Prompt: Round 7 – Vows and life debts Prompt #30. Severitus - Snape knows he is Harry’s father, but his desperate attempts to gain custody fail. He vows that even if he cannot tell Harry who he is, he will always protect his son.
Rating: R for the warnings
Word Count: 9361
Warnings (if any): Mentions of child abuse and child selling, manipulative!Dumbledore
Author's Notes (if any): This story started out very different, but went a completely different way – this is a WIP that will be updated in parts
Betas: rakina and jadzia7667
Severus Snape smoothed his tie as he checked his appearance in the mirror one last time. A fine tremor in his hand was the only outward sign of the nervousness he felt. The black Muggle suit was made of the finest Italian silk, the shirt startlingly white cotton. His boots gleamed; Severus was the very picture of wealth. His hand absently patted the left pocket, making sure he had the money.
Closing his eyes, Severus took a deep breath, Lily’s brilliant green eyes laughed at him. His Lily. The Lily he’d grown up with and had loved for so many years. The Lily who had come to him, seeking comfort when her husband was missing and presumed dead. The Lily who had secretly borne him a son and selflessly sacrificed herself to protect both him and Harry.
Be with me today, my sweet Lily. Severus sent a silent plea out. Today I will fulfill my vow to watch over and protect our son.
Retrieving a stack of legal documents from the table, Severus Apparated from his bedroom to the sitting room of a rented house on Privet Drive. Today he would achieve what had been denied him eight months before as Severus took legal custody of his son. In the aftermath of Godric’s Hollow, hundreds of wizarding families had petitioned to adopt The Boy Who Lived, as his son had been dubbed. Severus’ own claim of paternity had been disallowed without consideration when Albus Dumbledore had decreed that Harry was safest with his mother’s last living relative. Severus had been forced to agree, with no other option, and had made a vow of protection to the Headmaster of Hogwarts, one as binding as his vow to Lily to always protect her son.
Rage flowed through him and Severus struggled to control it. He’d even resigned himself to the fact that he would not be able to get to know his child until the boy started at Hogwarts. That lasted until Severus had given in to the overwhelming desire to see his son. At the start of the Yule holidays, Severus had journeyed to Surrey just to get a glimpse of the toddler – just to make sure Harry was alright. He had spent three days watching Petunia’s house before he’d finally caught a glimpse of a pale, thin Harry.
Unkempt and dressed in worn, overlarge clothing, the toddler had been tethered to a pram with a leash. A pudgy pink baby of about the same age sat swaddled in blankets, screeching. Petunia had stopped abruptly as she pushed the pram towards a car sitting in the driveway, causing Harry to fall. Instead of helping his son up, Lily’s sister had simpered to her blob of a child, handing him a sweet. She cuffed Harry on the back of the head as she berated him for his clumsiness. Even more disturbing was the fact that the child had endured the abuse with barely a flinch, as if used to the ill-treatment.
Impotent fury had gripped Severus that afternoon. He knew the protections Dumbledore had placed on the house in Little Whinging prevented anyone from forcibly removing Harry from his relatives' care. It further prevented anyone from hurting Petunia or the obese pig of a husband as well. No, somehow Severus had to find a way to persuade the Dursleys to give Harry to him, without coercion or force.
Severus had spent his entire Yule formulating and initiating a plan of action. Disillusioned and undetected, he had spent hours watching the house on Privet Drive and its occupants. He concluded that he would need to deal with Vernon, as there was a slim chance that Petunia might recognize him as the boy his sister had befriended a dozen years before. It would not do to have her identify him as a wizard.
Pooling his money and selling the house at Spinners End had allowed Severus to buy a small cottage in Hogsmeade and make a sizable investment in Grunnings. An introduction to a fawning Vernon Dursley was easily arranged after that and the ensuing months had set the stage for today. A number of less than subtle comments from Severus that he was seeking to adopt a black-haired baby as an heir had brought only speculative glances and one leering smirk had almost got the idiot hexed. It was the mention of a sizable adoption fee that had prompted Dursley to immediately offer his nephew as a possible candidate. Insisting that it be done legally and permanently had cost Severus additional money.
Papers in hand, Severus settled his face into an impassive mask and walked briskly out of the house. The private adoption papers were signed and notarized, all Severus had to do was hand over the fee as he took custody of the child, a child advocate witnessing the transaction. Only a protest from Petunia could prevent him from taking his son today, and Severus was sure her relief to be rid of the boy would outweigh any objections. He doubted she had even read the paperwork, only signing where her husband directed her to – Lily would be rolling in her grave at the thought of her baby being ‘sold’!
The walk up the pathway seemed to take an inordinate amount of time and Severus’ nerves were jumping as he rang the bell. An idiotic smile creased the face and multiple chins of Vernon Dursley as he threw the door open.
“Mr. Snape! Jolly good to see you and right on time,” Dursley simpered, eyes estimating the value of Severus’ expensive suit as he ushered him in.
Petunia sat stiffly on a pristine couch, serving tea to an over-dressed, over-made-up matron from the local child protection service. A pudgy, blond toddler sat in a playpen to one side of the couch, the child stuffing himself with bite-sized pastries. Severus exchanged a quiet greeting with the advocate, who had sped the adoption through the channels. Ignoring Lily’s sister in much the same way as he’d done years before, Severus refused both a seat and a cuppa.
“Well then,” Dursley rubbed his hands together, the greed showing so clearly that it turned Severus’ stomach. “Shall we get on with it?”
“By all means,” Severus responded smoothly, sliding the fat envelope out of his pocket. “Fifty thousand pounds, as we agreed. Where is the boy?”
