'Nobody is to leave this room!' Snape said quickly from where he was on the floor, holding Harry. 'Except you, Miss Granger, you will go and fetch Professor Dumbledore immediately – and talk to no one on the way! Go on, out with you.' He got up and ushered her out the door, then muttered what Harry presumed to be a locking charm and turned back to face the rest of the students.
Harry gasped at the realisation of where he was – he had just called Snape 'Dad' in front of all the students, even the Slytherins – and he'd told them all, including Draco Malfoy, about the Death Eaters.
'Da ... I mean, Professor Snape, I ...' Harry began, sitting up, but Snape interrupted him.
'It's all right, Harry, I think everyone heard you call me "Dad" just now.'
The entire class stood staring at Harry and Snape, at a loss for words, Draco Malfoy gaping widest of all. 'P-professor ...' Malfoy spluttered, his face reddening. 'This – this – what the hell's going on?' he looked from Harry to Snape and back again. 'What is this? What's that fraud of a –'
'Silencio,' hissed Snape, pointing his wand at Malfoy's throat. 'There, that shut you up for once,' he muttered distractedly, looking away from Malfoy's mouth which was still moving.
The other students stood there gaping. Harry found himself wondering what had shocked them the most – that he'd called Snape 'Dad', or that Snape had put a silencing charm on Draco Malfoy. Snape was now pacing back and forth in front of the door, his wand out. After a little while he stopped, glanced at Harry and said, quietly, 'Are you all right?' He looked at him searchingly.
'I'm fine, thanks,' said Harry and rose. He walked over and stood next to Snape, both of them looking out over the class who were standing around the place where Harry had just lain, huddled in a group and staring at the pair of them in awe. Only Ron and Neville looked reasonably composed.
At the back of the group was Malfoy, struggling, his mouth moving, trying to shout insults, no doubt; being held and prevented from rushing forward by Theodore Nott and Millicent Bulstrode.
There was a knock on the door, and then Dumbledore's voice saying 'Professor Snape?'
Snape took a step toward the door and muttered a spell. The door opened. Dumbledore and Hermione stepped into the room, and Snape sealed the door behind them. Dumbledore looked at the group, who were all of them standing there in absolute silence. There was a mere trace of a smile in his eyes.
'Mr Malfoy,' he said, 'I assure you there is no need to be upset.' He waved his wand at him, giving him back his voice, and Malfoy stood there silent, Nott and Bulstrode slowly letting go of his arms. 'But ... what – what –' Malfoy stammered after a moment.
'Yes, that is a very poignant question, Mr Malfoy,' said Dumbledore and turned to Snape. 'What indeed?'
'Well, firstly, Headmaster,' said Snape, 'Harry just referred to me as "Dad".'
'Ah, yes,' said Dumbledore, 'and the whole class was here to hear ...'
'I'm afraid so.'
Dumbledore turned to the class. 'I see ... Well, in that case, I'll just have to ... OBLIVIATE!' He swept his wand over the whole class except Harry and Snape, his voice echoing through the room. 'Well now, wasn't that an excellent lesson Professor Snape just gave you on Legilimency!' He beamed at the class benignly. The students all looked dazed and vaguely pleased, murmuring comments of assent. Slowly they began to gather their books and quills and left the classroom.
Hermione looked at Ron impatiently as he stuffed scraps of parchment into his bag, and they were the last to leave. At the door, however, Hermione stopped. 'Hang on ...' she said. 'Did someone just put a memory charm on me?' She glared suspiciously at Snape and Dumbledore.
'I'm afraid it was necessary, Hermione,' Dumbledore said quietly. 'Harry will tell you all about it presently. Now I must ask you to go.' He closed the door behind Hermione and turned back to Harry. 'Now, Harry, why don't you sit down and tell us all about what you saw.'
Harry told Snape and Dumbledore about the vision, about going into Voldemort's mind, and about what had happened. He made sure that he left out no details. After he'd finished, Dumbledore nodded gravely.
'I see,' he said. 'Yes, well, sadly this comes as no surprise. And it seems unlikely that Voldemort should have planted this vision in your head on purpose.'
'He didn't,' said Harry. 'He didn't even know I was there – I'm sure of it. This vision wasn't like the ones I had last year; this time I knew all along I was in Voldemort's mind; it didn't feel like I really was him. Not like ... back then.'
'This is all my fault,' said Snape ruefully, 'I shouldn't have subjected you to Legilimency in the first place ...' he gave Dumbledore a brief, reproachful look. 'I shouldn't have done it ... especially after I had just felt the Dark Mark burn.'
