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Severus had always had this feeling, that he was alone all his life.

In every sense of the word. In his family, in his school years, in his stupid decision to become a Death Eater, in his attempts to preserve some of his humanity after said misstep, in his survival after Nagini’s attack, and during the lonely years that followed.

Until one day, that wasn’t true anymore.

*

The eldest is a redhead. His green eyes dart around Severus’ living room, and he can tell he’s terrified, but he’s still trying to be brave, squeezing the younger one’s hand and taking a step forward when Severus invites them in.

The younger one, holding onto his big brother’s hand, has clearly been crying. He keeps whispering, with the uncertainness of a young child who recently learned to talk: “Where are we, Dad?”

The youngest one, Severus only sees her nose peeking out of the clothes she’s wrapped in. Thank Merlin for insane, early onset gendered colour clothing, Severus thinks (like it matters!). It’s a newborn.

Their father is a mess, gasping for air.

Severus needs to help.

*

The most difficult potion Severus ever brewed took five months of hard work. He messed it up twice and had to take a three-year break each time before he felt dedicated enough to try again.

The most dangerous potion Severus ever brewed resulted in him losing entire fingers multiple times. It also caused other people’s death.

The most delicate potion Severus ever brewed had to be made in a glass cauldron and kept in a silk pouch. It spoiled if it was exposed to oxygen, or to human touch.

The most expensive potion he ever made would have been enough to afford him a five-year-long holiday in Hawaii. At the time, he had to make it for free, but it was a valuable experience if nothing else.

The baby in Severus’s hands is naked, and her screaming unsettles him more than anybody during his Hogwarts career ever did.

The most vulnerable thing he’s ever held. The most delicate. The most dangerous. The most difficult. The most precious.

*

What are their names then? Severus wonders.

James Sirius? Albus Gilderoy? Remus Peter? Lily Molly? Hagrid Hagrid? Arthur Bill? Hermione Ginevra? Sweet Merlin, so many awful, unimaginative possibilities.

*

The little one is by far the fussiest, but thankfully he’s used to waking up in the night multiple times for experimental potions. And he should probably stop comparing her to potions. Any time soon.

*

In hindsight, letting them pick what they wanted for breakfast was a miscalculated move in the ‘getting to like Severus’ game.

A rather messy miscalculation.

Thankfully, since the demise of the Dark Lord, that only means magically manageable tiny hiccups, such as baking powder on the wall, jam in the carpet and two young boys high on sugar.

So Severus might be a surprisingly adequate babysitter. He might be the ‘bestestest pancake-maker mister!’ in the house. He might be having fun spending time with the two youngsters, even if he only lets it show as long as their father is still dreamless sleeping in the guest bedroom.

But make no mistake. Severus is also a vindictive, revenge-fuelled bastard.

There are eight hundred and fifty-six potion-themed nursery rhymes in 1988’s Special Edition of The Potions Yearly. The Potter boys know the first five by the end of the morning.

On a mostly unrelated note, their father wakes up approximately five minutes after Severus puts them down for the afternoon nap.

There is some rather intensive staring, astounded whispering and some very, very quiet expressions of gratefulness.

There is a cup of tea and an awkward moment when Severus offers him the chance to hold the baby girl, and the Brave Gryffindor can’t even look at her.

By the end of nap-time, a few things are established.

Here is a list of them, in short detail:

Severus is alive. Yes, for real. Alive. Clever wanker indeed.

Harry Potter feels his life is unfair (surprise), and he would like to catch a fucking break from the universe.

Severus is a nice human being, no hidden motives, volunteering babysitting, day-care, safe space, and shelter. For a week or two, in exchange for secrecy.

Harry Potter looks a wreck and is emotionally unstable. He doesn’t say why, but gulps and cries about it. (Severus has an idea but stays silent. After all, he is a clever wanker and a nice human being.)

The children are delighted to see their father awake. He hugs both of them tightly, cries into their hair. Severus slips another Dreamless Sleep into his hand and makes unspoken promises with his eyes.

*

Severus has missed observing. One would think that committing to such a clear break from his previous life as he did, he must have hated every aspect of it. It is indeed true that he grew dreadfully tired of it, to the point of desperation.

At the very end, everything became so sharp and fragile, that Severus feared and inevitably suspected his mind, his body would break, that he was so heavily wound up in the middle of everything, he wouldn’t be able to escape with his life. That night in the Shack, he was ready to accept death, just for the sake of the frantic need to make everything right, and his subsequent struggling to help Potter, to save students and faculty, to minimize harm and the constantly getting harder task to keep his promises to Albus to end, he truly wished for anything to take all those weights off his chest.

After Potter took the memories, and Severus fell unconscious, he saw Lily, one last time. She was a child in his mind, no older than seven. She listened to his stuttered apologies, wiped away his tears and hugged him tightly, telling him he finally made up for everything, that he did even better, that he was forgiven, and good.

He took the gift of waking up again without any hesitance, and he created a new, quiet life of comfort for himself in a small village in Ireland.

It was as near perfect - for a long time - as Severus hoped he deserved.

Still, he missed a few things of his old life, now, after such a long time passed and the memories of hard times gentled.

One of those was observation. Looking at others and figuring out how they ticked, what they thought, what needs and goals motivated them.

In those first few days, he observes several things. The boys are healthy, loved, well-developed and kind children. They are capable of playing together, have reasonable enough knowledge of the workings of the world, and they’re not too wrapped up with magic. Severus would not go as far as to say that they’re very bright, but they’re eager to learn and experience everything with a passion of mentally fit young children who never lacked anything of vital importance.

Curiously, on the first day, the absence of their mother is not something they seem to have taken to heart. It makes Severus pause and wonder whether Weasley got out of the picture by less dramatic ways than death. Perhaps she merely decided to divorce Potter and left the kids with him while she pursued a new career, or found herself a new lover. He remembered how wild, talented and able-bodied Ginny Weasley was. She could outdo most of her brothers easily, not only in Potions but at flying, Charms, and Transfiguration. Severus had no idea why she chose Potter (of all people!) when it was clear to him she had much more potential.

That theory, however well it sits with Severus, does not explain the infant. Certainly, there were mothers who’d abandon their newborns, but Severus was positive none of those mothers were raised by Molly Weasley.

Potter was a mess at first glance, and he is a mess at second glance as well. Although his face had matured, and his movements seemed as though he aged forty years instead of ten, the sorrow surrounding him is so suffocatingly present and tangible Severus realizes he had let go of his mental shields in his solitude because he can clearly sense Potter’s mood without even looking into his eyes.

A full day passes, and after their initial conversation and agreement, the most Potter does the next morning is that he wanders out into the living room, casts a bleary eye upon his children playing with Severus, mutters their horrible, horrible names to him quietly,

JAMES SIRIUS

ALBUS SEVERUS

LILY LUNA

then turns around, helps himself to a glass of water and another vial of Dreamless Sleep – this last one, at least he does while casting an inquisitive eyebrow at Snape, which is at least some kind of asking. It is a muted, frankly alarming version of him, even compared to the one he presented the day they arrived when he seemed like a young man tortured almost out of his mind by grief, desperately begging for help.

Severus is livid for a few minutes. Even with added emotional trauma, but especially in an extreme situation like this, where is Potter’s common sense? He never caught the man sneaking a single charm at him to confirm his identity. Potter took him, his half-hearted explanation of his escape and recovery and, even more baffling, his volunteering to watch the children, at face value as if he was even stupider than the most naive Gryffindor’s and a Hufflepuff’s love-child. If that was all of Potter’s self-preservation, just ten years after the battle… Merlin. Severus has a slight urge to strangle him while he sleeps. Damn the man, he is responsible for three small lives now, not just his own reckless behind. Perhaps the years and fatherhood did not change him at all.

All the more reason why Severus’s assistance was truly needed.

*

James, Albus, Lily?

No, that just won’t stand.

Severus does not even think about the ‘Severus’. No, no, no.

*

The afternoon is heavy. The boys pick up on their father’s mood and start a fit when he goes back, again, to be unconscious in the bed of the guest room.

It’s the first time Severus hears ‘Mummy.” But now he hears it around two hundred times, questioned, demanded, shouted, yelled, shoved into his face. Wept into his shirt.

And in the midst of tears, snot, and saliva, Severus simply doesn’t know how to answer.

Lily – and no, fucking strike that, he will not – the baby girl has been, so far, a mostly quiet infant. Caring for her is like looking over a shimmering, not overly complicated brew, an easy task for a person used to working with time-sensitive explosives most of his life. Magic makes it even less of a struggle: Severus only has to keep around four charms in place for the day, and he is always only two steps away if the little one needs something. He sleeps next to the fluffy basket he conjured to serve as her bed, listening to the quiet sounds she makes in her slumber.

Several psychological studies (Muggle and Wizarding alike) suggest that renaming a child after their sense of self had already started developing can be dangerous, even hazardous to their mental health and their forming identity. But, well, faced with the alternative…

… there really is no question about it.

*

Jimmy.

Al…berto?

Violet.

Ah, yes. Much, much better.

*

They have the weirdest rituals. There is the ‘let’s recount the day’, which Severus learned this evening, like this:

“No, no, no!” Alberto protests.

Jim explains, with all the seriousness of a nearly five-year-old who is perfectly aware how important the knowledge he chooses to distribute is, “You have to say: ’Then little Violet woke Albie up with her screaming.”

The victim of said happening comments, with a mischievous smile, “Poor, poor Albie.”

(Severus suddenly understands, with frightening accuracy, what dull-witted people mean when they utter things such as, ’They were so cute I wanted to eat them alive’.)

