Chapter 1: Introduction
Harry smiled softly as he pulled his shirt back on. Glancing down one more time at his new tattoos, hope began to grow in the young man. With nearly two thirds of his body covered in tattoos of various kinds, it was difficult to pick out which ones were his latest additions. Brushing his hands over his wrists, Harry smiled again. Hopefully, this would work. Hopefully, he would be safe this summer.
The tattoos ranged from muggle-drawn images to fantastic wizard artwork to thick bands of runes. The newest tattoos fit into this last category. The final stage of his plan had been put into place with the addition of wide black bracelets of runes around his arms and ankles as well as eight-inch wide circles of runes on his chest and back.
To the passing eye, it appeared that Harry was simply covered in tattoos in a completely random manner. To the few who knew though, each one was part of a carefully designed and executed plan that culminated in today's tattoos. His older tattoos served two major purposes: the first was a simple diversion. With the sheer number of tattoos that now covered Harry's body it was difficult to the passing eye to find any meaning in any of them. This was exactly as Harry wanted—no, needed—it to be. He needed the distraction while he was still finalizing the last step of his plan which he had executed today. The second purpose was even more important: each tattoo helped to ground and support the work he had done today. Without something to ground the powerful spells contained within the tattoo the magic would become volatile, attacking at random.
The new tattoo, repeated six times on his body, was in fact a complex spell that Harry and his closest friends had been working on for the past three years. Before he had let them into his confidence, Harry had worked alone for two years. Without the researching skills of Hermione and Ron's strategic abilities Harry would never have been able to be done so soon.
These runes were able to do what was thought to be impossible: they bound a magical force to Harry's very skin itself, protecting Harry from dangers that his mother had been unable to foresee when she had created his initial protection. Although his mother's sacrifice helped to shield Harry from Voldemort and the Death Eaters it did little to protect him from non-magical forms of danger.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe, just maybe, this would work as planned. It would work…it had to work. The consequences of failure were unthinkable. Yes, it would work. Harry refused to consider any other alternative. It would work.
Chapter 2: Do They Work?
Hermione called out from the front of the shop "Harry, we've got to go now or we'll be late!" Harry hastily replaced his concealment charms to cover his tattoos. As far as the wizarding world was concerned, Harry Potter was perfectly clean cut and would never have something like a tattoo—much less the sheer quantity that he currently had. Harry wanted to keep it that way. It would just make it that much easier to slip into a new life once the war was over.
Harry stepped out of the back room and immediately saw Ron and Hermione waiting anxiously for him. Ron's ill-concealed concern was soothed by Harry's slight smile. Smiles had grown increasingly rare for the boy who lived and Ron's worry had grown almost daily. "Let's go, mate. We can test it later tonight at Hogwarts" Ron hurried Harry along.
"Do you think they worked? Do you feel any different?"
Harry paused to think. "No, Hermione, I can't feel anything that is actually different, I just have this general feeling that…I don't know. I just feel certain that they work."
Hermione squealed and threw her arms around Ron in lieu of hugging Harry. Although Harry had grown more comfortable around his closest friends he was still hesitant to have any unnecessary touch. "I knew we got it right! I worried for a bit about that sixty-second rune but I knew it would work! We should write up our findings and publish them. I can't believe how many books were wrong about embodying spells. We have completely changed how the books—"
"Hermione, the whole point of all of this was to keep Harry's privacy. Publishing an article, no matter how small or vague, will automatically expose him."
"Of course. I'm sorry Harry, I wasn't thinking. I didn't mean…"
Harry cut her off. "I understand. You did a lot of work. You should be proud. I'm sorry that you can't be recognized for it."
"Oh Harry, I don't care about the recognition. You know me. I get so excited about new information that my brain runs away with me. Nothing is as important to us as keeping you safe." She could see that the topic had grown distasteful to her small friend and she swiftly changed to a less problematic topic. "Did you two hear that Lavender had a date today with Blaise Zabini? I can't believe he actually asked her out."
"I wonder what he wants with her. What is he trying to get?"
"Honestly Ronald, not all Slytherins are bad. Maybe he just likes her. She's liked him for long enough. Maybe he heard she had a crush on him and decided to go ahead and ask her out."
"Of all the Slytherins in our year, he does seem the safest. Not to mention Lav can defend herself if she needs to" Harry quietly reminded Ron.
"Maybe. Just seems strange to me."
"Not everything is a plot Ron. I'm sure everything will be fine. And Lavender was so excited this morning getting ready. She must have changed four times!"
"She's nutters. Who gets dressed up for a Slytherin?"
Hermione and Harry exchanged glances and decided to just let it drop. It would take a lot for their friend to learn to look past his prejudices.
The trio slipped in the front doors just on time. Filch glared menacingly but was unable to penalize them and so he slipped away, muttering about ill-behaved children.
"Right. Dinner first, then the tests?" Ron proposed as his stomach grumbled loudly.
"Honestly, all you ever think of is food. You may be right though to put food first this time. It would be better to wait until later though to test the new…spells" Hermione whispered back.
Harry quickly sat down in a section of the table that was nearly deserted. Ron and Hermione separated and sat on either side of him, preventing any overeager students from claiming a seat next to The Boy Who Lived. Neville and Ginny moved down to sit across from the trio. Harry was effectively blockaded in by his friends—something that he needed badly. The sheer level of casual touch that happened around him was astounding, everyone wanting to be near the Boy Who Lived. The four students had taken their decision to protect Harry very seriously, and they trailed after him nearly every minute. At first it had driven Harry nearly to distraction but he slowly realized that this was their way of showing their love and support. He grudgingly accepted their constant presence and now had grown to enjoy the never ceasing companionship.
"How was your date Ginny?" Harry inquired.
"OK, I guess. I don't know. I think I am rather done with him. I'm so tired of Ravenclaws. Honestly, don't they ever do anything but study? I swear, Terry would read during sex if he could!"
Ron made gagging noises as Neville and Harry laughed. "Do you have to talk about sex Ginny? You're my baby sister!" Ron had never quite gotten over the fact that his baby sister was not quite a baby anymore.
"It is hardly my fault that you choose to sit here. Who am I supposed to talk to about this but Harry and Hermione?" Ginny replied tartly. She was pleased to note though that Harry was laughing. A big weight seemed to have been removed from him. Ginny didn't know any details, but she knew that as the year drew to a close that he worried constantly about returning to the Dursley's. She had never been told what exactly he faced there, but she knew from the bit she had overheard last summer that his uncle was to blame for all of it.
"I can't believe you stole Harry from me and corrupted him with your girly gossip! At the rate you're going you'll have ruined all the decent blokes at Hogwarts by the time you graduate. Between the list of your ex-boyfriends that won't talk to me anymore and your theft of my only decent Quidditch friend I'll soon be the only one left talking to me!" Ron didn't really mind Harry's friendship with Ginny. After the problems during Ginny's first year she had trouble making friends in her year, especially with her dorm mates. Likewise, Harry had trouble making close friends. Although everyone wanted to be his friend he was incredibly hesitant to place any level of trust in anyone. Although he numbered Ginny and Neville as his friends even they didn't know any details about Harry's life with the muggles or their secret project.
"You know, talking to yourself is one of the first signs of insanity" Neville deadpanned. A few years back Neville would have been hesitant to join into the conversation but with a new wand, additional training and some newly discovered courage; Neville had changed dramatically since their first year. He had grown enormously and now excelled at Charms and DADA in addition to Herbology and was able to amaze even Snape by his newfound proficiency at potions. By no means a natural, Neville could now no longer be blamed for the most explosions in their year.
Hermione, likewise, had grown up in the last year. At 5'7" she was now tall and willowy. Her hair had finally gotten under control and she had grown into one of the prettiest witches in their year. She had also finally learned to balance a social life with an academic life slightly better and was currently engaged in a strange sort of relationship with Ron. Although neither claimed the other as their significant other, the whole school knew they were off limits.
Ginny, likewise, had grown and stood 5'9". Ron was still shocked almost daily by how much she had grown up but Harry and Hermione had been expecting it. Her brothers were all extremely tall as well and they were both more than capable of recognizing Ginny as the young woman that she was rather than seeing a little girl.
Ron had continued to shoot up during the last year and he now towered over Harry by almost a foot. Harry had, unfortunately, stopped growing at 5'2"…something caused, no doubt, by continued malnutrition and his cramped living quarters at the Dursley's. Harry was the shortest one in his year—including the girls. He was, in fact, shorter than all of the fifth years, most fourth years and many third years. Few people realized exactly how small he was—one of the perks of being extraordinarily famous was that people looked at him and saw what they wanted to see, and somehow, no one wanted a short, malnourished hero.
Dumbledore looked out over the students and his eyes stopped at Harry and his friends. 'Poor boy. I wish there was something I could do about the Dursley's but he needs them. Too bad, really. Ah well, I'm sure all will be well in the end. It is unfortunate that such sacrifices must be made in the course of war. No war is pretty though. I'm sure he understands.'
Harry, Hermione and Ron got up as one and exited the Great Hall in an effort to find a quiet place to test the new tattoos.
Chapter 3: Does Dumbledore Know?
Ron entered the dorm room, trying to find Harry. He spotted Harry sitting on his truck, staring vacantly at the floor. This was never a good sign. While Harry was able to put on the Golden Boy show for the rest of the world, he occasionally slipped out of it. When he fell out of the role, he fell far. He would enter states of catatonia—sometimes for minutes—sometimes for days. No one ever knew what exactly started these reactions and Ron was always scared to ask about it once Harry had recovered.
"You ready to go to the feast mate?" Ron asked anxiously, trying to pull Harry back to reality. He repeated himself twice before he noticed any change in Harry.
Harry finally looked up at Ron with completely hollow eyes and blinked a few times. "Is it time already?"
"More than. We need to hurry to make it there in time for the speeches. Let's go!"
"Yes, yes. In a minute" Harry replied absently, running his fingers over his perfectly clear wrists. He kept a glamour on his skin at all times…at the beginning of the year in order to cover the cuts and bruised and throughout the year to keep his tattoos concealed. After all, The Boy Who Lived couldn't possibly have any tattoos.
"It will be all right Harry. We know the tattoos work and you can come stay with me when you need to. You know mum loves it when you stay. And I'm sure someone else would like to see you" Ron slyly slipped in.
Harry forced a small smile which fooled no one. "We're going to be late! Get down here boys!" Hermione called out from the bottom of the stairs. "Don't make me come up there!"
"We'd better go, mate. Don't want her to get her panties in a twist. Don't worry. It will all work out."
"Yeah. Sure. I guess I'm ready then."
The trio made their way quickly to the Great Hall and had just gained their seats when the Headmaster stood up to give his traditional end of year announcements. "This year I am proud to award the house cup to Hufflepuff!" Cheers rang out from the Hufflepuff table and some confused clapping came from a majority of the Ravenclaws and a few Gryffindors. Hufflepuff won for the first time in decades, largely due to the squabbling between Gryffindor and Slytherin that had reached an all new high this year. Ravenclaw mainly stayed out of the whole mess which neither gained nor lost points. It was the quiet Hufflepuffs who came out on top then for trying to break up fights and helping to prevent some.
Harry's attention faded in and out throughout the speech. "I would remind you that we are at war…" Honestly, isn't it obvious that we are at war? How could anyone forget that? Harry thought furiously. "Voldemort" (shudders spread across the hall) "will stop at nothing to…" Harry was almost completely lost in his thoughts when he was rather violently pulled out of them by Dumbledore's next statement. "I would ask all of you to stay where you are safe this summer. Do not attempt to leave without express permission. Have a nice summer!" With that ridiculous platitude Dumbledore sat down and the food appeared.
Hermione nervously turned to Harry. "Do you think he knows? Did he somehow find out?"
Harry remained silent, thinking it over. Ron jumped in. "He can't know. I mean, can he? We did everything off the grounds and some of it was even done in muggle London. How could he possibly know?"
"I don't think he knows everything, but I think that he suspects."
"Oh Harry, what are you going to do?" Hermione anxiously asked.
"Nothing. I'm just going to let this play out however it does. Maybe I won't even need the protection after all. I grew a little bit this year. Maybe he won't…" he let the words fade away as they all thought about the implications. Each knew that it was highly unlikely that he would be safe without the new spells.
"Don't worry about it. You are safe now and he'll just have to deal with it if the Dursley's ask you to leave." Ron's words of advice might have seemed a bit flippant but he knew that Harry needed a friend right now, not someone to analyze exactly how bad his situation was and then point out the ways in which it could get worse. They all knew that there were many, many ways in which Harry's uncle could hurt him without touching him. They just had to pray that Vernon didn't resort to any of those.
"You will owl me often, won't you Harry?"
"Of course, Hermione. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine." Harry's stomach clenched as he thought of what he faced at home. He could do this. He had protection this time. Everything would be fine.
Chapter 4: A Late Night Call
"Headmaster? Headmaster? Are you there?"
Dumbledore looked up from the stack of paperwork he was sorting through in surprise. It was rare for someone to contact him this late in the evening during the summer holidays. He turned to the fire and saw Molly Weasley.
"What can I help you with my dear?"
"Harry has just shown up at the Burrow. No doubt there have been more problems with those muggles of his. I just thought you ought to know where he was."
"Harry is there? With you? When did he arrive?"
"Not ten minutes ago. He came by the Knight Bus, poor dear. Looked exhausted too, and even more thin than usual. A good hot meal should help that out."
"Did he say why he came? Any explanation at all?"
"Well, he didn't go into any detail, mind you, but he did mention something about a spell working…but come to think, he hasn't had his birthday yet so I must have misunderstood him."
"Could you send him here? I need to speak with him."
"Of course, Headmaster. Just a moment."
Molly's head withdrew from the flames and Dumbledore stared pensively into the flames. Perhaps it was now time to reveal a little more of the plan. Yes, the timing seemed right. He quickly jotted a note and gave it to a house elf to deliver. Yes, things were progressing nicely.
The flames turned green again and Harry stumbled out of the fireplace. "You wanted to see me headmaster?"
"Yes, my boy. Why did you leave the Dursley's?"
"Because I couldn't stay any longer" Harry explained shortly.
"And why would that be?"
"Because they forbid it."
"I got tired of it all. This summer I had some additional protection and it was needed this evening. Once Vernon was incapacitated I packed up and left."
"I see. Did they actually forbid you to return or did you just assume that you should not go back?"
Harry looked at Dumbledore incredulously. Was he actually being serious? Had he not just explained that something happened with his uncle that was bad enough to incapacitate him? "Yes sir. They expressly told me to never set foot on their property again." Gods, how embarrassing. Being kicked out by your only living relatives. Even people he was related to didn't want him.
"I see. Well I suppose you will have to stay here this summer."
"Here? Why can't I stay with Ron?"
"Now Harry, that is hardly fair to the Weasleys. They have so little and you ask them to share it with you…"
"I see" Harry said quietly. Dumbledore hid a smirk. It was too easy to play the boy as he wanted to.
"Don't you think Ron deserves a little time out of the shadow of his famous friend?"
"And they don't have near enough protection to house you there. What would you do if you were attacked? If the Burrow was under fire? If one of the Weasleys were killed because you selfishly wanted to stay by your friend?"
"I see." Harry spoke in a bare whisper. "I guess that you are right. Shall I go to the tower then?"
"No, no, my dear boy. That wouldn't be at all acceptable. No, we shall find other accommodations for you. I believe that it would do nicely to place you with one of our other summer residents. Please enter, Severus."
Harry turned in shock to find Severus Snape standing outside the door. Gods, could this day get any worse? Snape sneered down at Harry then turned to Dumbledore. "You wanted to see me, Albus?" Over the past year their relationship had smoothed out a bit and Harry and the Potions Master had resigned themselves largely to ignoring the other's existence.
"Yes my dear boy. I wished to discuss Harry's summer lodgings. His home at the Dursley's has been found unacceptable. He will be staying here at Hogwarts until the school year starts."
"I see. Why am I involved?"
"I thought it would be ideal for him to use your guest bedroom. After all, a young boy can't be left completely to his own devices, can he?" Snape refused to dignify this statement with a response.
"Headmaster, you cannot be serious. We'd kill each other!" For once, Snape looked like he agreed completely with Harry.
"It really is all for the best. I'm sure you'll get along splendidly."
"I'm sure we'll be at each other's throats. Please headmaster, let me stay in the tower."
"No, that would be quite unacceptable. I'm sure you will learn to live together."
Snape cleared his throat. "If I may, Albus, could the boy" he absently noted Harry flinch "not stay in guest quarters on the first floor?"
"You know full well Severus that your rooms have the highest level of security in the school. Who better to protect him?"
Snape barely caught Harry's muttered "interfering old coot" and hid a smirk. His thoughts exactly. "I see. I'm not going to have a choice in this am I? Don't just stand there boy" again, the flinch…he would have to investigate this at a later date, "I don't have all day."
