Harry thought it rather odd to be greeted by an empty room when he arrived at breakfast the next morning. He'd become used to seeing his father already seated at the table, sipping a cup of black coffee and a potions journal or the Daily Prophet in hand. Snape had never missed a meal, nor had he let Harry miss one either, besides yesterday.
Maybe he was busy brewing?
That was a possibility; his father could have lost track of time while focused on an important potion.
Deciding to check, Harry made his way down to the lab, but upon arrival, he found the room dark and uninhabited. Harry went back up and decided to check his father's study next, slowly opening the door when he received no response after giving it a few knocks. The study was empty as well and the curtains were still drawn. As Harry was turning to leave, a patch of shivering light glimmering over his father's desk caught his eye.
Curiously, he crept towards it, recognizing the source of the light as a Pensieve, one that was smaller and less embellished with only a few runes and symbols engraved on the edges compared to the one in Dumbledore's office. Harry wondered why his father seemed to have left this sitting around, the situation strongly reminiscent of that moment in his fifth year. He peered cautiously down into it, watching the silvery-white substance swirling ceaselessly within the basin. Very brief snippets of scenes flashed by, too quickly for Harry to make any sense of. Mostly all of them seemed to contain a man, a woman, and a baby…
Then the swirling suddenly stopped, and a single scene shifted into focus. Harry found himself staring down into what appeared to be a long corridor with sunlight flooding in through the large windows and towering columns standing along the stone walls.
Seated on a secluded alcove, almost obscured by a pillar, was a boy hunched over a book, dark hair curtaining part of his face from view. A girl came around the corner a moment later, moving towards the boy, the sunlight glinting off her dark red hair...
Harry tilted his head, leaning closer...
Something snapped in his mind, and Harry pulled back, just before the tip of his nose could make contact and pull him into the intriguing scene playing out below him. He took a few steps back, becoming aware of his heartbeat drumming in his ears. The last time he'd found himself in this same situation, Harry had come across one of his father's private memories, resulting in a livid Snape and a heavy jar of dead cockroaches hurled at him, just nearly missing his head. He didn't exactly know where his father was at the moment, but he definitely wasn't keen on recreating the incident from last year.
Harry turned on his heel and left the study without glancing back, trying to push the brief scene and his growing curiosity out of his mind.
After checking his father's bedroom and seemingly the entire manor (inside and out), Harry ended up back in the dining room, confusion mingling with worry now that he was certain Snape had left. The first thought that crossed his mind was a summons from Voldemort, but then Harry quickly reminded himself that his father was no longer a spy, and was immensely relieved he didn't have to ponder that possibility.
Maybe Dumbledore had called him and he was at Hogwarts?
But then why didn't his father tell him? Harry didn't see a note or anything letting him know where Snape had went… and it wasn't like his father to up and leave without notice. Unless he had left in a hurry…
"Mimkey?" Harry called.
A moment later, the house elf popped into existence beside him. "Does Young Master be needing something from Mimkey?"
"Do you know where my dad is?"
"Oh, yes," the elf squeaked. "Master Snape was called away by Madam Pomfrey."
"Called away?" repeated Harry, furrowing his brows. "Do you know why?"
Mimkey shook her head, her ears flopping from side to side, "Mimkey is only ordered by Master Snape to watch the young master while he be away."
"How long has he been gone?"
"Since last night, sir."
So his father had been gone all night, and he still wasn't back yet. Did something happen? Why would Madam Pomfrey need his father… unless someone was injured? Perhaps she needed him to brew some potions? But that task wouldn't take the whole night, would it?
His thoughts were interrupted when Mimkey nudged him towards his seat at the table, "Young master stlll be needing to eat his breakfast."
"Do you know when he'll be back?" Harry asked after complying. Plates of toast, bacon, eggs, sausages, fruit, and porridge appeared on the table before him. It was simply too much food for only him.
"Master Snape did not say, but young master must not worry, Master Snape will be back soon," said Mimkey, patting his arm comfortingly. "Does young master be needing anything else from Mimkey?"
