|Through the Walls
Author: enahma PM
Third (last) part of the complete HDH trilogy. Post GoF. Snape is Obliviated, Sirius is a Squib, Hermione is grieving, the war turns even crueller and Quietus is struggling to regain his lost happiness - again.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Harry P. & Severus S. - Chapters: 20 - Words: 140,507 - Reviews: 1,343 - Favs: 432 - Follows: 45 - Updated: 12-17-03 - Published: 08-20-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1485544
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
WARNING: This is the sequel of my previous stories 'Happy Days in Hell', 'Even the Fear Left Me' and 'Coming off the Ropes'. If you didn't read them, please, leave now; it wouldn't make any sense, because this is the final part of those stories.
Betaed by Barbara
SOME NOTES ABOUT VARIOUS THINGS, PLEASE READ IT!
So, I'm here AGAIN! Today, when I read through my sketch, I had the disquieting feeling that it would be longer than that 20 chapters I promised before, but... All right, I don't know yet.
And one thing about the reviews: thank you very much for your encouraging (many times praising) words, but you're spoiling me. And since I don't want to spoil this part of the trilogy I have to ask a favour from you: please, let me know if you think I left something out, or I didn't answer an important problem, or I didn't explain not understandable facts or events. (I really appreciate athenakitty's reviews, because she always asks a lot of questions and they often remind me not to leave something out!) You know, when you write a story many things are evident for you (aka the author) and you don't find necessary to explain or write down things in a more detailed way, and your readers are at a loss.
I generally don't react (in writing) to the received reviews (I simply have no time), but I try to answer every e-mail I give.
I tell you a secret: without the help of the cited readers, the following story (Through the Walls) would be much worse. They are:
Barbara - well, she's my beta, but she always tells me if there are mistakes or left-out things in the storyline.
Lunatic, who always left me some helping notes.
sev1970, ShortySC, Potter-Freak, Ottilchen, LadyBird, Earl, Penny6, RADKA, Tim H. Smith and Rowan - they also pointed out my mistakes or suggested things I'd better explain in the sequel.
I owe special thanks to Kateri, fyre and ickleiss for their reviews and understanding.
Many thanks to everybody who reviewed my past stories!
And if somebody knows another place in the web where I could store my stories (NOT FictionAlley - I hate that page more than I despise ff.net), please, let me know.
Let the magic begin!
Chapter 1 - How to be a Muggle?
"You are joking, Quietus. I'm sure we can't pay with a CARD! It's like magic, not a muggle invention!" Black whispered desperately into Harry's ear. Hermione, who heard his remark, snickered.
Harry flung out his arms in mimicked exasperation and winked at the two girls. Anne didn't notice his wink, she was entirely focused on her ice cream, but Hermione winked back. Harry's smile widened when he caught the girl's slightly carefree expression - it was the first time since her parents' death that she didn't wear that painful and somehow wondering expression on her face.
"I can't believe you still don't understand, Sirius," Harry sighed. "As I've already told you that machine is in telephone contact..."
"Stop!" Black rolled his eyes. "I don't want another boring explanation about Mug- ahem... techniques," he cast a sidelong glance at a woman who stood in the queue of the next register eyeing them curiously.
"Can I have another ice cream, Sirius?" Anne opened her mouth. Black looked at her, and his expression turned shocked. Harry followed his gaze and giggled. Anne's face was completely covered by chocolate cream, as well as her clothes.
"God in heaven," Black mumbled and began to search for a handkerchief in his pockets, but Hermione was faster. She wiped the brownish remainders from Anne's face with her own handkerchief and shook her head slightly towards Black who was about to offer another sweet to the little girl.
"I don't think it's a good idea," she said and Black agreed fast-
"Yeah, Hermione's right, Anne."
"Why?" Anne's big brown eyes looked pleadingly at the adult. "I..."
"We are going home by bus, Anne. I don't think you are allowed to eat melting and dripping ice cream on it," Hermione answered her question and Black nodded in agreement. Harry grinned as he saw them. The sight was almost familiar to him: it was repeated every time they went out shopping since Hermione and he had returned from Hogwarts.
