Fic: Coming Home - for torina_archelda Title: Coming Home Author: The Grinch that Didn't Steal Christmas Giftee:torina_archelda Word Count: ~20.900 Rating: PG Pairing: SS/HP, GW/DM Warnings: Post DH, EWE, Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. Summary: 2013: Severus Snape gets a job offer he cannot resist. For once Ginny gets what she wants. And Harry gets what he needs. Win-win for everyone. Author's Notes: Dear torina_archelda: This is the first time I’ve participated in an exchange fest, my first Snarry ever, and my first attempt at a romantic story ever. - So many firsts! I admit I would have never done it if I didn’t have to fulfill the requirements of the assignment — and I am so very glad because I learned so much!
Dear snarry_holidays mods: Thank you for organizing this fest, your support and your patience! Thank you so much to my betas l and uhm, l, for being fast, reliable and efficient! Danke schoen!
"The children need a capable tutor, someone who is not impressed with their background, and who doesn't coddle them. He needs a solid knowledge of Arithmancy, Transfigurations, Potions, and Defense Against Dark Arts. He also needs to be familiar with Muggles and if necessary be able to move around in Muggle environments. Of course you would start with the very basics. James and Sev ... Albus have been able to read and write for two years and are ready to start with some basic Herbology, maybe some history lessons — nothing too complicated — but Lils ... Lily is learning how to read now," Mrs. Ginevra Potter said with her back turned to Severus Snape, who was standing stiffly in the middle of the library.
She fell silent for a while staring out at the London rain.
"Is there more I need to know about this assignment, Mrs. ... Potter?" Severus inquired cautiously.
"You can call me Ms. Weasley," she corrected nervously.
Severus raised his eyebrow but didn't comment.
All he had seen of Potter's wife in the recent years were press photographs of her daring and risky manouvres on the broom while she was still signed with the Holyhead Harpies. He remembered a raucous, lanky tomboy with a guffawing laugh, her hand closed around the snitch, raised in a gesture of victory. In other pictures, a timid, shy girl was hiding behind the smiling Harry Potter, who seemed to clutch her hand as if to prevent her from running away.
The woman in front of him was dressed in an expensive designer suit, made from the finest wool, and her hair was forced into a chignon. Her young face was painted, and her lips were cherry red.
She turned around, unsmiling, her eyes scanning him.
"Well, in your position as our children's tutor, you would be more or less part of our household. You would live in this house and for that reason witness ... a lot of things happening here. This is why we would need your discretion.
I can't say I have too many pleasant memories of you as a teacher, but you never betrayed anybody's trust." She paused at that, and Severus raised his eyebrow.
"All in all, I cannot think of anyone better than you, Mr Snape," Ms. Weasley said. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and then unfolded them again and put them on her hips.
She is uncomfortable, Severus thought. Of course. She was dolled up and coiffed and painted, presumably to intimidate him — or somebody — but the tomboy inside her could not get comfortable in this get up. Even from where he was standing, he could see her shifting her weight, grimacing ever so slightly at her undoubtedly expensive and torturous high heels.
Not that it was necessary to impress him. His assets consisted of a little, rundown house in an unpopular area in Leeds and 1,254 Galleons, 44 Knuts, and some Sickles. He had taken to eating only half a slice of bread for breakfast (rather than one slice), and the soups he cooked for dinner were getting more watery every time - usually prepared with vegetables he found behind the local supermarket.
In the past years, he had taken frugality to an art form.
In his situation, as much as he loathed to admit it, he would take a job as Harry Potter's footstool if offered. The fact he was being asked by Ms. Weasley to take a position as a tutor was unexpected but far from unwelcome.
"Forgive me for being curious, Ms. Weasley," he said as silkily as someone could say with a stomach that hadn't seen food for two days. "Is there a reason why discretion is so important to you and Mr. Potter?"
She didn't even hesitate. "Mr. Potter and I separated three years after Lily's birth. It has been a difficult time for both of us, but now we are ... We learned to be friends, and we would like to do what's best for our children. The time before and after our separation has been hard on the children, and James’ and S ... Albus’ school grades have slipped.
"Harry and I both agree that at the moment it would be unwise to inform the press of the details of our private lives. It would involve many people around us and upset any balance that we managed to achieve in the past few years."
Severus wondered if she had rehearsed that little speech or if she had given it so often that she barely took care about her intonation. He tilted his head and studied her features. Or maybe she was being forced to reiterate something she didn't really agree with.
"About the pay: We offer 550 Galleons a week and three meals a day. We would have to ask you to move into our household. That however means that you would be spending time at Godric’s Hollow and ... Draco's apartment."
Severus raised his eyebrow once more. If he kept that up, he would have a muscle ache in his forehead by tonight. Ms. Weasley blushed underneath her thick makeup.
"Mr. Malfoy and I are close," Ms. Weasley said hesitantly, holding her breath. She obviously expected a barrage of questions, but Severus only nodded.
"I couldn't have guessed," he said with a sniff.
We are only standing in his sodding library.
