wearing shoes!”

They all shout, talking over each other. He grins. He loves children. Even when they couldn't see him, he loved playing with them. Now that they can, well. This is one sure way to get believers. Who knew Pitch could be so helpful? He may have been onto something in Antarctica. Not that he isn't still a bit upset about that, but, hey, fun time now. He'll work it out later.

“Who wants to have a snowball fight?” he asks.

“Oh me, I do, I do!”

“Me, me!”

“I want to be on your team.”

“Me too!”

They all shout, coming to crowd around. Jack laughs. Yes, this was a great idea. Forget what anyone else thinks, these kids deserve some fun.

.

.

.

In which the Boogeyman is secretly a softie:

 

Jack keeps coming to the Manor to play with the kids. By now he has met Draco, Leo's husband, and Severus, Leo's adopted Father. He liked them both, although Severus reminder Jack of Pitch a little too much. Leo laughed when he mentioned it and said he thought the same.

He still hasn't seen the man, Boogeyman, whatever, himself yet. He has just missed him a few times or at least that's what the kids said. He has a feeling he is being ignored. Not that Jack cares. Much. But he is curious now. He wants to know more about the person the children positively adore. Everything he has heard about Pitch is the exact opposite of what the Guardians told him.

How had they gotten it so wrong?

Of course, there's probably more to it than that. The more Jack thinks of it, the more he thinks Pitch is like himself. Just as there is a good and a bad side to winter and fun, it is the same for fear. Fear can paralyze you. But it can also make you stronger. And just like Jack, everyone only focuses on one side.

So that's another thing they have in common.

And being an eternal teenager doesn't help much either. He had always been curious when he was alive. That hasn't changed and it isn't going to. Frozen as a fifteen year old boy for the rest of eternity. That doesn't say much for his maturity level, now does it?

He is so focused on wanting to talk to Pitch, that he is shocked when he finally sees him. He is helping the littlest ones build a snowman and Jack has to grin at it. The big bad Boogeyman, being bossed around by small children. It's hilarious and also kind of adorable.

“You tell him Sarah,” he says, standing next to the group.

“Jack!” they shout and the youngest one, Gabriel, raises his arms to be picked up. “Up,” he commands.

Jack laughs as he does. The little boy has just turned two and has determinedly attached himself to Jack whenever he visits. The only other person he is that attached to is Severus, which is hysterical to watch. He is even more serious than Pitch after all.

“So this is why the little menaces are developing a rebellious streak,” Pitch says, “I should have known. Especially after that first sneak attack in the snow.”

Jack grins innocently. “I have no idea what you are talking about. Why would you think I would encourage the kids to do that?”

“Because you live to cause mischief,” Pitch smirks. Jack just continues to look innocent. “And because they told me,” he adds.

Jack pouts. “How could you? I thought you liked me?” He throws the arm he isn't holding Gabriel with across his forehead theatrically. The little boy giggles and gives him a wet kiss. And then he is knocked over by a pile of enthusiastic children reassuring him that they still love him.

Jack looks up at Pitch who is smirking in amusement. Well that just won't do, now will it? “I know, I know you guys. But don't be too enthusiastic. Pitch might think I'm your favorite now, not him. You don't want Pitch to be lonely, do you?”

The kids scramble up quickly and go to offer Pitch the same reassurances. Also knocking him down. Jack laughs as Pitch glares at him from the bottom of a very energetic pile of small children. Gabriel giggles in his arms uncontrollably.

Of course that meant war and Pitch soon proved it when he stood up. As the first snowball hit him in the head, Jack couldn't regret it. Especially not after it turned into a Manor wide affair. Not at all.

Who knew the Boogeyman could be so fun?

.

.

.

In which a game is played:

Jack has never sought Pitch out before. Even after all this time of visiting the Manor and becoming friends with the children there, he has never thought to visit Pitch away from the home. It wasn't like he didn't want to see the other without the children. He just never thought about it.

But now that has changed. He is restless. There is an itch under his skin that will not go away. He wants to do something, but doesn't know what. For once, he doesn't want to be around any children. He has had this feeling before and knows he isn't good company for the kids.

He tried talking to the Guardians, but they are all busy. It seems they are always busy. Even after everything, all they do is work. Sandy and Tooth, he gets. Tooth has a full time job and Sandy has to work every night. But, still, even Tooth has her baby fairies. North has his yetis. Bunny has his eggs. Sandy doesn't really have any minions and it is always nighttime somewhere, but... Aren't they enough to be able to take a break? Just a little one?

Jack hates it when his skin feels too tight, like he is about to explode. He needs a distraction, but he doesn't know where to get one. Normally he flies around recklessly until the feeling passes, but now... Well, he doesn't even realize he is looking for Pitch until he finds him. They are in the Black Forest of all places, amid the shadows.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” Pitch asks casually.

“Hey Pitch!” Jack greets happily. “Busy?”

“Yes Frost, my schedule is booked,” he answers sarcastically.

Jack looks around at the empty forest before nodding. “Yup, I can see that. Wouldn't want the bunnies to miss out on your company.”

“Bunnies,” Pitch scoffs and oh yeah, “No, I am here for the squirrels instead.”

Jack laughs in surprise and delight. He still isn't quite use to the fact that Pitch does have a sense of humor, dry and sarcastic though it may be, but he likes it. He grins. “Are you sure? Thought you were nutty enough without squirrels hanging around. Although that does answer a few things.”

Pitch rolls his eyes. “And what do I owe the tremendous pleasure of your company?”

Jack shrugs. “Bored.”

“Oh really? Then why don't you go bother your fellow Guardians,” he sneers.

“Can't. They're 'too busy protecting children, they don't have time for children',” he quotes, remembering what North said long ago.

Pitch snorts. “Naturally. I am more involved with children than those self-righteous nitwits.”

Sadly enough, he's right. How ironic. “Wanna do something?” he asks instead of commenting, jittery and needing to move.

“And what, by chance, is 'something'?”

“A game or something. Tag? Hide and seek? Something. I bet you're really good at hide and seek. You have all your shadows and everything. Although, would that be cheating? Nah, ” he answers himself, “that means it would be more fun. So do you want to? Do you? It'd be great!”

“What in heaven's name is wrong with you?”

Jack sighs. “There's a big storm forming over Finland right now and it has to have time to fully develop before I can interfere. But it's driving me mad!”

“You mean madder,” Pitch snarks.

