Summary of Chapter 11 – Two Princes
Severus tells Hermione about his home life and the failed marriage of his parents. To her surprise, he also reveals that he is related to the Hogwarts librarian, who is in truth his cousin, Irma Prince. Hermione is surprised to learn that Madam Pince is a Squib, who, in the wizarding world, are faced with at least as many problems as wizard or witches born to Muggles.
Their discussion ends with Hermione’s surprising answer to his rather rhetorical question regarding to his parental qualifications: “Yes, I do believe that you’d make a good father.”
He didn’t know what to say. Her words had painted pictures in his head – he saw himself sitting in a wing chair with his potion journal, surrounded by family –at his feet a toddler crawling on the carpet, in a corner of the room, a little girl playing ‘brewing’ with toy cauldrons, and running all over the place, a teenager in a Slytherin-green Quidditch outfit excitedly recounting his spectacular moves in the game just won against Gryffindor. On the arm of his chair his smiling wife who had brown eyes and wild hair. It seemed surreal, like a fairy-tale. And yet he couldn’t deny feeling a pang of yearning for something that he himself had never had... people whom he loved and who loved him back, the safety and comfort of a family he could care for and always count on.
But most likely, it wouldn’t be like this. His kids would be rebellious Gryffindors with all his luck and despise him, his wife would long have stopped loving him because of all his shortcomings and he would be an unwanted presence even in his own home. He’d have become even more unhappy and withdrawn because of that – or worse, he’d completely lose it and turn into a copy of his own father. This was the worst case scenario.
But he’d gladly have Squib children if it meant that he would also get the wife and the emotionally intact family from his vision – although he could well imagine that this scenario held a lot of potential problems in store. “I imagine being the father of a Squib is just as difficult as being the father of a witch or a wizard when you’re a Muggle,” he finally answered, firmly pushing the pictures her question had painted from his mind. “Being unable to support your child and offer him help and opportunities to make his life must make you feel like a compete failure.” He briefly wondered if feeling helpless and incompetent had been one of the reasons for his father’s aversion towards magic.
“No, how can you say that!” Hermione exclaimed agitatedly. “Parenting under such conditions is probably more difficult than in families where everyone is either Muggle or wizard. But my parents always supported me and loved me, and I loved them. I guess there are ways to make sure that your child always has someone who can help him even if you can’t – for instance by giving him Muggle-born godparents if he comes from a wizarding family and vice versa. This is one of the things I would love to change – there has to be a way to help Muggle-borns early on, even before they come to Hogwarts. It’d be easy to organize some kind of mentor program... one that could help Squibs just the same way. Maybe there are lists of Squibs as there are lists of Muggle-borns...”
“And there she goes again... Hermione Granger, revolutionising the world.” Internally shaking his head, but undeniably also with fascination he looked at the girl, in whose eyes he could see a spark of the fire burning again that for months had seemed to be dead out. How could she be so optimistic, so utterly convinced that everything could change for the better if one only tried hard enough? Either he was getting old or he was simply an incorrigible pessimist.
“You think it’s a bad idea?” she asked, sounding slightly affronted. Nevertheless, there was a note of challenge in her tone.
“I didn’t say that,” he clarified. “It’s just – contrarian. I’m sure there are some wizard families who’d be open-minded. Most parents love their children despite them being Squibs, and would do everything to make them happy. But there are also those who will oppose such ideas with all their might, not wanting it to become widely known that they have fathered a child without magic. A lot of wizards believe that Squibs carry a defective gene, and that marrying a Squib will increase the likelihood of children without magical power. So a Squib’s prospect for a good marriage is pretty much nil – wizards, especially pure-bloods, prefer marrying into power. They believe it augments the chances of equally powerful offspring.”
“But that’s ridiculous,” Hermione interrupted. “Your father was a Muggle, and you’re one of the most powerful wizards alive. And so is Harry.”
“Don’t forget that you are a most powerful witch yourself, Miss Granger. Yes, I agree. Trying to keep the magic family lines pure is in fact the cause of many problems, not the solution to them. Still, Octavius Prince didn’t see it that way. So instead of introducing Irma to society and trying to find a husband for her as would have happened with a magically gifted daughter, she was discretely hidden away. Until she was old enough to leave and secure herself a position as Librarian at Hogwarts.”
“When you say hidden away, you don’t mean locked into the basement or something like that, do you?” Hermione asked, fearing the worst.
