Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. Any obviously recognizable parts are from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
It came at midnight, but Harry hadn't had time to read it until now, when the giant man, who had introduced himself as Hagrid, had gone to sleep. He wasn't sure who had sent it when it appeared with a crack on his lap, but had hastily tucked it into the overly large pocket of his trousers just as the door had broken down and Hagrid had emerged.
He lifted the letter to the fire, which was still crackling softly in the grate. It looked old and yellowing, and the paper seemed to be of the same stiff material that his Hogwarts letter had been made of. He took a deep breath as he slowly began unfolding the paper. The first letter he had opened today had brought his news that had changed his entire world. What would this letter bring?
Unable to take the suspense any longer, he quickly opened the letter and looked straight to the bottom, where the words, Love, Lily were scrawled. "Lily," Harry whispered to himself. Though he had only heard that name today, he knew that this letter was from his mother. His eyes roved back up to the top of the page to the date and he began to read the letter his mother had penned so many years ago.
16th October, 1981
My Dearest Harry,
As I write this, you are sleeping quietly in your crib beside me. Once in a while, you turn to your side and the blankets fall off of you. You are a restless sleeper, like your father. My darling boy, I hope with all my heart that you are never a recipient of this letter but in these times my instincts tell me that I need to do this. Voldemort is after us, and although we have taken precautions I fear that James and I may not survive. In my heart of hearts I know that you will because I will do everything in my power to make sure you live.
There is so much I want to say to you, but I'm not sure where to begin. Firstly, Happy Birthday! I have asked a house elf, Dobby, who knows your father, do deliver this letter to you on your eleventh birthday. Hopefully by then you'll be ready to go to Hogwarts. I spent some of the best years of my life there, Harry. I studied magic, made friends and fell in love. What I have to say next, Harry, is difficult for me and I hope that you will forgive me for waiting so long to tell you.
I suppose it begins when I was nine years old and performed accidental magic. A boy from the neighborhood saw me and told me I was witch. At the time you might be able to imagine my reaction to that, but soon my curiosity was piqued and the boy and me became the best of friends. His name was Severus Snape. When Sev (as I called him) and I went to Hogwarts, we were sorted into different houses but that didn't end our friendship. Friendship soon grew into more and by the end of Hogwarts, we had been dating for a few years. I will not tell you it was smooth sailing all the way. It wasn't. Being in the house that he was in, Sev faced pressures from his housemates to join a man who we knew hated Muggleborns like me. Yet, we persevered and were married as soon as we left Hogwarts.
Times were hard in those days, Harry, and one didn't know whom to trust. I could feel myself losing Sev to Voldemort and I didn't like it. I tried to dissuade him but most of my attempts ended in arguments. Some months later, I realized I was pregnant with you. I was excited to tell Sev since I knew how happy he would be and I also hoped that a baby would finally make him realize what was important. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. The night I planned to tell him about you was the night he came to me with the Dark Mark on his arm. He had joined Voldemort and I had never been more furious with him than I was then. I left him that night and said some things I'm ashamed to admit. I was young and foolish and I regret it now.
I pause here, Harry, to tell you not to judge your father too harshly for his actions. He had lived a difficult life and in his defense, his reasons for joining Voldemort were not like the others'. He is a man who is intelligent and principled and passionate, but there is darkness within him borne from the struggles he has faced that even I could not help him with.
After leaving Severus, I went to Albus Dumbledore and told him what had happened. To protect you, he advised me to pretend to be married to James Potter, who had liked me at school for a time. I believe he thought he could convince Sev to spy on Voldemort for him. I stayed with James until you were born and not long afterwards, Dumbledore told us to go into hiding since Voldemort was after us. So here we are, Harry, the three of us. James has always treated you like his own son though he and your father never got along. He loves you as his own, as does your godfather, Sirius. If anything happens to us, I know that he'll take you in, though I worry about him. He's so rash and impulsive, I fear he'll do something he regrets one of these days.
I have so much more to say to you my darling but Peter's here now, so I'll leave you with a few parting words. Be brave and strong for me, Harry. Dumbledore once told me that there comes a time to choose between what is right and what is easy, and I pass this on to you. Always do what your instincts tell you to, Harry. They will never lead you astray. Be kind to your father if you meet him Harry, which I hope you will. He does not know that he is your father and I'm leaving it up to you to do what you think is best. I love your father and I love you and I promise you that one day we will see each other again. Since I'm not sure what you'll call me as you grow older (you call me 'Mama' now. Maybe that will change to Mummy or Mum?) I will sign off in my usual way. I send you all the love in the world, my son.