"No, that's all. Thanks, Mimkey," said Harry, offering a small smile.
She gave a short bow and then disappeared with a soft pop.
Harry sighed, looking around at the assortment of food. As he tried to fill his plate, Harry thought it rather strange to be eating at this large table alone.
After managing to finish some porridge and a few pieces of bacon, Harry went back to his room, and was greeted by a snowy owl perched on his desk, two brown envelopes bound to her leg. When Hedwig noticed him coming, she hooted at him and held her leg out. He caught glimpses of Ron and Hermione's handwriting on the front, and he wondered how his friends took the news. These were the responses he'd been waiting for, but at the moment, Harry wouldn't mind if he had to wait a little while longer.
"Thanks, Hedwig." Harry gave her an owl treat that he'd retrieved from his trunk. He ran a hand gently over her feathers, before she flew over to settle on her perch in the corner of his room.
Harry turned his attention to the brown letters in his hands waiting to be read. Taking a deep breath, and not wanting to prolong this any further than necessary, Harry decided to open Hermione's letter first.
Oh my goodness, it must have been quite a shock finding out Snape is your father. Are you really all right? I must admit, I was rather surprised when I'd read how Snape was treating you. Hard to imagine coming from him, but I'm so glad your happy with your new life. It's wonderful that you don't have to live with the Dursleys anymore.
Ron was going mad when he read your letter. He even made some ridiculous plans to try to rescue you, but don't worry, Ginny and I managed to talk some sense into him.
Have you finished your summer assignments yet? Well, I suppose one of the advantages of having a professor as your father is that he could look over them for you. You're so lucky— you must have a massive amount of resources available to you! Remember, we only have a two more weeks until term starts again.
I hope we can see each other before then. We have so much to catch up on.
Harry gave a tiny smile, shaking his head as he finished reading the letter. Of course, Hermione would obsess over the summer assignments. He thought she seemed to take the news rather well. After rereading it once more, Harry set the letter down and moved onto Ron's. He could already assume that Ron's reaction would be different to Hermione's.
Let me get this straight, your mother sent you a letter on your birthday and told you Snape was your father? Bloody hell! Was she serious? Is this some sort of joke? Do you know how mental it all sounds? I mean, how could that even be possible? Snape hates you and has always been a right git to you! Did he seduce your mum or force a love potion or something? If he didn't, I wonder what your mum saw in him. Do you even look like him now— hook nose, greasy hair, and all that? Merlin, you must have the worst luck Harry!
Are you sure you're okay? I know you said you're fine, but honestly, it's Snape you're talking about. Is he really treating you better? He doesn't force you to gut frogs or scrub cauldrons all day, does he? I can't really imagine Snape even being a father, I guess I have to see it to believe it...
You have to come visit soon. Maybe you can ask Snape if you can come over?
Good luck with that, mate.
When Harry finished reading, he had to reread it again, just to make sure he didn't miss anything.
Well… that was certainly better than he'd been expecting. At least Ron didn't immediately renounce their friendship or anything of the sort, though he could do without those barbs at his father. Not very long ago, he probably would have agreed with Ron, but now everything was just… different.
Harry released a full sigh of relief, knowing that his friends hadn't completely shunned him after they were told the news.
Should he ask Snape if he could visit the Burrow? Would he let him?
If this were the Dursleys, there would be no point in asking, but this was his father. It would be Harry's first time asking his parent if he could visit a friend's house, something so ordinary that Harry never thought he'd ever get the chance to do.
He hadn't seen his friends since the end of term, and after everything that had happened this summer, he had plenty more to tell them. Harry knew his appearance had changed enough for them to not recognize him, and he wondered how they were going to react to that. Fred and George didn't immediately recognize him until they noticed his scar.
Harry went over to his trunk and pulled out a quill and two blank pieces of parchment, then took a seat at his desk. He absently chewed on the tip of his quill as he tried to formulate the proper responses to his friends' letters. Harry was just finishing by the time Mimkey called him for lunch a few hours later, and he realized his father was still not back yet. The letters had been a good distraction, but now he felt some of the concern returning.