'Muggle Studies' as Hermione called it. It, however, reminded Harry of a training course on the topic of 'How to be a good husband' or 'How a father's supposed to behave.' Hermione had been always chastising Sirius for his lenient behaviour towards Anne and she had started trying to correct his spoilage as soon as she had moved in.
Seeing Black's somewhat miserable expression, the woman in the next queue smiled at him sympathetically.
"It's not easy with kids, isn't it?"
Hermione straightened up and cast an indignant glance at her, but Black was simply shocked by her words. Harry, on the contrary, was enjoying the situation.
"I'm not a kid," Hermione said offended.
"Of course you're not," Black said. Harry snickered again. The woman rolled her eyes.
"Teens," she told him with a flash of understanding on her face. "I have two."
Now, Black was clearly frightened.
Harry had to bite back a laugh. He choked. Hermione turned her head to him and comprehension dawned on her face.
"Oh..." she said in fluster.
"They aren't mine," Black managed to mutter. The woman's eyes widened, but Harry couldn't decide whether she was surprised or suspicious.
"He is our guardian," Harry added hurriedly. Surely, Black was always behaving so stupidly! Why did he have to tell her the truth?
"Yeah, they are orphans," Sirius hastily confirmed Harry's words.
The woman's expression softened and she cast a closer glance at Black.
"Noble task," she nodded solemnly. "To raise up those poor things..."
Black just nodded uncertainly. Hermione flushed.
"Let's move, Sirius. We are next," Harry whispered and nodded towards the cash desk. "And don't forget: green button, your PIN and the green again."
Black was very self-satisfied when they left the register.
"It's like doing magic again," he explained to Harry as they headed towards the bus stop.
"There are many magical things in the Muggle world, you'll see," Hermione said. "In the next week, electricity and telephone will be installed in your house..."
"...it will be a typical Muggle house then," Black mumbled sadly.
"It won't be too bad, Sirius," Anne suddenly said. "We won't need Quiet or Hermione or the other men's help to turn on or off the light and we can call granddad whenever we want!"
Dumbledore discovered that Anne's grandfather was still alive, but too ill to take care of the girl. Anne and Sirius had already visited him in the hospital and he had made them promise to call and visit him on a regular basis. The old man was overwhelmed when he learned that his granddaughter was alive: he had believed himself being the last living member of his family. His daughter's death (Anne's mother was his daughter) had killed his wife and severely damaged his health as well.
Anne's granddad in the hospital made Harry remember Severus suddenly. The mere thought of his 'dad' (it was awfully strange now for Harry to think Severus as his 'dad') saddened him. Things didn't go well with him, not at all. Harry hadn't been allowed to see him for two weeks: whenever he went to St Mungo's the healers had caught him and sent back to Black Manor. He wasn't allowed to visit him.
"When?" he always asked.
"In due time," was the only answer.
"He needs time to adjust," they said and accompanied him to the closest fireplace pushing a handful of Floo powder into his hand.
Every time Harry heard these words he felt as if cold hands grabbed his throat and...
"Quiet? Are you all right?" a warm touch on his arm dragged him out of his daze.
"Yeah. Fine," he mumbled.
They were already sitting in the bus heading towards Black's house. Harry lifted his eyes to Hermione's face and saw her worry. Her chocolate orbs looked at him with obvious concern.
"It's Severus, isn't it?" she asked quietly.
Harry averted his glance from her to Sirius and Anne. They were deep in a conversation about a certain Mike, who, as Harry had learned from Anne some days ago, was one of the girl's classmates. Harry turned back to Hermione.
"I don't think he will regain his memories," he said just as quietly as her.
"Yes, you've already told that. Are you sure?"
Hermione sneaked her hand to Harry's and squeezed it reassuringly.
"Everything will be all right, you'll see."
Harry shook his head.
"I don't know," he said, but Hermione's concern eased his sorrow somehow.