Visibly relieved, she went on: "Mostly the children spend their time at Godric’s Hollow with Harry. It's the house they grew up in, and they feel comfortable there. And Harry has more time, and I am quite busy. On some weekends though, you'd have to Apparate to London to bring the children to us, if Harry doesn't have time to do it. And sometimes you’d have to Portkey to Malfoy Manor or Paris — Draco's parents live there now."
Severus nodded, taking in the information. For the money offered he couldn't have cared less if he had to Apparate every day between Ghana and Greenland, but he was careful not to let his bored expression slip away. When it came to extracting information, he had found that the pretense of indifference could be as powerful as Veritaserum. And Ms. Weasley didn't disappoint him. Unsettled by his silence, she ploughed on, needing to fill the quiet with the sound of her voice.
"Harry has not been informed about my choice yet, but he did give me the right to decide upon the tutor for our children. We rarely disagree on these matters, and he is far too busy than to look for one himself. And as I told you before — I cannot think of anyone more capable than you."
Severus almost smirked at that, but he remembered at the last moment to not betray any emotions.
"Let me sum this up, Ms. Weasley. You believe that a former Death Eater known for his entanglement with the Dark Arts, a follower of the very same Dark Lord who attempted to kill your husband on numerous occasions, and the murderer of Albus Dumbledore, the esteemed late Headmaster of Hogwarts, is the best choice you can come up with for tutoring your children."
Ms. Weasley chewed her bottom lip and looked up at him. "I couldn't have said it better myself," she said brightly. "So, what do you say?"
Severus stretched out his hand, and she took it without hesitation.
"Then I say that you have found your man."
Despite Ms. Weasley's assurances that their home was not the same that had been Lily's and James', Severus felt anticipation and a certain amount of dread. He had been there only once, in the late autumn of the fateful year 1981: After staring for hours at the still-smoking ruins of the house, he had Apparated back to Spinner’s End and then to the deserted play ground where he had first met her.
Harry Potter's house was on the southeastern edge of the village overlooking the moor on one side and faced two smaller brick houses on the other. From his house, it was a mere ten minute walk to the ruins of the former Potter house, now a war memorial.
Before he knocked, he looked up the house and studied it a little. Not much could be said for Harry Potter’s architectural taste: The building was modest and sturdy, and it had a warm, welcoming air to it, but was not fashionable. One of the windows opened a little, and he could see a small face peeking out briefly.
He stepped closer and knocked on the door.
After a while Potter himself opened the door, wearing a badly stained blue pullover and jeans. He looked as if someone had hit him with a paint gun. Potter was barefoot and disheveled — looking not much different than a few years ago. His wide grin disappeared at the sight of Severus Snape.
"Er ...." he said and then said nothing, just gaped at him, like a fish.
Severus restrained himself from saying something.
"Good morning to you, too, Mr. Potter," said Severus through gritted teeth. He was astonished at how strangely comforting it felt to speak this name again.
"Snape?" Potter bleated again.
Severus did not roll his eyes. Instead he took a deep breath: "Yes, that is my name, Mr. Potter."
"If this is a bad time, Mr. Potter," and he let his eyes deliberately wander over Potter’s stained pullover and his wrinkled jeans, "I apologize. Ms. Weasley arranged my visit but couldn't make it herself."
After a bit of evidently hard thinking, Potter eventually opened the door and invited him in. Severus ignored the hesitation in Potter's eyes and sailed past him in the only set of teacher’s robes he possessed.
The robes had seen better days, and the deep black had faded, but they still could intimidate the hell out of people. He had spent the whole evening applying cleaning and mending charms on them, and for someone with Potter's abysmal eyesight, they sure looked like new.
As soon as he stepped into the hallway, he could hear children's voices from upstairs. He wrinkled his nose.
Potter ushered him into the living room. There were two sofas and several armchairs in the rather large room, but all of them were buried under heaps of Quidditch gear, clothing, magazines, and children's toys. Dirty plates and glasses were everywhere, and piles of clothes were under the dining table.
Potter moved to the chair to manually free some space, and this time Severus did roll his eyes. He flipped out his wand and then levitated the pile on it to another chair and stuck it on with a simple sticking charm. With a frown on his face, he stalked past Potter and sat down.
"Excuse me, sir, I don't mean to be impolite ... but why are you here?" asked Potter finally. " And what do you mean by Ginny arranged it?"
So he had no clue whatsoever. He enjoyed this more than he had the right to.
"I am here as Ms. Ginevra Weasley's employee," he said. "I am the new tutor of James Sirius, Albus Severus, and Lily Luna Potter."
"It's Mrs. Potter." Potter corrected with a flush on his cheeks, and then he said nothing for a long while. Absently he scratched the back of his head.
"Right," he murmured to himself and then turned to Severus who sat patiently in his armchair.
"If you would excuse me for a moment, sir?" he said respectfully. Severus nodded, and Potter turned on his heels and marched into the other room. With an almost invisible flick of his wand Severus immediately undid the silencing charm Potter threw before he left and applied a cushioning charm on the door frame that prevented the door from closing.
He could hear Potter activating the Floo.
"Harry?" said a female voice that Severus easily recognized as Ms. Weasley’s ... Mrs. Potter's voice.
