A Tumbleweed Moment
“You have a what now?” Regulus asks dumbly.
Severus does not repeat it, still staring at the letter in his hand. It’s from his father and, even if Tobias Snape didn’t sign it, he still recognises his handwriting. He does not even know how his father got a hold of an owl.
It could be a joke, Severus thinks furiously, though Tobias lacks a sense of humour.
Lucius snatches the letter from Severus’ hand so that he and Narcissa, who has stood up from her chair, can read it also. The letter does not contain much, just a few simple lines – another indicator that the letter is written, bluntly and coarsely, by Tobias: he has never been one for diplomacy.
You need to collect your bastard child. Her grandmother’s passed away. For Christ’s sake, boy, don’t your kind have birth control?
A chair appears behind Severus and moves forward, bumping into the back of his legs: he falls back into it without thinking, still lost in thoughts about whether this is a joke.
Having taken it from Lucius, Regulus quickly reads the letter – not that there is much to read – and passes it on to Albus, who also skims through it.
“Eloquent,” the Headmaster murmurs. Then, in a louder voice, “Well, Severus, it seems you have one more task to resolve before your summer begins.”
Dudley surprises Harry by helping him carry his trunk to his room. Dudley has already been home two days since his school broke up for the holidays.
“You need to go to Mrs Figg’s tomorrow morning. First thing,” Dudley whispers urgently.
Harry is confused. Had something happened to Mrs Figg? Iris hasn’t mentioned anything. He had written Iris the day after the Final task to tell her he had won the Tournament but wants to tell her about Voldemort’s return in person. He is concerned that Iris hasn’t written back, but perhaps she is waiting for him to come and talk to her face to face.
Dudley looks upset, and Harry cannot understand why.
“Is she okay?” Harry asks.
“You need to talk to her,” is all Dudley says.
“Do you think I could sneak out and go see Oma and Holly?”
Dudley looks even more distressed but is unable to answer when Petunia calls Harry down. Though the Dursleys have been better since Harry mentioned Sirius, they still expect him to do chores whenever they say so.
Harry cannot shake the antsy, itchy feeling under his skin. He wishes he could just forget about the chores and leave. He wants to see Iris and Holly: Iris has a way of making him feel like he can fight anything, and Holly gives him the hope to fight for something. Dudley keeps looking at him like he wants to says something, but Petunia or Vernon constantly interrupt him. Finally, Dudley gives up and goes upstairs.
It is several hours later that Harry collapses in bed. He walks past Dudley’s open door and sees that his cousin has fallen asleep playing his NES console, still on top of the covers. Petunia has made him cook the whole evening’s meal, organise the cellar and clean out his old cupboard.
He is still recovering from the events in the graveyard, both physically and emotionally. He falls asleep, exhausted and doesn’t even change out of his clothes, only having enough presence of mind to kick off his shoes.
He is awakened the following day by a distressed-looking Dudley.
“Come on, Harry, we need to go to Mrs Figg’s right now,” Dudley is saying.
He is still feeling exhausted and pushes Dudley away, but turning the clock, he is shocked to see it is almost ten o’clock.
“Get your shoes on, come on. I fell asleep waiting for you and forgot to set my alarm,” Dudley was saying.
“What are you on about?” Harry asks, irritated, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
“We need to go to Mrs Figg’s right now. They’re going to take Holly away,” Dudley explains with tears in his eyes. Harry does not immediately register the other’s words. He is astonished at how upset Dudley is.
Then, as his brain catches up, Harry jumps up from bed, jams his feet back into his shoes and races out ahead of Dudley.
Pulling the front door harder than he intended to, Harry flings it open and dashes out onto the street. He hears Dudley slam the door shut behind him, but he doesn’t stop for him. Dudley is much fitter than he used to be and can keep up with Harry without panting like he used to. It’s a good thing he doesn’t play Harry hunting anymore.
Harry doesn’t understand why they have to go to Mrs Figg’s instead of Iris’s, but he doesn’t waste time questioning Dudley as he pelts down Wisteria Walk.
He is still four houses away when he sees Holly being seated in a battered, old white Ford. Harry picks up speed as the woman gets into the driver’s seat, starts the car and begins to drive away.
“HOLLY!” Harry screams for her.
“I’m sorry, Harry, I tried to delay them for as long as I could,” Mrs Figg calls to him as he runs past.
Harry does not even stop.
“HOLLY!” He screams for her again, desperate to reach her.
Holly is in the back seat: as her name is called out, she turns and sees Harry through the rear window.
Just as it looks like the car is about to pick up speed, it comes to a sudden stop. Holly has opened the passenger door, the one closest to the pavement. When the car stops in its tracks, and luckily no cars are coming behind, she jumps out and runs to Harry.
Sweating and panting, Harry falls painfully to his knees in front of her. The woman driving the car looks angry at first, but her expression changes to something closer to sympathy. Holly throws her arms around his neck and buries her head on his shoulder. He can feel her tears seeping through his shirt while her whole body shakes from the frantic sobs, and he can’t help but pull her tighter to him.
