Disclaimer: Characters etc. belong to JK Rowling. These words belong to Josan.
Author's Note/Foreword: The impetus of this "novel" requires some explanation.
To me, writing is a fun activity. It should also be something that makes me stretch from the last story that I've written.
When I found the SnapeFest site, I used it as an opportunity to experiment, not only with pairings, but with style. Some of which I fully acknowledge were not a success. <g> But they were fun to write.
One of the things I rather like about this fandom is the variety of pairings. And the fact that J K Rowling is ambivalent enough about the background of most her characters that we as fanfic writers can play around with that to our hearts' content.
"SNAPE & SON" paired Severus Snape with, at the end, Remus Lupin.
But no sooner had I posted that story - and the requests for a sequel began - then I started wondering if there might not be a different road to be followed. Rather like Robert Frost's two roads diverging in the yellow wood.
This meant that the original story required some changes and additions - not to mention dealing with that pesky POV problem I have.
Which is why Part One will seem very familiar to those who have already read the original "SNAPE & SON".
I would like to thank Kai for her patience in keeping me focused on POV, for encouraging me throughout the writing of what became known as "The Monster", and for her insistence that I detail more information about the politics and this world of werewolves.
Oh, and for those of you who have been complaining there isn't enough sex in my stories, I think this one may please you.
One more note: this has been written in Canadian English, with a bow to British English.
Dedicated to Kai
Without whom this story
Would not have been what it is.
You were the best Christmas gift of all!
Severus Snape's voice cut across the classroom like a knife.
A small boy with looked up from his cauldron and smiled at the Potions instructor.
The smile took Snape by surprise. As it did every time he had to call the boy to attention for one reason or another.
How could the Sorting Hat have thought someone so obviously Gryffindor should be placed in Slytherin, a House of sneers, scowls and sarcasm? He shook his head.
"Hillswick, are you humming again?"
The smile grew into a grin. "Sorry, Professor. I don't do it on purpose. It's just something I do when I'm enjoying what I'm doing."
There were groans from the first year Gryffindors and smirks from the Slytherin side of the classroom. Potions class was not something they enjoyed doing. Snape was certain that had it not been a compulsory course, his classroom would be empty. And he wouldn't be here, trying to deal with an on-coming headache.
The boy straightened. He looked around the room as though confused. "Well," he said, his voice slightly hesitant, "I'm enjoying what I'm learning."
"Try to do so with less musical accompaniment," snarled Snape.
He watched the boy nod, knowing full well that if it were like the last class, the boy would be humming again within minutes.
It was hard to chastise someone who actually found his classes enjoyable. It was hard to chastise someone who found life so filled with discovery. The child was small for his age, a good head shorter than his classmates. Fineboned with a natural elegance, dark hair and large grey eyes that never seemed to miss anything. He was interested in everything and anything.
Snape sighed. Only two weeks into the school year he had already had several discussions with Master Alexander Hillswick about his enthusiastic curiosity and why he should rein it in.
Sprout had been horrified when the boy had decided to see just what newly planted mandrake looked like, without wearing the appropriate earmuffs. Sinistra had been amused when the boy had returned - without anyone seeing him - to the telescopes after Astronomy class was over so that he could watch the stars move across the night sky. The Slytherin prefect had been less amused when, on doing his bed check, he had found one empty. McGonagall had shaken her head when, during his first Transfiguration class, the boy had indicated that he preferred to change his matchstick into a hair pin. He had all the needles he needed - his mother had packed a sewing kit into his trunk - but he could see that she could use an additional hair pin for herself.
"There's a delightful innocence to the boy," she'd said at the staff meeting where the first years were being discussed. "I hope Slytherin doesn't beat it out of him."
And all members of the staff who had the boy in their classes had turned to glare at Snape.
He watched the students clean up at the end of the class, the Hillswick boy humming to himself once more. The Gryffindors smiled at him as they walked by, the Slytherins shook their heads in disgust.
"He's going to give us a bad name," muttered one as he walked past Snape.
"He's so... cheery," said his partner, shuddering as though it was something that should never be associated with a Slytherin.
At the door, one of the sixth years indicated that he had a note for the Potions instructor.
Snape took it with a scowl. What did Dumbledore want now?
If you could find the time to spare, I would appreciate your coming to my office. Password this week is `gingersnaps'.
Snape grunted. If he could find the time to spare. Polite but still an order. He was supposed to be working on a potion for Pomfrey in his free period this morning. He sighed and went to see what Albus wanted from him.
He grouched to himself all the way through the halls, barely noticing that students were trying hard to fade into the walls and woodwork as he passed by. At the spiral staircase that led to Dumbledore's office, he had to wait as Poppy Pomfrey and a woman, unknown to him, came down and started off in the direction of the Infirmary. The visitor was wearing a brilliantly red robe which caused Snape to take a second glance at her. Not a particularly tall woman though her face was ageless in spite of the white hair. She too was looking at him. She'd stopped, turned, and was examining him as though he were some foreign specimen that she was seeing for the first time.
He nodded his head sharply in her direction and was slightly taken aback when she returned the nod, with the slight rise of an eyebrow.
The woman turned and went on with Poppy.
Snape shrugged and put her out of his mind as he went up the stairs.
The Headmaster was not alone. Sitting in a chair by the fire was a woman whose face was hidden behind a thick veil.
"Severus, I would like to introduce you to Alexander Hillswick's mother. Madam Hillswick, Severus Snape. He is not only Alexander's Potions instructor but his Head of House as well."
"Yes," said a soft voice, "I am well aware of Professor Snape's positions here at Hogwarts. It is one of the reasons my son is attending this wizard school and not the one in Scandinavia."
Snape bowed politely. "Madam."
Gloved hands rose to raise the veil. "Once, you called me by my name. Tell me, Severus Snape, do you remember my name?"
The face was thin, ill, but still showed signs of beauty. Large grey eyes in a small-boned, elegant face with blue-tinged lips. The woman was not in the first blush of youth. Though probably younger than she looked, thought Dumbledore as he turned his attention to his Potions instructor.
Snape's eyes narrowed and then he nodded. "Inga."
She smiled and Dumbledore knew where Alexander Hillswick had gotten his smile.
Snape didn't say anything; he just gave a slight nod.
"I'm so pleased." She turned to Dumbledore. "This makes everything so much easier."
"Does it, my dear? I'm delighted to hear that. But may I ask, what does it make so much easier?"
"Please, if I may be so bold, might Severus be invited to sit and might we perhaps have some tea? I fear this may take some time. I know that the two of you are quite busy, but it is very important."
"Of course, my dear. How remiss of me." Dumbledore smiled. "I don't often get to entertain a beautiful woman and it seems to have affected my manners. Severus, do sit down."
Dumbledore watched as she played with the cup of tea, not really drinking any. He thought it was more to have something to do with her hands.
"This is difficult," she finally said. "I shall be direct about the situation. Please bear with me."
Inga Hillswick smiled at the two men. "To begin with, I'm dying."
Snape stiffened in his chair but said nothing. He was watching her as though she were one of his cauldrons, thought Dumbledore: as though wondering what potion was going to be coming out of it.
She cut Dumbledore off with a gesture of her hand. "Please. I was very ill as a child and it affected my heart. I really should have died years ago, but I couldn't leave Alexander. I don't really want to leave him now, but my heart..." She gave a little shrug and that was it.
"I am telling you this because I wish to see to Alexander's future before I die." She turned her attention to Snape. Cocking her head slightly, she smiled her soft smile.
"Severus, Alexander is your son."
Snape's eyebrow slowly rose high and Dumbledore braced himself for the slash of sarcasm which usually followed. Instead, the Potions instructor stared at the woman who was waiting for his reaction. It wasn't what the Headmaster had been expecting.
"You knew before I left. You thanked me for the gift I had given you."
Her smile was radiant. "You really do remember."
Snape nodded. "Yes, I remember."
"You're not questioning the fact that he's your son."
"You wouldn't say it if it weren't so."
"As easy as that." Her laugh was delighted. "To think I came prepared with all the proper documentation."
Dumbledore sat back in his chair and watched silently. For a surprise, this was equal to none.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
She shook her head. "I was selfish. I knew that I wouldn't be long in his life and I wanted to make certain Alexander would remember me. I really didn't expect to live this long. Nor did the physician who cared for me. She didn't think I would survive the pregnancy. Then she was certain that the delivery would kill me. After that, she just shrugged and said that one day the end would come. My heart would be too worn out. As it has.
"And," she sighed, "there is something more I must tell you. About Alexander." She looked down at her hands and the expression on her face softened. "Alexander is a delight. He is intelligent, curious. Mischievous. Energetic." She looked up at Snape, half-smile slowly fading. "He is also a werewolf."
Oh my, thought the Headmaster. He wriggled uncomfortably in his chair.
Snape stared at her, mouth slightly agape.
"From my side of the family," she explained in a quiet voice. "The females carry the gene, the males are the ones usually affected."
Snape swallowed audibly. His voice was rough. "You...you never mentioned it. I would have remembered something like that."
Her smile was sad. "Four days and three nights. It wasn't something we had enough time to discuss. Such as," she gestured toward him, "the mark you bear on your left arm."
Dumbledore frowned as Snape went to reach for his arm and then stopped the gesture. If he had doubts about the woman's claim of Severus as father to her son, this put an end to them: Severus never bared his arm to anyone's view unless absolutely necessary.
She grew serious. "If this is something you cannot deal with... I know that here, on the mainland," she included Dumbledore with a slight gesture of her hand, "there is a different feeling about such things...you must tell me now. I will take him with me and find a different solution. I will not," here her voice grew strong, her focus completely on Severus, and Dumbledore caught a glimpse of the woman who had lived for her child, "leave Alexander in a place where he might be harmed. I know that Hogwarts is not fond of such children, though I understand that Alexander would not be the first of our kind to attend." She answered their unspoken question. "There are few secrets in the world we werewolves inhabit. I am aware that there will be difficulties, but I would want him to be under the care of his father. If this is too great a problem, I have a cousin who will take him, as he is. And though elderly, my cousin loves him dearly.
She leaned forward slightly, her eyes holding the once-more expressionless ones of the man in front of her, "Alexander is very easy to love. If you think you will not be able to do so, Severus, I will not leave him with you. I will not leave my son with someone who cannot love him."
Though he wanted to remain in his office, it was obvious that Inga Hillswick preferred to discuss the situation with Severus in private. Considering the woman's revelation as to her state of health, Dumbledore really couldn't ask them to move their conference elsewhere. With as polite a manner as he could summon, he left them alone.
He wandered through the halls of his school, passing students on their way to and from classes. He smiled and nodded at their greetings but didn't stay and chat with them. He found himself heading for the tower that overlooked the inner grounds, where Hooch was organizing the first years for a Flying lesson.
Alexander Hillswick was easy to locate. He was the shortest of the lot. And the first one up on his broom. Dumbledore nodded as he watched Hooch put the boy through a series of beginning exercises. It was obvious that the lad was no novice. Though Ministry rules indicated that children were not permitted to fly for fear that they would call Muggle attention to themselves, he knew that many of them had some experience with flying long before they arrived here. The lad had come from the Shetland Islands. Very few Muggles up there, all things considered. Lots of uninhabited space. No one around to notice a small boy performing acrobatics on a broomstick.
No one to notice that once a month, the child turned into a werewolf.
Dumbledore shook his head. Severus and werewolves. What was it about werewolves that drew Severus?
With a sigh, he removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. And just how was this going to affect Severus's ability to respond to any summons from Voldemort? Dumbledore shook his head and replaced his glasses. Might it not be better for all concerned if the boy didn't stay? The situation was difficult enough as was: how would this added element affect it?
He really couldn't get involved, not personally: after all, he had been the one to approve the boy's enrolment. Inga Hillswick had made it very clear that the final decision was in Severus's hands. And Dumbledore wasn't as certain of Severus's dedication to the cause these days as he had once been.
As for the boy himself, as Madam Hillswick had indicated, it wouldn't be the first time Hogwarts had had a werewolf in its student body. And, yes, it would be less of a problem than it had once been. Thanks to the Wolfsbane Potion, there would be no need of a Shrieking Shack. And Remus Lupin had made many friends among the students when he'd taught Defence Against the Dark Arts. Many of the students still spoke of him, almost with nostalgia. He could understand it: in the last ten years no instructor had taught the course two years in a row.
Damn! The boy was trying to stand on his broomstick. Where was Hooch? Shouldn't she be stopping this? If the boy broke his neck this soon after Severus had discovered his role in the boy's existence...might it not be after all for the better?
No. The boy was grinning too widely. He knew what he was doing. Dear Merlin! His potential as a Seeker! Slytherin could give Gryffindor a run for their money! And Potter, too.
Dumbledore tried to remember what Snape had been like on a broom. More than adequate, but certainly not elegant. The boy seemed to be very much his mother's child. He wondered what Hillswick had gotten from Severus.
The lesson was ending when he felt the presence of someone behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and found his Potions instructor, face with its usual hint of a sneer, watching the small boy flying figure eights.
"Will Hillswick be remaining with us?"
Snape's eyes followed the child. He was pale and he held his mouth firmly closed. After watching the child land and make a theatrical bow in acknowledgement of his classmates' cheers, he turned to face the Headmaster, meeting his eyes full on.
Then he walked away.
"I am thankful for the offer of the position. Of course, I shall be delighted to accept." Remus Lupin set his tea cup down on the small table by the chair in Dumbledore's office. He sat back. "Now then, Albus, what's really going on?"
The Headmaster looked innocently at his new instructor for Defence. "I thought I had explained that, Remus. Timmins had accepted to teach here because he hadn't heard from the Ministry about his application to work with Henderson on that special project of his. He was contacted this week and, well, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I couldn't hold him to his contract."
Remus Lupin scoffed. "Albus, it's not that I disbelieve you, it's just that I wonder what you're up to. Others may accept that `benevolent' act of yours, but you forget, I've seen you in action. You should never have asked me to accompany you on that little fact-finding venture of yours last winter. You do nothing without a purpose. Why am I here?"
Albus Dumbledore sat back and stared thoughtfully at the man watching him with such interest. He sighed. "I really shouldn't have taken you with me."
"It was..." Lupin grinned, "...educational. I never would have thought you could be so manipulative and...calculating."
The Headmaster's face lost its amiability: it had a hardness that Lupin knew few people had been privileged to see. "We have to win this time, Lupin. Once and for all."
"I know." Lupin allowed his voice to dip into bitterness. "Which is why I have agreed to return to Hogwarts, even though all here know me for what I am." Then he smiled, ending the moment. "Was it hard, I wonder, to convince Fudge to allow a werewolf back on staff?"
Though Dumbledore smiled back, Lupin understood that he had pushed the issue as far as he safely could. "The Minister for Magic and I have an understanding."
