1. Give Me A Smile by krosi
Give Me A Smile
His hands shook as he slowly unrolled the thin parchment the owl had delivered nearly ten minutes ago. It was another soulmate test, and Severus wasn’t sure if he wanted to know that there was no one left out there for him. The last time he had taken the soulmate test was eleven years ago only to find out that he had only two matches: Lily Potter (nee Evans) and The Dark Lord himself. Lily had merely been a Phileo, a friendship type of soulmate, while the Dark Lord was an Antagonist—if only he had known that before he took the Dark Mark.
Those had been the only two names on his list. Of course, his parents would have shown up as Storge soulmates had they been alive at the time, but it had been a bit disheartening to see no other names on the list, especially an Eros, a romantic soulmate. However, though it was rare, soulmates could change through the years, and Severus was hopeful for even a single name to be on the list. He hated to admit it, but he had grown more lonely and more depressed over the years since the fall of the Dark Lord and the loss of his best friend. The Soulmate Match Test was something that only needed to be taken once in a lifetime, yet Severus was desperate for answers now.
Some people spent their lives searching for soulmates naturally, but he was not one of those people. The Wizarding World had a cheat to that system, and he was more than happy to take advantage of it.
Severus took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he finished unrolling the parchment. He wasn’t sure what he would do if he didn’t see a name on the list. Probably throw himself off a bridge somewhere. Was he truly destined to live a life of solitude and misery? If that was the case, he would not play the hand life had dealt him. He would end this miserable life and avoid dealing with the Dark Lord upon his return. No one would miss him anyway, obviously.
With his eyes tightly closed, Severus finished unrolling the parchment and held it open for several long seconds, steeling himself for what he was about to see.
Another deep breath and he slowly opened his eyes. He blinked at what he saw.
The first: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
Birthday: August 12, 1881
Soulmate Match: Karmic.
Current Location: Hogwarts Castle, Scotland.
Well, wasn’t that a conflict of interest. Thinking back on where his relationship stood with his employer, it didn’t surprise him in the least. The old wizard was always up to something, and with the way the Dark Lord had disappeared and the infant Harry Potter’s strange survival (and Severus’s role in all of it), it was no wonder that Albus would have turned into a soulmate match, and not a pleasant one either.
And speaking of Harry Potter.
Harry James Potter.
Birthday: July 31, 1980
Soulmate Match: Storge.
Current Location: 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.
He was meant to have a familial bond with Harry Potter. A familial love for his childhood bully’s son. That couldn’t be right. This had to have been in error, a cruel trick Life thought of to get a quick laugh.
Severus stared at the parchment longer, then closed his eyes and tightened his grip, crinkling the edges of the paper. Lily’s beautiful image came to mind, and he felt an inner turmoil churn in his gut as he swallowed dryly. Was this her way of forgiving him after all this time? Could he really find ways to bond with Harry? Like Harry would even want to. The little hero of the Wizarding World was probably a spoiled, pampered prince under his relatives’ care, what would he ever want to do with a mediocre wizard such as Severus?
Yet, a sudden desire to seek out Harry nearly flooded any reasonable emotion within Severus, and he nearly threw the parchment down on the dining room table. The soulmate connection was powerful when one was made aware of it, and Severus wasn’t sure if he even wanted to pursue tis relationship.
He spent nearly a month resisting the urge to go to Harry—and it would have been so easy as he had Harry’s current address listed right on the parchment that he found himself staring at occasionally. It was a good thing the Dark Lord had no belief in the Soulmate Match System, otherwise finding enemies would be very easy. The desire kept growing the longer he put off meeting Harry, along with a thousand what-if scenarios in his head of spending time with Harry, teaching Harry, and even inviting Harry over for weekend visits. These daydreams didn’t seem so awful, and Harry would be starting Hogwarts in a year anyway, so he would meet the child sooner or later.
Yet, he brooded on the past, finding resentment in his unfortunate match. He would sometimes glare at the names on his short list, wondering how so many others would end up with a massive list of soulmates from all over the world, especially the one Eros of their lifetime, a destined love to last forever. Not for him. No, all he got was an old coot and the spoiled brat of an old rival.
And the beloved son of an old friend. Lily was the light in his darkest moments, always radiant and understanding. Her smile could turn his worst days into some of the best memories he had of her. Perhaps, just perhaps, Harry had inherited that magical smile.
