As Harry left his quarters to go to Ghost's room, Severus hummed quietly as he gathered up the breakfast dishes into a pile and left them on the end of the table, where Prissy would remove them. He felt oddly lighthearted and somehow vindicated by Harry's request to be adopted. Never in all of his life would he had have assumed that any child would ask for him to be their parent, he had spent too many years cultivating the terrifying bat of the dungeons persona for any but a few discerning Slytherins to break past the mask and see the man beneath. And even they would not have dared think of him as father material. A rough protector or advisor perhaps—but a father—never! He felt strangely humbled to be thought of in such a fashion—humbled and slightly frightened as well. He had never been what anyone might call parenting material—indeed his guardianship of Harry was the first time he had been responsible for anyone save himself—and Skull, though the raven generally took care of himself. He wasn't what you would call friendly or even welcoming—he was suspicious, wary, and irritable when he was disturbed from sleep or brewing, he could be sharp, sarcastic, and downright nasty if you happened to get on the wrong side of him, and also strict as a poker when it came to following rules. And yet, Harry had chosen him as his parent, to replace the Potters. It boggled Severus' mind.
"You sound happy, Sev," remarked Skull from the back of the easy chair.
"I don't understand, Skull," Severus said wonderingly.
"Don't understand what, Sev?"
"Why me? He could have just left it as a guardianship. Or—or chosen someone else—like Dumbledore. Why me? I'm a bloody pain-in-the-ass with all my rules. I'm not permissive, I'm a perfectionist, and I'm a disciplinarian. Why would any kid want me for his adoptive father?"
"Kids need boundaries, Sev. They need to know where they stand. Harry never had that till you. He told me once that the Dursleys were always on him for everything, even things that weren't his fault. Actually, everything was his fault. But you're not like that, Severus. You've made him understand that he's only in trouble for things that he does, not for things he doesn't. You're fair with him, and though he might not like your discipline, he knows, deep down, that he needs it. You care about him, Sev. You make sure he's safe and comfortable and happy. You treat him like he matters, not because he's supposed to be Voldemort's downfall, but because he's a little kid that needs looking after."
"Well, yes . . . but he could get some of that from Molly Weasley."
"She has seven of her own to look after," Skull reminded. "Much as she'd try, she can only do so much. Harry knows that. Besides, I think he likes being the only one who's ever seen past that shell of yours, Professor. And he likes the way you care for him, strict or not."
"But I'm not like James Potter. I never will be. I don't play Quidditch—I hate the damn game—I'm not popular or thrilled with stupid pranks—"
"Severus Snape! Harry knows all that! He knows you're not here to take James' place, that's ridiculous. What he knows about his father can fit into a thimble. It's not important. His father is dead. You're here. And you love the boy, just Harry, not the Boy Who Lived." Skull cocked his head and looked earnestly at his wizard. "You need to stop doubting yourself, Snape. You're a good guardian and will be a better father. Much better than the ones he's known before you. You've taught the boy something no one else has, something he may not even realize yet."
"Like what? How to brew potions?"
"No, you idiot, how to value himself." Skull snapped. "No one else, not Dumbledore or McGonagall, has ever done that. Only you. And that is why you're the best father for him. And if anyone says differently, I'll peck out their eyes! Then they'll see the truth!"
"Oh, Skullduggery! You don't need to defend me, I can defend myself," Severus chuckled. But he was touched by the raven's staunch belief in him, though he'd never admit it. The raven's words meant a lot to him, who had been bullied and undervalued for much of his child and young adulthood, and even now felt undervalued by his associates at times. Save for a few. One was Ghost. The others were Irma, Lena, and Poppy.
"Of course I do, Sev! I'm your familiar, it's what we do. Unless you're being a complete and utter idiot," Skull answered. He flew onto the wizard's shoulder and began preening Severus's hair. "Now all we have to do is get you and Lena on a date and we'll be set."
Severus almost choked. "Skullduggery, you try any kind of matchmaking and I swear by Merlin's bloody wand I will stuff you and mount you on the wall in my office! Understand!"
"Ceridwen's Cauldron! I haven't seen you this agitated since that student—what was her name again—oh, Tamara Duggan—said she wanted to have your child in sixth period potions." The raven sounded positively gleeful.
