"Welcome, do come in," Narcissa said graciously, opening the door to the menacing Malfoy Manor wide. And Harry had thought Spinner's End was dark and gloomy.
Harry and Severus stepped inside, Severus nodding politely as he passed their host. Draco appeared in the hall and shot Harry a wide smile. He replied in kind.
"I'm very glad you could come," Narcissa said. "I'll admit, we have had far too few visitors since... you know."
Severus inclined his head. "If I were in your place, I would not seek to remedy that."
Draco rolled his eyes lightly. "My mother loves company."
Narcissa gave a weak smile. "Shall we?" she asked, gesturing to the sitting room. They followed her into a large room with a fireplace and ornate metal and glass table. Upon it sat a varied array of cookies, tea cakes and appetizers. It seemed that Mrs. Malfoy did not only like to have company, she also knew how to do it properly. She poured tea for everyone and Draco was the first to take a cookie. After he had set the example, Harry gladly took a cake of his own.
"So how has your summer been?" Narcissa asked Harry politely.
"Wonderful, thanks," he replied earnestly.
Coming in, Harry was unsure of what to expect from Draco's mother. He had known, at least from the way that Draco talked, that she was nowhere near as bad as Lucius. However, she had also married him. Harry felt as if he should tread carefully.
"Is Sirius still staying with you?" Draco asked Harry.
"No, he moved out," Harry responded, feeling more comfortable talking with his friend. "Did you hear the news?""That he was cleared?" Draco asked excitedly. "Yeah, I saw it in the paper. That's really great, give him my congratulations."
"I will," Harry promised.
Narcissa looked from Harry to Severus. "Sirius Black was living with you?"
"Unfortunately," Severus said dryly. "It was either that or Azkaban," he said, causally raising his cup to his lips.
"And they allowed that?" she asked, interested. Harry wondered if she was thinking of her husband. He desperately hoped that there was no way that he would be allowed out, no matter the supervision.
"Being that it was merely in the interim between the time he was 'caught' and his trial, yes," Severus replied. "Not to mention, things that Harry Potter wants to happen are rarely denied," he said with a hint of his old snideness.
Harry shot him a look. "You could've said 'no'," he pointed out.
"If you recall, I did," Severus shot back.
"Right," Harry conceded. He shrugged and changed the subject. "Have you made your plans for the World Cups yet?" he asked Draco.
"Not entirely," he said.
"Then you ought to try and get a site near Ron's. That's where we are too."
"Sure," Draco agreed, glancing at his mother. "Is that alright?"
"It matters little to me," Narcissa said.
"I said much the same," Severus muttered.
"Great," Harry said. "Do you know if Hermione is coming?"
"She's coming with us," Draco said. Harry looked a little surprised. Draco shrugged. "Just paying her back for harboring me a few years ago."
Harry nodded. "Brilliant. It should be great fun. Who are you rooting for?"
"Bulgaria," he responded instantly. "You?"
"Not sure yet," he said. "I'll wait and see."
They chatted about Quidditch for a while, ignoring the two adults on the other side of the room. Harry was beginning to realize how much he missed talking with someone of his own age. He vowed to become more social for the rest of the summer.
As their children talked of sports, Severus and Narcissa sat in an awkward silence.
"How have you been?" Severus asked, peering at her closely. He wondered how much of an effect the removal of Lucius had been on her. From what he could tell this far, she seemed to be lighter hearted and less restrained. Severus could only imagine what the household was like with him around.
"Pretty good, actually," she said. "It's good to have Draco home."
Severus nodded in agreement. "I imagine it would be."
Silence fell for another minute. He thought for a second before posing the question rattling around in his mind.
"Did you invite us here as a sort of revenge on Lucius?" he asked quietly, genuinely interested in the answer.
"What? No, of course not," she said quickly. "I invited you because Draco is friends with Harry." She added, as an after thought, "And because I thought maybe we could become friends, or at least acquaintances. I lost most of my connections after I decided I didn't want to be associated with Death Eaters anymore."
"That was a good choice," Severus replied dryly. "They are rarely trustworthy. That being said, you do realize that I am..."
"Yes," Narcissa replied. "But you're not anymore, right?"
"Alright then," she said as if that closed the matter.
Maybe it did. The only sound was the clinking of china and the chatting of their children for a few minutes.