"I'm afraid I will need to see you both again in the morning. With events being what they are, I feel the need to show you both something. Please return after breakfast and we can have our little chat." Both Harry and Severus made ill-concealed snorts. Little chat indeed. "Have a good evening, gentlemen."
Harry looked at Snape hesitantly, tightening and relaxing his grip on his bag compulsively. "Well come along, Potter" Snape said as he swiftly left the room. Harry tossed his bag over his shoulder and hurried to catch up. He had no idea where the Potions Master's private rooms were and he knew that if the got separated that Snape would not go to look for him. He had to jog to keep up with Snape's long stride. Either the Potions Master did not notice how short Harry's legs were or he did not care. By the time they stopped in front of a portrait in the dungeons Harry was panting.
The portrait opened at Snape's glare and he swiftly stepped inside, once again leaving Harry to catch up. Harry hesitantly stepped into the room. Although the room was dark it was not as bad as he had originally believed it would be. Deep blue seemed to dominate the room with snatches of cream and green.
Snape sneered at Harry's obvious curiosity. "If you're quite finished with your inspection we can proceed to your room."
"Yes sir." They proceeded down the hallway on the left, completely ignoring the doors on the right side of the sitting room which presumably led to a kitchen and lab.
"This is the bathroom which we, unfortunately, will be sharing. Don't touch anything that is mine. This is my bedroom which you will never enter. Do try to contain your curiosity. I will know if you have been in there and you do not want to consider the consequences of disobeying me. This will be your room." With that Snape turned a doorknob at the end of the hall. The door opened into a small but nicely furnished room. Again, it was dark but not the unrelenting black that Harry had expected. This room was a slightly lighter blue with silver accents. It sure beat anything the Dursleys would ever give him.
"Thank you, sir."
"Do not wander around. Do not enter any room that you are forbidden to enter. Do not touch my things. Do not go poking your nose where it does not belong. The Headmaster may tolerate your undying curiosity but I will not. Are we clear?"
"Very well then." Without another word Snape turned and left the room. Well this should be an interesting summer. Harry thought. Maybe we actually can learn to get along. He wasn't that bad today. Yes, I think there was a definite improvement over his usual behavior. This summer just might turn out all right. Harry set his bag down by the dresser and stripped down to his boxers to sleep. He glanced down at his unmarked skin and grimaced. He couldn't wait for the day that The Boy Who Lived could finally be who he wanted to be. He couldn't wait to stop hiding.
Chapter 5: The Betrayal
Harry woke early, as usual. He quietly slipped on pants and a long sleeved T-shirt. Although his tattoos were covered with a glamour he preferred to keep his arms covered at all times in case his glamour stopped working for some reason. He went to the door to listen and see if Snape was up yet. He couldn't hear anything, but then Snape could move like a shadow when he felt like it. Praying that Snape was still asleep and he wouldn't have to deal with the snarky potions master this early in the morning, Harry slipped out of his room and down the hall.
The sight of the potions master sitting at the table greeted him as soon as he entered the kitchen. Reigning in a sigh, Harry proceeded to the counter to pour a cup of coffee. It seemed that the professors could still cook for themselves the muggle way if they chose to do so. Harry was curious whether the house elves were on vacation too during the summer but he refrained from asking. I can just imagine his reaction if I actually spoke to him.
Snape finally looked up from the paper to see Harry standing by the counter sipping a cup of coffee. Of course, he thought, here is only one chair that isn't covered in books or papers. He sighed and flicked his wand to create another chair. "Thanks professor." Snape grunted. Must not be a morning person. Not really an afternoon or evening person either though. I wonder what Snape's good time of the day actually is?
The two continued their breakfast, Harry just nibbling on a piece of toast. After a week of almost nonexistent meals at the Dursleys it would take some time to stretch his stomach back out. Finally, Snape cleared his throat. "We need to go to the Headmaster's office this morning. How much more time do you require to ready yourself?"
"I'm ready now."
"You don't wish to change?"
"These are the best clothes I have, sir."
"I see. Very well then." Although Snape sounded as if he were going to let the issue go he flicked his wand again and shrunk Dudley's enormous castoffs to fit Harry. Harry was not only much shorter than his cousin but he was also very thin. He had small, wiry muscles and only slightly broadened shoulders that kept him from looking completely like a child but his overall smallness was startling. With his almost shoulder length hair he had a slightly androgynous look that appealed to many of Hogwarts' young men. To their shock, Harry had never been known to date any of them. In fact, no one could name a single person of either sex that Harry had really dated.
"Thank you sir."
"Come along then." Harry smiled. Of course the potions master had to maintain his surly exterior. He was starting to like the professor's snarkiness. At least it was predictable.
The men approached the Headmaster's office slowly. It seemed that both of them were dreading this meeting. What could the Headmaster possibly have to say to them—together? What could possibly concern both of them? The door swung open without even giving the password and the two stepped onto the moving stairs. The Headmaster opened this door as well without waiting for a knock.
"Come in, come in gentlemen. I trust that you had a good night?"
Snape again chose a grunt as an appropriate response to such an inane question. "Yes sir." Harry attempted to be more polite but felt that he was already at the breaking point. Whatever news the Headmaster was going to give them could not be good. He never called Harry to his office anymore unless he was giving bad news. What could it be this time?
Harry was pulled from his thoughts by Dumbledore's invitation to sit. Snape gracefully sat down in the chair on the right and Harry rushed to the chair on the left. "Now gentlemen, I believe I told you last night that I had something new to reveal to you both. I believe that the easiest way to do so would be to show you both a certain memory." Dumbledore turned to the cabinet behind him and removed a large pensieve with a swirling silver memory already in place. "I am perhaps slightly overdue in revealing this to you but all will happen in its time. If you don't mind, gentlemen, perhaps you should jump right in?"
Harry looked at the memory nervously. 'All will happen in its time?' What the hell did that mean? It could be anything. He would have preferred some sort of introduction, a bit of background information. Evidently he wouldn't get that. He took a shaky breath and extended his hand alongside Snape's.
The two men were sucked into an office that looked surprisingly like the office they were currently in. Apart from a few changes, it was, in fact, the same office. They turned as one toward the desk and saw a younger Dumbledore sitting behind the desk. Harry looked around for their Dumbledore but evidently he hadn't deigned to enter the memory. "Looks like we are on our own, sir."
Snape sneered. "Of course. Merlin forbid he actually come along and explain something." Harry gave a sort of half smile and quickly turned as the door slammed open. He nearly collapsed when he realized that the nervous young woman was his mother. Snape instantly paled. Lily paced back and forth in front of the headmaster's desk for a few moments in silence then suddenly turned to him.
"Headmaster, I need your assistance."
"My dear child, what can I do for you?"
The twinkle left Dumbledore's eyes. "Does James know?"
"It is not James' baby" Lily quickly informed the headmaster.
"I see. Will you tell me who is the father?"
"I'm sure you know, headmaster." Dumbledore nodded slowly. Lily sat for a moment, collecting her thoughts. Harry stared on in fascination and Snape with growing horror. "I will not allow a death eater to raise my child." Harry blinked in confusion. His mind was completely unable to process the facts as quickly as they were being presented.
"Surely you can raise the child without him, either here in the magical world or in the muggle world. I hear that is quite common for muggles."
"That is not the problem, headmaster. I would love to leave here with my child and never look back but I believe we both know that I do not have that luxury."
"Have the dreams still continued?" Lily nodded. "And is the meaning quite clear?" Again, Lily gave a jerky nod.
"I will not live until this child's second birthday. He must have someone to care for him. Someone I know I can trust to love him and raise him properly. I cannot rest until I know, for certain, that I have fulfilled my duty as a mother to care for my child. I only have a year—a year and a half at most—in which to show my child all the love I have for him. I must continue my love through my choice of a guardian."
"Yes, yes, of course. Tell me, do you plan on the guardian simply being a godparent or do you intend to marry?"
"Marriage would be the most fool proof. I cannot take any chances."
"I see. And who have you considered?"
"Michael in Ravenclaw or else James in Gryffindor."
"James Potter?" Lily nodded. "He seems rather ideal. He would lend the child a pureblood name and he definitely has the wealth to properly care for the baby. He has also been chasing after you for years. He would do anything you asked of him. Yes, I believe he would be ideal."
"I will go speak with him now and beg his protection."
"I'm sure you need not beg anything. I'm sure he will jump at the chance to be with you, even if it is to rear another man's child."
"Headmaster" Lily replied in a broken whisper, "there is nothing I will not do for my child. If it requires me getting on my knees to beg sanctuary of a man I do not love then so be it. I will do what I must to protect him. I fear that there is nothing I can do though to keep him safe from his father's kind. Even with a pureblood father he will still have a mudblood mother." Her eyes filled with tears at the ugly word. "He will never be safe. I know it within my heart. My child will be hunted by those who follow Voldemort for his entire life."
"I'm sure that Severus would never allow his…companions…to injure your child."
Lily looked up at the headmaster with deadened eyes. "You have more faith than I. Good day."
The memory ended and Harry and Snape were spit back into the Headmaster's office. Snape stared at Dumbledore in horror. Harry's mind seemed to finally click back into gear and all the pieces began to come together. He finally understood the full implications of the meeting he had just witnessed. "You knew? All this time…you knew?" Harry rasped out.
"Well, as you can see, your mother did not intend for you two to know about each other. I believe she even placed a charm on you so that you would take on the likeness of James. Quite a good job she did with it, I do believe." Dumbledore's cheeriness sparked a nearly murderous rage in Snape and complete disbelief in Harry. Before Snape could gather his anger together enough to form a coherent sentence Harry spoke again.
"You knew, and yet you still made me stay with the Dursleys?" Harry could not move on from this idea. It was too horrific.
"My dear boy, what could I have done? Your father could not provide you the protection that you gained from the Dursleys. I needed to keep you safe. I suppose that did not turn out quite as well as I had thought it would though. Dear me, no."
"Not turned out well?" He whispered hoarsely. "You knew what he was doing to me, and you still thought it best I stay there?" Harry's questions were filled with such despair that it made Snape flinch. He was still trying to comprehend all that had happened as well as Harry's unusual reaction. This reaction was not at all what he would have expected from the Gryffindor. He had expected shouting and tears and accusations. Instead he was getting a sense of mind numbing despair and betrayal.
"Harry, I thought it was for the best. I made the decision I did and I still stick by it. I would make it again if I had to."
Harry suddenly turned pale and started gagging. He turned to the trashcan and lost what little breakfast he had been able to force down earlier. The headmaster knew, he knew it all, and he had still forced him to stay there. He knew he had a living parent and he refused to reunite them. He knew what Vernon did to him but he kept his secrets anyhow. Oh gods, what would he do? There truly was no one he could trust. Was Dumbledore really any better than Voldemort? Voldemort may have killed his parents but he did not make the decision to place him in the care of monsters.
"What is wrong with him? What have you done?" Snape might not like Harry Potter but he had realized over the past year or so that Harry was not who he thought he was. He had observed him closely over the last year and found himself completely unable to explain the phenomenon of Harry Potter. At times the perfect Gryffindor Golden Boy and by turns a scared teen, he had realized that, like himself, Harry was the consummate actor. His curiosity as to what the real Harry was like was never assuaged but the mystery still fascinated him. Even if he hadn't started changing his mind about Harry he would have defended him. No one hurt a Snape.
"I believe that Harry is upset because him home life was not quite as nice as we would have liked." Harry gagged again. "Yes well, I'm sure it built character."
At this point Harry collapsed on the floor, pale and shaking. Snape walked over to him and stood behind is shuddering back. He did not yet understand exactly what was going on with Harry but he was furious with the Headmaster just on the information that he had already received. He required no additional evidence to fully damn Albus. "You have my resignation. I will pack my things and remove my son from the premises within the hour."
"I'm afraid that you cannot do that, Severus. If you will remember, you signed a contract to remain at Hogwarts until any progeny you may or may not have completed their education. Harry still has another year left."
Snape seethed inwardly. How could he have possibly conceived this eventuality when he signed the stupid contract seventeen years ago? "Fine" he bit out. "We will be leaving nonetheless for the remainder of the summer."
"But my child, how will you protect him?"
"The Snape family has our ways. Leave me to worry about it. We will leave in a few days. I must allow my house elves some time to prepare for us and to check the security."
"But there is no Snape manor for you to take him to…where will you take him?"
"Just because you know of no Snape manor but that does not mean that there is not one. I placed the manor into defense mode when I joined the death eaters. No one without Snape blood can gain entry. Currently, the number of living Snapes rests at two. We will be quite safe there."
Harry shakily stood and swayed for a moment before he gained his equilibrium. Snape ushered him to the door and Harry gratefully preceded him down the stairs. He couldn't even look at the Headmaster. This was the worst betrayal of all…worse than the ministry, worse than Peter Pettigrew. He had no words to describe this new treachery. His head swam. His thoughts were rushing so quickly he could scarcely grasp one before it was replaced by another.
"Don't you two wish for me to remove the glamour?"
Snape paused for a moment but did not turn back. Dumbledore took this as an affirmation and he pointed his wand at Harry's back while chanting a long string of Latin. Harry's body glowed a bright white for a moment and then the light became blinding. When the light dimmed again Harry was, once again, in a puddle on the floor. Snape bent down and carefully gathered his son into his arms.
What horrors could his child have lived through with his relatives to merit that kind of a reaction? There was no hatred for Snape, no disbelief or anger that James Potter was not his father. Instead, his reaction had been complete horror that the headmaster had not told the two sooner. Dear Merlin, what could have happened?
Chapter 6: The Discovery
Snape lay his son down on his bed in the spare bedroom. No, Snape thought, his son's room. Harry had not yet stirred. Severus examined him closely, noting the changes. He seemed to have grown a bit, but it was doubtful that he even passed 5'5". Odd, considering that Severus himself was 6'4" and Lily had been tall as well. His face had lost the tiny bit of roundness that it had maintained throughout the years, despite how thin Harry was. His eyebrows had arched more and his jaw had hardened. Thankfully, he had not inherited Snape's nose.
His shoulders seemed a bit broader although he was still very small. At least his delicateness was now countered by some more masculine traits like his broader shoulders and slightly altered facial structure. Harry now presented a strange but appealing mixture of masculine and feminine. His new looks were almost elvish in quality with the blend of strong but delicate features.
His hair seemed both darker and lighter. He had definitely inherited the darkness of Snape's hair but it now had deep red highlights. It too seemed a bit longer than before—extending now to around his shoulder blades. His hands had lengthened and he now had Snape's long, thin fingers. His skin had remained the honey color that it was before. Snape knew that his skin looked like that when he actually took a break from his potions work and went into the sun.
The changes were definitely present and obvious. Unless someone knew it, they would never know that this boy was Harry Potter. Harry's eyes fluttered open and he let out a low groan. "Are you feeling alright?" Snape asked anxiously.
Harry cringed away from the voice and blinked up at his father in confusion for a moment while his memories and his thoughts caught up to each other. He finally looked away. "Yes, I am fine." His voice had deepened a bit and was nearly as silky as Snape's. Harry seemed a bit startled at this but he showed little outside reaction. It seemed that the only easily read reaction Snape was able to pull from his son was that of fear.
Snape looked a bit disappointed at Harry's reaction but reminded himself to be patient. He has been alone for far too long and discovering that he did, in fact, have family was a welcome revelation. Although he was furious about the manner in which he had been told he was still pleased with the overall result. He had long wanted a son, especially after he had seen a heavily pregnant Lily in Diagon Alley. He had barely been able to contain his jealousy when he saw Potter put his arm around Lily's waist. He was angry at the time because that should be him. Hell, now he knew it really should have been him.
Now he just needed to get to know his son. Perhaps Harry was not the son he would have chosen for himself but once he knew him better the might change his mind. Hopefully, Harry would allow that. Judging by his reactions in the office he was more opposed to his muggle family than he was to the idea of his greasy potions professor as a father.
"I must go and contact my house elves and ask them to prepare the manor. It should be ready by this evening." Severus wished the words hadn't come out quite as harshly as they had but he shrugged it off. He was a man of few words, in the best of situations. His son should get used to it now.
"I thought you said it would take a few days."
"I didn't want to risk Dumbledore stopping us. Right now he no doubt thinks that the house elves are faced with a few days of hard labor to make the manor habitable again after being closed for nearly twenty years. They will actually need less than one day. This way we can slip out before he even knows to keep an eye on us."
"I see." Harry seemed to take a sort of perverse pleasure out of tricking the Headmaster.Clearly, in this, he was like his father Snape mused.
"I will return in a moment and we can pack our things. Only bring that which cannot be replaced. The manor will have all of our necessities." Snape quickly walked out of the room to go into the study and contact his house elves. Harry looked around the room slowly. He needed to wash again. Back there, in the headmaster's office, he was vividly reminded of it all. He needed to wash it away again.