"Shut up, Skull! That's hardly the same thing."
"Maybe not, but I think you like her."
"I do like her. As a friend."
"The way you used to like Lily."
"Mind your own business, bird. I mean it."
"Hmm . . . struck a nerve there, did I? Maybe I ought to suggest she take a walk in the moonlight . . . right around the same time you're gathering moon flowers . . ."
"Skullduggery, you're pushing it," growled the Potions Master.
"You ain't seen nothing yet, Sevvy!" sang the raven, then he vanished, going into the astral plane before his wizard could try and hex him for his interfering ways.
Severus covered his face with his hands briefly. Heaven help him if Skull really did try and play matchmaker!
"I can't do this!" Harry groaned in defeat after the twentieth time he had tried to use his magic to block Ghost's attack on the astral plane. He had mastered using his magic and that of the Place Between Worlds to hide from a predator, but Ghost told him sometimes that might not be enough and he needed to learn a few defense mechanisms. Except he couldn't seem to gather enough energy to block the master Traveller's attacks. It was very frustrating, especially because he had defeated a revenant not too long ago.
"Yes, you can," Ghost repeated calmly. "You're trying too hard."
"How can that be?" asked his apprentice sulkily.
"Because you're pouring too much power into your shield at the start, and not building it up gradually, like I showed you."
"But it feels too slow."
"The more you layer your power, the stronger it is," Ghost answered. "Try again."
They were both on the Place Between Worlds, in a safe spot Ghost knew of. They appeared as their normal selves, save for being eerily transparent and glowing slightly.
"Aww, do I have to?" asked Harry grumpily.
Ghost frowned at him. "Now you're whining. Stop that. Impatience will get you nothing except trouble."
"Ha! Says the number one impatient apprentice shaman old Wolf Tooth ever taught!" Shriek said, cackling from above.
Ghost slanted her a mildly annoyed glance. "Will you never forget that?"
"No!" Shriek snickered. "It was too funny! You were so impatient to learn magic you ran out of the wigwam in your underwear! Right in front of Aria, Wolf's daughter who you had a terrible crush on! Thunderbird's wings, I almost had a seizure! And the way you turned that brilliant scarlet . . .!"
"Shriek, enough!" Ghost ordered.
"Did that . . . umm . . . really happen?" asked Harry cautiously.
"Unfortunately, yes," Ghost sighed. "I was twelve and boys that age are very impulsive. I was lucky Wolf didn't tell me to go home after that little display. But he understood."
"What about the girl?"
Ghost smirked. "I almost ended up married to her later."
"You did? How come you're not?" Harry asked curiously, then he said, "Sorry. It's none of my business."
"No, it's all right. I decided that as a shaman, I had too much responsibility helping my people to devote enough time and love to a wife. So it was not to be."
"It could have been," Shriek snorted. "If you weren't so all fired noble and more romantic . . . she would have waited . . ."
"Shriek, that was years ago and it's over now." Ghost rolled his eyes. "Spirits save me from matchmaking ravens. Anyway, Harry, I think the reason you're having so much trouble with this spell is because you're used to getting instant results from your spellwork, by that I mean you usually cast when you're angry or desperate, which results in a strong wave of magic."
"What's wrong with that? Ron always said a wizard's stronger when he's angry."
"That may be so, but he's also uncontrolled. You waste more power in anger, and while you accomplish your objective, you also could burn yourself out doing that." Ghost pointed out. "Casting a spell deliberately, calmly, is much better than waving your wand wildly and just cutting loose, do you see what I mean?"
"Yes. I guess so."
"Being calm is hard, but in order to get a handle on your abilities, you must learn it," Ghost said, a bit sternly. "Now, let's try it again."
Harry sighed, but did as he was told. Finally a shield sprang to life beneath his hands and as Ghost shot bolts of power at it, he gradually increased the strength and circumference until it repelled the bolts back at the shaman.
Just when Harry was sure he would collapse from the strain, Ghost called a halt.
"Very good! That's what I'm talking about! Practice that some more and you can give a Spirit Devourer something to chew on."
Harry let the shield drop. He felt exhausted.
