“Why aren’t you all smiles, Birthday Boy?” Draco asked, catching up with Harry and draping an arm around his shoulders. “I rather thought you’d be happier after having spent the day with all your friends and getting a handful of presents.”
“They’re your friends, too,” Harry insisted. “And you got gifts, too.”
“That I have,” Draco said with an insincere nonchalance only he could pull off. “And I’m all smiles about it.” He beamed at Harry to prove his point. “So, why the long face, brother-dear?”
Why indeed? Harry asked himself. This day had been nothing short of perfect. Without the need for the Fidelius Charm to protect the cottage, he’d finally been able to invite his friends over. They had spent it outside, having a delicious brunch, before Harry and Draco led everyone down the coast path to a small cove at the foot of the cliffs. They’d even gone for a swim—well, most of them had; the girls had insisted that the ocean water was way too cold for that. But they had agreed to strip down to their bathing suits; so, there had been that.
With Draco’s birthday at the beginning of June and Harry’s at the end of July, they had settled for the first weekend of July to throw the party. Draco’s was a bit late, and Harry’s was a bit early, but neither felt left out.
The guests had left at sundown, and now it was time for their family to celebrate together. Harry and Draco had helped clean up and get the garden outside the cottage back in order, and they were on their way back inside for what he was sure would be some cosy together-time by the fireplace. Why then did he feel like he was about to cry?
Changing course at the last moment, Harry walked to the back of the house, and Draco followed him wordlessly. There was another way into the cottage, at the back, through the large bay window in their shared bedroom.
“Do you want to know why I’m not smiling?” he asked his brother before sitting down in the grass with his back against the glass of their bedroom window.
Draco, who wasn’t one to sit in the grass, crouched down by his side. He nodded encouragingly at his brother.
“I’m not smiling because I don’t know when I will ever see them all again.” He sighed. “I probably never will—at least, not all at once. It will be two or three here and there, and that’ll be that. School’s over, and we move on with our lives.” He sighed again, but this time, it sounded a lot more like a sniff. “I always knew it was coming. But it still hurts, you know.” He paused, then added in a much smaller voice, “And they’re not the only ones I don’t want to lose.”
With a sigh of his own, Draco moved to sit next to him, grass and all. “I know what you mean,” he said. “I don’t want to leave this place any more than you do, Harry.”
“Doesn’t seem fair,” he said. “Why do we get so little time with them—with each other?”
Draco said nothing, but the way he brought his knees up to his chest told Harry everything he needed to know about how his brother felt.
Harry ought to have left it at that, but he couldn’t stop speaking. Part of him had felt miserable for weeks, and he needed to let the pain out before he drowned in it. “I don’t give two Knuts about going to the university or taking up whatever internship Hermione thinks I should apply for. I don’t want to be an Auror, and I don’t want to play bloody Quidditch every day. I want the years everyone else has had with their family. It’s not fair that we shouldn’t have it, not after everything we’ve been through—everything this family has been through.”
Harry knew he sounded like a petulant child, but he couldn’t care less. Wizarding Britain could give him all the medals and honorary titles it wanted, but he cared only about his family. And time was running out on them, and Harry refused to accept it. He’d been forced to accept too much over the years, and this was where he drew the line. Maybe he ought to have failed his N.E.W.T.s. That would have given him a reason to return for another year. Why did he have to be so good as to get two Os and four Es?
“When I was little, and I got sick, Mother would send in the house-elves to look after me,” Draco said in a quiet voice.
It was so random that Harry turned to look at him in surprise. His brother seldom talked about his childhood and even more rarely brought up Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. Much like Harry rarely spoke of the Dursleys or the Potters. They had turned the page, both of them, and began new chapters as the sons of Severus and Saturnine Snape.
“When I made a mess of my room, she’d order them to clean it up,” Draco continued. “Father saw to it that I had the best tutors to learn everything I needed to know to become the perfect little Malfoy heir. So, I was raised by an assortment of strangers who’d been paid to look after me, and terrorised house-elves.” He sighed, resting his head against his bent knees. “Somehow, I don’t think that’s how Severus and Saturnine would have gone about it.”
“They’d have taught you everything themselves and made sure you learned your lesson, too,” Harry said with a nod, thinking there would have been no cupboard under the stairs, either.
