Chapter 9 : Potter Picnic
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When Harry and Severus arrived back at the cottage, they found Ginny and Alby still in bed, happily dreaming. Severus looked over at the two and said, a little wistfully, "I remember doing that with my mum once in awhile, on the rare morning when my father was drunk down at the pub, and she didn't have to get up and make him breakfast. Then she could lie in for a bit and sometimes I would creep in bed with her." He was hugging Mimic tightly, his dark eyes far away.
"You know, Severus . . . you could do that with Ginny . . . or me . . . if you felt like it. We wouldn't mind, Alby does it all the time." Harry told him softly.
"But he's your son. I'm not." Severus shook his head. "Besides, I'm too old for snuggling."
"No, you're not. You're five, remember?"
Severus grimaced. "Physically, yes. But here—" he tapped his head. "—I'm thirty-eight, Harry."
Harry sighed. It was a difficult thing, this dichotomy between Severus' physical age and mental one. He often had trouble remembering that the boy wasn't just another little kid he'd like to hug, because at this age Severus was so . . . cute and innocent, in appearance any way. "Would it be easier for you if . . . you put some of your memories into a Pensieve? I mean, like the . . . nightmares of Voldemort and maybe your father too?"
"Yes, I will do that. There are many memories that I would rather not have to . . . recall the second time around." Severus agreed. Then he said, "However, I do not want to forget everything about my former life, because certain things shaped my behavior and I don't . . . I can't allow myself to . . . become vulnerable. Especially around Black. There's no telling what he might do if I let my guard down."
Harry knelt down so he was on the same level as the former professor. "Severus, you know that I'll protect you against anything—or anyone—that would try to hurt you, don't you? So it's all right if you . . . relax a little. When I took you into my home, I made myself a promise to treat you like I would my own son, and nobody, but nobody, hurts my kid and gets away with it."
"Not even Black?" asked Severus, still suspicious.
"Not even Sirius. And Remus will back me up on this."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I know what rules he sets for my godchildren, he told me them once I started watching them a few times a week when they were toddlers." Harry answered calmly. "They're basically the same as the ones I have for Alby and you, but with special consideration regarding bullying and malicious pranking. You see, Remus never wants his kids to be like the Marauders, he doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of the past anymore than I do."
Severus cocked his head, looking thoughtful. "If what you say is true . . . though I have trouble believing Lupin has changed so much . . . still . . . I'd wager Black is going to be shocked at the new rules Lupin has set down."
"No doubt. But he'll soon learn, if he hasn't already from that spanking Remus gave him yesterday, that Remus means what he says and does what he says also."
"Humph! I wonder where he learned that from?"
"Me. And I learned it from Molly, who told me that kids need boundaries and rules, and you, Severus. Because you always did what you said you would, no matter how much it cost you." Harry admitted, smirking.
Both of Severus' eyebrows rose into his hair. "So you finally figured it out, Po—Harry. And it only took you . . . eight years."
"So I'm a little slow. Sue me," Harry snorted. He rose to his feet. "Look, why don't you head on into the kitchen? I'm going to get dressed and wake up Ginny and Alby and then we can have breakfast."
"All right." Severus agreed. He turned to leave, adding over his shoulder with a small smirk, "Better late than never."
"Brat!" Harry called, and aimed a playful swat at Severus' retreating backside, chuckling.
Severus shut the door behind him and headed to the kitchen. He planned on setting the table for breakfast, since that was something he could still do, even in his child's body, and he wasn't accustomed to being waited on hand and foot like James Potter had been. There had been no house elves ever at Spinner's End and even at school, Severus preferred to rely on them as little as possible, for he treasured his independence.
As he took out the silverware from the drawer, he pondered on what Harry had offered, and what Lily had told him, and wondered if he could ever bring himself to let his guard down enough to allow Harry to protect him like the child he now was. It was a new thing, relying on an adult to protect him, since in his former life, no adult had ever really done so. Even Eileen had failed to protect him from Tobias, and he had learned early on to rely on no one save himself. But perhaps . . . this time . . . things would be different. Perhaps . . .
After breakfast, while Teddy and Jamie washed and dried the dishes, Remus took Sirius into his study, where he could be assured a measure of privacy. This was where he usually discussed important things with his children, and sometimes doled out punishments as well. He indicated Sirius should sit down in one of the small child-sized chairs to the right of his rolltop while he scooted his desk chair over so he was sitting side-by-side with his new "son".