"Severus Snape is sitting in my living room," Potter said icily, his voice trembling with fury. "Care to explain?"
"He is the new tutor, Harry," she said hesitantly. "He knows all the important subjects and is an, um, experienced teacher."
"An experienced teacher?" The angry tremble in Potter’s voice grew even stronger. Although he could not see it, he could vividly imagine how Ms. Weasley's head shrank back.
"Well, you did make it to the NEWTS." she said, clearly not sure if this was the best moment to mention it. (It was not, Severus knew.) "And you named our son after him."
"I know our son's name perfectly well, thank you, my dear," Potter hissed like Nagini. Severus was slightly impressed by his intimidation skills. He hadn't known that Potter had it in him. "But how can you send this man into my home without even notifying me? You know our history. We never managed to be even civil to each other and ... "
"Because you would have said no."
Even Severus knew that this was the worst possible answer.
"OF COURSE I would have said no! This man is a menace! There is no way I am going to expose my children to his horrible teaching methods!" Potter yelled.
"You’re just cross with him because you found out that he is alive after ... after two or three years. Well, ok, maybe four." Mrs. Potter said in a small voice. "Or five."
Deadly silence fell. Again, Severus thought, almost feeling sorry for her, that was probably the last thing she should have brought up in this conversation.
"He made everyone believe he was dead. For almost nine years I fought with ... with survivor guilt ... and regrets and ... when he was found, he didn't even say he was sorry." Potter’s voice was now dangerously low. "Yes, I think that would make me a little cross.
"He needn't apologize. He saved your life. More than once," Ms. Weasley reminded him. "Please, Harry! If after a week you think he is a waste of time, I'll be rid of him and hire another tutor."
Potter hesitated. Severus held his breath.
"You said yourself that Severus Snape didn't deserve his fate," Mrs. Potter said softly. "At Dumbledore's memorial, remember? You said he deserved a hero's welcome and an Order of Merlin. They blamed him anyway, and you said ..."
"I am not senile, Ginny. I know what I said."
Silence fell again.
Then Potter said: "Alright. One week. And if he's a shite teacher, which he will be, YOU will take care of him, alright?"
"Yes, Harry, of course," said Ms. Weasley. "Thank you."
They moved on to other topics, and Severus closed the door softly. When he looked up, he saw a little boy standing at the door, watching him curiously. He was brown haired and had strong eyebrows and a firm jaw. Severus did not move a muscle in his face. Instead he took a magazine from the table (Quidditch of course) and started flipping through it. After a while he heard the child coming closer.
"Do you like Quidditch?" the boy finally asked.
Severus did not look up yet. "Not very much," he admitted.
"Why are you reading a Quidditch magazine then?"
"Because I like reading," Severus replied.
"That's stupid," the boy said.
"That was a very impolite remark," Severus said.
"I don't care," said the boy sulkily, but Severus didn't say anything more.
"So, what do you like to read?" the boy asked after a while.
Severus turned a leaf and didn't answer immediately. When he did, he finally looked into the startled boy’s eyes. "We can continue our conversation when you apologize," he said. "I did not come here to be insulted."
The boy glanced nervously around as if there was an audience. With red cheeks he finally said, "I am sorry."
"Very well," Severus said, giving the boy the barest hint of a smile. He put the Quidditch magazine back on the table.
"I prefer books."
"What books do you like? I have some. Do you want to see my books?" the boy said excitedly.
"I would like to see them later, if your father allows it," Severus said.
"He will, he will, he will." the boy chanted, suddenly brimming with energy. He smiled brightly at Severus.
"Tell me about your books then. What is your favorite book?"
"It's a big book with many, many pages. There are drawings of every animal you can think of and magical creatures, even werewolves. Do you want to see it?"
Severus nodded. The boy turned and ran out of the room to get the book.
The door to the other room opened, and Potter came in.
He had his hands in his pockets now, his shoulders were squared, and there was a hostile gleam in his eyes. Then he breathed in and the hostility was replaced by a bland politeness.
"Apologies for letting you wait," Potter said. "I was a bit surprised about my wife's decision — and about her not informing me about her decision. I hope you can understand why."
Severus inclined his head. "No apologies needed, Mr. Potter."
"Would you like some tea? Did you have breakfast?"
Severus hoped his stomach would not growl and tensed a bit.
"I am quite hungry. If you don't mind, would you come with me to the kitchen so we can discuss the details of your position while I am preparing breakfast, sir?" Potter said and was already almost halfway out of the living room.
Severus followed Potter through a short, dark hallway into the kitchen. Briefly he looked at Potter’s narrow hips, the shoulder blades that were visible underneath the pullover, and the bare neck. Potter wore his hair clipped short, lately a fashion in the wizarding world, especially since the downfall of Voldemort. Very likely Potter’s hairstyle had generated the trend. Long hair, the way Malfoy sported it, was decidedly a fashion faux pas these days, since it reminded many of the pure-blood supremacy that had brought Voldemort forth.
It suited him. Severus rolled his eyes at himself. Was he really contemplating Potter's hair? Even after the insulting things Potter had said about him to his wife?