"Let's go back and have some sage tea," Ghost said, and together they returned to their bodies, which were sitting on Ghost's rug in his living room.
Shriek appeared a moment later and the white raven groomed herself while her master gather a teapot and some sage tea.
Harry was tired and got up and sat on the couch. He leaned back against the couch cushions and thought about telling Ghost what had occurred between him and Severus.
As the two sat drinking tea, Harry said, "Umm . . . I asked Uncle Severus if he . . . uh . . . wanted to adopt me and he said yes."
"Ah, that's why you were distracted," Ghost said, smiling. "Good, I'm glad for both of you. Together, you'll give each other just what you need. A family." The shaman sipped his tea, then said quietly, "Among my people, adoption of a child means just as much as a birth does. The adopted one is a full member of the family, with inheritance rights and everything. I've heard it's different among outsiders."
"Yeah, it can be. Some people think blood matters more. But Uncle Sev has no other kids, so . . ." Harry trailed off.
"You seem a bit nervous," the shaman observed cannily. "Do you regret your decision?"
"No, it's not that." Harry shook his head. "It's just . . . well, I never knew my parents. And then I found out that Uncle Sev was friends with my mum, but my dad was like his enemy at school . . ." He explained the feud and bullying to Ghost. "And now I'm sort of wondering if . . . they'd approve of me having him as my . . . dad."
Harry blushed. "It sounds dumb, right? Wishing for dead people I never knew to say it's all right to do what I want?"
"No. It's natural for you to look for approval from your parents, despite the fact that they're no longer here," the shaman looked thoughtful. "Harry, do you believe in life after death?"
"Uh . . . yeah. Like we go to heaven when we die?"
"Yes, but also that our spirits live on in another plane of existence," Ghost said seriously. "As a shaman, I can contact that world. Can make a bridge from it to ours and you can talk to your parents. But I can only do it during a sacred ceremony."
Ghost nodded. "Like an adoption."
Harry's eyes opened wide. "You mean, I could talk to them?"
"Yes, for a short while. You could ask them your questions and get an answer."
Harry brightened. "That would be so wicked!" Then his face fell. "But what if my real dad said no?"
"It would be up to you what you do. You are the one with the power to choose, Harry. He could offer an opinion—it does not mean you need to follow it. Unless you choose to," Ghost told him firmly.
"Would you like me to try?"
"Yes. But what about Uncle Severus?"
"I will explain it to him while you're in class. Now, finish your tea. Or else you'll be late."
"Ghost, when will you perform the ceremony?"
"Tonight, if possible. There is a full moon, a good sign for beginnings." He looked toward his regalia. "Tonight you'll see me use my drum." The drum was what he used to summon spirits.
Harry was so eager for the adoption to take place that he could barely concentrate in class that day. Luckily he did not have potions, but Transfiguration, Charms, and History of Magic. After lunch he had Quidditch practice, for which he was allowed to use his broom, though he was still under the ban of no flying until the end of term. He hadn't yet told any of his friends about the adoption, not for fear of what they would say, but because he had an odd fear if he talked about it, it might not come true. He knew that was ridiculous, nevertheless it was how he felt.
Severus had told him to meet at his quarters, Ghost would be there. Severus had spoken with Wizarding Child Services and the goblins at Gringotts, and all the paperwork was in order. There was actually no need for an official ceremony, just a signing of papers with a witness, but both Harry and Severus felt it would be more meaningful with a ceremony of some sort. Ghost had offered to do the ceremony used among his people, which included a feast and, in this case, the involvement of Harry's spirit parents. Harry just hoped they would understand.
Harry hurried down the stairs to the dungeons, he was wearing his good set of robes and a nice shirt and trousers Severus had purchased for him. He knocked on the door and was admitted.
"Good, you're on time," Severus said. Instead of his teaching robes, he was wearing a set of forest green dress robes and soft brown boots. He looked very elegant and unlike his strict professor self.
"Hello, bran-boy," said Skull, who was sitting alertly on Snape's shoulder. His black feathers were glossy and almost iridescent.
"Hey, Skull." Harry waved at him. "Where are we going to do it?" he asked Severus.
"In the graveyard at Godric's Hollow," replied his guardian. "Ghost needs some kind of physical representation of the person he's going to summon, and that's the best one I know of."
