Severus was feeling more certain of himself and his chances with Harry as he sat at in his office and pondered his Scroll. With the Presentation essentially complete and Blaise having agreed to an alteration in the scheme of the Courtship Ritual, if not a break from it, it now fell to Severus to prepare invitations for the Convivium, which was due to begin on the first of February.
Death threats are not always an inconvenience.
It was such a relief to be foregoing the Reception that Severus found he was almost looking forward to the house party at the manor, despite the fact that hosting it would mean leaving his students to the devices of whatever incompetent substitute Albus elected to engage in his stead.
There's no sense in worrying about that, he lied to himself, turning his mind to the task at hand and his eyes to his Scroll. Scanning for the names of those Eligibles most objectionable to him, he fixed upon Lucretia Langford's and considered what he knew of her. Too in love with the Muggle world to desire to marry a wizard, or so I read between the lines of her polite missive explaining her absence from the recent parties.
Langford, the daughter of a French witch, was living as a Muggle actress in the States. Her reputed sexual proclivities, which had reached his ears even in the wizarding world thanks to his students, appalled Severus.
I've seen enough blood-play in this lifetime. She won't do.
Severus watched Langford's name disappear and wondered how many others he could reasonably remove without irritating Blaise.
I certainly don't need to leave Headmistress Dippet on the list. She indicated her distaste for the Courtship Ritual at the gala and is, I believe, fond of her spinster state. In any case, she has sufficient children in her care and wouldn't desire any of her own.
That was unacceptable to Severus, for he wanted children of his own for reasons other than that of retaining his status as the Head of his Family. Anyone who'd ever been his student wouldn't have credited it, but Severus liked children. They were by their very nature curious, giving, and non-judgmental, all attributes that made it easy for him to keep their company, which he did weekly as a volunteer at the Aberdeen Foundling Home. The Home was one of Minerva's charities, and it was run by her nephew, Baird, and his partner, Ian, who were the parents of her great-niece, Greer. Severus had been Floo'ing up every weekend since shortly after the war had ended to provide the young lady, now eight-years-old, with assistance as she minded "her" charges. His initial visit, however, had been due to Minerva's request that he help Baird with a nutrient potion for Greer, as babies born of magic had special needs and often failed to thrive.
Ian had placed the fretful baby in his arms, and she'd calmed down at once, grabbing at his nose and smiling in delight. Baird had assured him that it was probably just gas that had caused the facial gesture, but Severus, who was so rarely the recipient of anyone's smile, had known at once that Baird was mistaken.
He smiled to think of how strong Greer had become—and how much the little general in her dealings with him.
"No, Sev'rus," she'd often tell him, "that's not a nice thing to say," or "No, Sev'rus, you mustn't scowl." When Greer deigned to praise him—for perhaps reading a story particularly well or not becoming irritated by a typical childish mishap—it made him feel truly accomplished. He couldn't put into words all the lessons that Greer had taught him, but he looked forward to seeing her and the other children as much as he had to the receipt of Harry's weekly letters.
I think Harry would like Greer, Severus thought, allowing a particular memory to rise in his mind—the memory of Harry's unexpected arrival at the staff Christmas party two years previously. He hadn't arrived alone; he'd had in tow a pair of floating baskets.
"They're crying, Professor McGonagall."
"So I hear," Minerva had said, reaching into one and pulling from it a screaming toddler. "There now. Whatever is the matter?"
"Harry! I'm glad you could come," Albus had greeted him. "I see your godsons are in good voice."
"Very. I've tried everything, sir, but they won't—"
"Colic," Aurora had interrupted, picking up the other child. "I know just the thing for it."
She'd waved her wand over both children, and they'd settled down almost at once.
"Magic!" Harry had cried, looking more grateful than Severus had ever seen him.
"Oh, Professor Snape. Hello, sir. Happy Christmas."
"Severus," Albus had warned, though his tone had remained irritatingly cheerful.
"Harry, why don't you allow Aurora and I to mind the boys while you catch up. I haven't held a baby since my great-niece was born."
"Oh, uh, sure—and thanks, Professor Sinistra. They've been crying for hours."
"Not at all, Harry."
