Chapter 1- Harry
Harry grumbled as he read over the instructions for what felt like the hundredth time. This potion had more steps than a Viennese Waltz and it was infinitely complex. But he was finally nearly finished.
The pungent aroma of this particular concoction wasn't helping matters, nor was Professor Snape's penetrating glare constantly boring into Harry's skull. Honestly, Harry was a fair hand at potions, when he paid attention. Perhaps Snape ought to redirect his gaze to Seamus's cauldron, which was the source of most of the foul odor, as well as a cloud of maroon smoke.
But, no, Harry, as usual, was the primary target of that ebony stare.
Harry hissed and brought his focus back to his chopping board. He'd grazed the side of his finger with his extremely sharp potions knife. He started to bring the injured digit to his mouth to suck on the sore spot but thought better of it at the last second and turned the motion into an inspection for blood instead. He couldn't see a cut, nor any blood, but he was in the process of thinly slicing some beetroot, so his fingers were absolutely purple, making any red blood difficult to spot in the hazy classroom.
"Inspecting your manicure, Mister Potter?" a voice drawled from the front of the room.
Harry's snappy retort died on his lips with a hiss from Hermione from somewhere over his left shoulder, and he responded with a strained, "No, Sir," instead.
With a sharp admonition to pay more attention to his ingredients and less to the quality of his fingernails, and not seeing any visible wound, anyway, Harry gave his still-stinging finger one final glance before returning to his potion. He had another centimeter of beetroot to slice, then all he had left to do was add it in slowly, stir 13 times clockwise and 7 counter-clockwise, and he could bottle it up. His potion wasn't quite the shade of pale pink it was supposed to be, but it was incredibly close and Harry was quite proud of his first NEWT-level potion, actually.
The fact he was even in NEWT potions was the first surprise of the year. After seeing the E on his OWL results over the summer, Harry thought his dreams of becoming an Auror, which required NEWT-level potions, were through. The new Minister, Scrimgeour, had been the head of the Auror Department, though, and had long been frustrated by the small number of Auror recruits coming out of Hogwarts since Snape began requiring an O for advanced potions, rather than the E his predecessor accepted. The Ministry could not directly interfere at Hogwarts after the fiasco of the previous year, but Scrimgeour leaned heavily on friends on the governor's board until they brought a proposal before Dumbledore, begging him to overrule the dour Potions Master. He was reluctant, but eventually relented, and so Harry found himself sitting in NEWT Potions, on the third day of the term, and working solo for the first time.
Which, in Harry's wry opinion, was actually easier than trying to brew around Ron's sloppy knifework.
Harry checked the instructions one final time before nodding to himself and picking up his chopping board covered in meticulously sliced beetroot. He added them one at a time, per the instructions, and watched in satisfaction as his potion began to turn a rich burgundy. A small smirk on his face, he grabbed two more slices. The first hit the potion with a soft plop and immediately dissolved like all the others. He released the second slice. As it slid into the red liquid, a thunderous bang shook the Potions classroom, and Harry Potter's world went black.
He awoke slowly and painfully, aware that it was dark, and, judging from the blurry shapes, crisp linens, and far too much prior experience, that he was likely in the hospital wing.
He reached to scratch an itch on his forehead and found it covered with a gauzy cloth. In fact, the cloth covered all of his face, as well as his right hand and the majority of his arm. His other hand appeared free of any wrapping but was tingly and tender as if the skin was new and still a little raw.
He reached for the bedside table to retrieve his glasses, but his questing hand encountered only a few vials, a small potted plant, and a cup of water, which he nearly overturned accidentally. Whether it was the noisy clattering of Harry's search or some magic inherent to the infirmary, Madam Pomfrey soon materialized around the side of the privacy curtain.
"Hello, Mister Potter," she spoke in hushed tones. She began bustling around at the side of his bed. She pressed a vial into his hand, which he drank dutifully, even as she began inspecting the bandages on his arm. She waved her wand in a complicated pattern and then tsked quietly.
"Best leave these on a bit longer," she said, almost to herself. "How are you feeling?" she asked in a firmer voice, though still quiet in respect to the lateness of the hour.
"My face itches," Harry replied, "and I can't find my glasses."
"Yes, I'm told they were unsalvageable even with magic. We will fit you for some new ones in the morning. There's little I can do about the itching, but it should decrease as your skin heals. The poultice I applied should be done restoring your arm in an hour or so, and your face by midday tomorrow. The way the potion exploded, your arm and face took the worst of it, but your face seems to be healing much more slowly."