Dudley and Mrs Figg catch up to him, standing there and looking at both of them with great sorrow.
Holly is trying to say something to him, but Harry cannot understand her through her sobs. He knows it’s about Iris, in any case. He only distinguishes that she is trying to say Oma.
The woman gives them a few minutes, but Harry can see that she wants to get moving. She walks forward and leans in slightly, placing a gentle hand on Holly’s head, and says in a soft voice, “I’m sorry, son. We need to go now.”
She reaches over Harry’s shoulders and lightly tugs on Holly’s hand, who is trying to resist and tighten her hold on him.
Harry looks up at the Social Worker because that’s what she must be, and says “It’s okay, sweetheart, it’ll be okay.”
The Social Worker backs off and gives the two of them some space. Unwillingly, Harry pulls Holly and looks at her forlorn face, using the hem of his t-shirt to clean the tears away, and then cups her face as Iris did with them.
He has to swallow the lump in his throat and take a deep breath before he can speak.
“I promise I’ll find you again. I’ll find you again, and I’ll write, okay? I promise.”
Holly nods but still throws her arms around Harry again, who reluctantly pulls away, not without one last squeeze, and gets back to his feet. He takes Holly by her hand and walks her back to the car, ensuring she’s seated and buckling her belt.
Before he closes the door, he leans over and whispers, “I promise,” one last time.
As he pulls himself out of the car, he sees that she has the bag Harry owled her for her birthday: it’s from Hogsmeade and had many spells on it. He hopes she was able to use of the magical expansion and packed as much as she could.
Harry closes the car door and nods towards the Social Worker without really looking at her. He stands there until the car drives off and becomes a speck in the distance. When the car is out of sight, Dudley puts a hand on his shoulder and leads him back to Mrs Figg, who walks back with them.
“Let’s have a look at that knee, Harry,” the woman says softly.
Harry follows along like a zombie, letting himself be led into Mrs Figg’s house and directed to a chair in her kitchen. He doesn’t even register his leg being lifted and placed on the other chair or the hem of his jeans being rolled up to expose his bloody knee: it’s the sting of anti-septic as Mrs Figg dabs at the scrape that brings Harry out of his daze.
“What happened?” his voice is dull.
“Iris passed away,” Mrs Figg explains. She doesn’t look at him, concentrating on cleaning his cut instead. Dudley looks stunned as well. “She was on new medication for her heart, but I’m afraid I’m not sure, entirely. Iris lay down to rest, and Holly said she wasn’t waking up. She was scared, the poor little mite. So, she came running over to me.”
Mrs Figg breaks down into tears and gently pushes Harry’s leg away. She gets up and turns her back on Harry and Dudley, trying to hide her pain.
Dudley takes charge of cleaning his knee and then puts a plaster to cover it.
Collecting herself, but still not looking at the boys, she fiddles with a dish clothe which she picks up and puts back down.
“I – er – called for an ambulance – and they tried to – tried to – ” Mrs Figg is unable to finish her sentence as she burst into sobs once more. Harry cautiously stands up and goes over to her: he realises he is now taller than her, as he pulls her close to hug her as he had done with Holly. Iris and Mrs Figg have been friends for years: he knows she has been placed here by Dumbledore to look over him, even though he didn’t know Mrs Figg was a squib until that year. She and Iris had become close, and she and Dudley are the only ones left, apart from Harry, who knows that Iris was a witch.
“Oh, I’m getting your t-shirt all wet,” Mrs Figg groans, pulling back as soon as Harry releases her, and she moves to grab her tea towel again, patting at the boy’s damp tee ineffectually.
“When is the funeral?” Harry forces himself to ask.
Mrs Figg freezes, and he knows he is not about to hear any good news.
“She’s already been buried.”
His heart sinks. So quickly?
“Iris already made arrangements. She might have lived in the muggle world for over a decade, but she made sure to have her body buried in her family. Her solicitors claimed her body as soon they found about her death.”
At Harry’s questioning look, she clarifies, “Magical solicitors have ways. I think she might have had some help from the goblins, making sure to have her Will updated about her burial preferences for years. Oh, and she left all her books to you, Harry. When her visits to the doctors increased, she knew she was struggling. If muggles ever came to her house, she wanted to make sure no magical items were found. I have everything she left for you downstairs in my cellar.”
Harry doesn’t care about the books right now.
“Once her muggle estate is settled, you’ll get a letter about her house. She left it to you and Holly.”
Harry doesn’t even care about the house but is touched that Iris considered him family enough to do this. He can’t deny he has fond memories in that house, but he would much rather have Iris and Holly back than it. As long they were together, they would have made memories anywhere. Now, they’re both alone in the world.
“What about Holly? Didn’t Oma have any plans for her?”
Mrs Figg sighs as she sits back in the chair at the dining table.