James T. continues, “And then you say, ‘ Al, do you want to tell us what happened after that?’”

Severus repeats the question, Alberto shakes his head and hides his face behind Jimmy’s back.

“He never does.” His older brother lets Severus in on the secret. “You continue and say what happened next. All the things, not just the good things.”

“So we revisit our actions today in a chronological order?” Severus asks to clarify.

The boys have identical confused expressions. (It’s adorable.)

“We tell everything we did today in the same order as it had happened in real time? We start with the morning and proceed onwards?”

Jimmy blinks at him, but Al gets enthusiastic again after a second. “I want pancakes for breakfast!”

This practice, once understood, Severus actually finds (not endearing!) useful for the little ones’ short- and long-term memories (alongside the Potion Rhymes, but that’s a fairly new tradition).

But some of the other ones… Like the one with the inane, insanely earworm melody. Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share. While Severus sees the importance of teaching your children to tidy up after a meal or a day of playing on the carpet, he could do without the melody. The melody that resurfaces at least five times a day in his mind. (He almost stabs himself the second time he notices he’s been humming it while washing up.) And it gets reinforced every time, especially since Potter is actually around for that twenty minutes a day, and he got through his shame of singing in front of Severus pretty quickly (his own bloody mistake, obviously he wasn’t belittling and deprecating enough) and Severus is slightly sick of it.

The tales before naps and bedtime are something to be expected. The children have a surprisingly broad collection of favourites (if all the titles they shout at him that evening can be trusted), including several nations’ share of Muggle and Wizarding tales. Severus can make up a few stories, and has knowledge of a couple rare northern tales from his grandmother’s side of the family, but at the rate they’re progressing, he fears if they don’t get some storybooks soon, he’s going to have to resort to telling real stories from the not-so-recent but all-too-recent history and Merlin help him if he’ll actually spew some things about Albus Dumbledore without at least a serious threat of bodily harm. Unlike someone whose currently trying to sleep (cry) himself to death, he’s not ready to forgive and mindlessly worship the old wizard.

*

James Tiberius "Jim" Kirk was a Human Starfleet officer in the 23rd century. He was arguably one of the most famous and highly decorated starship captains in the history of Starfleet. As the commanding officer of the Constitution-class starships USS Enterprise and USS Enterprise-A, Kirk served United Federation of Planets interests as an explorer, soldier, time-traveler, and diplomat.

Surely a worthier man to name your child after than James Fucking Potter.

*
“Mister Snape?”

“Yes, Jim?”

“Mum and Dad used to kiss us goodnight.”

Is that a request? A prelude to a question about Potter’s abruptly changed, abysmal fatherly routines?

“And when we stay at Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione they kiss us goodnight too. Or when Grandma and Grandpa look after us.”

His eyes are big, innocent, the want in them honest and unmasked.

He has to work through the strange emotions that are struck in his throat. His heart aches; it’s the most uncomfortable feeling.

“Are you asking me if I want to give you a goodnight kiss too, James Tiberius?”

Eager nodding. A shy smile.

“It helps me sleep, Mister Snape.”

“Very well.”

The skin of his forehead is soft, like the rest of him.

“And Al too.”

And Al too.

*

Okay, so there might be a chance that maybe, perhaps, Severus went too far this whole ‘exile far away from the Wizarding World’ thing. Because however he tries to frame it, it comes down to this: after nine years of being completely alone, the first time he stays with another person, he’s plotting to steal said person’s children.

What’s worse, he doesn’t even feel remorseful about it.

Because beforehand, it had been waking up, visiting the bathroom, working, meals, alcohol, books, potions, quiet.

Now it’s startling awake, changing or feeding or hugging or singing, overseeing proper peeing, washing, toothbrushing, giving out vitamins, wiping leftover food off small faces, chanting potion rhymes and playing hide-and-seek.

Noise. So much noise.

*

Before the obligatory afternoon nap, they always demand stories. Severus has to improvise because his private book collection is somewhat more potion-y and dark than what young children need to be made aware of.

Then there is the toy situation. Alberto keeps whining about ’the Bunny’, and Jimmy mentions cars and airplanes and such Muggle inventions with increasing frequency, toys that he absolutely needs to show Mr. Snape. Because Mr. Snape can’t imagine how big, yellow (red?), great and FAST is his Monster Truck. He simply has to see.

*

What he would like to unsee, if possible, on the other hand, is Violet’s poops.

How in the world can a renowned Potions Master only encounter that colour and consistency and general unpleasantness for the first time in his life in his late forties, and in an infant’s nappy? He doesn’t understand. He simply does not understand.

*

“Don’t even think about going back to bed. I want to talk to you after they fall asleep,” Severus murmurs to Potter as he takes Alberto from him with the towel and transports him into their bedroom to dry and get him into nightwear. Potter swallows and nods shortly before turning back to Jim, who’s still in the bathtub.

Severus hopes that by having children of his own, Potter has matured somewhat into a person that can take responsibility for his things. And as his potion cabinet’s contents slowly disappear, the need to confront Potter over his worryingly spiraling drug-dependency just grows stronger. It’s their third full they day spent with him, and apart from the odd half an hour at a time, Potter hasn’t shown his face around them.

Putting that problem out of his mind for a while, he settles into the bed, boys on both of his sides, and they continue Cinderella (because that’s still a big favourite), who, in a sudden turn of events, discovers a Portkey right after she leaves the ball.

So sue him, Severus is not only dreadfully bored of recounting the original tale, but nowadays he increasingly reminisces McGonagall complaining to Sprout about the lack of education in fairy tales, and he imagines his old colleague (she’s the one he misses most of all his old acquaintances) giving him a tight-lipped smile when he twists the story just so.

Cinderella arrives at Hogwarts and gets sorted into Hufflepuff, and the boys drink in his every word about how she discovers the magical castle. (The prince is long forgotten.)

Severus shares their excitement a little, recalling how he felt so long ago, in his first weeks in Hogwarts. He keeps describing the paintings, the moving staircases, the hallways behind the draperies where the castle connects two far-away places with ease. He doesn’t stop speaking when Potter shuffles into the room hesitantly but closes his eyes to put his annoying presence out of his thoughts. He still hears him settle against the foot of the bed, but, to give credit where it’s due, he doesn’t make any more distracting noises.

After what feels like a few minutes, Severus drags himself out of the castle he called his home for so many years, to discover Al already in deep slumber against his arm, and Jimmy blinking heavily.

“We’ll continue tomorrow, little one,” he reassures the older child, and helps him move up to his bed.

“Kiss, Dad,” Jamie murmurs sleepily into his pillow.

Potter, who’s just finished putting Alberto into bed, steps closer, right to Severus’s side, and they catch each other’s gaze for a deeply uncomfortable second.

Then Potter whispers, “Sweet dreams, darling.”

And he tries to quietly move out of the room after Severus. Jim’s voice freezes them both in their tracks.

“Kiss, Mister Snape.”

It’s the exact same tone, and Severus moves almost on autopilot. He feels his cheeks catch aflame, but he bends over to touch his lips briefly to Potter’s firstborn’s face. He’s sure Potter is watching them, but he can’t bear to even contemplate what the other man must be feeling, let alone look up and see it.

That was it. They’re moving out tomorrow. The thought hits him. A second one follows immediately, telling him maybe he should let Potter poison himself into sleep, just for a few more nights. It’s tempting.

He opens a bottle of wine, to have something to hold onto later when Potter will yell his head off about taking such liberties with his children. Severus passes a glass to Potter and sits down into his armchair. Potter takes the sofa opposite him, and Severus is sure they both try to pretend it doesn’t remind them of the times Potter sat opposite him while in detention.

It is plenty different, actually. Severus’s living room is a comfortable, homey space. It’s nothing like his office was in Hogwarts, where the generations of students’ fear seemed to seep into the wall. It wasn’t Severus’s favourite place in the castle, but unlike his current home, it was much more… lively.

They avoid each other’s eyes, Severus desperately trying to find an excuse to make them stay, one that doesn’t come off as a desperate excuse.

“Couldweperhapsstayabitlonger?” Potter cries out suddenly, breaking the room’s airy silence.

Severus stares at him. He’s not sure he can keep the shock off his face. That couldn’t possibly have been what he understood.

“What?”

“No, I just meant…” Potter takes a deep breath. “I know we’re imposing on you so much already, but… You’re very good with the kids. They really like you.” He swallows, and Severus does the same, his heart trying to escape from his chest. They really like him? “I can’t go back yet. So… please?”

“Yes,” Severus says, quicker than it is probably necessary. He’s thoroughly embarrassed, but the fact that those two small children like him at all, warms his heart as it never been warmed before since… well, since he was forced to kill one of his closest friends. “Their presence is not too troubling.”

Potter doesn’t call him out on that white lie, but Severus suspects that’s more out of his own embarrassment than whatever Slytherin skills he acquired over the years. Potter… must have changed, Severus realizes that, with the rational part of his brain. Almost ten years passed. Fatherhood, not just time, changes people. Grief, too.

Severus decides to mostly overlook Potter’s flaws for the duration of his stay. After all, the man is an adult now. Moreover, he’s far less important than the three little monkeys he helped bring into this world.

“Provided you keep yourself to our agreement, my home will remain open to you.”

Harry looks at him cross-eyed, then apparently remembers, if his little sigh is anything to go by.

“Why don’t you want anyone to know? I get wanting to get away from the publicity, but don’t you miss your fr-- people?”

Nice, so Potter is still as unsubtle as he always was. Severus has friends, thank you very much. At least… he had them. He would count Minerva, Sprout and a few others who used to be his colleagues at Hogwarts as such, the Malfoys, even, but he’s sure pretending to be dead is… perhaps not what most of them would consider a good way to maintain their relationship.

