A/n: I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Please remember to leave a comment, because it makes my day. :) I am going to try to get on a semi-regular for this story because I don't have that much longer to go (a max of about 50K words probably), so I want to get it done something this century lol. Hopefully by the summer, but the end of the year at the latest! Thank you to all those who have stuck with me, come in along the ride, or come in later!
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Chapter 41 - One Step Forward; One Step Back
Jacob and the rest of Slytherin House were still reeling from their win on Saturday when Monday came around. They had a party that had run late that night to celebrate their win. Draco seemed to be enjoying having a bit more to say during the drinking game; he knew he was. The Slytherin Prefects ended up telling everyone to break it up. Jacob had to agree - he did not want his father coming here to break up a party that he was participating in.
He spent most of the next day with his father, per usual. They had lunch together, played some chess before moving onto Occlumency lessons. It felt like he would never get it, but he found that he was trying harder now that he had a good reason. He knew he was meeting Voldemort as Jacob Snape, and the truth could be found out. He would be ready by the time the Easter holidays arrived. He was not going to let anyone else die, especially not his father or himself.
The conversation at the table was a combination of Quidditch and classes as the mail started arriving. Of course, Jacob never got anything. Draco occasionally got a letter from his mother or sweets, but nothing today. Everyone stared at Salenia in surprise, however, as a large envelope plopped down in front of her. Aside from the occasional letters from her parents, which this didn't seem to be, the only other mail she received were the combs from her Aunt.
Salenia stared in confusion at it before she read the front and perked up instantly. "Ooh, it's from my aunt!" she exclaimed. "I wonder what it is, though." While eating her food, she tore into it, taking out a letter. None of them felt it was all that interesting, so they were mostly ignoring her until she gave a squeal and yelled at them all to listen. "I sent my aunt the pictures I took of you along with a couple from the Quidditch games that I took, and they loved them! Listen!" She cleared her throat and began to read.
I hope school is treating you well and that you're getting excellent grades, but most of all, having fun.
I got your pictures and showed them to my colleagues and managers. They passed them along to the Marketing team, and they loved them! They want to use them in the next brochure to advertise the Spring Set coming out in April. Even though the pictures aren't from that set, everyone loves the naturalness of the photos, which you don't get from a photoshoot - not to mention that your friends are the actual age group they are marketing to!
I have enclosed release forms from our legal department, which all of your friends have to sign, along with some envelopes already addressed so that they can send them to their parents to sign, and their parents can send them directly to us. I have included the pictures, so your friends can see along with a copy of the brochure as it will be if they agree. If they don't, it's fine! They will be removed, of course.
While I know, you will say no, they want to pay you for the photos. It won't be much, of course, but I insist! I have already sent a letter to your parents with the proper form for them to sign and included one for you, as well. The money will be deposited into your private vault, of course, with your and your parent's approval.
For your friends' photos being used, they will be sent a free set of each set their photos are used for. If they agree for this set, they will be sent a copy of the Valentine's Set. If they already paid for one, the money will be refunded.
I hope your friends agree, but regardless, I think the pictures turned out great.
I hope to see you soon! Maybe during the Easter holidays.
Of course, Elizabeth, Tracey, Pansy, and Daphne were squealing right along with Salenia before she even finished reading the letter. Salenia slid over five release forms, one for each of them, along with their pictures. The girls were already scrambling in their bags for their quills and ink, talking about how they were going to models . That made Jacob want to roll his eyes, and Draco actually did. He just stared at the form and the picture as he poked at his food.
"No. I don't think so," he said. He hated having his picture taken and would have told her no, but Saelnia had taken the picture without asking him. He supposed that this had something to do with never having had any pictures taken except for school photos until he was eleven. Then suddenly, everyone wanted a fucking picture of him because he was famous. He knew none of that mattered now, and yet still, the idea filled with him dread.
"Oh, come on, why not?" Salenia asked, looking disappointed.
"Just… no," he replied, pushing both away.
"Spoilsport," Salenia pouted. "Please? It's such a good picture of you, look!" She pushed both back towards him. "Besides, and you can take this any way you want, you're very photogenic."
He glanced over at the girls to see that they were already writing a quick note to their parents and talking about taking a run up to the Owlery to send them off before their first class. He looked at Draco, who just gave him a small smile. "She's right, you know," he said. "It's a good picture of you and Moriai, and it's not like anyone is going to care if your picture is here or not. Sure, some might, but no one cares what they think. I doubt most people will even pay attention."