Jack sicks his tongue out at him.

“Oh very mature.”

“I'm fifteen, what do you expect?”

“I do suppose maturity is a bit beyond your skill set. I shouldn't expect much from the eternal child. Peter Pan is better than you.”

Jack starts to nod in agreement, but than protests. “Hey, Peter is not!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he answers sulkily, then “Do you?”

He sighs dramatically. “I suppose I can endure one game,” he concedes.

“Great! You start,” he says quickly as he flies off. This is going to be fun.

.

.

.

It was. And for the record?

Pitch cheats. Horribly.

 

 

Chapter Text

In which the Boogeyman is cool:

Four!” Jack yells as he throws the snowball into the group of children. It hits one of the boys right in the back of the head. They all turn as one.

Jack!” Jamie shouts excitedly and runs to give him a hug.

Hey short stuff, how's it going?”

I'm not short,” he replies, “and great. Are you here to play?”

Does the Kangaroo like eggs? Of course I'm here to play.”

Bunny!” Sophie shouts, “Hop, hop, hop.”

Jack laughs. “I see he still has a fan.”

Jamie rolls his eyes. “She keeps insisting that the Easter Bunny is the best, even when we all know he clearly isn't.”

Oh and who do you think it is? The tooth fairy?”

No,” he scrunches his nose.

How about the Sandman?”

Nope, try again,” Caleb answers.

Oh, I should have known. North.”

Not him either,” Pipa informs him.

Not North? Then who's left, besides me of course, but I get the feeling I'm not that loved.”

Sophie hops over and hugs his legs. “Snowy cool!” she announces before hopping away again.

Jack laughs. “Well she got that part down. I've always been cool.”

The kids laugh at the lame joke and Jack takes it as a win. Pretty good coming from a two year old. “Alright, who is it then?”

Pitch,” Jamie announces.

Pitch?” Jack raises an eyebrow at them. That's a new one. Take it, he has been telling the kids about the games he has dragged the Boogeyman into. And about the things he does with the other children at Leonardo's house. And how he is technically a Guardian as well, even if he isn't official. And- alright, so he has been talking about Pitch a lot to the kids.

But he is the main spirit he spends time with anymore. The other Guardians are always busy. Plus they have schedules and time limits and quotas and blah! He wasn't joking when he told them he was fun times when they were work time. Even if accepted the title, that hasn't changed. Pitch is the only other one he knows who doesn't run on a schedule.

And he loves playing with his kids. Who knew befriending the Boogeyman would get him so many believers. There are times he wishes that he had met Pitch earlier. He wouldn't have been so lonely then.

He pushes those thoughts away. Those three hundred years with only the wind for company is not something he likes to think about. Happy thought. Think happy thoughts. Brood later.

Yeah, Pitch is the best.”

And why is that?”

He actually spends time with kids.”

He helps them.”

He takes care of them.”

He's not too busy for them.”

And they heard that line about being too busy for children. Right. He needs to remember there are impressionable ears around. Kids to talk to. Ones that can actually hear him. Right. Habits that have had three hundred years to form are hard to break. He figures in a couple of decades, he'll have it down. Until then however...

The other Guardians do care about you too,” he feels obligated to point out.

They just look at him.

He shrugs.“What? I had to say it, I technically part of the group. And now that that responsibility is over, who wants to play?”

Me.”

And me.”

Oh me, I want to play.”

You have the best games.”

Hop, hop, hop.”

Well what are we waiting for then? Spring? Everyone find a position and get ready.”

The kids take off, scrambling to assemble a pile of snowballs and a safe zone. Jack watches them with a smile. A shadow catches the corner of his eye and he turns. Pitch is leaning against the trunk of a tree, the oddest expression on his face.

You heard all that?”

Indeed. Oh the irony.”

He laughs. “I know, right? You want to stay and play? They would love it. You are their favorite after all,” he teases.

But Pitch shakes his head. “I am needed elsewhere.”

Alright then, have fun.”

The smile Pitch flashes resembles more of a shark than anything else. “Always,” he promises as he fades into the shadows.

But not before he dumps a pile of snow from the tree, right on top of him.

Pitch!” Jack cries, indignant.

There is a dark chuckle on the wind.

.

.

.

In which Jack stumbles into the business himself (literally):

It is late at night when it happens. Jack isn't sure what time it is exactly, but he knows that everyone should be in bed by now, let alone any children. He is wandering aimlessly right now, with no goal in mind. He is bored enough to wander, but not bored enough to seek anyone out to play with. He'll get to that point soon enough, but he's not there yet.

But as it is, as he rounds a corner too sharply that he sees it. Her. A young girl huddled against the wall in an alleyway. As a result, he flies right into a wall. “Ow,” he mutters, rubbing his head. He hates when he does that. You would think that if people can walk through him, walls and doors would be no problem. But no, he's solid enough to run into those.

He pauses, unsure what to do. He hates when he sees homeless children, especially in winter. There is never anything he can do for them. Sure, he can try and make them happy, but that doesn't always work. And he has to be careful, otherwise the only thing he'll give them is a chill. And that is the last thing they need, out in this weather.

And it wasn't as if they could see him anyways. The most he could do is steal some things for them and be on his way. It is never enough though. It is times like this he wonders how people think childhood is all innocence and no true hardships. Childhood is one of the most challenging times of all.

But that was before and this is now. And now, now maybe he can do something. Maybe he'll get lucky and she will be a believer. Or he won't, but he has other people be can ask for help. He is no longer alone.

Hey there,” he greets cheerfully.

The girl starts, as if she heard something, but doesn't know what.

It's alright. Can you hear me?”

She turns towards his voice and it is then he sees her black eye. Oh.

Is someone there?” she calls, “Show yourself,” she demands.

Trying to kid, but it's harder than it looks some days. How about a little help here? I can't do all the work.”

I said show yourself!”

Trying, I'm trying. How about you help a Guardian out a bit.” He throws a snowball at her feet. Once she is staring at it, it turns into a snowman and then dances away.

Hello... Jack Frost?” she finally asks.

And we have a winner,” he announces.

The girl jumps, clearly startled.

Hey, it's alright. No trouble here. Unless you know, you're actually the Easter Kangaroo in disguise. Then I'm duty bound to make trouble.”

She stares at him, eyes wide. Well, eye . The one is swollen almost shut. “Jack Frost,” she repeats.