He scowls at himself, and Potter obviously misreads its direction, because he scrambles up, quickly expressing his gratitude for the tea, and wishes a hurried goodnight.

Severus lets him leave. His daughter is much more delightful company, anyway.

*

The next evening Potter lingers around the living room after the goodnight kisses had been given out. He makes it look like he’s cleaning up after the boys, but Severus can see the sneaky glances he risks at him.

What’s more surprising is the fact that Severus doesn’t mind his company. After a whole day of talking to children, conversation with an adult, even the Boy Wonder one at that, is strangely appealing.

Potter had been slightly better today, Severus thinks. He talked to the boys, he played a bit with them, too. He didn’t escape the room when Severus brought Violet’s basket in, only averted his gaze as Severus heated the bottle and had his daily memorization practice with the boys.

Still, Severus didn’t miss how tightly he grips the sofa’s armrest, or how he stares an almost literal hole in the carpet.

He needs to find out what is going on there: what is the explanation for Potter’s peculiar treatment of his own daughter? Severus has several theories, of course, but it seems unlikely Potter just stole the child from someone else (he’s not Severus, for fuck’s sake), or that Violet is actually a magically de-aged Ginevra Weasley, although, as with everything, it is a possible solution, knowing the Wizarding world and Potter’s cursed luck. It could be Voldemort’s daughter, for all he knew.

Or perhaps Severus is just being ridiculous, and after he knowingly infected his mind with too much television, his imagination tends to run much more dramatic than before. He looks over at the box in the corner. He hasn’t touched it since the kids arrived, and frankly, he doesn’t miss it one bit.

He walks to the sofa, this time, and he calls yesterday’s opened wine to him with a gentle whip of magic.

“Wine?” he asks Potter, who looks up from wiping something off from under the table.

“I’m sorry?”

“Would you care for a glass?”

Potter lowers the rag. Slowly. He looks so… natural in Severus’s home. Quite organic, as if he’d always been there, cleaning as a tiny little house-elf. Severus almost snorts.

“Thank you.” Potter settles opposite him, their roles turned around. Severus doesn’t know when, or if, it will ever feel normal, Potter just being there, without the lovely, colourful distraction his children present. But it’s slightly less awkward than yesterday.

The silence is really uncomfortable at first, but as they sip their wine, and both of them realize the other will not bring up a subject to fumble around, an invisible tension seems to leave the room.

For a while, it’s quiet and peaceful. Three little children sleep in their beds and baskets respectively, breathing softly, regularly.

*

It’s the sixth night or so, and Violet’s fussy. She vomits back almost half of the milk she had, and she develops a small fever, which Severus treats as soon as he detects it, but he decides to keep her closer than usual. Usually, she spends the evening to morning period in Severus’s bedroom (with the doors open, of course), but Severus has been feeling reluctant to skip out on the tentative evening tradition Potter and he seem to have started.

The moment Potter notices her, his relaxed form stiffens. Severus counts: it takes only 38 seconds for Potter to raise his voice slightly, proclaiming his tiredness.

“You are not,” Severus disagrees sternly.

Potter pauses halfway to his bedroom door.

“Excuse me?”

Severus holds his gaze.

“You’re not tired. You just can’t stand being in the same room with Violet.”

Potter’s shoulders sag. “That’s true. I’m sorry,” he says, keeping his head angled in a weird way, as if he’s trying to address the ceiling, Severus and Violet in her basket all at once. “Good night, Severus.”

It’s only the unexpected use of his first name that keeps Severus from stopping him again and forcing the issue.

Potter disappears behind his door with a sound suspiciously similar to a sob, and Severus is left to murmur some reassuring words to Violet, which, he admits, are more for his own sake then for the little girl’s.

He will get to the bottom of that. He knows he will.

*

It’s their seventh day indoors and they won’t make it through it if they don’t get out the house.

“Potter, wake up. We’re going to the park in half an hour. I suggest you get ready, or I may lose one of your offspring to the neighbour’s dog.”

It’s a shameless lie. The neighbour only has two cats and a tendency to brag about his college-age girls.

There is a bag for the snacks and water, a bag for the nappies and towels and a small case of emergency potions, Violet’s basket, and two barely containable overexcited children. Their father is clearly not in the best state of mind, but he’ll be good for handling all their stuff while Severus makes sure nobody dies.

*

They are stepping out of his house in the following order: Snape, one bag on shoulder, Violet in basket in one hand; Potter, second bag on shoulder, hands holding his boys’ hands on each side of him.

Severus intimidates them to keep holding onto it all the way to the park. They always obey him if he uses a certain type of tone; it seems as though years of fear-mongering older children was not without long-lasting benefits.

He points out things as they pass them: the neighbour’s house with the “dogs,” the apothecary, the bank, the house where Mathilda Ollivander lived and worked in her last years (the world-famous wand maker who started the Ollivanders’ business in England), the yellow houses whose owners don’t have any sense of originality, and the pink house’s owners who want to shock their conservative neighbourhood, and the owner of the TARDIS-blue house who doesn’t get any comment apart from the lovely colour choice they made.

(So sue him, Severus had a lot of time to catch up on Muggle television.)

Then there is a bakery, a ‘Look both ways before you cross!’ and then finally, the park.

*

Severus might not be completely lost on the basic needs of tiny humans and as established, may even be a pretty adequate babysitter, but that does not mean all of the things make sense.

Why are they so happy to run around from tree to tree? Is it the oxygen? If they like the being outside so much, being able to run in the grass to a longer distance, and play tag, why do they keep running back to the bench they’re sitting to tell inane things to Severus and to their father and ask to ‘see how the baby’s doing’ every five minutes?

Harry Potter breathes deeply, then turns his back to him and cries. He is stupid to think Severus doesn’t notice just because he’s silent and he can’t see his face. He’s stupider if he thinks Severus cares. It will pass. Everything does.

He looks at the boys instead. At Violet, who’s outside for (probably) the second time in her life. They are marvellous.

*

When Potter comes out of his room the next day during nap time, Severus insists he eats something, then sits him down in his living room. Potter does as he’s told, falling down as easily as a rag doll.

When it becomes apparent he will not start a conversation, Severus decides on a topic himself, hating the way Potter just sits there.

“There is power in names,” Severus explains, shaking his head ruefully, to at least channel some of his disappointment he feels towards Potter. “I’m frankly baffled no one explained this to you, but it’s probably understandable that Granger is not there every minute of your life to help you by chewing up all information to make it easier for you to swallow.”

It’s a sign of how deeply lost Potter is that he barely reacts to the jab. He merely shrugs a shoulder, not looking up at Severus.

“Aside from the literal, which I must assume you still remember, how the Death Eaters used Voldemort’s name as a way to track certain individuals, there are also more subtle connotations to naming a child after a relative,” Potter looks up at him finally, blinking heavily.

He looks uncomfortably as if he’s been drugged, which Severus supposes is not that far from the truth. He needs to stop allowing Potter to turn to Dreamless Sleep.

“I must say, I find it deeply disturbing that you gave the names of your violently murdered parents to two of your children, and gifted the third one with the names of two people who, even if only through circumstance, both had a rather unfortunate hand in that incident.”

Potter stares at him, owlishly, emotions crossing over his face slowly. Severus suddenly cannot stand his gaze, and averting his own, he continues, mostly just to fill the deeply uncomfortable silence between them.

“It will not bring them back. But it will be a burden for your children, who were born in a different time, and, I dare to say after you fought to give them a chance to live a peaceful life, I don’t understand why you would darken those clean states so.

“As for Albus Dumbledore, even if he was an exceptional wizard, he…” Severus swallows. He needs to say these words to someone else now, after all the times he repeated them to himself. “He used you, Potter.”

There is darkness in Potter’s eyes, for the first time, an angry storm gathering. He slides forward on Severus’s couch and looks him straight in the eye.

“It was a gesture of forgiveness. I won’t be surprised if you didn’t understand that concept.” He bitterly bares his teeth at him, in a twisted facsimile of a smile. “As with you, mind.”

Severus sniffs.

“And even though I’m somewhat appreciative of the sentiment, I must object to giving my name to a child like young Alberto.” Before this very instant, Severus has never referenced the boys to Potter using their new names, despite frequently doing so with Violet. (Violet is a different affair altogether, and a conversation for another time if they ever get there.) His heart rate picks up, but as it was inevitable, he might as well present it like this. He doubts this would be the last drop in Potter’s rapidly overfilling glass that causes him to whisk them away. He hopes, selfishly, that Potter is too involved in his own head, too helpless to do anything about it.

Aggression intensifying, then abruptly slipping from his body, Potter suddenly relaxes, takes off his glasses and starts rubbing his eyes.

“I can’t fucking believe you,” he laughs-breathes so quietly Severus barely catches it.

Severus ignores this comment. He knows he’s dancing on thin ice here, and he won’t snap at this man just because it would make him feel more in control. Not when the children are at stake.

Potter replaces his glasses. There is defiance in the line of his mouth, but his gaze is mostly filled with pain and tiredness.

“Alberto, huh?” he asks Severus numbly. “And how did you call Jamie?”

“James Tiberius. After Jim Kirk.”

Potter jerks his head forward- it could be interpreted as a nod, but Potter more likely just used the motion to propel himself into movement; he stands slowly from the couch, and waves his hand to summon a familiar vial.

“You are a strange one, Severus Snape,” Potter mutters, and, not waiting for an answer, turns towards his bedroom.

Staring at his closed door, Severus can barely believe that he got away with it.