Everyone in Gryffindor knew that Harry was almost a compulsive washer. He typically took two or more showers a day—reaching four or five on game days. They didn't even comment on it anymore.
Harry quickly grabbed a towel and hurried to the bathroom. Perhaps he could get done before his father finished talking with the house elves. He didn't want Snape to know about…everything. Knowing about the showers would lead to questions about life with the Dursleys and knowing about life with the Dursleys would lead to the much dreaded looks of pity. He shuddered. No, he needed to keep it from his father for as long as possible. If Snape found out now then he wouldn't want him anymore. Or maybe he would want him…did real father's treat their sons as Vernon treated him? Harry shuddered again. He didn't want to find out.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he made it to the bathroom without any questioning. He stripped out of his clothes and threw them in the hamper. He stepped under the steaming hot water and began to vigorously scrub his body. He could never get clean enough.
Meanwhile, Snape had finished his conversation with Mindy, his personal house elf. They were even more prepared than he had thought they would be. It would only be a matter of a few hours before everything would be ready. He rushed to his bedroom, pausing for a moment by the bathroom door. Strange he thought. Didn't Harry already shower? He shook his head and went on to his room. He knew that the manor would provide him with most of his necessities but there were a few things that he wanted to bring anyhow.
Just as he finished packing a few desired items he heard the shower turn off. He stepped into the hallway to catch his son and tell him that they would be leaving shortly. As the bathroom door opened the hall filled momentarily with steam. Once it cleared he got a good look at his son and his jaw dropped.
Harry had forgotten to bring a change of clothes with him to the bathroom and the hamper had already magically removed his dirty ones. After a short deliberation he simply wrapped a towel around his waist to make the trip back to his room. After the steam cleared he caught sight of his father who was staring at him, absolutely gobsmacked.
Finally, Snape found words. "Where did you…when did you get all of those tattoos?"
Harry quickly looked down. Damn it. He hadn't noticed that his own glamour had failed when Dumbledore had removed his mother's. He sighed. Looks like the conversation was necessary after all. Luckily the look in his professor's eyes was one of shock rather than lust. At least that question was answered. "Over the past four years I've gotten a few tattoos."
"A few? Harry, you're covered damn near head to toe. Why do you have so many?"
"I needed a bit more protection" Harry hedged. "I got the idea a while ago and then after a bit or work, recently was able to finalize my plan."
"And how do tattoos protect you?" Snape asked dryly. Honestly, the boy must think he was completely ignorant. Tattoos bringing protection, indeed!
"The runes are actually a spell. The other tattoos serve to ground the magic."
Snape drew in a sharp breath. That shouldn't be possible. Had his son made such an enormous magical breakthrough and told no one? He decided to figure that out later, right now he needed to know what the damn things did. "What spell is it?"
"A spell I created. It basically shocks someone with varying degrees of electricity depending on the transgression."
"Why on earth would you want to be able to do that?"
"I don't like to be touched" Harry replied softly, clearly hoping that the conversation would end soon.
Snape took this in. He didn't quite know what to say to that. He decided to try a different angle. "When did you finish the tattoos?"
"And no one touched you between May and right now?" He quickly thought back over his interactions with Harry since he had arrived at Hogwarts. Although he had come close to touching him a few times he had never actually touched his skin, even when he had picked him up to carry him to their quarters. Harry's ridiculously long sleeves had covered his arms completely and he had worn long pants. "No one discovered it?" His incredulity was growing.
"My uncle did."
"I see. Is that why you left?"
Harry hesitated for a moment. "Yes." Snape started thinking quickly. He needed better answers and he was not entirely certain how to gain them. He needed to move carefully. It wouldn't do to scare the boy. Harry had been answering his questions with truths and half-truths, Snape could tell through his legilimency. Although he had not actively probed Harry's mind he was able to instantly spot lies and partial truths. He feared though that if he pushed too hard then Harry would switch to outright lies.
"Why did you originally start work on this project? Who did you need protection from?"
Harry paused for a longer time. He finally said softly "my uncle."
"I see. Why did you need protection from him?"
The pause was so long this time that Snape was certain that Harry wasn't going to reply. He finally tuned his face away from Snape and started speaking. "My uncle has…unnatural…desires. He…" his words faded out. Snape closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Surely he had misunderstood his son. Surely he didn't mean what he thought he meant. His own uncle? And Dumbledore knew? He knew and he still thought Harry was better there than with his own father? He stamped down his growing rage. As angry as he was at such an insult (honestly, preferring a child molesting muggle over him, dark mark or not) he didn't want to scare Harry off. He would never get his answers then. He held onto a last thread of hope. Perhaps he had misunderstood him after all.
"When did it start?"
Harry gave a broken laugh. "As long as I can remember. It only got really bad when I turned eight though." Eight. Gods. Eight years old. Who could rape an eight-year-old child? Eight.
"You started on this project when you entered the wizarding world?"
"As soon as I learned of magic I thought that I would be safe, that I could defend myself. Physical defense is useless when I am fighting against a man that outweighs me by over 200 pounds but magical defense…magic was something that Vernon couldn't do. I quickly learned though that we were not allowed to practice magic outside of school. I immediately started researching a way to use magic without actually using it."
"And you came up with the plan of simply embodying it?"
"I actually bound the magic to my body—my skin, in fact—rather than embodying it, as such."
"I see." Merlin, Snape was still speechless.
"May I go get dressed, sir?" Harry was starting to sound desperate.
Snape waved him on to his room. "Yes, yes, of course. Please come out to the sitting room when you are finished though. I wish to talk about a few things." Harry took a deep breath and tried to relax. Snape saw that Harry was not going to walk past him any time soon, especially when in such a vulnerable state of undress. He closed his eyes briefly, wishing all the evils of hell onto Dumbledore. He stepped back into his room and closed the door. He listed closely and heard Harry rush past the closed door and down the hallway to his room. The door was shut firmly and locked. His own son felt the need to actually bar him from his room.
Gods. What was he going to do? How could he possibly go about fixing this? Damn it, you can't fix this. There was no fixing of it. But how could he even help his son? His son was so broken that he could not even stand human touch. To have created a spell that repels all human touch…his son was far more damaged than he had initially thought. His spell could have simply repelled his uncle's touch but evidently that was not enough for him to feel safe. To deny himself of human touch…Snape simply could not get over it. As much as he personally disliked people in general even he would never do such a thing willingly. What was he going to do? He took a deep breath, straightened his robes, and opened his door again to go wait for his son in the sitting room.
His son. How strange those words felt! He had simply been glad to have Harry for himself but he now realized how much Harry needed him. He needed to proceed carefully, but perhaps the two could make things work. Maybe he could finally have a real family. First though, he needed to help his son.
Chapter 7: A Bit of Explanation
Harry cautiously opened his door and peeked out. He gathered up his courage and stepped into the hallway. He dreaded this conversation but recognized that it would happen, sooner or later. He might as well get it over with. Better to have it on neutral ground rather than have his father search him out in his bedroom. No, he shuddered; he definitely wanted to avoid that. He remembered all too well what happened when Vernon came "looking" for him.
He saw his father sitting in an armchair staring into the fire. Harry nervously stood in the doorway, waiting for Snape to look up. Finally, Snape noticed his presence and he motioned him further into the room. Harry sat down reluctantly on the other armchair across from Snape.
The potions master stood and walked to a cabinet on the left side of the fireplace and removed a bottle of golden colored liquor. "Whiskey?" Harry looked up, startled, then gave a jerky nod. Snape poured two glasses of the liquor and passed one over to Harry. "I know that it is rather early for drinks…not even lunchtime…I just thought it might help…" Snape's words faded away once more.
Both men sat, staring into the fire, sipping their drinks occasionally. Finally, Snape spoke again. "Tell me about this spell."
Harry took a deep, steadying breath. "I got the idea my first year when I was reading a book on protection spells. The author mentioned that there was a myth, an old wives tale actually, about binding magic to animate objects in such a way that the magic could then thrive and function on its own without the caster actively feeding additional power into it. The author dismissed the possibility, claiming that no one had ever been able to actually do it successfully. I decided then and there that I would do it."
Harry's words drifted off but Snape remained silent. He would let Harry move at his own pace for this. He could not force him. "I decided upon a sort of shocking spell. A brief touch would simply feel like static electricity. A longer touch would feel like a strong dose of electricity. Continued touch would feel like a bolt of lightning." Again, Harry paused to take a sip of his drink. The pause drew out, the only sound the crackling of the fire.
"I had initially thought to use a stunning spell but I realized after a few months work on it that that would be unacceptable. If…anyone…was left stunned I would either have to reverse it myself, thereby alerting the ministry of my use of magic, or else contact Dumbledore who, as you have seen, did not support me in my efforts to protect myself."
Snape nodded. He was just now beginning to understand how deep the treachery ran. Dumbledore knew that Harry was more than just unhappy with the muggles. He knew that his uncle raped him. He knew and he didn't get Harry out of there or help him to protect himself. Hell, he didn't even support Harry's decision to protect himself.
"Is there no one who can safely touch you? Does everyone alike get shocked?"
Harry paused for a moment, clearly considering whether he wanted to confide in his father. He finally shrugged his shoulders and decided he might as well at this point. "There are two women on a sort of all clear who can always touch me. There is also an alert mode that allows me to control the shock. If I even think the code word then they will get shocked. All women are on the alert system and there are two men on the alert mode as well. All other men are on a no-touch defense."
"Who are your safe women?"
"Hermione and Poppy."
"Poppy Pomfrey?" Harry nodded and took another sip of his whiskey.
"I had thought to only include Hermione but then she and Ron reminded me that if I was unconscious that the spell would go into defense mode and anyone not on the all clear level would be completely unable to touch me. With the amount of time I spend in the hospital wing it seemed the only reasonable thing to do. Poppy has long known of what really happened at home and she kept my secrets. She knew the basics of our plan—she had seen the tattoos. I had to remove my glamours whenever I was in the hospital wing. We decided to include her in the spell."
Snape quietly thought about what Harry had said. He had chosen the women well. The Granger girl would never hurt Harry and Poppy was a good, safe second choice. As a mediwitch she was bound to protect him and keep his confidence and as a friend he knew she would never hurt him either. Plus, they had the added strength and safety of an adult. Yes, it had been well reasoned. "And the men are Dumbledore and the werewolf, I presume?"
Harry snorted. "I don't trust Dumbledore as far as I can throw him. I never have. When I received my letter addressed to the cupboard under the stairs I realized right then that he knew about my situation but chose to do nothing."
Cupboard under the stairs? He would have to return to that later. Right now he needed to focus on this spell. "And Lupin?"
"I've seen what father figures do to their sons" Harry said bitterly. Snape was again uncertain what to say.
"I may not like Lupin but he would never hurt you. He would never rape you," he said cautiously. Harry shuddered at the word.
Harry didn't comment but his eyes told Snape his complete disbelief at that statement. Snape sighed. He would work on that later too. "Who are the two men that you have included then?"
"Ron Weasley…" Harry paused and took a long sip of his whiskey presumably for strength. "And Bill Weasley."
"The oldest Weasley boy? I wasn't aware that you really knew him."
"I've known him quite well for some time now. He helped put the finishing touches on the spell."
"When did you become friends?"
Harry blushed lightly and didn't reply. "I see. How long have you been dating?"
Harry looked up, alarmed. "We aren't dating. I wouldn't do that to anyone. I wouldn't put them into that kind of danger."
"I see. How long have you two not been dating then?"
Harry looked away and started picking at the frayed edge of his shirt. "About two years."
Snape wanted to scream at the boy that Weasley was entirely too old for him but refrained from doing so. It would not do to alienate the boy now that he was actually talking to him. "Have you informed him of any of the recent proceedings, both with the muggles and with the headmaster?"
"I thought to write him a letter today and see if he could come see me over the weekend. If that is alright with you, sir."
Snape wanted to scream that no, it was damned well not fine with him. Bill Weasley had to be at least ten years older than Harry. Once again, he bit back his initial reaction. "Of course. I can send him a portkey to the manor." Harry's face lit up for the first time in Snape's memory. Perhaps it would do the boy good to see his…not-boyfriend. He nearly snorted but wisely refrained from doing so. "Why don't you go write Weasley. You might want to send a letter on to Granger and Weasley as well." Harry almost smiled at Snape's ability to somehow differentiate the Weasley boys without resorting to their names. "I'm sure they will be frantic by now, having not heard from their boy wonder in so long. We will be leaving within the hour for the manor. Pack anything you need to take with you." Although Severus' voice had its typical snarky edge it lacked any sort of malice. Harry smiled internally, not allowing it to reach his face.
Harry nodded, set his now empty glass on the table and stood to leave when Snape's voice stopped him. "Harry…I would like to make a go at being a family. I know you don't know me very well, and I'm sure you don't like what you do know of me, but I think we can make this work. I cannot entirely excuse my past behavior but you need to know that my real feelings toward you were not what I acted out in public. As a spy I could not be seen to be kind to the Boy Who Lived. And I was unwilling to explain my position to you earlier. For that, I am sorry."
Harry turned slowly and looked up at his father. His words came out softly, so softly that Snape had to strain to hear them. "I understand, sir. I figured it out during fifth year. I knew you had little choice." He quickly turned and slipped down the hall to go pack.
Snape collapsed back into his chair. Harry had known. He had been able to figure out why Snape acted as he did; yet he didn't say anything. His son was becoming more of an enigma by the minute. Leaving Hogwarts and going to the manor for a few weeks would give him the perfect opportunity to get to know him a bit, to begin to crack the shell. He sent up a quick prayer to the gods for strength. He knew the coming weeks would be difficult.
Chapter 8: Mirror Images
An hour later Harry stepped out of his room once again and turned to the sitting room in search of his…father. Merlin, how odd that sounded! After an hour of deep thought Harry was no closer to resolving his concerns than he was when he started. Should he trust Snape? Snape claimed to want to be a family, but was that something that he wanted himself? He had seen quite enough of how families treated each other in his life at the Dursleys. But no, he thought, families were not all like that. Mr. Weasley never hurt any of his children. Perhaps Snape would be like Mr. Weasley.
Harry snorted at that thought. Snape like Mr. Weasley…he couldn't think of a single man that his father was less like. But perhaps his father would be like some of the other students' fathers. Could he trust him? It seems you already do trust him, at least somewhat he countered to himself. Could that be true? Did he already trust him? He realized to his dismay that Snape had already made it inside his tiny circle of trust…he had to have or else Harry never would have told him even that much. Maybe he did want a father…just a little.
His thoughts were brought to an abrupt halt as he sensed a presence behind him. He quickly turned and pushed himself back against the wall, providing himself with as much protection as he could, eyes instantly searching out an escape route. A look of surprise flashed on Snape's face quickly replaced by sorrow which was just as quickly masked by indifference. Harry's heart rate gradually slowed and he pushed himself back up and quickly stepped out of the hallway and into the sitting room, keeping a cautious eye on Snape at all times.
Snape bit back a sigh. He had thought they were making some headway but evidently it was more of a one step forward three steps back sort of thing. Maybe the presence of Weasley would calm his son. "How are we getting to the manor?" he heard Harry ask hesitantly.
"Portkey." Harry paled instantly and Snape recalled that it had been a portkey that had taken Harry to the graveyard during the Triwizard Tournament. He hurried to explain. "I'm afraid that it is not possible to floo there and you are too young to apparate. The Knight Bus cannot go there either because of the protections on it. Portkeys are the only way. I just made it myself. I can make another one right now in front of you if you wish to make certain that it is safe."
Harry looked as though he wanted to ask him to make another portkey but refrained from actually doing so. He finally shook his head and held out his hand to accept the portkey. Snape held out the empty potion vial and tapped it with his wand. "Snape manor."
The room whirled around them and the world seemed to spin for a few minutes. Finally, the two men were dumped outside of the manor. Harry lost his balance immediately and ended up, once again, on the ground. Snape smirked and offered him a hand up which Harry looked at for a moment and then ignored in favor of finding his own feet. Snape tried to ignore the pang in his heart.
Harry brushed himself off and finally looked up, his jaw dropping. "Merlin. This is your house?" The place was huge! It was a four story stone building that had to have fifteen windows across each floor.
Snape picked up their abandoned bags and turned toward the house."Our house, yes." Harry gave a crooked smile. Our house. He liked the sound of that. "It is quite small by pureblood standards but I have always preferred it so. Twenty-seven generations of Snapes have resided within these walls. You can learn a bit of our history while you are here and meet some of your ancestors if you wish."
Harry nodded absently and trudged up the path behind Snape. The door was opened by an impeccably dressed house elf who bowed deeply to Snape. "Good morning Master Severus and Little Master. May I take your bags?" Harry instantly noticed the clean clothing, proper speech and refined accent that the house elf had. Evidently the Snape house elves were treated differently from the Malfoy house elves. Hermione would be pleased with that.