True, thought Lupin. That as long as Dumbledore was occupied with Hogwarts, he wouldn't be available to take over the Minister's office. Whatever Dumbledore wanted for Hogwarts, Fudge would allow as long as it didn't affect his position.
"Besides," Dumbledore's amiable smile was back, "the students have missed you."
Lupin shook head. "I doubt all of them have."
"No, but enough that it should make your taking over the classes fairly easy."
"Does Snape know that I'm returning?"
"No. No one does. I shall be announcing the change this evening at supper. That should give you time to unpack. You have your old rooms."
Lupin recognized dismissal when he heard it. As he stood to leave, Dumbledore tossed out, as though an afterthought, "I would like your opinion on the first years as soon as possible. Shall we say in a couple of days?"
Dumbledore arrived late at supper. He stood in front of his chair, waiting until he had everyone's attention, staff as well as student.
"I have an announcement to make. Professor Timmins has left us for a chance to fulfill a dream of his. In his place, we are very fortunate to have a professor who has taught here before." He turned and signalled to someone in the shadows to join the table.
"I believe most of you will remember Professor Lupin."
There was silence and then, from Gryffindor, the cheers began. Many from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff joined them. There was only muttering from Slytherin.
Snape's eyes were on his House the moment he had seen Lupin. He knew what their reaction would be.
"Bloody hell! The werewolf. Wait until my parents hear he's back."
"That's disgusting! I thought someone had put him down!"
He watched as the smile on Hillswick's face slowly faded, as he looked about him first in disbelief and then with a worried expression. He ducked his head and kept it that way for the rest of the meal, playing more with his food than eating it.
As soon as he could, Snape rose from the table.
"Severus, are you leaving us?" Dumbledore's tone was a little more authoritative than normal. Lupin's eyes on him, Snape merely tightened his lips and went striding out of the hall, robe billowing behind him.
"So, Remus, what do you think about the first years?"
Lupin smiled. "About the norm, I would suppose. Interested by the thought of dealing with Dark Arts. Some are worried."
"How are the Slytherins reacting to your teaching them?"
Lupin's smile lost some warmth. "As you would think. They're not pleased. Nor very co-operative."
"Not even Hillswick?"
Lupin cocked his head. Why that boy? he wondered. "He's very quiet. He watches me constantly when he thinks I won't notice. If I catch his eyes, he pretends to be taking notes. I find..."
"Yes, you find?"
Lupin shrugged. "I find it odd that he's in Slytherin. Strikes me as too nice for that House."
The Headmaster sighed. "Well, yes. The Hat sometimes works in mysterious ways."
"Albus, what is so important about the first years?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Ah, there's no hiding anything from you, is there? Yes, there is something important about one of the first years. He's a werewolf."
Lupin frowned, his tone slightly challenging. "I would think after your last experiment, you would have learnt not to accept my kind."
"We didn't know. We've only just found out. By the way, I trust you know that this information is confidential."
Lupin looked insulted, "Of course." Then he went on, "Full moon this week. That's cutting it close. I take it that he's why I'm here instead of out in the field."
"There shouldn't be any problem. Unless Snape is refusing to make some of his potion for the boy?"
"No. No, that's not the problem."
"Which one is he, by the way?"
Dumbledore peered over the top of his glasses. "Can't you guess?"
Lupin scoffed. "We only look different at the full moon, Albus. If he's in first year, he's had some experience with passing for a normal wizard. You'll have to narrow it down for me."
"Slytherin." And folding his arms into his sleeves, sat patiently as Lupin went from stunned silence to uproarious laughter.
"Oh, dear," when he'd caught his breath, using the end of his sleeve to wipe his eyes, "does Snape know?"
"Oh, yes, Severus knows."
Lupin chuckled to himself as he mentally went through the names of the students. "Well, is it Norwell? No. Then Luton?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "Hillswick."
That stopped Lupin. "Oh, dear. The nice Slytherin. They'll make his life a misery if they find out. I'm surprised that Snape hasn't screamed blue murder about getting him out of his House."
"Remus, Alexander Hillswick is Severus's son."
Lupin looked at Dumbledore as though expecting to be told it was all a joke. He slowly shook his head. "But... How..."
Dumbledore's expression bordered on disbelief. "I sincerely hope that I really don't have to explain how to you, Remus, not at your age."
"But... The boy doesn't remotely resemble Snape. Are you sure this isn't someone's idea of a joke?"
"Hillswick takes after his mother in his looks. He's the result of a short...affair Severus had with the woman some twelve years ago. He only learnt of the boy's existence last week. At the same time that we learnt the boy's mother is a Shetland Islands Werewolf."
"Genetic, then, not made."
"The boy's mother is dying and she thought it was time that Severus should know his child."
"But a werewolf! We all know how Snape feels about werewolves. How is he handling the situation? Damn, talk about your chickens coming home to roost."
"I have no idea how Severus is dealing with all this. He's not one to reveal his inner emotions at the best of times."
"So, you want me here to keep an eye on the boy, to see that Snape doesn't abuse him."
Dumbledore lost his amiable Headmaster's face and his voice had a cold edge to it. "The boy is quite safe with Severus. In spite of what people think and say of him, Severus has never physically harmed a student."
Lupin was ready to challenge that on the grounds that abuse could be other than physical. The expression on Dumbledore's face made him keep that to himself.
"Severus has assumed responsibility for his son and he will do his best by the boy. The reason you are here has to do with Voldemort. Snape is still a Death Eater and as such must be available to answer any summons from his Dark Lord. Voldemort is becoming more active. There will be times when Severus will not be here and those may coincide with the full moon. It is at those times when you will be required. Much as you dislike each other, I know, as does Severus, that you would never punish an innocent child for the sins of his father. Moreover, the boy needs protection. Should Voldemort or any of his people discover what Hillswick is to Snape..."
"The boy's as good as dead. Or begging to be." Lupin nodded. "Does he know to keep quiet about their relationship? There are so many ears in Slytherin."
"The boy has no idea that Severus is his father. We thought it better for his safety that he not know."
Lupin stood at the door of the Potions classroom, watching his old enemy, Severus Snape, correcting essays. He shook his head. How the hell could something like Snape be responsible for the delightful child who was Alexander Hillswick? He'd taken a hard look at the child the next time he had had the class; there was nothing in the boy that reminded him of the dour man sitting at the desk.
He must have made a noise of some kind because Snape looked up from his work. They stared at each other, then Snape rolled up the scroll he had been correcting and slowly stood. "You've come for the potion." He walked into the small alcove off the front of the classroom and checked one of the cauldrons gently steaming. With a ladle, he filled a pewter goblet, turned to bring it to Lupin and nearly bumped into him, not having heard him approach.
Lupin reached out to steady Snape but the man quickly took a step back. Lupin let his hands drop to his sides.
"We need to talk."
Snape stared at the goblet. "No, we don't. I have prepared the potion that...you need. It will be ready at this time every month that you are here. It should be more palatable as it will be freshly made, not something that you've had to reheat." He handed the goblet to Lupin who didn't reach for it.
Snape looked up.
Lupin turned and, wand in hand, cast a privacy spell on the room. Then, as an extra precaution, he cast a couple of wards. Whatever conversation passed would be only between them, even if someone had a listening spell on the room.
Lupin saw the anger begin in Snape's eyes and hurried. "The boy will require a much lesser dose. I've been sharing some of the potion you send - you always prepare so much - with a friend. She's about a stone and a half less in weight than I, and smaller-boned. We've worked out that she takes half the amount that I do. That should help you calculate Alexander's potion."
"Thank you," sneered Snape. "I had already worked that out."
Lupin continued. "Tell him that he'll feel a little disoriented at first. He'll be used to feeling the beast..."
"...but that he'll be himself in a couple of...shakes of a tail."
Snape's lips whitened. Lupin sighed: he should have guessed that Snape would not find anything humourous in the situation.
Lupin took the goblet out of his hands and, with a grimace, drank it down. "Warn him about the taste. It's worse than hippogriff piss."
As he turned to leave the room, Lupin stopped, his back to the man. "Snape, have you ever seen anyone Change?"
The word was barely audible. "No."
Lupin waited but there wasn't anything more. "Where will the boy be?"
There was a long pause. Lupin had taken a step towards the door when Snape responded. "In my rooms. I will ward them for privacy and silence."
Lupin nodded again. With a wave of his wand, he removed the wards and spells he had set, and left.
Snape looked at the boy sitting on his couch, eyes brightly investigating the room. Hillswick probably already knew from school gossip that students were never invited into his private quarters. Yet his invitation to join the Head of his House hadn't come as a complete surprise to the boy.
"You know what I am," he said while he watched Snape set the wards and spells.
Snape finished the last spell and turned to face the child. "There is a potion I've made up for you. You have to drink it now."
"What will it do?" With no more than that, the boy accepted the goblet and examined its contents with curiosity.
"It will allow you to retain your humanity in wolf form."
"Really?" The boy smiled. "Will I remember everything I do while I'm a cub?"
Snape hesitated and then sat down in the chair he had placed by the couch for the purpose of being near should he be needed. "I have been told to warn you about the taste. I have it on authority that it tastes like hippogriff piss."
The boy took a sip and made a face. "Is Professor Lupin the authority?" He took a deep breath and forced himself to finish the contents. "Yeck!"
Snape took the goblet and checked that Hillswick had indeed ingested all the potion. He set it on the table by his chair as he watched the boy make faces as he tried to rid his mouth of the taste.
"I...I'll work on that."
The boy nodded. "Maybe some liquorice would help."
Snape sat back in the chair, eyes never leaving the boy. "It would require something that strong?"
Hillswick smiled. "Well, I don't know what hippogriff piss tastes like, but it must be vile stuff." He looked around the room. "Is this where I'm going to Change?"
"Yes. The Headmaster and I thought it would be safer for you to do so here."
The boy sighed. "Mor warned me that not everybody liked werewolves. I guess she never thought that some people really, really hate us. Professor Snape, why do people hate us?"
Snape swallowed hard. The boy was seriously expecting him to answer. How could he explain the fear werewolves generated?
"Have you never encountered any negativity at home, Hillswick?"
The boy shook his head. "Back in the Village, everyone is like us. And we didn't usually meet strangers while we were out."
"Yes. After I Change, Mor and I go for walk. We live near the ocean and we go down to the beach. I like to chase the crabs and to go swimming. Mor tosses sticks out into the water for me to bring back."
Snape was surprised. "Your mother stayed with you?"
Hillswick nodded. He stood up and began removing his clothes. "I'm too young to go off on my own."
"But she was safe with you?"
The boy looked confused. "Yes. Why wouldn't she be safe with me?"
"No. Oh, she's not a werewolf. She's just the mother of one. Me. Freya's been coming with us, too, this past year."
Snape made a mental note to ask Lupin about that the next time they could safely speak.
"Are we going to do anything?"
Snape looked at the boy who was now completely naked and not at all selfconscious about the fact. He tried not to wonder how someone this slim and fragile-looking could survive Changing monthly. "Do? What should we do?"
The boy shrugged. "Mor says that I have far too much energy when I'm a cub. That I have to run it off. That's why we go to the beach."
Snape nodded, trying to figure out a safe place to take the...child running.
Snape jerked forward then stopped himself. The Change was beginning and there was nothing more he could do for the child. Trusting in the efficacy of his potion, he sat back, his hands whitely clutching the arms of his chair, and tried to find the analytical self who had watched Muggles being tortured for his experiments
He couldn't find the Death Eater in him.
He hated it. He hated seeing the boy with a small, delicate frame change into a lumbering, awkward young cub. The sounds the child made ripped him apart. Damn! He was going to work on a potion for that, he promised himself. And not just because the child was his...son. He refused to allow himself to look away, to close his eyes, to think of anything other than the child who had now transformed into a long-limbed cub, panting on the floor of his private quarters.
He waited until the sounds lessened then, hand on the wand still in his pocket - after all, he had no experience with this particular wolf - he slowly slipped off his chair to kneel by the boy's side.
The cub's eyes opened and, instead of his mother's grey, they were yellowish brown. Snape sat back on his heels as the cub awkwardly found its feet. It shook its head as though clearing it and then, with a soft yelp, it leaned over and licked Snape's face.
Surprised, Snape leaned back too far and ended up on his arse on the floor. The cub jumped up and yelped more loudly. It quickly ran about, inspecting the room, sniffing corners and looking excitedly around. It came back and ran circles around the Potions Master still sitting on the floor then poked its nose into Snape's robe.
For some reason, that reassured Snape and he released his hold on his wand. "Enough of that. Being in cub form does not permit you to be impolite, or to take familiarities, er...Hillswick."
Obviously, it understood. The cub sat on its haunches and, tongue hanging out, looked as though it was awaiting instructions.
Snape's private quarters had a hidden door that led into a small hallway and to another door that opened onto the grounds furthest from most activity, the side closest to the Forbidden Forest. He usually used it as a means of leaving and returning to the school without being seen whenever he was summoned.
Snape thought a moment and then addressed the cub. "If we go out, you must understand that there can be no running away. We are on the far side of Hogwarts, and should be safe from any prying eyes. Still, that does not mean that we do not take precautions. You will stay by me. Understood?"
The cub nodded and jumped to its feet.
With a sigh, Snape got to his feet and, wand at the ready should he need to stupify the cub for its own safety - he had no idea how it would behave out of doors - he unwarded the hidden door and led the way out.
An adult werewolf was waiting for them in the small garden off the doorway.
The cub stilled then actually huddled close to Snape's legs. Snape's free hand dropped onto the cub's head, wand ready to deal with the adult. "Lupin?"
The wolf nodded and slowly stretched out its front feet in a kind of salute. The cub cautiously approached. Snape held his breath while the two smelled each other.
"I thought," said Snape, "that we would stay here for this time. Until the...Hillswick gets used to the effects of the potion."
Lupin nodded his agreement. He growled to the cub who answered with an excited but very soft yelp. Snape used his wand to cast first a silencing spell then an obscuring one on the grounds, much to the wolf's approval. Together he and the cub inspected every inch of ground, marked every tree and shrub in the vicinity and chased each other until the adult finally dropped to the grass, panting.
Snape remembered what the boy had said about sticks and found a length of dead branch which he began tossing into the air. The cub was delighted with this new game. Lupin shook his head and rolled onto his back, four legs stretched out, and napped in the safety of the spelled garden until the quiet woke him.
Snape and the cub were watching each other, as if unsure what to do now that the stick lay chewed up and limp at Snape's feet. And though spelled and warded, there was only so much they could do in the small space of the garden. And Lupin needed his sleep: he had no intentions of allowing anyone to comment on his absence from classes. With the Wolfsbane, if he got enough sleep, he could manage normal activity the next day.
He went up to the door, hoping Snape would understand. Which he seemed to: he called the cub to the door.
