Harry & Hermione
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enahma - Coming off the Ropes
Chapter 12 - Christmas gift
Betaed by Barbara
Some remarks, please read it!
I know you usually don't read AN, but it's important!
I got some reviews and mails in which the readers try to suggest me solutions about things in the view of the book 5 (known as OotP). ;-)
So. In my story the background is TOTALLY different, so my fiction became EXTREMELY AU!
The differences are:
1. Snape has a brother, who was a light wizard. (Book 5 doesn't mention any other family member of the Snape family.)
2. His parents weren't shouting at each others. (They were pureblood and noble wizards, who simply despised their children, without any real hatred.)
3. Snape was NOT abused by James Potter in THAT (highly disgusting and shocking) way. In a certain sense 'my' Snape respects James Potter. His hatred towards him and Black derived from their prank on Quietus. But James apologised to Quietus.
4. In my story Black had a twin sister, who was Snape's lover but she had died by Voldemort's hand. (In the book Black had a Death Eater younger brother).
5. The Black family was LIGHT (Book: DARK).
6. Trelawney's first prophecy was different. In my fic it was directed to Quietus and about Quietus (and right, about Harry TOO). In the book to Dumbledore, about Harry (ONLY).
7. Anne, Mrs Figg (instead of the more toadlike witch), Fletcher are different persons.
8. The Nott boy plays a little part in the book and he is called Theodore. He is Ares in my fic.
9. The Aurors are not so good in my story.
10. And so on.
I think I will use some things from book 5, however. These will be the things, which don't refer to the story line in general (the method and theme of the OWLs, the Ministry's description and some reflections on Dumbledore's personality for example). But my storyline is completely different, however, as I sadly realised there will be similar effects, but I won't tell you these. I've already planned this story, and even the next (which will be the last, I think) - and then I will move on, and perhaps I will go on with my OWN story. (Which will be uploaded to in July.)
So. These are my plans. And sorry for the long and dull 'introduction'. I felt necessary to write down all this.
And thanks for all the reviewers and special thanks for all those people who didn't abandon my story after book5.
I hope you'll enjoy it.
Chapter 12 - Christmas gift
The next morning Harry overslept and didn't make an appearance in breakfast. He came out of the bedroom about 11 a.m. too lazy to change from his bedclothes into normal ones. After a short quarrel with Severus he finally changed his mind and his clothes too and sat down to do his holiday homework. He wanted to get over with it as soon as possible, because he had seen some interesting-like books in the manor's library and he couldn't wait to read them.
Nobody interrupted his studies. However, Lupin told he and Anne at lunch that the three of them were going to Diagon Alley and muggle London the next day to do some shopping: both Anne and Harry needed new clothes and Severus refused to accompany them. He was mumbling something about Lupin's potions and some other duties for Madam Pomfrey and he left to go to his lab where he passed his whole afternoon. Harry joined him after dinner, but they didn't talk, just worked in silence.
Severus was still suffering from the effects of his confession, Harry could tell it by the way he looked at him or gave him some short instructions, and he couldn't blame him at all. The confessed things were not only hard to listen to, but surely just as hard to recall and to tell, and Harry was entirely sure he had been the first person to whom Severus had told that fateful and painful encounter in details. And now he had the same problem as Ares had had after their conversation in that empty hallway: he was startled by his own openness, he was terrified by his own defencelessness and he was utterly ashamed in front of Harry.
But Harry did his best not to show any feeling towards him, not even acceptance, which could embarrass the man even more. He instead tried to make him feel as if nothing important had happened and nothing had changed - well, nothing had changed, really.
So they worked in silence all the evening.
When Severus finally dismissed him and started to clean up, Harry went to take a bath and grabbed his advanced transfiguration book to read some pages before sleeping. He ignited two torches by the head of the bed and sat comfortably. Severus didn't come for a long time and Harry finally fell asleep with the book in his hand, his head ducked back to the wall.
He was in a very dark place; only one torch lit the large room. Voldemort was sitting in his usual throne-like chair and a thin, hooded figure was kneeling in front of him whose voice was hoarse and weak so that Harry couldn't decide if it was a he or a she.