Snape handed the bags off to the elf. "Thank you, Artie. Has lunch been prepared yet?"
"Yes, Master Severus. It is being served on the second floor balcony."
"Thank you." Snape proceeded to the stairs, walking slowly enough for Harry to keep up. Harry was still looking around himself in wonder. As incredible as the outside had been it was nothing compared to the interior. The Snapes must be positively made of money. He had never seen anything like it. They bypassed the entire ground level and instead walked up the stairs; Harry staring at the portraits that they passed while Snape ignored them.
They continued down a long hallway. Snape absently pointed out the doors to each of their bedrooms as they went but they did not stop to look at them. Harry would need to go back later on his own to see what his new room looked like. They finally made it outside to the balcony overlooking the back garden which was overrun with wildly blossoming flowers. A small table had been set up on the balcony which was covered in food.
Harry raised an eyebrow at the sheer amount of food prepared for the two of them but quickly sat down. The two served themselves quietly, finding little to talk about after the traumatic events of the morning. Gods, it seemed like it had been days ago that they had learned the truth, not just a handful of hours.
Snape finally cleared his throat. "Do you have much school work to do this summer?" He started to berate himself for asking such a teacherly question. That would hardly help him to get to know his son any more than he already knew him. Harry's answer stopped him short though.
"I've already done a lot of it. I work on half of it the night before I go home for the summer and do the other half the night I get back before classes resume."
"Why on earth do you do that? Why not take your time and do it during vacation?" Evidently there was no such thing as an easy question for his son. Each seemingly casual question seemed to stir up more mysteries.
"The Dursleys locked my trunk up. I wasn't allowed to read my books or do homework. It was the only way to get it done short of copying Hermione's or Ron's. If I copied Hermione's it would be blatantly obvious and I can do better than Ron in the few hours I get to devote to it than he typically does. He doesn't spend much time on his summer work."
Snape suddenly understood why Harry's summer work was always done so poorly. Had his other teachers noticed this? Did they know the truth about why it was done the way it was? Was he the only one who knew nothing about his son's home life? "There are plenty of books in the library here if you wish to work on it some more. Or if you are simply looking for some reading to do in your free time. I'm afraid that there is not much to entertain a young boy around here. It can get a bit lonely out here."
"Could…" Harry began hesitantly. "Could I still ask Bill over for a bit? Or else Hermione?" Clearly Harry was not used to asking for anything, much less having his wishes granted. As much as Severus would love to refuse this request he could not find it in his heart to do so. His father would roll over in his grave at the sheer thought of the number of Gryffindors in Snape manor. It was perhaps fortunate that he was the master of the manor now and not his father.
"Of course. I will make the portkeys and we can send them out after lunch. Who would you like to have come first?" Damn. He couldn't even be snarky about it! His son had turned him into a huge mass of quivering softness. Pretty soon he wouldn't even be able to sneer properly at Gryffindors!
"May I have Bill here first? Maybe Hermione and Ron can come later."
"How do you think your friends react to all of this?"
Harry bit his lip. "I'm not sure. Bill will be fine. Hermione will be surprised but will get over it quickly. Ron will be angry at you for about an hour then, upon further thought, will redirect his anger at Dumbledore. He's not too fond of Dumbledore as it is. He'll be fine once he understands that you were just as fooled by it as I was."
"Really? I would think that Weasley's reaction would be more…volatile, given his past problems and his general dislike of me."
"Not anymore. He got upset during our fourth year with the tournament but then he vowed to never let anything get between us ever again. It was after that that I finally told Ron and Hermione…almost everything."
"But they had been helping you with your project for over a year before that. What did they think they were doing it for?"
"I never told them. I implied that it was to keep me safe from Sirius. I think they both knew that it was more than that. They knew that things weren't great with the Dursleys. They never prodded though. I think they both knew I would tell them what I could when I could."
Snape nodded. Likely Granger had a hand in keeping Weasley calm about the situation. Although Granger had an almost insufferable thirst for knowledge she also seemed to know when to back away, unlike Weasley who wouldn't know subtle if it hit him. "I will go prepare Weasley's portkey. I will have Mindy show you to your room."
"Thank you, sir. You'll need the password for Bill to know that it is safe to come."
"We've had some problems with mail being intercepted. We have a password that changes often and we each know not to open any suspicious mail without it, much less accept a portkey. I sincerely doubt that he would trust a portkey coming from someone who claimed to be his old Potions Professor anyway. No offense or anything. The current password is 'lightning strikes.'"
Snape smirked. "Rather appropriate."
Harry gave him a small smile. "We do try to make it something that relates to recent events. It makes it easier to remember."
"I will go send him the letter. If you have any questions feel free to ring for a house elf and they can help you with whatever you need."
Harry leaned back in his chair, thinking over their last conversation. It seemed that talking to his father was easier than he had expected. He tended to struggle speaking with anyone other than his closest friends, particularly adults. He had expected it to be just as difficult speaking with Snape as it was speaking with any other adult. There was something about Snape that made him feel…safe. How odd.
He stood from the table and called for Mindy. Mindy appeared suddenly in front of him "Would Little Master wish to see his rooms?" Harry thanked her and allowed her to lead him back down the hall to the door that Snape had pointed out earlier. He hesitantly touched the doorknob for a moment, and then slowly opened the door.
Once again, the room was not what he had been expecting. Much of the house that he had seen, although beautiful, was very dark. His room though, was filled with light. One entire wall was filled with large windows looking over the grounds. He looked to the left and saw a large bed covered in an ivory spread. The golden wood of the furniture complimented the general brightness and airiness of the room. To the right he saw a small fireplace, two armchairs and some beautiful built-in bookshelves. He stepped closer to the bookshelves and saw that the titles covered a wide range of topics, many of which he had never seen before. Some shelves were left empty for him to place his own books on or to bring in books from the family library. He couldn't wait to read some of them.
He noticed two doors, one leading to a closet, presumably, and the other to a large bathroom. He wandered into the bathroom and his jaw dropped. This bathroom didn't even deserve the name bathroom. It was pure heaven. There was a large sunken bathtub that was more akin to a small pool than a tub to one side. The entire wall behind the bathtub was an enormous window, presumably charmed to only look out. There was also a glorious shower that exceeded even his dream shower design.
He looked into the large mirror and his jaw dropped. Merlin, that was what he looked like now? He walked slowly toward the mirror trying to get a better look. He rarely looked at himself in the mirror. He usually felt such disgust looking at his own body that he tried to avoid it at all costs. It had not surprised him that he had been able to shower and dry off without noticing his failed glamour. He could often go months without even glancing in a mirror or even really looking down at his own body.
Bill had been working with him to make him more comfortable with himself but it was a slow process. Bill thought he was being sneaky about his attempts but Harry had noticed them. At first he had been upset that he was such a head case that his lover had to "fix" him but he soon realized that it wasn't that he was being "fixed" but that he was simply being helped. He might not have ever asked for the help himself but he was starting to recognize that he did need assistance in some things. He was finally learning that the Dursleys were wrong about a great many things and he needed help recognizing their lies and trying to readjust his world view accordingly.
He stared at his reflection in wonder. He looked so different! He definitely had more of his mum in him now. He was glad to have a few more visual reminders of her than just his eyes. He also recognized quite a few features that were pure Snape. He touched his eyebrows and nose lightly, almost unable to believe what his reflection showed him. Best of all though, he was finally a mixture of two parents, not just a carbon copy of one.
Harry eagerly unbuttoned his shirt and stripped off the T-shirt he had on under it as well. He tossed them on the floor and they were quickly joined by his trousers and boxers. He stared at himself in the mirror, naked, for the first time in his life. Yes, he had changed quite a bit. His muscles were heavier now, giving him a tiny bit of bulk. He was still very small but he looked more powerful than he had before and…Harry squinted into the mirror…was he taller?
He quickly called a house elf to confirm his height, forgetting that he was naked. Evidently the house elf was used to such situations though because he didn't comment on his master's state of undress. The house elf quickly measured him and left.
5'4". He had grown two inches! He finally had a growth spurt! Ron couldn't make fun of him anymore as he was no longer the shortest one in their year. Granted, there were only two girls in the year who were shorter than him now but the only thing that mattered to him was that he was no longer the shortest of all. Too bad Hermione was still 3" taller than he was. It would have been great to be at least as tall as her.
He took one last long look into the mirror, pleased with what he saw for the first time ever. Vernon had never touched this body. Logically, he knew that he had. He was perfectly aware, intellectually, that very little had changed. He had grown a bit and filled out more. But it still felt different, especially now that his tattoos were visible. He felt like he was getting a new lease or something. He reluctantly dressed again, a crooked smile on his face the entire time.
He slowly walked back out into his bedroom. This room was heaven. It was exactly what Harry had always craved after living in a cupboard for so long and then his tiny, dark bedroom. This was the kind of room that would make someone actually want to go to…a concept that was completely foreign to him.
He was used to his rooms feeling like prison cells or torture chambers. Actually, it was just the smallest bedroom that felt like that. He almost missed his cupboard at times. Vernon couldn't fit into it and in recent years, Dudley had even grown too big to squeeze in after him. It had provided him with a bit of sanctuary when he needed it.
But here, he wouldn't need a sanctuary. Here, he could go to his room when he wanted and he could leave when he wanted—no locks on the door. He found himself with a small, crooked smile on his face. His life had changed radically in the last twenty-four hours and he found himself actually feeling…happy.
Chapter 9: Discussing the Future
Snape cursed as he stood alone in his potions lab. He knew that he needed to be out there trying to get to know Harry but he wasn't quite sure how to start. It seemed that whenever they had these conversations they turned incredibly serious, and while he felt he did need to know that information, he didn't want Harry to start associating painful memories with talking with his father. If he did then he would likely start trying to avoid talking to him. What on earth could he discuss that wouldn't start a "serious" conversation while still getting to know his son?
He sighed and stood up. He'd just have to figure it out while he worked on finding Harry. Who knows where he could be in a house this size?
After twenty minutes of searching in what seemed to be the likely places he finally gave up and called Mindy. She immediately popped into the hall in front oh him. "Have you seen my son?"
"Yes Master Severus. He is in the library."
"Thank you Mindy. Do you know what he has done all day today?"
"He looked through a few rooms but quickly found the library. He went in to look around and hasn't come back out yet. He must have found something interesting."
Snape almost snorted but then quickly remembered his son's tattoos. If that didn't take an enormous amount of research then he didn't know what did. There was no way Granger did all of the research if his son worked on his own for two years. Perhaps that was why his homework was always barely adequate. He spent too much time reading everything else.
Clearly, his son's aversion to books was completely imagined on his part and not at all a reality of the real Harry Potter. Hmm…Harry Potter. He would have to see if his son would mind changing that. That name wasn't at all befitting the heir of the Snape family.
He turned to the library, a place where, up to now, he hadn't thought to check and quietly opened the door. Harry looked up from the chair he was curled up on and started to sit up straight. "No, no, relax. Sorry to disturb you but I wanted to talk about a few things."
Harry looked at him warily and slowly put his book on the table next to him. Snape looked at the title as he walked past, noticing that it was a defense book that he had recently bought for the manor library, Curses and Hexes Aurors Wish You Didn't Know. He smirked again. Clearly, his son enjoyed the same reading that he did.
As the silence drew out Harry finally pulled him back to focus. "You wanted to talk, sir?"
"Yes. There are a number of things that we need to think about for your future. The first problem is that you no longer look like Harry Potter."
Harry nodded his head slowly. "I assume that the charms cannot be replaced?"
"I sincerely doubt it. You mother was a master in her field. Not just anyone would have been able to create such a charm. Not to mention she probably used some of James Potter's blood or hair to do the charm. And with the charm having been applied the day you were born, it has had time to change and mutate a bit. You were no longer a carbon copy of your…James, as I am sure you are aware. In all, I do not believe it would be possible to safely recreate such a glamour again."
"I see. And anything less strong would stand the risk of being accidentally canceled by a stray incantation…I couldn't risk that. People would panic, thinking I had done something to the "real" Harry Potter and replaced him somehow" Harry said dryly. "What do you propose we do?"
"I think that Harry Potter should either go away to train or die."
Harry looked confused for a moment but then smirked in a manner eerily similar to his father. "That would work out well. No more media attention, no more ministry harassment. I assume you meant that I would re-enroll at Hogwarts as your son?"
"That was my thought. You could resume your education if you desire it and stay in a safe place while we are focusing on the war."
"What about you? What about your spying duties?"
"There was a reason I was at Hogwarts this summer instead of one of my country estates. I was discovered as a spy within days of school letting out for the summer. It is no longer safe for me to leave school grounds or anywhere not under the fideilas or heavy wards."
"I'm not. I've been a spy for longer than you have been alive, Harry. It was exhausting and stressful work. Being at Hogwarts so close to so many children of death eaters in all houses and years forced me to act a part nearly twenty-four hours a day. I was glad to set the part aside."
"It is exhausting being what people expect of you for so long. It will be nice to be rid of my Harry Potter persona." Snape wanted to delve into this statement but decided to try to keep the conversation relatively light for now. They had been talking—actually having a real conversation—for ten minutes now. It looked like his hastily made plan was working.
"We can take this one of two ways. We can either claim that I have kept you hidden away here at the manor since you were born to keep you safe or we can pretend that your mother recently died and you just found me. I'm not quite sure which one would be better. They both have serious drawbacks."
"With the first it would be everyone's first question of why you locked your own son away for seventeen years and I would be faced with irritating questions about why you had finally let me out. And with the second I would get a slew of potentially more irritating questions about my "mother" and how I am coping with her supposed death. I'm not quite sure which is worse. Could we try to create false credentials from Durmstrang or Beauxbatons claiming that I was educated there? Then I wouldn't have a fake mother's death to deal with or face explaining why you locked me in the manor for seventeen years."
"It would be relatively easy to create the credentials but if anyone went to check them it would be just as easily exposed. Even if we duplicated everything to keep in their office it would only take a few questions to the professors or students to know that you never went there."
Harry swung his leg absently over the arm of the chair. "Are there any really small private schools we could attempt something at?"
Snape sat back in his chair, contemplating this new idea. While generations of Snapes had been educated at either Hogwarts or Durmstrang it would not be entirely out of the question for him to have sent his son to a smaller school, especially if he wanted to keep his existence secret. "Let me think about that for a bit and get back with you. You would have to take your OWLs again in order to have new records."
"Could I just test for the NEWTs early instead?"
"Did you do that well on your OWLs? I thought your grades were average."
"I held back quite a bit. I didn't want to attract attention. The only one I didn't hold back on much was the DADA test since I knew that no matter how I did on that one the public would know. I didn't want to cause a mass panic attack if I only scored an EE." Snape snorted. The scary thing was, his son's test scores actually could cause a panic attack in many people.
"How very Slytherin of you."
"Yes, well, the hat wanted me in Slytherin. I convinced it otherwise."
"But that is impossible!"
"I did it anyway."
"My gods. All this time I was convinced that you were the perfect Gryffindor."
"I'm truthfully a terrible Gryffindor. Ron and Hermione help me keep an eye on my behavior and they tell me when I am deviating from the Gryffindor norm too much. It is getting harder and harder to pretend though. I don't know if I am changing more or if I am simply finding it more distasteful to act like that as I get older."
"It is likely a combination of the two. But you still haven't answered my question. Could you really pass your NEWTs this summer?"
"I'm sure I could. I probably could have passed them last year."
"How did you get so advanced? I wasn't aware that anyone was offering you any additional training."
"They aren't. You forget that I have spent nearly every waking moment reading highly advanced texts since the moment I entered the wizarding world. I have read every single book in the Restricted Section at least once and I have read the majority of the regular library. I also seem to be able to just read about a charm or curse or hex and be able to do it on my first try. There are a few that didn't work like that but not many."
Snape gaped at his son, speechless once again. His son had read the entire Restricted Section? Not even he had done that! And he could work spells perfectly on the first try? He had never heard of anyone who was able to consistently do such a thing. Perhaps the occasional spell in a specific field of specialization but all of them?
"Sir? Sir? Did I say something wrong?" Harry was getting nervous. He probably shouldn't have told his father that he had spent so much time in the Restricted Section, all of it unsupervised and without permission. He didn't sleep much so he had instead occupied his time with reading. He hadn't meant to let it slip that he had read all of those books.
Snape snapped back to attention. "No, of course not. You just surprised me. Do you have any idea how…unusual it is to be able to work spells perfectly on your first try?"
"Well Hermione and Ron can't do it but surely there are others out there who can." Harry was relieved that his father's inattention was caused by his abilities and not his extracurricular reading habits.
"No. That's just the thing. No one can. Have you ever tested your magical strength?"
"How do you do that?"
