The end of the month drew closer and saw Severus packing for his trip to the Surrey potions conference. He had spent the last three weeks helping his grandfather around the estate, overseeing the picking of the crops and the exportation of the wine the Principessa estates produced. Although he’d continued brewing the fact that it was not in a dungeon laboratory meant that the oily residue that normally clung to his hair had disappeared. Three weeks of Lucrezia’s cooking had allowed him to gain some much needed weight and regular sleep had enabled his face to lose it’s pinched look he’d gained through the teaching year whilst the sunny climate of the Tuscan hills had given him a golden tan. A medium sized dragonhide travel bag stood packed with casual clothes and robes as well as his smartest dress robes to give his presentation in. He slung the strap of his bag over his shoulder and picked up the invitation to the conference which doubled as a portkey to London and wandered down to the kitchen where his grandparents were eating lunch.
“Grandma? Grandpa? I’m leaving now. If I leave much later Arabella will go crazy. I’ll be pushed for time already as it is.”
“Alright Sev. You will let us know how things go won’t you? I want to hear all about what people think of your paper. Now then, when are you due back, a fortnight? Stop rolling your eyes at me Severus Aurelius Alexander Snape and get away with you. I’ll expect to hear from you later.”
Severus appeared with a discreet pop in the alley between Privet Drive and Wisteria Walk, a series of anti-apparition wards blocking him from going any further. Straightening the Muggle clothes he wore he walked swiftly to the home of Arabella Figg, where he would be staying for the duration of the conference. He had known Arabella for years having met through her half-brother Grigori, a friend of his cousin Andrei. Even though Arabella was a squib she had a firm grasp of the concepts of brewing and could brew many simple potions particularly the ones that did not need a wand to brew. Raising one hand he knocked sharply at the door and smiled as he saw Arabella shuffle down the hallway to open the door
“Severus! I expected you hours ago. The conference starts in a couple of hours. I thought you were going to miss it.”
“You know what my grandparents are like Arabella. My grandma feels that Headmaster Dumbledore is working me too hard and is not taking adequate care of me. She’s been fussing over me like a mother hen ever since I got back from Hogwarts.”
“Your grandmothers a strong woman Severus. All of the Cavallo women are and they always have been – it’s a trait of the line. Now, come and have a drink before we need to get to the conference.”
Severus followed Arabella into the small sunny kitchen at the back of the house. Pinned onto one wall were a number of brightly coloured paintings that could have only been done by a child. Arabella caught what he was looking at and gave a small forced smile.
“Those are Harry’s paintings. He did them the last time his relatives dumped him with me. The poor child looked completely bewildered when I gave him them.”
Severus himself looked momentarily confused “Harry?”
“Harry Potter. He lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin down the road. Surely you remember what the Potter’s did to him?”
Severus shook his head “You know they put me in Azkaban for a short while following Voldemort’s demise. There is a period of about three months of which my recollection is hazy at best.”
“You and your long words. Well, on Halloween last year James and Lily left the twins Marcus and Harry at home with a babysitter whilst they went out with friends taking the daughter Rose with them. Well, the Potter’s secretkeeper Peter Pettigrew had betrayed them and then Lord Voldemort appeared intent on killing the whole family. The babysitter was killed immediately and he went upstairs to the boys room. No-one knows what happened exactly but he tried to kill them with Avada Kedavra except it backfired and killed him instead. Marcus had no marks on him whatsoever whereas Harry had a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. Everyone assumed Marcus had defeated Voldemort because he was unmarked. Bloody stupid if you ask me. It’s patently obvious that Harry did it but I’m a squib and my opinion counts for nothing and for some reason people aren’t listening to Albus or Minerva. Several days later James and Lily heard Harry speaking parseltongue to a snake in the garden. Rather than have to live with the shame of tainting the Potter line with dark magick they sent Harry to live with the Dursley’s – Lily’s sister. All of the papers were signed and Harry is legally the Dursley’s child, the Potter’s have no rights to him. It’s disgraceful the way they treat him – he never gets new clothes and Petunia Dursley never takes him out with her own son Dudley. He’s tiny – you’d never guess that he’s nearly two years old but he’s such a sweet child. Now, have you finished your tea? Good, the university where the conference is being held is about thirty minutes walk away. If we leave now, we’ll be in plenty of time. Come along then.” Whilst she had been talking she had got herself ready and now walked out of the front door, Severus trailing after her like a bemused puppy.
