Chapter 10 : Nobody's Son . . .But Mine
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Harry's mouth hung open. He could not believe the words that had just come out of Severus's mouth. "Malfoy . . .Draco Malfoy is coming here? To live with us?"
"That's what I just said. Something wrong with your hearing, Harry?" Severus asked testily.
"No . . .but . . .but it's Malfoy. Why is he coming here when he's got his own bloody manor house to live in? Why the hell does he have to invade ours? You can't be serious!"
Severus fixed his son with a warning stare. "Have you ever known me to joke around? Especially on this particular subject?"
"No, sir." Harry scowled down at his plate of ham and roasted potatoes, having quite lost his appetite after Severus had dropped the bombshell that Draco-bloody DRACO-was going to be his ward, and living in the same house as the former Harry Potter. Harry would have rather lived with a tarantula, at least the spider wouldn't backstab you while you were sleeping. Great! Just bloody wonderful! He seethed, playing with his food, shoving the potatoes and ham about on his plate. Just when I finally start to have a life that's sort of normal, this happens! Somebody up there must really hate me.
"Eat your supper, Harry." Severus ordered abruptly, only then noticing his son wasn't eating with his normal appetite. "We'll discuss this more afterwards."
"I'm not hungry," mumbled his son, moving the potato bits to one side of his plate with his fork.
"Quit sulking and eat." Severus's tone was quiet, but it had iron in it. "Draco coming here is not the end of the world."
"Maybe not for you. You like him," Harry grumbled, half under his breath. "Me, on the other hand, I can't stand the stuck-up little snot."
Severus put down his fork abruptly. "How old are you?"
"Answer my question, young man. How old are you?"
"Fourteen, not four, correct?" Severus demanded, his eyes narrowing in a look Harry knew all too well.
"Then act your age, Mr. Snape. Quit sulking like a four-year-old and eat your supper and stop mumbling insults under your breath. There is a very good reason why Draco is coming here to be my ward, but I shall not tell you anything until you stop behaving like a sulky brat. Understood?"
"Yes, sir." Harry picked up a forkful of ham, put it in his mouth, and chewed slowly. It tasted like sawdust, despite the honey glaze on it. He forced himself to swallow it, then mechanically ate a bite of potato. The food sat in his stomach like a lump of lead, but he continued chewing and swallowing, until he'd eaten most of the food on his plate. "I can't eat any more, Severus," he told his father, pushing his plate away.
Snape peered at his son. "You hardly ate anything today, you ought to be starving. Yet you barely touched half your supper."
"Your news made me lose my appetite," remarked his son impudently. "Now my stomach hurts."
Severus looked slightly alarmed at that, drawing his wand and coming over to run a quick diagnostic on Harry. It came out normal. "You're fine. Finish your supper."
"Can't. I'm full."
Severus looked as if he wanted to shake Harry until his teeth rattled. "Lose the attitude, young man. Because if you continue to act like a four-year-old, I'll punish you like one. So, unless you'd like to spend twenty-five minutes with your nose in a corner, and then sitting at this table until you finish your dinner, I would suggest you act your age."
Harry gazed up at his parent in shock. Surely Severus didn't mean that? But the elder Snape had a stern uncompromising frown on his lean features and the dark eyes were snapping with temper. Harry quickly decided that he wasn't all that full and forced down the rest of his dinner.
As soon as he'd washed down the last bite with a glass of pumpkin juice, Severus gestured for him to do the dishes. Harry obeyed, happy to keep his hands occupied. At least scrubbing the pots and pans allowed him to focus on something other than Draco, the bloody prince of Slytherin. Wonder how many chores he'll have to do? It better not be less than mine. He ‘d put up with that from Dudley for too many years to allow Draco to get away with it too.
Once he'd finished with the dishes and put everything away, he went into the den and found Severus holding a letter in his hand. "Have a seat."
Harry sat at one end of the couch, nervously nibbling on a cuticle.
"Biting your nails."
Harry flushed and quickly removed his finger from his mouth. He rarely bit his nails anymore, only when he was very upset. "Sorry."