Jack grins. “The one and only. And what might your name be?”

Morgan,” she says carefully.

Well Morgan, what are you doing out on a cold night like tonight?”

She shrugs.

Do you have a place to go?”

She nods, clearly lying.

He kneels down in front of her, so he is not looming. He has learned never to loom, even if unintentional. It doesn't really go well. “Morgan, can you tell me who hit you?”

No one,” she says quickly, “I ran into a door.”

That must have been a pretty heavy door.”

She nods. “It was.”

I bet it hits more than once too,” he adds.

Wh- what do you mean?”

He sighs. “I need you to be honest with me. Did either your parents or your guardians hit you?”

She shakes her head frantically, but he gives her a stern look. “Yes,” she cries, “but you can't send me back. You can't! Daddy threatened to sell me to the bad man. I don't like him, he scares me.”

Hey now, shh, none of that. No one is taking you back there. It's alright.”

Promise?”

Pinkie promise,” he tells her solemnly.

She throws her arms around him. She gives a violent shiver, but doesn't let go. “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!” she tells him.

It's alright now. You'll be safe.”

Thank you, she whispers fervently, as another shudder goes through her.

No worries kiddo. Now you want to let go before you get too cold? I don't want you getting sick.”

Don't care,” she says firmly.

But I do. Being sick isn't fun. And I'm all about fun. If you're sick, you can't play. And where we are going, you will have lots of other children to play with.”

Really?”

Really.”

She let's go then, but still stays close to him. He figures that's the best he is going to get for now. He looks around, hoping to get lucky. He has never had to do anything like this before. “Where's a nightmare when you need one,” he mutters.

Nightmare?” Morgan asks curiously, “why would you want a nightmare? They're scary.”

They can be, but not always.”

What do you mean?”

I am looking for a way to contact my friend. He is the one who can help you. Most people think he is scary, when they see him. But, really, he's a big softie inside. He just doesn't want people to know.”

Who is he?”

The Boogeyman?!”

The Boogeyman.”

The Boogeyman,” a third voice says.

Morgan screams. Jack turns and gives Pitch an unimpressed look. “Really Pitch?” he says.

Why Jack, it is as if you don't know me at all,” he smiles his sharp grin.

Yeah, yeah. Nice going Mr Creepy. Way to make a good first impression with one of the kids. And right after I told her you weren't so scary too,” he sighs, “Drama queen.”

I do beg your pardon, but pot, meet kettle.”

Oh no, don't worry Shadow man, I'm not after your title. You wear the crown so well. And that gown, oh my, you look fabulous,” he grins.

Pitch sighs. “Remind me why I put up with you again?”

Morgan giggles.

Because I'm bored and won't leave you alone?”

The giggles increase.

Oh yes, that's right, forced company ,” he rolls his eyes. “Now you were saying?”

Jack grins. “Pitch, meet Morgan. She could use some of your help. Morgan meet the Boogey Queen.”

Frost ,” Pitch growls.

Jack just laughs.

.

.

.

In which something good comes from something bad:

Jack flies blindly with the wind, not looking where he is going. Not caring. All he wants, no, all he needs to do right now is fly away. Just get away. Tears sting his eyes, but he refuses to let them fall. No. That would be admitting defeat. And he refuses to do that. Not now. Not ever.

Not to him .

But, of course, not watching where he is going has some down sides. And he just so happens to run right into one. Quite literally. He smacks right into Pitch, sending them both down. Jack tumbles head over feet, landing sprawled out on the ground.

Will you watch where you are going Frost,” Pitch bites out, clearly not happy, “some people actually-”

Sorry,” he mutters, not looking up. He's not sure if it is his tone or the fact that he apologized at all, the stops Pitch's rant. But stop it does. Whatever it is, he is thankful for it. He can't handle anything else right now.

What is wrong Jack?”

It's nothing,” he says.

Oh? Nothing?” he asks, clearly disbelieving him. Not that was very hard to do right now. “It is nothing that made you so blind you ran right into me?”

I told you, it's nothing,” Jack repeats defensively, “It's just something stupid.”

Something? Or someone?”

He doesn't reply.

Pitch sighs. “Come here then.” He helps Jack up, but instead of letting go, he pulls him in closer. The next thing he knows, Pitch is giving him a hug. A real hug. As if he was one of Pitch's children. They are the only ones Pitch shows affection towards.

He leans in, savoring the touch. He can't remember the last time someone hugged him. Really hugged him. Probably one of his kids, but they don't count. Not because he doesn't care for them, but because it isn't the same. It never is. But here Pitch is, giving him a hug. It's nice.

Now, I shall ask again, what's wrong?”

Jack sighs. “It's just Kangaroo being stupid again.”

Oh?”

We got into a fight. Again. And shouted some things at each other. Again. But then Bunny just had to bring up the blizzard of 68. Again. And it just,” he shrugs, “It got to me this time.”

I have heard of this famous blizzard before. Dare I ask how it occurred?”

I got into a fight with some Spring Sprites. And how else do you fight fire but with snow? I never meant for things to get so out of hand. But sometimes my powers got out of control. It is impossible to have complete control over any element, even a season.” He rubs his hip absently.

Pitch removes his hand and lifts his hoodie. Underneath he sees the red hand print that was imprinted on him during the fight.

He shrugs. “Not my first scar. It happens.” He tries to sound casual, as if he is over just how very much getting those burns hurt. He doesn't think he succeeds.

Well come on then, I know a few someones who would love to see you. And I also happen to know a few troublemakers who would be more than delighted to help you out.”

Jack laughs. “I'm sure too.”

Anything for Uncle Jack,” Pitch mocks teasingly.

Of course. I can't help it that I'm so awesome.”

Pitch rolls his eyes. “Of course not,” he echoes.

Jack smiles at the Boogeyman. “Hey Pitch?”

Yes?”

Thanks.”

Naturally. Anything for Uncle Jack,” he answers, grinning.

Jack sticks his tongue out at him.




 

Chapter Text

In which even the Boogeyman grieves:

“Pitch!” Jack shouts from the air when he finally spots the Boogeyman down below. Finally. Jack hasn't seen the man all week. Not to say that they saw each other every week, but, well, they saw each other at least once every week by now. Sometimes, depending on how much their paths cross and how busy they are, it's more or less frequent. But still.

