Disclaimer: I'm just playing with someone else's toys. May I be forgiven in my next incarnation... (and what you do not recognize is mine, such as the MOSSes -Ministry Officers of State Security). Flamers will be adopted by my family (if you don't believe it's a threat... too bad for you!).
Chapter Nineteen - A Ghost and Two Intruders
Harry has just collided with Dudley. Well, it has to be Dudley; the young man in front of him has Dudley's voice, Dudley's eyes, but he is tall and lean!
'Dudley?' Harry tries, unable to believe that the man in front of him is his cousin.
'It's really you, Harry! Thank God! You're alive! Ever since that night when you left, I've been afraid that something had happened to you and that I would never see you again! But you're here. You look good, Harry!' Dudley exclaims.
His cousin is properly rendered speechless.
'It seems that you've changed a lot since the last, and only, time I saw you,' Severus intervenes.
Dudley looks at him, narrows his eyes, as if trying to remember who that man is, and he finally gasps.
'I see you remember,' Severus snorts.
A very pale Dudley declares, 'You've changed my life, sir. You, and Harry's Headmaster, when you took him away.'
'What do you mean?' Harry wonders.
David and Matthew listen. They know that Harry and Severus will explain later, eventually.
'Well, when your friend there came down to fetch your trunk, I was in the kitchen...'
Harry interrupts him and says, 'Stealing food.'
'What else?' Dudley says with a grin, before going on with his tale, 'I was so scared that I stayed in the living-room and Mum caught me in the morning. And yet, I had not touched what I'd taken! Then we discovered that you had gone and before breakfast was over, your Headmaster had appeared out of thin air into the kitchen and he told us that you wouldn't come back. Mum and Dad had very mixed feelings: you were gone, but that old man with funny robes had dared to use magic in our home.'
'I bet Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were delighted to be rid of me!' Harry smirks, Severus-like.
Dudley nods and goes on. 'I can't explain what I thought exactly when I realized that I would be the only teen at home and what my encounter at night with...'
'With Professor Snape,' David provides.
'What my encounter at night with Professor Snape had done to me. I truly lost my appetite and from that day, I've never been the same...' his voice trails off.
'What is it? What do you want to tell me?' Harry asks his cousin.
'I've been a fucking brat and...'
This time, he is interrupted by Severus, Harry and David barking, 'Language!'
Dudley blushes, mumbles an apology and says, 'I've been awful with you, but... Mum and Dad have been... There's no word for it. They don't even understand how...'
Harry interrupts him once more. 'That's the past. I have a nice life now and it's all that matters.'
'Really?' Dudley wonders.
'Yes. I've got a fantastic job in my old school; the lunatic who killed my parents is history; my friends are all alive and happy. I'm happily married and I have three children,' Harry announces proudly.
Dudley's cheeks could match an aspirin.
'Yes, three children. Matthew here is the elder.'
Dudley looks at Matthew and his eyebrows rise in surprise.
'How?' he squeaks.
'Well, I adopted Matthew, but Harry tends to share everything with me and our other two children are one year old twins, a girl and a boy,' Severus says.
'Oh, yes, maybe I should have introduced you to my husband first,' Harry teases his cousin, making up for years of abuse at Privet Drive.
Dudley pales some more, gulps and then blushes. He lowers his voice and asks, 'Your being a wizard allows you to...'
'Yes, Dudley. I am legally married. The twins are magically of my and Severus's blood and I can't adopt Matthew, but he is our third child. Our eldest child,' Harry explains.
'That's what I call information overload!' David says, holding a beaming Matthew.
'Indeed. I'm glad you've found happiness in spite of what we've done to you. If I could go back in time...'
Severus is the one interrupting him this time, 'Then, none of us would be here today. You don't live when you dream of "ifs".'
Dudley nods silently.
'What about you?' Harry asks.
'Me? Oh, I'm reading Physics, much to my parents' despair. I came here for a symposium. God! I'm glad I ran into you. If I give you my address, will you keep in touch?'
'Even if it means sending you my white owl?' Harry tests him.
'You still have that bird? Why not... I remember you mentioned "treats". What would she accept from me?' Dudley wonders, as he takes a card from his wallet.
Harry is truly amazed.
He takes the card and says, 'Maybe I'll use the Muggle Post, then.'
'Whatever's more practical for you. I wouldn't mind your owl in my room, but, please, don't send her to Privet Drive. Mum is still nervous every time she sees a bird fly near the house,' Dudley begs.
Harry grins and nods.
