"Hey, Severus," Harry said tiredly.
"Good morning, Harry," Severus replied, lowering his newspaper a bit. "Have you recovered from yesterday?"Harry rubbed his eyes. "Mostly," he said. "I'm still a little sore."
"I have a potion for that if you require one," Severus stated, returning to his paper.
"Nah, it's alright," Harry said.
"'Nah'?" Severus asked critically. "Is that a technical term?"
"Nah, I don't think so..." Harry joked.
Severus rolled his eyes while Harry grinned. Yesterday they had met Hermione and her parents where they had invited Harry to spend the day at a muggle amusement park. Harry loved it. They rode roller coasters which he considered the next best thing to flying; they would do if here were forced to become a muggle. When Severus came to pick Harry up, he had a bag full of cotton candy, a bag of kettle corn, a smiley face stamp on his hand and a smile plastered on his face. He had an amazing time.
An owl crashed into the window, interrupting Harry's thoughts. He opened it quickly and scooped the owl up. He laid him gently on the table and untied the letters from his foot. Severus eyed the bird with disgust.
"Whose filthy owl is that?" he asked.
"The Weasleys'. And it's only filthy because it ran into the window," Harry said in the bird's defense. The window was rather dirty after the recent rainstorm had turned the landscaping to mud and owls like Errol had somehow picked it up and smeared it onto the glass. "I'll clean it later."
"I hope you plan on sanitizing the table as well," Severus said. "Birds carry all sorts of diseases."
"Don't you have a potion for that?" Harry asked smartly.
Severus gave him a look. Harry glanced at the letter Errol had brought.
"Can we go to an end of summer picnic at the Weasley's on Friday?" Harry asked.
"Yes, as in you and I," Harry clarified unnecessarily. "They invited both of us."
"I have no interest in socializing," Severus said, as if that closed the matter.
"Oh come on, Severus!" Harry said. "It'll be fun."
"I have work to do," he said dismissively.
"Maybe if you did it now instead of reading the paper, you would have time to go!" Harry said.
This earned Harry another look.
"Fine," Severus said. "But then I am going to be antisocial for the rest of summer, agreed?""Sure," Harry said. There was only a little less than a week left, he could deal with that.
Errol hopped up and flew away just as another, more precise, owl flew in the open window. It landed before Severus and he set his paper down to untie the letter. Harry slid the paper over to himself and glanced at the front page.
PRISONER ESCAPED FROM AZABAN
This title accompanied a picture of a deranged looking man laughing maniacally while holding a prison identification card. Harry shivered. He didn't look like the sort you wanted to escape from Azkaban. That is, if you wanted anyone to escape which Harry, for one, did not. At least it wasn't Lucius Malfoy, Harry thought.
The flapping of the bird's wings drew Harry's attention back to the kitchen. Severus was folding up the letter he had just received.
"Well, it seems as if I am being forced to break the agreement we just made," he said, annoyed.
"What?" Harry asked, thinking he was trying to back out of the picnic.
"I am being forced to socialize once more," Severus said dryly. "Sometimes I truly hate being a teacher."
"Oh, come on, a little company can't be that bad," Harry said, then hesitated. "Can it?"
"We shall see."
"We?" Harry asked.
"Yes, we. As in you and I," Severus parroted."Dumbledore invited us both to a luncheon the Sunday before school starts to welcome the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"I take it that it isn't you?" Harry asked, disappointed.
"Regrettably, it is not."
"Then who is it?" Harry asked curiously.
"Remus Lupin," Severus said with a sneer of apparent disgust. "A werewolf."
"A werewolf?" Harry asked, shocked, yet interested. "They're letting him teach?"
"Dumbledore has a place for everyone it seems," Severus said flatly. "It might be best if you keep this quiet; I am sure that they aren't planning on telling the parents."
"Wow," Harry said, thinking it over. "That is so..."
"Repulsive?" Severus supplied.
"Cool," Harry finished.
"Do you really think so?" Severus asked. "Perhaps after you meet him..."
"You don't like him, do you?" Harry asked, reading the signs in his guardian's demeanor and speech.
"Is it that obvious?" he asked sarcastically.
"Well, yes and no," Harry answered honestly. "Some people think you just don't like anyone..."
"They may just be right," Severus said.
"...but I'm sure there is a reason behind it."
"Are you?" he asked rhetorically.
