Summary: For Severus, everything changes when Harry and his children move into Hogwarts. Albus Severus has taken a liking to him and it seems Harry Potter has a secret.
Rating/Warnings: NC17; Partially epilogue compliant. Includes rimming
Beta: The wonderful and lovely bk7brokemybrain - All remaining mistakes are my own. If you see any errors, please point them out to me - with a fic this large, it's easy to let some slip by without notice.
Word Count: 38,700
Author Notes: Written for the spectacular sra_danvers for her contribution to help_haiti. I promised Marta at least 3000 words, the fic kind of took off from there. I'm so glad she is a patient woman. The fic title and all chapter titles are taken from Eagles songs.
Part One: New Kid in Town
Three more stirs and Severus could extinguish the heat and let the potion cool. He smirked as the stirring rod made another circuit of the fifteen-inch cauldron; there was no better feeling than the first day of the summer holidays. The students had all left Hogwarts, his fellow teachers were too busy basking in their own freedom to bother him, and he had the whole summer for research, brewing, and reading.
He had just pulled the rod from the cauldron and spelled the heat away, when eight fingers curled around the top of the worktable opposite where he stood. They were so very small, they could only belong to….
Severus raised himself up on the tips of his toes and leaned over the table, careful to avoid brushing his robes against the cauldron or any ingredients. A tousle-haired boy looked up at him through bright green eyes. He grinned and giggled at Severus.
"And just which Potter are you, then?" Severus lowered himself back onto his heels and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Hullo, Perfesthor." The fingers disappeared and moments later the lad was standing next to Severus, craning his head back to get a view of Severus's face.
"It's pronounced professor, and how did you know I'm a teacher?"
"Daddy said most big people here are perfesthors." The boy shrugged.
"You still haven't answered my initial question.
"First what?" The child looked confused. Very Potter-like.
"The first question I asked. Which Potter are you?"
"I'm me." The boy poked his tiny chest with a thumb.
Severus took a deep breath, glad he never had to deal with children younger than eleven – at least until this summer, apparently. When he'd heard Potter had been given the post of Muggle Studies professor and was moving his brood into the castle, Severus hadn't really thought it'd affect him terribly. After all, what child would willingly venture into the dungeons? Of course, that question had yet to be answered. "Yes, but what is your name, boy?"
"Oh!" The boy's face lit up. "'m Albus."
It came out like Albuth, but Severus got the point.
"And what are you doing in my laboratory unescorted?"
"Why are you here alone?" Really, the boy might be quite small, but did that mean his brain was as well? Apparently.
"I ran down the stairs. Lots of stairs."
"Obviously, since you are in one of the lowest levels of the castle, but why isn't your father with you? You shouldn't be wandering around by yourself."
The boy plopped down onto his bottom and then laid flat on the floor. "It's hard to look up so high. Why are you so tall?"
The floor of a potions laboratory was simply not the place for anyone to lie down – what with all the potentially harmful spills that had occurred over the centuries. Severus told the boy as much.
Albus yawned and rubbed his eyes. "'m tired."
Severus bent and scooped the boy up, not quite sure what to do when a head drooped onto his shoulder. "Where's your father."
Severus sighed. He balanced the boy on his hip as he surveyed the laboratory. Nothing needed his immediate attention. As he carried the child from the room, he set several wards – something he should have done before he began brewing.
As he walked, Severus found himself inexplicably patting the sleeping boy's back. He cursed under his breath, but didn't move his hand.
Perhaps Severus should have made note of where Potter's rooms were when it'd been mentioned, but he'd thought it useless information. Now, with a small child's weight hefted in his arms and more stairs to climb than he remembered the castle having, Severus rethought that position.
By the time he reached the second floor and was heading in the general direction of the Gryffindor Tower (and cursing each of the other five staircases he'd have to ascend), he was getting quite winded. It was no wonder, then, that for the first time in his life, he was actually glad to spy Harry Potter.