"What happened? An explosion?" Harry asked.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"I was putting the last of my beetroot into my revealing potion, just like the instructions said. It was looking really good, actually. Then…" he thought for a moment, "that's it. Then nothing."
The matron hummed softly as if thinking to herself.
"Did Seamus's cauldron explode?" Harry asked. "It was smoking pretty badly."
Madam Pomfrey stepped closer to Harry's bed and leaned over so he could make out a few more details of her face. She smiled at him kindly.
"Actually, Mister Potter, I'm told it was your cauldron which exploded, which is why you are here wrapped in bandages and most of your classmates, including Mister Finnegan, are sleeping soundly in their beds."
"My cauldron? But...but it looked so good!" Harry exclaimed. He paused for a moment and furrowed his linen-covered brow. "Wait," he continued, "most of my classmates?"
"Yes, I'm sorry to say your friend Mister Weasley, as well as Mister Zabini, are both here for the night. They had a few burns that needed slightly longer to heal. They'll be right as rain by morning, so don't you worry about it. Speaking of morning, you need to get back to sleep as it'll be here before you know it." She bustled about on his bedside table again and handed him another vial. He took it without question, as he'd learned long ago to just accept whatever she gave him. Moments after swallowing, his eyelids felt heavy and he dropped off to sleep with only the passing thought that he hoped he wouldn't leave Ron with any more scars.
When Harry awoke for the second time, it was to sunlight streaming through the window and the bright smile of his bushy-haired friend.
"Harry!" Hermione cried with delight. "I'm so glad you're okay!" she crushed him in a vice-like hug that would make Mrs. Weasley proud. Harry patted her back awkwardly.
"Er, thanks. Me too. How's Ron?" Harry replied.
Hermione waved an impatient hand.
"He's fine. He's likely down in the Great Hall shoveling in as much breakfast as he can before class. Madam Pomfrey released him a bit ago, but you weren't awake yet, so I said I'd wait, at least until class time, but then I saw you stirring, so I didn't end up having to wait long at all." she chattered. Then she sobered as she looked at him seriously. "How are you? And don't say you're fine."
Harry sighed. "But I am fine. My face has even mostly stopped itching, so it must be almost healed."
Hermione grew even more serious. "Harry, it was awful. I thought for a moment you'd died. I mean, my ears were ringing and my arm hurt from where some of the hot potion had burned through my sleeve, but you were covered in it. So was Ron, and Blaise Zabini, who was in front of you, but you were by far the worst. I helped get Ron up here, but Snape was running through the corridors like a madman. Even with you on a levitated stretcher, he was too fast for Ron and me to keep up, though Ron was moving rather slowly because of the burns. By the time we got here, Madam Pomfrey and Professor Snape already had you behind the screens patching you up. I was so worried."
Harry listened with furrowed brows, then sat straight up, startling Hermione. "Wait," he said, "Snape brought me up here? On a stretcher? That he conjured and levitated?" Harry groaned at Hermione's nod and flopped back onto his pillows. "Great. Now he's going to hate me for blowing up his lab and being a burden. He'll definitely kick me out of potions and my Auror career will be over before it even started!" He groaned again. "And I don't even know what I did wrong! I followed the instructions exactly. It looked a little pale, so I thought maybe it would turn out weak, but otherwise alright. I…" he cut himself off with another groan and put his hands over his face.
Hermione patted him weakly on his blanket-covered knee. She looked like she wanted to say more, but her watched chirped on her wrist, a charm she'd put on it this year to ensure she'd never be late (as if she'd ever been in danger of that to begin with), and she looked at him sheepishly as she bid him a hasty goodbye instead.
It was a short time later when the eye examiner came and fitted Harry for new glasses, this time a thick, black rectangular frame made of plastic that was spelled with an unbreakable charm. Madam Pomfrey looked on curiously through the whole thing, then escorted the white-haired wizard back through the floo. Afterward, she busied herself with the bandages on his arm, revealing fresh pink skin newly healed underneath. She examined his facial bandages again and did a few more bits of fancy wand-waving before hustling away from Harry's bed with an unreadable look and no explanation. Harry thought little of any of this, though, as Madame Pomfrey was always busy and not one for conversation. Resigned to another long, boring hospital stay, Harry laid back in his bed with a sigh and began the long-familiar task of counting the candles in the hospital wing.
