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Chapter 22: Chapter Twenty-Two: Her Daddy's Eyes
Her Daddy’s Eyes
The words seemed to echo in the quiet office, mixing with the sound of the crackling fire and Shiloh’s own tense breathing. She was frozen in place, her stunned mind unable to form a single thought. There was nothing…nothing but those three words.
I’m your father.
I’m your father.
I’m you father.
Shiloh’s knees trembled and shook and finally gave way. She tumbled back into the chair and hugged her music box to her—her one shred of sanity in a world that had gone mad. A world where her Potions professor claimed to be the man she had searched for for months. It was an idea so mental that it had to have been a joke…a cruel, horrible joke.
“That’s…” she strained for the words, trying not to choke on her own disbelief, “…not funny.”
“I agree entirely,” he said humorlessly. His eyes were dark, completely solemn. “So why would I joke about something like that?”
But if it wasn’t a joke, then what? Some impossible misunderstanding that they would laugh at when she reached her seventh year? Because it couldn’t be the truth. Her father couldn’t have stood across the classroom from her for over a year and a half when she simply hadn’t noticed. And on the night she had gazed into the Mirror of Erised and seen what she desired the most, her father could not have been that man who had driven her there.
“It’s not possible,” she whispered.
He raised his eyebrows. “How else could I have your picture?”
She shook her head numbly, because she had no answer for that. How else…? There had to be something else…something…had to be…
Because I can’t…no I can’t be…
“I can’t be your daughter.”
He was staring at her, as though he had never seen her before. There was something different in his gaze. Before he had looked at her with nothing but indifference, but now there was something intense in those eyes, something she couldn’t define and seemed quite out of place on her professor. She swiftly looked away and down at the floor.
He’d never called her by her first name before, and she wasn’t sure she liked it. Sanders. She was a Sanders.
“I know this might come as quite a shock…but if you are indeed the girl in this picture—and you are—then you are my daughter.”
She could only shake her head.
He couldn’t be her father.
He couldn’t be the man who had abandoned her, who had never been there, who had never come to save her when he could have—when no one else could.
“Shiloh,” he said her name again, his voice quiet, soft, kind, “look at me.”
She refused, staring at the dark floor, breathing in the smell of brewed things.
“Look at me.”
She took a deep breath and shifted her eyes upward. His eyes met hers and a small gasp of surprise left her mouth. She couldn’t believe the words he said, or the picture he somehow had, but she believed those eyes. Black like coal, hot like fire.
Those were her eyes.
She had his eyes.
“You really are my father, aren’t you?” she breathed.
Severus nodded and his lips twitched, an almost smile. Just like hers.
She had his dark hair too. His skill and love for potions had been passed down to her. The sharp wit, the emotionless mask, that look of dislike Jacob had said she made…all of it, she had gotten from her father. And her father was Professor Severus Snape.
And her father was a monster.
She remembered it all in a rush—her mother and what she had been like. All the reasons she had decided to stop looking for her father—had that really been just a few hours ago? And he…he’d just left her behind as though she was some piece of rubbish? Was that really all she was to him?
She had given so much thought to what she might say to her father if she ever found him, considered so many questions she needed to ask, but her carefully thought out sentences were lost. Instead, what she found was all the anger and hurt that had been buried within her for so many years. She didn’t know how she got to her feet, but suddenly she was there, shaking unsteadily.
The words surged from her mouth and echoed in the quiet. “Why did you abandon me?”
He recoiled. Good! She wanted the words to hurt. She wanted to hex him, just so he would hurt in every way she had been hurt.
“Why did you leave me with her? Do you have any idea what she did to me?”
Her eyes widened and she bit down on her lips. She hadn’t meant to say the last sentence; it had just spilled out. She had never lost such control of herself, and she bit harder on her bottom lip, lest other questions that her aching heart screamed at her tumbled from her lips.
Didn’t you want me?
Didn’t you love me?
But she would sooner die than ask him that.
He was silent, staring at her with an unreadable expression, but his breathing was quick and as he spoke, his voice was strained, “What did she do to you?”
But she didn’t want him to know. He had chosen to leave her; he didn’t deserve to know. “It’s none of your business. And I asked you a question!”
“And I believe that was one of them.”
She knew that! But she was in no mood to fight sanely. “The others first,” she ordered.
