Had any of his students seen him, they would have been absolutely petrified at the look on Severus Snape’s face as he walked from shop to shop in Hogsmeade as he picked up various items he had mail-ordered. Several boxes of clothing, several pairs of shoes, a new pair of wire framed glasses, an entire bag full of various textbooks, even a sack of sweets from Honeydukes; all picked up with a continuous smirk that bordered on a smile. Even the training wand was received with that strange grin on his face.
True, Hogsmeade was typically more expensive than Diagon Alley, but coming to Hogsmeade for shopping was a two-fold event. Purchasing from Hogsmeade allowed him to begin the dissemination of information about his son in a more controlled setting. Rumors would fly, there was no doubt about that, but it was easier to control their spread when starting slow and ‘local.’
“What’s got you so happy today, Severus?” Madam Rosemerta asked as she poured him a glass of firewhiskey.
“That would be none of your business,” he said, taking a swig off the glass and setting it back down. “Though if you must know, Elias is finally moving in.”
“Ah, a boyfriend?” Rosemerta asked slyly, cleaning the top of the bar to a gleaming shine with a single wipe of her rag. “I never took you for being bent.”
Severus sneered good naturedly as he took another sip of the whiskey. “No, not a lover. Far from it. Rather, the result of having a lover years ago.”
“Be still my heart!” Rosemerta said, dropping the potion soaked rag onto the bartop with a splat. “You? You?! No, I don’t believe it! How old?!”
“He will be turning sixteen in September,” Severus said, using the birthdate they had decided on once Harry had decided on once they managed to begin delving into the details. As he was nearly a foot taller than he had been previously, it would be easy enough to claim he was nearly a year older. That would also put him into the proper range for apprenticeships and more fully remove him from Dumbledore’s grasp if necessary. The plan was to find him a tutor and allow him to be educated for this year on Hogwarts’ grounds. If he remained seizure free and they could get his stutter under control, he may return to classes for next year, but that was a tall order.
“Sixteen?! How have you been keeping him a secret for so long?” Rosemerta asked, slamming her rag on the counter again for emphasis. “Shouldn’t he be a student at Hogwarts by now?”
Severus slowly swirled the whiskey around his cup before taking another drink. “Unfortunately, no. He has never been able to attend Hogwarts; his condition won’t allow it.”
“Condition?” Rosemerta said, clutching her hand to her chest. “Oh my!”
“It’s nothing horrific,” Severus said, draining the last of the firewhiskey in his glass. “Just prohibitive enough that Hogwarts would have been a struggle for him. Particularly in the spell department.”
Rosemerta nodded understandingly, offering the typically surly professor a refill on his firewhiskey before turning to greet some of the other regulars who had just entered. Surely he would bring this mysterious son of his around for her to meet soon enough, particularly if the boy was now going to be living in Hogwarts with him. It was nice to see a positive change in the man’s life; for too long he had seemed miserable and stressed. Even the odd looking smirk he bore now was an improvement over his typically dark expression.
Refusing the refill, Severus gathered up his purchases and quickly strode out of the town and towards Hogwarts. The rumor mill was officially beginning to churn, now only a few details remained to ensure the transition was complete. The biggest one of these would be to convince Dumbledore that he had attempted to be informed of Severus’s son’s coming to the school as a resident with a tutor for the school year prior to the disappearance of Harry Potter.
Several weeks before, just following the closure of the school for summer holidays, Severus had sent a letter to the headmaster with a notification spell attached to it asking for an assistant for the purpose of brewing potions. The notification spell had yet to be triggered, meaning Dumbledore had yet to actually open the letter he had sent. The letter itself was dated for the week prior to Harry Potter’s disappearance, making it a perfect set up for an alibi for the boy. It was just a matter of switching one letter out for another; he already had an assistant now making the first letter useless anyways.
Thank goodness for house-elves.
“Lenny?” Severus called once he was standing just outside the wards to the castle to avoid allowing the headmaster to know he was there.
A small pop and a house-elf with cherry red tea towel wrapped like a sarong appeared, looking around in confusion for a moment before noticing Severus and bowing. “What can Lenny be doing for Master Professor?”
