February passed quickly. Severus kept busy with potions, the Wizengamot, and Harry. The little boy thrived on the love he received from all of his family and friends. His vocabulary grew and his hunger for new experiences grew as well. Their friendship with the Weasley family puzzled Severus at times. He didn’t think they had all that much in common but for some reason, they just clicked into place. The kids joined the play group and lessons were being given in the forms of songs and games. The twins being two years older were a bit rambunctious but they looked after Harry like the little brother they no longer had. Percy spent his time reading everything he could get his hands on and helping out when it was snack and play time.
Aberforth had taken custody of Ron Dumbledore and Severus had secretly bought another house elf who had experience with children and gifted her to the older man. Abe, as he insisted they call him, had taken in the orphan, cleaned up the Hog’s Head and the apartment over the pub with the help of his inheriting what was left of the Dumbledore estate, and begun to cater to a more law-abiding crowd. With the help of Rosamerta, his fellow pub owner, he found kids from Hogsmeade who were willing to come over in the morning and play with the little boy, getting a hot meal in return from the older man.
While pleased that had worked out, Severus was working hard on understanding all the properties he and Harry had inherited. Which in turn reminded him of the conditions in Knockturn Alley, where so many of them could be found. He’d been an inhabitant himself while working towards his masters. Cheap living and eating, plus less pricy ingredients for his trials, had all led him to the Alley. The children who ran the area were sometimes homeless, sometimes runaways from even worse conditions, but mostly just poor kids in families who lived payday to payday on one income.
He was so lucky to have inherited so much that he just had to do something. Going to Gringotts one blustery day, he sat down with Brexit and Griphook to find out what he could do. They went over the addresses he owned through the Prince and Stewart estates. Severus didn’t want to take from Harry’s inheritance but he had them check to see if any of those addresses bordered on or were next to any of his.
They found six properties of his and fourteen of Harry’s. They were all up and down the Alley. 5 were residences and the others were businesses; some still running and some defunct. Severus wanted to have a school in place for the 5-10 year olds by the Fall so the older kids could start Hogwarts within another year. That was ambitious but he was determined. It would be a day school but breakfast and lunch would be served in case those might be their only meals of the day.
There was a series of six properties all running together on one side of the Alley about half way down. He and Griphook decided to take a walk and look at all the properties they were considering using. Severus also wanted to look at conditions to see about upgrading the properties. Some he had a vague memory of and one he’d lived in for two horrible months with no heat in a bitterly cold January and February.
That one was definitely getting fixed so some other poor student didn’t have to freeze so he could also eat. And how ironic was it, he’d been living in his own property and hadn’t known it.
They walked down Knockturn Alley, taking in the sights of shabby storefronts, poorly dressed people who eyed them with distrustful eyes, filth in the street, buckling pavements, but the worst were the children scampering alongside of them. They should have been in school. Albus had a lot to answer for. He’d abandoned these children to the streets and stolen the money which should have seen them going to Hogwarts on scholarships. That was going to change, starting today.
Number 24 was a Stewart property and it was the largest building currently available. The renter had died with Riddle’s shade and luckily, had been found within the week. There was nothing worse than getting the smell of death out of a property. Griphook used the key to open the front door. They waited a moment as the stale air rushed out. It had been a month since it had gone into stasis. March was a blustery cold that felt worse than a full-on blizzard. Severus was too young to feel the cold in his bones but he now had an appreciation for how the old must feel.
Venturing inside, Severus cast a spell which sent a large ball of light floating along beside them. Griphook began taking inventory of furniture and the condition of the structure. Some floor boards needed to be replaced. The windows all needed caulking to keep out the wind. There had been water damage at some point and the staining would need to be addressed. Also, the source of the leak, in case it hadn’t been fixed yet. The three story structure was investigated thoroughly, even the basement where the ward stone needed to be cleansed and reset.
Severus really didn’t want to know what rites might have been enacted here. He and Griphook conferred on the front stoop as to the next step.
“Ahem, you be going to rent this here store?” An older gentleman had sidled up to Severus.
“Mornings greetings, Sir. I own this building and several others along the Alley. I am going to be refurbishing all of them. Some will stay business, and some will become homes or flats. We’re also going to turn some of them into a school for the children.” Severus told him.