“Boy! Er, Harry! Come in here,” Dursley bellowed, making the advocate jump as his sausage-like fingers caressed the large parchment envelope bulging with bills.
Severus’ eyes feasted on the tiny child who silently materialized in the doorway. Dressed in some type of playsuit the color of mustard, the clothing at least appeared clean and well-fitting. Harry clutched a paper bag which must have held his possessions and stared at his feet. Handing the copy of the official paperwork over to the matron so that she could witness it, Severus slid it back into his pocket before turning towards Harry. His hand shook as Severus stopped just in front of the child and reached out to gently brush back his fringe.
Lifting his head slowly, Harry’s brilliant green eyes were full of caution and Severus could not resist stroking his cheek.
“Lily’s eyes,” Severus wasn’t aware he’d spoken out loud until he heard Petunia gasp.
Glancing over his shoulder with a sneer, Severus could see the woman’s eyes widen with recognition. Deliberately turning his back on her, Severus turned back to Harry, crouching down until he was at eye-level with the child.
“Hello, son,” Severus said quietly, his voice rough-edged with emotion. “I have come to take you home with me, if that is alright?”
Harry didn’t even glance at his relatives before he gave a small nod, and allowed Severus to lift him into his arms. The toddler’s stiff body slowly relaxed as Severus held him against his chest. He waited a moment, expecting either Harry or the Dursleys to say something, but his son just stared at him like he was an apparition. Turning slightly, Severus nodded at the smiling matron, ignoring the look of loathing on Petunia’s face. He could see her husband send her a glare.
“Dursley.” Severus barely stopped a disgusted sneer as he looked at the man who had sold him his son. “We’ll show ourselves out.”
Stopping only to reposition the small bag, Severus strode from the house just as the lump in the playpen began shrieking. Down the path and across the street, Severus held his breath that the wards would activate as he cradled his precious treasure to his chest. Harry had relaxed enough to loop his arms around his father’s neck, never looking back at the only home he could possibly remember.
Into the house he had let for the rest of the week, and Severus shut and warded the door with a flick of his wand. Taking the stairs two at a time, Severus moved quickly to the master bedroom and set Harry down on the edge of the bed. Those green eyes were wide and uncertain as Severus took off his suit jacket and waistcoat, tossing them over a chair. He unbuttoned his shirt cuffs before kneeling beside the bed, the sharp prickle of tears stung his eyes as his son flinched away from him.
“I can assure you that you will never have to fear that I will strike you, Harry,” Severus said clearly, holding Harry’s gaze. “A father should not hit his child.”
Those beloved eyes narrowed with suspicion and Severus bit back a sigh. Well, he hadn’t expected to be immediately accepted by Harry. Slowly, Severus drew Harry closer and he couldn’t help but wonder how soon he could remove the charms Lily had cast on their son to alter his appearance. They were only going to be in this house long enough to get Harry comfortable with him and their new situation before moving to the cottage in Hogsmeade. Harry’s appearance needed to be changed before he was seen.
“Da…Daddy?” Harry’s voice sounded rusty, as if from lack of use.
Severus smiled at him. “Yes, Harry, Daddy’s here now and I’m going to take good care of you.”
He brushed a hand through the toddler’s soft hair, taking in the wary look in Harry’s eyes. “I know you’re confused and it is hard to explain, but I am here now and I will never leave you again. I promise, Harry, I will always be here.”
Untying one shoe and then the other, Severus dropped them to the floor as he continued to speak softly. “I am going to give you a bath and wash away every trace of those people. I have new clothes for you and you can even pick out what you want to wear, alright?”
Severus laid the child back and began to unbutton the playsuit, pulling it off his arms and shoulders first. As he maneuvered the garish fabric down, Severus was startled to find nothing underneath.
“Harry, where is your nappy?”
The child looked fearful. “No nappy. ‘Rys bad!”
Taking a deep breath Severus wondered how much damage had been done to this innocent child in the past eight months. He had feared this, had even studied several books on dealing with abused children, but it was different when reality slapped you in the face. Stripping off the offensive cloth, Severus stroked a hand down Harry’s arm.
“You are not a bad boy, Harry,” Severus told him quietly as he moved to remove his socks.
A purple mark along the outside edge of one thigh caught Severus’ eye and he swore under his breath. Harry’s eyes grew round as Severus reached to carefully run the tips of his fingers down one leg and then the other. Other bruises in various stages of healing littered the child’s skin and Severus gritted his teeth, knowing an outburst would only scare his son. Reaching into the special pocket along the side of his trousers, Severus pulled out his wand; only to have Harry cry out sharply and scramble to the head of the bed.
“No! ‘Rhys be good!! Please…” Harry rolled onto his stomach and covered his head with his arms, as if preparing for a blow.
The back of his child’s thighs bore additional bruises and several thin scars marred the soft flesh of his backside. Working to get his anger under control, Severus finished removing his shirt before moving up to sit next to Harry. Setting his wand beside him, he lifted the boy and turned him so that Harry lay against his chest. One hand supported his back as the other cupped Harry’s head. Severus waited until the small body relaxed against him, wondering how in the world to deal with the effects of this level of abuse. The books, both Muggle and wizarding, had all agreed that time and patience were key to getting Harry over the abuse and the fear.
“Harry,” Severus said in a quiet voice, “I want you to listen to me carefully. You are not a bad boy. Your aunt and uncle were bad to treat you so poorly, and I have already promised you that I will not hit you, remember?”
The small head gave a hesitant nod, lifting slightly from where Harry had buried his face in Severus’ chest. “Stick”
“This is not a stick, son,” Severus told him, tilting Harry back slightly and picking up his wand. “It is my wand and it allows me to do magic.”