"I want the traitor's son. Soon," Voldemort's tone was low and menacing. In that very moment Harry figured out who was the conversation about, even if he had missed the first half of it. Him. Again, as a target of the dark lord. "And then everyone will receive his proper punishment. I'll give you the right to kill him and you can be marked by me after."
"Yes, master," the figure croaked.
"You are dismissed now," Voldemort waved his hand.
"Yes, master," the same reply again as the hooded person stood up and strode across the doors. Before stepping out the figure bowed deeply and closed the door softly.
Something was disturbingly familiar in that movement Harry couldn't place a finger on. He knew this person, he was entirely sure, but he didn't recognise him or her. It turned his stomach cold and aching, and he could feel the urge to retch in nervousness, but then another figure stepped out of the shadows. It was a man but he wore the usual Death Eater clothes so Harry couldn't recognise him either. He had brown hair and a general height, however, there was something unusual in his movements.
"Our spy in Hogwarts reported that the traitor's son was harassed by some aurors of the Ministry. His father was extremely worried about his welfare so I'm sure our plan will work perfectly. By capturing the son we can reach the father as well."
"And you said the boy trusts in our young agent," a wry smirk appeared on Voldemort's face.
"He does, my lord," Harry could feel the man smiling, even if he didn't see his face. "Our spy also reported that the young Snape is about to befriend our agent, which will make our work easier too."
"Excellent," Voldemort smiled satisfied. "And what about our... intercontinental mission?"
"I don't know the details, my lord, but Crabbe is here to report to you..."
"Just to report?"
Voldemort's smile transformed suddenly into an angry sneer.
"Send him in."
Harry shut his eyes. He suspected what would happen in the next moment, and he was right. After the shouted 'Crucio!' everything turned into a hot- white pain, and while he could hear Crabbe's desperate cries and sobs, he wasn't sure he hadn't cried and sobbed either...
A strong hand grabbed his shoulder.
Harry suddenly became confused. The voice was not Severus's. It was familiar, but not his. The next moment he jerked away from the grip and with a soft cry he jumped from the bed wrapping his arms tightly around himself.
"Quietus?" the voice repeated cautiously. "What's the."
"Where's Severus?" Harry could hear his own voice weak and distant. "Where is he?"
"I saw him in the library. Do you want me to call him?"
"Yes, sir, please," Harry sighed and opening his eyes looked at Lupin's face.
"Did you have a nightmare?" the werewolf asked as he saw Harry regaining his composure.
"Please, call him," Harry repeated and turned his look to the floor.
Lupin sighed and left the room. He returned some minutes later with a highly nervous Severus. The man didn't care that Lupin was with him, or that he could see him; he hurried to the dazed and shivering Harry and hugged him. Harry relaxed in the hug and even the after-effects of the nasty curse were fading slowly after some minutes. He could feel as strong arms put him back to his bed and tucked his blanket around him tightly, and he felt as Severus sat on the bed next to him.
"What's wrong with him?" Lupin asked again. "Nightmares?"
"It's not your business, Lupin," Severus snapped angrily.
"He was writhing as if he had been hit by Cruciatus," Lupin sighed. "Was it Voldemort?"
"Get. Out," Snape spat more angrily than before. "As I said it's not your business, Lupin."
"Perhaps I could bring some painkiller or relaxing potions," offered Lupin.
"I don't intend to overdose him, Lupin. He doesn't need any potions."
"Does he often have these. nightmares?" asked the werewolf.
"Then why do you fear to overdosing him?"
"GET OUT!" Snape yelled his eyes glittering dangerously.
"Severus, please," Harry sat up and looked at the two adults. "I'm fine, sir. I just had a car accident this summer and sometimes I have some nightmares about it," he explained to his ex-professor as seriously as he could. Meanwhile, he was begging for the day he wouldn't need to lie any more.
