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Skin Deep

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Bill portkeyed back into the manor that evening, arriving in the study as he had done before. No one was there to greet him as he had not given any sort of arrival time to anyone before he left. He stuck his head into the hall and called out. "Hello Snapes? Anyone home?"

He heard Harry's light laugh and Snape's deeper voice grumbling something that was no doubt snarky in return. "We're in here Bill!" Harry called out.

Bill followed their voices to what appeared to be a large dressing room and his jaw dropped in shock. Here was a sight he would have never in his wildest dreams come up with.

Harry stood on a small stool draped in deep charcoal velvet. He had on a tight, black, long sleeved shirt and pants instead of being fitted naked as most wizards were. He also sported tight black gloves. He could only imagine the story Snape came up to explain his son's clothing choices to the tailor. Then again, Snape no doubt simply glared the tailor into silence rather than offering any explanation at all.

A small, elderly wizard knelt at his side, his mouth stuffed with pins. Measuring tapes and thread bobbed around in the air, obeying the tailor's silent commands. Snape sat in a chair to the side, observing the whole fiasco. Bill finally gave in and laughed at the spectacle. "What on earth is going on?"

Snape gave a low, muttered "Gryffindors" under his breath, causing Bill to laugh even louder.

"I'm getting some new clothes" Harry filled in. "Se…Severus decided I needed some." He looked slightly embarrassed at calling the man by his name but he pushed on. He had been told to call him that after all.

Snape's expression lightened marginally, clearly pleased that his son had taken his advice. Although he would have been thrilled to be called Father it was perhaps better that Harry chose what he was comfortable with rather than something he wasn't ready to use yet. At least he wasn't being called "The Professor" anymore. Now he would know that Harry really wanted to call him Father whenever he chose to do so for the first time. It would mean more that it was a conscious decision and not something forced on him.

Bill smiled too, pleased that the day had clearly gone well for his lover and his new father. "I can see that you are getting new clothes. I am just amazed by the sheer quantity of stuff."

"Eloquent as always, Mr. Weasley. My son needs to be dressed up to the pureblood standard that the Slytherins will be expecting from the Snape heir. Harry must fill the role properly or else no one will believe it." Bill raised an eyebrow and nodded toward the tailor. "Don't worry, we have a servant spell up. He can only hear us if he asks us a direct question that we need to answer."

Bill nodded and continued the previous discussion. "Yes, I suppose you're right. Not many families can get away with dressing like the Weasleys."

"You all dress fine. I love your mum's jumpers. They're my favorite clothes" Harry said as he lightly brushed his fingers over the gorgeous velvet. Severus rolled his eyes but refrained from comment. Bill snorted loudly.

"You clearly have no fashion sense at all love. My mum's homemade clothes are terrible. They're awful colors and they don't ever fit right!"

"I think they're brilliant. I'd never gotten a Christmas present before and it was so exciting opening my Christmas jumper. I hope she gives me one this year, last year's is getting worn out."

Bill smiled at his sweet but completely clueless lover. Clearly, he had no comprehension of the difference between fifty galleon velvet robes and a crappy hand knit jumper. The thing of it was that Harry wasn't trying to be nice. He truly did love the horrible jumpers that were made each year with such care by his mum. He was probably the only one who truly appreciated the time and effort she put into them each year.

"Just the same, I believe that you will need slightly more formal clothing to wear at Hogwarts" Snape finally said, hopefully ending the debate. He supposed he should no longer be shocked by these revelations that Harry kept dropping about his home life. After all, muggles who beat and raped him could hardly be expected to give him Christmas gifts. Their cruelty still shocked him though.

"I believe I am done with these Master Snape. Will you be needing anything else?" the tailor asked as he took the charcoal fabric off of Harry's form.

The room filled with silence. Bill smacked Harry on his arm to remind him that he was Master Snape now. "What? Oh, no. I think that's all."

"Very well. I'll have these delivered as soon as they are done. I should have a few robes and trousers completed by week's end and I'll go on and send them up. I'll send the rest as I get them done. Nothing for you this time, Lord Snape?"

Harry raised an eyebrow at that. Lord Snape? Clearly he had a lot to learn about purebloods.

"No, I believe this will be it for now. Please bill my Gringott's account as usual."

"Of course. Good day, sir." The tailor gathered his supplies, shrunk the massive pile of fabric and left the room, escorted to the door by a uniformed house elf.