He cleared his throat and said, "All right, Siri, since I never really went over the rules of the house with you before, I'm going to do it now. Dora and I don't have many, but what we do have we insist you try and obey as best you can. I have a chart on the wall in the kitchen with a list of small chores that I expect to be done each day. We rotate the chores so you're not stuck doing the same thing every day, but other than that, everyone who lives here helps around the house and the yard."
"You mean, the way Kreacher used to do at Grimmauld Place?" Sirius clarified.
"Yes, but unlike a house elf, we don't expect you to wait on us hand and foot. Chores are dictated by age and difficulty, so Jamie won't have as many chores as Teddy or you, and so on. Here are some things you'll be expected to do—keep your room neat, that includes making the beds and picking up your clothes and toys, you don't live in a barn. Helping to set the table at mealtimes, washing and drying the dishes and putting them away. Teddy knows how to sweep and mop the kitchen floor and you can help with that too. Sometimes Dora will ask for you to help her fold the laundry, or weed the garden. Since Teddy is eight, he's also started helping clean the bathrooms once a week. Sometimes I might ask you to help me prepare dinner. Nothing major, and like I said, the chores rotate every day. The one thing we do insist on is that you remember what you're supposed to do that day and do it without whining. The chart is there to help remind you."
"What if I forget?" asked Sirius. He wasn't too keen on doing housework, having never had to do it before.
"If you forget once or twice, that's okay. Dora or I will remind you. But if it becomes a habit, then you'll get some time in the corner and not be allowed to play outside for the afternoon until you complete what you were supposed to do. Dora and I believe that chores teach a kid responsibility and how to take care of yourself when you grow up and live on your own." Remus told Sirius earnestly. "Understand?"
"Yes, Moony," Sirius sighed, wishing this discussion were over. He was starting to get bored because Remus was beginning to sound like every other authority figure he'd ever known, hung up on rules and regulations.
"I don't tolerate foul language, and so far have managed to not let Teddy and Jamie pick up on any bad words. If I catch you swearing, no matter the reason, I'll wash out your mouth with soap for a minute."
"Ah, now wait a minute!" Sirius squeaked. "I'm old enough to say a cuss word or two, Moony!"
"No, you're not. You're seven, and no seven-year-old living under my roof is going to have a mouth like a street bum. Even if you were an adult, you ought to know how to control your mouth. Don't test me," warned the werewolf sternly.
"Okay, I'll watch what I say," Sirius muttered. "What else?"
"Then there are what we call the Big Four, the most important rules in our house. First rule is a familiar one: Respect. We expect you to be respectful to us, to Teddy and Jamie, all adults, other children, and certainly yourself. Like I always say, if you can't say anything nice—don't say anything at all. Second rule is Obedience: when we tell you to do something, we expect you to do it; same goes for if we tell you not to do something. Third rule is Honesty: don't ever lie to us—about anything. Last and final rule is No Bullying and Malicious Pranking—of anyone, Sirius. And by that I mean, deliberately being cruel to someone simply because you don't like them, or playing a prank on someone that you know will humiliate or hurt them. Breaking any of those four rules will result in an immediate spanking, no ifs, ands, or buts."
Here Remus fixed the little boy with his sternest alpha wolf stare.
Sirius dropped his eyes after about three seconds.
"Am I clear, Sirius Orion?"
"Yes, sir. I hear you." Sirius mumbled. "This is all about Snape, right?"
"Yes and no. It's also about behaving at school. I don't know if you remember everything we did when we were in school, Sirius, but a lot of what we did was just plain wrong. Sneaking out of bed, wandering the grounds in the middle of the night, even releasing me from the shack . . .looking back on it I can't believe we weren't expelled for some of the things we pulled, especially on Severus."
"Oh, come on, Moony! We were kids, it's expected for us to break the rules! It's not like Sni—Snape got hurt anyway. James pulled him away from the door in time." Sirius waved off the other's concern.
"That's as may be, Padfoot, but we also should have suffered the consequences of our foolishness, and we almost never did. Especially over that night. Sirius, do you realize what could have happened if James hadn't pulled Severus away in time? What if I had scratched, or God forbid, bitten him?"