Finally, Severus found the courage to put on his best muggle clothes and apparate to Surrey. He had a gray blazer with a plain white tee to wear underneath, along with black suit pants and black boots. He might as well be presentable on his first day, especially if he went out anywhere in the muggle world.
He would introduce himself to Harry at the very least, maybe take him out for lunch and an activity. He would slowly get to know the child and see if this relationship was truly worth living for. After all, Harry was the only good soulmate connection he had on his list. He might be destined to have few relationships in his life, but he would at least try at commitment before giving up on Life entirely.
Once in Surrey, his apparition point behind an old pub Severus was familiar with, Severus rode a bus that took him closer to his destination, then he walked the rest of the way from there. As he walked down Privet Drive, he took note of the well-manicured lawns and cookie cutter houses. He felt a bit out of place and almost turned around and abandoned his mission. But he bit his tongue and pushed forward.
Number four was before him sooner than he would have liked. He slowly walked down the drive, his heart thundering in his ears, his palms the slightest bit sweaty. Why did meeting his soulmate child freak him out so much? He took a deep breath and occluded his mind, shutting down the anxious emotions running rampant in his head. He could do this. He was just saying hello. Simple.
Severus knocked on the door.
It opened a few seconds later and Severus’s heart stopped, a sudden silence hanging in the air.
Harry Potter stood in front of him with a curious look in his green eyes so like Lily, even behind the Potter-like spectacles the child wore, and Severus felt a surge of affection for the child wash over him, and he knew he had lost whatever battle he had planned over taking it slow and getting to know Harry. No, he was going to be the best father figure for Harry he could be.
“Hello, sir,” Harry greeted softly, a frown forming on his face. “Can I help you?”
Severus blinked, then shook himself out of his daze and offered a hand to Harry.
“Harry Potter, my name is Severus Snape.”
Harry’s frown deepened but he shook Severus’s hands, creating a welcoming warmth against Severus’s cold skin. Severus released Harry’s hand quickly and clasped them behind his back.
“I was a good friend of your mother’s, you see, and I . . . I’m afraid there’s much to discuss. Is there a guardian I may speak with as well?”
Harry opened his mouth, but he was interrupted by a shrill voice.
“Boy, who is at the door?”
“Err, he said his name is Severus Snape,” Harry called back.
Like a cat popping up from inside a box, Petunia appeared in the doorway with her long face sneering in disgust.
“What are you doing here, Snape?” Petunia asked.
A bit surprised at her hostility, Severus narrowed his eyes but kept a calm voice.
“Petunia,” he greeted, “I’ve come to see Harry and explain a few things to him, if you’d be so kind to . . .”
“No. You need to leave this instant.”
Now annoyed, Severus glared at Petunia.
“I will not leave until I’ve had the chance to speak with Harry. I have important business to deal with that involves him, and—”
“I already said no. I don’t need Harry spending any time with more freaks like himself. Leave.”
Petunia slammed the door in his face but Severus caught it just before it closed, and he pushed against it.
“You did not just call him a freak, did you? Really, Petunia?”
Petunia’s face paled as Severus pulled out his wand and aimed it directly at her.
“If you don’t want a freak display of magic right at your front door, you will allow me to come inside.”
Petunia quickly opened the door and Severus stepped into the house, his wand on Petunia the whole time. Petunia slammed the door shut and glared at Severus. Petunia had never accepted Lily’s magic, nor did she every get over her jealousy of never having her own magic, but Severus had never thought she would hold that same grudge against Lily’s child. How wrong he was, but Severus could not say had he not been a Soulmate Match that he would not have done the same to Harry.
Harry was staring wide eyed and mouth agape at Severus, so Severus took a calming breath and directed Petunia to her seating area, and everyone moved into the living quarters. Petunia sat on her couch while Harry stood off to the side awkwardly.
“Sit down, Harry,” Severus encouraged, “this will not be a short conversation.”
“Oh,” Harry stammered as he glanced at his aunt who was giving him a murderous look. “I prefer to stand.”
Severus glared at Petunia but decided to let the issue slide.
“Very well. As I was saying, I was a close friend of your mother, a Soulmate Match, actually.” At Harry’s confused frown, Severus explained what he was talking about. “You see, Harry, there are five different types of soulmates you may have in your lifespan. Eros for romantic love, and there’s usually only one of those. Phileo for friendship as your mother and I had. Storge for family or familial connections. Antagonist for enemies, and Karmic for, hmm, well, a connection of sorts. Each soulmate bond is represented by a symbol that forms when the bonded pair interlock their fingers and say “revelio.””
