Severus Snape sipped his coffee, his eyes scanning the hall with the intention of spotting someone up to no good. He’d had a terrible night - he’d been called to a Death Eater meeting and hadn’t returned to school until the sun was rising and his presence was mandated in the dining hall. Coffee was an essential this morning, along with a potion he’d created to suffer through nights just like this past one had been. Still, he was in a mood and looking for someone to take it out on.
His Slytherins were seated orderly and eating breakfast without even a hint of trouble brewing. He was relieved, since he expected them to behave as such, but also disappointed because they had been his easiest targets. Of course, what fun was it to watch a student squirm if he couldn’t take points for it? He had no intentions of taking points from his own house, as that would be an extremely self-sacrificing measure just for some stress relief.
The Ravenclaw table was quiet as well, apart from two animated second years who were discussing a book. He couldn’t discipline anyone for being excitable over a book, could he? The Hufflepuff table was nearly empty, as they were having quidditch tryouts this morning. That left the Gryffindor table; Snape should have just started there to begin with. If anyone was up to no good, it would likely be those mischievous lions, planning some prank or getting involved in some situation they had no business being in.
He started at one end of the table, scrutinizing mannerisms and facial expressions. Those awful twins were definitely up to something, they made a promising target. The Weasley girl and the Thomas boy were whispering to each other, and both looked towards the head table at the same time. They were likely up to something, as well. If he were Minister of Magic, he’d make it a law that only one child was allowed per family in an attempt to rid society of families like the Weasleys, where most of their children were more trouble than good. Bill Weasley had been a good student, ambitious and not at all like the youngest of the tribe. They should have stopped with him. Perhaps a book of sterility charms should be mysteriously delivered to Molly and Arthur, just in case they were to get any ideas.
His eyes scanned the remainder of the table, spotting his three least favourite Gryffindors near the end. Granger and Weasley were arguing, from the looks of it, and Potter was moping, staring at his porridge like he expected it to contain the secrets of life and the universe. How disappointing, he could always count on a row with the Golden Trio to elevate his heart rate and fully wake him up when he was dead on his feet.
It would have to be the twins, then. They were now cackling with their entourage, a sure sign that they were up to no good.
Snape’s thoughts were broken by the arrival of the post. How he hated the morning post - owls everywhere was not only unsanitary, but chaotic and loud. Once everyone got their mail, the conversations would start; who got what from whom, the latest reportings from the Daily Prophet, ogling of whoever was being featured in Teen Witch Magazine….it was like the arrival of post directly correlated with the chatter of the hall. It was annoying, it was unnecessary, and it was so typical of young witches and wizards to be caught up in it all. Even his most reserved Slytherins couldn’t resist the temptation of socializing over what had arrived.
Snape rarely got mail. He had no family to speak of. Most of his friends were professors at school and they rarely used the post to communicate with each other when there were so many ways that were far more efficient. The few others he was in frequent contact with would firecall before they’d drop him a letter in the post. He didn’t even get the Prophet anymore - why pay for it when one of the wretched teens would leave their copy, barely even scanned through, on the table?
It was surprising, then, when a tiny grey owl landed on the table in front of him, a letter tied to her foot. It had no name on the front, and he clarified with the bird, “For me?”
The owl hooted in response and stuck out her leg. Clearly, it was meant for him. He untied the letter, curiosity awakening him more than anything else he’d attempted so far. The owl flew off, leaving Snape holding the envelope and wondering who could have written to him. It didn’t look like a Ministry Official bird, and turning the envelope over he noticed a plain wax seal; definitely not an official piece of mail.
He opened the letter and froze at the two sentences written on the parchment.
Meet me at our spot tonight at 10pm.
Snape’s face paled, and he instantly knew who it was from. But how could that be? They’d used protection spells. They had been careful. She had to be wrong - there’s no way he could be a father!
He read the letter again, blood rushing through his ears and the room fuzzy around him. This couldn’t be happening. He was in no condition to raise a child; not in these times, not with his role in the war.
“Severus, are you quite alright?”