"We need a focus stone. I have one in my Gringott's vault. We'll get it and try to test it when you sit your NEWTs."
"I can go ahead and take them then?"
"Yes, either at a small school or else at Hogwarts. Dumbledore owes us a few big favors right now. He can start paying up with this."
"What will I do then? I can't live at Hogwarts if I'm not a student."
"Perhaps you could enroll as an apprentice."
"What would that require?"
"You are essentially a post-degree student who focuses on one or two subjects alone. What do you wish to do when you graduate?"
Harry's look turned dark for a moment and he looked away. "I never really thought about it."
"I never really thought I would live long enough to graduate."
Snape sighed heavily. "Harry…the more I talk to you the more convinced I am that you can vanquish the Dark Lord. I believe that we should start planning your future. Can you think of any career that appeals to you?"
Harry thought for a few minutes. Suddenly his face lit up. "Mediwizardry. I would like to be a healer."
"A respectable career. For that you would need to apprentice under Poppy, who I am certain would be delighted to have you. It would also behoove you to have a potions apprenticeship. Potions are incredibly important in the healing process. Although it would be rare that you would brew your own potions you need an immense working knowledge of them. You need to know what is in them to predict reactions and how strong they are to prescribe doses. Without potions knowledge you would struggle as a healer."
"That sounds fine. I'm not terrible at potions." Snape hid a grimace. An apprenticeship with his son? "I'm really not as bad as you think I am at potions. I've done a lot of independent research when we realized that we needed to create the ink used in the tattoos."
"The ink itself is a potion?"
"Yes. It is essentially a liquid form of the curse."
"Fascinating." Snape reached out a hand as if to touch the edge of the tattoo on his son's wrist but drew his hand back before he touched it. "May I look it more closely?"
Harry looked at him for a moment then silently rolled up his sleeve and held out his arm. Severus bent over the small wrist and looked closely at the tattoo, careful not to touch his son. The ink that appeared to be solid black in fact contained swirls of deep silver and flecks of bronze. "Fascinating" Snape repeated. "How did you invent this?"
"During my second year I came across a recipe in Skin Deep: A Potions Manual. It was for a potion used to torture victims by flashes of what felt like electricity. The potion was applied to the victim and then the brewer could control the amount of electricity that pulsed into the victim for the entirety of the victim's life regardless of their distance from the victim. A rather creative torturing device, if I do say so. I worked on altering the potion alone for a year then turned to Hermione and Ron. Or rather, Hermione. Ron really is as bad at potions as you think he is."
Snape nodded. No surprise there. "And so you twisted the potion to shock an outside entity rather than the person covered in the potion and set yourself as the controller of the shock rather than the brewer?"
"Well I was the brewer so I didn't really need to change that aspect of it. We also needed to alter it to recognize certain auras as 'safe' so to speak. That way I wouldn't walk around shocking literally everyone."
"Yes, of course, your safe list and your warning list. How do you make the potion recognize an aura?"
"Well, by halving the gypsum root and doubling the crushed aniseed and then stirring counterclockwise two and a quarter turns instead of clockwise for four turns it became open to suggestion, so to speak. Now if I place someone's blood on one of the runes and speak the incantation I can add them to my warning or safe list."
"Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Why have you never shown this knowledge in class?"
"Because everyone knows that Harry Potter is terrible at potions."
Harry nodded. "On my first day of class I didn't know anything because I had just learned about the wizarding world. I had gotten my course books a few weeks earlier but the Dursleys locked them away so I couldn't prepare. So I truly was terrible at potions then…or at least ignorant of them. After I had been established as an incompetent potions student it just seemed easier to continue on in that manner."
"I'm sorry." Snape felt a pang of regret. He was solely responsible for his son's potions struggles…or at least what appeared to be struggles.
"Don't be. That was actually what gave me the idea to present myself as a merely adequate student. It has saved me quite a few headaches over the year plus it pulled me out of the limelight at least some. Can you imagine what people would say if Harry Potter was not only the Boy Who Lived and winner of the Triwizard Tournament but was also top of his class in every subject? Please." Harry snorted.
Snape smirked. "I will look into an appropriate school for your credentials and schedule your tests with them. We can speak with Poppy about a double apprenticeship for you later this evening."
"Thank you" Harry said gratefully. What a relief to finally be done with those terrible classes. It was wretched sitting in a classroom day after day having full knowledge of all of the material but pretending interest anyway. And it was even worse having to pretend incompetence alongside that. Hopefully his…father could work it all out.
Chapter 10: Dinner and a Drink
Severus sat in his seat in the dining room, waiting for his son to come to their evening meal. This afternoon had gone better than expected. He was able to get to know his son a bit more, make a few basic decisions about their futures and learn some more about the tattoos without prying too terribly much or looking as if he were trying to get information. They still had a lot more to finalize about the next school year but he felt better having done as much as they had. Things were moving quickly but they had little choice in the matter, given Dumbledore's manipulations.
He looked up as Harry entered the room and scowled upon seeing how his son was dressed. "You'll need some new clothes Harry."
Harry gave an uncharacteristic grin. "Yeah. I finally grew!" He threw himself in a chair near Severus and started piling food on his plate. The Potions Master hid a grimace at his son's complete lack of manners. They would work on that later. "Do you know how tall you are now?"
"I just measured myself earlier. I'm 5'4" now. I had been scared I would stop at 5'2". I was the shortest one in my year."
Snape hesitated to speak again but his curiosity had been eating at him all day. "I am 6'4" and your mother was 5'10". Do you know why you are so…" he faded away, searching for a proper word for his son's tinyness.
Harry looked up from his plate for a moment, then slowly set his fork down by his plate. "Vernon liked his boys young and he liked them small. He ensured that I would stay that way."
Severus stared at his son. His uncle was the reason that he was so short? What on earth did he do? Muggles didn't have magic to alter someone's body…how had he done it? Harry must have noticed his father's confusion so he expanded, although he gripped his fork so tightly that his knuckles turned white. "He would rarely give me food and only then it was just enough to sustain life. I would often go days without a meal. The damage from such extreme malnourishment at such a young age and for such an extended period of time was impossible to counteract by the time I made it to Hogwarts." With that Harry picked up his fork again and shoveled a large bite of asparagus into his mouth, fighting his own demons once more.
His son sustained seriously stunted growth because of a muggle's sexual perversions? He kept his face blank, knowing that Harry would bolt if he showed pity. He struggled for a moment to keep his emotions tightly reigned in. Finally, when he felt slightly more in control again, Severus cleared his throat. "Did Poppy give you any vitamin enhancers or growth potions?"
Harry paused to swallow his enormous bite. "Yes. I've been on a vitamin enhancer since I entered Hogwarts and I've tried all of the growth potions. The 5'2" was a result of the only one that was able to do anything at all."
It was becoming increasingly clear that this conversation was completely distasteful to his son. Snape decided to steer the discussion in a hopefully more neutral direction.
"I will have my tailor come to the manor to measure you for some new clothes as soon as possible."
The twinkle returned to Harry's eyes and Snape breathed a quick sigh of relief. "Does your tailor know how to make anything in any color but black?"
Snape gave a half-hearted glare to his son. "I'll have you know I own a few items that aren't black. I just don't wear them at Hogwarts."
"Do you just really like black or is there a purpose to it?"
"I am more comfortable in less flashy clothing but the real purpose was to save me time when I had to go to Death Eater meetings. I had to waste precious minutes getting outside the wards of the school to apparate to the Dark Lord's side; I could not waste any additional time changing my robes. The Dark Lord was most displeased with tardiness."
"Yes, I can see where he doesn't seem to be a very patient fellow."
Snape choked on his wine. The Dark Lord not patient? "Only you would complain of such a quality in him. Anyone else would be commenting on his murderous rages, his love of torture or his general insanity."
"Well those are all irritating too."
Snape rolled his eyes. Dear Merlin, the boy was daft. Irritating indeed. They finished their meal quietly, making only occasional small talk about the manor and prior Snapes. "If you would like to retire to the study we could have an after dinner drink" Snape offered. He tried to keep the hopeful lilt out of his voice but wasn't certain that he was entirely successful.
Harry flashed a quick, nervous smile. "That sounds good. I have a few questions for you."
"Of course. Follow me." The Snape men withdrew from the dining room and walked down the hall to the study. Harry entered the room behind his father and took a moment to orient himself to the new location. Snape noticed that Harry's eyes immediately sought out escapes and safe havens within the room and he bit back a growl. He would kill those muggles for what they had done to his son. Harry shouldn't have to be afraid to enter a room with his own father in his own house.
Severus pretended to ignore his son's actions and instead walked over to the small bar behind the desk. "Absinthe?"
Harry nodded as he made his way to one of the armchairs that flanked the fireplace. Severus quickly poured the drinks and made his way over to the other armchair. He set Harry's drink on the small table that separated the chairs. He had already noticed that his son tried to avoid anything that was remotely close to touch and he tried to keep a few feet or a barrier of some sort between them. While he felt that his son needed to work on his fear of touch he was not about to push him tonight, after the day that they had already had.
Harry finally broke the silence. "I don't understand…" he drifted off. Snape decided to leave Harry to his own devices. He knew his son would speak in his own time. "I don't understand how you're my father." Snape raised a single eyebrow at this statement, causing Harry to blush lightly. "I mean, I understand that but I don't understand what was going on with you two. Were you dating? Why did you stop dating? Why didn't she tell you she was pregnant?"
Severus sighed and shifted in his seat. "Your mother and I started dating at the end of her fourth year—my fifth year."
"My mother was younger than you?" Harry interrupted.
"Yes. We dated quietly—although it was no secret that we dated not many people knew of it. We didn't actively prevent anyone from learning but we certainly didn't flaunt the truth in any way. We avoided all public appearances together and we rarely spoke of the other to anyone else.
"After I graduated I only saw her on rare occasions that I could come by the school or she could sneak out. We made every effort to be together though…we were so young and foolishly in love. The last time we were together was on the night of my initiation. After we…met," Severus hastily edited his story "we were sitting in the hotel room, talking about the future. I told her that my father was forcing me to take the mark. Although I did not want to take the mark I did believe in The Dark Lord's mantra, just not his methods. At the time, I did not understand the importance of bringing fresh blood and ideas into the wizarding world. I believed that The Dark Lord had it right.
"Lily grew angry and left the room as quickly as she could. Being a foolish young man I did not understand how my words could have hurt her so much. I too dressed and went on my way. I was initiated that night amidst much celebration. My father was delighted that I was able to take the mark at such a young age and The Dark Lord was thrilled to have a potions master at his beck and call.
"I never heard from Lily again. I can only assume that she found out shortly thereafter that she was pregnant with you. I had no idea. I knew that her pregnancy must have followed hard on our breakup but at the time I was so enthralled by the Dark Lord's work and so bitter over what I perceived to be her betrayal of me through her hasty marriage to Potter that I never examined the facts. The possibility had floated through my mind at some point before your first year but when you entered the Great Hall my vague hope shattered. I was convinced that you were Potter's son."
Harry nodded his head absently as he took the story in. Apart from a brief feeling of nausea as he thought about his parents and sex he had found the story fascinating. "Did you love her? No, I'm sorry. You don't need to answer that."
"It is a perfectly acceptable question, Harry. Yes, I loved your mother dearly."
"If you loved her, how could you still think that her kind had no place in the wizarding world?"
Snape sighed audibly. "There can be no excuse for my behavior. I can only blame it on the folly of youth. I somehow believed that non-purebloods did not belong in our world yet I believed that Lily was the one who was different. She was the only one who was deserving of her place here. I completely separated her from the nameless, faceless mass of muggleborn wizards that I wanted to remove from our world."
Harry sat in silence for a moment, contemplating his father's words. "I don't think that is so abnormal. Wizards of all ages are doing that today with the war." Snape looked up in surprise. "They all moan about how terrible the situation is with Voldemort but they do nothing to stop it. They talk about the poor muggles and muggleborns that are killed but the deaths are not real to them because they do not attempt to put a name and face with the bodies. They separate the potential fate of their muggleborn friends from the fate of the faceless muggleborn bodies in the paper, allowing them to live their lives quietly without fighting back. They never make the connection that if they do not fight back then their friend may be next. They only start actively fighting once their friend actually becomes the next victim."
Snape sipped his absinthe. "You are very perceptive. I suppose that we all do that, at one point or another. It takes a personal tragedy to wake us up. To me, that was losing Lily…or at least losing her to Potter. A few months after the incident I told you about I realized that she was not coming back to me, that I had truly lost her. I reevaluated all of my prior beliefs and came to the conclusion that I was wrong. I went to Dumbledore and begged his protection."
Harry snorted. "The best protection he could come up with was to force you into even more danger?"
Snape gave a half-hearted smirk. "Perhaps protection is the wrong word for what I received. Although he placed me in more immediate danger I had the satisfaction of knowing I was on the right side, on Lily's side. When you defeated The Dark Lord for the first time Dumbledore also bought me my freedom. His testimony alone kept me from Azkaban."
Harry grumbled. "I suppose he did help you, some. He could have done better though. All Dumbledore knows how to do is manipulate people."
"Yes. As the leader of the light he is placed in an uncomfortable position of protecting the entire world from men like the Dark Lord. He achieves his ends through questionable means at times but he is always looking at the larger picture. He has plots within plots, each layer revealed when he believes it is time."
Harry stood so quickly his chair nearly flipped over. He clenched his hands so tightly his knuckles were white and he trembled in his anger. "Are you defending him? Do you think what he does is right?" His voice cracked from emotion by the end.
"No, I would never defend his actions as right. I am merely pointing out the difficulty of his position. I think that he forgets that we are all humans and not pawns—a fatal error, that. While he knew of what was happening with the muggles I do not believe he actually understood it. He forgot that you were a boy, not a weapon. He was so busy looking at the big picture that he forgot that it was made up of individuals who are human beings."
Harry shakily sat down again. Snape summoned the bottle of absinthe and poured his son another glass which he quickly downed. "I offer no defense Harry" he continued. "His actions were revolting and should you decide to withdraw from the war completely in response to them then you have my full support. I am, and will always be, on your side."
Harry looked his father in the eye, looking for his sincerity which he quickly found. "Thank you" he whispered. Harry stood to leave but his father's voice stopped him. "Do you wish to contact Poppy tonight to discuss a possible internship?"
Harry turned back eagerly. "Can I?" As strange as it may seem, Poppy was one of his close friends and he missed her. They had spent so much time together while he was in the hospital wing for various ailments that he found that he missed her if he went too long without seeing her. She, Hermione and Sirius were the only people he had ever met who had always been on his side.
"Certainly. The fire is warded for floo calls and we can floo out but no one, not even us, may floo in unless it is first initiated here by one of us. It is part of the security measures that I installed."
Snape strode over to the hearth and tossed in a handful of floo powder. "Poppy Pomfrey, Hogwarts Infirmary." The fire flickered green for a moment and Poppy's face appeared in the fire.
"What can I do for you, Severus?"
"I need your assistance for something. Would you mind stepping through for a moment? I'm at the manor."
"Of course, Severus. Just a moment." Poppy's face disappeared and the Snape men sat down once again to wait. Within a few minutes the fire flickered green once more and Poppy stepped out of the flames. She briskly brushed her robes off and looked up, finally noticing that Severus was not alone. She immediately noticed the resemblance between the two.
"I wasn't aware that you had a son, Severus."
Snape smirked. It wasn't often that you could pull something over Poppy. She knew almost everything about almost everyone. She somehow managed her immense knowledge without the manipulation that Dumbledore did and she never attempted to use that knowledge for personal gain. She had been one of Snape's only friends for many years now. "Yes, this is my son. That is precisely what I wished to speak with you about."
"You look a bit peaky dear. Do you mind if I run a quick diagnostic on you?" Poppy immediately assumed that she had been called to the manor in her capacity of mediwitch. Harry looked to his father hesitantly. Severus nodded and Harry reluctantly agreed. She flicked her wand at him, froze for a moment, then did it again. She let out a shaky breath. "Harry? Is that you dear?"
"Well for goodness sakes, child, remove the glamour so I can properly examine you."
Harry looked at Snape again, begging him with his eyes to do the explaining. When he had decided to ask Poppy here he had momentarily forgotten his changed appearance and the explanations that would surely need to follow. Snape cleared his throat. "There is no glamour Poppy. This is his true appearance."
Poppy froze. "Excuse me, Severus, I believe I heard you wrong. Are you saying that Harry truly looks like this? He actually is your son?"
Normally Severus smiling would completely unnerve the poor mediwitch. Given the circumstances, she was absolutely floored. Severus Snape had a child? That child was Harry Potter? Severus Snape was pleased with that?
"How did you know it was Harry? That spell shouldn't have allowed you to read his aura."
"It didn't. Harry has unique scarring. I would recognize it anywhere."
