Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts had shown him that he couldn’t catch a break. The Triwizard Tournament had been reinstated and proved that he wasn’t ever going to be normal, either. Of course, none of his years at Hogwarts were normal, but he could always hope, right? Every year, it was always something - this time, it had been his name coming out of the Goblet of Fire. It shouldn’t have surprised him, not really, but of course, it did. He had honestly thought that it just wouldn’t happen to him.
He had been wrong, as usual.
Harry had realized that a lot of insanity, degradation, humiliation, and loneliness he had experienced throughout the term had hardly ever abated. There had been many who had thought that he had done it on purpose, that it should have been Cedric and only Cedric as the Hogwarts Champion. As if it was Harry’s fault. Even Ron had abandoned him for a time; even he had bought into all of it, jealous because of the attention Harry was receiving. Or at least that’s what Hermione had said.
He had pretty much come to expect weird things like this to happen to him, but it hadn’t made any of it any easier.
Now, the third task was two days away. He was getting ready in the dorm with the others for school that morning. He went to brush his teeth and wash his face when he caught a glance of himself in the mirror. He looked at himself, and for a moment, it almost seemed that his hair was a bit… different, somehow. As soon as he looked again, though, he was sure he had imagined things.
Why would his hair look different all of a sudden, anyway? If it was looking different, then perhaps it was just growing a bit. That was normal, right? Harry shrugged it off.
The next two days went by in a flash, and before he knew it, the third task had arrived and passed with a resounding bang. The next day, he was left numb and reeling. The cup had been a portkey. It had taken him to the graveyard where Cedric had died, and Voldemort had returned. It left him feeling numb, and he couldn’t think straight. He had seen Sirius again, only for him to disappear shortly afterward. It wasn’t enough time.
Harry would probably never fully remember the days immediately following the third task. He did remember meeting with the Diggory’s the next day, which was hard for him. He imagined it was even harder for them, though. He was alive while their son was dead. He tried to give them the winnings from the tournament, but they wouldn’t have it. It wasn’t as if he needed the money!
Harry spent the next week avoiding everyone. They all gave him a wide berth anyway, and he was okay with that. He was still reeling from what happened.
“Harry, are you a bit paler than usual?” Hermione asked him four days after the Task, looking at him rather strangely.
Harry shrugged and looked at his hands. Did they seem a bit paler than usual? Maybe, but he had a long, stressful time of it lately. “I don’t know, maybe a bit,” he told her. “I bet it’s stress, you know? A lot has been going on.”
Hermione nodded, and that ended that conversation. It wasn’t too much longer before they were on the train back home and forced Harry to return to the Dursley’s once again. If they noticed anything about him being a bit paler than usual, they didn’t say anything. Not that he had expected anything else, of course. Now all he could do was wait until he was able to leave the Dursley’s once again.
Harry spent the better part of the next month avoiding them. They didn’t care that he seemed a bit paler than usual. He still attributed it to stress. His hair was a bit different, too, and he realized he hadn’t imagined it that one day. He just attributed it to the fact that hair changes and grows as you get older. Yeah, sure that made sense.
Harry also noticed that his fingers seemed to be a bit elongated, and he was a bit taller, too. Those were all normal changes, though, right? He just hadn’t noticed them before. He was also not receiving any letters - at all. It was infuriating, and as the days ticked closer and closer to his birthday, he felt more and more alone. Not since the summer before his second year had something like this happened. He was sneaking outside to hear the news from the flower beds, trying to hear something, anything, about what was going on.
Then, finally, it dawned on him that his birthday was tomorrow. Would he receive any presents? He had also been having nightmares about Voldemort killing Cedric. It was killing him that he had no one to talk to. He went to bed that night but wasn’t sleeping very well as he waited for the time to tick until he was fifteen. He wasn’t sleeping, anyway.
Then, midnight struck, and Harry almost immediately felt... different. He just attributed it to getting another year older. There was a tap at the window, and a large barn owl was waiting there. He quickly got up and let it in. He landed on Harry’s bedpost and held out his leg, which had a large, official-looking envelope wrapped to it. He untied it, and the owl dashed off through the window.
Harry stared at it. It was from Gringotts, addressed to him. He frowned. What are they sending me a letter for? he thought to himself. It was rather odd. He almost thought about going to sleep and reading it tomorrow, but it was just so out of the ordinary. He tore it open. Inside was another letter and a plain envelope. He ignored that for now and then opened the letter, written on official Gringotts parchment. It was also quite short.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Your mother, Lily Potter, left this in our possession before she died. She instructed that this be delivered to you at midnight on your fifteenth birthday if she did not come to retrieve it sooner. Since she did not, we have delivered this as requested. This should arrive at precisely that time.
Potter Family Account Manager
Harry continued to frown and set the letter down. He looked at the envelope that had been hidden in the official envelope. It was plain and unadorned, with only one word on the front in a pretty, perfect, looping scrawl - Harry . He opened the envelope, which had two sheets of parchment in it. He knew as soon as he read the first line it was from his mother. His heart rate sped up immediately.
Harry, my sweet boy -
I am sitting here writing this letter with you sleeping in the crib next to me. I hope that when you are reading this, that I am there next to you. I also hope that I have already told you and not hidden the truth from you and James this long. However, if you are alone, then I did not survive the war. I hope that James is there with you, though, and if he is, please know that I am sorry to you both. You need to know the truth. You both do.
I told Gringotts to send this letter to you at midnight on your fifteenth birthday, hoping that if I am not around, at least you will be old enough to understand. I also hope that you will forgive me. I have been lying to James and lying to you. If you have not already looked in the mirror, then please, when you do so, do not hate me. If I am there, I will explain what this means.
