Betaed by Lliey GeminiRevised: 11-01-04
Chapter 16 - I'll find my way home
It took long minutes for Severus to calm down.
"Let's sit down on the sofa," Harry sighed finally. "It's a little bit more comfortable than the ground... I still don't feel too well..."
"But how could you survive... Pettigrew cast the Killing Curse on you..."
"Dumbledore said that it was because of his life debt... He couldn't kill me. He, of course, didn't know that. The Headmaster thinks that he really wanted to kill me, but something inside him stopped him to cast the curse with full strength, and I'd just fainted."
"I thought you had died."
"Yeah, I know... I asked the Headmaster to tell you I'm alive, but he always resisted and left me alone. I couldn't even go after him, I was so weak, and he had many things to do. He just came and tended my injuries, and left every time. I didn't have any time to talk to him, so now, we have to wait for him," said Harry. "I don't know the answers to your questions, and he said he would be here in an hour."
Snape nodded, grasped the arm of the chair, and stood up with difficulty. He felt dizzy but he reached for Harry to help him up too. They stumbled to the sofa and Snape collapsed onto it. He felt suddenly empty.
"I cannot believe that Albus did this to me..." he said staring unfocused at the fireplace. "I cannot believe it..."
Harry sat next to him.
"I'm sure he had his reasons to do it... And perhaps he didn't think it would be so hard on you considering the fact that you never seemed to be too fond of me..."
"You're probably right... But then again..." Snape was unable to compose himself.
Harry stared at his face worriedly. It should have been an immense shock for him. The fact that Snape had cried made his suspicions more serious. Yes, he had seen him in tears twice already in the last weeks: once when the professor had been haunted by a nightmare about Quietus's death, and the other time when Avery had first tortured Harry. Yes, Severus had been in tears then. But he hadn't really cried.
Snape - crying.
The flowing time which always turns the things of life upside down. Two months ago, he had truly disliked the sharp and acid Potions Master. And now - he felt his pain as it would be his own. And Snape had cried, had done the thing Harry was sure he hadn't done for years or decades...
"By the way, it's quite cold here," Harry shuddered abruptly. "I HATE dungeons..."
Snape's gaze turned focused in an instant. He drew forth Quietus's wand from his belt, with its first wave he ignited the wood in the fireplace, with the second summoned a blanket and with the third a steaming tea-set appeared on the coffee-table next to the sofa. He wrapped the blanket tightly around Harry and put a cup of hot tea into his hand.
"I'm sorry I was a little... distracted," he smiled weakly. "Feeling better now?"
"Definitely," smiled Harry in return. "And don't be sorry for your distraction. I would have done the same."
"But you are a child and I supposed to be an adult," the man closed his eyes in embarrassment. "I didn't want to disturb you with my feelings..."
"Severus, the past days were just too hard for you. It's nothing to be embarrassed about."
Snape nodded and Harry was amazed by the stern professor's obedient-like behaviour.
"And er... how are you? The injuries..." Snape finally sighed. Now it was Harry's turn to become embarrassed.
"Some of them are still aching... Mostly the deep ones in my... legs and tights," Harry gulped.
"Those cuts reached the bones, Harry. They will be painful for a while..."
"The Headmaster said the same when he healed them."
"He isn't here. I don't know where he is, but I didn't see him. Otherwise, my injuries were half-healed when we got here and I'm not sure he heals bruises like them."
"I see... Anyway, I think you will have problems with those razor-cuttings."
"WHAT?" Harry seemed horrified. "What do you mean by problems?"
"Er... I hope I'm wrong but in some situations, they could cause pain... serious pain again. Situations, which are similar to that one."
Harry shuddered again and felt sick. He had to fight hard if he didn't want to retch.
When Snape realised his words' effect on the boy, he paled slightly and hastily added, "Although I can be easily wrong. I have no experiences in this field."
"And what about your bruises?" asked Harry suddenly.
"Considerably better. Poppy had to spend some time while she fixed my hands..."
Harry nodded. For some moments they sat silently.
"I'm glad that we managed to survive this all," Harry spoke up. "I would have never believed it. I was completely sure I would die there... But now... I can't say what I feel... like I had been given a second chance to live, to start everything from the very beginning."