He turned to look at Minerva, taking a minute to process her question. He nodded shakily, “Fine, I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
He pushed back his chair, ignoring his colleague’s questions and requests to wait, and quickly made his way to his office. Had she taken a test? A muggle test? Or had she used a potion to diagnose herself? Maybe she had brewed the potion wrong, maybe it was a faulty test. It had to be, because they’d been so incredibly careful.
He placed his elbows on his desk, wearily resting his head in his hands. Him, a father. How could they possibly bring a fragile little life into these dark times? As if he didn’t already feel guilty about those that he’d wronged and all that he’d lost, now he was responsible for yet another human being, another life that would inevitably be ruined or lost. Another pawn that the Dark Lord could use to force him to do his bidding. The mere idea made him feel nauseous and in need of a shower.
He exhaled slowly. He needed to calm down, he needed to occlude and get in the right frame of mind for classes. With that in mind, he focused on his breathing and attempted to push all of this information to the recesses of his mind. There was no need to focus on this now, he had a job to do. He didn’t need to panic yet - he would just meet with Charlotte tonight and they’d figure out what to do next.
Harry sat next to Ron, a handful of shriveled up slugs in his hand, asking off-handedly, “Hey mate, you think any of these are ones you hacked up back in second year?”
“Real funny, Harry.” Ron complained, pulling at a face at the memory of that failed curse, “Have you ever considered a career in comedy?”
“Absolutely.” Harry retorted without missing a beat, “I’ll give you and Hermione discounted tickets to the show.”
“It’s the least you could do.” Ron grumbled, though the grin peeking through his sour expression gave away that he wasn’t annoyed in the least. “Ginny had potions this morning and she told me that Snape’s been a bit off today. He gave McAfferty three points for knowing an answer to a question from the last homework and didn’t take any when Millet’s potion exploded. No points, not even a detention.”
“That is off.” Harry commented, scanning the room for the professor but not spotting him anywhere, “Hopefully that mood holds out through our class, yeah?”
“I doubt we’re that lucky.”
As it turned out, they were that lucky.
It didn’t take long for the mix of Gryffindors and Slytherins to see that Snape was off his game. He’d called on Hermione three times during the lecture, awarded her points twice, and told off Malfoy for making lewd comments towards Lavender, who was openly flirting instead of taking notes. The real proof, however, was what would later be known as ‘the incident in potions class’ around the school.
“The potion is meant to instantly cool an item - it’s the basis for fever-reducers and is comparable to a substance muggles call dry ice. One drop can reduce the temperature of an object by nearly 20 degrees, though when we use it for medicinal purposes we dilute it so we don’t accidentally kill our patients instead of helping them.” Snape explained, “While its intentions are to cool an object, it is a very volatile solution and if you aren’t careful with your measuring, you could end up creating a potion that does the opposite. Many laboratories have been set to fire as a result of brewing this potion. Our school lab has protocols and protections against such occurrences, but it is still imperative that you use caution while brewing.”
He dropped two earwigs into the mixture, and stirred twice clockwise.
“After we add the earwings, we let the mixture simmer under low heat for precisely 90 seconds, then add three drops of durian juice.” He looked towards Neville with a sneer, “Three. Not two, not four. Three.”
Checking his watch, Snape used a pipette to siphon some juice from the durian to the left of his work station. With a dramatic flair, he raised his sleeve to give the students a better view of his precise motions with the pipette. He gave a gentle squeeze, one drop landing in the potion and sizzling, two drops landing into the potion and sizzling. Just as he was about to squeeze the final drop, a sneeze caught him unaware and he reflexively squeezed the pipette firmer than necessary, a stream of juice squirting directly into the potion.
The effect was instantaneous; the potion fizzed and sizzled and suddenly erupted from the top, foaming rapidly in what seemed to be a never-ending ooze of dense foam. Students backed away from the demonstration immediately, unsure of the safety of the foamy ooze, and Snape tried unsuccessfully to contain the mess. As it cascaded down the cauldon, the cauldron seemed to melt, and once it touched the table it eroded through the wood at once. This would have been bad enough as it was, but unfortunately the foam had eaten through the table’s legs and the remaining ingredients were soon sliding down an uneven table, heading straight for the cauldron.