The first week of the conference passed quickly and Severus’ presentation went off without a hitch. Severus had to admit to himself that he was becoming highly curious about Harry Potter; he’d seen neither hide nor hair of him since he arrived a week ago. He walked down to breakfast only to find someone there besides Arabella – a tiny figure with a mop of black hair and intense green eyes. Arabella looked up as he entered the kitchen
“Good morning Severus. I hope you don’t mind but we’ve got a guest today. I’d like you to meet Harry. Harry, this is Severus. Say hello.”
Vivid green eyes swung round to meet Severus’ coal black ones as he opened his mouth to speak “Hi”
“Hello little one. It’s very nice to meet you.” Severus had fallen in love with the little boy at first glance and wished the child was his. He had always wanted children but he knew that it was unlikely he would ever sire children of his own blood. Instead he was a doting uncle to his cousins children. The black haired imp in front of him reminded him of a raven; ever watchful with keenly intelligent eyes. He would quite happily spend the day with the almost two year old and brushed Arabella off when she tried to apologise for the fact that they now had to factor Harry into their plans. Arabella watched in amazement as the two of them sat playing on the floor of her sitting room. She had never thought she would see the day that Severus Snape would be sat on the floor playing ball with a two year old child that was not his own. The two of them looked so happy and Harry in particular was revelling in the fact that for once all of the attention of the surrounding adults was on him. The day passed quickly and it seemed like minutes later rather than hours that Severus was sat in Arabella’s armchair, Harry in his lap, reading aloud from a popular wizarding children’s book ‘How the Hippogriff found his Wings’, long fingers carding rhythmically through silky hair.
“I wonder where Petunia is. They’re not normally this late.” She was interrupted by the ringing phone and hurried out to the hall to answer it. “That was Petunia. They’re having to stay at Vernon’s sisters for a few extra days and wondered if I could look after Harry until Tuesday night. It works out rather well as Tuesday’s Harry’s second birthday. If he was still with the Dursley’s I doubt they would celebrate his birthday. Now, I wonder where I put that crib. Then I need to find him somewhere to sleep for the next few nights.” She smiled inwardly as Severus spoke, as she had known he would.
“Its fine Arabella, don’t worry about it. He can sleep in my room and I can easily transfigure him a bed. It’s no trouble.”
“Thank you Severus. That would be wonderful. Would you be able to transfigure him some pyjamas as well? I don’t keep any clothes here for him and I think the story you read to him has put him to sleep.”
“I think you’re right. I’ll take him upstairs and put him to bed and then I’ll probably head to bed myself. Goodnight Arabella.”
As the man disappeared out of sight Arabella resisted the urge to cackle with glee at the knowledge that her plan was working. As soon as she knew that Severus was safely upstairs she took a pinch of floo powder from the pot on top of the mantelpiece, threw it into the fire and stuck her head into the green flames, calling out “Minerva McGonagall” as she did so.
The Scotswoman turned around as she heard the fireplace roared to life “Arabella! To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I believe I’ve come up with a solution to our problem with Harry.”
“Really? And what would that be?”
“Severus? What do you mean by Severus?”
“Harry’s aunt has left Harry with us for the day and Severus has spent the whole day playing with Harry. He’s just put him to bed after reading him a story. Harry’s in love with him.”
“Are you suggesting that Severus adopts Harry?”
“That’s exactly what I’m suggesting.”
“Arabella, you’re a genius. I can’t believe I haven’t thought of it. I’ll talk to Albus and speak to you soon.”
As soon as Arabella’s head had disappeared from the flames Minerva rushed out of her office and made her way up to Albus’ office where she burst in through the door
“Minerva? What’s the matter? Is everything ok?”
“Everything’s wonderful Albus. Arabella and myself believe we’ve come up with a solution that will mean Harry no longer has to stay with those ridiculous relatives of his.”
“That’s wonderful my dear. How do you propose we remove him from the Dursley’s?”
“We have him adopted” Minerva stated with a smug smile on her face
“That’s all very well and good but who would adopt him? The Weasley’s have seven children and can’t afford to have another one. I can’t see any of the staunchly Slytherin families taking him in. Augusta Longbottom can’t cope with more than one child and she’s already got Neville. I fear we are too old to take him in otherwise I wouldn’t have hesitated after last Halloween. Who else is there?”