Harry made a strange face as he processed what Severus was saying. Severus paused for a second before continuing.
“Of course, going around and asking everyone you meet to hold hands to check can take your entire life, so some choose to take the Soulmate Match Test. With a small pinch of your magic taken from a drop of blood, you can send your sample in to be tested and the Department of Mysteries can find all of your soulmates for you and send you the results. That is what I did, and I found out that you and I are Storge Soulmates, and we were meant to have a . . . sort of father-son-like relationship. Only, if you’d like to, I won’t pressure you into anything you’re not interested in. I know this is a lot to process so take your time before you answer.”
“Well, actually, it sounds kind of neat,” Harry said. “Just, err, well, magic isn’t real so how exactly do you test for this. . . soulmate thing?’
It was Severus’s turn to give a bewildered look before he turned furious eyes on Petunia, who shot back a haughty look.
“I can assure you, Harry, that magic is real. You and I are both wizards, and your parents were both magical. Unfortunately, there are some who are not gifted with magic and do not possess the abilities that you and I have, such as your aunt.”
Severus fought back a smirk at the furious look that overcame Petunia’s face.
“So, all the freaky things I do are magic?” Harry asked.
“Yes, but they are not freaky. They are what make you special. If you need further proof, I can show you our bond. Remember what I said about interlocking fingers and saying a magic word? We can do that now and you will see that you and I are connected.”
Harry studied his hand before holding it out toward Severus, slowly walking forward. Severus gently grasped Harry’s hand, interlocking his fingers between Harry’s, then softly said, “Revelio.”
Harry let out a gasp as a tingling sensation ran up and down his fingers and into his palms, then a triskele, a symbol of three interlocking spirals, appeared above their hands in a white swirl like a wispy cloud, spinning for a moment before evaporating away.
Severus smiled softly at Harry’s awed look, his eyes sparkling and his mouth agape, but then Harry closed his mouth and looked at Severus with a neutral face.
“That’s pretty brilliant, sir.”
“It’s Severus,” Severus said gently as he let Harry’s hand go, feeling disappointed that Harry had not smiled. “And there is much more magic in this world than that. I was hoping to take you out into our world, actually, perhaps for lunch or something?”
“Absolutely not!” Petunia snapped, standing up. “Over my dead body will he be going anywhere near your kind.”
“That can certainly be arranged,” Severus said, smirking when Petunia’s face paled.
“No,” Petunia said, forcing a glare back at Severus, “I will not allow anything like this in my house. I will not let you brainwash Harry into thinking that using magic is normal and okay near me or my family. You will leave this house and never come back and stay far away from Harry.”
“I will not ignore what I have learned of myself and Harry, and if you think you can—”
“If you want anything to do with the boy, then you can take that burdensome child and neither of you will ever come back here again.”
Severus heard Harry suck in a breath, and he glanced down at the child. Harry’s eyes darted between Petunia and Severus and his hands shook the slightest, his green eyes glassy. Severus felt a twinge of guilt and he wondered if he should just leave Harry with the one family he ever had before something regrettable happened.
“Harry, I didn’t mean to walk into your life to disrupt it all. If you wish to stay here with your relatives, I will understand. I am a stranger to you. I do not expect you to wish to leave with me at all. I just wanted to meet you.”
Perhaps their connection was strong on both sides, now that Harry had felt the bond himself, because Harry’s eyes settled on Severus’s, and the child said in a soft voice, “So we would be like father and son?”
Severus hesitated, then nodded. Butterflies must have found their way into his stomach because they were fluttering all over the place inside him. He couldn’t speak. Was Harry really considering walking out that door and leaving his relatives behind just to be with him—a miserable, boring, potions professor that he had just met?
“Do you think you could . . . love me?” Harry asked suddenly and almost in a whisper, as if afraid of rejection.
Severus felt his heart clench at how fearful Harry sounded, how fragile and small. That feeling he had felt when he had first seen Harry returned, and he smiled softly.
“I feel I already do, Harry.”
Harry stared intently at Severus, then stepped closer and nodded.
“Okay. I’ll go with you.”
