Theo stubbornly refused to turn around, sulkily keeping his head buried in his pillow. Normally he didn't behave so childishly, but right then he was quite upset and scared to death that Severus no longer loved him.
Severus could tell Theo was upset, but that didn't mean he would let the boy get away with that kind of thing. If he was going to have a conversation with his young ward, he wasn't going to do so to the back of his head. "Theodore, look at me," he ordered with a hint of sharpness. "You're being disrespectful. You know better."
For an instant, Theo considered ignoring the command. But then he thought better of it. If he behaved like a brat, Severus surely would think Harry was the better kid, more than he already did. So he turned over and sat up, taking the handkerchief Severus offered him. He blew his nose and wiped his eyes then looked at the man he thought of as a father ever since he was four years old and realized he didn't have a father like other kids and wanted one.
Once Theo was sitting up, Severus took a seat on the bed next to him. He had a good idea what was bothering the youngster and couldn't exactly say he was surprised about it. It was common in children Theo's age and younger to be insecure and jealous when family dynamics changed. Severus cleared his throat then said quietly, "Would you like to explain what you meant when you said that I like Harry better than you? Why would you think that?"
"B-because it's true!" Theo stuttered a little.
"Have I ever said that?"
"You . . . you said you loved Harry like a son. I heard you when I was coming to ask if you were done talking yet in your study."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I see. You know, Theodore, eavesdroppers almost never hear entire conversations, only bits and pieces and almost always draw wrong conclusions from them."
"You only heard part of my conversation with Harry, where I reassured him that he was as much my son as you are. Even though neither of you are my blood relative, I still love you both as if you were my children. I play no favorites, Theo, you should know that by now. Do you remember when you were six, and that horrid Tyree pushed you in a mud puddle and told you that you were a worthless child because of your foot?"
Theo nodded. "Yeah, I remember. You stuck up for me though. You went and talked to his ma and told her she ought to teach her son respect and manners and to not be a bully who picks on . . umm . . . disabled children."
"That's right. I was angry enough to take that brat and wallop him into next week for tormenting you. I also told you that it didn't matter to me if you had a crooked foot or not, that you were just as good—if not better—than a child who had two good feet. That what mattered wasn't what you looked like on the outside, but here on the inside." He placed a hand upon Theo's chest. "That still holds true, child, and it will always. And the same goes for your magic."
"But . . . Harry's got more magic than I do. So you can do more things with him and . . . and he's a better son for you . . . I can't even use a wand . . ." Theo trailed off, sniffling again. He looked away from his guardian.
Severus gently pulled Theo's head around, so the boy was looking at him. "Theodore Nott, I'm surprised at you. Since when have I ever told you that having magic means you are more worthy of my love? Have I suddenly become your grandfather, willing to toss my only grandson out on his ear because he's a Squib? Do you truly believe I would be so coldhearted?"
Theo dropped his eyes, ashamed. He hadn't meant to make Severus feel bad, but he had been so certain . . ."No. I just . . . I mean . . . I feel like such a failure . . ."
"You aren't, and you should never feel inferior because you don't have as much magic as the rest of us. You have inherited a powerful shapeshifting gift, one that no wizard alive has, that should make you more than proud. Magic is a talent, like flying, or baking, or writing stories, but not having it doesn't mean that I will look down on you, or love you less for it. You are special just as you are, Theo, and I love you for being you. You shouldn't resent Harry for his magic, you've seen for yourself how much trouble it's brought him. Do you know that a few days ago he told me he wishes he had a shifter talent like you, because his stormcaller ability made him dangerous and he hated it?"
"He did?" Theo squeaked, his eyes wide. "He doesn't like being so powerful?"
"No, because his kind of power is a burden and a great responsibility. Yours is also, but at least you can have fun with it, he said. You see, Theo, there are two sides to everything, and having magic isn't always wonderful. I would venture to guess that if you asked Harry if he would rather be a stormcaller with enormous power or be a Squib, he would rather lose his power than have to worry about killing someone."
"Oh. I . . . I never thought about it like that before."
"No, because you only saw the fact that he had something you didn't. Sometimes it's easy to be jealous, until you take the time to walk in another's footsteps and see things from their perspective. When I offered Harry and Lily my home, I did so because they needed help and it was the right thing to do. I was also hoping that you and Harry could be friends, maybe even more than that, because you needed another boy your age to have fun with. I never brought Harry here to replace you in any way, because that's impossible. Nothing ever can. A man can have two sons, Theo, as different as day and night, and love them both equally, because a father's heart has room in it for more than one or two people."
