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I Am A Rock by dark_side_of_the_moon
Chapter 1: I Am A Rock
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I am a Rock
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, they belong to JKR, nor the song that inspired this fanfic, which belongs to the great singers Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel!! Disclaimer relevant to all chapters.
A/N: Set in the summer after Voldermort gets a new body and Cedric Diggory dies (start of book five). Hopefully, it won’t be a very long story.
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December,
I am alone.
Gazing from my window to the streets below,
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow,
I am a Rock.
I am an island.
I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need for friendship; friendship causes pain,
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a Rock.
I am an island.
Don’t talk of love,
But I've heard the word before,
It’s sleeping in my memory,
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a Rock.
I am an island.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me,
I am shielded in my armour,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb,
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a Rock.
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain.
And an island ne’er cries.
(‘I am a Rock’ by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel)
The sun had barely risen but Severus Snape was already up. It was the first day of the summer holidays, and Severus was taking the opportunity to eat breakfast alone in his London home. It was a treat for him because for the rest of the year, his employer and headmaster of the school where he worked insisted that he join them for breakfast. He seemed to think it was a nice gesture to ask this of the teachers, he was only being sociable. But Severus Snape simply didn’t do socialising, and he never had. His idea of a nice gesture would be to give him the week off work, not ask him to spend even more time with his moronic students and his monosyllabic colleagues.
It was one of the many issues around which Albus Dumbledore and Severus disagreed over, and yet somehow, Dumbledore always got his way. The man infuriated Severus sometimes.
But today would be different. He had the entire day to himself, to roam his large house, to lounge around in the living room or sit and read in the library. The house was dark, and the furniture and wallpaper showed just how old and mouldy the place was. Snape Manor was the only thing Snape senior had left his son in his will. That and memories of an abusive childhood.
It seemed to Severus as he buttoned the front of his loose white shirt that morning, that it was sometimes impossible to rid one’s mind of negative thoughts. Other people had happy things or companions to distract them, but not Severus. He lived alone in a large, dark house in London with no family and few friends. But he never complained. If truth be told, he preferred his own company to others. And if he did need something to distract him, there was always schoolwork to criticise and next term’s lessons to plan.
With that in mind, Severus finished dressing, left his bedroom and swaggered downstairs to the kitchen. From his pocket he pulled out a long thin piece of wood and tapped the teapot that sat on the counter. The tea instantly began to heat up and boil as he searched the cupboards for something to eat. There were only a few crusts of mouldy bread left in the bread bin and a packet of stale Cornflakes. Sneering in disgust, he grabbed a mug from another cupboard and resolved to do some shopping that morning.
By the time the tea was ready, the sun had risen properly and was shining through the kitchen windows, making the utensils sparkle rather painfully. Severus took his cup of tea and went to sit in the drawing room, where there was less danger of losing his eyesight if he so much as opened his eyes. Since the exploring fingers of the sun’s rays could not reach that end of the house, Severus was able to relax on the comfortable sofa and decide how best to spend his day.
Dumbledore had said yesterday that he would be visiting within a week, and that Severus would be needed for the first Order of the Phoenix meeting that was to take place in London in a few weeks time. The other master that Severus served, the Dark Lord Voldermort, the one the Order were fighting against, did not say when next he would require his services. The Dark Lord often liked to catch his supporters by surprise, trying to catch them doing something against him. He wasn’t a very trusting creature, and for that reason, Severus had to be very careful. He was, of course, a spy for the Order of the Phoenix, gaining information for the Headmaster whilst simultaneously remaining loyal in the eyes of the Dark Lord. It was a difficult task, but one he was prepared to do.
A loud tapping noise alerted Severus and he awoke from his daydream. Through the window of the drawing room, a barn owl could be seen, flapping rather frantically, desperate to be let in. Severus raised the thin bit of wood again, his wand, and the window flew open, allowing the bird to enter. In its talons were clutched the newspaper, for which Severus paid the bird and released him out the window. Despite the warm weather, he closed the window again with his wand and opened up the paper.
Splashed across the front page was a picture of one his least favourite men. Sirius Black. An old acquaintance of Severus’, Black had been wrongfully sentenced to life in Azkaban, before escaping and setting out to prove his innocence. Dumbledore had hinted that his late mother’s house might be the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, because of its fortress-like security system. Black, being the coward that he was, was able to stay at home and play housekeeper while the rest of the Order went out and risked their necks for their noble cause. A satisfactory sneer passed across his face as he pictured the man who had once tried to kill him as a boy wearing a pinny and dusting old shelves. If Severus knew the kind of things Dark families kept hidden in their houses, which he most certainly did, Black would be cleaning until the sun froze over.
Severus did not read the dribble that was written about Black. He had been forced to accept the man’s innocence after Diggory had died and Dumbledore had broken the unfortunate news that they would be working together again. And yet the papers and Fudge still refused this version of events about the Dark Lord’s return and Pettigrew’s role in it all. Severus was quite certain the Dark Lord had returned to full strength, having been under the Cruciatus curse at His hand, as punishment for his betrayal during the last war. Many of his fellow Death Eaters still did not trust him, especially those who had gone to Azkaban for their master. Playing double agent was a dangerous game indeed!
On the next few pages there were articles about yet another confrontation between Dumbledore and Fudge. Severus sneered yet again as he saw the picture of a sweaty Fudge, spluttering as Dumbledore spoke rather harshly in his face. The fool deserved everything he got, Severus agreed with Dumbledore. Although they had their differences, Dumbledore was the only man Severus trusted with his life, who he felt anything close to respect for. The rest of them were fools, twits or just plain bastards.
There was one small article beneath the picture of Fudge and Dumbledore that caught his eye. It contained a story about someone’s death, and how his parents were grieving and appealing for information as to his death. Severus was just thinking how pitiful it all was when he shivered, as if someone has just walked over his grave. The reaction surprised him, he wasn’t one to be spooked by tales of death and destruction, or one to hold such ridiculous superstitious beliefs about graves and the like.
There was a loud knock on the front door and Severus jumped this time, before cursing himself for his reaction. Forcing his fury to the back of his mind, he wondered who on earth could be knocking on his door and stood up to answer it. Upon reaching the front door, he tensed, his hand in his pocket, holding the wand, just in case. He opened the door and found two men in suits standing there. They had grim faces and Severus could instantly tell they were muggles; there was no familiar aura that usually hung around wizards. It was as if they were empty, there was no power inside them, no soul. It was for this reason that he didn’t like muggles, they unnerved him and he didn’t know whether to hate them for being different or pity them for having to live without magic. The man on the left, whose short black hair was slicked back, opened his mouth to speak.
“Is Mister Severus Snape at home, sir?”
Severus eyes him suspiciously, before replying shortly, “Why?”
“I wonder if we may speak with you a moment Mister Snape,” he said, “it is a matter of great importance.”
His manner was respectable and his clothes spoke of professionalism. The other man too, this one with short brown hair, looked rather well off. As he hesitated, the man who had spoken reached into his pocket and pulled out a wallet, showing his identity card. John Stoketon was his name, of the Metropolitan Police Force.
“Come in,” Severus said, stepping aside and allowing them into his home. He didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but he was certain nonetheless that he could easily overpower these two if he needed to. They walked into the drawing room where he had been enjoying his cup of tea only a moment ago. Luckily, the newspaper was folded, hiding the heading, which would surely raise a few questions as to who the Daily Prophet was! They sat on his sofa and Severus stood in front of the fireplace, facing them. He was slightly irritated by their interruption, though they weren’t really interrupting much, and by the slightly arrogant way they walked and assumed they could sit in his seat. It reminded him of some of his students and his anger increased.
“What is it that you wanted?” he asked irritably. The black haired man looked slightly taken aback at the cut of his words but quickly recovered.
“Have you ever heard of someone called Eleanor Darling?” he asked.
Severus’ heart skipped a little as he recognised the name. He had indeed heard of Eleanor Darling. She had taught Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts for a few years, many years ago. The last he’d heard of her was that she had gone to live in America.
“Yes, I have,” he answered his question, desperate to know why they were asking.
“I’m afraid I have bad news, Mister Snape. Eleanor Darling has been killed.”
Severus didn’t say anything for a while. A strange sensation was spreading through his body. It numbed his legs, then his arms and chest, constricting his breathing a little. When it reached his head, he thought he was about to fall over. Disbelief was the sensation, utter disbelief.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked suddenly, “Tea or coffee?”
They accepted his offer and he left them in the drawing room to quickly get them a drink. As the teapot boiled once more, Severus’ eyes dropped to stare at his hands. Eleanor was dead. She was dead. Before taking the tea back to the officers, he gave himself a mental shake and reached inside the robes that hung on the hook on the door. He pulled out a tiny vial of clear liquid and dropped a few drops into the two mugs. It was Veritaserum. He needed to know the truth.
He returned to the drawing room to find they had not moved a muscle in his absence. Again, he was struck by how impersonal they both were and his lip curled. He handed them their tea and sat in the armchair nearest the fireplace, waiting patiently for them to take a sip. The potent potion would take effect after the first sip, and then he would get some answers.
“How did she die?” he asked as the black haired man lowered his cup and swallowed.
“That’s the thing,” he said, “we don’t know. Forensics couldn’t find a cause of death. She just dropped dead!”
“Where? What time? Did anyone see anything?”
The man opened his mouth to answer but his colleague cut across him in an American accent, “We actually wanted to ask you a few questions, Mister Snape.”
The glare he threw Stoketon made it clear he had said too much. This man, who showed Severus his identity card; Nigel Mannings, fixed Severus with his piercing gaze and began the interrogation.
“How well did you know Eleanor Darling, Mister Snape?”
“We were colleagues,” Severus sneered, “she worked with me for a few years.”
“You were friends then?”
“Yes – I suppose.”
“You suppose? Are there any other details about your relationship with Eleanor Darling you’d like to tell us? Any reason someone might want her killed?”
Severus was getting angry. His relationship with Eleanor Darling had been one shrouded in secrets and lies. There were aspects that even Albus Dumbledore did not know of.
“Look,” he huffed, “I haven’t spoken to Eleanor in eight years, - ”
“We know.” Nigel Mannings stopped him. There was silence as Severus glared from one man to the other, trying to decide which curse to use on whom. His anger was flaring up, as if he was back in school, trying to get some sense out of Longbottom’s thick scull.
