Harry and Severus Apparated deep into the Highlands, past most human habitation. Long before Severus was born, Eileen Prince had discovered a very special glen deep in the heart of the secluded Scottish Highlands. She had Apparated there by accident and then discovered it was a place of amazing beauty, peace, and magic. It was also occupied by ancient witch who would never reveal her name to the young girl, saying only that she could call her Angel. Angel lived in a small croft that she called Malachite Cottage, and she told Eileen that only one who was pure of heart could find this place, it was a refuge for those who were weary and hurt and animals who desired sanctuary. Eileen apprenticed herself to the ancient witch, and learned much of healing and mind arts from her and potion-making, skills which she later taught to her son. When Angel declared it was time for her to meet the Creator at last, she left the cottage to Eileen, and all of her spellbooks and potions recipes. "Use them wisely and well, daughter of my heart. The glen will be there to succor you and yours when you most need it."
Then the ancient witch went off into the forest and vanished, never to be seen again. And Eileen was heir to Malachite Cottage and the Peaceful Glen.
Severus told Harry this story as they walked up the dirt track to the cottage, for the Peaceful Glen was quite large, bordered on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by a large river called Silmareen, which had trout and salmon in its depths and a stretch of rapids and a ten foot waterfall at the end of it. The woods at the eastern end held all sorts of wild animals, both ordinary and magical, and there was a meadow in back of the cottage that grew many species of plants and flowers useful in potion making. The glen was a potion-maker's paradise, and Severus spent his summers here, after school and his spying duties for the Order were over. His mother had begun bringing him here when he was a child, around eight or nine, saying it was touched by the spirit of peace and renewal, and God knew Severus had needed that, growing up in the shadow of his tyrannical father.
"This place is a refuge for all sorts of animals, magical and not, you may see some of them as you walk about here," Severus told him, pointing out the red deer standing in the shadow of a large oak, and the onyx fox running past them. The onyx fox was a magical creature that could blend into shadows and mist and was as intelligent as a human. "You need not fear any danger from dark wizards here, evil cannot enter the glen. I have warded it myself against them, but beside my wards are also my mother's and the first witch who dwelled here, Angel."
"Angel?" Harry sounded amused. "That was her real name?"
"It was the name she gave to my mother. Whether or not it was her true one we have no way of knowing. She kept many secrets, my mother always said, but she had a kind heart and she was a brilliant potion-maker. My mother swore that if she had wanted, she could have been the premiere Potions Mistress in all of Britain, but Angel never wanted that. She told my mother that such was only a piece of paper, and true knowledge and skill was found in the head and the heart and she needed no committee of pompous wizards to tell her what she knew already."
"Did you ever meet her, Dad?"
"No. She died before I was born." Severus replied, cresting the hill and starting down the winding track towards the clearing where the cottage was. The top of its golden thatch was just visible inbetween the stand of live oaks and juniper bushes. "There is Malachite Cottage, Harry. It looks small, but it's much bigger on the inside than the outside, and is equipped with all the modern amenities."
Harry was glad to hear that, for he had walked about a good quarter of a mile and he was hungry, thirsty, and needed to use the bathroom.
His first glimpse of Malachite Cottage did not disappoint, however. It was set back from the trees, a medium-sized stone and whitewashed cottage with a thatched straw roof that reminded him of something out of the pages of an old Irish country tale. The cottage had a stone chimney and large round windows with boxes of larkspur and heather below them. The dirt track led directly up to the stone porch stairs, which boasted a large wooden door painted a deep evergreen. It was recessed, and a set of windchimes made from an old brass bell and strings of malachite, feldspar, and quartz crystals hung to the right of the door. The chimes tinkled pleasantly as the wind blew.
"Malachite is known for its spiritual healing properties," Severus explained as they approached the porch, Hedwig flying serenely up above. "That is why the cottage has malachite embedded in it, next to some of the smaller stones. Malachite is known to soothe and relieve an angry or wounded spirit. Thus the name, Malachite Cottage is quite appropriate, don't you think?"