“There is a letter on the headmaster’s desk which has been unopened that I sent over a month ago. Please switch out the contents of that envelope for this one, keeping the wax seal intact,” Severus said, handing the small elf an unsealed envelope containing a new letter stating his intent to bring his son with him to the school for the school year and requesting a room be added to his quarters as well as an additional set of quarters for a tutor for the boy.
“Right away, Master Professor!” Lenny said, bowing and disappearing within seconds.
Severus waited impatiently for the elf to switch the letters, resisting the urge to pace nervously. He knew the letter was unopened, but what had Dumbledore done with it? Would the elf even be able to find it to make the switch?
It only took a few minutes before Lenny popped back into existence, letter in hand.
“Lenny apologizes for being so slow.” Lenny said, bowing deeply. “Headmaster Dumbledore sir had put letter in drawer. Is there anything else Lenny can be doing for Master Professor sir?”
Excusing Lenny and turning back towards Hogsmeade, Severus rolled his eyes. Of course Dumbledore had put the letter in a drawer. He would be the only one at fault for being out of the loop when it came time to return to the school if he didn’t open that letter soon. And if he made any accusations of Elias being Harry Potter, he had another thing coming. The alibi was set, now he had only a few more cover stories to work out then they were ready.
But first, he still had potions to brew.
Draco sat manning his singular cauldron, watching in awe as Professor Snape moved effortlessly between the four different cauldrons he had going at once. He had known the man was brilliant at potions, everyone said so, but it was different watching it up close. He seemed to sense exactly when to add certain ingredients in a way Draco could only dream of doing, and many of the potions he was working on he was doing from memory.
Draco knew he was only supposed to be an assistant, but in watching the potions master at work, he felt wholly inadequate. As though he were only there for appearances and not to actually assist. So far he had made only two potions and prepared countless ingredients, dicing, slicing, and disemboweling for hours. Many of the hours he spent preparing ingredients, Severus had been away doing Merlin knows what, though he seemed to return in better spirits than when he left these last few times.
If Draco was a Gryffindor, he would have asked where the man had gone, but a Gryffindor he was not. And attempting to manipulate the Head of Slytherin house into giving up information was nigh impossible.
The sudden clanking of glass vials jolted him from his thoughts just in time to add the last of the ingredients to his cauldron and turn the heat down to allow the burn paste to simmer and reduce into just that, a paste. Looking over at Professor Snape’s station once again, he watched as the man expertly divided, bottled, and labeled two of the potions at his station. Draco looked down at the list of potions they were to be making and frowned. Neither of those potions were on the list, he was sure of it. One of them he couldn’t place, but the other he was certain was a Cruciatus reliever of some sort.
‘Good to have on hand?’ he thought to himself, looking at his own cauldron and sighing with relief when he saw the potion it contained was the correct color and viscosity. Turning off the flame, he set a timer and began the waiting game for when to actually put the paste into its proper containers.
Looking back over at Severus’s station in burning curiosity, he noticed a box sitting there that the strange potion and the Cruciatus reliever were being placed into. In large block letters on the side was written one word: Elias.
“Who is ‘Elias’?” Draco asked, curiosity reaching a boiling point.
Severus continued loading potions into the box for a moment before finally answering. He thought about lying to Draco and telling him it was a client’s name, but at this point there was no reason to. Elias would be getting out of the hospital soon and would be coming home. Draco would meet him soon enough, there was no point in lying to him.
“Elias is my son,” Severus said, placing the last of the anti-epileptic potions into the box and covering them with a layer of straw to prevent them from moving too much during transit. They had to be able to make it to Hogwarts next month, preferably without breaking in the process. Especially since they required a two week fermentation time.
Draco nearly collapsed in shock. “Your son? You have a son? You have a son?”
“Is it really so hard to believe?” Severus said, raising an eyebrow.
“Were you married?” Draco blurted out suddenly.
“No. Elias has lived with his mother and her family until last month. Apparently his mother passed away a few years ago, leaving him to live with his uncle and his family,” Severus said, sighing as he closed the lid to the crate and spelled it to be locked. “Last month, his uncle decided to send him out to ‘become his own man.’”