The man stopped short when he saw Severus carrying his child. His mouth dropped open for a moment, but then closed with a snap. "You found him."
"Actually, he found me." Since Potter seemed disinclined to make any forward movement, Severus stepped up and thrust the child forward, only slightly worried when Albus's head lolled sharply to the side.
The condition of his son's neck didn't seem to worry Potter, however, as the buffoon simply stood in place, eyes still wide.
"Take your child, Potter." Severus's arms were beginning to ache. He wouldn't be responsible for dropping a toddler onto the stone floor.
"Oh! Yes, of course!" Potter snatched the child away, and with the ease of regularity, settled Albus against his chest.
Albus snuffled once, but otherwise seemed undisturbed.
"Please don't tell me your other two are also wandering the castle."
"No! Of course not! Albus tends to slip away from anyone who's watching him. Curious little snot, really."
Severus harrumphed and turned to leave. As he walked away, he said, "Make sure he doesn't venture into the dungeons again, Potter. A potions laboratory is no place for such a small child." He didn't wait for an answer.
Three Potter-free days of peace assured Severus that his warning had been heeded. He threw himself into potions research with a vigor that had only come after the demise of Voldemort, after he'd been liberated from every master.
On the fourth day, Severus's wards warned him that someone was outside his door, but since the person didn't knock, Severus was only too happy to ignore the presence. He continued brewing, working through the interruption, putting it out of his mind, only to once again become aware of it when the last ingredient was added and the cauldron set to simmer.
He washed his hands, dried them, and stalked toward the door, throwing it open to find an empty corridor. He was about to shut the door when he looked down. There on his doorstep, curled up in a ball, sleeping soundly, his posterior pressed against the doorframe, was Albus Potter. Did the child have some sort of sleeping sickness? As Severus stooped to retrieve Albus, his mind was already working over potential potion combinations to counteract lethargy – ones that would be suitable for a child, non-habit forming, no harsh side effects…. Oh, how Severus loved a challenge.
Instead of carrying the boy through the castle, Severus brought him into his private laboratory, and then farther, ending up in his rooms. He left the wards unset so Potter could find his way in – if he was even searching for his son.
He laid Albus on the divan and pulled his wand. Several minutes and diagnostic spells later, he realized the child was perfectly healthy, though rather underweight. If Severus was a little disappointed, well, he couldn't be blamed for wanting a new challenge.
He watched Albus Potter sleep for a moment, wondering what it was that caused parents to stand over their children's beds at night admiring them. A load of tosh, if you asked him. A sleeping child was a child who would not interfere with potions, or meals, or baths, or reading, or well… life, really.
He was only just turning away, wondering if he should cover the boy or not, when Severus heard footsteps thumping across his laboratory. He crossed his arms over his chest, set his right foot to tapping, and waited.
"Snape!" Potter skidded into the room, nodding when he saw Severus. "Professor, it seems Al has disappeared again."
"Obviously." With a flourish that could only be gained from wearing good, billowy, summer-weight robes, Severus turned and took one step to the side so Potter's spawn would be visible to Potter.
Potter let out a whooshing breath, pushed sweaty hair off a sticky forehead with a shaky hand, and then laughed. "I really didn't think he'd be down here, but I've looked everywhere else."
"Perhaps you've heard of tracking charms, Potter. If I'm not mistaken, I believe they are used frequently by parents of wayward toddlers."
Potter's eyes flicked from Albus to Severus. His expression, which had softened when he saw his son, hardened. "I don't need to be told how to raise my children. And regardless, why didn't you tell me you had him? I've been worried sick! What's been going on down here, anyway?"
What's been going on? The man couldn't possibly be accusing Severus of any wrongdoing, could he? "Take your child and get out of my rooms!"
Part Two: Witchy Woman
Minerva placed her teacup down primly on the side table. She dabbed at her lips and cleared her throat. "Harry was quite angry, Severus."
"Angry? About what?" He'd always hated being summoned to Albus's office, but to have Minerva invade his private rooms each time she thought they needed to talk was exponentially worse.