After lunch, Harry went to go to the library and picked out a book to read, then made his way to his father's study. He curled up on the settee, planning on waiting there until his father returned. He purposefully positioned himself so that he was facing away from Snape's desk with the Pensieve. Every time his mind wandered to those swirling memories behind him, Harry shook his head and resolutely pushed them away, refocusing his attention on his book.
Severus sharply flicked his wand, levitating the accursed object carefully out of its box. The afternoon sunlight reflected off the surfaces of the gold ring as it rotated slowly in the air. Severus narrowed his eyes, studying the small unfamiliar symbol engraved on the stone. It didn't look like any rune Severus had ever seen. But he knew the thing was cursed, that much was certain, by the waves of dark magic he could feel radiating off of it, and Severus wondered again how Dumbledore could have acted so foolishly. Surely, a wizard of Dumbledore's caliber could have detected the sinister nature of the ring, and would act carefully not to touch it, let alone put the bloody thing on.
He briefly glared at the man in question, resting in one of the infirmary beds, his bandaged hand the only sign left of the long ordeal.
It had taken a great amount of effort for Severus and Poppy to get the thing off Dumbledore's finger. The ring seemed to have a mind of its own, but they'd somehow manage to temporarily block the dark magic and remove it. Dumbledore's fingers and hand had begun blackening at a rapid pace, and Severus had set to muttering all sorts of incantations from his knowledge of the dark arts in an attempt to reverse the curse or slow the progression. Fortunately, Severus had managed to block the progression and expelled the curse to just below Dumbledore's knuckles. He then hurriedly made his way down to his lab in the dungeons, needing to brew a complicated potion he knew would help completely purge the dark magic from Dumbledore's system. The potion was one of the more advanced brews and there were multiple steps to brewing and administering it. Dumbledore had needed several doses of the potion, and by the time Severus finished administering the last dose, it was late afternoon the next day.
Out of the corner of his eye, Severus noticed Dumbledore stirring, his eyes fluttering open.
"Severus?" Dumbledore whispered, glancing around the room before his gaze locked onto the floating ring in front of Severus, remembrance flickering through his blue eyes.
"What were you bloody thinking?" Severus demanded, turning to fully face the headmaster. "Surely, you realized the ring carries a curse, what possessed you to put the damn thing on?"
Dumbledore grimaced, sitting up slowly. "I... was a fool… bested by temptation."
"Temptation?" Severus echoed, narrowing his eyes. "What for?"
He didn't receive a response from Dumbledore, and Poppy chose that moment to emerge out of her office, "I would appreciate it if you didn't harass my patient, Severus."
Severus scowled, sending her an irritated glare that she chose to ignore as she made her way over to Dumbledore's bedside.
"How are you feeling, Albus?" she asked, waving her wand over him.
"Much better than I last remember. Thank you, Poppy." he replied, the usual smile appearing on his old features.
"You really should thank Severus," said Poppy, handing him his half moon spectacles. "I was at a loss, having never come across such a dark, debilitating curse. Severus managed to contain the curse and brewed the proper potions to help dispel it entirely."
"It appears I owe you both an enormous amount of gratitude," said Dumbledore, adjusting his glasses and turning to the both of them.
"You were very fortunate Hagrid came across you on his way back to the castle— a few minutes later and the curse would have been irreversible," Severus snapped, lowering the ring back into its box and spelling it shut. "The ring carries a curse of extraordinary power, it was a miracle Poppy and I were able to contain it, let alone eliminate it entirely."
"Yes, very fortunate indeed," Dumbledore nodded, casually studying his bandaged hand. "I must have lost consciousness when I finished Apparating. Hagrid found me, you say?"
"Yes, and thank Merlin he was on his way back from Hogsmeade. You would have been there for hours before anyone was aware." Poppy summoned a jar of blue salve, "You seem to be recovering well. This will help with any residual pain left from the curse. Other than that, your hand should be good as new in a few weeks or so."