A look of surprise flashed across the wrinkled face. “A school? What fer we need one of them? We teach our young’uns in the family, the way they ought to be.”
“And who teaches the runaways and kinless children who live on the streets, surviving as best they can?” Severus asked.
The old man shrugged. “They takes cares of themselves or find someone who can.”
And that was exactly what Severus was afraid of. Thieves and pimps always needed fresh blood. He shivered. “Thank you for your opinion, Sir. But we must be moving on.” Sev managed a slight smile while turning and resetting the wards so Griphook could lock the door. They left the old man on the street while heading to their next address.
This one had a tenant already and when they knocked, a middle aged woman with graying hair answered the door with two little ones clutching her skirt. When she heard he was the owner, she began to wail seemingly in one breath. “Yer throwing us out. I just knew it. Raising the rent or throwing us onto the streets. I broke a cup this morning so the omens were right. Yer a hard-hearted man who’s throwing a poor widow woman an’ me six children out onto the cold, hard streets.”
Onlookers were gathering, some muttering, and frowning.
Severus could see this going badly so he cast Sonorus on his voice and broke into her wails. “Madame, we are not raising the rent and we are not throwing you out. We are just here to inspect the property and see to making improvements or repairs. Thank you for your time and attention.”
When she heard that, she quit shrieking, dried her tears, and beckoned them into the narrow row house. She had a list of repairs for all three floors and Griphook took notes while she led them up to the small attic and back down to the basement. Severus talked to her about her children. She really did have six, ranging in age from 4 to 16.
When she heard about the school, she thought that was all well and good but if they were in school, who would do the chores and look after the babies? Severus thought she could always lend a hand but did think of a nursery for the street, run by house elves so the ladies of the househlds could do their marketing and household chores.
They managed to get away from her but found they now had followers who trailed along behind them, watching avidly which places they entered. The next grouping were the six properties that sat side by side. Four were in good condition, one needed some structural work, but the last one just needed to be demolished. Luckily, it only shared one wall with the one that needed repairs. The other side wall was on a tiny lane which led to an even seedier, narrow road.
Griphook sketched the front and back of the properties. Severus had a good feeling about these buildings. He thought their placement in the center of the Alley would be handy for all the families he hoped to entice into the school. He needed to talk to Minerva about how to go setting up a school. And get her approval to start sending these kids to Hogwarts next year. It would be tight, but he just knew some of these kids were bright enough to make it. And he would make sure they had the clothing and supplies to fit in.
Severus left the floo with Harry in his arms. Minerva was still in the new office and was currently dictating a letter to the Board to her personal assistant, Natalia Parkinson. She was the widow of Cuthbert Parkinson who hadn’t gotten his Dark Mark removed before Riddle finally died for good. Her daughter, Pansy was now a member of Harry’s play group.
Waving at her two favorite men, Minerva finished up before standing and taking Harry into a hug. Severus exchanged greetings with Natalia who had gotten up to go to her own desk in the left of the room. She was right by Salazar’s portrait and since she’d been a Slytherin, she felt at home there.
Hogwarts chimed in with her own warm hug and Fawkes flew over to land on Severus’ arm, trilling a greeting and inviting a scratching of his brightly colored head. Both greetings made him smile broadly and Minerva moved closer so Harry could give Fawkes a scratch, too.
“Your letter was very cryptic, Severus. How can I help you today? Let’s head to lunch.” Minerva still held Harry who was busy waving to all the portraits he could see. They all waved back as the trio left the office.
“I need information about setting up a school. I thought I’d get the Founders input and yours about a school in or near Knockturn Alley. Those kids are forgotten by most and some of them could go to Hogwarts if they just had the basics taught to them and scholarships available.” He finished passionately.
“I’ve long agreed with that sentiment.” She sighed and hugged Harry close. “It’s why it made it so maddening to find Albus had hexed the Book of Names to ignore those he didn’t deem ‘worthy’.” Severus could hear the air quotes around the word. “In August, he’d give me the envelopes it generated so I could get them sent out and arrange visits with the muggleborn. He’d winnow out those who he didn’t want. I think there were a lot of names he didn’t pass on to me. But Elder Mellic fixed it so now we have everyone’s name who could go to school here. I’m sure some of them are currently in Knockturn Alley.”