"He said you had his son in your private rooms." She glanced at the divan. "And that you failed to let him know where Albus was."
"Perhaps he should take better care of his children," Severus said, his voice tight, "so others are not disturbed by finding them sleeping on their doorstep."
Minerva nodded. "I will need to be able to assure Harry that nothing happened to his son while he was in your care."
Severus bolted from his seat. It was one thing to have Potter making nasty insinuations, it was quite another for Minerva to believe they might be true. "Perhaps you should leave."
"Sit down, Severus. Our conversation isn't over."
Severus might concede that the woman wouldn't leave until she was ready, and would continue talking despite what he might want, but he wouldn't follow her orders. He remained standing.
"I trust you, Severus, of course I do. How could you doubt that?"
How could he doubt that? Of all the nerve! "Perhaps because you have failed to do so in the past."
At least she had the decency to blush. "Those were harsh times. It was difficult to know who to trust and what was the truth."
"And now?" Severus was only just checking his temper. He needed this job. In another few years he'd have enough galleons tucked away to escape, but not now – not with his reputation staining any possibility of procuring other employment.
"I would trust you with my life."
"But not with that of a Potter offspring, apparently."
Minerva sighed. She rubbed a hand across her forehead, for once looking her age. "I do trust you, Severus, but I need to take your story back to Harry."
Severus's eyes narrowed. His tenure here would be far easier if he chose to believe her. "I will take my own story to him, thank you."
It would have been much easier to exchange words with Potter had they been alone, or had those in attendance not all been under the age of six. As soon as Severus had been allowed admittance into Potter's rooms, Albus had run forward, squealing, "Perfesthor!" and wrapped his arms around one of Severus's legs.
Severus shook his leg, trying to dislodge the boy, but to no avail.
Potter simply looked on, wearing a bemused expression.
Severus sighed and bent down, offering his arms to Albus, who let go of Severus's leg in favor of settling onto a hip. "Hi, Perfesthor! Daddy says I musn't go downstairs no more."
"Then you must do what your father says."
"I like to watch you cook."
"Brew? What's that?"
"It's cooking potions."
Harry cleared his throat. He stepped forward and held his arms out to Albus, who only snuggled more deeply against Severus.
Severus tried to pry the child away from his body, but Albus only held on tighter. He finally gave up and looked at Harry. "If nothing else, Albus's behavior toward me should prove I have done him no harm."
Potter nodded. He ran a hand through his messy hair. "I'm sorry, sir. I'd been so worried, frantic really, when Al disappeared. I wasn't thinking straight."
"Do you really think me capable of… what? Molesting a child?" Severus hissed, wishing he could cast a muting spell over Albus so he wouldn't hear this conversation. But even as child-intolerant as he was, he knew that casting magic on someone else's child without their permission was a huge gaffe.
"No. I didn't. Not really. I was being stupid. I'm sorry."
Severus nodded. "Apology accepted. If you'd be so kind, please inform the Headmistress of your mistake." Severus stepped toward the door only to realize he still had an armful of Potter. He bent his knees to squat, hoping to set the boy on his feet, but Albus had other thoughts. He squirmed farther up, tucking his legs under Severus's arms. "Perhaps the question, Potter," he said, glaring up at the man, "is not why your child prefers to be with me, but why he seems so determined not to be with you."
Potter glared, and was probably grasping for some retort, when an auburn-haired boy stepped into the room. He was followed by a girl who apparently was only just learning to walk, if the unsteadiness of her gait were any indication. "Albie misses our mum," the boy said.
Potter's expression went from angry to sad. He patted the boy's head and then reached out to pick up the girl, swinging her up, causing her to giggle and flail her arms. "Professor Snape, this is James and Lily. James, Lily, say hello to Professor Snape."
James and Lily. Severus, of course, knew the children's names, but it still didn't ease the sting of hearing them mentioned so casually. The boy, at least, looked nothing like any Marauder. The girl resembled Lily, but not strikingly so. Severus nodded, but then thought of how few manners Potter offspring were most likely accustomed to and set out to offer a better example. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance," he said.