"I believe congratulations are in order," Narcissa said. When Severus merely tilted his head, she clarified, "Order of Merlin, First Class."
"Ah, that," Severus said. "Thank you." He did not comment further, instead taking a sip of tea.
After a pleasant dinner and dessert, Harry and Severus made their exit.
"Thank you for having us," Severus said politely.
"No, thank you for coming," Narcissa replied graciously.
"Hopefully that satisfies her urge for company for another month or so," Draco muttered to Harry. Harry grinned. "Nice seeing you."
"Same," Harry replied. "'Till the world cup then?"
"Sure," Draco said. "I'll owl you when we firm up plans."
"Sounds great," Harry said. "Bye."
Harry and Severus stepped outside and Severus apparated them away, the protective barriers having been temporarily lowered. They arrived back at Spinner's End and Harry collapsed on the couch, exhausted.
"Socializing is tiring," he complained.
"Now you see why I avoid it," Severus replied in a satisfied tone.
Eyes closed, Harry grinned. "Maybe I'll follow your example."
"Something tells me that will not go over well," he stated.
Cracking an eye open, Harry asked, "What?"
Severus smirked. "What with you being the Boy Who Lived and all."
Harry groaned. "Do you have a potion to remove fame? I can do without it."
"Not a thing," Severus said. "I suppose you have ruled out poison?" he asked snidely.
"That would only increase my fame," Harry muttered. "Dead people are so popular," he whined.
Severus actually laughed, albeit lightly. Harry peered at him closely.
"Are you feeling alright?" Harry asked. "Did they drug you?"
"I assure you, Harry, I am just fine."
Harry shook his head as a slow smile spread across his face.
Severus was up early on Monday morning, for some reason finding sleep hard to come by. Harry had been up late the night before so Severus assumed he would be sleeping in. Midgy brought him a cup of coffee and he opened the newspaper. No sooner had he begun the first article than a knock sounded on the door. Severus's brow furrowed. Who would come calling this early in the morning?
Dressed in a long black robe, Severus hoped it was not anyone important. He looked through the peephole then opened the door with a growl.
"What on earth are you doing here, Black?"
Sirius looked offended. "How's that for a greeting," he muttered.
Severus gave him a dark look. "It is six in the morning."
"And...?" Sirius asked innocently. He produced a wrapped gift from behind his back. "It's Harry's birthday."
"I know," Severus said defensively. "I was planning on taking him to dinner on Diagon Alley."
Sirius stepped into the hall with a wave of his hand. Severus shut the door. Sirius said dismissively, "You can take him to dinner tomorrow."
Severus's eyes narrowed. "Why?"
Sirius grinned mischievously. "I thought we could have a party."
"A party?" Severus asked slowly, incredulously. "Where?"
Sirius gestured grandly to the hall. "Here of course."
Severus blinked. "You cannot be sincere in that notion."
"On the contrary, I'm serious," Sirius said.
"Everyday," Severus said.
"Will you stop with the name puns?" Sirius complained, rolling his eyes.
Severus sneered. "It is regrettably one of the few things that annoys you."
"Whatever," Sirius said. "Anyway, how 'bout you take Harry out for breakfast instead? That'll give me time to brighten up the place."
Severus looked at him. "Does it need brightening? Besides, what kind of party is this really going to be? Harry has spent most of the summer with the two of us, it is nothing special."
Sirius patted Severus on the arm patronizingly, then made his way to the kitchen. "Yeah, that's all right," he said dismissively. "You suppose I could get Midgy to whip up some French Toast?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "Does that not defeat the pretense of my taking Harry out for breakfast?"
"Right," Sirius said with a frown. "I'm still hungry, though."
"I believe I have a box of dog biscuits in the cupboard," Severus said snidely, going back to his paper and coffee.
Sirius made a face.
An hour later, Severus roused Harry from his slumber.
"Good morning, Harry," he said, shaking his shoulder gently.
"Morning, Sev," Harry replied tiredly. "What time is it?"
"A little after seven," Severus said. With a hint of a smile, he said, "Happy birthday."
Harry grinned in response. "Thanks."
"If you get up, I thought we could go to breakfast to celebrate," Severus said, stepping back.
"Alright!" Harry agreed eagerly, throwing off his sheets.
Severus nodded. "I'll be downstairs."
"I'll be down in a sec," Harry promised.