"You don't need second chances. I, however, did that. And I received it too."
"Oh, the well-known speech about deserving again?" Harry nudged Snape's side and grinned. Snape grinned back.
"All right, all right I won't go on..."
"Thank goodness. I'm deadly bored of your self-reproach..."
"I'm not a Potter, remember, uncle? And, if I remember correctly Harry Potter was buried a few hours ago..."
Snape's face darkened at the memories of the funeral, and the previous days' happenings invaded his mind. He didn't ever realised that he began to tremble again just Harry's movements snapped him out of his daze. The boy put the empty cup down on the table, wrapped his blanket around him too, as they had been in the cell, and folded him into his arms.
"We survived it, Severus. It's over. I'm alive. You're alive," he repeated softly these sentences again and again until Snape calmed down and stopped trembling.
"I think it was just... too much," the professor muttered finally. He lifted his eyes to Harry. "I really believed that you had died, Harry. You can't imagine how I felt... I... I saw you dying. It was... terrible. I wanted to die too... It was my fault..."
"Nothing was your fault, Severus. Nothing at all."
"I left you behind."
"But I survived. With your help. You brought me back to Hogwarts."
"It was just too similar to Quietus's death..." Snape whispered.
"But I'm alive."
"But you could have died."
"But I haven't," Harry said sharply. "Please, Severus. Stop it. You saved my life. Without you, I would have been killed at the first evening, or during the tortures. Without you, I would have given up my dignity, and even if I had managed to survive those tortures somehow I would be still homeless..." the last words were very low. And there was something else behind those words. Hope? Fear?
Snape freed an arm from Harry's hug and wrapped it around the boy's shoulder.
"I don't regret what I promised to you, Harry..." he began, but a sudden knocking interrupted him. "It should be the Headmaster. Come in," he sneered towards the door.
If a glare could have been murderous, the Headmaster certainly would have died right in the door. Snape's face was paler than usual, and Harry was wondering that he'd never seen him so furious, especially not with Dumbledore. But he could understand his feelings. The past two days had been a torture for Harry too, and even though he had known that both of them had survived the horrible adventure, he had missed Severus's company. He had had to stay alone in the darkness of the Headmaster's room all night, haunted by imagines and memories of the past days, dreaded of every shadow and noise coming from his surroundings, he couldn't really sleep either. The room had been comfortable, and, although the Headmaster had been really good in healing practices, he had no time to spend with Harry and he had missed an adult's company to help him through in this stage... If he had had to face even the fact that Severus had died, he had surely gone mad. Harry shuddered and tightened his embrace for an instance before releasing the man.
Dumbledore seemed to avoid the Potions Master's piercing glare, he sat down comfortably in the chair opposite of the sofa, then he lifted his gaze to the couple sitting in front of him, behind a common blanket, Snape's arm still on Harry's shoulder and he smiled.
Harry somehow calmed down seeing the smile of the Headmaster, Snape, on the contrary, became infuriated.
"I hope you enjoyed it!" he spat and wanted to cross his arms over his chest, but Harry's shoulder stopped him in this movement, so he just glared at the old man with his best Death Eater glare.
Dumbledore didn't get frightened by this show. His smile, however, faded away.
"I didn't enjoy it, Severus. Not a moment of it. But it was necessary. I'm sorry." His face became terribly serious.
"I don't think of only the past few days, Albus," Snape's voice was cold and sharp. "What about the past years? The past fifteen years? It was a big joke of yours, wasn't it?"
Harry was sure for a moment that Dumbledore would loose his temper, but somehow the old man remained calm and suddenly just seemed... sad.
"I think you owe us an explanation," the Potions Master went on. "Not about the facts. We somehow managed to guess them. I'm rather interested in your motives to keep it all secret."
The whole conversation was so uncomfortable that Harry would be rather anywhere else than there. Yes, he was curious too, but the tone of the whole chat was so cold... it reminded him of a past Potions class or their first common day in Nightmare Manor. He didn't like this feeling at all.
