Severus rushed back up his stairs for the hundredth time that morning. He had found yet another incriminating Dark Arts object in the lounge and was quickly hiding it away before the visitors arrived. Only a few days ago, he’d received a letter from the British Social Services informing him to be prepared for a visit from his seven-year-old son and his social worker this morning. A few days before that was when he’d first discovered that he had a son at all.
He couldn’t quite decide his feelings on the matter. His father, before his death, had scolded Severus upon many an occasion for not producing an heir. And yet Severus knew from his work as a teacher that he disliked children. Why would Eleanor’s son be different?
Would he be like his father when it came to parenting? The exact number of times his father had beaten him was a mystery, but it had driven Severus to hate the man who had raised him since his mother’s death when he was a small boy, and become the hardened disciplinarian he was today. Sometimes when he looked in the mirror, he saw his father’s cruel eyes looking back at him, and to this day he would always be unnerved at the jolt of recognition he got when he caught of sight of his appearance. When he shouted at his students, or sneered at their best attempt at a Shrinking Solution, it was his father’s voice he heard, his father’s words ridiculing him for not making it onto the House Quidditch Team. The Potter’s son had been made Chaser in his second year, why did he have to blacken the family name with his incompetence?
In addition to that, he didn’t even know if the boy knew he was a wizard, or that his mother was a witch. The only thing he knew was that he hadn’t been in the care of the Social Services for long, but that wasn’t really of any use. A horrible thought suddenly crossed his mind as he entered the library to hide the object; what if the boy wasn’t a wizard at all? What if he was, Severus shivered in disgust, a squib? The shame and disappointment of producing such a child would be too much, he knew it would be. What if the Dark Lord found out? He would surely want the child exterminated, and then how would Severus explain that? The muggles would pounce on him if something happened to the boy.
Severus stopped this train of thought and suddenly realised that there was no need to worry; what could muggles possibly do to him? He chuckled darkly at his own stupidity and smiled at his fortunate situation. They were entirely powerless against him. He left the library, locking the door with his wand.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang and Severus spun around, the grin disappearing from his face. They were here. This was it.
He placed his wand in the pocket of his black trousers and swaggered lazily down the stairs. Today, he had refrained from wearing his usual wizarding robes, instead he was again in the white shirt and black trousers he usually wore under his black robes. A certain summer day after his OWL Defence Against the Dark Arts exam had taught him to wear muggle clothes under robes at all times. Thinking about this particular memory made him angry again, and he was scowling as he reached the front door and pulled it open. A young woman with straw coloured curls grinned at him, which earned a raised eyebrow from him. This didn’t seem to deter her mission to always be happy at every moment of every day, because the grin didn’t slip, and she stuck out her hand for him to shake.
“Petronella Dixon,” she declared proudly.
Severus couldn’t help but wonder just how smart this girl was. Not very, he decided, shaking her hand and smirking. Mistaking his smirk for a genuine smile, her grin widened and she glanced behind him into the interior of his home, clearly wondering when she was going to be let in. It was then that Severus noticed the boy that stood a step and a half behind her. He was staring at the ground in obvious boredom, his hands clasped dutifully behind his back and his messy black locks hiding his face from the curious man before him.
“Oh,” the woman exclaimed suddenly, “I completely forgot! This young man here is Jonathon Darling.” She placed a gentle hand on the boy’s head, and he looked up. His bright, curious eyes looked somewhat pleadingly up at Severus, who was struck by how much the young boy looked like Eleanor. Severus could barely look at the boy for some reason, and yet his eyes drew his gaze back, an impossible temptation to resist.
“Come in,” he said, flattening himself against the wall and secretly hoping it would swallow him whole. They passed him and walked into the lounge, where he directed them. The woman, Petronella, seemed to be talking again, but Severus didn’t listen to a word she was prattling on about as he followed them, shutting out the world as he closed the door. Within these walls, he reigned over all, and yet he couldn’t remember feeling so vulnerable. It irritated him.
They sat on his sofa while he tried to relax in the armchair, and finally tuned in to what she was saying.
“Poor lamb,” she cooed, glancing at Jonathon, who was sitting beside her, staring curiously at his surroundings. “Jonathon,” she said and he looked at her, “this man is the one I was telling you about, you remember? Severus Snape, your father.”
Jonathon looked at him, his large eyes studying him eagerly. Was this normal behaviour for a seven-year-old, Severus wondered. There was silence as they both considered each other, and Severus searched for something to say.
“So,” he began awkwardly, “we meet at last Jonathon.” He stood and held his hand out to shake the boy’s hand. Every bone in his body, every fibre of his being was shouting at him that he was making an ass of himself. Who knows what this boy thought of him? What went on inside a young boy’s head? The only thing he remembered from his childhood was hating his father for beating him and his mother in the final years of her life.
Jonathon shyly shook his father’s hand and Severus sat back down in his chair. A glance at Petronella showed him she was bored, staring around at the interior design.
“Would you like something to drink, Petronella?” he asked pleasantly, making her jump from surprise. Again, she mistook his smirk for a smile and smiled back.
