A/N: Not much love for this story yet. Please review, I will actually love you forever, even if you hate the story.
1 - Graduation: June 17th, 1978
The great hall was richly decorated and, for once, those decorations didn't overly support any particular house. Perhaps that was partly due to the colour scheme changing every 3 minutes or so. It was a simple but impressive feat of magic for the entire hall to change so smoothly, so regularly. This form of magic had become the trademark of Hogwarts' current Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. A brilliant man assuredly, but prone to feats of frivolity that were probably entirely unnecessary. At least on this occasion, it was entirely harmless. One only had to look at the twinkle in his eye to recognize a potential for danger.
Severus, not that he would admit it to anyone else, enjoyed watching the decorations change. They shifted in accordance to the house of whoever was being handed their graduation certificate at that moment. He watched them with wide eyes, but ensured not to demonstrate any other emotion, lest he damage the reputation he had spent many years at Hogwarts building. But he would allow himself this small pleasure. Judging from the delighted squeaks coming from the front row, he was not the only Snape in the building to be enjoying themselves. Although, he was pleased to note, Eris only made a noise when the Slytherin green and silver waterfall spilled over the hall. This despite Minerva, who was holding the 8 month old, doing her best to provoke a reaction whenever a Gryffindor took to the stage and the hall was engulfed in red and gold flames.
Only one other party in the many thousands that had squeezed into the hall interested the lonesome young man. Lucius Malfoy, his wife Narcissa and her sister, Bellatrix, sat on the other side of the hall, close to the front and in stark contrast to many of the other families. Where most families were overjoyed to be seeing the graduating class, The Malfoy's and Black remained stately and impassive. Their demeanour was indicative of their status as the most Ancient and Noble pureblood Houses in the room.
His interest in The Malfoys was due to their being the only people to know Eris' parentage outside those who had been immediately involved. Lucius had figured it out on a chance sighting of the girl and had told his wife. Discretely they had opened their home to Severus and his daughter. The blonde aristocrat had felt it his duty after having taken Severus under his wing while they both attended Hogwarts. Neglecting Severus' young daughter would have been a blight on his honour as the head of a pureblood house. Narcissa had simply been thrilled at the prospect of a child in the house. Eris provided the Malfoy wife a chance to practice parenting, before she had a child of her own.
Bellatrix LeStrange, nee Black, was not aware of the familial connection and Severus was more than happy to keep it that way. If the Malfoy's were the most noble in the room, Bellatrix was the most dangerous. Although she had graduated 2 years prior to his starting at Hogwarts, horror stories still circulated about the witch and what she had done at school. It was rumoured that she had used the cruiciatus curse on a fellow classmate in her first year. She was a known psychopath of the most dangerous kind but presented with an unnerving immaturity that appeared to be a vulnerability, but more closely resembled a trap. It was a trap Severus didn't want himself or his child to fall in to.
Her presence unnerved him and complicated his plans for departing from Hogwarts without Eris being detected. He had planned to collect Eris from Minerva immediately after the ceremony before returning to the relative safety of Malfoy Manner. There he would leave Eris in Narcissa's capable and probably excited hands for a few hours while he attended to some business with Lucius. Belllatrix would likely stay by her sister's side and follow them back to Malfoy Manor. If she did so, there was no doubt she would encounter Eris.
There was also no way he could simply leave Eris with Minerva. The elder witch would not mind caring for the child, but would most certainly require an explanation of why she needed to do so. Conflict had sparked between Lucius and Minerva early on, so Severus doubted she would condone him leaving Eris to follow the aristocrat. He also knew she would show exactly how much of a lioness she was if he told her exactly what the business was. No, Minerva was not an option.
Red and gold swept across the hall, brighter than ever, and Severus returned his attention to the ceremony taking place. The top student in each house earned especially extravagant decorations in honour of their achievement. Gryffindor's highest scoring student was none other than Lily Evans.
Severus watched the way she tossed her hair, clearly enjoying being the centre of attention. Although, he couldn't criticise her for that. It was an incredible academic feat and as a muggle-born, she would carry an extra honour. He saw the winning smile she shot to James, noticed how her gaze went straight through Severus himself to the other black haired boy. Her expression cut through him like an arrow; cupid gone wrong.
Surrounded by her colours, Lily looked even more radiant than usual and her admirer realized he couldn't fool himself to thinking he didn't love her. She was his first friend, the girl who knew his secrets, pulled him from the darkness of his home life, who bore his child.
The girl who had betrayed him, time and time again, abandoned her own daughter, broke his heart and made him realize forgiveness was a foolish aspiration. Severus sunk into a sullen silence and stiffened his posture as she appeared to float on the cloud of elation as she left the stage.
Quite suddenly, Eris laughed and clapped louder than she had so far. Severus spun around, almost tripping over, to look at his daughter with no small amount of wonder. He was pretty sure it was the first time his daughter had laughed and, what a beautiful laugh it was. It lifted his spirits from the hell Lily always seemed to push them down to.
Minerva looked between father and daughter in awe. The witch seemed thrilled at Eris's laugh. Eris' jubilation was due to the return of green and silver to the hall. A silver snake slivered through the dark green that overtook the hall, writhing and twisting and casting the most beautiful lights over the hall. Even several of the Gryffindor's admired the spectacle that arose from the anticipation of Slytherin's top scoring student being called. Judging from the additional insignia of a cauldron also adorning the banner, the student had been awarded a potions mastery. An even more impressive feat than a muggle-born being dux.
Severus couldn't help himself; he smiled broadly as he walked onto the stage and anyone who saw it and knew him wondered. Severus Snape Slytherin dux and potions master at age 18, fresh out of Hogwarts. He'd managed that all on his own. It was an honour he could rightly claim as his own. A brief glance at Minerva revealed the witch to be teary, despite the smile stretching wide across her face.