“No. He just never spoke about her or introduced her to their friends and acquaintances. And politeness dictates that one doesn’t inquire about kids that are never mentioned by their parents. In the privacy of their home, Irma had everything she could want for. She said she spent most of her childhood surrounded by books.”
“Small wonder then that she treats her books as if they were living beings,” Hermione mused, feeling a bit more compassionate about the misanthropic librarian. “Were you both aware of the fact that you were related all this time?”
“No. She was already the librarian when I started teaching, but she never revealed her true identity to me. I only learned very recently that she was aware of my family history, even though she hardly remembered my mother. But she also knew I had joined the Death Eaters when I was young and was not entirely convinced that I was reformed when Dumbledore made me the Potions Professor.”
“She mistrusted you all these years?” Hermione wondered if anyone but Dumbledore had ever approached him with trust and an open mind.
“She wasn’t the only one who was fooled by the role I had to play. But she always treated me respectfully, given that she was loyal to Dumbledore and trusted his judgement. It was only when Harry taunted the Dark Lord with my treachery that she learned the truth about my allegiance. She told me everything when I returned to teach after the war.”
“That must have been a startling discovery...”
“Indeed,” he murmured, taking another sip of his tea. “But nothing compared to the revelation she made only a few days ago...”
Hermione didn’t dare to inquire, but patiently waited for him to continue. She had become utterly fascinated by his story, which gave her insights into wizarding culture that were entirely new to her. Her teacher, who seemed to be in a rare, mellow mood, indulged her, just as she had hoped he would. Considering that she had been the one to take the prying potion, it was rather ironic.
“Irma’s mother, Honoria Prince, who had refused all contact with me after her husband’s death, confessed to Irma after the war that my uncle had changed his will a long time before. Honoria was only to receive a widow’s allowance, and the family fortune was to go to the last remaining heir of the Prince line.”
“To their daughter – Irma?”
“Hardly. Aside from being a Squib and an unmarried woman, she’s not known to the wizarding world as daughter of Octavius Prince and isn’t even mentioned in her father’s will. No, the name and the family estate are to go to the last remaining male heir.”
“You?” Hermione superfluously asked. “He reinstated you in his testament?”
“Only on the condition that I adopt the name Prince, as he wouldn’t tolerate having his worldly possessions fall into the hand of a man who carries the name of a Muggle.”
“Oh...” This was a stunning revelation indeed. “Why did your aunt only tell you now?”
“Because for the longest time, she had held a grudge against me for joining the Dark Lord. Everything she heard about me from Hogwarts – my apparent dislike of Muggleborns, my hatred of Harry Potter, my murdering the Headmaster whom she respected very much for having helped her daughter – it all led her to believe that I was a man just as bad as her deceased husband. With everything that was brought to light after the war, she didn’t know what to believe. She carried through her own investigations, getting testimony from people who knew me. It seems she was even more thorough than the Wizengamot.”
Hermione frowned. “She can’t have been that thorough – she never spoke to Harry.”
“Oh, but she did! She set a private detective on the case. He posed as a reporter and interviewed a lot of people. You apparently spoke to him as well, and from what I’ve been told, you were one of my most passionate defenders. You also spoke to Irma about me, didn’t you?”
“Well, yes – once. When I came back to Hogwarts in September. I was surprised that she addressed me at all, because she had never spoken to me before.”
“She’s not a very talkative or social person.”
“No,” Hermione murmured. “It probably doesn’t run in the family.” She believed to see a hint of amusement lurking in his eyes.
“I presume she inquired about me?” Severus asked.
“Yes. She asked me which parts of what the press said about you were really true. I thought she needed to reconcile what the Wizengamot had revealed about you with what she had witnessed when you were headmaster.”
“That might have been part of the reason. As one of the Golden Trio – and a Muggle-born no less – your statement provided credible evidence. And after a thorough background check, I was apparently found ‘most likely not guilty’ by my formidable aunt.”
“Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Hermione carefully questioned, sensing resentment behind his slightly sarcastic tone. “You wanted forgiveness and you got it – not only from the Wizengamot, from Dumbledore and from Harry, but also from your closest relative. Maybe it’s time you started believing that you’re free to move on.”