Lupin nodded uncertainly, but Harry could see on him that he wasn't convinced with the offered explanation. Nonetheless, he left the room and closed the door behind him. Harry leaned back to the bed and closed his eyes tiredly.
"Our plan is failed. Voldemort is after me again, but this time he wants to kill me because I'm your son. The traitor's son, as he said. He has agents in the school, I suspect one of them is in the staff," he mumbled unhappily. "I can never live a normal life, seemingly." He turned his back to Severus and curled into a ball. "Don't you want to report to the Headmaster?"
"Later, Quiet," Severus said and laid his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I don't think it's so urgent. And I don't want to leave you alone now."
"Thanks," Harry mumbled.
But the usual conversation, which always followed Harry's visions or nightmares didn't occur this time. They just sat in silence again, as the night before, listening to the other's steady breathing until Harry fell asleep.
Severus looked at the cauldron counting the drops of the mandrake's syrup added to the potion. He was cursing inwardly as it was the third draught he damaged that morning, though he couldn't say what the reason of the failures was. The mandrake's syrup? The wormwood? The Crup's nail? He had already made this potion two times before and there hadn't been any problems yet. He wanted the potion to turn into a bright green colour, like Harry's eyes, he thought to himself, but instead, for the third time it turned into an ugly brown and stank. Severus this time cursed loudly as he poured the content into the sink.
He stepped to the window and opened it to clear the stomach-churning stench out of the room and leaning to the frame he stared blankly out to the snow- covered garden. The big oak now stood alone, unlike the summer when Harry had spent almost all his free time reading or just sitting there, his book open in his lap, his eyes showing fear and uncertainty. Those eyes, which during the first months of school had filled by life and trust again - those eyes, which had shone fear of rejection again. Damn the boy! Why couldn't he understand?
The thoughts were racing in his head, and he understood precisely why the potions had gone wrong all the morning. He couldn't concentrate on his work properly. Harry's words and eyes were attacking him every now and then, his mature and wise words, and he felt compelled to consider and repeat them again and again.
He couldn't understand how a boy could be so considerable and intelligent. How he could understand things better than him. He felt the truth of his sentences, and he had heard some of those sentences many times before, Albus used them to warn him not to nurture old guilt and pains, but he couldn't help feeling them. He was guilty. The mere time wouldn't purge him. He had killed people and he could never be forgiven. Dumbledore and Harry were wrong. They had never committed anything serious enough to be able to understand. They were clean and flawless, unlike him, the guilty, mean, disgusting, greasy Potions Master of Hogwarts.
They would never understand.
He couldn't be the boy's father. He had been too bigheaded when he had thought of Harry as his son. No. The boy was Quietus's son. He wasn't anything like Severus Snape.
He shook his head - perhaps to clear his head? - and turned his attention back to the potion. Lupin needed it, if he wanted the werewolf remaining human instead of turning into a beast permanently. Since Voldemort's werewolves had bitten him, he had been tending to turn a permanent werewolf, not only in the full moon's times. It was his, Severus's invention too, he thought sadly to himself. He had invented the Werewolf- fusion, as he called it, which caused this unnatural change in a werewolf's organs, which turned Lupin into a permanent werewolf for months so that nobody could visit him. At the end of September he had found the first medicine against his own poison, but without Harry's and Hermione Granger's help.
A knocking interrupted his thoughts.
"Come in," he said nervously. He didn't want to talk to anybody now.
"Black, oh no," he shook his head. He was not in the mood to talk to the ruddy dog about anything. As he looked at the handsome face he felt the urgent wish to postpone their peace and throw him out of his lab. But for Harry's sake he schooled his face into a blank expression and ushered his ex-enemy towards the only chair in the room.
"I have no time, Black. Spit it and go."
Black, however, didn't seem to hurry.
"Sirius. Not Black," he reminded Snape smirking. "You remember surely our."
"Yes, I do," Snape waved impatiently. "What do you want, SIRIUS? But say it quickly if you want your werewolf friend to get his potion in time."
"Polite as always, Severus," Black's eyes lightened dangerously. "I'm here to talk to you about your. son."