Later, much later, when Violet starts crying again, he remembers, with a pang, that Potter didn’t ask after her.

*

Severus is good at peekaboo, adequate at hide and seek, exceptionally patient when they’re running around the flat like headless chickens, but he is the Master of Chanting ’Funny Words’, as it is. They are on the eighteenth of the Potion-Themed Rhymes at the moment, and Severus is starting to question the effectiveness of this idea, because Jim and Al take to shouting the things across the house in the most random moments of the day, with all their childlike mispronunciations, and the only short-term effect it seems to evoke is the inane rhythms going on in a loop in Severus’s head.

Potter doesn’t even react when Jim shouts one bit of the useful information about Asphodels into his ear in the morning. He shuffles the boy’s hair and smiles at him, and absolutely doesn’t bring up the thing to Severus. It’s slightly worrying, especially so combined with the amount of time he still sleeps or spends looking at the wall of his room. Guest room. Not his. Okay, he’s a guest. But not his his.

Severus starts diluting the Dreamless Sleep between rounds of Exploding Scabby Queen. He’s not too bad at that game, either. (He cheats, of course, just to hear the delighted laughs when some of the cards explode in his hands. It’s a sound he got addicted to in less than a minute. Thankfully, no adult is around to warrant pretending he ferociously hates the kids, so he only chides himself lightly for this particular weakness.)

*

Severus has spent the last few hours thinking about the conundrum of Apparating some of their things over without a) attracting unwanted (so any kind of) attention, b) having to inform Potter of the necessity of the shipment c) choosing what to transport and d) how to do it, through a warded house and such. Well, the few and far between minutes of that hour when he doesn’t have to pretend to taste Alberto’s sand ice creams or see all the insects Jim’s found (all ladybugs, useless for potions) and taking care of moving Violet when the sun changes position.

Potter goes grocery-shopping today, if one can call it that; Severus handed him a list of three not-so-desperately-needed items, and told him to go find the shops.

He doesn’t have high hopes, although the boy did rid the world of the Dark Wizard of the Century, so, Severus admits, he is somewhat capable of causing surprises.

It just isn’t very likely, with the way Potter stares into the distance in his moments ‘awake’.

Severus doesn’t mind terribly. He has a good rapport with the children. He is relatively certain he could keep them alive going to the park and back by himself, now. They went once with Potter, after all, and it wasn’t as though the man was irreplaceable.

But then again, Severus likes to amuse himself with small things over the course of the day, and ridiculing Potter in his mind is an activity just like that, easy, and not very serious in nature when in reality, he understands that Potter deserves time to grieve.

*

”Snape?”

”Yes, Alberto?”

”Are you going to sing us goodnight?”

He does not glance towards Potter’s closed door. He simply knows it’s closed because it’s his own damned house.

”Yes. What would you like me to sing?”

”The Moon song.”

At his prompting, he sings the first line to clarify. Severus recognizes the tune, although he doesn’t remember where from.

He leans closer to the boys and starts singing quietly. They don’t complain that his voice is rusty, breaking, and sometimes probably out of tune. They just watch him with their blinking gazes, until the sleep settles on them like tiny magical butterflies.

Severus looks at them until Violet’s charms alert him of her waking. Then, he quietly slides out of the boys’ bedroom.

*

Jimmy’s first major shit show happens on… how long is it? Is it the eighth or the ninth day Severus wakes with them?

Molly Weasley would call this a good sign, meaning the child is comfortable enough in his new surroundings to let out his pent-up frustration, and since Severus only imagines this would be what Molly would say, he must recognize this also on a certain level beneath the surface of his mind. But above that, he’s only trying to stay alive without screaming on his own. James doesn’t want to put on shoes. He doesn’t want to put them on, because he stepped on a bug yesterday (which at that point in time didn’t result in more than a few quiet questions and contemplation), so the dead bug is on it now (even if it isn’t visible, because Severus non-verbally spelled everything away when the first tears appeared), so clearly the garment Can Never Be Worn Again. At least that’s what Severus’s mind tries to find as a logical pattern as to why the five-year-old lies on the ground, sobbing and screaming bloody, hiccup-y murder at him.

Potter is asleep of course, the bastard.

Severus doesn’t know what would be the appropriate answer. Not force the issue and back away until the boy quiets on his own? Hug the distressed child tightly and murmur meaningless reassurances? Snap at him to ‘stop the hissy-fit’ he’s having? Promise to buy new shoes? Try to talk calmly about the circle of life and death and such?

To top things up, Violet joins in. Alberto is standing a step behind Severus (between his other siblings), watching his brother with wonder, but thankfully he doesn’t seem like breaking out into wails as well.

But for the first time since they arrived and Violet is crying, she cannot be the priority, because there’s something bothering Jimmy, and it may be only a bug on a shoe, but it may be something deeper, death and losing his mother and being in a strange place and basically having no meaningful contact with his father.

So Severus decides on gathering up the child in his arms; he kicks and struggles and screams at first, but tucked tightly into Severus’s chest, he can’t help but settle into vehement sobbing, his small arms coming around Snape’s neck and clinging into him in mournful misery.

It’s an indescribable feeling, having the warm, limp body of a pain-filled child draped over him with utter trust. Severus says things he never imagined saying to another living being, and they come into his mouth easier than long-learned spells. Sweetheart. It’s all right. I love you. You’re safe.

This is how he becomes James’s father.

*

The boys make a list of all the long words they know and will teach Violet when she’ll be old enough to learn how to speak. Severus may have nudged the idea along by providing paper and crayons. (Potter found the Poundshop. Hence the crayons.) It turns into a fight about how to properly write down words, with Jim being of the opinion that handwriting looks like Dad’s fallen out hair (wavy, long, occasionally/spottily greying), while Alberto presents the case of a lot of points (like bunny poop, and there was a long story about that which Severus only understands a part of) woven into a page: that is what handwriting is supposed to be like.

When it is decided that they need a third opinion to settle this academic discourse, Severus tries to write so his cursive resembles neither hair nor points too much.

*

The third time they carefully get to the playing area, the boys notice the two girls. They live nearby, Severus has seen their mother around the supermarket on occasion, but he never paid too much attention to them and ignored them as much as he could, the usual treatment he gave every fellow town-person.

They become much more interesting now because as soon the boys are allowed to run forward without holding an adult’s hand, they start a conversation in the easy way children do. Not even two minutes later, which is barely enough time to share a glance with Potter, and to hastily prepare himself for some inane chit-chat the woman most likely wants to engage in, he settles Violet’s basket on the bench and listens to her coo with mortification mixed with pride. Hell yes, Violet is the cutest little munchkin in the world, whatever “munchkin” meant.

The girls, according to their mother, are actually cousins, and one of them is only spending the summer with them; their names are Gwyn and Jemima.

They apparently have playground friends now, now that they go every day when it’s not, or is only slightly, raining. Technically, they’re both Alberto’s friends (this is what they say), but James gets on with them amicably, and Severus figures he has to learn to tolerate their mother for the sake of the children.

Jemima and Gwyn: They’re six and five, and Jemima orders Jimmy around (which Severus is happy to see, as they have to get rid of all the toxic masculinity that James Potter might have ’gifted’ upon his grandchild) but they play well together, and Severus figures it’s a good thing they’re around girls, because they might learn how to appreciate Vi more after this. Not that they are any different than his two boys: they’re reckless and wild and love to yell and sing (like most children, usually) and the only thing different about them is their long, plaited hair, which both of his boys envy to some extent. Al is mostly fine, but Jimmy is proper jealous: after only the second time of making friends with them, Jim demands that Severus do something with his hair to make it nice and long as well.

Severus, of course, does no such thing (body modification by magic on a child is extremely dangerous) but encourages the oldest to grow it out himself.

He means in the long run, but James spends the evening trying to do it with magic, scrunching his face up adorably in concentration.

*

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman, and printmaker. He was one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. His work was particularly influenced by artistic styles such as Cubism and Surrealism. Philosophical questions about the human condition, as well as existential and phenomenological debates played a significant role in his work.

Surely, a much better role model than Albus Dumbledore. Or indeed, Severus Snape.

*

He takes a few deep breaths, and the tension in the room mounts higher. They should be sitting together, but apart, as it became their evening habit. Tonight, Potter’s whole being is a string pulled tight, and he’s pacing back and forth, so Severus makes himself ready for the worst.

Potter will tell him how pathetic he is, how fucked up it is to home in on somebody else’s children in a few weeks, and how they’ll never belong to Severus, no matter how much he clearly aches to make this family his own, so they’ll leave immediately.

Potter scrunches all his face together, as if in real pain. He’s still breathing as though he’s consciously telling himself to do so, and he forcefully exhales a few times before finally uttering, “She died shortly after giving birth.”

Out of all the things that he feared and suspected, it really cuts Severus deep. Potter is a trembling nerve before him, shaking, on the verge of crying, running, screaming. Severus knows he should offer a hand to him, or a couple of kind words. He can’t do either.

He simply returns Potter’s painful gaze and nods.

Suddenly, the tension leaves Potter’s body. He staggers to the sofa, sitting down. Severus orders the whiskey to them without asking.

They sit, sharing the quiet. Sip their whiskey. Harry starts crying at some point, and he pulls his knees up and hides his face behind them, but his misery still comes toward Severus in waves, and he does his best to allow them to settle in him. Maybe that way, they would burden Harry less.

He thinks about this young man, perhaps for the first time in his whole life, as a simple person, unadorned by heritage, prophecy and Severus’s ghosts. He regards Harry through these new lenses. He feels for him, the person sobbing openly in front of him.