“Iris never told me her plans for Holly. I managed to take her temporarily before Social Services came to pick her up today. I did try to hold them off as long as I could, Harry dear, but the woman… she was in such a rush to go.”
Dudley, who has remained silent until now, flushes and confesses.
“I tried to tell you yesterday, but Mum and Dad kept getting in the way. So, you know, I thought I’d wait until I saw you come upstairs to go to bed, so I left my door open, but I fell asleep playing games and then the next thing I know, it’s morning.”
Dudley looks genuinely upset, so Harry can only reassure him that it’s not his fault.
“Anyway, Social Services will be placing Holly in a temporary home whilst they try to find her next of kin.”
He almost doesn’t hear Mrs Figg tell him, quite hesitantly, “You won’t be able to write to her, Harry. She’ll be with muggles.”
He is stunned as the thought occurs to him: Holly’s next of kin is Snape.
As soon as term ends and the hormone-filled animals, ridiculously named students, board the train, Severus visits his father in Spinner’s End. Lucius insists on coming along with him, but he’s still unsure if this is because he doesn’t want Severus to get arrested for murder or entertainment purposes. Possibly both. Lucius has always had a bizarre sense of humour.
Severus sweeps inside his childhood home the second Tobias opens the door.
“What is this?” he hisses, practically waving the crumpled piece of paper in his hand in Tobias’ face.
“Come in, son,” his father asserts sarcastically. “Lovely to see you, too. I know, son, it’s been a while. I’ve been well. How about you?”
Lucius manages to slip inside before Tobias shuts the door in his face.
“Blondie,” Tobias greets.
Lucius gives the house and Tobias his usual sneer and returns his greeting with a simple, “Wrinkly.”
“What do you mean I have a daughter?” Severus hisses, following Tobias into the grotty living room.
His father takes a seat in his shabby-looking one-seater he had before Severus was born: he remembers it when it was cream coloured. Now, it’s just encrusted with dirt and grime. Severus itches to burn it whenever he comes for a visit.
“How many ways can that sentence be interpreted?” Tobias says unconcernedly, turning his attention to his zombie box, otherwise known as a television.
Lucius makes a show of looking around and, seeing nowhere clean to sit, pulls out his wand and conjures himself a chair. Tobias glares at the show of magic, but the wizard sits down without a care.
Severus takes a deep breath, telling himself to calm down.
“Who is she?”
“I don’t know,” Tobias shrugs, reaching for his can of Strongbow from the floor.
“Where is she?” He looks around the room as if expecting her to pop out.
“How old is she?”
Tobias doesn’t even deign to answer. He just grunts and half shrugs as he sips his can of cider. Severus blocks his view of the telly, forcing him to look up at his son as Severus.
“What. Do. You. Know?” Severus enunciates clearly, leaning over and placing his hands on either side of his father.
“I’m not one of your pathetic little school children, Severus, you can intimidate by hanging above like a bat.” Tobias’ voice is cold.
They engage in a silent battle of wills. Severus can feel Lucius shifting, getting to jump between them if things get violent. They certainly have in the past.
“Tell me about my child,” Severus demands as he takes a step back.
“What I told you in my letter, boy. She lived with her grandmother. She’s kicked the bucket, and now the brat’s an orphan.”
Severus exhales sharply and pinches the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
He feels weary. “This isn’t one of your gags?”
“What do you think, boy?”
In response, he glowers at his father.
“How did you find out?” Lucius takes over as Severus gathers himself.
“Well, one of your whores came to me about ten years ago. Told me she was messed up with your sprog and wanted to know how to get you a message,” Tobias explains carelessly, craning his head around Severus to snatch a glimpse of the telly again.
“Ten years ago?” Lucius’ voice is incredulous.
“She came around to tell me some bullshit about you and her having an affair. She wanted to know where you lived and then said she was pregnant. Told her to piss off and not to bother me again.”
“Do you remember her name?” Lucius asks.
“Do you expect me to remember the name of some bird he shagged ten years ago?”
“I expect you to remember the woman who claims to be pregnant with my child,” Severus snaps.
“You should remember who you’ve been screwing.”
“Fair point,” Lucius concedes from his seat.
“She had some sort of flowery name. You’ve always had a thing for them,” Tobias adds slyly, sipping from his can again.
Lucius quickly gets up from his seat to stop Severus from rushing towards his father, who doesn’t even flinch but struggles to hold him back.
Tobias has never liked Lily and makes sly digs whenever he can: he’s always thought she was an ‘uppity bitch’. Severus has always been sensitive about her. He moves back as he remembers whom his father means.
Tobias shrugs. “Could be.”
“Which one was Jasmine?” Lucius questions.
Severus doesn’t answer. His sallow skin pales as he recalls how, years ago, Jasmine told him that she was pregnant with his child. How she had sent owl after owl. How he had asked Lucius to block her owls and any other unknown ones. Severus had then started getting letters at Hogwarts. He had burned every single one of them. Unread.
Lucius leads Severus to his conjured chair.
Tobias smirks at him. “You remember her now, don’t you, lad?”