Lupin was certain that he was at the end of Snape's tolerance of his presence, so it was a surprise when Snape spoke stiffly over the wolf's head, "You may as well come with us and stay until you've Changed. It will be easier for you to make your way back to your rooms in human form."
Lupin wanted to explain that he would probably be too exhausted to do so immediately after the Change - Changes back into human were always more draining than Changes into wolf - but Snape wasn't paying attention to him. And since he had no way of indicating that kind of information, he followed the man and the cub into Snape's quarters, his first such visit.
The cub was still active and went around the rooms - for Snape allowed the cub to enter his bedchamber as well - inspecting and sniffing to his delight. Lupin found a warm spot by the fireplace and claiming a small circular space for himself, lay down, nose on paws and went to sleep.
The sense of Change woke him.
Knowing that Snape was new at this and not knowing if the boy had ever seen someone else Change, Lupin tried to silence his cries of pain. It was bad enough the boy couldn't.
Lupin lay panting on the floor when he felt a blanket drape over him. He'd sleep only a few minutes, he told himself, then he'd leave.
It was just after dawn when he did wake. He was alone in the room, still on the floor. With a groan for his aching body, he got to his feet and found that someone - Snape? It had to be, these were his rooms - had placed a robe on the chair nearest him. He put it on, noting that it was long enough to hide the fact that he was barefoot.
Before he left, he wanted to know where the boy was. Snape's bedroom door was open, the room lit only by the light coming from the bathroom that was off to one side.
Lupin took a quick glance around and froze. The boy was sleeping in the big bed that took up most of the space.
Snape, his back to the door, face hidden in shadows, was sitting on the edge of the bed, his hand gently stroking the hair from the boy's face.
Inga Hillswick died eight days later.
Snape made arrangements with Dumbledore for him to take over his classes while he took Alexander back to the Shetland Islands and his mother's funeral.
Holding the too-quiet boy against him, he apparated near the house where the child had been born. It was a small house, nothing grand like the one he had been born to, but it had a sense of warmth and love about it that even he could feel. The woman who greeted them, hugging the boy tightly to her, wore a red robe.
Freya Hillswick, Inga's cousin and physician, said nothing much to Snape but she watched him their entire stay with sharp blue eyes that never seemed to miss a thing.
The boy was unnaturally quiet and accepted the hugs and condolences of the gathering of friends and relatives with whispered a "Thank you."
Snape wondered if the boy was handling this all too well.
They were there for three days, for the reading of the will which indicated that all of Inga Hillswick's property and moneys - apart from a generous quarterly allowance - were to held in trust for the boy Alexander until he was eighteen years of age. She had left instructions that until then the education and care of the boy were in the hands of Severus Snape, his Head of House, whom she trusted would do his best for her son. Nowhere was the paternity of the boy indicated.
That last day, Alexander looked around his mother's room and packed things that he didn't want touched or damaged or destroyed. Freya Hillswick, who had indicated to Alexander in front of Snape - he didn't doubt that she had also done it out of his hearing - that she was still more than willing to keep him if he wanted, would be remaining in the house, keeping it safe for him, she'd said, in accordance with a clause in Inga Hillswick's will.
Alexander had shaken his head. "Mor wanted me to go to Hogwarts and I like it there, Freya. Honestly, I do."
After a silent lunch, Alexander asked Snape, "Could we go say goodbye to the beach?"
Snape followed the boy as he led the way down the path to the stoney beach where the cub had played with its mother.
"Yes," Lupin had explained when Snape had finally had been able to ask him about what the boy had told him, "she would be safe with him. It's slightly different for genetic werewolves. He would sense her werewolfness even if she only carries the gene. And he's still much of a cub. He would sense his need for her."
The boy pointed out a large smooth stone on a cleared part of the beach. "That's where she'd sit and throw sticks for me. I knew she wasn't well. She was often short of breath if we walked too far or too quickly. She slept the days of my Changes so she could be with me. She told me that she was sending me away because it was time for me to move into a new world. A world she wouldn't be in but that she's be with me forever in my heart."
Eyes filled with tears, the boy looked up at Snape. "Is it all right if I cry here? I didn't want to do it at the house. There are too many people around. And it would only upset Freya."
Snape nodded. "Shall we sit on her rock?"
Snape wasn't certain if he was imposing but he sat next to the boy. At first, he just looked at the choppy sea and ignored the boy's sobs, trying to provide him with a sense of privacy. But when he began shaking from the force of them, Snape reached over and pulled the boy onto his lap, holding him awkwardly against his chest. He had no words to offer the boy, but eventually he awkwardly patted his shoulder and let him rid himself of tears.
Afterwards, the boy lay limply in his arms, making no effort to move away. He blew his nose on the handkerchief Snape found for him, wiped his face and then with a loud, tired sigh, he let himself rest once more against Snape.
They sat that way for a long time, until the sun showed signs of setting. Nightfall came early this far north.
"Are you going to keep me?"
Snape looked down at the white-faced child. "Yes."
"Because you're my father."
Snape gasped. He tilted the boy's face up. Reddened grey eyes met his. "How long have you known?"
The boy shrugged. "From before beginning of term. Mor and Freya, they thought I was in bed."
"You never said anything?"
The boy shook his head.
"I was afraid that you might find out. That if you knew I knew, you might want to take me away. I didn't want to leave Mor." He paused as he caught his breath. "I didn't know she was this ill."
Snape watched the sun grow darker in colour. "I didn't know that you even existed until your mother came to Hogwarts to tell me."
The boy was silent for some time. "Did that make you angry? That she hadn't told you?"
Snape shook his head. "No. Her reasons were the same as yours."
Alexander straightened so he could see Snape's face. "Are you happy to have a son?"
Snape raised his hand as if to touch the child then allowed it to drop beside him. "I don't know."
"Is it because I'm a werewolf? I know from what the others have said in the Common Room that you don't like...us."
Snape watched his child's face. "Once, I was nearly killed by a werewolf. I wasn't expecting to see one and so it was doubly terrifying."
He could see the boy processing that information. "Is that why people hate us, because we frighten them?"
Snape nodded. "And unless a werewolf has taken the Wolfsbane Potion, it is like a maddened animal, dangerous to all those in human form...well, to those humans without werewolf blood in them."
Snape placed his hand on the boy's back. "Killing dangerous."
The boy looked out over the shadowed sea. "I understand." He kept his back to Snape though the man could see the child brace himself. "Do you hate me?"
Snape carefully placed his arms around the boy, drawing him into his warmth. With the darkening had come the cold. "No, Alexander. I do not hate you. I will not lie to you. I have very little experience with family. I'm not certain how I should behave with you. For many reasons I can't go into, it cannot be known that you are my son. It would put your life in very grave danger for one thing. And I would have to send you away if it became known what you are to me."
The boy leaned back, his head resting against Severus's shoulder. "Would it be easier for you if I wasn't at Hogwarts?"
Snape wrapped his arms more tightly around the boy. "No. Now that I know about you, I find that I would like to know you. Would you feel safer if you weren't at Hogwarts?"
The boy shook his head.
"It might be easier for you if you weren't in my House. We could ask the Headmaster to move you into one of the others."
The boy turned his head to watch his father's face. He shook his head. "I wouldn't see you as much if that happened. And I wouldn't be able to use your rooms for Changing then if I were in another House, would I, Professor Snape?"
Snape nodded. "All right then. Slytherin it is. Master Hillswick."
And he wondered at the lightening of something tight within him.
"We need a reason for Hillswick's not being in his bed once a month," said Lupin, taking tea with Dumbledore and Snape. "I thought, considering the number of hidden passages in the school, there must be one from or near the Infirmary to the vicinity of Snape's rooms. We could let it be known that the boy has an illness of some kind that requires medication that Poppy needs to supervise. It could explain his size."
"There is nothing wrong with his size," muttered Snape, ignoring the cup that had been served him.
"That way," continued Lupin, "it would appear that he's spending the night in the Infirmary and coming back to his dormitory from there. And if it happens that he needs more sleep after a Change, he'll be able to have it in security."
"That would mean telling Pomfrey," Snape objected.
Lupin cocked his head. "Poppy knew about me. There were times I injured myself and needed medical care. No one ever heard of my being a werewolf from her."
Snape kept a careful eye on his son during their first class together after their return. The boy's eyes were still red and he wondered if it had been too soon for the child to pick up his regular schedule.
The Gryffindors surprised him. One of the little witches waited until everyone was at his or her place then stepped up to Alexander before Snape could begin the class.
The whole class stilled, all eyes on the two.
Alexander looked up from unpacking his satchel.
"Alexander, we just wanted you to know how sorry we all are."
And she reached out and patted his arm, a little awkwardly.
Snape quickly looked around the classroom. All the Gryffindors were nodding or looking very sympathetic. One or two were biting their lower lips.
"Thank you." Alexander's voice was low, with a little tremble, but he managed a wobbly smile at all of them.
The Slytherins about him nodded.
Afraid that things were getting far too emotional for him to handle, Snape cleared his throat loudly. With his usual sarcasm, he growled, "Today we are going to attempt a potion which should, by all rights, not result in an explosion. Let us try hard to accomplish that."
The Gryffindors frowned at him, the Slytherins began wondering just how to produce this explosion, and Alexander managed a less wobbly smile of gratitude in his direction.
Alexander joined him in his rooms and drank his Wolfsbane. They talked quietly about his classes, what he liked, what he found difficult. When Alexander felt the Sense of Change on him, he quickly disrobed and Snape folded each article of clothing neatly after the boy removed it.
When the Change began, Snape felt the overwhelming urge to hold his child as if by doing so he could absorb his pain. He knew that wasn't possible, so he sat, hands tightly clenching the arms of his chair, hurting along with the boy becoming wolf.
Lupin was waiting for them in the garden and, though the cub was pleased to see him, he was far less energetic. Snape knew from the reports of his prefect that the child was still mourning the loss of his mother.
When the rain began, it was an excuse to return to his quarters. Lupin was obviously surprised to be included. Probably as surprised as Snape was to make the offer.
Once more, Lupin made himself comfortable on the rug in front of the fire and slept. In the few very short conversations they'd had, Snape had learnt that Changes for made wolves were harder on them physically than those of genetic werewolves. That was why the morning after a Change, Alexander was quite capable of attending classes while Lupin needed a longer recovery time. Ideally. But now that his body was more used to the Wolfsbane, Lupin had informed Snape, if he got enough sleep as a wolf, he could take his classes in the morning. Still, Snape noticed that, now and then, Lupin would wake and he always checked on the cub.
Hillswick - he couldn't bring himself to think of the cub as Alexander - had joined him on the couch and lay, head on Snape's lap, as Snape quietly read to him from `Hogwarts, a History'. When the cub dropped into sleep, Snape sat and just watched him until the Sense of Change was upon the werewolves. Snape helped the cub into his bedchamber, allowing Lupin his own privacy to Change.
Once it was over and Alexander had gone back to sleep, Snape went out to check on Lupin. The man lay panting on the floor, sweaty from the efforts his body had undergone. Rather than hurry him out, Snape helped him to the couch and covered him with a blanket as the exhausted man dropped into sleep. He placed his returned robe on the arm of the couch closest to Lupin's head, then went back to his bedchamber. As the previous time, he knew Lupin would let himself out when he recovered.
Alexander lay on his bed, lightly covered with Snape's robe. Snape rummaged around in his wardrobe for one of his old, softly worn shirts. With cautious movements, afraid to wake the child, he got Alexander into it, buttoned it up and then carefully pulled the bedclothes from under the boy and then around him.
It was only a few hours away from the time the school would wake and his sleepless night made him yawn widely.
Snape stood up, undressed, carefully hanging up his clothing, then put on his nightshirt. He went to the other side of the bed, and, without trying to rationalize, even to think about what he was doing, he slipped into the bed, under the sheets and, hesitantly, put his arms around his child.
In the middle of November, Snape heard a sound that he had wondered if he'd ever hear again.
The first years were working on a potion for eradicating scorch marks when a slight humming could be heard. One by one, the students in the room stopped doing what they were doing and looked at the boy who was humming happily to himself as he added agrimony to his cauldron.
Snape was amazed to see Gryffindors smile at Slytherins who smiled back. Then one by one, they turned to glare at him, almost daring him to say something.
He didn't. He couldn't: his throat was suddenly too tight for any sound. He turned his back to the class and pretended he hadn't heard.
"Did you hear?" Ron Weasley growled.
Browsing through the library stacks for some reference material, Lupin stilled and eavesdropped.
"Now what?" Granger seemed preoccupied. But then she always did these days. N.E.W.T.s this year and she was already into a study schedule.
"The Greasy Git strikes again." Weasley's dislike of Snape ran through his words.
"What this time?" Even though these three knew that Snape was on their side, their dislike of the man was not something they bothered to hide. Not even Potter.
"You know Hillswick, the Hat's Mistake?"
"Yes, what about Hillswick?" Granger was interested.
"Snape's given him a week of detention."
"What!" Two horrified voices.
"Yeah, all because the kid hums while he's working in the Git's classes. Snape says it's distracting everyone and he's going to learn to stop his `silly noise'."
Weasley did an impressive Snape at his most disdainful.
"Why can't he leave the kid alone?" Potter growled. "Damn, it's not like he asked to be sorted into Slytherin."
"I think we should organize a petition," Granger, of course, "and demand that the Headmaster remove him from Slytherin. At least put him into Ravenclaw or somewhere he won't be abused like that."
Lupin quietly made his way out of the library. Trust Snape to find a way of spending time with his...with Hillswick and still manage to piss Gryffindors off.
At Snape's almost reluctant suggestion, Lupin now kept a change of clothing in Snape's rooms.
And much to Lupin's surprise, at the next full moon which occurred during a cold and heavy rain, Snape indicated that Lupin should also find his way from the Infirmary with the boy in order to Change in the privacy of Snape's quarters.
And once Changed, Lupin was astonished to find that Snape had gone shopping in Hogsmeade. He cleared part of his sitting room, took a large ball from a bag and tossed it to the cub. And there was a rope thing that allowed both wolves to play a sort of tug-of-war. And then, when the cub had dealt with its initial burst of energy, Snape settled on the couch with the cub's head on his lap and read...
Lupin was still chuckling to himself over that the next day. Snape had gone out and purchased the entire collection of the `William, the Terror of Mistleguard School of Wizards and Witches'. Books which were supposed to be such a bad influence on students, giving them ideas that could only end in detention or worse, that they were usually confiscated by the staff. Books, of course, which the younger students at Hogwarts smuggled in and read furtively.
Now and then, Dumbledore would inquire as to how Snape and the boy were getting along. Lupin found that he didn't like the implication that he should be spying on the two of them.
"Ask him yourself, Headmaster."
Dumbledore looked over the top of his glasses, his jovial Headmaster persona slipping slightly. "I'm asking you, Professor Lupin."
Lupin shrugged. "I've also concluded, as I'm sure you must remember telling me, that Snape hides his personal feelings well. As far as I can tell, there has been no physical abuse of the boy."