Once Harry was certain that they were alone again he asked his question. "Lord Snape? Since when are you titled?" He slowly pulled his gloves off as he waited for the answer.

"All of the heads of the pureblood families carry a title. I am the oldest Snape therefore the title goes to me. You will carry it when I die."

Harry thought of that for a moment and turned to Bill. "Is your dad really Lord Weasley?"

"No. Dad has an older uncle who holds the position. After him it will go to my dad's cousin. If he dies without any children it will go to my dad. I doubt that will all happen though. His cousin is only about 50, he still has plenty of time to father children."

"That is so weird."

"You will need to learn about all of this before you return to Hogwarts. A properly raised pureblood would know exactly who holds the title in each family and who is set to inherit it. You should also be aware of how far removed someone is from a title. Most Slytherins know exactly how many people would have to die in order for them to inherit."

"That's terrible!"

Snape shrugged his shoulders. "Nonetheless, they will all know it and will expect you to as well. Your rank will be quite high as you are not only set to inherit but you are the only one set to inherit. No one will be trying to kill you to up their chances of gaining a title."

"People do that?" Harry was appalled.

"Not often, no, but it is something that many do keep in mind. Your situation is quite impressive."

"Damn strange, if you ask me. Who is impressed by the fact that I can't seem to keep family members alive for more than a few minutes?"

Bill and Severus exchanged looks. Bill nodded to Severus, indicating that he would handle it. "Harry, it is hardly your fault that family members have been lost. You truly had nothing to do with the Snape deaths. You just found out you were a Snape a few days ago! And your mum died in battle, something that cannot be controlled."

"It was hardly during battle. We were just at home, trying to hide from trouble."

Snape cut in. "Voldemort was after your parents as well as you that night. He had wanted to kill them long before Lily was even pregnant with you. You had nothing to do with his actions that night. And although a true battle might not have occurred in your home that night it was all part of a larger battle. Although if brings little comfort, they did die war heroes."

"But I did kill Siri, didn't I?" Harry looked down at his feet, seemingly very interested in the Persian rug that he was standing on.

Snape knelt down in front of his son and touched his arms lightly over his thick sleeves. Harry looked up, startled, then calmed slightly when he saw who it was. "You had nothing to do with that. The Dark Lord was sending you the visions and he was undoubtedly influencing your thoughts as well. Free from influence, perhaps you would have thought twice about going to the ministry that night but you weren't free from His influence. The Dark Lord tricked you as He has tricked many wizards: older and wiser wizards too. You are in no way responsible for Black's decision to follow you or for Lestrange's actions during the fight."

Harry looked into his father's eyes for a moment, thinking over what he had just heard. It was clear that he did not entirely believe in his own innocence but it was also evident that Snape had said something that was making him think.

"You think Voldemort was controlling my thoughts too?"

Bill slowly wrapped his arms around his shoulders, effectively placing Harry into a three-way hug, although his father's hold on him was still very loose. Harry again momentarily tensed as he evaluated the new situation but he gradually relaxed. "Harry, you might do many things on the spur of the moment but tell me, do you really think you would have ever thought, on your own, that it was a good idea to break into the ministry in the middle of the night?"

Harry leaned back into his lover's embrace as he thought about it. "No" he said thoughtfully. "I can't imagine I would have. Do you really think maybe I was being influenced by more than just a few visions?" he sounded amazed at the possibility that he was not entirely culpable for his godfather's death.

"Yes, Harry, I am convinced of it." Snape looked in his son's eyes, willing him to see his sincerity. Harry nodded slowly and a small weight seemed to be removed from his shoulders.

Snape nodded in return and slowly stood back up. Inside he was bursting with happiness that his son had accepted his touch as comforting. He still couldn't touch his son without a layer of clothing as protection but they were making progress.

They needed a change of topic to allow Harry some time to process his roiling thoughts. "Were you able to explain the situation to Molly?"

"Yes. She was thrilled to find out that you two are related." Severus raised an eyebrow at that statement. He hardly thought that anyone in her right mind would be thrilled that the Golden Boy was related to a Death Eater. Bill hurried to explain. "She has wanted to adopt Harry herself for many years but Dumbledore wouldn't let her. Then once we started…" he did not say the word itself, though it was clear that 'dating' was understood to belong in the small gap left "she decided that perhaps that wouldn't be the best idea so she stopped pushing it. She was overjoyed to know that Harry had a real family again."

Harry was largely ignoring their conversation as he was thinking about what he had learned.