"He would have become a werewolf?" Sirius joked.
"Sirius, this isn't funny! If I had bitten him, I would have been executed!" snapped Remus.
"Dumbledore would never have let—"
"Dumbledore wouldn't have had a choice," Remus pointed out chillingly. "He might even have been sent to Azkaban for willfully endangering the lives of the rest of the students by having me attend school and not taking proper precautions. Your so-called prank might have caused a tragedy, not only for me, but Severus as well. He could have died that night, Sirius! And so could I."
"But he didn't. He lived to become a scummy Death Eater." Sirius reminded him petulantly.
"That's besides the point."
"He deserved it," Sirius pouted, sulking.
"No, he didn't. No one deserves that."
"You remember, Moony, he was always sneaking around, trying to get us in trouble. All I wanted was to teach the little sidewinder a lesson."
"Padfoot, did it ever occur to you that we didn't need Severus following us around to get us into trouble? Believe me, we did fine on our own! If we hadn't been breaking rules, there would have been nothing for Severus to report, now would there?" asked Remus insistently.
"I . . . I guess not." Sirius admitted reluctantly.
"What I'm trying to say is that a lot of those pranks we pulled, not just on Severus, but on other kids, weren't funny, they were humiliating. Making Jana Larson's dress fly up in front of the whole class during her Charms demonstration was cruel and calling her Jana, Jana, Fat Banana was mean."
"You never seemed to mind before, Moony."
"That's because I was afraid to say anything, I didn't want to get on James' or your bad side and risk losing your friendship," admitted the former Marauder, looking his old friend right in the eye. "But even then I knew we went too far a good deal of the time. You know as well as I do that half our detentions were a joke, not real punishments because the Headmaster didn't think we meant any real harm. But he was wrong. I can see that now, as an adult and a teacher. You say we had fun, and maybe we did, but it was the wrong kind of fun—at someone else's expense. Someone ought to have tanned our arses good for what we did, instead of looking the other way."
Sirius shook his head. "But Moony, we turned out okay."
"Did we? Sirius, I'm not so sure about that. James changed because of Lily, if not for her, I'm afraid he'd have ended up a bullying ass. You spent thirteen years in Azkaban for being impulsive and not thinking things through, Peter became a traitor and a servant of darkness, and I became complacent, content to watch while others around me chose sides. It wasn't until I met Dora that I realized what I had become, a spineless wimp who didn't know how to stand up for what was right. She made me see that doing nothing was worse than anything, that by watching I committed a greater crime than any Death Eater. And all of that, Sirius, goes back to our misspent youth. Dumbledore didn't do us any favors, buddy."
"Dumbledore was a lot better than my bloody parents," Sirius growled.
"Was he? Sometimes I wonder," Remus mused. "Can you understand where I'm coming from, Sirius? I don't want my sons running wild—at school or at home—the way we did. We could have died so many times at school and it was sheer dumb luck we didn't. I don't want that for my kids. I want my kids to grow up safe and protected, and understanding that rules were made to keep you safe, not to be broken whenever you felt like it. And just because you don't like a person doesn't give you the right to hang him upside down and strip him in front of half the school. Maybe someday, when you're older, you'll realize that."
Sirius bit his lip. He still didn't understand what the big deal was about pranking Snape all those years ago. Snape had turned out—just as Sirius had known he would—to be a slimy traitor, so what did it matter if he'd got his nose rubbed in the dirt a few times? But he didn't want to be discussing this topic for the rest of the morning and so all he said was, "Okay, Moony. I get it. Now can I go and play with Teddy and Jamie?"
"All right, scamp. But mind you behave, because if you don't . . . you know what will happen." Remus stood up, ruffling Sirius' hair, then opened the door of the study, releasing the youngster.
Sirius tore off down the hall, calling, "Hey, Teddy! Jamie! Wanna play Exploding Snap?"
Severus and Alby helped Ginny with breakfast by buttering pieces of toast while Harry fried the bacon and Ginny made fluffy cheese and chive omelets. Harry had told Ginny what had happened this morning with Severus. "It's a good thing you have the wards up, so you knew when he had gone missing," she had said. "I know this is going to be difficult for him, adjusting to being a child again when he has an adult's memories, and I feel sorry for him, but I hope you set him straight about leaving the house without permission, Harry. I don't want Alby thinking he can do the same thing."