Severus handed Harry the letter he was holding. "I would like you to read the letter Draco sent to me. Perhaps then you will gain a greater insight into my decision to accept his request and make him my ward."
Harry took it, though he longed to tell Severus that he wasn't interested in anything the blond had to say. But he found himself reading the letter a moment later. He had never known Draco to be anything than an arrogant self-assured bully, always sneering at those less fortunate than him, like Ron or Neville, or looking down on those who were Muggleborn, like Hermione. But the Draco in this letter sounded afraid and lost, uncertain now that his parents were in prison and he was in the hands of WCSF. He actually begged Severus to come and get him, before he ended up in a foster home.
A part of Harry sniggered, imagining the spoiled Malfoy slaving away doing chores in some foster home, finally learning that he had to work for a living, since his silver spoon was gone. But another part, the compassionate part, whispered that he wouldn't want Draco to end up with a family that hated him, the way Harry had ended up with the Dursleys. He knew all too well what it felt like to be the unwanted burden, treated like a servant.
I never knew Severus was his godfather. Does that make him legally responsible for Malfoy now that his parents are in Azkaban? Harry supposed it did, if Severus had decided to make Draco his ward. He was even more astonished to read that Draco didn't want to follow in his father's footsteps, that he wanted out of the path expected of a Death Eater's son. Harry would have figured him for a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of Voldemort, but apparently he'd been mistaken. Could there be more to the spoiled boy than met the eye?
He read further and his eyebrows shot up. He considers Severus a father figure? Oh, now that's just flipping wonderful. I'll be damned if he thinks he's going to take my father away from me when I've just found him. I'm his son, not sodding Malfoy! Strange, how the relationship between him and Severus had felt awkward up until now, when he feared his position might be challenged by the blond Slytherin. Now Harry felt every inch a Snape. And he wasn't going to let Malfoy worm his way into his father's affections. He continued reading, nearly falling over when he read about Draco staying with Snape over the summer and Severus making him do chores and spanking him over his attitude. Merlin's bloody shorts, he actually spanked Malfoy! Who would've thought? Not that the prat didn't deserve it. Even more surprising was that Draco didn't resent Severus disciplining him that way. Instead he agreed that he had deserved his punishment and was content to obey Severus's dictates.
Harry rubbed his eyes. Maybe he was dreaming and he would wake up now. He took a small bit of skin on his wrist and pinched. Ouch! No, he was awake, all right. Awake and about to be stuck living with Draco for the rest of his life. He finished the letter and set it on the coffee table.
Severus glanced up from his contemplation of the fire dancing in the grate. "Well? What do you think now? Does not Draco have similar motivations as yourself for coming to live here with me? His life under his father is remarkably similar to that of you and your uncle, wouldn't you say?" The Potions Master asked pointedly.
Slowly, Harry nodded. "Yeah. I guess. Lucius sounds like as big an arsehole as Uncle Vernon ever was." Then he flushed as he realized what he'd said and to whom he'd said it to. "Sorry, sir."
"Though I dislike vulgar terms like that, Harry, I will let it go, this once, considering whom you were referring to," Severus conceded. "Now, let me set you straight on a few things. Draco will be my legal ward, which in the wizarding world is very similar to an adoption. I will have total control over his assets and be responsible for him until he turns seventeen. I intend to treat him like a relative, for so he will be, by both blood and a legally binding contract."
"What are you saying? That now he's like my . . .brother?" asked Harry, unable to keep the dismay from his voice.
"If that term bothers you, then think of him as a cousin, for he is one, related by blood on my side to you. As such, I expect you to treat him with consideration and respect, and he will be told to do the same. I'm aware you two dislike each other, that you have developed a schoolboy rivalry, but I want that to end, starting now. I refuse to have my house turned into a battleground every day. You are fourteen, old enough to practice tolerance and restraint, Mr. Snape. And so too is Draco. I expect you to do so, or else you won't like the consequences."
"What's he going to call you?"
"I am his godfather, and he has always referred to me as Uncle Severus, or the more familiar Uncle Sev."