Something akin to panic lit the emerald eyes. “No magic!”
Holding him steady, Severus brought his wand closer. “Yes, magic, Harry, something your aunt always hated. Your mum and I were able to do magic and your aunt didn’t like that.”
The child’s eyes regarded him solemnly. “No bad?”
“No, magic is not bad, little one,” Severus opened his hand, allowing his wand to balance on his palm. “Feel it, Harry, see if you can feel the magic in it.”
Harry looped one arm around Severus’, reaching tentatively with the other hand and gingerly touched the dark wood with a fingertip. A single green spark shot out of the end, and Harry pulled back anxiously. When Severus did not pull the wand away, Harry laid his palm on it and Severus could feel his wand vibrate at the boy’s touch. If there had been any doubt in his mind that Harry was a powerful little wizard, it would have been wiped out as his own wand heated and shot a shower of gold and green sparks from the tip. Wonderful, a Slytherin Gryffindor, Severus thought with a relieved smile as Harry continued to stroke the wood.
“’ot!” There was a glimmer of something in those brilliant eyes and the beginnings of the very first smile Severus had seen from his son.
“Yes, the wand is hot,” Severus agreed, shifting Harry slightly and using his wand to silently summon a glass vial from a leather bag sitting on the floor. “I want you to drink some of this, Harry, it will make you feel better and then we will see about that bath.”
Harry wrinkled his nose at the taste, but drank the potion obediently. Handing the vial back, the toddler surprised him by snuggling back against his chest. Severus stood up carefully; the warm weight resting in his arms was feather-light. Sliding his wand back into its special pocket, Severus carried Harry through to the loo, halfway scared he would drop the child.
Flicking on the harsh Muggle lighting, Severus leaned down and opened the taps. Harry lifted his head from Severus’ shoulder and darted a glance at the toilet. Adjusting the water to the correct temperature, Severus caught the slight motion of his son’s head, and moved to set the child down next to it. Lifting the lid invitingly, Severus turned to pour a vial of bubbling potion into the water.
Harry still stood in front of the toilet, staring at the floor and Severus waited silently, at a loss to know what the problem was.
Woeful eyes looked up at him. “Rhys not ‘lowed.”
Severus blinked as his mind translated before drawing his wand as anger at the Dursleys flared again. Conjuring a small stool, Severus set it in front of the toilet before unzipping his own trousers.
“I believe we are going to make rules of our own, son. Therefore, if you wish to go without a nappy, you must use the loo properly.”
With exaggerated movements, Severus held his penis in his hand carefully and urinated into the toilet. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as Harry carefully climbed up on the stool and copied his movements exactly. Severus was relieved to see his son’s tiny genitals appeared to be whole and unharmed. He had feared the lengths the Dursleys’ might have gone to with the baby left in their unwilling care. He made a face at Harry’s less than accurate aim, but merely arched an eyebrow when the child sent him a fearful look. Tucking himself back in, Severus lifted Harry off the stool and into the tub.
Harry clung to his arms as Severus knelt on the carpet. He dipped his elbow into the water, only to find it was pleasantly warm. Another, more sinister thought arose in the back of his mind and Severus felt the now familiar surge of anger.
“Harry, bathwater is supposed to be warm.”
The toddler looked at him in disbelief but allowed Severus to settle him into the water. He held perfectly still the entire time Severus washed him, obediently ducking his head under the water for his hair to be shampooed. Swishing water up to rinse off the child’s chest, Severus accidentally splashed Harry in the face. For a split-second, a mischievous toddler escaped and slapped both hands down on the water. The splash caught Severus in the chest and splattered across his face. A giggle escaped before Harry crammed his fist in his mouth, his eyes wide with terror.
His heart in his throat, a reactionary scowl twisting his face, Severus did the first thing that came to mind. He splashed back. An astonished look flashed across his son’s face before Harry slapped the water again. Relief filled him as Severus sent back another wave, careful not to overwhelm the baby. They battled for several minutes, until the bathroom was covered in bubbles and water, his son giggling freely. The twenty-three year old Potions master couldn’t remember ever feeling so giddy or filled with love for the little person who blinked as the water droplets clung to his eyelashes.
Wrapping the still laughing toddler in a large towel, Severus withdrew his wand and cleaned the bathroom with a flick. Holding his son against his chest as he walked through to the bedroom, Severus pressed a kiss into the damp curls.
“Tis for Rys?” Harry pulled back astounded.
“Yes, a kiss for ‘Rys’,” Severus told him softly as he sat down on the bed, brushing the hair off Harry's forehead.
The lightning-bolt scar was a thin red line marring the perfect skin, a reminder of Harry’s survival. Severus ran his fingertip over the mark gently, surprised when Harry tried to pull away.
“No!” Severus bit out, chastising himself when the toddler flinched. “No, it’s not ugly, Harry. It is a mark of honor; your mummy’s honor as well as your…other daddy’s. They protected you because they loved you very much and you should think of them every time you see your scar.”
He kept his voice as soft and calm as he could, but it still tightened his chest to talk about his beloved Lily, to realize once again that she was dead. Severus knew he owed it to their son to get past the pain. Deliberately, Severus leaned in and kissed the scar. He was surprised when Harry wrapped his arms around his neck and gave him a sloppy kiss on his cheek.
“Rys tis Daddy, too,” his son told him shyly and then buried his face in Severus’ throat.