What strange fate got them together again, Severus doesn’t know. But he is starting to think that Potter, perhaps, even without his children, could be interesting to get to know. Maybe it’s not only his children who are...

Their evening ends anticlimactically. Potter, worn out from the crying and most likely sporting a headache, looks Severus in the eye again.

They’ve found an understanding, Severus realizes, as he registers that Harry is ready to turn in for the night.

Harry whispers, “Thank you,” before disappearing behind his bedroom door, and Severus takes his thoughts to Violet and goes over them once more as he tends to her needs.

*

As Alberto gets more comfortable, he gets bolder.

Al lies.

Who dropped all this paper in the toilet?

Who ate the last biscuit?

Who made the butterfly disappear?

Who threw the plant out of its vase?

Dad, Vi, Jimmy, and I don’t know.

Not Al.

Al sneaks around.

Who's that in the corridor?

I thought it was bedtime already?

Do you really have to poo?

What are you looking for?

Al pretends.

Were you looking in on your father?

Are you afraid of the dark?

Do you want to see how I change her?

Do you not know the end of the story?

Al is going to be a Slytherin.

He is sensitive, caring, cunning and looks out primarily for his own interest.

Severus is already swimming with pride.

*

Severus goes running at nights. Putting extensive monitoring charms on a cauldron (or on Violet, in this case) is something he’s very experienced in.

When the kids and Potter are sleeping, and Severus gets out into the dark and resumes a steady rhythm of movement, the small matters of the day melt away.

He thinks about Jimmy’s tantrum, the way Alberto had to be told three times they were leaving the playground, Potter’s too slowly dissipating unease around Violet.

It helps him put things into perspective.

His home is filled to the brim, with noises, with people, with what he’s tentatively beginning to call his family, and it’s a pretty overwhelming change after all those years alone.

Severus always was an obsessive person. If he found a new interest, there was nothing else he’d think or talk about until he burned out. Potions was like that at first, which he could never get rid of. It gentled into a hobby, a routine. The Dark Arts, pretty similar. And now, the idea of a family. Of having kids that were his. They undoubtedly were, by now. Jimmy fought with him the same way he sometimes did with Harry, Albus climbed into his lap without a second thought. Violet’s tiny hand closed around his index finger.

Still, he couldn’t help but admit, in the darker parts of his mind, he wanted more. He wanted Potter to curl around him in bed after they’ve put the little ones down to sleep. To touch and kiss him and call him his children’s father aloud.

*

Alberto comes up to him one day. He wears the expression of a dehydrated person in the desert, asking for water. Severus recognizes this as the ’serious question coming’ face. He quietly approves the dramatics, although the last two of Al’s questions which came with this expression were: ‘What happens when cars die?’ and ‘Why no chocolate before dinner?’

“Yes?”

“Snape, do you like my daddy?” Al asks worriedly. Severus waits for him to finish presenting his conundrum, and when the boy doesn’t continue he nods at him encouragingly to prompt him to explain, which the child takes as an answer to his question. “Then why do you look… when he talks to you?”

He scrunches up his face adorably. Severus suddenly wishes for the idiotic camera-phone Jemima’s mother has, to preserve this image: a young, innocent child trying to duplicate a sour, frowning, scolding expression.

Severus smiles at him the way he never smiles at the oldest Potter, then regards him seriously long enough for the child to understand that he’s ’thinking’.

“This is a secret,” he confesses quietly when Al actually moves subconsciously closer with anticipation. “Can I trust you with it?”

“Of course!” Alberto breathes, mock-offended, as if any other idea would be absolutely ridiculous. Oh, he’s going to be a wonderful Slytherin.

“I don’t mind your father.”

Alberto’s eyes are wide. He moves even closer, whispering, “Then why do you do the face?”

“Because sometimes, you don’t want other people to know how you really feel. So you pretend.”

Al considers this, long and hard.

“But why?”

“It can prove to be beneficial to have the upper hand. To have more information, at times.”

“Bene-?”

“It means good, or useful.”

Alberto thinks. He’s only three though, so Severus decides to add an example.

“Do you remember yesterday, when I gave you and your brother a Jaffa cake after lunch?” At his nod, he continues, ”And then when your dad woke up, he went to get one for himself, and he noticed you and me in the kitchen and asked if we wanted some?”

“You said we already had.”

“Yes, but imagine this: what if I only said ‘Potter, why do you assume I’d want your children sugar-high around me?’ That would not be a ’yes, or no’ answer, but from the way I’d have said it, he’d come to the conclusion that I must not have. And then he might have given you another biscuit. Does that sound better to you, getting to have one more Jaffa cake?”

“Yeah!”

They have to take a break here, to eat some sweets, because. Because. (Severus spoils them rotten, sugar high be damned.)

“But Mr. Snape, isn’t that like lying?” Al comes back later, concerned.

Severus snorts. Al lies all the time.

Severus concedes, “It almost is, yes.”

“But Mommy said I mustn’t lie to Dad, ever.”

“That is very important, yes: you shouldn’t lie to your dad about any important thing. However, do you think having one more biscuit is a really important thing?”

Al shakes his black-haired head but seems slightly uncertain, so Severus calls Jimmy to the sofa and they have a long, repetitive talk about the important situations one must always tell an adult about.

They have gotten so good at memorizing Potion Rhymes, this exercise doesn't take more than a few minutes.

The next evening, Severus witnesses the middle child shamelessly telling Harry he’d get to have another story chosen to ‘read’ in the bed for a while longer, because ‘Snape said I behaved appropriately in the park’. Severus, of course, said no such thing, but Potter is awed by the long words and laps it up completely, not even bothering to ask Severus to confirm.

Severus goes to turn off his light after ten additional minutes when Alberto is already sleeping on his book. He chose an adult book, (no pictures) one of Severus’s from the lower shelves he can reach: it’s about household potions, and he got saliva all over it.

Severus doesn’t even try to subdue his smile.

This is how he becomes Alberto’s father.

*

“It’s not even proper grief!” It explodes out of Harry the next evening, and Severus is startled by the pain colouring Potter’s eyes such a beautiful, deadly green. “I’m just… I miss her, of course, but overwhelmingly, it’s just… guilt.”

“Guilt?” Severus repeats incredulously. Surely, Potter cannot still be as self-centered to think other people lived and died according to his fancy.

“I talked her into having a third child with me. She wanted to go back to work, said she had enough of pregnancy, of us, stuck in the same place,” He buries his face in his hands, which are shaking. He continues his confession quietly: “I took away her life. She wanted to go and date others, she wanted to play Quidditch again, she missed having her social life so much… But I pushed. I told her we needed to have Lily to fix our marriage, when I knew, from the beginning, that it was beyond fixing.”

Severus feels his eyebrows climb up on his face. The marriage was a failure? How so?

“We wanted different things. I wanted a family so much, that I disregarded her feelings.”

“Did you force yourself on her?” Severus asks slowly, trying to keep every emotion out of his voice.

Potter is taken aback, for just a second.

“Of course not. But I might as well have done that... I begged and pleaded and promised the moon to her until she eventually agreed, eventua -”

“Then the choice was hers as well, Mr. Potter. Don’t twist the truth just because you want to play the victim.”

A spark of defiance lights up in Potter’s eyes. Good, Severus thinks. Potter’s voice is cooler when he continues, “No. It’s my fault.”

Severus wants to slap this infuriating man. No, he wants to hug him close, to see if he kicked, screamed then ultimately let himself to be comforted by the touch, just like Jimmy. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t even snap at Harry to stop crying on his couch. He asks, “What exactly happened?”

“She…she...” Harry is shaking all over now, whole bodily, the same way that he did after Weasley got him and the sword out of that lake. Funny, what the mind chooses to remember. Potter trembles miserably.

“There was so much blood, and the mediwitch said there was a complication, and suddenly I was thrown out of the room, and later, it just… They said it was only possible to save one of them, and that Ginny said… Ginny said...”

Severus can fill in the rest for himself. Potter breaks down into sobbing, the kind that’s absolutely unselfconscious and heart-wrenching in its rawness – and Severus can’t touch him like this – this type of emotion cannot be made better with a stroke of the hand, or a tight hug.

So he stays silent and observes. He quietly thanks Ginny Weasley for gifting him Violet. Harry holds his chest as if it’s threatening to come apart.

Severus can only help by bearing witness to his pain. And he will not shy away from this task.

Harry looks like himself, Severus observes. Tears and snot flowing off his face, he doesn’t look like Lily, James, not even like Jimmy or Alberto or Violet.

*

Violet Kemble-Cooper was an English actress. Lily’s mother, the late Jasmine Evans, was very fond of her, always remarking how they lived in the same street before her family moved away. Severus, in turn, felt a fierce love for Lily’s mum, who always had a kind word, a sandwich, and a warm hug for him. Back then, that was enough to warrant Severus’s everlasting loyalty.

*

Everything is tiny on Violet. It’s not as though Alberto or Tiberius are much bigger, but Violet is almost immeasurable, yet her presence is huge. Her toes, fingernails and earlobes, everything is tiny, except her voice.

After the relative quietness of the first few nights, she really started to let her distaste of Severus’s treatment come out. She doesn’t like when Severus changes her nappies, even though now he’s got ample practice to be efficient, only vaguely horrified and not clumsy at all. She doesn’t appreciate Severus’s singing voice, or the time it takes him to warm her milk (a few seconds longer than immediately). She wails into the interested faces of her brothers and doesn’t give a toss about the absence of her ‘real’ father, but that’s not surprising, and even one more thing Severus and she have in common.