"Your mother knows of your relationship?"

"Yes. She found out about a year ago. She wasn't too pleased at first but she quickly adjusted. Now I think she's just pleased that Harry is dating one of her children, although I think she had hoped it would be Ginny or Ron."

Snape nodded at the new information. He could understand a mother wishing that her children would date people close to their own age. He moved on to what he was really concerned about. "How did Weasley react to the news?"

"I warned him before I gave him the letter that there were some pretty big things in it. I told him he needed to think carefully before he responded in any way to the letter. He read it quickly and looked about ready to throw a fit but then he sat back and read it again more slowly. He completely bypassed the stage of anger directed at you that Harry and I expected and went in straight for Dumbledore. He's not a very popular man at the Burrow right now."

"I would imagine not" Severus said dryly. "He will support Harry?"

"Of course. He is at the Burrow right now coming up with plans for next year as well as trying to find any loopholes that we may not have thought of." Snape looked skeptical at this statement.

"He really is brilliant at strategy. He helped me to plan the tattoos" Harry finally joined into the conversation.

"You've mentioned this before. What exactly do you mean, plan the tattoos? Aside from the runes it hardly mattered what else you got, did it?"

"Actually it was one of the most important parts. Perhaps even more important than the runes themselves. We needed a specific mixture of artwork with a certain proportion of muggle to magical tattoos of certain sizes and placements to support the immense power in the runes. If we had gotten it wrong it might have fried my skin instead of an attacker's."

"Explain." Snape knew he was getting short with his son but damn it, these things were getting more and more complex. How the hell had he hidden this from under their noses for so long?

"We figured out that if all of the tattoos were magical in nature that my skin would have too much magic running through it to properly ground the excess magic from the runes. If they were all muggle though then they would be completely incapable of retaining any magic at all, making the runes just pretty shapes with no innate power. We needed to figure out the exact percentage of tattoos that needed to be muggle and what needed to be magical.

"More though, we needed to ensure not only the number of tattoos that fit into each category but also the surface area of skin that was concerned. If I had an equal number of each but all of my muggle tattoos were quite small then the power of the runes would overflow and I would be burned. If I had an equal number of each and the muggle ones were larger than the magical ones then the magic would be overwhelmed by spreading itself too thin and it would never work reliably. If they were equal in everything then the runes might cancel themselves out completely."

"What the hell did you do then?"

"Hermione and I figured out that I needed to have 62percent muggle and 38 percent magical but that the magical tattoos should cover a larger proportion of my body than the muggle ones by 11percent. By keeping the muggle ones smaller it stored the excess magical discharge in more locations that were small enough not to cause any harm."

Snape's head was spinning. "Does this make sense to you Bill?"

"Somewhat. I don't quite understand how they arrived at the numbers they did or how they knew they needed a mixture in the first place or how they knew the possible reactions if they got it wrong. Um…all in all, no, I don't really have any clue what he is talking about."

"Unbelievable. Dare I ask if there is more?"

"Just a bit. We also needed to plan what went where to ensure that everything was properly spaced out. It helped if each tattoo had a personal meaning, especially the magical ones. It tends to strengthen them. I had to ensure that the emotions tied to the tattoos were at least somewhat balanced as well."

"Balanced?"

"I couldn't very well put tattoos that were tied to negative emotions all in the same place, could I? It would disrupt the peaceful flow of magic over my skin. I needed to tie the happy memories with the sad, the angry with the tranquil. Since I couldn't just get tattooed from head to toe all in one go I had to plan out exactly what I was getting, how large it would be, where it would go and whether it would be done magically or by muggle methods before I even started. Or at least before I got very much done."

Snape shook his head in an attempt to clear it. This was all entirely too overwhelming. That his son was able to do this at all was unbelievable. That he had started this project when he was eleven and essentially completed the large part of the theory of it by the age of thirteen was completely incomprehensible. He hadn't finished the spell until he was sixteen but he had clearly understood what he needed to do within less than two years of starting his project. Inconceivable.

"I'm starved" Harry announced suddenly. "Can we go get something to eat?"

Severus absently waved his son and Bill toward the door. He needed some time to take it all in. Just when he thought Harry could no longer surprise him he would lay something like this down on him. Merlin, the boy was a genius. He was making magical breakthroughs as if they were child's play. He couldn't wait to test his son's strength. He needed to ask Bill to stop by his vault and get that focus stone for him.