The kitchen was, if possible, even messier. There were toys and picture books and plates with dried food on them and even knitting yarn (knitting yarn?) in a basket sitting on the kitchen counter. Again, Potter did everything manually. He opened the cupboards, cleaned trays and plates and glasses with a sponge, rinsed them, and cooked bacon and eggs.
This time Severus didn't interfere. When Potter saw his look he said, "I don't like to use too much magic in front of the children. They are not allowed to use it yet, and if I were to solve everything with magic, they would soon feel tempted to do so as well. Milly, our house elf, uses magic though, she's coming by once or twice a week."
That Severus could understand. Obviously, Potter’s offspring was hardly likely to be reprimanded for the use of magic, but it could not be bad to teach children early not to rely too much on magic and to obey rules.
That they employed a house elf that only came by once or twice a week was beyond Severus understanding but he figured it had something to do with Hermione Weasley's S.P.E.W. efforts.
Wordlessly — and manually — Severus made some space on the counter so Potter could put down the plates that spilled over with toast, beans, bacon, and cheese. Severus’ nostrils flared. It had been such a long time since he had eaten properly. In the back of his mind, he was actually a bit apprehensive. It was entirely possible that he would be unable to hold the food after the limited diet of the past months.
His stomach made an undignified growl, but Potter didn't seem to have heard him.
"So," he asked with his mouth full, "What did Ginny tell you about the position?"
"Mrs. Potter told me that you are looking for someone who can eventually teach Transfiguration, Arithmancy, Potions, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts but can also cover some Muggle subjects like English literature, mathematics, chemistry, and physics." Severus ate slowly and methodically with the precision of a surgeon.
Potter nodded, chewing and swallowing. "Yes, that's right. For now, the kids are still so young. But in a few years, they'll need all of that. I know that you can teach every subject that is covered at Hogwarts — like Divination." Severus grimaced, and Potter smiled. "I am sure you know a lot about Muggle subjects, but can you also move in Muggle environment without causing suspicion?" He had the nerve to glance at his robes. "You don't have to do it often, but it might happen once or twice a month."
"I grew up in a Muggle place. I thought you remembered that," said Severus.
"Are you still living there?" Potter asked.
"I have a house there."
"It would be ideal if you could move here. At least there will be a room for you here."
"I will consider that."
Severus finished the food and kept himself from darting a longing look at the oven where he could see some more of the bacon and the eggs in a pan.
Potter got up and shoved the rest of the food onto their plates. "I hope you don't mind some more. I made too much, and I hate to waste it."
Then he got orange juice from the fridge and filled two tall glasses. Severus had never liked sweet juices, but after an eternity of bland, metallic tap water, the juice tasted like heaven. Again he took care not to empty the whole glass in one go. Potter showed no restraint and drank his juice in large gulps like a child. For an instant Severus looked at the throat and the moving Adam’s apple. Through the thin skin, he could see a vein meandering down his throat. Then Potter put the glass down and wiped his moist lips carelessly with the back of his hand.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
Severus realized, he was still staring.
"I was wondering why you would employ a tutor for your children," Severus asked.
Potter nodded solemnly and leaned back, studying Severus.
"Ginny and I are unfortunately busy with our jobs. I plan to retire after the next season and look for a job that is more ... family friendly," he said.
After another glance at Severus he continued: "When I arrived at Hogwarts I knew nothing about the Wizarding world. I would like my children to not suffer this disadvantage. Some students — even some teachers — might harass or bully them because of their ignorance."
Severus sneered but wisely held his tongue. Of course Potter would bring that up.
"I would like to employ you for one week before I make a decision. I want to be entirely honest with you. Personally, I would not have chosen you as a teacher. You are a war hero and an excellent Potions master but, sorry, not a very good teacher. Ginny asked me to give it a try."
Before he could say anything else, he was cut off by the sound of children’s voices and steps on the stairway. Soon the boy Severus had talked to before appeared in the kitchen door, not shy at all anymore. He was holding a large, yellow book. He was followed by two smaller children, one between eight and nine, the other maybe six or seven. Although the smallest child had also short hair and looked like a boy, Severus knew instantly that this one had to be Lily Luna. While James approached Severus and Albus followed hesitantly, Lily stayed at the door frame. Her amber eyes held a cool, measuring expression.
"James," said Potter and pulled him in front of Severus. "This is your new tutor, Professor Severus Snape. Mr. Snape, this is my eldest son, James Sirius." He glanced cautiously at Severus expression.
"We met before," he merely said and offered his hand. James shook it with enthusiasm. Then Potter introduced Albus Severus. One could tell that Albus Severus was more cautious and serious than his older brother. His smile was less toothy and there was a shyness to it that James guffaw lacked.
"You are a Severus, like me," he said, his voice quieter than James.
"It's a special name," Albus stated. "Dad always says so."
Severus couldn't explain why his heart seemed to skip. Maybe he shouldn't have eaten so much. Quickly he looked at Potter, whose cheeks were red again. This man had really astonishingly little control over his emotions. Were he not taught to scoff at this kind of weakness, he could have found that endearing.