“Do you recognise this person?” Mannings asked calmly, pulling out a large photograph from the inside pocket of his jacket. He handed it to Severus, who stared at the photo. It showed a boy, no older than ten years old, with a mop of black hair and dark brown eyes, sitting by the table holding a knife in one hand and a fork in the other. His lips were curved in a pleasant half smile and his large curious eyes were brimming with joy.
“I have never met this person in my life,” Severus said, adopting a false bored expression and handing the picture back to them. Neither of them took it, but Mannings nodded at the photograph, “That’s Eleanor’s son.”
Reluctantly, Severus studied the picture again, eyes sweeping over the perfect nose that he recognised as Eleanor’s, the brilliant smile. It truly was her son.
“I don’t know why someone would want Eleanor dead,” he lied in a low voice, “and showing me pictures of her son won’t make me care either!”
“You should care, Mister Snape,” Stoketon spoke this time, “because we have reason to believe you are the boy’s father. We’ll need a DNA sample to clarify, of course, but you are our main suspect.”
Severus didn’t know what a DNA sample was, and this irritated him more than the news that he might have a son, a son who Eleanor had tried to keep secret for years.
“You said you hadn’t spoken to Eleanor in eight years,” the American officer said, “well that fits in perfectly because Jonathon Mordecai Darling is seven years old. I take it Eleanor didn’t tell you she was pregnant.”
“Well obviously,” Severus uttered through gritted teeth, “do you think I would have let her go if I knew that she was carrying my child?”
He stood up in a blaze of fury and began to pace the room, the absence of his usual robes making the scene much less spectacular. His sharp mind was turning over the facts at top speed. Eleanor was dead. She had a child, who was likely to be his son. A son she had kept from him all these years. Did she hate him so much that she felt that she had to leave the country to escape him? Was he that much of an ogre?
She saw you teach, he thought to himself suddenly. She had seen the way he treated his students, heard the things they said about him. It was no wonder she had left, he would have made a terrible father. And yet she had loved him once, certainly more than he had loved her. It wasn’t until she had gone did he realise that he had grown quite fond of her. But it was too late for regret, their brief love affair was over and he would never set eyes on her again.
“We’d like you to come to the station to give a blood sample,” Mannings said standing up. Stoketon copied his example and they both stood opposite the now stationary Severus, his anger fading quickly.
“It won’t take long,” he added.
Severus was rapidly loosing himself in the current crisis. Normally, he would never agree to accompany two muggle strangers to the Police Station, and yet here he was letting them convince him to give up his morning for their investigation. As he put his shoes on and took his cloak down from the stand by the front door, he became aware that he was still holding the picture of the boy. Jonathon Mordecai Darling looked up at him from the past, a moment caught in eternity, and yet nothing would be the same for him ever again. His name was Darling. Did that mean she had not married after leaving the country? Severus stepped out into the summer air after the officers, letting the door shut with a bang behind him.
A week had passed since the police officers had visited Severus’ house, but not much had taken place in the meantime. Dumbledore had visited, but had not stayed for long, as Severus had said nothing about the officers’ visit, and there had been no word from the Dark Lord or Lucius, one of his closest allies. So Severus had stayed indoors the entire time, doing all he could to distract himself from thoughts of Eleanor, but to no avail. In the past week he had relived the last conversation they had over and over again. She had got a job in America, and would be leaving as soon as Dumbledore found a replacement Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. They had argued; she’d been expecting him to plead with her, beg her to stay, confess his love for her and his undying devotion to her happiness. But he, being the ass that he was, had not. Instead, he had ridiculed her, mocked her decision and sneered at her new job. Only a few months after her departure, he was already missing her.
And yet he had never visited her new home, made no mention of the torment he was going through in the few letters he wrote to her. Sometimes she replied, but always telling him how fantastic her new life was. Not once did she mention a son.
That’s when the uncontrollable rage would grasp him again. How dare she keep his son from him? After a few hours, he’d calm down, and sink into a deep stupor in the darkness of his library, the ticking of the clock seeming to echo inside his skull.
Mannings had told Severus to expect the results of the DNA test in about a week’s time, so on the Saturday morning a week after their visit, Severus sat in his kitchen, drinking his second cup of coffee, hoping to calm his nerves. It wasn’t like the blind terror he felt before he faced the Dark Lord, it was more like waiting for the verdict from the Wizengamot when he was charged for murder. He’d managed to escape that time, but he had a feeling he would not be so lucky this time.
The letter did not arrive on Saturday, nor was it there on Monday morning either. Severus waited until late on Tuesday morning before he heard the clatter of the post through the door, and even then, he waited by his kitchen table, unable to move for five whole minutes. Eventually he drained his tea and graciously rose from his seat.
The white envelope that lay on the doormat disgusted Severus for a moment and he was reluctant to touch it, but then the feeling passed and he bent down and picked it up. Flipping it over, he tore it open haphazardly and pulled out the thin paper within. He skipped the text at the top of the letter and instead read the figures half way down the page.
Subject 1: Severus Snape
Subject 2: Jonathon Mordecai Darling
Paternal DNA Match: Positive. Accuracy: 99.9%
A/N: Please tell me what you thought of it, I look forward to your opinions! Helpful criticism welcome! Is Severus nasty enough? I wasn’t sure. But then again, it’s not like he’s stuck in school so maybe he’s not as tense when he’s home alone.
Chapter 2: Mute
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Severus rushed back up his stairs for the hundredth time that morning. He had found yet another incriminating Dark Arts object in the lounge and was quickly hiding it away before the visitors arrived. Only a few days ago, he’d received a letter from the British Social Services informing him to be prepared for a visit from his seven-year-old son and his social worker this morning. A few days before that was when he’d first discovered that he had a son at all.
He couldn’t quite decide his feelings on the matter. His father, before his death, had scolded Severus upon many an occasion for not producing an heir. And yet Severus knew from his work as a teacher that he disliked children. Why would Eleanor’s son be different?
Would he be like his father when it came to parenting? The exact number of times his father had beaten him was a mystery, but it had driven Severus to hate the man who had raised him since his mother’s death when he was a small boy, and become the hardened disciplinarian he was today. Sometimes when he looked in the mirror, he saw his father’s cruel eyes looking back at him, and to this day he would always be unnerved at the jolt of recognition he got when he caught of sight of his appearance. When he shouted at his students, or sneered at their best attempt at a Shrinking Solution, it was his father’s voice he heard, his father’s words ridiculing him for not making it onto the House Quidditch Team. The Potter’s son had been made Chaser in his second year, why did he have to blacken the family name with his incompetence?
In addition to that, he didn’t even know if the boy knew he was a wizard, or that his mother was a witch. The only thing he knew was that he hadn’t been in the care of the Social Services for long, but that wasn’t really of any use. A horrible thought suddenly crossed his mind as he entered the library to hide the object; what if the boy wasn’t a wizard at all? What if he was, Severus shivered in disgust, a squib? The shame and disappointment of producing such a child would be too much, he knew it would be. What if the Dark Lord found out? He would surely want the child exterminated, and then how would Severus explain that? The muggles would pounce on him if something happened to the boy.
Severus stopped this train of thought and suddenly realised that there was no need to worry; what could muggles possibly do to him? He chuckled darkly at his own stupidity and smiled at his fortunate situation. They were entirely powerless against him. He left the library, locking the door with his wand.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang and Severus spun around, the grin disappearing from his face. They were here. This was it.
He placed his wand in the pocket of his black trousers and swaggered lazily down the stairs. Today, he had refrained from wearing his usual wizarding robes, instead he was again in the white shirt and black trousers he usually wore under his black robes. A certain summer day after his OWL Defence Against the Dark Arts exam had taught him to wear muggle clothes under robes at all times. Thinking about this particular memory made him angry again, and he was scowling as he reached the front door and pulled it open. A young woman with straw coloured curls grinned at him, which earned a raised eyebrow from him. This didn’t seem to deter her mission to always be happy at every moment of every day, because the grin didn’t slip, and she stuck out her hand for him to shake.
“Petronella Dixon,” she declared proudly.
Severus couldn’t help but wonder just how smart this girl was. Not very, he decided, shaking her hand and smirking. Mistaking his smirk for a genuine smile, her grin widened and she glanced behind him into the interior of his home, clearly wondering when she was going to be let in. It was then that Severus noticed the boy that stood a step and a half behind her. He was staring at the ground in obvious boredom, his hands clasped dutifully behind his back and his messy black locks hiding his face from the curious man before him.
“Oh,” the woman exclaimed suddenly, “I completely forgot! This young man here is Jonathon Darling.” She placed a gentle hand on the boy’s head, and he looked up. His bright, curious eyes looked somewhat pleadingly up at Severus, who was struck by how much the young boy looked like Eleanor. Severus could barely look at the boy for some reason, and yet his eyes drew his gaze back, an impossible temptation to resist.
“Come in,” he said, flattening himself against the wall and secretly hoping it would swallow him whole. They passed him and walked into the lounge, where he directed them. The woman, Petronella, seemed to be talking again, but Severus didn’t listen to a word she was prattling on about as he followed them, shutting out the world as he closed the door. Within these walls, he reigned over all, and yet he couldn’t remember feeling so vulnerable. It irritated him.
They sat on his sofa while he tried to relax in the armchair, and finally tuned in to what she was saying.
“Poor lamb,” she cooed, glancing at Jonathon, who was sitting beside her, staring curiously at his surroundings. “Jonathon,” she said and he looked at her, “this man is the one I was telling you about, you remember? Severus Snape, your father.”
Jonathon looked at him, his large eyes studying him eagerly. Was this normal behaviour for a seven-year-old, Severus wondered. There was silence as they both considered each other, and Severus searched for something to say.
“So,” he began awkwardly, “we meet at last Jonathon.” He stood and held his hand out to shake the boy’s hand. Every bone in his body, every fibre of his being was shouting at him that he was making an ass of himself. Who knows what this boy thought of him? What went on inside a young boy’s head? The only thing he remembered from his childhood was hating his father for beating him and his mother in the final years of her life.
Jonathon shyly shook his father’s hand and Severus sat back down in his chair. A glance at Petronella showed him she was bored, staring around at the interior design.
“Would you like something to drink, Petronella?” he asked pleasantly, making her jump from surprise. Again, she mistook his smirk for a smile and smiled back.
“Yes please,” she answered, “and would you like something, Jonathon? A glass of juice?” The boy nodded and Severus stood and left the room.