Hearing that heartfelt declaration from the other man made Theo fling his arms around Severus neck and hug him tight. Tears started leaking from his eyes again and he cried, "I . . . I was so stupid . . . I forgot what tha said . . . I'm sorry!"
Severus' arms came about him and held him. "You have nothing to apologize for, son. Having Harry and Lily here is a big adjustment and I'm sorry if I haven't been spending as much time with you lately as I would like to."
Theo shook his head. "Not tha fault . . . thee got knocked into a coma . . ."
"True . . .how about if we play a game of chess now and later you can show me how well you fly in your dragon form?" Severus suggested.
Theo pulled away and smiled at Severus. "That'd be grand, Severus! And mayhap Harry could fly with me . . . if he wants. He stopped flying since your accident, you know."
"Yes, because he blamed himself. But hopefully he's gotten over it now. Are you sure you wish Harry to fly with you this time? I was under the impression that you wanted to spend some time with me alone."
"Well, I am doing that right now," Theo said. "And I . . . I like having Harry fly with me. I can share, Severus, I'm not a little baby."
The Mind Healer ruffled his hair playfully. "Good. Now, how about that chess game?"
"Let me get the board," Theo said, running to the closet and rummaging inside for the chess set.
When Lucy didn't see Severus come back into the kitchen after Harry had told her Theo seemed to be sick, she grew concerned and came and knocked on the bedroom door. "Theo? Severus? Is everything all right in there?"
"Fine, Ma. We're playing chess," Theo called.
"Chess? Then tha isn't sick?"
"No. I feel fine."
"Oh. But Harry thought . . ."
"He was mistaken, Lucy," Severus answered. "Theo just needed to be alone for awhile."
"Oh. All right, I was just wondering." Shrugging, she went back to the kitchen to continue to baste the Cornish hens and make the gravy for supper.
Meanwhile, Harry was helping Lily pick some vegetables in the garden for a salad and a side dish. Lily noticed that Harry seemed much more relaxed and content now that he had discussed things with Severus and had a lesson in meditation. Mother and son picked lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers companionably until Lily said, "That should be enough for now, Harry. It's good to see you outside enjoying the fresh air again instead of moping around the house."
Harry nodded. "I feel a lot better now that Severus told me he forgave me for knocking him off his broom." He placed one last cucumber in his gathering basket, then dusted his hands off on his jeans.
"And that you've forgiven yourself," Lily said wisely.
"Yeah. Mum, do you think you might . . err . . . marry Severus one day?"
Lily smiled. "Yes, someday we might. I love Severus very much. He makes me very happy and I would enjoy spending the rest of my life with him. He would also make you a very good dad. Would you like him to be your dad, Harry?"
"Yes. He said . . . he said he thinks of me like a son, same as Theo."
"I know. Well, since we're all in agreement . . . the only thing remaining is to set a date."
"How about a December wedding, Mum? Then we could be a whole family for Christmas," Harry suggested.
"Harry, that's a brilliant idea! Lucy and Narcissa can be my matrons of honor, and Lucius can be Sev's best man and you, Draco, and Theo can be ushers and Aradia can be the flower girl. And I can pick out velvet gowns with fur trim for the girls, green I think would go well, and the men can wear black tuxs and green cummerbunds and I think I shall have an ivory gown, since this is my second marriage . . ." Lily stated, her eyes sparkling like a child's with excitement.
She suddenly set down her basket and grabbed Harry's hands. "Dance with me, Harry! I'll teach you how to waltz, you'll need to know how for the wedding!"
Harry was startled. "Uh, Mum . . . I feel kind of dorky . . ."
"Oh, Harry! There's no one to see but us," she giggled, showing him where to put his hands.
Then she whirled him away down the rows of vegetables, laughing.
Though he felt like he had two left feet, Lily's happiness was infectious, and Harry found himself smiling and laughing too as he tried to keep up with his mother. He knew he must look ridiculous, but found he didn't care. It almost reminded him of a fairy tale, where the dashing prince sees the beautiful maid dancing in a patch of rutabagas, falls madly in love, and marries her that same day.
"You're doing wonderful, Harry!" Lily exclaimed as they danced up the row of carrots.
"At least I haven't stepped on your feet," her son snickered as he let Lily whirl him around.
"Or trampled the onions," Lily grinned.
"Lucy'd kill us!" Harry smirked.
They came to a halt near the garden gate, panting and grinning like fools.
"That was fun!" Lily panted.