Dudley says goodbye to the four of them and he's gone.
'He's going to be late to the symposium,' David murmurs.
'How would you know that, Mr Synon?' Harry teases him.
'Especially when you are reading British Literature,' Severus adds.
'You're working for my mother, or what?' David answers, trying to avoid explaining why he knows when a Physics symposium begins.
'Where did you meet her?' Harry insists.
With a sigh, David says, 'Choir. We've just met. Tell Mum and I'll teach your children all the naughty words I know when you're not watching!'
'You know, I think Matthew won't need you, and the twins are too young,' Harry says.
'But we won't put our wonderful male solidarity in jeopardy,' Severus reassures David.
'Ta!' David says, adding a fake sigh for good measure.
Severus notices that Matthew is blushing, so he takes his hand and declares seriously, 'Of course you know swearwords. You have Gryffie friends; it's not your fault.'
'We'll discuss House etiquette tonight, Dear,' Harry mock-threatens his husband.
Matthew holds Severus's hand tight and smiles broadly. It starts to feel like another family. Severus and Harry are not his parents, but they protect him, and they do care and they love him.
Severus is very proud of his new life.
As they walk back home, they stop in a shop to have a copy of the Muggle key made for Matthew. When David asks in a whisper why they don't make one using their gift, Harry answers that magic doesn't work that well on Muggle keys and they cannot risk having Matthew on the street and unable to come back home.
'By the way, Matthew, when the New Trio comes to see you, you can go and stroll with them, but I want you to keep your wand with you at all times. I'd rather have to pull strings at the Ministry because you broke the rules than... anything. If there's a problem and no other way out, I want you to use magic. All right?' Harry says.
Matthew nods and answers, 'Yes, Professor Potter.'
'Matthew, I know I certainly look more like an elder brother to you, but the situation has changed now. I'm sure that the twins will call Severus and me "Dad", even in class. That's... Well, normal. You're going to live with us at least till you pass your NEWTs. Don't you think you can try and use our names? Even if you go on using them back at Hogwarts, we won't give you detention for that. We're on holidays. Forget about Hogwarts,' Harry declares.
The boy looks at his Head of House, Potions master and... adopted father for final approval.
Severus smiles, hoping that Harry's speech will be more efficient than his before he Apparated Matthew.
'I'll try, but it feels strange. And I can't forget Hogwarts!' Matthew wails.
'How now?' Harry says.
'You should stop with Shakespeare!' David giggles.
Harry uses his husband's warranted glare and turns back towards Matthew.
'With all the assignments we've been given, I'm going to be very busy, and since I'm rather good in Herbology, Amalia and Osiris have included me into their team. They plan to be ready to join a tutoring group next year!' Matthew announces.
'What does Odin say about all that?' David wonders.
'Well, your cousin is wrapped around Amalia's finger, so he doesn't even think of complaining!' Matthew says.
'It looks like we're getting a Quartet to replace the New Trio,' Harry comments.
Severus is paying for the new key when Harry notices that Matthew is blushing. Apparently, Osiris has the young Slytherin wrapped around her finger. Harry touches the tip of Matthew's nose with his index and winks.
When they reach the house, Harry and Severus are each holding one of their son's hands.
Thomas and David have to drag Susan away from the nursery.
When the wizards have promised to come for tea soon, with the children, the Synons reluctantly leave.
Câly pops into the hall.
'Shouldn't you check the new expansion in the house?' she asks.
They go upstairs and discover Matthew's bedroom.
It's next to the two guest rooms, so that when Sarina and Harold take possession of those he'll be next to them.
They enter it and Matthew gulps.
'What is it?' Harry wonders.
'It's my room!' the boy exclaims.
'Of course, it is,' Harry answers.
'No, no, no! You don't get it, Profess... Er... Harry. It's my room. It's exactly like the one I had at my gran's,' Matthew says.
Harry looks at Severus and his husband spots something. Harry's training makes him feel the presence. Now, they have to hope that their new son is ready for such a surprise.
'Matthew, I think there's even more magic in this room than you think,' Severus says.
'What do you mean, Prof... Se... Severus?' Matthew manages to ask, blushing furiously.
Slowly, a ghost makes its presence visible into the room and Matthew's grandmother says, 'I couldn't leave you before I said goodbye.'
'Granny!' the boy happily shouts.
Mrs Templeton smiles and floats near him.
'I can't stay, Matthew, but I had to make sure that you would be treated properly. Your Mum and Dad gave me the energy to stay around till you came here,' she informs him.