The hallways teemed with students and the occasional teacher as they made their way to the Great Hall. Some of them recognized the Potion Master but all of them knew Harry. His little hand was in constant motion, waving to all of them. Severus snickered to himself and decided to teach him the ‘Monarch Wave’ he’d seen Queen Elizabeth the II do. It would be easier on his little wrist.
The head table was much longer now with all of the professors and assistants. The Heads of House all looked happier and more rested with some of their workload spread out to others. The next school year would see that spreading out even farther as new classes were added and more students arrived. It was going to be glorious, Severus thought as he sat down at his place to the right of Minerva with Harry in a high chair between them. Their chairs always appeared whenever Hogwarts knew they were coming. The others moved down gladly because everyone was happier when Harry came to visit. He was such a joyful little boy.
Severus knew that because he felt it every day. He gave thanks to Gaia daily for everything she brought into his life. But mostly because of Harry, who was showing Minerva his new tooth. Or ‘toof’ as he called it. It had been an almost painless pop out, for which Severus was grateful. It hurt him when his son was hurting and all he could do was rub some potion into the sore spot. Still, this one had prompted a question about why Harry’s teeth were white and Severus’ were yellowish. Nothing like a ‘why’s you toofs yellow, Daddy?’ to send you to the charm books looking for a tooth-whitening charm.
And while he was at it, a tooth-straightening charm. It hurt while rearranging his mouth but the results meant he smiled a lot more without fear of showing off crooked, yellow teeth. He was thinking of creating a potion which would keep his teeth white while he continued to drink tea. It went on a very long list of potions he wanted to create. If he only had the time.
“That was a big sigh, Severus. What is wrong?” Filius was to his right and he smiled at the Deputy Head.
“Too much to do and not enough time. Even with an assistant, it seems like there’s never enough hours in the day to get everything done. I’d like to have one whole day to just work on potions. No Wizengamot meetings or committee meetings or Gringotts consultations or, well you get the idea.” Severus shot a sheepish grin at the little man. “I know I’m preaching to the choir, Filius. Your days are just as full.”
“They are but with my new assistant I get to concentrate on what I love the most, teaching charms.” He twinkled at him. “Perhaps you should let go of a few responsibilities and let others take the lead on the committee front. Your genius is potions and I know they are what you love the most.”
“After Harry,” Severus said automatically. “I would dearly love to give up some committees or at least only have to meet once a month or so instead of weekly. It’s very flattering to be asked but I find I have a hard time saying no, even when I know I should.”
“Understood, but I think you’re going to have to, if you want to keep your potion-spark alive. I expect you’ve been working after Harry has gone to bed but that means you’re already tired and that’s when mistakes happen.” Filius looked closely at him. “You are often tired, aren’t you?”
Severus closed his eyes with a flush before answering. “It feels like I never get enough sleep. It’s disconcerting to say the least. I used to be able to get by on four hours a night but now it’s just not enough.”
Filius looked past him to Minerva who was listening to their conversation with a little frown. They had an unspoken but quick conversation with their eyes. They both nodded. They would be getting this young man aside so they could begin to help him. Filius ate some of his roast chicken with a little mashed potatoes while he thought about what they could come up with to help. He definitely needed to say no more frequently. He rather thought Severus was being taken advantage of.
Minerva was thinking the same thing. She needed to gather a committee who would take his wonderful idea of a school in Knockturn and turn it into a reality without taking up more of his time. She had a suspicion he was going to provide the space for the school so that was sufficient input for now. She wiped a bit of potato off Harry’s face and felt her heart leap at his grin and quiet ‘tank ou’. He really was the most amazing child and Severus was doing a fantastic job in raising him. She must remember to tell him so frequently.
Lunch was filling and Severus sat back to digest the apple tart he’d just finished. Coming back to Hogwarts was like coming back home now that Dumbledore’s influence was gone. He looked down the table and pondered how many of the staff had had to be decursed, unhexed, and generally cleared of all compulsions and loyalty charms. The old man had a lot to answer for but the children all looked much happier and the wariness at the Slytherin table was much decreased than from his time there.
The world was a better place everywhere.