“Run!” Seamus, who had a temperamental history with explosions in the classroom, shouted, and in a rare moment of house unity both the Gryffindor and Slytherin students made a beeline for the exit, not wanting to be the next item to be dissolved by the acidic foam.
Snape barely had time to erect a shield around himself as the remaining ingredients landed in the cauldron, and as he’d feared, the cauldron exploded, foamy goo spraying across the classroom, landing on walls, tables, books, and to his dismay, the homework assignments from the previous night.
He joined the students in the hallway, glancing over his shoulder at the destroyed classroom, “Class is dismissed. Whatever can be salvaged of your belongings will be returned to you as soon as possible. Return to your common rooms immediately.”
He had not had such a monumental potions disaster in years, likely over a decade. It simply did not happen to him; he was too skillful, too careful.
Of course, he thought he’d been careful in other activities as well. Apparently this was a day for surprises.
“That was so wicked - do you think we could replicate that? We could use it to--”
“I assure you, Mr. Weasley, if I come across any evidence that you or anyone you know has tried to replicate this mishap in any way, you will be expelled.” Snape added loud enough for the retreating students to hear. He knew his message was received when the Weasley boy looked down, presumably scowling about their hateful, mean professor.
“We did an experiment like this once in primary school,” the muggleborn Slytherin Davis was telling Zabini as they walked away, “Only we used peroxide, soap and water.” she skipped a beat, then added, “I don’t think it ate away at the classroom, though.”
“Again, I don’t want to hear of any experimentation after today’s lesson.” Snape reiterated dryly, waiting for the entire class to finish clearing out of the hallway before returning to the disaster of his classroom.
“Harry, do you have a minute?”
“Actually, we’ve called a quidditch practice for most of the team, since potions was called off. Can we catch up later?”
Harry felt a bit guilty, but chances to fly were becoming rapidly limited under Umbridge’s rule and he didn’t want to miss out on the little time he had to practice. He’d been dating Annette Musgrove, a sixth year Gryffindor, for a few months now and so far he’d never turned down any invitation for alone time that she’d proposed, which only fueled his guilt. He could only hope that she didn’t get angry with him or feel like he was angry with her.
“Yeah, that’s fine. Have fun.”
She sounded disappointed and glum, and Harry turned back and cancelled his plans, but before he could finish forming that thought, Ron was pulling him out of the portrait hole.
Harry entered the common room alongside the rest of the team a few hours later, and he called out to Hermione, who was studying by the fire, “Would you mind looking over my Charms homework after my shower?”
“Of course.” Hermione replied without looking up. At least it sounded like his homework was done this time, instead of him asking for help with the entire thing. Progress was progress.
The quidditch team’s entry had been loud, their energy and personalities filling the room, but they’d all disappeared to clean up and the room again returned to a peaceful state. Hermione finished the chapter she was reading and marked her place in the book just as Annette sat down beside her.
“Everything alright?” Hermione asked, concerned. Annette and Harry had been dating, which meant that the older girl had spent a bit of time with Harry’s friends, but they were not close enough to consider themselves friends. It was unusual that Annette sought out any of the other fifth years without Harry present.
Annette looked uncertain, then glanced back towards the corridor to the boys’ dorms, “I think Harry’s upset with me. Has he said anything?”
“No, he hasn’t seemed upset at all. What makes you say that?”
Annette bit her lip, pulling a pillow from beside her and holding it on her lap, gripping it tightly in a show of anxiety. She was silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts, and then answered quietly, “I sent him a letter through the post today - I wanted to tell him something that was easier to write than it was to say aloud. I told him we could meet up later to talk about it, but then we both had free time earlier and he blew me off to go flying with his mates.”
“I don’t remember Harry getting post this morning.” Hermione replied thoughtfully before focusing on the girl beside her, “You know how boys are...I’m sure he was just distracted with flying. He didn’t seem angry or anything today, and it’s usually pretty clear to all of us when he’s having an off day.”
“I guess you’re right.” Annette replied quietly, looking at the fire with a troubled expression, “Maybe I’ll just wait and talk to him later like we’d planned on. I don’t want to appear needy or anything, but I really want to talk to him.”