A feeling of warmth flooded him as Severus carded his hand through the damp curls and he closed his eyes tightly for a moment. Perhaps he could learn to be the parent he knew Lily would have expected him to be. Gently extracting the child, Severus stood him up on the bed. Carefully examining the small body as he dried the child off, Severus grimly noted more bruises on Harry’s back. Summoning a healing salve from his bag, Severus rubbed it into each of the purpling marks.
With a calming breath, Severus revised his time schedule as he dressed Harry in proper wizarding clothing. The child seemed to be taking everything Severus had told him well and didn’t seem to have any regrets about leaving his relatives behind. Severus could not undo the charms that altered Harry’s appearance here; the magic was too advanced and would undoubtedly be picked up. Spelling the soft leather boots to fit, Severus was startled to hear Harry’s stomach rumble. Casting a silent drying spell on himself, Severus slipped out of the trousers and into his everyday black trousers and robes.
Finger-combing the mop of drying hair back from his son’s face, Severus panicked. He had not given much thought to food, having brought only a baby bottle of milk. Readjusting Harry’s short outer robe, Severus realized the child was half-starved and the bottle might actually be the best place to start. Vowing to start on a nutrition potion the next day, Severus shook his own hair back.
“Harry, would you drink a bottle of milk for me?”
“A bottle for ‘Rys’?” Harry asked with wide eyes.
Severus nodded and was startled when the toddler immediately held up his arms toward him. Picking Harry up, Severus made his way to the kitchen to retrieve the bottle he’d stashed there the day before. The rest of the house was closed up, as Severus had only utilized what was necessary for the Child Services inspection. Casting a warming charm on the clear plastic, Severus sat down. Shifting Harry to lie back against his left arm and feeling very much out of his element, Severus handed his son the bottle. Harry seemed to be as unfamiliar with it and shifted the bottle several times before setting to drink.
Those incredible eyes watched him intently, almost as if judging how much trust his son could put in him, and a feeling welled up in Severus that he couldn’t readily identify. It was a combination of a fierce protectiveness and a deep-seated desire to make sure no one else ever hurt this little boy. Pride in Harry’s stoic ability to accept the changes going on around him and the sudden, deep knowledge that Severus would die for his son swirled inside. Something of the turbulent emotions must have shown in his eyes, a tiny hand reached up and wrapped tightly around Severus’ finger. Tugging his hand to the bottle, Harry wrapped it around the plastic and moved his own hand back to grasp Severus’ finger. Severus felt that hand wrap around his heart as Harry’s eyes grew heavy and closed as he fell asleep.
Harry slept as Severus wiped out all traces of his time in the house on Privet Drive, including banishing the small bag of worn, overlarge clothing. The only thing he kept was the filthy remnants of the quilt Lily had made by hand, the quilt Harry had been wrapped in the night he was left on the Dursleys’ doorstep. Gathering his suit and the clothing he had brought for Harry, Severus took a final look around before Apparating them both to the cottage.
The toddler awoke whimpering from the squeezing and pulling feeling, clearly scared of the darkness they had arrived in. Severus held him closer, rubbing a hand down Harry’s back in a manner he had already found soothed the little boy.
“We are home, Harry, in our very own house,” Severus told him quietly, his voice startling in the silence that enveloped them.
It was only mid-afternoon, but the canopy of trees that shaded the side of the cottage and the heavy curtains kept out the sunlight. With a wave of his hand, the curtains parted and soft sunlight filtered in as Harry looked around sleepily. Sparsely furnished, Severus’ bedroom had a large four-poster in it, with a matching wardrobe and dresser. The cherry wood was a perfect foil for the navy and emerald bedding and hangings, a touch of Lily’s influence. His best friend had loved the sturdy wood for its warmth and strength.
Severus cleared his throat. “This is my room here and we will share the bathroom between our rooms,” he told Harry as he walked through the loo. “This is your room.”
The curtains stood open, the filtered sunlight illuminating the soft blue walls and ceiling. A small cot stood against one wall and under the window was a child’s bed, as Severus hadn’t known which type of bed a toddler slept in. Another cherry wood wardrobe stood between the two, a rocking chair in the corner, and at the foot of the bed were a small set of matching bookshelves. Several children’s books and a few toys sat on the top shelf. Harry looked around the room slowly, his eyes taking in the soft green rug on the floor and the toys.
Severus hated the uncertain quality of the child’s voice, hated the fear Petunia and her walrus of a husband had instilled in his small son.
“Yes, this is your room, Harry, and these things are yours. No one is going to take them away from you,” Severus told him as he carried the child towards the cot. “You can sleep here or…”
Harry stiffened and gasped. “No! Noooooooooooooo!”
His son’s hand fisted in Severus’ robes as Harry threw himself violently away from the baby cot. Severus managed to catch him before he toppled to the floor, puzzled by his son’s reaction and carried him over to the bed. Sitting down, Severus was alarmed to find Harry was shaking as he clung tightly.
“It’s all right, son, you…”
“Bad man, Daddy, bad man ‘urt Rys!”
Harry’s face twisted in remembered pain as Severus’ heart thudded. Could the baby actually remember that night in Godric’s Hollow? Rocking side to side, Severus held Harry close and rubbed his back until the toddler calmed down. Swallowing the lump that had risen in his throat as his mind flashed back to that Halloween, Severus summoned the soft toy unicorn he had bought from the shelf. Easing Harry back, Severus moved the toy toward his son. The emerald eyes caressed the plushy before looking up at him.
“Yes, Harry, this is a unicorn,” Severus felt a little ridiculous as his son continued to look at him questioningly. “It is a present for you, something soft to hold when the bad dreams scare you.” Had the child never been given a toy?
“Toy for Rys?” the eyes opened impossibly wide and Harry put out a hesitant hand to stroke down the neck.