A week later and Severus was finally able to take a deep breath and relax. Minerva had convened a committee to create the school in Knockturn. Ragnok had assigned a goblin work crew to commence work on the school location, their first task to demolish the end building that was already falling down. A human work crew was working on refurbishing and fixing the other properties, starting on the empty ones so they didn’t have to work around residents. John Turren, the work foreman, had told Severus that a couple of the kids from the Alley wanted to learn how to do construction, so he’d gotten them tool belts and assigned the three of them to different work men to help. They were earning a sickle and two meals a day.
Severus thought that was a wonderful idea and said he would cover their cost but John had just shook his head and told him, it was his pleasure. He might even get a couple of apprentices out of it. Severus made a note to investigate apprenticeships. It went into his planner as a note to Ragnok and Minerva. He really wished there was something they could use to measure how much magic the kids had at their disposal. He needed to ask the Founders if there was something in their time. That note went in as well.
Lucius had winkled him out of two Wizengamot committees which just left the one on potion regulations which met every other week. That one actually used his knowledge and expertise so he wanted to stay on it. Some of the rules and regulations were antiquated and he wanted to explore what they could get rid of and what needed to stay. Salazar was very helpful there in speaking of what his time had done. Severus had brought his portrait with him to the last meeting and the other committee members had been taken aback but then settled down to work. That was a refreshing change and resulted in the abolishment of some of the oldest regulations on the books.
It was a good start and Salazar had consented to be taken to future meetings. It made Severus laugh inwardly when the others waited with baited breath to hear the lord of Slytherin speak. He could be so haughty when looking down his nose at someone. He really had helped streamline the process under which they were working. So far, all their changes had been approved by the Wizengamot and the new regulations plus the rescinded ones, had been copied and sent out to everyone in the Potions Guild.
Life was good again and Severus had managed six hours of sleep last night so he was feeling pretty mellow. Which was a good thing, since they were headed down to the Silvius vault to take a look at what was in it. Harry, Theo, and Dobby were giggling and shouting ‘Whee!’ while the cart rolled faster and faster. The vault was deeper than the Founders and was numbered 6, after the 1 and 2 of Emrys and the 3-5 of Le Fay.
Severus didn’t know quite why he was avoiding going into the older vaults but Ragnok had taken to saying something each time he came in so he’d compromised and said the Silvius vault would be the next to be opened. Was he afraid of what he’d find in them? Or afraid they’d be duds with nothing exciting at all? He flip-flopped back and forth between the two questions/feelings.
“Oo-o-o, Daddy, what is dat?” Harry was craning his head towards a hollow with a great hulking shape within it.
Severus’ eyes widened. He’d forgotten that the goblins used dragons in guarding the older vaults. “That is a dragon, Harry. He helps the goblins protect all of our vaults.”
The creature roared and Severus flinched, expecting flames but none followed. And the roaring almost sounded like words. He frowned back at the dragon while the cart slowly came to a stop outside of Vault 3.
“What’s wong, Daddy?” Harry looked up at him quizzically.
“It almost sounded like I heard words when he roared.” Severus shook his head and smiled down at his son. “Not to worry, Harry. I think I might have been a little frightened by him roaring at us.”
Harry giggled and kissed his cheek. “Yous’ not afwaid of anything, Daddy. But he did kind of scaw Theo and me.”
Theo nodded his head and shivered a bit. “Scary, Unca Sev.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about him, Harry and Theo. He’s chained up so he can’t leave the lower tunnels.” Griphook told them.
“Aw de time?” Harry didn’t like that idea at all.
“He roams free after the carts are turned off, Harry. There’s a spell that keeps him from coming all the way to the top then. We take very good care of our dragons, little one. Every three months, we switch them out so this one will be leaving next month for our dragon preserve in Wales. A new one will arrive to take his place then. So he’ll get to fly very soon.”
“Okay,” Harry nodded and his frown disappeared.
Severus lifted him and Theo out of the cart to join the others who’d come down with them. Mentoc was their curse breaker today and Nebbins was their Recorder. The vault had never been inventoried as far as the goblins’ records showed. Remus and Regina had come also so they were ready for anything. Harry went right to the door and Severus pricked his finger so he could touch the stylized S on the seam of the vault.