He didn’t say anything, but it was clear to her that he felt differently about the situation. She couldn’t make sense of the obvious reluctance and the tension he displayed when talking about his aunt. Did he take offense at the fact that she had only acknowledged the truth having done a thorough investigation? It didn’t seem likely, as he usually accepted without protest if people thought the worst of him.
“She demands to see me,” he finally said, as if it explained his bitterness.
“Naturally,” Hermione responded. “She wants to get to know you.”
“Her opinion of me is of no importance,” he spat in the biting tone normally reserved for disrespectful students. It made her look up in surprise. “It’s not for her to decide whether I’m worthy of the family fortune or not. If I choose to call myself Prince henceforward, I can claim everything right away. And if I refuse the ‘honour’, everything will fall to the ministry after her death.”
“You think she wants to see you so she can judge you?” Hermione asked, suddenly understanding his antagonism.
“Of course,” he replied, as if Hermione was the one who wasn’t getting it. “Why else?”
Hermione raised her brow, looking at him with bemusement. “Has it not occurred to you that your aunt might be inviting you so you can judge her?”
Obviously, it had not. “Honestly – the woman did you a great injustice for a very long time,” Hermione tried to explain what his aunt’s view of things might be. “Granted, she wasn’t the only one, but it seems to weigh on her conscience. She kept the will a secret from you and took possession of things that weren’t hers to claim. She could have kept the secret until her death. By coming forth now and telling you the truth, she’s putting everything at risk – you probably could press charges, if you wanted to. I’m sure she wouldn’t have disclosed anything if she thought you a mean, vindictive man who’d throw her out of her home. But she might be afraid that you are holding a grudge against her and refuse what’s rightfully yours, which would also leave her daughter with nothing. Maybe she would like a chance to explain and prove herself to you.”
Once again bereft of words, Severus could only stare at the young woman sitting across from him. With a few pointed observations she called his misgivings and concerns into question. Unknowingly or, which was even more reason for concern, fully aware of it, she had uncovered his deepest insecurities: The fear of being judged and found not worthy. True, it had been a very real, even life threatening concern until recently, but he hadn’t realized that it had made him rather paranoid of every situation in which others were likely to judge him. Which was basically every time he interacted with anybody. He was intelligent enough to realise that this wasn’t a very healthy attitude.
“So – how do you feel about the idea of changing your name to your mother’s maiden name?” Hermione inquired tentatively.
“I’m not sure,” he sighed, rubbing his eyes wearily. The simple gesture struck a chord with her – it seemed so oddly human, and altogether un-Snape-like. For the third time tonight, she realised how unguarded he had become with her.
“There was a time I would have wanted nothing more. I hated my father, and his name has never been something I carried with pride. But when I was offered the chance to become a member of the Prince family for the first time – for all the wrong reasons and by a man who was only marginally better than my own father – it felt like an insult. As if he thought he could buy himself a son. Besides, I didn’t want the Dark Lord to profit from it. And now... I don’t need a manor, a fancy name or the family riches. I’m getting by just fine with what I earn as a professor and from the profits of my patented potions.”
“Just how much of a fortune are we talking about?”
He shrugged. “I’m not sure. Certainly nothing in the league of the Malfoys. Prince House is a modest country estate. I have no idea how my uncle invested his money. For all I know, I could be inheriting a lot of debts.”
“But if not, you could still use it for something good,” Hermione added for consideration. “If you ever leave Hogwarts, you’re going to need a lab. That’s a pretty large investment. And there is Irma to consider.”
“She’s getting by with her salary just fine. She told me so, and also said that she didn’t want to push me into anything. On the other hand – it used to be her home, and I surely don’t want it to fall to the ministry. So all in all, I’m feeling rather torn.”
“You don’t have to decide now,” Hermione pointed out sensibly. “I think you should go and get to know your aunt. Maybe that will help you with your decision. You know, I do believe in second chances...”
“Yes, I quite remember that, Miss Granger!”
“Professor Prince... Severus Prince, Master of Potions,” she tried the name on her tongue. “I like it.”
He snorted. “It sounds preposterous.”
“No, it doesn’t,” she disagreed. “It sounds noble.”
Did this change Harry’s plans for Christmas? Hermione wondered. Quite likely their Professor would want to spend the holidays with his family, now...
“What do I have to do with Mr. Potter’s plans for Christmas?” Severus asked, who had just remembered that he was still looking for information and had chosen this moment to take another glimpse into Hermione’s mind. The thought he had found was puzzling.