"It was not my decision, Severus," the Headmaster sighed heavily. "By no means. I didn't agree with this but my situation was just like yours in a certain way..."
"Your point is?" the coldness didn't disappear from Snape's tone.
"I was forced by an oath to keep it in secret."
A little hint of understanding crossed Snape's face.
"Lily?" he asked cautiously.
Dumbledore just nodded in return.
"I was really relieved today when you said you've already solved this stupid riddle of hers," Harry was shocked by the clear anger on the Headmaster's face. "I don't know how I could tell you if you haven't found it already without breaking my oath... Luckily I got away with it."
"Well, Albus, then can we hear the whole story?" Snape leaned back into the sofa. Harry was relieved as the tension lessened a little.
"Of course," Dumbledore nodded. "You have the right to know it as you said, Severus... Let's see... The whole story began in your brother's fifth year. He and Lily were always friends, but they tried to keep their friendship secret. Quietus was worried about your and your parents' reaction and didn't want to endanger Lily. But as they grew closer they needed a plan to meet and be together inconspicuously. By that time James was one of Quietus's best friends and even though Sirius and Peter didn't like their relationship they accepted it because... in that time they were occupied with other things too..." the Headmaster smiled slightly. "Black was dating a Ravenclaw girl, Peter was struggling to obtain as many NEWTs as he could, because he wanted to work in the Ministry. That year was your last year, Severus. I think you didn't notice anything as you had your business too."
Snape didn't seem too happy hearing this remark.
"Yes, I was about to join Voldemort then," he barked darkly.
The Headmaster suddenly was taken aback.
"I thought of Anne Black, Severus," the old man said.
"In that time I didn't think of her too much," the self-disgust was clearly audible. Harry nudged him.
"Hey, Severus... Don't begin this again..." he mumbled to him and the Headmaster smiled slightly at Harry's words. Harry got embarrassed for a moment then he too smiled in return. "On with the story, Headmaster, please?"
"So... James and Lily pretended to date so that Lily could spend the holidays and some weekends at the Potters, mostly after James had graduated, so Quietus and Lily could meet there without emerging suspicions..." the Headmaster's voice became a little distant. "It would have been extremely hard for James, because he was in love with her too. However, I think he never told her this," he added silently.
"But when they got married he surely told her..." Harry looked pleadingly at the old man. The mere thought that his father... no, not his father, but yes, his father in a certain way as Severus had explained to him some days ago, so James Potter had been living with his mother without any mutuality of his feelings... He could feel his throat tighten.
"I don't know precisely what happened during their marriage but I don't think they were... close to each other in that sense which you think of, Harry. James respected your mother and did his best to comfort her after Quietus's death."
"It had to be very hard for him..." the boy whispered still under the effect of the previous idea.
Snape just nodded.
"I've never thought that James was so... noble," he admitted.
"Like his father and mother," Dumbledore's smile disappeared. "They were just too good... and totally selfless, and they have died in defence of others. All of them. But that is another story. As you know, when Quietus had died Lily already knew that she was with your brother's child. It happened just two days after his death that you saved her."
"Was it just two days? For me it seemed much more..." muttered Snape. "Well, you might be right. When I saved her she didn't know yet... I told it to her... but she was present in the funeral."
"Yes. After the funeral, she spent a lot of time at Quietus's grave. It was one of these occasions when I found her and talked to her. It was winter and she was half-frozen because she was sitting there for long hours after she had noticed that you had never visited the tomb. She was very relieved, because she didn't want to meet you. I dragged her to my office and then she told me that she was pregnant with your brother's child. She was extremely despaired. They weren't married and her lover had died. She was horrified by the idea of being humiliated and laughed at to bare a child unmarried... I think her main reason to keep her child, you, Harry, was that she had loved your father deeply and you were the only remainder of him."
For the first time since he had learned the truth, Harry felt an uncertain warm feeling in his chest. It was so... good and sad in the same time.
'Your father.' Dumbledore said so matter-of-factly and naturally that it moved something akin belonging inside him.
'Your father.' 'She had loved your father.' Quietus, not James. Harry shut his eyes tightly. He felt the room whirling around him.