It would have been easy to send Annette along and go back to her book, but Hermione didn’t like to see anyone looking so defeated and uncertain. With a small smile, she formulated a plan, “Look, Harry’s gone up to shower. He’d asked if I’d go over his Charms assignment with him afterwards - I can find something else to do and you can take my place, if you’d like.”
“Really? Thanks, Hermione!” Annette replied, surprising Hermione by giving her a quick hug, “I appreciate it.”
Unfortunately for Annette, Harry had taken a long shower and spent some time goofing off with the other boys in his dorm before coming back downstairs - he always seemed to find himself highly distracted when there was homework to be done.
By the time he remembered that he’d made plans to revise, it was dinnertime and his friends were starting to resemble ravenous zoo animals. They made their way to the common room, boisterous and energetic after an afternoon of play instead of work, only for Harry to shush them all when they reached the common room. Annette was the only one in the common room, and she’d dozed off on the sofa.
“You guys go down, I’ll meet you there.” Harry told his friends. Dean, Seamus, and Neville made their way through the portrait hole, Dean shoving Seamus playfully along the way with a warning to move along before he went cannibalistic on him. Ron stuck behind, rolling his eyes playfully at Harry’s quiet insistence that they wake Annette and not let her starve.
Harry shook her shoulder lightly, “Annette, wake up. It’s dinnertime. Come down with us.”
Harry shook her a bit harder, calling her name and grinning sheepishly when she awoke with a start, shrieking quickly at the sudden jolt to alertness.
“We’re going down for dinner, do you want to come?” Harry asked, suddenly feeling awkward that he’d startled her awake and wishing he’d just left her to sleep. He was still new at this relationship stuff and wasn’t sure if he was overstepping his boundaries.
Annette grimaced at the mention of dinner and she shook her head slowly, “Actually, I’m feeling a bit poorly. I’m just going to nap for a bit, I think.”
“Let me walk you to the hospital wing.” Harry immediately volunteered, concerned for the girl he had developed some pretty strong feelings for over the last few months, “If you’re not well, you should be looked over.”
“Hypocrite.” Ron mumbled from the portrait hole, shifting awkwardly as he suddenly felt the weight of being the third wheel in the room.
Harry’s lip twitched into a grin at his friend’s comment, knowing that it was the absolute truth--he’d avoid the hospital wing even if he were on his deathbed, but his face lost the hint of humor as he took in Annette’s haggard appearance, “Can I get you anything?”
Annette squeezed Harry’s hand with a smile, her lip trembling slightly though it was painfully obvious even to the two normally-oblivious boys that she was trying to control her emotion, “No, I don’t need hospital, I just need to rest. It’s just part of my condition, yeah? Not much I can do for it except wait for it to be over.”
“Your condition?” Harry asked, clearly confused.
“You know, the condition I wrote you about - the post from this morning.” Annette elaborated, “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten already.”
“I have no idea what you’re on about.” Harry replied, feeling like he was missing a big piece of prerequisite knowledge that this conversation was based upon, “I didn’t get any post this morning.”
“You must have, I sent it with my owl and told her to bring it to you.” Annette explained, “Are you sure you didn’t get it? Was it maybe mixed with some of your other mail?”
“I didn’t get anything today at all.” Harry said slowly, recalling breakfast clearly. He had woken up in a sour mood after dreaming of the mysterious corridor, his scar aching, and had nearly fallen asleep in his breakfast as he tried to break free from the brain fog that accompanied an early morning after little rest. Hermione had gotten post from her parents as well as the Daily Prophet, Ron had received a quidditch magazine, but he’d gotten nothing.
Annette was silent for a moment, suddenly finding the fire very interesting and refusing to meet Harry’s gaze, “That explains a lot, then.”
“It does?” Harry felt like it explained nothing at all.
“If you didn’t get my letter, then you don’t know about the--my--the--you know.”
“Clearly I don’t know.” Harry deadpanned, worry fluttering in the depths of his body. Was it serious? Was she dying? What was so wrong that she felt like telling him in a letter instead of face to face. Was she breaking up with him? Had she decided to become a Death Eater?