The boy is use to seeing Pitch. He finds that he misses the older spirit when he isn't around too often. The other Guardians may not exactly like it, but he's become... friends with Pitch. Maybe even more. He hasn't admitted it, not even to himself yet, but he's starting to see Pitch as, well... family. A father or an older brother, or something. The wind was his first friend and Pitch definitely means as much to him as she does.

Pitch doesn't move. He doesn't even look at him. Jack feels a slash of hurt until he realizes where they are. A cemetery. Or, more accurately, a specific stone in the cemetery. A new one. The dirt is still fresh in front of the marker. No grass, or even weeds, have started to grow yet. Jack gets a bad feeling about this.

As he lands and stands next to Pitch, he looks at the stone himself. A knot forms in his stomach. No, it's not good. Not good at all.

Emma Mason

June 12 th 2009 – November 28 th 2014

A small picture of an angel is carved above the words.

Jack doesn't know what to do. It's obvious this was one of Pitch's children. It's also obvious that Pitch is upset. But Jack has no idea of how to comfort the older spirit. Sure, he's good with kids, but he doubts Pitch will appreciate that particular approach. Awkwardly he lays a hand on Pitch's shoulder. He still doesn't respond. At this point, he wonders if the spirit is even aware that Jack is there. But then, he speaks.

“She died in my arms,” he says simply and Jack can't help the horror or the shudder that passes through him. He knows Pitch can't save everyone. Logically he knows that. It's like logically he knows that his storms can cause chaos and harm as well as fun. But that doesn't mean he has to like it.

Most of the time he tries to ignore it. Because Jack and strong emotions do not go particularly well together. He's caused a number of blizzards that way. No one wants a depressed winter spirit. Spring never comes that way. He's gotten crap from the groundhog for that. Anger isn't any better. And the less said about '68, the better. So no, he acknowledges his dark side, but he tries not to dwell on it.

Now though, that is hardly going to help. Jack tightens his hand, fidgets and debates and then throws caution out the window by hugging Pitch instead. He wraps his arms tightly around the older spirit, burying his face in Pitch's chest. He hopes Pitch doesn't push him away. It's not as if Pitch has never hugged him before, but this would be the first time Jack started it. But, no, Pitch wraps his arms around Jack in return. Jack melts into the embrace. As embarrassing as it is, he sort of adores Pitch's hugs. A lot.

“She bled out before I could stop her parents,” he continues darkly, “That will be the last mistake they will ever make.”

He shivers at the fury in Pitch's voice, but he understands. He doesn't know exactly what Pitch is going to do to them, but he can imagine. He can't say he disapproves either, truthfully. Winter itself is fierce and Jack is rather protective of his children. Even ones he's never met before.

“I'm sorry,” Jack tells him, feeling useless. He knows it's a stupid thing to say. It never helps, but he doesn't know what else to do. He is the Guardian of Fun. He should be able to do something. But he thinks Pitch might actually find a way to murder him if he throws a snowball at him right now. And his heart isn't exactly in it right now either.

So he continues to stand there, hugging the Boogeyman and being hugged in return. He has to snort to himself at just how odd that statement sounds, taken out of context. Who would expect the Boogeyman to be the type to hug someone? No one other than his children, that's for sure.

“It is the way of things,” Pitch replies, “there will always be darkness in the world. There will always be death and violence. No matter how we may wish otherwise, evil always exists alongside the good.”

“Doesn't mean it sucks any less,” Jack mutters.

“No,” Pitch sighs, “it does not.”

They stay like that for a long time.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

In which Jack makes a decision:

“Ah, Jack!” North greets enthusiastically when the winter spirit enters the room, “Is good seeing you.”

“Aye mate,” Bunny echoes before he is swarmed by a group of very happy fairies, Baby Tooth in the lead. He smiles at them and watches as they all swoon. “Hi to you too,” he tells them.

“Girls,” Toothiana scolds, but she looks more as if she wants to join them and is barely holding herself back. Thank goodness. Baby Teeth are one thing, Toothiana is another. And she doesn't always show this level of restraint either. “Hello Jack,” she smiles brightly.

By a chair, Sandy gives a tired wave.

“Now that everyone is here, meeting can begin,” North booms at them.

Jack takes a seat and prepares to pretend to be listening. Not that he has anything against the meetings per se , but after so many of them, they tend to become predictable. And predictable means boring so Jack usually entertains himself by daydreaming while nodding at the appropriate cues. Frankly he has a hard time understanding why they have these meetings and can't shake the feeling they are for him. After all, he doubts they had regular meetings before he joined. Too busy for children, but not for meetings?

Then again, that does sound like the kind of logic adults use, so...

“First order of business, best holiday is coming up,” Bunny interrupts with an indignant“Hey!” but North ignores him, “and we need to make super!”

Jack sighs to himself. And here we go. At least this time it is November and not any earlier. Like, oh say, April . At this point he can probably recite their argument over the better holiday. Which is an accomplishment simply because, since they are always having it, it is long and detailed . And frankly ridiculous, but what does he know?

“Should be best Christmas after what happen with Pitch,” North continues, “Need to reassure children we are real and they are remembered and safe.”

Jack fights the urge to fidget in his seat. Sure, the 'battle' with Pitch was bad and affected the other four pretty badly, but that was months ago. He's been checking up on the kids lately and they all seem fine to him. And the part about safe... it makes his stomach roll uncomfortably. He can't forget what Pitch told them in that last 'battle'. And Leo.

He can't forget that Pitch is a protector too. Maybe even a Guardian. An unusual one, yeah, but he's not sure that makes him any less valid. Look at him. All of the other Guardians have holidays and jobs they need to do. Him? He is basically free. Sure, he brings the snow, but he's not the only one. He's just the only one to play with the kids. He thought he was the only one.

And now he finds out he's not. Pitch has been with them too. Helping them. Saving them. He can't say he hates someone who looks after the kids. It always frustrated them, when they couldn't see or hear him. It meant he couldn't help them. And that's all he ever wanted to do. Play with them and help them if needed.

The other Guardians seem to have already forgotten what Pitch does. Or they are ignoring it because it doesn't fit their image of him. Either way, he is back to being the Nightmare King to them. A threat. And not only a threat to them, but the children as well.

That doesn't seem right to Jack. Sure, Pitch isn't going to befriend all the children. Not only is that impossible, it's stupid as well. Not every kid needs him. And the world needs fear. But for the kids that he does watch over, he is important. He is their Guardian. How is he suppose to hate Pitch? How is he suppose to want him gone? He can't. He is a part of their world too. A vital one.