“Severus.” At Albus’ raised eyebrow she carried on talking “It’s perfect Albus. Severus has never hidden the fact that he wants children but he doesn’t think he’ll find someone to have them with. Plus, I’ve just had a floo call from Arabella. Severus is staying with whilst they attend that potions conference and they’ve had Harry with them today. Severus has spent the whole day playing with him and reading him stories. According to Arabella they’ve fallen in love with each other. It’s perfect; Severus would make a wonderful dad, he’ll have use and his grandparents as a support network. He can adopt Harry under Italian law and give him the Paternitas potion then Fudge can’t challenge it.”
“Minerva my dear that’s fantastic. You’re right of course about the support network – I’m sure Severus’ grandparents would like a great-grandson. Plus if we get adoption papers filed with the Italian Ministry of Magick then the British Ministry has to formally recognise them. If we have any problems with the Ministry here then I believe Severus is still quite close friends with Lucius Malfoy – he’s quite high up in the Ministry now and he can help smooth things over. Then of course the Paternitas potion. Here it’s regarded as Dark Magick because of its use of blood however, I believe in Italy it’s borderline and is still used on a fairly regular basis. The potion would enable Harry to take on Severus’ looks, his bloodline and any of the family magicks. I believe Severus has the ability to speak parseltongue from his grandfathers line as well as a talent both for the darks arts and defence against them. From his grandmothers side I believe it’s a talent for potions and mind magick. This should all work out wonderfully”
Minerva sighed in exasperation “This is all very well and good with all the planning but you’ve forgotten one very important thing – you haven’t asked Severus whether or not he actually wants to adopt Harry. I think that’s a major part of the equation.”
To her satisfaction Albus had the good grace to look sheepish “Oh yes of course. Well I suppose it’s a little late to floo call him now; he’s probably asleep, especially if he’s spent the day with Harry and if the boy’s sleeping in his room. I’ll floo him in the morning when I’ve had a chance to fine tune some details.”
Whilst Albus, Minerva and Arabella had been deciding Harry’s future the child in question had fallen asleep, warm and comfortable for the first time since he had lived at his aunt and uncles. Severus had transfigured his ratty hand-me-downs into a pair of soft fleecy red footie pyjamas that had little dragons chasing all over them. Harry had been entranced by his pyjamas that he hardly noticed the old fashioned wooden cradle that he was placed. The only thing that he knew was that he was warm and that someone loved him.
Contrary to what Severus had told Arabella he didn’t go straight to bed. Instead he sat and read the newest potions journal he’d received, every so often looking across to check that Harry was still sleeping. Upon hearing that it was the child’s birthday he was determined to buy a present and resolved to floo call his grandma the next morning for some suggestions. After an hour he heard a quiet whimper and his head shot up to locate the noise. He was momentarily confused until his eyes fell on the crib; Harry was tangled up in his blankets and moving around restlessly, whimpers escaping him every now and then. Severus was at a loss for what to do; he loved his cousins children and loved spending time with them but he could always hand them back when they got fussy or upset and their parents could look after them. Here, it was just him as he had no idea where Arabella was. Steeling himself he took a deep breath and moved over to the crib, scooping Harry into his arms as he did so. Not knowing what else he walked up and down rocking him slightly and smoothing his fingers through Harry’s hair. It seemed to work as Harry settled down, curling into Severus and locking his hands into Severus’ shirt. However, when Severus tried to lay Harry back in the crib he whimpered in protest and clung to Severus’ shirt even more. Severus shook his head slightly and resigned himself to the fact that he would be spending the night with the child attached to his shirt front like a limpet. He changed his clothes into a pair of silky black pyjamas and slowly manoeuvred himself into bed trying not to jostle the child still attached to his front. He fell asleep soon after and that was how Arabella found them the next morning; Severus lying fast asleep on his back, Harry lying curled up on his chest one tiny fist clutching a lock of jet black hair. Seeing the two of them so relaxed and comfortable made her determined to broach the subject of adoption with Severus that day. Intending to leave them to sleep for a while longer she turned to go back downstairs but stood on a creaky floorboard. Severus’ eyes shot open immediately and he turned his head towards the door
“Yes Severus, it’s just me. I came to see if you were awake or not but don’t worry about it. You do seem to have growth on your chest that appeared over night. Go back to sleep and come down later on.”