As he opened a carton of fruit juice in the small kitchen, the first time he had ever purchased such a drink, in preparation for their visit, he heard a voice behind him.
“He doesn’t talk much.”
Severus turned and saw Petronella standing in the doorway, smiling rather stupidly in his opinion.
“In fact,” she went on, “I haven’t managed to get a word out of him since he arrived from America. So don’t take it personally, if he doesn’t talk much. Poor dear.”
He nodded and turned back to the counter.
“So what do you do?” she asked after a minute of silence. He was pouring the juice into a glass as he replied, “I’m a teacher.”
“Really?!” she said, clearly impressed, “what do you teach?”
“Chemistry,” he stated. It was partly true, after all.
“Oh well, then you’d know all about kids. I’m afraid I’m a bit new to all of this social work, and I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew.”
He wasn’t prepared to listen to her life story, so he distracted her by asking what Jonathon was like.
“Oh he’s so cute,” she said enthusiastically, “a real sweetheart. I think he’s still traumatised, though, about losing his mum and all. Like I said, he hasn’t spoken to anyone since the American authorities dropped him off. But maybe you’ll be able to get through to him, being a teacher and everything, I bet you have to deal with problems like this all the time.”
He seriously doubted he was capable enough to look after the boy, let alone council him through his grieving. As he stirred their cups of tea, he asked what the arrangements would be for his custody.
“Well, as his father, you get full custody, though we will keep in touch, see how he gets on. If things are too difficult, we may be able to take him off your hands and find a family for him. It all depends on you, really.”
It hadn’t really struck him that he would have to raise this child until then. It wasn’t really the appropriate time to release his fury so he was forced to swallow it for now. How dare Eleanor burden him with this now, of all times! He grimaced for the young social worker and handed her a cup of tea, while he carried his and the child’s juice back into the lounge. Jonathon hadn’t moved, but he was staring avidly at his new surroundings. Despite the fact that it was late morning, there were shadows in the corners of the room that scared him, and the large, dark fireplace directly in front of him did not ease his nerves.
He accepted the drink from his father without a word and sipped the sweet juice. Severus sat in his chair, while Petronella sat next to Jonathon and began talking about some of the things they had done to try and get Jonathon to talk again. She talked about him as if he wasn’t there, and Severus thought he saw the boy cast a slightly horrid look at his social worker as she continued to chatter. Severus said very little, but by lunch time, she seemed satisfied enough to leave the two of them for a few hours, for some “father-son time.” Severus saw her to the door and went back into the lounge and took the seat where she had been.
“Who’d have thought this is what would become of Eleanor’s legacy?” he wondered aloud. “Tell me, young man, what happened to her?”
Jonathon didn’t say anything, just sat there in silence and shrugged. Now that they were alone, the silence between them was profound. Severus tried again to extract some information.
“There’s no need for you to be afraid, but if you know something, you need to tell me. You look a lot like her, you know.”
Severus was no longer looking at the dark locks that hid his son’s face from him, he was facing forward, staring into the empty fireplace, still talking about what he remembered of Eleanor.
Suddenly, a faint whimper caught his attention and woke him from his daydream. It came from Jonathon, and Severus realised with a twinge of guilt that he’d made him cry. Reluctantly, he edged nearer and pulled back the curtain of hair. Tears were evident on his pale cheeks, which Severus automatically wiped away with his thumb.
“Don’t cry now,” he mumbled, fighting the panic that rose in his throat, “Ok, we’ll talk about something else if you like.”
Small fists came up and rubbed at his eyes, then he looked at Severus with a red, blotchy face.
“Do you want something to eat?” he asked the boy, who nodded once. Severus stood and beckoned for him to follow him into the kitchen. Jonathon didn’t make a fuss as Severus made them some sandwiches, the muggle way, and laid them on the table. They sat opposite each other eating their simple lunch, and Severus occasionally told him stories about embarrassing moments that had happened at family dinners when he was a boy. Of course, he always changed it so it was his fictional cousin who had been humiliated and not himself. Jonathon seemed to like the tales, because he smiled for the first time since he’d arrived. A smile that instantly reminded Severus of Eleanor. Is this how it would always be?
After lunch, Severus took him on a grand tour of the large house, excluding the library and stopping only momentarily in the only bedroom that was occupied and the study. There wasn’t much really that a young boy could possibly be interested in there, but he listened eagerly to all the stories his father told. By the end of the tour, he was holding Severus’ hand as they walked back downstairs. This was probably because he was scared of the shadows on the walls, Severus thought to himself. They returned to the lounge and sat in silence for a moment. Severus was pretty exhausted after entertaining this boy for two whole hours (an achievement in his opinion).
“I think I've got some biscuits in the kitchen, I’ll be back in a moment,” Severus jumped up and walked away to the kitchen. He was just searching the cupboards when he heard a scream from the lounge and dropped everything and ran in. It became instantly clear what had happened; Jonathon was cowering behind the edge of the sofa, staring at the large bird perched on the armchair. It was Fawkes, the phoenix, and Severus guessed Jonathon had been terrified when it appeared in a flash of flames. He walked over to the bird, whispering his name softly. Fawkes, who had been staring curiously at the boy who had screamed, now turned his attention to Severus and let out a single beautiful musical note.
Fawkes knew and trusted Severus just as Dumbledore did, and he closed his eyes as Severus stroked his feathers. Jonathon, seeing his father was not afraid of the bird, stood up, but still did not move from behind the sofa. There was a note on the chair next to Fawkes, which he had obviously been carrying, and Severus picked it up and unrolled it. It read,
I do hope Fawkes isn’t disturbing you, but I just needed to tell you that we’ll be holding a meeting for the Order of the Phoenix tomorrow night. The headquarters are number twelve Grimmauld Place, London. Destroy this immediately after reading it, I have charmed it so that only a Snape may read it, but the spell won’t last forever. See you soon,
Severus smirked as he crumpled the note in the palm of his hand; he knew very well that the charm Dumbledore had placed on it would last for decades, but Dumbledore was a careful man. Without thinking, he took out his wand and lit the edge of the parchment. When he looked up, Jonathon had moved from behind the sofa and was edging nearer. He was staring, mouth wide open, at Severus, having seen the fire-coming-out-of-stick trick in amazement.
Severus held back the biting swear word and smiled at Jonathon, instantly putting out the fire and shoving the parchment into his pocket without a second thought. Fawkes, meanwhile, was still watching Jonathon with curiosity.
“It’s alright, Jonathon,” Severus said gently, “there’s no need to be afraid, he won’t hurt you.”
He touched Fawkes’ beak to demonstrate this and Jonathon came nearer, his hand outstretched hesitantly. When he touched the bird’s head, his eyes widened again, becoming even more round. It was rather comical, and Severus grinned at the boy’s innocence. There was something peaceful about watching him stroke Fawkes’ beak, but Severus could not hold off the crisis forever; Jonathon had seen magic. What if he told Petronella? They’d either think he was crazy, or that Severus was a dangerous madman. Either way, Severus would never see Jonathon again. The fact that this prospect bothered him was enough to bother him even more. Jonathon was a burden, he told himself again with conviction. And yet he was Eleanor’s son.
“Jonathon,” he said, “Fawkes must be leaving now.” Fawkes tilted his head to look at Severus, who glared back sternly; he would not be told what’s what by a bird! Fawkes let out a defeated, mournful note and stretched his wings. Another flash of fire and he was gone.
Jonathon had jumped back as he disappeared, his mouth open again and his eyes wide. He looked exhilarated, as if he’d just run a mile. Severus smirked and sat down next to him.
“You have to promise not to tell anyone about that, Jonathon,” he said seriously in a low voice, “don’t tell Petronella that I can do magic.”
Jonathon nodded, fear creeping back into his eyes.
Jonathon nodded again.
“Good,” Severus grinned mischievously, “it’ll be our little secret, ok?”
He winked and Jonathon nodded, smiling shyly. As if they were somehow connected now that they shared a secret, Jonathon did not take his eyes off Severus for the next hour as they sat in the lounge and ate biscuits. Severus reeled off stories about the time he’d been beaten for playing the old record player without his father’s permission, and about how his mother had almost destroyed the painting of his great, great grandfather, which hung above the fireplace. Jonathon hid his giggles behind his small hands, but Severus was becoming very bored with his son’s company. He wanted more than anything to be alone to read or study. When the doorbell rang, therefore, he jumped up and went to go and answer it.
Petronella was there, many shopping bags in hand, and she grinned at him again.
“How was he?” she asked, following him in. He didn’t let her into the lounge this time, but stopped her in the hallway, replying that he’d been fine, and calling Jonathon from the other room. Jonathon finally came into view, just as Petronella was telling Severus in great detail what she had bought and who she had seen. The woman was insufferable, and he pitied Jonathon for having her as his social worker, what bad luck. And yet, he was desperate for some solitude, something reassuringly familiar.
“It was nice meeting you, Jonathon,” he said, shaking the boy’s hand again. He didn’t reply, and the smile had completely disappeared from his face.
“We’ll come again tomorrow, if that’s ok with you?” Petronella said briskly, taking Jonathon’s hand.
Severus was about to come up with an excuse to avoid them, when he saw his son’s face light up, his bright eyes waiting for an answer.
“Of course,” Severus exhaled in defeat. “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon then.”
They left, Jonathon waving for the third time before the door was shut. As soon as they were gone, Severus swept into the lounge, swearing and cursing under his breath. During the past few hours, he had been nicer than he’d ever been, and now look where that had landed him! If the Dark Lord found out, then he would suffer greatly for producing such a useless child, and keeping him from the Dark Lord. What if Lucius turned up tomorrow, unannounced? He wouldn’t be very sorry if something happened to the social worker, but if he got Eleanor’s son killed . . .
He decided to visit Lucius in his manor that night, in pretence that he was simply eager to have news of the Dark Lord, but also to see when his evil services would be needed. Hopefully, it would not be for a while, enough time, at least, to sort out the mess he had got himself in.
A/N: Please review.
Chapter 3: The Meeting
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When Petronella and Jonathon turned up on Severus’ doorstep the next day, the young woman was carrying a rucksack over her shoulder. Severus invited them into the lounge again, and once they were seated he asked what she had brought with her.
“Just a few things,” she replied, “I've spoken to the owner of the orphanage, and she said Jonathon could stay here tonight, if it was alright with you, of course.”
Severus’ heart dropped and he looked up quickly at her.
“Excuse me?” he uttered through gritted teeth.