“Yes please,” she answered, “and would you like something, Jonathon? A glass of juice?” The boy nodded and Severus stood and left the room.
As he opened a carton of fruit juice in the small kitchen, the first time he had ever purchased such a drink, in preparation for their visit, he heard a voice behind him.
“He doesn’t talk much.”
Severus turned and saw Petronella standing in the doorway, smiling rather stupidly in his opinion.
“In fact,” she went on, “I haven’t managed to get a word out of him since he arrived from America. So don’t take it personally, if he doesn’t talk much. Poor dear.”
He nodded and turned back to the counter.
“So what do you do?” she asked after a minute of silence. He was pouring the juice into a glass as he replied, “I’m a teacher.”
“Really?!” she said, clearly impressed, “what do you teach?”
“Chemistry,” he stated. It was partly true, after all.
“Oh well, then you’d know all about kids. I’m afraid I’m a bit new to all of this social work, and I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew.”
He wasn’t prepared to listen to her life story, so he distracted her by asking what Jonathon was like.
“Oh he’s so cute,” she said enthusiastically, “a real sweetheart. I think he’s still traumatised, though, about losing his mum and all. Like I said, he hasn’t spoken to anyone since the American authorities dropped him off. But maybe you’ll be able to get through to him, being a teacher and everything, I bet you have to deal with problems like this all the time.”
He seriously doubted he was capable enough to look after the boy, let alone council him through his grieving. As he stirred their cups of tea, he asked what the arrangements would be for his custody.
“Well, as his father, you get full custody, though we will keep in touch, see how he gets on. If things are too difficult, we may be able to take him off your hands and find a family for him. It all depends on you, really.”
It hadn’t really struck him that he would have to raise this child until then. It wasn’t really the appropriate time to release his fury so he was forced to swallow it for now. How dare Eleanor burden him with this now, of all times! He grimaced for the young social worker and handed her a cup of tea, while he carried his and the child’s juice back into the lounge. Jonathon hadn’t moved, but he was staring avidly at his new surroundings. Despite the fact that it was late morning, there were shadows in the corners of the room that scared him, and the large, dark fireplace directly in front of him did not ease his nerves.
He accepted the drink from his father without a word and sipped the sweet juice. Severus sat in his chair, while Petronella sat next to Jonathon and began talking about some of the things they had done to try and get Jonathon to talk again. She talked about him as if he wasn’t there, and Severus thought he saw the boy cast a slightly horrid look at his social worker as she continued to chatter. Severus said very little, but by lunch time, she seemed satisfied enough to leave the two of them for a few hours, for some “father-son time.” Severus saw her to the door and went back into the lounge and took the seat where she had been.
“Who’d have thought this is what would become of Eleanor’s legacy?” he wondered aloud. “Tell me, young man, what happened to her?”
Jonathon didn’t say anything, just sat there in silence and shrugged. Now that they were alone, the silence between them was profound. Severus tried again to extract some information.
“There’s no need for you to be afraid, but if you know something, you need to tell me. You look a lot like her, you know.”
Severus was no longer looking at the dark locks that hid his son’s face from him, he was facing forward, staring into the empty fireplace, still talking about what he remembered of Eleanor.
Suddenly, a faint whimper caught his attention and woke him from his daydream. It came from Jonathon, and Severus realised with a twinge of guilt that he’d made him cry. Reluctantly, he edged nearer and pulled back the curtain of hair. Tears were evident on his pale cheeks, which Severus automatically wiped away with his thumb.
“Don’t cry now,” he mumbled, fighting the panic that rose in his throat, “Ok, we’ll talk about something else if you like.”
Small fists came up and rubbed at his eyes, then he looked at Severus with a red, blotchy face.
“Do you want something to eat?” he asked the boy, who nodded once. Severus stood and beckoned for him to follow him into the kitchen. Jonathon didn’t make a fuss as Severus made them some sandwiches, the muggle way, and laid them on the table. They sat opposite each other eating their simple lunch, and Severus occasionally told him stories about embarrassing moments that had happened at family dinners when he was a boy. Of course, he always changed it so it was his fictional cousin who had been humiliated and not himself. Jonathon seemed to like the tales, because he smiled for the first time since he’d arrived. A smile that instantly reminded Severus of Eleanor. Is this how it would always be?
After lunch, Severus took him on a grand tour of the large house, excluding the library and stopping only momentarily in the only bedroom that was occupied and the study. There wasn’t much really that a young boy could possibly be interested in there, but he listened eagerly to all the stories his father told. By the end of the tour, he was holding Severus’ hand as they walked back downstairs. This was probably because he was scared of the shadows on the walls, Severus thought to himself. They returned to the lounge and sat in silence for a moment. Severus was pretty exhausted after entertaining this boy for two whole hours (an achievement in his opinion).
“I think I've got some biscuits in the kitchen, I’ll be back in a moment,” Severus jumped up and walked away to the kitchen. He was just searching the cupboards when he heard a scream from the lounge and dropped everything and ran in. It became instantly clear what had happened; Jonathon was cowering behind the edge of the sofa, staring at the large bird perched on the armchair. It was Fawkes, the phoenix, and Severus guessed Jonathon had been terrified when it appeared in a flash of flames. He walked over to the bird, whispering his name softly. Fawkes, who had been staring curiously at the boy who had screamed, now turned his attention to Severus and let out a single beautiful musical note.