When it was Lily's turn, she refused to come closer. When Severus actually got up to go to her, she shook her head in a defiant gesture and ran up the stairs again.
"Lily! Come down! This instant!" Potter yelled. He turned to Severus embarrassed. "I ... am sorry. She’s had a hard time recently."
Severus inclined his head. "No apologies needed. She misses her mother, I suppose." He noticed that Potter stiffened at his words but said nothing. Albus looked up at them with a raised eyebrow.
Severus took his seat at the kitchen counter, and Potter followed him, still frowning.
James, oblivious to that whole ruckus, climbed on Severus’ knees. "Here is the book!"
"James!" Potter admonished him, but James had opened his book already and showed him the illustration of a griffin.
Severus pointed at the caption underneath the picture, "grȳphus" and "γρύψ" it said.
"I can't spell that."
"The first word is the Latin name for Griffin. The second word is the Greek word — gryps. "Greif" is the German name for ’Griffin,’" Severus said. "So where can I find a Griffin?"
"Uncle Charlie says he saw one once in Turkmenistan."
"Very good!" said Severus and gave James a hint of a smile.
Potter stood beside them with his mouth open.
"You certainly never ever praised anyone when you were teaching at Hogwarts," he said.
"You certainly never ever gave me reason to do so," Severus gave back.
Upon seeing Snape at his threshold, Harry's first urge was to slam the door shut. Before Snape had even opened his mouth, it was too evident that he was still the arrogant, proud, sneering bully he had always been. But within moments Harry also saw the thin, almost emaciated frame and the dark rings under Snape's eyes. Oh, and those shabby, worn out robes that must have been vintage even before Harry was born.
And then a moment passed and then another, and after that Harry just couldn't close the door.
It felt good to vent his anger at Ginny (and if he was honest with himself, he didn't really need a reason to do so). These days, he was constantly angry at her, and she knew she deserved it. But afterwards, he felt low for doing so.
Ginny was right.
Snape didn't owe him. And he couldn't really hold against Snape that he hadn't had the decency to die. It would be convenient for everybody else, except for Snape, of course, if he were dead, since it would spare the rest of the Wizarding world the trouble of dealing with the moral dilemma that Severus Snape still posed — especially given the outcome of the trial, which had been less than positive for Snape. He couldn't really blame him for staying undercover so long.
Of course Snape also still possessed the power to drive him insane. His polite demeanor did not fool Harry. He knew that underneath his calm attitude Snape was sneering at him and rolling his eyes and probably thinking what a dimwit he was.
But ... but he looked so hungry, and there was a silent despair in those black eyes, he had never seen before on him, not even when he was almost bleeding to death in the Shrieking Shack.
He thought of offering him food — Snape looked like a hungry alley cat — but he knew he would decline out of pride. So he simply pretended to be hungry himself, although he had actually eaten half an hour ago.
Snape's thin hands trembled with forced restraint while he was cutting his sausages using prim, neat movements like a maiden gouvernante. Harry suppressed a chuckle at this thought (Snape in Augusta Longbottom’s clothes came immediately into his mind), but he felt also a twinge of pity.
While Harry was observing Snape under lowered lashes it occurred to him that he looked like a particularly ugly stray cat ... and that Harry always had had a weakness for them. The pretty little ones, the cute kittens, would always find someone to take care of them. His heart went out to the old, scarred tomcats with the knotted fur and missing ears or knobby tails, the ones no one else would take in.
Maybe Snape wasn't so bad after all. Maybe even he could be domesticated.
While James and Sev (They rarely called him Albus, since the boy himself preferred to be called Severus) seemed to accept Snape without hesitation, Lils was a different matter. Harry could tell from the expression on her face that it would take some time.
She had taken Ginny's departure the hardest. Harry hated to admit it, but sometimes he took solace in her attitude. James and Sev had taken the separation in stride, and both were diplomatic and grown up about the matter. The only way to tell that they were affected by Ginny's departure was that James got slightly more hyperactive and restless and Sev quieter and even more reserved. But they never took a side, and they behaved pleasantly towards Ginny and Draco Malfoy, something that secretly chagrined him to no end. Only his Lils had chosen his side and showed the anger and frustration he felt too, and sometimes Harry found he needed this: someone who only loved him and who felt like he felt and chose side.
Of course he never encouraged her to say something bad against Ginny, but he also never actively defended her. She was still Lils’ mother, but why should Harry make excuses for her behaviour — after all, he was the one who had to carry the brunt of the separation. What mother deserted her own 3-year-old daughter? (Given Ginny's parenting skills it was the right thing to do though.)
Lils probably viewed Snape as an intruder. And Snape's arrival probably drove the point home that Ginny would not return.
Snape was remarkably calm about the situation. He did insist that she take part in the lessons he had outlined. He taught them from 8 a.m. to noon, and then from 1 to 3:30 p.m. While the morning lessons took place in Harry's former study with all three of them participating, the afternoon lessons very often took place outside, and he often taught them separately.