The woman must have been very, very stupid, because she was completely oblivious to his less than friendly tone of voice. Jonathon noticed, however, and cowered behind his idiotic social worker.
“I thought it’d be nice,” she replied cheerfully, playing with the ends of her hair, “we’re really busy in the orphanage, and this way you can get used to looking after him in the night times.”
It was logical, he had to admit, that they should make the transition gradual, but tonight was not a good night; he had plans.
“I’m afraid I have plans tonight,” he said, feigning disappointment. Jonathon barely noticed his father’s reply, he was staring sadly at his hands curled up in his lap.
“Oh,” Petronella was truly disappointed, “that’s a shame. There’s no point you taking him if you’re going to be too busy to play with him. How about tomorrow night?”
A wicked spark had erupted in his mind, a plan to get him out of a night of babysitting. It was devious, yes, but he wouldn’t have to mind the boy, and Jonathon wouldn’t have to suffer his father’s company. It was perfect.
“Actually,” he said, “I’ll cancel my plans tonight, Jonathon comes first, after all.”
Jonathon raised his large eyes, hardly able to believe it, and met the eyes of his father’s. To him, they were full of kindness and joy, the eyes of the man who had loved his mother. He smiled, and Severus felt his own lips being drawn into a smile against his will. He quickly stopped himself, and realised that Petronella was talking. How long had she been talking with nobody listening?
With the arrangements made for the night, Severus, Petronella and Jonathon decided to go out. It was London after all, and Jonathon had seen precious little of the sights since arriving from America. They visited the museums and went on an open air bus tour of the capital city, Severus very skilfully hiding his ineptness at travelling like a muggle. He was just as fascinated by the huge blue whale in the Natural History Museum as Jonathon was, and Petronella giggled at his facial expressions.
“Someone’d think you’d never been here before,” she said.
“Well they’d be right,” he replied, automatically taking Jonathon’s hand as they walked to the next exhibition.
“But you’ve lived in London all your life, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” he droned, “but my father was not one to indulge his only son in useless day trips.”
Petronella didn’t say anything for a while, just kept glancing at him from behind her blonde curls. He could see her doing this out of the corner of his eye and it annoyed him. Realising his anger was steadily increasing, and he was likely to explode if he didn’t put vast distance between them quickly, he dragged Jonathon off to other side of the chamber. Glancing behind him, he saw that Petronella was distracted by a stuffed orang-utan in a glass case, and he bent down in front of Jonathon.
His son stopped and looked up into his father’s face expectantly, his large eyes shining with anticipation.
“I’m bored,” Severus said shortly, “how about we ditch that unbearable imbecile and go and see some of London’s real sights?”
Whether or not Jonathon was bored was irrelevant, if his father was bored, then he was too. He nodded vigorously and Severus ruffled his hair and smirked. He straightened up, just missing the grin that lit up the boy’s face.
“Er, Petronella?” Severus called the social worker over.
The woman walked over, a vacant smile on her lips.
“Jonathon is tired,” he informed her, “would you mind if we went back to my house for some supper?”
“Oh, of course not,” she replied, glancing down at Jonathon with concern, who immediately faked a perfect yawn.
Severus smirked proudly, his hand resting on Jonathon’s shoulder.
“Shall we go back by bus or train?” she asked as they left the building.
“Ah, well,” Severus began with a sickly sweet smile, “you might as well go back to the orphanage, Petronella dear, and we’ll go on from here alone. As you said, you’re awfully busy in work.”
Severus’ silken words were more than enough to convince her to head back to work, though Severus seriously doubted she wouldn’t stop off in Oxford Street for a bit of ‘light’ shopping before heading back to work. It was nearly five, after all, and the shops would soon shut. As for Severus, he was expected at the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix at six for their first meeting.
Petronella waved them off on the train platform, where father and son caught a packed tube train back to North London. It made sense to head home to drop off their bags and grab something to eat before making their way to Grimmauld Place.
Their supper was light and after waving his wand to make the dishes wash themselves (Jonathon’s jaw dropped in surprise!), Severus asked Jonathon to put his shoes back on and get ready to leave.
In the hallway of his house, Severus knelt down before his son and whispered that he had an important meeting to go to tonight, but it would be ok if he came along too. It was likely that the Weasleys would be in on this underground organisation, and the mother, Molly, would be only too happy to mind Jonathon while he talked with Dumbledore. So, at twenty to six, they left the house once more, and walked down the street, back to the train station. Jonathon insisted on holding Severus’ hand, perhaps he was slightly nervous of where he was being led. If he was, he didn’t complain, still not having said a word since they had met. Severus didn’t complain either, although the boy’s small, sweaty palm was slightly irritating, slipping about inside his own fist.
What really annoyed Severus was the fact that they had to walk like common muggles! He supposed that since the boy was only seven, it was unlikely he could apparate, especially without owning a wand. He wondered if Eleanor had stopped using magic too after her son was born. What a way to live, he sneered silently. A man on the train gave him a curious look, but he looked away hastily as soon as Severus noticed him and scowled.
Jonathon watched him throughout the journey, copying his expressions and any noises he made. By the time they left the Underground system of trains and proceeded on foot, he considered himself skilled at scowling at various strangers, but still couldn’t quite get the smirk right. Whenever he looked in a passing window to check if he was doing it right, it just looked like he was smiling.
Jonathon’s dawdling in front of shop windows irritated Severus, but he dragged him on without a word until they arrived at Grimmauld Place. The street was deserted, and Severus and Jonathon carried on walking until they came to house number eleven. At this point, Severus stopped and reached inside his pocket for a slip of parchment. It was the remains of the letter he’d received from Dumbledore, and just visible was the sentence that revealed the whereabouts of the Headquarters. Dumbledore had said only a Snape could read it, so it was possible that Jonathon would also learn the secret of number twelve Grimmauld Place. Was it possible that Dumbledore had charmed the note just so that his son would be able to read it too? It was just the devious kind of trick the old man would be likely to do!
When Severus handed the parchment to Jonathon, he read it dutifully and then handed the paper back to his father, looking up for approval. Severus smiled and patted his son’s head before whispering instructions that would make the hidden house appear. A moment later and a house appeared between numbers eleven and thirteen. Jonathon’s surprise made Severus grin mischievously and scoop the small boy into his arms. He carried him towards the front door, but before Severus could knock, Jonathon reached up and rang the doorbell.
Pulling his hand back from the door, Severus caught his wrist just as a scream could be heard from indoors.
“I don’t remember giving you permission to touch that!” he hissed angrily. The small boy looked back at him reproachfully, and his lower lip trembled dangerously.
At that moment, the door opened and a man with brown, greying hair and amber eyes stood there. His clothes were shabby and old but his face was kind.
“Ah Severus,” he said with just a hint of irritation, “and – who’s this?”
Severus broke eye contact with his disobedient son and released his thin wrist, but Jonathon continued to stare fearfully at the man who carried him.
“Are you going to stand there all day Lupin, or are we going to be allowed in?” he sneered cruelly at the man.
Before Lupin could reply, a loud voice could be heard from the dark interior of the house, just as the screaming stopped.
“Trust Snivellus to wake the old bag up!”
A hideous scowl slowly formed on Severus’ face; he’d recognise that voice anywhere. Jonathon continued to watch his father, and his fear was increasing with every passing moment. Why was he angry? Who were these people? And who had been screaming?
Lupin was the only one who seemed to realise the small boy’s frightened state, as he was still watching his face, even as he stepped aside and let them enter. The gaslights along the walls illuminated as they entered, and the first thing they noticed were the long curtains that hung on the wall. A man stood by them, a man with long messy dark hair and rough stubble on his chin. He was scowling too, but then a confused frown passed across his face when he spotted Jonathon.
“Who’s the kid, Snivellus?” he whispered.
“Where’s Dumbledore?” Severus ignored him, hitching Jonathon higher up on his hip rather awkwardly.
“While in my house,” the messy looking man growled, “you obey my rules, understand Snivelly?”
“He’s in the kitchen,” Lupin stepped in, gesturing for them to follow him.
His friend’s scowl deepened, “Hey, Moony, you’re supposed to be on my side.”
After casting him a stern look, Lupin walked passed him in the direction of the basement. Severus followed, his hold on his son tightening slightly as they passed the angry man with dark hair.
The stairs going down to the basement kitchen were short and dark, but they soon reached a door, which Lupin opened and then they entered the large, brightly lit kitchen. Kitchen units were fixed along three of the walls and a large scrubbed wooden table stood in the middle of the room. Sitting at the table were five people. At one end there sat a very old man with long grey beard, and next to him a very stern looking woman with square glasses and hair in a tight bun sat with a very straight back. Two of the others, a man and a woman, both had vibrant red hair, and the third was a young woman with long purple hair, who jumped up when they entered.
“Oh,” she cooed, “who’s this? He’s so adorable!”
She rushed over to them, almost tripping over the table leg, and studying Jonathon’s features eagerly.
Severus was furious.
He coughed loudly and she jumped backwards slightly, looking Severus up and down.
“Well, well, well,” she sneered, hands on hips, “Professor Snape, we meet again.”
An unpleasant curling of his lip was all she got from him as he realised there was only one person this woman could be. He had taught Nymphadora Tonks just a few years ago at Hogwarts, and brilliant as she was, she was utterly annoying in a way not unlike Petronella the social worker.
“Albus,” he ignored her, causing her to stick her tongue out at him behind his back, and turned to the old man at the head of the table. His beard was twitching slightly and his eyes twinkled as his blue gaze passed over the small boy in Severus’ arms.
“Thank you for coming, Severus, take a seat,” he offered with a twirl of his wand, and a chair appeared out of thin air. The thumb that Jonathon had been sucking fell out of his mouth in amazement as he watched the spectacle. This man could do magic too!
“And a chair for young Master Snape, too,” he smiled and waved at Jonathon, who’s reaction was to hide behind the curtain of his father’s black hair and suck his thumb again.
“Young Master Snape?!”
The angry man from the hallway was back, he’d followed them into the kitchen.
“Don’t tell me you have a son, Snivellus!” he barked with just a hint of anger.
Severus smirked over his shoulder at his old enemy; “Not jealous are you, Black?”
Severus’ smirk broadened as he lowered Jonathon onto the empty chair with smugness etched in his every movement and expression. Getting one up on Black made having a son worth it!
“Professor Snape?” the woman with red hair asked rather shyly, “what’s his name?”