Harry could feel tears prickle his eyes as he finished reading the letter for the sixth time. His fingers travelled down the page as if trying to absorb any essence of his mother left in the writing. She seemed to have loved him so much. It was as if all the love that had been denied to him from the Dursleys was right here in this letter. His mother sounded like an amazing woman: brave, loving and kind, the kind of person he had always imagined her to be. He had known nothing about her for ten years. She had been distant, merely a dream, but here was proof that she had existed, that the woman he had longed for the most as he slept cold and lonely in his cupboard had lived and loved him.
He traced over the names. James. Sirius. Other people who had loved him. Severus. He paused here. Could it be that the man was still alive? Could he really have another living family member – no, a father? Harry had always dreamed that by some miracle, his parents would be alive and would take Harry away from the Dursleys. If his father were alive, how would Harry find him?
Harry shivered as the fire began to die away. It was very late and he should rest for a while before the morning. He had too much to think about and he had a feeling tomorrow would be a long day. Carefully tucking the letter into his pocket, he drifted away, dreaming of a woman with green eyes who whispered loving words to him.
The morning came much too soon for Harry but his grogginess soon faded as they entered the Leaky Cauldron where he was accosted by a swarm of wizards and witches all wanting to shake his hand!
"Alrigh' there, Harry?" Hagrid asked chuckling as he led their way into Diagon Alley. "Here we are. Firs' stop's Gringotts then."
Harry followed Hagrid through the crowds, wondering if his father was anywhere among them. Then again, how would he know what his father looked like?
Harry decided to ponder the question of how to find his father later as went through his shopping list with Hagrid. "What's next, Hagrid?" he asked.
"Yer potions supplies. Yeh'll get those at the Apothecary," Hagrid answered turning right into an alley then left into the shop with Harry trying to keep up.
"It smells terrible in here," Harry commented.
Hagrid wrinkled his nose. "Think yeh can manage, Harry? I'm jus' goin' to stay here for a while."
In the small shop, Hagrid's large size would obviously be a hindrance Harry thought. "Okay."
He made his way through the ingredients, equally fascinated and disgusted. As he scooped out beetle eyes from a barrel he heard a girl behind him shriek. He turned around to see her talking to another girl.
"Toad warts! This is so disgusting!"
Her friend nodded sympathetically. "I swear. It's as if Snape makes us use the grossest ingredients in Potions on purpose."
"Snape!" Harry gasped. The two girls turned around but Harry was faster and quickly made his way to pay for his ingredients before they could say anything.
When he and Hagrid were safely outside the hubbub in the Apothecary, Harry had a chance to think about what the girls had said. They had definitely mentioned Snape. If this Snape wasn't Severus Snape, he could be some relation. Furthermore, the girls were obviously Hogwarts students, which meant that Snape could be at Hogwarts. He looked up at Hagrid and, before he could lose his nerve, blurted out, "Hagrid, do you know someone called Snape at Hogwarts?"
Hagrid chuckled. "Yeh must 'ave heard that name at the Apothecary. Professor Snape is the Potions Master at Hogwarts."
"What's his first name?" Harry asked with baited breath.
"Severus," Hagrid answered shaking his head in amusement at Harry's strange curiosity.
Harry, on the other hand, was a million miles away. His father was a teacher at Hogwarts! He had never imagined that it would be so easy to track him down. What would Severus Snape be like, Harry wondered. His mother had told him that he was intelligent. He must be if he was a professor, Harry decided. Would he still remember Lily? He probably would if they had been married…
Harry could barely believe it. His stomach was in knots at the thought. In only one month he would leave the Dursleys behind, go to the magical school his mother had attended and more importantly, he would have a chance to meet his father.
The next month was spent in alternate moments of excitement, apprehension and anguish. Harry had gone through all of his textbooks, especially his potions book that had become nighttime reading.
Before he knew it, it was the first of September and time for him to go to Hogwarts at last. At Kings Cross Station, Harry met a redheaded family who helped him to get onto the platform and put his trunk away. Just as he had settled down in an empty compartment, the youngest redheaded boy came in.
"Can I sit here?" he asked, "Everywhere else is full."
The train ride was spent chatting and exchanging stories. Ron Weasley already knew a lot about Hogwarts from his brothers and was happy to share his wisdom.
"There isn't a wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin," he told Harry matter-of-factly.
"Do Slytherins and Gryffindors not get along then?" Harry asked, getting a sense from the fact that Ron's entire family was in Gryffindor.
