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A/N: before you read, I wish to remind you that this is an AU story, and therfore some events in it will occur differently or not at all as they did in the books, so some of the memories here might or might not be as you'd expect, but they fit with my storyline.

"Sir, can I just say that was the most wickedly awesome duel I ever saw?" Ron cried as soon as Severus and Harry had crossed the threshold.

Severus raised an eyebrow at the other's obvious hero-worship. "And how many duels have you seen, Mr. Weasley?"

"Uh . . .this was the first real one, but it was incredible. The way you just walloped them into the dirt, sir!" Ron enthused, sounding very much the way he did when he watched the Cannons playing. "You were as good as an Auror." He slanted a glance at Harry. "And you were great too, Harry, flying the pegasus into that fat creep. Nice one!"

Snape rolled his eyes. "If you are quite done rehashing that experience, Mr. Weasley, I suggest we sit down and have breakfast. Rellah, I apologize for running off that way."

"Nonsense, Master Sev! Master Harry and Boreal are more important than food," the woodkin snorted. "Besides, your leaving just gave me more time to make some bacon and cheese and onion omelettes." She served them up with a flourish.

They all ate heartily, though Hermione asked Harry what they had been talking about at the end. "Were they trying to buy back Boreal or something, Harry?"

Harry hesitated, unsure whether to tell his friends the truth or not. He caught Severus's eye and Severus made a slight negating motion with a hand that Harry took to mean he must keep that secret too for now. "Yeah, they kind of were, but Dad told them we weren't selling and they needed to get the hell off our property before he hexed them into next week."

"And they left so fast that their shadows remained behind," Ron cheered. "The bloody cowards."

"Language, Mr. Weasley," Severus reproved.

"Sorry, sir. I forgot."

"You had better remember, for the next time you use inappropriate language around me, I'll do to you what I do to Harry."

Ron eyed his friend, who looked utterly horrified at that statement.

"Ron, don't test him. He'll wash your mouth out with this disgusting mouthwash, it's twenty times as bad as soap, trust me!" Harry told him.

Ron could only imagine and he quickly vowed to watch his mouth, for he knew he didn't want to get Snape mad at him. After breakfast was over, Harry pulled Ron to one side and told him that he forgave him for being the biggest prat in the history of the world. "Because everybody's entitled to make a huge mistake once in their lives. Just don't ever do it again, or else."

"I won't. Promise." Ron said, and gave his friend a shaky grin. "How about we go and play a bit of Quidditch, huh?"

"Can't. Dad just grounded my arse for interfering with his duel," Harry sighed.

"What? But you were great!"

"Yeah, but . . .you know parents."

"Boy, do I ever." Ron said sympathetically. "You're lucky he didn't use a ruler."

Harry winced. "He wouldn't, strange as that sounds."

"Guess he'd rather make you bust your arse with those awful punishment chores, huh?"

"That's about right, mate," Harry said, smiling ruefully. "How about we play a game of Wizard Chess?"

"Sure." Ron agreed happily, and Harry went to get the chess board, which Severus kept inside of a cabinet in the library.

He found Hermione in there, reading, as usual. She glanced up when he entered, and said, "Oh, Harry, this is the most wonderful library! There are all sorts of rare texts in here and classic novels and I could stay here all month and never run out of new things to read."

"Yeah, Dad's a bookworm, just like you, Mione. He usually comes back from Diagon Alley or the Muggle side of London with a bag full of books. And my gran was as bad as both of you." Harry chewed his lower lip thoughtfully. "Hey, would you mind doing me a favor? I'm gonna play a game of Wizard Chess with Ron, but I wanted to know if there were any books in here about pegasus racing. Like a history or something, maybe a rule book?"

Hermione placed her book in her lap and looked at him curiously. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking, Harry Snape?"

"What's that?"

"Racing Boreal. Because you know your dad would have to sign the forms for underage consent and I don't think he'll be too keen on doing that."

Harry shrugged. "Well, you never know. I just wanted to find out some more about it, is all."

"Okay. Let me finish up my chapter and then I'll see if there is anything here like that. It's probably under the Sports and Recreation category," the little witch mused.

"Thanks, Hermione. I owe you one." He gave her a thumbs up before leaving to play chess.

* * * * * *

Hermione had found one book that was a history of all the classic pegasus races, including the Skybolt. Harry thanked her profusely and took it to study later. The trio spent the rest of the afternoon fishing and relating silly and embarrassing incidents from their early childhoods. Ron had some of the most interesting, since he grew up with Fred and George, such as the time the twins had transfigured his teddy bear into a spider and made it chase him around the bedroom until he peed his pants and tried to climb the wall.