"I did. I don't think you have to worry about that, Ginny. Alby knows better than to disobey us like that, even if Severus didn't. But we talked and he seems calmer now and more ready to accept us as his new family. Severus understands now about leaving the house alone. I doubt if he'll try it again. He just needs time, Gin. Time to get to know us and trust us."
"Oh, Harry. I need time too. Time to adjust to the fact that a man who was once my teacher is now living in my home as my surrogate son. It just seems sort of . . . strange, you know?"
"Yeah. You don't mind that we took him in, do you?" he asked in consternation.
"No, of course not! It's just it'll take some getting used to." Ginny reassured him. "Maybe we can help him feel more at home by going on a little family picnic?"
"That's a great idea! We can go to Victory Park," Harry said excitedly. Victory Park was about a mile and a half away from the cottage, a large grassy verge with a playground, Alby loved going there and playing on the swings, slide, and teeter-totter. It was a wizarding park, dedicated after the Second Wizard War, and also had child-sized brooms and sparkling wands to rent. The brooms were charmed so they could only fly about five feet in the air and the wands only emitted colorful sparks. Still, the small children like Alby loved playing pretend with them.
"After breakfast, we'll start planning the lunch menu and I'll find our basket and the blanket," Ginny said happily.
"And while you're doing that, I'm going to visit Remus. I need to discuss the Pensieve idea with him, see if Sirius might want to do it also, and Sirius and I need to have a little talk about what happened at the Burrow."
"I'll have Alby and Severus help me with the picnic lunch. I'll pack extra just in case some of our friends show up." Ginny said. There was always a chance that they'd run into one of their friends with their family over at Victory Park especially the day after Victory Day.
"Sounds like a plan," Harry said, bending slightly to kiss her on the cheek.
Breakfast was filling and delicious, since both Ginny and Harry were excellent cooks. Severus, who usually did not have much of an appetite in the morning, found himself eating everything on his plate.
"Good, isn't it?" Alby asked, grinning. He had a bit of bacon on his chin.
"Yes." Severus nodded. "Wipe your mouth, you've got bacon on it."
Alby quickly scrubbed his face with a napkin, then said, "My mummy makes the bestest omelets."
"I agree," said Harry, finishing off his first one and then getting a second one from the plate.
"How would you boys like to go on a picnic this afternoon?' Ginny asked as she ate her own breakfast.
"Where, Mummy? Where? At Vic'try Park?" Alby asked, practically bouncing up and down.
"You guessed it, sweetheart," Ginny praised.
"Yay!" Alby cheered. "Sev'rus, I love goin' there, 'cause you can fly real brooms like my dad an' get wands that shoot sparks and . . . sometimes I can play with my cousins, if they're there, but it's okay of they're not since you're here now, Sev'rus." The little boy gazed at his new "brother" from eyes filled with hero worship. "An' you'll play with me, right?"
Severus soon discovered that he could refuse Albus Severus Potter nothing when he gazed at him from those eyes, so like his grandmother's and his father's. "I . . . all right. For a little while," Severus agreed, for he remembered what it was like to go to the park and have no one to play with until he'd met Lily.
Alby clapped his hands. "Mummy, when can we leave?"
Ginny laughed at her child's enthusiasm. "Well, first we have to pack some lunch and find the big picnic basket and the blanket. Would you and Severus like to help me?"
"Yes! I'm a big helper!" Alby cried eagerly.
"Very well. Umm . . . do you remember where you last put the basket?" Severus queried.
"I think . . . I put it in the third hall closet, next to my room," Ginny replied, beginning to clear away the breakfast dishes.
"Well, I'm off," Harry said abruptly, pulling on his jacket. "I'll be back in a bit. Hopefully you'll be ready to go by then." He decided to walk to the Lupins, since Remus' house was just up the street.
Harry found Remus reading in the den and the three boys playing a rousing game of Exploding Snap at the kitchen table. After greeting his godsons and Sirius, Harry drew Remus off to one side and asked the other wizard if Sirius had shown any signs of having nightmares or other disturbing memories.
"No, not that I know of. He seems to relish being a kid again, and it's almost as if he's blocked out any memories of Azkaban. So far, at least." Remus replied.