The truth hit him as Severus slid the unicorn into Harry’s hand. Of course the baby had never had a toy! How stupid could he be – they didn’t even feed him, why would those monsters have given him something to play with? Harry ran his hands carefully over the white fabric, fingers tracing the horn and mane, enraptured by the simple gift. Severus watched the play of fingers and the expressions that flitted across the expressive face and had never felt so appreciated in his life. An unfamiliar feeling of warmth swept through him and Severus leaned forward to press a kiss to the sweet-smelling hair.
“T’ank you,” Harry told him with a shy smile that threatened to melt something inside of Severus.
“You are welcome,” Severus stood and stood Harry on the bed, helping him to remove the soft gray outer robes. “Let me take these off you and put you in some play clothes, as I want to try and remove the charms your mum put on you.”
An apprehensive look crossed the toddler’s face. “’urt Rys?”
Smoothing a hand over his son’s rumpled hair, Severus could not help the frown that creased his forehead. “I do not believe it will hurt, but it may feel a bit strange when the spell is released.”
Harry didn’t say anything, allowing Severus to change him into a pair of soft cotton trousers and shirt, before he settled down on the bed as directed. Clasping the unicorn tightly, the child lay stiffly, his eyes watching Severus’ every motion. Taking a fortifying breath, Severus moved his wand in an intricate weaving motion as he incanted the counter-spells for Lily’s charm.
“Aufero Veneficus! Reverto Rectus!”
An aura of blue pulsed around Harry, his face paling as he felt the magical energy. A quiet whimper preceded a silvery shimmer and the pulse of magic was gone. Harry blinked up at him, a single tear trailing down his cheek and Severus reached down to pick him up.
“All done, I think,” Severus told him in a soft voice that was meant to be reassuring. “I am sorry if it hurt you, but you were a very brave boy.”
The impossible green of Harry’s eyes remained the same, much to Severus’ relief, as did Harry’s nose and mouth. The eyes were now almond shaped, more like Lily’s had been, and her chin softened the lean lines of the baby’s longer face. Severus could see himself in the more angular profile, high forehead, and the straight, fine raven hair, auburn highlights in its gleaming depths. Severus hugged his son, kissing his forehead obediently.
“Are you hungry?” Severus asked as his own stomach reminded him of its empty state.
Harry nodded slightly, fingers playing with his hair and Severus had to admit that had been the biggest change. Carrying the toddler into the bathroom, Severus stopped, standing his son on the counter in front of the mirror he’d hexed to silence the day he’d moved in. Wide eyes took in his own appearance, but Severus was not sure if that was because Harry had never been allowed to look in a mirror or because of the slight changes to his features. Green eyes studied Severus’ face for a moment, before Harry gave a tentative smile and lifted a hand to Severus’ cheek.
“Like ‘Rys,” his son announced and Severus was surprised to find an answering smile, just as tentative, on his own face.
“Yes, just like ‘Rys.”
His son lay curled in a fetal position as he slept, Severus observed as he stood in the doorway of their shared bathroom, almost as if the child expected to be attacked in his sleep. The level of trust his son had handed him was staggering, but Severus knew only time would get the toddler over the insecurity and perceptions of what was normal. Harry had acted like the scrambled eggs he had whipped up for dinner was the best thing he had ever eaten, which disturbed Severus profoundly. The toddler had also asked for a bottle before bed and Severus was sure it had been an excuse to be held, as Harry was asleep before he had finished half. It had been less of an inconvenience than Severus would have imagined it would be to sit and rock his son to sleep.
Leaving the connecting doors open, Severus made his way to his own bed. He had cast a monitoring spell on Harry to alert him if the baby needed anything during the night. Harry hadn’t stirred when Severus had clumsily put a nappy on him, so he was certain they would both sleep through the night comfortably. Sliding into bed, Severus felt suddenly exhausted, the tension of the last few weeks having taken their toll. The relief of finally having his and Lily’s son safe and under his care was overwhelming, and the former Death Eater would never have admitted to the tear that slid unnoticed down his face.
As tired as Severus felt, he found sleep elusive. Thoughts of what Harry had suffered through in the past eight months tormented him, as did the guilt of not checking on him sooner. Severus was well aware that Albus Dumbledore was going to be most displeased with him when he found out, but he felt justified in his actions, despite the Headmaster’s wishes. He could not, would not, allow any child – especially a magical child – to be raised in the circumstances Severus had found Harry in. A smile curved his lips, Harry…Rys would be happy here, Severus would make sure of that, he vowed. Although the way his son spoke of himself in the third person concerned Severus, calling him Rys Snape would also help distance him from Harry Potter.
Sleep had not long overtaken him when a sharp cry jolted Severus awake. It took a moment to remember where he was and what had happened. A second cry sent him jumping up and running through the bathroom. His son was thrashing violently on his bed, bedding kicked off to the side and trailing onto the floor, giving mute testimony to the violence of the child’s struggles. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, Severus reached out his hand to lay it lightly on Harry’s arm, but the toddler cried out, throwing himself away at the touch.
“Har…Rys, its Daddy,” Severus told him awkwardly in what he hoped was a soothing voice. “I won’t hurt you.”
Emerald eyes snapped open, unfocused and frantic. “Daddy?”
“Yes, Rys,” Severus held his hand out, palm up.
With a sob, his son flung himself across the bed and into his arms. Severus shifted until he could settle the child against him, a hand rubbing his little back, trying to comfort him. Small arms snaked around his neck as Harry slowly relaxed; Severus could feel the moisture on his neck from the silent tear that had been shed.