Snape's hand halted frozen in the air. He turned his look at Black slowly, having evil forebodings about the next sentences.
"Or your perfect brother's son?" Black continued in a teasing tone.
"Don't dare.!" he moaned at the Animagus through clenched teeth. "Leave him out of this!"
"Young Quietus is his son, not yours, isn't he?" Black didn't bother with Snape's anger.
"You bellowed this from the top of your lungs to him two days ago, if I remember rightly." An evil grin appeared on Black's face.
Severus lowered his hand and leaning to his desk he turned his face to Black.
"It's none of your business. Leave this topic alone now or." Snape didn't finish the sentence; he couldn't fathom any good threatening at once.
"Or what, Snape? Don't you like that any other human being discovered your perfect brother's little secret? That he wasn't any better than you?"
The next moment Snape grabbed Black's upper arm and pointed his wand to his neck.
"Listen, you blasted dog. I made peace with you just because of Harry. But if you dare to insult my brother, my DEAD brother once again, Black, I swear, I kill you in that very moment as you deserve it."
"Let my arm go, Snape," Black hissed at him menacingly. "And I'm not the one who insults your precious brother, Snape. It was you, who said the boy. no, not said. Who shouted to him that you are not his father, but Quietus is. And I was always wondering why Lily married James if she had been dating Quietus for years?"
Snape understood abruptly. Black hadn't heard their whole conversation, just a part of it, a very small part, in reality, and however his conclusion was pretty unnerving to Severus; it was better than the truth.
So, Black believed his brother cheated on Lily.
He let Black's arm go and turning on his heel he walked to the open window again.
"So, do you come to insult my brother, Black? To enjoy the knowledge he wasn't any better than you, who tried to kill him?" he turned around and pointed his index finger at the other man. "Whatever he did, I won't let you call him names and insult him freely, I swear."
"Oh? So now you come to say that I'm a killer, don't you? Strange, very strange, Snape," Black's eyes narrowed in wrath. "You shouted to that. that boy that YOU are a murderer, so YOU are unworthy to be his father!"
Snape stepped to Black and leaning close to his face he hissed angrily.
"Why? You did know what I was, didn't you?"
"Not until this spring, Snape."
"You knew that I was in Azkaban."
"I knew. I was there too as an innocent."
"Innocent," Snape snored and cracked an ugly smile. "After two attempted murders."
"I didn't kill anybody, Snape!"
"But you tried. It was not your merit that your victims survived," he stopped and looked at Black directly. "I wasn't so lucky, Black. My victims had died. All of them," with this he returned to the window.
There was something in Snape's voice, what stopped Black to react immediately. What was it? Guilt? Shame? Hatred?
Black covered his face into his palms. Suddenly, he felt ashamed. He didn't come to yell, to argue with Snape, but to let him see somehow that that boy needed him - and after that fateful encounter with the Aurors, the young Quietus deserved to be called the git's son if it was what he wished so much.
And the sincerity in the other's voice drove him into another thought as well. Snape confessed him his murders. His sins.
'I wasn't so lucky, Black. My victims had died.'
The realisation was too sudden and caught Black completely and perfectly off guard.
'I wasn't so lucky.'
What if Quietus had died?
What would have happened then? Would they have been expelled? Would they have been sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban without the chance to be free again? Would they have died or gone mad there out of guilt?
Could he have survived the dreaded prison with the knowledge that he had killed somebody? With the very memory of it? With Dumbledore's disappointed expression, with Anne's hatred, his father's rejection, just sitting there knowing he had had no forgiving?
What if Snape had been killed by Lupin?
It wouldn't have been him to be blamed for the sin, it would have been Lupin who had been sentenced to life imprisonment or even to death.
'I wasn't so lucky.'
Black stood up.
"Severus. I apologise for my words. They were uncalled for. And I apologise for your brother. I. I couldn't. I didn't know, just." his voice faded.
Snape stared him in utter unbelief.
"What are you babbling about, Black?" he said angrily.