'Your father.' His dead father. Why should all these things always happen to him? He had accepted this fact somehow, days before, when Severus and he had found out. But then, it had meant, mostly, that he and Severus had been relatives. He liked the idea of being related to Severus, but he somehow couldn't realise the thought of Quietus being his father. It seemed so unbelievable. So distant. But Dumbledore's natural words hit him in heart. So it was sure. Quietus. The man he had never heard about before.
"She forbade you to tell me the truth, didn't she?" Snape suddenly seemed horribly tired. "She thought that I hated Quietus... because I never visited his grave..."
"Perhaps it was a part of her reason, I don't know, she'd never mentioned this fact."
"Then what was her problem with me?" sighed the Potions Master.
"She knew that you were a Death Eater. Quietus told her. And she didn't believe me when I insisted that you changed sides. She saw you killing three kids and she was terrified of you. She said she didn't want you to have any influences on Harry. She was afraid that you would drive him to the Dark Side or force him to join Voldemort."
"I'd never have forced him even if I still were a Death Eater!" Snape turned livid. "I've never tried to force Quietus either. Never!"
"I know, Severus. She, however, was suspicious. And I think she was afraid of your family too..."
"No wonder..." muttered the professor darkly. "But you, Albus, after her death you could tell me..."
"You were in Azkaban, Severus. On the other hand, I couldn't break my oath. I didn't want Harry to grow up too spoiled either..."
It was at this moment that the two adults noticed that something was wrong with Harry. He didn't participate in their conversation, just sat silently on the sofa, his face pale, his eyes closed and tears were running down his face.
"What's wrong, Harry?" Snape asked worriedly.
Harry was fighting with his tears and hiccups to answer.
"It's so terrible... I've never seen him... I've never known about him. I don't look like him either. And he is my father who died before my birth," he shook his head. "And you are talking about him so... naturally as... as..." he was really angry with himself for showing weakness, but he was simply unable to finish the sentence. His tears were suffocating him, and he bit his lips not to cry aloud.
Snape suddenly stood up.
"Just one moment," he said and left the room. Fortunately, Dumbledore didn't say a word and Harry managed to calm down a little bit by the time Snape returned with a box in his hand. He sat back next to the boy and put it into his lap.
Harry lifted his eyes quizzically.
"Photos..." Severus sighed.
There was total silence when Harry opened the box with trembling hands. Photos again, just photos, nothing else. He had MANY photos... but he had no LIVING parents. Just images and memories. And now, again a memory to add to the others...
By the end of his life, he would have plenty of photo albums full of pictures of men and women he'd never known, he thought sarcastically.
Then he saw him. He was standing next to Severus: a handsome, tall boy, though not as tall as his older brother. He really looked like the Potions Master except for the eternal-like sneer. He was just standing and smiling shyly, but his eyes were glittering like Dumbledore's, twinkles were dancing in them and... yes. Power surrounded him, undeniable power, like the Headmaster's. The only difference was that Dumbledore's power wasn't obvious just in extraordinary cases like two months ago when he stunned Barty Croutch. His father, on the other hand, wasn't angry or excited in any way. He seemed calm and well-balanced, and really shy, but he radiated that power nonetheless.
Harry suddenly wondered if he was the only one who had noticed this feature of his. Without lifting his gaze from the picture he asked softly.
"Did he seem always so powerful?"
He could hear Snape's gasp from his side and Dumbledore's gulp from the chair.
"What do you mean?" asked Severus in the same time as Dumbledore said—
"He not only seemed powerful, Harry. He was. He was... perhaps even stronger than me."
Snape's jaw fell hearing the soft remark, but Harry refused to look up. He took another photo instead. Severus and Quietus again. Laughing together on the bank of the lake, in the background he could see the Hogwarts castle. Severus surely missed to notice that somebody was taking the photo... In that picture they really looked like twins.
Then another one: Quietus and an unfamiliar man standing face to face, their wands in hand: the traditional fencing posture. As Harry looked at them they lowered their wands and smiled and waved at him.
The man somehow seemed familiar. Some of his features...
"Harold Potter," he heard Snape's word. "I don't know where this picture was taken. I've found it among Quietus's things after his death... like many of these photos."