"I thank you again for your services, Poppy." Dumbledore accepted the jar and slipped it into a colorful robe pocket. He then stood, turning towards Severus, a serene smile on his face as he placed the box with the ring in his other pocket, "If you don't mind, Severus, I would enjoy the company on my way back to my office."
Severus nodded, following Dumbledore out of the infirmary and to his office. He wondered if he was going to get some straight answers from the headmaster for once. Though he probably shouldn't hold his breath. They walked in silence through the quiet corridors until they reached the stone gargoyle and Dumbledore said some absurd Muggle sweet to gain entrance.
Fawkes greeted them as they entered the Headmaster's office, fluttering his vibrant wings and trilling joyfully.
Severus regarded him with a sideways glare as he sank tiredly into the chair in front of Dumbledore's desk, feeling his remaining energy draining and the exhaustion beginning to settle deep in his bones.
He watched Dumbledore take his time organizing some of the pieces of parchment and books strewn all over his desk before the headmaster took his seat and pulled out the box containing the cursed ring, setting it next to his bowl of multicolored sweets. A strange look briefly passed over Dumbledore's old features as he gazed at the ring, but it was gone before Severus could identify it. He wondered why this cursed ring seemed so important to him.
"Are you planning on displaying that along with your other ridiculous trinkets?" Severus sneered, eying the various bits and pieces displayed around the office with distaste.
Dumbledore looked up and chuckled, "No, it is of far more significance than the others."
Severus raised an eyebrow, as a gesture for Dumbledore to elaborate, but gave an irritated sigh when the headmaster remained silent. He glanced back at the ring, "What is that symbol engraved on the stone?"
Dumbledore didn't immediately answer, taking a moment to pick apart two lemon drops and popping one into his mouth before replying, "An ancient rune, perhaps."
Severus arched a skeptical eyebrow at him, unconvinced. Obviously, the old coot knew more than he was letting on. "How did you just happen to come across this thing?"
"Plenty of researching," Dumbledore said simply, clasping his hands together. "The pieces of the puzzle are coming together quite nicely."
Severus forced out a breath. Why was it like pulling teeth trying to get any simple answers from the old man?
He was about to ask more on the matter, but was halted when Dumbledore held up his bandaged hand. "It will all be revealed in due time, Severus."
Severus sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Why am I not surprised," he grumbled. Of course, Dumbledore was still his naturally secretive self. Normally he would have attempted to press further on the matter, but at the moment, he seemed to lack the energy to do so.
"Now, about the special mission Voldemort has given the young Malfoy," Dumbledore began after a short pause, causing Severus' head to snap up at the abrupt change in subject.
Severus ran a hand down his face, "A death sentence, more like," he said quietly, recalling the conversation he'd overheard. "The Dark Lord is punishing Draco for Lucius' failures."
It was the last time Severus spoke to Draco before his cover had been compromised, and the Dark Lord wasn't pleased. He wished he could have done more to sway Draco from following in Lucius' footsteps. Even though Severus was named his godfather by Lucius and Narcissa, he was only able to observe from the sidelines, carefully keeping his cover and indulging the boy like some semblance of a godfather would. He'd watched Draco grow from an innocent, bright child to a teen heedlessly parroting Death Eater propaganda.
Dumbledore inclined his head, steepling his long fingers beneath his chin, "Yes, and a frightened child is more likely to lash out in desperation."
"Draco is simply trying to please his father by following in his footsteps." Severus leaned back in his chair and sighed, "I wish I could have done more to prevent it."
"Perhaps this year, you can. You are his godfather—"
"—yes, but now that my allegiances are clear, he has likely lost all trust in me."
"Just as well, do what you can and keep a close eye on him," Dumbledore said firmly. "For his sake, as well as the other students."