Since they'd arrived to Black Manor their friendship had developed enormously. It had begun at the first night there, when an especially nasty nightmare woke Harry. He hadn't even tried to go back to sleep, he knew himself too well to attempt it. Instead, he had got up and still under the nightmare's effect staggered to the kitchen to have a mug of hot chocolate or a cup of tea before reading. Reading had become his custom in the last months, since he had to leave Severus's quarters and he had to face his night-time monsters alone.
So, he was about to go to the kitchen when, walking in the corridor, he had heard a muffled voice from the living room. Hermione had been there curled up in one corner of the couch, crying. Crying, without tears: it had been so familiar to Harry, it reminded him of Severus's silent suffering. Without thinking he had sat next to her, first feeling not a little awkward not knowing what to do. He hadn't wanted to talk, at least not immediately, and he knew only one way to calm her down, to offer help: physical contact. He had put a tentative arm on her shoulders, alarming her at first, but a moment later she had accepted his comfort and cuddled tightly to him. Harry's first feeling had been an almost overwhelming nausea at the too close bodily contact, but he had forced himself to hold her, hugging her even more tightly, and the uncomfortable feeling left.
"I don't want to live any more," Hermione had said trembling and clinging on Harry. "Life stinks."
Harry had murmured some nonsense in return and finally, the first sobs erupted from Hermione and she just cried and cried for long minutes, perhaps hours, her tears had soaked Harry's pyjamas. They had been sitting there until Hermione fell asleep exhausted from crying - and the next day she had confessed that it was the first time she had let herself grieve.
After that night, they had spent many similar hours in the living room, sitting, talking, drinking hot chocolate, reading - anything just not to be alone in their bedrooms. Usually, Hermione fell asleep on the couch, and Harry levitated her to her room (he could use magic in Black Manor, since it was the Headquarters of the Order and it had strong damping spells on it so magic use inside wouldn't be detected by the Ministry) and went to sleep.
Their conversations had been mostly about Hermione - Harry hadn't felt ready to talk about Severus.
Not until this moment.
"I miss him," he whispered and Hermione leaned toward him and clasped his hand more strongly.
"He will be back," her brown eyes were blazing now. "He will learn again to love you."
"I have to lie to him. Dumbledore forced me. I think once he will know the truth he will reject me once and for all."
"He will believe I'm cheating him."
"Are you sure?"
"I know him," Harry's answer was too definite to leave any more room for arguing.
Not much later they were back in the Manor having lunch together with some Order members, then Harry bid them goodbye and went to the hospital, like every previous day.
This time, however, the Head Healer seized him before he could be caught by any other healer.
"Mr Snape, please, for a word," she said quietly, but very firmly so Harry couldn't even try to protest. He followed the woman obediently. "To my office," she ushered him inside. "Sit down, please."
Harry sat down, but he didn't dare to look up until he felt the healer's eyes on him, who, in the meantime seated herself behind her desk.
"Is there something wrong?" he asked in a tiny, fearful voice, praying for a reassuring answer.
"Er... no, not really. Your father is seemingly all right, but... Look, Quietus," the woman's voice suddenly sounded warmer and softer and every official hint disappeared from her behaviour. "Albus told me that you're going to live with him from the 1st of August..."
"Wait!" Harry exclaimed. It was something he'd never heard before. "Can I... Will I... he..."
The witch smiled at him.
"Yes, we'll release him then..." she began but Harry interrupted her-
"It means that he will recover and regain his memories by then?"
The smile faded from the kind face and Harry could see the lines of tiredness and sadness replacing its place.
"No, I don't think so. And... this is the reason I want to talk to you. But," she lifted her hand forbiddingly as Harry opened his mouth to cut in again. "I ask you to listen to me attentively first, and after, if you still don't understand something I will explain it. Right?"
Harry just nodded and leaned back into the chair he was sitting in. The healer inhaled deeply, then she pulled out her wand and cast several locking, silencing and anti-eavesdropping spell onto the room. Once she finished she circled her desk and put out the fire of the fireplace and leaning to the mantelpiece she turned her head to Harry.