James snickered, but nodded.
So much for manners.
"Albus misses our mum," James said again.
Severus glanced at Lily and remembered the headlines and whispered gossip. Two weeks after the baby had been born, Ginevra Potter still hadn't recovered from the birth. Another week later, and everyone knew she never would.
"James, I don't think the Professor needs to hear about that."
"But you said Albie was sleeping good at the Professor's. He doesn't do that anywhere else."
Potter sighed. He ducked his head a bit as he once again addressed Severus. "Ginny was always Al's favorite. He's had a rough time of it since she passed away. He isn't sleeping well, or eating much, for that matter. Madam Pomfrey's been giving him half doses of nutrient potions, but…."
"But they aren't the same as consuming a good meal." Severus hadn't realized the child had such problems. Why, if anyone had mentioned them, he would've been working on a better substitute. He hefted the boy a bit, trying to judge his weight. "Potions meant for adolescents and teens wouldn't be correct for one so young. Poppy should know that. I will have to research the caloric and nutritional needs of a child his age. How old is he?"
Albus lifted his head off Severus's shoulder. He loosened one arm enough to hold his hand in front of Severus's face. He held up four fingers. "I'm four."
"You're three," James said.
"He'll be four later in the summer," Harry interjected.
"See?" Albus said. "'m four."
"Of course you are." Severus stood, the child still in his arms. "Time to go see your father so I may do some research on your behalf."
"I'll go with you."
"The potions lab is no place for a child."
The child in question wrapped his arms and legs so tightly around Severus, that had Severus let go, he imagined Albus would easily support himself. He didn't believe, however, that Potter would appreciate the experiment.
Potter set Lily on the floor and stepped forward. He wrapped his arms around Albus's waist, his fingertips brushing Severus's chest. "Come on, Al. Professor Snape is going to help you, but you have to let him go long enough so he can."
The boy sniffled several times. He finally loosened his grip and tipped his head back to look at Severus. "Can I come downstairs tomorrow?"
"Perhaps during tea time, if I'm not working. I'll let your father know, but you are not to sneak off by yourself again. If you do, you will certainly not be allowed back in my laboratory."
The boy nodded and then turned, allowing his father to pluck him away from Severus.
"There's no need to glare!" Severus glared right back.
Albus tried to hold a stern expression but soon fell into a fit of giggles.
"He's mad that you haven't invited him to the dungeons," James said. He looked at Severus like Severus really should have understood this.
Severus reached across the staff table to snag some jam. He applied it liberally to his toast and took a small bite, all the while trying to reason out whether the child deserved an answer. He rather thought not. After all, it had only been… Severus did a quick calculation… nine days. Well, he supposed that might seem a long time to a child. "If your father agrees, you may visit me today at two o'clock for exactly one hour."
"Can I come, too?" James asked.
Wasn't one Potter spawn enough?
"Now, Severus, you can't let one visit without the other," Minerva said. "That wouldn't be fair. Not fair at all."
Severus glared at the Headmistress. "Since when have you ever expected fairness from me?"
Potter cleared his throat. "It's okay, really it is. James, you can help me in my classroom. I have quite a lot to do before term starts."
The boy's lip quivered, as if…. Well, hell! "Yes, you may accompany your brother, but I daresay you'll both be bored within a quarter hour." Severus ignored both Albus's scowl (perhaps the boy didn't care to share) and James's grin, to turn toward the elder Potter. "I expect they will be accompanied down. They shouldn't be allowed to roam the castle unsupervised."
"I'll have Belfry bring them along."
Severus nearly choked on the bite of toast he'd just taken. "Belfry?"
"Belfry is the house-elf I've assigned to help Harry care for the children," Minerva said.
"You're entrusting the care of small children to a house-elf?"
"Belfry's nice," Albus said. He stabbed a fried potato with his fork and shoved it into his mouth.