'I miss you. I miss you all,' Matthew says, about to cry.
Harry and Severus reach for him and hold him. Mrs Templeton smiles.
'Auror Weasley put very strong wards on our home and the resident ghosts and the house-elves will make sure that Templeton Hall is secure till you come of age and can claim your heritage. You're in very good hands and I want you to obey your adopted fathers.'
She looks at the two grown wizards and solemnly declares, 'His parents and I are extremely grateful. If your hearts were not so kind, our baby would be lost in a world alien to him. All our spirits, our entire family, will sing your praise!'
Harry blushes and Severus says, 'I would never let Fudge take him or any of our orphans away from us.'
'You could have let him go to that orphanage. He's a Slytherin, but you're the only Head of House who thought of adopting him. I hope that Fudge leaves his office soon!' she adds.
'Don't blame the other Heads. I'm the one who rushed and took Matthew in,' Severus says.
'And Fudge won't be re-elected. The next General Elections have been announced in the papers this morning,' Harry states.
The spirit smiles and says, 'At last!'
She floats downwards so she's face to face with Matthew.
'You'll be a good boy. We love you and we want you to be happy. Grow up to be a good man and a good wizard. You're with good men, my darling.'
'I know, Granny. I love you, too, and Mum and Dad,' the boy whispers.
'I'll tell them, don't worry. I have to go now: I no longer belong here. Goodbye, my darling,' she says as she dissolves into another dimension.
Matthew sighs, turns around and, to Severus's utter surprise, hugs his Head of House.
'I really miss them,' Matthew says barely above a whisper.
'No one will ever replace your parents, but we love you,' Harry says, caressing the boy's hair.
Matthew turns towards him and answers, 'I know.'
Severus and Harry help Matthew unpack while Câly takes care of their trunks and keeps an eye on the animals.
Hedwig is perched on the window-sill of the nursery and Leila is keeping the door. Milk is hissing in the garden.
Finally, it's time to have lunch and Câly calls them outside into the garden. She's already used magic to sit the twins in their chairs. There's a lot of food on the table and Matthew wonders if this house is not a Hogwarts extension and he grins.
Câly has planned to sandwich Matthew between the twins, so that Severus and Harry are sitting next to each other. The elf serves them and Matthew has already emptied half his plate when he chuckles.
'What?' Harry wonders, still trying to feed Sarina ham and mashed potatoes.
'I was just remembering the day you discovered that they had teeth,' the boy says, quietly laughing now.
'If I had known that they would painlessly produce their teeth, I would have paid attention. Sarina biting me is not such a happy memory,' Harry answers, his grin showing he cherishes the memory nonetheless.
'We heard your shout down in the dorms!'
'Did you?' Severus wonders.
Matthew nods furiously.
Harry laughs and Severus declares, 'It was not Harry, it was me.'
Now Matthew is gaping.
'Harold has sharp little teeth,' Severus explains.
'Oh, my!' Matthew simply says, and he goes on eating, with a huge smile.
The twins' meal is finally over and their parents can have their lunch.
They talk of all the things they have to do this summer and they ask Matthew if there's something he particularly wants to do. When he tells them that he'd like to buy some Muggle books, but he doesn't know which ones, and get rid of his Diagon Alley shopping, they notice that his voice is breaking.
'We could go and shop this afternoon. Blackwell and Flourish and Blotts,' Harry suggests.
Matthew squirms on his chair and Severus suddenly understands.
'You could stay here and watch the twins while we go and deal with the shopping for the whole household,' Severus suggests.
The boy nods, refusing to use his awfully croaking and embarrassing voice in public.
Harry and Severus start planning the afternoon and, as they have coffee under the cherry-tree, they hold hands without even noticing it. It's Matthew's smile that makes them notice their familiar gesture.
'You're cute,' Matthew croaks.
Severus slowly turns towards his bonded and mock-seriously says, 'I'll blame the use of that adjective on you, Mr Potter!'
For the first time, Severus fully realizes that if he truly wants to include his adopted son in their life, he'll have to let his barriers down and demonstrate his love for his soulmate. He grabs Harry's shirt and pulls him towards him, pecking him on the cheek. They only have the summers to be free and fully live their love, and Matthew, and one day the twins, will have to get used to pet-names and small kisses.
Harry is already planning which kind of wards and spells they can use to be able to check on the children, but make the most of "married life".
They make a list of what they need and the adults send the children to bed for a well-deserved nap. They know there's going to be no problem with Matthew: he can take care of himself. They activate the wards on the twins' cradles, slip the bracelets linked to them on and they first go to Blackwell. They'll Apparate to Diagon Alley afterwards.