'Now, that's enough, Severus,' Dumbledore said, 'there's little point in discussing who is to blame for what has happened. Harry is here, and he is safe; that is all that really matters.' He looked back at Harry. 'You are absolutely sure he did not sense your presence?'
'Yes, definitely – this time it was all different. I could feel my own feelings as well as Voldemort's, and ... well, I could tell he didn't know I was there.' Harry thought, for a brief moment, of Bellatrix Lestrange and his urge to kill ... Had that been his own wish entirely? He looked away from Dumbledore, guiltily. Of course it had been his own wish, or at least – his own hatred. But the means of expressing it – maybe that had been Voldemort's.
'Very well.' Dumbledore's glance was piercing, as if he knew.
They heard the sound of someone hurrying along the corridor outside, then there was a curt knock and Professor McGonagall burst in. 'Professor Dumbledore – Albus,' she said, then paused for a second to catch her breath, 'There – there's been a disruption in the shield – the shield isn't safe! It – it was I ... I'm sorry, Albus, I –' She broke off, holding a hand to her chest, breathing heavily.
'Ah, yes, the shield was weakened, of course,' said Dumbledore thoughtfully. 'Don't worry, Minerva, everything's under control.' He led her to a chair and made her sit down. 'Severus, we must call a meeting for the Order of the Phoenix,' he went on, 'and Harry, you need not attend anymore classes today. You may go and see your friends now.'
Harry nodded and left, glad to get away.Harry spent most of that day down by the lake, where Ron and Hermione joined him when they had no classes. He told them all that had happened, and they discussed what would happen now that the Death Eaters were on the loose again. They all smiled when Malfoy walked past, completely unaware of the fact that his father had broken out of prison, and also of Harry's connection to Snape.
'He'll know about his father soon enough,' mused Ron, 'it'll be all over the front page of The Prophet tomorrow.'
The next morning, however, Hermione came up to the boys' dormitory before breakfast, holding a copy of The Prophet and looking strangely pale.
'You'd better not go to the Great Hall today Harry,' she said, 'you'd better go straight to Dumbledore.' She handed him the paper in response to his unasked question. On the front page, there was nothing about the Death Eaters. Instead, there was a large picture of Harry – in profile, his nose appearing to be even more hooked than it really was – and a smaller one of Snape.
THE BOY WHO LIVED – SON OF A DEATH EATER
'Sources close to Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, have informed The Daily Prophet that Harry Potter, also known as the "Boy Who Lived", is not, as was previously believed, the son of James Potter. His father is, in fact, a former follower of He Who Must Not Be Named; a so-called Death Eater. He is said to have been in the inner circle of You-Know-Who, but Albus Dumbledore claims he leftHe Who Must Not Be Namedwell before his fall from power. There is, however, nobody else who is willing to confirm this statement.
'Mr Potter's real father is presently in Professor Dumbledore's employ at Hogwarts, where he teaches Potions. Professor Snape is one of the least liked teachers at the school, and Head of Slytherin House, which is notorious for having produced dark witches and wizards. Mr Potter – or, more correctly, Mr Snape – has been unavailable for comment, as has his father.'
Harry flung the newspaper back at Hermione. 'Take it, I don't want to see it!' he spat. Then he added, 'Sorry, it's nothing against you – it made me angry, that's all. Nobody willing to confirm ...! And what do they mean, unavailable for comment?' he said indignantly. 'It's not as if they asked!' He sighed. 'Well, I guess you're right, Hermione – I'll go and see Dumbledore.'
On his way to Dumbledore's office, Harry noticed students whispering as he passed, throwing him furtive glances. He ignored them, thinking only of what this might mean for Snape's safety. He was worried.
It turned out that most of the Order were already there when Harry arrived. They all looked up at him apprehensively as he entered, no doubt remembering past outbursts. Harry, however, remained calm.
'Er, sorry for barging in on your Order meeting,' Harry said, still standing by the door. 'I just thought I'd ask for some instructions as to what I should do when ... when people ask me about the article.'
The Order members all looked over at Dumbledore. Harry noticed Snape sitting there next to him, his features devoid of emotion.
'We were just discussing it, Harry,' said Dumbledore. 'Why don't you take a seat?' As Harry sat down, he continued, 'Yes, we had a narrow escape there yesterday, and now it seems it was all in vain. There is nothing we can do to remedy this, I'm afraid.'