Harry was trying not to grip the parchment very hard because it was from his mother, so it was obviously old. However, there was such a myriad of emotions going on inside of him. He was glad to have something more of his parents, something of her, but so confused as to why he was even receiving this letter in the first place! At the moment his mother said to go to the mirror, he felt such a sense of confusion he jumped up instantly, setting the letter on the bed.
Harry left his bedroom and went into the bathroom, going straight to the mirror. He nearly screamed in shock and had to clamp his hands over his mouth to avoid doing so and waking the Dursleys. The person looking back at him was not him; it was not the face he had looked at for the past fifteen years.
The face looking back at him was a bit paler than his own. The features were a bit elongated, more angular than his own, but not quite as sharp as they could be, he supposed. His hair wasn’t longer, but it laid flat now, so it was falling into his eyes. He hadn’t even noticed! It was straighter, though it was still black, and there was a bit of a curl at the end. He also noticed there was a bit of auburn in it now, too. The only thing that stayed the same were his eyes - his mother’s eyes, which still looked back at him. It was some of the changes he’d noticed before, only intensified.
He was taller now, too, and still skinny. His nose was different, and he wasn’t wearing his glasses - and found out he didn’t need them. He hadn’t noticed that, either. He had just assumed they were on if he saw right. That sounded stupid now. Who was he? He touched his face, just to make sure it was him and was extremely disappointed and terrified when his hand touched his face in the mirror, too. Something also seemed familiar about the face, but he couldn’t place what.
What the fuck was going on?
Harry ran back into his bedroom as quietly as he could and grabbed the letter off his bed to read the rest of his mum’s letter, his breath hitching as he read on.
The guilt is horrible, and I am ashamed of what I have done. Around the end of October, James and I had a fight. It was awful. I was very upset and left. I went to a bar in a town far away, where I knew that I did not have any friends. And I drank.
I thought for sure that fight with James would end our marriage and wanted to drink my life away. I ran into an old friend, one whom I knew would not lie to me or make me go back to him. I knew any of my other friends would; that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I told him everything. We slept together, and I immediately regretted it the next morning. We swore never to speak of it again.
I went home, and James was worried sick about me. I apologized, we made up, and I thought nothing of it. I never told him that I had cheated. Until a month later, I discovered I was pregnant. I told myself that it had to be James’, but I knew that there was every chance it might not be. So, I made a paternity potion. I knew how happy James was at being a father and felt horrible for my betrayal. I tested it when you were born against James… and it was false.
James Potter is not your father. I put a very precise glamour on you to hide it when I found out because I was so ashamed at what I had done. If this has failed you, then I am sorry that I never took it off. I should never have put it on, but now it is too late.
I hope that I have already told you. The truth is, I am thinking about coming clean when the war is over. We are in hiding right now, and it just isn’t the right time. I know that James would be okay though it would be hard for him to take. If he is there and I am not… James, please know that I am sorry, truly, and sincerely sorry. I love you both more than anything, and it was never my intention to hurt either of you. You must know the truth, though.
Your biological father is Severus Snape. I have no idea if you know him, but I beg you to find him. I never told him anything.
Severus is a complicated person. Before our meeting at the end of October, I hadn’t spoken to him since we left Hogwarts, and we stopped being friends years before then. He has had a difficult life and has not made the right decisions. He deserves to know the truth and to be given a chance to be in your life. I hope he already is, but I have no way of knowing how this war will turn out or if I will tell him the truth when it is.
If you are alone right now, I cannot apologize enough for what I have done and for the lies that I have led you and everyone else to believe. Please know that I love you more than anything, and I never meant to hurt you.
P.S. I have also written a letter, which is to be delivered to Severus at the same time as yours.
With two phrases, Harry felt like his whole world was crashing down upon him - James Potter is not your father, and Your biological father is Severus Snape. He put his head in between his knees to try to stop himself from hyperventilating. He wanted to believe that it was all fake, and he just kept repeating the word “No” over and over again. Deep down, he knew it wasn’t. He had noticed something familiar in the face that had been looking back at him in the mirror, and now he knew why.
The letter was now on the floor, and he looked at the longer fingers of his hand. He remembered the angular features of his face - his new face, he thought as his heart sunk even further. He knew where he had recognized the features. He had seen them every day in Potions class, every day at the teacher’s table in the Great Hall. It was of a man who glared at him and made his and his friend’s lives absolutely miserable.
It was of his father.
Tears were now freely streaming down Harry’s face. What was he supposed to do? Harry quickly grabbed a spare bit of parchment from the floorboard, along with his quill, and quickly wrote a letter to Sirius. He didn’t know what else to do, but he knew, as of right now, his life was over. He was never leaving this room, and he had no idea what to tell the Dursleys come morning. They couldn’t see him like this. They would throw him out, and he had nowhere else to go.
Please come quick. Something happened. I’m so confused. Please come. I got a letter from Mum last night, and now… I look different. Something changed. Something’s seriously wrong with me. Please come. I don’t know what to do. Help me.
Harry quickly released Hedwig, waking her up and then tied the letter to her leg. “Please, hurry,” he told her, stroking her feathers. “Please.” He gasped as he watched her leave. His voice was even different now. It was deeper, not like his real voice - his old voice .
He was still crying and curled up on the bed. His knees were no longer knobbly, like before. His glasses were still sitting on the bedside table where he’d put them before going to bed last night. He’d never need them now, he thought to himself as the tears flowed down his cheeks. So, my father is a man who hates me? How can I ever face him, look him in the eye again? He had never felt more lost and alone. He could only hope that Sirius would come and fix this, tell him none of it was true.
Somehow, though, deep down, he knew that it was - and looking in the mirror was proof of that.