Draco had a point. He wasn't Harry Potter anymore. No one was going to be clamoring for his picture. The most that could come of this is people got annoyed that it was Slytherins in the brochure, but they couldn't be too surprised. After all, Salenia was the one who had the combos, and she was in Slytherin, so it made sense.
"Oh, alright," he said, taking both the picture and the form as Salenia gave yet another squeal. She pushed towards him a copy of the brochure, which the girls were giggling over. There were empty spots for more photos, presumably for pictures that they were hoping Salenia would send them more. On one side was a picture from the Quidditch game, with hair changing in the stands. It was a cool sight. The caption read Show House Unity! Below that was a picture of Salenia's fluffy white cat blinking and yawning at the camera with purple highlights in her fur with the caption Safe for pets!
The next page had the girls' picture. They weren't even looking at the camera but just smiling contentedly as they did each other's hair. You could see their hair slowly changing color as they ran the comb's through before the picture looked back around. The caption read Have fun with your friends! His picture was below that. He looked down at Moriai, her fur dark purple that matched his hair as she sat happily on his lap, before looking up at the camera and back down again. The caption read Even guys like it!
He rolled his eyes. So, he was the token guy, apparently. Draco snickered a little bit as he read it over his shoulder but didn't say anything. He had to admit that Salenia and Draco were right; it was a good picture of him. Besides, it wasn't like anyone cared about a picture of him anymore. It wasn't like before which it felt like he couldn't go anywhere without being stared at. He was just another student now. He was no longer Harry Potter.
"I guess my hair is getting pretty long, isn't it?" he said to Draco as he put the picture, brochure, and release form in his bag.
"Yeah, but that's not a bad thing," Draco pointed out. "I love your hair being a bit long." He knew that was true because his boyfriend loved running his fingers through it when studying or after-studying activities. "If you don't like it, though, just cut it a bit."
Jacob ran a hand through his hair. It was down to the tops of cheekbones now, so it was constantly in his eyes, but not long enough to pull back in a ponytail or anything. "I don't know," he said. "I never really had to worry about it before, so I'm not sure."
"Never had to worry about it?" Pansy asked from the other side of Draco. "Were you not allowed?"
Shit, Jacob thought to himself. He had misspoken a bit and probably should have phrased it like that to begin with. "Er, no. My cousin, she felt like guys' hair should be short, so she always made sure it got cut," he said, following along with Pansy's suggestion since it made the most sense.
"That's rubbish," Marcus said.
Jacob just shrugged. "Yeah, so I just haven't worried about it since I started living with my dad," he said, which was true enough. "So I'm not sure what I like, you know? Now that I have a choice." It wasn't like he could say his hair never grew before, although he supposed he now knew why that was.
"Then grow your hair out," Daphne suggested from the other side of Salenia.
"I agree," said Tracey from next to Pansy. "The only way you'll know is to try it."
He wasn't sure why they all cared about his hair, but he supposed friends talked about this, though he, Ron, and Hermione never had. That wasn't something any of them cared about. He supposed they were right, though - he should just grow it out and find out. It hardly seemed like something to worry about, though, with everything going on, but he supposed that conversations like this were nice to distract him from everything else that was going on, in the part of his life that was still Harry Potter.
Jacob, Draco, and a couple of the other Slytherins had Arithmancy next. After that, they headed back down to the Dungeons for Double Potions with his father. Afterward, Jacob motioned for Draco to wait as everyone started filing out, and he made his way up to his father's desk. "Hey, Dad?" he said, the form in his hand. He had taken it out, along with the picture and the brochure, right after class had ended. His father looked up at him, and he held out the form. "Er, can you sign that, please? It's a release form," he explained. "I kind of got talked into allowing pictures Salenia takes being in the brochure for those combs by Salenia and Draco."
His father raised an eyebrow at him. "Are you serious? And you're okay with that?"
Jacob shrugged. "Yeah. it's a pretty good picture, I guess, and I don't mind," he said, leaning in a bit. "Besides, it's not like people care anymore, you know?" He handed over the picture and the brochure.
"That is true, but if you are not okay with it, I can refuse," Severus suggested. It was Jacob's turn to raise an eyebrow. "You can say that I refused to let my son be in a comb brochure."
"You would do that?"
"Of course." His father glanced at the picture. "Although, it is a rather good picture of you." He looked through the brochure and gave a light chuckle. "You're the token guy, apparently."