"How awful!" Hermione gasped. "Now I'm glad I never had any older siblings."

"Aww, they thought it was funny. I didn't, of course, and neither did my dad. I think he walloped them for it, I was only four, so I can't remember too well, but ever since I've never liked spiders at all."

Hermione told about the time she had tried to use her older cousin's chemistry set and ended up making a solution explode. "It was all over everything and it turned your hands green when you touched it, so I had green hands for a day and my cousin was furious, she hated the color green, and told me I couldn't ever play with her again. Of course, she didn't mean it."

"Did you get your, uh, bum walloped?" queried Ron.

"No, my parents don't believe in spanking much. The most my dad ever did was a smack when I was little. They took away my TV, I think, for a week. Which was awful, because I missed all the episodes of Punky Brewster and Young Scientists Today." She smiled reminiscently. "They were my favorite shows."

Harry related an incident when he was five and had mistakenly picked up a potion Severus had left on his lab table and drank it. "I thought it was juice or something, it smelled like it. I woke up and was thirsty, I'd had a fever, I think, and my dad was brewing up some potion at the other end of the lab and didn't see me drink the potion till it was too late."

"What was it?"

"It was a weight-loss potion for one of the teachers, I can't remember who, and while it wasn't harmful, it gave me the runs," Harry admitted. "Taught me a good lesson though, about touching Dad's potions, and not drinking something unless I knew what it was. After that I never laid a finger on a beaker or a vial unless Dad told me to. Though Dad said it was partly his fault, for not putting that potion where I couldn't reach it."

"Oh, Harry," sighed Hermione. "You're lucky it wasn't poisonous."

"Maybe, but Dad would never have left anything poisonous around, anything dangerous like that was always locked up. The teacher was supposed to come and pick it up that day, but she was late. Good thing too, ‘cause it gave him time to brew up another, inbetween taking care of me, of course."

They all shared a good laugh over that one, and Harry discovered that it felt good to just hang out with his friends, not discussing school, or trying to save the school from a homicidal maniac, but simply being a normal kid for once. Rellah had packed them a picnic basket with cold fried chicken, ham sandwiches, pickles, salad, and cake, plus icy cold lemonade to drink.

They spread the food out on an old blanket Harry had brought along and ate and talked some more about what they'd be doing for the rest of their vacation before school started, and who the new Defense teacher might be.

"It's too bad your dad's such an ace at potions, Harry," Ron said. "Otherwise, he could teach Defense. Never thought I'd say this, but we'd have the best teacher ever if he were teaching. I still can't believe the way he trounced those two dunderheads."

"He'd like to teach it, you know." Harry said. "Maybe next term Dumbledore will let him."

"But then who would teach potions?" asked Hermione, dismayed. "He's a brilliant potion maker too."

"Maybe he could duplicate himself?" suggested Ron wickedly. Then he shuddered. "On second thought, that's a VERY bad idea. With two Snapes, we'd never be able to get away with anything."

The other two nodded, and Harry wished he could tell his friends what he'd be doing for the rest of the summer, which was training and preparing for the greatest race of his life. But he knew his father always had a reason for keeping things secret and so he kept the knowledge to himself.

Then they took a short nap and afterwards one last river ride before going back to the cottage.

Hermione volunteered to help with Boreal and Harry allowed her to groom the pegasus while he cleaned the stall, Boreal just ate up the attention. She oiled his hooves and even braided his mane. "Now he looks like a parade horse," she chuckled, rubbing his nose affectionately.

"Can you show me how you did that? If I ever race him, I think the mane needs to be braided or whatever," Harry told her.

"Okay, watch," she demonstrated on another section of the pegasus's long silver mane.

Harry spent the remaining twenty minutes before dinner learning the right way to braid a horse's mane. Clearly, Hermione loved horses just as much as he did. He decided he would ask Boreal if she might have another ride on him before she went home, so she would have something pleasant to remember for the remainder of the summer.

Boreal proved agreeable to allowing Hermione to ride him once more, saying that he found her a most kind and considerate witch. You'd do well to hold onto her, Harry. She would make an excellent mate for you.

Harry blushed beet red at his bonded's frank words. Boreal, please! Hermione's . . .she's a friend . . .I don't even want to think about THAT yet.

Boreal looked amused. Perhaps you are too young yet, humans mature slower than pegasi, I believe. However, someday you will be ready to seek a mate and you should keep Hermione in mind.

Harry flushed even redder, if possible, and didn't respond. Instead he summoned Boreal's saddle and bridle and placed them on him before going out to meet Hermione in the meadow beyond. Luckily, it was dusk, so Hermione didn't ask why Harry's face was so red.

