Sverus Snape stared vacantly across the room, eyes focused on nowhere in particular, tightening a little at the words exchanged on the other side of the door.
And so it begins…
The sleeping toddler snuggled into the protective curl of his body stirred a little, delicately painted features twitching. He reached out with the instinct of a father to lay his hand against her cheek, to soothe her, the motion petering out and fading at the sight of those damn bandages again.
Weak, beaten, he lay in here useless while voices raged outside, intrusive, meddlesome, appointing themselves kings in a human game of chess where everyone was a pawn and rights were forfeit.
Again and again his life seemed to travel back to this point. Never a king, never a queen, Never a minor piece, but somehow never a major one either, hovering somewhere between states, self-governed to an extent, but always following orders, always dancing to the strings of some master puppeteer. He was used to it. It was a part he had played well during the war, dancing for two masters like a sideshow monkey.
But the war was over
And Araminta was not a pawn.
His fingers tightened. Not by any stretch of the imagination could it be called a fist. The splints and bandages on his bruised and broken hand stilted the movement, reduced it to a mere flexing twitch.
But in his mind, it was a fist, slowly curling and unclenching in time to his thoughts.
The only thing that went through the school faster than one of Hagrid’s stoat hot dogs was rumour. And this revelation of fatherhood would no doubt break all laws of muggle physics ripping through the ears and mouths of staff and students alike.
How eager everyone would be to hear it! The teacher and student. The Slytherin and Gryffindor. The hero and the Death Eater. On so many levels it would no doubt prove a veritable feast for eager lips and bitter souls to spread about.
The argument, the words that dimmed throughout the room despite mild silencing charms and Poppy’s furious bustling - this was just the beginning.
And after the truth had settled into the light, then, then there would be the side taking. Who should be with whom and when and where – everyone would have their own opinions on how his life should lead, whom he should be forced to be with, and not one of them would give a damn about what he wanted, as if he were some trophy to be awarded to the most popular man.
And in the end, he was inconsequential.
It would turn to his daughter, not the greasy bastard of Slytherin house. The green-eyed dark-haired cherub and darling of the school.
He was a father. Perhaps, even, a good one. But who would care? Who would see beyond the mental images carefully nurtured against him. It wouldn’t matter what he’d done for the side of light, what he had become. Ideas and memories fresh laid would be swept away by long-held perceptions and ‘common knowledge’.
He was a Slytherin. He would always be a Slytherin. A hateful, venomous man, the worst kind, a Death eater who had turned against even his own kind.
But he was also a man.
And a father.
And like any good father, he would do whatever it took to protect his daughter.
Trembling fingers gently ran down a soft cheek as the toddler cried out a little in her sleep, waking her from her nightmare, bruised arms enfolding her in a tender embrace as she clung to him when she awoke, chasing away the fears, a once-strong body as always her shelter against the dark.
“Shh…shhh…papa’s here, precious, papa’s here….” He comforted her as she sobbed incoherently, words and tears jumbled together in the aftermath. Nightmares. A pain he wished he could spare her. One he knew he never could. Draught of living death was too powerful for one so young, and simply dismissing the dreams, the fears unleashed would do more good than harm, he knew that from experience. All he could do was be there for her. Hold her, comfort her, until they lost their power, until her sub-conscious mind came to terms with what had happened to her.
And what nice, cold, clinical little phrasing it was.
He had faced many, many things in his life, but nothing would ever terrify him the same way as a scream of fear from his own child. The sound she had made when they had ripped her from his arms. It was a sound that would haunt his own nightmares, time and time again.
Araminta crawled up his body, green eyes peering at him. “bad men gone?” her voice was small, trembling a little, needing affirmation from the one man whose words she always took as gospel, who never ever lied to her.
Snape stroked a lock of hair away from her face. “Yes. The bad men are gone.” As horrific as it sounded, he wished his daughter had seen the battle, had seen the men who had taken her beaten, seen the fuel of nightmares vanquished.
And oh, he wished he had been the one to do it.
Araminta smiled, snuggling down into his chest. “Papa made them go away…” the innocent, double-meaning blade of her words choked laughter deep in his chest. Out of the mouth of babes…
“Where’s Remuu?” Her head poked up as she realised a member of their little trio was missing, hands reaching for a man who wasn’t there.
“Remus is…busy…” he said delicately, wincing as a shout echoed through the room. The words weren’t really intelligible, more a blast of sound than anything else. Dammit! He made an abortive move to get to his feet, stopping abruptly not at the furious look Poppy shot him, but at the pain that ripped through his back at the motion.