What went on during their monthly gatherings was no business of anyone, thought Lupin.
Christmas holidays arrived. Hillswick actually received several invitations from house-mates to join their families for the holidays. The boy was popular with his year and the fact that his mother had died had touched many of them.
Snape allowed himself to be the villain once more and indicated that, as the boy's `guardian', he had other plans for the holidays.
Lupin heard several disparaging remarks from some of the other Houses, including a Head of House, about the highhanded manner in which Snape was making decisions about the boy.
To everyone's surprise - most especially Dumbledore - Snape and Hillswick simply disappeared for most of the holidays. No one knew where they had gone. The Headmaster was not pleased.
They returned two days before the start of classes. Snape only responded to inquiries as to their whereabouts with that disdainful eyebrow of his. Dumbledore immediately interviewed the boy - in Lupin's presence, at Lupin's insistence.
"We went home." Hillswick was surprised by their reaction. "Well, it was Solstice."
"Why did you go there?" From behind his desk, Dumbledore rested his chin on his templed hands.
"Because Professor Snape asked me what I wanted to do for the holidays and I told him I wanted to go home. So he took me home. He has the right, you know. My mother did make him my guardian."
"Yes, of course," said Dumbledore, his tone conciliatory. "It's just that we didn't know where you'd gone. We were worried about you."
The boy shook his head, not understanding the concern. "It's Solstice, where else would we go?"
Lupin was not present for the interview between the Headmaster and Snape, though he made certain to be near the entrance to Dumbledore's quarters when Snape came down. Tight-lipped and white with constrained anger.
He cautiously knocked on the door to Snape's quarters that evening. The door was yanked open and a still angry Snape filled the doorway.
"What the bloody hell do you want?"
Lupin held up a bottle of brandy, the kind that he'd noticed on the sideboard in the sitting room. "I come bearing gifts."
Snape looked ready to growl. There were times, thought Lupin, that of the two of them, Snape was the one with a personality far better suited to being a werewolf.
With a sigh, Snape stepped back and allowed Lupin in. Unlike some of the other rooms belonging to staff members, there was no sign of the festive season in these. Lupin found two glasses, opened the brandy and poured out a decent portion for Snape. Then he took a small, gaily-wrapped package from his pocket and placed it on the sideboard. "For Alexander. It's a book I quite enjoyed when I was his age."
Snape took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Thank you. I'll see that he gets it as soon as I can."
Lupin sat on the couch and watched as Snape sipped at the brandy. He looked tired.
"Rough time? Did Alexander find it hard to go home with his mother not there?"
"Gathering information for our beloved Headmaster?"
Lupin wondered at the tone. More than disdain, almost a hatred.
"No. I've made it fairly clear to Albus that any information he wants as to this situation, he will have to get from you. I'm just asking because you look as though your time away was not all that restful."
Snape dropped his head back onto the chair. "Solstice day was hard. He barely spoke. The weather wasn't too bad so we walked a lot. He showed me his favourite spots. I began wishing I hadn't taken him home. I really have no idea how to deal with such losses."
Lupin nodded. Yes, he didn't think that Snape was all that good with emotions other than anger. "If it's any consolation, I think it was the right thing to do for the boy. His eyes are more peaceful than they've been since he returned from the funeral."
Lupin nodded. "Wolf eyes are very revealing, especially to another wolf."
Snape thought a bit then nodded. "Thank you."
"I take it that Dumbledore doesn't see it that way."
Snape looked up from his glass and then tossed back its contents. Lupin thought it was his way of indicating that the conversation was over. Instead, Snape got up, fetched the bottle of brandy from the sideboard and refilled both their glasses.
"Our beloved Headmaster was worried in case there should be a call from the Dark Lord. I explained to him that no matter where I was, should Voldemort decide to hold a Christmas council, the mark would so indicate. Whether I apparate to the summoned location from Hogsmeade or from some other site, it would make no difference to the Master. That I would have done so as soon as I had seen to Alexander's safety. The Headmaster was very particular in pointing out that, had I been summoned and had I been here at Hogwarts, there would have been no need to `waste time' seeing to my son's security."
Snape glared at Lupin. "I assume from your lack of reaction that you are fully aware Alexander is my son."
Lupin hesitated, then nodded. "Albus told me when he called me in."
"You must have laughed your head off when you heard."
Lupin shrugged, not wanting to go into that. "He called me in as extra security for the boy."
"He called you in in case I couldn't handle the fact that I had produced a werewolf son."
Lupin cocked his head. "Well, Snape, you're not exactly known for your love of our kind." He relented at Snape's wince. "You may be relieved to know that Albus indicated he didn't fear for the boy's safety with you. That I was here in case you are summoned during the full moon. If such a situation arises, I am to keep an eye on the boy."
"Yes, of course." Snape's habitual sarcasm was back. "Nothing must interfere with the Headmaster's acquisition of information."
Lupin hesitated. "Snape, do you want Voldemort to win?"
Snape sighed heavily. "No, I do not. Not that I expect to be believed. Once a Death Eater, and all that."
Lupin said nothing. Hard to refute what he himself thought. Less so than he once had, he was surprised to find.
"No, it's just that Dumbledore is prepared to pay any price for his information, no matter the consequences. No matter who gets hurt in his quest."
Lupin, who had seen some of that happen when he had accompanied the Headmaster, found he had nothing to say in Dumbledore's defence.
The summons came in February.
Snape alerted Dumbledore and then held a hurried yet private meeting in his quarters with Lupin. "The potion is ready. You'll have to reheat it. I suggest you stay in my rooms. The toys are in the box under the small table."
"Full moon is in two days. Do you really expect to be gone that long?"
Snape shrugged, looking around the room, unconsciously rubbing his left arm. "It's been months since the last summons. It all depends on his mood and the information he gets."
He went over to the sideboard and opened a drawer from which he took out a thick envelope. He handed it to Lupin. "My last will and testament."
"In case I don't come back. I've left everything to Alexander and I've taken the liberty of naming you his guardian, in conjunction with Freya Hillswick. If you yourself know of someone who is one of you and who would take good care of the boy should anything in turn happen to you, please add that to the last sheet. I don't want Dumbledore having anything to do with him. Is that understood?"
Lupin had a dozen questions he wanted answered but only nodded, taking the papers from Snape. "Does Alexander know that you're going away for a few days?"
"In a way. I've told him that I may sometimes not be here in the school. At those times, he is to go to you with any problems. I'm sorry. I have to leave now. I still have to walk to the extent of the wards in order to apparate." At the door, Snape hesitated. "If anything happens to me, tell Alexander that I..."
"Yes, I will. Severus, take care."
But Snape was gone.
When he hadn't returned in four days, Lupin noticed that Dumbledore was having a hard time hiding his worry. By the sixth, he seemed resigned.
Alexander Hillswick was not in a good mood.
He found that no one seemed to want to answer his questions as to the whereabouts of the man he still pretended was only his Potions instructor. Professor Dumbledore had taken over their Potions classes, but though the other students seemed happy about that situation, Alexander found it irritated him more and more. Especially when he would stay after class to ask when Professor Snape would be coming back. The fourth time he'd asked, he'd gotten detention.
Changing this month hadn't been much fun. Professor Lupin had tried his best. He'd set up his father's rooms so that all the toys were out and that they could play. But the best part of the Change, in Alexander's mind, was the time he spent with his head on his father's lap as he read to him. And then the times he held him in his arms after the Change back.
Something was wrong. And no one would tell him what it was. The closest he'd gotten to an answer was from Professor Lupin who had shrugged. "I really don't know what's going on, Alexander. I wish I did. The moment I hear anything, I'll tell you. Wolf's honour."
Well, it had now been a week and he knew for certain that if he got an answer, he wasn't going to like it.
He was walking in the hallway just off the Great Hall entrance when he heard someone laughing about his father. He looked around and noticed a couple of seventh years. Gryffindors, of course. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.
"Well, at least we don't have to deal with the Greasy Git these days."
Professor McGonagall was passing and she merely nodded at the two of them.
Inga Hillswick had warned Alexander about his temper. That it was something that he had to learn to control. And he had. But he was worried and he was fed up with hearing his father spoken about in that way, in that tone.
Ron Weasley was stunned to find the boy known as the Hat's Mistake screaming "Take that back!", and throwing himself onto him, fists flaying away.
"What the hell..."
With a shove, Weasley pushed Alexander away and he stumbled to the ground.
"What's gotten into you?"
"Hillswick!" shrilled Professor McGonagall.
Alexander pulled his wand out of his pocket and aimed it at Ron Weasley. "Petrificus Totalus!" he shouted. And watched as the boy who enjoyed defaming his father fell like a log to the ground.
Getting to his feet, Alexander pointed his wand at Potter.
"Hey!" Potter held his hands out. "I'm unarmed."
"Apologize!" shouted Alexander, his face fierce in his anger.
They were gathering a crowd. Slytherins and Gryffindors took positions behind their people. Professor McGonagall was still speechless by the fact that a first year had thrown a Petrificus successfully. Only Hermione Granger had previously done so, and that had been because she'd taught herself how from reading books she shouldn't have been reading.
"What's going on here?" Professor Lupin had heard Alexander's voice and had come rushing out of the Hall to rescue him. Except that the boy didn't need rescuing. "Alexander?"
"Hillswick, give me that wand!"
Alexander ignored Professor McGonagall again. His eyes firmly planted on the famous Harry Potter, wand pointed, he repeated, "Apologize, Potter."
"For what?" Potter looked truly unknowing of his transgression.
"For calling Professor Snape a greasy git."
"Oh, that." Potter rolled his eyes.
Lupin stepped close to but not between the two students.
"NO! It's enough. If any one of us ever talked openly about a professor the way they do about Professor Snape, we would get detention."
The members of Slytherin who had gathered behind the boy were vocal in their agreement. Lupin looked at McGonagall who seemed offended by their response.
"It's true," said Lupin.
McGonagall's face turned beet red. "Professor Lupin..."
"The boy's right, Minerva."
There was some additional agreement from the spectators who were neither Gryffindor nor Slytherin.
Lupin thought McGonagall's eyes were going to pop out of her head.
"Professor Snape," said Alexander, eyes still on Potter, wand ready, "is my..."
Lupin held his breath.
"..is our Head of House, and as such deserves the same respect and courtesy as any other Head of House."
The Slytherins were loud in their support.
"Well, really!" McGonagall was livid.
Alexander didn't take his eyes off Potter but he answered her. "Are you saying that we wouldn't get detention if we referred to you in the hearing of another professor as that smelly old cat?"
There were several snickers, quickly stifled under McGonagall's angry glare.
Potter was the one who defused the situation. "You're right, Hillswick. He does. I apologize. On my behalf and on Ron's."
Alexander took a deep breath and let it out. He gave a small nod and lowered his wand. "On behalf of Slytherin, I accept."
Lupin placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. He knew where they would be called to and decided it would be a tactical manoeuver to get there as soon as possible.
"Hey, take your hands off him," snarled one of the older Slytherins.
"Yes," shouted another. "He doesn't need to be touched by a bloody werewolf."
Silence descended on the group. This time, Potter went for his wand.
Livid, Alexander turned to face his house-mates. "What's wrong with being a werewolf? I'm one."
Lupin closed his eyes and moaned softly. As he felt Alexander move away from him, he quickly reopened them and found his wand.
Alexander stalked up to the shocked boy. "Well, now that you know, I suppose you'll also want to put me down? Well, that's what you do with werewolves, isn't it? All they're good for, right?"
A couple of the Slytherins, eyes on Alexander's wand, slowly walked backwards.
Alexander glared at them all. "Well?"
One of the witches from first year piped up. "Alexander, are you truly a werewolf? You're not just saying that?"
"Yes, I'm a werewolf. A pureblood." He found Draco Malfoy in the crowd. "We've been around as long as any other old blood family. And we have the right to be here as much as anybody else."
Lupin placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. "I think that's enough for one day, Alexander."
And this time, no one challenged his right to lead the child to Dumbledore's office.
Lupin refused outright to leave Alexander alone with Dumbledore and McGonagall.
"Consider me his legal guardian," he said, voice cold, and the Headmaster understood.
Alexander said nothing at all in his defence. He just stood there, whitefaced, eyes focused on Fawkes who was eyeing the boy with curiosity.
Lupin stayed with his hand on the boy's shoulder, watching his face, while Minerva McGonagall indicated what she thought of the situation and what she referred to as the boy's excessive and unwarranted rudeness.
"Yes, yes, Minerva. I'll see to the matter." Dumbledore waited until she left to give the boy his sternest Headmaster look. "What interests me more, Hillswick, is how you know to throw a Petrificus."
Alexander seemed unconcerned. "My Bestefar, my mother's father. He taught me how to use it when I was seven. It's part of the training werecubs get from Elders. Like Nons learn to cast some spells before they get here."
Lupin shrugged. "I was made, not born. I have no idea as to the exact training werecubs get from their Clans, though I do know that they are trained early in defensive manoeuvers."
"Still, a Petrificus?"
"So, Hillswick. This defence of your Head of House is all fine and good, but the manner in which you went about it is not at all acceptable."
Alexander moved his focus from the phoenix to the Headmaster. "Where's my father?"
Dumbledore sat back. "Your father?"
Alexander's eyebrow rose slightly. "You know. Professor Snape. Where is he?"
Lupin tightened his hold on the boy's shoulder, silently offering his support.
Dumbledore sighed. "Believe me; if I knew, I would tell you."
Dumbledore was obviously taken aback by the boy's scornful tone. Lupin swallowed the urge to laugh: shades of Snape!
"No. I don't believe you. And no, I think you do know where he is. I also think you don't care." Alexander looked up to Lupin. "He's in trouble, isn't he? Why are none of you helping him? Because he's a greasy git?"
Lupin crouched so that he could speak to the boy, face to face. "I swore to you that I'd tell you if I heard anything."
Alexander shook his head. "That just means no one's told you anything."
He stepped away from Lupin's hold. Without looking back or asking for permission, he headed for the door.
Lupin looked up, stunned. He had never heard Dumbledore use that tone with any student. Not even with Sirius Black after the Shrieking Shack incident. But then, not even Black would have dared indicate that the Headmaster was a liar.
Alexander stopped, hand on the door.
"Your wand. You are to leave it here."
His back still to them, the boy shook his head. "I'm sorry, Headmaster. But I need it for protection. By now the whole school knows that I'm a werewolf and I don't intend to make it easy for anyone to dispose of me."
"Whose fault is that? However, your protection is our concern, Master Hillswick."
Again the boy shook his head, "Excuse me, Sir, but I don't place much confidence in my father's colleagues to protect me."
Lupin stepped between the closing door and the Headmaster. Dumbledore was white with anger. Lupin waited until the Headmaster sat down, then he nodded and followed the boy out.