“You’re making a big mistake, boy,” Petunia growled as she crossed her arms.
“You’re the one making a mistake, Petunia,” Severus snapped. “And one day, you will regret it.”
Petunia said nothing as she turned and walked out of the living room. Severus looked down at Harry.
“Perhaps you would like to go pack?”
Harry looked down, and Severus suddenly realized the state his clothes were in, large and baggy, and his shoes had a couple holes in them. Harry shrugged his shoulders and dug a toe into the ground.
“I don’t really have anything to grab.”
“I see.” Severus considered cursing Petunia before he left, but instead, he slowly wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulder and pulled him close.
“This may feel funny, but I am going to apparate us from here to London.”
Harry nodded and closed his eyes, leaning against Severus in a trusting manner.
Severus held Harry close and focused on his apparition point. He felt the slightest resistance against his magic, but then, like lightning striking the ground and reverberating against the ground, a feeling that could only be described as wards falling apart, his magic broke through and he apparated away with Harry.
Severus apparated Harry directly to Diagon Alley, where he wanted to make sure he had everything he would need to accommodate Harry’s needs. While he figured he may allow Harry to visit now and then, he did not expect to bring home the child today permanently. He would have to inform child services at the Ministry of Magic and proceed with adoption. In the meantime, he dragged Harry through Diagon Alley, literally having to drag the child along as Harry stopped often to stare in wonder at all the magic around him.
Severus bought Harry an entirely new wardrobe that would get him through the rest of the summer and the start of fall. His next stop was a furniture store, and he bought a nightstand, bedframe, and a desk for Harry’s new room, which he figured he could turn his storage room (that used to be a guest bedroom) into Harry’s room. The mattress store was next, and it took some convincing for Harry to try some mattresses.
“Which one do you like?” Severus asked as Harry slowly sat down on another mattress in the store.
“I don’t know,” Harry answered as he stood up again.
“Harry, maybe you should try lying down on the bed rather than just sitting on them.”
“I can sleep on the floor,” Harry said, “You don’t have to get me a bed.”
“That would be irresponsible of me. You need a proper bedroom not some broom cupboard.”
“The cupboard wasn’t that bad,” Harry muttered.
Severus ears picked up on it though, and he frowned at Harry as he asked, “What do you mean, “wasn’t that bad?””
“It wasn’t,” Harry said as he walked to the next mattress. “I didn’t always sleep well cause the mattress was really hard and sometimes spiders would fall on me, but it wasn’t bad.”
“You slept in a cupboard?” Severus couldn’t believe his ears. He would be telling that to child services for sure.
“There was no other room for me. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had their bedroom, Dudley had his two bedrooms, and the guest room was mostly saved for Aunt Marge. There was nowhere else for me.”
“I think you just listed two potential options. No, lie back on the bed, don’t just sit.” Severus gently pushed Harry down on the mattress Harry had sat on. Harry obeyed and laid down a bit stiffly, falling into the softness of the bed.
“All the rooms were taken,” Harry argued.
“You should have been as much a priority as their own son was. They had enough rooms in the house, one of the rooms should have been yours, not the cupboard.”
“This is really soft,” Harry said, blinking blearily.
“Do you like it? I promise you, Harry, you will not ever sleep in a cupboard again,” Severus said as he walked along the edge of the bed, looking for a price tag and the brand name. “You deserve a bedroom of your own and so much more. I cannot believe all that Petunia has deprived you of, but I will make sure you are given nothing but the best from here forward. It is the least I can do after all you have been through. So, is this the bed then?”
Severus was met with silence, and he looked up to find Harry asleep on the mattress. He huffed as he realized he had been talking to himself, but he wasn’t really annoyed. He smiled softly at Harry, and when a sales associate walked up to them, he softly asked for the bed, and he dealt with the paperwork quickly before gently lifting Harry and carrying him against his shoulder, Harry’s arms hanging over his shoulders. He stopped at one last store, the quidditch shop.
“Your latest model,” Severus requested in a whisper.
He was rewarded with a sleek broom, and he paid for it and sent it to his house by owl mail, wanting to surprise Harry with it later.
Severus moved slowly so as not to jostle Harry too much as he headed for the Leaky Cauldron to use the Floo network. That was generally less disturbing than apparition on sleeping children. How he knew that he wasn’t entirely sure, but Severus knew he didn’t want to disturb Harry from his sleep. The child must have never had one good night of sleep before his body hit that soft mattress at the store.