"And I suppose this Belfry was supposedly keeping an eye on you when you slipped away to visit me?"
Potter cleared his throat. "No… actually they were with me… both times."
In deference to the children, Severus only just stopped himself from remarking on how a house-elf appeared more capable of rearing children than a Potter did.
"As I said before, Potter, tracking spells wouldn't go amiss. Soon that one," he indicated the tiny girl who was perched on Harry's lap, scrambled egg squishing through her fist, dripping from her chin, "will be toddling away from you."
Harry scowled and opened his mouth to speak, but Minerva interrupted.
"Arrangements have to be made, Severus," Minerva said. "Once the new term starts, Harry will have his teaching duties, and someone must mind the children. Belfry is proving capable."
"Yeah, and as soon as the students are back, Ted said he'd help out whenever he can. I have a feeling this lot will be adopted by Gryffindor."
Severus's stomach churned. It wasn't as if he had any claim on the youngest Potter boy, but still, it galled him to think Albus might soon be clinging to Lupin. Perhaps he should let the boy visit more often. "Ted Lupin? That may prove worse than leaving the monsters with a house-elf." Although only one year into his Hogwarts education, Lupin was already known for a mischievous streak. If James Potter or Sirius Black had been alive when the child was conceived, Severus might believe Nymphadora had been an adulteress.
Part Three: Business as Usual
"I'm bored." James Potter rested his elbows on the student desk and dropped his head hard enough that it clunked against the wood. Well, the boy probably didn't have enough brain cells to worry about.
"'m not," Albus said. He continued looking through My First Potions Book. Severus had made a hurried trip into Hogsmeade to procure the tome. It seemed the effort wasn't in vain as Albus continued flipping through page after page of pictures - cauldrons, stirring rods, and ingredients. "When can I cook stuff?" he asked.
"You're too little," James said, lifting his head to eye his brother and then plunking it back down onto the desk.
"I wanna do it now," Albus said. He looked at Severus, who sat at his desk, the patter of the boys diverting his attention away from the lesson plan he was updating. "I can help you cook, can't I?"
A thought had been niggling at Severus since breakfast, since he'd found out that the Lupin boy would be helping care for Albus. Maybe it was a thought worth pursuing. "Perhaps, if you're good, you can start brewing after you turn four. But only if your father gives permission."
As if on cue, Harry Potter stuck his head in through the door. He smiled wryly when he saw his sons sitting in the classroom. "Sorry to interrupt. I thought I'd find you in your private lab, Professor, not here."
He hadn't thought he could handle both children in his laboratory, but he wouldn't admit that. "I had classroom work to attend."
James jumped from his chair, and without sparing a glance for Severus, bounded to his father. "I'm bored."
Potter chuckled. "I figured you would be. Too much like your old dad to enjoy quiet work, aren't you? That's why I came down. Neville's here to take you and Albus for ice cream. Just like he promised."
James squealed and clapped his hands. "Are you and Lily coming too? Please, please, please come along, Dad."
"Not this time. Maybe next."
Severus folded his arms across his chest and sat back in his seat, watching to see how Potter would handle the tantrum he expected the child would throw. He was a bit disappointed when James only bowed his head and muttered, "Okay."
Severus turned toward Albus, who had closed the book but was clutching it to his chest. "Off you go, Albus," Severus said. "You're to get ice cream with Professor Longbottom, so I hear."
"His name's Neville," James said. He puffed his chest. "We're allowed to call him Neville because he's our friend."
"I wanna stay here," Albus said.
"Don't you want ice cream, Albie?" Potter asked. He crossed the room and laid a hand on Albus's forehead. "Are you feeling well?"
"I'm fine. I just wanna stay here with the Professor. I haven't been here in a long time." He turned pleading, green eyes toward Severus.
Potter looked from his younger son to Severus, his face reddening. "I hate to ask, sir," he said, "but would you mind if Albus stays just a bit longer? Once I get Lily down for her nap, I'll come back and fetch him."