"You are right. I'm not any different or any better from you, Sn. Severus. And. perhaps I was wrong about you and Quietus. However, I should have known. Anne always loved you and trusted you, even when you left her, she was sure you would return once."
"I didn't RE-turn, Black. I had been dark since my early childhood. I changed sides, when Quietus was killed by the hands of Voldemort. My parents sentenced him to death. They brought him there," his hands clenched into fists as he spoke. "And now I'd like to abandon this topic if it's possible. Tell quickly why you came and go away."
"I came about Quietus. No, not your brother," he added fast as he saw Snape's fingers turning white in clenching, "but the boy. His son. Or. your son."
"I have no son, Black. Though I have to pretend to be his father on Dumbledore's order. And for this I want you NOT to mention this piece of information to anybody. Not even to that werewolf friend of yours."
Black walked next to Snape and following his look he too glanced over the white garden.
"He wants to be your son, you know. And he earned the right to be called it if he wants. And. you earned the right as well. You love each other, you care for each other and you need each other."
"He is too good to be called my son, Black," Snape answered seriously, but his tone missed its usual coldness and malice as he spoke to the Animagus. It rather sounded only tired.
Black scratched his chin in thought.
"This kid - just reminds me Harry, you know. Perhaps because both were raised by Muggles? I don't know, Severus. But I can see that he is so desperately yearning for a family, for a father to respect and follow..." he lowered his hand unsurely. "He does everything to gain your love, your respect..."
"Sirius, I love him as you said and I respect him, just..." Severus interrupted, but Black didn't let him finish his sentence.
"Yes, you do it in your own stupid way, Snape, and I'm sure you try to do your best. But you have to love him in HIS way, as HE likes. Accept him, his feelings, his appreciation. I understand that you don't feel worthy of this, perhaps you aren't really, but it's not about what YOU deserves. HE deserves it. And - that's enough."
Both men were standing and staring at each other for long minutes. Finally Black stepped at the door and opened it leaving, but before he closed the door behind him, he turned once to Snape.
"Do it for Harry's sake, if you really loved him," he inhaled deeply to gain air for the next sentence. "And sorry again. I will never hurt your brother's memory again. He was better than me. I was unfair to him - and unfair to you. Sorry. And. I won't talk about this to anybody."
He didn't wait for an answer, but closed the door quietly.
Severus couldn't move. He was just staring blankly and stupidly at the shut door, and perhaps for the first time in his life he couldn't find proper words to express his feelings - neither towards Black, nor Harry.
Harry stormed into the living room excitedly with the new owl in his hand.
"Hey, Severus, look what professor Lupin and Sirius bought to me!" he grinned widely. He wasn't supposed to get his gift before the evening feast, but he had convinced Lupin that he needed the owl to post his gifts to his friends, and finally the man had given up and Harry could lift his new owl proudly, only with a little hint of sorry about Hedwig, who was now Hermione's owl since the Headmaster had given it to her - like he had given Harry's broom to Ron just after the funeral. The other, less recognisable things remained Harry's: his trunk - which had been made by A. H. Potter, Harry's step-grandmother personally, Dumbledore had shown him her signature on its bottom, the invisibility cloak to Snape's utter anger, his map (however, he still hadn't revealed its secret to Severus - Harry didn't want him to use it against the students wandering on the corridors at night), and his old wand too.
After the unfortunate meeting with the Aurors, Severus ordered Harry to keep his original wand on him in secret, in his robes. He had charmed the wand to be invisible - not even the Revelo spell was able to reveal it - and since then Harry always carried two wands on him, which gave him a good, safe feeling.
"Beautiful owl, Quietus, but I don't think you was supposed to receive it before this evening."
"I know, I know, I just want to send my gifts to Hermione, Neville, Ares and." Harry suddenly blushed and added quickly, "the others."
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Who these 'others' are, Quiet?"
Harry, determined, pointed his look at his feet and didn't answer.
"Quiet! I asked something!" Severus leaned forwards and put his hands on his hips menacingly.