In what felt to Harry like several hours, but was really only slightly more than one, Madam Pomfrey reappeared around the curtain, a scowling Snape and twinkle-eyed Dumbledore in tow. Madam Pomfrey gave him only the barest nod in greeting and again waved her wand over Harry's face.
"See?" she asked as she gestured to a series of glowing runes that appeared over Harry's head. She pointed to a chart Harry hadn't noticed she carried in with her. "The readings are totally off. The runes say he's healed, but the baselines don't match."
Dumbledore scrutinized the chart, then the runes above Harry's head. He waved his wand like Madam Pomfrey had been doing all day and the same set of runes appeared next to hers. The two only scowled harder.
"Well, it's not your spell, Poppy, as my diagnostic charm appears the same. Severus, could it be to do with the potion?"
The ebony-haired man scowled and replied, "A simple revealing potion shouldn't have these results. Though tests of my lab show that Potter contaminated his with his own blood, so who can say what he managed to produce."
Harry, who had tried his best to stay silent throughout this exchange blurted out, "My blood?"
Snape turned a sneer towards the boy on the bed.
"Yes, Mister Potter. Somehow, you managed to make a mistake not even a first year would make. You contaminated your potion with human blood! One of the fundamental rules of potion-making that is established before we ever brew a single potion in this school. But of course I shouldn't have expected anything different. This is precisely why I do not allow Exceeds Expectations into my class!" The last was directed at Dumbledore, who acknowledged it only with a dip of his head and twinkle of his eye.
Harry looked down at his fingers, long since cleaned of beet-red coloring. There was a small, pale white line in exactly the spot Harry remembered inspecting the day before. He caught Madam Pomfrey's eye and she gave a short nod, as if to say she had healed a small cut there.
Dumbledore turned his gaze to Harry.
"How do you feel, Harry?"
Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Fine, really."
The older wizard looked now at Madam Pomfrey.
"Aside from the baseline irregularities, are there any other health concerns?" he asked her.
"No. Everything has healed nicely."
"Excellent. Let's unwrap the boy then," Dumbledore said with a gleeful clap.
Snape sighed as Madam Pomfrey got to work.
"Headmaster, must I be present for this? I still have work to do repairing the damage Potter did to my lab," he complained.
Dumbledore turned to look at the grumbling professor to respond, which was why neither man saw the panicked look on the Matron's face as the last of Harry's bandages fell away. Harry saw, though, and fear grew in him as she glanced from him to the two men and back several times.
"Madam Pomfrey?" he asked tentatively. The slight quiver in his voice caused the men to turn towards him. Dumbledore's gaze sharpened as he peered at Harry.
Snape stood frozen on the spot. Slowly, a vicious sneer spread across his rapidly purpling face. He took two long strides across the room and bent low over Harry's bed. Startled, Harry retreated as far into his pillows as he could.
"What are you playing at Potter?" he growled into Harry's face. "What kind of sick joke do you think this is? Did you blow up the cauldron on purpose just so you could land yourself in hospital for this...this prank? What do you hope to achieve exactly? This is exactly the sort of cruel thing your idiot father would have dreamed up! You're so like him it's sickening. He-"
Harry's green eyes hardened as Snape spoke and at the mention of his father he pushed himself up on his elbows, bringing his face even closer to the older man's.
"Don't talk about my father that way!" Harry exploded. "I don't care what he did to you in school. I'm not him and I haven't done anything to you, but you can't get over the fact I look just like him! I don't even know what I'm supposed to have done this time! I did a decent job on that potion, but I thought I cut my finger and when I tried to check it, you yelled at me about it, so I got back to work. Then it exploded and now I'm in the hospital wing, again, on the fourth day of term, and you're yelling at me about Merlin knows what, all because I look like a man you hated twenty years ago!"
"Actually, you don't." Dumbledore's quiet voice stopped both teacher and student in their tracks. He put a gentle hand on Snape's arm, pulling the irate professor away from Harry's form. He retreated reluctantly.
"I don't what?" Harry snapped, face still flushed from yelling.
"You don't look like James Potter," Dumbledore replied calmly.
Harry looked at the headmaster as if he'd lost his mind. And maybe he had. Everyone he'd met for the past five years had done nothing but compare the two. Harry had seen pictures. He knew he was a carbon copy of the man, except for his eyes. Of course he looked like James Potter. He always had.