Severus felt like crowing. Not only would young Albus prefer to be with him than his father, but he would forgo ice cream and Neville as well. "We will have the house-elves bring us some ice cream of our own. I admit to a craving for a bit of chocolate."
James shook his head. As Harry herded the five-year-old into the hallway, James turned at the last moment and said, "Neville's our friend, Albus. If he was really your friend," he pointed at Severus, "he wouldn't make you call him professor."
Before calling a house-elf for ice cream, Severus led Albus into his rooms. How hard could this be, even if his rooms weren't exactly child- (or Potter) proof? He knew the answer to that as soon as Albus had covered himself, and much of Severus's sofa, with chocolate ice cream. "You're not this messy when you eat in the Great Hall."
Albus's bowl took the opportunity to slip from the boy's grip and tumble to the floor, spraying the rest of the ice cream about, including gobs that ended up on Severus's shoes and trousers.
"Oops. Sorry," Albus said quietly.
Severus was set to scold the boy when he noticed Albus's eyes were shining and his bottom lip quivering. Instead he sighed and flicked his wand. All remnants of the mess were gone. "In the future, I believe we should eat at a table."
Albus wiped at his nose and nodded. "Sorry," he said again, quietly.
The boy's expression went from downcast to beaming in a matter of seconds. He launched off the couch and landed in Severus's lap. "You're my friend."
"Well, I don't…" Severus started, wondering how to explain friendship versus tolerance. He stopped short when Albus's eyes threatened to fill again. "Do you think I'm your friend?"
"Of course," The child actually rolled his eyes.
Severus ignored the action and said, "That's good."
"Neville's my friend, so I don't hafta call him Perfesthor Lonabin."
"No. I daresay he wouldn't want you to call him that."
"Sooo…" Albus looked up and grinned. "What's your name?"
"Ahhhh… so you think you should be permitted to address me by my given name?"
Albus's forehead scrunched and his lips pursed, but he nodded nonetheless.
"Have you heard anyone call me anything except for professor or sir?"
"When Daddy was talking to Uncle Ron, he called you Snape, but that's your name like Potter."
Merlin's beard! Snape was nothing like Potter, but of course, he knew what the boy meant, so he tamped down his first reaction and said, "Yes, it is."
Albus reached his hands up to frame Severus's face. He tapped Severus's cheeks with each of his next words. "What's your name?"
"You won't be happy unless you can call me by my given name, will you?" It wasn't so much that Severus cared whether the boy was happy (at least not overly), but it wouldn't do to have Potter burst in to find a wailing child sitting on Severus's lap. "If you know your own name, then you know mine."
Albus, his palms still flush against Severus's face, knitted his brows again. Severus was afraid if the boy spent too much time in his presence, he, like Severus, would have early frown lines. Finally the boy shook his head.
Severus sighed. He'd have to be a bit more direct. "My given name is the same as one of your names."
The boy's forehead wrinkled further. He dropped his hands. "Don't know, then."
"What is your full name?" Surely the boy knew his whole name? What child didn't?
"Albus Potter. You know that." It sounded like Albuth as always, but of course, the child had no problem pronouncing Potter.
"Yes, but what's your middle name?"
Albus remained silent, kept that bemused expression firmly in place.
Severus tried a different approach. "When your father gets annoyed with you, what does he call you?"
"Daddy never gets mad."
"Of course he doesn't." No wonder the child was so quick to latch on to someone else. Children craved rules and discipline.
"He gets sad, sometimes."
Well, Severus really didn't want to know that. He almost made the mistake of asking what Albus's mother would have called him when she was angry, but stopped himself. "Does your Grandmother ever take care of you?"
"Are you ever naughty when she takes care of you?"
Albus grinned a little and nodded again.
"What does she call you when you've been naughty?"
Albus's eyes lit up. "Albuth Se'brus Potter!" he declared.
"Well, there you have it."
"Your name's Se'brus?"
"Severus," Severus pronounced, "but, yes."