Finally, Severus floo’d to his home, a small cottage style in Southern England. Harry did not stir from the trip through the floo, and Severus settled Harry on the couch, draping a blanket over his small body and summoning a pillow for him. While Harry was asleep, Severus would work on setting up his new bedroom.
An hour passed before Harry stirred and managed to find his way to Severus by the noise, he was making upstairs in the far-right bedroom. Harry yawned as he stepped through the door.
“Sorry, sir,” Harry apologized. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
“It’s Severus. And no need to apologize, you were obviously tired.” Severus stepped over to Harry and rested a hand on his shoulder, pushing Harry into the room more. “So, what do you think?”
Harry looked around, taking in the full bed fitted with blue sheets and a blanket, a nightstand next to it, a dresser with a standing mirror off to the left side and a wooden desk and chair on the right side. Harry frowned and looked up at Severus.
“Is this your room, Severus?” Harry asked.
“No, it’s yours.”
Harry’s eyes snapped back to absorb the room again before they watered and he looked up at Severus.
“All this is for me? Are you sure?”
“This is your new room, Harry, and this is your new home. I know it’s a bit smaller than your relatives, and maybe you’d like to do your own decorating and we can always change the color scheme in here if you’d like, but . . .” Severus was cut off as Harry hugged him tightly.
“It’s perfect. Thank you,” Harry said.
Severus rested a hand on top of Harry’s messy hair.
“You’re welcome,” Severus said. “Why don’t you get settled in? I’ve already put away your clothes, perhaps you’d like to put on something new and toss these old linens away?”
Harry nodded up at Severus before exploring his new bedroom. Severus sighed as he did not get the smile he had been hoping for. In fact, Harry had not smiled once since he had met the child. Did Harry ever smile? Did he not inherit Lily’s radiant grin? Not that it mattered as he knew he would love Harry anyway, but he really wanted to see Harry smile at least once. What was he doing wrong?
The rest of the day involved getting to know each other while Severus tried fruitlessly to get a smile out of Harry. After Harry had settled into his new room and changed into fresh, new clothes, Severus had given Harry the new broom he had bought, and after a short demonstration, Harry had tried it out himself, and he was gifted, natural flyer. That was no surprise for Severus, but if Harry had ever smiled while flying above the cottage, Severus had missed it, and Harry landed in front of him with a neutral expression.
“That was pretty brilliant,” Harry said as he handed the broom back to Severus.
“It is yours,” Severus said. “Keep it in your room. And remember, you may only fly it when you have asked for permission.”
“Yes, Severus,” Harry said as he stepped around the man to take the broom to his room.
Severus let out a frustrated sigh when Harry was out of earshot.
Later, Severus decided to teach Harry Wizard’s Chess under the guise of doing something while getting to know his new ward. Once Harry understood the basics and was no longer marveling at the way the chess pieces moved on their own or smashed each other, he studied the board intently to decide on the right moves, his forehead creased, and his lips drawn downward in a thoughtful curve. Severus held his tongue as he waited for Harry to make a move.
“While you’re deciding what to do,” Severus began, “could you tell me some of your favorite hobbies you like to do?”
“I don’t really have any hobbies,” Harry said as he decided his safest bet was just to move a rook. “I was always too busy for any free time. Cooking, cleaning, gardening. I don’t mind any of it, really.”
“I highly doubt they are your favorite hobbies, though, hmm?”
“I guess not. What do you like to do?”
“I enjoy many things, mostly relaxing activities such as reading, editing journals, potion experimenting, a good game of chess.” Severus moved a piece himself.
Harry was quiet for a moment as he contemplated his next move before daringly moving a knight.
“Yes, I like brewing new concoctions, or adjusting some old ones in order to enhance their potential or hasten how quickly they work. And before you ask, potions are much like muggle medicine, but far superior as they have several magical components, such as allowing them to cure an infection in a day rather than in ten days.”
“If they’re so good, why can’t muggles use them?”
“A fair question, but muggles do not possess magic, and the magic in the potion would have nothing to counteract or cancel out with, making it very dangerous for muggles to attempt using as the magic could overwhelm their bodies and worsen the situation if it does not kill them.”
“Oh,” Harry said, a horrified look on his face.
“Indeed. But for yourself, potions would be absolutely safe if you ever needed them.”