She is a blank page. Well, a blank screaming page, as if someone cast Sonorous on an ancient object to shout in a language nobody understands, and Severus doesn’t mind it, really. It was so quiet for so long, he even cherishes it, when it’s not happening in the ungodly hours of dawn.

She is a fighter, who also shows signs of affection when Severus holds her, sings and talks in a soothing voice and tickles her tummy after nappy-change and kisses her goodnight without Jimmy’s request. Her baby-smell somehow invokes in him the memory of the first time he successfully brewed the Draught of Living Death, at the tender age of thirteen. The metallic smell of the potion wasn’t anything like Lily’s granddaughter’s slumber-sweat, but the feeling Severus gets is truly identical.

So it must stand to reason that Violet is as perfect as that potion was.

*

Violet has always been his daughter, since the second he laid eyes on her.

Now, a bit regrettably, it’s time to get Potter on board too.

*

Severus fits Violet against his chest the next day and doesn’t put her out of sight when Potter comes to breakfast. There was enough of the hiding. Violet deserves all the attention, and the boys need to get more used to her as well. They chant Potion Rhythms until she starts to cry in protest, then they stop.

The boys play on the carpet while Harry cooks, and Severus walks around with Violet, and the little girl eventually gets lulled to sleep by his movements. Severus quietly discusses afternoon plans with Harry (which are, not surprisingly, going to the park), and barely holds back a remark on how they could take them to see the local museum when it opens up again in six months.

Severus feels so good, so light, he only realizes he’s grinning when Harry’s eyes widen seeing him, and then slowly smiling at him. Smiling back at him.

Severus’s unconscious smile wasn’t for Harry, he feels the tickling urge to explain, suddenly, desperately, just because of the situation. The boys are playing peacefully with each other on the carpet, without fighting for once, Violet smells comfortingly like a healthy baby in Severus’s arms, and… It’s perfect.

It would be just as bad explaining this, Severus knows, although his reputation as the fearful Bat of the Dungeons is gone forever anyhow. But Potter… Harry cannot know how much Severus likes this. He would surely take them away once he realizes… Oh, Merlin.

How much Severus loves them.

But how could he do that? After only… No, it doesn’t matter. Severus does. He got into this habit of being honest with himself, a few years ago, after slowly and painfully sorting through all his issues, and it’s true. He doesn’t know them completely, doesn’t know all the food types Al refuses to eat, doesn’t know how Jimmy behaves when he’s sick, but for Merlin’s sakes, he wishes to. He wants to see them grow, hug them when they feel hurt or sad, celebrate all their triumphs from small to huge. See what person they become and help Harry to shape them into honourable young adults.

Yeah, Severus realizes, the smile slowly transforming into a much more familiar-feeling frown; he’s truly fucked.

*

“Harry?” he asks just five minutes after Potter has stood against the counter, and was halfway through washing their dishes. He figures, the more directly he goes with it, the less likely Potter is to question it.

Potter turns around, openly surprised expression closing sharply when he sees how Severus holds Violet out to him.

“I wonder, maybe you haven’t been properly introduced yet. This is Violet Luna Potter. Violet, this is your father,” he says, voice dripping a bit of sarcasm.

Potter takes a sidestep, and snaps at him, rage barely held back, “This is not funny!”

Severus’s only answer is a mockingly raised eyebrow.

“Fuck you,” Harry spits, folding into himself.

Severus lets it go. Draws Violet back against himself.

“Just like yourself, she is innocent in what happened. The sooner you start to separate your pain from your feelings for her, the easier it will be for you.”

Harry doesn’t look up. He’s chewing at his lower lip, and Severus is afraid he’s going to bite through it.

“Please, don’t--” he begs.

Severus moves closer to him, Violet tucked protectively back against his chest.

“I’m here to help,” he murmurs, fully expecting Harry to break out in unbelieving hysterics. He means it, though.

Harry nods, again and again, and doesn’t move at all. Severus steps into his space, a few minutes later, when Harry starts crying, and his hands are in fists next to his body. He shifts Harry’s daughter closer to him, brushing the man’s shoulders with his own.

“Have I ever told you how I imagined the war’s last battle to go, Violet?” He talks to them both quietly. “From the moment Voldemort returned, I had this picture, hidden in my head, it haunted me for years. I’ve never seen how it happened, in the end, so I still imagine it the same way: desperation, sweat and blood-streaked bodies glistening in the disappearing sun. Curses flying over heads, some hitting and some aimless, red and purple and white. And at the height of the battle, at the noisiest moment possible, a seventeen-year-old steps up to the snake-faced monster. The odds are woefully against him, but he’s brave and clear hearted enough to balance those odds. He says, voice trembling slightly, “Tom. Let’s finish this.” Severus swallows. “And the Dark Lord laughs and belittles him, but the Light is at his side. He, who comes with love, who dies for others, falls easily to the ground, without complaints. And as the fool launches into his self-celebratory monologue, the boy simply raises his head and wand off the ground and finishes him with a simple spell. And in that second, for only a moment, all is well.”

Potter breathes in and out. His tears have stopped. He hasn’t interrupted. Severus got better at telling stories, it seems. It is true that, nowadays, he has a lot more practice.

“However it happened truly, do you know how many peaceful lives he made possible that day, Violet?” he asks quietly. “Not only most of Britain’s Wizarding population’s, but mine, and his own too. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, he gifted some of his remaining love to two little boys as well. Maybe someday, if we are lucky enough, Violet, he will grant the same to us.”

His words are too revealing. He should have said ‘you’, not ‘us’.

Harry doesn’t look at him. After a terrible moment of total stillness, he motions them closer to the sofa.

“Sit with me, please,” he whispers brokenly. He sounds like a dying man.

When they’re both sitting, and Severus cannot help but understand what Harry’s open hands signify, he swallows thickly and places Violet into Harry’s shaking embrace.

“I’m so sorry, Violet,” Harry says, and Severus stays with them until their crying quiets. Harry apologizes again and again, and Severus has deemed it prudent to forgive him in place of his daughter. So he does.

*

Harry takes a quick sip and looks up at Severus. The little ones have already retired, Violet not so far, as always, Jimmy snoring lightly and Alberto drooling on Severus’s book.

“I’m gay,” Harry murmurs. He doesn’t sound too modest or nervous about it, but he still says it quickly, as if ripping off a plaster. “Well, bisexual, technically, but homo-romantic, and when I’m not around Hermione it’s easier to just say gay, so.”

The air in Severus’s lungs starts to burn, why, he doesn’t know. He tips his head, as he always does when Harry shares something. He wonders if he should risk raising his glass to his rapidly drying mouth. Best not, though. Perhaps it would shake.

“Ginny knew. We wanted a family together, so it didn’t matter much. We figured… we thought we’d live long enough to have time to do other things as well. It’s going to be different now, though.”

Severus needs to say his piece too before the conversation moves away from this topic.

“I will not treat you differently.” He swallows. “To do so would be hypocritical of me.”

Harry gives a careful nod to him, and, after visible thought, he smiles too. It’s a tiny, barely there twitch of lips, but Severus has already fallen in love with it deeply.

*

Whatever fears Severus had about Harry stealing Violet back once he had his breakthrough, it proves false.

Harry is much more affectionate with the little girl now, holding and changing her at times, smiling at her, brave, desperate, bright-eyed smiles, but he doesn’t take her away from Severus. It’s comforting for all three of them, Severus hazards.

*

And just when things start to get tentatively better, of course, the bloody Gryffindors have to show up. As Severus’s luck goes, the boys notice them only a blink later than he does, rendering any sort of preventive measure meaningless in a matter of seconds.

Now, his boys are running towards them shouting, “Uncle Ron! Aunt Hermione!” so Severus only has three agonizing seconds to make a decision. That’s how long it takes for the boys to reach the couple standing by the sandbox, and once they get there, they would realize that their godparents (or whatever familiarity nonsense they are to each other) can’t see nor hear them. Severus doesn’t want to deal with their confusion or heartbreak or tantrums. Not now, when he needs every bit of luck and their favouring if he wants to get to keep them. The thought of the Gryffindor lot forcing them away prickles at his skin uncomfortably. He will not let it happen.

He releases his Fidelius on the boys for the moment, and immediately after puts an Anti-Apparition ward on the whole playground. Shields on both of them. He will not let them go without a fight.

The Weasley-Grangers’ reactions are sudden and loud and overly emotional: when the two shouting children that appear to be materializing out of thin air before them, running at them full speed, Severus expects it’s only the reflexes of parents with young children throwing themselves at them that helps to ease the boys’ ways into their arms. There are shocked shouts and embarrassing displays of affection. The adults cry and hug them for minutes, and only afterwards pause to think about the logical questions this situation warrants.

“Where is your dad? Where is Lily?”

Severus and Violet are still sitting on the bench a few meters away. Potter has gone to the shop for milk and cheese and kid’s yogurts, and Severus hopes he won’t get back until this gets resolved.

The timing is so horrible, though. Just when things started getting better.

Al looks around, his gaze finding Severus but not his father, and he shrugs, so Jimmy is the one to answer their frantic questioning.

”I dunno, you should ask Mr. Snape. He knows it prob’ly.” He takes his aunt’s hand and tugs her toward where Severus is sitting, invisible but to the children’s eyes.

The look on their faces would be priceless if it wouldn’t have to be a matter Severus has to deal with extreme caution; he sighs and let’s go of the Fidelius covering him, summoning the strongest shield he is capable of producing. He’s not truly afraid of a physical or magical altercation, but this is a Hotheaded Weasley he’s dealing with, and the Cleverest Witch of Her Generation. It’s best to be certain.