"Want to talk about it?" Harry asked teasingly.
"Didn't think so," Harry said with a smile. "But I'm sure Professor Lupin will."
Severus glared at him.
"Does your face get tired of doing that?" Harry asked.
"Glaring," he replied.
"I am well practiced," Severus said.
"I can see that."
"Why am I here?" Severus grumbled as they walked towards the red and white striped tents staked into the Weasleys' lawn. People had already begun to arrive and Molly hurried about adding more snacks to the already overloaded table.
"Because I wanted you to come," Harry replied.
Severus tried to resist rolling his eyes. If he were to go back in time and tell himself five years ago that he would be going to a picnic hosted by the Weasleys because Harry Potter wanted him to, he would have thought himself insane. Maybe he was. Nevertheless, here he was, at a cheery summertime picnic. This was truly an unusual experience for Severus; he had never been to a picnic such as this before. Dinner parties, formal gatherings, Death Eater meetings, sure, but never a carefree picnic.
It was odd. He felt out of place, exposed and vulnerable.
"Hey, Harry!" Fred Weasley called. "Want to come play Quidditch?"
Both Harry and Severus looked over. When Fred caught Severus's eye, he flinched. Mentally, Severus ran over all of the transgressions committed by the Weasley twins in the past year alone. His eyes narrowed.
"Er, hi, Professor," Fred said. "Can Harry come play Quidditch with us?"
Severus had to give him credit; he did ask politely. For a Gryffindor, Weasley and a trouble maker, that was.
"If he comes back whole and undamaged," Severus said.
Harry smiled. "Come on, I call dibs in the Cleansweep."
"No way!" Fred said, jogging after him. "I want the Cleansweep!""You can have the Shooting Star," Severus heard Harry offer as if that were a good deal.
"They grow up so fast, don't they?" Molly Weasley asked from beside him.
Severus looked at her.
"What?" she asked innocently. "Isn't that a good way to start conversations with other parents?"
"Other hovering mothers perhaps," he replied dryly.
"Oh, lighten up, Severus," she said, batting him lightly on the arm.
"Lighten up?" he said slowly, as if trying to comprehend.
"Yes. Harry is the sweetest little boy, how does he stand to live with someone of your cheery countenance?" Molly asked sarcastically.
"Little boy? Hardly," Severus stated.
"They do grow up fast, don't they?" she reiterated.
"We are talking in circles. Perhaps I should move on to some other unsuspecting guest," Severus said.
"Severus," Molly warned. "Don't go scaring all of our guests away."
"But it is the only enjoyable part of an event like this," he said innocently.
"You're only here because we like Harry," she said. "Joking," she amended quickly.
Severus inclined his head. "It would not bother me in the slightest if that were true. I am only here because I like Harry."
Molly looked as if she were waiting for him to finish. "Joking?"
"No," he said simply and then walked away, leaving Molly to shake her head at his bluntness.
He had not been joking either about unnerving people for fun. Most of the time, that was how he occupied himself at public gatherings. He glanced around and found a fairly young couple sitting at a picnic table with an old wizard. He sat down beside the wizard even as he wrapped up a story.
"Hello," the young man said uncertainly, seeming confused at Severus's presence.
Severus nodded once. There were a few forced exchanges between the couple and the old man until finally the awkwardness became too great.
"Um, honey," the woman said. "We should probably go check on Fredrick, don't you think?"
"Oh, right," he said. "Definitely." He looked at the old man. "Nice talking to you," he said. The man nodded. The young man glanced quickly at Severus but not wanting to make eye contact, turned and walked away hurriedly.
The old man turned to Severus. "Having fun?"
"More or less," Severus replied.
"You ought to work on your social skills, son," he advised. "I bet you were the life of the party when you were younger."
"Something like that," he said in a bored voice.
"I'm Alwen Godfrey," he introduced himself. "You can call me Al."
Severus knew that etiquette dictated he introduce himself next. He did so with reluctance. "Severus Snape."
"Oh," Al said, clarity dawning. "You're the one who adopted Harry Potter, weren't you?"
"The very same," he said.
"How do you like 'im?"
"I beg your pardon?" Severus asked.
"'Cause my wife and I are looking to adopt. If you don't like him..." the old man trailed off with a shrug.