Before Harry could reply to his father's question, the door burst open and a small girl raced out of it, barefoot and wearing some kind of odd dress that appeared made of leaves and acorns. Harry gaped as the child, at least he thought she was a child, raced lightly over the stones and jumped up to embrace Severus.
"Master Sev, you are finally here! You are late, you know." she mock-scolded, and Severus hugged her.
"I had some important business to tend to first, Rellah Woodberry. In fact, one reason is standing beside me now," the Potions Master said, setting her on her feet. "This is my son, Harry James Snape. You might know him better however, as Harry Potter."
Rellah peered at him and cried, "Harry Potter! The famous little wizard who defeated the wicked Tree Blighter?"
"The same." Severus said. "But I have adopted him and now he is a Snape, Rellah. And a resident of Malachite Cottage."
"Very good, Master Sev." Rellah walked over to Harry and bowed. "Master Harry, I am Rellah Woodberry, at your service. I am Malachite Cottage's woodkin." She stuck out a hand, which was small, brown, and callused.
Harry shook it. "Pleased to meet you, Rellah. But you can call me Harry. I'm not anyone's master."
Rellah laughed, a sound that reminded Harry of birds twittering. "You are Master Sev's son, and family members are always addressed thus by a woodkin. It is proper etiquette."
Now that Harry had a chance to look closer at her, he saw she was not human at all, though she resembled a human child at first glance. Rellah's skin was nut-brown and her hair was a blend of gold and red and green that hung in riotous curls down to her waist. She had large pointed ears that stuck out of her hair, which was entwined with flowers and acorns. Her face was elongated and had high cheekbones and a sharply pointed chin. Her eyes were the color of a new spring shoot, large and liquid. She was wearing an odd tunic like garment that appeared made from leaves and hemmed with real acorns and crystals. Her feet were bare, but she did not seem to care. She wore a belt at her waist with several pouches and a pair of sharp scissors.
"Uh, what's a woodkin?"
Rellah raised an eyebrow. "Have you never heard of us before? What do they teach at that fancy school?"
"He was raised by Muggles, Rellah," Severus told her.
"Ah. Then ‘tis no wonder you don't know of my kind. No matter, I shall educate you now, Master Harry. Woodkin are related to house elves and dryads and sylphs, we are wood sprites who are pledged to guard certain stretches of woodland and in my case I am housekeeper and cook for Malachite Cottage. Malachite Cottage has always had a woodkin in it and always shall. My clan struck a bargain with the White Lady who first built Malachite Cottage, we would be allowed to dwell here, free from the iron-touched cities and taint of dark magic, and those who desired to enslave us, if one of our clan agreed to tend Malachite Cottage and cook meals for her, since she often forgot to eat when she was in the middle of brewing or experimenting with new spells. It was a small price to play for our safety, and ever since then, a Woodberry has served as caretaker of Malachite Cottage and those who live here. I have served two generations of Snapes, Mistress Eileen, Master Sev, and now you."
The little creature spun on her heel and beckoned them into the cottage. "Come along, sirs. I have soup on the hob and bread and cheese for you as well as fresh berries and apples. You both look half-starved, don't they feed you proper at that school?" She sniffed. "Humph! Wizards! Not a one of you knows how to eat properly. Think you can live off the air and mystical thoughts, do you? No wonder you all look like scarecrows."
She tossed her bright hair and skipped inside, leaving the door open for them to follow.
Severus chuckled at the woodkin's frank words. "Beware, Harry. Rellah loves to feed people, and she'll feed you till you burst if you let her. She is a most excellent cook and a better friend. She can teach you much about herbs and plants, if you are willing to learn."