“Forced us to clean our room under threat of punishment,” Draco added, and the change of pronoun wasn’t lost on Harry. “Enforced curfew, especially on school days.”
“Forbidden us from eating sweets before dinner,” Harry offered.
“Sat by our bed when we were sick and held our hand until we fell asleep,” Draco said, turning to look at him with unshed tears in his eyes. “Damnit, I want that. I don’t care that I’m eighteen. I want to know what it’s like to have parents who give a fuck about what happens in my life.”
Harry’s heart went out to his brother. Draco rarely ever cursed, and especially not the Muggle way. It was a sign of how badly he felt.
“We’ve got to figure something out, mate,” Harry said. “We’ve got two months left to think of something.”
“We defeated the Dark Lord,” he explained. “You killed that creepy snake, and I got rid of that noseless git. How hard can it be to figure out a way for us to stay with our mom and dad a little while longer?”
Draco shrugged. “Well, when you put it like that…”
“Last one who figures it out is a wanker,” Harry added for good measure before returning to his feet. He reached a hand down to his brother and hoisted him up.
“You’re going to eat the dirt, you prat,” Draco said with a confident smile.
“In your dreams, tosser,” Harry replied. “In your dreams.”
“I’d rather not be in your dreams at the moment,” Draco said mockingly. “Not after the way you looked at Ginny this afternoon. Man, gotta love whoever invented women’s two-piece swimwear, huh?”
Feeling himself blush to the tips of his ears, Harry said, “I have no idea what you’re on about.”
“Oh come on, brother-dear,” Draco scoffed. “Unlike you, I have perfect vision, and I totally saw how you looked at her. It was like your eyes were charmed stuck on her or something.” He paused as if considering it. “Or, rather, on some of her most curvy parts.”
“You’re delusional, Draco,” Harry said, pushing the bay window open. “Must be an insolation or something.”
Draco was still teasing his brother’s burgeoning interest in the younger Ms Weasley when they entered the living room. The fact that Harry had now well and truly turned tomato red gave him the giggles.
“Everything all right, boys?” Severus asked, glancing up from the newspaper in his hands.
Draco nodded, and Harry tried to say something, but the only sound that made it through his lips was a squeak. Feeling magnanimous, he slapped his brother on the back forcefully before helpfully pointing out, “It’s nothing; Harry’s just swallowed a bug.” Then, because he couldn’t help himself, he added, “A really cute ladybug.”
Predictably, the allusion passed miles above Severus’ head, but Harry threw Draco a murderous gaze before sitting next to their father on the sofa. Draco sat down next to him, feeling very content with himself. Then a thought struck him, and he wondered what it would have been like to have Severus give them the talk about the birds and the bees. Then he thought that he still might have a thing or two to say on the subject. And that cured him of his laughter.
It wasn’t long until Saturnine joined them, bringing a tray of sandwiches and some lemonade. She placed everything on the coffee table and squeezed in next to Draco. It was a tight fit on the small sofa, but none of them seemed to care.
“Thanks for today,” Draco said, saving his brother from going through it himself. “It was nice having everyone over.”
“I’m glad you boys had a good time,” Saturnine said before serving the lemonade. She handed over the glasses, and Harry drowned half of his right away.
There wouldn’t be any gift from their parents tonight, he knew. He had gotten his on June 6th and surmised Harry would get his on July 31st. But that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any gifts. For, while they had celebrated Severus’ birthday with all the balloons and candles they could find, Saturnine’s had gone unnoticed, the Dark Lord choosing May 4th to attack Hogwarts—which happened to be her birthday.
Between their waking up at St. Mungo’s and the time it had taken Draco to get over his snake poisoning, Harry’s memory loss, and the rebuilding of Hogwarts, followed by the exams and subsequent revival of the headmaster, there had never been time to throw her even a belated party. And while they could have waited until Christmas to give her their gift, Harry and Draco had decided that today was as good an opportunity as they would get. Not wanting Severus to feel left out, they had, of course, bought something for him as well, and both gifts slowly burned a hole in Draco’s pockets. They’d split the cost between themselves, using some of their monthly allowances.
Glancing at Harry, he tried to gauge his brother’s state of mind to see if the timing was right. He hadn’t expected the days’ event to upset him this much. Nor had he expected to find himself pouring his heart out with his arse in the dirt. And yet—it had felt good to be able to voice some of his cravings and even better to realise that his brother was on the same wavelength. Besides, Harry was right; after all that they’d been through, finding a solution to their little conundrum oughtn’t be too difficult. And if it was, well, they could always owl Hermione.