“No it’s fine. I won’t be able to go back to sleep now I’m awake and I want to talk to my grandparents before they start work properly at the villa for the day. So, just let me wake Harry up and we’ll be downstairs for breakfast.”
As soon as Arabella had headed downstairs Severus started to carefully pry Harry away from his chest. Just as he pried the tiny fingers off his hair and placed Harry on the bed he noticed that the huge green eyes were staring at him curiously
“Good morning little one. Did you have a nice sleep?” Harry smiled shyly and nodded “That’s good. How about we go downstairs and see what Mrs Figg has made for breakfast? Then maybe we can play and read some more stories.”
Harry grinned with glee and held his arms up in a gesture that demanded he be picked up. Severus pulled on a tank top and pair of worn jeans and then obliged him, balancing him on hip as he walked down the stairs. As he entered the kitchen he saw that Arabella had left high chair out from the previous night and he placed Harry in it and tied a bib around his neck.
“Arabella, are you okay to feed Harry whilst I speak to my grandparents?”
“Of course, I have looked after him in the past nine months without your help. The floo powders on the mantel.”
Severus smiled and walked into the sitting room and took a pinch of floo powder which he threw into the flames and shouted “Villa Principessa”. He blinked as he took in the sight of the familiar sunny kitchen with his grandma stood at the aga
Lucrezia turned around and smiled “Severus, I wondered when we’d hear from you. How did the presentation go?”
“Really well. The reception for it was very good and everyone was very complimentary. I actually called you for some advice. What would you buy as a birthday present for a two year old boy? What did you buy me as a child?”
“Sev, is there something you’re not telling me? Who is this child you’re buying presents for?”
“I’ll explain that in a minute. Could you please just give me some ideas. I’ve not got a lot of time as Arabella doesn’t have a huge amount of floo powder.”
“In that case, let me have a think for a few minutes and then I’ll floo you back to save Arabella’s floo powder.”
“Ok, thanks grandma. I’ll speak to you in a few minutes.”
True to her word, less than five minutes later Lucrezia’s head appeared in the flames “Sev? Oh there you are. Right, we got you that stuffed dragon that you carried around for years, some general toys like blocks and balls and some storybooks.”
Anything else Lucrezia was going to say was cut off as Arabella entered the room holding Harry in her arms, who immediately started squirming as soon as he saw Severus.
“Severus, can you feed him please? He’s been restless ever since you left the room, constantly looking for you.”
Severus took the child into his arms and took the food as well “That’s not a problem Arabella. Grandma, I’d like you to meet Harry Potter. Arabella’s been looking after him whilst his family is away. It’s Harry’s second birthday on Tuesday and I want to get him something which is why I called for your advice. Now, I’m going to go and get Harry cleaned up.” He’d been feeding Harry as he’d been talking and the child had breakfast all around his mouth. “I’ll see you at the weekend Grandma. Come on little one, lets go and get you cleaned up.”
With that Severus walked out of the room, Harry once more balanced on his hip leaving the two ladies together.
“Mrs Figg, would you please tell me why my grandson is toting a two year old child around on his hip and why you have a scheming look on your face whenever you see them together.”
Lucrezia’s face took on the same look of glee as Arabella explained the story to her and their plans for Harry to be adopted by Severus. “That’s a wonderful idea, have you spoken to Sev yet? The two of them look so comfortable together. I’ve never seen him like this with any of his cousins children.”
“Well, I spoke to Minerva McGonagall last night so she will have told Albus and I imagine he’ll floo Severus today.”
“That’s wonderful. Tell Severus I’ll floo him later in the week but if I don’t I’ll see him on Saturday by which time hopefully I’ll be preparing the old nursery for a new great grandson. Oh this is wonderful. I’m going to go tell Antonio. Goodbye Mrs Figg” and with that Lucrezia cut the floo collection.
Severus came downstairs having dressed Harry and proceeded to spend the morning playing with Harry whilst Arabella completed various chores around the house. After a light lunch they put Harry down for a nap and Severus announced his intentions to go toy shopping.
“I just want to get him a little something for his birthday. Grandma gave me some suggestions and told me what she gave me as a child.”
“That’s fine but might I suggest that you go now whilst he’s asleep. You saw what he was like this morning and that was whilst you were simply in a different room.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll go and grab my things and then I’ll go. Am I right in thinking that there was a toyshop on the way to the university campus?”