"In order to aid Severus's healing Albus told me everything he thought I must know about him - and naturally about you. He even revealed to me your real identity asking my total discretion in the matter..."
"Why does he trust you?" Harry couldn't bite back the question. The woman cast an annoyed glance at him, but her annoyance disappeared soon.
"Well... it's understandable that you don't trust almost anybody, but look lad, I knew Albus for fifty years or more so, I've been tending ill people since I left Hogwarts almost eighty years ago..."
"But you don't look like more than forty!" Harry cried with surprise and straightened up. The woman smiled again.
"I'm ninety-six, young man, and thank you for your compliment."
Harry slumped back into the chair embarrassed. "Sorry," he muttered.
"No need," the smile shone for another moment on the kind face then waned again. "So, where to begin?" she mused for a while, then she began. "It's not the first time I have treated Severus. He was my patient almost sixteen years ago, after Albus brought him out of Azkaban, so I knew a great deal about him. I knew about his family, his brother, his past as a Death Eater and later as Albus's spy, and even about his problems with his schoolmates, because all these were - and still are - his worst memories he was compelled to re-live several times in the prison. Albus really didn't have a lot to tell me about him, just the last year really, which was completely unknown for me, because before that he led a quiet life in Hogwarts devoting himself to his profession... but that's not important for you to know," she stepped up to the other chair facing Harry's and sat down. "As you know, he cast a very complex Memory Charm on himself. Basically, he Obliviated two things: the last one year and - in order to prevent his captors' possible guessing - his memories about his brother. The first isn't a big deal, it's generally easily reparable under certain circumstances, and even if you can't repair it, it doesn't cause serious problems. It's like a simple amnesia. Do you know what that is?" when Harry nodded, she went on. "The second, however, is much more serious. There are too many things in Severus's life and memories, which are connected with his brother. Quietus, your biological father, always played an exorbitantly big role in his life. He hardly has any independent memories. Which means that his whole emotional life was turned upside down. His whole childhood now is a mess for him. He has memories about his parents, but these are only pictures, because Quietus was always there with him. He doesn't know what he feels towards his parents now - when he was a child he respected them, later his respect turned into hatred, but both his respect and hatred was just a part of his web of life, which contained Quietus too and his feelings modified severely Severus's own emotions... He has almost completely lost track of his past motives. He hardly understands himself, he knew many thing about himself, but he can't see why he chose one way above another..."
"But... it doesn't mean that he will go crazy, does it?" Harry choked through his narrowed throat, his hand clutching desperately the arms of the chair.
"No I don't think he will. He is a very strong person and although he needed some time to regain his self-control he is almost all right now."
"Was he... mad? Was that the reason I couldn't visit him?"
"No," the woman said firmly. "He wasn't 'mad' in any sense of the word. He was depressed and he didn't want to see anybody for a week. After, he was irritated so much that I didn't allowed you to visit him, because I didn't want to risk hurting you - emotionally, of course. He had several quarrels with Albus and with me, it took some time to persuade him about the necessity of the future treatment. He finally agreed, but he didn't want to see you at all. In the end Albus suggested letting you in the process and I found it a good idea..."
"He doesn't want to see me." Harry shut his eyes feeling the pricking of the tears underneath his lashes. Severus, again, was his... enemy instead of- of what? Father? Friend?
"He doesn't know you, Quietus, he..."
"But it's not my bloody fault!" Harry cried with distress. The healer just nodded at him with comprehension.
"I know. And I understand if you feel all of it is unjust toward you, but we can hardly do anything about it. You have to regain his trust. This summer will give you the chance to do it: you will be involved into his treatment and you will spend the whole of August with him."
"How did he accept my involvement?"
"Surprisingly well. He had a little tantrum about stupid teenage boys, but Albus told him that you were the best student of your year and it made him think. Finally, he didn't protest when I announced him your visit today - I hoped that you would show up even today just like the past weeks."