"Well, now that you've successfully managed to rid yourself of your charges," Severus said, "I expect you'll be wanting punch."
With a flick of his wand, he'd conjured a glass of it for Harry and held it out to him, only to see Harry reach out and then retract his hand.
"Actually, no, I don't care for punch, thanks," Harry had replied, straight-faced, before his lips had twitched, once, perhaps twice, before he'd finally grinned.
That had been the beginning of desire for Severus, seeing that simple and unexpected facial gesture that had partnered Harry's teasing of him. It had been the first time that Harry had ever favoured him with a genuine smile, and although Severus had got to know Harry somewhat through their correspondence, until he'd smiled at him, Severus had always pictured Harry in his mind's eye as no more than a boy.
He'd spent the remainder of the evening watching Harry's progress around the room and taking in the young man's . . . growth.
"I agree," Albus had said, inexplicably, some time later, as Severus had stood against the wall watching Harry play with the twins.
He's very good with children, isn't he? "About what?"
"He's grown up to be a most handsome young man."
At the time, the Severus had felt it unwise to respond.
He is good with children. He's good with everyone—even me, Severus thought, meditating upon the mouth that had plagued him for years. In one way or another, he considered, snorting in amusement and shifting a bit in his chair.
He wondered how soft Harry's lips would be, how strong. He imagined that his skin would feel like silk against his own, warm, maddening silk that—"Enough. You'll never get any work done if you don't stop woolgathering."
Severus snorted at his euphemism and ran his finger down the parchment of the unfurled Scroll, reluctantly giving up his pleasant remembrance. He knew that there would be time to . . . indulge himself later, so he returned to his task with greater focus than before.
Crispin Charteris, he decided, should remain. His conversation is fascinating, and he contributed a great deal to the War Orphans' Fund. Elizabeth Dellwood and Drusilla Denton seem engaging enough, so I may as well leave them until the end of the Convivium. Elladina Endicott comes from an old family. If I remove her, Blaise will be displeased because he wants all to appear "fair," but Luis Faberge can go.
The owner of Faberge Magiceuticals, Luis was too much taken up by his work to ever seriously consider matrimony, and Severus had heard disturbing things about Faberge's disregard for minding ethical considerations as he prepared his products for the market.
Lucius held his father in high regard, as well, did he not?
Though he was feeling nostalgic, thinking of his old friend—the man he'd once very nearly worshipped—caused Severus pain. He remembered well the moment the older boy had taken pity on him and scattered the pranksters who were tormenting him on his first ride aboard the Hogwarts' Express. When the boys had fled, Lucius had turned to him and said, "You are a Snape, are you not?"
"Y—yes," he'd stammered, a bit awed to be in the presence of the regal and refined Lucius.
"Then you might act like one. What is your name?"
The way Lucius had smiled when Severus had called him "sir" had given him chills that he'd not then understood.
"I," Lucius had told him, "am Lucius Malfoy. You would do well to remember my name. You should also take care to avoid the Mudbloods, Severus. A difficult undertaking, given Hogwarts' regrettable policies concerning them, but necessary all the same. No one of worth will befriend you if you cannot look out for yourself."
With those words, Lucius had swept away, his pure white winter cape billowing out behind him as if he were a king.
Yes, the King of Sleep, Severus thought, pushing away the memory, and wishing that he'd not been so easily entranced by Lucius' grace and air of command. I followed him around the way Creevey did Harry until he left Hogwarts. Worse, I followed him after.
His eyes fell on Hermione's name then, and he grimaced. You followed your friends, too, though you chose them far better than did I.
Hermione had been a distressing student for him, inasmuch as she'd forced him to think five lessons ahead, but he was grateful that his dislike and prejudice had faded to the point that he could now appreciate her.
For there are few people I know or have known who are of greater worth. Blood bleeds red no matter from whom it flows.
"Draco," Severus murmured then, for his recollections had led him to the confrontation between the boy and his father that had been responsible for his colluding with Narcissa on the matter of Lucius' "death."
"I don't think that I should take the Dark Mark while a student, Father," Draco had told Lucius in Severus' presence.
They were standing in the Malfoy library by the hearth discussing the coming war.