Matthew said he trusted them to find him nice Muggle books, and if they find all they want in the Magical district, they'll be able to enjoy two months of relative peace.
Harry chooses enough books for Matthew to last him for a year - or two, and Severus retaliates at Madam Malkins' buying new robes for the whole family - particularly the twins. When they Apparate back home, they're carrying a lot of parcels and they're laughing.
They Apparated directly into their bedroom and when they hear Albus yelling at someone, apparently from the nursery, their blood freezes in their veins.
An apocalyptic scene greets them. Matthew is sitting on Minerva's lap and she's in Harry's rocking chair. Albus is screaming at an Auror Harry doesn't know and there are two men petrified on the floor before the cradles. It seems that the Silencing spell around the twins is still there: they're sleeping tight.
Instinctively, Harry and Severus reach for the bracelets controlling the wards, but they can feel nothing wrong with those. Nothing wrong till they can spot the Dark spell.
'What happened?!' Severus and Harry ask in unison.
Albus calms down and explains. Two reporters for The Moon have been spending months preparing to tamper with the wards, on the house and on the cradles, just to take pictures of Sarina and Harold. They've put a strong spell on Câly and froze Matthew's room, and then they Apparated directly inside the house. They only forgot to check where Matthew was, and the boy was visiting his new home to know where everything was. He discovered the petrified men in the nursery and then called Albus through the Floo. The illegal use of underage magic has been recorded in the Potter-Snape home, so the Ministry immediately sent an Auror to investigate. Albus was refusing the Auror to take Matthew to the Ministry when he had bravely reacted to a situation that could have been potentially dangerous.
Harry and Severus look at the twins, and at Matthew, and they're more afraid than the day when they faced Voldemort. Anything could have happened. Their children could have been kidnapped or injured and they weren't there to protect them. Fighting Death Eaters was definitely easier.
Both Severus and Harry go to Matthew and kiss his cheeks.
'Don't worry,' they both say.
It seems that their anger makes them say the same things at the same time.
While Severus keeps petting Matthew's hair, Harry goes to the fireplace and opens the Floo.
He first calls the Ministry and asks Percy Weasley to come over.
Percy Flooes in and asks the Auror what he plans to do. Apparently, being the adopted son of Severus Snape might cause trouble in Matthew's life and not everybody at the Ministry seems happy with the fact that Snape countered their decision about the orphan.
'I've been ordered to bring the boy back to the Ministry, but... Honestly, I'm not happy with that order and if you have a way out for us, I'm all ears,' the Auror declares.
'Well, maybe our son did nothing and the intruders cast a charm that gave the Ministry the impression that he had used magic,' Harry suggests.
'Excuse me, but how do you explain their being petrified?' the Auror wonders, willing to help them, but needing a strong and clean file against the intruders.
'Maybe the house did it or maybe our house-elf found a way,' Severus says.
'There's one way to know. Can we test your wand?' Percy asks Matthew.
'Yes, sir,' still hugging Minerva, the boy answers in a low voice so his betraying voice doesn't sound too funny.
'Where's your wand?' Percy asks.
With his voice breaking, Matthew croaks, 'In my trunk, in my room.'
Percy goes to fetch it with the Auror and they come back into the nursery.
The Auror touches the tip of Matthew's wand with his own and says, 'Prior incantato!'
The shadow of a cat transforms into a drinking goblet.
'That's the last spell I taught them at school,' Minerva says.
'Deletrius!' the Auror says, and the proof of Matthew's innocence dissolves in the air. 'I will testify of Mr Templeton's innocence and another charge will be added against these intruders. I will arrest them and bring them to the Ministry now.'
'Wait!' Harry barks.
The Auror jumps with surprise, but he obeys.
Harry uses the Floo again and says, 'Parkinson, Zabini and Associates.'
The head of a secretary floats in the magical fire and she asks, 'What can I do for you, Professor Potter?'
'Could you tell Pansy or Blaise to Floo here? We have an emergency,' he says.
'Right away, sir!'
Not a minute later, Blaise and Pansy Floo in.
Another minute and they know what happened.
'All right, Harry. What do you want us to do for you?' Pansy asks.
'Simple, I want you to sue them. I want them in Azkaban,' Harry coldly declares.
'If the other idiots know that you are ready to send anyone into Azkaban, no one should pester you afterwards,' Blaise coldly announces.
'Exactly my point,' Harry says.