Harry gave him a slight nod over his lemonade, and Draco reached into his right pocket to pull out a small box wrapped in ivory paper and held together with dark-blue lace. Placing it on his palm, he presented it to their mother.
“For me?” she asked, surprise evident on her face. Suspicious, she looked at the three of them in turn to ascertain the reason behind the gesture. While Harry and Draco wore equally beaming smiles, Severus shrugged his shoulders in a ‘no idea’ kind of way.
“Thank you,” she said, cautiously pulling on the lace and unwrapping the small box. She paused before opening it. She had probably thought this to be a prank. But when she recognised the box to be the type that comes with jewellery, she reconsidered.
“We didn’t really have the time to celebrate your birthday,” Draco explained, “what with Harry saving the world and me getting bit by a giant snake. But we got you something anyway.”
Harry nodded. “It should have come with a full party and everything,” he added. “But there never was a right time for it. So, we figured why not tonight.”
“Raincheck on the big party, though,” Draco added. “You know we loooove throwing parties and can’t wait for January to roll around again so that we can get it out of our systems,” he said with a smile that did not wither in the face of their father’s glare.
“You can count on me to help you with that one,” Saturnine said with a conspiratorial wink. “And thanks for thinking of me.”
She pulled the box open and was unable to speak for a few minutes. Inside was a silver necklace with an elegant pendant that was a replica of their family’s crest. Harry and Draco had had the idea for it at Christmas but hadn’t had the time to have it made then. It was very detailed but small enough that she could hide it underneath her blouse when she taught at Hogwarts if she wanted to.
“We figured since I’m still wearing your necklace,” Harry said, reaching under his shirt to pull out the small, S-shaped pendant Severus had made for his sister long ago, “that you wouldn’t mind wearing a new one.”
She held out the small box to Severus so that he could see it, then reached for each of her sons, in turn, to plant a loud smack on both of their cheeks. Severus gave her the box back when she was done.
“Thank you,” she said, her fingers trying to work open the latch. It took her a few tries to manage it because of the small tremors that coursed through her digits. “That’s most lovely,” she said, putting it on. “I’m very, very touched.”
“And because we’re the gift that keeps on giving,” Draco said, reaching into his other pocket, “and we didn’t want you feeling left out, Dad.” He pulled out a second, slightly smaller box wrapped in black paper with red swirls and silver lace.
“Happy, uh—early Christmas?” Harry said, shrugging. “Or congratulations on your most excellent N.E.W.T.s result, Professor.”
Severus chuckled nervously as his fingers got to work on the wrapping paper. The shape of the small box left little to the imagination, and he wasn’t overly surprised to find a ring inside. His breath was nonetheless taken away by the symbol embossed on the silver surface.
“A signet ring with the family crest,” Draco said with a small bow of his head, “as befits the patriarch of the House of Snape.”
Severus didn’t hold out the box to his sister for her to see. But he did hold it out to Harry—along with his left hand so that he could put the ring on his pinkie finger. His were shaking too much for him to attempt the action himself.
Their father was well and truly tongue-tied, and he bowed his head in thanks once the ring was secured in place. And Draco understood how much it meant to him. Severus only ever became silent when the emotions overcame him. Leaning over Harry, he reached a hand out to him.
Later that night, a happy feeling fluttered through Harry’s chest when he found Severus completely engrossed in his new signet ring. The Potions Master sat alone on the living room’s sofa, shoulders hunched forward, his dark gaze steadfastly fixed on the small silver band. The flames in the grate opposite him played intricate shadows on his face.
Harry slowly moved in close to not startle him until Severus looked up. His obsidian eyes were full of emotions, and his son smiled warmly at him in return.
“I knew you’d like it,” Harry said knowingly, as he perched himself on the coffee table, a little to the left of the man’s long legs.
Severus’ Adam apple bobbed up and down a couple of times before he spoke. His voice was softer than Harry had ever heard it—perhaps even slightly awed. “Thank you very much, Harry. It means a lot to me.”