Harry glanced over at Sirius and the two Lupin brothers and said softly, "I wish it were that easy for Severus to live in the moment like Sirius. He's having more difficulty adjusting." Harry went on to tell about his idea to place certain memories of Severus' inside a Pensieve. "I just thought maybe it might help Sirius too, so I figured I'd run it by you. Ginny and I are going to take Alby and Severus out today for a picnic, I figured maybe it'd do Severus good to relax a bit with just us."
"That sounds like a good idea. I'll keep my three hellions home today, give us time to bond too," Remus said. "I had a little talk this morning with Padfoot about the rules, though I don't know if I got through to him as well as I'd of liked."
"About the quarrel at the Burrow?" clarified Harry.
"That and some of what happened in the past while we were in school," answered Remus. "Only thing is, Siri's attitude is so . . .cavalier. Not to mention stubborn. He still thinks he was right to do what he did all those years ago." The werewolf shook his head.
Harry sighed. "I think I might have a talk with him as well. It's easy to justify yourself when the person you bullied turned out to follow the wrong people. But that was then and this is now. And I want to make certain history doesn't repeat itself. So, if you don't mind . . .?
Remus gestured towards the kitchen. "Be my guest, Harry. Maybe you can get through to him."
"Sirius, buddy, can I talk to you for a minute?" Harry called over to the boys.
Sirius reluctantly left the card game and came over to Harry. "What's up, Harry?" He grinned at his godson, looking quite at home in the Lupin residence.
Harry looked rather pensive. "We need to have a little talk. Come over here," he led the small boy to the other end of the den, close to the fireplace, and sat down in the chair beside the bookshelf.
"What did you wanna talk about, Harry? How's about we go flying someday? I still remember how to fly and I've heard you still have the Firebolt I bought you, right?"
"Yes, I do and that would be fine, maybe we can go flying in about a week or two," Harry agreed, unable to resist those big brown eyes. "But that's not why I wanted to talk to you. I came by to see how you were settling in—"
"I'm good. Moony and I are okay now, and I really love hanging out with Jamie and Teddy, it's almost like old times." Sirius said, smirking.
"That's what I'm afraid of," Harry said darkly. "Sirius, you know what you said and did at the Burrow was wrong, don't you?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Aw, not this again! Moony already reamed my arse out again over stupid Snape. Why are you two so concerned about that slimy snake anyhow? I don't even know why he was allowed to come back through the Veil anyway. He should have stayed dead, I don't think he deserves a second chance."
Harry's mouth tightened. "That's not up to you—or any of us—to decide. That's in God's hands, and you don't have the right to judge Severus for what he did in the past, any more than he does you."
"I just don't understand how you can forgive him. He was a Death Eater, for crying out loud. Your father wouldn't have." Sirius said stubbornly.
"I'm not my father, Sirius." Harry said quietly. "And maybe that's the whole problem between you, my dad, and Severus. None of you are willing to let go of the past, to acknowledge that all of you made mistakes and just move on."
"Snape was the one who made all the mistakes, not me!"
Harry's eyes narrowed. "Really? Then you wouldn't call what you did to him fifth and sixth year a mistake? Or all the other years he was in school?"
"He was always a slimy Slytherin, he never changed! Why are you defending him?" Sirius objected, his lower lip jutting out.
"Because even though he made some terrible mistakes, he also did his best to atone for them. He wasn't the evil git you've always painted him. He protected me when I needed it, and Sirius, nobody made him." Harry told the other firmly.
"If I hadn't died, I could have done it better than him!" Sirius said angrily.
"That's not the point. The point is he did it, and God knows I didn't make it easy for him either."
"Oh, how noble! You know, that's probably the first time a Slytherin's ever done something good," Sirius sneered, his mouth twisting into an ugly grimace.
"Untrue. There are good as well as bad Slytherins, just like there's good and bad Gryffindors too." Harry argued.
"Ha! My whole family was Slytherin and there wasn't a good one in the lot!"
"What about your cousin Andromeda?" Harry demanded. "I thought you liked her. And Narcissa wasn't so bad once she was able to escape Voldemort's thumb. Even your little brother turned out to help the Light in the end. Horace Slughorn's a good person too. And your dad was an Auror, he hunted down dark wizards."
"And he let my mother walk all over him," Sirius growled. "He was hardly ever home and when he was home he let her lead him about like a sheep."