They followed the woodkin into the cottage, which seemed to exude a peaceful aura. Harry felt it as soon as he set foot across the threshold. The front hall was made of interlocking tiles of gray slate and no sooner had he entered it, the door shut behind him and a gentle ambiance bathed the hallway. Harry stood for a moment, breathing in the sweet scent of flowers and the aroma of freshly baked bread and some kind of delicious soup.
"Welcome home, Sev!" came a woman's contralto, and Harry jumped about a foot.
"Hello, Mum. It's good to be back home," Severus said to the large portrait hanging on the wall.
Harry saw then it was a picture of a pretty woman with pale skin and midnight hair and eyes. She looked to be about the same age as Severus, and was dressed in a deep blue robe. She smiled at her son and darted a glance at Harry, who was staring at her curiously.
"And who is this you've brought with you, Severus? A student?"
"Mum, this is both my student and my adopted son, Harry James Snape." Severus told the portrait. "Formerly known as Harry Potter."
"Hello, Harry! You are Lily and James's child, aren't you?" Eileen queried. "Sev, he has his mother's eyes."
"Yes, ma'am." Harry said respectfully.
"Oh, please don't call me that. It makes me sound like an old woman," Eileen laughed. "You may call me Eileen, or since we are related, Grandma, though that sounds a bit odd too." She shrugged. "No matter. Welcome to Malachite Cottage."
"I am so happy for you both. I always said you needed a son, Severus." She beamed at them. "Not to mention a wife."
"Mum, please," Severus said with a pained expression.
"All right, I'll stop. But you really are too much alone, Sev. This cottage could use a woman in it, but . . ." She sighed. "Run along now, boys. You know how Rellah fusses if you miss meals," she shooed them down the hall, which led into a large and homey kitchen, where bowls of soup and a loaf of warm crusty bread and a plate of fruit awaited them.
It looked and smelled heavenly, and Harry sighed in longing. But he needed to find a bathroom desperately. "Uh, Dad? Where's the loo?"
"Go through the alcove on the right and it's the first door on the right," Severus directed.
Harry rushed off where Severus had indicated, amazed that the little one room cottage was so big, even though Severus had warned him that was the case. The bathroom was tastefully done in shades of cream and a warm honey brown, and Harry discovered the same antibacterial soap was here as had been at Hogwarts. The bathroom was quite large, containing a sunken tub as well as a shower and a sink and toilet. Everything was sparkling clean and smelled like a pine forest with a hint of lemon. Harry noticed that lights appeared when he had entered the room, and supposed it was part of a spell, like the one that had lit the hall at the cottage entrance.
There was a wooden cabinet affixed to the wall, when Harry opened it he found several jars and vials, all neatly labeled in Severus's handwriting. The potions in the cabinet were mostly medicinal in nature, Harry supposed this was a wizard equivalent of Muggle medicine cabinet., though instead of Tylenol and Advil there were Fever Reducers and Pain Relievers and several kinds of bandages and plasters, Pepper Up Potion and Stomach Soothers, and remedies for common digestive ailments. Harry was familiar with all the potions here, he had been dosed with all of them at one time or another.
He shut the door and dried his hands on a towel then headed back down the hall to the kitchen alcove.
Severus raised an eyebrow when he entered, then asked, "Would you like me to apply more salve to you after lunch, son? It must be wearing off by now."
"Uh. . .yeah, okay," Harry agreed, coloring slightly. He was recovering from the beating Marge had given him, but his behind and thighs were still sore and tender, which made sitting uncomfortable.
Severus pointed his wand and performed a quick Cushioning Charm upon the maple chair Harry was about to sit on, so the youngster could sit without too much pain.
Harry sat down gingerly, wincing. He silently cursed Marge to depths of hell, and hoped she was suffering just as much from Wraith's claws and teeth, which had been applied judiciously to her fat arse and thighs, equaling the damage she had done to Harry. Though he didn't like to admit it, some more of his father's salve was just what he needed. But first, he wanted to enjoy his first lunch in his new home.