Their gasps are identical: Weasley looks like a startled fish, while his wife is snapping a hand over her mouth. She’s wearing a wedding ring identical to the man’s; they’re both dressed in Muggle travel-clothes.

”You… you!” Weasley says. Severus disdainfully fears he might even start pointing at him.

”How can you be alive?” Granger is a bit more eloquent.

”Due to carefully executed planning and snake anti-venom and some incredible luck,” Severus answers quietly. Strangely, it feels good to share, after all this time. But not freeing enough for a repeat performance, so… “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this small fact to yourselves,” He taps his wand to his trousers in a clear motion, just to illustrate how non-appreciative he would be if done otherwise.

“Where is Harry?! What have you done with him?”

Severus sighs. Weasley’s tone is outright aggressive.
“Children?” He turns to Al and Jimmy following their exchange. “Go and build a sandcastle for Jemima? I think she’d be delighted.”

“Children?!” Weasley fumes. “They have names, you know!”

Severus smiles lazily, slyly. Oh, yes. Names… They indeed do have.

Jimmy and Alberto, taken by the idea of surprising their friend, run off quickly and settle down to play, almost out of earshot.

He turns to Weasley, who’s half an inch taller than he now, but Severus never backed down from a challenge: he gets out his best intimidating face and stares the idiot down.

”What I’ve done, Mr. Weasley, is taken in a grieving family who turned up on my doorstep. What I’ve done was take care of these children and their idiotic father for three weeks now. So I suggest you put your antagonism away.” He shares in the kind tone of amused serial killers.

Mrs. Weasley (or whatever she prefers to be called) quickly catches his arm before he could react.

“Sorry, Professor, he didn’t mean it like that. We’re just worried sick. Could you please tell us…”

Granger is no less polite or clever then she was in her school years; similarly, just as annoying. Severus has to remind himself to play nice.

“He’s gone to the grocery store one street away. I assume he’ll be back shortly, seeing that he departed approximately 20 minutes ago.”

They heave a relieved sigh in unison; Severus wonders if this is what people mean when they say married couples start to merge together, after some time.

“Is the baby girl with him?” Granger asks, desperate again.

Severus wants to laugh in their faces and say that Potter held the child no more times than he could count on his hands. Which is a bit unfair, of course. Harry has been trying hard these last few days.

“No,” Severus says, then bravely barrels on: “She’s with me. And they’re all staying with me until Potter and I decide otherwise.”

His words are followed by a momentary shock. Then Weasley’s face turns red with rage and Granger’s pale with fear. Their wands are drawn in a flash, but Severus isn’t a fool: his is already sparkling, prepared before his chest.

They stare at each other, teeth blared and eyes unblinking.

“You must understand, we have no reason to believe you,” Granger says quietly, her voice full of considerably serious threat. “You could be anyone. As far as we know, Professor Snape died in the Battle of Hogwarts. An impostor, kidnapping the Potter family for ransom.”

“What a well-thought-out theory. Or maybe not so much, because where are the letters demanding money or political favours in exchange for them?” He sneers at them. “Furthermore, why would I have just let them run to you? Do they look mistreated, malnourished?” He lets out a horrifying laugh at hearing his boys laugh aloud at that exact moment between themselves while playing.

Weasley sputters. They both keep sneaking glances at the kids while still trying to keep Severus in check, their wands not wavering.

“So prove that you are who you say you are. Tell us something only the real Snape would know.”

“Oh, and what would you expect that to be? Shall I recount some of your unoriginal lines from your Potions essays or the way you dunderheads followed Potter into all sorts of trouble? Is there any sort of information about your escapades that could not have been unattainable by a moderately resourceful person?”

They all search their memories.

“Third year, in the Shrieking Shack. Everybody who was there that night besides us is already dead,” Weasley offers.

Severus shakes his head.

“All three bloody Marauders could have passed on that tale in the following years. Pettigrew, most likely, told the whole story to the Dark Lord; everybody in the Inner Circle of Death Eaters could have got that information. Even the golden trio could have blabbered about it to the countless reporters I’m sure begged for stories to commemorate your heroics in their chronicles.”

While Weasley sneers, Granger blinks and is quick to reply, “We didn’t, so why don’t you just stop avoiding the question and answer us?”

Severus hisses at them, “I’m trying to make you understand that this inane method of the Order is good for nothing, you foolish Gryffindors.”

The insult might not have been the right tactic because the wands are gripped more prominently, swaying closer to his face.

Merlin’s balls, Snape just wanted to placate them until Potter got back, or even better, send them off to somewhere else and then move. He could surely explain to the boys somehow. Memory-altering magic was dangerous at their age.

“As I’m saying, it doesn’t prove anything if I tell you that, that night I went to check on Lupin to see if he took his Wolfsbane, which I spent a solid week brewing, I might add, and, discovering that he failed to do so and left behind a magical map showing were he went, I followed him to Sirius Black and to you useless brats, who stupefied me, your teacher, and later got no punishment for it whatsoever from the Headmaster.”

Weasley lowers his wand a bit. Granger’s doesn’t move.

“We’re slightly sorry about that, sir.” She nods tightly, then adds, “How would you suggest we’d go about confirming your identity, then?”

“There are numerous spells and potions for this kind of thing. I’d expect you’d heard about some by now.”

Granger shakes her head, mutely, after Severus feels a simple ‘Finite Incantatem’ and a ‘Revelio’ wash over him. Naturally, nothing changes.

Severus mirrors her movement.

“The Wizarding world’s education is clearly sinking lower by the year,” he mutters, then continues a shade louder. “I’ll lend you the book.”

Weasley snorts disbelievingly, whispers something that suspiciously sounds like ’bloody hell’, and pockets his wand.

Granger, to Severus’s grudging respect, still holds hers high.

“Show us Lily, and I’ll consider.”

Severus deliberately waits a few moments, then, nodding at the witch, he says, “If you try anything funny, I’ll take them without a word.” Weasley glares back.

Severus slowly puts his wand back into his pocket. He turns halfway away from them to get Violet out of the basket she rests in.

“Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger,” he says ceremoniously, letting the intent of the Fidelius rearrange. “Meet Violet Potter.”

He steps closer. Both of them have their gazes glued to the small bundle in his arms. Severus, after only a moment of hesitation, passes the child to an unbelieving Weasley’s hand, making sure he supports her tiny head and under her bum.

They look at her with such awe, as if seeing their own child for the first time. It occurs to Severus that they might not have seen her before: that would warrant this reaction. Violet is, after all, perfect.

There are tears in Hermione’s eyes as she holds the baby after her husband, and she whispers Violet reverently; this is the first second Severus considers them… as something other than the enemy.

Violet wakes up and blinks at the unfamiliar people and starts crying. Severus itches to take her back but the Weasleys start smiling and cooing and rocketing her around; praising her and her voice and everything, really.

Which is only too fair, but this is Severus’s child, so he’d like to get her back now, please.

He turns to check on his boys instead, showing great restraint and letting them have their family time.

After Vi quiets, they start debating the most inane thing: family resemblance. How her nose looks just like Molly’s. Her ears whosever. What a load of bullcrap – Severus thinks. She looks like herself, and no one else.

He keeps rolling his eyes and looks away from their ‘in-your-face’ happiness and that’s how he spots Potter, coming towards them, bags in hand; he sees the exact minute he notices them and freezes.

He isn’t too far away, and Severus can perfectly read his emotions. The shock and panic and longing and heartache. He just stands there, taking them in, breathing hard. Then his eyes find Severus and plead sweetly. Please, don’t.

Severus looks back, hard. This is what you brewed, Potter, so you’ll have to drink it as well.

He says to the couple quietly, “Here comes the hero of the day.”

They whip their heads up to look at their missing friend. Weasley almost immediately starts going towards him, with long, forceful steps. Harry is frozen in place, only his panicked look giving away how much he wants to run. When Weasley reaches him, he pulls him into a crushing hug.

After that, he appears to be talking, and Severus shamelessly casts a spell to hear what he is saying.

“…fucking worried, never, ever do this again, Harry, do you hear me? I’ll blast your balls off myself if you pull another disappearing on us, damn it, you are my brother, you can’t pull this shit, we were terrified something happened to the kids…”

Potter only whimpers and seems to start crying into his shoulder, which Granger must have sensed by something as well because she hands Violet back to Severus to go join them in the hug. (Severus hopes she noted how Vi quieted by the familiar smell of him, then chides himself for giving a shit.)

“We love you, Harry, and we miss her too. Why did you feel you can’t stay with us?” she asks with so much sadness, even Severus’s heart clenches. (A tiny bit. It could have been just age.)

Potter doesn’t answer, just sobs into their embrace. It is rather… distasteful, what feelings it invokes in Severus to see Harry seeking comfort from them in such an intimate way.

Severus turns away from it and goes to check on the progression of the sandcastle. Violet is safely tucked into his arms.

“How are you progressing?” Not too badly, it seems: there are five and a half towers with a tunnel connecting them in a circle.

“It’s a surprise for Jem and Gwyn!” Alberto shares excitedly as he’d probably forgotten it was Severus who suggested the very idea. “It’s pretty, yes?”

“Yes. And I’m sure they’ll find it very lovely,” Severus assures him, and he tucks a stray, too-long hair behind Jim’s ear. He needs a haircut; in fact, they both do: but they wanted long hair for ponytails and beads and whatever else the girls made them jealous of that week. Severus sighs, and brushes some sand off Alberto’s face. “But you’ll need to finish soon because we’ll be going home in a bit.”

“But what about Jem and G? They want to see the castle!”