Annette placed one hand on her lower abdomen, grabbing Harry’s hand with the other, “Harry, I’m pregnant.”
Harry jumped to his feet, then instantly regretted it as all blood seemed to drain from his head to his toes. He swayed slightly, blinking a few times before asking, “You’re what?”
“Pregnant, Harry. We’re going to have a baby.”
“We’re going to have a what?” Harry repeated numbly, staring at Annette’s face for some sort of indication that she was joking before his eyes trailed down to her abdomen, “Sorry, what?”
“A baby, Harry.” Annette sniffled slightly, then added, “Please don’t be mad.”
“A baby? But how?”
“The regular way, I’d assume.” Ron spoke unhelpfully from the doorway.
“Could we please have some privacy?” Annette asked the ginger boy pointedly, “Harry will meet you downstairs shortly.”
Ron hesitated, but relented once Harry waved him off. Harry pinched the bridge of his nose to force back a headache attempting to form as he tried to wrap his mind around what Annette had just told him.
“A baby?” Harry asked again, “I don’t understand. We used a protective spell.”
“Much like muggle contraception, protective spells are only effective around 98% of the time.” Annette said quietly, reaching out to take Harry’s hands into her own, “Please Harry, please don’t be mad at me. I wouldn’t be able to stand it if you hated me.”
“I’m not mad at you.” Harry reassured her. He was feeling a lot of different emotions that he didn’t normally experience, but anger was not one of them. “I’m just...surprised. I really didn’t think that could happen. We only did...that...once. And we were careful.”
Annette nodded, tears in her eyes that she could only blame on her completely out of sort hormones, “I know. I was surprised, too. Surprised, scared, overwhelmed…”
“All of those.” Harry agreed, pulling her in for a hug, “Okay. Okay, then. What’s done is done, right? We’re going to just have to own up to what we did and face the consequences.”
“You’re going to stand by me?” Annette asked, pulling away and dabbing at her eyes with her sleeve, “Honestly?”
“What else would I do?” Harry questioned with a frown, “I’m part of this, of course I’m going to stand by you.”
He wasn’t expecting her to throw her arms around him and start sobbing, but he didn’t pull away and he didn’t feel as weird about it as he had earlier in the year when Cho was crying on him. He could understand how Annette felt - if he wasn’t completely adverse to crying in front of others, he’d be tempted to react the same way. He’d experienced life-changing moments before; the moment he learned he was a wizard, the moment Sirius told him he could live with him, the moment Cedric was killed, the moment Voldemort returned. None of those moments hit the same way as this moment did, though.
Harry patted Annette’s back gently, letting her release her emotions for a few moments while he tried to organize his thoughts and determine what needed to be done yet. When she started to quiet down, he asked, “Have you seen Pomfrey about it?”
“No. I didn’t want anyone else to know before you did.” Annette murmured into his chest, “But I probably should--I just don’t know if I’m ready for anyone else to know about this just yet.”
“That’s understandable.” Harry agreed, feeling the exact same way.
They stood in the common room for nearly half an hour, Harry’s arms around his girlfriend as they stood in silence, absorbing the news and worrying about the future. After Harry’s stomach growled for the third time in as many minutes, Annette pulled away, “We should go to dinner.”
“I thought you were feeling poorly?” Harry asked, brushing a strand of hair from her eyes, “I can get you something from the kitchens if you aren’t feeling up to it.”
Annette shook her head, “No, it’s passed. I’m actually quite hungry now.”
The two walked to the portrait hole and she paused before exiting, “Are we okay, Harry?”
“Of course we are. No need to worry about us.” Harry answered reassuringly, pressing his lips gently against hers, “It’s going to be fine.”
It most certainly was not fine.
By the time they’d gotten to the Great Hall, all of Gryffindor had already learned Harry and Annette’s secret, and more than a few icy glares had been sent their way. After some questioning and prodding, Harry had discovered that Ron had told Hermione why Harry was running late, and others had overheard, igniting the spark of gossip that spread like fiendfyre through the table.