Harry felt uncomfortable. Lupin and Anne were looking at them curiously and he really didn't want anybody to know about Leah and his feelings towards her. Instead, he turned on his heel and fled from the living room to his bedroom and locked the door behind him. He could hear Severus' voice bellowing after him in the staircase, but he didn't care. Why should he know? It was none of his business, and certainly not after the past days' rather cold treatment.
He was afraid that Severus would follow him to the bedroom and take him to account, but he didn't come for long, and after ten minutes Harry calmed down enough to wrap all the gifts and to give them to Arthur (this was the new owl's name), who disappeared soon in the early evening's growing darkness.
He still felt uncomfortable when Lupin came to call him to the dinner. He didn't want to argue with anybody on Christmas evening, and certainly not with Severus. He loved the man and he knew precisely, that his feelings were reciprocated, and he could understand the other's discomfort after that talk some nights ago. So he decided to show a good mood even if somebody else would be sneering and scowling at him.
But, seemingly, nobody wanted to destroy the feast's mood with quarrels or arguments, so the dinner passed well with Anne's usual chattering, Black's jokes, Severus's semi-evil remarks, Lupin's silent smiling and Fletcher's serious lectures. Then they moved into the living room where the Christmas tree was standing and waiting for them and in the next moment everybody was occupied by little boxes and parcels on which their names were written. Anne was the happiest, and she often cried out in joy as she saw a new toy, or sweet.
Snape seemed a little shocked with his gifts - Harry was almost sure he hadn't been given gifts for years - and his eyes were too bright after a while. Harry even caught a single tear running down as he opened Harry's gift - the watch.
The watch with two hands: Quietus and Severus were written on them, and some remarks: Lesson, Home, Friends, Danger, Died and GB - referring to the Greatest Bastard. Now the hands were pointed to 'Home'.
Severus didn't move, just looked earnestly at the watch - he seemed a little bit out of himself as he caressed its surface cautiously, seemingly deep in thought.
Harry, in the meanwhile began to unpack his own gifts - books and sweets, mostly. Surprisingly, he received the same Arithmancy lexicon from Hermione, which he had bought for her and now he felt suddenly nervous at the thought that he had wanted to keep it himself. At least, this way both of them would be happy with the same book. Neville's gift was a book too: 'Dark wizards in the goblin and troll riots in the Middle Age' - and Neville had marked the some places, where Harry could find the mentioned names of Snape, Noblestone - and even Longbottom. There had been a war, where a Noblestone had fought with a Longbottom against some Light wizards, and at the end the two of them even had married - however, the Longbottom family was not a noble, just a general-ranked pureblood family, but Harry noticed satisfied that he was related, though from afar to Neville too, not only to Malfoy. Unfortunately, Draco Malfoy was a closer relative than Neville, but he sought comfort in the fact that Neville was somehow related to him as well.
Ouch! Neville was related to Malfoy as well!
Well, Ron had said him long ago that the wizarding families were all related to each other since there weren't too many wizards in the world and this went for the pureblood families even more. Not to mention the fact, that tradition had been much more important in the Middle Age than now.
Then he leafed through another book from Ares (Self-defence techniques and their learning), ate two chocolate frogs (he gave the cards in them to Anne whose hobby was card-collecting), he played a party of wizarding chess with Black (it was a substitute gift from the two of them for the owl), he lost the game, of course, and finally he began to unpack the last box he was sure he was given from Severus. It contained two things: a huge tome of 'Everything about Healing Potions' and a general-looking, grey book, which was completely empty. Harry lifted his eyes to Severus, but he was playing chess with Anne in that moment, trying to explain the different movements and tactics to the overjoyed girl.
Harry turned his attention back to the box and his eyes caught a simple envelope slipped into the box. He opened it cautiously and he saw a neatly folded parchment in it, with Severus's handwriting.
I hope you like the potions book - perhaps it seems a little bit selfish gift from me, but I can't help denying myself. You will understand it and you will find it extremely useful during your next year potions studies, I'm sure.
The other book was Quietus's diary. I've never tried to open it, it always seemed to me like an intrusion to his privacy, and this feeling just became more accentuated after his death, but I think it will help you to know him better - perhaps even better than I ever did, and it could lessen that distance between you and him as well, which bothers you to no end.
