Of Bonfires and Bullies
After Harry's rather disastrous attempt to explain where babies come from, Alby turned to Ginny and asked, "Mum, when will the baby come out?"
"Well, the baby needs to grow inside me for nine months. The baby's been in me for about amonth now, so it will be born in January."
"January's my birthday!" Alby clapped his hands. "I was born on January 9th. Like you, Sevvy! Will the baby be born on my birthday too?"
Ginny smiled. "It could. Or it could be born later in the month. We'll have to wait and see."
"Oh." He cocked his head at his mother, then asked, "How's it fit inside your tummy?"
"The baby's tiny right now, Alby. Smaller than your hand." Ginny explained.
Alby stared at his hand. "It's that little?"
"But it'll grow a lot in eight months," Harry said. "Until it'll be about this big when it's born." He held his hands apart to the size of a newborn baby.
Alby looked skeptical. "Are you sure, Dad?"
"Yes. That's how big you were when you were born." Harry chuckled.
"What do you want the baby to be—boy or girl?" asked Severus.
"I wanna a girl baby," Alby stated. "I don't want a little brother that breaks all my toys. Teddy said Jamie always did that."
Harry snickered. "Well, son, your mum and I were hoping for a girl too."
"I wouldn't mind a sister," Severus agreed. "Since I've already got a little brother."
"How do we make sure we get a girl?" Alby wanted to know.
"Al, we can't make the baby come out a girl." Severus told him. "That's up to God."
"Oh." Alby's forehead wrinkled and then he said, "Then I guess I gotta talk to God and tell him to please make this baby a girl. 'Cause if it's a boy, He can take it back and give it to somebody else."
Ginny, Harry, and Severus all burst out laughing.
Alby looked from one to the other, bewildered. "What's so funny?"
"Oh, Alby!" Ginny picked him up and hugged him.
Her son hugged her back, then squirmed to be put down. "Come on, Mum! I wanna go and see some other animals. Maybe I can talk to them too." He grasped Ginny's hand and tugged her away from the deer park.
Still snickering, Harry and Severus followed.
It was the last day of the holiday, and both Alby and Severus slept until ten o'clock. Severus was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes when he came down to breakfast that morning. He sat there for a moment, trying to wake up, while Ginny set a small plate in front of him with some French toast and bacon. "Sev, would you like some strawberries or blueberries on top?"
"Only a little, thanks," he replied. Those two fruits combined tended to give him diarrhea if he ate too much of them. He slowly began to eat.
Alby, in contrast, asked for bananas with his French toast, then proceeded to pile the banana slices on his plate and push his French toast around, slopping syrup all over the table.
Ginny frowned. "Albus, stop playing and start eating."
"I'm not hungry," Alby replied. He kept glancing out the window, which was partially open and you could hear the birds singing. "I wanna go say good morning to the birds."
"After you eat," his mother said firmly.
Alby crossed his arms over his chest and pouted. "Mu-u-m! I'm not hungry!"
Ginny was about to snap at him , when Harry touched her arm lightly. "Gin, don't force him. He'll eat when he's hungry. He's excited right now about his new talent."
"Harry, I don't want him thinking he can just—"
"Relax, hon. Let him go and say hello, then we'll see if he's hungry afterwards. I don't want our last morning here to end with a fight."
Ginny reluctantly nodded. "All right. Alby, you're excused. But when you're finished saying hi to those birds, I want you to come back and see if you can eat four bites of your breakfast."
Alby eagerly pushed his chair back. "Okay, Mummy," he said, then he dashed over to the half-open window and called, "Good morning, Mr. Seagull! My name's Alby, what's yours?"
Soon a seagull had landed in the yard, close to the window and it began screeching to the little Beast Master.
Severus winced at the raucous noise. Then he said, "How come when Al talks to the animals, we hear it in English? Shouldn't we hear it in bird language or whatever, like Parseltongue?"
"That's the nature of a Beast Master, Sevvy," Ginny answered. "To our ears, he's speaking English, but to the ears of the beasts and birds, he's speaking in their tongue. Parseltongue is different because snakes are reptiles."