"Oh." Harry was relieved. He'd been half-afraid Draco would start calling his adopted ‘father' something more personal, like ‘Dad'. Even though Harry couldn't yet bring himself to address his father that way, he sure as blazes didn't want Draco doing it.
Severus didn't miss the sudden flash of relief in Harry's green eyes when he told his son what Draco called him. Hmm . . .he's not ready to call me anything paternal yet, but he doesn't want Draco to start either, and he's afraid that I will favor Draco over him, since I have known him longer. At least that was what his instincts were telling him, and Severus had learned long ago to trust his instincts, for they were rarely wrong. Right now his instincts were warning him to give Harry some reassurance, otherwise the boy's unfounded jealousy would find a target in Draco and cause problems.
"Harry, I do not intend to play favorites between you, if that's what you were thinking. I am not your uncle and both of you will be treated equally by me."
"Even though he's Slytherin and I'm Gryffindor?"
"Your House has nothing whatsoever to do with you being my son. Here, there are no Houses, only me as the Head of Prince Manor, and you two, my son and my ward. I wish for us to try and get along, as a family. Therefore, Draco shall be given chores like you and the same privileges as you. He will also face the same consequences if he misbehaves." Severus told him firmly. "Since you've read his letter, you know that I have no problem in doling out appropriate punishments to him should he warrant it. Or to you."
No, Severus certainly had no problems with that! Harry thought ruefully.
After a moment, his father continued. "You are my son, and there is nothing that will ever change that. You need not fear that Draco will take your place, for that will never happen."
"What about when we go back to school? Will you still let him lord it over me, like you used to?"
"No. I have told you before, the way I behaved towards you was mostly a cover, to protect my identity as a spy. That is now no longer necessary, and I can treat all of my students equally. So Draco will not be allowed to lord it over you, Harry, or anyone else. But that is something we can discuss at another time. I'm going to pick up Draco from the orphanage tomorrow, and once he arrives I expect you to behave in a mature manner, Harry Albus Snape." Severus said, using his son's full name for the first time. Or at least the name he should have had, if Severus had been able to name him.
"All right, sir." Harry agreed. Then he did a doubletake. Had Snape just called him . . .? "Albus? My middle name is Albus? Like . . .Professor Dumbledore's?" Harry managed after a moment.
"Yes. He was once my mentor, and I considered it fitting that I should name my son after him." Severus told him quietly.
"Does he know?"
Severus shook his head. "No. Why would he? As far as I knew, my plans to marry Lily and have a child with her fell apart when I was forced to fake my own death and returned to discover her married to James Potter. Any thoughts I had about naming a child of mine were irrelevant then. Nevertheless, it is the name you would have had if I had known from the beginning that you were mine." The professor hesitated, then said, "Have you any objections to using it?"
"No . . .I think it's a good name. Only . . .I'm sort of used to the other one." Harry admitted. Then he added quickly, "But I need to start using my real name, because I don't want to pretend to be someone I'm not."
His answer seemed to please his father, who gave him a crooked grin and asked if he wished to play a game of chess.
Harry agreed and they spent a pleasant hour and a half playing wizard chess until Severus decimated him, as always. Then Harry decided to go to sleep, wondering if tonight was the last time he would feel so relaxed and comfortable in the manor, which he had begun to think of as his home.
* * * * * *
Draco paced uneasily back and forth in the small cramped room he'd been assigned. Dawn had broken a scant half-an-hour ago, and Draco was already itching to be free of this dingy second-rate hotel. The walls were a blank slate gray, the narrow bed contained a lumpy mattress whose springs poked him all night until he'd managed to cast a Cushioning Charm, then he'd been scolded by Matron Mavis afterwards for using unnecessary magic and the hag had threatened to take his wand away if he performed any magic again.
He pretended to be contrite, because for the time being she held authority over him while he remained in this dump, and he knew better than to make an enemy of someone in authority. Still he wished that his godfather would come and pick him up, Stormrider had returned so Draco knew his letter had been delivered successfully. And it was not like Snape to dawdle, especially in an emergency. He had made it pretty explicit that he needed Severus's intervention quickly, and he wondered what the bloody hell was taking the man so long? Where was he hiding, on the other side of the world?