He finishes the can, crushes it and lobs it across the room into his bin. Severus distantly hears the clunk it makes when it lands. He lowers his head into his hands, resting his elbows on his knees as he recalls everything. He hears the snap of the tab being pulled and the hiss as the air is released. Tobias has opened himself another can of cider.
“I never believed her,” Severus says to his knees. “She told me she was pregnant, but I thought she was lying to get back together, or that she wanted to use me for my inheritance, or whatever reason I told myself at the time.”
“Never heard from her until a year later when I got a letter and a snapshot in the post. Ugly little moppet. After that – nothing,” Tobias says indifferently.
Severus stands up so fast that Lucius almost trips, trying to back away. He is back in front of his father in two long strides: he slaps the still full can from the old man’s hand and drags him upright by his lapels.
“You knew she had my child,” Severus hisses furiously. “You kept my child from me?”
“Perhaps you should have answered her letters yourself,” Tobias sneers in his face.
“You had no right!”
Lucius tries to step between them. “Severus, you need to stay calm. Let’s discuss this like rational adults.”
“Getting awfully snippy for a child you rejected, Severus,” Tobias mocks. “Should have kept your pecker covered.”
Severus feels himself dragged back and is forced to let go of Tobias.
“You should have told me.”
Lucius is still pulling him back and refuses to let go.
“Calm down, Severus or I’ll Stick you to the chair,” he pants.
Severus forces himself to take a deep breath. Talking to his father always takes away his control, so that’s why he only visits Tobias once a year. At times like this, he wonders why he even bothers.
There is a fraught moment as Severus gathers himself together. Tobias calmly retakes his seat, looking regretfully at his upended can of Strongbow.
“You don’t even know how to be a father,” he mumbles.
Lucius tenses, ready to intervene.
“I must have learned from you how not to be a father,” Severus snipes back; then, sighing wearily, sits in Lucius’ chair, forcing his companion to conjure himself a new one.
“Blondie, too good to sit in on my sofa?” Tobias gripes, getting only Lucius’s grin in response.
“Tell me what you know. Please,” Severus reluctantly forces the word out.
“Your bird came to me asking for you,” Tobias begins. Severus holds onto his patience. They have already gone over this part. “I told her to piss off and that I didn’t know where you lived. She left. A year later, a few months after the baby was born, I got a letter from the granny saying the sprog is my granddaughter too and asks if I want to know her.”
“And?” Lucius leans forwards, looking impatient.
“And I didn’t bother to reply. I don’t care, do I? Never got another letter until granny wrote me, saying she’s dying, and she told me to tell you to collect her if you want her.”
“Collect her from where?” Severus and Lucius ask together.
“Wherever Social Services took her,” Tobias says slowly like they are idiots.
“Do you know where?”
Tobias shrugs. “No clue.”
“What about Jasmine? She never got in contact with you again?”
Tobias just gives Severus a look. The Potions Master growls in a low voice in his throat.
“Do you have the letter? Did it have an address?” Lucius prods.
“It might have,” Tobias say sketchily.
“Let me see it,” Severus demands.
“I wrote you that letter ages ago. If you were that desperate for your kid, why didn’t you come to me when you got it?”
Severus rolls his eyes. Trust his father to think a week ago is ages.
“I was working. You have no clue what’s going on in other parts of the world. A lot has happened this last week. I had some things to take care of before I could leave. Now, where is that letter?”
“I’ll have to look for it.” Tobias hides his eyes from Severus, who narrows his own eyes at his father. The old man is prevaricating.
“What’s the girl's name?” Lucius exasperatedly calls at Tobias’ back as he gets up, glares at Severus and then stalks off to the kitchen.
Severus covers his face once more, realising he should have asked that himself.
“Have none of them written to you?” Dudley enquires.
It is late in the evening, and they have the park to themselves. Before Dudley speaks, the only sound they hear is the squeak of the swing swaying gently under their weight.
Harry comes to this park a lot. It has become a habit since Holly was taken away. It has been almost three weeks since he was forced to let her go. He likes to stare at the slide where he first saw her almost seven years ago.
Ever since he has come back from Hogwarts, his temper has been closer to the surface than ever before. He has never been a particularly angry person. Right now, he feels that everything is out of his control. Harry heaves a sigh but answers Dudley anyway: His cousin doesn’t deserve his temper.
“Dumbledore’s banned owl post. Voldemort’s still out there, hiding or something. All I know is that everyone else is staying somewhere safe, together.”
Except for me, he thinks. I’ve been left alone. Even Luna is with her father, travelling as they hunt for Snorkacks.
Harry has taken to doing his homework at Mrs Figg’s house, while Dudley joins in occasionally and flicks through some of Harry’s first-year books. He has stopped hanging out with Piers and his other friends, spending more time with Harry or training for boxing. Dudley has already won a match – Junior heavyweight or something.
Dudley doesn’t say anything more. They fall into silence again, apart from the squeak of the chains.