Shaking his head in frustration, he pushed to his feet, pulled his copy of the picture out his pocket, and showed it to her. “This was all I ever had of you. Not a name…not a chance to see you…nothing. Ellessa stole you away before you were born.”
She couldn’t believe what he was saying. She didn’t trust him. “And what? You never even looked for me?”
He opened his mouth, but she didn’t want to listen to his lies.
Her blood ran cold and she stumbled backwards, almost tumbling over the chair as she remembered the worst thing about her father. She clutched her music box to her and wrapped her hand about her wand so intensely it hurt. She backed toward the door, never taking her frightened eyes off him.
Seeing her escape attempt, he snapped, “Where are you going?”
She didn’t stop; just kept running away.
“Stop,” he ordered, coming around the desk. His gaze grew dark, causing her heart to stutter in apprehension. “Sit down. Let me explain.”
“No!” she said. “You’re a…you’re a…” She struggled with the accusation but at last found it. “You’re a Death Eater!”
He froze and his right hand spasmed as it reached subconsciously toward her left arm. He dropped his hand, but she had seen enough to confirm what she knew to be true. She knew what was hidden behind that sleeve.
“No I’m not,” he lied.
But she wasn’t listening. She backed up a step and felt the hard metal of the doorknob press into her spine. She wanted to reach for it, but she was too frightened to release either her wand or her music box. Her heart hammered in her ears.
“Stop!” he called again, hurrying towards her.
She gasped in fright and yanked out her wand, pointing it at his chest. “Stay away!”
He froze, staring at her. “Shiloh, listen to me,” he commanded in his powerful tone, but it didn’t impress her this time. It only scared her more. “Let me explain!”
She fled, dropping her wand into her pocket and grasping the doorknob. She thought she could be outside before he reached her, but she was wrong.
His tight grip locked around her wrist like shackles. She flung herself around to face him, seeing his other hand raised. She cried out, but she couldn’t remember ever screaming, so it sounded more like a whimper. She raised her hand that held her music box to cover her face and waited for the painful blow to land.
Why should he be any different from her mother?
But his long fingers only wrapped around her other wrist, bringing it away from her face. His grip didn’t hurt, but it trapped her. It was her worst nightmare—unable to run, unable to breath, unable to scream for help.
He hissed, “Don’t be childish. Calm down.”
Something hot stung the back of her eyes—frightful tears that were about to spill over. She wanted her mum, her dad! She wanted Symone…and Jacob! But no one was coming to save her now. God, please, this can’t be happening.
“Please…” she whimpered, “let me go.”
Something about her words made him pull away. He stared at her, stunned, then slowly released her. She yanked open the door and flung herself from the office, out of the cage and the darkness and away from that horrible man.
She ran blindly around corners, her eyes blurred. When she was a safe distance away and she was sure he wasn’t following her, she stopped. She swiped at her wet cheeks and took deep breaths to try to calm herself.
You’re safe now, she told herself. Safe.
But who was she kidding when her father—a Death Eater—was her professor, her Head of House?
How could it be that the man she had admired the most was the same man she hated?
There was a sharp sound in the silence, and she jumped, looking toward the corner fearfully. There was a cough, a sniff, and the shuffle of feet. She stumbled back a few steps as a dark figure stepped around the corner. She bit back a scream and drew her wand, staring wide-eyed at the person who moved towards her, rubbing at his eyes.
“Jacob!” she cried out in relief.
Without thinking, she flung herself towards him, throwing her arms about him. She buried her face in his shirt and clung to the fabric, never wanting to let him go.
“Shi?” he asked in surprise, and she felt his hand resting on her head. She only snuggled her face deeper into his robes. “Shi, what’s the matter?”
She only continued to hold him, and when he demanded answers, she said she couldn’t tell him…please don’t ask…she didn’t even know where to begin. At last, he was silent and simply wrapped his arms about her, saying, “It’s okay, Shi. I’m here.”
Slowly the fear began to leave, because her Jacob was here.
You’re safe now, she told herself.
And this time, she believed it.
The doors to the headmaster’s office slammed open. Albus didn’t have to look to know who had entered. He always had a very good guess when someone answered so noisily without announcing themselves first. Albus lifted his head from where it had been resting as he dozed in his favorite chair—a large purple, overstuffed armchair. He looked toward the dark storm of a figure coming towards him.