Why can't the others see that?

“Aye mate, the little ankle biters need stability and all that, but Easter can do that too!”

“Blah! Eggs? What is eggs compared to presents? Much better. Much cooler ,” he jokes, “Right Jack?”

“Ummm,” he edges, not wanting to be pulled into this conversation.

“Oh of course he would agree with you,” Bunny rolls his eyes, “Winter, Christmas, they go together. Unlike snow and Easter,” and here Bunny gives Jack a stink eye. No question about what he's thinking about, “That doesn't mean you're right.”

“Ah, but does. Two is better than one.”

“Not if two can't measure up to the one.”

“Um, guys?” Jack asks.

“Nonsense, you are being stubborn, is all.”

“No, I'm being right .”

“Guys?”

“Is understandable. Christmas has much to be envious over.”

“No, seriously guys.”

“Envious? As if mate.”

“Of course. Colored eggs, presents, is not much of a decision, no?”

“Hey! A little attention please!”

“You're right.”

“Ha!”

“Eggs are much better.”

Jack gives up. They are going to be at it for a while. Again. And this is exactly why he hates these meetings. They are a waste of time. One would think, with how busy they are, they wouldn't have them at all. But no, they must have official Guardian meetings every month. Please. He hopes they drop this soon. He's not exactly one to sit around like this.

He's fun times, not work and schedules. He told them that even before he agreed to this. He thought they understood. He's not like them. He never has been. He never will be. Manny chose him because he was different from the others.

Maybe. He assumes. He's not exactly sure why Manny chose him at this point. Shouldn't the Man in the Moon know what Pitch was doing? Shouldn't he see that he was helping the kids too? Or does he hate him, like the others? No way to find out that one. It's not as if, now that he is a Guardian, the Moon talks anymore than the previous 300 years.

“You didn't have Pitch ruin your holiday!”

My holiday is not so fragile. No fault of mine eggs break.”

Jack winces.

Sandy nudges him.

He looks over, surprised. Normally Sandy is asleep by now. It's not as if he's not use to the yelling to keep him awake. And he has to have heard this argument a million more times than Jack had.

'You can go,' he signs, 'they won't notice.'

Jack grins. He has been learning sign language lately, so he can talk to Sandy better. It also helps because one of his more recent believers is deaf. And Sandy appreciates having someone who both understands him and is easy to catch their attention.

'You don't mind?'

'I plan on sleeping. They don't even notice when I'm awake most of the time. No one is going to ask if I saw you leave.'

'Thanks Sandy.'

'It's not as if anything will get solved. This argument is as old as the chicken and the egg question.'

Jack stifles a laugh. He knew it. 'Thanks Sandy. See you around.'

'Bye snowflake.'

Jack flies out the window and into the sky. Now where to go? As he flies away, he can still hear strands of North and Bunny. Pitch's name comes up again.

That's a thought. Maybe it's finally time to go see Leonardo and his kids. That should help put things in perspective. Maybe he can make up his mind about Pitch that way. And he does have an open invitation to visit. It can't hurt.

Decision made, he is off.

.

.

.

In which Halloween is celebrated. In style:

“What's your favorite holiday?” Jack asks.

Pitch raises an eyebrow at him.

“I'm serious!” Jack tells him, “I know you don't like a few of them, but that doesn't mean you hate all holidays. You have to have a favorite.”

“Isn't is obvious?” Pitch answers, “Halloween.”

Jack laughs at him. “Stereotypical much?”

Pitch shrugs elegantly. “You were the one who asked, I merely answered. It is not my fault if you do not like the results.”

But the boy shakes his head. “I get it, I get it. Fear and all that. But what do you do?”

“Mainly travel across the country, seeing the sights, scaring the unsuspecting, stealing the snacks from various festivals and such. Occasionally I travel farther out, across the world. Mexico is an obvious choice. London has some truly marvelous spots to haunt. Ireland, being the birthplace of the holiday is always on the list,” he shrugs again, “I never plan overly much for it.”

“Can I join you this year?” he asks hopefully.

“You would want to spend Halloween with me ?”

Yes ,” he replies excitedly, “Who better to spend it with then the Boogeyman? If it's your favorite holiday, you have to know all the best places to go. I bet it's a blast.”

“I don't know,” Pitch hesitates, looking at Jack warily, “are you sure you can handle it?”

“Hey!” Jack pouts, indignant, “I'm not a little kid,” he tells the older spirit, “I can handle it.”

Pitch's lips twitch in amusement. “Are you sure?” he asks again.

Oh. He realizes Pitch is teasing him. Jack sticks out his tongue in answer.

“True maturity Frost.”

Jack grins. “Eternal teenager, what do you expect?”

Pitch sighs. “I do believe that would be too much to ask, yes.”

Jack grins wider. “So can I?”

“I suppose you'll find a way to join me, even if I say no?” he raises an eyebrow at the younger spirit.

“Would I do that?”

“Yes,” Pitch deadpans.

Jack tries to look innocent. It doesn't work very well.

“I suppose I have no choice then,” he sighs.

“Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Jack says excitedly. So excitedly in fact, he starts dancing.

Pith watches, amused. “Dare I inquire of the level of excitement?”

“I've never celebrated a holiday with anyone before. And now I'm going to join you for your favorite, so it's going to be awesome.”

“Is that so?” Pitch has an odd look on his face, “In that case, I do believe I have some planning to do after all. I will meet you at your pond on the day. Now, if you'll excuse me.”

“Bye Pitch,” he waves and grins, “see you then!” This is going to be the best Halloween. Ever.

---

October 31st comes and Jack waits excitedly for Pitch to show up. He is bouncing on his feet, unable to keep still. He really is excited for this. He told Pitch the truth that this would be the first time he has celebrated a holiday with someone since he became a spirit. Plus what's not to like about Halloween? No snow, sure, but still lots of fun.

“I am beginning to regret this already,” a voice comments from the shadows.

“Pitch!” Jack calls, “you're here!”

“No, what you see is merely an illusion,” Pitch draws as he comes forward.

Jack laughs. He doesn't care how sarcastic Pitch gets tonight, nothing is going to ruin it. “Ready?”

“I do not believe I have a choice any more,” the older spirit informs him, but there's amusement hidden in his eyes, so Jack counts that as a win.

“Come on then! Where first?”