“No one can hurt you here, little one,” Severus assured him, moving off the bed to sit in the rocking chair.
Harry sighed softy as Severus set the chair to rocking. “Bad man hurt Mummy.”
His heart stuttered in his chest and Severus had to take a calming breath. What should he tell his son about the night his mother died, when the baby obviously relived the nightmare regularly? Severus refused to lie to Harry as he knew that wouldn’t stop the memories.
“Yes, he did, but the bad man is gone now, little one, you made him go away,” Severus told him, rubbing his cheek against the toddler’s silky hair. “Your mummy loved you so much; she helped you make the bad wizard go away.”
“Yes, you,” Severus emphasized the pronoun.
Harry pulled back, a solemn look on his tear-streaked face. He poked himself in the chest with a tiny finger, seemingly unable to articulate what he wanted to say. Severus tapped a finger lightly against the thin chest as well.
“Say 'me',” Severus instructed him.
It looked like the child was going to refuse, but hesitantly, Harry pointed to himself again. “Me?”
Severus smiled and nodded. “Yes, you, Harry James Snape.”
“Yes, Snape, because you are mine, Harry, my son for always and ever. We will call you Rys Snape if you would like.”
“Rys ‘Nape,” his son tried out the name then nodding in approval, before laying a tentative hand on Severus’ cheek. “My daddy.”
A lump managed to form in Severus’ throat, his gaze caught by the intensity in the green eyes. “Yes.”
Severus brushed a stray strand of hair back from Rys’ forehead. “Say, kiss me.”
An impish grin erupted on the small face. “Tis ME, Daddy!” and his son puckered his lips.
Severus kissed him on those ridiculous lips, then his nose, and then his forehead, the toddler dissolving in giggles as he was peppered with kisses. Severus found himself laughing with his son, warmth suffusing his body. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed with pure glee, not since he and Lily had managed to ditch Petunia the summer before starting at Hogwarts had he felt this giddy. Perhaps this could be a turning point in both their lives, Severus thought as his son snuggled into his chest, a yawn cutting into the residual giggles.
Summoning the unicorn from the tangle of bedding, Severus settled both in his arms as he began to rock. His mind ventured back to the good and bad of his own childhood, picking out the little things his mother had done to offset his father’s violent temper and drinking binges. Lily had always been willing to share her holidays and celebrations with him, making him feel like he’d been a part of them, instead of just hearing of them. Severus wanted their son to have what he had been denied.
The next few days seemed to settle into a semblance of a pattern. Rys awoke early in the morning and crawled onto the foot of Severus’ bed to watch him until he woke up. The child was a quiet shadow. Speaking only when spoken to, the toddler followed Severus everywhere, as if he could not stand to have his father out of his sight. The toy unicorn became Rys' constant companion and Severus spelled it to keep it clean. His son was also fascinated by any display of magic and would make an excited sound every time Severus did something magical. It was astounding just how much magic he actually used on a daily basis, Severus discovered and he began to make notes to better understand how much exposure Rys was getting. The advantage that magical children had was even greater than he remembered as his thoughts flashed onto Lily’s bright-eyed reaction to magic as when they first met.
On Rys’ fourth morning living with Severus at the cottage an owl arrived, scaring the child until Severus had shown him the letter tied to the bird’s foot. Using an owl treat to ensure good behavior, Severus took the small hand in his and showed Rys how to stroke the owl’s feathers. Delight shone in the green eyes when the tawny owl stood still under his stroking fingers, before fluffing her feathers and taking off. The missive was an order for an expensive potion that Severus had developed for an aging witch that allowed her to appear twenty years younger. It would only take a couple hours of intense concentration to brew and the enclosed payment had been too generous to ignore.
Settling Rys down for his afternoon nap, Severus was already going through the brewing steps in his mind and he descended the steps into the basement. It was a comforting routine after the tension of the week and Severus was soon lost in the precision required by a demanding potion. Lost in his brewing, Severus failed to hear the frantic footsteps searching the cottage for him or the muffled sobs as his son tried to find him.
His workspace cleaned and the potion simmering under a stasis field, Severus made his way up the stairs into the kitchen. The cottage was silent and a quick look as his pocket watch showed him that he had been brewing for much longer than he anticipated. With a frown, Severus made his way up to Rys’ room, only to find the bed empty. Panic gripped him and Severus tore through the cottage, searching frantically but the toddler was nowhere to be found. Where could one small boy have gone? The wards on the outer doors were undisturbed, which meant Rys was still in the house, somewhere.
Sitting heavily in the rocking chair, Severus buried his face in his hands and tried to collect his frenzied thoughts. What could the boy have thought when he awoke to find Severus gone? Had he thought Severus would abandon him so soon? A harsh laugh escaped him, of course he would – no one had stuck by Harry for long in his young life. Merlin help him, perhaps Dumbledore was right and Severus was truly not cut out to be a father – a sharp pang cut through him at that thought. Severus had come to love the toddler more than he’d ever thought possible in the past few days and he’d be damned if he was going to give up!
A soft whimper brought his head up with a snap and Severus saw for the first time that the door to Rys’ wardrobe was ajar. He was across the room on his knees in an instant, ripping the door open and the sight that greeted him tore at his heart. Rys lay curled in a fetal position, his unicorn clasped tightly to his chest, eyes swollen from the silent tears that streamed down his face. Reaching in, Severus lifted his son out and settled them both into the rocking chair. The smell of urine told him that Rys had been so upset he’d wet himself and Severus whispered a drying charm. He had to calm the toddler down before he could clean him up.