“Good evening, Severus,” he began to greet, but Severus words drowned out his.
“How did you know?” he demanded.
Albus gave an amused smile. “Isn’t it ironic, Severus? Whenever you burst into my office, I never have any idea what you are talking about.”
Severus forced himself to take a deep breath, but it hardly calmed his racing heart. He doubted it would ever stand still again. His mind still whirled with a heady feel of disbelief. After all this time…
“How did you know Shiloh was my daughter?”
Dumbledore sat upright in the chair, his eyes wide. “I beg your pardon?”
By the look of disbelief on his face, Severus knew he had to explain farther. He had to take another deep breath. The discovery had left him breathless, and he still couldn’t catch his breath. “I found her, Albus,” he wheezed. “I found my daughter.”
Albus stared at him hard, not seeming to dare hope. “You’re sure? You’re very, very sure?”
Severus’ heart didn’t even skip a beat at being questioned. Her skill at potions was natural and impressive. Just like mine. He had wrestled with her sharp mind, but it was always a match for his own. Because she’s mine.
“There is not a single doubt in my mind.”
Albus still remained in his spot, as though deciding if he wanted to believe too. Then finally, he bellowed a laugh of delight and sprang to his feet. For one horrifying second, Severus thought Albus might hug him.
Instead, Albus only said, “Well, I hate to say I told you so, Severus—as that is a most rude thing to say, but—“
Severus waved his hand through the air, cutting him off. “Yes, yes. You told me so.” And why that fact didn’t irritate him to no end, Severus wasn’t sure, but there was no hendering him. His heart kept doing that strange race and his feet felt as though they might leave the floor. He wondered if this was what happy felt like…it had been so long since he felt it, he really wasn’t sure.
Still there was that one urgent question, “But how did you know?”
“Know you’d find her?” Albus questioned, and he waved his hand in the air, dismissing it as a silly question. “Because, Severus, I knew you. And I knew you wouldn’t give up until you found her.”
Severus gritted his teeth, not wanting to inform the headmaster that he truly had surrendered the search. Albus clearly had a high opinion of him, and Severus hardly wanted to ruin it with the truth. Besides, he’d answered the wrong question.
“No. How did you know Shiloh was my daughter?”
Albus must have missed the name the first time, for he blinked at Severus for a long second. “Shiloh Sanders?”
Severus fought back a cringe at the last name. He’d always known his daughter would likely be called by a different name—a name of a man who had raised her when he could not, a man he didn’t even know. But he hardly liked it.
Albus looked distant, as though he was suddenly a long ago day back in the past and was left to wonder the events. “But we checked the dates,” he murmured, almost to himself.
“I know,” Severus said, adding it to the list of questions he had for the girl. That was, if she ever spoke to him again…but she would. He simply wouldn’t allow himself to contemplate that she wouldn’t. “I don’t understand that, but she is my daughter.”
“How do you know?”
Severus sighed, for Albus had yet to answer his question. But knowing Albus, he wasn’t likely to until he knew what had happened. So Severus explained…Shiloh serving detention, the drawer, her finding the picture, her claiming it to be hers, and the breathtaking confirmation that followed. Severus stopped before he went into the next part, for even as he thought of it, he cringed. The daughter he’d waited so long to know running from the room with terror in her eyes and the biting accusation: ’You’re a Death Eater.’
As Severus finished, Albus looked as breathless as Severus had been, so shocked that Severus began to doubt that the wise man really had known, or if he had just been considering all options.
“How did she take it?” Albus asked.
Of course, he had to ask that question. “She ran out of the room screaming like a maniac,” Severus said dryly. A bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit.
“Naturally,” Albus said with an amused smile. “I would have too if my professor claimed to be my father.”
“It’s not funny, Albus.” Severus scowled darkly. “I’ve never seen a child so terrified of me.”
“And Merlin knows you inspire terror, Severus.”