They start by staying local first – still in the country. They go to the obvious places such as Salem and New Orleans and Anoka, Minnesota, the so called Halloween capital of the world. But they also stop at small places as well – a horror movie marathon in Florida, the small urban legend centers across the states. Then they go to London for one of the many ghost tours, they stop to eat in Mexico, they stay for a bit in Colombia and Hong Kong, they explore other 'haunted' locations across the world. Occasionally Pitch is the 'haunted' part of their tour and after the first time, Jack joins him. Their last stop is Ireland, whose celebration goes on till November 2nd.

Jack drops down onto one of the rocks scattered along the ground, grinning from ear to ear. He looks up at Pitch, who is also smiling. It's not a big smile. Nor is it a particularly reassuring, but it is a smile nonetheless. “Thanks Pitch,” he says.

“Someone had to show you how it is done.”

He smiles, “Maybe we can do this again. How do you feel about Thanksgiving?”

“Don't push your luck Frost.”

Jack just laughs.

.

.

.

In which Jamie helps a friend:

“Pitch Black, Pitch Black, Pitch Black,” Jamie mutters under his breath one night, lights off and window covered. He has no idea how to actually contact Pitch, but this is worth a try. He doesn't want to wait until Jack comes to visit to relay his message. This is too important.

“You called?” a dark voice asks.

“Pitch, you heard me,” Jamie says, relieved.

“I could hardly ignore you, with how determined you were.” It's too dark to see more than the outline of the Boogeyman's figure, but Jamie gets the feeling Pitch is raising an eyebrow at him.

“I didn't know how else to call you.”

“And what is so important that you have been repeating my name for the last ten minutes?”

“There's a new boy in my class. His name is Tyler. He's really shy, so I don't know him that well, but something seems... off about him.”

“Off?”

“He came to school the other day with a black eye. He claims he was playing with his soccer ball and managed to hit himself in the eye when it bounced off the wall, but...”

“But you don't think that's what happened?”

“This isn't the first time. When he first arrived, he had a broken arm. Said he fell out of a tree. Another time it was a skateboarding accident and another-”

“I believe I get the point,” Pitch interrupts, “I will look into it.”

Jamie smiles, relieved. “Thanks. Maybe he is as accident prone as he says, but I'd rather know for sure. He's a cool kid. The pictures he draws are wicked.”

Pitch nods. Or it looks as if Pitch nods, it's hard to tell. “Good night brat. I would wish you pleasant dreams, but I would be lying,” he chuckles as he fades from view entirely.

---

The next day, Tyler tells Jamie about the interesting visit he had from the Boogeyman and how he promised to protect him from his Mom.

.

.

.

In which there are more introductions:

When Jack lands in Leo's garden for another visit, it's not Leo or his husband Draco that are out watching the kids, but another man. If it wasn't for the fact that the man was pale with straight hair, he would almost say it was Pitch. Then the stranger turns and looks at him with piercing black eyes. No, definitely not Pitch.

“Hi,” Jack waves awkwardly.

“Jack Frost I presume?” he asks in a deep, smooth voice.

“Yea- um, Yes. That's me. Jack Frost,” he gives a nervous grin.

The man snorts, “I am Severus Snape, Leonardo's adopted father. Both Leo and Draco have other business to attend to, so I am in charge today.”

“Oh, cool,” Jack says, still unsure. He's not exactly sure why he is so nervous, but he bets it has something to do with that dark, intense stare.

“Articulate I see,” Severus says dryly.

Jack isn't sure what to do. He hasn't been visiting very long yet and none of the kids have seen him so far. He sighs to himself. Children are easy to deal with. He gets them. Adults? Not so much. But then he notices movement behind Severus' leg ad looks down. There is a young boy hiding behind the man's leg. His hat is pulled so lower over his face, his bright blue eyes are almost hidden. He can't be more than two, if that yet.

Jack kneels down and waves at the little boy. He makes a startled noise and hides behind Severus' leg again. Slowly he peeks out at Jack, thumb in his mouth. Jack smiles. “Want to see something neat?” he asks before scooping up some snow and carefully shaping it into a butterfly. He breathes on it and launches it into the air. The butterfly glides gracefully over to the little boy before landing on his nose.

He lets out a surprised yelp, but quickly begins to giggle. It flies off his nose and into the air. The boy gives chase. The snow butterfly goes slow enough and low enough so little legs can keep up with it, staying just out of reach. The little boy giggles all the while as he runs after it.

Jack grins, feeling accomplished.

“That is Gabriel,” Severus informs him, “Upon arrival he has attached himself to my side and has not left it since. This is the first time he has been more than two feet from me.”

Jack shrugs. “Kid just needed the right kind of fun, that's all.”

“Indeed, is it?”

Jack nods. “He must feel safe, with you,” he adds then, not knowing what else to say.

“I believe he has added another name to his list.”

“What? Me?”

“It would not surprise me in the least. He is a rather determined little brat.”

“He's grown on you, has he?” he asks cheekily.

“In a literal sense, yes.”

Jack laughs. “Defeated by a toddler.”

“The defining feature of my life, forever surrounded by mini dunderheads.”

The words sound harsh, but Jack can hear he doesn't mean it. Much. “Sounds like a good job to me.”

“Oh the naivety of youth,” he comments idly.

They continue to watch as the small boy cases Jack's creation, a wide smile on his face and he tumbles after it.

.

.

.

In which the last Guardian meeting is called to order:

“Jack, you is being early today,” North greets in surprised when he walks into the meeting room to see Jack already there.

“Hi North,” he says, pausing from his conversation with Sandy to turn around and wave. Then he turns back and continues to have his conversation with Sandy. 'She didn't . How did she think that would work?'

'When it comes pixies, one is better off not knowing,' Sandy tells him wisely.

Jack nods in agreement.

“Is everything good?”

“Yeah North, it's fine,” he reassures.

To be fair, North has reason to ask. Jack is never early to a meeting. He's more likely to be either right on time or a little late. But today, he is bored. Leo is busy. Draco is busy. Severus is busy. Pitch is busy. Jamie and his friends are busy. Everyone is busy. Sure, he could have flown to a number of other places, but he didn't feel like it. At least if he is here, he can talk to Sandy.

“Good. Is good to see you taking job more responsibly,” he tells him before leaving the room again, muttering to himself.