"So... I can visit him," Harry said, but it was a question rather than a statement.
"Yes, you can. One more thing yet, Quietus," the woman told him just as he jumped to his feet. "You can't tell him anything about the past."
"Anything?" Harry asked with total disbelief. "But then... why?"
"Your stories could interfere with Severus's slowly emerging memories and the interference might be so serious that it could damage his memory beyond repair. Any every memory is connected to another, so it could cause a domino effect amongst his memories."
"It COULD cause necessarily, or it MIGHT cause accidentally?" Harry retorted fast and sharply.
"It's all accidental, young man, but you can never know what would cause a similar effect like that on him," suddenly, she showed her age: Harry could see it in the eyes, in the wrinkles, in the slight frown around her mouth.
"So, I can't talk to him," Harry said irritated. "I can sit with him in silence enjoying his temper tantrums or what?"
"No need to snap, Mr Snape," the warm tone turned a little colder. "You can talk about many things, which are not connected to his memories. You can talk about the facts, for example, but you can't talk about the events."
Harry felt confusion.
"I don't understand, madam," he said a little more politely this time.
"You can tell him the mere facts without any description if the topic is connected to any of his memories directly. But you can tell him whole stories with full description he wasn't present at."
"I understand. I can't give him mental images so as not to corrupt his slowly emerging memories."
"Precisely. And you can't give him hints about HIS feelings in past situations. Or more: the best is if you don't speak about his past feelings to him at all."
Harry lifted his hand to his head and massaged his temples and rubbed his aching eyes.
"It will be damned hard. It's impossible."
"Albus thinks you are intelligent enough to do it."
"Well... any tips how to do that?"
"Count up to ten before answering a question."
"Oh, the son finally remembered that he has a father!" Snape lifted his head and sent a sneer towards Harry's direction. The word 'son' from his mouth sounded like an insult. Harry stopped dead in the door and swallowed hard.
"I was here every day. The healers didn't let me visit you," his voice was barely above a whisper.
"Fortunately," Snape's sneer deepened. "So? What are you doing here?"
Harry felt extremely stupid. Really, what was he doing there?
"I just wanted to see you..." he managed to croak and shifted his weight from his left leg to the right.
"You saw me. You can go now," pure, acid sarcasm dropped in the man's words.
"No," Harry stepped finally in and closed the door with a small click. "We'll have to live together in August and I want you to be familiar with having me around before then."
"Why should I live with you in my free time?" Snape shrugged. "You have a place to live even now, don't you? You can live there in August as well."
"Yes, but you are my official guardian, Severus," Harry hoped that he didn't say anything problematic for the healing process.
"Severus? Who allowed you to use my first name?"
Snape seemed outraged now. Harry inhaled deeply.
"You are my father. What should I call you?" this answer seemed again neutral enough.
"Oh, this father stuff, again. Who told you I'm your father?"
How to answer now? Harry's thoughts were racing.
"Look at me," he said finally with a well-practiced frown he learned from Severus.
Suddenly, the man's tension somewhat lost its vehemence. Severus's brows furrowed as he cast a long, scrutinising look at him.
"Well, according to your appearance you are really my son. However, I'm quite sure I've never sired any."
"But I'm here and I'm unmistakably a Snape," Harry complained.
"Appearance could easily lead you astray, boy," Snape said in a flat voice. Harry cringed to the coldness in that familiar voice. All of a sudden, he felt deadly tired.
"You can always ask for a blood test," he suggested finally. "You can even brew a potion to identify me or cast an Identifying Spell on me." At least you would know that I'm your brother's son, Harry thought to himself, and I don't have to lie so much.
"The Identifying Spell can be used only by Ministry officers," Snape said smirking. "The blood test or the potion can just render the parenthood probable, not sure."
"I won't tell them if you use it. Anyway, you can see our documents in the Ministry of Magic, if you don't want to believe me."
"You aren't as intelligent as Albus told me," the man crossed his arms over his chest.