After some moments of silence, Dumbledore looked at the two figures sitting in front of him.
"I think it's time to have a light dinner," he said and with a graceful flick of his wand he ordered the meal, which appeared on the coffee table next to the tea-set. The Headmaster refilled it too, and took a cup of hot tea in his hand.
Harry didn't feel hungry, so he remained still and went on contemplating over the pictures, Snape, however, leaned forward and took a plate in his hand. When he noticed that Harry didn't move, he gave the plate to the boy.
"You must eat something, Harry."
"I'm not hungry," Harry shrugged eyeing another picture. James and Harold Potter, Lily Evans and Quietus were sitting around a large, mahogany table having meal. It was so obvious... His mother and Quietus next to each other, James was facing them, smiling in a strange way. Sadly? Harry sighed. In the meantime he could hear Snape's grumbling.
"I didn't ask if you're hungry or not. You must eat even if it's just a little bit. If you want to heal perfectly you need energy. You must eat."
"All right," Harry surrendered still looking at the photo. He put the plate on his lap and began to nibble while he took another picture. "I hate magical photos..." he muttered after a while. "You almost believe that the figures in it are still living: they look at you, they wave at you, as if they still could feel, could love... but they can not. They don't know what you feel, what you are longing for. They are dead. They just pretend to exist, to be alive. And when you put them down you are alone again..."
Severus, with a sudden decision, took the plate from Harry's lap and knelt in front of him so that their heads were on the same level. Harry lifted his gaze and their eyes locked.
"Harry... it's just too late to ponder about these things. Yes, they are dead and yes, their photos won't be able to love you. They are just pictures, memories of the past. But you are not alone. Of course, you are not! Remember what I promised to you? Do you remember?"
"Yes, Severus," they boy's voice was barely above a whisper. "You said that you will be a family for me..."
"...and I was bloody serious about it, and still I am," Severus added clearly as if he spoke to a little child.
"But it was THEN... In the captivity. None of us believed seriously that we would survive it..."
"Does it matter? As I told you I thought it seriously. Even now. The only question is what your decision is."
Harry couldn't answer. He was just sitting face to face to Severus, his eyes widened in disbelief.
"Why, Harry?" Snape shook his head desperately. "What must I do to convince you that I REALLY want you around me, that I'm offering it not only for your, but for my own good too. It's not my favour to you, it's not a burden, not an obligation. I'd like it. Can you understand?"
"But you don't need... just because I'm your brother's son..." Harry whispered weakly.
"NO!" Severus cried out in impatience. He seemed extremely angry. "Did you pay any attention at all, or are you that daft boy I've always imagined you to be? It's not about Quietus. If I remember correctly I offered this to you days before we learned that my brother is your father."
"Yes, but I thought..."
"You thought that wrong," he sighed. "I swear it's much more simple to convince a reluctant girl than you..." he smiled but after that he turned serious again. "So, what do you answer? Do you want to live with me?"
Harry unable to say a word just nodded.
"Finally," he stood up with difficulty and sat down next to him. "Sometimes I'm sure you're really a little bit idiot..." he nudged Harry who smiled shyly in return.
"Perhaps you're right..."
"Gentlemen, as I see there will be no serious problems with my plan," Dumbledore spoke up. The two glanced at him nervously.
"What kind of plan, Albus?" Snape was definitely suspicious.
"A plan to protect Harry. Whose part was his funeral too."
Snape didn't react just sat staring at him intently. Then he said slowly.
"I think I understand you now, Albus..."
"But I don't understand," Harry said annoyed. "What's this stuff about my death? And how you, Headmaster, could make them believe that it was me who was buried?"
It was not the Headmaster who answered Harry's question.
"Voldemort now thinks that you are dead. He is not after you any more. I think that was your purpose, Albus? You didn't tell me the truth to play my role perfectly in the funeral in front of the wizarding community, including the monster's followers?"
"Yes, Severus," nodded Dumbledore in agreement. "I don't think you could have played the broken and grieving man you had to play if I'd told you the truth. You are just too proud to do it. And your pride would have endangered Harry's safety."
"Why?" Harry asked.