Jack doesn't say anything to that. For one, he doubts North would have heard him. And he doesn't want to know what he was muttering either. Another thing one is better off not knowing. For other, it's not true. Not in the way he means. He does take his Guardianship seriously, but it takes a different form than they are use to, so they don't see it.

Probably why they don't agree about Pitch either.

Sandy gives him a consoling pat on the arm. 'They're never going to understand, are they?'

'Give them time,' the Sandman reassures him, 'We've all been around a while. We don't change quickly like you do.'

'What's the point of winter of you never change?' he complains, more to himself than anyone. It's not Sandy's fault. He knows he is trying. He knows they all are. But some days, it doesn't feel like they are trying hard enough.

Jack is unfocused the entire meeting. He can't seem to concentrate on what anyone is saying. Not that it really matters. There's never anything important said. The only fortunate thing is that Christmas is over, so North is slightly less manic than usual.

“Are you sure everything is good Jack?” North asks part way through, “Normally you are not this quiet.”

“Yeah frostbite, ya ain't yourself today? No one's bothering ya, are they?”

“No, I'm just feeling restless, that's all.”

“Ya sure? Pitch ain't giving you no trouble?”

Jack wants to say he's surprised at this question, but he's not. They are still convinced he is a threat. And yeah, maybe he is to them. But he's not to Jack. And he's not to the kids he helps. The world needs fear to survive. It's not as if he is blind. He knows Pitch isn't all rainbows and puppies. “No, Pitch has been great. He never gives me any trouble when I'm visiting.”

“What do ya mean visiting ?” Bunny asks incredulously, “Ya spending time with Pitch ?”

Jack crosses his arms, feeling defensive. “Not specifically, no. But I can hardly ignore him when we are playing with the same kids.”

“Oh Jack,” Toothiana frets, “are you sure that's safe?”

“Playing? Ya tryin ta tell me Pitch plays , actual games ?”

“Jack...”

Yes ,” Jack hisses at all three of them. “It's perfectly safe playing at Leo's Manor and yes , I do mean play . We even had a snowball fight one time. Which Pitch was involved in. I know you guys don't like him. I know he can't exactly be labeled a 'good guy',” he air quotes, “but that doesn't mean he is pure evil either. There are layers involved. Like... like... onions!” he points, “That's the quote. Pitch has layers like onions.”

The three of them look at him skeptically.

“He does,” he insists, “Back me up Sandy,” he requests.

'Snowflake is fine.'

“But it's Pitch ,” Bunny argues, “You never know when he'll turn on ya.”

“He's not like that,” Jack defends.

“Ya don't know that. Ya don't know what he's like.”

“I know enough. I know he isn't going to turn on me or brainwash me or whatever else crazy thing you are thinking.”

“Is nothing personal Jack, is just the way Pitch is.”

“He's not like that. Why can't you see that?”

“Cause there's nothing there to see,” Bunny answers.

“Jack,” Tooth says, “I know you can... identify... with Pitch. But that doesn't mean the two of you are the same. You're both on different sides.”

“No, we're both on the same side – the one the helps children. We just do it differently. We all do it differently. I have a different method from you guys. Pitch has a different method from any of us. Neither of us fit your mold of being a Guardian. The only difference is that you accept me and not him.”

“And ya ain't evil,” Bunny adds.

Pitch is not evil !” Jack shouts. His powers respond to his anger, freezing the room. It is then he knows he has to get out of there. He might freeze the entire building if he keeps this up. “That's it, I'm done,” he declares, “I'm done with this argument, I'm done with these stupid meetings where we never do anything and I'm done with no one listening to me when I speak. I did that for three hundred years, I'm not going to do it now that I have people I can actually talk to.” He shoves his chair away and takes to the air.

“Jack,” someone calls, but he isn't listening. He's just done.

.

.

.

In which Severus takes up the mantle:

Severus watches with sharp eyes as his students brew their potion. This is his first year of teaching and he is determined to do things correctly – regardless if he wants to be here or not. It is his job and he takes pride in doing his job well. Rather unlike his Father, who never held another job after he was unemployed when the Mill laid him off.

Tobias was a worthless waste of a human being and he is determined never to be like him. How unfortunate that he inherited the old man's temper. A fact he is very well aware of.

“Miss Maycomb, what, may I ask, are you doing?” he stalks up to the girl and asks.

“Adding the dragon's blood?” she makes it into more of a question than a statement.

“Are you asking or telling me?”

“Um, telling Sir?”

“Because, if you happen to be asking me, I would tell you that adding the dragon's blood before your potion properly cools will result in a rather... painful explosion.”

She gulps. “Yes Sir,” she squeaks as she quickly sets the blood back down on the table.

“Ten points from Gryffindor for inability to read simple instructions.” And for almost causing an explosion that could have destroyed this entire classroom. Merlin, how do other people teach this? The old man is going to owe him for a lifetime for taking this position. It was a horrible idea when he first proposed it. It is an even worse idea now.

Him? Teach? And not only teach, but teach little dunderheads as well? He's almost the same age as his Seventh years. And he has neither the patients nor the skills to teach at this level. But, no , this is a perfect opportunity. He could 'spy' on the old coot and report back to his 'Master'. As if either of them can hold either his loyalty or his respect.

And now his old 'Master' is dead, so none of this matters.

Defeated. By a baby, of all things. And not just any baby, but Potter's brat... Lily's little boy.

And isn't that an open wound still. Lily. He still misses her, after all these years. Still wishes they never had that final fight. That he never said what he did. She never did forgive him for that. And now she never can.

Because of him.

No, not just because of him. Yes, he did play a part in it. He isn't going to deny it. But he is not the lone cause. There is Dumbledore, for one. Honestly, who holds a job interview for a school in a pub of all places? Does having them at Hogwarts make too much sense for the old man? There's the blasted seer who gave the prophecy to begin with, although she holds the least amount of blame. Seers can hardly predict when they will have the vision. A large part can be placed firmly on Black's shoulders. And what a mix of disgust and satisfaction that is.

But the person with the most blame and the most guilt the Dark Lord. Not that he would feel guilt over this, but the thought remains. He was the one who interpreted the prophecy. He was the one who went after the Potters. His wand cast the final curse.

So yes, while Severus carries part of the blame for that night, he is by no means the only player.

Now if only his heart would remember that.