“So you’re like a pharmacist then?” Harry asked. “Or a chemist.”
“In a sense, yes, I would be a bit of both. A pharmaceutical chemist if you would. Your move.”
Harry looked down at the board, tapping his temple briefly before moving his knight back. Severus snorted at Harry’s defensive play before moving one of his own pieces. It would be a very long game at this rate, but he could end it quickly with the right moves. However, he wanted to drag this out as long as possible to learn as much about Harry as he could, hopefully uncovering the secret to Harry’s lack of smiles.
“Perhaps you and I could brew a potion together. Observing the process is more enlightening than hearing or even reading about it. I think you might enjoy it. Your mother was very efficient in the study.”
“Really? No ones ever talked about my parents before. Was she nice? What did she look like?”
“She was very nice, with a smile that lit up the room. Very smart, too. She excelled in all of her classes, though she had a particular dislike for History of Magic, though I can’t fathom a soul who would enjoy that class. You have her eyes, you know.”
“You do.” Severus hesitated for a few seconds before saying, “Besides that, you look exactly like your father.”
And it didn’t bother Severus in the least. Perhaps it was because they were soulmates, and the bond that had formed when they met washed away any bitterness Severus had originally felt about James Potter. All he could feel now was gratefulness that James Potter had left behind this wonderful child for Severus to care for now. If only he had checked his matches sooner, he would have discovered this connection with Harry before the boy could have suffered at the hands of the Dursleys. And maybe he would already be smiling.
“Do you have any pictures?” Harry asked.
“I do, actually.” Severus stood abruptly and headed for his bedroom, pulling out an old yearbook from Hogwarts. It was the last year of school, and he knew there was a picture of James and Lily as a star couple within the pages somewhere. He brought the book out to the table, flipping through the pages before finding the one he wanted, and he handed the book to Harry.
“These are your parents, James and Lily Potter.”
Harry accepted the book.
The picture was of James and Lily standing a safe distance away from the Whomping Willow tree that was in full bloom. James had a crooked smile and his arms were wrapped around Lily who leaned back into James with a faint smile that displayed a subtle sign of amusement. Harry’s eyes blinked in surprise as he watched the once still picture come alive. James moved and leaned in to kiss Lily passionately, their lips locked for nearly three seconds before both pulled away and stared intimately into each other’s eyes. Then, the picture reset, and the two teenagers were staring back at the camera once again.
Harry’s eyes watered as he stared down at the magical picture that not only showed proof of his parents, but that they were very much alive once, and that they had loved each other. He sniffled before asking, “How did they die?”
Severus sucked in a breath himself, his stomach turned to ice, and his heart clenched in his chest.
“You don’t know.”
Harry shook his head.
“They were murdered, Harry. By a very dangerous man who thought that your family might end his reign of terror. He is gone now, and you are very lucky to be alive. That scar on your head, it was from a killing curse that rebounded. Instead of killing you, the curse bounced off and struck the man that cast it. Your parents died trying to protect you, and their sacrifice may have been the reason you lived.”
Harry was silent for several minutes as he processed those words. One day, Severus would tell Harry the full story, but for now, these details would have to be enough. Severus wasn’t sure if he was ready to delve any deeper than that into how everything came to be regarding the prophesy and the potential that the Dark Lord could return. He didn’t want to focus on any of that, or his role in it, for fear that Harry would reject him, and he would truly be alone and miserable for the rest of his life.
“Aunt Petunia said they died in a car crash,” Harry said.
“She lied to you,” Severus said. “I am so sorry that you were never told the truth or told anything about your parents. They were good people, Harry. Brave, caring, and dedicated to you.”
“Were you friends with them?”
“As I said, I was close friends with your mother. We shared a soulmate connection. Your father and I did not get along, but most of that was house rivalry and . . . teenage boy problems for lack of better words. He was a very good friend to those he cared about and a good man to your mother.”
Harry’s thoughtful face became neutral once more as he stared at the picture again, then he looked up at Severus.
“Can I keep this?” he asked.
“Of course.” The grandfather clock struck the hour loudly, and Severus said, “It is late. Why don’t you head up to your room and get ready for bed?”
“Yes, sir, thank you, Severus,” Harry said.
Harry disappeared up the stairs and Severus leaned back in his seat, drumming his fingers against his arms. Still not even a hint of a smile.