“His name is Jonathon,” Severus replied, taking the seat between Dumbledore and Jonathon, who’s dark eyes skittered nervously from one face to the next.
“Hello there, Jonathon,” the woman said quietly, giving him a small wave and a broad smile.
Severus was just thinking how ugly the woman’s smile was, and how people like here should not be allowed to pollute the environment like that, as a tiny smile passed across his son’s face.
“My name is Molly Weasley,” she continued, “and this is my husband, Arthur. And that’s Minerva McGonagall, she teaches in the same school as your father.”
At this, Molly cast half a glance up at the fearsome potion professor; as if scared he might curse her for daring to mention him!
She continued with the introductions, but Severus’ mind and interest was wandering. Now that he was here, he wanted to spend as little time as possible in the dratted house, and the solitude of his own home became very inviting indeed.
“Severus,” Dumbledore whispered as Molly continued to chatter on.
Surely Jonathon wasn’t taking in a word of the dribble she was spouting! Severus returned his attention to the headmaster, who glanced at the boy before continuing, “He looks just like Eleanor.”
“That’s because she was his mother,” Severus muttered back, aware that Minerva too was listening closely.
“Eleanor Darling?!” she whispered, “Where is she? What’s happened, Severus?”
He vaguely remembered that Minerva had taken a liking to Eleanor in the time she had taught at Hogwarts, apparently Eleanor had been one of the best Transfiguration students Minerva had ever taught. How could Severus break the news to them gently? Although he did not always get on well with Minerva, he had great respect for her nonetheless, and the way her eyes shone as she waited for a reply made him cautious.
“She died,” he muttered, and Minerva struggled to contain her gasp as Dumbledore hung his head sadly.
“It is as I feared,” he breathed to himself, but the small boy had distracted Severus again.
Jonathon was watching in amazement as Nymphadora Tonks performed her favourite party trick and transfigured her nose into all sorts of shapes and sizes before their very eyes. The others laughed out loud at Jonathon’s amazement and soon, he was laughing shyly along with them at the entertainment. Severus felt a burning jealousy erupt inside his chest and he scowled, running over all of the curses he’d love to use on his old enemies in his mind.
Dumbledore, sensing his fury, attempted to break the fun with a simple cough. Black’s bark-like laugh meant none of them heard him, however, and Severus’ anger was just reaching boiling point.
“Do you mind acting your age?!” he hissed at Tonks and Black, “not that you’d know anything about being a good example!”
The place went silent, and poor Jonathon stared at his father, his laughter dying instantly in his throat.
“Don’t you look at me like that!” Severus spat at his son, who cowered fearfully away, towards Lupin who sat on his other side.
“Snape!” Tonks exclaimed angrily, “there’s no need to be like that. Poor boy.”
Severus’ eyes flashed a dangerous molten black and Dumbledore muttered a warning, “Severus.”
The warning went unheeded however, “Don’t you dare tell me how to raise my own son, you insolent brat!”
Black was the first to stand in his fury, “Nobody talks to my cousin like that, Snivellus. You better shut up unless you want to get out of my house now.”
Remus and Dumbledore seemed to be the only ones trying to restore calm, the others, those who weren’t involved in the insult throwing were staring dumbfounded at the electric tension and shouts that filled the kitchen.
“Sit down, Sirius,” Remus pleaded, aware all the time that Jonathon’s eyes were flying between the old enemies he was caught between, utter terror shining in the form of tears.
Severus was standing now, too, only the table stood between him and Sirius, that and a room full of people. The words “coward”, “snake” and “treacherous bastard” were the only words that could be heard, and it was clear they were both itching to reach for their wands. Severus was the first to break; pulling his wand from his cloak pocket and taking aim.
Before he could even open his mouth, however, a booming command echoed throughout the kitchen, that stopped any fight, “That’s enough!”
It was Dumbledore. He was standing too. An incredible power radiated from him, his blue eyes no longer twinkling behind his spectacles. A fire smouldered there, causing the two men to shut up instantly, and for Severus to replace his wand in his pocket with an invisible swish, as if it had always been there. There was another type of tension in the air this time, the power from Dumbledore made the hairs on the backs of their necks stand on end, and the two men sat down heavily like two chastised schoolboys.
Lupin exhaled audibly with relief, and turned to Jonathon.
The small boy was beyond fearful. The look he threw his father was a trembling one, and he clutched his knees to his chest to calm his breathing. Never before had he witnessed such an incident, never had he imagined that his father would have such a temper, or the ability to use such cruel words in front of them all. An incredible longing made his heart ache, a longing for the loving arms of his mother. She would protect him from his angry father. But her mother wasn’t here anymore, and there was no protection for him in this house full of strangers.
Before Dumbledore could say another word, Jonathon had jumped down from his chair and fled from the room. Lupin tried to stop him, but Severus, who had risen also, pulled him back, hissing that no werewolf would scare his son. As Tonks ran out after the small boy, Lupin lost it with Severus.
“You’re the one who scared him, Snape,” he shouted, “he’s bloody terrified of you! Don’t you see?!”
There was no chance for Severus to retort, because a scream echoed throughout the house from the direction of the hallway. After muttering something about a painting, Dumbledore hurried out, Severus and Lupin hot on his heels. Reaching the hallway, they saw Tonks struggling with a pair of curtains, which refused to close, revealing a hideous painting of a woman with dark hair.
Her eyes were as terrifying as her voice, which shrieked, “blood traitors and squibs, be gone! Half-breeds and bastards, how dare you befoul the house of my fathers!”
A small figure was crouching at Tonks’ feet and rocking backwards and forwards on his toes, staring in horror at the scary woman that screamed at him when he had tripped over an umbrella stand. What was this house?! Everywhere he turned, there was some other lurking terror.
There was no escape.
The screaming eventually stopped, and Dumbledore sent the adults back into the kitchen. Severus almost had another tantrum when he said this, but Dumbledore flashed him a look, and he followed Lupin down the corridor.
Tonks was kneeling next to Jonathon now, teasing his arms open so that she could carry him into the living room. To their surprise, he did not protest, and they left the hallway and entered the empty living room. Tonks sat down on the old sofa, sitting Jonathon on her knee and holding him close, whispering that everything would be ok.
“Professor,” she said, and Dumbledore turned from where he’d been staring thoughtfully out of the window, hands clasped behind his back.
“We can’t let Snape take him,” she whispered. Jonathon had calmed down, but his small fist clung onto the fabric of her robes in earnest.
“He’s his father, my dear,” Dumbledore sighed, “it is not our place to interfere.”
“I won’t let him hurt Professor Darling’s son!”
Something stirred behind Jonathon’s shining eyes, but Dumbledore was shaking his head.
“It is a difficult predicament,” he whispered, remembering that Tonks had been in her fifth year at Hogwarts when Eleanor had left them. She had taught Tonks in her favourite subject, and was admired by Tonks and the two Weasley boys, her friends.
“Do not judge Severus too harshly,” he continued, “he’s still human, and this situation is new to him too, remember. I would be very surprised if he wasn’t at least a bit scared at the prospect of fatherhood. His own father wasn’t a very good example.”
Tonks didn’t say anything for a while, but glanced down at the small boy in her arms and found that his eyes were shut and his breathing steady. She smiled and settled back into the lumpy sofa.
“You can go back in, Professor,” she whispered, “I’ll stay here and look after little Jonathon.”
Dumbledore smiled, marvelling at the motherly aura radiating from such a young woman, and left them alone to begin the meeting.
Reluctantly, Tonks had handed the sleeping boy over to his father, giving him a stern look she sometimes saw Minerva use on him, after the meeting that night. It was late before they had finished, and Severus did not stay a moment longer than was necessary, taking his leave and apparating as the boy slept heavily in his arms. In this form, asleep, Jonathon looked different, somewhat mysterious. It must have been his dark hair and pale skin that he’d inherited from his father that made him appear so.
At least, as Severus carried his son to the spare bedroom prepared, he thanked the fates for not cursing his son with his father’s nose.
As Jonathon curled in his sleep to fit the shape of the mattress, and Severus pulled the blankets over the boy’s shoulders, Severus’ anger had completely evaporated. After seeing his son so terrified, an overwhelming feeling of disgust at his son’s fear and at himself for scaring him had swept over him. Lupin’s words had certainly stuck with him, but Severus would rather think it was entirely his own doing that he made a resolve that night as he watched Jonathon sleep to ensure that Jonathon felt again the sense of security he once felt around his mother.
As Severus extinguished the candles and crept out of the room, he heard Jonathon stir in his sleep, as if he knew that he was now alone.
Was this a new beginning for Severus, he wondered to himself as he climbed into his own bed. Jonathon was only a child, and yet Eleanor’s untainted beauty shone out of those eyes.
But Jonathon was tainted. Not only was he a Snape, a son of Severus Snape, but he also seemed to lack any magical ability whatsoever. Even if neither Lucius nor the Dark Lord found out he was hiding a squib, he would still have to care for the boy, as if it was some kind of debilitating disease.
No, he decided as restless sleep took him, Jonathon was still a burden to him.
Chapter 4: A Permanent Thing
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A Permanent Thing
Could ever be so blue.’
Extract from ‘The Only Face’ – Bryan Ferry
When Severus awoke the next day, the usual gloom that he normally felt at sunrise was there, and the familiar spicy scent of his sheets hit his nostrils before he opened his eyes. Satisfied that he was indeed home, he rolled over, and the sunlight from the window hit his eyelids. Still, he chose not to open his eyes. During the night, a dream, no, a nightmare, had plagued his sleep.
Memories of a long lost love had been reawakened, and a small boy had been dumped on his doorstep. Only a vague image of the boy remained in his conscious mind, he was shrouded in shadows, dark hair, pale skin, an uncanny resemblance of his father.
But it was just a dream. Just a nightmare. Things were back to normal.
A sigh of relief escaped his dry lips and he slowly opened his eyes. Inspecting his room, he saw that all was as it should be; his black robes hung from the wardrobe, the floor was clear, and all wooden surfaces were clear of clutter. Severus sat up with small groan, the permanent crease that existed between his eyebrows returning after the relaxation of a long night’s sleep.
Again, his eyes scanned the room, but this time, he froze when he looked towards the left. His bedroom door was ajar. He always closed and locked the door before going to bed, always.