Albus's hands were back on Severus's cheeks. "Are you my Se'brus?"
It was that odd tableau that Harry Potter walked in on. Since Albus was blocking his line of vision, Severus only knew Potter was there by a bark of laughter. "He's got you wrapped around his little finger, Snape. I never thought I'd see the day."
Albus jumped off Severus's lap and flew into Potter's arms. "Is he, Daddy?"
"Is he what?"
"Is he my Se'brus?"
Harry looked over his son's head at Severus. "I suppose he is."
"The one I'm named for?" Albus persisted.
Harry nodded. He quirked a smile at Severus before looking down at his son. "He's the very one you're named for."
The boy's ghastly squeal should have awoken the dead. Severus almost looked behind himself for newly-raised inferi, or heaven forbid, Albus Dumbledore.
They fell into a routine of sorts. Three times a week, on days when Severus wasn't so busy that he couldn't stand an hour's intrusion, he would invite Albus to join him for tea. He made a point of inviting James as well, if only to see the horrified expression on the boy's face.
Albus visited without fail. At first Severus restricted his visits to only tea, but on one day, which turned out more hectic than planned (a specific healing potion was needed when Hagrid got his enormous hand nearly skinned by something – the man still wouldn't admit what had happened), Severus had the need to take Albus into his private laboratory. Yes, the boy had been there before, but not at a time when Severus's attention had to be focused only on his brewing.
He sat Albus down in a chair where he'd have a view of Severus's work, cast several spells around the boy (cushioning, shielding, sticking) and began brewing.
An hour later, when Potter came to collect his son, Albus was still where he had been placed, but full of stories of how his Severus had chopped this, and bashed that, and 'cookeded' the whole lot.
"I bet you never expected to have such a fan, did you?" Harry asked as he bundled the boy out of the room.
No. Severus couldn't say he would have ever bet that. Even after his part in the war had been proved and published, the public hadn't come knocking on his door bearing accolades (much less cash… or sexual favors).
From then on, Severus made sure to take Albus into the laboratory on most visits. He still ensured the boy's safety, but now took the time to instruct as he brewed. Even if the child didn't understand all he was being told, Severus kept up a monologue cataloging all he was doing, counting each and every stir aloud, and enumerating the uses of each ingredient (and how they reacted when mixed with the others).
The boy was proving to be part Potter, part sponge.
It had been years since Severus had visited the Muggle Studies classroom. It certainly wasn't a curriculum he was interested in (he'd learned enough of Muggle ways from his father, thank you very much), nor had any of the previous instructors been interesting or valuable enough to visit. Potter was no exception, but since Albus seemed to have taken it upon himself to become part of Severus's life, there was need to contend with the father.
With only five weeks to go before students arrived, the classroom was still in shambles: books were piled willy-nilly, posters were curling off the walls, odd appliances were scattered about the room.
Potter didn't look much better. He was bent over what appeared to be a Muggle television, his hair messier than usual, his Muggle clothing soiled and wrinkled. He startled when Severus cleared his throat. "Snape, damn you, give a man some warning. You nearly scared me to death."
"If you were that easy to kill I suppose Voldemort might now be Minister of Magic."
Potter looked at Severus quizzically before walking over to sit on his desk. "I might almost think that a compliment, but coming from you, I'm sure it isn't."
"There are a few things you haven't completely bollixed up, it seems."
Potter laughed. "Well I'm sure as hell bollixing up this teaching stuff – and term hasn't even started."
Severus glanced again around the room. "Indeed. What exactly are you attempting in here, Potter?"
Swinging his legs, knocking his feet on the bottom of the desk, Potter said, "Well, I wanted this to be a completely magic-free space. You know, immersion, and all that. When the students come in, they shouldn't be able to use magic at all."
"Magic dampening wards should suffice, I believe, and could be instated quickly and easily as long as you have Minerva's consent."
Harry nodded. "She said it's fine, she just hasn't had time to…." He cut off before finishing the sentence.