Harry wouldn’t be surprised if the other house tables had heard the gossip as well, and not for the first time this year he felt like all eyes were on him. He hated it.
He and Annette ate as quickly as possible and wasted no time before leaving the hall. Ron had tried to apologize, but Harry wasn’t ready to hear his apologies yet, and the whispers of the other Gryffindors had the couple shaken up.
Harry hadn’t had much experience with the public’s attitude towards pregnant teenagers. He knew Aunt Petunia thought it was unbecoming, but he couldn’t recall having ever seen a student with child at school before. Did it just not happen? Were they the only ones who failed at preventative spells? Had the others been sent away before it had become public knowledge?
“It’s going to be fine.” Harry told Annette some time later, sitting on the floor outside of an empty classroom in an unused corridor, “So what if everyone knows? They’d all know eventually anyway.”
“I’ll be kicked out of school. My parents - they’ll be so upset with me. With you. With us. Did you see the way everyone was looking at us? Like it was contagious or something? What are we going to do?”
Harry put an arm around the slightly hysterical girl, resting his head on top of hers, “I don’t know what we’re going to do, but you won’t be doing it alone, I promise you that. Your parents may be mad, but you’re nearly an adult anyway and there’s nothing they can do now. What’s done is done. We just have to prove we are mature enough to handle it.”
“I’m not even mature enough to turn in my homework on time every day.” Annette sobbed quietly, “I’m certainly not mature enough to be responsible for another life. I’ve barely got my own in order.”
“Then we’ll learn.” Harry replied calmly; a lot calmer than he actually felt, at least. Her anxiety was causing his to bubble and his mind trailed to issues much bigger than the mundane day to day part of raising a child. They were in a war - Voldemort was out for his blood. He could feel Voldemort escalating with every vision, he knew that they would ultimately meet again. Would this child be used as a weapon? Would he even get to live long enough to be a father?
Feeling Annette shiver in his arms, Harry stood and held his hand out to help her up, “Come on, let’s go back to the tower. It’s nearly curfew now and you’re nearly frozen.”
“You go on ahead, Harry. I’m going to head to see Madam Pomfrey before she and the professors hear the news from someone else.”
“Do you want me to go with you?” Harry asked, fully prepared to lead the way and confess to what they’d done.
Annette shook her head, kissing him lightly and giving his hand a squeeze, “No, I’d prefer to go alone. I think it’ll make it easier to talk to her about, you know, girl stuff. I’ll see you later, though?”
“I’ll be waiting.” Harry promised, walking his girlfriend to the stairwell.
As she left, he shoved his cold hands into his pockets with a frown. He couldn’t go back to the tower yet; Ron would inevitably be either apologetic that he told or defensive that Harry was annoyed that he’d told. Hermione would have a lecture prepared. Everyone would be staring and talking about him. He wasn’t ready for that just yet.
Instead, he wandered along the corridor, stopping to stare at the night sky through the window. It was raining, which matched Harry’s frame of mind perfectly. He felt like a completely different person than he’d been earlier today.
Alone, afraid, and apprehensive about the future, Harry stopped trying to hold back his own emotions, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs. What had they done?
Snape tapped his foot anxiously as he stood near the statute of Henry the Hunter, waiting for Charlotte. This was the one secret entrance to the castle that Snape was certain no student knew of; it was situated deep within the dungeons where most students wouldn’t dare be found. It was a passageway that Snape and Charlotte used frequently to traverse from Hogsmeade to the castle, as it was easy for her to slip out of the dungeons unseen late at night or early in the morning.
It was 10:04. Charlotte was nothing if not punctual, so why was she not here yet? Of all days for her to be late…
Snape waited for a few more minutes, giving his partner until 10:10 before annoyance gave way to concern. Maybe she’d been injured along the way? Maybe she’d been attacked? With a quick look around to make sure he wouldn’t be seen, Snape slipped into the passage tunnel to look for her.
He made it to Hogsmeade without stumbling across her broken or otherwise harmed body, and was even more concerned. Had she been kidnapped? Had Voldemort learned that he was playing both sides of the war? With his mind made up, he traversed the pathway towards her home, expecting the worst.