Shadows from the hallway crept in, like fingers, stealthily thieving sunlight from the bare stone floor. Cautiously, Severus swung his legs over the side of the bed, fumbling for his wand on the table behind him, and attempting to pierce the darkness with his gaze, searching for the intruder he knew was there. His grey night-shirt exposed the pale skin of his lower legs and feet, but the cold of the floor did not bother him, he was used to extreme cold. He edged towards the door, wand held in front of him, prepared for any attack. Perhaps it was Lucius or the Dark Lord, paying a surprise visit. Certainly, Lucius had the devious sense of humour needed for such a cruel trick. But on the other hand, perhaps it was a real enemy; he had definitely made plenty over the years.
As he approached the door, the rapid beating of his heart pounding in his ears, he thought he heard a scuffling. Was it . . .? No, it couldn’t be.
Lunging for the door handle, he wrenched open the door, almost tripping over the small figure curled up on the floor.
Severus cursed and muttered the incantation to light up the gas lamps along the walls. When he saw whom he had almost tripped over, he almost collapsed. The boy was small, with dark hair, and as he stirred from sleep and lifted his face, Severus saw that his skin was pale.
Severus’ breathing quickened, his eyes wide in horror as he stared at the boy, who stared right back at him. How could the dream be true? And yet it must have been, because he knew that the boy’s name was Jonathon Mordecai, and his mother’s name was Eleanor Darling, the one Severus had had an illicit affair with nearly nine years ago.
Jonathon didn’t move, and Severus’ surprise quickly changed to irritation and anger. The muscles on his face visibly relaxed and became a disappointed and exhausted scowl. With a grunt, he turned and headed back to bed, slamming the door behind him.
Unfortunately for Severus, Petronella Dixon decided to pay them a visit that afternoon, and when she knocked, Severus and Jonathon were in the living room, Severus reading the paper, while Jonathon played with the box of ancient toys his father had brought down for him from the attic. Not only were they old and falling apart, but some of them were downright dangerous, and Severus quickly took those away and locked them in the library with the rest of his Dark possessions.
Severus opened the front door after hearing the rap of sharp knuckles, and stepped back for Petronella to enter. She walked into the living room, already chattering on, despite the fact that Severus’ lips had not moved. Spotting Jonathon, she crouched down on the floor next to him, marvelling at the strange toys he was playing with.
“My, aren’t these unusual,” she breathed, turning a roughly hewn wooden figure of a human over in her hands.
“Here,” Severus said, taking it from her, kneeling on the other side of the child. He turned it over quickly in his hands, long fingers hiding what was happening, but when he opened his hand, it was no longer a human, but the form of a wolf. There were even tiny sharp teeth visible in the beast’s jaw, and Jonathon’s eyes shone with surprise.
“How did you do that?” Petronella spluttered.
“Magic,” Severus muttered, winking at Jonathon, who smiled nervously for the first time since the night before.
Petronella laughed, slapping Severus playfully on the arm and grinning, “Oh you silly thing. You almost had me there!”
Severus smirked, handing the toy back to Jonathon, who studied it eagerly, trying to see how it could possibly have worked. Severus stood up, and Petronella copied him, smiling her vacant smile again. She was even more idiotic than Loony Luna Lovegood, one of his Ravenclaw students.
“Tea?” he asked with false pleasantries, heading for the kitchen, knowing that she would follow.
“Well?” she asked, as soon as they were alone in the kitchen and Severus was busy making tea, “How did it go?”
For a moment, an incredible urge came over him to tell her that he just wasn’t suited to fathering a child, and ask for him to be moved to another home. But again, he thought of Eleanor and swallowed his escape plan in an instant. She may not have wanted him to father Jonathon, but now that she was gone, would she rather he went with Petronella bloody Dixon for goodness knows how long?! No child deserved the company of such a twit, let alone the offspring of a Ravenclaw and a Slytherin. Magic or no, the boy was sharp, and that counted for a lot in Severus’ eyes.
Would he be like Severus when he was older, or more like Eleanor? Suddenly, Severus was actually mildly curious as to the kind of man his son would become.
“It was fine,” he lied, “he went out like a light.”
“And the morning? Young children can be a bit of a nightmare in the morning.”
“He was fine. No problems.”
Why was he doing this? He could so easily be rid of the annoying git forever, but instead he found himself wishing they could be rid of Petronella, and the two of them left in peace. Was he going insane? He must be. And yet . . .
“He was great, actually,” he turned around and attempted a smile, “really great.”
The woman beamed. “I’m so happy, Severus, I really am.”
Was she happy because they were happy, or because she had one less child to look after, he wondered cynically.
“Well there’s no point hanging around,” she said brightly, “I can bring the documents that you need to sign to take custody of Jonathon, and then I can bring all of his possessions over. He doesn’t own much, but his mother left him everything in - ”
Severus had ceased to listen. Take custody? Weren’t they being a bit hasty? He’d only had him for one night! But that night had gone well, or so he’d led Petronella to believe. It was his own stupid fault. Why did he care so much about the boy? He might not even be magic.
“- And we can help arrange a new school for him - ”
She stopped abruptly when he held up his hand. He’d suddenly realised that he’d have to go back to Hogwarts in September. Where on earth would Jonathon go? No, it just couldn’t work.
“I teach in a private school,” he said in a low voice, “in Scotland.”
“Well,” she was still smiling, “we’ll be looking at schools in Scotland then. I've heard they’re very nice up North, I’m sure he’ll fit in.”
“But where would he live?!” he raised an eyebrow at her.
“Why, with you, of course.”
At Hogwarts?! What would Dumbledore say? He’d probably jump at the prospect of another child to keep him company. But they couldn’t keep him hidden. What would his students say?! Their ridiculing jeers and insults echoed inside his skull, and his heart fell. There was no way Jonathon would be accompanying him to Hogwarts, not over his dead body.
“I can go and get the documents now, if you want,” she said, pulling him out of his self-destructive reverie, “and I’ll fill in my report. I’ll be in touch regularly, of course, to make sure everything’s going ok.”
Before Severus could object, she had twirled around and practically bounced out of the kitchen and out of the door.
For five whole minutes, Severus did not move from the spot in the kitchen, even after the teapot had boiled. He had almost completely drowned in his own despair, which would call for him to release it somehow, usually through the cruel construction of Dark spells or potions, when he realised that Jonathon was standing in the doorway, watching him.
“We need to talk to Dumbledore,” he growled.
Jonathon said nothing, as usual, and his father strode past him into the drawing room to write to Dumbledore, completely pre-occupied, desperate for the counsel of his old friend, though, of course, he’d never admit to such vulnerability.
“I’m sorry Severus, I really don’t see what the problem is.”
Severus continued his pacing. He had already signed the documents making him the official carer of Jonathon Mordecai Darling before Dumbledore had replied to his ‘urgent’ message. What did it matter now, it was already too late. The form was signed, the boy’s suitcases were in the hallway and now Dumbledore decided to turn up at his house asking what was wrong.
Also in the hallway, just outside the door to the room where the adults were now talking, Jonathon listened eagerly to their conversation. An occasional tear pricked at his eyes as he heard the way his father spoke about him.
“The school term begins in five weeks,” Severus reminded the old headmaster, “where exactly is he supposed to live?”
“Calm down, Severus,” Dumbledore assured him, “I see no reason why he cannot stay at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore was sitting comfortably on the sofa, sucking on a sherbet lemon and watching Severus pace with a hint of amusement.
“And what about Malfoy?” Severus argued, “When he finds out- ”
“I wasn’t aware Voldermort forbade his Death Eaters from having children.”
Severus grimaced at the mention of the name, and stopped to face Dumbledore.
“Not as long as they are magical,” he said slowly and deliberately.
There was silence as they both contemplated the seriousness of the situation. But then, Dumbledore opened his mouth.
“Are you sure he’s a squib?”
“I've seen no evidence of magical ability,” he replied heavily, dropping into an armchair.
“Perhaps he’s a late developer,” Dumbledore suggested but it was no use. Severus did not see any way out of this one.
“Jonathon,” Dumbledore called, “could you come in here a moment, please?”
After a moment, the door opened and Jonathon edged in from his hiding place, avoiding his father’s wrathful gaze to stand next to the old man. He wasn’t afraid of Professor Dumbledore, his eyes were kind and he often treated Jonathon with sweets!
“Now then young man,” Dumbledore smiled kindly, “do you remember your mother ever using magic when you were little?”
The small boy shook his head.
“Are you sure?”
He nodded, and Severus bit back the biting order for him to break his bloody vow of silence!
“Very well,” Dumbledore sighed, “but there is still hope. We have tests to see if you can use magic, dear boy, but I’m afraid I cannot complete them now, I must go.”
Severus jumped up, “Headmaster.”
But the headmaster ignored his young friend’s outburst, and held open a paper bag to Jonathon, who smiled and dipped his small hand in, popping the yellow sticky sweet into his mouth.
Dumbledore smiled, ruffled the boy’s hair affectionately and rose to his feet, finally acknowledging Severus’ distress, who was even angrier by now.
“I will return with a friend,” he informed him, “Mr Olliviander will be able to see for sure.”
“When?” Severus demanded, following the old man out into the hallway. He wasn’t overly fond of Olliviander, but they had to know, one way or the other.
“Next week sometime.”
“Next week?!” How could he possibly survive a week constantly wondering if his son was damned, if he was damned with a squib for an heir.
Dumbledore spun around before reaching the front door, and Severus halted suddenly, face inches away from his mentor’s.
“Do not lose faith, Severus,” he whispered, “Think not of Jonathon’s abilities, he needs a father, not a teacher.”
Severus blinked, but the scowl did not waver at his words.
“He’s your son, Severus,” the old man reminded him. There was an edge to his voice, and Severus had to break eye contact, and let him win this round.
That’s how it always was between them, a friendship based on the balance of power, no matter how many times Dumbledore tried to reach out to the troubled soul he had come to care about over the years. Even Eleanor had failed to get through the labyrinth-like fortress and solve the riddle that was Severus Snape. Albus still held a hope that, one day, Severus would be happy, and if he found some sort of happiness with a son, then he would do all he could to keep Jonathon by Severus’ side.
Unfortunately Severus’ old prejudices could easily stand in the way of his happiness, no matter how many times Albus told him it made no difference if someone could wield the power of magic, or not. Perhaps, with time, he would see how much Jonathon craved his attention and approval and, most importantly, love. Albus certainly hoped so.