They watched, while eating breakfast, Alby speaking to the seagull. The little boy talked to the seagull for about five minutes, then the seagull flew away. Alby waved at it, then turned around and announced, "I'm hungry now, Mum. Can I have more cinnamon on my French toast?" He came and sat back down at his place.
"You may," Ginny said, and sprinkled more cinnamon over his portion.
Then her son ate, and inbetween bites babbled happily about the seagull named Windward and how he ate fish for breakfast and had a mate name Skyfar who was teaching their little ones to fly.
After breakfast, Severus decided to read more of Miranda's journal, and chose the part where she was having lessons with her Aunt Tabitha about using the necklace of disguise.
July 23rd, 1889:
Today Aunt Tabitha taught me how to use the power of the necklace. First she told me about the history of the necklace. The shell of the necklace had been a gift from one of the Selkie folk, those magical beings who could turn themselves from seal to human. It was told that an ancestor had caught the Selkie man in his net, and instead of killing him, set him free. The Selkie, in gratitude gave him a magical shell, that could hide our ancestor from any who sought him harm, and enable him to appear like any person or creature he wished, for a span of up to two hours a day.
To use it, Aunt Tabitha said, all I had to do was grasp the shell in my hand, and think about either becoming invisible or blending into the background, or appearing like a certain person. It didn't sound hard, but like anything else, it requires the utmost concentration and will. It took me several tries before I could fade into a tree and look like part of the bark.
Aunt Tabitha says that during times of great trouble, the necklace has saved many members of our family from corrupt officials and lords. She says that many pureblood families would kill to get their hands on it, and that's why we must always be careful never to tell anyone where we put the necklace. I would never be so stupid.
Severus placed the journal on his bed and climbed down the ladder. He had put the rosewood box inside his trunk, and now he went and removed it. He slipped the necklace over his head and grasped the shell in his hand. Then he closed his eyes and imagined himself blending into the wall. He felt a tingling feeling spread through him and when he opened his eyes and looked in the mirror hung over the dresser, he couldn't see himself in it.
Grinning, he wished himself visible and tried changing his appearance. That was harder, but after a few tries, he managed to make himself look something like Cory, and then he changed into Harry, and even Ron. Each time he used the necklace, he felt a quiver run through him. When he was satisfied he had mastered the necklace's power, he tucked it beneath his shirt.
Alby came in a few moments later and asked if he wanted to make a puzzle, and Severus agreed, spending the next half hour putting together a puzzle called The Potions Lesson. Once they had done that, both boys felt sleepy, and took a nap without being told.
After lunch, Ginny and Harry went down to the beach and while Ginny and Severus swam in the warmed water, Alby and Harry built another sandcastle.
Severus swam happily with the water wings, and Ginny rented a kickboard and floated in the breakers.
Harry had just finished digging a moat around their mostly completed sandcastle, and Alby went to get water in his little pail to fill it, when a crowd of about six women, from twenty to forty suddenly appeared on the beach in their bathing suits. They were whispering and giggling among themselves, and as soon as they spotted Harry, squealed ecstatically.
"Ooh, look! It's Harry Potter!"
"Wow! He's soo adorable! Even better than his pictures!"
"I hear he's a professor now!"
"Oh my Merlin! I'd love for him to teach me!" squealed a small blond haired woman. "I can't take my eyes off him!"
"Me neither! Isn't he dreamy? I could just . . . eat him with a spoon!"
There came gasps and sighs of longing then.
Cautiously, the little blond approached. "Umm . . . Mr. Potter? I was wondering . . . would you mind signing this photograph?"
Harry looked up . . . and found himself staring down her suit, her chest was level with his eyes when he was sitting and he had good view of her assets. "Uh . . err . . ." Blushing, he stood up. "Who are you?"
"My name's Helena, and I've been a secret admirer of yours ever since you hoodwinked old Dark and Scaly." She handed him a quill and he signed the photograph.
Suddenly, as if that were a signal, the rest of the women pressed forward, and soon Harry was surrounded by squealing, giggling, panting women.
"Harry, can you sign this biography?" one asked, her eyes perusing him as if she could see right through his shorts and shirt. She thrust a copy of a book called Harry Potter: the Man Behind the Myth, which was one of the first biographies he'd agreed to have written.