Severus returned to the kitchen and waited for Harry to come down. When he did, Sirius popped out of the sitting room.
"Sirius!" Harry said happily. "What are you doing here?"
"I couldn't resist coming to say happy birthday to my favorite godson," Sirius said with a sloppy grin.
Harry snorted. "Your only godson."
Sirius shrugged. "Nevertheless, happy brithday!"
"Thank you," Harry said earnestly. "Are you coming to breakfast with us?"
With a glance at Severus, he replied, "Nah. Snape loaned me a few teaching books that I was going to read through. 101 Ways to Make Students Cry With Minimal Effort and Handbook for Handling Students You Hate."
Harry's brow furrowed, looking between the two adults. "Are you being serious?""Always," Sirius said with a wink. Harry laughed, despite himself.
"See, you do it as well," Severus pointed out. "And I own no such books."
"Maybe you don't but I bet you could write me one up," Sirius commented.
Severus glared at him. "Are you ready, Harry? We best leave before I do something for which you will rebuke me."
"Yep," Harry said easily.
Severus apparated them to Diagon Alley where they wandered into a small little cafe called Pamela's. It was quaint with green papered walls and a small bar area in the corner. The service was prompt and soon both Severus and Harry had ordered.
"You are fourteen now, correct?" Severus asked conversationally, even though he knew the answer.
"Yeah," Harry said. He looked thoughtful. "It's hard to believe so much time has passed."
"Indeed," Severus replied. "I am finding it more and more difficult to remember a time when you did not live with me."
Harry shivered. "I can still remember living with the Dursleys."
"That is not easily forgotten, I daresay," Severus commented, arranging his silverware so that it was straight. "Do you ever wonder about them?"
"What?" Harry asked, surprised.
Severus inclined his head. "What they are up to these days. Not that you would care, simply out of curiosity."
"Well, I can't imagine much has changed," Harry said with a frown. "Dudley is probably still getting spoiled and being a bully only now he's bigger and has meaner friends, I would guess."
"I am sorry," Severus said abruptly. "I should not have brought that up on today of all days."
Harry shook his head. "No, it's alright." He smiled slowly. "It just serves to remind me how grateful I am that everything worked out like it did."
Severus looked away, lest he betray emotion.
Harry continued. "Four years ago, I would never have imagined that I'd not only have a father but a godfather too. It was too much to hope for. And here it happened without me even trying."
Severus looked back at him. He felt unsettled and struggled for words. "Happy birthday."
Harry laughed. "Honestly, all this is worth a lifetime of presents."
"I am glad you think so, because I did not get you anything," Severus said, lip curling a bit.
Harry grinned. "That's alright," he said honestly.
Severus shook his head. "I was not being serious, I just wondered at how you would respond. You are a constant surprise, though I should have seen that coming. Your present is at home."
Harry was about to say something in return when the waitress returned with Harry's blueberry pancakes and Severus's omelet.
"Thank you," Harry said politely, looking up at the older woman. As he did so, the hair blocking his scar fell to the side.
"Goodness," she said with a gasp. "Are you Harry Potter."
Harry bit his lip and looked to Severus for help. Severus's expression was a mix between amusement and snide disgust.
"Uh, yeah," Harry responded hesitantly.
She grasped his hand and shook it tightly. "It is an honor."
"Er, thanks," Harry replied. She gave him a grandmotherly smile and bustled off, presumably to tell her coworkers. "Thanks for the help," Harry muttered at Severus.
"Only you," Severus said with a shake of his head.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry asked.
"Thank goodness you are not like Lockhart."
Harry snorted. "Yeah, look where that got him. The whole wizarding world hates him now." Harry stabbed his pancakes with a fork and doused them with syrup. Severus watched him critically.
"Would you like a little pancake with that syrup?" he asked with a sneer.
Harry looked up innocently. Harry pointed at himself with his fork. "Birthday for the Boy Who Lived, remember?" A long string of syrup dripped from the end onto his robes. "Oops."
Severus shook his head once more in exasperation. "Again, I say: only you."
Harry was too busy rubbing the spot with a damp napkin to comment. As he did so, Harry's head jerked as if he heard something. Harry looked up.
Almost every pair of eyes in the restaurant was focused on their table. Harry slumped down in his seat.
"Maybe we should pick a muggle restaurant next time," he commented.