Minerva McGonagall was the one who found Severus Snape the next day, just off the path to Hogsmeade. She was still livid with the way the situation had been handled. Even some of her Gryffindors were siding with the Slytherin brat. Who seemed to have gotten away without points taken away or detention for the scene he had staged in front of her. She was walking briskly along and nearly tripped on a stone lying on the path. With a curse, she kicked it to one side where it thudded and she heard a moan.
She barely recognized the man lying there. His face was badly beaten and his body...
He had been wearing a robe but was naked under it. The wind or something had pulled it away from his body.
She knelt, shocked. His back was all bloody. She could only conclude that a whip of some kind was responsible for the kind of wounds that covered nape to calves.
Leaning over into the tall grasses, she emptied her stomach, and then, regaining some control, she spelled a message to the Infirmary. Only Poppy could decide if Snape could be moved.
The first time Snape roused enough to notice where he was, Dumbledore was sitting by his bed. With a voice still raw from his having screamed - in spite of the healing potions Pomfrey was using on him - he croaked his report and allowed himself to fall back into the welcome blackness.
The second time he was more alert. Poppy Pomfrey was fussing over him, making certain that his body was healing well for the next time he was summoned.
He didn't think he'd actually said that aloud but he might have because Pomfrey suddenly stopped what she was doing and just looked at him, face losing its colour.
"`Tsall righ'," he tried to say.
She tucked the blankets more snugly around him and sat by his bedside until he fell asleep again.
He woke to Minerva McGonagall.
He closed his eyes and wondered what she was doing here. She usually avoided him like the plague unless she was defending one of her Gryffindor pets from him.
"Was what you did as a Death Eater before coming to Dumbledore so reprehensible that you endure this as penance?"
Not a question he had ever expected to hear from any of his colleagues, let alone McGonagall.
But because she had asked, and because he was tired and his usual defences weren't up, he answered her. "Yes."
He closed his eyes and never heard her leave.
Lupin was reading one of Alexander's William books, smiling as he came across something that probably would have the boy laughing aloud.
"Ah, you're awake." Lupin placed the book down on the foot of the bed and went to help Snape sit up enough to slip a couple of pillows under his head. He held the glass of water while Snape thirstily emptied it.
Lupin smiled. "Doing fine. It's Wednesday, so he's not leading a mutiny today."
Snape frowned, not understanding.
Lupin took back his chair. "Snape, have you ever wondered what Alexander inherited from you?"
"His love of books." He had no idea what Lupin was on about. "What's going on? What did you mean, mutiny?" Snape frowned: he never had truly gotten Gryffindor humour.
"Try your temper. Your snarkiness. Your ability to spit in the face of authority. Your sense of justice. Your blunt honesty. Oh, and he throws a first class Petrificus, as you do."
Snape was thoroughly lost. "Alexander? He doesn't have a temper. He never gets angry."
With a smile that grew into a grin, Lupin brought Snape up to date about his son's behaviour.
Snape was stunned into complete silence.
"So, the upshot of all that is there was a staff meeting at which Albus made it clear that he expected the same levels of respect to be maintained for any member of staff and most especially Heads of House. That he did not expect every professor to be loved by the students of the school, but that was no reason for not respecting them. That each member of his staff had his or her position due to his or her expertise and that alone demanded recognition. Then he told the student body the same thing at breakfast the next morning. Quite firmly."
Lupin rose and went to get Snape a goblet of some potion Poppy had left for him. Snape hoped that it wouldn't send him to sleep as he needed to understand just what the hell had happened while he'd been gone. Lupin waited until Snape had finished drinking to continue.
"There's something else."
"Dear Merlin, what more?" Snape could feel a headache beginning that had nothing to do with his condition
Lupin sat on the side of Snape's bed. "He's told them all that he's a werewolf."
There were no words to get beyond his horror and fear.
Lupin patted his arm above the bandages that covered his wrist. "It's all right. If anyone decides to make his life miserable about it, they've got to get through Alexander's bodyguards."
Lupin nodded. "I kept him with me, that night. The next morning, there was a knock on the door. A delegation of first and second years, all Slytherin, about a dozen of them. Luton announced that they were here to see to it that Alexander got to breakfast and classes without any trouble."
He laughed, shaking his head. "Not that anyone in their right mind would try and take him on. Even Slytherin upper years are keeping an eye on him. He's a bit of a hero, you know, for taking on McGonagall. Not just with Slytherins. And he's quick with his wand. Weasley never knew what hit him.
"As I was saying, his bodyguards see him to and from classes and surround him if they have to go outside. Even Malfoy seems to have a healthy respect for him. Of course, the Petrificus may have something to do with that."
Then Lupin waited while Snape's tired brain assimilated all that information. It took several minutes. Once or twice, Snape opened his mouth to say something, but he didn't know what to say. He could only frown and rub his still bruised face, trying to wake himself up.
Lupin patted him on the arm again. "Do you want to see him now?"
"He knows I'm back?" The need to see his son battled with his desire to protect him. "No. Not like this. I don't want him to see me this way."
"Too late, I'm afraid."
"I made him the promise that I'd tell him anything as soon as I knew. Once Poppy cleaned you up, I brought him to see you. He was upset, but he handled it well." Before Snape could protest, he added, "He needed to see you, Snape. He's been every evening since you were found."
Snape stared at his hands. "How long..."
"It's been five days. Poppy says the fact that you were so dehydrated and starved is why the potions and spells are taking so long to work properly. She's managed to heal the external injuries but the internal ones are taking longer. She thinks that a few more days in bed and then taking it easy for a couple of weeks..."
Lupin stood up. "I take it Voldemort knows about your double role?"
Snape shook his head, still trying to make sense of what had occurred while he'd been gone. "He wasn't happy with my information. He doesn't like hearing certain things. This time there were four of us who displeased him. He just wanted to make certain we wouldn't do so again. Nor any other of his followers."
Lupin was horrified. "You can't be thinking of going back if he summons you again?"
Snape focused on Lupin who was watching him as though he were insane. "Do you want Voldemort to win?"
Alexander stood just inside the doorway, his eyes large in a pale face. He'd heard his father's scathing tones when someone or something had upset him. He was willing to accept that so long as he wasn't going to be sent away now that everyone knew what he was.
Professor Lupin placed his hand on his back and gave a little push. His father's face was white as he entered.
Standing there, Alexander found the courage to speak. "Are you going to yell at me?"
His father's voice was surprisingly soft. "No. Should I?"
Alexander looked at his feet. "I told them what I was. I wasn't supposed to."
"Yes, well," now his father sounded more resigned than upset, "I've been given to understand that there seems to have been a bit of a change of feeling where werewolves are concerned, even in Slytherin House."
Alexander shrugged. "I'm sorry." Then, because he needed to know, "Are you going to send me away?"
"For that? No."
"Will you send me away for the way I spoke to Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster?"
His father sat up straighter with only a few winces. Alexander was frightened to see him still so bruised, looking as white as his nightshirt.
"No. If I have to send you away, it'll be only to keep you safe. Alexander..." and stretched out a still bandaged hand.
Alexander took a few steps closer but didn't reach for Snape's hand.
"Alexander. Do you know, in all of my life, no one has ever before defended me."
Alexander was startled. "No one?"
"No one. You are the very first. Thank you."
Alexander took a step closer to the bed and stopped. "I want to touch you, papa, but I don't want to hurt you."
His father's smile was suddenly very strong. "Your touch could never hurt me, Alexander."
Professor Lupin closed the door behind himself as Alexander went into his father's arms.
Every evening, from the Infirmary, Alexander joined Snape in his rooms to do his homework. Every evening, Lupin escorted the boy back to the Slytherin portrait and watched him go in. Desmond, the prefect, saw to it that the boy went to bed.
The time with Alexander was the only part of the day when Snape behaved himself. His body was healed other than some scars which were slowly fading. Once he was allowed out of bed, he was restless, chafing to return to his classes, certain that Dumbledore was not maintaining the rigid standards that he set for his students. He was frustrated that Pomfrey would not permit him out of his rooms until she was satisfied that he was completely healed.
Lupin ate supper with him every night, bringing him up to date on school events, discussing the students' work with him. "You know them better than I do. You've had them longer."
"Are the Slytherins still giving you trouble?"
"About? Oh, the werewolf thing. No. Just they seem to think that the defence against the Dark Arts is of lesser interest than the use of them."
Snape smirked. "Yes, it would be, to them. And not just them. Maybe..." He shrugged.
Lupin looked up from the cup of tea he'd been pouring. "Maybe what?"
"Just maybe you should arrange for them to have a true taste of the Dark Arts. Just to show them what it's really like."
Lupin sat back and thought a minute. "Like another obstacle course. This time, with anything and everything coming at them. For all of them? Including the first years?"
Snape smiled. "Why not? If we go to war, they'll also need to know how to protect themselves. Ask Hagrid to get you some animal specimens. As long as you don't ask him where he's gotten them or how he's come by them, he'll be delighted to provide you."
Lupin got up and, without asking for Snape's permission, rummaged in his desk until he found paper and quill. Sitting down at Snape's desk, he began calling out some ideas for curses and spells as he jotted them down. Snape used his wand to move his favourite chair next to the desk and added his contributions to the plan.
That kept him occupied for exactly three days. Poppy Pomfrey thanked Lupin for coming up with the idea. "He's been out of bed for five days now and hasn't returned to classes. That's the longest he's ever rested."
Lupin carefully inquired. "He's been hurt like this before?"
Pomfrey nodded. "Though never this badly."
"And he keeps going back?" By now Lupin had understood that Poppy Pomfrey knew pretty much everything that was happening in the school, including its deepest, darkest secrets, and that anything said to her would never turn up in staff room gossip.
She looked up at him from the bandages she was rolling: she was forever complaining in the staff room about the amount of bandages needed by the students.
"The only way that will stop occurring is with his death or with Voldemort's."
"Ah, yes," Lupin's voice was edged with scorn. "Our hallowed need for information."
Snape walked into the Great Hall the next morning as though he hadn't been away for almost three weeks. He greeted his fellow staff members with his usual brusque nod of the head and sat waiting for his morning coffee.
Except that it wasn't the next morning and things had changed. Slytherin House stood up and applauded his return. One or two even cheered. The school had been told that he'd been in a serious accident, and it seemed his House wanted everyone to know that they, at least, were pleased to have him back.
Lupin leaned over and whispered, "Stand up and acknowledge them, you idiot. They're telling you something."
Looking over the staff table as he did so, Snape was surprised to find that several of them were smiling at him in approval. Dumbledore was wearing his most neutral face, waiting to see what he would do.
He rose, bowed to his House, and sat down. The noise gradually stopped but Snape felt their welcome all through his breakfast.
Dumbledore hadn't messed his classroom up that badly. He might have everything put back to where it belonged with only a couple of hours' work. When he accidentally knocked something over during his class with fifth year Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, one of the students rushed to pick it up for him. He thanked the girl with a nod and she smiled at him.
"What the hell is going on?" Snape growled when he answered Lupin's inquiry as to how his morning had gone as they made their way to the staff table for the noon meal.
"What's the matter? Not used to common courtesy?" Lupin found Snape's confused irritation almost funny. If it weren't for the fact that it was dawning on him how differently the man was treated from the other teachers. Snape's scowl did make him smile. "Blame it all on Hillswick. Maybe they're afraid of his ability with a wand. Or maybe they've finally discovered that one of the reasons you can be such a prat in class is in reaction to their behaviour."
Snape shook his head. "My behaviour has nothing to do with theirs," he sneered, back again in good Snape form. "I am what I am; I am what I have always been. Alexander notwithstanding."
But Alexander had made a difference in Snape, thought Lupin, whether he was ready to acknowledge it or not.
Lupin had decided not to keep the Dark Arts Challenge for the end of the year. Instead, he prepared a different one each week and sent the students off to deal with it with no prior warning.
More than a few of the upper years discovered that talking about taking on the Dark Arts was one thing, actually doing so was another. Especially when they were being bombarded by spells and curses which may or may not have been real, all at the same time.
Of the Gryffindors, Ron Weasley was `killed' before he got half-way through the course. Potter and Granger were among the four from that House who actually finished the course. Potter's robe was singed and full of holes while Granger screamed at anyone who approached her for a good half hour after she had come through. Five of the Ravenclaws made it to the end with only three Hufflepuffs getting out in one piece. The Slytherins did the best of all. Seven of them made it through, including Draco Malfoy even though he had lost his sang-froid somewhere along the course. Lupin had made certain that if he were successful, it would be on his own, not with his double shadows at his side.
The younger years went in pairs, on a less intense but still difficult course. Alexander and his partner, Rhodri Ddu, a Slytherin who rarely spoke, came out of the obstacle course laughing almost hysterically at something that had happened. They wouldn't tell anyone but Snape eventually got it out of his son that one of the creatures Hagrid had supplied had been occupied `pooping' as they had come by it, which had, of course, engendered a series of poop jokes.
"Rhodri knows tons of them," giggled Alexander.
Oh, bloody hell, thought Snape. He'd forgotten that first years had a very developed sense of the scatological. He braced himself for a slew of them but apart from one or two actually funny ones - as Snape reluctantly acknowledged - Alexander kindly kept his now growing store of such jokes and puns for the dormitory.
It astonished Snape to discover that, in spite of his confession, his son was popular and had friends in many of the years and Houses. From his mother, he thought; Alexander had to get that from his mother. He couldn't remember having a friend at all during his time as a student.
Lupin was helping Pomfrey move one of the private infirmary rooms around. Not that he'd volunteered; she'd grabbed him as he'd wandered by on the way to the library.
"This won't take long," she assured him.
They were almost done when he looked out the window to see a small group of boys laughing and making forts out of the snow that had been dumped on the grounds by a surprise overnight storm. Alexander was organizing one side, gesturing as he stooped and hurriedly made snowballs to add to their munitions pile.
Pomfrey looked over his shoulder and smiled. "The Hat's Mistake. You know, Remus, I don't think that Hat made any kind of mistake. There's been more laughter from Slytherin this year than I can remember."
Lupin smiled. "He's very sure of himself."
"Yes," she agreed. "One can always tell a child who is confident that he is loved." She paused as the Head of Slytherin came out and stood watching - from a safe distance - the children throw snowballs at each other. "Just as one can tell a child who's known none."
Lupin watched her as she moved a small lamp on a bedside table an inch over to her satisfaction. "What do you mean?"
She looked up. With a shrug she walked over to the bed and refluffed the pillows. "It's not a secret. If you ask any of the professors who were here when you all started, they could tell you. Severus is the result of a marriage between two old houses, a political merger. I don't think that either of his parents paid the slightest bit of attention to him once he was born. I wonder," she sounded reflective, "if that might have been different if he'd been a pretty baby?" Then she shook her head, "No, I doubt it.
