Chapter Ten: Familial Bonding
In Draco Malfoy's London study, Severus Snape was experiencing a similar sort of frustration.
"Damn and blast that woman!" he exclaimed, casting a sheet of parchment into the fire.
"I thought you were on better terms with your mother now," his godson replied, laying aside the journal he had been reading.
"It wasn't from Mother."
It was mid-June, and Severus had been receiving regular reports from the Squib investigator he'd hired to search for Harry since becoming a guest in Draco's home. He was staying with his godson for two reasons: one, it made it easier to be contacted by Augustine Marks, and two, he thought he should spend the summer getting to know the young man. Mercifully, Draco had not pried into his concerns, but when the Potions master heard his godson clear his throat expectantly, he knew his curiosity had finally gotten the better of him.
"So, what did your man have to say?"
"Nothing of consequence."
Draco raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Is he not competent?"
"He's Cracknuckle's best investigator, but it seems that Potter's been leaving false trails."
"Ah. Clever of her."
"There's always scrying to consider."
"Mother tried that already with a shard of Harry's old wand."
Interesting that you would have had that sort of thing laying about. "And how is Azalea?"
Severus considered his response carefully before giving it. It's foolish to keep this from him. So in the name of familial bonding, he replied, "Impatient to meet my wife."
He was perversely pleased to see how much he'd discomposed Draco by his admission.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me clearly, Draco."
"Forgive me, Severus, but unless I slept through the past several years—"
"—you did not."
Severus told him.
Too surprised by his godfather's news to hold his tongue, Draco asked, "Do you love her?"
"I never imagined you to be a romantic."
"Your situation is . . . unusual, I admit, but I can't think why else you'd be so . . . interested in finding Harry. Am I wrong?"
"You did hear me when I told you about the stabilizing draught, did you not?"
"Yes, of course, but . . . ."
Severus didn't hear his godson's words trail off into silence. He was considering his . . . relationship with Harry. They had never had an easy relationship, yet in the end, they had worked well together. There had been a strong, though inexplicable, bond between them in the brief months they'd partnered each other after Harry had graduated, Severus having been made part of the auror personnel responsible for training the new recruits. It had seemed natural, advisable, even, that he would work with the Girl Who Lived, despite their apparent dislike.
Only I hadn't despised her for a very long time, by then, Severus mused, tracing the origins of his admiration for Harry to the events surrounding the change in her sex.
Draco had escaped his family's manor to report Potter's abduction by his father to Albus Dumbledore, and the headmaster had sent the boy back to his home with Severus to rescue Harry. Only when they found Harry, the elder Malfoy had already altered the boy's sex at the behest of the Dark Lord. The curse was a complicated one that would doom the child to transform from a male form to a female form and back again until the painful magics tore his body apart. Working with Tongish Oddfish in a fever of experimentation, the Potions master and the venerable wizard had at last developed the potion that had saved Potter's life.
"Potter," Snape had said, entering the curtained area of the infirmary in which the child had been resting since her rescue.
She had been curled up in a tight ball on her cot in a futile attempt to escape her constant agony.
It had been difficult for Severus to see her that way.
"Potter, I do not believe that we can wait for you to revert to your male state. You won't survive the transmogrification."
Shaking from the exertion, the child had raised her head. "I know. I know that I'm dying, Sir."
"Sir." Potter's use of an honorific at such a time had touched the wizard.
"Harry . . . you misunderstand me. If you will allow it, I believe that I can save your life."
Albus had not wanted him to give Potter a choice, but on this point, Severus had remained firm—and Oddfish had concurred. To force a person to accept such a fundamental change to his—or her—being was unconscionable. And I will not violate Potter further than he has been without his consent.
Harry seemed to understand. "Yes, Professor Snape, please. I want to live. Help me."
And so Severus had.
Watching the child develop into a strong young woman and a competent witch had been an education for the Potions master, who came to regret never having taught Harry to view him in light of a friend. But he did not regret his refusal to indulge his growing regard for the woman while she was his student, even though, at times, it had seemed to him that his advances would not have been unwelcome.
Shortly before the Leaving Dance at the end of Harry's seventh year, however, Severus had convinced himself that it would be appropriate to convey his gratitude to her for the kindness she had shown both his godson and Blaise Zabini since they had made their allegiance to Dumbledore known. Her acceptance of the two Slytherin students after their ostracization by most of their own House had led to their "adoption" by her Gryffindor friends.
It had always been easier for the wizard to keep an emotional distance between himself and his colleagues, but he was a grown man who did not need the support and protection of friends. Still, he had hoped that by thanking Harry, it would allow him to develop a stronger . . . professional relationship with the witch as she began her auror training. And once she was no longer his student . . . .
The irony of discovering how alike he and Harry truly were had been a bitter lesson for Severus. It seemed that the student knew more about circumspection and love than anyone had ever taught the teacher.
"And now . . . now," he murmured.
"Now, what?" Draco asked, breaking his godfather's reverie.
"What did you ask me?"
Draco hastily retrieved the journal he had been reading. "I wonder if you could possibly tell me whose handwriting this is in Father's book, here, in the margins?" he asked, handing the book to Severus, and not pressing for an answer to his earlier question.
It wasn't necessary to hear it.
Severus was grateful for the other man's discretion. "The concept of family . . . ."
"Is a difficult one for both of us, I know. But I'm glad you trust me enough to . . . ."
"We've spent far too much time of late in the Weasley household, I fear."
"Indeed, Miss Weasley seems to be exerting a most profound influence over you."
"Don't smirk. You're the one she's persuaded to tutor her in firebranch draughts, despite the fact that you're on . . . vacation."
"One likes to encourage promising students," the Potions master replied, raising one eyebrow in mock irritation. "And it helps pass the time, while I . . . wait."
"Don't worry, Godfather. If your clan-brother recommended Marks, I'm certain he's up to the task of finding Harry."
"Do not humor me."
"I'm not. . . . I miss her, as well."
Without further discussion on the subject of Harry, the two men turned their attention to the matter of Lucius' research assistant. It was disturbing to both of them to think that there might be an individual who had access to the kind of knowledge that would allow him or her to construct an Avada Kedavra bomb.