Severus gave him an inquisitive look before noticing the rest of the patrons. He sent each and every one of them a glare. Most looked away after a moment or two of eye contact. Harry seemed to be watching him do this.
He grinned. "I knew you'd be good for something."
"Glad to be of service," he said sarcastically. "Perhaps you should wave to your adoring fans."
"Fat chance," Harry said. "Eat. I get the feeling this is only going to get worse."
Severus waved a hand ambiguously. "Yes, each of the patrons calls a few of their friends. 'Come to Pamela's, the wonderful Harry Potter is here'," he said snidely. "Soon a veritable throng of people will be clamoring for your attention."
Harry said grumpily, "It could happen."
"I surely hope it does not," Severus said.
"Believe me, I do too," Harry said, eyes wide in earnest.
The rest of the meal passed with idle chatter. Harry ate quickly and once he finished, he fidgeted in his seat, glancing around often. Severus raised a brow.
"Ready to go?"
"Yes," Harry replied, almost before Severus got the words out of his mouth.
Severus waved for the waitress. She came bustling over, apparently waiting for them to signal.
"May I have the check?" Severus prompted when she stood mute for a moment.
"Oh, no check," she said. "That's Harry Potter," she pointed out as if he were not aware.
"I know that; he is my son," Severus said defensively with a scowl on his face. "And as far as I am concerned, he will not get special treatment here. May I have the check?"
She shook her head forcefully, looking between the two of them with an odd expression on her face. "Owner's orders."
"Fine," Severus conceded. "Let's go, Harry."
Harry looked embarrassed. He nodded in relief and slid out of the booth. Once released into the freedom of the street, Harry let out an audible sigh of relief.
"Too much pressure for you?" Severus asked.
"Definitely," Harry replied. He shook his head lightly. "Though I do love seeing the look on people's faces when they realize you adopted me."
Severus huffed indignantly but the corner of his lip curled up a bit. "That was the whole reason I did it."
"What?" Harry asked, looking at him strangely.
Severus laid a hand on his shoulder. "I am jesting, Harry. Relax."
Harry stared at him blankly. "When did you acquire a sense of humor? It's unnerving; I'm not used to it."
"I've always had a sense of humor."
Harry burst into a fit of laughter. "Now that was funny!"Severus scowled, offering his arm for Harry to hold onto. In a few seconds, they were back on the doorstep of Spinner's End. Severus opened the door and held it for Harry. Harry stepped in casually. His brow furrowed as he looked towards the sitting room doorway; the edge of a red banner could be seen peeking out from the doorway. A burst of color was sure to tip him off. Severus followed as Harry went to investigate. As Harry stepped into the sitting room, decorated wall to wall in red and gold, a chorus of "Surprise!" spread around the room as people popped up from behind the couch, desk and chair. One even hid behind the potted plant.
A wide grin split Harry's face as the guests converged around him echoing the sentiment of "happy birthday". Severus stood in shock for a moment, being almost as surprised as Harry. He scanned the knot of people for Sirius. Spotting him, he stalked over, pinched him tightly by the elbow and dragged him into the kitchen.
"Ow!" Sirius complained, pulling his arm free. "What was that for?"
"You led me to believe that the 'party' was going to consist of the three of us, not a houseful of people," Severus growled.
"No, you assumed that and I didn't correct you," Sirius said with a shrug, plucking a stuffed mushroom off a tray of appetizers that sat on the table. He popped it into his mouth whole. Talking through the bulge in his cheek, he said, "Whot's wrong wif it anyway?"
"I like to have plenty of time to get used to the idea of people defiling my house," Severus stated.
After swallowing, Sirius replied, "You're just being antisocial."
Severus was silent for he knew Sirius was right.
"What are you mad about?" Sirius asked. He gestured towards the party room. "Did you see Harry's face?"
Severus couldn't deny that Harry was enjoying himself. From his vantage point, he could see Harry laughing at a joke told by the twins. He saw Lupin come over and clap Harry on the back. Harry gave him a grin. Begrudgingly, he said, "I did. He seems to be having a good time."
Sirius came up beside Severus. "Then relax and have a good time too. Harry would like that."
Severus wouldn't. Nevertheless, he conceded for the sake of his son. "Fine," he snapped. "Though in the future, I implore you to ask permission before inviting over a whole horde of people."
"So this can happen again?" Sirius asked innocently.