Severus stared at the vial in his hand for long moments. It was labeled Worth Saving and contained the dates of that fateful week he had spent in Hagrid's cottage. He didn't really need the Pensieve to recall that week, it would be forever engraved upon his heart, but he had placed the memory in the vial just in case Voldemort ever got past his Occlumency shields and discovered how vulnerable he had been once. It had been one of the lowest points in his life and at the same time one of the best, once Hagrid had taken him under his wing. He had never expected to be discussing it with his teenage son.
He peered at Harry, who looked as if he feared Severus was going to take a swing at him or hex him to pieces. It was the same kind of frightened look Severus could recall giving Tobias. It made him wince inwardly to see it upon Harry now, especially when Severus had never manhandled the boy.
"Harry, come. Let's go and discuss this in my quarters. The office is a mess, at least my quarters have furniture set up." He kept his voice low, trying to bring the boy back from whatever flashback he wandered in.
"Okay, Da," Harry agreed, wondering when the explosion was going to happen. He could not shake the feeling that Severus was furious with him, nor the fact that he might have finally pushed the ultra-controlled Headmaster beyond tolerance with this latest mishap. He followed Severus dutifully into the Headmaster's quarters, which were accessible from the office by a hidden staircase behind the wall.
Once inside the sitting room, which had been redecorated similarly to Snape's lounge area at Spinner's End, and which had hardly any boxes left to unpack, except certain books and rare curio items that Severus insisted upon unpacking himself, Severus relaxed a fraction and gestured at Harry to sit on the couch.
Harry sat obediently, hands clenched together, his head hanging, his gaze trained upon the dusky golden brown carpet.
Severus could not sit down, but stood instead. "Look at me, please," he requested. Then he waited until Harry was looking up at him before he said, "I know what you saw in that vial was not pleasant, but you have no need to fear that I will suddenly turn into my bastard father and start whipping you, fledgling. I promised you I would never do so long ago, remember? And I am not your uncle, to brutalize a child over what appears to be an honest mistake."
There, his words seemed to have relaxed the boy somewhat, enough so Harry did not look like a terrified puppy cowering from an abusive master. "You did say you reached into the box of memories without looking and withdrew my memory instead of your own, correct?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, sir. I didn't bother to look before I emptied the vial into the Pensieve, and when I stuck my head in I was drawn into the memory . . .and by the time I realized whose memory it was I . . ." he trailed off, twisting his hands together guiltily. "You're mad, aren't you? I can tell."
The Headmaster pinched the bridge of his nose and said, "I am not angry, so much as very annoyed. It's true, you did invade my private memories, but since it was not done on purpose, I can forgive that. However, why didn't you simply withdraw from the memory when you realized it wasn't your own?"
"I don't know, Da." Harry said at first. Then he sighed when Severus fixed him with an uncompromising glare and replied, "Okay, scratch that. I got sucked into the memory, it was like I became you, and I had never known anything like that before. At first I was shocked, but then I got used to it and I . . .just wanted to find out what happened. I knew you and Hagrid were really good friends and you considered him a mentor, but you never really told me how that came about. So I was . . .curious. Once I started watching, I just couldn't stop. I'm really sorry, Da. I should have asked you, or been more careful, it was a stupid mistake. You can Obliviate me if you want."
"No! Have you any idea how dangerous that spell is?" Severus cried. "I could erase your memory permanently if I wasn't careful."
"But you did it to Pettigrew."
"I didn't give a damn what happened to him," Severus freely admitted. "But you . . . no, it's too risky. What's done is done."
"Am I in trouble?"
"For a mistake? No. However, next time you use the Pensieve, I expect you to look first at any memory vial before you place it in the bowl, that way you shall avoid seeing memories that I wish to keep private. There are memories in that box that I would never wish you to view . . .dark memories of the time when I was forced to serve the Dark One . . ." Severus grimaced. "The stuff of which nightmares are made . . .and you have enough of your own to deal with, you don't need mine. Understood?"
"Yes, Da. I'm sorry." He felt compelled to apologize again.
"Stop apologizing, fledgling. You're beginning to sound like a parrot that knows only one phrase."
"So—umm . . .all right. If you're not going to kill me, then can I ask you a few questions?"
"About what you saw?"
"Sort of. Actually, I was wondering what happened after the last memory. Did Hagrid keep you with him for the summer? Did Medea get well enough to walk again? Did you ever have to go back and stay with your father?"
Severus held up a hand. "One at a time!"
"I had to ask them all at once, because otherwise I'd forget." Harry explained.
"I think I need to sit down," Severus said, then sat next to Harry on the couch. "And I need a drink."
Suddenly a female house elf popped into view, bowing low to her new master. "Headmaster Sev, sir, I shall provide you whatever you need."
"I know that already, Twixie. It's a pleasure to see you again."
"It is a pleasure to serve you again, Headmaster. Here is a glass of honey mead. Enjoy." She handed him a frosted glass of a deep amber liquid. Then she looked at Harry. "Would Master Sev's son like something to drink as well?"
"Yes, please. And just call me Harry."
Twixie nodded. "Very well, Master Harry. What would you like?"
"Uh . . .just some tea with lots of sugar and cream."
"Coming right up, sir!" she vanished, returning some two minutes later with a huge cup of milky tea. "Here you are, Master Harry. If you wish something else, just let me know."
Then she vanished.
Harry sipped his tea and then smiled. "I remember her from when I was a hawk in your quarters in the dungeons. She came to help when you were unconscious from the Cruciatus curse and I was afraid you were going to die."