"Nah," Ron answered, "It's the whole blood purity thing. Slytherins only think pure-bloods are worth anything and Gryffindors don't care about that kind of thing."
Harry looked skeptical but decided to accept Ron's imperfect explanation for now.
"Voldemort was in Slytherin, wasn't he?" Harry asked, remembering what Hagrid had told him.
Ron flinched. Before he could say anything else though, the compartment door opened and in walked the pale, pointy-faced boy Harry had met in Diagon Alley, flanked by two beefy looking boys.
"So you're Harry Potter," he sneered, "I'm Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."
Ron let out a small snigger and Malfoy turned to him. "Think my name's funny, do you? You're obviously a Weasley. You don't want to make friends with the wrong sort, Potter. I can help you there."
He held out his hand to Harry. Harry looked at him coolly. "I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself, thanks."
Malfoy flushed pink. "I'd be careful if I were you, Potter," he said slowly, "Unless you're a bit politer you'll go the same way as your parents. You hang around with riffraff like Hagrid and the Weasley and it'll rub off on you."
Ron immediately stood up, the wand that he barely knew how to use in his hand.
"It's okay, Ron," Harry said quietly, still seated. "You had better leave Malfoy."
One of Malfoy's cronies had begun to reach for a chocolate frog, but before he could, Scabbers the rat had latched on to his finger with his teeth, driving the three boys out.
"What's been going here?" Hermione Granger demanded, entering the compartment. "You haven't been fighting, have you? You'll get in trouble before we get there."
"We weren't fighting, just Scabbers," Ron mumbled. "Hey, how did you know him, Harry?"
After Harry quickly explained his history with Malfoy, Ron asked thoughtfully, "Why didn't you get mad at him? He said some right nasty things about your parents."
Harry shrugged. The truth was that Malfoy's words hadn't hurt him because he knew that Malfoy was wrong. And because he knew that his father was alive.
"You had better get changed," Hermione Granger told them, "I expect we'll be arriving soon."
"Hogwarts is going to be brilliant," Ron announced as they sat the boat that would take them to the castle.
"I hope so, Ron," Harry replied as the boat turned to give rise to the beginnings of the castle.
Hogwarts was the most amazing place Harry had ever seen. He wished that his attention wasn't so distracted by what was to come so that he could look around more.
As Professor McGonagall led them towards the Great Hall, Harry thought he was going to be sick. Not only was the sorting about to take place (Ron mentioned something about wrestling a troll) but also this was the moment he would see his father for the first time.
"Harry, are you okay, mate?" Ron asked, "Look Fred was probably just messing me with. I'm sure we don't really have to wrestle a troll."
Harry took in his friend's worried face, a face worried for him, and managed a small smile. "I'll be fine, Ron." If all else failed, at least he knew that for the first time, he had a friend.
Thoughts of his father were driven out as McGonagall explained the Sorting to them. Harry breathed in a sigh of relief. They only had to try on a hat.
When it was his turn under the hat, he heard the hat say, "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, and a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you?"
"I want to make my father proud," Harry thought, "even if it means being in Slytherin."
"Ah yes, your father. He is indeed a Slytherin, yet I don't think you care much for Slytherin. No. Better be GRYFFINDOR!"
The cheer was deafening as Harry took a seat across from Percy Weasley at the Gryffindor table. It wasn't until after he was comfortably fed that he had a chance to look up at the staff table. His eyes scanned over the various professors, trying to look for some similarity between their features and his own. Harry had silky black hair that grew upwards and green eyes. Hagrid had told him that he had his mother's eyes.
There were few male professors. The first he noticed was Professor Dumbledore. Sitting two seats away from him was a tiny old professor who was obviously not his father. A few seats away from him sat Professor Quirrell and next to him sat a man with greasy black hair, a hooked nose and sallow skin. Suddenly, the man looked up and their eyes met. A moment later Harry felt a sharp pain in his scar and brought a hand to his forehead. The man looked away.
His heart beating harder than ever, Harry turned to Percy and asked, "Who's that teacher sitting next to Professor Quirrell?"
"That's Professor Snape. He teaches Potions but he doesn't want to – everyone knows he's after Quirrell's job. Knows an awful lot about the Dark Arts, Snape."
It was him. It was really him. That man was none other than Harry's father. As he looked at him, doubts began to cloud Harry's mind. Would Snape want Harry as his son? Harry, the quiet, awkward, skinny boy who no one cared for. No, he decided adamantly. He wouldn't give his father a chance to reject him. Right then and there, Harry decided that he would do everything in his power to make his father proud of him. He would show his father that Harry was worthy of him and that he deserved to be his son.