'But who was it, Albus?' McGonagall exclaimed. 'Who knew – and who would have told?'
Dumbledore sighed. 'It seems that Mundungus let slip some information in connection with a broomstick robbery.'
'I believe I've warned you about Mundungus Fletcher before, Headmaster,' Snape said softly.
'Yes, I know, Severus,' said Dumbledore, 'But he has been very useful to the Order too – you know he has.'
'Oh, indeed, Headmaster – but how am I to go on another mission when everybody knows I am the father of The Boy Who Lived?'
'You won't – you can't.'
'Oh, that's excellent,' Snape spat. 'So the Order has lost its only source at –'
'Yes, Severus, I am aware of it,' Dumbledore interrupted, his voice unusually sharp. 'But there is nothing to be done.'
As Snape sat there, looking furious, Harry, however, beamed inwardly. His father wouldn't be going on anymore missions! It was too good to be true – he had to restrain himself very hard in order not to smile.
'Now, Harry,' Dumbledore went on, 'I must ask you not to talk about this with any of the other students. Even though we won't be able to deny this, I do not want you to confirm it either.'
Harry merely nodded – he'd do anything as long as he knew Snape would be safe. He'd be happy to tell everybody that he believed in Crumple-Horned Snorkacks if that would be any help.
On his way back to the Gryffindor common room, Harry couldn't fight back a smile. It vanished from his face, however, when he saw other students in the corridors, all of them glancing at him the way they had done on his way there. On his way up the stairs to the portrait hole, Harry met Justin Finch-Fletchley, who eyed him curiously and then asked, 'It's not true, Harry – is it?'
'What do you think,' Harry snorted, looking at Justin challengingly, then left quickly before Justin could ask any more questions. He spent the rest of his day avoiding similar situations, not particularly looking forward to the End-of-Term Leaving Feast which would be held that evening. This was his last night at Hogwarts, and now this had to happen – he was happy that Snape couldn't go on any more missions, but this wasn't how he'd wanted to spend his last day here. He'd have wanted to see Snape, perhaps, but that was out of the question now with the Order so busy taking care of this problem.
Even at lunch, Dumbledore, Snape and many of the other teachers were absent. Harry gave a few more non-committal shrugs and comments to people who asked him about the article, so that nobody was any the wiser as to what his parentage might be.
That evening, Harry entered the Great Hall together with Ron, Hermione and Neville, doing his best to avoid the stares of the students that were already seated at the tables. The Slytherins were looking particularly smug over at their table, pointedly surveying the green and silver decorations which had been put up in their honour as they had won the House Cup – they had beaten Gryffindor by a mere 45 points.
'Potter!' Harry heard McGonagall call out behind him. He turned around. 'I have a message to you from the headmaster,' she said curtly. 'You may disclose – all. You do understand me, Potter?'
'Yes, Professor McGonagall.' He went over to the Gryffindor table and sat down with his friends, a sense of relief washing over him. Now he could be completely open; he had nothing more to hide. He didn't care what anybody else thought, as long as he didn't have to keep lying or hiding things ... he didn't even care what Malfoy might have to say, and he was striding towards him from the Slytherin table at that very moment.
'Potter ... or should I say Snape?' Malfoy drawled as he came closer. The students at the surrounding tables turned towards them, eager to hear of anything that might have to do with today's news.
'I don't really care what you call me, Malfoy,' said Harry, 'in fact I'd rather you didn't address me at all ... so – did you want anything in particular?'
'You think you're great, don't you, Potter,' Malfoy hissed. 'Well, in case you didn't bother to read anything but the front page of The Prophet today, I can tell you that my father and all the other Death Eaters have escaped from Azkaban. There'll soon be some changes around here – you'll see!'
'Why don't you tell me something I don't know, Malfoy,' Harry sneered. 'I don't doubt there'll be changes, but hardly the changes you think.'
'What I can't see is how anyone could possibly be so stupid as to believe you're actually Snape's son, Potter ... You're such a loser, after all.'
'Well, it's even more unlikely that you should be your father's son – I mean, even though it took him the better part of a year to figure out how to escape from Azkaban, he, unlike you, has brains.'
'How about we settle this once and for all, Potter,' Malfoy snarled, '– if you dare. Why don't we just step outside for a minute ... with our wands ...'
'Why go outside?' Harry said, standing up. 'Let's settle it right here, right now. If you want clichés, I can give them to you.'
Up at the staff table there was movement, but the two boys and the onlookers ignored it. Malfoy and Harry pulled out their wands.
