Severus Snape woke up, covered in cold sweat and with the sound of his own heart hammering in his ears. He blinked his eyes, looking around, expecting to see the walls of the cell. After a moment he realized he was out of this hell on earth, that he was no longer the plaything of the guards. They had been worse than the Death Eaters – maybe their methods had been slightly less drastic, but they had known what they had wanted.
In the moment the thought passed through his head, a shrill cry drilled itself into his ears. Severus closed his eyes, sure that the whip would fall upon his back in a second. When nothing happened, he opened the eyelids he had screwed tightly shut. He slowly came back to himself.
He was in Potter’s house. Most probably he had fallen asleep in the corridor after last evening, when the Boy-Who-Lived decided to vomit upon hearing he cannot help him. Snape allowed himself to snort. Like anyone cared about the fate of the former Potions Master…
The door slammed. Potter, in his pyjamas and his glasses crooked on his nose, ran close by. Severus followed. The sounds did not grow quieter, quite the opposite – he had to be closer to their source. He had realized nobody is being tormented here – it was a child crying. But what was a child doing here?
The wedding rings of Potter and his wife – Miss Ginny Weasley – were brand-new. And Ginny was surely not pregnant when she had led the self-called supporters of Potter – so-called Dumbledore’s Army. Curious what they think now that it is clear that Albus was not such an angel, he thought.
Severus walked to the open door. A central place in a newly painted room was occupied by a child’s crib. A boy with light brown locks was standing in it and reaching his tiny hands towards the wall, upon which a picture was hanging. Snape came closer, intrigued by the child’s behavior.
‚Quiet, quiet, Teddy. Ssh… ssh… everything’s all right…’ Potter took the child out of the crib in a practiced way and hugged him.
The boy did not want to stop wriggling though. He was bigger than Severus thought at first. Not having much experience with children, he would think him around a year old. Maybe older. The hair color did not match Potter’s brat either… as if more Potters were needed…
‚Mummy…’ the boy started shrieking louder, waving his fist in the direction of the wall ‚Want mummyyy…’
Potter said nothing, just hugged the child closer to him, staring over his head at the picture. Severus took a deep breath and stood on the other side of the crib, out of the line of sight of the mystery child. The photo showed a man and a woman. Their faces seemed familiar to Severus, but he could not remember any details in his current state. He coughed to divert his owner’s attention to himself.
‚You know it’s impossible, Ted… Well, enough, ssh…’ Potter stopped and turned his head the other way ‚Yes, professor?’
‚You don’t have to call me that, master Potter’ the elder wizard shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
The question ‚so what?’ was only too clearly visible in the eyes of the Boy-Who-Lived, but Severus was quiet.
‚Can I call you Severus?’ Potter asked after a long while.
Snape was silent. It was his owner’s decision, not his. The owner can do anything. He thought he ought to be happy that Potter is not calling him „you, slave”.
‚What did you want to ask, Severus?’ Potter repeated between the child’s slowly quieting cries.
‚I suppose… I am not sure, master… that I had known the people from the photo, master Potter’
Severus saw his owner’s eyes darken. He looked at the photo, blinking to hide the tears. Then Potter bent over the child.
‚Who’s that, Teddy?’ he asked, pointing at the man in the picture.
The boy presented a wide smile filled with small white teeth, clapped his hands like it was a good game, and replied ‚Daddy!’ The Boy-Who-Lived ruffled the child’s hair, but the smile did not appear on his face.
‚Where is mummy, Ted?’ the child waved his hand in the direction of the photo ‚And what is Daddy’s name?’
‚Remy!’ the child squealed and then started waving a stuffed wolf plushie that was laying in the crib a moment ago.
Potter shifted the child’s weight to his hip and turned to Severus, apparently waiting for a reaction. The man himself furrowed his brow. So the child isn’t Potter’s? He was enlightened in the next moment. The man from the picture had light brown hair and noticeable scars. He knew that face! He had a word that was not a name on the tip of his tongue… His owner threw him a warning look, as if he could read his thoughts.
‚Remus Lupin’ Snape said at last and then it hit him. Lupin’s brat! The woman from the picture had to be the wolf’s wife. He was sure he had taught her once, he had her name on the tip of his tongue… ‚Miss Tonks…’
The boy started to cry again, as if he recognized the name. His hair changed color to black – exactly like Potter’s – when he burrowed his head into his caregiver’s arm. It explained why the brat had a bracelet on his wrist. A metamorphomagus. Severus did not envy the Potters having to care for a brat that could change his looks.
The Boy-Who-Lived sighed heavily, looking at the photo, and then slowly walked down the stairs. Ginny had just set the last platter on the table. Severus was surprised at seeing a muggle high chair. Potter placed the child in it swiftly, and pushed aside his wife’s chair for her. It could be noticed he was gloomy though. Feeding the boy was not the easiest of tasks, as soon became apparent.