Just then, he heard voices on the other side of the door, one of them he recognized as Matron Mavis's and the other . . .his heart leaped in joy and for one moment he felt like dancing a jig across the room. His godfather had come at last!
A moment later, the door opened, and the familiar black cloaked and robed figure of Hogwarts premiere Potions Master stepped into the room. "Come, Draco. It's time for you to go home."
The normally reserved Slytherin gave a loud yip and then he did something he hadn't done since he was ten. He ran over to his godfather and hugged him, the way a child would hug a parent he has not seen in a very long time.
The Potions Master enfolded the boy in his arms for a moment, and whispered, "There now, dragonet. Did I not promise if you ever needed me I would come for you?"
The blond head nodded and Draco clung to the familiar pillar of strength and safety that was his godfather before he let go and turned to gather the single trunk with his remaining belongings, all he'd been allowed to take from the condemned Malfoy Manor.
"There are forms you must sign, Professor Snape, before I can allow you to take Mr. Malfoy from my custody," said Mavis haughtily.
"Just so, madam. Where are they? I am pressed for time," Severus said evenly.
"On my desk. This way."
She led them down the rickety stairs to the ground floor and along a short hall with faded mustard yellow wallpaper to a small office with a brass nameplate. Pushing open the door, she instructed a rather slender golden-haired witch, "Caroline, find Mr. Malfoy's file and the guardianship papers for me. It seems his godfather and cousin, Mr. Snape, has come to take him home."
"Really, Matron? How fortunate, because another man is also here to inquire after young Malfoy." Caroline beamed.
"What man?" Severus demanded, drawing his wand. If a Death Eater had come to claim Lucius's son . . .
Albus Dumbledore stepped out from the corner of the room where he'd been waiting for Mavis's arrival. "Ah, Severus, how marvelous! I was just coming to check up on Draco and here I find you doing the same thing. I had a feeling you would not hesitate to come to the aid of your godson."
"No, Headmaster," Severus replied, his tone a shade too formal for Albus's liking. "I would never hesitate to come to the aid of an innocent."
The barb struck home, and the older wizard flinched. Then he shook his head sadly. "Severus, there is much we need to discuss. But first, you should see to Draco's welfare."
"I intend to, sir," Snape said cooly, his tone frigid. "Matron, the papers, if you please?"
The matron was quite awed to find the Albus Dumbledore in her humble office, and she kept bowing and scraping to him so much that Severus longed to haul off and slap her back to reality. Dumbledore was not a god, just a man, a man who made grave mistakes in judgement.
He took the quill provided and signed his name to the documents making him Draco's legal guardian and releasing custody of the boy to him.
Once that was done, Albus said, "We need to talk, Severus. Please come with me to headquarters and listen to what I have to tell you."
"Very well," Severus said, a bit ungraciously. "Draco."
Draco came to stand beside his godfather and in a moment they had Apparated away to Dumbledore's office at 12 Grimmauld Place.
Once they were safely inside and all the wards had been reset and silencing charms cast, Dumbledore seated himself behind his desk, steepling his fingers on the polished wooden surface, and said, "Severus, I'm afraid I have some bad news. Harry Potter has gone missing. The night of his uncle's death by Death Eaters, Harry disappeared. I managed to get his relatives to safety, but neither of them knew where Harry was, or if he had been captured. I searched but I could find no trace of him."
"Not even with a locator spell? Or a Seeing Charm?" Severus asked curiously, wanting to see if the fae magic of his ancestors was a match for Dumbledore's.
The old wizard shook his head. "None of the spells I tried worked. It is as if he . . .for the lack of a better term . . .vanished!"
Draco fought to keep from yawning, as he sat in the comfy chair closest to the door. He hadn't got much sleep last night and he was tired. All this fuss about Potter too! Sodding little glory-seeker! Then he sobered, recalling that if Potter was with the Death Eaters, he was most likely dead. Or praying for it.
Severus inhaled slowly, then exhaled. He considered carefully, then decided it was time to reveal a few hoarded secrets to his former mentor. The Old Meddler wasn't the only one who could keep a secret agenda.