Charlotte was as surprised to see Snape on her doorway as he was surprised to see her at home when they’d had a meeting arranged. He stepped inside, closing the door behind him, then took her lightly by the arms, taking in her appearance.
“What is it?” Charlotte asked lightly, a smile on her face matching the brightness twinkling in her eyes, “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight. Is everything alright?”
“We were supposed to meet at 10, in our usual place.” Snape explained, his hand brushing her forehead in a discreet attempt to gauge her overall health. It wasn’t like her to be forgetful, and he was beginning to wonder if he had lost the plot along the way.
Charlotte shook her head, her forehead crinkling in confusion, “Were we? I thought we hadn’t made plans until Saturday.”
“The post this morning; you said you wanted to meet with me to discuss--to discuss your--your delicate condition.” Snape’s pale cheeks blushed as he tried to describe the situation without actually using the words ‘pregnant’ or ‘baby’, as those left him feeling queasy and upended.
“My what?” Charlotte laughed, “You’re having me on, right? I didn’t send you post this morning, Sev. Are you sure it was meant for you?”
Come to think of it, there was no name on the missive. But the owl had stopped in front of him, expectantly, and he’d assumed it was not labelled for privacy concerns.
“So you aren’t...with child?” Snape asked uncertainly, thoroughly confused by the latest development of an already overwhelming day.
Charlotte took a step back, eyes wide, and gasped, “I surely hope not!”
Snape visibly relaxed and if he had any less self-control he would have flopped ungracefully into the nearest chair with relief. Instead, he exhaled slowly, feeling the tension and panic he’d felt all day recede instantly, “Oh, thank Merlin.”
“Indeed.” Charlotte agreed, “A child, right now? Can you even imagine?”
“Not at all.” Snape replied dryly, pulling her close and cupping the back of her head with his hand as he moved in for a kiss, “You don’t know how relieved I am to hear you say that.”
“You poor dear, thinking all day that you were to be a father.” Charlotte laughed, pulling away, “Let me pour you a drink.”
“That would be delightful.” Snape agreed, taking a seat and shaking his head. Once upon a time he had pictured himself with children, but once faced with the possibility of having one he had not been keen on the idea at all. He dealt with children enough at work, he couldn’t possibly imagine coming home to one afterwards.
Harry wiped his eyes, taking several steadying breaths in an attempt to calm himself down. He’d had a mini-breakdown, he’d allowed himself to be consumed with emotion, but now it was time for him to pull himself together and face the music.
If anyone caught him out this late after curfew, he’d be in even more trouble than he was already facing.
Unfortunately, his brain wasn’t as easy to shut off as he’d like (which explained a lot about his failed attempts at occluding his thoughts) and the more he tried to pull himself together, the harder it became.
It wasn’t until he heard footsteps behind him that he was able to reign it all in and bury those overwhelming feelings down.
“Mr. Potter...out past curfew again? Are you actively seeking a season pass to detention?”
Snape. Great. Harry could feel the anguish and panic that had been consuming him evaporate, leaving room for the anger and resentment to flourish.
“Nothing to say for yourself? Maybe you’ll feel more like talking after an hour of scrubbing cauldrons. Come along.”
Harry couldn’t bring his feet to move. This had been such a long, hard day and while detention wasn’t something that normally brought out strong emotions, right now it felt like icing on the cake. He sniffed slightly, staring at the ground and wishing it would swallow him whole.
“Come along, Potter. It wasn’t a request.” Snape repeated, his tone quickly moving from annoyed to furious at the boy’s disobedience.
Harry sniffed again, willing his feet to move so he could get this detention over with and return to his wallowing. Detention seemed so meaningless now that he was dealing with something much bigger than school rules and regulations.
He silently followed the professor towards the dungeons as if on auto-pilot, barely realizing he was even moving until they found themselves in front of the classroom door. Annette wanted to study potions after school Annette would probably not be allowed to come back - after all, there was no way to put a baby in the dorms with them, was there? No one would take on an apprentice without their NEWTS, would they?