For a moment Harry was so shocked that he couldn't even breathe. No, it wasn't because of his biological father's diary.
It was the last line, the one word between brackets, which was certainly added later to the letter: the ink's shade of colour was lightly different that the other parts, but it was written by Severus nevertheless.
Harry didn't dare to lift his head. He was just staring at the word, not wanting to give Severus a chance to withdraw this one word, which was more precious to Harry than every other gift he was given. It was a clear sign of Severus's final acceptance, his care, which almost sealed the summer's events and all the facts happening in the first half of the school year. He had been an orphan for too long, not having anybody to refer to as his parents - and now he finally received permission from the person he considered his father for months.
"You are too silent, Quietus. Is there any problem?" he heard Lupin's worrying voice next to him.
"No," he lifted his head and looked at the werewolf. "There's nothing. I was just. thinking about things, which happened to me in the last weeks."
"The problem between you and Severus?"
Harry's eyes widened in surprise.
"Wha- what?" he babbled.
"It seems if it was a kind of tension between the two of you for days," Lupin explained.
"Oh, I see," Harry said. "No, not really. We had a little quarrel about. things and. well."
"I understand," Lupin nodded. "And now his gift reconciled you?"
"Er. yes. Yes, generally," Harry smiled broadly. "And thanks for the chess. It's a pity I'm a terrible player. Everybody can beat me easily. Especially Seve. dad," he cast a glance towards Severus who was actually losing a match against Anne. "He likes playing very much, and since I live with him, he often plays with me. I think I'm not so keen on chess."
"Sorry. I didn't intend."
"Alright, I know. Nothing happened. And I like it. Perhaps, from now on I will be compelled to learn playing better."
"Did you play Muggle chess too?"
"That's the same as the wizarding one. The only difference that Muggle pawns are still and don't want to press their will on you."
"Do you often have nightmares?" Lupin asked suddenly.
Harry cast him a reproachful glance.
"I'm not supposed to talk about it," he said with a hint of coldness in his voice.
Lupin didn't answer, just smiled calmly.
"I heard you called Severus 'dad'. It was the first time."
Harry shifted uncomfortably behind Lupin's all-knowing glance.
"We didn't live together before this summer," he repeated the well-known lie to him. "I never called him either father, or dad before. I had to get accustomed to the idea."
"Well, I think I'm ready to go to bed. I'm pretty tired," said Harry finally and grabbed the books and left for the staircase.
When he arrived at the bedroom, he put all the things on his desk and after a fast turn in the bathroom he changed into his bedclothes and went to bed. He wasn't entirely awake when Severus arrived, but he sensed as the man sat on the edge of his bed.
"Harry, you have to know that I meant it seriously," he said quietly, "however, I'm quite sure you don't know what to believe and what not to, but I was. I just." he couldn't continue.
The next moment Harry erupted and jumped on Severus shouting into his ears.
"You are just a selfish, mean git, nothing else! Buying potions book for Christmas just to have a skilled assistant?"
They fell to the floor laughing.
"I didn't keep it secret," Severus moaned behind Harry, who was kneeling on his chest.
"You're a slave-keeper Slytherin, nothing else," Harry snored.
"And what are you?"
"I'm a misled little Gryffindor, of whose weakness the evil Head of Slytherin took advantage to his own benefit."
"A WEAK Gryffindor? What are you doing on me, then?"
"Pinning me to the floor."
"Let me go. I wanted to talk to you seriously."
"I hate your serious talking. You don't speak to me after that for days."
"Harry, please. The thing I shared with you some days ago wasn't something easy to recall and I want you to handle it more seriously."
A hint of pain in Severus's voice made Harry stop. He stood up and helped the man up from the floor too.
"I think I was just. a little enthusiastic, Severus. I was so happy to read your. letter."
"Of course. Do you remember my birthday?"
"It was my best birthday ever. And now - this was my best Christmas ever."
"Is it Quietus.?"