"Really? Neat! Have you ever seen anyone summon a spirit?"
"No. This will be a first for me also." The papers and the self-inking quill were in his pocket. He was not worried so much about the long-dead James Potter as he was about what Dumbledore would say. Not that it mattered. There was nothing the old wizard could do once the deed was done. He knew the other man had misgivings about Severus being Harry's guardian, he would have even further protests about a full adoption. So be it, Snape thought. Dumbledore was not God, nor his lord and master, and he would do what was best for Harry.
Ghost and Shriek soon showed up, Ghost was wearing the full regalia of the Mesquakie, full buckskin shirt with fringes, leggings, breechcoult and headband with feathers. All of his clothes were painstakingly beaded with colored beads of red, green, white, blue, and yellow. There were signs of the sun, ravens, circles, and other symbols. He wore moccasins and carried a bag over his shoulder, and his drum and staff were in his hands. On his face was painted blue crescent moons and red circles.
"Wow! Ghost, you look like—" Harry began.
"—a real Indian now?" his mentor teased, grinning. "Well, you don't have an adoption everyday. I only dress up like this on special occasions."
"We're ready to go," Severus said. "The moon is almost up."
"How do you know that?" asked Harry. "There's no windows down here."
"The wall is magicked to show the weather outside," Severus reminded him. Then he took Harry's arm and they Apparated away to the graveyard in Godric's Hollow.
Soon they reached a grave which had a small bridge of marble, attaching two headstones with the names of James and Lily Potter. Carved into the bridge were the words The last enemy to be destroyed is death. There were two cherry trees on either side of the headstones, and flowers were spread over the two plots. Though it was dark and a little chilly, Harry found he wasn't afraid. He stayed next to Severus, who waited for Ghost to arrive.
The shaman did soon afterwards, and looked around. "This is more pleasant than most graveyards I've been to. Will Normals see what we're about to do?"
"No. This part of the graveyard is hidden from them," answered Severus.
"All right. I need Shriek and Skull to go and sit on each headstone. When I call to the spirits of James and Lily Potter, they may be confused and need your guidance. If that's so, I need you to bring them over here."
The ravens flew over to the headstones, Shriek perched on James' and Skull on Lily's.
Ghost directed Severus and Harry to sit down across from each other. He told Severus to place the adoption papers and the quill on the ground inbetween them. Then Ghost stood up and began to beat the drum, in a rhythm that echoed into the night, in a rapid staccato beat. He began to chant softly in his native tongue, and Harry could feel the magic stirring in the air, and swirling over and around him.
Ghost began to glow, and so did his staff. He etched a doorway in the air and then chanted, "Potions Master Severus Tobias Snape, is it your wish to be a father to one Harry James Potter?"
"Will you swear upon your Name, magic, and honor to be just and loving to the aforementioned child, and treat him as your own flesh and blood, giving him all the love and discipline and physical and emotional needs he requires?"
Ghost turned to Harry. "Harry James Potter, is it your wish to be adopted by Severus Tobias Snape?"
"Will you swear upon your Name, magic, and honor to be a loving son and try to listen to your adoptive father, and treat him as you would your own flesh and blood, giving him the respect, love, and obedience he requires?"
Ghost waved his staff over the two and there came blue sparkles and they drifted over the two and infused them with a feeling of peace and love.
"Normally, the consent of the participants is all that is needed to complete the adoption process. However, Harry would like the opinion of his parents, and to this end I summon, by the grace of the Creator and his heavenly host, James and Lily Potter!"
His words echoed like a shout in the stillness and the doorway ran with rivulets of rainbowed light.
Severus and Harry waited to see figures emerge from it. They waited several long minutes, before Ghost gestured to the two ravens.
Both Skull and Shriek gave loud caws and disappeared.
In two minutes, the doorway shimmered and Lily Potter's spirit emerged, with Skull upon her shoulder.
As she crossed over, her form becoming more solid, Skull flew from her shoulder and perched upon the headstone again.
Harry saw Severus stiffen as he saw Lily, who was wearing a beautiful green dress and matching shoes, emerge from the gateway. He saw the man mouth her name, hope and love visible in his dark eyes.