Harry shrugged noncommittally. He had a pretty good idea what the Snape crest meant to his adoptive parents. He’d been without a family himself for so long that the symbolism wasn’t lost on him, either. But he knew better than to try and force a lengthy declaration of feelings onto an unsuspecting Slytherin. It seemed his father had other ideas, though.
“The word ‘family’ never meant much to me,” Severus started, sounding a little unsure of himself. His gaze was still steadfastly locked onto his bejewelled finger. “The place where Saturnine and I grew up never felt like a home, and the four people who lived in it never behaved like a family. Only Saturnine ever mattered to me. I felt next to nothing when my father passed, and the Snape name meant little to me—Merlin knows, I’ve heard it used as an insult more often than not.” Pausing an instant, Severus heaved in a deep breath, and Harry felt a need to reach out to him that was hard to overcome. “I would never have bothered with a crest or anything. I never felt the need to, never had a reason to even think of such things, until…”
Severus let his words hang while the fingers of his free hand came to cover the emblazed ring protectively.
Feeling that the distance between them was too much, Harry moved to sit by his father’s side on the sofa. The Potions Master’s free hand relocated to his son’s shoulder an instant later.
“The word ‘family’ never had a meaning for me until you and Draco made us into one,” Severus continued at length. “This,” he glanced down at his signet ring again, “is a beautiful and powerful symbol, Harry. And I truly appreciate it. I know I’m not the best at communicating what I feel, but I wanted you to know that I got the message, loud and clear.”
Harry leaned in, catching his father in a one-armed hug, saying, “I love you, Dad.”
“I love you, too,” came the whispered reply, and Harry treasured it for the rare treat it was. It was one thing to know a man such as Severus Snape loved you, but it was another to hear it said aloud.
They stayed like that for a little while—father and son—holding onto each other and enjoying the closeness, warmth, and sense of belonging. This, Harry decided, was the quintessence of what ‘family’ and ‘home’ meant, and he’d have stayed in Severus’ arms forever if he could. But all too soon, the man pulled away, a curtain of black hair hiding his face and brimming eyes from view.
Harry silently stayed where he was, giving them both time to recover from the onslaught of their emotions. He still found it hard to believe, at times, how lucky he was. Both Severus and Saturnine were more than he’d ever hoped to have. He had their unwavering support and love and, for the first time in his life, felt as if anything could be overcome with their help—and Draco’s. His brother had become as much a friend as an ally to rely on during tough times.
“We should find something for Draco to wear,” Harry said when realisation dawned on him that his brother was now the only family member without a Snape family heirloom. He had his mother’s childhood necklace, Severus still wore his, plus his new signet ring, and Saturnine had the brand-new necklace they’d just given her.
Severus turned a puzzled gaze his son’s way, and Harry told him the realisation he’d just come to. A brief flicker of something that looked like pain crossed Severus’ dark eyes. Then he seemed to come to a decision, and he reached a hand beneath the hem of his black jumper. When Harry caught sight of a thin, silver chain looped around his long fingers, he gasped.
“But you never take it off,” he said, surprised. Saturnine might have parted with her necklace at the beginning of Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts. But Severus had never taken his off—save for very briefly the day Draco and Harry had been kidnapped, and the Snape siblings had used the pendants to locate them.
“I never had a reason to,” he explained. Then he brought the chain over his head before letting it rest on his opened palm. The small S-shaped pendant—a replica of Harry’s—lay nestled between the silver rivulets. Severus visibly shuddered at the necklace’s absence, and Harry reached for his own family heirloom on impulse, resting it in his palm an instant later.
Catching his action, Severus reached for the pendant he had carved so many years ago to bring it closer to his. As soon as they were close enough, the two magically linked together as if they were living snakes seeking each other’s embrace.
Harry watched it happen in awe. “I had no idea they could do that,” he said.
Severus nodded. “They haven’t locked together in years,” he said, voice laden with emotions. Though his face was hidden behind the barrier of his hair yet again, Harry thought he had just glanced up towards the bedroom where Saturnine was now resting.
A moment later, Severus pulled on the chain of Harry’s necklace, and the two pendants parted. Holding his own necklace tightly, he placed the second on Harry’s waiting palm and closed the boy’s fingers around it.
“Keep it safe,” he said. “Always.”
Harry didn’t need to hear that, but he nodded anyway. “I promise, Dad.”
Without another word, Severus sat up and made his way towards the room where his second son would likely be almost done with his evening shower.