A/N: A short one this time, but the next one will be longer I promise. Sorry it’s been such a while since I updated, school work piling up! Damn them! LOL
Chapter 5: An Unwelcome Visitor
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An Unwelcome Visitor
The next few days were a bore. Every morning, Severus would wake to find Jonathon sleeping on the floor outside his bedroom, despite the fact that he always fell asleep in his own room the previous evening. Sometimes, Severus would stay with him until his breathing became heavy and he knew he was asleep, but sometimes sitting on the chair next to the bed was an unbearable prospect, and he would rise and retreat into his study.
Jonathon never complained, in fact, after three days and nights with his father, he still hadn’t said a word. For a while, his silence had annoyed Severus to the point where he was tempted to beat some sense into the boy, but then it simply became a fact of life. The small child blended into the background of Severus’ mundane lifestyle, and they mostly ignored each other all day.
Petronella Dixon kept her promise and visited every other day, though only staying long enough to drain a cup of tea. More than once, Severus was tempted not to offer her tea, in the hope that she would leave sooner. Jonathon, too, seemed to dislike the social worker, and mostly ignored her feeble attempts to play with him. Perhaps Severus’ snide comments after she would leave were having an effect on him after all.
Albus Dumbledore had not returned or made contact at all with Severus, so Severus would always wonder the few times he made eye contact with his son.
Jonathon may not have been receiving the love and care he deserved from his father, but at least he was being fed properly. The older man made no secret of the fact that he could not cook without magic, and so was able to produce the most magnificent meals for Jonathon to enjoy with the help of his wand. Soon enough, Severus had to admit to himself that he enjoyed watching his son’s large eyes become even bigger whenever Severus twirled his wand and he could see that the boy was simply dying to touch the wooden instrument, even if he dared not ask.
On the seventh day of Jonathon’s stay with his father, a momentous change happened. During breakfast, as they both sat opposite each other, Severus’ face hidden behind his newspaper, a small voice spoke up.
“Could I have a glass of water please?”
For a moment, Severus was too engrossed in an article about Dumbledore being thrown out of the Wizengamot that he took no notice of his son’s first words.
Severus lowered his paper very slowly and stared at the frightened boy before him. His voice was quiet, and high-pitched with a strong American accent to it.
“C-Could I- ” he stumbled over his words and avoided the penetrating stare his father fixed him with.
“A glass of water?” Severus asked, raising one eyebrow sardonically, but resisting the temptation to smirk. Finally the boy was talking.
“Yes please,” he nodded, chancing a glance into the dark depths of the older man’s eyes. His expression was unfathomable, and Jonathon was terrified he had angered his father.
But Severus only rose from his chair, discarding the newspaper and going to the sink to get the boy a drink.
“Since you have decided to talk,” he drawled, turning around and handing him the cool glass, “you may call me Father. That is how we do it in England.”
“Yes, Father,” Jonathon mumbled, hastily taking a large gulp of water and almost spilling it down his front. He didn’t look at his father again, but he could feel him watching him curiously from behind the black curtain of his hair. When he lowered the glass and placed it on the table, still avoiding his father’s eyes, Severus gently patted his black hair and grinned, “Good boy.”
Severus didn’t see the relieved smile that spread across his son’s face since he had already left the kitchen and was heading for the drawing room. That’s when Severus realised that his heart rate had increased and an ache had emerged in his chest as he had watched the child. Wondering what it could possibly be, he lowered himself into a chair and sighed. Perhaps he was coming down with an illness, he thought. A simple potion would easily boost his immune system to fight whatever illness that was taking over his senses. Yes, he would brew a potion. Getting up again, he wondered vaguely if Jonathon would like to see how a potion was made.
That day seemed to speed by, perhaps because Jonathon, far from being the shy and silent boy he once was, was in fact curious about this New World fate had thrown him in. As he watched his father bending over a steaming cauldron however, fear gripped his heart. How many times had he heard and read stories of witches and warlocks, stirring a poisonous potion in a cauldron just like this one. ‘Double double toil and trouble . . .’ those were the words they chanted before performing whatever evil curse on their prey.
But Father wasn’t like that. No, Father had kind friends like that old man Dumbledore, and although his anger was terrifying, it was his father’s sarcastic smirks that really hurt Jonathon. Desperate to please his father, he paid careful attention to everything the older man did, hoping to learn something that would make him seem intelligent enough for the Professor.
Although Severus was glad that Jonathon was now talking, and cheered by the interest he clearly had in potion brewing (perhaps he was magical after all!), it was the boy’s accent that really grated him. Not only was it American, but also slightly husky as if he was constantly short of breath! Severus ferociously tried to ignore how uncomfortable it made him feel to have his son look at him with eyes brimming with admiration, asking, “Will you teach me to brew potions, Father?”
Perhaps time would help him get used to the new arrangement.
However, by the end of the day, Severus realised that time was the one thing he did not have to waste . . .
They were eating dinner in silence in the kitchen when they heard the unmistakable crack of someone apparating. Severus jumped up from his evening meal and strode out into the hallway, thanking the gods that Dumbledore had returned. But the voice that he heard was not that of the old headmaster’s.
“Ah, Severus, how delightful to see you. How have you been since . . . well . . . how are you?”
The hard, ice cold eyes that met his almost made him stumble. But this was Severus Snape, and Lucius Malfoy was the last person he wished to appear weak in front of. He merely nodded curtly, shaking his old friend’s hand and smirking. Lucius’s chiselled features softened as he smiled back and pulled his staunch friend into a manly one-arm hug and laughed softly with relief.
“I do hope I’m not interrupting your meal,” Lucius grinned, glancing behind Severus at the kitchen door that stood ajar.
“Not at all, Lucius,” Severus assured him, secretly hoping the boy’s sudden curiosity would not draw him out into the open. If Lucius discovered Severus had a son . . .
Hoping to distract him, Severus gestured for Lucius to enter the drawing room across the hall.
“I believe I have some of that old cognac left, Lucius,” he added for increased effect. It worked. If there was one weakness to Lucius Malfoy, it was his love for sitting down in an old English manor, preferably the drawing room, with an old friend and a glass of old rum or whisky or anything expensive. Severus had learned this long ago, and the bottle of cognac went untouched unless Lucius was over.
As Lucius lounged lazily in an armchair, he watched the younger man prepare the drinks with a sneer. Severus meanwhile, was doing some very quick thinking. What he needed was a small chat with Jonathon, convince him to stay in his room or the kitchen or something.
“I’ll get us some glasses,” he excused himself hastily and found Jonathon just creeping out of the kitchen into the hallway. Severus scowled at him, earning a terrified look from the boy, before he grabbed his small wrist and practically dragged him upstairs, silencing the creaking floorboards with his wand before they stepped on them. They reached Jonathon’s room and Severus pushed open the door, bending down right next to the boy so that their noses were inches apart.
“I have a visitor downstairs,” he hissed, “and it would be best if he didn’t know that you were here. Stay in your room, for both our sakes.”
Then with a slight push, Jonathon was shoved into his room and the door was closed with a snap. Swooping down the stairs, Severus conjured up a pair of whisky glasses and re-entered the drawing room as if he’d only been across the hall. Lucius was twirling his wand with his long fingers, seemingly lost in thought. He looked up as if coming from a daze when Severus came back.
“So you are alright then, are you Severus?” he asked again, probing for information.
Severus tensed but did not turn from the table where he poured the drinks.
“Of course. Why do you ask?”
“Well, after the Dark Lord’s meeting I mean. He wasn’t exactly gentle with you.”
Severus’ heart beat slowed and he closed his eyes momentarily in relief.
“Understandable,” he replied shortly.
“But not desirable.”
Severus turned and stared at the man. Was he actually concerned about his welfare? Surely he would not dare to defy his master in defence of his old friend.
“No,” he decided it was best to agree, and hand him his glass, then took the seat opposite him.
Lucius looked like he wanted to continue this conversation but then changed his mind and said instead, “He asked me to tell you that he wanted to see before you go back to work. You know what he wants you to do.”
Spy. He was the Dark Lord’s spy and Dumbledore was his prey. Potter too would need to be watched. But there was no need to ask Severus to keep on eye on that boy; ever since he had arrived he had been breaking school rules and Severus was looking for any excuse to have him expelled . . . just like his father, that boy was! Before Severus could dissolve in his bitter hatred for the Potters, Lucius spoke again.
“ –dinner party. You must come; Draco speaks of you often. He really does admire you above most. Apart from the Dark Lord, of course.”
Draco admired him? Draco, his favourite pupil, actually returned the admiration? For the last four years, ever since Draco had arrived at Hogwarts, it was as if Severus was looking into a pensieve at the days the infamous Lucius Malfoy had reigned over the Slytherins of Hogwarts. The resemblance between them was uncanny, and the only difference was that Lucius had killed and did it without a second thought. Draco, however hungry for power, was still just a teenager and was innocent. To an extent, at least!
But Draco admired the Dark Lord above all others. He supposed that’s what happened when you had Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black for parents. Even if his father’s friends accepted Jonathon, would he too eventually hold admiration for the Dark One? Would he become like his father, a pathetic Death Eater, lying through his teeth at every other moment?
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it, Lucius,” he lied, “as much as I’d love to spend an evening with those morons you call friends.”
Lucius laughed elegantly, ignoring his friend’s snide comment about those he dined with. If Lucius was honest, he had to admit that he agreed with Severus. After all, who would want to spend an evening with school governors and Ministry officials? They were such bores compared to his ‘darker’ friends such as Severus, but Lucius had appearances to keep up and if it meant gaining significant influence within the Ministry and Hogwarts, he’d invite them to use their holiday home in France! Inviting Severus was a way of making the evening bearable for both Lucius and Draco, but, characteristically, Severus refused. But just this once, Severus had slipped up.
“But I haven’t even told you the date yet,” Lucius protested, “how could you possibly know you’ll be busy.”
The smirk that crept reluctantly across Severus’ face was false and Lucius knew it, and sneered back!
Jonathon twiddled his thumbs impatiently in his room. Who was his father meeting, and why was he to be hidden?
The first thought that popped into his head was that his father was ashamed of him. But he had come out from his solitary shell, hadn’t he? Hadn’t he started conversations with his father, asked him how he was and what he was doing?
Perhaps it’s because you don’t have a wand, like him, a voice inside hissed.
But it wasn’t his fault! His mother hadn’t given him a wand. Angry, but not sure why, Jonathon hopped off his bed and paced his room. Father often did that when he was angry and it seemed to help him calm down and come to a decision.