"You need not worry about Potter, Headmaster. He is safe, where no one can find him," Severus said smoothly.
"How do you know this?" asked Dumbledore, his blue eyes narrowing slightly. "The night Harry disappeared . . .you were gone, so how can you know where he is, Severus?"
"Because Harry is with me, Headmaster. And has been for several weeks now," answered the Potions Master calmly.
There had been few times when anyone had ever caught Albus Dumbledore off guard, much less shocked him speechless. But Severus Snape had done so. For several long moments, Dumbledore remained utterly silent, staring at his former student and spy as if at a stranger.
Draco too was still behind him, trying to puzzle out why in Merlin's name Severus would have a care for Potter's wellbeing.
"You took him in, Severus? I would never have expected you to shelter James Potter's son, considering your past history." Albus managed at last.
"You are mistaken in your assumption, Headmaster. Potter's offspring or not, I would never leave a child in the hands of such vile people. However, it just so happens that Harry is no relation to James Potter, unless you count a distant kinship as a fifth or sixth cousin."
"Severus, are you well, my boy? I think you've had too much sun. Because you're not making any sense. Of course Harry is James's son."
"Oh really?" Severus leaned over the desk, until they were almost nose to nose. "Why of course, Albus Dumbledore? Because Lily Evans married him? Because he was your Gryffindor Golden Boy, the Seeker who could do no wrong in your eyes, even when he persecuted me mercilessly? Because it pleased you to no end to see James married to Lily? Shall I tell you a little secret, Albus? Your Golden Gryffindor, your hero, sired no children with Lily."
"Severus, you're overwrought . . .the stress has been too much for you . . ." began Dumbledore, reaching out to place a hand on the younger man's forehead.
Snape jerked away, his lip curling. "No, Albus, I'm not feverish or out of my mind. Simply put, Harry is not James's son, he is my son. Nobody's son but mine!"
For the second time that day, the old wizard was struck dumb.
"Merlin's balls, Uncle Sev!" Draco gasped, his mouth hanging open. "You're not serious? Potter is your son?"
Both wizards spun around to face him, they had quite forgotten he was there.
"Draco, wait outside, please." Severus ordered, pointing towards the door.
"But, Uncle Sev . . .I want to hear more about how Potter became your son," Draco protested.
"I would think that would be obvious, Draco," drawled his godfather. "Now, this conversation is not for your ears, young man. Go!"
"But sir . . .!"
Severus gave him a sharp warning glare. "Mr. Malfoy. Either you leave under your own power this instant, or I will pick you up and carry you over my shoulder. You have two seconds to choose."
Draco was on his feet and reaching for the doorknob almost as soon as Severus had finished his sentence. "Okay, okay! I'm going! No need to get all snarky, Godfather."
"Mind your tone, young man. Or would you like to scrub the floor while you wait for me to finish?" threatened his guardian.
"No, sir. I apologize," Draco said hastily. Then he walked out of the room, muttering, "Holy Merlin, this is insane! Snape's son is Harry bloody Potter!"
Once the door had been shut securely behind him, and Severus was sure that even Draco's keen ears could not penetrate the silencing charms he'd woven, he turned back to Dumbledore and continued with his shocking revelation.
"Why are you so surprised, Headmaster? You knew what Lily was to me. We had been engaged, she was to marry me that spring, before you decided to "kill" me so I could not fight alongside you, denying me a chance to get revenge upon those who had performed acts I found abhorrent. You kept me in the shadows and because of that cost me the woman I loved above all. Do you know why Lily married James Potter?"
"I would assume it was for the usual reasons." Albus coughed.
"Wrong. She married him for one reason only. To give her son a father. She never loved him, it was always me she loved. But I was dead and Potter was alive, and she did what she had to. She told her sister Petunia the truth and Petunia has kept it until now. Lily cast a Glamour Seeming over Harry to hide his true identity, for she feared what James might do if he discovered her son was also the son of Severus Snape. I lifted the Glamour over him a few days before and there is no doubt whose son he is." Now Severus's eyes narrowed and he whirled away and paced the length of the office before growling, "My son, Albus Dumbledore, and you would have left him to rot with his abusive uncle. What reason did you have, old man? Explain it to me, if you will? You owe me that much!"