"Why?" Harry asked in a neutral tone. "Just because I told you that you can cast the Identifying Spell on me? I know that its use is forbidden and even the Ministry officers are allowed to cast it on a corpse, because..."
"Stop," Snape lifted his arm to accentuate the command. Harry shut his mouth and shrugged again. "I ask a blood check now, and I want to perform it. No tampering."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"It will show you I'm your son," he predicted but didn't protest. And you will believe a lie to be the truth he added sadly to himself.
Severus stood up and waved at Harry.
Harry followed Severus obediently, and he was a little surprised how well the man knew the hospital. He led them to the staircases without any signs of hesitation.
"How do you know where the laboratories are in the hospital?" Harry asked curiously as they descended to the basement.
"You don't want to become a Potions Master, do you?" the man asked back arrogantly.
"I don't know yet," Harry said truthfully. "Why?"
"Laboratories are always in the basement," Severus smirked again.
Harry smirked back mischievously.
"I see. If there's an incident in the dungeons you can immediately demolish the whole building in one go as well, so you don't have to have any needless fuss about reconstructing it."
"Generally, there aren't any Longbottoms in professional labs," Snape said coldly.
"There aren't now, but you don't know anything about the future," Harry barely could restrain his laughter. Snape stopped and turned to him.
"Your point is?"
"If I'm not mistaken, Neville Longbottom will be in your NEWT Potions class starting in September," Harry said as impertinently as he could. They continued their way to the lab.
"Impossible," Snape answered firmly after some steps. "I don't think he can pass his OWLs in Potions but even if he can manage it somehow I accept only those into my NEWT Potions class who got Outstanding in Potions," he smirked. "There are too many volatile potions in the NEWT project and I really don't want to ruin Hogwarts..."
"We'll see," Harry smiled mysteriously.
"And what about you?" Snape suddenly changed topics and knocked on the lab's door.
"You mean me and Potions?" Harry asked. When Snape nodded he smirked. "I don't know yet. I haven't received the official notification concerning my OWL results."
"How do you feel?" the man seemed curious.
"You can't get rid of me so easily," Harry told him. The door suddenly opened up and he could see the forbidding figure of a large witch standing in the frame.
"What do you want? Can't you read?" she asked angrily and pointed her index finger to a piece of paper hanging on the door. It read: KNOCKING IS FORBIDDEN.
"Stand aside, Lamarre," Snape snapped. "I need the lab for an hour."
"Professor Snape..." the forbidding figure somehow slumped and became rather sheepish. "Of course, but I have to inform the..."
"Then go and tell," Snape entered the lab with Harry in his heel.
"But you are not supposed to bring a..."
"He's my son," he said acidly.
"Oh, I didn't know..."
"Neither did I."
Harry felt a sudden urge to snicker. In reality he hated this side of Severus, the impolite, typical git side, but Mrs (or Miss?) Lamarre's behaviour was irritating enough to earn Severus's despising. When the woman left Harry turned to Severus.
"Are you allowed to enter here?"
"As a Potions Master of this institution, of course I'm allowed."
"But you..." Harry shook his head. Apparently, there were many things about Severus he hadn't learned in the past one year they'd spent together.
"I don't work here," the Potions Master finished his sentence. "But I'm working for them. And they use many of my invented potions," he said, but in the meantime he stepped up to a storage cabinet and got out an officially sealed vial with a clear orange potion inside. Its label read: 'Clearing Potion'. He uncorked the bottle and poured its contents into a tiny cauldron. He put on a fire and placed the cauldron on it. "You didn't know that, did you?"
Harry stared at him while he was thinking of an adequate answer.
"I guess there are many things I don't know about you," he said finally. "That one year we spent together wasn't seemingly enough to know everything about each other. And you're not the chatty type..."
Snape curled his lips.
"Of course I'm not!" he said indignantly. "So let me see," he leaned over the shimmering vessel. "It's hot enough," he said and divided the potion in two smaller glasses. "Give me your index finger."