"Sure." He took her quill and signed the inside front cover, after asking her name, it was Samantha.
As he turned around, he felt a hand cup his backside and a high pitched giggle. Blushing hotly, he turned and said, "Hey! I'm a married man, so none of that, ladies!"
"Oh, who cares?" pouted a pretty brunette. "Plenty of married men have flings. And you have a mighty fine bum, much better than my last lover."
"And look at those lips! Mmm!" said another, pressing closer to him.
"You said it, Mimi! Makes me want to get a piece of him."
A piece of me? thought Harry, alarmed. He tried to back up, but the women had pushed him against the sandcastle.
A tall woman built like a model, with flowing reddish hair and blue eyes thrust herself against him. "Harry, you stud!" she whispered breathlessly. "Would you mind signing your name on my left boob? I have a permanent inking quill right here!"
"You want me to sign where?" Harry choked. "I can't do that!"
"Sure you can, sugar. I don't mind," she purred, her hand going to her blouse.
"All right, that's enough! I don't sign body parts, only paper," he told her firmly. "And quit flirting with me, my wife won't appreciate it." He could just imagine the expression on Ginny's face if she'd heard what this woman had said!
"Aww, he's shy! And your wife ought to be used to it by now. You're the wizarding world's greatest sex symbol. Don't you know?
"S-sex symbol?" Harry stuttered. Merlin, but Ginny was going to kill him! Now he'd dealt with fans before, but none of them were as persistent as this group of women, who were looking at him as if they wanted to tear his clothes off.
Ginny and Severus were coming out of the ocean when they saw the women surrounding Harry.
"Oh, Merlin! Not again!" Ginny groaned. "Why can't they just leave him alone?"
"Because he's a hero," Severus said.
He saw one of the women reach out and place her palm on his face. Another grabbed his sleeve, and proceeded to rip a piece off.
"Great Merlin!" Severus cried. "They're like . . . like animals!"
"Bloody sirens!" Ginny snorted, striding up the beach. "Harry, darling, we really have to run. Or else we'll be late for your appointment."
"Hi, Gin!" Harry called, waving at her.
Several of his admirers looked annoyed.
"What appointment?" asked one, pouting.
Before Harry could answer, Ginny did. "His appointment with his therapist. After the fight with Voldemort, he's never been the same."
That statement was followed by groans and cries of, "What do you mean? Is he sick?"
Ginny reached through the circle of women and grabbed Harry's arm, pulling him free. "Sevvy, Alby! Time to go home!"
Both boys came when called, but Severus was scowling, he had wanted more time in the water.
"Don't sulk, Sevvy," Ginny consoled the grumpy child. "We'll come back later and swim, when those man-eaters aren't around."
"Humph!" was all Severus replied.
"Thanks for the rescue, Ginny. For a minute there I thought they were going to rip me in half," Harry said ruefully. "Like a bone between two dogs."
"Not on my watch," was all his wife said.
"Mummy, why was all those girls by Daddy?" Alby asked.
"They wanted his autograph," Severus answered.
Because the bonfire served food, Ginny didn't cook anything that night. The bonfire began at seven and ended at midnight. The two elder Potters made sure they took naps along with the children so they would be well rested for the activities later on that night. There would be games of Frisbee toss and roasting marshmallows and story time.
Alby was so excited he couldn't sleep, and kept pestering Severus, who wanted to, with questions and waking him up.
Finally, even Severus' patience wore out and he snapped at the child, "Merlin's beard, Al! Will you shut up and go to sleep? You'll find out all the answers to your questions tonight, now zip it!"
Then he turned and buried his face in the pillow.
Alby sniffled, he was sensitive and Severus' yelling at him had hurt his feelings. He curled up with Bucky and cried into the hippogriff's side.
Of course, that made it impossible for Severus to sleep and he sat up and growled, "Now what's the matter?"
"Nothin'," Alby mumbled tearfully.
"Then why are you crying over nothing?"
"You yelled at me, Sevvy!" Alby whined.