The Headmaster looked torn for a moment. Then, reluctantly, he drew in a breath, let it out, and said, "I know you think I have ill-used you and Harry, my boy, but you must understand, there is a reason to my madness, so to speak."
"Oh? One beyond driving me slowly insane?" quipped Snape.
"Indeed. You played a vital role as my agent, Severus, and in order for you to be effective, you had to give up all ties to the outside world . . . even that of the woman you loved. I know this may sound harsh, but you would have never been able to do what you did if you had been allowed to marry Lily. Because then your priority would have been Lily and your child, not yourself and your secret agenda. I needed the perfect spy, Severus Snape, not a man muddled by love. Voldemort would have sensed that from the first, and killed you, my boy. So, in the nature of self-preservation, I had to remove Lily from the picture."
"How very noble of you, sir!" sneered Severus. "Not only do you pry into my professional life, but my personal one as well. What's next? Veritaserum at dawn? What of my son, old man? What reason can you give me for treating a child like a bloody savior, when he's not even fourteen? How can you justify sending him back to live with the Muggles who hurt him, when I offered to take him in myself?"
"My reason is a simple one, Severus. Harry has shown himself to be the one wizard powerful enough to defeat Tom Riddle. He should have died that night, when Tom cast the Killing Curse, but somehow he did not. He was born to be Voldemort's bane, Severus. As much as you hate to admit it, that boy is the last hope we have to defeat Tom once and for all. But in order for him to defeat Voldemort, he must be prepared, must be tested, for only through adversity does our true courage show through. Just as a sword is tempered by fire, so too must Harry be tempered."
Severus nearly spit, he was so furious. "My son is not a bloody hero, Albus Dumbledore! This is not the time of Achilles, or Charlemagne, or bloody damn Arthur and Merlin! The age of heroes is past, however much you wish to resurrect it. Arthur may have been a fifteen-year-old boy when he pulled the sword from the stone, but back then fifteen was a man, since they only lived till thirty-five or forty. Harry is fourteen, Albus! Fourteen, he should be worrying about getting good marks in school, playing Quidditch, going to a dance with a pretty girl-not being made to endure years of hell under a bastard child abuser just to satisfy some half-baked prophecy and your damn criteria for what makes a hero. I've told you before, wars are fought by adults, NOT children. Harry is a child, damn it, a very damaged child, and I refuse to stand by and allow you to place the responsibility for slaying a madman on his shoulders."
"It's too late for that, Severus. He has already taken the first steps on the pathway."
"Then I'll pull him right off it and be damned. I've sacrificed much in the name of your cause, old man, but I will not sacrifice my son. Choose another champion. Better yet, fight your own battles."
"Severus, I understand you wanting to protect your child. It's a natural reaction. But we need Harry."
"For what? The poster child for Joseph Campbell?" Severus snarled. "He is all I have left of Lily, Albus, and I will not let you use him that way."
"I understand your concern, Severus. I'm sorry it had to be this way."
"But it doesn't. I meant what I said before. Choose another hero, because Harry just quit."
"Severus, the prophecy states -" he began.
"I don't care what the damn prophecy states. I care about seeing my son live to grow up, not being placed in the ground in a coffin. Both my sons, so don't even think of asking Draco. He can't do that if he's fighting for his life. I'm going to ask you once more to leave him alone. Me, you can ask to risk my life, for I know what I'm offering. But not Harry. He's been through enough. Fight your war, if you must. But do it without dragging your namesake into it."
"Severus, I believe you are making a grave mistake."
"It wouldn't be the first time. But it's my mistake to make. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a tired boy to bring to his new home. I wish you luck in rounding up the rest of Voldemort's followers. I will see you next term."
And with that, Severus turned about, black cloak billowing, and went to fetch Draco and take him to Prince Manor, where he belonged.
What did you think of Severus's conversation with Albus? And with Harry?
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