"I could be more useful to you and the Dark—"
"You presume to tell me how best you would be useful?" Lucius had asked, his cultured voice low and thick with derision.
Draco had blanched.
"Perhaps the boy is right."
"Severus, my son is merely afraid. It pains me to see it."
"I'm not afraid!"
"No? No, you are merely your mother's son, I fear."
Shite, Severus had thought.
"None of your concern, Draco. You will remain here for the coming ceremony and then take your place by my side in Lord Voldemort's ranks, or—"
No, Severus had thought, knowing full well what was coming.
He'd been wrong. He couldn't have imagined the fury that Lucius had unleashed on his heir that evening. Even now, years later, he still felt the clammy, useless hands of Guilt squeezing his heart to know that he'd stood by and done nothing to stop Lucius' savage magical beating of Draco.
"My h—husband," Narcissa had stammered upon entering the library to the sounds of Draco's screams and trying valiantly not to glance at her son's bloodied and quivering form on the floor, for she knew enough about Lucius to understand that this would make matters worse for Draco, "you are neglecting your guests."
Lucius had transformed from the veriest monster into a gracious host instantly. "You're quite right, my dear. Severus, see if you cannot make the boy understand his duty."
Lucius hadn't allowed Narcissa, who'd hesitated, to remain, and Severus had been unable to offer Draco even the simplest Healing charm. He'd been, as a Death Eater, forced to appear approving of all his mentor's dealings, even those that contradicted everything Lucius had ever taught him about the nature of family.
Fanaticism interferes with the familial bond, as it does with everything else.
Severus did not always understand his own motivations, but he had, in the aftermath of the war, come to the conclusion that fear and a sense of superiority in response to it were not appropriate guides to behaviour, and he'd attempted to make peace with his past so that he might make a future for himself. It had helped that so many people had seemed to forgive him for his past once his work for the Order of the Phoenix had become known, despite the fact that such acceptance had caused him to be suspicious at times. It had helped to be in the company of children, who responded only to his behaviour, and not to what they'd never heard of him.
Still, it was difficult for Severus to believe in his own goodness, his own humanity, when he would awake at night from the dreams that plagued him; more often than not, they were memories of his actions, and he could trace those actions back to the fear that Lucius Malfoy had held at bay to some extent for him while he was the man's protégé. As his nightmares had begun to subside over the years, he'd also attempted believe that fear was a forgivable weakness.
But vengeance, Severus mused, should not be condoned. I must release Lucius to a natural death, and soon. I cannot prepare for the future while holding onto the past. I hope that Narcissa will understand.
He'd not understood what it was that he'd been considering, but he felt relieved to have made a decision with regard to Lucius. In truth, he knew that he'd been slowly letting go of Lucius' hold on him for some time, letting go of that and his guilt about what he'd done, no matter the provocation.
Perhaps that's why Albus never taxed me with having used that particular potion. Perhaps he knew that to commit true murder wasn't within my powers, even if I believed it to be.
He wondered if Albus ever had bad dreams.
Impossible. Albus was born knowing that he was right. . . . No, Albus was born knowing.
It made Severus smile to recognise that his belief about his friend was born of the child-like love he held for him.
For children either see their parents as gods or monsters.
It didn't trouble him to know that Albus was both, but he desired that his own children would simply love him. He knew that they would adore Harry.
As I do.
The man's inherent generosity of spirit and capacity for love—even in the face of hardship and loss—made it impossible for him to do otherwise. Harry Potter was a good person, a better person Severus had never known, and if he could teach him to love his old Potions master, then Severus knew that he'd never want for anything again.
Glancing at his edited Scroll, he decided that it would do and set about preparing to write the invitations. Great care was needed during the process because the ink used was enchanted. He'd brewed it, himself, for it was traditional to send to one's Eligibles invitations that carried with them something of the Supplicant's impressions of each potential spouse.
It wouldn't do to reveal too much, whether it be good or bad, Severus thought, clearing his mind and focussing his thoughts on only one of his Eligibles at a time—saving Harry's invitation for last.
As the pile of invitations grew, so did Severus' hope for the future. He was planning for it. He was going to have a husband. He was going to have a family.
I'm going to be better than Lucius.