Severus heaved a huge sigh. "Because you keep waking me up and you're being really annoying."
"Don' be mad, Sevvy. I'll try not to."
"Try real hard." Severus told him, then because he felt guilty losing his temper, he added, "I'm sorry I yelled at you."
This time when Severus closed his eyes, all was quiet.
The bonfire was crackling merrily when the Potters arrived. As promised, Ginny made sure she and Severus, joined by Alby, went for a swim before joining several other familes on the beach. Harry was sitting on a blanket, claiming a spot for them.
After awhile, Ginny grew tired and made Severus promise to stay close to shore before moving on up the beach to join Harry.
Alby engaged him in a splashing match, and by the time the water had been shaken out of faces and ears, Severus was aware of someone watching.
He looked up right into the smirking face of Ted Lupin.
"Teddy!" exclaimed Alby. "How'd you get here?"
"Dad Apparated me," the eldest Lupin smirked.
"What are you doing here?" asked Severus.
"Uncle Harry wrote Dad about the cool bonfire and next thing I knew he was asking if anyone wanted to join him. So of course I said yes, and Sirius and Jamie too, and here we are. He wanted to surprise Uncle Harry. So, how was your vacation so far? Didja stay out of trouble?"
"It was great!" Alby said. "'Cept for getting stuck in the secret tunnel and getting a tummyache from eating too much trifle."
"Ah. Been there and done that," Teddy said. "Only I ate too much banana nut fudge."
"My tummy really hurt till Sevvy gave me leaves to eat."
"Leaves?" Teddy looked puzzled.
"Mint leaves," Severus clarified.
"Oh. Where'd you learn that?"
"My mother," replied Severus.
"My mum made me eat prunes and drink the juice after eating all that fudge," Teddy admitted.
"How come?" asked Alby curiously.
"Because he was constipated," Severus answered.
"Sevvy, what's that mean?"
"It's when you can't poop," Teddy told him, grimacing.
"Oh. I got like that once last year when I ate too many nuts. I kept spitting out the potion Mummy gave me, so Daddy put medicine in my bum and it was yucky. I ain't ever making him do that again." Alby made a face.
"Next time just drink the potion, Alby," Severus advised. "And don't eat too many nuts."
"I will." Alby glanced back over to the bonfire. "I wonder when dinner is? I'm hungry."
"Me too." Teddy said. Then he asked about the secret tunnel and Severus explained about Driftwood House being the refuge of free traders and the smuggled goods. "That sounds so wicked! Except for getting stuck and almost drowning. If we go back to the house, can you show me it?"
"Ginny made me promise not to go down there again, but I can show you where it is," Severus said. An instant later he regretted those hasty words, because showing Teddy meant showing Sirius and Jamie too, and Severus wouldn't put it past those two to go down into the tunnel and find mischief.
Teddy sniffed the air. "Mmm . . . I smell something good."
"I think it's sausages," Severus said. "They're roasting them over the fire."
Just then they heard Remus calling, "Teddy, go and get your brothers, it's dinnertime!"
"Okay, Dad!" Teddy called back.
"Dinnertime!" Alby yelled, then he ran out of the water and towards the blanket where his parents were sitting, along with Remus.
"Where are they?" asked Severus.
"Somewhere down there," Teddy waved his hand to the right. "Little brothers!" Teddy groused to Severus as they walked along the beach, searching for Sirius and Jamie. "Sometimes they're a pain in the bum. Only Alby's not as bad as Siri and Jamie."
"Mostly," Severus said. "But sometimes he wakes me up in the middle of the night or won't let me fall asleep and that really annoys me."
"I know what you mean. Once Jamie and Sirius were talking so much and making stupid jokes that I couldn't take it and I threw my pillow at them."
"And that didn't start a fight?"
"Yeah, it did. We all were beating each other with pillows, but of course, the little idiots got loud and woke up my dad. He wasn't very happy. He made us all stand in the corner for five minutes, and after that he gave us two smacks and sent us to bed. I really wanted to strangle them that time."
"Sometimes it sucks being the older brother."
"You can say that again."
They were now halfway down the beach, where some of the older kids were playing with a volleyball and some Frisbees. Most of them weren't paying attention to the two smaller children, they were too focused on their game.