Harry has been following the Daily Prophet. There have been no deaths reported, no suspicious activity. The Prophet is slowly starting to question his claim of Voldemort’s return.
“We should go back,” Dudley eventually says hesitantly. “Or Mum and Dad might lock you out.”
Harry does not answer immediately. He is unwilling to leave but knows that he might have to spend the night at Mrs Figg’s house if he gets locked out. He has no problem with Mrs Figg, but she is not Iris, and there is no Holly to come and cuddle with him.
Harry nods, and Dudley relaxes as he waits for him to get up first. They walk back to Privet Drive in silence while he ignores Dudley’s looks of concern.
Harry does not immediately notice the chill. This summer, there has been a massive heatwave, and the local council has put on a hosepipe ban. Most people have been walking around with vests and shorts: Harry is wearing jeans as he has no shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt.
“Is it me, or has it gone freezing all of a sudden,” Dudley comments somewhat idly as he hugs himself and rubs his arms.
Harry frowns. He stops and looks up. It’s not just gotten colder than it should, but it has also gone darker than it should be for this time. They should still have another two hours of light left. It is when Harry hears the distant echoing scream. He realises what is happening.
Confused and alarmed, he turns to his cousin and urgently voices, “Dudley. It’s Dementors. We need to run.”
Dudley catches the worried tone and follows Harry as they begin to run home. The screams in his head echo louder. Harry pulls out his wand, hoping he won’t have to use it.
Dudley trips and falls. Harry does not immediately realise this and only suddenly stops when a Dementor floats in front of him. Looking back for Dudley, he sees his cousin shaking and curled up into a ball on the ground. He remembers that muggles can’t see Dementors.
Harry summons up his happy memory, thinking about Iris and Holly. He points his wand at Dementor descending over his cousin and bellows, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!”
Lucius is sometimes irritated as he listens to Severus curse Potter for his idiocy. He is willing to confess that he does not know Harry Potter that well. His last encounter with him was in the graveyard at the Dark Lord’s resurrection. He could admit to a certain admiration for the way Potter handled himself in that situation. In fact, now that he thinks about it, almost every encounter with Potter has ended in violence – the bookshop in Diagon Alley, the Headmaster’s office after the diary fiasco…
In his everyday life, both Severus and Draco have told Lucius that Potter is arrogant, entitled and a reckless rule breaker, and he has no reason to distrust either of them: in his brief interactions with Potter, he has seen nothing that would indicate otherwise.
Still, as entertaining as listening to Severus put the boy down, Lucius admits that it can also get tiresome.
On this occasion, Lucius has a headache and finds Severus’ rants tedious. He can understand why he is irritated with Potter at this moment, having spent the last three weeks trying to track down his daughter, travelling to various temporary houses. Severus has also been to visit his father more in this time than in over a decade.
After visiting the fourth residential home, Severus was advised to bring some form of muggle identification before collecting his daughter, Holly. He has spent the last several days rooting around his muggle Birth Certificate and any other form of muggle identification to prove that he is whom he says he is – He has even had Dumbledore write out a letter of reference. Lucius thinks it is all overkill, but who knows what methods muggles use.
They have been forced to use magic along the way when the social workers cited some form of confidentiality, but Severus was overcautious with the use of his wand. They could erase memories, but the muggles still had those ridiculous ‘confuters’ – little boxes they store information on. So, they were forced to operate in the slowest way.
Severus and Narcissa were supposed to leave today for the next residential home, with all of Severus’ paperwork, but this latest incident with Potter has scuppered those plans.
Potter is claiming he was attacked by Dementors and therefore forced to use his wand. Severus is now unhappy because he has to help investigate this claim.
Lucius, to get away from Severus’ ridiculous rants, volunteers to investigate at the Ministry. It takes him almost a week to find out that Umbridge sent the Dementors to discredit Potter about the allegations of the Dark Lord’s return.
“Look like Potter wasn’t lying after all,” Lucius gloats as he sits back in his favourite wingback chair, sipping his favourite brandy as a celebration of his victory of a successful investigation.
Severus sneers at Lucius: he has never liked to admit when he is wrong.
“What’s Fudge doing about Umbridge?”
“Well, he wanted to keep her in charge and sweep her actions under the rung. I might have had to convince him that this will only come back to bite him in the backside. Public opinion might be teetering regarding Potter at the moment, casting doubt on his claims of the Dark Lord’s return, but… what if he is right?”
“Which you could also prove by telling Fudge that you were there that night and helped Potter escape,” Severus points out dryly.
Lucius gives him a look as if to say, ‘don’t be daft.’
“All in good time.”
Severus waits for Lucius to speak again and prompts him with a “Well?”
“Fudge wanted to send Umbridge to Hogwarts to have her teach Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
“Tell me you stopped that plan!” Severus demands immediately.
Lucius allows him to fret a little before confessing, “Relax. I’ve made sure Umbridge is not allowed anywhere near Hogwarts.”
Lucius ignores the glare Severus sends his way.