Jacob thought for a moment but shrugged. "Yeah, I am, and it's okay; I already agreed," he said. "It's not a big deal." Severus nodded and signed the form before handing it back. Jacob motioned for the quill and quickly signed it himself. He had been unsure how to sign; he had spent the summer learning how to change his handwriting, but he hadn't worried about his signature. He just scribbled a signature on the paper, and it looked fine - different from his signature before. "Thanks." His father went to hand back the picture and the brochure, but Jacob only took the brochure. "You can keep that… if you want."
Severus looked down at it before looking back up at him. "Yes, I think I would," he said. "Thank you." He looked down again. "She even got your cat?"
Jacob chuckled. "Yep, while I wasn't looking. She gave her dark purple highlights, plopped her on my lap, and then took the picture before I could say anything."
"Miss White can be very… determined when she wants something."
Jacob nodded. "Yes, I have figured that out," he said, "but it's okay. She's my friend." He wasn't sure what he would do with those combs, though, because he didn't want them. He was sure to think of something, though.
"I am glad you have been… adjusting so well," Severus said, looking back up at him.
Jacob smiled at him before turning and walking back to Draco and Hermione. "So, you're going to be in the comb brochure?" Hermione asked once he approached the table.
Jacob rolled his eyes. "Yes. Salenia asked." He showed her the brochure, and Hermione had to agree that it was a good picture before handing the brochure back as Jacob sealed the form in the envelope Salenia had given him. It seemed a bit weird to have more friends, but he supposed it wasn't a bad thing.
The rest of the week passed by rather smoothly. Umbridge's class was still horrible, and the teachers were giving more and more homework as their O.W.L.'s got closer and closer. Saturday afternoon, after they did some studying in the Library, Hermione took him aside. "You need to go see Hagrid," she said, a firm tone to her voice.
"I don't even know Hagrid," Jacob responded.
"Exactly why you should get to know him," Hermione said. "Jacob Snape should know him because Hagrid is my friend, and Ron's. And you're our friend."
"She's right, mate," Ron piped up. "Besides, Hagrid's a good guy. What do you think is going to happen? It'll be fine."
"I'll just meet you back in the common room, or at dinner," Draco said, giving him a kiss before grabbing both of their things and heading out. He hadn't said anything bad about Hagrid, but Jacob knew that Hagrid wasn't his favorite person. Jacob had seen the improvement, slow though it sometimes seemed, and he appreciated it.
After stopping by Gryffindor Tower so that Ron and Hermione could drop off their things - Jacob keeping his distance, of course; they didn't want anyone to see a Slytherin too close to the dorms and make a fuss - the three of them made their way down to the grounds, heading towards Hagrid's cottage. It almost felt like old times - almost. Things had changed a great deal since then, though. He was good with his new life, really he was. A lot had changed, but change wasn't necessarily bad. In this case, it might even be good - quite a bit of good, in fact. He had lots of friends, a boyfriend that he was crazy about and who was crazy about him. He was doing good in school. His relationship with his father had come a long way.
Some things were different, though. He had lost some friends that he had not been able to recreate, and Hagrid was one of them. He was probably the one that hurt the most, and that was why he had been avoiding going with Hermione and Ron. Hagrid had been his first friend in the Wizarding World, and he had hated losing that when he became Jacob Snape. He understood, of course - Dumbledore was right about that. The more people that knew, the higher the risk. Right now, it was just his father (who was already at risk), Draco, Hermione, and Ron. For now, it needed to stay that way.
Jacob's heart was beating rapidly in his chest as they approached, Hermione knocking at the door with Ron beside her. Opening the door, Hagrid beamed at them. "Hey, you two! Great to see you!" His eyes fell on Jacob standing behind them. "And I see you've brought a friend. Come on in." Hermione and Ron had told him why he had been gone - Hagrid had confided in them - and the scars were still there but slowly starting to heal. Apparently, he also had a half-brother hidden in the forest! It made him feel bad that he was no longer a part of that and probably never would. At least until he was free to open his circle a bit more, but for now, this was the way things had to be.
The three of them came in and took seats around the table. Jacob felt awkward in here and never had before. "Jacob's a friend, and we… really wanted to bring him here," Hermione said as Hagrid made them all some tea. "Meet you formally. Things have just been… crazy."
Hagrid poured tea for each of them before giving a smile. "O' course. I admit… I was surprised when I go' back and found ou' tha' Snape had a son. Glad ter see you two are getting along, though," he said. "Tha' musta been some shock fer the both of ya."
"You can say that again," Jacob said. He remembered the look on his father's face that day Dumbledore and Sirius had shown up with him, how awkward things had been as they were forced to get to know each other was complete strangers. "I mean, I always wondered what he was like. I guess I just convinced myself he was dead." That was true enough. James Potter was dead, and he believed he was his father for fourteen years. "I had no idea that he was never told about me."