* * * * * * *

Harry played one last game of Wizard Chess with Ron before turning in that night. Things were much easier between them now that Harry had forgiven his friend for his mistaken assumptions, but Harry knew he would never forget the words Ron had spoken. They would remain within his heart always, hidden away, but never forgotten. Still, it was almost like old times, they spent half the night discussing Quidditch and arguing good-naturedly about who was most likely to win the Quidditch World Cup that year. Their discussion grew a little too heated and a little louder than they intended, and before they knew it, a familiar tall figure was standing in the doorway, frowning irritably at them.

"Do you two have any idea what time it is? It's nearly two o'clock in the morning."

Both boys jumped, for neither of them had heard Severus enter. Then Harry looked up at his father and said guiltily, "Uh, sorry, Dad, did we wake you? We were discussing Quidditch-"

"Yes, I could hear you "discussing" it, young man, it woke me from a sound sleep."

Ron hung his head also. "Sorry, Professor. We didn't know how late it was. We didn't mean to wake you up."

Severus snorted and gave the youngest Weasley boy a stern look, before saying shortly, "That's a moot point now, isn't it? Both of you quit chattering and go to bed, because if I have to come in here again and tell you to go to sleep, I'll make you chop up some frog livers for me since you're so wide awake, you might as well do something useful. Clear?"

"Yes, sir," both boys chorused, exchanging identical chastened looks.

Then Severus ordered them to get under the covers and Noxed the lamp, so they had no choice but to try and go to sleep.

The Potions Master lingered outside the door for a few minutes, to see if they tried to return to their earlier conversation, but all he heard after a while was the sound of two boys snoring slightly. Hiding a smirk, Severus went to check on Hermione, and finding her sleeping soundly as well, returned to his own bed.

* * * * * *

The next morning, after a hearty farewell breakfast, and much hugging and tears, on Rellah's and Hermione's part, the two apprentices bid goodbye to their best friend and their professor and Flooed back to the Burrow. Both of them promised to write and Ron even asked Severus if Harry could visit him at the Burrow for a few days just before school started.

Severus considered for a few minutes before saying, "We'll see, Ronald. I'll have to talk to your mother before I say yes, and Harry will have to behave for the rest of the summer, but if those conditions are met, I will send him to you a week before school starts."

Ron grinned and thanked Severus, then he turned to his friend and said, "You'd better not get in any trouble, mate, y'hear me?"

Harry chuckled. "Look who's talking. You better behave too, Ron."

"I will. See you soon, Harry." He clapped his friend on the shoulder before vanishing into the green flames.

Hermione hugged both him and Severus, thanking them once more for allowing her to stay and telling them she had never had a lovelier time anywhere. Both men seemed a little embarrassed by her emotional goodbye, but neither of them showed it much. "Bye, Harry, I'll see you next term, on the Express! Don't forget to write." She waved, then turned to Severus and said, "Goodbye, sir. I hope Dumbledore gives you the Defense position next year."

"Thank you, Miss Granger. Enjoy the rest of your summer," replied the professor, then Hermione was gone as well, returning to the Burrow, where she would be sent back to her parents via Sidelong Apparition.

Now it was just Severus, Harry, Rellah, Eileen, and Boreal at Malachite Cottage. Thinking about the upcoming Skybolt caused Harry to remark, "Dad, I tried to research the Skybolt like you told me to, but I couldn't find any current information about it, so what should I do?"

Severus thought for a long moment. "I suppose I could go to Diagon Alley and see if there are any racing programs there and perhaps Flourish and Blotts might have some material on the Skybolt in the Recreation section, pegasus racing had been gaining in popularity in Britain for years now, and many wealthy wizards are starting stables and racing their pegasi in the races. The sport was renowned centuries ago as the ‘sport of kings and purebloods', but it died out and then was revived by the Americans about a hundred years ago, who reintroduced it over here and since then it's become very popular. Hopefully, I can also find some information about locations of race courses here, so that you and Boreal may practice on them."

"That would be great, Dad," Harry said. "Can I come with you?"

"No, in case you've forgotten, you're still grounded. You can stay here and help Rellah with the housecleaning while I'm out, then when I return, you can study the books and pamphlets I've purchased." Severus ordered, ignoring Harry's groan of dismay. Then he picked up a pinch of Floo powder and tossed it down, saying "Diagon Alley," clearly before stepping into the flames.

Harry heaved another sigh before turning to find Rellah and asking her if she needed any help with her housecleaning.

"All that's left is to sweep the back porch, young master," the woodkin told him, smirking. "So once you've done that, you can relax till your father comes back."

Harry shared a conspiratorial grin with her before getting a broom and attending to the sweeping. Afterwards, he headed into his room, intending on reading until his father returned, but then his eye was caught by the silver flicker of the liquid in the Pensieve Severus had given him for his birthday.