Snape's eyes closed involuntarily as Harry looked nervously at his father. He might have downplayed the situation at the Dursley's a bit. He hadn't wanted Snape to know exactly how bad it was. This could only raise more questions. He breathed a sigh of relief when it was apparent that Snape was not going to ask any uncomfortable questions of him—at least as long as Poppy was here.
"Well, what did you boys ask me here for? Not that I don't love to see you both, but I know that neither one of you is likely to socialize with anyone without a purpose."
"We are currently considering possibilities for Harry's future at Hogwarts. Clearly, his appearance has changed considerably. We have thought of the possibility of him attending Hogwarts as my son, allowing him to step out of the spotlight as the Boy Who Lived."
"That would be ideal. Perhaps you could finally get an opportunity to rest a bit, dear. You've worked yourself too hard over the past six years" she tutted. "You simply must learn to take breaks!" She turned to Severus. "Honestly, between you and your potions and your son and all his books I don't know how either of you sleeps."
Harry flushed lightly. "I'll try to be better about it Poppy. They worked though."
"They did?" she asked eagerly. "Remarkable. May I examine them? I wish to see if there has been any change since they have functioned. I assume that they have been tested to their full capacity?"
"Yes Poppy." Again, Harry looked at his father out of the corner of his eye. He didn't want Snape looking too deeply into his last statement. Anything he thought would probably be true but he really didn't want to discuss this last encounter with his uncle. Ever the spy, Snape simply filed away this bit of information to examine later.
Poppy grumbled under her breath for a moment about muggle brutes and uncles who weren't even good enough for Azkaban as she sorted through her makeshift healing satchel, searching for the proper tools to reassess Harry's tattoos. Snape smirked at Poppy's righteous anger. It looked like he would have at least one assistant on his little trip to the muggle house.
"Well Severus, where shall I examine him?"
"We should adjourn to the lab. The lighting is better and the room is kept sterile." He motioned Poppy and his son out the door and down the hall.
Chapter 11: Firewhiskey and Files
Severus learned back in his chair as he contemplated all that he had learned that evening. He absently tapped his fingers on the thick folder that sat in front of him. Poppy knew his son well. She knew him so well that she was perfectly aware of the fact that Harry would tell his father little, if anything, of his true life with the muggles.
Although Harry had not confided in her about the actual experiences she was able to infer quite a lot from his medical exams. The heavy scarring that he now carried was consistent with repeated rape—there was no other diagnosis; no possibility for misunderstanding. As much as his son had tried to hedge his way around their conversations about his uncle Severus could now see that what Harry had implied and what he had assumed had happened was true. Worse, he had found that he didn't even know the half of it.
To help her friends, both Severus who clearly wanted to know about his son and Harry who struggled even speaking with people, much less confiding in them, Poppy left Severus with Harry's medical file to help expose Severus to what Harry's life had been like at the muggles. And what an eye opener that was. Severus had opened it knowing that he would find out certain things about his son but even with his prior knowledge of Harry's life with the muggles he had been completely unaware of the damage they had truly done.
After downing half a bottle of firewhiskey he was no longer surprised that Harry had opted to create a spell that repelled all human touch. Merlin, it was a miracle that Harry had allowed anyone to touch him at all.
The list of injuries was extensive and seemingly never ending. The sheer number of broken bones made him cringe and the number of times that advanced healing spells had to be applied to his son's anus turned his stomach. As the head of house for Slytherin he had witnessed some bad cases of abuse over the years. Nothing he had seen could compare to this. The level of brutality involved was horrifying even to an ex-Death Eater.
Abuse in the magical world was rare and when it happened it was magically induced, and among pure bloods it was enforced by house elves. Most adult pure bloods hated house elves because they had memories of years of abuse at their hands. While they knew intellectually that the house elves were forced to obey their master's will and were completely innocent in the abuse most purebloods were unable to separate the two, starting a vicious cycle that had only gotten worse over the years resulting in the often severe abuse of the very house elves who would later punish the children under the master's orders.
Even more shocking was the sexual abuse though. Sexual abuse was so rare among wizards that Snape had never actually encountered a case of it among his Slytherins. He had no idea what to do with it. Harry was faced with muggle abuse, sexual abuse and incest. Gods, where would he even start to heal him?
His mind flickered back over the events of the evening. Poppy had examined Harry in the lab and then quickly asked Snape to leave. He did not need to ask exactly what had happened at the time: he had a pretty good idea. After looking over Harry's file he now knew exactly what had happened. He was confused as to how the muggle was able to get that far with Harry without being shocked but he decided not to question it. Clearly, the how was not as important as the fact that it had happened, again.
Poppy had opened the door to the lab again thirty minutes later, once again looking furious. Their hastily whispered conversation in the corridor had been enlightening. Poppy had looked nervous for a moment, as if she were about to do something she did not feel comfortable with. "Did he tell you about…" she drifted off.
Severus understood. She wanted to speak about his son's injuries but wasn't certain if he knew anything yet. She didn't want to break confidentiality. "Yes, he has told me something of his life with the muggles and his uncle's treatment of him."
Poppy breathed a quick sigh of relief. "I doubt he told you much." Severus shook his head. "I'll leave you with his file. I don't want to give it to you just so you can catalogue abuses but I believe that you will be able to look at it and get some ideas for how to deal with your son. There are certain things that you absolutely must never do to him. He occasionally has flashbacks of past events and I hope that reading this will help you to recognize potentially dangerous things that can spark a flashback for him."
Severus' brow wrinkled. His son had flashbacks. Dear Merlin, this was getting more and more complicated. Did Dumbledore have any clue how bad this had gotten? Dumbledore. His eyes flashed angrily and Poppy took a quick step away from her friend. "Did Dumbledore know the extent to which the Dursleys abused him?"
"Yes." Poppy spoke the word clearly, looking Severus directly in the eye. There was no possible cause for doubt. "When he arrived his first year I immediately treated him as best I could then ran to Dumbledore's office to report. He smiled and told me that surely I was exaggerating the situation and that Harry would be just fine there. I showed him the photographs I had taken to document the abuse and he told me that it was none of my concern, that Harry had to stay there for his own safety.
"When I continued to argue he placed a spell on me to prevent me from speaking of this to anyone who didn't already know the truth. This effectively prevented me from getting Harry any help unless he went to someone else first. I believe we both know he would never do that."
"The media would have a field day with this."
"Yes" she nodded. "My thoughts exactly. Harry would never willingly put himself into that situation. He would rather live with the abuse than face such a public trial."
"Dumbledore has much to pay for."
Poppy nodded again, clearly agreeing with his assessment of the situation. She looked up at Severus again, wanting to speak again but afraid to do so. At Snape's silent encouragement she finally spoke hesitantly. "Whatever happens, whatever he decides, I want you to know I am on Harry's side."
Severus did not question her at all. He knew exactly what she meant and did not wish to press her further. That much alone must have hurt her to say. It seemed that anyone who knew Harry personally was giving up on the Great Leader of the Light. Dumbledore was slipping up more and more. His mistakes were getting larger and he was starting to fail. It hurt to realize that someone you had long revered as a powerful leader and mentor was, in fact, nearly as bad in many ways as the Dark Lord.
Severus looked anxiously through the door, looking for some sign of his son. He knew that the exam had to have been at least somewhat traumatic for his son who was so clearly afraid of human touch. It would have been impossible for Poppy to treat and heal his son without at least some contact, and unfortunately it had to be in extremely vulnerable places. For his son—for any rape victim—the treatment had to have been nearly as traumatic as the original event. Once again, they were forced to endure a touch they did not want. At least this time it was Poppy, someone he knew and trusted, who was touching him—and at least he knew that she was touching him with the intent to heal and not harm. He had intended to ask Poppy here for some drinks and a light discussion of apprenticeships and instead his son was treated to a thorough medical exam and rehashing of his most recent run in with the muggles.
She looked at Severus closely and the concern in his eyes. "You want this—a son. You want him, don't you?" She sounded slightly surprised by the revelation, yet also relieved.
Severus looked as if he was going to ignore her question for a moment when he finally responded. "Yes. I have already failed him in nearly every way possible. I cannot fail him now. I will do what I must to make our family work."
Poppy smiled. "You are doing an excellent job so far. Keep at it, no matter how much he pushes you away. You two need each other." Her face twisted into a scowl. "I cannot believe Dumbledore kept it from you for so long. I cannot fathom what that man was thinking. He is the one who has failed, Severus, not you. He has too much power over our lives and he wields it poorly."
Severus nodded but did not comment. He couldn't help but think that he somehow could have saved his son some of his pain, that he could have done something. Maybe he hadn't known Harry was his son but he should have been more attentive of Lily's son, regardless of who he thought was the boy's father.
She quickly cleared her expression though as Harry stepped back into sight, offering him a smile. She may be livid with Dumbledore but she would protect Harry as much as she could.
The three had returned to the study to sit and discuss potential apprenticeship programs. Poppy had instantly agreed to mentor Harry in a healing program and she also agreed that potions would be of great assistance. Harry would spend a day and a half with his father every week and the rest of the week in the infirmary helping Poppy and learning new magics. The healing arts were quite different from the magics taught in the core classes at Hogwarts and not everyone could use them but both Poppy and Severus believed that Harry had a strong inclination toward healing and would thrive.
Harry had been thrilled to be accepted as her apprentice. He worried for a bit that Dumbledore would be able to prevent the apprenticeship but they convinced him that it would be impossible to stop. As masters in their fields both Poppy and Severus were allowed to take apprentices whenever and wherever they wanted. No one could attempt to come between an apprentice and his or her mentor. If Dumbledore tried to stop them then both Poppy and Severus would be free of their contracts and could quit at any time.
The three of them had a lovely evening together discussing past times. Harry was delighted to hear a bit more about his mother, who had also evidently considered a career in the healing arts, although she had never been able to pursue it at all. Harry was thrilled to learn that he would not have to share a room with a bunch of other boys anymore and could instead share an apartment with one of his mentors. As much as he tried to relax in the dorms the situation had always tied his stomach in knots. It was one of many reasons he was often out of his bed at nights.
Severus smiled, briefly able to forget the pain he had felt as he read his son's medical file. His son would be with him at Hogwarts! A dream that he had long since set aside as impossible would now be able to come to fruition. Granted, his son wouldn't be in his house since apprentices were not sorted, but his own son would be there with him, working in his lab side by side.
He looked over at the clock. Merlin, was it already 4 a.m.? How had it gotten so late? Bill he thought with a sneer, would be at the manor in a few hours. He had set the portkey to be voice activated rather than time activated but had hinted in his letter that he should arrive around 9. Hopefully the brat wouldn't come much earlier. He needed to get some sleep first if he was expected to stomach a Weasley in Snape manor. A Weasley who was dating his son.
He held in his growl and started putting Harry's medical file back together to go up to bed. The growl slipped out as he once again saw some of the photographs labeled 'evidence'. Damn muggles. Maybe Weasley wasn't so bad. He probably knew a few good curses. The eldest Weasley was, after all, a curse breaker for Gringotts. Maybe he would come with him on his little visit to the muggles. An evil smile lit on his face. Yes, perhaps a few Weasleys had their use after all.
Chapter 12: Enter the Boyfriend
Harry stood in the sitting room with his father, waiting for the arrival of his…Bill. He was nearly jumping in nervous excitement. It had been over a month since he had last seen Bill. It was also his first time ever having a visitor over to his house. His house. Merlin that felt strange to say.
Severus noticed the excitement and smiled. Yes, it had been a good decision to allow the Weasley boy to come for a visit. He congratulated himself on his planning. If this made Harry happy then it would be worth it, opening his manor to a Gryffindor and a Weasley to boot.
Finally Bill appeared in front of them, facing the wall. He stared at the opulence of the room before turning around and spotting Harry and Severus. He nodded to Severus in silent greeting before turning his attention to Harry.
Merlin he had changed! Harry stood nervously awaiting Bill's inspection. Bill could scarcely wrap his mind around the new Harry. Harry had been handsome before but now he was downright beautiful. Somehow the changes had allowed him to retain his androgynous quality and perhaps increase it, if that was at all possible, but more importantly it had done so while allowing him to look like an adult.
Before he had been slightly androgynous but it had appeared to be something he may grow out of. Now it was blatantly obvious that this was what an adult Harry looked like. He was petite but powerful. His eyes had darkened from the previous Killing Curse Green to a rich emerald green. His decidedly masculine jaw offset his large, beautiful eyes and long, dark eyelashes. His hair was longer and now had thick red highlights running through it but it did nothing to detract from the aura of masculinity that Harry still carried, regardless of his numerous feminine characteristics.
Bill finally drew a breath again and smiled. Harry took this as a sign of approval and he rushed forward to throw his arms around his lover. Bill held him close for a moment, resting his chin on Harry's head. Bill noticed the added height and was pleased for Harry. He had never cared how tall Harry was but he knew that it bothered his short lover. With his added inches, Harry was probably now an even foot shorter than Bill.
Harry finally drew away from Bill. "I'm glad you could come." Bill started at the silky voice that Harry now had but quickly recovered. It was only to be expected. He looked over at Snape who was still glaring at him, although the level of animosity seemed to be reduced to that consistent with the smartest of Ravenclaws—a glare level that Gryffindors rumored to be true but no one had ever experienced before. He offered a smile in return.
Snape found himself irrationally irritated that Weasley was now as tall as he was. His glares lost much of their power when he couldn't look down his nose at the miscreant…er…boyfriend.
"I came as soon as I could. I'm sorry I wasn't there when you were in Surrey." Harry's face clouded over at the memory but Bill quickly carried on. "Have you told the rest of the family yet about all of this?" Bill had learned to acknowledge the experiences that Harry had with his muggle family without dwelling on them. He did not want Harry to ever think that he either did not know what happened or did not care what happened nor did he want to pressure Harry into discussing them. Whenever they spoke of the muggles it was always Harry who brought the topic up. Bill wanted Harry to see him as someone he could always go to when he wanted to talk about the abuse and not someone who would pressure him into giving details.
"I sent letters to Ron and Hermione telling them that everything worked as expected and that I would be staying at Hogwarts for the summer. I mentioned that Dumbledore had something important to tell me but haven't told them what it was yet. I wasn't quite certain how to…" he faded off.
"Don't worry. We can work on a letter to them later if you want. Merlin Harry, you look like a little Snape dressed like that!"
Harry looked down at his all black ensemble in embarrassment. "I am a little Snape. None of my clothes fit me very well though and…" he awkwardly searched for a word to call his father. "The Professor decided to shrink some of his clothes to fit me." Snape looked momentarily disappointed at Harry's chosen title but quickly recovered his composure. It was only natural, after all, that Harry would hesitate to call him anything else. They had only found out the truth around twenty-four hours ago.
Bill smiled. "It's a good look for you. Ron will absolutely die though."
"Yeah, I guess it is kind of a shock. Somehow I feel like this is more…me though. Do you know what I am saying?"
Snape's silky voice finally filled the room. "It is natural for you to feel more comfortable in this guise as it is your true form. As the years wore on the glamour was undoubtedly growing more uncomfortable for you. It might have broken soon. It was certainly beginning to crack more."
"That's true. I was never able to change my hair at all until the summer after fifth year when I was suddenly able to grow it long and my eyesight had slowly been correcting itself. I don't even need glasses anymore!"
"Had your eyesight been improving before the glamour was removed?"
"Yes, a bit" Harry said. "It had probably gotten about 50 better. Poppy fixed my glasses for me a few times over the last year so they wouldn't hurt my eyes. She was baffled as to what was making my eyes change for the better."
Severus smirked. He enjoyed seeing the unflappable mediwitch confused about something. She was too damn smart. He turned his attention to the irritatingly tall Weasley standing so brazenly in his sitting room. "How long will you be staying, Weasley?"
"I'm not certain. I figured I'd stay at least for the weekend. I might need to be back at work on Monday though, I'll just need to see what is going on at Gringott's. Some days are definitely busier than others." Bill's arm absently pulled Harry closer in to his side, his hand running up and down Harry's ribcage.
Severus nodded, using all of his power to remain rooted to his place and not tear Weasley's hands off his body. "Why don't you show your guest up to his room?" Severus tried to accentuate the "his" part to encourage Harry to house his guest in a separate room but evidently Harry missed or ignored the not-so-subtle hint.
Harry grabbed Bill's free hand and pulled him toward the door. "Wait 'til you see my room! You'll love it. My bed is huge! There's windows everywhere and loads of bookshelves and…" Snape heard Harry chattering as the two boys walked down the hall. He sighed. Much as he wanted to yell after Harry that Bill needed to stay in separate quarters he wasn't certain that he could deny his son anything. Harry's joy at having Bill there was palpable and he would do nothing to diminish it.
He decided to leave the boys to their own devices until lunch. He didn't even want to think about what they were doing for entertainment up there. He almost found himself wishing for the old days when his greatest worry about Harry's mischief was whether he would wander into a corridor that he shouldn't be in or how late he was for curfew, not whether he was entertaining a Weasley in his bed.