"No," Harry interrupted him. "It's you. Good lord, I've never thought it before, but I now confess you: I'm proud to be called your son."
"It's perhaps a family heritage."
Harry stuck his tongue at Severus and lay on the bed.
"G'night, dad," he said for the second time in his life, tentatively.
"Good night, Harry."
Harry moaned angrily. Severus sighed and surrendered.
"Alright, alright. Good night, son."
Neither of them was able to fall asleep for a long time.
Just two words.
But they meant the world to both of them.
Some minutes after Harry's leaving, Black freed Snape from the little girl too and took her to bed. Snape left and also Fletcher excused himself after some words. Lupin remained alone in the library. He waved his wand and turned the major part of the torches off. In the semi-dark he leaned back and wondered about the last weeks' events.
Quietus. Severus's son was a strange boy. Much more strange than his father or his long-dead uncle. He was extremely smart, but he was as cautious as Lupin, however, he couldn't understand why. Lupin had his own reasons to be always cautious with everybody; the main of them was his lycanthropy, but why did the boy have to be so guarded and cautious?
His eyes were wandering the room in thought.
"Anything wrong?" asked Black suddenly from behind.
"Nothing," he shrugged. "I was only thinking."
"I see," said Black and circled the sofa to sit next to Lupin. Before sitting he saw a piece of parchment lying next to his friend. He picked it up and gave him.
"Isn't yours?" Black asked in return.
Lupin shrugged and opened the folded piece. His eyes ran through it quickly.
"No, it's Quietus's," he said and put it to the coffee-table.
"The first sympathetic Snape I've ever seen," said Black with an edge in his voice.
"Nah." Lupin shook his head. "His uncle was a rather good guy too."
"Are you mental?" Black looked at him in utter disbelief. "Snape was NEVER a good guy!"
"Which Snape are you referring now? I think we know three of them."
"Severus, of course," snored Black.
"Severus? I meant Quietus, Severus's brother."
Black suddenly became embarrassed and turned his head away from Lupin. The werewolf eyed him suspiciously.
"Hey! You are keeping something secret from me, aren't you?"
Black shuddered slightly.
"Er. In a certain sense. yes. But." he didn't continue. He stood up and left the room in a hurry.
It, however, wasn't necessary. Suddenly, everything clicked to his place in Lupin's mind.
'His uncle was a rather good guy.' - 'Snape NEVER was a good guy!'
Quietus's diary - 'it could lessen that distance between you and him as well, which bothers you to no end.'
The young Quietus was not Severus's son. He was Quietus's.
But Quietus had been dating Lily in the time this boy had born. How old was this boy? Lupin wondered. He was in the same year as Neville, Hermione and Ares - the fifth year - Harry's year. He was the same age as Harry.
Harry. The boy was so terribly like Harry. The same movements, gestures, expressions. The same courage, behaviour, perhaps a little bit more timid, as he would have passed something terrible. He had nightmares too. and he had serious phobias as if he had been abused before.
Abused - nightmares with Cruciatus (which meant Voldemort) - same age, same gestures, Quietus, Lily, Harry's summer experiences with Voldemort - Harry's death.
The youngster wasn't Severus's son.
He was Quietus's son, which meant he was also Lily's son, who was the same age as Harry, which meant he was Harry. He wasn't James's son, James was only helping Lily to marry him two months after Quietus's funeral.
Bloody hell! Dumbledore had had a brilliant tactic to protect Harry - and to save the long-time loner Severus as well. He had forced them together compelling them to behave like father and son, which after the summer events probably hadn't been so difficult.
What an interesting turn of events! Lupin thought to himself smiling broadly. Dumbledore had an extremely devious plan to get rid of the disgusting bastard once and for all - he had made Voldemort believe that Harry had died and he had been preparing Harry against him while Voldemort thought he could be at ease.
Yes, Dumbledore was devious.
And he had to keep his mouth shut not to betray him.
Lupin continued his musing in the dark room, and his harsh laughter broke its silence from time to time.
Next: Saturday? :-P