He had not dared to view the memories it had held before, not with Ron and Hermione there, though Severus had explained how to use it. It was far too private for casual use, and he did not know how the memories would affect him, which was why he had waited to use it. But now . . .now seemed a perfect opportunity to try it out. Severus had told him that he could remove himself from the memories any time he wished, that he could view them for as long or as little as he liked, and he could leave after only viewing part of them, if he so wanted.

Harry hesitated for a fraction of a second before taking a deep breath and then slowly lowering his face into the bowl of silvery liquid. For an instant he felt as if he were falling and then the sensation ceased and he was standing in a rather large park, with a playground upon it, a rather pleasant looking place for children to have fun, complete with several swings, a seesaw, a playhouse and various other jungle gym equipment.

Two little girls were playing on the swings, sisters from their appearance, the younger had dark red hair and her elder sister had blond with hints of red, though the smaller girl had eyes of brilliant emerald, while the elder had eyes of an ordinary brown. Both girls were wearing skirts and blouses, and with a start, Harry realized he was seeing Lily and Petunia when they were young children, they seemed to be about seven, in Lily's case, and ten in Petunia's. 

Lily was swinging enthusiastically, singing some sort of rhyme over and over as she pumped her feet. Petunia was standing off to one side, looking utterly bored.

"Honestly, Lil, did we have to come here today? You know I was going to go over Abby's this afternoon, she wanted me to meet her cousin Vernon, he just moved down from Surrey, and instead I'm stuck watching you, brat."

Lily ignored her sister for a minute, then she said, "You don't have to stay here, Tuney, you can go home."

"Lily Ann Evans, are you tetched in the head? Mum would skin me alive if she ever knew I'd left you in the park alone." Petunia cried.

"I won't tell if you won't."

Petunia bit her lip. "Okay. I'll be back in an hour. Don't go anywhere, don't talk to strangers, and if you need to find me, just walk down the street to Abby's yard, we'll all be there."

"Sure, Tuney. Now you can go and smooch your boyfriend!" Lily said slyly, then burst into laughter.

"Shut up, brat!" Tuney yelled, giving Lily a cuff before departing. "I don't have a boyfriend."

"But you wish you did!" Lily giggled.

Then, when she was sure her sister wasn't looking, she made the swing go higher and higher, until finally she jumped off it and floated through the air like a leaf on the breeze, touching the ground a full three feet away from the swings.

Then she turned to a section of low growing bushes that faced the park and said softly, "Hey, Sev. You can come out now, she's gone."

From out of the bushes stepped a small boy with ragged black hair hanging in his eyes and worn and patched clothing. His trainers were old and one had a small hole in the toe. He was skinny, though the overlarge T-shirt he had on hid most of his true appearance. His eyes were large and dark and he glanced about warily, as if expecting something to attack him any minute. But then he looked at the small red-haired girl and grinned, a secret smile, and said, "You flew real well that time, Lily. Just like a seagull gliding."

"Really? Good thing Tuney didn't see though. Then she'd call me a freaky brat again and say I was going to hell for using spells." Lily sighed.

"You weren't using a spell, you don't even have a wand yet, Lil." Sev disagreed. "When we're this age, our magic just does stuff, accidentally, my mum says. And witches and wizards don't go to hell for doing magic, it's what we're supposed to do. Otherwise we wouldn't have been born with it. Mum says our magic is a gift, and we should thank God we have it, and use it wisely."

"I am, Sev." Lily said eagerly. "I don't listen to everything Tuney says, you know. She's a bossy silly girl sometimes. C'mon, you want to swing a bit, or go on the seesaw?"

"Let's swing," Sev said, and proceeded to jump on a swing and start swinging very high and very fast, all without hardly moving his feet.

"Sev! How are you doing that?" cried Lily, trying without success to imitate him.

The little boy shrugged. "I dunno. My magic's doing it. Neat, huh?"

Lily nodded, pumping harder, trying to match Sev's pace. She reached out a hand, and Sev grabbed it, and soon Lily was swinging just as high and fast as he was.

The two were laughing and smiling, loving every minute of the magical ride. Until the magically induced speed suddenly faded and Lily shouted, "Jump, Sev! Ready? One. Two. THREE!"

They jumped off at precisely the same moment, and both skimmed over the seesaw and landed on the grass with a thump.

They were still laughing. "Let's do it again," Sev said.

"Okay!" Lily agreed, but before they could get back on the swings, they heard a loud angry man's voice bellowing.

"Severus Snape, where the hell are you, boy?"