Araminta frowned up at him. “Not a full moon,” she pointed out, face turning into a stubborn pout he knew all too well, with all the demanding power of a two-year old behind it. There would be absolutely no reasoning with her, a fact he knew well as her face screwed up in a moue of extreme displeasure. “Want Remuu!”
He tightened his hug around her before she could degenerate into a full-blown temper tantrum. Normally he would ignore her childish little “I want!” fits, or cast the odd silencing charm if she became too noisy – asserting herself was one thing, the ‘terrible twos’ were another entirely – but he felt she was due a tantrum or two, given the circumstances.
And though he would never admit it, even under the cruellest tortures, he desperately needed a cuddle.
Araminta huffed and subsided, picking up on his mood. “Want Remuu,” she muttered, but it was more plaintive than anything else.
so do i… it was whispered in his mind, only in his mind. This wasn’t a casual affair. Wasn’t a rebound relationship – it never would have lasted for so long if it had been either. With Remus he had found a stability and honesty that had been so sorely lacking in his life. His body pleaded for a healing sleep his mind could not give it, clouding his thoughts.
But Harry too, had a place, one he couldn’t deny. He was Araminta’s father, and both Harry and his daughter had the right to know each other. Merlin this was such a mess!
His mind ran rampant, custody battles, the golden boy against the potions bastard, the thought of losing his daughter making his heart clench painfully in his chest. To never see her again, to never hold her, to comfort her, to teach her, all the things he had done, all the things he loved to do, to never love her again….it was a hell he’d faced once before. And the father – perhaps coward – in him lacked the strength to face it again.
He knew his choice, he’d made it already – hell, he’d made it years ago.
But when it came to his daughter, his choice, he knew, was inconsequential. Caught up mindlessly in the grindwheel of accelerating events.
Abruptly he pulled in a deep breath, reigning his mind back in. He was a man, not a child. He wasn’t helpless! And there was no cause for any of this!
The pensieve had been his first mistake. He never would have shown it to Remus if he’d known how soon after the event his lover and ex lover would come face to face. Remus wore his emotions easily, he planned, he strategised, true, but harm to family, to his own, was the one button that was too easy to push.
And now the pair were out there butting heads while he lay here pitying himself. He’d never allowed himself regrets and wasn’t about to start now.
/ “How long before it just becomes easier to put her away in a little cupboard under the stairs?” /
THAT came through loud and clear, and he shoved himself upright, pain ignored and thrust aside in a regrettably familiar way. He knew Remus would have his reasons for saying what he did, and the bastard in him approved of the delivery of the cutting remark, but the same man who had loved and lost – and above all knew Harry Potter was still inside him and he knew that to say such a thing went beyond any acceptable boundaries.
This had gone far enough.
Everyone was blowing everything possible wildly out of proportion, seeking trouble where there should be none, or simply making their own, it sounded like. And this argument, whatever had caused it, it had to be stamped upon, killed stone dead. This wasn’t some obscene muggle soap drama, this was real life. Everyone seemed to be becoming oblivious to that little fact, and even he was starting to fall victim to the hysteria permeating the air.
There was no cause for this! The sheer ridiculousness of the situation made him want to either laugh hysterically or put a wand to his head. It was degenerating into a comedy of errors! As far as he was concerned the matter, while not settled, had at least been eased into some semblance of order. Out of all the parties concerned, the only one deserving a full explanation was Remus himself, and damn him to hell, Severus had fallen into the sleepy lassitude of the infirm before managing to do so.
Enough was enough!
Poppy was standing over him before he’d even finished the thought, reading his body language in an insultingly easy way – she’d seen it before. “No. Don’t even think about it Severus, you’re nowhere near healed yet.” She held her wand at him, hand shaking a little, almost shoving it up his nose.
Thin lips tightened almost cruelly. “Accio wand.” The burst of wandless magic ripped through his healing fingers and he couldn’t resist the cry of pain at the feeling, dropping the rod uselessly to the floor.
Poppy pounced on the opportunity. “You can’t even do that, can you? Severus, please, listen to me,” she pleaded. “You nearly died.” the fact that he still could, remote as it was, was another weapon she would have used if his daughter wasn’t there.
But even as she spoke she had the feeling she had already lost the inchoate battle. Snape was not a stupid man. And if he had the chance to heal, to rest, he would take it. In the past he acquiesced to her when he had the chance, but too often during those dark years he hadn’t had the choice. And there had been alternates….
Her eyes widened in realisation. “Severus, no…” She knew what he wanted. What potion he was asking for. “I can’t give you that. I won’t.”
It was one they were both horribly intimate with. A stimulant, a quick fix, one that never lasted. The results were unpredictable at best, it could accelerate the healing process, or merely leave the feeling of being healed, which was most dangerous of all. Oh, it would do what he wanted, but Poppy refused to administer it. This wasn’t the war. There was time for healing, precious time he’d never had the hundreds of times they’d been forced to resort to it.