“You heard that?” Hermione asked, sounding dismayed.
“Loud and clear. I also sensed disappointment when you were just wondering whether I’d be spending Christmas with my ‘family’, as you call them. You were talking about me, you and Harry, weren’t you?”
She could feel a mild tingling in her mind when he slipped back in and called forward the memory of her conversation with Harry. This time, she made no effort to keep him away from it, but watched the memory replay before her eyes like a movie.
“Are we still agreed that we’ll spent Christmas together at Grimmauld Place rather than going to the Weasleys?” Harry asked. They were sitting in the Gryffindor common room on the sofa; Hermione having a book in her hand and her legs stretched out with her feet on Harry’s lap. She looked quite comfortable, whereas he stared into the fire with a slightly tense expression.
“Yes, of course,” Hermione replied, only briefly looking up from her book. “I can’t imagine being at the Burrow with Lavender there, Ginny still heartbroken and Molly upset with both of us for turning her children down. So yes, Grimmauld Place it is.”
“I wondered... with you spending so much time assisting Snape and all...Would you mind... do you think he would mind....”
“What, Harry?” Hermione clapped her book shut and gave him her full attention.
“Well, I was thinking of inviting him for Christmas, too. He’s the only other one who’s left of my family – in a way – and Christmas is supposed to be spent with family. And I also wanted to ask Draco if he would like to join us. We’re practically all orphans and don’t have anyone else to go to, after all...”
“If you don’t want me to invite them, that’s okay...” Harry quickly assured. “I won’t... it was just an idea... Probably stupid.”
“Actually,” Hermione said slowly, “I think it’s a great idea.”
“You do?” Harry sounded surprised.
“Yes. And I think you should also invite Remus and Teddy. You’re Teddy’s godfather, so he’s family, too.”
Harry seemed delighted at the thought, but then his gaze turned doubtful. “But – do you think Snape... he’d actually agree?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Hermione replied. “I have no idea what he usually does for Christmas. He was probably going to spent it with Draco, being his godfather.”
“He’s my godfather, too.”
“So celebrating together would seem like a good idea.”
“I’m scared of asking him,” Harry admitted.
“Why? Because he might say ‘no’?”
“No, because he might say something like: “Are you out of your mind, Potter? Why would I want to spent Christmas with a dunderhead like you?”
“I don’t think he will say that,” Hermione said seriously. “He’s not like that anymore.”
“Well, he was pretty decent when he talked to me. I really think he’s interested in starting over. It’s still so – surreal, being on friendly terms with Snape.”
She snorted. “You don’t say.”
“So I take it he’s being fairly nice to you?”
“Actually, he is.”
“What’s going on between the two of you anyway? And don’t say ‘nothing’, I’m not stupid, Hermione. I know I’ve not been as attentive towards you as I should have been with all that’s been going on, and I’m sorry for that. But I’ve seen that something has changed with you.”
“He’s been helping me, Harry. He’s teaching me Occlumency.”
“What? How did that come about?”
She shrugged. “I asked him. He thinks it might help with my nightmares.”
Harry looked at her as if she had lost her mind. Why someone would volunteer for Occlumency lessons with Snape was obviously beyond him.
“And – how’s it going?”
“It’s too early to tell,” Hermione answered, reporting on her progress rather than her emotional state, which Harry was clearly more concerned about. “We’ve only had two lessons. But it is definitely immensely fascinating.”
“Fascinating? Okay, that’s not a word I would have chosen... I guess he must be extra nice to you if you haven’t run away screaming after two lessons. So – you wouldn’t mind if I asked him?”
“No, not at all. And I don’t mind you asking Draco either. We’ve been getting on fine, too. I take it that you two have made some progress?”
Harry blushed. “Yes. Though I think he’s still not sure what he wants. I mean, admitting to myself was that I was gay was hard enough, and I didn’t have parents loaded with prejudice to be concerned about. Actually, Snape said that they wouldn’t have minded. There was a gay guy in their year, and they were always very friendly with him. Remus said the same thing. Draco’s parents most likely wouldn’t be supportive. Especially not if his love interest turned out to be Harry Potter.”
“Don’t worry. I think this is not something you can lie to yourself about forever. And Draco is still in the process of emancipating himself from his parents and all prejudice he was raised with. Give him time.”