Someone pressed an ornate hand mirror into Harry's palm. Judging by the decorations, Harry suspected it had been conjured by Professor Dumbledore. A sinking thought hit Harry in the gut.
What if the explosion had deformed him? What if he looked like a melted mess? Or like Mad-Eye Moody, with bits missing. Shakily, he raised the mirror.
His first thought was joy that he wasn't horribly disfigured. But that thought was followed immediately by confusion.
"But...that isn't my face," he said, noting that the figure in the mirror moved exactly as he did. He blinked one eye quickly, then the other. He made strange faces. He pinched himself on the cheek. The face in the mirror did the same. And yet, the face didn't belong to him.
Before, his skin had been tanned from yard work at the Dursley's and outdoor play at the Weasley's. His hair was it's usual bird's nest. His chin had been smallish, leading into a rather soft jawline and cheekbones, just like his father. He'd often wondered if someone in his family had a bit of Asian heritage, actually.
Now, the face staring back at him was still sun-kissed, but not quite in the same way. His hair wasn't sticking up at all angles, either. But the biggest change was to the overall structure. His nose was decidedly different, as were his jaw and cheeks. Everything was just so much more angular, sharper. And somehow they were familiar.
He was struck by just how familiar when he glanced at the Potions Master still standing in the corner glaring at him with hard, black eyes.
That was another thing. The eyes in the mirror were still the vibrant green Harry had always known. It was like someone had taken Lily Potter's eyes and stuck them smack-dab in the middle of Severus Snape's face. Suddenly his professor's anger made a lot more sense.
"But...how...what…" Harry started, still marveling at the way the face in the mirror managed to do exactly as he did. "Is this a trick mirror? Because it's not actually showing my face."
"Ah, but it is, Harry. In fact, I suspect this is the first mirror that has done so in quite some time," the wizened old wizard replied.
Harry looked back at the decorative mirror. No. This wasn't him. There had to be some mistake. He looked towards Dumbledore, only to see him gazing at an ashen Potions Professor.
"Revealing Potion, wasn't it, Severus?" questioned the headmaster kindly.
Snape gave a jerky nod.
"If my memory serves, typically the addition of blood to a revealing potion simply causes all enchantments, charms, and concealments to be removed from that person. Though, this is discouraged because, for individuals with long-standing concealments, the results can be…" he paused, "explosive. Am I correct?"
Snape nodded again, his eyes seemingly glued to Harry's altered face, his gaze calculating.
"Is there anything you might like to tell me, Severus?" the headmaster asked. The twinkle was gone from his eyes as he scrutinized the younger man. In fact, he looked almost sad.
Snape shook his head, slowly at first, then adamantly, until it was almost a constant motion-back and forth, back and forth. He took a step backward, then another, and another, eyes still glued on Harry and muttering what sounded to Harry like the word "no" repeated over and over again, with something else thrown in periodically that he couldn't quite decipher, though he thought maybe it had something to do with a woman because he maybe heard the word "she" a few times.
Suddenly Snape's back pressed against one of the poles holding the curtain and he seemed panicked and desperate. Wordlessly, he turned from Harry and fled, his frantic footsteps echoing through the silent ward.
Harry started when the door to the ward slammed, plunging it's remaining three occupants into echoing silence.
Harry shattered it.
"Can somebody please explain to me what is going on?" he snapped.
"Ah, Mister Potter, the tricky thing about magic is that sometimes it works in ways we can't fully comprehend. This will require some further examination, I believe. Excuse me." As he turned to go, he caught Madam Pomfrey's eye. "A full work-up, I should think," he requested, then left with nothing but the quiet swish of his robes to indicate his movement.
Harry turned questioning eyes to Madam Pomfrey, but she too was disappearing around the curtain. He hardly had a moment to wonder, though, before she was back, carrying a strange sort of caddy with empty glass tubes sticking out of it. She conjured a small table and set the caddy down on top. Then, strangely, she handed him a long roll of parchment, a quill, and a writing board.
"Alright, Harry, I need to test some of your blood, but before I can do that, I need you to sign this consent form. Normally we'd sent this to your relatives, but we haven't the time, and we've got a general consent form on file, anyway. This is just an extra precaution. The form says that you're giving me this blood voluntarily and that I'll destroy it when my tests are done. If that's acceptable to you, sign at the bottom."
Harry signed and asked, "But haven't you handled my blood before? Why is this different? Will this answer my questions?" He held out the signed parchment and she took it from him.