"They saw us together, Harry," Snape explained in thought. "They'd never believed that I could remain the usual cold-hearted bastard in YOUR funeral after all the things we went through together. And I think, Albus is right. I couldn't humble myself in front of those idiots by showing weakness if I had known the truth... But it was so hard..."
"And the body?" Harry was really curious. "You said that the Ministry had examined my... er... corpse before they had given the permission for the funeral."
"Oh, Harry, it's an interesting question. First of all because I needed Harry Potter's corpse and not yours to cheat the Ministry."
"What?" Harry blinked in confusion.
"When the Ministry examines a corpse, they throw several Identifier Spells on it which show the parentage of the dead person. In your case the spells would have shown that the person was Lily Evans's and Quietus Snape's son. And I didn't want the Ministry to know about this parentage fact or they could even think that you, Harry POTTER, were still alive, so I transformed two hairs into your body: a hair of your mother and a hair of James Potter. It was a quite difficult transformation nevertheless. But I did it!" he smiled mischievously.
"But why did you want to cheat the Ministry?" Harry asked still confused.
"They were after you like Voldemort was. They wanted to make you responsible for Cedric's death at first, but later Fudge and his team cooked up that you were about to become the next Dark Lord or at least Voldemort's ally for you helped him to regain his power again... I don't know precisely but I have my ideas about their plans." The Headmaster's smile disappeared.
"They wanted to get rid of you, Albus, didn't they? Lucius again, if I'm not mistaken," Snape sneered. "As always."
"I don't understand what you're talking about," Harry commented dryly.
"The usual. Albus' faults: Quirrel, Hagrid the half giant, Lupin the werewolf, Crouch the Death Eater, me as another Death Eater, you as the next Dark Lord, all of us as Dumbledore's trusted people... let's inform the wizarding community all of these 'faults' and they will lose their faith in Dumbledore and they will demand him to resign as soon as possible. Right?"
"Exactly. Fudge is under Lucius Malfoy's influence who wants to become the Headmaster of Hogwarts."
"But... it would be a disaster!" Harry cried horrified.
"Yes, it would," nodded Dumbledore. "And on the other hand, if I let them know, that you were alive, they would have questioned you in the Ministry and after Severus..." Dumbledore suddenly interrupted himself, but Severus waved dismissively.
"I've already told him about the Ministry's ways of investigations and about my testimony to you too. So you can go on."
"Well... let me put this way: I didn't want to give you to them to investigate your case. And if they ever find out that you are still alive..."
"That means... means that I can't be myself any more..." he muttered. "Voldemort wants to kill me, the Ministry wants to torture me..." he lowered his head and buried his face in his palms. "I have to go in hiding or I have to disguise myself..." Then he added quietly, "Why should I survive at all? I just want a normal life without fear and menace, I don't want to hide, or something like that..."
Snape put his hand to Harry's shoulder.
"Harry, Harry, calm down. I'm sure the Headmaster is up to something. You'll listen to his idea, and after that we'll decide together what to do, all right?"
Harry sighed and nodded, but didn't lift his head.
"So, Albus?" Snape turned to the old man and cast an expectant look at him.
"I've already done some preparations, Severus. If you accept Harry into your family, James' spell will be broken and he will look like he would have been without his adoption."
"You mean that I'll look like my father?" Harry gulped.
"Not like your father. Like the son of your mother and father. But you won't certainly look like James anymore. And after that, you can be enrolled in Hogwarts as Severus's son."
"WHAT?" the Potions Master bellowed. "Why can't he be simply Quietus's son?"
"It would be too suspicious. There are some people who know about Quietus's and Lily's relationship. Almost every member of the staff knows Trelawney's prediction about him. It was a wander that nobody suspected the truth about Harry's true parentage. And now, I really don't want anybody to ponder on these facts. Only we know the truth. We, the three of us. Nobody else. And I don't want anybody else to learn it."
"But... but... what about Ron and Hermione...?" Harry stuttered. "They are my friends. They have to know!"
"Harry, I know that it sounds ruthless what I'm talking about, but you can't tell them. It would be all too dangerous for everybody."