Lils kept her sulky attitude; so when it was her turn to accompany him for two hours, Snape asked Harry to come with them. It turned out to be a good move since Lils at least didn't refuse to talk to him, and Harry's presence calmed her. Harry was mildly impressed with Snape's teaching methods, but his initial irritation grew. Snape had been such a nasty, bullying teacher at Hogwarts, and now it turned out that he was actually capable of being decent and fair and ... effective. And that infuriated Harry more than anything else.
"It must have been hard to act as Dumbledore’s spy all those years," Harry once remarked casually on the fourth evening.
Snape looked up from the homework he was grading.
"I mean, you had to pretend to hate everyone to deceive Voldemort," Harry said. "You had to pretend to be a bad teacher although you are ..."
"Oh!" said Snape, and he smiled evilly. "I didn't pretend. I never could stand the sight of you."
Harry retreated to his room, suddenly furious. These days, Harry had no problem keeping his temper in check, but Snape managed to infuriate him with ease. It wasn’t what he said - the words were not that original after all: It was how he said them and his disdainful smirk, the malicious gleam in his eyes, the way he always crossed his arms in front of his chest when he faced Harry.
The next day he woke up to laughter ... and singing. He remained in bed for a minute, frozen. But it was true. The children were singing. Was Ginny home? In earlier, happier times Ginny sang with the kids while burning their toast to coal. Disbelieving, he wandered downstairs and found all three of them in the kitchen singing a children's song he didn't know. Snape was preparing eggs and bacon, toasting bread and boiling tea with short, economical movements of his wand.
Snape had taught them a children's song?
He couldn't believe it. Snape was making them tea and breakfast. What? Harry just stood there for a while. He was at a complete loss of words, so he turned and went upstairs again.
At lunch Harry asked Severus about the singing. He shrugged. (Harry was fairly sure that Snape had never, ever shrugged while at Hogwarts.)
"Music education develops the left side of the brain. Individuals who receive music education have a better command of language, and it evidently improves spatial intelligence," he said.
"Wow," Harry said, not to his remark but about the fact that Snape knew all these Muggle-related things. He refrained from asking what spatial intelligence was, resolved to look it up later when Snape was gone for his afternoon walk.
"Well, you, for instance, are a perfect example of how the lack of music education limited your ..."
"One more word and I will punch you," said Harry.
Snape raised his eyebrow, and Harry said, "That's how people with poor communication skills react — with physical violence."
Snape smirked, but didn't say anything.
Before the week was over, Snape had already become a fixture in the household. He got up early and cooked breakfast, and he often taught the children cooking while doing so. During breakfast Snape was quiet, but he encouraged the children to talk.
Harry, who got up at 8 a.m., often found breakfast prepared for him. Harry protested in the beginning, but Snape pointed out that he made breakfast for the children anyway, and very soon Harry just got used to the convenience of hot tea and a warm breakfast.
He taught them history — a dreaded subject in Hogwarts — but interwove Muggle and Wizarding history so cleverly that even Harry was fascinated. He taught them the very basics of Arithmancy but also Muggle mathematics. He taught them names Harry had never heard of: Pythagoras, Euklid, Homer, and Plato.
At first Snape insisted that the children have their lunch separately, because he thought that it would do them good to spend time without him (and maybe because he also needed some time alone). But he soon found his wishes ignored, and the children had lunch with him.
When Harry was home for dinner, he cooked, and the children helped him. Lils insisted on being close to her father while Snape used the time to grade homework or take a nap or read the newspaper. On the evening of the second day, they already had dinner like a family. By the end of the week, it was established: Harry was on one end of the table, and Snape was seated at the other — Ginny's former place.
Snape wasn't the nicest person to deal with but he was a good teacher. What bewildered Harry most was how James and Sev (Snape of course always called "Sev" Albus) instantly took to him and adored him. James had always been an affectionate and open child, but Albus was usually hesitant and reserved. And although Lils still kept her distance, she never challenged him or questioned his authority. She was wary maybe, but not sulky or angry. In a way, Harry begrudged Snape his success with the children. He had not even tried ... much ... and his children were already completely enthralled with Snape. He didn't think it was fair.
On the other hand it, was a relief to sleep in, to be able to take his time in the bathroom, to not have to coordinate a thousand things before going to practice, to be constantly worried and calling home every break he got, to not have to rush home, ... to not always be so damn tired.
Snape proved to be far more useful than just a teacher.
Within two weeks, his life was the way it had been when Ginny had still lived here. No, he corrected himself, it was actually better. Ginny was a passionate, beautiful woman, a dedicated lover, and an excellent Quidditch player, but a practical person she was not. At times, Harry had joked it was a miracle that Ginny found the kitchen.
But he also could not help but further notice how after only a week Snape managed the household meticulously while planning and implementing custom-tailored lessons for the children. Ginny had been eternally distracted and had often forgotten the simplest things.
Harry smiled as he remembered the day she returned from the Burrow, only to realize fifteen minutes later that she had forgotten James. (And she only remembered because Harry asked where Jamie was.)
After only three weeks, Harry raised Snape's salary.
Harry's game, which had been unsteady for a while, picked up. He cancelled less often, turned up punctually, and was more pleasant to deal with. He managed to arrive in robes that were not sticky with honey or stained with porridge and focussed on his practice and his techniques instead of constantly glancing at the watch.