“Open, pease.” He said as his blood welled up and sank into the letter. Severus healed the small wound right away with a spell and a kiss. “Tank ‘ou, Daddy.”
The seam began to unseal before them and the door started to open without any help at all. No door knob had appeared or even a hand hold. Severus wondered at that but was too busy trying to see inside to really think about it. The old air rushed out with the scent of sweet lemon blossoms instead of stale air. That was odd. Mentoc stood in the doorway and cast his first spells, “Lux . . . Revealo.”
The chamber was still for a moment before globes began to light up all around the room. Colors began to appear as they responded to the reveal. The shades of color were almost more than could be counted. Hues of green, purple, and blue shone from the trunks lining the walls. A bookcase glowed with orange hues from pale peach to tangerine. A library table of solid oak stood catty-cornered in front of a shimmering wall hanging in rich shades of all colors. An oak chair sat sideways in front of it as if the owner had just pushed back from the table to stand up. On the table was a solid gold chest, which reminded Severus of Albus’ treasure box.
And all over the floor, galleons piled up almost as tall as Harry. As they looked on in awe, a shower of gold appeared and joined its brethren on the floor. Severus was amazed. What could still be producing profit two thousand years after this vault was begun? Mentoc continued to cast spells and he was solidly in the way of them entering so Severus tried to be patient. The bookcase was calling his name but the chest on the table was intriguing, too.
“What’s we goin’ to do wit aw dis gowd, Daddy?” Harry giggled again as more gold fell into a heap.
“Well, we’ll take some and invest it for you for when you’re older. We’ll find out why more is coming in, literally as we speak.” Severus pondered for a moment. “What else would you like to do with it?”
Harry leaned against his leg and thought about it. Mentoc kept on casting spells, slowly around the room. Remus was looking at the bookcase, eyes squinted as if he could read the titles from here, although most of them were title less.
“I tink we souwd have a pawty, with cake and biscuits and silly punch.” Harry looked up at him with such a satisfied look on his face.
Severus kept back a chuckle while nodding his head. “I think that sounds like a wonderful idea, Harry. We can have a party on the Spring Solstice and invite everyone to our home. That’s only a week away so we’ll have time to plan it all.”
“Silly punch?” Remus asked.
“Everybody acts silly who have more than one cup. Somebody cast a cheering spell on it at the last party and everyone was very, very cheerful for the rest of the party. Harry thought we were all quite silly.” Severus was pretty sure Sirius was responsible for the charm and from the look in Remus’ eye, he thought so, too. Still, it hadn’t been harmful and everyone had had a good time.
“Alright, gentle sirs and lady, it’s safe to go in. Nothing harmful but if something is reddish in color, I’d leave that alone until I can undo the spell. If you’ll remember, that curse will turn you into an animal of some kind.” Mentoc nodded at them. “The color glow will last for an hour or so before I have to recast it. And the document box next to the bookcase may tell you what investment is still producing income after all these years.”
The green leather small trunk was what he was pointing at and Severus would take that one home so they could go through it leisurely. It was the gold chest which was drawing his attention right now, almost as if a compulsion spell had been cast. He made a beeline for it while Harry and Theo picked up gold pieces to study. Regina was watching over them while Remus headed to the bookcase with his hands firmly clasped behind his back to keep from reaching out for them.
“Orange means it has changed form. I suspect from scroll to book form.” Mentoc reminded Remus. “It’s alright to touch them.”
Remus muttered a cleansing charm for his hands before reaching out to carefully pull a book from the shelf. Severus sat down in the chair and slowly lifted the lid of the gold chest. Inside was a scroll lying on top of a glowing layer of crystals of all colors. They took his breath away with their rich hues. One glowed as yellow as the sun and he itched to pick it up but he unrolled the scroll instead.
Greetings, Heir – I can sense it will be some time before this is read. Our family has the gift of True Sight and it is showing me centuries of darkness before you come to claim your heritage. Know that the knowledge retained in this chest is from the Before Times, several thousands of years in our past. Some of the scrolls in the bookcase are also from those times so I suggest you read them first before interacting with these crystals. The scrolls will react to your magic when you ask them for the Atlantis scrolls. The crystals are teaching tools from the Kingdom of Atlantis and their progenitors. Take the time to mindfully go through them. The knowledge will settle into you slowly depending on your current level of education. There is no hurry although I know you will be curious and want to dive right in. Be calm and choose wisely. One of the crystals will beckon you to choose it and whichever one it is, know that it is the right beginning for you.