"Harry. This is not a joke anymore. In reality, it never was a joke, but now, it became a war. A WAR. Do you understand, Harry? Such a knowledge would endanger them seriously. They can slip the secret accidentally to their friends, family members, or in a rough situation they could use it against you or Severus... Not to mention the fact that they surely would talk about it between themselves... The mere fact that you are friends would be extremely suspicious. You know, Harry, it's not even impossible that they will be questioned about you and your death by the Ministry or by Voldemort just because they were your friends..."
"Oh, my God... I've never thought about that..." whispered Harry. "But it means that I have to begin everything over again."
"You can befriend them again," Snape said encouragingly.
"Yes, as YOUR son Ron surely will be happy to be befriended with me..." snapped Harry. "He has too many prejudices to do that. I'll lose him... Headmaster, isn't there any other possibility?"
"We could disguise him... the glamourie..." Snape said reluctantly.
"The Aurors will throw the Revelo first when they come to do investigations amongst the students and it will blow up his façade. Otherwise, Harry's disguise isn't as important as the fact that we should keep secret that he is alive. And I think the safest way to disguise him is to pretend that he is your son."
Harry drew his knees up to his chest. He embraced his legs and leaned his head on his knees. What was he supposed to do now? He didn't want to lose his friend but he could understand the Headmaster's points about keeping it in secret. An unguarded word, a wrong address ("Harry!"), a slight reference to common adventures and he would be revealed, and let's go to the Ministry's dungeons where he would be treated as the next Dark Lord... tortures again... no. Perhaps he was selfish, but he didn't want to be tortured again. Never, possibly. And he didn't want his friends to be tortured either. And he and Snape would have to be VERY cautious not to endanger Dumbledore. Snape would surely manage it. He was a spy for years, and he had learned how to do it. But what about him? He had to change his behaviour, his habits... He could not play Quidditch, he was just too good to risk it.
He had to talk to Snape about these things. He would help him. Snape. Harry suddenly became excited.
"Severus, would you mind it?" he turned to Snape who smiled.
"What? To pretend that I'm your father?" he asked. When Harry nodded his smile faded a little. "It's the last time I tell you, so you have to pay attention, Mr.. er... Harry. I'd like that. I'd be happy about it because it would give me the chance to spend more time with you. So," he nodded at the Headmaster, "I think we are ready."
"Harry? What do you decide? Do you want to be a family member of the Snape family?"
Harry inhaled deeply before he nodded.
"Yes, I do," he said finally as firmly as he could.
"Well, then. Severus, put your hand on his shoulder and take him into your family with your own words. It's a simple magic, you don't need wand or spell to perform it, it's your intent only that matters."
Snape nodded and put his hand on Harry's shoulder.
"I'm ready to receive him back into the Snape family. I receive him as Quietus's son but I will take care of him as my own son." He smiled at the boy. "Is it all right for you, Albus?"
"It's perfect. He will need a new name too, Severus."
"Yes, I know. I think that... he could be called after his father. If it's suitable for him. What do you think, Harry?"
"That... my name would be the same as your brother?"
"Quietus Snape," the Potions Master said and he could feel his throat tightening by the emerging feeling. His eyes met Harry's. "I think your mother would agree with me..."
The time seemed to stop.
"Quietus Snape..." whispered Harry. He felt the distance again. But now, he decided to try to lessen it somehow. He will learn how to feel about it. "It will be fine," he nodded in consent.
Dumbledore stood up.
"Very well. I think it's getting late. I leave you to have a rest. I think, Mr Potter will be Mr Snape for tomorrow morning. If he can accept it, that is. The other things will be arranged in the following weeks. I think you can spend these weeks in Snape Manor to become accustomed to the new situation. Next week I will visit you there and we can discuss the emerged questions. Is that all right for you?"
"Yes, Albus. And... thank you."
"You are welcome, my friend. Good night Severus, Quietus."
Harry was lying on his stomach on the sofa, but he wasn't able to sleep. He simply was too afraid in the darkness, and his dreams were full of the previous days' events. Mostly those events in Nightmare Manor. He felt terribly alone in the dark dungeons, it was even worse than Dumbledore's room.