He set the chair to rocking and tried to speak. His throat wouldn’t cooperate and for the first few minutes, all Severus could do was hold the toddler tightly against his chest and stroke his back. Slowly, a small hand unfurled from around the soft toy and inched its way up to curl in the front of his shirt. They rocked silently for twenty minutes before Severus felt his son finally relax in his arms. Relief welled up inside Severus.
“I will never leave you, my sweet boy,” Severus told him softly. “I was in the basement, Rys, working in my lab, but I promise that I won’t go down there again without telling you.”
His son sniffled, lifting his head up to examine Severus with those emerald eyes. “’cared, Daddy.”
“I am sorry I scared you, Rys, I truly didn’t mean to,” Severus said sincerely. “As soon as we clean you up, I will take you down and show you where I was working. All right?”
“Rys take a bath?” his son asked hopefully.
“I take a bath,” Severus corrected automatically.
Rys face lit with joy. “Daddy take a bath, too!”
Severus just laughed, not wanting to disappoint the toddler, and somehow, Severus even managed to find a potion to make bubbles in the bath.
The next week went by smoothly as Severus became more familiar with the young Rys. His son was a bright little boy with a naturally happy personality, much like Lily had been when Severus met her. He was eager to learn, but still abnormally quiet. For an only child who was not allowed to play in the colloquial way, it was a learning experience for both father and son. Severus found simple pleasure in teaching Rys how to kick a ball, set blocks on top of each other to form a building, and how to color a picture in one of the Muggle coloring books Severus had bought. It angered him to think that Petunia had hated this precious child so much that she had treated him as a sub-human.
Another owl arrived during breakfast one sunny morning carrying a scroll and a pouch filled with Galleons. The requested potion was a delicate one with intricate timing, but it also enjoyed a lucrative value. Rys was entertained by the large brown bird, carefully holding out a tidbit of bacon as Severus had taught him. A genuine smile curved the toddler’s lips as the owl fluffed his feathers before taking off.
“Come, let’s clean up and walk down to the village,” Severus told his son as he stood and began to stack the dishes.
Rys hurried to help him, still not comfortable enough to ask what Severus wanted him to do. Taking the plate from his small hands, Severus sent him upstairs to get dressed. Severus quickly dealt with the kitchen clean-up before going up to his room. Trousers and a shirt covered with a lightweight over-robe would be formal enough for the merchants of Hogsmeade. A glance into his son’s room showed the little boy struggling to button up one of his shirts, tongue hanging out the corner of his mouth as the toddler concentrated.
Moving forward, Severus knelt on the floor and helped Rys button his light green shirt correctly. Tucking it into his blue knee-length shorts, Severus secured a lightweight cloak in a darker shade of blue around the child’s thin shoulders. Rys looked up at him through his fringe, apprehension in his eyes. Reaching down, Severus smoothed the silky raven hair, truly glad his son’s hair had changed when Lily’s charms had been removed as he was sure that the wild mop of tousled hair would have been James Potter’s revenge. A frown creased his forehead as he spun on his heel, expecting the boy to follow him.
At the door to the cottage, Severus paused, holding the door open as Rys scrambled to keep up. Stepping outside, Severus set the wards with a silent flick of his wand before he took a step down the path. The sight of his small son standing absolutely still, his chin quivering, deepened his scowl. What was the boy’s problem? Tempted to just continue up the path and let the child figure out how to catch up with him, Severus whirled around to see that Rys was visibly trembling now. Suddenly, it struck him with the force of a Dark curse: his son was waiting for Severus to put a leash on him!
The toddler was in his arms before Severus was even aware of his intent to move. A whimper brought his eyes to the fearful look on Rys’ face and Severus eased the tight grip he had on the boy.
“We will not be using any form of restraint, Rys, and I trust you will stay within my visual range at all times,” he bit out, gentling his voice as Rys blinked at him. “Just stay where I can see you and everything will be fine.”
Rys nodded, the relief palpable in his expression; he slipped an arm around his father’s neck, relaxing against Severus. Severus did not have the heart to set the child down as he started off towards the village. It was sunny and warm, a typical July day in the Scottish Highlands, down to the puffy clouds already forming on the horizon.
Hogsmeade was bustling with mid-morning activity as people moved about doing their shopping. Setting Rys down, Severus felt a thrill of pleasure as his son slipped his small hand into his larger one, looking up expectantly.
“We have business to attend to at the grocer and the apothecary,” he found himself explaining before opening the door to the latter business.
The tiny face screwed up at the strong smells inside the shop, but Rys stayed silently beside his father as Severus made his purchases. Taking his purchases from the shopkeeper, he handed over the required Galleons before leading Rys back out onto the hard-packed street. Rys had relaxed enough to look around in wonder, taking in as many of the sights of the wizarding village that he could. A small boy flew by on a toy broom, an older child running alongside him. Another group of children had gathered around the window of Honeydukes, noses pressed to the window as they watched the sweets being made. Severus was forced into the street to get around them and glared at them in displeasure.
The grocer was mercifully quiet, with only a woman and a little girl about Rys’ age shopping. Severus waited patiently for the elderly witch who ran the shop to finish with the man at the counter. Rys let go of his hand to turn and watch the little girl, making sure he was standing right beside Severus’ leg. The proprietor turned her attention to him and Severus began going over the list he had made.
“But I want some biscuits, Mum!” A shrill young voice cut through the conversation he was having and Severus frowned in annoyance.
“No, Jillian, no biscuits!” The harassed woman answered distractedly as she appeared to search for something on the shelf of goods.
“I want some!” the child screamed and the woman threw up her hands in a violent gesture.
“Then you can just bloody well stay right here and find someone to buy them for you! I’ve had enough of your poor behavior, young lady! I’m leaving!”