“Thank Salazar,” Severus mutters. “Dumbledore needs to find a competent professor this year. Or find another Potions Master so that I can finally take over the position, as I’ve been asking to do for the last fourteen years.”
Lucius cannot resist smirking. He wanted to break this news since he had come back from the Ministry after dealing with Umbridge. That hag has been demoted so far down the line that it will take her a hundred years to climb back up.
“Dumbledore has found himself a new Defence teacher. I would wager this one is quite competent.”
Severus narrows his eyes suspiciously at Lucius and asks, “Would you happen to know this new teacher?”
Lucius is not amused or flattered by Severus’ incredulous laughter.
Harry settles into his new bedroom, which he shares with Ron and Neville. He has been silent since the Order sent a guard to escort him from Privet Drive.
His back is still aching from the Dursley’s punishment after the Dementors attack. Dudley was still a little out of it when Harry had made it back to Privet Drive with his cousin. Mrs Figg met them halfway, having felt the effect of the Dementors when she was returning with her bag full of tinned cat food.
Without Iris’ help, his back has to heal slowly, without magic. Harry misses not just the healing Iris helped him with but also the comfort she offered him. Dudley was upset when he found out how Harry was punished, but he didn’t blame his cousin. Overcoming the effects of Dementor is not easy, and Dudley is still just a muggle.
Harry is happy that he is not going to be expelled. Apparently, someone in the Ministry wanted to discredit him – Umbridge or some such name. Whoever saved Harry not only stopped him from expulsion but also his trial, which was supposed to take place in front of a full Wizengamot.
Regulus and Sirius explain what suffering a trial is before a full Wizengamot, and he is glad he avoided that fate.
Harry’s thoughts are interrupted by the sound of Hedwig pecking at his window. He gets up and lets her in: she follows him back to his bed as he sits against the backboard and settles into his lap. Harry responds by stroking her head in a way that is soothing to both of them.
Hedwig squawks at him.
“I know Hedwig. I miss them too,” Harry says quietly.
Hedwig gets up and flies to Harry’s open trunk at the foot of his bed while he watches with some confusion as she roots around. After almost a minute, she comes up with his fountain pen, and Harry understands instantly.
“I can’t write to her, Hedwig. She’s in a muggle area,” he explains patiently.
Hedwig drops the quill in his hands, moving towards Neville’s bed and grabbing a piece of parchment and bringing that to Harry as well.
“I told you, Hedwig. I can’t send her a letter.”
Hedwig keeps nipping at Harry’s hand until he is forced to give in.
“All right, all right,” he snaps.
Taking the pen and parchment between his fingers, Harry takes a deep breath and clears his mind, thinking about what he wants to write in the letter.
Deciding to keep his letter short, he writes,
I promise I’ll find you. Please, believe me. One day, we’ll be together at Hogwarts and, when I’ve finished school, I’ll take you away from whoever you’ve been placed with, and we’ll live together in Oma’s house – because that’s where she wanted us to live. She left the house to both of us. I’ll keep writing when I can. I don’t care about muggle areas. Hedwig and I both miss you. If you can’t reply, don’t worry. I’ll tell Hedwig to visit you whenever you’re by yourself – but, please, don’t think you’re alone. I’ll always be by your side, even when you don’t notice.
Harry admits to himself that just writing the letter makes his heart feel less heavy. He ties the letter to Hedwig’s leg and watches his friend fly out into the distance.
Severus can feel his heart pounding hard as he and Narcissa approach the front door. After several false leads, which he is sure Tobias has been giving him on purpose, and many delays which erode his limited patience, he is finally outside the door where his daughter is currently housed.
The door is weathered but clean: It is a large, detached two-storey house with a gated front garden, and Severus sees a garden in the back separated by another gate.
He hears the laughter of several children coming from the back. One of them is his daughter. Severus has never thought about having children of his own. Indeed, teaching them puts him off from wanting any.
Yet, even as he had read his father’s letter about his daughter, he cannot deny the need to bring her home. Holly. He repeats the name to himself. His daughter, Holly. Holly Snape. He knows that she probably has her mother’s name on her birth certificate, but she is his, and she will take his name.
He has yet to find out what happened to Jasmine. His priority has been looking for his daughter and bringing her home. Jasmine’s mother raised Holly, though he does not know why Jasmine gave her up.
There is no good reason to abandon your child, Severus thinks.
Severus does not even think about letting his daughter get carted off to an orphanage, even with the war that has just begun and the return of the Dark Lord. Also, he cannot allow his child to think she is unwanted. If Severus had known about her ten years ago, if he had believed Jasmine when she first told him, then he would have raised Holly himself. Somehow. Instead, he has lost the first nine years of her life.
Narcissa knocks firmly on the front door. Severus has been out of sorts ever since he’d received his father’s letter. Since the end of term, he has been meticulous and organised; except with anything regarding his daughter, he has been (not that he would admit it) a nervous wreck.