He sighed. Maybe he was getting old or something. But no, that didn't explain it. He clearly wasn't terribly old fashioned: Harry was, after all, conceived out of wedlock by a boy who was barely over age and a girl who was most decidedly not yet. Why on earth did the thought of Weasley and his son bother him so much? Maybe it was some strange affliction that hit new fathers or something. He decided not to look any further into the matter, knowing he would only expose his own lie to himself. He had only had a son for a day or so…he really needed to stop blaming his strange behavior on him. Perhaps he was already starting to love his son.
To take his mind off the disturbing mental image of a Weasley in bed with his son and the rather terrifying thought of actually loving another human being again for the first time since Lily, he decided to go to his potions lab and do a bit of work. He wanted to brew a fresh vitamin enhancer for Harry. When the potions were brewed for a specific individual slight changes could be made to strengthen the potion's effect for the patient.
He had always brewed Harry's potions at school but he had never known that they were for Harry so he had not made any allowances. He shook his head. Even if he had known it would not have mattered. He would never have put in the extra effort to make the potion better.
As he got a thick pewter cauldron out from the cabinet he felt the sense of relief he always felt upon entering his lab. He truly was more at home there than he was anywhere else. Perhaps making the potion would distract him from his thoughts. He often found that if he was stressed out and he stopped to focus on a potion that by the end of his work he would have worked the problem out without consciously thinking about it. Somehow the distraction allowed his mind to come to terms with problems and to see new solutions where seemingly none had existed before. Perhaps the potion would help him to understand what was really going on with his emotions recently.
Harry pulled Bill into his room and slammed the door shut. Bill didn't give the decor a second glance as he spun Harry around and pushed his back into the door. Mouths descended into a long and hungry kiss. It had been entirely too long. "Missed you" Harry moaned, desperate to feel his lover's skin against his once again. Harry's small fingers scrabbled to undo the buttons on his lover's shirt, only succeeding in opening a few in his lust filled haze.
Bill anticipated the problem though as he bent down and swept Harry up in his arms. He turned once again to the room and spotted the bed in the far corner. A few long strides brought him to the edge of the bed and he tossed Harry on it and quickly following him down. "My bed is huge my ass. You are such a tease making me walk through this huge house making me think about you on this bed" he growled as he licked and nipped at Harry's neck.
Harry's gasps and mewls filled the room and he tried to form a coherent defense. He quickly gave up and decided to expend his energy in getting his lover naked. He finally managed to remove Bill's shirt and Bill made quick work of stripping Harry of his borrowed clothes.
Bill lifted Harry up higher on the bed as he bent down to take Harry in his mouth. Harry nearly screamed as Bill swallowed him completely, bucking up off the bed. He tugged wildly at Bill's long hair. "I won't" he gasped "last long if you keep doing" he moaned "oh…that. Oh bloody hell keep going."
Bill smirked but he released his lover and flipped him over onto his stomach and rearranged his limbs as he wanted them with one hand as he tugged his own pants off with the other. Bill was always extremely gentle although he did have a habit of simply lifting his small lover bodily and moving him to suit his desires. He was scared to be too rough with Harry since he was so much larger than he was. It was easy to forget his strength and size. He was a foot taller than Harry and had to outweigh him by eighty pounds, not to mention he was incredibly well muscled. Harry typically took a submissive role in their lovemaking which suited them both.
Some might have been surprised that he was willing to give up control so easily after what his uncle had done to him but in truth, Harry never really thought about it anymore. Bill's touch was so different from his uncle's that he only rarely made the connection between what Bill and he did in bed together and what his uncle had done to him.
After a furiously passionate round of lovemaking the two collapsed into each other's arms to rest. Bill shifted Harry over so that Harry's head rested on his shoulder and wrapped his arms around Harry's slight form. He smiled over Harry's messy hair. His lover might feel significantly taller with his added two inches but he was still tiny. He slowly ran his fingers through the soft hair as they lay quietly, wrapped up in their own thoughts.
Chapter 13: Learning of the Past
Severus looked up as Bill entered the room. He raised an eyebrow in inquiry when he noticed that Harry was not with him. "Harry's in the shower. He tends to shower quite a bit more than others."
Severus could no longer hold his comments in. "I'm surprised you didn't join him" he said sarcastically.
Bill smiled briefly and explained. "Harry has not yet gotten to the point where he feels safe showering with anyone else present."
This caught Severus' attention. "Has he ever told you why he finds showers so threatening?"
Bill shook his head. "I'm not certain but I can guess. I don't push him about things like this. He'll stop doing them when he is ready." Severus nodded briefly. "I'm glad that he trusted you enough to come here."
Snape looked at Bill in surprise. "He hardly trusts me. I still can't touch him."
"No but he trusted you enough to come to your house. Alone, in a strange place, with a man. Believe me, that is a sign of high trust from Harry. I find it absolutely incredible that he came here willingly. Not that I doubt you, I am just blown away. It is highly abnormal for Harry to trust so quickly."
Snape was deep in thought for a moment. "Frankly, it never occurred to me that he would refuse to come. I never really asked him, I just announced that we were coming here. He didn't object though, or even look as if he wished to." Snape quickly thought through their encounter. Did he force Harry into a situation he wasn't comfortable with? Merlin, he was a terrible father already!
"Don't worry about it. You would know if he didn't want to be here." He walked slowly over to an armchair and sat down. "I'm glad that Harry has warmed up to you so much. He needs a father, much as he wants to deny it. He still doesn't really understand what a father should do but we have been trying to help him over the years." The two men sat in silence for a while, both lost in their thoughts.
"I'm rather surprised that Harry was capable of being in a relationship with anyone, nevermind a man so much older and clearly larger than him" Snape suddenly said.
Bill smiled a bit. No matter how much Snape might want to deny it, he really did want to know about his relationship with Harry to make sure that he was good for his son. He would be a good father and friend for Harry. "I was surprised too at first. There are still times when there are problems, when Harry remembers things, but I do my best to keep him grounded and aware of everything. I won't let him close his eyes for more than a moment or two to keep him from slipping from reality."
Snape grunted, clearly wanting to strangle Bill at the very thought of him in bed with his son, but refraining. He was, after all, helping Harry to heal in some ways that he very obviously could not help with himself. His son had been victimized for his entire life in one form or another. He was probably lucky that it was someone as kind and trustworthy as a Weasley helping his son learn about relationships rather than someone who would take advantage of Harry's vulnerability. Harry didn't even know what a healthy relationship should be like. At least Weasley would never harm him.
"We moved very slowly. I think it helps that I am so different from anything he knew. As long as he is in the moment and not slipping into the past it would be impossible to mistake my touch for his." Bill was trying to get all the salient points out without telling his lover's father too much detail. "He hasn't had a problem for about 6 months now. I think it has actually helped him to heal, some. Having a boyfriend makes him feel normal, something that he desperately wants."
Snape grunted again. Yes, Harry did have an all-encompassing desire for normality. Everyone knew that. He still had questions though that he needed answers. He could tell where Harry was at now with relative clarity but he needed to know how he had been, what progress he had made. "How bad was he when you first met him?"
"Honestly? There were more times he was more wild animal than boy, operating on pure instinct, terrified of all of us. He came to the Burrow having fully accepted that our father would be using him much as his uncle did. When he realized that dad would not be doing anything to harm him he was shocked and clearly doubted our claims. He was still terrified of him but he was fascinated as well. He was constantly in defense mode. Being surrounded by seven men must have been the stuff of nightmares for him. It was no surprise that he latched onto Charlie so quickly.
"Charlie has a way with wounded creatures and he was somehow able to keep Harry calm and help him to relearn certain behaviors, to understand that he could expect to be physically safe at the Burrow. Harry followed him around the house for weeks, latching onto the only person he felt safe with. Although he has always felt no cause for concern around Ron he needed the added security of being near an adult who would protect him. He was able to see Charlie as a sort of mixture of an adult with power and a child who would not or could not harm him. Charlie helped him to feel more comfortable around adults, especially men."
"I don't understand how Harry's fear of his uncle has transferred to all men."
Bill paused. "I'm not entirely certain that his uncle was alone in his abuse of Harry. I think he might have…shared."
Severus closed his eyes for a moment then summoned a bottle of scotch and two glasses. He quickly poured two glasses and Bill gratefully accepted one. "Harry hasn't told me any details. He rarely even alludes to his time with the muggles. He has just unknowingly dropped a hint or two before" Bill said after quickly draining his glass. He needed a bit of strength for this discussion. Talking about the muggles was difficult in the best of situations: talking about them with Snape was taxing in the extreme.
"What hints? Are you certain you understood the meaning?" Snape knew he was grasping at straws here, but he didn't want to believe that his son had to endure this too.
"When we were having sex for the first time he was surprised when I prepared him. He told me that 'none of the others ever did it before.' I didn't comment on the slip. It was hardly a time for an in depth conversation about all of the men who had raped him."
"What exactly are you doing fucking my sixteen year old son?" Severus nearly screamed as he slammed his empty glass down on the table. Although Severus was aware that they were dating he had refused to consider that they may have moved beyond kisses and teenage fumbles.
Bill raised an eyebrow. "That is hardly a major concern, given what we are facing with his past abuse. I will say though, that Harry wanted to be with someone who cared for him. Even if I hadn't wanted it myself I still would not have denied him. How could I possibly tell him no when all he has ever known of sex is pain and degradation? I needed to show him that there was more to sex than one man's desire to hurt and humiliate another."
Severus immediately calmed down, bringing his rage to a low simmer. "I see. I suppose given the evidence that you are correct in your assessment of his situation." Bill hid a small smile. Evidently they were done speaking of Harry's sex life and were returning to his life with the muggles—a much safer, albeit more painful, topic.
"Is there anything else I should know about my son?" It hurt to ask someone else that question…a Weasley no less, but Severus would do whatever it took to learn what he needed to know.
"Nothing as major as what I have told you. I know that the only students he trusts are my sister, Ron, Hermione and Neville and Ginny and Neville are on the fringes of his trust. He trusts few, if any adults. He loved Sirius Black dearly and was nearly destroyed by his death. He was the first adult father figure that he had ever trusted. To have him ripped way like that was devastating."
Snape didn't comment but thought he might have to reevaluate his opinion of Black. He may have been an irritating prick but he had helped his son, somewhat, before he died. At least he had evidence now that his son could potentially trust a male adult.
The men sat in silence for a moment, sipping their scotch. Finally Snape broke the silence. "What are your intentions toward my son?"
Bill wanted to grin at the showing of fatherly concern but managed to hold it in. It wouldn't do to offend Snape at this point. "I love him."
"Does he know that?"
"I don't believe that Harry actually knows what love it. I don't think he recognizes it as such."
Severus nodded as he stared into his glass at the swirling liquid. "You are much older than him."
"Yes. Eleven years." He offered no more. How could he possibly explain? Harry was an adult in every way that mattered. He had been through more in his short life than most men of Dumbledore's advanced age. No teenager could ever satisfy Harry at this point. He could not endure a shallow, meaningless, child relationship.
Snape evidently was experiencing the same thoughts because he didn't comment on it. "Turning to drink already are we?" Harry's voice rang out in amusement from the doorway. Both men hid their surprise well from years of masking their emotions. Bill was not quite as skilled as Severus was but he had learned quickly, after meeting Harry. All of the Weasleys had, after needing to mask their horror at the things that Harry would occasionally let drop. They did not want to make him feel even more abnormal.
"It's not that early" Bill defended weakly.
Harry snorted. "It's not even one."
"Ah, well, yes. There is that." Bill smiled at Harry sheepishly. "Enjoy your shower?"
"You just wish you could have joined me" Harry quickly returned then froze for a moment and looked nervously at his father. Snape showed no sign of having even heard the last few sentences and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "So, what did I miss?" he said, trying to break the awkward silence.
Severus cleared his throat. "We were just discussing our plans for the upcoming school year."
Harry sat down on the arm of Bill's chair and leaned into his lover slightly. Even sitting up that much higher than Bill he could barely match his height. "Did you two come to any conclusions?"
"Not without discussing them with you first" Snape assured him. Bill listened to Snape closely, trying not to betray that he had no clue what the man was talking about. "I have found a small school that was recently opened by a distant relative of mine, Rianna Veyle. I contacted her late last night to discuss the possibility of providing you with papers. She agreed to allow you to come and sit your exams later this week."
"How large is the school? How are we going to take care of the fact that no one knows me?"
"There are only five in each year and there are only five years. Students are home schooled for what is considered to be your first two years at Hogwarts. Many of the students are relatives of some fashion or another and will be more than willing to stretch the truth. Those who seem less than willing will be given some false memories to fill in the blanks. We will also fabricate some school memorabilia—uniforms, books and photographs and such, to lend credence to our claim."
"It sounds pretty fool proof. Are there any drawbacks?"
"A few. We will be counting on a large portion of the students keeping their word. That makes me nervous. Rianna refused to allow us to memory modify very many of her students though. Not to mention that we need to track down all of the students who are at their summer homes, many of which are unplotable or under other strong spells."
Bill stepped in now that he had some idea of what they were speaking of. "Do you know how many of them are relatives? Of either you or me? Between the two of us we are related to most of the pureblood population."
Harry's face turned gray. "Merlin, I forgot."
Bill and Severus looked up quickly and noted his pallor. "What is the matter Harry?" his father asked gently.
"Aren't all purebloods related? Siri told me they were. Am I related to" he swallowed hard "the Weasleys now?" He twisted his hands together nervously.
Bill took his small hands in one of his larger hands and squeezed lightly. "There is nothing to worry about. The Weasleys and the Snapes are very far removed from each other. There are a few families that never cross over. The Weasleys have never married into the Snape, Black, or Malfoy families. We have been known to marry Potters though, just not for quite a few generations."
Harry let out a shaky breath. "It just never occurred to me that you might be related to me some way."
Snape smirked. "Back to the issue at hand. I believe, Weasley, that I am related to around a third of the students and you to about half. The Weasley family certainly does like to breed."
Bill smiled at this. Ron would have taken offense but he no longer took issue with comments about his family's breeding habits. Most comments, after all, were completely true. "Please call me Bill." Snape looked slightly nauseous but inclined his head in agreement.
"I suppose" he muttered "you may call me Severus." It sounded like the words pained him to speak.
"At any rate, can you get a list of the students? I can probably tell by looking at it which of my relatives will be safe for us and who we will need to implant memories in."
"This is an awful lot of trouble just for me. We can come up with another plan that will be easier. Or we can just tell everyone who I am."
"No. This is the best idea by far. It keeps you safe and far away from the media and it will allow you to progress in school to the level you should be at. This won't be hard at all."
Bill hid his surprise. The actual operation of the plan would be incredibly hard. Telling Harry that though would ensure that they couldn't do it though since Harry hated having people fuss over him. Severus knew his son better than he thought he did.
Chapter 14: Reaching Out
Harry shifted impatiently in the bed. Bill's arms tightened their hold on him for a moment to keep him still, then returned to their previous occupation of running through Harry's long, silky hair. "What is bothering you, love?" It was late at night and he was ready to sleep. They had already had an extremely busy day what with planning Harry's future, trying to talk to Snape and christening the bed twice.
Harry sighed. "I don't know. I'm just confused. I feel like the whole world has changed around me."
"Well, in many ways it has. You now have a new look, a new last name and a father."
Harry was silent. When he spoke again he sounded incredibly hesitant and almost scared. "Do you suppose…do you suppose he really wants to be a father?"
"Of course he does. Why do you ask?"
"He didn't get much choice, did he? I mean, he was having a perfectly lovely summer and then he gets landed with me all of a sudden. No warning. Nothing. Snape doesn't even like kids."
Bill chuckled. "You're hardly a kid, Harry. It's not like he has to babysit you or tuck you in at night."
"I guess." Harry still sounded uncertain.
Bill slipped out from underneath Harry and lay on top of him, his arms bracing his weight on either side of Harry's face. "If Severus didn't want you he would never have taken you to his manor. He would have left you in Dumbledore's office that day. I think he wants this."
"But why?" Harry sounded so confused. Bill cursed the Dursleys in his head for the millionth time. They had instilled him with such little self worth that he could not comprehend someone actually wanting to be near him, to be his friend or lover or family.
"Why wouldn't he? You are incredibly smart and funny. You are a loyal friend and a fierce protector of those you love. You are one of the strongest wizards I have ever met. You are Slytherin enough even for a Snape to proudly lay claim to you. Although at one time he might not have chosen you as a son I think he would happily choose you now, even if he had his pick of any student at Hogwarts."
Harry was quiet for a moment as he thought about all of this. Although he doubted that Bill knew what he was talking about when he had listed his qualities he had to acknowledge that perhaps he was right about thinking that he might be Slytherin enough for Snape to like him. "What do I do?"