Severus watched horrified as the woman stormed from the grocer's, leaving the still shrieking child to throw herself on the floor, kicking and screaming. Conducting his business and arranging to have the groceries delivered to the cottage, Severus held his hand out to his son. The toddler’s wide eyes stayed on the little girl as they walked out, before looking up at his father. Unable to school his expression as quickly as he should have, Severus knew his son had seen his expression of disgust. Deciding not to comment on the scene, Severus took Rys’ hand and led him out of the shop.
The walk home was peaceful, the birds chirping in the canopy of trees that lined the lane. Rys tugged at his hand and Severus released it, allowing the child to run ahead as he chased a brightly colored butterfly. A smile tugged at his lips as Severus watched the toddler giggle and laugh like a child should for the first time since he had come to live with his father. For a small child, Rys was still far too quiet, but it was nice to hear the sound of childish delight as he ran toward their home.
After settling Rys in for a nap after lunch, Severus went down to his potions lab to start the base for the commissioned potion. He left the door open as he had told the child he would, with instructions to come down when he woke up. It was the system Severus had worked out so that Rys didn’t panic again. A corner of the lab had a small cleared area for Rys to join him when Severus brewed potions that were not dangerous.
Pulling one of his old journals from the bookshelf in the small office adjacent to the lab, Severus walked to his worktable as he carefully found the potion he’d created that would enable the elderly wizard to excel at sexual prowess as well as father a child. A rejuvenation potion of sorts and one that Severus did not often brew due to the long life of most wizards. The commission came from a one hundred and forty year old man who had outlived his Death Eater son and grandson, and who wished to try once more for a pureblood progeny.
A smirk twisted his face as Severus thought of the war that had brought hate to a new level. Severus’ own culpability to that cause had lost him any chance of being with the one person he’d loved more than his own life. Only a twist of fate had given him the one living piece of her left in this world, their son. A child Severus had not been able to protect as he had vowed to Lily he would; the precious soul he was now determined to nurture and love, while attempting to repair the damage done in eight short months.
Shaking his head, Severus cleared his mind and began to prepare the ingredients for the complex potion. Timing was everything with this potion, as he would have to use the dragon spleen within an hour of preparing it or it would lose its potency. Lining everything up in order, Severus positioned the silver dagger and made his first cut just as a crash from the kitchen above startled him. Dropping the knife, Severus wiped his hands on a towel as he ran up the stairs. He stopped as he crossed the threshold.
Rys stood among the remains of the jar that had held the biscuits Severus served with tea. A jar that was stored on a shelf above the sink. The child’s face was a study in abject terror and Severus felt a flare of anger, at both the broken jar as well as the reaction.
“What did you do?” he snapped, pulling out his wand.
Something sparked in the emerald eyes and Severus was once again reminded of his best friend as his son lifted his chin. “T’at jar flew to Rys, but it broke.”
Severus blinked; Rys had yet to do any accidental magic, but… His eyes narrowed.
“Why did the jar come to you, Rys?”
The chin lifted another fraction. “Wanna biscuit!”
Feeling an eyebrow rise in reaction to the surly tone, Severus tried not to think of the dragon spleen seeping onto his worktable downstairs. “You made the jar come to you because you wanted a biscuit?”
“Yes!” Rys answered defiantly, but the terror was still evident in the green eyes.
The annoyance built as Severus struggled to try and comprehend why his son chose this particular time to act up. His first instinct was to pick the boy up and shake some sense into him, but Severus squelched that idea as quickly as it appeared. This was behavior that was not what he had come to expect from the little boy and it puzzled him. Severus frowned as he struggled to manage his irritation; he hated puzzles.
A half-sob broke from Rys’ throat, a tear silently slipped down his cheek. “Daddy… leavin’ Rys now?”
It all fell into place suddenly; the little girl left by her mother in the grocer. His son was testing to see if Severus was going to abandon him. Blowing out a frustrated breath, Severus pinched the bridge of his nose, willing the encroaching headache back. He brought his wand up as the little boy began to tremble.
The jar, once again whole, leapt back up to its shelf with a flick of his wand, Rys’ eyes following it raptly. Another flick cleaned up the mess on the floor and Severus pocketed his wand before crouching down in front of the teary-eyed, frightened toddler.
“Your timing is inconvenient to say the least, but I have a feeling you knew that, Harry James Snape. We will be discussing this further, but at the moment I have a limited amount of time, so suffice to say, again, that I will never leave you,” Severus gathered the child into his arms and stood. “And I would appreciate it if you would stop trying my patience.”
Relief flooded the emerald eyes with additional tears and Rys buried his face in Severus’ throat as he carried them both down to the lab.
Still trying to process all that had happened, Severus rubbed the thin back to let his son know he was forgiven as he moved through the doorway.
“I made magic, Daddy,” Rys whispered, almost as if afraid of his father’s reaction.
Severus settled the child into his corner, summoning his favorite toy from the kitchen floor. “You did and while I am proud of you, Rys, we will talk about it when I have finished preparing the dragon spleen.”
With a kiss to the scarred forehead, Severus cast a protective barrier around his son and went back to work. His fingers sectioned and sliced, independent of his turbulent thoughts, his mind trying to accept that his son still thought that he would be banished at the slightest provocation. The incident at the shop in Hogsmeade had undone more in one moment of a parent’s poor choice of action than the past two weeks of work. A sigh erupted from deep in his chest as Severus glanced over to see his son playing quietly with his unicorn. It was two weeks until Harry’s second birthday, perhaps by then he would feel more secure in Severus’ care.