"A' least you two seem ter be adjustin' well enough," Hagrid said, offering them rock cakes which they all turned down. He was right enough about that. At the time, Jacob had been sure that he would have to deal with a father that was alive but hated him. That wasn't the case anymore. "You seem ter have plenty of friends, including these two here."
Jacob smiled at them. "Yeah, Ron was kind of a prat at first, but he's come around," he joked, earning a friendly glare from the redhead. He didn't think their relationship would ever really be the same, but he had to admit that it was good to have him back. "It hasn't been as hard as I thought it was going to be."
"Draco and I did have to help him make sure he was caught up," Hermione said, "but he's managed quite well for himself."
"Tha's a pretty high compliment coming from her," Hagrid teased, earning chuckles from both Ron and Jacob.
"I get a lot of help from her and Draco," he admitted.
Hagrid gave him a small smile. "A' least you made friends," he said. "Not always easy, tha'." That was true enough. He wasn't sure how he had ever made friends. He had certainly never tried to. It had just sort of happened. He wasn't sure if that was normal or not. "Do yeh miss yer old school? Old friends?"
Jacob shook his head. "No, not really. Hogwarts is better, and I actually have friends here," he said. And a boyfriend, but he kept that part to himself. "I, er… was a bit of a loner before." Of course, he had never actually been there, and thankfully, no one had asked more than basic questions about it.
"Oh, a loner, I wonder where you get that from," Ron teased, probably getting him back for the prat comment from earlier. Jacob just gave him a friendly glare.
It didn't quite feel like old times, and he wasn't sure it ever would. Maybe that was part of the reason why he'd been so nervous about coming here. That it would be weird and awkward, and it would ruin all the good memories he had, Hagrid - memories of Harry Potter, a person who should never have existed. While it had been difficult, now he felt more like himself than he had before. Hermione had been right about coming here. He couldn't run away from his past as Harry Potter.
Hagrid was being polite to him, though not overly friendly. He understood. The Slytherins had not always been nice to him, Draco chief among them. Like he'd become friends again with Fred and George, Neville was friendlier with him since Christmas; he could become friends again with Hagrid again, too. He needed to deal with his new life and Jacob Snape, and that included not running from his life as Harry Potter. He had to deal with it because he was never going back.
Severus was in his office, grading papers, when there was a knock at his door. "Enter." With a wave of his hand, the door opened, and there stood Aurora. He admitted that he was a bit surprised to see her after the way he had kicked her out a few weeks back. It had been necessary, of course. He said what he needed to get her out of his rooms, but she hadn't spoken to him since unless she had to. "Aurora. Come in. Can I help you with something?"
"Yes, you can help with an apology."
Her straightforwardness was something he had always appreciated about her, but once again, he found himself taken by surprise. His face remained impassive, years of practice helping him cover up anything he might be feeling. "You will have to elaborate," he said, "because I am not sure what you are referring to." It was a lie, of course, but he wasn't going to apologize for what he needed to do.
She walked forward, her dark eyes narrowed. "Don't bullshit me." He set down his quill and looked up at her. "I know a mask when I see one, though I admit, yours is near perfection. I don't know why you acted the way you did that night, and I apologize if I stepped out of bounds. Regardless, you had no right to speak to me the way you did. A simple, 'Please leave, we will discuss this later,' would have sufficed. I admit that I had been unprepared for the verbal assault I received in return for such a simple thing."
Severus knew she had a point, but the night had served as a very painful reminder of the life he was forced to live. He had to drag his son into it, but Jacob was already entwined. He had no wish to drag anyone else down with him. "I have nothing to apologize for," he said, his voice flat and icy.
"Are you sure about that?" Aurora asked. "We have been friends a long time, Severus. We are both very solitary people. I know you have a dark past that I have never asked about, nor do I have any wish to. I understand that there are things which will never be discussed, and that is perfectly acceptable to me." She took another step forward, putting her hands on the desk and leaning in a bit. Her face was more vulnerable than he was used to seeing it. "I feel like something was different between us this year, Severus, and I know you felt it, too. Was I wrong?"
Severus only continued looking at her for a moment before looking back down at his papers. He didn't want to see what he saw there. It wasn't something he could have. "Yes. As I said, I have nothing to apologize for."
Aurora pulled back. "I see. I will bid you goodnight, then, Severus." Her voice was hard and cold, and when she slammed the door behind her, he knew what it meant. It was for the best. It wasn't something he had time for, nor something he deserved.