He does not even know what she looks like. He recalls Jasmine’s red hair and green eyes. He cannot help but imagine his daughter with red hair and green eyes.
Severus clears his mind and straightens his spine. Both he and Narcissa have donned the full muggle garb: she is wearing a long sundress, royal blue with white trim, and her hair tied up in a neat bun.
He pats down the suit he is wearing today, all black to Narcissa’s exasperation. He discreetly checks that he still has all the relevant paperwork.
They are not sure if Holly is aware of magic, so they have decided to travel by muggle means, having hired a car and driver for the day, as slow as it is still better than public transport. Severus had not used it since before he went to Hogwarts (he does not include the Hogwarts Express as public transport) –just remembering it makes him shudder, and he cannot ever imagine Narcissa on anything primitive as the bus or the London underground. So, Lucius has thoroughly researched the matter and decided to have a private luxury car waiting for them outside the Residential Care Home.
A car and driver show them as people of means, which will help alleviate any concerns that Holly will not be taken care of.
The door is finally opened to reveal an elderly woman with a broad, welcoming smile.
Severus forces his face into a facsimile of a smile. Narcissa’s is more natural, though not genuine: she is the queen of manoeuvring people into where she needs them to be. A perfect foil to Lucius, who’s an expert at charming people into doing his bidding. Together they are formidable and the reason Lucius has so many connections and favours owed to him.
“Oh, hi. Oh, I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I was on the phone in the other room about… oh, well, you’re not interested in that, I’m sure,” she laughs in what is supposed to be an inviting manner. “You must be Mr and Mrs Snape?”
Narcissa gives a polite smile as she leads them through to a room towards the back of the house. It seems to be a cross between a living room and an office.
Severus understands that the children who pass through here do not stay permanently. Their stays last as long as a week or two at most, whilst the state looks for a next of kin, or a place is found for them in an orphanage. Holly has been moved three times, inexplicably, but this is not unusual. Sometimes they need extra room for siblings, so anyone who is by themselves might get moved. Had it not been for magic, Severus has no doubt he would have spent the whole summer (or possibly longer) roaming all over Guildford looking for his daughter.
“Please, have a seat.”
Severus and Narcissa take a seat next to each other on the larger sofa. Severus attempts to look like he knows how to be a part of a couple. He is tense as anything.
“Oh, dear, I’ve forgotten to introduce myself. I’m Sylvia Ross,” then she sits down on the smaller sofa in front of her guests.
“Pleased to meet you,” Narcissa gives another polite smile.
“So,” Sylvia Ross begins in an overly bright voice, “you’re here about Holly Pierce?”
Narcissa and Severus look at each other for several seconds.
“Well, Severus, of course, is her biological father,” Narcissa begins, placing a hand on Severus’ upper arm in a familiar gesture. “We were amazed to receive a letter informing us that he has a daughter.”
“I was never told about her, Miss Ross,” Severus begins quietly, not knowing how to refer to their hostess since she hasn’t expressed any preference, so he falls back on formality. “My separation from Holly’s mother was not amicable. Then I went away for work purposes, and my new address was not available to her. It never occurred to me to let her know, as I had no reason to, given that we had parted ways.”
Severus is telling the truth, but the way he has phrased it makes it sound less bitter than the actual events. This way, it sounds like it was just a tragic accident.
Sylvia Ross eats it all up and gives them a sympathetic, syrupy glance.
“Oh, that’s so sad,” she comments, putting a hand on her chest.
“What can you tell us about Holly? Narcissa questions. “Can we see her?”
“Yes, of course. Come on, let’s go through to the kitchen. I’ll have someone fetch her in. The children like to be outside in nice weather, and Holly goes outside every chance she gets. She sits alone at the far side of the garden, away from everyone else, and stares up at the sky. It’s like she’s trying to see her grandmother in Heaven.”
They follow Miss Ross into the kitchen, where she points out to them to a little girl in the distance. Severus is surprised at how big the garden is. All he sees is a girl lying in the grass looking up at the sky. He and Lily used to lie down on the grass like that. He cannot see if she has red hair.
“Hold on a moment. I’ll have someone bring her on.”
Miss Ross steps outside the back door and calls for an older boy. Severus cannot hear what she is saying to him, but he runs off towards the back end of the garden and stands over Holly, his daughter, and passes on Miss Ross’ message.
“Let’s get the formalities out of the way,” Miss Ross says as she returns. “I’ve sent Gavin to ask Holly to pack her things.”
Going back into the living room, Severus pulls out his paperwork. He uses a discreet bit of magic to make her think all is in order when it looks like she is about to question him on some things. Miss Ross hands him a copy of Holly’s records, including her Birth Certificate.
Severus snatches it up, startling Miss Ross with the abrupt movement. Narcissa smooths away the moment with a comment about his eagerness to know more details about his daughter. She is not wrong.
Severus skims over the Birth Certificate whilst Narcissa reads it over his shoulders. He relaxes as he sees his name recorded on it, feeling some of the tension drain from him. Jasmine has not denied his name on his daughter’s Birth Certificate.