Sev froze, and his eyes went wide in terror, like an animal caught in a trap. "I . . .I gotta go, Lil. It's my father! He's . . .not in such a good mood today."

"When is he ever?" Lily asked sadly. "He's always yelling at you, Sev."

"I know. He's always like that." Sev shrugged, shivering slightly.

"SEVERUS! Get your skinny arse home, boy! I need you to run an errand for me, you lazy good-for-nothing little brat!"

"I gotta go. If I'm not home by the time he gets back . . .I'll be in for it. See you tomorrow, I guess." He waved once before turning and running up the street as quickly as he could.

"Bye, Sev!" Lily called, watching her friend leave sadly. "I wish you could move into my tree house, then you wouldn't have to live with your nasty dad any more, and you'd be happy. And we could talk about magic all the time and stuff." 

Then the memory faded and Harry was standing in a blank corridor, before being pulled into a new memory. . .

This time Lily and Sev were standing in front of a cauldron, they were slightly older, around nine, and Sev was reading from a book lying open on the table next to the cauldron. 

" . . .now add the powdered bicorn horn, and stir five times counterclockwise in a brisk motion."

"What's a brisk motion?" Lily asked, biting her lip.

"Uh, I think it means real fast or something," Sev hedged. "And you're gonna stir it up backwards, like if the hands on a clock were going in the wrong direction, see?"

"Oh, I get it now." Lily smiled. "Okay, Sev. Here goes," and she tipped the powdered bicorn horn into the cauldron and began to stir it vigorously. "One, two, three, four, five. There! Oh, I hope this works, Sev. I really wanna turn Tuney invisible, the rotten sourpuss. She's so mean, always saying dumb things ‘bout your clothes and stuff."

Sev nodded darkly, he was wearing a stained and even more holey T-shirt today and his jeans were so worn they had holes in the knees and were fraying at the hem. "I know, and it ain't my fault my mum can't afford any better, y'know. Dad takes all o' her pay and drinks it away down at the pub, so . . .this's the best she can do."

"Who cares about clothes, anyhow? Petunia's so stuck-up she could probably replace a lamp post." Lily snorted. "Her and that stupid Vernon Dursley, calling me Psycho Sorceress and you the Gutter Rat. Thinks he's all that, ‘cause his dad's head manager of some dumb drill company, humph! I can't believe Tuney likes him! Yuck!" She pretended to gag into her hand.

Severus did likewise, saying sneeringly, "Well, if I'm a gutter rat than he's a walrus's uncle. God knows he certainly eats enough for one."

"You can say that again. Last time he was invited to dinner, he practically ate the silverware." Lily said. "He went back for seconds and thirds and if he could've I think he would have licked the plate!"

The two giggled at that image, for Vernon was a most unpleasant boy, loud and rude to anyone younger than him whom he felt was beneath him, and he especially hated skinny shy Severus, who, he said, should have moved down to Cheapside with all the other drunken poor bastard families.
"What the hell are you doing in a neighborhood like this, Snape? If anyone belongs on Rotten Row, it's you, trash picker!"
He wasn't above physical violence, either. Another time he had picked up Sev and held him upside down and then made him eat dirt, laughing and sneering and calling him "Dirt Boy."

He had only stopped when Lily had knocked him down, she had been so angry that she had used accidental magic again and sent the fat tormentor flying.

"Too bad we don't know of a weight-loss potion," Lily sighed wistfully. "Vernon could be the test subject!"

"Yeah, that's for sure!" Severus smirked then turned back to the potions manual and continued reading instructions. 

Then the scene shifted abruptly and Harry now saw Petunia, her hands pressed to her face, screaming loud enough to wake the dead. . .

"MUM! Oh My Gawd, look what Lily did to me, her and that swamp rat Snape! My hair, it's glowing green! AHHH!" 

And hidden a few feet down the hall were Sev and Lily, looking at each other with nervous expressions. "Uh, Sev, how come it didn't work?" Lily asked.

"I dunno, we followed the instructions in the book. Only . . .something went wrong. I think we're in big trouble now, damn it all!"

Sure enough, they heard a voice shouting a few minutes later, "Lily Ann Evans, get down here this instant! And you too, Severus Snape."

"Merlin! But we're in so much trouble." Sev groaned, before following Lily down the stairs.

* * * * * *

At the bottom of the stairs they found not only Mrs. Evans but Eileen as well, and they did not look happy.

"What were you thinking, young lady, to give a magic potion to your sister?" demanded Mrs. Evans.

"Mum, she's always being mean and nasty to us, so we wanted to play a prank on her." Lily said.

"You know better than that, Severus Tobias Snape!" Eileen growled. "I've told you a thousand times, no experimenting unless I'm with you. Do you forget that time you almost burnt your hair off?"