Severus nodded, though he didn't believe Draco capable of murder. He knew the boy emulated his father almost to the point of no return, but he knew Draco had inherited more from Narcissa, though buried deeply as it was at the moment. Severus just hoped he wasn't too far out of reach.
"I have no doubt some students will be unhappy with your supposed betrayal," Dumbledore commented.
"Which is why I need to be cautious," Severus said, knowing the students with Death Eater parents. "Especially when Harry's true parentage becomes public knowledge."
This could be the most interesting year yet. Not that the last several years weren't. It was just that everything was going to be different this year. His true allegiances were revealed and he was no longer required to work under a disguise of a loyal Death Eater. Severus would also have not one, but two sons under his care, attending Hogwarts the following term. He could only imagine the reactions from the student body when it becomes publicly known that Harry Potter was in fact his son.
"How is he, as of late?" Dumbledore asked, after a brief pause.
Severus looked down at the floor, his mind flashing to visions of Harry brewing comfortably beside him to the boy gliding through the air on his broom, a carefree expression on his face. Then it twisted into Harry on the floor, thrashing and struggling against invisible demons, his normally green eyes flashing a sinister red before Severus was blasted back—
"Harry is… fine." Severus began quietly, kneading his forehead. "Gradually recovering..." he hesitated, "however, he's been suffering from rather vivid nightmares… one recently brought about by the Dark Lord."
"I see." Something flickered behind Dumbledore's eyes, like clouds passing over the sun. He leaned forward in his chair, "Does this occur often?"
Severus shook his head, "No, I have only witnessed one such incident."
"And what, if I may inquire, did this dream consist of?"
"Visions of his friends dead and…" Severus grimaced, "myself, dying."
Dumbledore nodded, looking pensive for a moment. "He's using Harry's fears against him," he said softly. "Which is all the more need for Harry to master Occlumency."
"I'm aware." Severus said, crossing his arms over his chest. He cleared his throat, "but concerning this connection between Harry and the Dark Lord… how deeply are they linked?"
"I have my suspicions," Dumbledore said. "However, nothing is set in stone, as of yet."
Severus glared at the old man, but Dumbledore didn't seem to notice as he studied a loose thread on his robe sleeve. Again, Severus felt as if the Dumbledore knew more than what he was letting on. And for some reason, the headmaster decided not to disclose important information to Severus, even though it pertained to his son. He truly wished he possessed the energy to pursue the subject further, but for now, he'd have to leave it. For now.
A long silence ensued, broken only when Fawkes gave a loud trill, fluttering his mighty wings and taking off from his perch in a whirl of orange and red. Severus followed the phoenix's flight out the open window until it became just a red speck against a cloudy blue sky.
"I should take my leave now as well," Severus said, standing and turning towards the Floo. He should really return home and check on Harry, then get some much needed rest. He was practically dead on his feet.
"Of course, enjoy the rest of your summer, Severus," Dumbledore smiled, rising as well, "and give Harry my best."
Severus gave a curt nod, grabbing a pinch of Floo powder and throwing it into the grate. Just as he was stepping into the green flames, Severus noticed out of the corner of his eye, Dumbledore removing the sword of Gryffindor from its glass casing...
What the bloody hell was he doing now?
Severus shook his head, not thinking anymore of it as he was swallowed by the flames.
He stepped out of the fireplace with a smidge less grace than he normally would. His legs buckled slightly underneath him, but he recovered quick enough. The glimmering above his desk reminded him of the memories he had yet to see, and Severus drew the memories back into the vial, setting them inside his drawer, intending to look at them first thing in the morning.
A light snoring then drew his attention to a boy dozing on his settee, an open book resting on his chest. He was glad his son seemed to be sleeping peacefully for once, no hint of a nightmare on his features. It made him appear younger than he actually was.
"Harry," Severus gently shook his son's shoulder.
Harry shifted, eyes fluttering open and blearily looking around until they landed on Severus.
"You're back," he whispered, sounding relieved. Harry quickly sat up and ran a hand down his face as if trying to clear away the last remnants of sleep. He looked up at Severus with concerned green eyes, "What happened? Mimkey said you were called away by Madam Pomfrey last night."