“I’m not in a hurry. For the moment, I just like his company. Everything else is still as scary for me as I suppose it is for him. So whatever it will be, we’re taking it slowly.”
“Harry wants to invite me to Grimmauld Place for Christmas?” Totally baffled, Severus retreated from her mind.
Hermione shrugged. “I told you Harry would regard you as family once he knew. He’s been longing to have people he can call his own. If he could, he’d adopt me as a sister right away.” She searched his face. It was carefully blank, which meant that he was struggling to hide his emotions. “So – how do you feel about that?”
“I don’t know,” he answered after a prolonged pause. “It’s going to be awkward.”
“Why should it be?”
As if it wasn’t obvious. He didn’t know how to act around Harry. He didn’t even know how to act around her. “Well, for once, there’s the fact that I’m still your teacher,” he pointed out what was undeniably a major part of the problem.
“So is Remus. And Draco is your student, too – and your godson. It’s not that much different.”
“You make it sound as if it was so easy.”
“And you’re thinking too much.”
“Look who’s saying that...” he said with a mild scoff.
She grinned. “Touché. But it’s still true. There’s nothing to worry about. Not even about getting everybody presents. Harry suggested a White Elephant Gift Exchange. Just bring something of yours that you don’t need or have always wanted to get rid of. We’ll swap. I’m that’s going to be a lot of fun.”
As to be expected, the prospect of ‘fun’ was not the right incentive to bring him round.
Severus had added reason for concern. Something the boy had hinted at... “Do you think your friend suspects something about... well – about us?”
“Would it be so terrible if he did? Or if I told him?”
“You tell me. Maybe you should. We’ll see if his invitation for Christmas still stands after that.”
“I’m sure it will.” Harry had grown immensely as a person last year. And after all they had been through together, there was not much that could come between them anymore. “After all, who is he to judge anyone’s heart’s desire? Him hooking up with Draco isn’t any less strange.”
Hermione was glad that things seemed to be moving in the right direction. Her oldest and dearest friend deserved happiness in his live, and if felt like a sort of redemption that - of all people - two of former enemies were beginning to play an important role in it. What had seemed unimaginable before had moved into the realm of possibilities.
Severus was glad to have gotten a fair warning. This development was unexpected. The sad truth was, he hadn’t spent Christmas with anybody in years. There used to be a time – before the Dark Lord’s return – that he was invited to Malfoy Manor for Christmas. Before that, and after that, he spent the holidays at Hogwarts. Mostly alone in his quarters. He had told himself that he didn’t mind – that he enjoyed the quiet time. Spending Christmas with Harry Potter – of all people – was going to break with all of his habits. He felt a moment of panic. Yes, he had wanted to change his life for the better. But this seemed like a pretty big leap. It seemed like he was expected to take sudden leaps in all kind of directions. It was unsettling.
“I really would love to see you for Christmas,” Hermione said, hoping to sway his opinion. “Three weeks of holidays are long. I’ll be missing our lessons and our brewing.” She was going to miss him, period. And to think she might actually get to spend time with him in a more private setting... well, it gave her inspiration. Like reminding Harry of the mistletoe tradition.
“I’ll think about it,” Severus finally said, seeing the hopeful longing in her eyes. Three weeks was indeed a long time to spend alone, now that he had gotten used to seeing her every other day. “And I also promise not to take Harry’s head off if he should find the courage to address the matter.”
“Well, thank you – I’d appreciate that. And maybe you could subtly find out how Draco would feel about an invitation to Grimmauld Place?”
That wasn’t a bad suggestion, either. It gave him a reason to talk to Draco and start mending their slightly tense relationship as well. And to break to him that he had another godson Draco hadn’t known about... Yes, that was going to be interesting, too.
“I could do that. I’ll keep you informed.”
A/N: To my astonishment and contrary to the information I gave my dear beta, Dreamthrower, there is nothing in the books or the movies about Snape actually being Draco's godfather. It must be one of those perceived ‘facts’ that were so often used in fanfiction that they have become ‘fanon’.
Edit March 2018: I’ve been revising some of the chapters as I’ve been reformatting them for another site, and on doing so, I always end up re-writing and adding to the existing chapters. This means that those changes and additions have not been proof-read by Dreamthrower, so all mistakes are entirely mine. If you feel like it, you’re welcome to point them out to me and I will correct them, but please don’t hold them against her. :)