"Just because she's Headmistress, doesn't mean she has to cast the wards, Potter. You can do them yourself."
The man blushed. He swallowed hard and banged his heels more loudly against the innocent desk. "Yes, well, I suppose I could try to set them myself, but I don't know much about wards and I wouldn't want to do something wrong."
"For Merlin's sake, Potter! When have you ever worried about doing wrong? What happened to cast now, research later?" Severus raised an eyebrow, challengingly.
Potter pushed off the desk and pulled himself up to his rather discouraging full height. If he thought the move to be intimidating, he was bloody wrong. Severus simply took a couple of steps forward so Potter could accurately judge how terribly tall his shortcomings actually were. Like Potter of old, however, the man was not cowed.
"Perhaps I've grown up a bit," he said. "Perhaps having three children and then losing my wife to a fucking Muggle disease had a way of maturing me."
Perhaps, but that remained to be seen. From what Severus had witnessed in the past weeks, Potter did seem a bit matured, but certainly not overly. He still tended toward goofy. Ignoring Potter's words, Severus pulled his wand and said, "How dampened do you want the room?"
Potter relaxed and grinned. "As close to one hundred percent as you can go."
"But if there's an emergency and you need magic quickly…."
"Then I step into the hall."
Severus nodded. It sounded like a load of rubbish to him, but he supposed Potter knew how he wanted to teach his class. "You really should do any preparatory magic to the room before I set the wards."
"I… well, like I said, I was intent on leaving this as a magic-free zone, so I've been attempting to do all the preparations without my wand."
"Yes, so it appears. Potter. Your students will never know if you use sticking charms to hold the posters in place." Severus waved his wand in an arc. The posters, some of automobiles, others of Muggle sports figures, and useless looking products, uncurled and stuck flush against the walls. They would remain that way despite the dampening spell. It was a tricky bit of magic, one, Severus assumed, that'd been used on Walburga Black's portrait in Grimmauld Place. This spell wouldn't be as permanent as that one, of course, but still, it'd be months before those posters could be changed out. Another flick of his wand and the books were all shelved (alphabetically). Severus proceeded to straighten the desks, organize Harry's workspace, and even unstick a few windows before he lowered his wand. He looked at his handiwork and smirked. "Nothing to it, Potter."
The man's grin became a wide smile. "That was brilliant, sir. I suppose you've had enough years of practice to know what a classroom needs."
Potter looked down and scuffed one foot on the floor.
"Blast it all, man, if you have something to ask, then blurt it out – you've always done so in the past."
"Well, you see, sir… I have all these electronic devices I was hoping to teach the students how to use." He swung his arm around indicating toasters and mixers, and gadgets the defied Severus's knowledge. The Muggle world had changed and grown in the twenty-odd years since he'd had any part of it.
"Electronics will not work at Hogwarts," Severus said. "Too much magical interference."
"Yes, but Minerva suggested that if we set up a magical power source just outside the room that would work like a huge battery – you know – with outlets and all to plug the appliances into, once the magic dampening wards are up, they should all work." The man looked at Severus hopefully.
"And I suppose you are unsure of how to go about this."
Potter nodded. "And I don't seem to have my wand on me."
"So you've always said."
It took over an hour and much thought to figure out an acceptable way to power the machines in Potter's room. The challenge was quite stimulating. Severus worked it like a puzzle until every piece fit. Soon, there was a battery of sorts (transfigured from a desk) humming along in the connecting classroom, powered, at first, by some of Severus's own magic, and then, once it was running, borrowing freely from the ambient magic of the castle. When Severus finally put the dampening wards in place, Potter tried the new system in a rather satisfying way. A bag of popcorn and a microwave oven – who would have thought the results would be so pleasing?
He left Potter's classroom, forgetting why he'd gone there in the first place, until he heard a rustling in the pocket of his robes. He pulled out the parchment – a firm schedule of when Albus would visit for the rest of the summer – and glanced at it. He'd give it to Potter at one of the meals.
Chapters 4 & 5"