"He was hurt in first year. Don't you remember? Hooch was running a class through some flying exercise when one of them lost control of his broomstick and crashed into a few of the children. Severus fell to the ground from a height of about forty feet. He was unconscious for several minutes. He had a hairline fracture of the skull. Albus wasn't here so I sent an owl to his parents, informing them that the boy had been hurt. I got a return owl from their legal representative, informing me that I was never to bother the Snapes again with such trivial matters, and that any such correspondence should, in the future, be directed to him.
"I don't think Severus has seen his parents other than in the newspapers since he first arrived here."
Because of his size, Alexander hadn't been allowed to play Quidditch. He was quick but Hooch wasn't certain that he could hold his own with people so much larger than he was. Still, she did allow him to join his House for practice now and then.
"Good thing Hillswick is still so small," Potter commented to Malfoy - in the hearing of several people - as they watched the boy chase the Snitch with grim determination, "or you'd have been replaced for certain. Even on that old broomstick he's better than you've ever been." And he grinned delightedly as Malfoy went white.
Snape, as Hillswick's guardian, had given his permission for the boy's attendance at practices, and found it disconcerting that his `bodyguards' followed him there, augmented by the presence of several older witches who were more than happy to cheer him on.
"Only an excuse to come ogle the boys," muttered Hooch when Snape brought himself to comment on it. "The females, that is. They mature earlier than males, you know. Before Hillswick catches on to that, you'd better have the Talk with him."
Hooch took her eyes off the racing broomsticks to glare at the Potions instructor. "The Talk. You know. Snogging, shagging and the consequences thereof."
Snape was horrified. "He's not even twelve!"
"As I said, females mature earlier, but eleven's not too early for that, even for males. Want me to have a little chat with him? I don't mind. Do it all the time with the girls."
Snape shook his head. "No, I'll do it. It is my responsibility. As his guardian."
"Well, as his guardian, you might like to include fraternizing with older students." Hooch gestured with her head to the two Slytherin witches whom Snape knew were in third year. "They find him `cute'. And mature for his age. Must be the werewolf thing. BULSTRODE! You hit the Bludger away from your side, not at it!"
Lupin was watching the practice from one of the porches. He had no idea what Hooch had been saying to Snape except that he'd looked fairly startled and then positively uncomfortable when she'd flown off to deal with some problem.
Minerva McGonagall stepped up next to him, holding her cloak tightly around herself. It might be May but spring this year had been cooler than the norm, and the air was quite chilly in the shade. Apart from a silent nod, they ignored each other's presence. Things were still frosty between them since the day Lupin had sided with Slytherin against her.
"The boy was right."
Lupin glanced over his shoulder. McGonagall was staring at the pitch, not looking at him.
"Not just about how Snape is treated as a professor, but also how he was treated as a student. If the Marauders had picked on any other student the way they did on him, they would have been suspended at the very least."
Lupin nodded. "I've been thinking about that, too. It didn't matter what we did to him, he was always...within hitting distance. I never understood. You'd have thought that self-preservation would..."
McGonagall turned to glare at him. "Are you serious, Lupin? You don't understand why he stayed `within hitting distance'?"
Lupin shook his head. "By the time of the Incident..."
"The one at the Shrieking Shack? Oh, don't be such an idiot, Lupin," she scoffed, "Albus had to tell me. He was afraid that Snape might decide on revenge and we wanted no more incidents."
Lupin agreed coldly. "Yes, it wouldn't have done the school reputation much good to have a student kill another merely because he'd nearly been torn apart by a werewolf who wasn't even supposed to be attending said school."
McGonagall ignored all that. "Go back to the incident. What about `by the time of the incident'?"
Lupin turned to face her. "I don't understand how Sirius even managed to get him to go to the shack."
"You don't, do you? Seriously."
"Seriously. I don't."
McGonagall found the boy flying at breakneck speed after the snitch, oblivious to the white-faced man watching him. "All Black had to do was tell Snape that you wanted to see him."
"That's it?" Lupin was confused. "Why..."
McGonagall snapped at the man beside her. "Because he was in love with you. Everyone in the school knew it. Except, it seems, you. That's why he went. That's why he nearly died. That's why he hates you all so much."
And she turned around and went back in, leaving Lupin with his mouth open.
The staff was listening to Sprout report on the development of the mandrakes when the evening meeting was interrupted by a hesitant knocking on the door of the staff room.
Sinistra shrugged and went to see who it was.
"Please, Madam Sinistra, is Professor Snape here?"
"Why shouldn't he be?"
Isabelle Caldecott walked past her into the room. "Professor! You are here!"
Snape quirked an expressive eyebrow. "As you can see," he drawled. "Is that a problem?"
The first year suddenly looked frightened. "It's Alexander, sir. Malfoy said he'd found you on the path to Hogsmeade and that you were injured again. They went off together. Sir, Malfoy hates Alexander."
Dumbledore reached to grab the man rushing by him. "Severus!" he snapped.
Snape pulled out of his hold and went running for the main door. He was out on the grounds when he heard, "Snape! Up here!" He paused long enough to identify Lupin on a broomstick, holding another in his hand. "Faster this way!" and he dropped the broomstick.
They flew quickly along the path to Hogsmeade, all the way into the village, and back, carefully checking to see if there could have been an accident. They found no signs of either Malfoy or Alexander.
Then, suddenly, the mark on Snape's left arm began to burn.
At the school, Dumbledore quickly convened the older students, purposefully excluding any from Slytherin, and had them conduct a careful search of the school.
The younger Slytherins were livid with the idea that one of their own would seriously do anything to harm a fellow classmate.
"Oh, give it up," yawned Crabbe. "It's only a bloody werewolf."
"The damn thing's just going to learn its place," sneered Goyle. "Besides, who the hell cares what happens to it?"
Within one minute, Isabelle Caldecott and her best friend, Hester Humphries, were running through the halls trying to find the Headmaster. Three minutes after they had, Crabbe and Goyle found themselves in Dumbledore's office, facing the wizard who had defeated the Dark Wizard Grindewald. Without Draco Malfoy to keep them in line, they saw no reason not to talk, even to boast a little.
"He's taking him to the Dark Lord." Crabbe sneered, too stupid to understand just how angry Dumbledore was.
Goyle sat down on the edge of the Headmaster's desk and grinned at him. "The Death Eaters have known for years that Snape is nothing but your spy and Draco figured out the boy is important to the traitor for a reason. So he's taken Hillswick as a way of showing that he's ready to join the Master's Inner Circle."
"He'll ask the Master to summon the traitor and he's sure that, even though Snape knows it's a trap, he'll walk into it." Crabbe couldn't help revelling in the thought. "Then Draco's going to kill both of them."
"All three of them," Goyle gloated. "Seems that Lupin's with Snape. Two werewolves for the price of one. The Master will be more than happy to reward Draco."
"And then," smirked Crabbe, "he'll reward us."
"Like hell he will!" Dumbledore gestured with his hand and muttered a few words. Crabbe and Goyle found themselves wrapped in rope, gagged and stuffed into a wardrobe which Dumbledore spelled locked.
Dumbledore turned quickly, ready to cast another spell. It was Potter.
"Sir. I think you know Rhodri Ddu, Hillswick's best friend. He knows something that may be of help to us. Go on, Rhodri, tell the Headmaster what you told me."
"They were casting tracer spells on each other this afternoon," explained Harry to Ron and several of the other seventh years. "So that they could track each other in the dark. They were planning on sneaking out tonight and playing some fool made-up game about tracking. Seems it's in one of the William books. Tracer spells that can only be followed with the right counterspells. Not visible to the naked eye."
"Quite bright of them," mused Hermione, "even if they were breaking the rules."
"Fuck the rules," growled Justin Finch-Fletchley. "Let's go find them."
"I'm going with you." Rhodri shook his head, firm in the face of so many disapproving staff. "I'm not telling you the counterspells unless I do."
"Counterspell*s*?" Professor Flitwick glared at the boy who was taller than himself. "How many of those things did you use?"
"William used three, but Alexander thought it would be more fun if we could make the trail more difficult and so we used five in all."
"Bloody hell," Hooch growled, "they're supposed to be first years! When did they become so proficient in spells?"
Rhodri was seated at the front of Harry Potter's Firebolt, wand at hand, trying hard to remember the order of spells and counterspells. Ginny Weasley rode next to them, ready to take the boy back to Hogwarts the moment he had done with them. Behind, wands at the ready, flew most of the staff and all of seventh years who had broomsticks of their own or who had been able to grab one. Those who hadn't were guarding the Slytherin section of the school, seeing to it that, under Dumbledore's specific orders, not one of them was to sneak out, either by door, window or secret passage until they returned.
"Consider them all guilty until proven innocent," Dumbledore had ordered the prefects he had called to him before leaving. "I'll offer my apologies to those who truly are when we return."
"It's a trap."
Snape shrugged. "Yes, of course it is. For me."
They were flying side by side following whichever route the mark indicated. It burnt strongly when Snape went off-course, faded to a throb when on the right one.
"Go back and warn Dumbledore. Lupin, there's no reason for you to be walking into it with me."
Lupin ignored him, just kept an eye focused on the horizon. He had better night vision than Snape, one of the few benefits of being a werewolf. He suddenly reached over and grabbed Snape's arm. "Stop. Over there. By the Circle of Stones. There's some sort of glow. Wait, Snape! You can't just fly into that."
Snape looked at Lupin for the first time since they'd set out. Even in the dark of night it was easy to see that Snape was deadly angry. "He has my son. What do you think he's going to do with him?"
They had barely gotten out of sight of the school when the little arsehole realized Malfoy had lied to him. Hillswick stopped and turned around, trying to head back. Malfoy grabbed him and slapped him hard across the face. "No, you don't. You're staying with me. You need to learn your place in the scheme of things, and it's not as my equal, you disgusting animal."
Draco Malfoy was bigger than Hillswick, but Hillswick didn't make it easy for him. Malfoy finally had to bind his robe about him before he could get the brat onto the broomstick that he had hidden in the bushes at the extent of Hogwarts.
With a laugh, he took to the air and the site where he hoped the Dark Lord was waiting for him. He had sent an owl to his father earlier that day when he's finally worked out that Hillswick was more than a regular student to Snape. Just after Potter had insulted him yet again. He'd gone off to demand that the brat be banned from the pitch - Snape usually did as he asked, just to keep him happy - when he'd realized that the Head of House was far too emotionally involved in watching the boy. Rather, Malfoy had thought, like a coddling parent, afraid that something might happen to the boy as he showed off for Hooch and the others.
Malfoy had been spying on the Potions instructor since he'd first arrived at Hogwarts. Lucius Malfoy had never trusted Snape after he'd left the Death Eaters only to return, supposedly penitent, with a plan to spy on Dumbledore who would think Snape was in fact spying for him. Lucius knew Draco loved challenges, the more underhand the better, and that spying on an instructor was just such a challenge. Moreover, Draco hungered to prove his worth to their Lord and was happy to do so in any way asked of him.
It had been easy enough to find others who thought as he did, and he'd soon had several sources of information for the Master's use to verify whether what Snape was bringing him was indeed correct. From his father, Draco knew that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named rather enjoyed having to `discipline' his agent for not bringing him enough news, or for not telling him things that the Master had learned through his other agents. And no matter in what shape Snape was returned to Dumbledore, Dumbledore always insisted that Snape continue with his `deception'.
But now Snape had reached the limit of his usefulness: he was beginning to bore the Dark Lord. Lucius Malfoy was pleased with his son's deductions concerning Snape and this werewolf and had sought his Lord and presented him with Draco's plan.
Now, standing beside the wizard who intended to rule the world - with himself at his right hand, of course - Lucius hoped that his son was indeed correct. If Draco's plans went off as he wanted, the Malfoys would be one step closer to being confirmed as their Lord's Immediates. It would give the Dark Lord much pleasure to supervise the slow death of the man who had betrayed him and of the child the man held dear, whether son or other, it didn't matter.
If, on the other hand, Draco's plan failed...
A challenge and a password. A broomstick flying in to land its riders in the small clearing within the Circle of Stones.
A deep obeisance, elegantly done as befitted a Malfoy from one of the oldest wizard houses. A dazzling smile that even the Dark Lord took the time to notice.
"I assume from your pleasure that your plan was successful."
"My pleasure, my Lord, is merely being in your presence. It is my honour to present you with the success of my plan." He pointed to the bundle on the ground at his feet.
"Ah, the boy you say Snape is so fond of."
"The boy?" Lucius wondered if Draco's sneering disdain might be going too far. "This is not a boy, my Master. But a werewolf. It has no claim of any sort to humanity."
The Dark Lord nodded his approval. Lucius breathed a little more easily: Draco could go too far at times.
"But you think that the traitor will follow him here?"
Draco bowed again. "Not follow, Lord, but summoned. It is a dark night. We may have to..." he smiled once more, "help the traitor find his way here."
Lucius stiffened at Draco's audacity in correcting their Lord. The wizard did not take kindly to correction, even in such a teasing manner. He glared at his son, who ignored him.
Voldemort waited just long enough to respond so that the smile began to waver. He liked keeping his followers on their toes, worried about his reaction to their news. Besides, he had already sent the summons; Snape shouldn't be far behind.
Still, he did like the audacity of this young one. And his hunger. Yes, he would do well. Maybe even better than the father who was growing a little too restless in his position. His Death Eaters often had to be reminded that only he decided the fates of those around him. It might be interesting to see just how far the son was ready to go for his position. Would he care to try for the father's?
But before that, there was another pleasure to enjoy.
"Let me see the...cub."
Draco unbound the boy and hauled him to his feet. "Bow to your Master, cur!"
The boy, still wobbly on his feet, kicked out and got Draco on the shin. He paid for it with a blow across the face.
"It has spirit."
"It has delusions of grandeur," snarled Draco, once more jerking the boy to his feet. "It thinks that its family is as pure of blood as are ours. For that alone, I would request the right to kill it when it is no longer useful to my Master."
"You're just angry that Harry thinks I'd make a better Seeker than you!" The boy managed to avoid Draco's next blow. Voldemort wondered if the boy was truly that brave or just that ignorant. He doubted that Bimm included his role in recent history in his lectures. "You think you're going to kill me?" The boy looked around until he focused on Voldemort. "You won't kill me. Professor Snape will find me before you try anything and he'll kill you all."
Voldemort almost smiled: the cub was too angry to be scared. He snickered and then realized that by doing so he had startled the men around him. "The cub, as you say, needs a lesson." Voldemort stretched out his hand and with a smile that caused several of his Death Eaters to step back, spoke. "Crucio!"
The boy screamed as the curse hit him. He dropped to the ground, body writhing with pain.
Voldemort ended the screaming with another wave of his hand. "A taste, cub, of what is to come."
The boy sobbed as he pulled himself into as small a ball as he could.
"Ah, the great Dark Lord at his finest." Snape's clear sarcasm filled the clearing. "Reduced to picking on a child."