"No." Sev muttered to the ground, looking quite ashamed. "We just wanted to turn her invisible for an hour."

"Invisible!" Mrs. Evans gasped, looking like she was going to pass out right there. "Oh my goodness! Then how would we have gotten her back? Oh heaven help me!"

"Violet, I think you'd better go and lie down. I'll deal with these two, if you don't mind." Eileen suggested.

"No, not at all. Feel free to punish them however you see fit, my nerves are shot. Only . . .don't beat them," she added quickly, recalling something Lily had mentioned once about Sev getting hit with something by his father.

"I don't beat children, Violet," Eileen said softly. "That's my husband, never me. Come, let's lie on the sofa." She turned to the two children and said, "You two, remain right here and do not move." Both children stayed where they were, while the dark-haired witch escorted Violet to the sofa and had her lie down with a cool cloth across her eyes. She returned after a minute, wearing a stern look of utter disapproval.

"It seems you two can't be trusted alone for more than half an hour. You both know my rule for potion-making-never alone and never without permission." Eileen lectured. "However, since you decided to ignore my rule, now you must face the consequences. The both of you will be scrubbing cauldrons and washing beakers in my lab for two hours tomorrow and then helping me make a Breath Ease Solution, perhaps a bit of hard work will make you think twice before you act next time. And this should remind you also," she added, then she took her son and turned him around and gave him a sharp smack on the backside. "Remember this, Severus!"

Sev yelped, even though the smack was nowhere as hard as the ones he got from Tobias. "Sorry, Mum." Tears pooled in his eyes, for his mother rarely scolded and smacked him and he knew it meant he had truly displeased her.

She released him and repeated the chastisement to his friend, then she hugged both children to her and let them cry into her black Potion Mistress's robes for a moment, stroking their hair and murmuring, "Crazy kids, you'll be the death of me yet!"

The memory ended abruptly and Harry thought wryly, Looks like you and Mum were a bunch of troublemakers, huh, Dad? And Gran reminds me of you in a temper. He snickered uncontrollably at the memory of Petunia with her shocking day-glo green hair, and could not bring himself to feel sorry for his aunt, he had endured far too much of her nastiness over the years. I wonder what's next?

He soon had his answer, as another memory appeared and drew him into it.

* * * * * *

Now Lily was sitting next to Severus at a familiar oak table, her eyes bright with tears, one arm touching her friend gently on the shoulder. "Oh, Sev, I'm sorry about your mother. You did everything you could to help her, you know . . ." 

Sev looked up at his best friend, his dark eyes shadowed with grief and exhaustion. "But it wasn't enough, Lily! It's never enough! Everything I do . . .I'm useless, I let her die! What kind of wizard am I?"

She put her arms about him and hugged him. "The very best kind, Sev. You're not useless, she was just too sick for even magic to help her. It wasn't your fault. I'm so sorry . . . she was the best teacher I ever had, and I loved her like an aunt . . ." More tears followed, and suddenly Sev whimpered and turned his face into Lily's shoulder and began to cry, allowing the awful grief he had been suppressing an outlet at last.

The two bereft children clung to each other and wept, while across from them Hagrid made Phoenix-Dragon tea and wiped a few tears from his own eyes for the loss of one of the best Potions Mistresses and healers ever to walk the halls of Hogwarts. "Tha's a good lass, Lily, he needs to cry, and to be reminded that there're still people here who love him, Eileen weren't th' only one . . ."

And for several moments the only sound in the gamekeeper's hut was the sound of two children sobbing.

* * * * * * *

Harry sniffled sharply and wiped the back of his hand across his eyes, feeling very much as though he had just watched his own mother die. Poor Dad, without his mum he was stuck living with his nasty wicked father until he was seventeen. But at least he had my mum to help him bear it.

More memories followed, these were mostly from school, and Harry saw how Severus and Lily's friendship was sorely tested, because many of the Gryffindors couldn't condone Lily being friends with a rival House member, and called her a traitor and a snake-lover. One of those, to his regret, was his father James. James was the most vocal, and so was another dark-haired handsome boy, James's best mate, Sirius Black.

"You just leave him be, you bloody bullies!" Lily cried, clenching her fist, and waving her wand threateningly. "What's he ever done to you, Pottter?" 

"He's a sniveling snake and he's breathing," replied James impudently. "Why don't you date a real man, Evans?"

She glared at him, all fire and fury. "I would, if there were any real men here besides Severus! But all I see in front of me are two spoiled brats who need a good spanking. Now get out of my face, Potter, and you too, Black, before I hex you to the moon!"