"And that gives you the right to label all Slytherins as evil and torment Severus?" Harry demanded angrily.
"He deserved it, look at what he became!"
"That's where you're wrong. You judged him without even giving him a chance, the same way my cousin Dudley did me. Dudley thought I was a freak and unnatural, and that gave him the right to beat me up whenever he felt like it. And my aunt and uncle let him."
"They were stupid Muggles, somebody should have jinxed them good to teach them respect."
"Like somebody did to you?" Harry demanded, his eyes bright with anger.
"How so? To me, there's not much difference between you bullying Severus because he's Slytherin and Dudley bullying me because I'm a wizard. Bullying is bullying, and you can't understand what it's like until you've gone through it. I have. And I'll never forget. Whether or not Severus became a Death Eater is besides the fact. He wasn't a Death Eater when you pranked him, now was he?"
"No, but . . ." Sirius squirmed under Harry's stern gaze.
"No, so you have no excuse. You have even less of an excuse for what happened at the Burrow. Sirius, this is supposed to be a second chance to live your life over, and hopefully become a better person. Let go of the past and try and start over. Don't make the same mistakes."
"I don't like Snape and I never will."
"You don't have to. All I ask is that you leave him alone. He's not your enemy, he's my ward and that means he's under my protection. You mess with him, Sirius, and you mess with me. So don't start what you can't finish." Harry told him firmly.
Sirius threw up his hands. "Unbelievable! You'd take his side over me?"
"I'm not taking any sides . . . not unless you force me to. I love you both, Sirius, and I'm glad you both got a second chance. Now don't be an idiot and waste it. Will you do that, for me?" Harry asked, gentling his tone.
Sirius bit his lip. "Okay. I'll try." He meant it, but he was sure Snape wasn't going to turn out any differently than last time. Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater. Harry would just have to learn the hard way not to trust Slytherins. They were all poison.
"C'mere, you!" Harry picked him up and tickled him until he howled, then set him down. "I'll see you later. I've got to get home, I promised Ginny I wouldn't be late." He waved goodbye to Remus, Jamie, and Teddy, then Apparated back to his house. Hopefully his words had had some effect on Sirius.
By the time Harry arrived back home, Ginny and the boys had gotten everything packed into the basket and were ready to go. Since they would be Apparating to the park, Ginny suggested the boys take a Stomach Soother beforehand. "I remember Sidelong Apparition used to make me throw up whenever my mum or dad tried it with me. That's why we usually Flooed somewhere, or took Dad's Ford Anglia."
"Yeah, Sidelong Apparition never agreed with me either," her husband admitted. He held a vial of smoky lavender liquid out to Alby. "Here, son. Drink this all for me."
"Will it make my tummy not feel yucky?" asked the littlest Potter.
"Yup. Go on now."
Alby bravely swallowed the potion.
Next to him, Ginny handed a vial to Severus, who tried to refuse it.
"I never got sick when I Apparated."
"Neither did I, but Sidelong Apparition is different." Ginny reminded. "How long has it been since you've done that, Severus?"
"Too long to remember," the five-year-old sighed.
"And you want to be able to enjoy the picnic with all the good food we made, right?" Ginny persuaded.
Still Severus hesitated, common sense warring with pride.
Until Alby said innocently, "Don' worry, Sev. It don' t taste yucky. You're not . . . a'scared of taking potions, are you?"
Severus flashed the younger boy a scowl. "No! I've taken more potions than you could imagine." He took the Stomach Soother and swallowed it in one gulp. Then he hugged Mimic hard.
Harry and Ginny hid grins. There was nothing quite like the pride of an older brother. Then they each grasped a child by the arm and Apparated away to Victory Park.
Once they arrived at the park, Severus found he was glad he had agreed to take the potion, for his stomach was a bit queasy for the first five minutes, then thanks to the Stomach Soother, it settled down. The park was large, with big oak, poplar, and ash trees. Sculpted hedges with pretty blooming pink and purple flowers surrounded benches and trails leading to a small lake where you could feed the ducks and herons that swam there. A bag of bread crumbs cost two Knuts. There was a large playground area and next to that were the booths where you could rent the brooms and fake wands.
"I wanna get a wand and a broom, Dad!" Alby cried.