I foresee a renaissance coming to our world after a time of war. I am glad you are a part of this rebirth. I also sense the one first reading this after so long is not the heir but his regent. You are doing a fine thing in bringing up my heir to be kind and knowledgeable. I hereby give permission for you to be the first to access these crystals. What is in them will help in bringing closure to wizardkind from the wars of the last few decades and showing them a new path forward. It will be a glorious new beginning for our kind and all who wield magic.
From the far past, know I wish you well in all your endeavors and hope your future is as wondrous as I have foreseen.
Tacitus Agricola Silvius
Lord of the Hidden Realms
Severus read it twice and was ready to start a third read when Harry’s voice broke through. “Daddy, wat’s ‘ou weading?”
He blinked and sat the scroll back in the chest before lifting Harry into his lap. “Your ancestor, Tacitus left you this box and a scroll telling you about what was inside. It’s . . . kind of mind boggling.”
“Why?” He asked curiously and craned his neck to see it.
“I’ll read it to you when we get home. We’re definitely taking this box home with us.”
“Kay,” he said. “Wat about de pwetty hanging?”
For the first time, Severus eyed the tapestry hanging before them. It read like a labyrinth with fantastic creatures and odd looking buildings, even people occasionally popping up out of the trees. It was oddly fascinating in a swirling kind of way and he rather thought he could spend hours looking at it. “I think we’ll take it, too. It has a lot in it that’s odd but intriguing. I’m going to also be taking a scroll home with us. Tacitus recommended I read it first.”
“Tas-is, dat’s a funny name, Daddy.” Harry giggled.
“Tacitus is an old Roman name. Several of their emperors had it and even some people today bear the name. It’s kind of like my name, Severus. The Prince family liked using old Roman names for their children.” Severus liked these teachable moments when he could pass along history to his son.
“Der any stowies about them, Daddy?” Harry asked hopefully.
“I’ll find some so I can read to you.” Severus dropped a kiss on the dark hair under his chin. He then closed the lid of the chest and stood up, bringing Harry up with him so they could cross to the bookcase.
Remus was enrapt with a scroll he’d pulled off the shelf, leaning against the wall while he read. Severus took a deep breath and asked with his magic for the scroll which would help him learn about the Atlantian crystals. A scroll lit up in bright yellow, almost the exact same shade as the crystal which had caught his eye. He plucked it up off the shelf and handed it over when Harry held out his hands.
“Feews good, Daddy.” Harry stroked the vellum.
“I think so too, Harry.” He turned and spotted Nebbins, writing down the contents of a trunk. Going over, he looked in to see what was there. It looked like small tapestries layered almost to the top of the trunk. The colors reminded him of the tapestry in the corner. “Nebbins, is it full of just tapestries?”
“Yes, Lord Prince. They’ve been in stasis since they were put here. I’d like to put them back into stasis once I’ve inventoried them. Fabric doesn’t last very long when exposed to air, heat, and humidity.” The goblin stopped counting to speak to him.
“I agree. But we would like to take the hanging tapestry with us. Do you know a good goblin preservation spell we can use on it?” Severus didn’t want anything to happen to it when they took it from the safety of the vault.
Mentoc chuckled from behind them. “It already has a preservation spell on it and it’s a very good one. Whoever wove it did so with a preservation spell for each stitch. Nothing will be harming it short of dragon fire.”
Severus perked up. “Good, that’s a load off my mind. Now, is there something we can wrap around the chest so we don’t look like we’re taking a golden chest full of precious things out into Gringotts?”
Remus gasped and pointed to the table. Severus turned around and saw the gold chest was now a dowdy black wooden box. He laughed out loud. “I can’t wait to see what else it can do.”
“Interesting,” was all Mentoc said but Severus noticed he nodded towards the chest and drew a quick rune in the air.
This vault was fast turning into his favorite, even better than Slytherin’s, although he wouldn’t be telling Salazar that. He could feel change coming and he hoped Tacitus had it right. A glorious new beginning was exactly what the wizarding world needed. And Harry and he would be right here to see it happen.