Eris was helpfully trying to pat the tears from the elder witch's face before seeing the snake go over head and back toward the front of the hall. She turned, following it, until her eyes rested on him and she recognized her father standing in the noble position. Immediately, she wriggled violently and reached forward, nearly toppling of Minerva's lap. Severus' smile broadened and he pulled his shoulders back even taller.
The Malfoy's were also clapping and even Bellatrix looked vaguely approving of his position. He'd been incredibly thankful to Lucius for the gift of the beautiful formal robes and dragonhide boots he was currently wearing. For once he felt like he cut an impressive figure. Several people looked intimidated, but he didn't mind. Even Lily seemed to admire the imposing figure he cut as the black swirled around him, a striking contrast against his pale skin, and yet perfectly matching his hair. He accepted his certificate and swept off the stage, ensuring his robes billowed behind him like bat wings caught in a gust of wind. The young man was aware that all eyes in the hall were on him and only 3 pairs really knew him.
When Minerva approached him during the luncheon after the ceremony, Severus was reading his certificate. Some part of him didn't believe something good had actually happened to him and he was trying to reassure himself. He was forced to stop when Eris all but threw herself out of Minerva's arms and into his welcoming ones. The tiny girl snuggled into his chest and covered herself with the robes, a habit she had retained from the moment she had been able to hold herself upright. That combined with his standing in the shadows and slightly hunched posture meant he could probably maintain a conversation without anyone noticing the child. It was a relief to know that, in case Bellatrix felt it her duty to approach her younger cousin.
"Well Severus, you've caused quite a problem." Minerva began, only playing at being truly confounded. "I can't decide if I'm more proud of you or Miss Evans." She smiled at him.
"She's your cub." Severus responded deflecting, at the same time inclining his head to accept the compliment.
"But she didn't raise a child and complete her NEWT's with a perfect score, let alone earn a mastery. What are you intending to do now?" Typical Minerva, just and fair to the core, she always made sure no one was left behind. It was a trait Severus was incredibly grateful for even if it did make him somewhat awkward in situations such as the one he was in at the moment.
"I had thought to work in Lucius Malfoy's apothecary until I can manage one of my own." He responded truthfully, knowing she would not like the name.
"The Malfoys?" Minerva's clipped tone proved to him what he had already suspected. She had privately accused Lucius of having joined the ranks of the Dark Lord many times and had always been critical of Severus' involvement with the family. In much the same way Lily had disapproved and yet, somehow he could tolerate the older woman's opinion. Severus chose not to respond, it was a tired argument they had partaken in numerous times since his 5th year and would probably continue to have for many years to come. He also felt it was prudent to stop as the family in question were approaching. Thank fully Bellatrix was not with them.
"Master's McGonagall and Snape." Lucius bowed formally from the waist when he had approached. Everyone present noticed how stiff it was but declined to comment in favour of observing the rules of polite society.
"Minerva, Severus." Narcissa maintained the formality required of her station, but managed to sound more personable. Despite being a Slytherin, a young Narcissa had always appreciated the skill of her transfiguration professor. In return, the professor had been kind to the student not totally blinded by prejudice.
"Lord and Lady Malfoy." Minerva managed to sound entirely put out while addressing Lucius and quite agreeable when mentioning his wife. Severus repeated her greeting, sounding pleasant to both of them.
"Bellatrix has departed early back to the Manor. If you are happy to pass Eris to Narcissa, she will apparate to her rooms, keeping the girl out of sight. You and I will make her excuses when we arrive." Lucius directed, keen to escape what had the potential of becoming an extremely awkward situation. There was extra pressure as everyone present was either pureblood or had earned a respectable place in society.
Minerva remained motionless, not rising to the bait of her junior taking charge of the situation. She did however glance at Severus, the glance of a mother displeased with the friends her wayward son had brought home. Before they departed she planted a possessive kiss on Eris' forehead as Severus passed her to Narcissa. The gesture was noticed but, once again, not commented on. Severus had to admit, he was impressed she had withheld any further judgement.
"I shall leave you now, Minerva. But not without ensuring you know how grateful I am to you for this past 6 months. Eris too owes you her gratitude when she can understand." Severus said using the formal words but, for once he allowed true emotion to colour his voice so it sounded to Minerva like the most beautiful art work.
"All I ask is you are both safe. And of course I want to see and hear from you regularly. Make sure you are staying out of trouble." There were underlying messages, so many of them he could hear, none of which he knew how to respond to. It was always the way with him; he was just a lost young boy always standing on the edge looking in, never quite knowing how to do the right thing. Just once, he wanted to make someone happy, for a whole day. Just one day.
With that the Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy and Master Severus Snape – Eris was not counted because she was not seen – left the hall and, everyone noticed. Their exit had the same effect as when royalty left a party. Indeed, they were the royalty. They would go just outside the gates before apparating away, back to their relatively reclusive lives. Out of touch with the common people. Minerva couldn't help a feeling of sadness that weighed on her shoulders, making her older than she seemed. It added silver to her hair and creases around her mouth and eyes. There was no doubt in her mind Severus' life and that of his daughter was going to drown in sadness before either of them learnt how to swim. Her name was Chaos after all
"Was that Severus leaving? I had meant to see him, but I lost track of time." Lily said, approaching her former head of house, somewhat breathlessly. It always seemed like the young witch was just missing out on something. Perhaps that was why she wouldn't work with Severus. The two of them lacked something and maybe they would be too empty to stay together.
"That's not the only thing you lost my dear." Minerva said and walked away from her bewildered cub.