"Yes, Twixie is a loyal and kind elf, as well as one of the few who bother to learn proper speech and syntax."
"Why do they mostly speak in third person?"
"It has to do with how they were conditioned when they first were bound to a master. Some masters thought of the elves as an extension of themselves and rarely bothered treating them like individuals. So the elves came to think of themselves that way, and stopped using the pronoun "I". Others, like Twixie, were lucky enough to be bound to a place where they were treated like individuals, and so they retained proper speech patterns." Severus sipped his mead, relishing the sweet taste.
"Now then, as to what happened after that last memory . . .I begged Hagrid to never tell another soul about what had gone on that week. I was ashamed, you see, of almost giving up and dying, and was fearful that if he went to the Headmaster, some student would chance to hear of it, and also I didn't trust Albus back then. I felt he had abandoned me and I knew Tobias wouldn't give a rat's ass if I had tried to kill myself or not. So there was no point in Hagrid telling anyone in charge about what had gone."
"And Hagrid kept that promise," Harry surmised.
"He did. From that day to this. You are only the second person who knows what went on during that week. And I in turn kept his secret."
"Will he be mad that I know it now?"
"I doubt it. He trusts you, Harry. As do I."
"You do? Even after—"
"Fledgling, bloody hell! Stop repeating the same questions over and over, or else I really will get angry with you!" Severus snapped. Then his tone gentled. "If I didn't trust you, son, I wouldn't be sitting here discussing this."
"Oh. Right. Go on. What happened then?" Harry felt a warm glow spread through him at his father's words. He knew how rare it was for Severus to trust someone, especially with a secret like this.
"Well, Hagrid knew how badly I wished to stay here, and he also knew I hated my father and my home, so he arranged it with Dumbledore to make me his unofficial apprentice for the summer, that way I didn't have to speak about what went on at home to the Headmaster. So my secret was kept. Albus did insist, however, that I obtain permission from Tobias."
"He gave it?"
Severus snorted. "I pretended to write to him and ask, then I made up a reply in his handwriting and sent it to Dumbledore, allowing me to remain at the school for an independent study project."
Harry smirked. "Real clever, Da. Tobias never wondered where you were?"
"No. Though I did send him a letter by Muggle post some two weeks after, letting him know I was alive and at the school. He never acknowledged it. He was glad to be rid of me. As I was of him. That summer was one of the best I could remember. I spent most of it wandering the forest with Hagrid, learning about the different magical creatures who dwelled there and how to treat them when they became injured. I also learned what it meant to have a mentor, and an adult who cared for me as a person, and loved me for who I was.
"I brewed some very powerful elixirs that summer, healing potions and cures that Hagrid kept stocked in his cupboard in his hut for treating his pets and foundlings. Medea made a full recovery and Hagrid released her back into the forest again, though she sometimes would come visit him late at night, and I would hear him talking to her and her purring in reply. She was a deadly predator, but she never harmed Hagrid, she was completely faithful to him."
"Is she still around, do you think?"
"It's very possible, a chimera can live centuries, and Medea was very young when I helped Hagrid tend her."
"I wish I could see her," Harry said wistfully.
"Perhaps you shall, if Hagrid knows where she lairs and is willing to take you there," Severus said. "The last time I saw my father alive was on Christmas holiday. Then I had to go home, Dumbledore insisted. He was the same as ever, nasty drunk or sober, and we avoided each other the entire time. I returned to school, and then received a letter at the end of January telling me he had died suddenly of liver failure. I wasn't surprised."
"So you never really . . .made up, did you?"
"No. It would have taken a monumental effort on both our parts and neither of us wanted to try. I might have once, when my mother was still alive, but after she died, he didn't seem to care at all about me. Sometimes, Harry, there is nothing you can do to fix a relationship and you have to let it die. As you did with your uncle."
"Yeah, but Uncle Vernon wasn't half as bad as your father, Da. I never really expected love from him, he wasn't my blood." Harry said resignedly. "But you . . . I mean he was your father and he . . .I don't understand why he treated you like that."
"Neither do I. And now I'll never know. Not that it matters. In a way, he did me a favor, a backhanded favor. His treatment of me enabled me to survive what Voldemort dished out to me later. It is, perhaps, the one thing I have to be grateful for that he taught me."
"It's still horrible." Harry muttered, feeling tears sting his eyes. He hastily blinked them away.
Severus changed the subject. "The rest of the story you know. Finish your tea, fledgling, and we'll have supper with the staff. It's almost six, I believe."
"Then can we go flying afterwards?" Harry asked eagerly. He had been longing to become Freedom and fly since he had arrived here two days before.
"Yes. I need to feel the wind beneath my wings," Severus acquiesced. He ruffled his son's hair.
Harry leaned into his shoulder, grateful that his father had understood and forgiven him. He whispered, "I'll never tell anyone, Da. Not even Meadowsweet. I promise on my Name and my magic."
"I know that. You're a good son, Harry. Now, let me put that memory back where it belongs." He rose and went back into the office, to gather up that long ago memory and save it for posterity.
Harry finished off his tea, musing on the new things he had learned about the complex and secretive man he called his father, who opened his heart to so very few. Harry was just glad he was one of them, and glad that Hagrid had been there that day, to save a lonely boy from himself, and in so doing save Harry and the world for generations to come.
Well, that's all for this installment of the Broken Wings saga, folks! Hope you all enjoyed the trip down memory lane with Severus and Hagrid. I plan on starting the sequel to Two Hawks Hunting sometime in January. I know that seems like a long time away, but I have to finish Moon Fire, Return to Prince Manor, and Irresistible Chemistry before that.
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