The next day, Severus decided to allow Harry to explore the house and grounds outside as long as he stayed within the wards (and they would buzz at him if he got too close) while Severus worked on a potion in the small makeshift lab across from the kitchen. It was a small room that consisted of a single workstation, a large utility sink in the back with a countertop installed next to it, and shelves and shelves of ingredients, cauldrons, and prefilled vials of potions lining in the walls, making use of every bit of space in the room.
Severus was currently working on a Poison Ivy Rash Balm, something he would need for several students who incorrectly handled the plant during potions classes. The first years were especially good at not pulling their gloves up all the way when they had to use the leaves in certain potions. It was best to have an excess supply of this potion on hand.
“Hi, Severus,” Harry greeted as he slowly entered the room, watching with interest as Severus added aloe vera to the potion, causing a puff of green smoke to emit from the cauldron. “Woah, what are you working on?”
“A balm potion for poison ivy rashes,” Severus answered while he stirred the thickening substance. I will need to make a couple more batches of this if you’d like to help.”
“Can I?” Harry asked with enthusiasm that did not show on his face.
“Of course,” Severus said, pulling the stirrer out of the cauldron and resting it in a holder. He waved his wand over the cauldron to finish the final spell then let it simmer as he walked over to one of the many shelves on the wall. He grabbed a container of dried chamomile flower heads and brought them over to the table where the cauldron continued to simmer. He directed Harry to one end and grabbed two mortars and pestles.
“One of the two main ingredients in the balm is chamomile and aloe vera. The chamomile needs to be crushed as finely as possible before it is added to the potion, so we will crush the rest of these plants before we make a new batch. Think you can handle that?”
“I think I can crush a few plants,” Harry said with a cheekiness in his voice, yet still not even a smirk to grace his face.
Severus handed Harry the instruments and pushed the container between them. Harry grabbed a couple of the flower heads and set to work crushing them while Severus did the same.
“I take it you finished exploring the house and grounds?” Severus asked.
“Yes. Do you have any neighbors? It looks like its just us for miles.”
“Is that such a bad thing?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”
Severus paused in what he was doing and looked over at Harry on the other side of the table.
“Yes, actually. I was feeling a bit lonely. But not for the company of neighbors.”
“For a soulmate,” Harry supplied. “Is that why you took the test? How does that even work?”
“It is partly why I took the test,” Severus answered, leaving out his darker intentions for having done so. “The test requires a potion that enhances your magic briefly and then a drop of blood is added to a sterile vial when you feel the effects of the potion at its strongest. That sample is then sent to the Department of Mysteries. What they do from there is kept secret from the rest of the world, but their technique has been nearly ninety-nine percent accurate. Hundreds of wizards and witches send in samples to find their soulmates.”
“Do all the soulmates have symbols that show up like ours did?”
“Yes. When you find your soulmate and hold hands, a symbol will appear. Your parents were actually and Eros match, which reveals a burning heart, naturally. A Phileo match will show two arrows crossing each other in a sense of truce and alliance, while the Storge has a triskele to represent the never-ending love of a family. A Karmic match has an endless knot, alluding to the complexities of such relationships, and the antagonist . . . is a skull on fire.”
“That’s a little creepy,” Harry said, scratching absently as his wrist.
“Well, I’m glad we were a match. I think I’ll like living here.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask,” Severus said, pausing in his work to focus on Harry solely. “How have you been feeling since leaving the Dursleys? They were your family and did raise you since you were a toddler.”
“Well, I was a little shocked at first that Petunia would just send me away so quickly,” Harry admitted, returning to scratching at his wrist again. “You’re right, they were my family, the only place I ever knew as home. But it never really did feel like home. I always thought there was something missing, like I really didn’t belong with them, even though I knew my parents were gone. And then you showed up. And as you saw, it’s not like we were a big happy family anyway. I miss them, but not enough to ever want to go back.”
“That’s understandable,” Severus said, frowning as he watched Harry move his hand up his arm to continue scratching higher and higher. “Are you okay? Why are you scratching like that?”
“I don’t know,” Harry answered.
Severus moved around the table and used his wand to light up the dimly lit room more, and he gasped as he noticed that both Harry’s hands and arms were completely covered in hives and rashes. Harry kept scratching himself as well, scratching at his shoulders under his shirt now. Severus caught Harry’s wrist and pulled his arm down.