‚Teddy Remus Lupin, if you do not stop throwing food, there will be no play!’ Potter said at last, irritated.
Severus lifted his head from his portion. He ate kneeling on the floor – Potter’s wife threw him a look full of shock and indignation, but did not speak, only pursed her lips in a displeased manner. He didn’t mind, he had eaten the same way in the cell. In no way could he sit with his owner at the same table! Not mentioning the fact that this way Lupin’s brat was not throwing food at him…
The threat was successful. The child ate the rest of his breakfast quite calmly and then started to demand play. His hair was still black, and his eyes became brown. Snape could have taken him for the Potters’ child.
‚Who that?’ the child squealed staring at him with wide open eyes.
Severus was so surprised that he overturned his platter. Luckily it was empty. He looked at his owner nervously. What would Potter say? The Boy-Who-Lived crouched down, to be level with the child.
‚Ted, this is Severus. He will be helping us. Just like we are helping your Nana’
The child was not yet at the stage of unending questions. He simply nodded his head and started to chase his plushie wolf, directed by a Ginny Potter smiling a doting smile, animatedly around the room.
Her husband’s gaze softened for a moment. One movement of the wand sent the dirty dishes to the kitchen. Severus made a step in that direction, but a gesture of his owner stopped him. Potter opened the door leading to what was obviously his own room. The Firebolt stood in a corner, a poster of some quidditch team hung on the wall – Severus was never interested in this plebeian sport – and the desk was cluttered by pieces of parchment.
‚Paperwork’ Potter sighed, moving a stack aside.
He gestured for Severus to sit down on the other chair. He didn’t move. The Boy-Who-Lived didn’t allow himself a comment – instead he pulled an old issue of the Prophet out of the drawer. Was he collecting rubbish? – Severus thought sarcastically.
‚You’re probably wondering why I did not drag you out of that…’ the Gryffindor had to be lost for words, since he just extended the hand with the paper toward him.
Snape looked suspiciously at it, but after a short hesitation he took it. Potter had saved only a few pages. On the first one the headline announced ‚THE DEATH TOLL EXCEEDS 80’. The article was adorned by a picture of Hogwarts in a state much worse than he remembered it in. He glanced at the date.
3rd May 1998… only a day after he had almost lost his life. A day after Potter had defeated Voldemort. Now he could see the logic in the actions of the Boy-Who-Lived – he was supplying him information he had had no access to during the year spent in the cell.
The article was composed of an alphabetical listing of everyone that died in the battle. Nothing more, no dates nor affiliation. Severus recognized only some of the items. On the top of the list, one after another. ‚Crabbe Vincent.’ ‚Creevey Colin.’ Creevey? Wasn’t it this annoying kid with the camera? – he thought and looked at the next item on the list.
Some ten-or-more names down the list. ‚Lestrange Bellatrix, nee Black.’ ‚Lupin Nymphadora nee Tonks.’ ‚Lupin Remus.’ What an irony of the fate for their names to appear one after another… Further down – ‚Riddle Tom.’ Some more names that meant nothing to him.
‚Weasley Fred’. He glanced at the list again, to make sure he did not make a mistake. Just one. He would have never thought anything would be able to separate those hellish twins. For a fleeting moment he could see George Weasley’s face in front of his eyes.
He read the list anew from the top, to make sure he missed nothing. Then he saw it. More or less in the middle of the list. His own name. ‚Snape Severus’ He swallowed, the paper falling out of his hand.
‚We were sure you were dead’ Potter said quietly, picking up the newspaper. His gaze stopped on those same names. To think he and Potter recognized the same people on the list of the fallen. ‚We should have checked…’
His owner fell silent, staring off into space. When Severus came back to reality, a thought crossed his head, that little Lupin is now an orphan, just like the Boy-Who-Lived. Potter lifted his head.
‚Severus… do not mention Bellatrix. In no circumstances with Teddy nearby. He is too little to understand.’ He paused ‚Have you seen Dolohov… there?’
Snape shook his head. Potter cursed.
‚Andromeda expected it. Damn! I’ll have to strengthen the wards. If that bandit learns about Teddy…’
‚Andromeda? You mean Andromeda Tonks nee Black, master Potter?’
When the younger wizard looked at him, he thought irrationally that he had just dug a grave for himself.
‚Do not remind me that Andromeda and Bellatrix were sisters!’ his owner exploded. He took a deep breath. ‚And never tell Teddy that. Never.’
‚The boy is Andromeda’s grandson’ Severus realized. Only after a moment did he realized he had said it aloud.
‚Exactly. And I do not want him to know that his mother was killed by his grandmother’s birth sister. Damned Bellatrix!…’ Potter exclaimed.
Snape swallowed. He wanted to echo that.