And how would he possibly help her support the child if he was at school? He couldn’t. If he were going to be an involved father, he’d have to drop out, too. What hope was there for the future without his OWLS? Would they have to transition to the muggle world, where he could possibly take night classes or something to complete his schooling? Bile rose in his throat and he swallowed thickly.
The other option would be to stay in school but leave Annette alone with their child. Their child. But how could that possibly be an option? Harry had always wanted a family more than anything, and this was his chance to have one. Sure, he’d imagined having loving parents and not being a loving parent, but this remained an opportunity to have someone who he could love and who could love him unconditionally. No, he couldn’t just abandon them. Especially not with Voldemort out there, waiting to strike.
He was vaguely aware of Snape yelling something at him, but he couldn’t stop the barrage of thoughts long enough to actually hear and process what the potions professor was saying.
If Voldemort found out Harry had a kid, Harry would be handing him weapons to be used. He had no doubt that someone as horrible and evil as Voldemort would not hesitate before using a baby as a pawn, a way to lure him out, a way to hit Harry where it hurt. Not only that, but Annette would be a target, too. At school they were safe, but out in the world they were sitting targets, waiting to be attacked. And if, for some reason, Voldemort didn’t go after the baby and his girlfriend, what if the next time Harry met up with him, Voldemort succeeded in his 14-year quest for murder. What if the baby had to grow up without a father? What if both he and Annette didn’t survive the war and the baby had to go to the Dursleys? To Dudley? To a foster home?
Bile rose again, and Harry broke out of his thoughts long enough to stumble to the bin in the corner of the room before he was sick.
He couldn’t get the images out of his head, a tiny little orphaned child raised in a miserable environment just like he’d been, all because Harry failed and was killed just like his parents were. How could he possibly bring a child into this world?
“Potter! Are you even listening to me?” Snape ranted, barely resisting the urge to reach out and shake the teen before him. There was something wrong with the brat, and he wanted to know precisely what it was so he could handle it, or find someone else to handle it, and be done with the annoying little prat.
Harry’s haunted eyes met Snape’s angry ones, and he blurted out the one thing that had been on his mind without even realizing who he was speaking with, “My girlfriend is pregnant.”
Snape had not been expecting that one. He took a step back, analyzing the boy in front of him, then sighed bitterly. Why did it have to be him? Why couldn’t Potter have told his secret to literally any other professor within the school?
Realization dawned on him - the letter he received this morning. He hadn’t imagined it, it just hadn’t been meant for him.
“I think I received a letter this morning that was meant for you…” Panicking teens were not his forte, but there wasn’t much he could do about that now - the boy was here, he was clearly shaken up, and he had made a confession. As a Professor, Snape had to act.
Harry looked at Snape with unfocused eyes, still shocked that he’d blurted out his secret to one of the two people who lived to make his life at school a nightmare, still overwhelmed with his mind racing through horrible scenario after horrible scenario. What was this about a letter?
“Oh, fine, Potter.” Snape groused, shaking his head when it became clear that the boy was in no shape for banter, whether it be friendly or borderline-hostile. This boy wasn’t in his house and it wasn’t his responsibility to see to this situation. He called for a house elf, instructing the little creature to fetch Minerva. This was fully in her realm not only as Head of Gryffindor, but as Deputy Headmistress as well.
Minutes later, as the stern Scot led Harry away, Snape watched with morbid curiosity, his own mind wandering. He’d just found someone even more ill equipped to be a parent than he would have been, and at such a young age. Even if Harry were a few years older as James and Lily had been before creating this annoying Potter spawn, he couldn't imagine the boy as a parent. What was he going to do, strap the kid on using one of those babywearing devices when he went off on another half-planned hairbrained adventure? That poor child was doomed from the start.
With horror, he realized in another 12 years he’d have yet another generation of Potter gracing the halls of Hogwarts. He wasted no time pouring a glass of firewhiskey and downing it at once. He needed to talk to Albus about his eventual retirement. 11 more years of education seemed like an appropriate amount before taking his leave from the school. One young Potter had been more than enough. And if Potter and Musgrove somehow managed to work things out and have even more Potter spawn? There wasn’t enough firewhiskey in the world to handle that….