Severus did his best to ignore that comment. “Albus, she screamed at me, asking why I’d abandoned her, why I’d left Shiloh with her.” Remembering what she said next, Severus cursed hotly. He swore if Ellessa had laid one single finger on her…
But of course she had. Severus knew the kind of woman Ellessa was…wicked, arrogant, and emotionally unable to care about anyone but herself. She’d tortured things for amusement and adored the sounds of screams. Her evil couldn’t have been bridled from their daughter…not when it would be the closest thing to punishing him. Severus had seen it in Shiloh’s eyes as she recognized the name, as she backed away from him in terror, and cowered before him in fright, shielding her face as though she expected nothing but pain. And when she had begged him to let her go, he’d been unable to do anything but just that, to prove he would never, ever hurt her.
Disgust and rage put a bitter taste in his mouth. He swore if Ellessa wasn’t already dead, he would kill her himself!
But there was a part of the anger that wasn’t directed at her, but at himself. He should have saved Shiloh. No child should have to suffer through that.
But the worst accusation of all was the one Shiloh uttered next, an accusation Severus despised…because it was true. “She called me a Death Eater, Albus.”
“Well, you were one, Severus,” Albus said, not one to hide the truth to spare someone’s feelings—as long as that someone was Severus Snape.
The words struck deep. Coming from the closest thing he had to a friend, the words had the power to kill. It wasn’t enough that he had heard them from a daughter…no, Albus had to remind him again of the sins of his past he had fought to redeem himself of. Albus had to remind him that redemption was a vain dream for the likes of him. He had been a Death Eater; he had sworn allegiance to the Dark Lord as a desperate youth seeking in the wrong place for somewhere to belong. And he had belonged there, at least the dark part that lived within him, sometimes still eager to be free of its cage. But that choice had cost him everything…his daughter, Lily, any hope he had ever had to live a life of family, joy, happiness.
And now that he had found his daughter, would his past take her from him again?
“If I could just explain…” he plotted desperately.
“I doubt she’s ready to listen, Severus.”
“But I could corner her in class. I could make her listen.”
“You would only frighten her more.”
Severus was desperate for some hope, some plan. He couldn’t just let her run out his life when he had finally found her. “She’s smart. Surely I can appeal to her logical side.”
Albus was shaking his head and clicking his tongue sadly. “Severus, you have been a teacher for so many years now and yet, you know absolutely nothing about children. I have only met Shiloh once, but the impression I got of her was that she was incredibly smart and grown beyond her age…and quite like her father in many other aspects. But she is still a child. She is very scared and very confused. Very likely she believes that you never cared for her, never loved her and are as wicked as her mother.”
Severus opened his mouth to protest, but Albus held up a hand. If anyone else had tried to silence him in such a manner, he would have continued with what he meant to say with a nasty glare, but with Albus he closed his mouth and patiently waited for him to continue.
“And though I know it isn’t true, she will need time. If you force her to listen, you will only be proving her fears right by showing yourself as a brute. You must give her space and time. Prove to her you are someone she can trust.”
“But what if she never trusts me? What if she never wishes to see me again?”
“Oh she will,” Albus said, seeming so sure. “She will.”
Severus wondered what made him such an expert on Shiloh. After all, Albus sometimes took interest in certain students, like Potter, but he had never taken much interest in a Slytherin. Severus still couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that Albus knew more about Shiloh than he was saying. Something had happened the year before that had led them to believe Shiloh was Severus’ daughter, but what had been so profound?
Again, Severus asked, “How did you know she was my daughter, Albus?”
Albus replied with a cryptic answer, but Severus expected no less. “I believe that’s something she should tell you.”
If she gives me the chance to ask… Severus replied to himself. Albus seemed so sure, but Severus wasn’t. He’d had the girl under his tutelage for a year and a half, and yet he knew absolutely nothing about her, except she was a brilliant potionist, ran around with a strange assortment of friends, and had an odd taste for Every Flavour Beans. Now that she certainly hadn’t gotten from him. And yet now, he wanted to know everything about her.
“I can’t believe I actually found her,” he said in amazement, and the euphoric emotion was back. His heart hammered, his mind whirled, and he slipped down into Albus’ armchair. “And she…she has my eyes.”
Albus grinned at him as a strange look came on his face, amazed and happy and utterly terrified. He looked quite like a proud father, holding his newborn baby in his arms for the very first time as his world changed in a single heartbeat.
“Yes, she has your eyes,” Albus said with a delighted laugh. “But, thank Merlin, she doesn’t have your nose!”
What? You thought I would resolve everything in one chapter? I thought you knew me better by now.
As always thanks to my beta, Molly.