Once Ron came to pick him after training and they went to a pub for a beer together.
"You look good!" Ron said.
"Is it my soft, silky hair?" Harry joked.
"Seriously, Snape seems to do a good job."
Harry was not entirely sure what Ron meant with "a good job" especially when Ron winked at him (an annoying Weasley habit) but didn't say anything to that.
The first weekend the children spent away in London with Ginny and Draco, Harry noticed Snape being grumpier than usual and he realized he missed the children. He was strangely touched. Harry had thought that the only person Snape could ever care for was his mother. Yet Snape slinked through the house like a lost cat pretending to look for "things," dragging his robes sadly behind, a frown on his face.
Snape might say what he wanted ("It's a job and I usually strive for perfection, Mr. Potter.") - Harry knew his children had captured Snape's heart.
The months passed, and slowly Snape's presence at Godric’s Hollow became known to the press. Although the historical village was warded against reporters, rumors started to surface. The fact that Ginny Potter lived in London with Draco Malfoy was an open secret since last January, although the Potters still attended all public events together — at Harry's insistence. He never told anyone, but it was not only because he feared facing the press alone — Ginny and he had always been such a good team — but he secretly delighted in these public appearances with her more than ever since he knew it must drive the ferret crazy.
This time when he and Ginny made an appearance at the annual ball that was held in memory of the defeat of Voldemort, a cheeky reporter asked him if it was wise to leave his children alone with a Death Eater. Harry was so enraged he almost knocked the man down, and Ginny had to keep him back. In the end, the picture that made it to the front page of the Daily Prophet was of an angry, red-faced Harry Potter being restrained by his wife and the hapless reporter trying to protect himself with his briefcase.
As more reports and articles about Snape surfaced, more was also written about Ginny and Draco Malfoy. When photographs were taken of Ginny entering and leaving Malfoy Manor and Draco Malfoy’s apartments in Paris and in London, Harry nearly suffered a stroke.
One Monday morning, a picture of Draco cheering Ginny on during her last match in Italy was on the front page of the Daily Prophet.
Severus was teaching the children upstairs in their father’s study when he heard Ginny Weasley arrive. When Sev opened the door to run to his room to get his homework he could clearly hear the Potters’ angry voices.
It was not his business, but still — a simple silencing charm wouldn't be amiss — and he went down to remind them. The children didn't need to hear their disagreements. It wasn’t because he cared about the children, of course, but because having to listen to their parents arguing would undoubtedly upset their concentration.
"We had a deal, Ginny," he heard Potter snarl when he was at the stairs leading down to the living room. He heard a silent sound from behind and saw Sev standing hesitantly in the corridor, clutching a notebook in his hand. Severus made a move with his head towards the study, and Sev wordlessly slipped into the room. Severus closed the room with a wave of his wand and then proceeded further.
Of course he shouldn't listen to a private conversation, but this could be a good lesson for them to not forget their silencing charms in these kind of situations.
"The children are old enough to deal with this," he heard Ms. Weasley say. "And the press and public know anyway."
"I don't care about the public or the press," said Potter. "I care about Jamie, Sev, and Lils. They deserve to have a normal childhood as long as it's possible. They'll have to deal with the whole fame thing when they enter Hogwarts."
"Who are you kidding, Harry? They are confronted with your fame everywhere! Just look around."
When Severus took another step he could see that Ms. Weasley was sitting on the sofa — in her usual jeans and sweater — and Potter was standing. But the angle prevented him from seeing their faces. He could see though, even from this distance, that her socks were mismatched.
"I never said you can't date whoever you want as long as you're discreet, Ginny," Potter said. "But why does Malfoy want to marry you now?"
"If you assume that he proposed just to inconvenience you, you are wrong," Ms. Weasley said angrily. "Don't I deserve happiness?"
"No, I wasn't saying that," Potter backpedaled. "But now isn't a good time. Why can't you and Malfoy just keep dating?"
"You told me that you don't care about the public and the press," Ms. Weasley said, standing up. Severus automatically inched a few steps up. "The kids can deal with it. They know how much we love them, and they love us."
Two weeks later, Harry was sitting at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, hiding behind thick layers of protection charms and glamours while enjoying his favorite ice cream. He saw Snape standing outside a bookstore with the children. The children looked up at him, smiling, completely unfazed by his stern attitude. He handed them a pouch of money and sent them into the store. Then he looked around and when he had made sure nobody was near he craned his neck, glancing through the window.
Harry smiled. Snape was such the mother hen sometimes. They had discussed the shopping trip a week ago, and Harry had persuaded Snape to let the children make some purchases on their own. They would enjoy that, feeling grown up and all, but Snape was worried about hidden reporters and dishonest shopkeepers.
Another wizard passed Snape. When Snape turned around, the man pushed him hard against the glass and shoved him. Snape drew himself up to full height and glared at the other man, but he didn't draw his wand. Immediately Harry got up, his ice cream forgotten, unsure about what to do. He left the parlor, and then he could hear what was being said.
"Death Eater scum," the man said. Snape sneered at him, but he still did not defend himself.