"Yeah," Harry agreed, but he was glad no one else had seen them.
Until he looked up and saw Lucy, Theo, and Severus standing on the back porch, clapping.
"Aw, Merlin!" he groaned, blushing. He still had hold of Lily's hand. He held out her arm to Severus and said, "Your turn."
Severus smirked and came down to take Lily's hand, his eyes twinkling merrily. "May I have this dance, my lady?"
"Anytime, Sev." Lily replied, then she kissed him gently.
"Okay, when's the wedding?" Theo hooted.
"December," Harry answered.
"About time!" Lucy said, beaming.
Lily blushed. "Sev, will you marry me?"
"Of course. But I thought I was supposed to do the asking."
"Does it matter?"
"Not at all. I love you, Lily."
"And I love you, Sev. Always."
After supper, the boys and Severus left the women discussing wedding arrangements while they went out in the yard to fly. Theo transformed into Tempest and launched himself skyward while Harry got on his broom and after a few moments followed him up.
Severus allowed the two boys to chase each other across the sky and burn off some steam before joining them on his Blackbolt. Some people might have thought it remarkable that Snape could get back on his broom after suffering such a terrible accident, but Severus didn't remember falling off his broom, and so was not traumatized by flying on it.
He raced Tempest to a small tree across the moor and back to the house, challenging the cold drake with his racing broom. He was amazed at how aerodynamic the small drake was, able to spin and loop so gracefully in midair. But the Blackbolt could attain speeds that a living creature couldn't, so Severus won. Even so, he told Theo, "Well done! You fly excellently for only a novice shapeshifter. Now why don't you and Harry have a turn?"
Okay, Severus, Tempest sent, baring his teeth in a dragonish grin. Let's go, Harry!
Harry brought his broom to hover next to the cold drake and said, "You're gonna be eating my dust, Tempest!"
Ha! Keep dreaming, Potter!
At Severus' "Ready, set, go!" the two blasted across the sky, whooping and roaring.
They went back and forth four times before the race ended and Tempest managed to get his snout in front of Harry's broom.
Harry took his defeat gracefully, saying Tempest had flown well. "But next time, I'm going to trounce you."
Tempest snorted in laughter. Promises, promises. He did a belly roll and flipped right side up, his eye level with Harry's head. Hey, Harry. When your mum and Sev tie the knot, will you start calling Severus "dad"?
"I hadn't thought about it, but yeah, I guess so. How come you never called Severus that?"
Umm . . . I dunno. I guess 'cause Ma always called him Severus an' that's what I grew up hearing. When I started to talk, I called him Sev, and well . . .I still do. But I think of him like he was my dad, since I can't remember my own.
"Me too," Harry admitted. "I guess that makes us . . . brothers."
Tempest smirked. Then tha has the weirdest brother ever.
"You mean the coolest brother ever," Harry corrected. "Who wouldn't want a cold drake for a brother?"
Do tha really mean that, Harry? I'm not a cold drake all the time.
"What's that matter?" Harry asked softly. "You got the better end of the bargain, you know."
Tempest shook his head. No, Harry. We're both even, because I like having a brother with powerful magic.
"But my magic can kill."
Only if you lose control. These can kill too and so can my breath, Tempest pointed out, wriggling his claws for emphasis. But only if I want 'em to.
Harry looked astonished. Then, slowly, he nodded. "You know what, Theo, you're right. We're both dangerous . . . if we want to be."
Aye. We're so dangerous we scare ourselves, the cold drake made a sound like boiling oatmeal, which was his version of a laugh. Then Tempest swung his tail and tapped Harry playfully on the back. Come on, slowpoke, see if tha can beat me to the tree!
With that, Tempest took off, leaving Harry to chase him down.
Severus watched them from ten feet away, a half-smile on his face. He was glad he had settled matters with Theo, because he wanted both his sons to get along and to love each other like brothers. Now it looked like he would get his wish.
He could not wait until December, when Lily would become his wife. But in addition to the wedding plans, he would also have to go shopping for gifts, both for the holidays and the wedding. He figured he would enlist Lucius and Narcissa's help for the wedding gift, they would know what was proper. Christmas presents he could manage. He felt his heart quicken as he realized that at last he would have what he always wanted and he didn't quite know what to make of it. It almost seemed like a dream, an impossible dream, but sometimes, once in a very great while, dreams came true.
A/N: Sorry for the wait but I came down with pneumonia. I'm still not 100%, but I only had a pargaraph to write, and have just finished this. Hope you like it.
I have a question. Should Lily invite Remus to the wedding?