Harry reached his hand out and let Snape prick it with a carefully disinfected needle. He pricked it and let one drop fall into one of the glasses. Then he did the same to himself.
"What next?" Harry asked, and he felt a little nervousness rising in his throat. Severus and he always accepted the fact that Harry was indeed Quietus's son, but now, he felt a little agitated. He learned enough last year to know that the Adoption Spell Severus used the night after his fake burial would have worked even if he weren't his nephew - just as James Potter's Adoption Spell had worked splendidly for fifteen years - and now doubts assaulted him.
"We wait a few minutes - five, I think will be enough," Snape answered, his voice thick with suppressed curiosity.
Harry nodded and tried to think of the wand they'd made together, or Quietus's wand, his journal, Dumbledore's tale, but everything suddenly seemed dubious and unsure. What if he wasn't Severus's nephew? The Severus he had known from Nightmare Manor would have considered him as his son, even if the result of the test hadn't been positive, but this man wasn't that Severus, this was more the Snape he had known from his fourth year Potions classes: frowning, menacing and thoroughly... well, mean. The git. Harry shut his eyes tightly.
"Nervous, aren't we?" the teasing tone made Harry shudder with disgust.
The Return of the Git, he thought to himself. He had to begin everything over and over again. He seemingly didn't have any firm place to stand: up and down, always this roller-coaster.
"No, I'm not," he said after a while. "I simply don't know how to react to your new self." Harry looked up. He saw as the ugly smirk disappeared from Severus's face and an anxious expression replaced it. Yes, Severus surely thought that his 'son' had never seen this side of him. At the end, it was Snape who ended the eye contact and began to search something furiously in the drawers. When he found it, he smirked again and placed it on the desk.
Then he lifted the two glasses and wheeling towards the light he compared their colours. Harry began to relax. He couldn't see any difference between the two potions' shade of light blue.
"You put the checking paper into them, don't you?" he asked. He knew the checking paper from his previous year's studies. It was commonly used in potions: when somebody wanted to compare two, seemingly identical potions, they used these tiny stripes. Sometimes, even Snape had used them to juxtapose one of his pupil's potions, which seemed perfect to one of his own. It had to be put first into the supposedly right potion for one minute - then the stripe showed 100% - and after into the second one. If the result was 95% or more the two potions were considered 'identical', over 90% there were 'almost identical' (there were many cases when even the 'almost identical' grade could be accepted) over 80% it was 'similar', between 70 and 80 it was 'related'. "It has to be over 70, doesn't it?"
Severus shook his head.
"70% shows just close blood relation. It has to be over 83" he carefully hung the strip in his glass "for the parenthood to be credible. The best result is the 'almost identical', because the amount of blood isn't too large in the Clearing Potion." He checked the soaked piece of paper. It showed 100%. He nodded and cautiously placed it into Harry's glass. "So, let's see what Dumbledore and you want me to believe," Snape let a satisfied grin rule over his face. "What's your little tale for me today?"
Harry suddenly wanted to push Snape's head into his still shimmering cauldron and to leave him alone. On the other hand, he somehow understood his suspicions. He, Harry, or Quietus Harold Snape wasn't really his son. For another moment, Harry wanted the checking paper to show something under 83% and he could finish that row of lies, but then...
"Oh," he heard Snape's surprised groan. Harry didn't look at the wet strip. From what he heard from Snape's direction the result had to be over 90.
"94%!" Snape exclaimed surprised. "But... Albus said your mother was a mud- Muggleborn."
Harry shuddered shortly with disgust. Mudblood! Beautiful!
"Worse," he said sarcastically. "She wasn't a mudblood, father. She was just a piece of mud herself, a simple Muggle!" he yelled the last words from the top of his lungs, then he wheeled on his heel and stormed out of the lab slamming the door behind him.
When Harry arrived home he thought that day couldn't turn worse. He was wrong.