Then she whirled around to help a battered and bleeding Sev to his feet, he was a wreck, his nose was broken and he had a swollen lip and a black eye. "Come, Sev, let's get you to Madam Pomfrey. She's gonna be furious, that's the third time this week . . .Dumbledore ought to expel the lot of them, the beastly troublemakers . . .they're nothing but a bunch of marauding bullies . . .!"

"I'm okay, Lil. I can walk . . ." Sev protested faintly, but she wouldn't hear of it, and insisted on escorting him to the Hospital Wing.

While behind them, James remarked to Sirius, "Hey, that's not a bad name for our little group-the Marauders! Whatcha think, Sirius?"

* * * * * *

Hell, Dad, I never knew you had trouble with bullies too, like me. James reminds me of Dudley, picking on you because he didn't have anything better to do. But he changed, ‘cause he's an angel now, but Merlin, he sure was a git back then! Harry thought angrily, for seeing Severus like that reminded him all too sharply of his own years of torment by Dudley and his gang. But he also recalled that his father was now an angel and had died for his wife and son, and therefore had changed and redeemed himself, and Harry could be proud of both his fathers, the living and the dead.  And his mother too, who it seemed possessed the Gryffindor courage in full measure. 

Then another memory surfaced, of an older Severus and Lily, they looked to be about sixteen here, walking down by the Black Lake late at night, under a canopy of stars. . .

"Dumbledore didn't expel me, Lil. He could have, and God knows I deserve it, after getting sucked into Malfoy's stupid club of Death Eaters like a stupid sheep . . .but he said that he needs eyes and ears in the enemy camp, and I'm just the man for the job," Severus was telling Lily, sounding a little proud of himself. "He wants me to become a spy, Lil, for a secret resistance group called the Order of the Phoenix . . ." 

"Oh, Sev! But that's so dangerous. What if you're found out? They'll kill you! Or . . .worse."

"I know. But what other choice do I have? I'll just have to be really careful and not get caught." He grimaced. "I'm gonna have to kiss that toad Malfoy's arse now, damn it, so he thinks I'm one of his little bunch of slaves . . .ugh! But if it helps bring down You-Know-Who, I guess it's worth it."

He hugged Lily to him and she melted into his embrace. "There's only one price I'd never pay, now or ever," he murmured. "And that's you, Lil You know that, don't you?" He gently tilted her head up, so she was looking him in the eyes.

"I know, Sev. Be careful and be safe, for I couldn't stand it if I lost you," she whispered, then kissed him, one searing burst of passion that lingered forever and yet was over far too quickly. Then she dabbed at her eyes and Sev held her and whispered, "Shhh, don't cry, my sweet flower. I'll be all right, I know how to hide in the shadows, I've lived most of my life there, my father taught me well . . .and when it's done I'll return to you, Lily."

"I'll wait for you, Sev. Always."

* * * * * *

Before Harry could get over the shock of seeing his mother kissing Severus, another memory swallowed him up, this one seemed to be a year after the previous one.

"Don't wait for me any more, Lily." Sev told her, they were standing in the park once again, though it was empty of children, and the Potions Master looked weary and drawn. "It's too dangerous for you to be with me. He . . .he tries to read me every time we meet now, and I have to bury my feelings for you down so deep he'll never sense them. He's growing restless, and I won't risk your life, Lily. The life of a spy isn't for you. You deserve better." 

" What if I don't want better, Sev?" Lily demanded tearfully. "I'm no coward, I'll stand beside you when you take off your mask and kick Voldermort back to hell. I don't mind waiting."

He put a finger to her lips. "Well, I do. You shouldn't waste the best years of your life waiting for me. For one day I may never come home. One wrong move, one slip of my shields . . .You deserve better than me, Lily, you deserve a man who can give you a decent home and a family. Like . . .Potter," Sev muttered through gritted teeth. "He still loves you, you should go to him, Lily. He'll give you what I can't . . . security and . . .everything else. He's arrogant, but honorable, and he will keep you safe and cherish you. All I can give you is a pair of black robes and a broken heart." He bent his head and kissed her, one last kiss, filled with tenderness and desire and sweet sorrow.

* * * * * *

Harry gasped as he came up out of that memory, his head felt as if it were about to burst. You really loved her, Dad. No wonder why you never married. He sniffed sharply. You loved her so much you let her go and marry my father instead. God, I hope someday I know a love like that. 

Suddenly, he recalled Lily telling him that Severus was a man who loved deeply. "What he loves, he loves forever." Now he discovered the truth in that statement. And it awed and humbled him, for he did not know if he would ever have the courage to do something like that.

The last memory beckoned, and he walked forward into the cold silvery mist.