Rellah was perched upon the back of a chair, nibbling on an apple, clearly delighted to have her wizard master and his new son back in the cottage again. "I have made you some wild mushroom and bean soup, sirs, and fresh oat bread. There is also fresh butter, wild honey, and of course, boysenberry jam. That's Master Sev's favorite."
Harry found the wild mushroom and bean soup delicious, swimming in a rich broth with all kinds of spices and small bits of bacon and barley. It was hearty enough for a meal. The bread was the perfect compliment to it, especially when slathered with creamy butter and honey and a dab of jam. For drinks there was fresh spring water with a lemon slice and for dessert there was the fresh fruit.
Harry ate until he was stuffed, having worked up a hearty appetite walking to the cottage. "That was delicious, Rellah, thank you. You're an incredible cook."
Rellah flushed, her nut-brown skin tinged a dusky rose. "Ah, you are too kind, young sir. I am a poor cook compared to my sisters and aunts."
Severus snorted. "So you say, Miss Woodberry, but I've never tasted anything half so good."
"I try." The woodkin said modestly. "Welcome home again, sirs. Now I must get to airing out the bedrooms. Please excuse me." She finished the rest of her apple then blinked away in a cloud of green sparkles.
"She doesn't liked to be thanked," Severus explained, chuckling softly. "She believes it is only her duty, though I say she goes above and beyond it." He gestured at the bread. "This was made by hand, she has a talent for cooking, like most woodkin. She uses only the freshest ingredients from my herb garden and her recipes contain mostly vegetables rather than meat, though she does use the occasional fish or chicken and sometimes ham. I have missed Rellah's cooking, I must admit. The food at Hogwarts has too much heavy sauces and puddings and it's no wonder first years end up gaining fifteen pounds and getting indigestion when they first arrive at school."
Harry nodded in agreement. The rich food at the school had made him sick at first too, since his stomach wasn't used to such heavy fare. Severus had given him a potion for his upset stomach during the first few months and told Harry to eat small portions.
But the lunch Rellah had served was filling and light enough to not cause his stomach any trouble digesting it. He finished his portion and went back for seconds of the bread, it was still warm and slightly nutty and sweet. "I could eat this bread all day long," Harry told his parent, sighing in bliss.
"Yes, I know," Severus took another piece himself. "Rellah's oat bread is wonderful and it comes from an ancient clan recipe, or so she says." He waved a hand and put the dirty dishes into the sink when they were through. "Rellah normally washes them, however, if you're in trouble for something, you'll do dishes and laundry and housecleaning without magic."
"Yes, sir." Harry said, though he wasn't planning on getting in any trouble.
Severus rose. "Come into the den, Harry, I'll reapply the salve in there, it has a rather large green leather couch, similar to the one in my quarters at school." He summoned the jar of bruise balm and the quick healing salve with a snap of his fingers.
Harry followed Severus down another alcove off the kitchen on the lefthand side. The den was a large oblong room with a huge fireplace and the promised green leather couch with plaid green and blue throw pillows and a large matching blanket. The floor was covered in a heavy throw rug with scenes of horses and dogs hunting. A walnut bookshelf stood behind the couch with all kinds of books in it, including some spellbooks, elementary ones.
Above the mantle of the fireplace was an empty picture frame. Harry was about to ask what had happened to the picture when Eileen appeared in it. She waved hello to Harry and settled down to watch her son and new grandson.
"All right. Off with your pants and shorts, child."
Harry obeyed, too sore to worry about embarrassment. He lay face down on the couch, his backside in the air, and waited for Severus to apply the salve. He quite forgot that Eileen's portrait was able to see him.
"Bloody damn hell, Severus! Who did that to the poor boy?" Eileen exclaimed.
"A distant family member who loathed magic and Harry in particular." Severus answered through gritted teeth. "She won't do it again, I made the punishment fit the crime."
"Good for you, Sev! Otherwise I might have had to come back from the dead and haunt her to death!" Eileen declared angrily. "Wretched woman, to hurt a child like that!"