"After we eat lunch," Harry told him. "I, for one, am quite hungry." He helped Ginny spread the blanket down and they anchored it to the ground with Sticking Charms. Then Ginny cast a spell to keep the ants and bugs away from their spot. "Mmm. Everything looks delicious." Harry said, peering inside the basket.
"Alby and Severus helped me make most of it," Ginny declared proudly.
There were several kinds of sandwiches, including cold chicken cutlets with butter on white toast, tuna salad (which Alby had mixed), and ham and cheese with tomato and mayo, which Severus had helped put together. Ginny had made potato salad with bacon, a three bean salad, and there was sweet apple cider and butterbeer for drinks. There were also pears, grapes, and a strawberry pie for a sweet.
Alby sat next to Severus on the blanket, pretending to feed bits and pieces of his sandwich to Bucky, his stuffed hippogriff. He chattered endlessly about what they could do at the park.
Severus at first was sort of annoyed, since he wasn't used to small children babbling, but Alby's enthusiasm was infectious and he found himself looking forward to teaching his namesake how to fly a broom and the correct wand movements for some charms. He finished his tuna sandwich and potato salad at almost the same time Alby did his chicken sandwich.
Then he watched, amused, at the way Alby wheedled Harry into getting them both brooms and wands, even though the adults weren't done eating yet. He'll probably be in Slytherin for sure! Thought the former Potions Master. Then again, perhaps it was too early to tell.
"All right, you little conniver!" laughed Harry, giving in. "Come on, let's go rent you and Severus a broom and a wand."
Alby happily accompanied him, making Ginny smile.
In no time at all they were back and Alby had cajoled Severus into going flying with him. Severus rolled his eyes at riding a kiddie broom, of all things, but then he realized his small body wouldn't have been able to handle a regular broom, even if he remembered how to fly one. He showed his small brother how to fly corkscrews and spirals, demonstrating the maneuvers over and over until Alby, who was quite quick on the uptake, mastered them.
"He's being very patient with Alby, dear," Ginny said, watching the two boys.
"I know. And that's pretty amazing, considering he was never that patient with us in class." Harry said, stretching out to lie with his head in Ginny's lap.
"I think he really likes Alby. And Alby adores him." Ginny remarked. "Maybe that's why. I don't think Severus ever had anyone admire him before or look up to him when he was growing up."
"You're right. And that's bound to make him feel good about himself," Harry agreed. He was glad that his little son had made the quiet dark-haired orphan welcome without a fuss. "I just hope they both continue to get along so nicely."
"Well, I'm sure they'll have their disagreements, just like any other siblings," Ginny said wisely. "But Alby doesn't stay angry for long and hopefully Severus won't either."
They watched the two dark-haired imps circling and playing tag across the grass, enjoying the sun and gentle breeze and the peacefulness of the afternoon.
Soon the two boys had tired of flying and landed their brooms. They then began to "practice" magic, with Severus showing Alby how to correctly hold a wand and how to pronounce "Wingardium Leviosa!" and "Lumos!" charms.
Severus himself was surprised at how much patience he had with Albus Severus Potter, but he put it down to the fact that Alby was eager to learn and listened to what he said, unlike many a Hogwarts student, who was more interested in socializing than brewing potions.
Though after twenty minutes, Alby grew bored and suggested a game of Hide and Seek.
"You can count and I'll hide," the four-year-old said. "How high can you count, Sev'rus?"
"A lot higher than twenty," came the quiet response.
"Wow! You're really smart. Almost as smart as Mum and Dad!"
Severus raised an eyebrow at that declaration. He knew more than both Potters combined about brewing potions, for one thing. He also was almost positive he possessed a higher IQ as well. But he didn't want to get into a debate about who was the smarter wizard with a four-year-old. Let him keep his innocent assumptions a bit longer. He too remembered when he had thought his father and mother the smartest and most beautiful people in the world . . . before Tobias had turned to the bottle and Eileen had allowed despair to rule her.
He covered his eyes with his hands and began counting.
Alby rushed off to hide.
While they were playing, Harry and Ginny were spotted by the Longbottoms—Neville, Luna, and their little girl, Frances Alice, or Frankie for short, as well as Draco, Astoria, and Cory. It appeared as though the Potters weren't the only ones who had decided today was a great afternoon for a picnic.
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