“I’ll do it my damn self!” clutching his daughter under one arm and shoving at the witch with the other, he clawed at the blankets, ignoring the fire lancing through his body at every motion. “Dammit Pomfrey, I can’t approach this from a position of weakness. I can’t do this when I’m falling asleep every time I utter a word more than three syllables long!” he was on the verge of passing out even as he said the words, only sheer willpower keeping him going.
“Severus Snape you are NOT leaving this bed! I’ll body bind you if I have to!”
It was an empty threat and they both knew it. Merlin, Poppy had seen the man escape a nest of death eaters and drag himself halfway across the world with a bare breath left in his body, there was nothing she could do to hold him.
Snape threw off her arms, eyes narrowed like twin lasers on her. Untold damage was being done, he could feel it, and she was pressing him to play the part of the injured party and let his life get shot to hell
“Get. The. Potion.”
Eyes tightened further. Meddle, meddle, meddle, poking prying fools either leaping to his defence or using his absence to make their statements, all of them abusing his infirmity for their own ends and ideals. And what he needed was for everyone to remove their respective heads from their rectal cavities and shut the hell up!
He and Harry had talked. And he had made his position, quite, quite clear. They were no longer lovers, but Harry had still fathered his daughter. He belonged in her life. The need for petty retribution still burned inside him, but he recognised it for what it was and refused to let it blind him. He was more than willing to allow Harry into his daughter’s life – if that was what he truly wanted, if his intentions were right.
And everyone seemed to be telling Harry the opposite. And that was more damaging than any of the purblind muddleheaded incompetent morons could envisage.
Poppy saw none of his thoughts, but recognised the familiar set in the potions master’s eyes. One she had become horribly intimate with during the war, when he had dragged his broken body again and again from a healing bed to go out and harm it again for the cause of the light. And she knew, that no matter how hard she steeled herself against it, he would break her, and she would accede to his request.
“Severus,” she pleaded softly. “Don’t do this. Think of your daughter. Think of your family. Doing this could set your recovery back weeks, and for what? An hour? This is madness, please….” Even as the words left her mouth, she knew she had lost.
“An hour is all I need,” he muttered, reaching for the bundle of clean robes left by a thoughtful house elf, until now disregarded and unneeded. His face twisted into an odd grimace, half smile, half pain. “And as much as it pains me to admit it, I am thinking about my family.”
Harry was laughing.
It had started suddenly, and he couldn’t stop, the sound increasing in volume, bouncing off stone as his friends steered him through the halls and back into the kitchen, pushing him into a seat. Loud, hysterical, the kind of laughter you died from and he was dimly aware of how it sounded less like a joyful sound and more like a wail from the grave but he still couldn’t stop.
Not too long ago…it felt like a century, he was just an Auror. Just a man. Now he was a father. Instant family like some demented potion, just add water and gently simmer. The simile didn’t fail him and he choked on his own laughter, hauling in a gasp of air before bursting off into another fit of giggles. Except someone stole his cauldron.
Cuckolded. That was the word, wasn’t it? Except it didn’t really belong in this context since Severus wasn’t his. As had been pointed out so bluntly. He was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, pushed too damn far and he couldn’t stop laughing. But that was good, wasn’t it? Wasn’t humour supposed to be the universal panacea?
He heard Ron swear softly from somewhere above him. “He’s lost it..”
The thought made him laugh even harder, doubled over and almost falling from his seat. Oh he wished he had! He honestly wished for insanity, complete, blithering, idiotic and above all oblivious insanity.
“Harry…Harry…” there were hands on his face, turning it up, forcing him to look into worried brown eyes. He hiccoughed a few times, choking on the laughter, trying not to meet those eyes but they caught him, turning the laughter into a cold, hard knot somewhere in his chest.
“what do I do, ‘mione?” he whispered plaintively. “it’s all gone wrong, what do i do?”
Hermione could only look at him helplessly. Blindly she reached out behind her, knotting her fingers with Neville’s. Her mind scrabbled for answers, she tried to put herself in his position, think of what she could say, a conversation that could take place, answers, anything, and came up dry again and again.
“Ron?” Bewildered green eyes tracked from one face to another. “Neville?”
Ron tried the same as Hermione. Tried to put himself in the other man’s place, failing. He simply didn’t have the frame of reference. What would he do it he found out that an old girlfriend was pregnant, that he’d never known? He didn’t know, couldn’t know. His relationships had never been incredibly passionate or flamed, they had always been comfortable, easy going. He could only shake his head in a feeble motion.