"Those were emergencies and there's a difference between blood that is spilled and stolen and blood that is given freely, as I'm sure you're aware. You, more than any other student here, should know that blood can have a powerful impact on magic. We've just seen an example with your potion. It's why wizards don't get physical examinations as often as muggles, or if they do, it is without bloodwork. It only takes one wizard with bad intentions and a few drops of freely-given blood to cause serious harm. And yes, Mister Potter, the Headmaster hopes that this will answer at least some of your questions"
As she talked, she worked, wrapping a length of rubber tubing around the top of Harry's left arm and tightening it just short of painful with her wand. She felt around the inside of his elbow and Harry hissed as she made a quick prick with a needle he didn't even realize she was holding. She pointed her wand at it as a drop of blood welled up and a thin stream flowed smoothly from his arm towards the caddy with the glass tubes. The stream separated to drop a bit into each tube before a stopper jumped out of a small compartment on the side and sealed each tube. The whole process took only moments as Harry watched, fascinated.
Then, she put him through a series of tests he found vaguely familiar from his primary school check-ups by the school nurse. She measured his height and proportions with a floating tape measure that seemed determined to wrap around every part of him. She measured his weight, checked his teeth, copied down his glasses prescription, and generally poked and prodded until Harry began to feel like a lab specimen. She also performed some very complex magic that produced a long series of runes, which she copied down onto the ever-growing parchment she was using to record his data. Then, mercifully, she stopped. She rolled up her parchment, grabbed her caddy of blood-filled tubes, and hurried out with a hasty goodbye and a promise she'd order some lunch for him.
True to her word, moments later a tray appeared on his table, mercifully not delivered by Dobby. Bored though he was, Harry wasn't certain he felt like trying to explain his changed appearance to the excitable elf. He was nervous about visits from his friends, too, but the Matron must have taken care of it, because, though he knew classes had ended for the day, neither Ron nor Hermione appeared. In fact, the doors remained shut all day and Harry had to content himself with the half-finished puzzle books and outdated magazines he knew were stashed in the drawer of every bedside table.
Sometime before dinner, just as Harry was plotting his escape, bugger his new face, Dumbledore glided into view around the curtain. Not for the first time, Harry wondered how he moved about so quietly. He hadn't even heard the doors open!
The old wizard conjured a comfy-looking high backed chair and settled himself into it. He folded his hands on his lap and regarded Harry intently over his half-moon spectacles. Just as Harry was about to explode with anticipation, Dumbledore spoke.
"Well, my boy, I am happy to report that your potions mishap did you no permanent harm. You are perfectly healthy. Neither Madam Pomfrey, nor myself, could find a single thing wrong with you."
Harry rather thought that suddenly having a different face should qualify as "something wrong," but he kept this opinion to himself as Dumbledore continued.
"There is, of course, the issue of your changed appearance. Unfortunately, I do not believe I am the best person to answer all your questions, but, seeing as that person is unavailable, I shall endeavor to do my best with what I do know. Harry, I expect you are under the opinion that you no longer resemble your father. This is only partially correct. While it is true you no longer resemble James Potter, you do bear more than a passing resemblance to your biological father."
Here he paused, allowing Harry a moment to ask, "James Potter wasn't my father?"
Dumbledore leaned closer to Harry.
"Not in the strictest biological sense, no, but fatherhood is much more complex than biology. Sirius, for example, had a biological father, but did not love him in the way he cared for James's father, who, incidentally, felt the same way about Sirius. Biology is not always paramount in these things. James Potter certainly loved you, whether or not he was aware of your true parentage. And I do not know if he was or was not. This is one of the many questions I cannot answer. What I can tell you is that Madam Pomfrey and I both ran extensive tests on both your blood and magical signature and our results are conclusive. Lily Potter was your mother, but your father was not James Potter."
"Well, do you know who it was?" Harry inquired, leaning forward in the bed.
"Yes. And, my boy, I will need you to prepare yourself for this."
Harry nodded eagerly. Dumbledore inhaled deeply and his eyes took on an indefinable shine.
"Your father, Harry, is Severus Snape."
There was a moment of silence and stillness so profound it would have made a Tibetan monk blush. Then, all 268 candles in the hospital wing flared into a tower of flame as Harry's magic ripped out of him in a wave. Just as suddenly as they flared, they sputtered out, plunging the ward into darkness as Harry's eyes rolled back and he fell back onto the bed, unconscious.