Severus nodded tightly. He scooped a measure of the quick-healing salve onto his hand and began to smooth it over the dreadful welts.
Harry winced and wriggled. The salve was cold and his skin was still tender.
"Hold still, son." Severus ordered.
"I'm trying. But it's damn tender," Harry complained.
"Think of soft rain and fluffy clouds and kittens purring," Eileen suggested. "That'll keep your mind focused on something other than how much it hurts."
"Yes. Didn't you teach him meditation yet, Severus?"
"No, Mother. There was hardly time inbetween my classes and patrolling the school and saving Harry's life three other times," Severus answered testily, now applying the bruise balm. "I'll teach him this summer."
Harry was concentrating hard on the things Eileen had suggested, trying to block out what Severus was doing. Purring kittens . . .and rain . . .Ow! The rain is falling outside, it's warm and gentle and I wish I could have . . .Ow! Okay, let's count the raindrops, Harry . . .one, two, three . . ."
"That will be a good idea, son. The poor boy needs all the help he can get." Eileen said sympathetically.
Severus was finished in a matter of minutes, and then he told Harry to stay there for a bit to give the salve a chance to dry. "Good job, son," he said quietly and Harry smiled in spite of himself.
"How many rooms are in this place, sir?"
"Quite a few. There are two bedrooms, the bathroom, the kitchen, the den. I also have a study and potions lab here as well. You may wander at will here, though I do ask that you refrain from touching my things and not read the spellbooks with the midnight blue binding, they are far too advanced for you. You may go outside as well, and I will show you how to find certain herbs and other useful plants."
"I wish I could fly my broom," Harry said wistfully. "I'm still grounded, aren't I?"
"Till when, Dad?"
"When you've shown me that you can be trusted and listen to my orders. In two weeks, we'll see. Provided you behave yourself. But there are plenty of other things to see and do in the meantime."
"What did he do to get his broom taken away, Sev?" asked the portrait curiously.
"Harry? Would you like to tell your grandmother what you did?"
"Uh, I nearly got myself killed fighting Voldemort and Quirrell."
"Voldemort!" Eileen exclaimed. "You fought him? How old are you, child?"
"Eleven," Harry answered. "I'll be twelve the end of July."
"Even so . . .Severus, what were you thinking, to let a little boy face that madman?"
"I didn't permit him, Mum. I was passed out at the time the brat went after him. That was when he nearly died for the fourth time." Severus went on to tell her about the other attempts upon Harry's life.
"Oh, Sev. It's good you brought him here then. He'll have time to heal and time to grow." Eileen said thoughtfully.
"My thoughts exactly." Severus agreed. "All right, son. You can put your clothes back on." He gently assisted Harry with that and Harry hugged him and thanked him.
Then Severus showed him the bedroom that had once been his as a child when he stayed here, and was now Harry's. It had a large bed with a soft blue comforter upon it, a dresser and closet and another bookcase. There was a window that faced the east side of the glen and Severus told him that in the morning you could see deer at the window.
He enlarged Harry's school trunk and suggested he start unpacking it plus the other suitcase which held his clothes. "You'll be in charge of keeping your room neat, and I'll inspect it every other day to make sure it's not a pigsty. If it is, you'll be in trouble. How do you like this room?"
"It's great, Dad." Harry said, then turned to removing his clothes from the suitcase.
"I'll leave you alone to get settled then. If you need me, I'll be just down the hall, in my room. Rellah will call us when it's time for dinner."
Then the Potions Master left and Harry was alone in his new room, drinking in the peace and serenity of Malachite Cottage. Hedwig flew in the half open window to perch on his shoulder and he stroked her and whispered, "Well, girl, things are finally looking up. I think we're going to love it here."
Hedwig made a soft chirrup of agreement and nibbled his ear. Things were always better with the spicy cat man around.
Chapter End Notes:
So, how do you like Malachite cottage and those who live in it?
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