He stepped out from behind one of the stones, eyes blazing black in a whitened face, wand at the ready.
"The traitor comes. As you predicted, Draco. You have pleased me greatly this night. I shall remember that."
"I live but to serve you, my wondrous Lord." With a smirk, Draco stepped backwards from Snape to take a place next to his father. Lucius was momentarily peeved that his son would assume that he should stand next to him. Voldemort noticed and it added to his enjoyment of the evening.
Snape carefully made his way to where his son was slowly trying to rise. "Alexander."
The boy gasped as he pushed himself to his knees. "He...hurt...me."
Around him, Snape could sense his former colleagues slowly closing in on them. He could only hope that Lupin was in position. He knew the Death Eaters expected the same kind of behaviour that he usually gave them. The sniveling sycophant who knew that he treaded on dangerous ground. Who, at a sneer from his Lord, would drop to his knees, terrified of the repercussions of his actions. Who allowed himself to be beaten and whipped for their Lord's pleasure.
Instead of going to the boy, Snape spun the tip of his wand and immediately the area around him filled with a dense fog. Under cover, he stooped, grabbed Alexander and, barely daring to think of the consequences if Lupin was not where he needed to be, he stood and, with a burst of strength, threw his son over the heads of the Death Eaters who were being blinded by his creation.
He heard a "Yes!" from a voice he recognized just as the fog dissipated.
"Excellent attempt at escape, traitor. I shall miss you. You can be so amusing when you try."
"Where's the cur?" Draco took a step closer to Snape, face filled with venom. "What have you done with the cur?"
"I haven't done anything with the boy. If he's not here, it's probably because he's apparated somewhere."
Lucius make a scoffing noise. "Are you trying to tell us a child can apparate?"
Snape, conscious of the ever closing circle behind him, pointed his wand at Draco. "Why not? He had no trouble throwing a Petrificus Totalus on a Gryffindor. Ask Draco if I'm lying. He was there when the boy downed Weasley."
"You're lying, Severus," Lucius snarled. "You have always lied and it's time to cut out your lying tongue. Search for the cur. It can't have gotten very far."
Snape hoped that Lupin had apparated away as soon as he had caught Alexander. So far he'd counted twenty-three Death Eaters, apart from the Malfoys and Voldemort, and he knew from previous meetings that there had to be more. He didn't expect he would be getting out of this situation, but he wanted his son to have a chance at life.
"No need to look. I've found us another toy for your pleasure, Master. There are times when answering the call of nature can be very fortunate, my Lord."
Lupin, with Alexander by his side, walked into the circle, a Death Eater's wand to the boy's head.
It looked as though the traitor had finally realized that nothing could be won. His wand slowly tilted downwards as he spoke to the two. "I'm sorry."
The flame that suddenly shot out of his wand hit Draco in the legs. The wizard screamed as the fire caught in his robe and he hurriedly tried to remove it. Lupin pulled the boy to himself as flames, spells and curses flew around the clearing. He managed to drag the boy behind one of the stones as he pulled out his wand. Alexander also had his at hand and tried to see where his father was.
"Keep your head down, boy."
"Where is he? Where's my father?"
Lupin heard the note of hysteria in the boy's voice. He pulled the boy over against the stone and grabbed him by the chin. "Alexander, look at me. This is no time to panic. You know how to use Petrificus, so get ready to use it on anyone who comes anywhere near." A line of spell ricocheted off the stone and Lupin pulled the boy to him. "Damn!" He peered around the stone and saw Snape was lying on the ground, using the body of the Death Eater who had found them as a shield, spelling Avada Kedavra at anyone who showed his face from behind the other stones that the Death Eaters were now using as defence.
Lupin saw a derobed Draco manoeuver himself around another body as he tried to work his way to a straight line at Snape. Without waiting he screamed, "DRACO!"
Malfoy turned, offering a perfect target. Lupin's "Avada Kedavra!" hit the Slytherin before he could react.
"Snape! Over here! I'll cover you!"
Alexander, knowing only that his father was trying to join them, leaned around the other side of the stone and began throwing Petrificus indiscriminately, just hoping they would hit someone.
Over it all, the Lord Voldemort merely watched with growing enjoyment. Death was so arousing. Even if it was that of his own followers. There were more where these came from. As ambitious, as dedicated. "I want them alive," he shouted over the dim. "All three of them." And stood watching as his Death Eaters tried to fulfill his orders without paying with their lives.
It pleased him when Snape, crawling on his stomach, made it to the stone where he was pulled behind its supposed security. He would enjoy that particular death.
Enough, he thought. This had gone on long enough. Time for them to die for him, slowly. He licked his lips at the thought of their long, painful deaths. The child first so that he could hear the others beg. But not here. He wanted to enjoy their screams at his leisure, in the comfort of his base.
He raised his hand and pointed to the stone. With a smile, he gestured and it exploded, shards flying all over.
"Bring them to me," he ordered.
It took him a moment to understand that the lines of spells that filled the clearing came, not from his followers, but from above.
All the spells being cast had lit up the clearing enough so that he could make out dozens of broomsticks and then Dumbledore swooping down, coming at him. He hadn't planned on taking on his old enemy just yet, but since the opportunity seemed to have presented itself, he was not adverse to using it.
Lucius was still at Lord's side. Malfoy had seen his son fall under the curse of the werewolf. He wanted the werewolf dead. Now. Before his Master could deny him that pleasure. He called forth a fireball from his wand and sent it at the man who was shaking the bits of stone off himself as he tried to rise. A larger slab of rock held his legs captive. Lupin looked up just in time to see the ball of flame coming at him. He had lost his wand and couldn't counterspell, had he even the time.
Lucius's grin was feral.
Just as the ball was about to reach the werewolf, Snape reached out with his hands and grabbed it, preventing it from hitting its target. With a scream, Snape threw the fireball back, not at Lucius but at the Dark Lord.
Voldemort saw it coming and with a negligent wave of his hand, sent it off into the battle that was raging around them. Another wave and Snape lay unconscious. However, that allowed Dumbledore time to throw the death curse at him.
It hit, but to no effect.
Voldemort's laughter was joyous. "Albus, my old teacher. Surely you don't expect me, of all people, to fall under such a spell. All death does is make me fly. To the heights of ecstacy." He stood, his arms open as though welcoming a lover. "Try again, Albus. See just how strong I've become."
Around them, the sounds of fighting faded as Death Eaters and rescuers alike slowly became aware of the deathless duel going on in their midst.
Every time Dumbledore sent "Avada Kedavra" at the Dark Lord, his laughter grew louder until the only sounds in the clearing were those of Dumbledore's curses and Voldemort's laughter.
Those professors not occupied with the fleeing Death Eaters added their own curses to the drama. All that happened was that a green light, faint at first, then growing deeper in colour, spiraled around the body of the Dark Lord.
Harry Potter flew in to stand by the Headmaster. He was bleeding from a deep gash along the line of his jaw. He, too, pointed his wand and added his curse.
"Ah, Harry. The famous Boy Who Lived. Well, I live because of you. It's because of you that I have grown so strong."
Potter hesitated and then, with a thoughtful look, brought the tip of his wand to his own face and rolled it in the blood that was dripping off his jaw.
Voldemort saw him do so and his laughter stopped. With great disdain, he scoffed, "Do you seriously think that is going to help, Harry?"
"My blood gave you life, Voldemort. Maybe my blood can take it away. Avada Kedavra!"
The line of curse that flew out of Harry's wand was green tinged with red.
Red that didn't assimilate into the green of the spiral.
Red that gradually took over the spiral.
Red that seemed to grow in darkness and density until Voldemort couldn't get away from it.
Red that covered the Dark Lord's face and body, that seeped into his mouth, his eyes, his ears, his very pores until he dropped to his knees and then face to the ground.
Where the red burst into a flame of such intensity that even Dumbledore had to find shelter behind a stone in order to avoid being burnt.
And when the flame dimmed and died down, all that was left of the wizard who wanted to take over the world was an outline of ash that was so fine the faintest puff of air sent it flying.
No sooner had Voldemort been rendered to dust than the area began filling with Aurors who quickly took over the situation.
Potter rushed up to Lupin, verified that though both Alexander and Snape were not moving, they were still breathing. The stump of the rock that Voldemort had exploded had protected Alexander. Still, some of the shards had cut his robe and his back was bleeding where it hadn't protected him.
With the help of Finch-Fletchley, Potter removed the chuck of stone that held Lupin's legs pinned without causing further damage. Both legs were bruised and his left ankle had been broken in his fall.
Snape was also covered with the sharp shards - some had even slashed his face - but the most worrying of his injuries were his hands, burnt from having handled the fireball.
When the Aurors' medical people arrived, Lupin insisted, "The boy first. See to the boy first."
But the Department of Aurors wasn't Hogwarts with its small medical staff: there were more than enough medi-personnel to deal with the situation. While an older witch gently saw to the boy, quickly dealing with his cuts, healing them, verifying if he had concussion, another dealt with Lupin while two burn experts iced then began the healing spells on Snape's hands.
At Dumbledore's firm insistence, all those injured were brought back to the school. Pomfrey had been warned and was waiting for them, with students ready to help.
They'd made it back, all of them. Miraculously, not one of those from Hogwarts had been lost. Oh, there were injuries: burns from spells, concussions and broken bones from falling off broomsticks, some trauma from the brutality of the event. The staff had cursed to kill and the sight of a coldly angry Minerva McGonagall casting Avada Kedavra with no consideration of its recipients was not something any of them would soon forget.
Snape had regained consciousness and was fighting the Aurors who were accompanying him back, trying to find Hillswick.
Passing by, Pomfrey snapped at him, "Severus! Control yourself. The boy is with me in the main treatment room." And then was taken aback by his reaction. Barely able to walk straight, face half covered with a bloody bandage, Snape barreled into the room and made his way over to the boy who, on seeing him, reached out for him, bursting into the first tears anyone had seen from Hillswick that night.
"Well," Pomfrey sounded slightly disapproving. "A little overboard for the Head of Slytherin House," she sniffed.
Lupin was waiting his turn at treatment, sitting on one of the small beds that filled the Infirmary. "But not at all for a frantic father."
Pomfrey turned to face him, her mouth slowly opening at yet another surprise on this night of surprises.
By the time she closed it, she was organizing Snape's care next to the boy who barely allowed his father out of reach. Snape suddenly became her priority and, once she was satisfied that the spells, salves and special bandages were working on healing his hands, she moved the two of them into the private room.
Lupin quietly opened the door. There, propped up with pillows on the bed in the private room, lay Severus Snape, bandaged hands holding his sleeping son against his chest.
Snape looked up to see who was at the door. His face was pale, bruised eyes standing out. Pomfrey had healed the cuts on his face and the scars were slowly disappearing - as was the brand on his arm. The deep lines that bracketed his mouth remained, showing his exhaustion, and yet he also appeared more...tranquil than Lupin could ever remember seeing him.
When Snape didn't challenge his presence, Lupin limped into the room, closing the door behind him.
Lupin nodded towards the boy. "Is he all right?"
Snape managed a shrug. "Poppy seems to think so. She gave him a Healing Sleep draught. She wanted to cast Obliviate on him, but I want to see how he is before we go that far."
Lupin looked around the room for a place to sit. His ankle had been healed but it still hurt to put much weight on it. He was supposed to be lying down in his quarters. There had been a chair in the room when he and Poppy had rearranged it but it wasn't there now. With some hesitation, he gestured to the foot of the bed, which took up more room that it usually did. It must have been spelled larger to accommodate the two patients.
With equal hesitation, Snape nodded.
Lupin hobbled over and used his wand to command a couple of pillows to appear from his room. He propped them against the foot of the bed and sat back, sighing when he took his weight off his ankle, stretching out his legs so that he now faced the other two occupants of the bed.
"If I may suggest, don't do it. There's nothing he really need forget about this night."
Snape looked almost ferocious. "No?" His sarcasm was strong. "My son suffered Cruciatus tonight."
Lupin nodded. "True. But he survived it. And you'd take that away from him. Snape, your son was a hero tonight. He stood up to forces that have sent men cowering. He kept his head when others wouldn't have. He never panicked. When faced with battle, he took part with a determination not to go down without casualties. The fact that all he could cast was Petrificus doesn't diminish the fact that he's responsible for having kept us safe on one front. Don't take any of that away from him."
Snape closed his eyes and rested his less-injured cheek on his son's head. "He's so young." Whispered so low that even this close Lupin barely heard him.
He smiled. "Yes, but he's his father's son. He'll deal with it. By the way, I seem to have let it slip that he is your son. You'll be happy to know that fact was not known by the entire school."
Snape looked up at Lupin's tone, frowning, obviously not getting the reference.
"He's very fortunate, your son, and not just in having you." Lupin smiled at the child who even in sleep was clutching his father. Snape, he knew, was not going to be able to sleep until Alexander awoke, until he was certain that all was well with his child. Maybe this was a good time to deal with some things.
Lupin tucked his hands into the sleeves of the nightshirt Poppy had forced upon him. "There are many differences between a made werewolf and a genetic one. Did you know that? Not just in the Change. Genetic ones are...constructed, for lack of a better term, for the Change. It's painful but less so than for made ones.
"And he's fortunate in having a Clan. Made ones never have one. In very rare cases, we can be accepted but we never truly belong. We are, after all, a fluke of fate. Someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"I was seven when I was made. By that age, Alexander was already in training. He was being taught by the Elders of his Clan how to behave during the full moon, how to deal with his bursts of energy after the Change to cub, how to protect himself. Not just as a cub, but as a human werewolf. Did you know that it was his mother's father who had taught him how to throw a Petificus by then?"
Snape nodded. He remained silent, just listening. Lupin appreciated that.
"My parents loved me. Even after I was bitten. But they didn't know what to do with me, how to help me. They kept me hidden those nights of the full moon. I tore whatever place they put me in apart. Alexander's never done anything like that because his Clan knows about the need to expend energy after a Change, about the need to run, even about the need to find a pack. Alexander told me that every couple of months his cousins would visit or he would visit them at the time of the Change. Not just to play as cubs, but to learn his proper order in the pack.
"I only came in contact with a Clan after I left Hogwarts. They were horrified that I knew so little about being a werewolf, and they kindly took me in for some time, to educate me as to the whys and wherefores of being a proper one. It was too late by then for them to invite me to join them: fully grown werewolves are too set in their ways. Too solitary for the pack. Those of us who are made need to be integrated into a Clan as soon after the making as possible to have a chance at a place in it. Usually, by the time we even learn Clans exist, it's too late.
"Alexander will always have his Clan. He will always have a place where he's accepted as he is. He will always have his proper place within it. Where he knows he's welcomed and, yes, even loved.
"His mother gave him all that. His place in the Clan. You will give him his place in the world of wizards. He'll be able to choose which he prefers, what he wants from each. As I said, he is a fortunate child. A well-loved child. With friends in both worlds."