A little beyond the volleyball game, there was a knot of about four children, boys of about twelve or so, and something about them made the hairs on the back of Severus' neck prickle. Having been the victim of bullies for nearly all of his schooldays, he could tell when kids were up to no good.
Just then, a panting and dirty Jamie ran up to them. He had bruises on his elbows and a scratch down one shin. "Teddy! You have to help Sirius! Those big boys came over and stole our flying disc and when Sirius told them to give it back, they laughed and knocked him down. He tried to punch them and stuff, but they're too big to fight and now they're saying they're gonna throw Siri in the ocean!"
Teddy paled. "Jamie, run and get Dad or Uncle Harry."
Jamie turned and ran down the beach.
Teddy and Severus approached the knot of boys, who were standing around gloating and sneering at Sirius, in the middle of the circle. Sirius was lying on the ground, sandy and bruised, with blood trickling from a cut lip. It was plain he was scared and had been crying.
Teddy's fists clenched and he growled. His hair turned from brown to a shocking red color.
Severus grabbed his arm. "What are you doing? You can't just try and attack them. They'll pound you into the ground."
"I have to do something!" Teddy cried. "I can't just let them hurt my brother."
"Wait a minute. Let me think," Severus said, staring at the battered Sirius.
There had been many a time when Severus had wished Sirius had a taste of his own medicine. Had wished for the other boy to feel the pain and humiliation he had put Severus through. Even now, he still felt a grim measure of satisfaction, but that feeling was soon eclipsed by something else . . . empathy. Severus could remember all too well being tormented by the Marauders, who usually never fought fair, and always jumped him three on one. He knew how it felt to be at another's mercy and be helpless to do anything to change it.
One of the bullies laughed and held out a blue Frisbee to Sirius, then pulled it back when he reached for it. "You want this, crybaby? Come and get it. Or are you too afraid, you itty bitty mama's boy?"
"Give that back! It's mine!"
"I found it lying on the sand. Finders keepers, losers weepers," sneered the blond boy.
"No! It's mine!" Sirius yelled, stamping his foot on the ground. He ran at the older boy, trying to grab the blue disc, crying and hitting the bigger boy. "Give it back!"
"Why don't you cry about it?" mocked another boy. He shoved Sirius and knocked him sprawling. The others hooted and laughed.
Severus felt his gut clench. He didn't know what to do, keep watching Sirius get pounded or try and do something about it. What can you do, anyway? You're only five, they'd pulverize you, Snape. It'd be different if you were your old self again. Then you could put the fear of God into those bullies.
His hand closed upon the necklace of disguise he still had beneath his shirt. He recalled Miranda's words about using the necklace. He clasped it tightly and concentrated. An instant later he felt the familiar tingle of an active spell flow over him and knew it had worked.
He stalked forward and growled in his silky sharp voice that always promised detention for a wrong doer, "Just what in Merlin's name is going on here, gentlemen? Can't find any other way to amuse yourself except by picking on someone smaller than you?"
The boys turned abruptly and paled when they saw who was standing behind them.
"We were only having a bit of sport, we was."
"Yeah, sir, the kid wanted to play with us."
"No, I didn't!" Sirius screamed, tears flowing freely down his face. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. He didn't know what to say or how to react.
For the tall intimidating presence of a grown Severus Snape stood behind them, scowl, greasy hair, sarcastic tongue and all.
"I'd say, by the looks of things, that you are lying. No child calls being humiliated a game. Leave the boy alone, you nasty little brats. Before I make you regret your mothers ever brought you into this world," the stranger said menacingly. And such was the look in his eyes and the sheer presence he projected, that all the boys cringed and backed away from the tall wizard in the billowing black cloak. "Go!" he snarled, and the boys scattered.
Sirius climbed slowly to his feet. "S-Severus? Is that . . . really you?"
"Of course, Black." Severus snorted.
"How did you . . . get your old body back?"
"I didn't, you dunderhead. This is a disguise."
"A disguise? You're pretending to be yourself?"
"Shut up, Sirius! The least you could do was say thank you, or did you get all the manners knocked out of your head?"