The Slytherins grin wickedly, the Gryffindors shudder and the Hufflepuff Auror understands: he's a father too.
The Ministry Officials take the intruders to the Ministry and the attorneys follow them.
As soon as she is certain they're gone, Amalia comes out of the bathroom where she was hiding.
Albus's eyebrows have seldom been seen that high.
'Pro... Harry taught us how to trick people, covering a spell with another one, but after stopping them, I couldn't get the transfiguration spell right, so I called Amalia. I knew she'd be home,' Matthew explains.
'I used his wand and hid while he called you, sir,' Amalia adds.
'They're going to have a nasty surprise when they free them,' Matthew croaks.
'Why?' Minerva asks.
'While I checked that the twins were ok, Câly uninjured, called Amalia and then Headmaster Dumbledore, I left the door open and Hedwig, Leila and Milk stayed with them. They've been pecked, clawed and bitten,' Matthew says.
'That'll be a nice memory they'll keep inside Azkaban,' Harry growls.
'Harry!' Minerva exclaims.
'What?! Don't you think it's time all those people simply leave us alone? If we have to fight for our family, we will!' Severus and Harry say, their voices cold as ice.
Minerva sighs, hugs Matthew and whispers, 'I understand. But don't become too harsh because of them.'
'I guess you covered your Flooing in, Miss Rettin,' Severus says.
Then I'll Apparate you back before James or Frederick notices that you're gone,' her Head of House says.
Within seconds, he's already back into his home.
'Where's Câly?' Harry wonders.
'In the kitchen, banging her head on the oven,' Albus announces.
'It's not her fault,' Harry mumbles as he goes to fetch her.
'Azkaban?' Albus whispers when Harry is gone.
'Albus... I fully agree with him. If we do not prove to the world that no one messes with our lives, others will try. For all we know, they could have taken Sarina and Harold and...' Severus can't even voice his fears.
Matthew stands up and goes to Severus. They hug each other.
'Family,' Matthew murmurs so low that only Severus hears him.
Severus bends towards him and whispers in his ear, 'Yes, we are.'
Matthew squeaks when Câly grips one of his knees, but he's even more surprised when Harry hugs him as well.
Albus and Minerva's eyes are shining.
Câly restores the integrity of the wards on the cradles and the Silencing spell is lifted by the twins' awakening and their giggling. They blink sleep away, look at the people in their room and babble, 'Matthy!'
They all smile, the twins making them forget what could have been a tragedy.
Albus and Minerva Apparated back to the Hogsmeade house just long enough to bring back a small bag each. They knew that life would be extremely difficult in the next few days and Harry and Severus felt that the presence of the twins' grandparents by proxy would certainly be useful.
On the following day, only their friends and the twins' godparents come to see them. The next day, the owners of The Moon try to discredit the Potter-Snapes legal action and in the evening editions of the other newspapers, journalists take position... in favour of the Potter-Snapes, as do an extremely high percentage of their readers.
This time, the owls that find their way to their house only carry kind messages.
During their first weekend of holidays, a huge lunch is organized.
Severus and Harry's two attorneys are there, the Weasley Trio and their four sons, Hermione's MOSSes and their family, Harold and Sarina's grandparents and godparents and James Malfoy, and Jules Ode-Lupin and Remus Lupin-Ode. The three Synons, the Stewarts twins and their parents have been added for good measure.
When she made the list, Câly said that she would feel better if Severus and Harry let her prepare something tremendous to entertain them. They accepted because they know that she's going to feel guilty for a very long time for allowing the two journalists to trap her through Dark magic. The Quartet takes care of the younger children - even if the adults watch them from the corner of their eyes. The one who openly observes them is Ginny, who's letting James go for the first time since he's born; Draco teases her for that.
That gathering is a real success.
The Muggles are enjoying themselves beyond words; the children are all having a lot of fun; Jules and Remus look like they're still on honeymoon; the Weasley sandwich is happily chatting with the pack of MOSSes and their wives or husband; Albus and Minerva are beaming and holding hands. Harry is asking tips from Draco to deal with Matthew: he had not imagined he would have to deal with a teen so soon and he and Severus hesitate on the allowance they should give him and which boundaries they should put to his freedom; Draco's childhood will give them an idea of what they could do. Meanwhile, Severus is chatting with Fred and George, who had a slight curse problem and who have been helped by their former Potions master and now associate.
Something in the eyes of Blaise and Pansy shows them that the trial that will be held in two days will put an end to this incident. Come Monday, they'll be free to move on, knowing that they'll have made their point.
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