He offers a quiet “Thank you” as he looks back up at Miss Ross and sees an understanding look in her eyes.
“There are a few things you should know about Holly,” Miss Ross says, inviting them to sit back down as they wait for Holly to come back. Severus listens with half an ear as he strains to hear Holly’s footsteps coming in and walking up the stairs. Has she even come inside yet?
“I’m not sure how much you already know, so please, bear with me if it’s something you’ve heard before. Holly’s mother passed away five years ago. A house fire. Miss Pierce had given custody of Holly to Mrs Iris Pierce in the event of her death, Holly’s grandmother…”
It is her hesitation that catches Severus’ interest and gets his full attention.
“From what I understand, Miss Pierce was not the most… dedicated… of mothers,” Miss Ross finishes delicately. “There was never sufficient evidence, unfortunately, to look into it further.”
Severus can feel himself getting livid at the implication that Jasmine had abused his daughter. Narcissa places a calming hand on his wrist, and he works to clear his mind again.
“Mrs Iris Pierce was a very devoted grandmother to Holly, though; by all means, they were happy together. Holly cries herself to sleep every night. She’s been quiet most of the time, but getting her to fall asleep is difficult. I think it’s because she’s afraid she won’t wake up like her grandmother.”
At their questioning look, she clarifies, “From what I’ve read in the reports, Mrs Pierce was feeling unwell and lay down for a rest. Holly was home at the time. She tried to wake her up, but when Mrs Pierce didn’t get up, she ran off to a neighbour for help.”
Severus feels Narcissa’s fingers dig into his wrist.
“Thank you for telling us,” he says stiffly.
Miss Ross nods.
“I think she misses her friend too. There was a boy she was fond of. The Social Worker who went to collect her told me Holly almost threw herself out of a moving car to get back to him.”
“A boy?” Severus repeats incredulously. “At her age?”
He conveniently forgets his own obsession with Lily at that age.
Miss Ross gives him a bemused look.
“You’ll have to forgive Severus outburst. He teaches teenagers,” Narcissa excuses, putting a hand on his arm again.
“Hedwig!” Holly whispers happily as she abandons her packing to open the window. Hedwig comes in and carefully settles on the girl’s shoulders, nuzzling her head affectionately.
Holly has been watching for Hedwig every day. Every chance she got, she was outside, looking at the sky for signs of the white owl. Every night, she tried to stay awake as long as she could, looking for Hedwig, thinking of Harry and Oma. She did not know if Harry would send her a letter because she was staying with muggles. Until Hedwig came, she was despairing that Harry would never be able to contact her again. She was afraid that he would forget her and move on, and it would be years before she got her own Hogwarts letter and could see Harry again. Even then, they would only have one year together at Hogwarts before Harry graduated.
“You’re so clever,” Holly whispers again, giving Hedwig a rub.
She knows Miss Sylvia is waiting for her to come downstairs with her bags packed. Gavin told her that people were waiting for her and needed to get her things: she thinks she’s being moved again. She’s beginning to get used to it, and it won’t take her long to pack. So, she rips open the letter and reads through it. By the end, she is smiling.
Harry hasn’t forgotten her. Holly puts the letter into her bag and gets the rest of her stuff as well. Hedwig gives her one last nuzzle and an affectionate peck with her beak and flies out the window again.
Holly descends the stairs, feeling less disheartened but still wary. She clutches her bag, a gift from Harry, possessively in front of her as she walks into the front room that Miss Sylvia likes to use as an office.
Severus hears the tiny footsteps only because he has been listening for them. He gets up from the sofa and turns to the door, anxious to get the first proper look at his daughter.
His first thought as she walks in is that she doesn’t have red hair. Instead, it is black like his but silkier and tied back in a braid. She looks so much like him, but a prettier version, thank Salazar – Severus had been an ugly duckling when he was Holly’s age. Her black dress is old but clean. She is wearing a baby blue puffer jacket and clutching a school bag tightly to her chest.
Severus is not even aware that he is walking to Holly until he crouches on one knee in front of her. Sylvia Ross and Narcissa watch in silence.
Holly looks at him blankly, waiting for him to speak.
“I’m Severus. I’m your father,” he manages to keep his voice even. “You’re coming home with me.”
He finds that he’s holding his breath, waiting for her to speak.
When she does, he is shaken by her words and the fire in her eyes.
“I don’t know who my dad is. My mum was just a bed-hopping slut.”
Holly backs out of the room and turns away, clutching at her school bag even tighter.
Severus can feel his face burn as he abruptly straightens up. He is reluctant to turn back to Narcissa and Miss Ross, who gives him an unreadable look and follows Holly in the hallway.
This is not the way he expected his first meeting with his daughter to go.
“You said those exact words to Jasmine.” Narcissa’s tone is smooth, but Severus hears the censure anyway.
He gives the tiniest of nods.
“At least we know she’s definitely your daughter.”