So Jonathon mimicked his father, halting suddenly when he caught his reflection in the mirror. It was the only mirror in the entire house and as Jonathon stared into the glass he wondered who it was that was looking back at him. At first he saw a dark man with an angry soul. Life had been hard and society cruel but he kept himself in check, he was composed.
But upon looking closer he saw something in his eyes. A mother’s love softened the sharp edge of his despair. She had been his entire world, his rock and support. Oh how he had loved her. The sweet melody of her lullaby was but a whisper in his memory now, after months of silence within his own skull. Tears rolled freely down his cheeks as he remembered his mum.
But she was gone. She had died, taken by the darkness of the night, the night that haunted this very house. He could feel it, smell the presence of the evil that had polluted the home he once had. Wasn’t that what had taken her away from him? Hadn’t he felt it after she had died, before the neighbours took him into their own home, away from the horrific scene he’d come downstairs to that morning. And the whispers that he overheard from those same neighbours, who were they talking about? Eleanor Darling had been killed . . . dark enemies . . . something about her past. Who was she really, they’d wondered, and where did she really come from?
His father was part of her past. Had she loved him? Why was he so different to her?
The feeling of fear he felt here had intensified in the study, where his father had brewed the potion. Never before had he been allowed in that room, and when he’d seen the dark interiors, he had been forbidden to touch anything. Was his father hiding something? Who was the man he was meeting?
Wiping his face on his sleeve, he took a deep breath and opened the bedroom door.
Lucius was reluctant to give any details of the Dark Lord’s plans and Severus was getting frustrated. He’d been there for nearly an hour, and not a smidgen of a plan that would satisfy the Order. At this point, legilimancy was not an option, Lucius was surely testing his loyalty. The smug grin on his face said it all, yes, he was testing Severus. Oh how he hated the man sometimes!
The study was dark, darker than how he remembered it. The door had opened easily and all Jonathon could see was the flicker of the flames beneath the simmering cauldron somewhere in the corner of the room. He hesitated on the threshold of the forbidden room. His father would kill him if he found him in there, he was sure of it. But his father was busy with his mysterious friend, surely a small peak couldn’t hurt. And besides, Jonathon was determined to know more about not only his father, but the woman his mother had once been, and the ‘dark enemies’ she had. Perhaps the mysterious man downstairs had known her . . .
Courage was not a prominent trait in his personality however; an easy first few years of childhood, mollycoddled by his protective mother hadn’t made him the adventurous lad. And who knew the limits to the magical world that he was now a part of? The potential for booby-traps in this, the darkest room of the house, were too huge, and Jonathon withdrew the tentative footstep he’d been about to take. His heart was beating so fast it hurt and he suddenly found it difficult to breathe. Fear of detection or death was too much, and he backed away slowly just as he heard a loud hissing noise.
It seemed to be coming from the cauldron, and the frightened young boy stared in horror as a vile green liquid oozed slowly over the side of the pot. His mind raced. What should he do? What would his father say?! The man’s furious frown and dangerously cold eyes appeared in his mind and he physically trembled.
But the potion was bubbling over; it had now reached the floor and was spreading! Something had to be done.
In a daze, the small boy made his way through the empty, dark corridors to the stairs.
Severus glanced at the clock absent-mindedly. It was nearing ten in the evening. His potion would be ready soon, and after that he’d be back to his normal self. A self-satisfied smile reached his lips just at the right moment, as Lucius reached the climax of his story. It had been about some relative of his. As if Severus had been listening.
What he did hear, however, was the creak of a floorboard, somewhere outside the room.
“You’re sure nobody’s listening?!” Lucius sneered, listening too.
“Lucius,” Severus actually snarled, baring his teeth, “do you not trust me?”
“Of course not!” he replied indignantly, but he had not forgotten about the noise they had both heard.
“This house is old,” Severus explained, hoping to calm the man and vowing to flay that boy within an inch of his life as soon as the guest left. But it did not work, and Lucius rose casually from his chair and strolled towards the door. Severus copied his movements, mentally strangling the idiot boy who had clearly not stayed in his room as instructed.
The door was ajar, and Lucius reached it first, pulling it open. Standing in the hallway, hand on heart and eyes as round as saucers, was a small boy with black hair and dark eyes. He spun around to face them when the light from the drawing room flooded the hall and almost choked when he saw the fair-haired man before him.
“Who are you?!” Lucius snarled, clearly thinking he was an intruder. Before he could lunge for the boy, Severus cleared his throat. Lucius turned.
“Lucius, calm yourself. He is no intruder.” Severus drawled lazily.
Lucius glanced back at him, finally taking in his appearance. It became clear who the boy was. But the very idea of Severus having a son was preposterous. He wasn’t exactly the paternal, let alone the romantic kind; Lucius was the charmer, not Severus. How in the name of Merlin had he managed to get a woman into bed with him?!
As if reading his mind (he probably had), Severus continued, “His mother and I were – acquaintances – many years ago. She worked at Hogwarts.”
“You didn’t tell me you had a son. Severus, you know how I hate secrets between us.”
His tone was mock disappointment, and Severus allowed his lip to curl as he muttered, “Indeed.”
“Well,” Lucius turned back to Jonathon and studied his features eagerly, “why don’t you introduce us?! How rude! Did he send you to bed early?”
Jonathon’s eyes flickered from the stranger’s to his father’s, seeking reassurance.
“Why are we still standing around here?” Lucius laughed, seemingly to be the only one in a good mood. He was incredibly curious about the boy, he had to admit. Severus turned and walked back into the drawing room, but Jonathon suddenly remembered the reason he was downstairs and piped up, “Father!”
Severus turned, and Lucius grinned slyly; the boy was American. How interesting.
“Upstairs,” Jonathon mumbled, quaking with fear as his father fixed him with a death stare, the crease between his eyebrows deeper than ever. “I didn’t mean to,” he insisted, “honestly, I didn’t touch anything, but then it just – spilt.”
“Lucius,” Severus said silkily, “would you please excuse us for a moment? Help yourself to another drink.”
And with that he grabbed the boy’s wrist and pulled him upstairs. The boy was going to pay for the damage he had done. The questions Lucius would ask, the questions the Dark Lord would ask. He’d be lucky to keep the boy alive until September when he could ship him off to whatever school Petronella Dixon had found. Yes, he would pay for the damage. And they hadn’t even reached the ruined study yet.
Thirteen minutes later, Severus entered the drawing room alone to find Lucius studying the painting above the fireplace. How many times had he seen the picture, and yet he pretended to be interested again, whilst secretly thinking about what he’d just discovered.
“I put him back to bed,” Severus uttered shortly to Lucius’ back, “Idiot boy messed around with my potions without knowing what he was doing!"
Lucius turned, a curious smile on his handsome face.
"Ah," his eyes twinkled, "A chip off the old block, eh?! I remember the days I used to visit this house as a child, Severus. You and your potions kit!"
Severus didn't even answer, just smirked. He too remembered those days of innocence. To him, Lucius, four years his senior, was the ultimate playmate, and every day that he came over, the potions kit lay forgotten!
“So?” Lucius urged, gesturing for Severus to sit again, and sitting himself. “His mother? Who is she? You dark horse, Sev, what delightful young plaything have you been keeping from me?” Next he would want pictures. He wondered if she was beautiful.
Severus smirked as he thought of Eleanor. They had both been playthings to each other, playing games in the dark of the Staff Room and the classrooms. But was it that that had ripped them apart? No, the reason was locked in his room upstairs.
“She’s no longer my plaything,” Severus admitted, “I haven’t seen her in years.”
“And what was his name? The boy?”
“Jonathon. Jonathon Mordecai Darling.”
“Aren’t you going to tell me this delicious little story or must I keep asking questions?” Lucius sighed exasperatedly. If truth be told, Severus would have very much liked for Lucius to stop asking questions altogether. It had already gone too far.
“Like I said,” Severus conceded defeat, “she worked at Hogwarts with me, many years ago. Then, one July, she left. Never saw her again.”
Perhaps he could overpower him and use a Memory Charm.
“Does she have a name?” Lucius leaned forward eager for information.
Or better yet, a killing curse.
Severus savoured the look on the other man’s face as he revealed the name. A slightly confused frown appeared on his handsome face and he shook his head, “Never heard of her. Should I have known her?”
“No,” Severus replied shortly, slipping easily into his old friend’s mind. The use of the past tense, ‘known her’, had caught his attention. Why should he assume that she was no longer around? For a moment, nothing of any importance could he find in his slippery friend's mind. But just as he continued to search, his eyes locked into Lucius’ and heavy silence between them, he felt something. A wall. A mental block. Lucius was hiding something.
Lucius stood suddenly, breaking the spell and glancing at the clock.
“Good Merlin is that the time?!” he exclaimed, “I must be off, Severus, you know how Narcissa gets if I’m away too long. Women!”
He made his way towards the door, taking his cloak from the stand and his cane from its resting-place behind the door. Severus followed, his thoughts darker than ever.
“You must come round,” he said, “for dinner sometime. Bring young Jonathon, I’m sure him and Draco would get along grand. Wait until he hears you have a son.”
Severus ignored him, not really bothered if Draco discovered his secret. The damage was already done.
He followed Lucius out into the hall, where he turned to say goodbye.
Not a sniff of an emotion or a thought could he get from looking into the ice-cold blue eyes of his visitor.
“By the way,” Lucius asked casually, swinging his cloak across his shoulders, “whatever happened to Miss Eleanor?”
Such an aristocrat.
Lucius turned to go, but Severus stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
“You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you Lucius?”
His voice was deathly quiet, as if there might be eavesdroppers around, and his eyes were sharp, piercing into Lucius’ for the truth.
“Severus my old friend,” Lucius lathered on the flattery, turning back around and holding both of the younger man’s shoulders, “do you not trust me?”
Severus did not reply, he didn’t have a chance because Lucius had already whipped around and strode out of the door into the night. But he knew the answer anyway. Not many could detect a lie uttered from the lips of Lucius Malfoy, but Severus, who had known him all his life, was one of those very people.
A/N: A nice long one for you there. Just wanted to point out one small thing: The comment about Jonathon’s ‘grating’ accent does not reflect my own view on American accents. I am aware that most of you readers are American, and I assure you that Severus is just an arrogant English fool who thinks English people are somehow better, more intelligent, than Americans. I repeat, this is not my personal view, so don’t flame!
But do review!! Cheers!