He had a painful and long night vision with a satisfied and madly laughing Dark Lord and a large amount of physical torture. Harry accepted the pain without complaint and struggled hard to pick up as much information as he could, when he had to witness two, insupportable things. One of them was Leah's first kill and her initiation, the other was Avery, again... Harry wanted to suppress his suffering, but after the first slash of the man's razor his whole skin started burning and by the time Sirius and Hermione shook him awake his pyjamas and sheeting were soaked with his own blood.
"Harry?" he could hear two worried, almost panicked voices still in half-daze, and he felt two arms circling him and holding him tightly. "He is bleeding, Sirius," it was Hermione's voice, not a little hysterical. "He is bleeding!"
"Don't yell," Harry croaked in a hoarse voice. "We aren't deaf." But he moved closer to her, just as he used to curl up to Severus after similar nightmares.
"What happened?" Sirius asked from above.
"Avery and his razor," Harry said, however, he suspected the others couldn't understand him.
"Has it happened before?" Hermione whispered uncertainly. When Harry groaned a 'yes' she went on. "What did Professor Snape do in these occasions?"
"Anti-Bleeding Potion, warm bath and some other potions to relax my muscles and help to heal my cuts, but I have none of them in my trunk. But," he opened his eyes. "Sirius, there is a large bottle of Anti-Bleeding Potion if you open the third lock, that large, purple potion, please," he sat up and took the bottle from Sirius's hand.
"Do you use it often?" Sirius asked while he looked Harry gulping some draughts.
"No," Harry answered and wiped the potion from his mouth with his pyjamas' sleeve. "Just when my cuts open. It was the third time now."
"When were the first two?" Sirius asked again, but this time it was Hermione who answered his question.
"The first was in September or October, four weeks before the Aurors' first checking visit. The second was Ron's attack in January..."
"I received these cuts in Nightmare Manor. It was Avery who did this to me. I almost died there from excessive bleeding." He shut his eyes again, and he suddenly wanted Severus back. Now. "I think this was the turning point between Severus and me. He was terrified that I would die. He... he..." Harry couldn't continue. He felt very cold inside and a pang of guilt that he had left Severus that day in the lab, just because...
Oh. The warm water refreshed him. Severus... But when he opened his eyes he saw Sirius leaning over him, and then he was carried back to a bed - his cleaned bed, surely it was Hermione, and somebody shoved a mug of hot tea into his hand. Hermione sat next to him and wrapped a common blanket around them, Sirius seated himself into a chair next to the bed, both of them staring at him intensely, and suddenly, Harry heard himself talking and talking about everything they hadn't know, about his, their happy days in hell, about Severus, their conversations, feelings, and finally, their revelations; the wand they had made together, the escape, Pettigrew, the night Severus had taken him back to the Snape family, his new outlook the day after, the Weasleys, the Noblestone family, the Bloody Baron and his short, but unfortunate relationship with Leah, and he talked and talked, as he felt: without an end, and he when he arrived at the point when Severus had lifted his wand and Obliviated himself, he could hear Hermione's choked sob and Sirius's ragged sigh and he felt a terrible, irreparable loss, his heart hurt and he understood that Severus would never be the same.
He was sure. He was sure, because while he was narrating the past months' events he felt that his life would have been totally different without all those things, and his present feelings towards those happenings made him the person he was - and Severus didn't remember and didn't have these feelings.
It would be a very long and painful year, Harry was suddenly sure.
And he wasn't waiting for it.
Next day a large, brown barmy owl was tapping Harry's window. He didn't know the bird, and first he didn't recognise the handwriting on the envelope. He unfolded the parchment slipped into it and glanced to the bottom.
I don't know what to do. My mother sent me to my uncle, because the Ministry is watching our house, and there are a lot of DEs (you know who I'm talking about), and my mother is pressing me to leave the school, because I will have my OWLs in two weeks and join the 'rank I belong in' (these are her words).
I'm scared. I don't want it. I remember your words, and I don't know how I can find a way out. I don't think I have too much time to think.
I don't know what to do.
Write me if you have any ideas.
But do it quickly.
2nd chapter: next week's first half