Draco frowned. Why would a wizarding family send their child away? The wizarding world was small enough that children were valued greatly. Sending one away on such an asinine mission was almost barbaric. Even if they were adults, wizarding children were almost never turned away from their family, unless they were blood traitors that is.
“He managed to find a job working for a muggle gardening company, but without his potions it was only a matter of time before something happened.”
“Why didn’t he find a job in the wizarding world?” Draco asked curiously as he started scooping burn paste into tins.
“He’s only fifteen, Draco,” Severus said, sighing in frustration. “He cannot work in our world without being apprenticed under a master. He is bright, but it would be quite difficult to find him any sort or apprenticeship as he hasn’t taken his OWLS yet.”
Draco’s eyes widened in shock and he nearly dropped one of the tins he was working on. “Fifteen? And they wanted him to go work and live on his own?”
“Yes, and as he had no money on him, he began rationing his potions,” Severus said, knowing this scenario was one which played out routinely for many lower class magical families, though with less disastrous consequences. Running out of pepper-up potion was one thing, running out of anti-seizure potions was another. “He ran out last week and couldn’t afford to get any more, nor could he get the ingredients.”
“Wait, wait,” Draco said, holding up a hand. “Why is he on potions?”
Severus resisted the urge to smile. Draco was asking all of the right questions to learn Elias’s back story without the possibility of believing this person was once Harry Potter. Perfect.
“His mother was hit by the Cruciatus while pregnant with him. He has been having seizures since he was young due to this. He also stutters terribly and twitches as though he just received the curse.”
Draco’s already pale face lost even more color as the thought of the damage caused by the curse sunk in. He knew there were people in St. Mungo’s for life because of the curse, but to think someone his own age had been affected by the curse for his entire life was mind boggling. It was no wonder he hadn’t met the boy at Hogwarts, he couldn’t even attend the school due to the damage done.
“Was that what the call from the muggle hospital about?” Draco asked, putting two and two together. “He ran out of his potions and had a seizure while working with the muggles?”
Severus nodded, pleased the story he and Elias had worked on was easy to understand. The less convoluted of a tale they could tell, the better.
“From what the muggle healers said, it took an obscene amount of time for them to get his seizures under control. Then they were struggling with running their normal battery of tests on him to determine what types of seizures he was having and if there was any damage done to his brain because his magic kept interfering with how the machines worked.”
“Is he ok now?” Draco said, still feeling as though he had just fallen fifty feet from his broom.
“Oh yes. He should be getting out in the next few days,” Severus said, thinking back to the attitude he had been given the last time he visited. “He’s just angry he’s in hospital and they won’t answer his questions on electricity. He’s decided to make that his theory project for his tutoring this year.”
After having explained what having a tutor would likely consist of, Elias had become rather excited at the possibilities it provided. So long as he understood the core subjects, he was no longer tied to the massive essays and projects which he had become accustomed to as a regular student. Instead, he could choose to focus on whatever subject suited his current interests. Provided it incorporated the core subjects, he could do what he wanted. And after having spent the better part of several days attached to electrical devices of all kinds, he knew what he wanted to focus on.
He still needed a tutor, though Severus was hesitant to reach out to any of his acquaintances and request they tutor the boy. Of the ones he believed would take on the task of educating him, few he believed would be competent tutors or patient enough to deal with the inevitable problems the stutter brought to the table. He had reached out to a good friend who lived in Poland in hopes she would take up the task, only to find she had retired from tutoring to focus on her own grandchildren. She had, however, agreed to say that she had tutored Elias for the purpose of his alibi under the condition that she get to meet him over Christmas.
“That’s where you’ve been going when you leave, isn’t it?” Draco asked suddenly.
“Yes, and I thank you for your assistance in ingredient preparation while I have been away. Elias’s hospitalization was not something I had planned for, nor was it the reason I asked for an assistant,” Severus said, spelling the now empty cauldrons into the wash basin and pulling two new ones from under his work station. “Now, once you are done putting your burn paste into the tins, wash the cauldrons and begin preparing bases for Skele-gro and a level three poison antidote.”