Harry crossed the street and yanked the wizard's arm back. He waved his wand and removed the glamour.
"Harry Potter!" the man gasped.
"Is there a problem?" Harry growled.
"Well, this Death Eater ..." the man started.
"I didn't ask you, scum," Harry said. "Severus? Was this man harassing you?"
Snape didn't answer immediately. He was probably reeling from shock that someone had dared to use his given name.
"No," he said finally. "I think this man wanted to leave."
Harry shoved the wizard away. "Get lost. And if you dare to lay hand on my friend again, I'll ..."
"This is quite enough. Thank you very much, Mr. Potter," Snape interrupted him.
The wizard scrambled away.
"Fucking poofs," he yelled from a safe distance before he rounded the corner. The pop of Dissapparition could be heard.
"I am sorry for that," Harry said.
"No apologies needed," said Snape slowly.
"Why didn’t you defend yourself?" asked Potter later, when they were at home preparing dinner.
"With James, Sev ... Albus, and Lily in the store?" Severus asked incredulously. "They could have come out at any minute!"
Potter shrugged. He smelled of rosemary and thyme — a soothing paste Severus had quickly prepared for him some days ago when Potter had managed to be pushed off the broom during a practice.
"Does that happen a lot?" he asked.
"What do you think, Mr. Potter?"
Potter looked pensive. Guilt spread over his handsome features.
"I could have done more for you at your trial," he said.
"It's a little late for regrets, Mr. Potter," Severus said with less bitterness than he intended. "I was gone for a long time. You didn't even know I was alive."
"I was wondering though." Potter said. "You were gone, and I couldn't imagine who should have had the time to go down to take your body."
"It doesn't matter anymore." Severus didn't look up from cutting his herbs. Their scent soothed his nerves.
"But you know, I was a bit pissed off when you turned up again. I mean all this time I was beating myself up for so many things and you've been alive all along."
"Poor Potter." Severus said and sneered. "I am sorry you had to suffer so much because of my selfish behavior. How rude of me to survive. Dead heroes are so much more easier to worship."
Potter was silent for a while watching him work.
"I'm sorry." he said finally. "You deserve better than to have to teach the children of your nemesis."
"Don't flatter yourself, Potter." Severus surveyed the mess he had made of his herbs. Instead of finely chopped they were a pulp now. Sighing he grabbed another bunch.
"Nemesis, Potter." he nearly sighed. "Do you even know how to spell that word?"
Potter was standing beside him now, looking at the chopping board.
"Uh, what are you making? Is there a potion that calls for ... pureed sage?"
"Don't speak of things you don't know of." retorted Severus, even while becoming aware of how close Potter was standing to him.
Recently, it had become somewhat difficult to keep up his acidic tone and cutting remarks around Harry, no, Potter. Obviously, it did not help that the power balance had shifted, and he was now at Potter’s mercy rather than the other way round.
But most of the time he didn't even think about that — probably because he had always been at the mercy of someone else. His whole adult life, he had thought that he wanted to be free — to be no one's servant. Yet he had felt lost during the few years he had spent in exile, drifting from city to city, unable to find a place for himself. The vague longing inside him had never died, and he had realized with wonder and not a small amount of anguish that he missed having someone telling him what to do, or maybe just something to do, someone to save. Dumbledore, in his manipulative way, had used him — like he had used everybody else, Potter included — but he had also genuinely cared for him.
In Potter's household, he was needed from the first day. It was easy to see that Potter was struggling (and failing) as he tried to take care of three children and excel in his high-profile glamourous job as Quidditch player. He needed someone to help him. With the instinct of a Slytherin, Snape had immediately realized how he could make himself indispensable.
This wasn't about a position as a tutor. This was about grasping the last chance he might get in life. Employment in Harry Potter's household would force the Wizarding world to recognize him again, and the trust that Potter placed into him might help him regain some standing. Plus, he needed the money.
He remembered so many occasions in the past where Potter had challenged him and questioned his authority, but today Potter defended him without thinking twice.
He would be an idiot not to take advantage of that.
"About the poof thing," Potter said uncomfortably.
"I should have told you in the beginning," Severus said, refusing to blush. "About my orientation, I mean."
Potter exhaled and sat down slowly, not letting Severus out of his eyes. Something in the way he looked alarmed Severus. For all he knew, behind his Gryffindor attitude Potter could be a homophobic. He had always thought Potter would be liberal, but maybe he was wrong.
"You?" asked Potter."But what about my mother?" He shook his head. "Never mind."
Now Severus was decidedly uncomfortable. He could not lose this position — especially not under these circumstances.
Potter shook his head disbelievingly. Before Severus could say anything, he raised his hand.
"No, it's about me," he said. "The man ... he was talking about me."
He looked up, straight into Severus eyes, and something in his eyes made him clench the knife a bit harder.
"Well, it shouldn't be a surprise," Potter said. "You've heard the rumors."
Severus didn't want to confirm nor deny it. There were so many rumors concerning Potter. It was only a bit embarrassing that he seemed to know them all.
Well, even it was true ... it didn't matter a bit to him.