“It isn’t very likely that they’ll come tonight, it’s already past playground time,” Severus reasons. “If you’d like, we can come out tomorrow sooner, to see their reaction as they arrive.”

“So we see how they like it?”

“Yes. Tomorrow.”

Al pouts, but Severus knows there won’t be an argument about it: in a few seconds, they’ll be reminded that they are hungry, as soon as they notice their father returned from the shops. Little children were predictable like that: they didn’t cause so much headache as CERTAIN older people tended to, in Severus’s opinion.

Severus steels himself before turning back to the golden trio. The spell wore off when Severus walked over to check on the boys, but he can read plenty from their positions and body language. Harry is still defensive, wary, exhausted- and although he doesn’t deserve saving, Severus is not above offering him a rope, so to say.

“We’re going home,” he announces loud enough for both small groups to hear. He can’t help but find hilarious the Weasleys’ sucked in breath and Potter’s pleading look.

It’s weird to think about Harry considering himself to be on his side against his best friends, but however out of character that might be, that’s exactly what the young man’s face seems to convey. Hope is building treacherously inside Severus: this might just turn out okay. If Harry doesn’t want to snatch the children up and take them away immediately when confronted with his oldest friends, then… Severus getting to be their father might have a chance.

They all stare at Potter, waiting for his reaction, except for the two boys, who try to bribe Severus into staying longer by holding onto his trouser-leg and repeating ’pretty please’ with practiced puppy eyes, but that’s just the usual.

“Ummm,” Harry says, quite eloquently. He flushes and starts to scuffle around with his foot, avoiding their gazes.

Granger tries to come to his rescue.

“I’m sure your help is appreciated, Professor, but I think Harry and the children will be better off coming home with us.”

Severus would like to say where Granger could shove her opinion, but alas, there are children present.

Harry?” he repeats, asking the man himself, in a slightly mocking tone.

The three adults stare at him now, until Harry slowly says:

“Yes… Severus, take them home, please. I’ll join you shortly.”

To which to Weasley actually snaps, “What the hell, Harry?” while Severus simply cannot believe his luck. He ignores the redhead and nods at Potter, who is looking back at him, still somewhat lost, but determined at the same time. Something passes between them, and Potter closes his eyes for a long second, much like an acknowledgement.

“If you can localize your heart-to-heart, consider bringing back some storybooks, clothes and the M-O-N-S-T-E-R T-R-U-C-K and other over-adored plushes, will you?” he murmurs as he steps closer to Harry to relieve him of his shopping that he promptly shrinks and pockets.

Weasley, doing an impression of a fish, ogles them in shock. Granger’s silence is much more worrying, and Severus can’t help but feel unnerved by the dark eyes following him.

“Children.” He motions them over. “We’re going home for tea, but your dad must talk to his friends now, so let’s say goodbye to them until later.”

Alberto complains that they didn’t get to play ‘horsies’ with Uncle Ron, and Severus tries his best to reel in his snort upon hearing about it, but otherwise, the boys are quick to hug all three of them. Weasley picks Al up and promises ‘horsies’ for the next time they meet, and Granger kneels down and vines an arm around Jimmy and not very subtly asks him, “Is Mr. Snape good to you, honey? Do you like living with him?” Which Severus probably would have more issues with had Jim not answer immediately with a heartfelt, if absent-minded, “Yeah.” Severus can’t help but preen a little, even next to Weasley’s aggressively puffed out chest.

Granger repeats her question to Alberto, which gets a nod and a whispered, “Where is Mummy? When is she coming back?”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, she’s not coming back,” which only results in tears for both of them. Severus has to carry the quietly sobbing little boy in his arms, but thankfully magic helps turn Violet’s basket into a pram, which Jimmy helps push home.

The tea is a rushed affair, and Al throws a tantrum over bath: he doesn’t want to sit down in the water, it’s too cold too hot too wet, and by the time he exhausts himself enough to stay quiet, Jim gets riled up enough to starts going at it- he doesn’t want to sleep, he’s not tired.

After approximately the first five minutes, Severus wants to yell at them until they shut up. He had a longer and more frustrating day, damn it, and Violet has started fussing by the time Jimmy slowly winds down, and there is still dinner to be made for tomorrow.

But then he realizes it’s the first night he got them alone for himself, and it very well may be the last time, even if the children don’t welcome their father back with telling him how he shouted at them.

So he strokes their hair until they fall asleep, and kisses them goodnight more than once.

When all three of them are deep in slumber, and Severus feels almost drunk on exhaustion, he realizes he hasn’t been this happy in a very, very long time.

*

Severus is still awake when Harry comes back from England, and all but collapses onto the couch.

“How did it go?”

“Shitty,” Harry mutters. He lifts his gaze and gives Severus a rueful smile. “Actually, pretty good, but it’s worse because I just feel like an arsewipe now.”

“Are you going back?” Severus demands with an invisible hand wrapped around his heart, squeezing it painfully.

“No,” Harry answers without hesitation. “Not for a while, I mean. I will, eventually, have to take them back, but… not right now.”

“You may stay as long as you like,” Severus whispers, the look Harry grants him making his heart stutter.

“Thank you, Severus,” Harry whispers back, just as reverently, leaning forwards slightly.

Severus would only need to move forward and kiss him gently. He knows Harry would melt into his arms and kiss back. But he is frozen, he cannot force his body to obey him. Not when everything he wants seems suddenly reachable.

*

Severus spends half the night awake, thinking of them.

The truth of the matter is, it’s more than just loneliness. The Potter children are familiar in a way that suggests this was always meant to be. Severus finds the voice with them as easily as if he knew them for years instead of barely three weeks.

And the other thing… Harry, he. He…

Harry, who is beautiful even with baby-vomit over his shirt, Harry, who suffered so much and still never got out of the habit of smiling, Harry who loves so deeply he has literally died for their kind.

Severus feels things for him. Some of these emotions were always there, from the minute he heard of Lily’s pregnancy, some only started when he came to Hogwarts, some started developing when he visited the boy’s mind only to be stifled right away for Severus’s protection. Some developed over the years as Severus revisited and analysed and healed every bit of his own history he dared to face. Some bloomed into life the second Harry uttered ‘please’.

It’s exciting and terrifying, being in love with Harry Potter.

*

The visit of their relatives and, no doubt, the adults’ tension makes the boys… almost unbearable. Jim and Al are difficult to deal with in the morning, nearly impossible to manage in the afternoon, and by bath-time, they are both screaming at him as they never did before.

It takes every ounce of Severus’s patience and endurance to keep his tone calm. Harry is next to him, trying to pray Jim into his pyjamas. At a glance, he’s not doing much better.

“Get into the tub, Alberto.”

“NO!” Al yells. “You’re not my dad, Sev’rus! You don’t tell me what to do!”

Severus is so taken aback, he doesn’t even tell him off for shouting. It cuts him, his little boy’s words. It hits him that, however he keeps them in his heart, that will not make them miraculously his.

He stands there, frozen in front of the child. He only comes about when Harry brushes past him, touching his arm lightly, murmuring, “Child-Swap,” and kneeling down to talk to Alberto.

Helpless, Severus looks over at Jimmy, who is just taking off the pyjama-top Harry so painfully convinced him to put on.

Somehow, one incredibly long hour later, they both exhaust themselves into sleep.

Harry and he find their way to the living room on their tiptoes, relieved beyond measure that Violet is quiet too, and they both back towards two shots and are nursing their third, when Harry tells him quietly, with a bit of self-deprecating humour in his voice, “You know, I had a rule about not consuming alcohol after a day like this.”

“Feel free to stop wasting it then,” Severus murmurs back, putting only a little bite behind his words.

Harry snorts. “I’ll stop tomorrow.”

Severus smiles at him and finds that it comes most naturally. Of course, Harry ruins it by staring, but after that’s settled with a few telling grimaces, they settle into a comfortable silence.

In fact, Severus almost feels ready to slip into sleep right there and then, when Harry coughs.

“I’ve been thinking.”

He doesn’t continue for a long while. By the time he does, all of the wayward sleep and the alcohol-affected looseness of Severus’s structure are long gone.

“I thought that maybe we… That I...”

Harry looks up at him. There is something fragile in his eyes, hopeful, warm and very afraid. Severus feels exactly the same.

“Would you like us to stay?” Harry asks nervously.

Severus nods immediately, but his words are slower to follow. For several seconds, it’s only their harsh breathing filling the room.

“Yes. Please.”

Harry makes a sound somewhere between a sob and a laugh. Now that it’s out, Severus feels delirious on how much weight has been lifted off him. He grins at Harry, which seems to have the same effect as not so long ago, at least at first.

First, Harry freezes in place, mouth actually falling a bit open, staring at him. Then, in a series of movements Severus would be unable to predict, and can barely comprehend when it happens, Harry climbs over the coffee table separating their armchairs, grabs the back of Severus’s neck with his warm fingers, and pulls him into a kiss.

Despite the suddenness of it, Severus readily answers Harry’s eager lips with his own. Every part of him lights aflame. Harry tastes like alcohol and smells like their home. It couldn’t be more perfect.

“I love your smile,” Harry pants when they finally part, even though it’s only their mouths coming apart, since Harry’s sitting in his lap, holding Severus’s face between his hands. “And I love how much you love my kids.”

Severus swallows. This close, there is no way to hide from Harry’s gaze, so he might as well take a page out of his book, and try to be brave.

“Could I be… Could they be mine too?”

Harry smiles at him like he’s the most beautiful person on Earth.

He kisses him slowly, sweetly, but Severus is too distracted to really enjoy it while trying to translate what it means into words. Finally, Harry pulls away and whispers lovingly into his ear.

“Severus, I think they already are.”