He carefully eyes his students as he walks around, keeping an close eye on one in particular. Not because he is bad at potions. No. For another reason entirely. There is something about that boy that sets him on the edge. It is the way he moves, the way he assesses his surroundings, the way he jumps too easily. It is suspicious. It is concerning. It is, unfortunately, very familiar.

All of his instincts are practically screaming at him when he looks at this boy. But he has to approach this correctly. He cannot leap into it, as if he was a Gryffindor. He has to take care. He has to be cautious. And he has to be sure.

So far, the only thing he has are his suspicions. Take it, he has a very good reason to be and very good instincts besides, but that does not change the fact that he does not for sure yet. It would be foolish to confront the boy without proof. And there is a way to confirm for certain, but frustratingly, he hasn't been able to see it yet. If the boy is one of Pitch's, then he should have a bracelet. But he keeps his wrists covered. To an almost unreasonable degree. That is a sign in and of itself.

But even if he is not one of Pitch's yet, Severus is determined to know. And to do something about it. He refuses to turn a blind eye, like others did with him. With him, as with so many others, only Pitch cared. He will not be added to the category of the uncaring. He will not .

Then, at the end of class, he sees what he has been searching for for months now. The boy flinches away from a classmate too quickly and the edge of his shirt sleeve raises. Not much, but just enough for Severus to see the bare edge of a similar black bracelet.

There is a cold sort of victory of the sight. Frankly, he would have rather have been wrong than not. He is correct, but there is no joy in it. But now he can proceed. He can do something about it.

“Mr Chase,” he calls, “stay seated. There is something I need to discuss with you.”

He might as well do some good while he is stuck here, even if it is not originally in his job description.

.

.

.

In which a very important question is asked:

Draco bites his lip nervously, trying to calm himself down. It is fine. Everything is going to be fine. After all, what is the worse that could happen? He bites his lip hard enough to make it bleed. Oh Merlin, he knew this was a bad idea. He knew it.

What made him think it wasn't? He has already asked Severus, that should be enough. Damn his sense of tradition and honor. So many things can go wrong. So many things. He's never interacted much with the spirit after Leo introduced them. He didn't have much reason to. Even after they began dating, he still didn't see him much.

But he knows how important Pitch is to Leo. He knows he views him as another Father, alongside Severus. He knows he loves him as fiercely as Leo loves him, if in a different way. So he needs to do this. He does. It's only right.

“I can feel your fear a mile away,” Pitch says unexpectedly from behind him.

Draco jumps. He can't help it. It seems Pitch takes vicious pleasure in scaring him. He never appears in his line of view. Oh no, it always has to be behind him or beside him just out of view or some such. Leo, the traitor, only laughs or rolls his eyes when he does. It makes sense why he does it. But that doesn't mean Draco likes it anymore. Or that Pitch doesn't always seem savagely happy when it occurs.

Oh Merlin, this is not going to end well.

“Shall I wait for you to muster up the courage to ask your question, or shall I skip right to my answer?” Pitch asks dryly.

That makes Draco bristle. He is a Malfoy. Malfoy's do not cower in fear – no matter how afraid they might actually be at the time. He straightens his shoulders and lifts his head. “Do I have your permission to marry Leonardo?” he asks.

Pitch tilts his head. “Are you finally going to ask him? It's taken you long enough. I was planning on this day since the two of you started dating.”

Draco... doesn't know what to say to that, so he just nods.

“I'm rather tempted to make you wait, but Leonardo would murder me, or attempt to, if I did so. You are lucky I am as fond of him as I am. And do not wish his wrath for upsetting his boyfriend. So yes , you have my permission to marry my son. Finally ,” he adds.

Draco grins broadly.

“And Mr Malfoy, I do not believe I need to tell you what I will do if you dare break his heart,” he says pleasantly before vanishing again.

Draco gulps. Worth it. Terrifying, but worth it. Then he grins again. Time to make some plans...

.

.

.

In which another holiday is celebrated:

Jack fidgets with the box in his hands, hoping this is okay. It should be, right? There's never been a reason to think it would be unwelcome. And it's not too soon. Three years isn't too soon is it? Some might argue it's a long time in coming. But Jack didn't want to rush into this. He wanted to make sure. This is Pitch, after all.

Pitch, who the other Guardians still don't like or accept. They've finally accepted the fact that Jack likes Pitch. That Jack will continue hanging out with Pitch. Not happily, or gracefully, but they have... after a number of fights. And if they knew what he has planning on doing now...

He shakes his head, it doesn't matter. Sure, he is a Guardian. And sure, he is sorta, kinda friends with them. Or at least with Sandy. But they aren't the only spirits he knows. Or the only people. After three hundred years of being invisible, he finally has people he can talk to and rely on.

It's an odd feeling.

But Pitch was one of the firsts. And one of the ones he feels closest to. Obviously, or he wouldn't be planning what he is. It's another odd feeling.

It's odd in general. When he first started this, he never planned on getting as close to the older spirit as he did. He hadn't planned on getting close at all. He only went for the kids. But slowly but surely, that changed. He started to seek Pitch out and he has never regretted it. No matter how grumpy or sarcastic the Boogeyman got.

And now it has come to this.

And he makes it sound so dramatic when he puts it like that. As if this is some big, life changing moment or something. It's just a gift. That's all. Just something he made Pitch. A little something he just happen to spend hours and days on, making sure it was perfect. No big deal. It was just a gift.

On this certain day. The reason he made the gift in the first place. Because of today.

Right. Stalling isn't going to change anything. Time to get this over with.

He takes to the air and flies off in the direction of Pitch's lair, where he will be right now. Hopefully. Maybe if he isn't there, he can just leave it. That would be fine, wouldn't it?

But no, he wants to give it to Pitch himself. He does. He's just a little nervous, that's all.

When he enters the hole in the ground, he finds that Pitch is home right now. Good.

“Jack,” Pitch greets, “to what do I owe this pleasure?” he asks and it sounds slightly sarcastic, but Jack isn't expecting anything less.

“I have something for you,” he admits, “here,” he thrusts the neatly wrapped box into Pitch's hands and jumps into the air, “Well that's it, see you later,” he calls as he flees.

He does not stay to hear Pitch chuckle at his antics.

He does not stay to watch Pitch unwrap and open the box to reveal a beautifully made ice sculpture. It is of a small child, riding a Nightmare, while other children surround it.

He does not stay and see Pitch read the tag 'Happy Father's Day' and smile.

He does not stay to hear Pitch say quietly, “Thank you son.”