And when he thought of the future... he felt as if he was looking into a bottomless abyss: he was dizzy and frightened.
No. He didn't want this brand-new life. He wanted the old one back with the Dursleys, but with his friends too... But that was impossible, he knew perfectly well. He buried his head into the pillow. He was alone.
He didn't know how long he was crying before he felt a hand on his back.
"Harry... what's wrong?" Severus's voice sounded worried.
"I... I can't sleep," mumbled Harry through the pillow.
The man just crouched down at the sofa's side in thought.
"Could you sleep last night?"
Harry didn't answer just shook his head.
"I suspected..." he sighed tiredly. "Neither could I. Have you got nightmares too?"
Harry nodded in silence.
"I might have known..."
He stoop up and left the room. He returned after a moment with a vial in his hand.
"I think it would be better if you spent the night with me," he said finally. "Come on, Harry."
Harry muttered something into the pillow but he didn't move.
"I don't want to disturb you."
Snape opened his mouth for a sharp remark, but he succeeded to swallow it before escaping. Instead he lifted Harry with his blanket and pillow into his arms, and brought him in his bedroom. Fortunately, the boy was very light - the two weeks without meal left their traces on both of them. He lowered him on the bed, he took Quietus' wand and waved towards the fireplace to stir up the fire and set light to two torches.
"There won't be dark, okay?" he took the vial and handed to Harry. "Drink this. Dreamless Sleep Potion. You can't use it regularly because it doesn't give you natural sleep and causes dependence. But this time..."
"I don't need it, Severus. It's okay. I just... felt alone and... it was just too... dark and sometimes I feel as if I'm still in Nightmare Manor and all this is just a dream and when I'll wake up and they will came to bring us to torture..." Harry trembled.
"It's just two days that we got out of there... It's no wonder that you didn't get through it yet. It will take some time. For me too."
"And all these other things. You know it's just so... horrible. I'm afraid of the future and I'm horrified by the past. I'd just like to live as the other kids live. But no. I'm always different. And I hate it."
Severus sighed and embraced the crying teen.
"Harry... Everything will be all right. Believe me. We were together in a much worse situation than this, and we survived it. Now, we are free and nobody wants to hurt us. We can handle it, I'm sure. Never forget: you are not alone in this situation. I'll help you, I promise. But now, I think you need to have a rest. You haven't slept for two days or more. Drink the potion, and sleep well. I'll be here," he rubbed Harry's back calmingly. "I'll be here."
"No, I don't need that potion" Harry shook his head, yawned and curled at Severus's side. "I feel better. As you talk to me... like a... father..." he smiled. "You know, I'm happy about the Headmaster's plan. I like the idea of you being my father," he mumbled with closed eyes, still smiling.
The Potions Master grinned so madly that he was really grateful that nobody saw him. Harry's words warmed him more than anything before. He felt extremely happy, however, he didn't know why... Perhaps those psychological facts, he smiled widely. It must be them. But who cared? Perhaps he didn't miss having a family, having a son once and for all... Perhaps he was finally forgiven and really got a second chance to live a normal-like life. As normal as in these days could be...
"I like the idea of you being my son," he whispered into Harry's ears, who opened his eyes and smiled.
"Good night, Severus," he winked and shut his eyes.
"Good night, Harry."
"Quietus, don't forget," the boy mumbled into the pillow.
"All right then. Goodnight Quietus."
Snape stayed awake until Harry fell asleep.
It wouldn't be easy for either of them. He didn't tell Harry, but he himself was haunted by similar nightmares when he heard the boy crying in the sitting room.
Blood... tortures... pain... but now, they were free of them. And he wouldn't let those memories to destroy their lives. They would be free not only physically, but emotionally too, he swore to himself.
And once... they would fight Voldemort and they would defeat him.
He tightened his embrace around the sleeping boy and fell asleep. The next days were going to be hard for both of them.
The title of the sequel is: Coming off the ropes, the third, and last part of the trilogy is Through the Walls.
Are these fics are finished. You can find them in my library here as well as at my yahoo.group.
Please, if you can give me a review in the end of every story – so even now! I'm very curious of your opinion.