Lupin waited a moment but Snape remained silent, cheek resting on his child's head, eyes tired but intent on the man speaking.
"I didn't have any friends until I got here. My parents had signed me up for Hogwarts after I was born and, when it was time for me to attend, they came to see the Headmaster. Albus was still fairly new at the position. And he knew my parents. He was shocked when they told him what had happened to me but assured them that he would accept me. They were both unwell by then. The stresses of having to deal with a werewolf child... They died in my second year and Albus became my official guardian."
He smiled at Snape's obvious surprise. "Yes, well, the old reprobate can keep a secret. One of the reasons why so many difficult cases do end up at Hogwarts. Parents know that Albus Dumbledore will find a way of dealing with...with things they either can't or won't."
Snape smile was humourless. "Oh, yes, I know."
Lupin nodded. Like Alexander, he thought, he had been fortunate in his choice of parents. They had done their best for him; what harm they had done had come out of ignorance, not negligence.
"When I first got here, Albus made it known that I had an illness that required me to spend some time in St. Mungo's once a month. That worked with my dorm mates for about three months. Sirius was the first to work out what my problem was."
Snape sneered but said nothing. Lupin smiled at his self-restraint.
"I fascinated him. Actually," his tone turned wondering, "anything out of the ordinary fascinated him. He wanted to know what happened when I Changed. Drove me crazy with questions. At the most inopportune of times. You know Sirius, no concept of holding off, of waiting for the right moment. If a question popped into his head during Transfiguration, well, he needed the answer right away.
"James overheard us one day and knew by the end of class. Peter shared our dorm and was sworn to secrecy. Strangely, it was one of the few he ever kept.
"James was interested less in the physical aspects of Change than in the emotional, the psychological. He spent the summer between first and second year researching; he's the one who discovered that werewolves are mainly a danger to humans. That animals are wary of the werewolf but only as they are of any other wolf. That's how the animagus thing began.
"You have to understand how lonely I was, how aware of being...abnormal. That these three would actually want to help me, to spend the time of my Change with me... It was overwhelming. After they mastered their transfigurations, I only used the Shrieking Shack for the actual Changing. I needed a place where my screams would not be...well, out of place. By the way, there's something in your potion that's making that easier these days. You really should work on that."
Snape only nodded. Lupin was certain that would become Snape's next potions project.
"Anyway, why am I telling you all this now? It's because I want you to understand that I thought myself so blessed even to have friendship that I never thought that someone might actually love me."
Actually, there had been a time back then, after the Shrieking Shack incident, when he had had someone, but he wasn't going to think about that now.
Snape raised his head and something close to his old anger flashed on his face. Then it went away and only a coldness remained.
"It never crossed my mind. Alexander, with his Clan, would never think that way. If he cares to find a mate and the wizard world won't provide him with one, the Clans will. My experience tells me that even now I have little chance at finding a mate. It's one thing to fuck a werewolf, quite another to remain in a such relationship, to deal with and work on all the problems that encompasses."
Lupin stopped and stared at his hands. He sighed then looked at Snape. "I didn't know. Maybe I was blind, but, in my defence, how could I see when I couldn't even conceive that it might be a possibility. And the others were so used to protecting my secret that...
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the way Sirius used that against you as a way of protecting me. And I'm sorry we never had a chance to discover if you would have turned against me once you'd known what I was."
He got off the bed and spelled the pillows away. As he made his way to the door, he stopped by the side of the bed and smiled down at Alexander. He tucked the blanket more snugly around the boy's shoulders. "He's going to be fine. He's secure in the love of his parents and that's all he'll ever need. I'm not saying that he won't have nightmares, because I think we will all have them for some time, but don't take away his victory in overcoming them from him. And he will overcome them. He's got too much of his father in him not to."
And then Lupin slipped his hand up to Snape's face and tilted it towards him. He stroked a gentle finger along an unblemished line of Snape's cheek and, bending, took Snape's mouth with his.
At first he thought Snape would pull away. He was definitely thinking about it. But then his mouth opened a little and Lupin deepened the kiss, finding the taste of the man. With some sadness, Lupin pulled away.
"I'll see to it that all of Alexander's things are moved into your quarters. Good night, Severus."
And he closed the door behind him.
Snape opened the door of the house and the cub went charging past him into the yard. A little too quickly. He hit a patch of ice and lost his balance, legs flying out from under him.
Snape laughed. "I warned you about that this afternoon when you were having so much fun sliding on it."
The cub found his feet, shook his head and then, grinning at his father, came round and went charging again on the ice, this time managing to stay upright.
It was something that Snape had learnt about Alexander. Nothing was permitted to defeat him. If he failed at something, he tried until he got it right. A trait, it pleased him to realize, the child had gotten from him.
He pulled his heavy cloak more tightly around himself. The night was cold even though it was only late November. There'd already been snow but, up here in the Shetlands, snow was often followed by rain. The latest several inches made it easier and safer for him to follow the cub as he ran around the field smelling for mice under the cover of snow. The first time he had caught one and offered it to his father, Snape had thanked him but refused to take it. Alexander had tossed the small rodent into the air, snapping its back, and then gobbled it up. It had taken Snape aback, this unignorable sign of his son's other self, but now he was getting used to it. It was all part and parcel of being the father of a werewolf.
While the cub expended some of his energy, Snape made his way through the crusted snow to the path that led to the beach.
They'd been here since the third day after the death of Voldemort. Snape had waited until he'd been certain that Alexander was all right and would be able to deal with the aftereffects of that night. On the second day, there had been a joyous but teary reunion with Rhodri, the only Slytherin to visit them - Lupin had snuck him down to the dungeons - who had delighted in telling his adventures of that night, who had trembled on hearing Alexander tell his.
They'd left the brouhaha that was Hogwarts behind. The end of the year had been cancelled, except for those writing O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, and Snape had nothing to do with those: they were Ministry exams. Someone else could be easily found to correct them.
Snape had managed, with some difficulty, to miniaturize all their possessions; Alexander had carefully packed them for travel in a box that he could carry in his arms. Then, leaving by the hidden door to the side garden, they had made their way past the wards to where Snape could apparate them up here to Alexander's home.
It had been with a certain malicious delight that he'd left behind a note that simply stated: `You have no further use for me.'
He hadn't even bothered to sign it.
Freya had been horrified at the sight of them. She'd clucked over Alexander, sent Snape to bed immediately, livid at whomever had allowed him to leave while his hands were still bandaged. She proved to be as good a nurse as Pomfrey, though her remedies were more Nordic.
Alexander revelled in her fussing. He was used to it and it helped him settle after all that had happened. Snape was uncomfortable with the fact that she did so to him.
"It's the child who needs your attentions," he said coldly one evening when she insisted on tucking a blanket over his legs as he sat in his deminiaturized chair by the fire.
She eyed him with a sad shake of her head. "I do this for the child in you. He needs this."
And so he kept his mouth shut.
He was getting used to Freya and her fussing. She was staying with them, keeping an eye on the running of the house, seeing to it that he ate regularly even when he was working in his new laboratory.
When it became obvious to her that he was not making plans to return to Hogwarts, she went to the Elders of the Clan and asked that the house be made larger. Snape needed a room for working on the potions he was creating for them, she told them, a bedroom of his own and a library for his books. He might not be a true member, but he was Alexander's father and as such was part of the Clan.
Freya Hillswick was the image of a benevolent grandmother with her white hair and pink complexion, but she was a respected member of the Hillswick Clan. Though there had been some discussion as to the inclusion of this non-werewolf, Snape came home from a long walk with Alexander one day to find that the Elders had used their particular magic to add a large library to the main house, with an equally large bedroom over it. There was now an enclosed passageway from the kitchen to a new outbuilding that served as his work place.
He'd also had a long talk with Alexander that summer. They'd taken to going for walks so that Snape could get familiar with the local flora, to see if any would be of particular use to him in his work. Freya had given him a list of things to look out for, herbs and plants to restock her medical supplies. The kite was supposedly for Alexander, but Snape also delighted in getting it up.
Alexander had liked Hogwarts, but he wasn't sure he wanted to go back right away.
"There's the school near Lillehammer. We could go take a look at it if you'd prefer that."
Alexander shrugged. "I've seen it. We went for a visit when I was in lower school. They don't have very good Quidditch teams." He looked over at his father. "No Sorting Hat."
Snape was aware that his son was watching him with a bit of a worried expression. "Alexander, did you ask the Hat to place you in Slytherin?"
The boy actually blushed. "Yes. It knew me for what I was. It asked me where I thought I should go and I told it I wanted to be with my father. It didn't respond right away and then it laughed and said why not." He smiled at his father and reached for a still reddened hand. "I'm glad it listened to me."
Snape smiled back. He squeezed his son's hand as tightly as he could bear. His hands were still sensitive and sometimes sore. "So am I."
They walked a little further then Snape asked, "So what would you like to do next year?" He understood that his son's reluctance to return to school had a lot to do with what had happened. They had nearly lost each other and they needed time, both of them, to truly solidify their relationship.
Alexander kicked a stone and looked up at his father. "Couldn't we stay here for the year? You know all the stuff that's covered in second year. You could teach me. That way, when I go back, I would be ready for third year with my friends."
Snape thought for a moment. "All right. But you go back only after we visit and see that you won't have anymore trouble than any other student. I know that Poppy and Rhodri have written to us about all the changes in Slytherin, how those whose families sided with Voldemort are gone, but I won't tolerate anyone making your life more than the usual misery."
Laughing, Alexander had hugged him. "Thank you, papa."
Snape looked over to see the cub chasing a small rolling mound of hard snow. He called, "Alexander!" and the cub came running up to him. Together they went down the path to the beach.
There was ice already building up along the edge, the water far too cold for the cub to go in, retrieving sticks. But they walked along the shore, Alexander investigating things only he could hear or scent.
Funny, thought Snape, how he had found peace here of all places.
He'd only come here originally because he had needed time away from Hogwarts, to deal with the costs of his double life. To decide whether it was a life worth continuing.
Dumbledore must have realized that Snape had needed time away and he'd `allowed' him to leave the school, even though it was summer break, only on the condition that he remain in Britain. Well, the Shetlands were part of Britain, as far away as he could get. He'd still been angry with himself and his choices. He'd known that, by all rights, he should have been in Azkaban but, even though they were so much wider, his limits were still a prison.
He'd met Inga one afternoon when he'd been walking himself into exhaustion, so that he could sleep without taking any potion, without, he'd hoped, any nightmares. She'd offered him another way of finding sleep. He didn't usually have female sexual partners, but she'd also offered him comfort and he'd taken it. At the time, he'd had nothing to offer her in return. When Albus had ordered him back, he'd said as much to her.
She'd touched his face and smiled, thanking him for the gift he had made her. Of his time, she'd added.
Alexander sneezed suddenly and Snape, bending, removed his glove to wipe the icing water off his son's cub nose. "Keep it out of the water, Alexander. It's cold enough to freeze it off and then what kind of cub would you be without a nose? Mind you," he teased dryly, "mice everywhere would probably rejoice."
They were on their way back to the path when the cub suddenly growled deep in his throat. Snape watched as the ridge of hair along the cub's spine rose and he quickly checked the area for an intruder.
Half-way up the path, a fully grown wolf was watching them. A creature bigger than the norm which meant it was a werewolf. Alexander's behaviour indicated that it wasn't a Clan member.
Snape pulled out his wand from the pocket of his heavy cloak, aimed it, ready to use if the adult decided to attack. Alexander took a position to his left, away from the wand yet ready to defend him if necessary.
The wolf gave a soft yowl and the cub responded, questioning. Whatever the wolf answered, the cub suddenly leapt up and began barking happily. He ran towards the wolf, came back and took the end of his father's cloak in his mouth, tugging him along.
Snape knew of only one werewolf who might get that response from his son. "Lupin, is that you?"
The wolf bowed but waited until Snape had lowered the wand to come join them.
"You're far from home," said Snape.
Lupin seemed to agree, then allowed the cub to chase him back and forth along the beach and up the path that Snape had climbed while they had been doing so.
The night was too cold for Snape to remain out much longer without getting chilled. The wolf and the cub ran about playing tag while he made his way back to the house. At the door, he turned to the wolf. "We usually read for some time. Would you care to join us, Remus?"
Inside, Snape hung up his cloak, watching as his son wiped his paws on the thick rug Freya kept at the door. He sat on the bench and replaced his lined boots with house shoes while Lupin awkwardly imitated the cub's actions.
With a grin, Snape led them into the room which was his library and Alexander's classroom.
His sitting room furniture from Hogwarts was set up here. There were three walls of nothing but shelves. The Elders of the Clan had been very impressed with his collection of books. One or two of the professors from Lillehammer had made inquiries as to his willingness to loan them some.
They were thick carpets on the floor, a welcoming fire on the hearth, a lamp casting shadows. Over the mantle hung a banner with the Slytherin snake. Lupin watched as Snape went over to the sideboard and poured himself a glass of brandy. Then he took a couple of bowls from the sideboard and placed them on the floor in front of the fire.
Snape picked up the stone pitcher that Freya, before going to bed, had placed there before the hearth to stay warm. The cub nudged at his arm, urging him to hurry. "Yes, well, if any spills, you'll have to clean it up. I certainly don't want to explain to Freya why the floor needs washing."
The cub sat on his haunches and watched as Snape filled up first one bowl then the other with a creamy white liquid that lightly steamed.
"Wait for our guest," Snape admonished his son as he put the pitcher down.
Lupin was over by the door, as if not knowing what was expected of him. The cub went over and rather rudely nudged him along to one of the bowls.
"It's warm milk flavoured with honey and spices," explained Snape. "Freya's version of hot chocolate."
As the two wolves lapped their respective bowls clean, Snape grabbed a large tapestried pillow and dropped it on the floor just in front of the heavy couch. He picked up a book from the small table next to it and, holding his brandy carefully not to spill any, he sat on the pillow, back against the couch, legs stretched out to the fire.
He opened the book. "Now where were we? Oh, yes, William and the Quidditch match."
At Lupin's questioning look, Snape smiled. "It's the latest William. Rhodri sent it as soon as it was available. He and Alexander are in constant correspondence. His last letters have been full of the new Defence instructor. Seems she was quite horrified to hear about your Challenge course. We had...wondered where you'd gone off to."
Alexander dropped to the floor. With a happy sigh, he lay his head on his father's lap, ready to await the time of Change listening to his father read.
Snape set his glass down within easy reach and opened the book. His free hand rested on his son unless he needed it for a sip of brandy or to turn a page.
As if not that certain of the man's reaction, Lupin lay down at Snape's other side, carefully resting his nose near Snape's leg. And then onto it. And then gradually onto more of it until his entire head rested fully on Snape's leg.
Together, the three of them waited for the moon to set.
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