"Are you suggesting that I can simply give my son away if he is not to my satisfaction?" Severus asked, thinly veiling his horror and contempt.
"Well, not give him away, persay-"
Severus simply got up and walked away. He moved through the crowd until he found Molly Weasley.
"Where do you find these people?"
"It was actually a troll!" George said as the punchline in his joke. Everyone doubled over in laughter, Harry included. George grinned with satisfaction.
Harry wiped his eyes. "One good joke doesn't make up for you losing to Ginny and me in quidditch."
"It doesn't?" he asked innocently. "Try this one. A thestral walks into a bar-"
"FRED! GEORGE!" Mrs. Weasley bellowed.
"Time to go," they said quickly then ran off in the other direction. A witch stood looking horrified as she tried to beat off a swarm of animate jelly tarts. One hit her square in the face. Harry stifled a laugh.
"Come on," Ron said, "We best make ourselves scarce. Who knows who she'll yell at if she can't catch the twins."
"Hey look, it's Draco!" Harry said, pointing towards the edge of the lawn. "Is Hermione coming too?"
"No, she had to go visit her muggle relatives."
Harry gave an exaggerated shiver thinking of his own. He had not thought about them in a long while. That was a good sign.
"Hey, guys!" Draco said happily as he came over.
"Hi, Draco," Ron said. "How's it going?""Pretty good actually," he said. "We just got back from Diagon Alley getting my school supplies. Summer went fast, didn't it?"
"Sure did," Harry agreed, "Hey, did you hear they got a new Defense Professor?"
"Really?" Ron asked, interested.
"What's he like?" Ginny spoke up from Harry's elbow. He supposed she was wondering if he was as attractive as Lockhart.
"I haven't met him yet," Harry said. "but I've heard he's-" Harry stopped himself before he could mention that he was a werewolf. "-not on very good terms with Severus."
"What else is new?" Ron grumbled.
"I'll meet him on Sunday," Harry said. "I would owl you afterwards, but we might as well wait until Tuesday."
"Wow, Tuesday's our first day back, isn't it?" Draco said with both disbelief and excitement.
"Yeah," Harry said. "I hope it's a good year."
They chatted a while longer then migrated over to the snack table. Harry stayed well clear of the jelly tarts. Harry loaded up his plate and was moving to sit down when he noticed a large, shaggy black dog at the edge of the gathering.
"Whose dog is that?" Harry asked Ron.
Ron shrugged. "It looks like a stray."
It did look unnaturally thin. While Harry looked at it, its tail began to wag. Harry smiled and threw it a large roll. It snapped the bread up happily then sat attentively, watching Harry.
"He's kind of cute," Harry said. "You think Severus will let me keep him?"
"You are joking right?" Ron asked.
Harry looked at the dog again. "Kind of. Maybe I'll ask."
After he ate, Harry did just that, knowing how futile it was. He found his guardian sitting alone at a table, observing the guests.
"Hey, Severus. What'cha doing?" Harry asked pleasantly.
"Oh, okay," Harry said.
"Are you having fun?" Severus asked.
"Yes, I am, thanks," Harry replied. "I have a question for you."
"How do you feel about dogs?"
"Dogs?" Severus asked, eyebrows rising.
"Yeah. There is a pretty cute little stray over there, can I keep him?" Harry asked.
Severus gave him a flat stare. "Absolutely not. If we were to get a dog it would have to be of a fine breed and free of disease, unlike that stray."
"That's what I thought you would say," Harry admitted.
"Then why ask?"
Harry shrugged. "I always leave room for error."
Severus shook his head in apparent exasperation. "We are not getting a dog."
"Alright," Harry said easily, going to rejoin his friends. "Do try to have some fun, okay, Severus?"
"Fun," he muttered with a shake of the head.
Severus tried to close the door quietly.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked from the top of the stairs. Apparently Severus wasn't quiet enough.
"Adding layers of protection to the house," he replied.
"Why?" Harry asked.
"I'll explain in the morning. It is late," Severus said. "You ought to go to bed."
Severus felt bad for postponing the explanation but he did not want to ruin Harry's last days of summer with worry, especially if it was unnecessary. Severus felt that he was more than a match for that swine.
Harry nodded tiredly. "Okay, you promise?"
"I promise. Now goodnight."
Severus watched his son go off to bed and swore that if Sirius Black messed up his new life, he would curse him into oblivion.