"Errr . . .thanks, Sn—er . . . Severus." Sirius stammered. "But why would you help me?"
"Because no one should have to go through that . . . not even you." Severus said sincerely.
Sirius was dumbfounded. That had been the last thing he expected Severus to say. He expected sarcasm and mockery from his former victim, not being rescued by him. When he had been getting hit and kicked and teased by those older boys, for the first time he learned what it was like to be at the mercy of those stronger and crueler than you, and he found that he totally loathed the fear, despair, pain, and humiliation he was feeling. Was this how Snape had felt all those years ago?
In that moment, Sirius had a revelation. All those years ago, when he had been a Marauder, he had convinced himself that Severus Snape was a greasy no-good kid destined to go dark and that he deserved whatever malicious prank or hex the Marauders decided to throw at him. From pink soap bubbles to stripping him of his dignity in front of half the school, nothing was too much for the rotten Slytherin. Or so he had justified himself.
Until now, when the so-called evil one had come and rescued him . . . without any prompting whatsoever. And for the first time ever, Sirius felt shame and disgust at the way he had pranked and tormented Severus.
He started to sniffle. "I . . . I never knew . . . how it felt to be picked on . . .It was really scary . . ."
"What, you didn't find it funny?" Severus asked, a hint of the old sarcasm back in his tone. He had released the disguise spell by then and was back to appearing like the five-year-old he now was.
Sirius shook his head. "No . . . and I . . . I'm sorry for what I did before . . .I really am . . ."
Severus blinked, and gazed into his former rival's eyes. In them he saw, for the first time ever, honest remorse and regret, without a trace of condescension or smugness. "Good. Better late then never."
Sirius scrubbed at his face with the back of his hand. Then he slowly extended a hand. "Truce, Severus?"
Severus hesitated, then slowly took the outstretched hand. "Truce, Sirius. Now don't forget it."
"I won't. And . . . if I do, you have my permission to kick my ass good and hard until I remember."
Severus smiled slightly. "Don't think I won't." He gently withdrew his hand. "Come on, mutt. Let's get back to where Lupin and Harry are, before they have a conniption."
"I hear you, dungeon bat," Sirius replied, only this time the nickname was more playful than derogatory.
Teddy came up to them, his eyes shining. "Severus, how'd you do that? Make those kids just back off?"
"Illusion charm," Severus said modestly.
"Wicked!" Teddy said. He looked at his brother. "Siri, you all right?"
"Yeah. I'll live."
Quietly the three boys walked side by side, meeting up with a worried and angry Remus and Harry halfway back to the blanket. When Remus asked Sirius what had happened, he answered, "Some big bullies were pounding on me, and Severus saved me from them."
"He did?" Remus looked totally shocked. "That was . . . mighty nice of you, Severus."
"No. It wasn't nice," the smaller boy shook his head. "It was right." Then he held up his arms for Harry to carry him. "Harry, I'm a little tired and hungry. Are there any sausages and S'mores left?"
"Sure there are, Sev." Harry said, smiling. He lifted the little boy into his arms and began to walk back towards the bonfire. He understood what Severus had meant. "I'm proud of you, Sev. I know how hard that must have been."
Severus nodded. He hadn't realized just how hard until he'd done it. "Yes, but . . . I'm tired of holding a grudge. The past is written on sand, let it be washed away. We won't ever be best friends, but we won't be at each other's throats all the time either."
"That's all any of us can ask," Harry said sincerely.
He arrived at the bonfire, and picked up a skewer of sausage and a skewer with a S'more on it and used his magic to roast them to perfection, holding them in the flames with a softly spoken charm. Once they were done, Severus happily bit into one, savoring the crispy and juicy texture of the sausage, and the creamy rich delicious taste of the S'more. He finished off his portion then asked Harry for more. Harry toasted more, and then carried the skewers and Severus back to the blanket, where Severus ate them sitting in Harry's lap. He sucked melted marshmallow off his fingers while leaning against Harry's chest, listening to Alby and Jamie talking and the soft hush and hiss of the waves. It was the perfect end to an almost perfect vacation.
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