'Oh, honestly,' said McGonagall exasperatedly, 'at the Leaving Feast of all occasions! I'll deal with it.'
'No, Minerva,' Snape said softly. 'Allow me – I've been wanting to do this for years.' He strode over towards the Gryffindor table. 'What's going on here, Mr Malfoy?' he said, stepping in between them.
'Potter's being smart with me, sir,' Malfoy said triumphantly.
'Smart?' said Snape.
'Well, for one thing, he didn't deny that he's your son!' Malfoy spat. 'And he wants us to duel! Right here!'
Snape turned to Harry. 'Is this true?'
'Well, actually it was Malfoy's idea to duel,' Harry said indifferently.
'In that case, five points from Slytherin,' Snape said, a mere trace of smugness on his face.
There was a ripple of excitement among the students as the news that Snape had taken points from his own house – from Malfoy – travelled from table to table.
'What?' said Malfoy incredulously.
'On second thought – let's make it fifty points,' Snape said pensively, 'for all the times I've wanted to take points from you, but didn't. And that, I believe, takes away Slytherin's lead in the House Cup.' He snapped his fingers and the decorations changed from green and silver to red and gold. 'Go back to your table, Malfoy. Now.'
Malfoy stood staring at Snape for some moments before turning around and walking back to the the Slytherin table, muttering, 'Wait till my father hears about this!'
As the noise that had followed this exchange of words died down, Snape turned to Harry. 'Carry on, Harry,' he said with a nod.
'All right Dad,' said Harry rather more loudly than necessary. Snape raised an eyebrow and walked back to the staff table, ignoring the gaping students he passed on his way.
'Well,' said Dumbledore, smiling merrily, 'it's time for my speech, but I strongly suspect that no one will be listening to what I have to say right now – so I'll just say, tuck in!'
As Harry was waiting for the Thestral-drawn carriages the next morning, nobody except his closest friends stopped to talk to him – everybody else simply stared at him or averted their eyes. He thought back at the year that had gone by – there hadn't really been a lot of exciting things happening, not like the other years he'd been at Hogwarts. Well, apart from the fact that he'd found out that Snape was his father. There had been no really dangerous situations, no direct meeting with Voldemort ... nobody had died. Harry shuddered at the thought of all the horrible things that had happened duringthe past two years, and those that were, no doubt, yet to come.
But now – now he was going back to the Dursleys ... once more. And when Harry had wanted to say good-bye to Snape today, he had seen on the Marauder's Map that he was in Dumbledore's office, along with many others from the Order, and he'd been reluctant to go there and interrupt whatever they were doing.
Just as he was about to embark on a spree of self-pity, Hermione, Luna, Neville Ron and Ginny came along, their trunks floating ahead of them in the air.
'Harry, hi!' Ginny shouted. 'You ready to go then? You've got everything packed, I see.'
'Well, actually I wanted to say good-bye to ...' Harry began.
'Professor Snape?' said Hermione.
'Yeah, but he was busy, and I didn't want to disturb him, so I guess ...'
'Actually, he's right over there,' said Luna dreamily, pointing towards the castle.
Harry turned around, and there Snape was, coming towards them, followed by the stares of curious students.
'Good morning,' Snape said. 'May I have a few words in private with my son?'
The others nodded and left, smiling in a way Harry found rather annoying.
'I was looking for you, but you were in Dumbledore's office,' said Harry.'Yes, we have a lot to do in the Order – a lot of arrangements to make. But I had to say good-bye to you.'
Harry smiled. 'Well, I'm off to the Dursleys now ...' He paused.
'Ah, yes,' said Snape, 'that's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about – I'm afraid you'll have to go to the Dursleys this summer as usual.'
'I know I have to – and I know why,' said Harry. 'It's all right. Will you be staying here?'
'No. I'll be at a safe location – I can't tell you where, of course, but it's not here. I wanted to ask you, however, if you'd care to join me there on your birthday? Dumbledore allows it ... You could stay for the rest of the summer.'
'Oh – of course! I'd love to come.'
'Good. We can talk then – about everything. The Prophecy, and – well, whatever you want to talk about.'
'Yeah,' Harry's smile widened. 'That'll be great.'
'Yes. So, I'll see you then. Good-bye, Harry.' Snape nodded curtly, hesitated for a moment, then gave Harry a stiff, uneasy, one-armed hug and walked back to the castle. Harry looked after him as he swept up the stairs to the main entrance.
'Good-bye, Dad,' he murmured as the others returned.