"I don't know how to be a son. What do I do?"
Bill dearly wanted to laugh but knew that he couldn't. Honestly, Harry and Severus were exactly alike. Both so wanted to be close to the other but didn't know how to do it. "It will come naturally. Don't force yourself to do anything you don't want to. Treat him like a good friend who is older than you until you feel comfortable treating him like a father. More of a research partner or something. You two have a lot in common. Just find something you enjoy doing together and spend some time getting to know him. Trust me, it will come."
"What should we do together? Maybe potions?"
"That might be a start. You know that he feels most at home in a potions lab. Reason says that he should be more willing to talk and be himself in the lab as well while he is working. You can also use the time to show him that you aren't totally incompetent at potions."
Harry lightly slapped Bill's arm away and pushed him to the side again to be used as his pillow. "I suppose so. You think this will be ok?"
"I think it will be brilliant. Trust your instincts. Do you feel any reason to back away from him?" He prayed silently that Harry would answer no. He wasn't quite certain what he would say if Harry told him he did feel reason to fear his father.
Harry thought about it for a moment. "No," he replied hesitantly "I don't. Do you think I might be reading him wrong?"
"No Harry. I think you are reading him perfectly. I don't think that he will ever hurt you. I know that your first instinct is to distrust men but I really feel that he is safe."
"Me too. Odd, isn't it?" Harry played lightly with Bill's chest hair. Bill covered the small hand with his own to stop Harry's innocent but incredibly erotic touches.
"Not really, no. You should feel safe around your father."
"Merlin. I guess he is my father, huh?"
"Just now figuring that out?"
Harry tweaked a nipple indignantly causing Bill to let out a most undignified squeak. "You act like it is normal to find out at the age of almost-seventeen that your father isn't your father and that someone who hates you is really the man who spawned you. Or something like that."
"When has anything remotely normal happened to you?"
"Hmmm. Wouldn't that be wonderful?" Harry's hand began his gently stroking of Bill's chest once again as he was lost in his daydream. "Someday I want to have a perfectly normal life. A nice home and a wonderful husband and lots of kids and a puppy. Maybe even a white picket fence. No crazed Dark Lords, no demented headmasters, no irritating ministry. Just me, my husband and the kids."
"Sounds awful to me. I think you'd die of all the normalness."
Harry launched himself on top of his lover and started tickling him mercilessly. "Much you know. I'm sure your dream is practically the same smart ass." Bill's wiggling beneath him quickly changed his plan from punishing his lover to seducing him, not that it ever took much effort. The giggles quickly turned to moans as Harry bent to take an earlobe between his teeth. Sleep was delayed even more for the lovers.
Severus looked up in amusement as Harry and Bill stumbled onto the balcony where breakfast was being served. The two made their way over to the side table to pour some coffee and he smiled as he saw them unconsciously helping each other. As Harry searched for the sugar Bill located the cream and poured a tiny bit in his own cup and a healthy amount in his lover's. Sugar being found, Harry added one lump to Bill's and three to his own as Bill stirred both cups. Having always been deprived of such things as cream and sugar at the Dursleys Harry had developed an unusually strong taste for them, taking delight in what was once forbidden.
They finally turned to the table and threw themselves into seats, Harry wincing slightly as he readjusted himself. Severus decided to ignore that.
"Late night, gentlemen?"
Harry glared at his father good-naturedly as he helped himself to some fruit. Bill heaped his plate with eggs and bacon. Harry had never been able to enjoy any of the traditional breakfast foods after having to cook them daily for as long as he could remember. While some things that had been forbidden felt like treats to have now, breakfast was not one of them. Too many punishments had been linked to him trying to steal a bite to eat in the morning after a long night of hunger.
"What do you plan to do today?"
Bill hastily swallowed his food. "I need to go back to the Burrow for a few hours to check in with mum. She was anxious to know how Harry was and what was going on. I can also deliver Harry's letters of explanation. We didn't want to trust them to an owl. I'll also swing by Hermione's to give her her letter."
"Will you be returning this evening?"
"If that is possible, Severus." Snape wanted to snap at the boy for his use of his personal name but grudgingly recalled that he had given the boy use of it the other day. Damn, Harry really was making him soft. Allowing Gryffindors to use his name, indeed. At the rate he was going he would practically be a Gryffindor himself by week's end. He tried to gather his composure after that terrifying thought.
"I shall make you a permanent portkey which will allow you access to the manor. It will only work for you though, do not attempt to give it to Weasley or Granger."
"Of course. Thanks."
"And you, Harry?"
Harry swallowed nervously. Severus grew nervous himself, wondering what Harry wanted to do that was so nerve wracking for him to even mention. "I thought I might help you in the lab today, sir. If you want me to, that is."
Snape swallowed his grin. His son wanted to work with him! The boy had even suggested it himself: he hadn't needed to be talked into it! "Of course. I am always busy in the summers restocking the hospital wing. Your help would be of great assistance." Harry gave him a small smile, clearly relieved that he had not been rejected. "Shall we meet in the lab in an hour? Do you remember how to get there?"
Harry nodded his head and bent to his food once again. Bill hastily finished his meal and suggested that they go dress for the day. Severus looked after his son and his lover as they left the balcony. Perhaps Bill wasn't as stupid as most Gryffindors. He had, after all, managed to come to the manor, cheer his son up, make him more comfortable with the situation and then promptly make himself scarce so he could spend some time alone with his son. He refolded the paper and set it aside. He needed to get ready to spend the day with his son!
Chapter 15: Getting to Know You
Severus and Harry reached the door to the lab at the same time. Severus motioned for Harry to proceed him into the room. Harry looked slightly wary but did so, quickly stepping to the side so that the potions master would be to his side and not completely behind him.
Severus ignored that and continued to one of the many freestanding counters and pulled three cauldrons out from underneath the counter top. He handed the smallest one to Harry. "Can you make Pepper Up draft?"
Harry nodded and accepted the cauldron. He started to set up a workstation on the opposite side of the table that his father was working at. He had to reach up a bit to place things correctly. The entire lab had been built for Severus so everything had been designed to perfectly accommodate him. The counters were thus uncomfortably high for Harry. "Sorry the counters are so high. There is a stool over there if you would prefer it."
Harry smiled his thanks and he went over to the corner to fetch the tall stool. Snape was glad he had one made: he almost had foregone the stool since he rarely sat while working on a potion.
Severus pulled the ingredients down from the shelves for Harry. The shelves would definitely need to be fixed in order for his son to ever really use the lab. The ingredients were stocked on shelves high over each counter: a convenient location for Severus to reach while still stirring a potion but virtually impossible for someone as small as Harry. There were some even he had trouble reaching and he was a good foot taller than his son. He would call his contractor later today to have everything fixed.
The two men worked quietly together but the silence did not feel strained at all. Snape eventually noticed his son's growing discomfort though, as he seemed to be building up his courage to speak.
"What do I call you?"
Severus halted his motions for a moment. Although not entirely unexpected, he still was uncertain what to say. "Whatever you feel comfortable with Harry. I would prefer either Severus or Father."
Harry nodded but did not respond. They worked in silence again for a few minutes. "Should I make any of this without the Karab root?"
"Three Ravenclaws, a Hufflepuff and two Slytherins are allergic to it."
"How on earth do you know that?"
Harry had the grace to look embarrassed. "I know a lot of things about everyone at Hogwarts. I get bored at night when I can't sleep."
"Do I even want to know how you know such things about students' private medical histories?" Harry shook his head. "Alright then. Go ahead and finish that batch. We'll make a separate batch for the others. Poppy goes through so much Pepper Up that if I only give her a partial batch of the regular potion she will run out before Halloween."
Harry nodded and bent down to get another cauldron to set up for his second batch. Severus paused his work again to pull down the additional ingredients needed.
Harry once again broke the silence. "Will I take classes with your regular students as an apprentice?"
"I'm not quite sure. I need to test where you truly are at then decide. You will most likely teach my first years and possibly take over half of the lessons for my second years. You will also assist me with the upper levels. We will have a few hours a week to work one on one on some of the more difficult potions that I do not attempt with the students."
"I had thought most of my time would be spent learning new potions, like in class."
"A large part of becoming a master at potions comes from having advanced senses about potions. This is either something that is innate, as it was with me, or learned, as it is with most witches and wizards. The more time you spend around potions, making them over and over, teaching them to those who know less or simply preparing ingredients, the more you will become attuned to the subtle magic of potions making.
"You might feel as if you aren't learning anything by teaching first years but you will be. It is one of the reasons that many potion masters often choose to teach for their first fifty years or so. It helps to sharpen their senses by attuning them to the very basics of potions making. If a potion master does not return to such basics occasionally, strangely enough, they start to lose their skill."
"I always wondered why you taught. You don't seem to like it very much."
Snape smirked at his son's obvious understatement. "Yes, well, it was a combination of a desire to stay attuned to my work and a desire to stay alive. When Dumbledore bailed me out of the situation during the First War he "asked" me to sign a contract stating that I would work at Hogwarts until my children graduated. I thought it a strange clause at the time but ignored it as I had no children and could not see any in my future."
Harry's face fell. He wasn't wanted. Snape would send him away now, he was sure of it. He couldn't stay at Ron's and he refused to go to the Headmaster to seek protection. He would have to go back to the Dursley's.
Severus caught the expression on his son's face and hurried to explain. "I had no social life to speak of and sincerely doubted my ability to find any woman who would put up with me long enough to get a child. It was not that I had no desire for children." Harry's face brightened marginally and Snape breathed an internal sigh of relief. He needed to remember to be more careful with his words around his son until he felt more comfortable with him.
"So Dumbledore already knew about me when you signed the contract?"
Harry didn't say anything else. He quickly started to decant the finished potion into single serving vials. Snape was rather amazed at Harry's skill. Although it was a simple potion Harry had done it flawlessly without consulting a text. He had also evidently known how to alter the potion to serve the needs of special case patients. The potion frankly looked better than some of the potions he had sent up to the infirmary. Perhaps his son was more of a natural than he had originally thought.
Come to think of it, it actually took immense skill to make potions as badly as Harry had done at school. While Harry's potions often exploded they always did so safely, creating bright flashes of light, loud noises or clouds of smoke but the explosions themselves were never dangerous. A truly incompetent brewer would not have any sort of control over it. Potions were incredibly dangerous for a reason. An incompetent brewer could easily kill someone by adding the wrong ingredient at the wrong time.
Harry's ruined potions were always flashy, designed to draw attention to his supposed incompetence. It took incredible knowledge and patience to perfectly and safely botch potions on the scale that Harry did. It was an absolutely ingenious cover: one that he himself had not seen through until Harry wanted him to see the truth.
Harry began to sift through the ingredients to organize them for his second batch. He impatiently pushed up his long sleeves as he pulled himself up on the tall stool once again. Snape studied the tattoos once again out of the corner of his eye. His skilled eye skipped past the bands of runes up further on his arm. If he was not mistaken there was what appeared to be the tail of a snake tattoo wrapped around his son's left arm moving gently, continuing, presumably, up past his elbow.
Harry noticed his father's gaze and shifted uncomfortably. "Do you want me to put the glamour back on?"
Snape looked up, startled. "What? Why?"
"So you don't have to look at my tattoos."
"Don't you like them?"
"I love them. I drew quite a few of them and they all have meaning, even if it is only known to me. I just didn't want to bother you."
"Why on earth would your tattoos bother me?" Snape closed his eyes for a moment. That was a rather stupid question given that his son seemed to have a fervent desire to disappear from sight entirely. The tattoos were rather eye-catching. "No, Harry. You don't need to replace the glamour. I like your tattoos. I was just curious about the snake one. Seemed an odd choice for a Gryffindor."
"Yes but I'm not a Gryffindor. At least, not really. I got this one done about two years ago in a small magical body art shop. I wanted a fully magical snake so it would move. It helps me when I speak Parseltongue. She looks like one of my friends from Privet Drive."
Snape started at the fact that his son had a snake he could call friend. "Is your friend still there?"
Harry looked sad for a moment but quickly recovered his generally calm appearance. "No. Aunt Petunia didn't like snakes. But then, Seatha (Say-ah-tha) didn't really like Aunt Petunia. Seatha was angry at Aunt Petunia for…something and she tried to get revenge. So Aunt Petunia set traps and killed her."
"Why was she angry at your Aunt?" Severus was relieved that although Harry would rarely offer information up front he would also rarely deny information if asked the right questions.
Harry looked up at his father for a moment, then looked back to the shrivelfig he was slicing. "The family left on a mini break for a few days and she had locked me outside without any food or shelter. It wasn't so bad though. I mean, it was summer. And it didn't rain once. Seatha shouldn't have gotten so upset."
Snape prayed for patience. He was certain that the 'few days' that Harry had spoken of was a week or more. "Seatha had plenty of reason to be upset, Harry. The muggles should have taken you with them on a family trip. Barring that, they should have at least given you the run of the house and plenty of already prepared meals. Every child deserves food and shelter."
"It is not something that can be debated Harry. It is a basic fact. Every child deserves at least that" Severus said firmly but gently. Harry shrugged, clearly done debating the point. Severus decided to let it go for the moment. "I think your tattoos might help you next year."
Snape started decanting his own potion as he spoke. "It will look mysterious enough as it is with Harry Potter disappearing around the same time as my son appears. Not to mention that although you have changed greatly you are still similar in build. People might suspect that you are Harry Potter under a glamour."
Harry snorted. "I'd love to see their faces when they decided to test that theory out. I can just see some brave soul shouting finite at me and having nothing happen."
Snape smirked. "Your tattoos will be just another thing to separate you from Harry Potter. It would clearly be impossible for Harry Potter to have gotten that many tattoos over the summer and everyone knows that Harry had no tattoos. How did you get people to tattoo you when you were so young? You were around 12 when you got your first tattoo, weren't you?"
"I mainly applied glamours to my face and went into muggle London. They thought I was an abnormally small adult since I gave myself a few wrinkles and gray hair. I also got a few over the summer near my house. They knew I was underage but they didn't care since they knew I didn't have any parents and I clearly already had some done.
"I didn't get my first wizard tattoo until I was 13 and by then Ron helped me forge a note from my "parents" and I again put a glamour on my face to keep them from knowing it was me. Ron and Mione had to have glamours too when they went with me. It would be too suspicious for Harry Potter's friends to be in a tattoo shop with a third person, regardless of what he looked like."
"I see. At any rate, people should realize that it would be impossible for us to have come up with this plan this summer and have gotten you the tattoos to disguise yourself as my son in the amount of time that you would have had this summer. It should help to distance you from the Boy Who Lived."
Harry smiled. "There is that. Guess people will be less likely to make the connection between him and me if I am covered in tattoos that clearly took years worth of work to create."
"It can only be hoped. You must be prepared though to spend less time around Weasley and Granger. It would look very bad if my son appeared at Hogwarts at the same time that Harry Potter disappeared and immediately made close friends with Harry Potter's two best friends."
Harry frowned and chewed on his bottom lip as he pondered this new problem. "What will I do then?" Snape was slightly surprised at his son's calm examination of the situation and acceptance of the reasonable solution to the problem. He had expected something more…tears maybe, or accusations, or…well…something more Gryffindor. He bit back a sigh. He really needed to stop thinking of his son as a Gryffindor. He clearly thought and acted like a snake.
"You will need to have a few other friends, or at least acquaintances. It would look best if they were Slytherins. I thought I might invite my godson over later in the summer to let you spend some time together. He will help you out and it would make sense for the two of you to know each other."
"Who is your godson?" Harry asked, dreading the answer.
"Draco Malfoy. Don't worry" Snape laughed lightly at Harry's expression, "he's not as bad as he seems. I know he acts like a spoiled brat but he truly isn't. Although his childhood was nothing like yours it was not as idyllic as it would seem. He has always been rather close with me, given who his father is."
"I don't suppose I would run to Lucius Malfoy for advice either if I had a problem" Harry said as he wrinkled his nose.
"Not really. Anyhow, he usually spends a week or two with me during the summer. We can tell him what you wish, but either way I know he will help us."
"He hates me. I somehow doubt he will help me if he knows who I am." Harry finished adding the final ingredients and proceeded to slowly stir the bubbling cauldron clockwise.
"Draco likes you more than he lets on. I believe he just enjoys bickering with you at this point. I've noticed the lack of any real animosity between you two for the past year or so."
Harry shrugged his shoulders. His father may have a point. He certainly couldn't say anymore that he actively disliked Draco, he just wasn't certain that he liked him. Well, perhaps he did like his a bit. He did enjoy their spats. "Perhaps. I'm not sure what I want to tell him yet. Can I think about it?"
"Of course. Take your time. We will tell him whatever you want to tell him whenever you are ready."
Chapter 16: Understanding the Past
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."
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."
"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.