“Yes there is. Just walk the way that we have been and you’ll see it.”
“Thank you Arabella. I shouldn’t be too long.”
Fifteen minutes later saw Severus stepping into The Entertainer, a popular Muggle toy shop with no idea as to what he wanted to buy only that there was an adorable two year old that he wanted to have a special birthday. As soon as he entered the shop he was cornered by an eager young sales assistant babbling questions in a desperate attempt to assist. He was sent scurrying back to the staff room behind the counter with one well-placed and patented death glare, perfected on a years worth of potions students. He was three-quarters of the way around the shop before he spotted two things that he felt sure that Harry would love. The first was a mobile to be hung over the child’s bed depicting the moon in its various phases and stars of all sizes. The second was a soft plush toy in the shape of a black panther which, coincidentally, was also Severus’ animagus form. Deciding to act completely on impulse he picked up the two toys and marched up to the counter. Satisfied with his purchases he made his way back to Privet Drive with the intention of sending an owl order to Madam Malkins for some clothes similar to those he had transfigured for the child. Arabella kept an owl in order to contact her family as well as Albus and Minerva. Walking swiftly down Privet Drive he had just opened the door when he heard cries and whimpers coming from upstairs. Taking the stairs two at a time he burst through the door of the room that he and Harry were sharing only to see Harry locked in the throes of a nightmare with Arabella ineffectually trying to wake him. She looked up in relief as he opened the door.
“Severus! Thank Merlin you’re back. He’s been like this for the last fifteen minutes or so and he’s been calling out ‘Sev’ and ‘Daddy’. I can’t quite work out whether they’re different people or whether they’re interchangeable. Regardless, please just do something, I can’t wake him up.”
Severus wasted no time and moved over to the crib and scooped Harry up into his arms and slowly started pacing up and down the room rocking his arms slightly and murmuring nonsense. Slowly but surely it started to work; the warmth of Severus’ body heat soothed the toddler and the silky voice started to bring him back from the nightmarish dream world he’d been in. Slowly his eyes blinked sleepily and he yawned before he opened them fully
“Daddy?” he whimpered before he eyes locked onto Severus “Sev!”
Severus’ eyes grew suspiciously moist at hearing his name spoken by the toddler for the first time “Hello little one. Did you have a nasty dream my little raven?” The pet name was spoken without conscious thought but seemed so right. He looked down at the head pillowed on his shoulder and saw his eyelids were drifting shut involuntarily. “I think someone still needs some sleep. Why don’t we got and get you some warm milk? Hmm?”
The three of them walked down the stairs and Severus went into the sitting room whilst Arabella walked into the kitchen to heat a cup of milk.
Harry was halfway through his bottle of milk when they heard the distinctive sound of the floo system activating and Severus looked up in time to see Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry step gracefully from the bright green flames.
“Albus! What are you doing here?”
“I’d heard you found a new friend my dear boy and I just had to find out whether or not it was true. Obviously it is. This must be Harry. Hello child.”
Harry blinked owlishly at the twinkling blue eyes earning a quick chuckle from Severus “He’s incredibly shy Albus so he probably won’t talk to you. Now, what was the real reason for you coming here old man?”
“You know me too well child. I have a proposal to put to you and before you start to worry its nothing sinister. I wondered whether you’d be interested in adopting a child?”
“Adopting? You’ve gone completely crazy this time. Adopt whom? Some random child from an orphanage?”
“No actually. I was talking about you adopting Harry. What d you think of that?”
“I think you’re barmy. I mean I’d love to but they’re not going to let me adopt Harry. I’ve got the Dark Mark Albus. I was a Death Eater. As powerful as you are even you couldn’t make this happen.”
“What would you say if I told you we have a plan?”
Severus just stared gobsmacked as Albus outlined the plan that he, Minerva and Arabella had put together detailing adoption papers under Italian law and the use of the Paternitas potion. At the end he remained silent for several long moments before he shook his head and spoke
“Albus that’s brilliant. So brilliant it will have to work especially with the family help I can get. We just need to get the Dursley’s to sign him over which could be tricky.” Something else struck him just then “But Albus, it takes months to get adoption papers. We can’t leave Harry with the Muggles for that long.”
He just stared as Albus produced a sheaf of papers from his robes “Courtesy of your grandmother and someone called Petra?”
Severus just laughed and spoke to Harry “How would you like a new daddy Harry?”