"Hi, Mum," was all Harry could manage through the lump in his throat.
Lily came to stand on the right side of ghost, smiling her signature smile. "Hello, Harry, Sev." Her voice was soft, yet clear as a bell.
Then the doorway shimmered again and this time James walked through. He was wearing a Quidditch jersey and camel colored trousers, his hair mussed and his glasses slightly askew on his face. His hazel eyes twinkled and he smiled over at Harry. Shriek was on his left shoulder and then she too flew off and onto his headstone.
James looked at Severus and Harry sharply.
Severus stiffened and then looked at his rival with a rather stern expression.
Harry knew how difficult this must be for him and wondered at his control. He smiled back at his father and said, "Hi, Dad."
James moved to stand at Ghost's left side. "Hi, Harry. Merlin, you've grown!" He winked at his son, then looked at Severus. "Hello, Snape."
"Potter," Severus nodded at the other politely.
Ghost said quietly, "I have summoned you here so your son can ask you a question. I ask that you respond forthwith honestly and with compassion. Know that your answer may or may not influence your son's life."
"We understand," said James, his voice firm and yet echoing. "Go on, Harry."
"Umm . . . well, what I wanted to say was . . . I think Severus needs a family, since he has none anymore, and I want to be that family. I want him to adopt me and make me his son. But I know that you, Dad, were enemies with him in school."
"Yes. We didn't get along," James admitted. "Some of that was my fault." He looked uncomfortable. "Fact is, most of it was."
"He told me so. You were wrong. But I want you to know that I still love you and I want to know if you'll be mad if I make Severus my dad?"
James was silent for several minutes. Then he said, "If you had asked me that question after I finished school, or before we went into hiding, my answer would have been yes, that the last man I would have chosen for you was Severus Snape. But that was before I realized the truth. And now I say to you, Harry, he is the best man to protect and care for you. Your mother told me long ago there was more to him than met the eye, and she was right. Harry, I can't take care of you, and if Severus is willing, then let him be your surrogate father."
"I agree, Harry. Sev was my best friend growing up. I trusted him with my life, and more importantly, yours. I know his heart and if he pledges you his protection and his heart, it is yours forevermore. Never doubt it. Whatever you choose, we will support you."
Harry beamed. "Then I choose Severus."
He clasped Severus's hands.
"Then sign the papers, Harry," said Ghost.
Harry went and signed both the adoption paper and the one giving Severus control of his Gringotts vault till he was of age.
Then Severus signed below him.
Ghost picked up the quill and signed in the witness space.
Then the Potters picked up the quill and signed their names in the second space, only their signatures were only visible to Harry, Ghost, and Severus.
The papers flared a greenish blue and vanished, returning to their respective departments at the Ministry.
Harry threw his arms about his new father and hugged him hard, while his parents, Ghost, and the two ravens watched. Severus, nearly overcome, hugged him back.
Small tendrils of energy began to drift out of the doorway and inch over to Lily and James.
"Son, we have to be going," Lily called. "We're only allowed to be here a short time."
"We have to go now," James confirmed. "Be happy, Harry. Take care of my son, Severus."
"I will . . . James," Severus answered.
"Remember, we love you, Harry," Lily said softly, her green eyes shimmering with tears. "And thank you, Sev, for loving him."
"It wasn't hard, Lily. Once I opened my eyes." Severus said. "Thank you for trusting me."
"Always, Sev. And now, farewell to you both," Lily said. With a last wave and a smile, she entered the rainbowed doorway.
James waved as well, then followed.
Ghost's staff waved across the doorway and it vanished. He beat out a tempo on the drum and chanted a final measure in Mesquakie and the magic that had summoned the spirits of the dead ceased. The shaman lowered his staff. "Congratulations, you two! May you know happiness, health, and the home you have always desired."
"Thank you, Ghost. You honor us," Severus said. He ruffled Harry's hair. "Let's go back home, son. You have school tomorrow."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Okay, Dad. But I think I ought to be allowed to skip school." Then he gripped Severus' lean frame hard as the wizard took them back home, his heart singing.
A/N: Hope you all liked the adoption ceremony! I know it was a bit different. Let me know what you thought. Thanks! And thanks for sticking with this story.