Severus took a seat next to him, "Professor Dumbledore had a sort of accident."
Harry frowned, "It must have been bad. You were gone a long time."
Severus leaned against the arm of the settee, fighting the heaviness in his eyes. "He thought it a good idea to put on a ring containing a dark curse."
"What?" Harry's eyes widened, "Why would he do that?"
"Who knows what the headmaster is thinking nowadays," Severus said dryly.
"Is he all right?"
"Fortunately, Madam Pomfrey and I managed to prevent the curse from fatally spreading."
"Oh," Harry let out a breath, "that's good. Glad he's okay."
Severus nodded, gazing out the window and noting the sun was just beginning its journey down toward the horizon. He glanced at the clock, realizing it was past their usual dinner time already.
"Have you had dinner yet?" Severus asked, turning back to his son.
"Er, no, not yet." Harry said, scratching the back of his neck.
Harry shrugged, "I wanted to wait until you got home."
"I see," Severus said, "Well then, shall we have dinner?"
Harry nodded and Severus led the way to the dining room, just realizing he was starving, having not eaten since dinner last night.
"What have you been up to today?" Severus asked once they'd settled at the table.
"Nothing much," Harry replied. "Just been doing a little reading, and I wrote back to my friends." He chewed his bottom lip, seeming to hesitate for a second, "I told Ron and Hermione about us."
"Did you?" said Severus, taking a sip of his tea. "I'm sure it came as a shock."
He hadn't really given much thought to how Harry's friends would react to their relationship. Though Severus supposed he could put up with the Weasley brood and Granger if they stayed loyal to his son.
"Yeah," Harry began making swirls in his potatoes, "Hermione took it better than Ron I think." He paused briefly, "Can I visit the Burrow? I want to see them before term starts again."
"I'm sure that can be arranged," Severus said after a moment. "I'll speak to the Weasleys."
"Really?" Harry sounded a bit surprised at first. The corners of his lips rose, "Thanks, sir."
The rest of dinner went by in comfortable silence, and afterwards, Severus felt as if he could fall asleep anywhere, even standing up. When he finally made it back to his room, he didn't bother changing out of his robes as he collapsed onto his bed, instantly drifting off the moment his head hit the pillow.
The next morning, Harry was on his way to breakfast when something caused him to pause outside his father's study. He hovered at the doorway, realizing after a few seconds that it was Snape who was sitting on the settee, still as a statue, his face buried in his hands. His father blended into the shadows so well, Harry almost didn't see him.
Did something happen?
He'd never seen his father like this before.
"Sir?" Harry knocked on the open door, "Are you all right?" he asked carefully.
There was no response.
Harry took a few steps into the room, cautiously glancing around until his eyes landed on the Pensieve from yesterday, still next to his father's desk. His eyes darted from the stone basin back to his father slumped on the sofa, and suddenly everything became clear.
Didn't his mother say in the letter that she'd left memories for his father?
Harry stared down into the swirling silvery-white substance, watching the scenes flashing by with longing. He didn't think his father would mind if he saw them, considering a baby version of himself was also in the memories...
But Harry figured he should probably ask for permission first… just in case.
Harry turned toward Snape, who still hadn't moved a muscle. "Um… sir, can I— do you mind if—"
There was a minuscule nod of his father's head, and Harry took that as permission to enter. He gripped the edge of the basin, shivering slightly with anticipation. Taking one more glance at his father, Harry took a deep breath and then leaned over the shimmering substance, plunging headfirst into the swirling depths below.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I know it's been quite a while since my last update, and I'm so sorry about that. Life just got in the way, but now I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. You wouldn't believe how many drafts I went through for this chapter, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I just needed to move on so we can continue with the story and get to the memories chapter, which I hope to have ready soon.
If you want a kind of glimpse into an AU of this world, I had written a little one shot of Severus with a little Harry that you can check out on my page.
Anyways, until next time,