Fawkes knew and trusted Severus just as Dumbledore did, and he closed his eyes as Severus stroked his feathers. Jonathon, seeing his father was not afraid of the bird, stood up, but still did not move from behind the sofa. There was a note on the chair next to Fawkes, which he had obviously been carrying, and Severus picked it up and unrolled it. It read,
I do hope Fawkes isn’t disturbing you, but I just needed to tell you that we’ll be holding a meeting for the Order of the Phoenix tomorrow night. The headquarters are number twelve Grimmauld Place, London. Destroy this immediately after reading it, I have charmed it so that only a Snape may read it, but the spell won’t last forever. See you soon,
Severus smirked as he crumpled the note in the palm of his hand; he knew very well that the charm Dumbledore had placed on it would last for decades, but Dumbledore was a careful man. Without thinking, he took out his wand and lit the edge of the parchment. When he looked up, Jonathon had moved from behind the sofa and was edging nearer. He was staring, mouth wide open, at Severus, having seen the fire-coming-out-of-stick trick in amazement.
Severus held back the biting swear word and smiled at Jonathon, instantly putting out the fire and shoving the parchment into his pocket without a second thought. Fawkes, meanwhile, was still watching Jonathon with curiosity.
“It’s alright, Jonathon,” Severus said gently, “there’s no need to be afraid, he won’t hurt you.”
He touched Fawkes’ beak to demonstrate this and Jonathon came nearer, his hand outstretched hesitantly. When he touched the bird’s head, his eyes widened again, becoming even more round. It was rather comical, and Severus grinned at the boy’s innocence. There was something peaceful about watching him stroke Fawkes’ beak, but Severus could not hold off the crisis forever; Jonathon had seen magic. What if he told Petronella? They’d either think he was crazy, or that Severus was a dangerous madman. Either way, Severus would never see Jonathon again. The fact that this prospect bothered him was enough to bother him even more. Jonathon was a burden, he told himself again with conviction. And yet he was Eleanor’s son.
“Jonathon,” he said, “Fawkes must be leaving now.” Fawkes tilted his head to look at Severus, who glared back sternly; he would not be told what’s what by a bird! Fawkes let out a defeated, mournful note and stretched his wings. Another flash of fire and he was gone.
Jonathon had jumped back as he disappeared, his mouth open again and his eyes wide. He looked exhilarated, as if he’d just run a mile. Severus smirked and sat down next to him.
“You have to promise not to tell anyone about that, Jonathon,” he said seriously in a low voice, “don’t tell Petronella that I can do magic.”
Jonathon nodded, fear creeping back into his eyes.
Jonathon nodded again.
“Good,” Severus grinned mischievously, “it’ll be our little secret, ok?”
He winked and Jonathon nodded, smiling shyly. As if they were somehow connected now that they shared a secret, Jonathon did not take his eyes off Severus for the next hour as they sat in the lounge and ate biscuits. Severus reeled off stories about the time he’d been beaten for playing the old record player without his father’s permission, and about how his mother had almost destroyed the painting of his great, great grandfather, which hung above the fireplace. Jonathon hid his giggles behind his small hands, but Severus was becoming very bored with his son’s company. He wanted more than anything to be alone to read or study. When the doorbell rang, therefore, he jumped up and went to go and answer it.
Petronella was there, many shopping bags in hand, and she grinned at him again.
“How was he?” she asked, following him in. He didn’t let her into the lounge this time, but stopped her in the hallway, replying that he’d been fine, and calling Jonathon from the other room. Jonathon finally came into view, just as Petronella was telling Severus in great detail what she had bought and who she had seen. The woman was insufferable, and he pitied Jonathon for having her as his social worker, what bad luck. And yet, he was desperate for some solitude, something reassuringly familiar.
“It was nice meeting you, Jonathon,” he said, shaking the boy’s hand again. He didn’t reply, and the smile had completely disappeared from his face.
“We’ll come again tomorrow, if that’s ok with you?” Petronella said briskly, taking Jonathon’s hand.
Severus was about to come up with an excuse to avoid them, when he saw his son’s face light up, his bright eyes waiting for an answer.
“Of course,” Severus exhaled in defeat. “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon then.”
They left, Jonathon waving for the third time before the door was shut. As soon as they were gone, Severus swept into the lounge, swearing and cursing under his breath. During the past few hours, he had been nicer than he’d ever been, and now look where that had landed him! If the Dark Lord found out, then he would suffer greatly for producing such a useless child, and keeping him from the Dark Lord. What if Lucius turned up tomorrow, unannounced? He wouldn’t be very sorry if something happened to the social worker, but if he got Eleanor’s son killed . . .
He decided to visit Lucius in his manor that night, in pretence that he was simply eager to have news of the Dark Lord, but also to see when his evil services would be needed. Hopefully, it would not be for a while, enough time, at least, to sort out the mess he had got himself in.
A/N: Please review.
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