* * * * * *

Sev opened the door of his small ramshackle house on Spinner's End to see the last person he would have ever expected standing on his front porch, cradling a blanket wrapped bundle in her arms. "Hello, Sev. Long time no see, huh?" Her face was partially shadowed by her long green hood. 

"Lily! What on earth . . .come in, quickly!" he practically dragged her inside, slamming the door and locking it behind him. "You never know who will be watching. Why are you here, Lil? Are you in trouble? Are you happy with Potter? Because if he's hurt you . . ."

"Calm down, Sev. I'm fine, James would never hurt me. He's grown up a lot from the last time you saw him at school. He's a good husband and a father and I love him. But you know as well as I do these are dangerous times. I'm here for Harry." She held out the bundle for Sev's inspection.

Inside, a year old baby slept peacefully. Severus gazed down at him, a myriad of emotions crossing his face. He wanted to hate the little mite, the spawn of his childhood tormentor, and yet he could not bring himself to, for the boy was also the child of the only woman he would ever love.

"What's the matter with him? He doesn't look sick."

"No, he's fine. I just need . . .someone I can trust . . .in case anything should happen to James or I, Sev, I want you to look after Harry for me. They probably won't grant you custody of him, since you're not a blood relation, but promise you'll watch over him if . . .if we die. That's the most important thing. That he be safe and protected."

"Lil, you're going to go under the Fidelius Charm, right? You'll be safe and so will Harry."

She shook her head. "I know, but still, I'd feel better if you would watch over him too. No one has to know, but at least I would know he was in good hands. I don't trust my sister, she won't love him like she ought to, you and I know that. She wouldn't even come to baptism, said nothing would cleanse the taint on my son, not even holy water. But she's my only living relative. James has agreed to this as well. Please, Sev."

"All right. I'll be his protector, a secret protector, and make sure no harm comes to him," he agreed reluctantly, he could never refuse her anything.

"Will you swear Wizard's Oath on it, Sev?"

He nodded, then clasped her hand and said solemnly, "I, Severus Tobias Snape swear to protect and look after this child until he is grown, should anything happen to his parents, by my honor and my magic, I so swear!"

There were tears in her eyes and she said softly, "Thank you, Sev. You are the only one I trust with him." She smiled tenderly down at her son. "Sev, if something should happen, promise me you'll tell him about me. Someday, when he's old enough to understand."

"I promise. Now, wait here, I have something to help watch over him, should he ever need healing or is sick," Severus told her abruptly, then departed to rummage through a little used desk drawer for two silver bracelets engraved with the saying -To Heal is To Love.

He returned several minutes later carrying the two bracelets. "These will warn me if he's sick or hurt." He slipped a bracelet on his wrist. Then he gently unwrapped the baby and drew forth his left arm. "I'll spell this invisible once it's on and no one can remove it except for me." He slid the too large bracelet on the infant's wrist and it shrank to fit. Then he drew his wand and intoned the Invisibility Charm. "There! I will guard him to the best of my ability. Now how about a cup of tea?"

"No thanks, Sev, I really have to be going. Remember, watch over Harry but don't let anyone know."

* * * * * *

Harry felt himself flung out of the Pensive abruptly and then he was gasping and coughing, staggering backwards to lie on a heap on the floor. His mind reeled, trying to process all the memories at once, of a sweet, generous, fiery woman who had given her heart and soul to two very different men, and who had given her very life for her son. Overwhelmed, he put his head in his hands and began to sob, for the loss of a mother he had never known and for what might have been, long ago, had not Voldemort come calling. 

That was how Severus found him a few minutes later, upon returning from his trip to Diagon Alley. "Harry? What's the matter? Are you hurt? What is it?" He knelt beside his son, drawing him into his arms.

Harry clung to him, feeling like he was four again and burying his face in Severus's shirt, unable to stop crying. "I . . .saw her . . .Mum, I mean . . .in the Pensieve . . .she was . . ." He dissolved into incoherent sobs.

"Ah. You looked at the memories, I take it." Severus said, understanding. "All of them at once, son?" He felt Harry nod against his shoulder. "That can be a bit . . .overwhelming." He shifted his son slightly, settling him more comfortably in his lap, though Harry was getting a bit too big to be held that way. "There now, son, it'll be all right. . . .You know, she'll never be gone so long as we remember her . . ." There were tears in his eyes as he said that, and he hugged and rocked his best friend's son to him for a very long time, letting him grieve for the mother taken away too soon, who had brought love and hope to a lonely lost wizard and given him the best part of her to keep safe forever.


Chapter End Notes:

And how did you all like that trip down memory lane?

Once Harry gets himself under control again, Severus will show him the information he picked up in Diagon Alley and then he can begin training for the Skybolt championship!

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