“You’re having an allergic reaction, probably to chamomile. Why didn’t you say something?”
“You wanted me to crush them,” was all Harry said.
“I don’t want you to crush them if you’re allergic to it. You should have stopped and told me you were breaking out in hives. No, stop scratching, you’re spreading it.” Severus grabbed Harry’s other wrist, then gently pulled Harry out of the room, leading him to back to the living room.
“I can’t do anything right!” Harry complained, his eyes watering. “I just wanted to make you happy.”
“Oh, Harry.” Severus sighed softly. He pushed Harry down on the couch and summoned a balm. “And here, I’ve been trying to make you happy. You don’t need to do anything for me to make me happy. I’ve never been happier since I’ve brought you home. Just having you around makes me happy. And I can’t have you making yourself sick over trying to impress me. Allergic reactions can be very dangerous and deadly. I wouldn’t be happy anymore if I lost you.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry apologized, dropping his head, and looking down at the carpet, visibly trying to resist scratching.
“You have nothing to apologize for, I should have noticed your rashes sooner. Or at least brighten the lighting in my lab. Here, take your shirt off so I can apply the balm on you. The rashes have spread down your chest.”
Harry obeyed and allowed Severus to work the balm into Harry’s arms.
“This balm is specially made without chamomile. You are not the first to have a reaction to that plant, but now that we know you are allergic to it, you will have to wear gloves to handle it from now on. And be very careful doing so.”
“Yes, Severus.” Harry’s face was still very crestfallen.
“Hey,” Severus said, lifting Harry’s chin with a finger, “I’m not upset or angry with you. You were doing very well, and you can keep helping me if you’d like. With gloves on.”
Harry nodded in response, but his face did not brighten up.
Severus sighed and returned to rubbing the balm in Harry’s shoulder. Harry must have scratched at his chest and ribs as well as rashes had popped up there, so once the rashes disappeared from Harry’s shoulder, Severus scooped more balm onto his hand and gently rubbed it into Harry’s chest, moving his hand down toward the rash near Harry’s ribs.
Suddenly, Harry let out a loud surprised squeal and jerked back a bit from Severus, giving the man a surprised look as if he had never felt such a strange sensation. It may have been a trick of the eye, but Severus swore that Harry’s lips had quirked up for a brief second, but the smile had vanished in a flash as Harry seemed to process what he had felt. Severus had an idea and he scooped up more balm.
“My apologies, I did not realize you were so ticklish. I’ll be more careful. You have a couple more rashes to heal.”
Harry didn’t move as Severus applied the rest of the balm more carefully, and when the last of the rashes disappeared, he purposely tickled Harry’s side again, earning a loud shrill, and Harry twisted away, but Severus tickled Harry’s other side, causing the boy to scrunch down slightly on himself to avoid Severus’s ticklish fingers, the child’s laughter filling the room, music to Severus’s ears.
“Wait, I’m almost done with your balm, a couple more places,” Severus said as he used both hands to tickle Harry now, and the child fell back into the seats of the sofa, his hands grabbing at Severus’s arms without really trying to stop Severus. Harry was squirming and laughing but not really trying to get away from Severus as he realized it was a game now.
Severus chuckled softly as he paused for a moment as he watched Harry, making sure Harry was actually enjoying the tickling. He knew some kids really didn’t like it and only laughed instinctively. Harry, however, was still giggling as he stared up at Severus’s expectantly, a big grin on his face that warmed Severus’s heart.
“There’s that smile,” Severus said, and Harry grinned wider. Severus couldn’t help but grin back, then he smirked as he said, “You know what, I missed a spot.”
“Where?” Harry said, looking down at his torso, a playful smile on his lips.
“Right here,” Severus said, tickling Harry’s right side, and his laughter picked up again. Severus tickled Harry’s other side. “No, here. And here. And here.”
After another minute of tickling Harry and the child squirming around on the sofa, Severus gave Harry a break and sat next to him, offering a hand to help Harry sit up on the sofa. Harry pulled his shirt back on before sitting next to Severus, looking up at him with a soft smile. Severus stared down at the child fondly, then carded a hand through Harry’s messy locks before leaning down and planting a kiss on Harry’s forehead.
“I love it when you smile. You doing that more often would make me very happy.”
Harry wrapped his arms around Severus and hugged him tightly.
“Only for you,” Harry agreed.