Neville was silent for a long moment, during which Harry slowly curled in on himself, hands reaching around to cap his knees, hunching into a solitary ball.
When he finally spoke, the words were measured, even. “You’re not....right, Harry.” The spark they had seen so long ago in the boy who stood up to his friends during their first year had blossomed into the flame of a man. “You’re reaching for something you can’t have. Professor Lupin and Snape, they look…happy – no…” he moved forward and crouched down beside the Auror, reaching out to put a hand on his as the other man crumpled further into himself. “Harry…Harry….” He waited an eternity until the other man looked at him. He didn’t know this pain, true, but he knew pain, he’d spent his whole life living with it.
“It’s not the end of the world,” he whispered. “I know Harry, it feels like it but it’s not. Don’t listen to Remus. He’s not Professor Snape, he’s not you, the decision isn’t his. Did Snape ever say you couldn’t know your daughter?” he waited patiently until a slow shake of the other man’s head bolstered him.
“Then what does Remus know? Would Snape ever change his mind on something like this?” again, another slow shake of his head, and he felt Hermione’s hand creep up his back encouragingly. He wasn’t placating the Auror with platitudes or promises he couldn’t back up, he was waiting for Harry to provide the answers, guiding Harry through what he already knew, and what he could have.
“Remus and Snape love each other.” He felt the muscles under his hand clench at his words and returned the motion, squeezing the hand under his reassuringly. “You don’t have to love Snape to love your daughter, Harry. She’s your daughter, you can be a father to her, you can still be that...but not right away. Don’t expect it to happen right away Harry, it’s going to take time. Take that time, you have it, no one’s throwing you aside, you have all the time in the world.”
Harry’s mouth opened, then closed. His eyes flickered nervously over Neville’s face, then Hermione’s, finally Ron’s.
Then there was silence.
It was something he’d longed for in Azkaban, lying there, curled in on himself, hearing the screams, the unspeakable noises from the other imprisoned in that hell. He’d begged for it in his sleep, an end to that horrendous symphony of purgatory.
But now, looking around the knot of tight worried faces, at his godson curled in on himself, the depression permeating the air, he flashed crazily back to his time in that prison. He’d been wrong - silence was worst of all.
“Harry?” He crossed the room, kneeling down beside the other man. Ron mutely tugged forward a chair for him, relief written plainly across his broad face and the Animagus took it gratefully, studying his grandson.
The time when Harry needed him most, and he was completely at a loss. What the hell was he supposed to say? He didn’t have a clue, so he just sat there, in silence. After a few minutes, he risked a clumsy arm around the other man’s shoulders. “I’m here,” he said simply.
If he was expecting a breaking of the ice, or for the other man to suddenly open his heart up and throw himself into his arms, he was disappointed. Harry simply continued to sit there, knees drawn protectively up to his chest, hands gripping his legs, staring off into some distance only he could see.
Silence again. Damnable silence.
“I’m here for you,” he pointed out hopefully. “I’m not here to judge, Harry, or to point fingers or anything else. I’m just here for you. If you need to talk.”
More silence. This time he decided to let it ride, to let it be until Harry was willing to talk.
After nearly ten minutes it started to get to him again, and he found himself almost desperate to fill the void.
“You know, I always wanted kids…” he started off slowly, gently, feeling his way through the conversation. Harry didn’t even seem to be listening to him, staring off into the distance. “Wanted the whole lot. Family, wife….thought I could double up a bit, you know, be the husband and family dog…” not even a whisper of movement at his joke, but he forged on, somehow knowing the other man was listening, he had to be listening. “Then I actually learned what it involved…”
“Don’t.” Harry finally spoke, voice raw, rusty, the tones of a man who had too much on his mind. “Please Sirius…don’t? Please?”
“…ok…” Sirius tightened his grip around the other man’s shoulders, letting him know he was there, and finally Harry eased a little, leaning into him, accepting the comfort. If his godson needed silence, then silence he would get. One problem at a time, he reminded himself. Just one problem at a time.
How long they sat in silence, he didn’t know. He let himself be content with the feel of his godson in his arms, taking his mind from thoughts on the silence and the situation just by celebrating deep inside the reunion after three years of silence. Just by knowing his godson was back.
Time passed. How much, he didn’t know, until a soft cough in the doorway startled him badly enough to almost topple him from his chair. Hermione let out a little squeak at the sound, Ron jerking from his seat and turning around, fists balled as the tenseness of the situation got to him.
“Harry.” The little group looked up to where Poppy stood in the doorway, hands twisting nervously in the front of her dress. “Severus wants to talk to you…”
All Content Copyright © 2001 Taleya Joinson